Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bretton Woods Classic Marathon

I haven’t been able to ski the reconstituted BW Marathon since its recent inception after the demise of the oh-so-grand-in-concept but fraught-with-difficulties-to-organize point to point Great Glen to Bretton Woods Marathon several years ago.  I got to ski that one once when the scheduling worked out around my coaching duties at the J2 (now U16) Championships and the Eastern High School Championships.  That one was an epic event and I pulled off one of the best bonks of my ski career with the haze of exercise-induced total systems failure hitting me just about 1km from the top of the Jefferson Notch Road, which tops out at just over 3,000 ft., leaving me to DP home with limp noodles for arms.  

BW was also my very first ski marathon back in 1984 after I’d ended my running marathon career.  Now that was a glorious day, with skiing as good as it gets at BW and I hung on to the end without going under and thought “Wow, these ski marathons are great!  I’m still walking  and look at all the great food and I actually feel like eating!!”.  And thus a new career got started……
So, I was excited by the prospect of another BW Marathon, hoping the snow would be good and unlike most recent years, with straight-forward waxing.  Well, the ski gods smiled down on us this year and we were treated to a beautiful, bluebird sky, blue stick, CSU blue ski day for our 2 laps around BW.  And to top it off, some of the competition was doing only the 1-lapper for Zak Cup points.  

I had gotten a ride up with Tom and Emma Simon and Emily Nottonson and we’d spent the night at Highland Lodge, so there were no complicated logistics to get to the start (although the hiker in my room did get up at 2:30 am to start a hike somewhere!).  After the Birkie two weeks ago it seemed like we were cheating somehow.  Get up, have a leisurely breakfast, pack up and drive 2 miles to the start.  Way too easy and uncomplicated!!  The only hard part was resisting the bacon for breakfast, but I was wise and resisted such earthly pleasures. 

The crowd was the largest yet for this race, somewhat over 300 people between the 21k and 42k races.  CSU was very well represented with Robert, Anne and Bob Burnham getting in their last race before the Norwegian Birkie, Tom, Jody, Hannah Smith, Clinton, Albert, Sue LaChance, Kathy Maddock, a bunch of ex-CSU Jrs. skiing for their college teams such as Olivia Meyerson (Williams), Rebecca Smith (Williams), Calvin Wight and Chris Burnham (Colby) and lots of others.  For the wax geeks, I waxed a bit warmer than the suggestion because the weather forecast kept changing and went with Toko LF Blue covered with HF Red and at the last moment ironed in Blue Jet.  Kick was straight Toko Blue stick over binder.  I must say, I was very happy with my skis for the entire race. 

At the start I lined up a few rows back on the right side of the course, which I think was a mistake. The course narrowed down too quickly from lots of start tracks to about 6 to 2 in very little distance and found myself DPing down the right side out of the tracks and there was no room to fit in for quite a ways!  Eventually, as we wrapped around the golf course and back by the start area things got sorted out and as we headed off on Bridle Path I was in a good position and not hemmed in by other skiers.  But I’d lost sight of my competition who were all ahead of me somewhere.  Another slow start.   I tried to find some rhythm as we rolled along and as we popped up onto B&M I found it on that long kick and glide stretch and started feeling pretty good.  Then we turned up Tunnel (which isn’t much of a tunnel these days due to logging activity) and caught up to a couple people as we turned onto Willey’s Way, and started rolling down.  I was skiing with Elisa Bradley, who is a nice smooth skier and so that worked pretty well.  On the first big downhill, where apparently the front of the field had a massive pileup, the guy in front of me took a big crash as I think he hit the tracks sliding around the corner, but the groomer had put down the tracksetter too soon.  As this guy (Mike Kavanagh) skittered off to the right I dodged left across the tracks and managed to barely stay on my feet up the next hill.  Well, that was exciting!  I made some remark to that effect to Elisa to which she agreed and we headed across Perimeter.  There was a funky little left-hand turn onto Sebosis that caught everyone by surprise and Elisa went down just in front of me.  Again I skittered around the turn trying to avoid her skis and poles and once again made it safely.  This little turn claimed some bodies this day!  On Sebosis I caught sight of Robert Faltus and chased him down as I tried to take advantage of this long kick and glide section.  I suffered a bit on the steeper parts and near the yurt Elisa rolled on by as we headed toward Clinton.  This section was fun with all the little ups and downs and somewhere along here I dropped Elisa on some downhills (did I say my skis were running well?) and spied Hannah Smith quite a ways ahead.  The chase was on!  Hannah and I had skied back and forth at Jackson and I barely managed to stay ahead of her to the finish.  On the hilly little loop (Peter’s Path I think) I was catching up and then I caught her as we turned into the biathlon range.  Hannah looked over and said “Oh, its you!”  but she couldn’t hang with me with all the DP on this section, but I knew she was lurking back there somewhere as we headed up Bridle Path for round two.  

The skiing on lap 2 was even better then lap 1 and my wax was working great.  I was suffering a bit on the steeper pitches but really tried to go on the kick and glide sections.  I really felt good on Sebosis and Porcupine Way this time around and was a little dismayed after the yurt to have 3 UNH girls and Hannah go motoring by on the way to Clinton.  That deflated my bubble!  However, I hopped on and for a while stayed with them pretty well, but on every little uphill that darned rubber band stretched a little more so that by the time we hit the little section in the field near Highland Lodge it had broken.  But Hannah had lost the UNH girls and so I gave chase.  All this time I was wondering where Dyan Nirmegh had gotten too, being the main competition in the M7 group.  He had crushed me at the Bogburn and finished about a minute ahead of me at Jackson and I was bummed that he was out of reach.  On the hilly section on Pete’s Path I could see Hannah but I think youth was winning out this lap.  I was tired!  She gapped me for good somewhere around here and I got back to focusing on Mike.  Slowly I was reeling him in.   On Dark Forest there was one squirrelly little corner where I was catching a touring class guy and I just knew he was going down but he got there ahead of me.  I headed over the bump and around the turn and sure enough he was down.  I dodged right but there was Sara Mae Berman down on the right and with only a narrow slot between the two.  Completely off balance with my ski tip heading right for this guy’s head, I threaded the needle on one foot and resumed the chase down and onto the biathlon range.  Mike was just ahead, Hannah was long gone and then I noticed another NWVT suit.  And just like Jerry Seinfeld saying “Newman” I thought “Nirmegh” and fired up what little I had left to give chase. The biathlon range esker is a nice long, very gradual uphill and with every stride and kick DP I was closing the gap.  My arms were starting to fail, getting all noodly, but I kept the hammer down and could see I was making up ground.  By the last downhill I was only 50 feet back and as we turned onto the golf course I had almost caught up.  On the bridge toward the touring center I had caught him and moved over into the other track for the pass.  But Nirmegh is no rookie, saw who it was, and cranked up whatever he had left and the two old farts DP’d furiously toward the finish line.  I shot my foot (well, ok, maybe I nudged it slightly forward) and looked down……..and he’d gotten me by all of about 3-4 inches.  Well, that was fun!  We fist bumped and yucked it up and a great race was done.  Bretton Woods had put on a great race on a beautiful day in great conditions with fabulous blue stick snow… March!  Doesn’t get much better than that!   The sun was brilliant, Mt. Washington was visible in all its winter glory, I'd managed to stay on my feet while others crashed around me and now I could barely shuffle back to the start for my clothes.  

CSU had a great day to go with all the other greats mentioned above with many trips to the podium for the prize glasses.  The Burnham’s, Albert, Robert, Sue, Kathy, Jody, myself, the Bermans and undoubtedly others who I have forgotten to mention.  


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