Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Monday, February 4, 2019

Loppet 2019 Recap

Classic Team Sprints

Temps warmed to a balmy couple degrees below zero for Thursday’s sprints. It still felt cold, especially because it was dark. The initial details of the event were a bit vague other than mentioning ABAB format of 1 km with an $800 purse but finally a few hours before the race it was posted that there would only be one heat for each category (ie. each age group and sex).

I had intended to arrive at Wirth a bit early to catch some skiing on natural snow in the waning daylight and to get in a good warm-up on the course even though our official start time wasn’t until 6:45 pm. My plans were foiled when my car wouldn’t start. I eventually made it to Wirth but had trouble finding a parking spot in the old chalet lot. The lot was crazy and people were parked haphazardly everywhere so I followed suit. By now it was dark but I still had plenty of time before my race.

I began my warmup at 6 pm. It quickly became apparent that the races were behind schedule (juniors went first) and so I skied for nearly an hour back and forth over the new bridge by the Trailhead and then ran and jumped for 10 minutes prior to the race.

I raced with my Vakava teammate Kathleen and was our A skier. We lined up and were given directions and then I don’t even remember much of a “Ready, set, go.” Instead the starter just said “Start.” It was a classic sprint but they started us in the exchange zone so there weren’t any tracks. The snow was slow as it was new and had been cold and in addition there was freshly falling snow. I planned to stride off the line which is what just about all the other women did but my pole got stepped on and just like that everyone got away.

I think I was the last one trailing into the first corner. I changed tracks twice on my way up to Coach’s Corner and managed to pass 2 women and make ground on a couple others. Mind you, these were not pretty lane changes and I didn’t do much pretty striding- the snow was too slow for much glide. I felt way behind coming into the first exchange.

The air was cold and despite what I thought was a decent warm-up I was not prepared for that intensity in the cold! It took me much of Kathleen’s lap to recover.

I was stoked when Kathleen came back into the exchange zone in 3rd place!!!

She gave me a super nice push but I was striding because the snow was so slow I couldn’t use it too much. I was by myself on that second lap. I did notice I was able to double pole farther up the hill to Coach’s Corner on my second lap. I skied as fast as I could and had good energy and was able to maintain our 3rd place.

After I put my warm-ups back on, I headed to the finish to cheer in Kathleen. She brought us into second! We were a long way off first, but those girls are pros so not really in our league anyway.

And that $800 purse was for real. In addition to getting another earring holder, we got a big check (OK, literally the check was big in size, not monetary value). Since I’ve made a whopping $50 in prize money at ski racing (and incurred infinitely more times that in expenses) in the past 12 years since I graduated college, I don’t think I’ll be quitting my day job anytime soon:)

Kathleen and I with our big check! Photo: Spencer Davis

Sunday’s Long Skate

And we’re swinging!

That’s the term I came up with a couple years ago when looking at NOAA’s hourly weather graph when the high fluctuates by more than 30 degrees within a couple of days.

What I mean here is going from a predicted high of -4 ℉ on Thursday to 36 ℉ by Saturday.
OK, I failed to screen shot the 48 hour swing but here's a much more minor swing of almost 30 degrees between the day's low and high.
The trail reports from the Loppet were promising for a point-to-point race on Sunday but I remained skeptical knowing that we didn’t have a ton of snow and we were about to swing to highs in the upper 30’s.

Late afternoon on Friday we skied at Hiawatha Golf Course. I made the mistake of using my B skis when rock skis were clearly in order. Hmmmm, “I wonder if all those Loppet shoveling parties have worked miracles?”

The Loppet officially recommended B skis for Saturday’s classic race.

Typically I wax my skis two days before a race so I can do more resting the day before. Given the trail reports were in flux and I was holding out for the course to be switched to the man-made loop at Wirth (where I could just use my good skis and focus on skiing hard and fast- not grass and rock dodging), I waited to wax my skis. Finally on Saturday morning I put a layer of high fluoro wax on both my A and B skis.

