Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Sue and I recently got around, rather hurriedly at the last minute, to entering the Austrian Alpine Club’s 2017 annual photography competition.

There are several categories:

  • General, divided into Best Mountain Landscape/Wild Country, and Best Portrait/People
  • Nature
  • Typical Austria

The entries were judged by previous winner Malcolm Imhoff FRPS who is not only one of the regular entrants to this competition but also a highly respected photographer with many national and international photographic awards.

He judged my photo taken with my Samsung S5 phone to be the Best Mountain Landscape/Wild Country image, commenting as follows:

‘A beautiful scene, well captured - a calendar shot!. The exposure is well handled and the colours nicely saturated. The image is nicely composed, with a lead in from the bottom left to the lakes, then across the mountain peaks, which are taller at the sides helping the frame the picture. There is a lovely blue sky with cumulus clouds.’

I think the S5 has to take some of the credit….


I don’t think Sue rated her ‘Edelweiss’ picture as her most likely chance of success, but Malcolm awarded her a Highly Commended Certificate in the Nature category, commenting as follows:

‘Well this jumps out at you. Edelweiss are small tatty things but these are enormous and quite beautiful, so well done to the photographer for getting in so close and capturing them. The flowers stand out well against the dark background but there are quite a few pointy blades of grass which distract and could easily be removed. It's called "gardening".’

This was a carefully composed shot using her Canon Powershot G15.


Sue’s other entries are shown below:

General: Cape Verde Angels


General: Shades of Blue


General: Washing day in Cape Verde


Nature: Feeding fritillary


Typical Austria: A cosy hearth


Typical Austria: Water power


Here are my other entries, for what they are worth…

General: Austrian Hiker


General: Morning View from Heinrich Schwaiger Haus


General: Resting below Bonn Matreier Hut


Nature: Cloud Over Kaprun


Nature: Wintergasse glacier melt


Typical Austria: Krefelder Hikers


Typical Austria: Lobbentorl


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Saturday 10 March 2018 – Sue’s 100th parkrun


There’s been a pause on these pages. The lurgy that Sue suffered in Poland passed to me, and without the benefit of antibiotics until yesterday, I’ve not felt well enough to write a report on the Polish loppet, let alone create any new postings since ‘Picture’.

Just before I took to my bed, Cary (veteran of our Apennine and Austrian hutting trips) was at our house and wondering how I created mobile postings. ‘Picture’ was my demonstration of how to create a posting in about half a minute. It’s a simple email to the email address of this ‘Blogger’ blog. Apparently there’s an ‘App’ called ‘Bloggeroid’ that allows images to be inserted within the text, rather than all appear at the top of the posting as per my method of ‘mobile’ postings.

I do hope Cary doesn’t get this bug, as he is due to set off on a Lizard Point to Dunnet Head walk on 25 March. Good luck Cary. He can be followed at and I’m sure he’ll appreciate all the support that he can get.

Meanwhile, on Saturday Sue was well enough to pop down to Wythenshawe Park for her 100th parkrun. She’d baked lots of cake, so she had to go. She is seriously tackling her Achilles problem, which means no running for a while. So her role as volunteer ‘Tail Walker’ was eminently sensible. The top image is an early Tail Walker’s view on the first loop of the new ‘Flag and Sandcastle’ course.

Below, Richard sprints past, lapping the Tail, and below that – others splash past at a more leisurely pace.


I’d hoped that Sue would provide a ‘cake’ picture, but it seems that by the time she had strolled home in rather less than an hour, some 159 other parkrunners had snaffled most of the flapjack, chocolate caramel shortbread, and lemon drizzle cake that she had provided. I was sorry not to be able to share it.

Anyway, that should bring readers up to date. I’ve had to abandon plans for a weekend in Snowdonia this weekend, but Sue is still going, and if I’m feeling any better I may get around to doing that Polish loppet report.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Saturday 3 March 2018 - The Bieg Piastöw 50 km Classic Ski Loppet

Sue is happily feeling much better today, albeit not up to skiing 50 kilometres.

