Hard to believe that last Saturday we barely had enough snow to ski on at Craftsbury when this morning I couldn't even get out my back door from the drifted snow! However, that was the case and I must say that Craftsbury did a magnificent job putting together a great 12.5 km loop at the Center for the race. It was really good skiing, relatively easy waxing and a pleasure to ski.
I arrived Friday afternoon in time to ski for an hour before dark and test waxes on rock-solid tracks, mostly on the manmade snow loop. I'd waxed up 2 pair of skis with 4 different combos of klisters and at the end of the day what I liked best was good old fashioned, tenacious Rex Blue klister and then the Toko Green/Green mix of green klister binder mixed with green hard wax binder, which I had just read about from Nationals. I was about 80% sure I'd go with Toko green/green. Both had totally rock-solid kick and stayed on the ski well. Meanwhile, Craftsbury groomers were filling up 2 trucks with an excavator from their manmade pile and dumping it all over the course where the trucks could get to to patch up thin and dirty spots. Had to keep your eyes open skiing around at dusk so you didn't run into one of the piles! Joe Bouscaren and I tested glide (he croaked me on klister skis, my practice skis being too soft).
I had the spaghetti dinner with Robert Faltus and his friends from Montreal, and John Broadhead and Gina Campoli. The BKSL kids from Craftsbury, our servers, were excited about coming down to Boston for the Boston Ski Party! After a good night over at the Albany Village Inn and one of Kate's excellent, made to order race breakfasts, Frank, Andy, John, Bob, Ann, Jimmy and I and the Mooneys headed over to the Center to wax up and race. I tried out my two favorite waxes from the day before and both were still rock-solid in the colder, 4F, conditions. However, after I carefully looked to see which held up better after scraping around a couple corners I decided on the Rex Blue klister because it looked to be a bit more durable. That done, I waxed up using my one 15 year old tube and worked to get it smooth (not so successfully) and headed to the start.
I had one of the best race starts I've had in a long time and slotted right in as the trail narrowed down to 3 tracks after the soccer field with no problems at all and worked to settle into a good 50 km pace and get by as many skiers as I could before we hit the woods and the first few climbs of the day. On our first trip down the giant slalom that is Elinor's Field I worried about the abrasive conditions, but was relieved to find a few km later as we started the long, gradual climb up Ruthie's Run that I still had plenty of kick. This concern and subsequent relief would play out 3 more times as we lapped through the course. Ruthie's Run is a great kick and glade uphill of about 1 km that I love when I have decent kick. In a marathon you have plenty of time to think about maintaining good technique and work on maximizing efficiency. On Ruthie's I worked hard on getting on top of my skis and getting my hips involved to maximize my kick and then on staying relaxed and fluid. This worked well and I passed a few people. The race was going well and I felt good! A bit earlier, at 5km I was passed by Bob Burnham and Nat Lucy and I wasn't able to hang with them. Watching Nat gradually ski away on Ruthie's was a bit frustrating, but, hey, he was an olympic skiier and I didn't try to overextend myself, given this was my first marathon in 3 years. I teamed up for much of the lap with UNH guy, who I'd been dueling with at Jackson the week before and with the same results. He'd coast away here and there and I'd catch up there and here.
On lap two we had to pass a lot of the touring and high school groups, but I only had one hairy moment overtaking and shooting by a tourer on one of the tricky downhills without incident. On Ruthie's I again got into the zone, this time getting some encouragement from Kate Yoder, who was doing her first 25 km, as I went by. Here I dropped UNH guy for good and started working with White Hat Dartmouth guy. His skis sucked and had bad kick, but of course they were fast on downhills, and so the rubber band would stretch on downhills and rebound on uphills for the whole 2nd lap and on into lap three. Somewhere along the way the rubber band broke and he scampered up a hill too fast for me, even with crappy kick, and he was gone. Now I was alone and had 1.5 laps to go. No one ahead to shoot for, no one behind pushing me. I looked for Burnham the final time through the first field, but didn't see him. This was going to be difficult. as I was now getting tired and my right tricep was cramping a bit.....except it turned out not to be too bad. For the last time I focused on the giant slalom downhill, now skiing on the berm instead of sliding around on the boilerplate, then the long DP section which leads into Ruthies, where my skis still had excellent kick, driving my feet up the hill and getting my hips involved, pushing against the side of the track, focused on carrying speed and not spazzing out on downhills after the final feed, where I skipped the GU and went for water, and before I knew it I was on the last tough climb back to the center, the long uphill on the race loop with the herringbone finish (sort of like a good wine.....A long kick and glide with a tough herringbone finish). Somehow on that climb I'd reeled in some guy who had passed me in lap 1, but now was fading fast and promptly spit him out the back. When you bonk, you bonk and this guy had bonked. Stay smooth, don't spazz kept going through my head. The last downhill and corner and then that last kick and glide section up over the little hill and downhill to the finish, all by myself. I kind of missed the DP hammer-fest I had in 2010 with Ron Newbury right to the finish, but it was a very satisfying race after missing the last two. I had good skis, skied well, stayed out of trouble and had I known during that last lap that I was not far behind Bob Burnham, who knows, maybe I could have found a few more seconds. Bob had seen me though in Murphy's field and wasn't about to let me catch up!
Up ahead of me, John, Frank and Andy had excellent races, all skiing well and finishing way ahead of me. I had seen Andy in Murphy's Field as we lapped through on the 2nd or 3rd lap, and then later on as I was finishing the big uphill at the end of my lap 3, Andy was tear-assing around Coach's Corner on the race trail well into his lap 4. Wow! CSU had a great day! Results are HERE John's race report is on his blog HERE
Jody was first in her age group in the 25k, Anne Burnham was 2nd in her age group in the 50k, Frank, John and Andy were 3rd, 4th and 5th in their age group in the 50!!!! and Bob Burnham and I were 5th and 6th in ours. Not too shabby CSU!.
Craftsbury deserves accolades for putting on an excellent race after a trying week of ridiculous weather. Thanks!!!