Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Minnesota Finlandia!

It was another cold race with temps barely crawling into the single digits and a strong wind causing windchills well below zero, similar to both the Classic City of Lakes Loppet and Mora. Too much of the race talk was about who froze what at Mora. My bro seems to take the cake with his nose, cheek, and left knee, which blistered into larger than a silver dollar! Ouch. Erik and I suspect he must’ve spilled some feed on his knee. Impressive.

“At these temps there’s just no room for error,” my friend Emily says. 

Emily and I skiing together in Colorado in November 2015 on a warm day when there was plenty of room for error! Photo: Craig

Given the ongoing pandemic, there was no lunch afterwards in the Lumberjack Hall of Fame. Participation was down but still competitive. I did the pursuit for the first time to mix things up. It’s a little over 13 km of classic followed by just under 12 km of skate. Once the gun went off in a combo wave of classic and pursuit skiers, three women got a good lead on me before we got to the steep Sunnyside and I never caught them. (There was actually a fourth woman I didn’t know about- Vivian Hett who crushed the classic). After a tour around the plateau on the north side of the Buena Vista downhill area, we headed into the woods and I just had one guy in my sights. The rolling terrain far out on the east side is really nice for classic. I was skiing all alone, which is how I like it, but skiing hard enough that I couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the bogs and other natural elements we passed. With fresh wind-blown snow the kilometers slowly ticked by. 

The Minnesota Finlandia trail per my Garmin.

Heading back through “The Narrows,” “The Island,” and around the east and south sides of Buena Vista, the conditions got epic. Owing to lots of snow, cold temps, blustery conditions- including a west wind the day before the race and a south wind the day of the race- we bashed through snowdrifts with little trace that any racers ahead of us had been through. I herring-bone walked a couple hills with deep powder. Otherwise I tried to stride or herring-bone run. A couple times it was difficult to even see where the course went. 

This photo showed up on my app today as "5 years ago today." [2/22/17] I had to take a double take. This was February??? It feels so far removed from our current February.

The view from my front window this February 22nd [2022], snowing, 7 degrees, feels like -12.

Then I headed into the transition zone, slowly changed both my skis and poles, careful not to pull off my thumb handwarms, and took a feed.

Just like in last year’s Great Bear Chase pursuit, I opted to use my classic boots. This time seemed to go better with softer conditions. The snow was nice in the stadium although under cloudy skies the flat light made it difficult to see. The snow in “The Tunnel” was super slow as it was road slush and it being a gradual uphill by the time I clawed my way out I was barely moving. A couple guys in the 25 km skate race passed me on the first uphill. My skis were so slow I herring-bone ran a few of those hills. I couldn’t find the glide- likely multifactorial with classic boots, I’ve never been great at transitioning to skate, and slow conditions.

Two more guys passed me just before the S-curve and then Brett Arenz made his way by as we hit the mostly flat section. Here I found my skating groove. I was able to relax a tad but kept pushing and V-2’d a lot. With 2 km to go I got determined that no one else would pass me. The hills here were also less gradual and I could glide with a strong V-1.

I finished the 25 km in one hour and 49 minutes, likely one of my slowest 25 km races of all time (much slower than the 1:15 I did at the Hamsterbeiner in 2017) but always condition dependent. A real winter experience. It was good to do the pursuit- especially seeing as the classic race was the most competitive. I was 2nd of 11 women (four minutes back) and 3rd of 21 overall (six minutes back). Yes, a small field.

Hopefully we’ve all learned how to dress by now and cover up and no one incurred more frostbite.

For Vakava, Erik skied to 5th place in the 25 km skate which boasted the largest field and Craig won the classic to get yet another axe!

We joked later on that we needed those dye people to help with the course boundaries and undulations and leaf blower people to clean out the classic tracks that we’ve been watching at the Olympics!


Sporting my new pink Finlandia headband and off for a ski at Three Island with Erik in Bemidji the day after the Finlandia. If anyone wants one of these headbands put Finlandia 2023 on your calendar!!!

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