With the region’s top teenage nordic skiers sequestered at a regional competition in the Methow Valley on Sunday, skiers in their 40s and 50s dominated the 31st annual Langlauf cross-country ski race at Mount Spokane.
Rune Harkestad, 44, of Bellevue had no peers among the 220 finishers, winning the 10-kilometer classic-style race in 29 minutes, 21 seconds.
Harkestad, the 40-45 age-group gold medalist in the 30K classic at last year’s World Masters Champitonships in McCall, outpaced Langlauf runner-up Nick Bauer by 1:34.
Deb Bauer, 43, of Spokane was the top female – for the 15th time – in 33:43.
Bauer said she skied most of the race alone “or with a few guys.” No women finished within five minutes of her.
But even the leading lady can have her ups and downs: “Right near the end, I hit a patch of snow that had gone soft and wet in the sun,” she said. “My skis stuck and I fell on my backside.”
Brilliant sunshine combined with cool air and cold snow temperatures made for one of the more pleasant events in the history of Langlauf, which is the region’s longest-running major citizens race.
Waxing was generally easy. Asked what they used for wax, 20 skiers gave 20 different combinations – and they all seemed to work.
But the subtleties can make a difference.
“I went with a hard wax and had better glide than Nick (Bauer), but he went with a (stickier) klister and walked right away from me on the uphills,” said Brian Abrams, who finished third overall.
“I’d catch up on the downhills, but you don’t win a race with glide on a hilly course; you’ve got to have the kick.
“Nick and I have a 10-year rivalry. Three times I’ve lost this race by 10 seconds or less, so I’m waxing for 10 seconds: Go for glide or go for kick? I may have made a mistake this year.”
Harkestad said he grew up with cross-country skiing, but stopped at age 19, just about the time skate-skiing caught on.
“I didn’t ski for 15 years until I picked it up again nine years ago,” he said.
“The classic technique came back to me fairly fast, but I was way behind the curve for skating,” he said, noting that he won a second gold at World Masters as a classic specialist in the 4-by-5K relay.
His waxing choice for Langlauf was a thin Toko klister binder topped with a hard-wax mixture of purple and a little red.
“I felt the binder dragging a little, but it helped the kick last,” he said.
Skiers ages 5 to more than 70 participated in the event, some skiing in a wood skis and woolly clothing division. However, they all competed equally in post-race drawings for thousands of dollars worth of prizes.
“We continued to have amazing support from our sponsors despite what’s going on with the economy,” said Tim Ray, race director.
Walking away from the finish line, Betty Moos of Spokane couldn’t have looked any fresher at the start.
“I didn’t go that fast,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “After all, I’m a year older than I was last year – when I was 74.”
Pia Koefoed had just arrived the night before Langlauf from Denmark to visit her Spokane friend, Jette Benedetto.
“I was told to time my trip for Langlauf, and I’m glad I did,” Koefoed said, noting she must travel to Norway to do her cross-country skiing from home. “It’s amazing to have such a beautiful place to ski just an hour from where you live.”