That left 17 of us to participate in the event that this trip is designed to lead up to. Andy led us in with a superb time, and everyone finished without any serious incidents.

Here are the results:

First man 2.16.41 (1294 men took part)

First woman 2.33.01 (156 women took part)

Total finishers: 1450

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 3.28.39, 314, 73/345

Phil - 4.12.12, 653, 159/345

Susan - 4.34.19, 798, 3/10 (on the podium)

Trevor - 4.38.02, 831, 207/345

Shane - 4.59.12, 982, 342/455

Matt - 5.06.20, 1036, 260/345

Stephen - 5.10.32, 1066, 15/36

Sam - 5.29.27, 1176, 17/36

Tania - 5.43.02, 1247, 22/36

Martin - 5.44.59, 1255, 155/188

Steve - 5.51.14, 1278, 161/188

Ellie - 6.12.00, 1342, 26/36

Jenny - 6.41.59, 1388, 45/47

Jim - 6.42.11, 1389, 32/36

Maureen - 6.53.42, 1407, 34/36

Karen - 7.16.59, 1436, 52/53

Lynda - 7.17.13, 1438, 53/53

The pictures show me at the finish, where Andy kindly cheered us all home, and Lynda and Karen joyous at having finished.

That's all for now. I'll do a more expansive diary entry in the next day or two.

That's virtually it from Poland as we go home tomorrow (weather permitting as we hear there has been snow in the UK).

Friday, 2 March 2018

Friday 2 March 2018 - Bieg Piastöw 7 km Classic Ski Race

The results of the 7 km race:

There were 763 finishers.

First man 19.25 (525 men took part)

First lady 23.02 (238 ladies took part)

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 28.52, 98, 19/102

Phil - 34.10, 196, 41/102

Trevor - 36.31, 232, 49/102

Steve - 45.27, 428, 60/102

Sam - 45.52, 435, 13/37

Martin - 46.44, 462, 64/102

Ellie - 47.39, 482, 16/37

Jim - 50.47, 531, 10/27

Lynda - 52.13, 570, 48/78

Very respectable if I may offer that opinion. Well done everyone.

Martin's Diary:

Nine of us assembled for this bit of fun by way of a warm up for tomorrow's 50 km loppet. Others lazed around after the exertions of yesterday's 18 km outing on the planks, rested, or enjoyed a trip to town via the little blue railway train.

The race started at noon on another sunny, cold day. I planted my skis, thankfully now endowed with enough tail and tip wax to last 7 km, right at the back of the last wave of starters, after keeping warm in the luggage tent.

Starting at the back meant that nobody was treading on my skis, but it had the disadvantage of having to do a bit of overtaking in order to get a vaguely respectable time. Over the course of the race I overtook someone every 35 metres or so, which indicates a lot of lane changing although I did use the piste outside the tracks (albeit a bit harder work than using the tracks) for much of the ascent to the 3 km point, after which a straightforward flat section took us to a final descent past skillfully avoided (haha) scattered bodies to the finish.

Sue had managed to leave her sick bed for a while to support us, and a few more photos may follow if we can transfer them from her camera. After the race I dashed off to deposit my skis for proper waxing overnight, forgetting to collect a finishers medal - I didn't think there would be one for such a short race.

Returning to the finish, after some initial difficulty I was rescued by Dorothea, a Technical Delegate who spotted my Gatineau loppet hat. "I was first lady home in that race in 1998" she exhorted, after authorising the staff to give me a medal. We had a long chat during which she tried hard to persuade me to buy a Worldloppet passport.

I'm pictured above with Dorothea.

Sue had appeared from her photographic duties and we joined Andy, Phil and Ellie for a pasta and chicken sauce lunch in the food tent. The 'goodie bag' for this event included a travel towel and a voucher for a rather meagre free lunch.

That was enough for Sue. We eschewed a visit to the Expo tent or the nearby town and spent a relaxing for me but painful for Sue with her continuing illness, afternoon in our comfortable room.

