Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, February 19, 2018

Finlandia Fun 2018

After winning my axe (prize for first place at the Minnesota Finlandia) each of the last 5 times I entered, I always feel that another one isn’t necessary; however, each year before the race, I’m always greedy for another axe. Maybe this is because I’m competitive and want to win. But do I really need another decorative axe? Maybe it is because I want one of those sweet axes with an animal scene or one with gnomes on it! Afterall, my favorite axe is the one with the owls on it and I have been known to try trading axes (without success because that one had a highly desired gnome scene). Wow, I have become an axe snob!

This year, for the fourth year in a row, I did the 25 km classic race. There was enough snow to run the full 25 km course which we hadn’t been able to do since 2014. About half the course is on the east side of the road and half is on the west side of the road with the courses linked by the Terrific Two Way Tunnel of Temptation. Taking a peak at the start list, I didn’t recognize any of the female names. During my warm up and at the start I was sizing up the competition. There didn’t appear to be too many fast women in my race.

I lined up behind my bro and the Vakava guys in the second row. My bro is known for his fast starts and then quickly falling behind. The guys were joking about this before the start. The air horn went off. I started too close to a friend from Bemidji and didn’t want to break either of our poles so didn’t get the best start and couldn’t ski really well until after I passed him about 50 meters into the race.

My bro leading out the classic field by a very large margin. Photo: my other bro:)

Here comes the rest of the classic field led by Craig. Photo: Monte Draper

The skate field taking on Sunnyside. Photo: Reid (aka my other bro)

About a half kilometer into the race we ski up Sunnyside, a green downhill run. Knowing there weren’t any big hills for a long ways after this climb, I really tried to push it, herring-bone running up the steepest part, then running (there were no tracks) up the more gradual part. Now I was closing in on my bro and a couple kilometers later, was nipping on his heels when Toward (in high school we referred to all the cool teachers by their last name only), who currently supervises the Bemidji High School National Honor Society and their associated feed stop for the Finlandia who recognizes our family despite our ever-changing spandex yelled to my bro, “your sister is right behind you. You can’t let her beat you!”

But then my bro took off. I knew my fitness was good but didn’t quite want to accelerate at his pace and figured he wouldn’t sustain it for very long anyway and so I let him get ahead. I never did catch back up to him and only saw him one time thereafter in a curvy section by the S curve on the west side. He caught Bjorn Adelsman and those two skied together; meanwhile I skied the rest of the race by myself.

Mom cheering (far left) for my bro and Bjorn Adelsman who are about to head into the Terrific Two Way Tunnel of Temptation! Photo: Reid

I did catch 3 other male classical skiers- 2 soon after my bro took off and the last one later on in the race. Someone asked me last week to describe the course. I’d say it is similar to Mora with the curves but there really are hills. These are not long sustained climbs like in the Birkie, they are shorter climbs and in some sections they do come at you one after the other but these are always broken up by some nice long flatter sections. There are plenty of features to keep the course interesting with places called The Island, The Wall, and the aforementioned S curve!

An artistic photo as I ski by this picturesque barn! Photo: Reid

I thought I was in the lead of the woman’s classic race but there could always be a sneaky woman I didn’t notice! The 25 km and 50 km skate races started 10 minutes after my race and so after about 10 km I was gradually passed by a number of skaters. My kick also wore off after about 10 km, hence I tried double poling up some hills and either running outside the tracks or herring-bone running (and sometimes walking) up the hills. And I even fell on a downhill with a left corner that I was trying to ski aggressively. Despite likely being in the lead, I was still racing and pushing hard all the way to the finish. Oh yeah, and in honor of the women’s Olympic relay, we (Erik and I) put some snowflake glitter on our cheeks:)

Still pushing the pace on the last uphill on the Canns Loop with some skaters behind me. Photo: Monte Draper
And still pushing hard into the finish as Erik skis beside me cheering me on (this can only happen at a low-key race:) Photo: Reid

And I did win! Again! It was nice to see my bro beat me, something I don’t think he’s done since 2014. I finished first of 9 women on the classic field (winning by a 7 minute margin) and 7th of 35 skiers overall in the classic.

Erik also won his race, the Pursuit, so we were husband-wife axe winners. When Erik went up to get his first place prize, the announcers call him an “axe virgin” in comparison to many of the other winners with our multiple axes. Craig won [again], too, so of the 5 of us driving to the start in one car, 3 of us won axes!

The winning Vakava contingent. Check out these axes! Craig Cardinal got a cardinal on his (plus a sweet deer scene); I got flowers (actually all the women’s axes had flowers...not quite sure where this stereotype comes from); and Erik got a moose on his! If these sweet axes aren’t enough to convince you to do the Finlandia next year, I give up! Photo: Eva Reinicke

The Vakava team stayed with my mom in Bemidji (thanks mom for hosting and making some wonderful food!). On Sunday morning there was a snowstorm and we went skiing. It was a bit slow skiing through 8 inches of powder (often we could not see our skis under the snow) but there was an icy base owing to Wednesday’s meltdown. We skied at Three Island County Park where we had skied when it was -20 ℉ at New Years. This time it was 35 degrees warmer and snowing. It was nice to find real winter even if the loop took us 30 minutes longer than when it was -20 ℉! The combination of the classic race on Saturday and the trudge of a classic ski on Sunday was good training for the Classic Birkie.

Our snowy ski at Three Island with quite the big group and no skis visible. Photo: Erik

We then drove back to the Twin Cities where there was no snowstorm and it was another 30 degrees warmer! It’s not very often that the weather is that dramatically different between Bemidji and Saint Paul but I guess it happens every once in awhile and nature never seizes to amaze me.

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