Tuesday Night Smackdown

Most Tuesday nights during this season formerly known as winter CSU runs a 5-10k race at Weston. Most Tuesday nights I attend. Last year I got beat down every Tuesday night, which rapidly became something not worth of blogging about. But this year is another year, right? Maybe I'm in better shape, maybe I'm not -- but either way, all the master blasters are a year older. Advantage: Colin.

Sadly I did a little research on what my elderly opponents were up to and it seems that while I was bike racing they were doing time trials at Mont Sainte Anne. Advantage: Master Blasters.

Well anyway. Tonight was the first chance to see how we'd match up, and despite the record temps Weston had plenty of its famous ice-slush blend on the ground so it was racing time, five laps of a 1.4k or so course. The remarkably orderly self-seeding lineup put me in the 3rd row, with only eight people in front of me -- unlike cross, skating skiers take up far too much space to make squeezing lots of people into a row feasible.

I may have forgotten to mention that I arrived at Weston at 6:45, and the race started at 7. I got to ski exactly one warmup lap and then stand around in the lineup for a few minutes before going to race pace. This is commonly known as a "recipe for disaster."

Things finally get rolling and I managed to stick in around 9th on the first lap. There's a nice warm breeze coming up the the fairways which promotes drafting -- so I tried to sit in as much as I could and get acclimated to the periodically anaerobic efforts I was doing. After one lap, still 9th and still in contact with the front -- so far so good.

On the second lap we started using the full course, which meant Mt. Weston and 3 hairpins per lap. This is where the drafting started to become a two-edged sword -- being at the back of the lead pack meant I got an extreme accordion effect for each slowdown, so I could really rest on the straights but then had to really sprint to stay on when we accelerated out of corners. Very cross-ish. If I had been more confident of my ability to ski with the leaders I would have moved up to 2nd-4th to reduce the yo-yo, but I was too surprised that I was hanging on to ski aggressively.

Around and around we went. Sprint, rest, sprint, rest. I thought for sure I was dropped several times, but the wind on the straights was making the leaders reluctant to pull so a few other stragglers and I were able to keep dragging ourselves back on. At one point Jon Peterson (not the CXer) and I both got dropped by a 30 yards or so, but he pulled us back most of the way and then I pulled/leapfrogged to get back to the pack. I think he made it too, and I think we had about 8 people there.

During the whole process I was gradually building a stomachache, the kind of sick feeling anyone who has done anaerobic workouts without a warmup should be familiar with. It always ends with feeling extremely queasy -- the only question was, would the race end before it hit me?

The answer was no. I hung on until the last time up Mt Weston, I got yo-yo'ed one time too many and while I was sprinting desperately to get back on the nausea hit me and my brain just gave up. If I'd kept hammering I would have probably been dropped anyway and I would have booted, and I'd rather not be known as "the guy who threw up after getting smoked by people twice his age."

I dialed it back a bit and gave up hope of being in the final sprint, but someone else dropped off the main pack at the end and I outsprinted him for 6th. I felt horrible, but I performed decently -- a pretty big change from last year, where I felt horrible and skied horribly. Or maybe I still suck, and I was able to draft my way into contention. Guess we'll have to wait till next week to really know!