Today was the long distance classic race (30km for me) and it might be best to take it a bit philosophically:
I thought that there was slush, but actually there was white slush, grey slush, transparent slush, yellow slush, brown slush and greenish slush. Then there was water and mud and a big rock. My kick wax worked on the white and transparent slush. First it was raining, then snowing, then raining again, and snowing again. The flakes were getting bigger and denser but luckily we managed to finish just before it got really bad. My glide wax worked on any slush except for the grey or brown one and the yellow if covered with water, but the new snow was like glue and outside the track nothing glided. Some of the big downhills did not have track, and the glide was super uneven. Luckily, we had practiced that at Low O2 challenge a week or so ago. The boots were soaked before the start, but the visor was the best. Looking through it all looked a bit more rosy and the green slush looked almost yellow, and I wasn’t cold except at the toes, but one can wiggle them in the boots in downhills.
At the start I had good glide and no-one was disappearing to the horizon too fast, but the first hill was grey slush and my kick was did not work on that, and I dropped quite far seeing just three skiers ahead of me. My glide was also a bit poor on the first 15km loop and I struggled on the hills before the lake. Knowing that I just decided to take the first lap easy and see how things go. I also felt less energetic than for the other races to start with. So, the racing mood was not quite there. The lake was almost holding, but so soft that the poles were sinking at every push even if I tried all my tricks. This made the double-poling feel slow and strenuous. After passing all the yellow and brown slush on the way up the biggest hill, there was a section where I actually had kick and could ski nicely until the snow started falling so heavily that my wax started freezing. Going down required a lot of ferocious kicking of the skis on the track to get rid of the ice before shooting down. That worked, and I noticed that I actually had a fairly good glide on the track. Staring the second lap I suddenly noticed that I had almost caught up one skier in my own age group. It looked like she had a better kick than I did as she was striding on the flat where I was double-poling. In the first up hill where I still had no kick she pulled a bit away but I caught her again in the next downhill, and could stay tugged in a lot longer than her. So, I skied that way with her for a while and started to feel like in a race. Then on a longer downhill I really pushed hard and passed her. (Notice that passing was a huge effort in these conditions as outside the tracks the snow was like glue and just changing tracks slowed one down a lot). I managed to stay ahead of her in the uphills leading to the downhill to the lake, and then I knew that she won’t pass me again. Skiing started to feel a little better and even if the speed on the lake was pretty pathetic compared to the effort put in to produce that, I felt like I was gliding better. The uphill out of the lake went really well. There was white slush there and I could actually ski. Starting to climb the long final hill I suddenly felt really tired, but decided to go for it as best I could. With the variable conditions faster people from other age groups were constantly passing me and I was passing slower ones. So, it was not lonely there, and having someone to catch in the front all the time definitely helped. The slow pace did not feel quite as slow if you can pass someone, even if they are 30 years older than you. On the top of the hill the wax was icing up again and the same procedure of kicking was manifested. But the downhill glided alright as long as one chose the track that everyone else had been on. At one point I had to take the other track to pass someone, and had to really hammer the next little knoll to get past before the next drop. In one of the corners of the downhill a big rock had become visible, but despite three fast men passing me at that point, I managed not to hit it. In the last part of the downhill fast men were passing me from both sides, but I managed to double-pole the flat well enough that I was not many meters behind on the final climb. The final drop to the stadium glided well, but the stretch to the finish did not as it had been a while since someone had skied on the track I happened to choose. But I had no sprint finish with anyone.
It was hard work. I finished probably 7th or 8th, but not awfully far behind the others except the first lady. And I did beat 2h with both laps taking pretty closely the same time. So, my pacing worked pretty well. The good glide was probably due to that two Finnish men I met in the waxing room helped me with some structure to the glide surface. That’s what I think the Italians had in the relay. My wax was not dragging (except when freezing), and it could have been a lot worse. After some eating and sauna, I think it was actually good fun. It was so extreme, that one can only laugh. Taking it too seriously would just be miserable. And I definitely have never raced on so may different kind of slush.
Check our club's facebook page for videos of before, during and after the race (you dont have to have access to facebook to view our contents). The lake section is pretty telling. I’m poling there as fast as I can with the poles sinking with each push.
Thank you everyone for cheering. It was much needed and appreciated. It makes a huge difference.
Now it’s a few days of asking for us here. Tomorrow is the free-style long distance races and I might take a rest day. Then next week I’ll visit family before heading home. Even if the races could have gone better placing-wise, I have had a blast and great races for myself. There are things I now know I need to practice more and that’s always so much fun. So looking forward to some good snow and skiing company also at home.