Saturday, March 18, 2017

The New [fill in your word choice here] Norm

    Given snow in the Twin Cities is always a possibility throughout April, I’m never quite sure when to (1) put storage wax on my skis and (2) write my post-season recap. Since I haven’t been too motivated over the past couple weeks to seek out marginal snow conditions and my mind is focused on Spring, I’ll at least get the latter of the two started. Besides, I can always write an addendum!

    If I could post in one picture how I feel about my ‘16-’17 ski season and winter it’s this:
This picture also shows that the women's bibs are smaller than the men's bibs.
    After skiing at Giant’s Ridge the weekend after Thanksgiving, we returned to a snowless Twin Cities where it wasn’t even cold enough to make enough snow for the first weekend in December. The second weekend in December we went to the UP where conditions were still “early season.” Then alas, we had one cold, snowy weekend in the Twin Cities before we spent the weekend of Christmas skiing at Maplelag and Bemidji. Then we spent every weekend in January and February skiing on man-made snow except for two. Indeed, only 2 of the 9 races I did this season were on natural snow, for Seeley Hills Classic and the Minnesota Finlandia which corresponded with the only two weekends in January and February I didn’t ski on man-made snow. And that’s how I would describe this picture: those bibs are waiting for their owners to put them on and race like how I’m stuck back at the beginning of January WAITING FOR WINTER TO START. 

With a paucity of snow in the Twin Cities for the 2016-2017 ski season, we found ourselves skiing lap after lap on man-made snow. Despite this, I came up with a few ways to make this more enjoyable. Here’s a few take-aways from the season on how to keep this fun:

  1. Play on skis. Skiing is fun, remember? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, laps at Elm Creek don’t sound like much fun but here’s a tip: ski a few smaller loops and work on your skid turns heading into these smaller loops. I managed to ski ONLY 4 loops at Elm Creek in an hour by playing on the practice field, doing an extra south and north donut each lap, as well as an extra middle section.
  2. Utilize the practice fields. These are great places to take a break from the crowds, work on cornering, switching tracks, and get in a few more kilometers with different scenery.
  3. Lower your expectations. There was one Sunday in January where literally trail reports from Elm Creek, Hyland, and Wirth all said “don’t ski here today. Conditions are very slushy and terrible. Go somewhere else.” And I’d like to ask, where else??? If you want the best conditions, try to get out early because trail reports noted breaking down conditions by 7 am!
  4. Embrace the conditions. If man-made snow is the new norm, then embrace practicing in the sugar and slush that these highly transformed ice pellets provide. This also allows for ample practice with kick wax including klister!
  5. No need to make plans for skiing with your friends- just show up and like 500 of them will be there.

Despite having some fun while skiing man-made loops, this is really quite pathetic. I began to crave this idea of skiing in the woods on new winding ski trails with snow clinging to the trees. Instead we skied loop after loop on crowded ski trails that thanks to warm temps turned the snow to slush, sand, sugar, mashed potatoes etc- that becomes the fill in your word of choice above.

While out skiing on these man-made loops there were a few quotes that came to my mind. During my last 3 hour ski of the year at Hyland I declared, “I’m sinking,” and literally felt so amongst the heavily transformed ice pellets, like I was in one of those ball pits. Another time I thought conditions to be “comically terrible” as so many people were out enjoying the man-made snow despite its deep slushiness. And while skiing at Wirth in the MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY under 45 degree temperatures in conditions that could best be described as incredibly slow water slush I noted, “I didn’t think conditions would be THIS bad.” Gotta love manufactured snow.

Perhaps my highlight of the season was skiing in two classic sprint relays. I’ve wanted to do a classic sprint relay since Sara Renner and Beckie Scott got the silver medal in that race at the 2006 Olympics but this format isn’t very common, and when it happens, is almost always in the skate technique in citizen racing. But this year Erik and I competed in the Master Blaster Relays and then I competed with my co-worker’s daughter in an Age Gap Relay. Both were so incredibly fun and way better than any skate team sprint I’ve ever done! I guess my classic sprinting is better than my skate sprinting. 
We won the Age Gap Relays for U12. And yes, my kid is taller than me! Photo: Veeti Tandon

   Overall, I felt the end to the season was very anti-climactic. I mean, it seems quite perfect to end the season with a race called the HamsterBeiner but winning by a distance of 5 kilometers in a 30 kilometer race doesn’t make for a terribly satisfying race. Maybe that says it all. 

