Canada!

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View coming in to land in Iceland

The trip from Finland to Ottawa, Canada was unfortunately far from smooth but I suppose looking back at our travel histories, what can you really expect? Upon arrival in Ottawa (which was the equivalent of 5am Finnish time) I was dealt with a lost ski bag courtesy of the airlines along with no transport to my accommodation… The lack of car came about because the car hire company didn’t even have a desk at the airport. They never actually tell you that and they are suppose to be there for when your flight arrives to drive you to their depot directly. When no-one is there to do so, their cunning, shady operation quickly falls apart, particularly when their ’24hr phone number’ goes straight to message bank every time! After a $60 taxi ride, I was not a happy customer. With a free upgrade to this beast, along with free insurance for the duration of the rent, I suppose it makes up for the inconvenience somewhat.

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After badgering Air Canada for 3 days straight, I finally received my ski bag. So training for those first few days with a mixed array of equipment was certainly not ideal, but with great skiing conditions here in Canada it was hard to be too upset.

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I really knew I couldn’t be too upset with my situation when 3 days after I arrived, Phil had only just made it in…. He got caught in the unstable weather and managed to get an unlucky sequence of cancelled, delayed and almost crash landing flights for those 3 days straight! After all safely arriving, training and preparation for the Tour went really well and it was a great time staying with our generous hosts, the Allain family.

OW Glove Support!

Gloves are always a product that skiers generally go through in rapid fashion! I however seem to have the knack of going through even more standard and as a result I have often decided to rollerski and ski in warm conditions without gloves. This means an initially painful process of toughening up the hands, however quickly becomes worth it especially when you don’t wear holes through every last pair of gloves that you own!

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With thanks to our National Team clothing sponsor OneWay, this is now less of a problem with recent glove support. Thanks OW

Travel Day Done Right!

Travel days, as you may have figured from a previous post, are frequently troublesome for us boys. Maybe our trip to Estonia was enough bad luck to last us a while because the trip went almost unbelievably smoothly! I was quite certain that we hadn’t paid for bags in our air tickets but luck was so good that they all went through for free! Since when does that happen?

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The only unlucky part of the trip so far is that our coach Mattias got a severe case of the deadly ‘man flu’ and is stuck at home recovering and feeling sorry for himself. In all seriousness though, it was smart for him to stay home and recover as risking getting us sick at this point would not be worth it. Get well soon Boss!

As a replacement, local skier and Redbull Nordix / Jerry of the day Superstar Johan Eriksson has joined us as coach and wax tech assistant for the Lahti World Cup. Him joining up with our legendary wax tech Randy Gibbs makes an unbeatable team. Unlike last weekend, I’m sure getting fast skis will be entirely hassle free.

 

 

South Nordic Shipment!

Don’t you just love it when you get more than you expect? Well picking up a shipment from South Nordic today gave me exactly that! 6kg and just over 1600EUR worth of the best quality casual and sports clothing ever produced!

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Yeah ‘talk it up’ is what you are probably thinking right about now, but go and test some of this gear and then trying telling me you disagree!This company takes no short cuts. They are all class, and have the approach of only using the best performing and highest quality materials in their products. There is more technology that has gone into making this race suit than there is in the car I drive! Just take a look at this info sheet:

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Performance, practicality, comfort and style are all boxes that are ticked! The underlayers and warm up kit is no different either with the same technology going into those products. In terms of the way it feels to ski in, the only way I can explain it is that it feels like nothing! Ski clothes that are a boxy fit, don’t breath, don’t keep you warm, rough in the wrong places, and are without any true shape feel like something and it’s not pleasant. Skiing in SN gear just feels like it keeps you warm without making you sweat, supports in all the right places and fits as though it was specifically designed for me!

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The casual gear shows some of the only Nordic focused clothing that doesn’t shout ‘unfashionable’. It’s Nordic and damn proud of it, but keeps a calm, subtle and tidy look which is just perfect for someone’s who’s life is Cross Country Skiing, but likes to stay with the current trends of every day fashion.

