Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rangeley Bonkathon

My Rangeley race was the antithesis of Bill Holland's Spring Fling (see below). I came into the Rangeley Marathon feeling wicked tired and run down. Too many races, too much waxing at JOQs, too many drives to Weston for junior practices and home from JOQs in snowstorms and never, ever enough sleep. However, I did not feel like I couldn't or shouldn't do the race. But neither could I get enough rest, try as I might due to all the above commitments. The skiing at the Tuesday Weston races was too good not to do them, so instead I cruised through about 1/2 the race that week and rested as much as I could. Lisa and I drove up to Rangeley in time to ski for nearly an hour on Friday, a nice level 1 work-the-kinks-out-after-a-long-drive sort of ski and a nice dinner together was all very relaxing. But, as with all big races, I slept terribly the night before and awoke not feeling too special. Plus, the temp never went below freezing so I was worried the course would be soft and slow and mushy. I wanted it nice and fast to reduce my workload and time on the course. However, I was delighted to find, upon going out for my warmup and testing skis that the course was hard and remarkably fast. Maybe I'd get through this thing ok after all!! Plus, it was staying cloudy and the temperature was not budging, so maybe the forecast warmer temps (and slow, mushy snow) would not happen. Things were looking up!

At the gun the pack took off across the field and down the first hill. I started on the outside at a mellow pace and was happy to find myself flying along with no effort whatsoever and in a tuck on a very gradual downhill. This was awesome! Sort of like Weston actually. The course trends downhill for 3 km and I had to do very little work. Because it was hard and a bit icy however you really had to watch your balance. I settled in on the first uphill and started the work with lots of companions. Dave Roberts from Maine was just ahead, fellow Weston racer Brandon Smithwood was back and forth with me, lots of Dartmouth and Colby skiers, etc. Because of the fast course the pack held together in a long line with little gaps here and there. The twisty turny parts of the course were just a blast, sliding around corners in a conga line, trying to take the best line to maintain speed, etc. This was fun! Eventually, about halfway through the first lap I found myself at the head of one of those groups with the lead pack a ways ahead stretched out but out of touch. On this long uphill I started fading and people started going by, Victor was the first of those in CSU Red to pass and slowly pull away. I was feeling it now.....But, at the top of the course you absolutely fly down for a long ways which allowed me to recover for the next section. Whipping around the left hand corner onto the flats I commented to someone about how awesome that downhill was.....and promptly spazzed and fell down.....my perfect record of zero falls ruined....Darn! That was when it all started to come apart....the next uphill was a struggle, but again I rallied on the next series of fun downhills at the end of lap 1, alt V2ing, cutting the corners, just flying along, which gave me hope....then I hit the 3+ km loop that completes the lap and that had noticably slower snow.....uh oh....too much work for little gain. I focused on getting onto that 3km downhill again.....but wait, it wasn't fast now.....darn....

About 1/4 of the way through lap 2 the sun came out, the snow turned to mush and my body soon followed....I rallied on the downhills but now you actually had to work on them and the uphills became slow slogs, one foot in front of the other. My brain focused on 1 km at a time, 1 hill at a time, 1 corner at a time. I stopped to drink and the CSU Red parade continued to pass me by and disappear around the next corner.....Michael Melnikov and then Wes Denering and then people I don't know....Dartmouth girls with dyed hair, old men, people whose technique stinks. I'll make it but its not going to be pretty. I rally again on the last big downhills to the stadium, grab water and Lisa and Joe Bouscaren, who both skied 25km, cheer me on to the last loop, which is now icing up as the shade moves around and I get spazzy. I resort more and more to just double poling, the sure sign that I'm sinking fast in the haze of exercise induced exhaustion. I stumble up that last little stinker of a hill to the stadium, refusing to resort to a coaches skate and thankfully make it to the finish. I'm in one piece, I can still talk but damn I'm tired! Chicken soup has never tasted so good. Wes notes that when I bonk I really bonk! Lap 2 is over 20 min. slower than lap 1 and I was none too fast on lap 1. My racing is now over for the season and I can rest.....after J2s and EHS and klister waxing untold numbers of skis......

Thank god Lisa could drive all the way home. Rest................

Look, Ma! No Bonking!

Bill Holland's Craftsbury Spring Fling report:

As an endurance athlete, remember what it was like—from an energetic standpoint—to be in your late 20s: the feeling that, no matter how much you trained—it was almost impossible to wear yourself out? For me, that was the era of running marathons, training 80-100 mile weeks beforehand and still feeling eager to train more. During those years, it seemed, I couldn’t arrive at a flight of stairs without yielding to the urge to charge up two stairs at a time. My best marathon time—2:44 at the NYC marathon in 1978—came one week after having run another marathon.

