Team OAM Now’s Alex Vanias Learns a Tough Waxing Lesson at Nationals

January 18th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Alex Vanias, Team OAM Now multi-sport athlete

The start of this ski season has been a difficult one. With nationals on January 4th in Houghton, everything looked promising when we got dumped on by snow around Thanksgiving. The snow didn’t last long, though, and we ended up in the difficult transition period for over a month where there wasn’t enough snow to ski, and the roads were too icy to roller ski. I mostly ran and rode my bike outside while doing some upper body strength workouts indoors during that period. This kept me in pretty good shape, but I didn’t have specific strength to maintain my form at high intensity on skis. Luckily, the week before nationals, the roads dried up enough to get in a couple solid roller ski workouts so I wouldn’t feel too awkward getting back on real skis when I made the trip up north.

I was only going up to nationals for the 15k freestyle race on Sunday, since I have a new job and don’t get much time off yet. Nationals actually lasts a whole week with a series of different distances in both classic and freestyle technique. I went up to Houghton with enough time to test skis and get some confidence on them before the race. The day before the race, I did a 15 mile ski of three laps on the race course. I got to try my brand new Freedom Gold ski poles for the United States Ski Pole Company and they felt amazing. Temperatures were in the mid-20’s with a firm course, so my Fischer Carbonlite H-Plus skis were absolutely flying down the hills. There was a one mile long descent with a hairpin corner at the bottom that I really wanted to practice taking at full speed. I ended up being able to by the third lap.

alex blog photoRace day came with a high temperature of 5 degrees and only got colder as the day went on. There was new snow, so it was going to be very abrasive on the ski bases. Unfortunately, I didn’t expect the snow to cool down as fast as it did and didn’t put the hardest wax I had on my skis. When I tested my skis, there was definitely a lot a drag as they were very squeaky on the cold snow. My skis were not the slowest on the warm-up/test course, but there were guys gliding by me without a squeak and I knew I wasn’t going to be competitive. I had no place to re-wax skis since all the wax rooms were reserved for the bigger teams that showed up. I just had to live with what I had on and try my best.

The race was individual start with skiers going off every 15 seconds. My starting position was 193 of roughly 200 starters since I had no points from other USSA races. To sum up the race, I felt great the entire way, but everybody else was out-gliding me. Other skiers could just get into an aero tuck down the hills and save energy, but I had to keep poling and skating to try and keep up as they pulled away. I would bring them back on the climbs and do it all over again down the next hill. There was 2000ft of climbing in the 15k race. That’s a lot!

I finished in 97th place. In the end I left with good experience. Ski selection and waxing is half the race. Most of the time I have really fast skis, but sometimes I get it wrong. It is time to think about marathon season now that there is a lot of snow at home!


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