    I haven’t completely given up yet and am still holding out that we might still have some good skiable snow. We’ve also been tossing around the idea of doing a relay at 24 Hours of Lappe up at Thunder Bay on April Fools Day so if anyone would like to join our relay team, let us know!

Finally, I’ll leave you with 4 of my favorite pictures from this season that will turn that frown on your face into a smile!
Sometimes the best part about pictures are not the people who are supposed to be in them, but the people who aren't! Matt and Sergio sure were photogenic during the inaugural Hamsterbeiner. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Check out that studmuffin in the window enjoying the downtown finish at the Mora Vasaloppet on a warm February day! Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Erik got me this ice cream cake with a hot pink skier on it for Valentine's Day. It was a perfect gift for both of us- especially because it included Reece's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream! Photo: Erik
 
I love this photo from the City of Lakes Loppet Classic Race of my two former U of M teammates. It shows Matt's impeccable classic striding technique while Craig demonstrates a perfect tuck. Craig's a pretty fast skier, but this really highlights how much faster Matt is! It's also fun that this photo captures someone taking a picture of Craig. Photo: Bruce Adelsman 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Birkie 2017: Keep on the sunny side

    As the snow conditions looked dismal for Birkie 2017, the lyrics from Keep On The Sunny Side came to mind. This is largely because of how I view the Birkie. Let’s just suffice it to say, I’ve never caught the Birkie Fever. For me, the Birkie doesn’t make or break winter because:

  1. I put a lot of weight on every ski race I do. Indeed, everyone shows up for the Birkie at the expense of the smaller races. This is really too bad. Fortunately, I’ve already had some solid races this season.
  2. Even though I train for months for skiing, part of why I train is just to be outside using my body. I [mostly] love this training and the training is something in and of itself for me.
  3. The chase is better than the catch: training for the Birkie, the anticipation of it, is almost better than the event itself. This is like the anticipation for a vacation or a party where the planning and excitement are at least half the fun. Besides, because I’ve been training so much for the classic Birkie, I’ve become so comfortable on my classic rollerskis and my striding has gotten so much better and these improvements inspire me.
   
    On Tuesday, four days before the Birkie, three scenarios were announced. For me these became four possibilities:

  1. Race is on if we get enough snow but shorted to about 25 kilometers from the start to OO..
  2. If we get some snow but not enough to safely race, we would do a “tour” of sorts. This happened in 2007 and it was my most fun Birkie ever!
  3. Birkie gets changed to foot-only event. Uh-oh. Now here’s where there are some decisions to be made. My uncle died a week ago and the funeral was scheduled for the day of the Birkie. If it’s a running only event, I feel like I should go to the funeral. So possibility 3 is drive to Hayward, get our race bibs (lowest numbers we’ve ever had so we want these), spend the night with friends, then drive to the funeral in the morning instead of the foot-only event.
  4. If Birkie is a foot-only event, forget about driving to Hayward (maybe someone else can pick up our bibs), stay in St. Paul, and go to the funeral.

    This might sound pretty terrible to be contemplating going to my uncle’s funeral versus skiing the Birkie but here’s the deal, I wasn’t that close to my uncle (or extended family) and when considering I’ve spent 700 hour just this year training for the Birkie and that I haven’t spent 7 hours with my uncle in the past 10 years, these options make a bit more sense. 

    I mulled over all these options while on a classic rollerski two days before the Birkie. Still in suspense over the Birkie scenarios, this made it difficult to know what I was training for, except my training was largely determined by the weather. 

Then I had a dark 24 hours when I wasn’t on the sunny side. It started with the Town Hall I attended on climate change. It’s a grim topic at best. Then by the time I got home the weather forecast now predicted even less snow with the system going farther south and east. This made Possibility #4 most likely despite the high fluoro wax job I had done earlier in the day. All the details of planning were coming to fruition- loading up the car, making food, packing race clothes and touring clothes, and funeral clothes (which could double as my business casual wear for work). Despite all this packing and prep work it seemed likely I wouldn’t be going on a trip at all.  