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I absolutely love the gear and if you would like to know more about any of the items of clothing for sale on the website, just let me know and I’ll give you a full run down of what it’s actually like! Checkout the website and online store at www.southnordic.com

 

Travel Day Nightmare

If you ever want to know just how well you can mess up a travel day, you’ve come to the right place. Jackson, Phil and I have all had pretty good experience when it comes to traveling, however don’t let this fool you into thinking that we have it dialed. Sweden and Estonia are right next to one another, but even still we found a way to mess it up!

So there is usually a part of any trip that is considered smooth sailing. This just didn’t exist! First up was the air ticket blunder. A few days ago I suggested that it would be a good idea to have the one person book the tickets so that we could all be on the same flight. So when it came to booking the flights, both Phil and Jacko were looking for the best deals and found a good one. I wasn’t there so Jacko booked a ticket for me. Next day, Phil says in a sigh of relief something along the lines of ‘well I’m glad I’m finally getting my life sorted, it’s good that you got those tickets booked yesterday Jacko’. Jacko, then responds with, ‘ah didn’t you book your own ticket in the end though?’ After a quick rush back to the website, and undoubtedly a bit of cursing as they discovered the flight was full, and Phil found himself having to fly via Moscow. He had to leave 3 hrs earlier and should have arrived 20mins later than us – pretty indirect to say the least.

When we left yesterday morning on the train to Stockholm, Phil sends a message saying that he only just made his flight because the tracks were knackered after Uppsalla. This cost him $80 for a 20min taxi ride but gladly just got him there. We therefore were on the same line but had fortunately left just a little more time than he had done. So we risked it, waited for the next train on a different line and only just made it in time as well.

Then it came to the flying part. Now I’ve done a lot of flying during my ski career and have only ever been scared on a plane a couple of times in my life. This was something else though! As we were landing, the plane was now only dropping suddenly and wing tipping, but also getting blown sideways. This is all fine when we were higher off the ground but when it only got worse and we were just 10min above the runway, that burger I had eaten just before we took off was about ready to be tasted a second time over. With an almighty thud, bounce, thud, we managed to land, mostly sideways, but thankfully we made. How the wheels didn’t get torn off is beyond me!

After going to the connecting gate in Riga and back onto the next flight, I recognized the flight attendant as we were boarding. As I was the asking Jacko if he thought it was the same plane, the flight attendant unenthusiastically says in a thick, Russian accent ‘It’s the same plane’. She was obviously about as pleased with going out there again in the same plane as we were! Turns out after the Pilot has started to fire up the engines, there was a ‘technical problem’ and we would have to be put on a different plane. Essentially, something had broken in that crazy landing!

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1hr later, we were on the next flight and arrived safely in Tallinn only to discover Phil (who had kindly waited for us) only had a plastic bag! We had all packed lightly to avoid having a checked in bag and his skis had already been taken to Estonia. After discovering he had a free check in bag anyway, he came up with the awesome idea of checking in his carry on – I completely understand it, it’s dead miles to be carrying around that extra weight through the airport. So the plan fell apart when this bag got lost…. He had nothing except the clothes he was wearing! Not ideal when you are going to a ski race. The latest update is that his bag has gone to Beijing, China!

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After all this, we had missed the final bus to Tartu and would have to spend the night in Tallinn. So in a positive light to finish, at least we got to see the old city of Tallinn. Quite a nice sight really

Ice Hockey! (with a ball..)

Today was a day to try and get my life ironed out and get things sorted. Sometimes this process is a little like trying to iron a cheap chinese shirt. No matter how many times you go over it, very little progress is made! With time and perseverance, some cheap chinese shirts can actually look quite good and seem like the real deal! So that’s what I’m going for with my life planning – eventually I’ll have it sorted.

The day was made brilliant however by a game of Ice Hockey with the crew! Yes, technically we used a ball, so it should be called ‘Bandy’ or something, but that doesn’t sounds anywhere near as cool and besides, I’m not Swedish so I’ll call it what I want!

