John Kristian Dahl (NOR) has won Vasaloppet three times, here from 2017. Photo: Vasaloppet/Nisse Schmid

John Kristian Dahl (NOR) has won Vasaloppet three times, here from 2017. Photo: Vasaloppet/Nisse Schmid

The 90-kilometer classic race is just around the corner. Check out the best advice!

For starters, 90 kilometers is a long way. Dividing the course into sections is a good strategy, both to stay mentally sharp and focused, and because the different sections have different characteristics.

“I don’t think about Vasaloppet as 90 kilometers. Some racers like to divide the course into three, but I like to split it in half: two times 45. From the start I count down to the midpoint, and then from there to the finish,” says Ole Christian Nymoen, a Vasaloppet veteran with several top 100-finishes.

The first half: Stay calm
While the elite racers are eager to fight for the best positions out of the start gate, spending a lot of energy on the first kilometers is rarely beneficial to the rest of us.

“Relax and settle into the train you end up in,” Nymoen says.

“If you get stuck behind a lot of racers for a few minutes early in the race, you can easily make up that with interest on the last 20 kilometers if you don’t waste your energy early. On the other hand, if you can get away with a fast train in the first hill after the start, go for it. That can also be a good strategy, but the point is to not waste your energy early in the race,” he says, suggesting to stay with a group and take turns pulling the train.

“Find some good strong racers to stay with, and rotate pulling the group across the easy flat terrain that follows the first hills from the start.”

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Do not waste your energy at the start of the race. Photo: Vasaloppet/Ulf Palm

Do not waste your energy at the start of the race. You will have plenty of opportunities to pass people later in the race. Photo: Vasaloppet/Ulf Palm

Re-wax if you have to
Although the elite generally skip the kick wax and double-pole the whole race, most people will ski with kick wax.

Read more about how to prep for Vasaloppet here

If you notice early that you have grossly missed the wax, you should take the time to re-wax.

“If you don’t have enough kick early in the race, you won’t have kick later either. It typically gets warmer and more slippery as the day progresses. Don’t waste your energy on rotten grip early in the day,” Nymoen says.

“The two minutes you spend on stopping to re-wax might be the best two minutes you spend that day.”

The last half: A cruise to the finish or a true nightmare – you choose
After the 45-kilometer mark, you are halfway through and the hardest terrain is behind you. However, the traps are still many.

“Make sure you get to the 45-kilometer mark with a good feeling. From here you can really start counting down and if you have been diligent about food and hydration you have all kinds of opportunities now. This is where you will be rewarded for a conservative start. You will pass lots of racers who burned too much energy in the first half of the race or didn’t fuel well early in the race, and that’s always a boost mentally, Nymoen says.

At the same time, the seasoned marathon racer warns against being too eager.

“You are halfway through and the terrain is easier, but you still have 45 kilometers to go. Given that you’ve already skied 45 kilometers, it may not feel any easier at all. Don’t forget to stay with a good schedule for food and hydration for the last half of the race,” Nymoen says.

The competition starts after 70 kilometers
Regardless of how you choose to divide the course, the last 20 kilometers will determine everything, whether you are racing for the podium or fighting to finish in style.

“The last 20 kilometers separate Vasaloppet from all other marathon races. At this point, you’ve skied the entire distance of the Marcialonga, and you still have 90 minutes to go. From the course profile, this is the flattest and easiest section, but it can feel really, really rough,” Nymoen says, explaining that the mental dimension can be a determining factor.

“Most racers finish Vasaloppet entirely on mental will power. But if you are suffering, remember that everyone else around you is just as cooked or even worse,” says Nymoen, who has mustered extra energy for the finish just by ignoring the pain on the final stretch.

“When you see the church in Mora and you hear the spectators in the park, it feels so good no matter how bad it just was. The finish is worth the pain. That is the Vasaloppet difference.”

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There is no better feeling than finishing in style. Photo: Vasaloppet/Ulf Palm

There is no better feeling than finishing in style. Photo: Vasaloppet/Ulf Palm

More than 62,000 skiers participate in one of the Vasaloppet week 2018 events:
February 23: KortVasan (30km)
February 24: TjejVasan (30km)
February 25: UngdomsVasan (9-19km)
February 25: Öppet Spår Sunday (90km)
February 26: Öppet Spår Monday (90km)
February 27: HalvVasan (45km)
March 2: StafettVasan (relay – 90km)
March 2:NattVasan (90km, 2-person teams, freestyle)
March 3: Blåbärsloppet (9km)
March 4: Vasaloppet (90km)