Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sugarloaf Marathon

Given that the Sugarloaf Marathon was to be held the week after EHS this year, I decided to get my butt in gear and get up there for the final big race of the season.  The decision was made easier when I found out that a strong CSU contingent was also going to go and that I could get a ride with Frank and Andy.  No driving for me!!  Woot!  The fact that winter was still very much with us and that I could get in some good skiing at Weston and on the local golf course during the week and the reports were of good conditions at Sugarloaf sealed the deal.

On Friday Frank and Andy met me at my house and off we went in the late afternoon for a planned dinner rendezvous at Pat's Pizza in Auburn, ME with a few of the other CSUers.  Frank drove, I zoned out and Andy graded papers in the back seat.  How relaxing!  I'm not used to that......To add to the positive experience, it being my birthday, Andy and Frank bought me dinner and dessert and a shot, the last being just what I needed the evening before a race!  Tom, Mark, Clinton and Robert joined us at dinner before finishing up the trip to the Wilson Lakes Inn.

After a good nights sleep we all met in the lobby for a little breakfast and coffee (well, for Andy and Frank, a huge pot each of oatmeal cooked on a hotplate) and then off to the races.  Farmington must have had 4 feet of snow on the ground.  It was quite amazing.  The drive to Sugarloaf was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to get numbers, warm up, make clothing changes, chat with friends, warm up some more.  Wait, this wasn't like the Birkie at all!  It was relatively warm and there was plenty of time to get to the bathroom and the relaxing.  Tom and I forged a strategy of going out relaxed for 1 lap to see if we could get a good group going.  When the gun went off I got going slowly and sure enough we got a nice little group together almost immediately of Tom, Mark Danyla (Maine), me, Brandon, Mark Doughty and maybe a few others here and there as we started the longest of the climbs.  The skiing was fabulous!  Right there made me happy to have come.  Best skating since Mt. Ste. Anne I think.  That, and I was happy to get back to Sugarloaf for the 1st time in many years, a place at which I truly enjoy skiing.  Up in front of us, Frank, Andy, Bob and Jim Burnham had hammered off the line and somewhere just a curve ahead was Robert Faltus and Andrew Messenger and behind came Clinton, Igor, Anne Burnham, Jud Hartmann, Dmitriy Leyfer and Steve Hunt.  Lots of CSUers and friends in this race! There were some sneaky, tricky corners, like the hard left after a long, fast downhill that almost got me.  I almost took out Mark Danyla with my last second skid around the corner.  Later on there were all these little rollers with corners that kept you on your toes and were really fun.  4 laps on this course was not going to be boring! 

After the fairly relaxed pace of Lap 1, Lap 2 was a bit more energetic as we traded off taking the lead of the group.  I led one section, then Tom moved to the front and then Brandon.  The snow was now well skied in, so my skis felt fast and I was skiing comfortably and trading the lead helped all of us stay in the group. We chased some kid up in front of us, stretching out a bit after the feeds and then getting back on the paceline.  This was really fun!  On lap three I got gapped a bit in the flats, but asTom took the lead up the long hill with Brandon right behind I was able to get back on and took a pull down on the rolly, twisty section.  I was starting to feel my lack of skate race experience of the past few years, but other than that I was fine.  The last hill into the stadium area is a bit of a wall up and over the bridge and that got me genuinely tired heading into lap 4.  CSU alum Calvin Wight seemed to be a personal feed handler for me at the lap, so I got plenty of fluids.  The start of Lap 4 started to get to me.  My arms were getting tired as were my legs and I was dangling off the back with the proverbial rubber band getting pretty stretched.  The last time I skated a marathon was in 2009, when I bonked massively at Rangeley.  I was hoping to keep it together and this being only 40+ km I knew I'd make it, but I was struggling a bit.  Brandon seemed to push the pace a bit and Tom took over.  We had caught 3 people ahead of us so now we had a group of 6 and I was still dangling off the back as we headed up the long climb for the 4th time.  When we got to the feed at the top of the hill Dave Birrell (his daughter had skied EHS with my daughter) skipped the feed and pushed the pace to try and drop the group.  I took a cue from him and chased, skipping a feed and trying to build the gap on the downhill.  While it worked for Dave and he gapped me, Tom was on to us and gave chase.  At some point back down on the flatter section I looked back and darn it there were 3 guys in my draft.  It sometimes does not pay to be the big guy in the front!  I stayed at the front, pushing around the corners hoping someone would drop off but on the two steep rollers my thighs started to cramp and as I slowed, Tom took his chance, came around and gapped me.  Brandon was right behind and so it remained for the rest of the race.  Up ahead, Frank (24) dusted Andy (27) and Jim (26) on the wall near the stadium with Bob (30) close behind.  CSU alum Nathan Moreau (Bates) finished his first marathon in 14th, Ari was 33rd, Carey 34th, Robert finished 39th, 4 min. ahead of me, Andrew was 41st, Tom 45th, me 46th, Brandon 47th, Igor 50th, Mark D 51st, Clinton 60, Dmitry 61, and Steve Hunt 73rd.  Anne was 13th among the women.  In the 25 km Steve Moreau was 10th.  I met my goals of finishing a skate marathon and having fun.  The skiing was really nice, the course was really fun and it was good to see so many Weston skiers make the trek north for one last blast of winter.  I hope to be back next year!

A few of the big CSU presence - Back: Clinton, Jamie, Tom, Andy, Bob, Jim
Front: Steve, Frank, Anne

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