I worked in the morning on Friday and fortunately was busy at work until about noon when I learned the Birkie was officially cancelled. Now we had to choose between Possibility #3 and #4. We could either go have a “Birkie Party” with friends or we could stay home and go to a funeral which seemed like a not terribly fun time. After approximately an hour of deliberation, we decided on #4. 
No Birkie 2017 means I can't collect anymore age class hats...and clearly my collection is already complete! Photo: Erik


Now I entered into the deep dark side. It’s always a bad sign when I’m not terribly interested to leave work. The Birkie is the biggest ski event of the season where we match our fitness to our fellow racers and see if we have made improvements. Even though I’m still learning to love racing, without this big test I felt a huge void. Moreover, staying home meant skiing laps on deteriorating man-made snow. I decided I needed a new sport for our snowless winters.

Somewhere in my excessive planning, when contemplating the above Possibilities, I decided to walk home via the library where I would look at some travel books for an anticipated trip to Europe later this year. It was sunny outside and exercise cures all and slowly I was seeing some light on the dark side. Once in the library, I became so engrossed in travel books I completely forgot there was a world around me. By the time I left the library and started walking home things were looking up. Then I walked by a skate board shop… “hmmmm, maybe that can be my ski replacement sport,” I mused. 

Erik and I spent the evening together, running, then putting together a 3D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower. Then we learned about the impromptu Hamsterbeiner and suddenly I could see the sunny side!

I enjoyed some quality time with my immediate family at the funeral and then we were off to Hyland to ski a few laps. Given my classic skis were waxed with high fluoros for Possibility #1, I decided to classic ski. Once I added some START yellow hard kick wax I got enough kick to be satisfied if that is my last classic ski of the season.

As everyone knows, the best part about funerals is the food afterwards. There was quite the collection of jell-o salads. I'm so glad Birkie 2017 was cancelled so I could appreciate this. Priceless:)
Ironically, by staying in the Twin Cities, we got to do a race. The Hamsterbeiner, sponsored by Pioneer Midwest, was a 10 lap (25 kilometer) skate race at Elm Creek on Sunday morning. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a 20 lap option! According to the Facebook page, there looked to be some stellar competition at the event and I realized getting lapped twice was likely to happen to me for the first time in my life. 

To get into race mode, I watched the World Championships skiathlon. It certainly did the trick and made me glad to be racing. I think I even caught #Hamsterbeiner fever! Erik asked me about my race strategy which was to pretend like I was racing a bunch of 5 kilometer races. I don’t have much top end speed, but what I lack in speed I make up for in endurance. I was ridiculously hoping for a time of 1:15 which is five 15 minute 5 K’s back to back which is a pretty aggressive goal for someone with an all-time PR of 14:52 for a 5 K!

The race field was small with only one other woman. The start was very chill and with only 25 racers, there was hardly any need to double pole. Course conditions were perfect for me- fast transformed snow with a hard base but with soft corduroy on top (I’m not a hard track skier). As usual, the field got away from me quickly with 3 guys off the back who I vowed to try and catch. I skied hard until I caught those guys on my second lap and then tucked in behind one of them for almost a lap until I blew past him after I V-2’d up a hill where he was V-1ing. By the fourth lap I was all on my own. I kept up a hard pace I hoped to maintain for 25 kilometers and was already feeling tired by the fifth lap- a good sign I was skiing hard. There also isn’t much time for rest on the Elm Creek Hamster wheel. 
I tucked in behind this guy for most of lap #3, then he blew up big time as I lapped him on my final lap! Photo: Bruce Adelsman

 
Mostly though, I skied the Hamsterbeiner by myself. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Even though I was winning the women’s race by a decent margin, I still kept pushing and racing. In these races I’m really trying race as many guys as possible. I lapped a couple people and the top guys lapped me on my lap 4 and 7. It was fun seeing people (including Erik who was using his skis I had waxed for Birkie Possibility #1) along the course as there are so many places where the course comes together. After skiing by myself for 5 laps, I was really happy to see a guy in front of me as I started lap 9. Now I had more incentive to ski fast. It took me over a lap to catch him but I was glad to pass him! Just before finishing, I double lapped the other woman. That makes me feel better for getting double lapped myself.  

 
Getting lapped by the lead guys for the first time. Yes, that's Sergio Benaldi from Italy (2 time winner of the Birkie) out in front followed by a couple guys from the SMST2 team. I swear, the only time I let up easy in the race was right when this photo was being taken because I didn't want to cut Matt off. You can even see me looking for him in this photo by Mark Lahtinen
In the end I finished 15th of 25 racers where the top two racers were former Birkie Champs! My time was 1:16:17 which is not too shabby for me given my PR 5 K time. I won a chocolate-caramel apple (yes, no bling to take home) and was back on the sunny side!

