The second Grand Marais Roller Ski Marathon took place September 30th. We started under a full moon 15 minutes before sunrise, at about 40 degrees with little or no wind. The start this year was from the Grand Sable Dunes Visitor Center, about 2.5 miles from town, which eliminated any rough pavement.
Nineteen roller skiers started together, and Jan Petter Lovald of Hopkins, Minnesota, quickly went off the front with new inline skate wheels. I tried to close the gap on the first uphill, but realized it was not possible, especially on the flats and downhills.
I skied with a chase group of seven for most of the race, with only a few brief accelerations from the front, until Milan Baic attacked on a long hill for good with about 12 K to go. Three skiers stayed with him for a while, with one falling off that group a few K from the end.
By the finish, the sun was strong and the temperature had risen in to the 60s, making for a very pleasant roller ski for all.
As anyone who has raced on roller skis knows, overall speed is greatly affected by the rolling resistance of the wheels. At least four participants used very fast-rolling inline skate wheels on their skis. Others were hampered by very slow wheels. Those who have skied with John Gravlin and Tracy Hardin know that they will be found near the front of any ski race on snow, and Andy Liebner was likely hampered by wheels nearly completely worn out.
Thanks to Grand Marais for running a great event, in a beautiful place. It’s a great way to test the racing engine before the season, and get the competitive juices flowing. I strongly urge all skiers to put this event on your schedule for next year.