Two thousand skiers took off at the sound of the starting cannon from a field in Warman, MN, bound for Mora on Sunday. Among them were the two SKOAC Renegade teams, suddenly made relatively equal by a couple of last minute substitutions. The smack talk began Sunday morning and on paper things were looking pretty even, however by the end of the day natural order had returned and the GAS team snuck by the DGAS team (see prior post for acronym interpretation) by a little over 20 minutes for the 58k (35 mile) course.
Weather was most certainly a factor, but not because of the bitter cold of previous years. A couple of us skied part of the course on Saturday and it was superb at 25F. The forecast for Sunday was a subtropical 38F though, which creates all kinds of problems for long thin geometric shapes attempting to slide over frozen water. For the classic skiers it means grip tape or the more traditional and nasty klister wax, a substance that can be described as toothpaste with maple syrup and super glue binder. Once it gets on something, its impossible to get it off. Skaters have to actually believe the weather forecast and wax for the predicted conditions. Like Lake Superior forecasts, the prediction model was a bit off. By about 10 degrees F, which is huge if a person is attempting to wax for the race. My thermometer read 46F at one point in the day. The day started at below freezing so the fast skiers were in Mora enjoying a cup of coffee as we slaggards were just feeling the effects of the slushy snow as it became more and more liquefied.
The first leg went well with LoneRangerRob knocking off a fine classical segment. The ManFromSnowyLegs, the Aussie component of our international team, also skied a fine classic leg but reported the snow was getting 'bloody soft'. Our ace in the hole, the Mayor, took off on the longest leg of the race and reported that 'I'd rather ski the entire 58k in 15 degree weather than do that again in this slop'. JackiePack took off for leg 4, even after I had offered several times to give her the glory spot, the anchor leg down the main street of Mora and across the finish line. For some reason, she thought that I had the ulterior motive of not wanting to ski on even sloppier snow than what it was. Go figure. By the time I took off I was skiing on mashed potatoes. At least 1500 skiers had been down the trail before me and it was a bit worn out. I had some glide on the skate skis, thanks to RonO's waxing and beer tasting event Thursday at the hanger, but it was tough going, made tougher by the fact that I knew the relay team behind us was only a couple minutes back with a really fit looking younger woman waiting to tag up and catch my slow and old rear end.
In the end we hung on for that top ten finish (it would be very impolite to ask how many teams were in the event) and we all had the usual fine time. CabinetMakerMark, anchor on the other SKOAC team, and brother of the VOR and the Mayor, swore he'd wait for me at the top of the Mora Lake hill so we could have an exciting sprint to the finish line but he must have had his fingers crossed. He was at the finish line with a beer when I came across. Which is how we all eventually wound up in the photo below. The same conditions that made for tough skiing made for superb beer drinking. It was a fun filled event and that's what it's all about folks.