In the end, attending a funeral and racing the Hamsterbeiner definitely made for an unforgettable #EpicBirkie2017!

Channel 5 news even came out to do a story about the Hamsterbeiner! My skis and feet have a starring role.
video

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Finlandia and February Frolicking
 
How's this for February Fun? Check out my new wedding ring! Never thought I'd have one like this when I was all grown up.
    Finlandia! This year, for the 3rd time in a row, I did the 25 kilometer classic race. There is also a 25 kilometer skate and pursuit, and a 50 kilometer skate. Due to the warm weather, the courses were all shortened to either 2 or 3 loops of 11 kilometers on the west side trails (for either 22 kilometers or 33 kilometers). 

I took a peek at the start list the night before the race and learned Ingrid Leask was doing the pursuit. This was really exciting because it meant I would have someone to ski with for the first lap (the classic and pursuit start together) but we weren’t actually racing each other because we were in different races!  

Similar to last year, race temps were very warm. Unlike last year, the race organizers moved up the start time by an hour (9 am start, still relaxed) so we didn’t have to ski so much in the slush. This enabled me to ski faster than last year!

At the start of the race, I looked around to see who all showed up. I lined up behind Ingrid in the second row. Allie Rykken made the drive and was doing the classic as well. Allie is a solid skier with excellent technique and even if she proclaims to be out of shape, she is always a threat! There was another woman with her husband (they were wearing some matching Nike hoodies and headphones) who appeared to be quite slow. “We got a full podium,” I declared when I saw that woman. It’s always good to round out the podium. I didn’t see too many other fast women in the start but enjoyed the matching headphone couple saying “these people all look fast. They are wearing these funny spandex suits. How far is this race anyway?”
I made the Bemidji Pioneer Newspaper again. This is the start of the classic and pursuit races. Craigger was so fast he was out of the picture. I'm in this photo with both Erik (Vakava suit on the right) and my brother (too small to see).
 
The gun went off and we had a gradual downhill glazed start and before too long Ingrid had broke away. The first part of the course has some uphills and steep downhills, including the “s” curve. I caught back up to Ingrid in this section and we were skiing with a group of guys from NDSU. I had some fast skis compared to those guys!

By the end of the hilly section, Ingrid and I had dropped all those guys except one (I remember this happening last year, too). For the remainder of the lap, Ingrid and I skied together. Again, as I mentioned above, this is a real treat to ski race with someone who is not in my race. I talked with Craig [Cardinal] about this afterwards and turns out this happens a bit more in the men's race where there is more competition. 
Skiing with Ingrid on lap one. Photo: senior Arenz brothers
 
I skied by myself on the second lap. No one was around me but I tried to keep up some kind of pace because I knew Allie was behind me. Conditions were definitely slower on the second lap but not quite slush yet. My kick was also a bit better on the slushy snow as I had Rex Brown on. Still the kick wasn’t great and I did a lot of herring-boning (hip flexors were a bit sore the next day). The fast skaters all caught me on that second lap (they started 10 minutes behind me). I kept pushing to the end but without any competition it didn’t feel much like a race. It was fun to have my mom and my youngest brother cheering for me!
All by myself on lap two. Photo: senior Arenz brothers
 
After the race I wanted to keep skiing because I haven’t skied much on natural snow this year. A group of us did a cool down. I stayed plenty warm in just my spandex suit as temps were near 50 by this time!
Women's 22 kilometer classic podium. I love that the woman in the Nike jacket got 3rd place even though she was over an hour behind me. It's fun that the common folk can podium sometimes. Check out Allie's really awesome jacket from the Bemidji Woolen Mills! Photo: Leif Ronnander

Thanks to the Finlandia for yet again having a great race with excellent snow conditions. 
I love skiing my home town race. Not only does everyone know my name, hence I get a lot of cheers, but the local newspaper photographer knows my name as well so I got two photos on one page of the Bemidji Pioneer!

