TRAVERSE CITY – Kaitlyn Patterson has missed the last few VASAs due to a hectic schedule at the University of Michigan Medical School but came back in full force to win the 50K freestyle race on Saturday.
Patterson, 28, blew away her female competition by more than 25 minutes, taking home the top spot in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 55 seconds and finishing 13th overall.
"I had no idea (I would win)," the three-time winner said. "I haven't been able to ski a lot because of the weather. I ride the trainer inside and run when I can, so I had no idea what my fitness was like. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't hurt as much as it could have without a lot of long skis this year."
The medical student had to break away from a busy schedule to make her hometown race for the first time in three years. She didn't know what to expect when making the trip because she has had limited time to train in Ann Arbor due to wacky weather.
Her closest competitor, Sara Nestor, finished in 3:19:22. However, she was not racing her female counterparts. Patterson stuck with a group of males, pushing herself to beat friends that she has been skiing with since she was in the Junior VASA program.
"The ski community is super tight knit and it is fun to see everybody who I have known since I was skiing as a junior," Patterson said. "I know they are not in my race but I am a pretty competitive person. It is just about finding the race within the race, and I just can't help it when it comes down to the end like that."
Patterson edged out her skiing partners Glenn Goodman and Todd Vigland on the stretch to the finish line, impressing herself in the process.
"I have a lot of respect for the ski community and endurance athletic community because I also race mountain bikes," she said. "It is a lot of the same people who do this in the winter, so it is always a lot of fun to get out and play."
Charyl Darnton (Ann Arbor) took home third in 3:20:24, Karen Kirt (Lake Leelanau) took fourth in 3:26:20 and Julia Darntan Healey took fifth in 3:36:05.