Andrea Dupont

Archive for April, 2013

VASA Loppet Adventures

The last stop on my European trip was to Sweden for the VASA loppet. The VASA loppet is the biggest and the longest ski marathons in the world, with 16000 people racing on the big day and 60000 people racing variations of the course the week leading up to the big race day. The full course is 90km or 9 Swedish miles and travels between the towns of Salen and Mora. You might be thinking that 90km seems far for a sprinter and I would totally agree with you. But somehow sprinters also tend to do well in the long distance, it’s the middle distance where our body produces more lactate than it can deal with.

Regardless, I was excited to be a part of this big ski event and to see how my fitness would fair over 90km. The longest races I had done up to this point were a couple of 50kms in previous years, and those races boasted at most a couple hundred people.

My time is Sweden was amazing! I really could not have asked for a better setup. I stayed with a ski family in Mora, the town the race finished in, and they could not have been more perfect. The father is a well known waxer for the local club and insisted on waxing my skis for me everyday I was training. The mom would drive me to ski and do ski-mom-like things to make me feel at home. It was so nice to settle in to this Swedish family for a week after living out of hotels for a good part of the season.

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My Swedish family photo

The week leading up to the race I was able to ski what I thought were the key portions of the course:  the 3km uphill at the start, another ‘bump’ on the relatively flat profile and the last 30km. I have to say, that after skiing about 50% of the course, I was thinking that it would be a huge advantage to double pole if I could be confident that my arms would last 90km. Bear in mind that the typical course that I train for is hillier and much shorter, so I decided that I was not strong enough to double pole, at least not this year. I hear the guys that double pole this course do 3hr double pole workouts… not really something on my sprinter training plan.

Race day I was incredibly set up as 2 local clubs, Asarna and IFK Mora both helped with logistics and feeds and SKIGO provided me with wax support. I felt incredibly supported as there was someone telling me step by step what I needed to do, because when 16000 people are starting at the same time, the morning is a bit chaotic. Here is a photo of the start from one of the helicopters. Yes, this race is such a big deal in Sweden, there were 3 helicopters covering the race. Crazy how big skiing is over here!

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Start Photo

Fortunately I was given an elite seed, which meant, I had less than 500 people starting in front of me. This is important because the trail hits a bottle neck about 1km after the start. The track comes to an absolute stand still for many. Even in the elite wave, all I could do was keep my poles and skis in tight to make sure that no one broke one of my poles or skis. Here is my special women’s elite bib that entitled me to start in front of wave 1, composed of pretty fast men who probably train more for than me, who I spent the entire race just trying to hang onto.

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Bib photo

I really had no idea what to expect. I decided to treat this race as I had the 50kms I had done before: go out comfortably hard, feed as much as possible and try and hang onto a pack of guys that are a little faster than me. In the end I was so happy that I had grip wax on my skis. It definitely made it harder to hang onto people on the flats but I would make up ground easily on any sections that I could stride.

 There is so much double poling terrain I was ecstatic every time there was a hill to climb. There were somehow more hills than I remembered and surprisingly it was my legs that fatigued and not my arms. The first 60km flew by. I am not sure if I needed to feed more, or if it is just when I started to feel the effects of the race, but the last 30km was tough. I started to look at every coach holding out a feed bottle hoping they were offering it to me. My support crew starting feeding me a mix of Cola and coffee, which may sound disgusting but tasted like the best thing in the world and helped fuel me to the finish.

Quote of the day from Super Women aka Karen Messenger “Never underestimate 90km”.

I know this might not seem like a ground-breaking statement…  but sometimes when you are in good shape you underestimate challenges that any rational thinking human beings would consider ridiculous.

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I lost a few spots in my delirium in the last 30km but managed to finish as the 11th women of the day. Not too shabby for a sprinter:) Lots of pain, but lots of fun:)

Until next time I will leave you with a random innovation I came across while in Sweden… pole extensions for double pole specific races… who knows if these will all the rage in years to come.

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Funny poles

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