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Philpot is actually pretty good on the skates so we disadvantaged him by giving him the strap in skates that didn’t really quite fit his salomon running shoes. ‘Blow outs’ (where his shoes would fall out of the skates under pressure) were therefore a frequent occurrence….

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Postis Back Up On Stands

So as I mentioned in my original post about Postis (my disgustingly yellow Volvo v40), I indicated that when you buy a car for so such a small amount of money, there may/undoubtedly will be some issues that will arise. So last week, I found myself back in Bilfix (thanks to Jonaton Steen) with the car up on stands….

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Fortunately, the Idle Air Control valve is working fine now after I took it apart and cleaned it, however the day before we were going to travel to Stockholm, the old dog decided to lose all power again whilst Teresa was driving it to work. I was pretty sure it would have been the same problem as last time with the intercooler for the turbo freezing again and blocking the air flow to the engine.

Surely enough, when I swapped cars with Teresa so that she could get to work, I looked under the bonnet and that same top intercooler hose was collapsing under suction, starving the engine of air. This time it was even worse than before and could only manage about 30km/hr as I limped it home. Last time this had happened, I just left it in the warm garage over night, and when I started it again it was fine again and I was just revving the engine hard to suck any moisture through and out of the system. This was just the easy fix solution, and not so good for the engine, but without any tools, it was all I could do. Obviously there must have been a lot of moisture still in the system for it to block up again!

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So here I was, out in -22 with a hair dryer blowing hot air down through the outlet of the intercooler in our car park. At first it seemed useless and even I was having my doubts and was thinking that maybe the turbo was in fact throwing in the towel and I had mis-diagnosed. It was a sure possibility, but if the turbo was in fact causing the lack of airflow, the bottom tube going into the inlet of the intercooler would be sucking down also which it wasn’t. So I kept on, as I had no other choice! I couldn’t drive it to Bilfix as now the issue had become worse meaning the engine would stall if it revved harder than an idle. So after 45mins had passed and the Tessa’s hairdryer had overheated 4 times, I finally decided to try one last time. And amazingly it worked and some form of  power was regained!

So I quickly took drove it in to Bilfix where Jonaton has a sweet 22 degree C mechanics workshop with a bunch of tools. Getting the undertray of the car off was the first nightmare. Something that should be so simple took almost 50mins! Every bolt had ceased with rust and it was frustratingly tedious work trying to pry the buggers off! Meanwhile I was getting dripped on by all the melting snow and frozen road grime melting off the car!

After finally gaining access and removing the lower intercooler pipe, I had never been so relieved to see so much oily water!

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Not to mention seeing this big junk of ice!

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This meant that my diagnosis was in fact correct! So after removing the ice and blowing hot air through the intercooler, I successfully fixed the problem entirely. All it cost was a few hours of my time and a bloody good shower afterwards. So the lessen to learn is that these older Volvo’s need to have cardboard or leather placed over part of their radiator/intercooler to avoid the moisture from the air condensing and then freezing at such low temperatures. An old pizza box is therefore my latest modification to Postis 😉

 

A Short Trip to Stockholm

I have spent a lot of time in Sweden over the last 2 years, however have unfortunately kept all touristy things to a minimum until now. We decided to travel down and meet Teresa’s Aunt and cousins on Saturday morning after I had completed a pretty cold and slow 2.5hr ski that I wrote about in the ski blog. It was only for a day and a half, however it was exactly the kind of break we needed!

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Their apartment was amazingly comfortable and welcoming and it was so fun to meet some more of Teresa’a relatives. I come from a family with very few relatives, and Teresa is quite the opposite. But I can certainly say it is so enjoyable getting to experience that sort of family life a little more.

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We went for a boat ride from where they lived, closer to the city centre and then walked along the waterfront going into a couple of museums, shops and whilst learning a little more about the history of the place. That’s the other big difference between European countries and Australia. We have such minimal history as a result of being such a young country, whereas these cities have so much history being them. It all can be seen in the buildings alone. I didn’t take too many photos, mainly because I was quite happy just keeping my hand in my gloves on the day. But travelling on the boat, breaking through the ice was something I had never done but really enjoyed! I think Stockholm definitely needs a visit in summer though where it sounds like the place really offers some amazing things to do and see!