That’s why, as I pondered how best to taper for this year’s Spring Fling, it occurred to me that I didn’t run a single step before that personal best back in ‘78. I went for a leisurely spin on a bike a time or two, but I didn’t run. Any loss of conditioning was more than offset by a supply of energy so generous that I remember charging home the last ten miles with zero concern about running out of gas.

So this year, I decided to experiment with being totally rested—so rested that I would be practically exploding with the need for intense exertion. As a result, here’s what I did: Nine days before the Fling I did a 2 and ¼ hour ski at our local ski area, one that features lots of hills. This was the day after an intense one-hour workout preceded by three hours of shoveling snow from our roof. Needless to say, I was wiped. I felt no urge whatsoever to train for the next two days. During the remainder of the week I took some more days off and trained only enough to prevent going into acute exercise deprivation and not being able to sleep. Energetically, in other words, I felt like my 28-year-old self.

Needless to say, I’ve never arrived at a race so ready to crank and so determined not to revisit the oh-so-familiar precincts of Bonkville. The pent-up ya-yas notwithstanding, my strategy was simple: go easy the first 15K, pick it up a bit over the next 7K—to the top of Ruthie’s Run—and then hammer home the final 8K. I had another objective as well: to relish each stride rather than worry about where I was in relation to others. Remembering all the years I’d faded with a few K to go, I kept my warmup to an absolute minimum: 10 minutes. When the race started, I refused to get caught up in the general frenzy, kept my poles in one piece, and just went with the flow.

I soon found myself in a train with the Harvard women’s team plus Cheryl Carlson. “Hey, I’m not proud!” I thought to myself and enjoyed slowly moving up through the train until at the top of Ruthie’s it was just me and Cheryl. Having skied the course a month or so beforehand, I knew the ensuing gradual downhill was the place to snarf a GU, which I’d ripped open before the race, and take some fluid—not on the flats at the soccer field feed station. I finally went by Cheryl during a long downhill stretch on Sam’s Run, then let her pull me up that huge hill at 2K. She V-1’d up most of the hill while I economized on the energy output and single-sticked. When we arrived at the soccer field, Cheryl stopped to feed while I kept going. She never caught up.

The remainder of the race consisted of taking turns drafting with a 46-year-old Spaniard living in NJ who’d done the Birkie the week before. True to my game plan, I put down the hammer with 8K to go, but the Spaniard tucked in behind and stayed with me. What a relief to experience zero arm fatigue as we zoomed down Sam’s Run. When I found I couldn’t shake the Spaniard, we took turns drafting. Heading up the final big uphill, I felt terrific and attacked using only a V-1 this time, but he was simply stronger and gapped me. I finished strong—too strong in retrospect, with a time nearly identical with last year’s.

But what a difference in the actual experience: pure enjoyment from start to finish and fun chats with Cheryl and the Spaniard afterwards. That said, I’m looking forward to this weekend’s 15K skate and the opportunity to go hard all the way without concern over evading the dreaded bonk.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CSU Jrs. at Jr. Olympics

CSU juniors started off very well at Junior Olympics in Truckee, California in the skate sprint event. Corey and Chris Stock and Hilary and Jackson Rich qualified for the elimination rounds of the sprint event held under sunny skies. Corey was 2nd J2, Chris was 19th among J1s/OJs and Hilary and Jackson were both 4th. After the elimination rounds Corey was on the podium in 2nd place among J2s, Jackson was 6th and Hilary 7th, while Chris was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Eli and Isaac Hoenig just barely missed qualifying, both finishing 32nd (top 30 move on). Olga Golovkina placed 63rd. More to come!

Photo of Corey on the podium courtesy of Judy Greer.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ski to the Clouds

Mark Jacobson and Bob Donahue tackled the Ski to the Clouds on Mt. Washington today finishing the "Toughest 10km" in 18th and 19th places respectively in times of 57:30 and 58:11! Way to get after that massive 2,200 foot climb to the Half Way point on the auto road!

Here is a photo of Mark from the race results website at: http://www.skitotheclouds.com/Page-486.html

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sue McNatt's Birkie Report

Here is Sue's side of the story.

Birkie Fever-caught it!!

