Thoughts of the London trip were pushed to the deeper recesses of the brain as the SKOAC Renegade Cross Country Ski and Kayak Racing Team (SRCCKRT......SUCKERS for short) prepared for the 58k Vasaloppet Ski Race. Training was slightly different from last year. The ManFromSnowyLegs went home to Australia for a couple weeks, the VOR and I headed off to London, the BessemerConvivialist headed for Europe and never came back for the race, and RonO and I discussed the race extensively from two bar stools at Grumpys, both before and after the VOR and I returned from London. Only the IrishPirate has been training diligently and, in fact, skied the 42k Pre Birkie on Saturday.
Logic would dictate that a training regimen such as this would not serve we SUCKERS well. Sunday dawned with perfect snow and very acceptable temperatures however, and confidence was high when we all met at 7am at the Perkin's in Blaine on the way to Mora. The VOR had decided that team manager and shuttle pilot would be a much better gig than skiing, given the training regimen, and JackiePack slid into her spot. Given this years hectic schedules, the various legs that each person would ski were open for debate until that very morning. One thing I knew for sure is that the IrishPirate would be skiing the longest 15.5k leg and that I, the captain of this motley crew, would be skiing the shortest 7k final leg into town. RonO got the 14k start, the MSFL took his traditional second 12.5k leg, the IrishPirate the 15.5k third, and JackiePack the 9k fourth leg.
Things started out a bit haywire when we got to the high school and were told that our packets and numbers had headed up to the starting line already. We did manage to get things under control and RonO set off for Mora when the starting cannon went off at 10am. In the old days they used to use dynamite but the dynamite handlers passed away and, given the potential learning curve problems with new dynamite handlers, opted for the much safer cannon. With RonO on his way we headed for the first relay point and some spectating at the cabin of TheLegend and GraciousPartier. Some of the cheering spectators at the cabin were on their 4th beer and the GP remarked, "This is a helluva lot better than skiing the thing". Not comforting words for those of us anticipating our upcoming legs.
Remarkably, RonO came cruising through in damn good time. The MSFL had the timing chip transferred to his leg with NASCAR pit crew-like speed by the VOR, BemidjiIntelOfficer,and JackiePack. He also showed up at the next relay point after shaving 5 minutes off last years time. Things were going well when the IrishPirate took off like a rocket. JP and I were starting to feel a bit of pressure with these blistering (for us anyway) times that were being turned in and the pressure was not eased when the IrishPirate informed us that she had passed 3 relay teams on her leg and that "all" we needed to do was hang on. Great. JackiePack took off with a bit of a worried look but she also smoked her leg. As I was getting my gear on in the car, the rest of the crew came up and told me, in effect, to get my sorry ass in gear because JP would be there in five minutes. It was more like three minutes. The timing chip was transferred and I took off without so much as a warm up stride. Once I got going, I kept looking behind me for approaching red race bibs but the coast was clear. Then I figured, hell, why worry about someone catching me when I could concentrate on catching the guy in front me. Plus I was skiing angry. I'd lost my pastrami sandwich and pretzel lunch somewhere in the chaos and was both hungry and pissed. So with 'damn I'm hungry', 'hope I don't get caught from behind', 'I'm gonna catch the guy in front of me', and 'they said they would have a beer for me at the finish line' swirling around in my brain, I put the hammer down. I probably passed thirty classic skiers on the leg and only stopped at the top of bell tower hill, after I came off the lake, to propel a voluminous snot rocket into a snow bank. From there it was only about 300 yards to the finish on Main Street in Mora. As I cruised toward the finish, I heard a large roar go up behind me. I figured it was another relay team making a sprint to the finish so I kicked it up a notch and double poled across the line. My reliable team mates and support staff had the beer ready and the race was over. In an amazing performance (once again for us) we shaved almost 30 minutes off of last years time.
Once again the SKOAC Renegades finished in the top ten, eighth to be precise. Given that the median age of the team was over 50 and we were racing against high school, college students, and other serious skiers, we felt pretty good. I'm still not sure what we can attribute shaving 25 seconds off each kilometer of the race to, but we'll take it for sure. Once again it was a great race and a fine community event with over 1200 volunteers. The weather and snow cooperated perfectly and we have to admit that we can't wait until next year.