With the recent warm February temperatures, I’ve taken to some frolicking.
Frolic #1: (this really may be more of a confession and better for Twitter or Instagram, but I’m not on social media) yes, I did it. In February. And don’t hate me. It was sunny and 40s and warm. And I had fun.*

Frolic #2: I thought about biking to work on my birthday (the 20th) and when I saw the AM temp was forecasted to be 50 degrees, I really couldn’t pass this up. I don’t think it’s ever been 50 degrees in the morning at 6 am on my birthday!

Frolic #3: when I realized it was going to be 50 plus degrees on my birthday, I decided to forget about skiing and go canoeing instead! Just kidding. Since it was raining, we played Here Comes the Rain Again and worked on a 3-D Eiffel Tower Puzzle!

Frolic #4: I ran home from work in a t-shirt running bra and shorts in FEBRUARY in MINNESOTA!
Quite scantily clad for February, but still plenty warm at about 60 degrees. It was a beautiful sunset on February 21st and thanks to longer daylight, I didn't need those lights on my running belt (although I could use some help with my selfie technique:)

Frolic #5: I finally made it out canoeing (with Erik) on February 22nd! First canoe ever in February. 
Evening paddle on the Mississippi River. Lots of people were out on the banks making fires and we saw 4 boats from the U of M crew team. Not bad for 50 degrees...and likely better than skiing at Hyland. Winter is forecasted to return in 24 hours so maybe there will still be time for February Frolicking of the snowy kind. Photo: Erik

*I think this is pretty taboo so I’m trying to hide it. The answer is rollerskiing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Skiing on Natural Snow in Cable (Pre-Birkie and North End Classic Recap)

Driving to Cable from Stillwater we saw a little more white on the ground, but the snow coverage really started to improve once we got North of  OO.  I had heard the Cable area receive about 8" of snow in the last week.  This was dry, lake effect snow; something I hadn't seen all winter.  When we arrived in Cable, Friday evening, there was a bright full moon illuminating the fresh snow banks.  The trails were calling me, persuading me to ski on them, but I had to say no.  I still had skis to wax for the next day's Pre-Birkie and was feeling under the weather.  My kids and I had all been fighting a virus for the past week or so and I was already sleep deprived.  After getting my kids to bed I read the wax recommendations from Dan Meyer on his Fast Wax web page, then I got to work. First a layer of HSLF 20 blue, then another layer of HSF 20 tan, then a top coat of Flight cold.  I put some structure in and then ironed in a hard wax binder, and another layer couple layers of Rex  TK1814.  The rest of the job I would do on sight the next morning. 

I woke up Saturday morning to a light drizzle.  It was drizzling all the way to Hayward; naturally I became worried about kick wax selection.  I was registered to do the 42 km classic race.  At last year's Birkie I double poled most of the race because I "missed the wax". I had flash backs and really didn't want a repeat of last year's Birkie. I said a prayer, asked for some advice from other racers and then put on a couple layers of Ski-Go red.  It was slipping on Lake Hayward and I hadn't skied on the course the previous day so I didn't know what to expect on the trails.  I saw some people using klister.  By this time I only had about 20 minutes to the start so I opted not to remove my wax in favor of klister, but to add a couple more layers of Oslo purple.  My skis are not klister skis, they are a fairly low camber hard track ski, so I imagined them being draggy with all the layers I had put on.  Without trying them, I headed for the start, stopping to go to the bathroom along the way. 

I was lined up with many men and a few women doing both the 42km and 26km races; I figured the third row back was about right for me.  We started off really slow.  I was slowly moving up in the field realized I should probably slow down or I would be leading the whole thing.  I was a bit puzzled that we weren't going faster, especially considering most of the racers were only going 26 kilometers.  By about the 3km mark it was just me and a couple of boys from Park Center High School that were up doing the 26km event.  The results show another man winning the 26km classic by about 24 second over the boy from Park Center, but I didn't seem him out there.  Anyhow, the two boys from Park Center were good company on the trails.  I asked them if they would consider continuing on after completion of their race, they unanimously said "no". I really couldn't believe I was leading the 42km event overall.  Once I was the overall winner of a 10km running race, but never a marathon ski race.  The day was beautiful, the snow was awesome, and I was feeling relatively good, considering I was fighting a virus. Slowly I saw another skier, besides the three of us, just meters behind.  By about 20 kilometers or so I decided I had better let him pull for a while or I could soon be overtaken.  Tom was from Chisago and was fun to ski with.  We traded off pulling several times over the next 15 kilometers or so.  With about 4km to go the ball of my right foot was hurting to a point where it was hard for me to herringbone the uphills; I had to do kind of a one leg herringbone. This is where Tom gapped me. I finished a close second about a minute behind Tom in a time of 2:37:07. Now that I completed this race, I feel better prepared for the Skate Birkie in a couple weeks. Bonnie finishing the 42km Classic Pre-Birkie

