Race Day! The Vasaloppet!

We had a very early start to the day- woke up at 2:15 am and drove to Mora! Really excited and nervous! We boarded the coach bus to Salen which was a two hour bus ride on back country windy roads. It was snowing and blowing with a temperature of about -3 C.

Once we got to the huge stadium we went inside to stay dry and warm for an hour before putting our skis out in our wave. The stadium was a crazy place- 10’s of thousands of people, a jumbotron, and the trucks and bins for the luggage were the biggest I’ve ever seen at any event. We split up and went into our waves and waited for the start at 8 am. It was an incredible site!! Here are some pictures from the start area:

By 7:45 am 15,800 racers were in line to all start at 8 am! The line went on forever in the distance!
Looking and feeling a little tired before the start!

At 8am sharp we started to move as a huge mass!

We would go quite quickly and then stop all of a sudden. You had to keep your poles in super tight or they’d get broken! It was so exciting! An adrenalin rush! We kept going like this until we reached the bottom of the first hill and what a sight it was! See the picture below. It was slow going as we funnelled from about 40 lanes into the width of 10 lanes!!

And you can’t see all of the way up!

Race coverage!

Not sure how to get rid of this second one!

The hill was very slow going and so squished that I had to keep my poles between my legs so they wouldn’t get broken. However, I had incredible grip so I could walk straight up while most skiers had to herring bone. (This was a sign of something to come!) It took one hour to go 1.75 kms! Finally we reached the top of the hill. On the way up there were so many broken poles, glasses and water bottles. Once it flattened out everyone started double poling and they were flying past me-I felt like my skis had sandpaper on the bottom. The scenery was beautiful and the snow was coming down along with a strong wind. It felt like the Canadian Ski Marathon! The tracks were almost non-existent. At this point I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with my wax- too grippy and that it was going to be a long day and it wasn’t going to be easy! I wished I had written the checkpoint cut off times on my poles!! This was indeed going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! I had to maintain my determination and not stop too long at the checkpoints; there were 7 of them and you had to be at Checkpoint 7 (Eldris) at 81 kms. by 7 pm.

So I happily skied along doing more and more double poling, trying to improve my technique by watching fellow competitors ski past me. It was really the perfect terrain for double poling and the top racers double pole the whole distance, along with the sitz ski racers. Ross saw two of them in his wave. I stopped at each checkpoint and had something to drink (tried the famous blueberry soup) and a bun but mostly ate my food that I brought in my fanny pack-cashews, dried mango, granola bars and a few gels)

There were many spectators along the way cheering heja heja ( go go in swedish)and some had bonfires going. At about the 3rdcheckpoint I asked a guy how we were doing for time and he replied, “ keep a steady pace”. So I pushed on. It was not easy skiing-the tracks were not good at all and quite a few times a big groomer would come by so we’d all jump in the tracks. They would disappear very shortly after and the snow was really accumulating on top of the ice. I talked to a man along the way at a power bar station and he said that this was a very tough Vasa year and that the last time it was this tough was in 1972. That made me want to conquer it even more. Many spectators would say Heya Heya Canada as I had my Canada hat on! It was very encouraging, especially since I was one of 49 Canadians in the race. At Checkpoint number 5 (Oxberg) I asked a guy what time it was and I now knew that if I kept up my pace I could make the next 2 checkpoints with lots of time! I was doing a lot more double poling. By this point I had stopped twice to try and fix the wax situation but I really didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to take the time to go over to the waxing station as there were too many people there.

With about 40 kms. to go the wax seemed to get better which made double poling a bit easier but my back was feeling it-had to take advil and tylenol along with a pepcid. Finally, I was at checkpoint 7 ( Eldris) with 9 kms to go to the finish line! The trail lights came on and it was a beautiful night ski now! I could hear the announcer and music from the finish line! I was so excited!!! I was so so happy to cross the finish line and to achieve my goal of finishing. It wasn’t fast but I finished in just under 11 hours. Of course Ross was there to watch me cross the line as he had finished in 8 hours 47 minutes!! We were both so so happy! It was an amazing ski to be apart of-tough but magical in so many ways! We had just skied the longest, oldest and largest ski race in the world!!!!

Ross swears that the wax job we had done by the Loppet people cost us an hour and half or two. We will definitely do our own waxing for the next ones! After skiing 90 kms. We still had lots of grip wax on. A lesson well learned-they had put too too much grip wax on. As it turns out everyone we talked too was complaining about the wax job too so we weren’t alone.

It took us a while to collect our bags which were all organized together. They sure have a perfect system! We were so happy! We had a bite to eat in the stadium, got our worldloppet passports stamped and drove back to Orsa where we ordered a pizza to bring back to our hotel. We were very tired but were contemplating signing up for the Engadine Night race! Decision to be made the next day…

As I finally post this we are registered for the Engadine Night Race on Thursday night in St. Moritz, Switzerland. We’ve had a great day in Stockholm visiting the Vasa Museum and the Fotografika Museum. ( Pictures to follow ) Tomorrow we fly to Zurich and drive to St. Moritz.