So, we headed out on Valentine’s Day (Midwest Express supplied the romantic cookies and leather seats) to our homeland of cheese and snow.
There was some concerned talk of no snow in southern dairyland and all skiers were anxiously checking weather.com for updates. We would spend
4 days in Madtown with Terry’s parents, playing indoor mini-golf and dragging friends out to ski on a marginal 2k loop at a local park. We also tried a new approach to endurance event prepartion-cheese loading (makes you faster on the downhills with plenty of reserve calories!) Then we embarked on an uneventful (only interrupted by our quest for good coffee and a McDonalds) drive 5 hours north to meet my family in Hayward, WI, home of the American Birkebeiner, the world’s largest Musky, the world lumberjack championships and the National Fishing Hall of Fame (among other things). There is always some nervous anticipation to find out what our lodging situation would be like and this year proved no different. My parents called nervously from their cell phone to report that their Hybrid vehicle could not make it up the icy
driveway. Once the local service folks were called in for sanding, we
could all make it safely up and were pleasantly surprised by the newish home on Teal Lake, about 20 minutes drive to the start line of the Barnebirkie. This is the kid’s event the next day in which 1200 youngsters vie for position and ski to the finish of the world famous ski race to be greeted by generous amounts of homemade cookies, hot
chocolate and medals. It is a must see event! All 3 of our kids
participated and only fell down a collective 4 times!

The rest of the family arrived later that day, so now we had 14 folks piled into the 3 bedroom-2 bath home!! At least we all love each other (or we did before that weekend). A new arrival this year included a 16 year old Denmark student staying with my sister’s family for a year.
This was her first season of skiing and she was skiing in the 23k Korteloppet!! Ah, to be young and learn new tricks so quickly!

Friday passed uneventful except that my sister’s family got to meet Bjorn Dahle, and have him sign various articles of clothing and ski scrapers-cool!!

The usual carbo loading and cake/ice cream loading occurred that evening as well as several rounds of waxing. A strategy session was scheduled in between games of Sequence to determine how and when we would head to the start line. Also, discussions of “to GU or not to GU” and my brother-in-laws grand idea of potatoes in his waterbottle-huh?! In the pre-race darkness of the next morning, we were greeted to an inch or so of fresh snow and 15 degrees temps , not the
0-5 degrees predicted. Nervous talk of re-waxing occurred but instead we had our prerequisite bowl of oatmeal and LARGE mugs of coffee. We headed out in the van-all 8 of us (7 skiers and one driver-kudos to my niece’s boyfriend-they sure come in handy!) Despite a very snowy drive down a narrow 14 mile scenic road we reached the lodge in plenty of time. This was just too easy! Oh, Leif forgot the potatoes!

Wave 1 and 2 skiers headed to the start line immediately. I enjoyed seeing the elite men and women starts this year and then suddenly realized I had better get into my starting gate. A last minute glove swap and I frantically tied up my gear bag and tossed it in the truck.
Since this was my first full 50k event, 13 years and 3 children later, I decided on a relaxed start. I calmly lined up on the far right (also my starting strategy at Weston) about 5 rows back and enjoyed the idle pre-race chatter. The 2 men next to me were discussing recent stress tests and certain cardiovascular issues (hmm, do I try to get in front of them lest I end of performing CPR!) The start is always a fanfare of excitement with lots of music and colors and skiers falling and poles flailing. After an extended double pole fest, protecting my skies and poles from harm(Weston has also prepared me for this) I tried some mini-V1 strokes only to brush my neighbor’s skies. Alas, I relaxed again and double-poled some more on the soft snow on the sides until we opened up a bit before the Power Line hills. Steady climbing and I felt really great. I tried not to check my splits until 10k because I knew that it would be slow . I had a silly crash at about 8k on a sharp right hand turn. Amazingly my fellow wave 2 skiers managed to miss plowing into me. At OO(23K) I was happy and feeling good. I took 3 cups of Energy. Just after that I was passed by a young(26) year old girl in a very blue suit, chatting enthusiastically with a friend. How could she chatter so much when I was sucking wind? I kept my eye on her the rest of the race and slowly closed the gap. I also skied for a while with ice-bearded GU man. I would pass him on the uphills and he would get me back on the downhills!
I managed a fast 10k after 00, then some more hills and suddenly we had 10k to go. I kept telling myself the last 5k was downhill to the lake, then flat for 3k. Easy!! Some hills popped up out of nowhere with 4k to go then a nasty headwind with snow greeted us on the lake. The flat gray light and the scene of about 50 skiers, heads down , willing themselves along to the finish was awesome and a bit spooky.
I passed blue girl before the lake and to my surprise and anguish she tucked in behind me. Now I had to ski hard to the finish. I scrabbled through the mashed potato snow with 150 m to go and hit the finish a few seconds in front of blue-exhausted and elated!! We congratulated each
other on a great race.
I couldn’t manage my skies or poles independently and my feet were both killing me, but I was psyched. My Dad and Mom greeted me (both having skied the Korteloppet themselves several years ago) and guided me to the food tent. I was happy to sit down with Terry and the kids and eat a Three Musketeer bar (I choose chocolate and Terry, beer hmmmmm).

