28. A tasty surprise at the 1994 Vasaloppet

By Marcia Beckner –

The 1994 Vasaloppet was our first Worldloppet. Interesting that we picked the longest and largest Worldloppet for our initiation. But having attended the Lillehammer Olympics the two weeks previous, the Vasaloppet was a natural fit for my husband and me.

It was all so terribly exciting – on the start line at Salen with 16,000 like-minded excited skiers, knowing that Norwegian Olympic stars Bjorn Dahlie and Vegard Ulvang were starting at the front, and we two Canadians were at the very back of the last wave – with 90km ahead of us. What we had ahead of us was not so much daunting as it was highly anticipated. The day of the Vasaloppet is considered almost a holiday in Sweden with hundreds of spectators along the six-lane route pitted into the snowbanks in family/friend groups with their barbecues, chairs, cheering paraphernalia. Such a festive atmosphere!

With each competitor’s bib displaying the flag of his/her country we were greeted with “Hiya, Canada” to speed us along. We soaked it all in. We stopped at every food station and chatted with folks, drank copious amounts of their famous blueberry soup, took off our skis and sat in a snowbank in the sun enjoying our lunch. We soaked it all in. We were not here to race – we were here to experience this event. In fact, we were so into absorbing the ambiance that when we were relaxing at the feed station at the 60km mark a kindly official came up to us and remarked, ”You seem to be having a good time. But if you are not through that gate over there in the next 5 minutes you will be taking the bus!” That was a wake-up call to us. On with the skis. And with the six lanes having been freshly set – and us well rested from our slow and steady pace – from here on we ramped up our tempo, passing hundreds of skiers who hadn’t the advantage of fresh legs. It was then that we had the most delightful and memorable experience of the day. I’ll never forget skiing along in  tandem rhythm with Jim and seeing a gal standing in the middle of the six-lane track holding a round tray with what appeared to be chocolate balls. That would be nice, I thought. So I took a couple of these balls as I passed the tray and popped them into my mouth. What a pleasant shock! They were not chocolate balls after all. They were Swedish meatballs! And exactly what we needed at that point in our journey. Salty, protein, and tasty. They got us through to the finish line in Mora where we skied through town with hundreds of those lovely Swedish spectators lining the route and cheering us on.

With seven Worldloppets now under our belts, with many fabulous memories, nothing will top those Swedish meatballs!

And by the way – we did something that Bjorn Dahlie and Vegard Ulvang didn’t do: we finished!!

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