Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bretton Woods Marathon or We Should Have Raced on Friday

Bretton Woods received a good dumping of snow last week, picking up over a foot of beautiful new snow since Sarah and I skied up there last weekend.  We arrived in time to get in an hour of skiing finishing up as the sun was setting in the nicest conditions of the year at about 20F with bomber kick, snow in the trees and no wind.  I tested some wax combos, but knowing the temps would warm up all morning before the race it was probably going to be useless information.  

Sarah testing the start tracks 

Sarah and I headed for Highland lodge and dinner with Jim Ellis and through the evening the rest of the CSU entourage arrived with Tom Smith barely making it in time for dinner, Robert Faltus missing dinner and Clinton Kreuger missing lights out in our shared quarters.  A respectable nights sleep and it was time for an early breakfast and getting ready.  4” of light new snow had fallen and it was still in the 20s.  We were  all hoping it stayed colder than the forecast.  
Willey's Way

Some races are just meant to test you physically and mentally.  This would be one of them.  The temps warmed all morning to 28 when we arrived.  With much wax testing there were numerous discussions with the rest of the CSU contingent including John Sakolowsky, Andy Milne, Jody Newton, Gray Holmes, Jim Ellis, Christine Pasterczyk, Michael Melnikov and of course Larry and Sara Mae Berman.  My wax bench got lots of use!  Lots of waxes were working but we all strategized about future conditions.  Fortunately, the race was allowing ski switching so all of us with waxless skis doing the full marathon placed them next to the lap track.  I settled on some Rode T-Line covered with Ski Go purple.  Swix 45 and 55 were good, Toko Red covering some yellow was good too.  The snow wasn’t transforming…….yet.  

Start Line (Joe Miller photo)
Sarah finishing (Joe Miller photo)

With the race scheduled in Feb. this year that ruled out college kids and so it was a smaller affair.  The gun went off and I had perhaps the most relaxed mass start race of my life after lining up on the front row in the wide start area.  We settled in on the parade lap around the golf course and off into the woods.  I was moving pretty well but getting slowly gapped in front and getting a gap on those behind.  1km in and it was getting lonely!  Up onto B&M and the turn onto Tunnel and I could still see Andy but by Willey’s Way I was alone on the twists and turns.  Delightful skiing though, great kick and I settled down for the long haul, alone.  The snow was soft so the fast corners were a bit more challenging than they should have been and then the long gradual haul up Sebosis and Porcupine to the top of the course.  Kick was still solid as I went by the yurt and the feed and made the turn toward Clinton, kicking and gliding confidently and made the turn onto Clinton and, WTF, no kick!  And I mean NO KICK.  In 5 feet, one corner, gone, zilch, nada, vamoosed, disappeared.  My skis were now as slick as ice.  Well, this was sort of expected but not that fast!  Some light rain hit my face and I suddenly felt a surprisingly warm breeze.  Temperature inversion!  The famed BW temperature gradient in reverse.  The only saving grace was that everyone was in the same boat, so getting on with it, instead of focusing on a smooth stride it was focusing on double poling and herringbone.  It’s remarkably hard to herringbone with no kick whatsoever!  And now with the wet snow the skis were sloowwww.  Slow skis and no kick, the combo from hell. (I’ve had dreams about that). Skis were trying to slide on the herringbone, which is of course a no-no.  Snow was soft.  It was getting a bit tiring.  I got passed by a younger guy with a UNH uni on and tried to hang with him.  We turned onto Crawford Hollow and I’d forgotten how many hills we had to climb to get out of there.  The Hollow of Death!  Stay smooth, don’t spazz, save your arms.  I started to think about switching skis to my zeros.  Would it be worth it?  I knew they would not be too great on the first climb, but way better on the upper parts of the course.  They might be faster too.  My wax was starting to really drag in the wet snow and I almost fell down getting out of the glazed tracks on Beech Hill.  Through Dark Forest and the last feed just before the herringbone by the road and as suddenly as it was gone it was back!  Kick! I ran more confidently up the hill and then I was lapping through the two Stowe guys who’d gapped me were changing skis and I made the decision to switch.  Making a smooth transition I headed off, one Stowe guy still messing with klister or something and one ahead who hopped in the track and promptly face-planted.  Must be klister.  My skis were SO much faster I didn’t care that much that I’d struggle a bit with kick.  I was humming along as we headed into the woods for the first climb.  I was banking on the transition zone having moved down in elevation and with every stride uphill my kick was improving.  Stowe guy was gapping me.  Up on Willey’s Way and I was suddenly moving much faster on the downhills.  The corners were now all bermed up and tricky.  At the bottom of the big downhill I got into the now heavier soft snow and had a magnificent wipe-out.  My poles were intact, I recovered my glasses and finished up the downhill.  I lost a couple places on Sebosis to the klister boys and another guy, but at the turn onto Clinton it was clear my skis were much faster and I regained one spot.  I was back to kicking and gliding.  Save the arms, use the legs.  Back to the Hollow of Death and this time I could jog the herringbones and slowly I moved up on the remaining Stowe guy.  I focussed on him and finally was able to stride on by in the biathlon range as he was clearly done.  My triceps almost seized on the last hill and the finish appeared just in time.  Whew! My shoulders, lats, triceps and everything else above the waist were seizing up, so happy to be done.  

This was one of those tests you hope not to have to take, but I’d survived it.  In fact, in kind of a sick way, I’d enjoyed it.  CSU had passed the test with flying colors, garnering many age group podiums.  John was tops for CSU in 4th place, behind former CSU Jr. Chris Burnham who crushed the field with his win.  Andy was 6th, myself in 10th.  Robert hung in a few minutes after me in 18th and ironman Tom Smith, with no skis to switch to, soldiered through on one pair in 20th with Michael following Tom in in 21st.  Christine too soldiered on with one pair of skis proving just how tough she is, finishing 31st and Roger Wilson was 34th  Those who skied the half were, I think, pleased with their wise choice.  Sarah skied her first half marathon finishing first in her age group.  Jim came in 16th, Gray 22nd, Clinton 26th and Jody was 2nd in her age group finishing in 30th overall.  Larry and Sara Mae nailed down the M11 and F11 age groups to round out the large CSU contingent.

Results can be found HERE.

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