Dinner in Hotel Biathlon again. Luckily there's a good menu.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The 10 km Night Race - Results

Here are the results of Monday's night race:

First man 31.15 (161 men took part)
First woman 32.00 (53 women took part)

Total participants: 214 (205 finishers)

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 45.37, 42, 8/32
Phil - 52.29, 78, 15/32
Trevor - 54.49, 90, 18/32
Susan - 58.00, 105, 2/8
Matt - 1.00.10, 116, 21/32
Tania - 1.08.13, 149, 4/9
Martin - 1.11.42, 159, 15/24
Sue - 1.11.51, 160, 5/9
Sam - 1.12.34, 162, 6/9
Ellie - 1.16.12, 169, ?
Lynda - 1.32.54, 186, 12/14
Maureen - 1.33.00, 188, 7/9
Jenny - 1.33.08, 189, ?

Ellie and Jenny were misclassified as men, hence the lack of age group positions.

Only 13 of us took part in this race. Others were saving themselves for later.

Feel free to comment or send 'race reports' that I can add to this information!  (

Thursday 1 March 2018 - A Bieg Piastöw Circuit

Today's 'slow' group numbers rose again with the addition of Sam and Tania, though Jim dropped off the team sheet. I think he paid a visit to a nearby village. Andy replaced Arthur as our guru. Sue was unable to join us on another sunny morning due to her continuing illness. 

Advice has been taken from medically trained members of the group and referral to a local GP has been considered unnecessary. That's not much consolation to Sue, whose holiday has been wrecked by this illness. At least we have an excellent family room.

It was very cold again, with a predicted high of about minus 10°C, so we had to keep moving to stay warm. Some tuition was provided by Andy, then some warming up exercises. Some people swear by these, but I prefer to warm up by starting whatever activity it is nice and slowly.

We started up a familiar 3 km gentle hill, then enjoyed a 10 km circuit that's included in the Bieg Piastöw ski race that takes place on Saturday. There was a lovely long, fast descent - followed not unexpectedly by a crippling ascent. Not crippling today, but after over 40 km of racing this hill will be hard work.

Finishing on the nice descent route of a 7 km race, we all assembled in the sunshine at the finishing line, before adjourning for lunch and an easy afternoon in the Hotel Biathlon.

Hopefully Sue will be feeling a bit better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

J50 in the Czech Republic

Whilst Sue embarked on a second day in bed (she got up at lunchtime and feels a bit better tonight) the rest of us took a twenty minute bus ride into the Czech Republic. We found an access point to the 'J50' loppet route. That's the Czech Republic's ski race that some of our number aspire to.

I relegated myself to the 'slow' group under the guidance, if not tutelage, of local man Arthur (pictured bottom). 'Slow' is something of a misnomer - I struggled to keep up at times.

We found the J50 loop a little monotonous. We covered maybe 15 km of the loppet route on our 26.5 km ski. With the ski trail being very slow today due to snow conditions on another very cold day (minus 15°C plus windchill) it was rather hard work on our waxless skis.

After 13 km Arthur enforced a coffee stop when the majority would have preferred to continue to our pre-arranged lunch stop. We watched Arthur enjoy his lunch - it was after 12.30 after all. A cold climb after that saw my electric gloves come into use again, and several of the others were suffering from cold hands.

Eventually, probably around 2 pm, we reached our designated lunch stop after nearly 21 km of laborious skiing. Using waxless skis with little glide, most of us were finding it hard going.

My lack of Czech currency meant I had no money for lunch, so I can thank Ellie for the provision of funds for some excellent noodle soup and a shared bowl of chips. Thanks.

Our little unit - Jenny, Jim, Karen, Lynda, Maureen, Ellie and me - then tried to warm up again on the final 5 km ski back to the bus. The 'fast' group had been encountered at lunchtime after their 17 km ski, and had chosen to ski an adventurous 7.5 km route back to our hotel. They got there before we did, partly because of our 20 minute bus journey and partly because we all took our skis off to avoid a large patch of steep ice on our descent route.

