HugsThe Minnesota Finlandia is my hometown race. The ski community in Bemidji is small and tight and so it’s no joke that I know lots of people. Given that Josie isn’t at the Finlandia to give me a billion hugs, I did lots of hugging of my own this weekend- starting at the bib pick up where I met up with my long lost high school friend Jim. I hadn’t seen him in 9 years!
|High School Winter Formal circa 2002. From left to right: Kathryn, Jim, me, David, Leif (my bro), and Anna. Photo: ????|
|My bro finishing up this year's Finlandia. Photo: John Arenz|
Mark Morrisey, chief of the course, was planning for rocket fast conditions owing to a monstrous base (greatest snow depth in years) and no fresh snow. But mother nature had other plans with a howling wind on Friday that caused lots of blowing and drifting on the course. After cheering on his son at the STATE meet where everything was delayed due to a timing snafu, Mark worked tirelessly all night to make the best possible course.
Despite this, the wind merely shifted directions, keeping up its gale force. As a result, ironically even with the settled massive snow depth, this year saw some of the worst conditions for the Finlandia that I can recall. Don’t get me wrong, conditions were excellent for 90% of the course, but the remaining exposed 10% had soft, blown and drifted snow. It’s a good reminder that we do an outdoor sport, completely dependent on mother nature, and she always has the upper hand.
As noted in my last blog post, Kerrie Berg, was there ready to defend her title in the 25 km classic. Apparently, she has earned the nickname “The Iceberg” for her strong racing results. My plan was to stay glued to her. I lined up in the second row, happy to have our backs to the wind in the starting gate. And then we were off. I stayed in front of Kerrie as we rounded the bottom of the Buena Vista downhill area and as we climbed up Sunnyside, the downhill ski run.
|The start of the classic race. Photo: Monty Draper|
|Still with Kerrie Berg on the east side. Photo: Monty Draper|
I didn’t think there were any other women remotely close to me. Over the next few kilometers I leap-frogged with Matthew Broderson, son of my former rival Chris (he’s no longer my rival since he simply got way too fast this year!), who made STATE as a freshman. It was interesting that I pulled in front of him on the flats and he’d catch me on the uphills. I’m glad I at least provided some inspiration for him since he was tired from racing the day prior at STATE. This definitely helped keep me focused.
|Matthew on the left classic skiing when Craig and the skaters (they started 10 minutes behind) passed him. Photo: Monty Draper|
On the final straight away I tried hard to keep up with him but he was just too fast and I finished a few seconds behind him.
I crossed the line in second place, only 1 ½ minutes behind Kerrie. I would have had to dig really really deep to keep up with her. Last year she beat me by almost six minutes, so I’ll take that as progress. And there were a whopping 21 women in my race!
The Finlandia had its highest turnout since 2011 with 210 participants. This is one of the smallest of the American Ski Marathon Series races but has arguably the best prizes. Need convincing? Read on for more:
|Craig won the 50 km skate race and got this axe which has tigers on it! He's now won an axe in each of the races.|
|Erik and I both got second place in our races and got the Woolen Mills jackets as well. Photo: Erik|
And there were only two women in the 50 km skate!
BugsGiven that my niece lives in Bemidji, I got to spend some quality time with her. She’s 2 ½ and loves to push me around, lock me in the bathroom, and chase me around the house. When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in a house with circles. I was too old by the time my parents bought their current house, but now I got to re-live my childhood running in circles and even using a special door to pull a Houdini trick!
|The Houdini House! My niece is pretty smart though and she definitely caught on to my shenanigans:) Photo: Mom|
My niece also loves the outdoors. She’s always motivated to go “outside.” Indeed, this was about the third word I heard her say. Erik dug her a tunnel in the snow. It had a 90 degree corner and was pretty awesome. I went through it a bunch of times!
|The tunnel. You can see both entrances in this photo.|
|Playing in the tunnel.|
|And me crawling through the tunnel. Photo: Erik|
Anyway, my niece isn’t a bug, but she had a cold “bug.” Hopefully I didn’t catch it!
ShrugsWhen I met up with Jim, my old high school friend, and learned he was doing the classic race, I definitely had the thought that we could just ski together and talk the whole time. Turns out he had been reading my Crossroads blog regarding my ambivalence towards racing. I’m aware that as Kerrie skied away from me, I just didn’t have a desire to chase her to get yet another axe. I already have six. The only way I would want another axe was if it had a cute gnome or animal scene on it. None of the women’s axes had that this year. I’ve already decided that one of these years, my “ugly axe,” the one that’s been banished to an upstairs closet because it has significantly less embellishments than my others, is going to get a new paint job with some skiing gnomes!
Overall I still put forth a good effort. Am I falling into my February slums? Racing week after week takes it out of me mentally. I know my fitness is good. Maybe I’m just saving some mental game for the Birkie next weekend!
|Erik's podium with a couple UMD skiers. Photo: John Arenz|