I left last years Vasaloppet with a creepy indescribable feeling. The race itself doesn’t need any introduction or portrayal. I have been writing about it on this complimentary cyberspace site more than a few times and I haven’t altered my view at all.
Vasaloppet Sunday is the big day. And while I was profoundly and truly captivated as a kid watching German TV and the “Sport aus aller Welt” program, seeing all these thousands of skiers racing in the direction of this first climb, it really takes time and understanding for Swedish culture to fully get it. Personally, I do not know any other one-day sporting event that influences an entire country and its society in such a way as Vasaloppet does. Everybody knows about it. Every person appreciates it and everyone, to my full surprise every year, can judge the finishing times.
I’m fully sold on Nordic skiing and living in a country that makes it easy to train this sport, makes Vasaloppet the logical yearly pilgrimage. In 2022 I did the main race. Deprived of a qualification time that can be recorded in other XC ski competitions one need to start in the very back. I was privileged to get the chance to move up to start group 7 that year.
The morning of the race, people start queuing for hours to nick a perfect start spot. Preferably in the very front of their heat. That meant that I walked down to the start, waited for hours to put the skis down walked back to the hotel and had breakfast. After some time, its back to the start and then the 2nd queuing will sooner or later start as thousands of people try to get up this first steep hill. I waited there for approximately one hour with complete halt. So, the real race feeling never came up. Image running the New York City Marathon and waiting on the Verrazzano Bridge after 500 meters of running…
Full tracks but still remarkable crowds along the scenic course were great but the definite performance on the day was hard to measure. Something that left me unsatisfied. With only two seasons of proper ski training, I could be aiming for a qualification time to get me further up the ranks. Something that theoretically is a goal in the future. Until now I might have the endurance, but I miss the raw strength that is needed to call Vasaloppet a race. Therefore, we decided to not do the main Vasaloppet this year and participating in the Öppet Spår, the open track, competition the weekend before was the top decision.
No cues, not as many competitors and no traffic jam on course made up for everything. Joint with a sunshiny day that shaped an appropriate Dalarna propaganda day was fairylike. We arrived at the start in Sälen on time. Didn’t had to wait for our starting bibs and just went to the starting corals 15 minutes before the start. After last years disturbing queuing experience this set the day off in a dazzling and happily unspectacular way.
When the gun went off, I could ski the first climb and even appreciated some parts of the course completely on my very own. A feeling of freedom that I experienced at the Nordenskiöldsloppet last season. A feeling that I love when XC skiing. Wouldn’t it have been for one of the nastiest energy bonks I ever had, this would have been an astonishing day. I totally bashed awfully early on in the race and only came back after gasping 2 Maurten caffeine gels and nearly half my hydration belt.
After 5:24 I arrived in Mora. Very happy and lastly knowing how fast I can ski the course. I was fitter last year so that still leaves room for imagination and enthusiasm. The big and “real” Sunday competition will be on the agenda sometimes. Then with an upgraded body posture, a qualification time but still with the same love for this sport and its supreme race.
Tune of the day: DROELOE x IMANU – CATALYST
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