TRAVERSE CITY — Vasa skiers were greeted with a wintry surprise Saturday morning — sub-zero temperatures.
“I was at Bunker Hill at 7 a.m. to drop something off and it was 12 below,” Vasa president Pete LaPlaca said. “I was giving out hand-warmers, foot warmers to all the volunteers. It was brutal.”
It was reportedly 10 below at Jack Pine valley, one of the landmark locations on the course.
Organizers didn’t expect it to be quite that cold.
“Not all,” LaPlaca said. “They were predicting a low of 7 to 8 with a high of 21. Thank God for the sun.”
WESTPHAL INJURED: It was a tough day for Traverse City’s Deb Westphal.
The Traverse City skier went down with an injury early in her race.
“I heard it was a double compound fracture below her knee,” LaPlaca said. “I’m not sure exactly how it happened. But it was nasty.
“She’s one of the best cyclists and skiers in the state in her age (group). She’s a heck of an athlete, and a really nice person. You hate to see something like that happen.”
The accident occurred on the first lap.
“That’s where a lot of the accidents happen,” LaPlaca said. “Everybody is all geared up. They’re cold. Everybody is all together. That’s why we ask them to double-pole for the first 300 meters.”
FOOTBALL TO SKIING: Elk Rapids football coach Ed Schindler finished the 27K freestyle in 1:57:39.
He’s in his third year of cross country skiing.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s such a great workout. It’s a great way to embrace winter.
“And everyone out here is so healthy. The camaraderie is great.”
Schindler’s wife, Amy, skied the 12K freestyle, finishing in 1:10.52.
The two did the White Pine Stampede last weekend — as did middle son Peyton.
Peyton had another obligation Saturday.
“He’s at weightlifting today,” Amy said.
The Schindlers said they’ve improved their techniques and times, thanks to Vasa’s We Ski program.
So will Ed do the 50K next year?
“You picked the wrong time to ask me that,” he said, still breathing a little hard after just finishing the 27K.
CHANGE IN PLANS: Traverse City’s Gary Olson skied his 29th Vasa, but his first classical in 20 years.
He finished the 27K in 2:44.
Olson wears a brace on his left knee. He said with Saturday’s hard-packed conditions he couldn’t get enough grip to ski freestyle.
“My (left) ski would slide out,” he said.
So he switched to classical.
“It would have been alright if I had been prepared,” he said. “My skis were a little slow. I haven’t done anything to these skis in a few years — I’ve been skating. I just put these on this morning and jumped in. This was a new learning experience for me.”
Olson said he “wore” his knee out and needs a replacement.
“I’m considering getting a new knee,” he said. “But I can’t find a good time to do it. I want to ski and I want to bike. There’s no down time.”
POWELL OUT: Amy Powell, who has won numerous Vasa races over the years, did not compete.
Powell gave up racing for health reasons. She has cold-induced asthma.
“I made the decision at the end of last year,” she said. “It’s kind of weird (not racing), but it’s all good. I’m healthier, so I know it was right thing to do, especially with these extreme temperatures we’ve been having.”
Powell still skis on a recreational basis and coaches junior and high school racers.
“It feels good to give back,” she said.
BIRKIE NEXT: Several Vasa skiers plan to compete in Wisconsin’s upcoming American Birkebeiner.
Some fat bike riders will be joining them.
The Birkebeiner’s Fat Bike Birkie has been selected as the U.S. National Fat Bike Championship race.
Grayling’s Jorden Wakeley is the defending champion. He won the 47K last year with a time of 1:48:30.
Wakeley plans to defend his title.
“Last year it was one of my favorite races — perfect trails and awesome competition,” he said. “Very cool to hear it has been named U.S. Fat Bike National Championship. It should draw even faster riders and bigger crowds.”
The Fat Bike Birkie is part of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Race Series, which Wakeley also won last year