Last year my youngest two, Bryce and Ethan, currently 11 and 8 respectfully, raced the 10km event at the Pepsi Challenge.  They had so much fun they wanted to do it again this year.  Unfortunately, this year the race conflicted with the Midwest Junior Championships, so we would be unable to attend.  Instead, I suggested they try the 12.5km North End Classic race. So the day after the Pre-Birkie it was my pleasure to accompany my boys on this adventure.  Even though I had a good idea of what kick wax would work from racing the classic Pre-Birkie, the temperature was a few degrees colder.  After settling on a wax, I got my boy's skis ready and then sent them ahead of me to ski to the race start, which was a couple kilometers away on the power line.  When I arrived at the start I couldn't find my boys.  I was somewhat panicking thinking it was really stupid to send them ahead, what if they got lost?  What if they took a wrong turn?  I quickly started back.  Within a couple minutes I saw them.  Oh my, was I happy to see them!  They had taken a wrong turn, but figured it out before they got lost.  Bryce is #401, Ethan is #402 (far left), and I am #403 (behind Ethan).
Photo by Kelly Randolph
For safety, I skied behind my last skier. I ended up skiing with Ethan for the whole race.
Photos by Kelly Randolph
 
Bryce skied all on his own and reported very nice complements from other skiers around him. This was Bryce's longest race to date.
Photo by Kelly Randolph
Ethan said he was getting tired around 8km so I fed him a Shot Blok and that seemed to help him. This was also Ethan's longest race to date.  Both boys are proficient classic skiers. I was super impressed by their kick double poling.

Photos by Kelly Randolph
Ethan was ready for the finish line, and the donut holes that were waiting there for him.  Bryce finished 28th out of 70 skiers in his race, with a time of 54:54.  Ethan finished just over five minutes behind Bryce in a time of 1:00:37 in 38th place overall.  All in all we had a great weekend enjoying the best winter has to offer and spending some quality time together.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Man-Made Racing Career Moves to the Mora Vasaloppet

    This year, for the fifth time, I registered for the 42 kilometer classic race. And just like happened the four previous times, the course was again altered and shortened. It is incredibly unlikely that I alone am jinxing the Mora Vasaloppet, but this is a strange correlation especially because four of the five times I registered for the 58 kilometer skate, it has been on the traditional course. This year the 42 kilometer classic was changed to 3 laps x 12 kilometers with an additional out-and-back kilometer to start and end on Main Street for a total of 37 kilometers. Except for Mora Lake, this snow was entirely man-made by the Little Snow Gun That Could!
 
The new and improved course at Mora. This is one lap. The race crew did an excellent job of preparing the trail and the volunteers were amazing yet again!
    So I’ve thought about registering for the skate race again, but the truth is, I really really like to double pole and since the Mora course is so flat, it provides an excellent opportunity to do lots of double poling!   

    While I’m good at double poling, I’m not the best as has been painfully evident in my previous Mora Classic races as I got dropped from the pack. Each year I work more on my technique in the off-season and seem to make small increments at getting better. When I tell people I’m working on my double pole, they usually laugh, because as mentioned previously, I’m good at double poling. But not the best, so I keep working on it. 

    I was hoping for a bit of kick with Rex Gold Klister. Prior to the race I tested my skis, mostly to make sure they weren’t icing. No icing, but I noted a small area of slush on the lake in the tracks. During the race I kick double poled a tad but mostly ended up herring-boning the hills so don’t think I had much kick.