Sue seemed much better on our return, but didn't feel like joining the group at a restaurant in a nearby town, so we've eaten here at Hotel Biathlon. Tomato soup for Sue - better than nothing! 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A Night Race, and a visit to the Czech Republic border

The top picture was taken last night before we set off with a couple of hundred others on the 10 km night race that is part of this week long skiing festival.

Sue and I skied together as she wasn't feeling well. We finished in 1 hour 12 minutes, around 160th out of about 200 participants. Quickest in our group was Andy in about 45 minutes, with Phil on his ski tails. Well done them. Some of the ladies in our group finished sedately in an hour and a half, but not without their adventures, with one of them having to be dug out of a hole and another skiing blind as her torch broke at the start.

All great fun, followed by another meal of huge portions at Hotel Biathlon.

Today a chap called Arthur had been recruited to chaperone the slower elements of our contingent on a pleasant woodland trail to Orle - for lunch where we had elevenses yesterday. Returning by a direct 5 km route, they probably managed 20 km today.

The 'fast' group (misnamed as I was in it) did a 6 km loop before chasing after Arthur's lot. We never caught them, perhaps as a result of the others having to wait for me every few km.

Both groups paused for photos at the border with the Czech Republic. Andy took the middle picture on a day of sunshine but extreme cold. My electric gloves went on after that stop - the phone needs bare flesh to operate its camera.

Lunch was a tedious affair. They were queueing out of the door at the café in Orle by the time I arrived. Rather than wait in a queue for an hour I skipped lunch apart from a few titbits from Stephen and Shane, and when their lunch finally arrived (thanks I think to Tania and others waiting interminably in the queue), I headed back to Jakuszyce on my own by a roundabout route to find Sue still in her sickbed. She seems to be wiped out by the bug that Helen then Ken had while we were in Canada.

My Garmin's battery expired after recording 26 km, probably within a kilometre of finishing today's ski. En route a skidoo was depositing wayside markers like the one in the bottom picture, offering a sense of what's to come on this trip.

After the lunch disaster a buffet meal in a restaurant in a nearby settlement will hopefully fill a few gaps, if not for Sue, who sadly remains poorly.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Skiing Around Jakuszyce

There are lots of ski trails in this area, some of which we explored this morning. It was cold - below minus 15°C plus wind chill, so we didn't stop much. However, it was pleasantly sunny and the ski trails were good.

Elevenses were taken at a café in what looked like an old chapel. That's in the bottom picture, today's other pictures having been taken on the way there. 

We had skied just under 15 km on a convoluted route that I won't attempt to describe by the time we got back to Hotel Biathlon, conveniently in time for lunch.

It's proving to be a restful afternoon as most of us are booked on a 10 km 'Night Race' starting at 6 pm. I have bib number 1, so perhaps there aren't many participants (I wonder why? What could be better than racing in the dark in about minus 25°C including wind chill? And who was crazy enough to insure us to do that?) 

By the time we've done that and had dinner we'll be ready for something other than composing blog postings.

Prague then Jakuszyce

After a good night's rest in the very comfortable Hotel Rott,  Sue and I enjoyed an 8 km stroll around Prague (pictured) before meeting up with Simon (a university contemporary of Sue's who just happened to be in town) for lunch, and then joining Susan in a taxi to the airport.

Here we met various old acquaintances as they flew in from Heathrow or converged from different parts of town.

Almost three hours on a very comfortable coach saw us over the border with Poland, a couple of kilometres beyond which the flesh pots of Jakuszyce beckoned. Namely the Hotel Biathlon, in which we are ensconced for the next week.

There's not much else here, apart from a load of cross-country ski trails accessible from the door. Luckily we came across a man from Estonia, Yuri, who had been recruited by our indomitable leader, Andy, to fit everyone out with skiing gear. He just about managed that before setting off on a 16 hour drive back to Estonia. It seems that none of the local outfitters was able to cope with our group of 18 people.

That left time for most of us to enjoy a pleasurable (once we warmed up) 7 km ski from the hotel, during which night fell. Luckily the moon is bright tonight!

We later discovered that the beer here is cheap and the meals are tasty and huge.

(To be sent tomorrow if I can find either WiFi or a phone signal.)