By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM Now Multi-sport athlete
With blizzard conditions and road closures across the state, a troop of brave (or crazy) skiers lined up for the 27k or 50k VASA races on Saturday, February 14. Leading up to the weekend, it was questionable if the races would be held or possibly shortened because of the dangerous wind chills. In the early morning, temperatures were at the 10 degree mark, but progressively dropped, settling near -20 degrees, with the windchill.
Alex Vanias and I decided to stick with the 50k, although many racers opted to switch to the 27k or even skip this year. After strategically selecting our clothing, we headed to the start line to find 3” of new snow already on the course and continuing to fall. Despite the cold wax on my skis, they felt very slow in the powder, and I realized it was going to be a survival race.
After the start, I settled in the back of the chase group of guys and tried to keep my effort under control. Alex skied away from the competition within the first 10k, despite a broken pole, and was the first to break the fresh powder. I progressively moved through the pack and found myself alone by the end of the first lap. The second lap of the 50k is significantly less sheltered than the first half and exposed us to horrendous wind and drifting. I was attempting to ski conservatively, but the conditions were so slow that they allowed for no rest.
The final 8k converged with the 27k and I was thankful for a packed trail. I had already been racing for longer than I had expected and knew the winning times would be slow, possibly record setting. The finish line and warming tent were a very welcome sight indeed. After finishing 2nd and 3rd the past two years, I was quite happy to win my first VASA and finish 7th overall. Alex also won his first VASA after finishing second the past two years.
The skiers and volunteers deserve major kudos for braving the elements for this memorable VASA. This week, the focus is on rest and recovery for the Birkie this coming weekend!