    Last year I lined up in the front row, but this year the competition was steeper and there weren’t any women on the front row. Instead there were four women in the second row (Kate Ellis, Josie Nelson, Kathleen DeWahl, and myself). Looking around in the start, I thought these three other women would be my biggest competition. 
Us four lead women after the first turn. I'm already at the back:( Photo: Bruce Adelsman
 
    The gun went off and I made sure to keep track of these 3 other women. Once on the lake, I got in the tracks behind them. And then I hit the slush and even though I knew it was coming, I just fell forward and went down! I had to let a couple people pass me before there was enough clear space for me to get up and start going. I was pretty disappointed and a bit worried I had taken myself out of contention with those other top women, but I was in racing mode and skied hard and by the time we got to the new hill on the course on the northeast side of Mora Lake, I was back up with my pack. 
Back on the pack on Mora Lake. My bro is leading this pack in the Flying Fungi suit. Kathleen is 3 places behind him and I'm about 8 places back. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
 
A closer-up picture of me. This shows how there is a gap between me and the next skier. I think I beat everyone behind me and half the guys in the pack in front of me (note Kate among the guys). Photo: Bruce Adelsman
   
 Before long, Kathleen and Josie got away. I was poling as hard as I could and eventually bridged the gap. By this time we were doing a couple new hills by the small pond with the race directors working with all the topography the Mora area has to offer. This part of the course was an addition to last year’s course and was very fun- especially as it was a way to see skiers in front and behind us.

    Unfortunately for me, Kathleen surged and Josie went with her. I tried to pick up the pace, too, but just couldn’t stay with them. That increased pace tore apart the group of men we were skiing with (note to husband: those men couldn’t stay with us “slow” women)!

Kathleen with her amazing double pole. You can see the gap she opened up on Josie here. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
 
Josie is always smiling! I think this makes her go faster. I'm still trying to emulate her smiling technique:) Photo: Bruce Adelsman
 
Me leading a small pack of guys the first time around Mora Lake. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Kate with good technique and her game face on. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
     
     Back on Mora Lake, I could see the gap Kathleen had opened up. Kate caught me on Mora Lake and apparently I was still in racing mode as I vowed to hang onto her. It was nice to ski with someone. Now we started dodging a lot of traffic, mostly from the 35 kilometer race, which is both fun and a hassle. I was having a great race, mainly because my mind was completely dialed in to doing whatever I could to place as high as possible and hard breathing, some hand cramps, and tricep tendinitis couldn’t get in my way. 

    Kate opened up a bit of a gap on me in a particularly fast section of course (slight downhill) that showcases my double pole technique flaws. I wasn’t about to let her get away though and bridged the gap as we headed slightly uphill again. I noted that the next time around I would have to be careful in that section. Indeed, just before we hit that section on the next and final lap, Kate got in front of a couple skiers we were lapping on one of the more technical sections and got a gap on me. She had at least 50 feet on me, possibly more, but I was relentless. I was so happy to be in the racing mindset (compared to Seeley a few weeks ago) and I just “attacked” from the back. I had no idea if I could beat Kate; she is a very strong double poler and her technique is likely superior to mine, especially on fast sections, like the downhill finish. I just knew I wanted to be there on Main Street for the action.

    If you happen to be reading this blog and don’t know, Kate is about twice my age. That means I’m 31 and she’s 60. And she is kicking my ass! Since I started doing ski marathons 13 years ago, it’s been interesting seeing how well people can maintain fitness and speed into their 50s and 60s. It gives me hope for the future.
 
ELSPETH, GET THOSE HIPS FORWARD! Thanks to Bruce for not only capturing my technique flaws, but cheering as well. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
    So after Kate opened up that gap on me, I fought back, double poling as hard as I could while dodging lots of traffic. My heart rate was back up and I could feel it in my stomach. It took me a couple kilometers, but eventually I caught back up to Kate. Now I had to think about making a move but Kate is competitive and based on my skiing with her thus far, I really didn’t think I could break away from her until Bell Hill.

    I thought about trying to make a brake on Bell Hill but it came up awfully fast and while I probably should have tried harder to take an inside line with a narrow herring-bone run, I was quite tired by this time and there was congestion on the hill so I didn’t make the move. Kate ended up with the inside line on the next two corners, a couple feet in front of me. We sprinted side by side all the way down Main Street and in the end Kate got me by a tenth of a second! I was glad to be there, in a real race, very tired at the end (indeed my next thought was “oh shit, I better stop before I run into the Blueberry soup feed)!

    It will be very interesting to see where I and the world will be in 30 years. We’re already racing so much on man-made snow, all politics aside. But I sure wouldn’t mind having a sprint finish with a 31 year old in 2047 on Main Street in Mora!

I still managed to win my age class (only because they took the winner, Kathleen, out of the age class awards). Always stoked to add to my Dala Horse collection! Photo: Chris Broderson