The rest of the family finishes with big smiles-my sister with a 30 min PR(how did she do that) and my brother-in-law with a 14 min PR (looking for Wave 1 baby). My niece marvelously finishing 50k after a scare of sickness, which had landed her in the ICU in November. Terry had a solid race as well, continuing his Wave 1 tradition.
We all go to a snowmobile bar in the middle of nowhere for cheap burgers and pitchers of beer later that night and talk for hours about our experiences, already planning for next year. What is so awesome is the sight of 8,000 people doing what you love to do all in one place, from different walks of life and spanning so many age groups. There is an event for everyone!

Ask Terry and I about it and we hope you will join us in America’s Cheese land next year-date Feb 27.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Colin Reuter's Video from the Stowe Derby

If you'd like to experience the Stowe Derby descent vicariously, here's the video from Colin's right ski boot:

Its a great ride!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Terry McNatt's Birkie story:

Birkie 2009 Report

Theme Music:

What used to be a must ski race on my multi-marathon winter calendar has now turned into more of a family reunion visit with a long hard ski to cap it off. We travel out a week early visiting my parents in Madison, meet Sue's parents and her sister's family plus later that week in Hayward. Sue and I get in some decent early week skiing in, despite the slim inch of powder on gnarly crust conditions in Madison. I'm feeling ok but sort of run down after an ambitious last week of training (winter triathlon + long run + Weston sprint + indoor track workout). Anyways, I'm enjoying the taper week of easy skiing.

