Monday, February 8, 2016

The Craftsbury Marathon, Or Why Didn’t I Try Those Skis First

One of the cardinal rules of racing is not to try something in a race that you have not tried in practice first.  I’m sure many of you may have done yourself at some point. My favorite is many years ago one of the CSU Jrs. who shall remain nameless, at a big Eastern Cup race out at Notchview, decided to try out a RedBull right before the start of a 10 km classic race.  Yeah, not a good idea.  The RedBull and that morning’s oatmeal ended up out on the course at about 8 km at the top of a nice long uphill, a nice course marker for the rest of us to avoid.  My mistake was not quite so gross, but consequential nonetheless.

Back to Craftsbury.  Lisa and I headed up in time to squeeze in a bit of skiing and wax testing at dusk.  I’d prepared test hard wax skis and klister skis given the lack of snow and what was there being transformed and quite sandy in texture.  The hard wax skis were fast and almost worked well and I’d have been tempted to go with them if I was younger, stronger, more fit, less elderly, had skied more this year and wasn’t worried about scraping around some of the corners etc, etc.  But I’m not those things, so I decided klister covered was the way to go.  (For wax geeks, old Toko Viola klister mixed with Toko Red klister, covered with Toko red hard wax.) That decision made, we had a nice dinner at COC, I klistered up my brand-spanking new, never skied on klister skis, leaving off the final cover layer until morning and headed over to our usual B&B for a good night of rest.  The only real worry at this point was whether it might snow over night.  I need not have worried.  The ground was just as bare the next morning as when we went to bed.  Tom Simon, Clinton Kreuger, Frank Feist, John Sakolowski, Jim Ellis and Bill Holland had all rolled in later than us but were up early to cram a few calories in before the race and have the requisite wax discussion.   Bill had successfully stirred the pot the day before with emails discussing klister binder, various klister mixes, etc.

Arriving early enough at COC to grab one of the nice new indoor wax benches, I waxed up Lisa’s skis and put on Toko Red stick over my klister to try them out and headed out the door.  For the first time in years I was not half frozen with buffs, muffs, lobster gloves and the like.  It was a balmy 20F and no wind!  Kind of tropical for the Craftsbury Marathon.  My skis worked well and I was satisfied.  I touched up Lisa’s skis and headed for the start.  As a precaution in case it warmed up and I’d need to rewax, I put red and yellow stick and a cork in my CSU jacket and hung it on a barrier by the trail.  This would turn out to be a wise move……

The start was smooth and I slotted myself in with the usual crowd, Robert and Peter Harris just ahead, Chris Osgood off to one side and Tom right behind me through the first field.  Rounding the first corner who should be untangling himself but Robert, who’d had some miscommunication with Lary Martell.  They were all tangled up but the rest of us flowed around them and moved on, my one thought being that yes! Robert was behind me.    It was a bit exciting on the first few downhills with some better at negotiating fast turns than others.  Chris Osgood shot by on the right as I was stuck behind a slower skier.  And then we settled in for the long haul.  Down the giant slalom turns in the field and finally to the first long climb up Ruthies.  Here we were on natural snow, what was left of it, with a nice icy base and some glazed powder mixed in.  Suddenly I was getting very little kick.  This was not good.  I worked hard to stay with my cohort as Robert came back by, recovered from his fall and all smiles.  He was moving!  Half way up and my arms were getting thoroughly thrashed, making up for a lack of kick and I skied out of the track.  My thoughts turned to rewaxing at the lap.  How disappointing!  I clearly didn’t get enough klister into the wax pocket and couldn’t get the wax down enough to stick well.  If I stopped I’d lose everyone, but if I didn’t stop I’d beat myself silly and die a horrible death out on the course somewhere.  All because I’d never tried out these skis before.  Stupid!!  The only consolation was that my skis were fast, so I hung in on the downhills.  I got gapped on those tough little hills heading back to the center.  Rewax or die.  It was a simple choice.  And so, as I lapped through at the end of lap 1 I pulled over at my coat and slapped on some Toko yellow stick, corked it quickly and got back on my way.  I probably lost a couple minutes, but it was soooooo much better.  I was tired from thrashing and so tried to settle down and see who I could chase.   Its amazing how much more relaxed I was now that I had better kick and could run up the hills better.  It wasn’t perfect, but a big improvement.  It didn’t hurt that now the tracks had some loose snow in them either and were skied in.  Lap 2 went by without incident.   On lap 3 I caught up to Tom Simon on Ruthies after chasing him  for a long time.  Somewhere on the long Ruthies climb Jimmy Burnham came storming past.  What the hell?  Why was he behind me?  Turns out Jimmy also pulled over at the end of lap 1 and went for the full klister rewax at the Burham Family ski bench, parked by the course.  Well, it seemed to work pretty well because Jim was on the move.  I was again flagging, but with Tom in sight I was motivated and somewhere along the way I got by him.  Now in this mix were several people I was chasing and going back and forth with.  Up front was Dan Voison, a bit too far ahead, and two NWVE guys, Tristan Leggett and Rick Kelley.  I’d go by Rick on downhills and he’d come back by on uphills, clearly with superior kick.  Tristan was bouncing around and stopped several times to rewax I guess.  Back and forth we’d go but heading into lap 4 they both were fading into the distance ahead.  I had to get around this course one more time and I was hurting.  The lack of December skiing was clearly getting to me.  I broke the course down to uphills which were slowly killing me, and downhills, which I was enjoying.  The last time down the giant slalom hill was really fun, skiing outside the berm and passing a lapped skier and down to the flats.  Wait, Rick was pulling over!  Yes, he was rewaxing!  Boom.  That spurred me on.  Last time up Ruthies, shuffling along, surviving.  On one of the last uphills to the Center and there was Tristan again, rewaxing I guess.  But then he just ran by me and was gone.   I knew I had to keep it moving because Tom wasn’t far back.  And, finally, the finish.  Phew, that was another tough Craftsbury Marathon.  These things aren’t getting any easier!  My age group had done well ahead of me with Chris Osgood and Peter Harris having excellent days and so I was relegated to 3rd.   Frank Feist had an excellent day, sub-3 hrs. to come in first for CSU, while Hannah Smith, unbeknownst to me, was less than 30 sec. faster than me for 1st CSU woman and 6th overall.  John Sakalowski  was 2nd CSUer, also having a good day in a sub-3 effort, while Ari Ofsevit was 3rd CSU in 3:05.  Robert Faltus stormed around the course 10 min. ahead of me even with another fall, followed closely by Jimmy Burnham who couldn’t quite make up for the time rewaxing.  Tom Simon was just behind me, followed by Victor, Clinton, Ann Burnham, the only other CSU woman going the full distance, Tom Smith, Michael Melnikov and Jim Ellis, skiing his first full distance Craftsbury and looking darned good doing so.

In the 25 km Bob Burnham was first CSUer, followed by Gray Holmes.  Jody Newton was first CSU woman in the 25 km followed by Lisa Doucett, Ken Walker, Larry Berman and Sara Mae Berman.  


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