The only time I did the Vasaloppet in Mora, Minnesota was 2003. It was a bad snow year, so they did the race on the lake. Three 15k laps around. At least it was 0F and blowing about 15 knots across the exposed ice.
We all left the warmth of the bonfires and headed to the start. Somebody got on the PA and hollered, “Who’s ready to go this wonderful morning?” There was a big, throaty cheer. I nodded to myself and smiled behind my neoprene face-mask.
“These are my people,” I thought.
I thought the same thing last weekend as my son Sam and I put in 30k during the 2014 edition of the Tour Duluth. We put in a few kilometers at Magney, Spirit, Piedmont, Lester, Bagley, and Hartley. We only skipped Chester. We even fetched the dog for a few clicks at Snowflake.
It was a gorgeous day. 18F outside with no wind. Blue sky. Just perfect. And all the usual suspects were out. It was fun to meet new people and say a rousing, “Hello!” to those we’ve known for years.
We saw Erik Riker-Coleman at Magney with his wife Kristin and kids. We ended up seeing them over and over all day. We met Jere and Leah at Spirit as they ran the doughnut stand. We said hello to Greg Fangel and his wife Liz of Woodenskis.com fame. Said, howdy to Judy Derauf and Deb Deluca as they were coming in and we were headed out. We fetched the dog and went to Piedmont. He whined in the truck bed while Sam and I met Glen Nelson who makes all the funny signs at Piedmont. I thanked him for all the chuckles we’ve had over the years. Anne Fluke was up there saying hi to everybody in creation. Haley Bock took a picture of Sam and me at the overlook at Piedmont. We met Gary and Celeste Black at Snowflake and our Leo ran in the snow with their Bella. Mick Dodds was letting Jena Ogston demo some skis. I even tried some new ones on. When I got done, Mick said, “That was quick.” (I can tell I’m out of shape in 100 meters or less, even on new planks). Gary took a picture of us reenacting my first race. It imitates a picture my mom took of me and my dad in 1981. We took the dog back home to prison and we pressed on to Lester. Saw John Hatcher, Sam’s soccer coach from a few years ago. If I knew he skied, I’d forgotten. Ran into Kaitlin Erpestad, Duluth Cross Country Ski Club Board member and in charge of KidSki programs. Complimented her on helping Duluth’s Vikre Distillery make the local spruce infused gin I’ve been sipping. Add “forager” to her titles. Compadre Bryan French was taking pictures as the host at Bagley. When my frontal attack on the IRS wasn’t getting the club 501C3 status when we incorporated DXC in 2005, he was the one who put it in the end zone. As always, he’s more pleasant than me and the IRS happily conceded to him. I asked Cory Salmela about his Sochi experience with his brother Chad. Apparently Al Trautwig is an okay dude. (My wife congratulated Chad the other day on his Olympic announcing as he shoveled off his roof right across the street from us. How cool is Duluth that he’s my neighbor?) Dean Grace flew by like a bullet train as Sam and I looked at the sunset in Hartley. We went inside and I checked in with Grant Nelson who’s the current treasurer. Talked to his wife Elaine in line for food and asked how her Pepsi Challenge race went that morning. She said it was good. (I learned later that she won the thing…by around 15 minutes) Sam and I ate the awesome supper sponsored by Duluth Grill and I sipped some apres ski Thirsty Pagan Brews. John Bankson can play banjo as well as ski, apparently. Go, Riverside Bog Stompers, Go.
Some folks I know pretty well. Some I just met. I probably spelled some names wrong here. I didn’t try to mention everybody we saw. That would be impossible. Some people I mentioned above probably have no idea who the heck I am.
But it doesn’t matter. It was the perfect Saturday. And these are my people.