Arriving in Hayward Wednesday we're pleased to see another 2+ inches of fresh snow on top of the frozen granular in the woods. We struggle to ski easy on squeaky snow Thursday and Friday as the lows hit around 0 both days. I'm feeling better, but far from chomping at the bit to ski more. The family time is priceless, but with 14 people in the house we're renting, the ability to chill is virtually nil. Add to the mix 8 pairs of skis to wax, some forgotten bags, a couple trips to the ER and one frozen exploding champagne bottle. As Bjorn Dahlie would say, Uff Da! We have 5 Birkie skiers, 2 Korteloppet (half Birkie) skiers and 1 Prince Haakon 5K skier to coordinate on race day, so the logistics and timing are mind bending given the point to point nature of the course, separate wave start times, multiple busing options and road closings where the course crosses. Double Uff Da!
Race morning arrived cold and dark after a fitful sleep with a restless 5 year old in our room. I gather a bagel with cream cheese breakfast, take a bite and immediately have the urge to yiff and spit out the chewed remnants into the trash. I had used some veggie adulterated cheese instead of plain and my pre-dawn stomach was rejecting any variations on the theme. Creative breakfasts are not recommended on race mornings. Seven of us chow, gear up and load into the van heading to the race start in Cable at 6:30+ am, on schedule. Leif my brother in law has a short cut scoped out and shortly down the highway we bang a left on forest road 302 (real name). Just before the turn Sue calls out in fear, "We're not taking the forest road are we?". The half inch of fresh 15 deg snow on the ground and light snow falling does nothing to deter Leif and into the forest we plunge. The road is certainly less wide than the Birkie trail, we meet more snowmobilers than cars on it, but we wind our way to Cable regardless, on time and on schedule.
After a short bus ride we schlep ourselves down to the immense starting zone a la the Cable airport runway. The whole scene has a carnival feel complete with music, tents, flags and of course the rainbow of skiers swirling around. I cruise around for a quick warmup, gear down to my race day retro CSU suit and assemble in the wave one corral/mosh pit. The Birkie start experience in wave 1 with 700 other jacked up ski heads is around 30 minutes of extremity numbing waiting interspersed with 2 mad scrambles sprinting up to the next corral gate through the snow holding your skis and especially poles high lest they get trampled. Finally we're all packed in at the start line, imagine Tuesday night with 8 skiers across instead of 4 and close to 100 feet of start line to fill. I'm a couple rows back, smack in the middle and hoping this will be the calm eye of the hurricane. The start gun fires and the frantic double poling begins in earnest.
I double pole for what seems like 400 meters and then break into the minimalist V2 to try and generate some speed and space. The mammoth course allows things to sort out without too much fuss, but it still seems like someone tangles up or faceplants every few hundred feet on any slight incline or corner. We finally hit the real climbing on the "powerlines" at around 3K and the course will continue to roll and climb to the highest point around 13K. I keep telling myself to ski light and save as much as possible while skiing the hills, but the fresh snow continues keeping the glide factor soft and pretty low. Fire tower hill comes and goes and while tired, I'm definitely not cooked and the next 10K go by with relative ease. At around halfway I suck down a goo and continue to grab a drink at every aide station in hopes of fueling a strong finish.
Unfortunately, at around 35K my lack of enough training skis beyond 2 hours begins to surface as I start to bog down on even the wimpiest uphills. I try to glom on to any skiers that come upon me with relative success until Bitch Hill looms at 41K, which is akin to Mt Weston times 3 just not quite as steep. I revert to single stick delerium until finally cresting the top. It seems the near redline effort of Bitch Hill has unearthed some new cache of energy, possibly some survival response kicking in. I start to ski with some gusto, fighting for my place on the trail as the final K's play out. The final 3K have us crossing lake Hayward for 2.5K before the final .5K up main street to the finish. There's a 20-25 mph headwind on the lake, and the snow is pelting us to boot. Still feeling some fight, I decide to break out of my pack and try to bridge to the next group. At 1.5K to go, this fume fueled effort sputters like the last dying gasp of a klister torch out of propane. A deep abiding feeling of leaden emptiness washes over me. The swirling snow scene of skiers undulating across the lake in front of me is peculiarly fuzzy as a I ski and ski in what seems like slow motion. At last I leave the dreaded lake and emerge onto main street amid the banners, fans, cheers and cowbells and savor the finish experience as much as possible with my addled brain.
I did get a special post-race treat before I left the finish zone and witnessed a gut busting double pole fest finish between Bjorn Dahlie and Gus Kaeding for the win in the classic division. After changing clothes it was quickly back to reality with three hungry kids in need of hot dogs for lunch. My stomache wasn't quite ready for mystery meat, but a Guiness stashed in my clothes bag filled the bill nicely. The rest of our merry band of related skiers came in and they seemed to have had super race experiences. We somehow manage to find each other in the post race crowds and another successful Birkie event was logged by all.

The Stowe Derby

Bill Holland's recap of the Stowe Derby last week:

Ever since I moved up here, it's been a mystery why at least a few CSUers don't show up for the Derby. I know Holderness and Hanover are a lot closer, but when the conditions are decent, which they have been for the past seven years, this has to be one of the coolest races in NE. You owe it to yourselves to do it at least once. why? For starters, the field is huge--over 700 skiers--so for a fair-to-middling skier like me that means the novel experience of passing a fair number of people. Then there's the immense novelty of plummeting downhill for 4K, then rolling basically downhill for another 3K before hitting your first real uphill. Finally, there are tons of people out there lclanging cowbells and cheering you on--especially on the big corners along the Toll Road. It's basically a big party.
This year, I had the good fortune of rocket skis for the skate leg, Star F-1 being the magic ingredient. Then, too, I had Trina Hosmer right ahead the whole way down, so I always knew from her slight snowplowing when the turns were coming up. I drafted her for a little while when we went into the woods, then passed her and urged her to stay with me, which she couldn't quite manage. On the steep uphills I found single-sticking got me up faster than the V-! diehards, so I passed some people that way. Then came the long flat section with the Stowe bike path where I ended up working with Jessie Donovan, the eventual winner of the women's skimeister award. I rarely take turns drafting for that long, but it worked beautifully. I didn't mind in the least when she whizzed past me with 200 meters to go.
The classic leg was more problematic. I will never again perceive waxless skis as some sort of magic bullet for this event. They really are optimal only in a small range of conditions and simply don't deliver decent kick in soft powder. Then, too, the arms died with about 3K to go, so I went to the abs, used the arms as stabilizers, and tried to stay smooth. Trina roared past me on the bike path, and her husband Dave made up all the ground I gained in the skate leg to beat me by 40 seconds in the skimeister division. That said, it was a terrific day to be a Nordie. As I progressively master the logistic challenges of this event (two pairs of skis, two sets of warmups, getting back up the mountain in time for the second start, etc.), I enjoy it more every year.
Bill Holland