Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mora Vasaloppet

As the sun has risen earlier in the morning each day and winter has begun it's gradual thaw from the bitter cold of January, it has come to the season for cross country ski Marathons. I wasn't sure whether I would be skiing this weekend but as plans unfolded I found myself registered for the 58km Mora Vasaloppet ski race.

I arrive in Mora Saturday morning and as soon as a wax bench could be set up, was set to work waxing skis for the ski shop that employs me. I worked all day working skis to the fastest perfection until my hands were sore from wielding a wax scraper. The day ended with a posh meal of a new york strip with jumbo shrimp, in attempt to fuel me for the race the next day. I fell asleep with relative ease despite the anticipation of the morning.

I awoke and ate lite breakfast and headed to the start line. Once there, the nerves set in. I went out and did a quick warm-up and found myself late and rushing for the start line. Five minutes later the gates went up and like horses on snow the skiers poured forth. The trail was fairly ice and fast and the first few km's were merely to gain positioning. I found myself in a place that seemed reasonable with my skiing abilities and teamed up with a pack of 7 guys. During this tumultuous time, my poles were inevitably stepped on and in wrenching them back to me I broke a part of my strap. There was no stopping to be had and the only whining allowed was the expletives that were in my thoughts.

The trail wound on mostly flat through gently rolling farm fields, deciduous groves of maple, and over lakes and rivers. The trail was groomed well but had patches of dirty snow strewn about here and there depending on the section. The race coursed onward and the first 36 km went by with little notice of time. Yet at this time I slowly began to find that I was unable to keep with the pack that I was with. I knew that it would be the start of my decline and that the race had ended and the fight for survival had begun.

From this point on my body became focus on my energy. Every hill and every moment of effort I contemplated whether I was expending too much for the journey ahead. The km's started to pass with increasing duration as I began to look forward to and count there passing. I began to hear the sound of skiers creeping up behind me and was conscious to keep any pride from diminishing my race as I began to get passed by other skiers on the journey.

By 18 km left to go my stomach raised it's demands, and I became aware of a deepening hunger. Feed stops became more important and my trusty water bottle and energy-shot flask (in which I carried with me) became welcome acquaintances to my mouth. The thought of a greasy box of pizza sounded like the stuff of heaven, if only it were waiting for me at the finish line. Soon it was becoming clear that there wasn't food enough to replace what I was expending.

Me toughing out near the finish (a moment of anguish)

By 5 km to go I was moving slowly and I fought in my head with the anguish of my body and it's demands. As I crested the last hill and turned onto main street of Mora for the finish, I made a feeble attempt to push hard for the finish feeling the crowds eye's feed me with energy to make a last push. I finished the race and in time that I could respect in terms of my personal goals. I urgently made my way to the food station and must have looked much like the cookie monster as I stealthily enveloped 10 cookies, two cups of hot coco, and a banana.

Now as I write, my mind sits wide awake trapped in a body filled with fatigue. I will end this day content with its accomplishments and grateful with its memories.

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