Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

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

1 comment:

  1. Elspeth Kate,

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your play by play action at the Vasaloppet! I hope you know that I was with you in spirit and would have whopped and rang it up for you as you and Kate raced to the photo finish. Remember, you will always be a winner to me! You skied hard, and fast, you smiled (a little?), and it looked like you had fun! I'll cheer for you this weekend at the Minnesota Finlandia. I hear the course will be much like last year and conditions should be amazing...see you soon.