On Saturday we headed to Wirth for the Orienteering race. Erik raced and I volunteered. Afterwards I classic skied for a bit on the Front 9 and then over to JD Gardens, on Wirth Lake, and Jar Hill. Conditions on Wirth Lake were good but everywhere else snow coverage was really thin with frequent bare spots. I used my B classic skis which were fine for going slow and picking my way through things, but I would have wanted to race on my rocks skis.

Erik in the Ski-Orienteering race. But wait,  you can't see him in that camouflage suit! Photo: MNOC

As trail reports on Saturday continued to propose a point-to-point course for Sunday, I was frustrated. I knew the conditions would be less than ideal and wanted to use my rock skis. But my rock skis really suck- the bases are falling off, they are way too soft, etc. So I knew if I wanted to actually race, I would have to use my B skis. I also had a thought of running the course carrying my boots and skis:)

Anyone who remembers back to the 2005 Loppet probably wasn’t too surprised to wake up Sunday morning and learn all the events had been moved to Wirth:):):) I was relieved to learn we’d just be skiing man-made. It did mean that I had to wax up my good skis so used that hour start delay to do so. I put on another high fluor layer and then should note that Erik is our “top coat guy.” He does the rilling (which I’m glad we did for the race) and pure fluoros.

My "top coat guy" (left) skiing with our college friend Travis. Photo: Bruce Adelsman

I saw the man-made course had been changed a bit and got to the start in time to ski the new course. Some parts were freshly groomed and just about perfect (although with all the skiers things would get soft) and a few places hadn’t been groomed recently and were rock solid. The Drevil’s Drop hill was a bit slow. If conditions are really fast I don’t tuck on that hill but it was a slow day so I noted to tuck in the race. I was a bit disappointed to learn we would only be skiing 3 laps for a distance around 20 km. It would make for a short race and not ideal training for the Birkie.

There were a lot of skiers in the Best of the Loppet Wave and things were quite congested at the start. I was glad to see there were many women around my speed and that I would probably have company for the race, unlike last year. We started and those of us in the back had an extra long double pole and things didn’t really get settled until we got around the Twin Lakes Loop and started climbing to Coach’s Corner. Everyone was considerate though and nobody stepped on my poles or skis.

The Best of the Loppet Wave starting. I was way in the back. Photo: Bruce Adelsman

On that hill to Coach’s Corner I found my pack of Stephani Johnson and Nicole Harvey. We skied mostly together for the remainder of the short race. My skis were pretty fast thanks to my top coat guy:) Maybe not the fastest, but I definitely passed some people with slower skis. The whole race went by super fast. I wasn’t sprinting but felt like I was skiing my 5 km pace the whole time. My strength is distance and I just kinda have one speed. I never felt relaxed but for the most part could think about my technique. At one point on some of the V-1 hills (yeah, OK, you fast people out there might say there aren’t any V-1 hills:) I had to remind myself to glide longer on my poling ski. There’s just so many fun transitions on the course that I never really thought about being tired or that I was breathing too hard.

Skiing the hill coming off the Twin Lakes Loop. Man, I think my downhill skills are relatively good but I don't look like it in this photo. Makes me realize I need to be even more aggressive on the downhills! Photo: Bruce Adelsman
By the start of the third lap we were lapping some skiers. They mostly skied on one side of the trail and passing was never difficult. It never felt congested and the course held up well. I did feel a bit bad passing some of these skier who still had 1.5 laps left when I only had 0.5 but I tried to cheer them on whenever I wasn’t too out of breath from going uphill.

Putting in a couple V-1's over the bridge by the Trailhead. I was doing a lot of V-2 out there and should've V-2'd this bump as you can see Stephani doing behind me. Photo: Bruce Adelsman
Overall I felt strong and did good on the downhills- all except the new left hander heading to the new bridge by the Trailhead. That hill was hard packed and almost every time down I curbed way too much speed snowplowing down the first part of the hill (I stepped turned by the bottom every time). I guess it’s good to have something to improve on:)

Well, at least I wasn't the only one snowplowing this downhill. Note, I'm not actually in this photo by Bruce Adelsman.
I didn’t have an extraordinary race but wasn’t expecting that. I finished about where I lined up in the start area. It was fun to have some other women around me and not feel like I was last. Now I’m looking forward to some longer races.

Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer!

No comments:

Post a Comment