What do you get when you take what should be a fast and fun 44k course, mix in dumping snow, some gusting wind, and top it off with icing kick wax? Why you get the SISU Ski Fest 44k classic race 2011!
It certainly required all of my sisu to Finnish that one strong, (ha!). My skis we icing worse and worse throughout the race, and I really had to hold myself together around the third time I nearly face planted trying to glide while striding. At 6k to go, in preparation for the final push, I actually stopped to scraped the mounds of snow off the bottom of my skis. And Kerry Fabius of Grand Marais certainly kept me on my toes the entire race. We traded the pull throughout the entire race, and it wasn't until 4k to go that I decided I couldn't leave the finish to a double sprint, so I broke away, hoping to put a sizable margin between the two of us before Main Street.
That was certainly the hardest marathon I've raced. The snow came down all night long and throughout the duration of the race. Much of the time throughout the course there was no track, and if there was it had only been skied in by the handful of guys in front of us. Once I finished I could barely stand because the arches of my feet were cramping so badly from balancing on all of the soft and uneven snow we plowed through for nearly 3 and a half hours. Talk about the longest 44k of my life.
But finishing on Main Street Ironwood was a great feeling. The hometown hospitality was just amazing. Everyone rushed to you wanting to see if they could get you a hot drink or get your drop bag for you. The population of Ironwood consists of genuine salt-of-the-earth folks and that made for an excellent post-race stay in town. Pasties and Finnish stew for everyone! And after a hot shower, a recovery Guiness, and some time testing out the mattresses and recliners at Hitt's Fine Furniture, I felt much better.