So many new logistics to figure out, including a challenge to figure out grip & glide wax in the sparsely snowed area. 2012 will be known as the least amount of snow accumulation up until late Feb.
Decided to fly into Duluth, MN. Even though we had to switch planes in Minneapolis, the flight to Duluth was total $500 vs just stopping in Minneapolis at $800. Made no sense! I was willing to take the chance for a missing bag vs opportunity to stay in a quaint town and fly into a teeny uncongested airport.
Met up with Cam in Minneapolis before flying to Duluth. Picked up the rental, stopped at the community whole foods store for pre/post food, and off to drive 1 hour-ish south to Hayward, Wisconsin. The land was close to barren of snow. Reminded me of Calgary/Canmore after chinook winds.
Chatting it up with Cam as he was driving, we almost drove back to Minneapolis by the time I realized we missed the turn East! Well, only an extra 20 miles. We got to the race expo around 5:30 pm to quickly grab our race packages. The wax prediction didn't alter from the prior day's wax testing... HF blue and a powder for the glide... green base wax, VR40 layers with shorter VR45 layers covered.
|Cam, Marg & Marcus chilling at Telemark Lodge before the race|
We stayed with an older woman Serena in the house she basically grew up in. Our accom was in an empty room in her little house, perfect! We all brought sleeping bags and crashed on the floor. Originally, Marcus was adamant to sleep at the startline outdoors in his -40C bag. Cam was great to convince us all to eat dinner, prep our skis and by then Marcus was swayed to stay with us.
My race time was early at 8 a.m. with subsequent waves leaving periodically after. Next morning was super early getting up before 4:45 a.m. Not sure of the post-race congestion of 9000 people, the decision was to leave the car parked close to the finish and walk the rest of the way to the bus shuttle location to the race start. As we were walking on dry roads, the stores down Main St were all lit up like at Christmas. Cam pointed out we were about to walk on the actual ski track as the road turned all snowy white for 400 metres. Snow had been dumped for a main street finish off the lake - very cool to see the pristine white tracks prior to racing on them.
The trucks to load gearbags were ordered by wave and lined up right at the startline. I dropped my skis in position at the line then fumbled stuffing all my overlayer clothes into my bag, and tossed it over the fence towards the truck. I like that close convenience.
I was abit nervous of the crowd, getting the wax right, clothing (I overdressed a smidgeon), my lack of high-end fitness (plenty of endurance, too much work, not enough rest)... that within a couple km of skiing on the course, I was smiling knowing it was the right thing to be there skiing at that moment!!
On our first descent, I was ecstatic my skis glided as fast or faster than the men I was around! Yay, tough to do for 105-lber! Thanks to Marcus for zipping up my skis for glide.
The first 26-km, the classic skiers skied on a trail away from the skate course. This made the classic course 4-km longer though the hills were less steep than for the skate course. The course twisted thru the trees and was very quaint. The descents were long enough to get into a tuck for a few moments rest. LOVED the course!! It was totally entertaining.
Could put in a hard effort up the climb, then rest on the descent. 3 tracks set which were close together though awesome for choice on cornering and passing. There was usually 1 track set on the whole downhill, with the other two flattened for most corners. When I could, I'd attempt to stay in the track as it was quicker though sometimes got spit out on a sharp corner.
I carried my camelbak so usually got away from a handful of skiers each time at a feedzone. Whenever there was a huge hill, it rose in camelhumps so it was never daunting. This course rolled super nice.
A few times I could see skaters speeding along on the right when the courses came close together. At 26 km the classic course merged with the skate course, with two classic tracks together on the left hand side. The skaters had enough room for at least 3 skiers across. With the course merging, the trail was wider and less twisty, more open. It was like a different course from the first half.
I cheered whenever I saw women skaters fly by. I`d get a few smiles and cheers back my way. Women were given a distinct navy blue coloured bib so easy to spot.
Plugged along with the km marking signs ticking away. I attempted to ski with a few skiers though eventually got away and eventually hooked up with a couple others. With the interspersed climbs, it was a hard course to get the right calibre of person to ski with. I was alone for times, especially the latter half except for the constant flow of skaters on my right.
Here and there, were sections of people cheering. Earlier in the race I saw a group of people drumming, and later on a group of sledders dressed in what looked more like hunting camoflauge gear. Nice to have cheers!
Coming around a corner at the 38 km mark in the wooded section on the trails, I could hear amplified cheering and was wide-eyed wondering what was up ahead. The small crowd was loud and hearty with major dance music blaring. I lit up taking in their energy and started bopping to the beat as I climbed uphill. The crowd went crazy seeing I was soaking up their excitement. It was awesome!
Took in the finishers atmosphere, back to the Serena's house for showers and stories, then off we drove to Duluth. It was the guy's first time couchsurfing and everyone got along well with Jim & Julie and their guest Maureen, not to mention the dogs Chip and Monty. Dinner was full of stories.
Now, we`re even considering the original Norwegian Birkie for 2014!!