Event: distance skate, 40k
Conditions: oh, Minneapolis, can't you make up your mind? Today was sunny and warm, by which I mean 45 degrees, fer cryin' out loud, and super windy, that kind of strong warm wind that wipes out snow packs and makes you think of daffodils.
Just about everyone commented on or complained about the wet sucky snow except the 80-year-olds who started first, when the snow was still relatively crisp. For everyone else, the blue sky and sunshine quickly turned the course into a slick ski-grabbing mess that left racers V2-ing downhill and, except for the strongest skiers, looking more and more exhausted with every one of the four 10k laps. There are some really tiny older women here who could barely make headway out in the open against the wind, and a lot of people are going to have sore shoulders tonight, after yanking at poles that stuck to the snow. Kent, unfortunately, didn't have the right skis for these conditions and had to work hard to come in 7th. His technique is so composed that it's hard to tell if he's suffering, but with every lap, he commented, "This snow sucks!" That's not a good sign.
But as JD Downing pointed out later, sometimes something happens that reminds you that blizzards and sucky snow and other minor annoyances don't matter that much, and that something today was a Russian skier who collapsed on the course and died, possibly of a heart attack. There was a moment of silence at the awards ceremony tonight in his honor while a slide of the skier was displayed on the screen, then the Russian national anthem was played.
It was a sobering moment, but the mood turned jovial again soon. It's the last night of MWC 2018, and masters skiers know how to party when there's no race on the schedule for the morning! After the awards and the speeches, food and drink appeared, a band started playing, and the room became boisterous and loud. It was a fun evening and a great way to say goodbye to new friends and an amazing week!
As skiing winds down, Super Bowl fever has hit the city in a big way; you can see the change in clientele at the hotel and on the streets as skiers begin to leave and football fans appear. It's definitely a different population. As for tomorrow's loppet, it's looking bleak. This Big Melt has affected the snow cover on the course, and it's possible or even likely that the course, which was going to be a scenic point to point along a lake, will be changed to yet another trip around the same loops of man-made snow we've been skiing on all week. Kind of hard to get excited about that!
Final take-aways: (a) There are some truly amazing older athletes out there who are having a lot of fun with their lives because they're strong and healthy and super-fit, with no restrictions. Aging is not a limiter for them, and that is really inspiring. One thing I noticed is that, during the awards ceremony, when everyone stands up every time a national anthem is played, no one, and I mean no one, needs to use their hands to push themselves up out of their chair. And when a 75-year-old Norwegian woman skips through the crowd and runs lightly up the steps to the podium, smiling and waving and hugging her competitors, you know you are seeing a different way of aging than what you might see at, for example, the mall. Really good stories here. (b) Such interesting people! As I told David Christopherson, I love sitting, my skis beside me, on a bus filled with older men speaking 20 different languages -- a reminder of how wide and fascinating the world is! And (c), of all the national anthems we heard this week, I like the Finnish one a lot (and we heard it a lot), but my favorite is the jaunty Italian one. And I especially love it when a group of Finns or Italians starts enthusiastically singing along when their anthem is played.
Can't wait until next year.