Third Annual European Sauna Marathon
This event took place on 12 February 2012 in the vicinity of Otepää. Metsatu Resort was one of 15 hosts for the event, which is a form of orienteering competition among teams consisting (mostly) of four persons. The teams start from one location (Pühajärve Spa Hotel), were given a location map showing the various points to be visited, and then sent on their way.
At each of the venues to be visited there was a sauna (occasionally more than one); in each of these the team had to enjoy the heat for not less than 3 minutes, and then move on. The fastest team to complete the circuit was the winner. At some of the venues it was possible for the team to score bonus points. For example, we provided a hole in the pond ice for a nice ice water dip! If a team member enjoyed the dip their team received a 10 minute cut from their official elapsed time.
We became aware of the event the previous year, but were not tempted to participate--either as competitors or sponsors. However in 2012 we considered the pros and cons and decided to be one of the hosts-- with some trepidation, but since we are quite proud of our little resort (and sauna!) we decided to go for it.
The trepidation was justified: our sauna in the "White Elephant House" comfortably accommodates six persons. The anticipated number of "marathoners" exceeded 400! Then there was the question of parking--especially since we are in snow country, with more expected any minute.
Fortunately the county of Otepää was a sponsor/supporter of the event, so they sent a large plow to create two large lots and to widen our access road, so incoming and outgoing vehicles could pass each other.
Another reason for trepidation was the prospect of dealing with the administrative details of the competition--endorsing tickets, directing traffic, supervising the ice hole, providing warm drinks, and the like. In this we really lucked out with volunteers in the form of Ann, Mari, Harri, and Edgar (plus the two of us (Piret and Ivo)--and we needed all of us.
Then there was the ice hole . . . we'd promised! The day before, Edgar and I went to the site--our sauna pond, with its dock and stone steps leading to the depths. The lines of the previous hole were there (in January we had visitors who had wanted a dip in the ice cube filled hole). But the last 3 weeks we'd had consistent temperatures of minus 30 degrees (Celsius), and it was frozen solid. Our initial efforts to break through to water with a six-foot iron chisel came to naught.
I then got out the chain saw--ice chips and smoke everywhere--still to no avail; the ice was thicker than the length of the 18" blade. Now I cut a checker-board pattern (18" deep) where the hole was to be. And we broke out the ice chunks, one by one. On the second round of sawing the blade broke through--and the basin filled with water! So back to the ice chisel--and after an afternoon of sawing, chiseling, pounding and sweating the hole was in being. We covered it for the night with a big tarp, and hoped for the best.
The day of the marathon we were blessed with perfect weather--cold, but not too cold, no wind, brilliant sunshine. We fired up the sauna to about 80 degrees Celsius (190 Farenheit) and waited . . . Then the excitement started.
Team after team--some in costumes, some wearing nothing--poured in. Administrative details were soon forgotten--and everyone went into the ice hole. At times there were 20-30 people stuffed into the sauna. Steam filled the anteroom and lounge. And we kept the fire burning--until 6 p.m. when everyone was gone--save for some who came back, simply to relax.
At the closing ceremonies that night in the Pühajärve Pub the crowd and clamor were deafening. We did manage to hear that Metsatu was voted one of the three best saunas the 450-odd competitors had enjoyed.
Considering 2013, there is a lot of food for thought . . . .