Teresa hopefully feeling as though it's worth dealing with the cold wind on the top deck

Teresa hopefully feeling as though it’s worth dealing with the cold wind on the top deck

 

Meet Postis

So I have been wanting to write about this for some time now, however have held back just to ensure I don’t ‘speak too soon’. Life as a skier without a car isn’t the easiest, however when you aren’t part of a club team and need to do a lot of domestic racing in Sweden, it becomes a whole lot harder if you are car-less. So here is my solution to the problem! A 2000 model Volvo V40 that has been affectionately named ‘Postis’ (after the yellow Swedish Post cars) by my girlfriend Teresa.

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As you can see, the appearance with the old chalk board yellow duco spiced up with the odd pocket of rust isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing to say the least. But, horrendous looks comes with a mighty good depreciation rate! So here is a top of the line model with a 2.0L Turbo charged engine, leather surround heated seats, cruise control, traction control, studded winter tyres along with summer tyres on Alloy Rims. All for a stupidly low price of 5500SEK (or just a dab under $895 AUD). Unexpectedly, everything works including the air conditioning with the only exception being the driver’s heat seater button which is a little temperamental but I’ll get around to fixing it. It is the cheapest car I have ever owned but is also the newest, and has the least amount of km’s on the clock out of any other car I have previously owned.

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So, why is it so cheap? Firstly, used cars here in Sweden are worth nothing. Volvo’s usually hold their value slightly better due to Swedes being proud of anything Swedish and also due to Volvo’s reputation for reliability. Unfortunately, for all those that thought it was good idea at the time to buy an odd coloured new car just so they could spot it in a busy car park lost out big time! Other models with mechanical issues and no registration in a normal colour were on the market for 8000SEK and here was one that had just passed rego and was reduced from 9,999SEK to 6000SEK. Of course I bargained him down a little by finding the odd imperfection here and there that hadn’t been included in the advertisement.

Note: The cargo print on the dash is not there by choice! A lot of work must have gone into by a previous owner because it's taking a while to peel it all off! An odd taste to say the least...

Note: The camo print on the dash surrounds is not there by choice! A lot of work must have gone into by a previous owner because it’s taking a while to peel it all off! An odd taste to say the least…

Here’s a little word of warning though. Buying a dirt cheap car is a risk. Like I said in the Momo post, you need to know what to look for and even still you have to factor in things going wrong. You just have to hope that they are small issues that can be either cheaply fixed, or fixed by yourself with a little know-how. When a car is worth so little however,  the level of risk curve takes a bit turn as it doesn’t have to take you that far before it has already paid for itself! This car took me 2500km without any form of issues what so ever. Doesn’t use any oil or coolant and still has a fair old punch when the turbo starts spooling up. Nothing like the WRX, but has a fair crack! Not only that, but it will do 6.8L/100km on the open road, all given by yet another feature – the on dash display which gives fuel efficiency, outside temperature, range left and how many km’s since the last service. All pretty good for an older car.

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For those of you who read my earlier ski blog, whilst driving the 380km to Ostersund last week, Postis was really put to the test with temperatures getting down to -30 degrees C. This brought on the first issue, which resulted from the Intercooler outlet freezing.

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To try and keep things simple terms, the turbo charger uses the exhaust gasses to run a turbine which creates pressure. This pressure then forces air through the intercooler (to be cooled) and then into the induction system, creating forced induction. When the air is already so cold at -30, contains moisture, and is then sent through the intercooler it can be too much. As you can see in the photo above, the thick hose at the front of the engine bay is was takes the air out of the intercooler after it has been cooled. That entire outlet had frozen up and was causing the engine to starve with no enough air flow. Thankfully that was an easy fix after the car was placed in a warm garage overnight.

