Comeback at Vasaloppet
5 March 2023. A day I have been looking forward for some months now. Participating in Vasaloppet is one of the highlights I look forward to after new years. To perform 90K of cross country skiing throughout the beautiful Swedish landscape between Sälen to Mora is something special. Of course you need a certain amount of training in order to complete it and in my case I aim for at least 300K of skiing which I also managed to fit in as part of the preparation. I wrote about training before Vasaloppet HERE some years ago and I still stick to the same formula and here below I share this years preparation from my excel file where I keep track of it, might happen that I like excel but that is a different story. But now over to skiing adventure of 2023.
Travel to Vasaloppet and packing
I have been staying with the same group of people for a few years now. They have the perfect place to stay at within walking distance from the start which is unbeatable in the morning of the race. To travel to Vasaloppet from Stockholm is though not the funniest thing if you ask me. It takes around 6 hours and include a train ride to Borlänge and then bus. Perhaps a great way to spend the day before the race since the rest is needed and to entertain yourself you have to eat. A lot. I had a whole bag filled with food with me. Lunch for the trip (overnight oats topped with banana and nuts), fika (a bun from a nearby bakery), dinner (Pasta Bolognese and veggies), breakfast one (bread with cheese and butter, orange juice), breakfast two (oatmeal, milk and lingonberry jam and one more slice of bread), two EatNatural bars for the race, two small coke zeros (one for the race and one to drink when water becomes to boring).
I prefer to travel light so I had some comfy training pants and a hoodie that I also used after the race when going to Sälen. In my backpack I had bed linnen, race clothes and toiletries. You do more or less not need to bring your whole crib for just one nights stay. Before the race you will check in your gear and get them back after finishing. That procedure I really don’t like. It takes time and I am always freezing like crazy and you are hungry, tired and absolutely not in the mode for pick up your stuff which takes around one hour.
Check in and preparation
I got to skin in group 8 this year. Some years I end up in coral 7 and some in 8. Doesn’t matter that much for me since I am not aiming for any time but I would say it makes a 15 min difference between the corals how fast you are done with the first climb. I have never walked through the shops at the race fair before so I did it this time and bought a new pair of sports glasses which has been on my wish list for quite long. Better reward yourself before than after the race right?
Then I got picked up by one of the guys I stay with and we went to leave my skis for vaxing. I had before handed them in to Vasaloppet’s own vax service but my housemates friend Otto that I handed my skis to this year made a five star job. Will for sure use him also next time.
04 am 05 March
04 am the alarm was sounding. Time to get up and eat breakfast number one before going to the start coral to place the skis in pole position. This year they opened already at 05:30 so we just waited for one hour outside in the -6 degree cold. Then back home again to rest a bit and eat breakfast number two. I wasn’t feeling nervous because I had nothing to be nervous for. I was just looking forward to spending a day outside skiing. Of course I wanted to do my best but since I am not a skiing talent or aim for any specific time I decided just before start to leave my sportswatch in my waist bag. At each and every fuel station you can check the time anyway and then you get five minutes of free entertainment the next kilometers to calculate your previous pace and expected finishing time.
Race report kilometer 0-30
8 am and then the race was on. Like every year it is very hard to know when the start goes. People around start asking “was it the start signal or something else?” then after a few minutes you find out it was and slowly the journey towards Mora begins. The air is filled with excitement and energy. The day you have marked in your calendar since way back is here and time to do the job. I felt very calm and took it easy up the famous hill. I always stick to the left side. Better to have one side free to sneak around some people and I think it is a larger chance to protect the poles out there since more people tend to fall in the middle of the field. The 3 kilometer long hill is a perfect warmup. After that you can see how your equipment is performing for the day.
I really, really love the first part when you get out to the wetlands. This year it was a perfect winter day with sun and temperature just below zero. Was a bit windy from time to time which makes it a bit of a challenge to put in the poles exactly where you want them. Small details.
Anyway, I had an enjoyable first part of the race. A lot of people outside to watch and my skis were great. Going downhill they were very fast and I had to break to not run into fellow participants when going uphill after a downhill.
After 30K I stop at the station to have a bar. I badly needed to visit the toilet so also went for that important errand. Well, I wasn’t in a hurry so I was standing in the sun a bit, ate my bar and chit chatted with a fellow skiier that also stopped for some snacks. The whole race is a huge Smörgåsbord of eats but I stick to the blueberry soup and water. The buns are disgusting but the best thing at the Smörgåsbord is definitley the Delikato boll sponsored by Preem when you have 16K to go. Best fika of the year!
During this phase my worst part comes. The uphill part. I am absolutely not strong here due to lack of training in hilly terrain. It is just to get over with it. Here my strategy is not to kill my arms and use my legs to move forward and it worked pretty much okey.
Also the best part comes here. All downward hills. Here my strategy is to go to the left. Absolutely not a middle track. Better stick to the side if someone falls and I can also use my left ski to break if needed. And there are people falling so a good tactic is to find a group when the hills are not steep that seems trustworthy when it comes to going down, it goes fast here, and stick to them. Also trust yourself and stay on the tracks.
60 to 90 kilometer
I would lie if it was enjoyable all around the course but 95% was. During this part you start to get tired in your arms. It hurts but it is just to get over with it. Luckily you soon have one downhill to recover in when your arms feels like spagetti. It is just to get over it. Same for everyone. If it was easy to ski 90K then everyone would do it. Here I knew I was going to finish in around 8 hours, a few minutes over or under isn’t a biggie for me so wasn’t chasing any minutes. Stopped by the energy stations, had some drinks and enjoyed the race.
Then after nearly 90K you enter Moraparken and so many feelings. Every time. I have a tradition to not fall any other place during the race but here so I focused to stay on my legs. And made it. When you come here you are so tired, happy and honestly I cannot describe it, it is just a very special feeling that needs to be experienced. It’s like finishing a marathon (or actually the projects I work with at work has the same feeling when you see the plane takes off) the feeling of finishing something challenging it is really satisfactionary.
So in 8 hours and 6 minutes I finished this years big skiing event. Happy ending of a great outdoor day. Tired of course, if I could have done it better – maybe because I have both in terms of placement and time but all races are different and not really comparable. Anyhow, I had a fantastic day outside and hopefully I will stand at the starting line also next year to be a part of the 100th Vasaloppet celebration. Anyone else who has been participating this year, aim for next year or enjoy it as a spectator from the couch or IRL? If you are up for a challenge I could strongly recommend Vasaloppet. It is in my opinion the best sports arrangement in Sweden.
/ Pernilla giving Vasaloppet a huge thumb up