It was a perfect race day! The weather was beautiful- a mix of sun and cloud and temperatures about -2 at the start warming up to about plus 3 or 4 degrees! The scenery was spectacular and the vibe everywhere was electric! The elevation of the start was 1800m and the finish was at 1600m so a net downhill. We dressed with only 2 thin layers and ended up wearing a thin hat(Ross) and a headband(me). This was a big change for us since it’s been such a cold winter at home and we’ve been use to wearing so many layers, neck warmers and even boot covers.
Our hotel was serving breakfast at 6:15 which worked well for us to catch the 6:45 bus to the start in Maloja. Fortunately, the bus stopped right outside our hotel and man was it ever filled with skiers, standing room only. The start was so well organized; they even had the army and their trucks out to do the baggage transportation. We waited in the warming tent for a while before going to our “starting pens”. They used my first in my age group from the American Birkiebeiner Korteloppet last year to seed me so I was in the Elite C wave. I was nervous about starting up too close to the front so started at the very back of the wave which I won’t do again. It just means there are more people to pass, the next wave fast skiers are passing me which is psychologically tough and the track is more skied in. Ross didn’t ask for seeding and we figure they drew for the next waves so luckily he was only one wave behind me. I knew he’d pass me though- the questions was when!!
The start area wasn’t too large so they put everyone into waiting area pens (holding their skis and poles) and then opened the gate at the appropriate time. I’ve never seen so many people packed in so tight. It was a very relaxed start as once it was time for your wave you ran out to the start, put your skis on and just started once you were ready. There wasn’t the usual craziness at the start (e.g. broken poles and people falling).
The sun was shining at the start and the track was very fast! It was busy but not too bad until the hill just outside St. Moritz where I saw a flash of the famous hill of the Vasaloppet. However,there was even a volunteer organizing us into 3 lines across. It moved pretty well and was a short climb. I did have time to eat half a bar waiting in line to go up!The famous downhill slalom course through the trees was much easier in the daylight so it was very fast and I stayed upright! We skied through several towns along the journey where the trail was lined with people cheering, ringing bells and yelling Uppa, Uppa and Heja, Heja! The wind was even at our back! It was just perfect! I felt pretty fast and stopped twice- at Pontresina(20 Km) and Bever (30km) for a bar, mango and water. I starting feeling excited that I’d probably beat my goal of under 3:30. With about 7 kms to go I still hadn’t seen Ross and was getting worried. The snow was very soft as I approached S-Chanf and I could hear the cheering and announcing! I was 500m from the finish and so so happy! What a spectacular finish area. There were so many people cheering, held back by the same fencing as the pens and little Swiss children putting the medals on- so cute! I didn’t see Ross but finally we met up at the finish- both so happy with our results. I had even finished in time to see the winners presentation which doesn’t happen very often. Ross finished in 2:20 and I finished in 2:54!! I was 47th in my age group out of 170 and Ross was 269th out of about 900. We felt great!
The course record was broken this year! The winner did it in 1:22! That’s for 42 kms. Incredible!
After we collected our bags we boarded a train with all the other skiers back to St. Moritz and then took the bus to our lovely hotel in Sils Maria with the fabulous spa and delicious 5 course dinners! It was a fabulous day!! (There is a video link below. It brings you to a web page , scroll down to personal video- (hopefully it will work!)