Vasa!

Aaron at the finish.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Cross Country ski racing, but with first hand accounts of 10 degree weather, suffering, CRASHES, and….wait for it…snotcicles… you know it has to be an awesome time.

Here is Aaron Henely’s take;

” Wow! The Vasa trail is one tough course. I raced the 27k classic, which fortunately was shortened to 24k due to dangerous conditions. Any condition on skis is dangerous for me. I am now certain that I picked a bad winter to have a breakthrough cx ski season.The temperature for the race was about 10 degrees which made for some very interesting snotcicles and frozen matter hanging from the faces of the competitors.

The first kilometer seemed to be going really well until the first downhill… CRASH!! Lots of spectators with cowbells on this part of the course were delighted with the action, I was instantly a crowd favorite. From there the hills only got steeper and more technical. By 18k my upper body was completely fried from double poling, my legs totally trashed from climbing and eye lids were freezing shut from the frigid conditions. I managed to finish with a smile knowing that I gave the SSSMST sponsors maximum exposure time out on the race course.

As a side note, teammate Mike Schaefer, is not kidding when he tells you triathlon season is just his training for cx ski season. That guy can ski with the best of them and he proved it this year at the Vasa. Congrats to him on two great races.”

Now on to Mike’s thoughts;

This year the “Vasa” ski marathon played host to the National Master’s Championship.  Competition was tough, as top masters skiiers from 20 states and Canada tackled the hilly courses over 2 days.  Included in this group was Aaron Henely, skiing is first EVER XC ski race!!  Hopefully his race report captures the excitement (and some of the agony).  I was quite impressed with his performance (or should-I say “survival”!) A middle-of-the pack finish with this crew is something to be proud of!  (and the 10 deg F temp made such cool beard-icicles!)

My own races were pretty good:  Given my lack of skiing this year, I chose to skate the 27K on Saturday (instead of the main 50K event) to save some energy for Sunday’s 16K classical-style race. I figured the 16K would be my best chance at a “National Championship” age-group award.  My plan worked well – I managed to win my AG in the 27 K, (7th OA) and only had to suffer severely for the last 3-4K as I dropped all but one of my paceline group with a surge on the last hilly section at 22K mark.  I traded “pulls” with a skier-friend from PA (Jason Zimmerman) to stay away ’till the finish, which was quite difficult!  I hit max HR on the 22K climb, and running at ~95% max Heart rate for 20min from there to the finish – I nearly vomited at the finish line but it was such a rush!

By Sunday I felt almost completely recovered (and more confident than expected after my successful Saturday).  I still skiied pretty conservatively (and had to start in the 2nd wave due to no prior “nationals” result.  It was hard to know how to pace, but fell in with 2 other guys off the front of “wave 2” and decided to give it a go.  I slowly pulled away from these guys just past the 1/2 way point, and skiied a very strong “solo” finish, actually skiing a negative split!  The efforts resulted in a 3rd in AG, and possibly my only ever “national” level award!

I think a lot of the top competition from “out-west” didn’t make the trip to Michigan due to iffy snow conditions, but hey, you gotta be “present” to win!!  My times were very close to PRs on same courses, despite my lack of training — Probably because I was just so PUMPED to be skiing again!!!

Most importantly, we had an awesome time, and we enjoyed some excellent skiing.  Traveling with Aaron and the 4 other Ohio Nordic SKi Club people was a blast!  I hope you all get out and enjoy this great sport while weather still permits, and hope more of you make a trip up north with me next year!!!

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3 Responses

  1. Just noticed the “safety-first” traffic cone in Aaron’s 2nd picture – what an Awesome addition!

  2. Great Stuff Guys

  3. That beard does look pretty awesome

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