After a cold snowy road-trip

After a cold snowy road-trip

The second issue resulted when driving home when the car started ‘hunting’ on idle. This means that the car was revving at idle without any accelerator. After some research I decided to pull apart the Idle Air Control Valve (IAC) to see if that could be the problem. As you can see, there was a significant amount of build up potentially causing the valve to malfunction. After a good clean, the issue is now resolved. It’s a cheap man’s fix though so may only be a temporary fix meaning I could be up for a new IAC entirely, however luckily these can be bought at a relatively low price.

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The car has now taken me over 3000km and as a result, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that it’s a fair win.

Momo – A well deserved first ‘Life’ post

This is the first of the ‘Life’ posts and I hope it gives a good indication of what type of content to expect in the future. Skiing is good to write about particularly when things are going well, however it becomes quite dull especially when things aren’t really going the way they should. Besides, I can understand how reading about just the training and competition side of athlete blogs can be bland. It gives a false impression as to what (most of) our lives really are like! So here is a category completely unrelated and as you will soon learn, I have a few other interests, some perhaps stronger than others.

This first post, as many of you who know me well may have been expecting, is about cars. One particular car in fact, which earned the name Momo. Of course, I’m a car lover and this is a car I loved. An original edition Subaru WRX and in my eyes, still the best one produced.

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The reason for writing about Momo is that is a perfect display of what a small sum of money can buy if you take the time to snoop out a bargain. I am completely against buying new cars for the simple reason of it being too consuming. A lot of energy, time and workmanship is put into making a car so to be renewing one every year or two with amazingly terrible depreciation rates is just something that doesn’t make sense to me. So here is a mission of mine to show people there are very cheap and still very good cars on the used car market with lots of life left in them!

I sold my old Subaru Liberty in early 2015. The main reason was because I was studying full time and mixing it with training and doing coaching work to earn money. Essentially I found very little time to do things that I enjoyed, so why not buy a car that would make me happy every time I had to drive somewhere. The liberty was sold for $3800 and Momo was bought for $4100. Not a big deal of difference!

When you go to buy a used car you have to either know enough about them to look for potential flaws (and reasons why the seller is potentially wanting to get rid of the car). It’s either that, or have a friend who does have the knowledge come with you or book the car in for a pre-purchase inspection. Luckily, my Dad taught me a lot about cars and I like to think that I know what to look for. Main point is, don’t buy a car without it being checked thoroughly.

15 years ago my Dad bought me these Olympic Edition number plates. To me they are very special gift.

15 years ago my Dad bought me these Olympic Edition number plates. To me they are very special gift.

Momo had a lot of work done to the engine before I purchased the car and this is something else to look for. Often people don’t appreciate the money that goes into this type of work, hence why the prices are still low in some cases. This was a great example of that, with having a complete head refurbishment to both heads along with all engine seals being replaced. Surely, that gives some peace of mind that the engine aspect of the car should be pretty sound for some time to come. Momo also had some tasteful modifications which included fully adjustable (height, camber and dampening) suspension, short shift gear box, pioneer sound system and a Hi-tec Exhuast (nothing too loud or menacing). All of which together cost more than the car was bought for!

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In the snow with a boot full of skis is the kind of conditions this car found itself in and it handled every moment beautifully. On a mountain road,  this car was in it’s element. For an 18 year old car, You really need to drive one to understand how well developed these cars were for their time! And for those who are by this point growling with frustration over how bad this car is for the environment, it may not be exactly what you’d expect! Achieving 7.4L/100km on the motorway is not so bad at all even by today’s standards and was even better efficiency than my stock liberty….

After enjoying the car for almost 9months, the car was then sold for $5250 to fund this year’s international competition season. A fair win to say the least. I hope you enjoyed this alternative style of post and that it gives some insight on the bargains available in the used car market.

Another handy hint: If you are in need of new tyres but don’t want to spend the money on brand new ones, search for your car’s model of wheels on ebay and gumtree. People are always upgrading wheels and don’t know what to do with their stock ones which often have really good tyres on them. I sold my old rims for $180 with bald tyres and bought another set with almost new tyres for $250.