Flying Moose Classic Race Report
This race had been on my radar since November, mainly because it's run by the Bethel Outing Club and organized by my dad, and takes place about 5 miles from the house I grew up in. It had been in decline for several years, run as a 10k in 2006 in a 40-degree rainstorm (one of the only races that actually happened in The Winter That Never Happened, but still...), and drawing only 30 people last year when an Eastern Cup on the same day was moved to a nearby venue at the last minute.
But, this year was different -- it was back to its rightful 20k length and it was the only event of consequence on the calendar, by sheer scheduling luck.
In any case, these factors, coupled with the massive amount of snow in Bethel (the snowbanks are so high you can't read the speed limit signs) meant that they would be receiving the full brunt of the New England citizen racing scene, and I was thrilled to join in the fracas. My desire to vicariously promote a race led to me pestering my dad a fair bit by email in the preceding week, but my bib-sorting and results-processing contributions theoretically outweighed my annoyance. In any case, next year, this thing is going on SkiReg. Someone has to take the nordic scene into the 21st century.
Enough about the race, let's talk about the snow! It was deceptively abrasive powder for 85% of the course, and downright icy for 15%. The decision of the day was "hard wax binder vs. klister binder?" Since I would rather have fun kicking up hills at the end, I paid the glide penalty and went with blue klister covered with Rode Multigrade Green. A lot of folks ended up with hard wax binder and a fair number went with no binder. Like I said, it was deceptively abrasive, and the hard wax binder turned out to be just barely enough. The no-binder solution, well, those people were double-poling up hills after about 5k.
As predicted, the field was over four times as large as last year, including the B teams from the three Maine colleges and two of the Vermont ski academies. I had big plans to continue my season-long (life-long?) saga of getting smoked by people younger than me.
We all packed into the start area and I got there late, as always, far enough away from the front to keep from getting any stupid ideas about going with the lead group, which was a good call since the college kids take it out like they're Petter Northug.
I spent the first 3k mired in traffic, which was an unfortunate side effect of this plan. The trail was fairly narrow and single-tracked after a short distance (did I mention this race had 30 people last year) so moving up from 40th... was a little "challenging." Nevertheless, I picked off masters losing their wax and blown-up college kids patiently and after 6k or so I could see my brother leading a group up the trail.
Right, my brother! I forgot to mention that this was only the second time I'd raced against him since high school (he's two years younger) and the first time we'd met on even, over-the-hill, post-college, terms. It's not really a heated rivalry since neither of us is training very hard for nordic skiing anymore, but we certainly had a passing interest in beating one another. So I was very happy to realize I was gaining on him with over half the course left to go.
We met up around the 10k mark and skied together for the next 7k. He led a while, then he let me lead, I thought I was dropping him a bit but then I sort of cracked, and all the while we were slowly passing folks who were out of wax or just feeling the burn from a citizen's race with actual climbing in it.
With 2k to go we approached the last major climb with a group of 3 about 15 seconds ahead of us. I was thinking it was looking like it would be a sprint, which is not exactly great for me when I'm giving up nearly 6 inches of height to him, but then the pace started to heat up on the last climb.
I'd lived here for many years but I didn't know this hill. At first I was easily kicking on his tails. Then I was starting to struggle, but hanging on, and surely this corner is the top, right?
Crap, it's not. No longer did I need to worry about staying off his tails, I was a ski length back now, christ, am I going to get beat by my brother who hasn't done a race yet this year??
He nearly caught the guys ahead of us over the top and I thrashed grimly over it about five seconds down, lactic acid overcoming muscle memory and slipping all over the place. A few hard double-poles and then resting before making one last push on the flats to catch him...
But wait, why is he tucking shallowly with his hands on his knees? Soon he was standing up, I was gaining quickly now, before I could begin to figure out what was going on he stepped out of the track and snowplowed to a stop. What the heck?
Then, as I went by, he dropped to his knees. Is my brother having a heart attack or something??
All over the snow and his ski tips. Not a small amount, either.
"Grossssssss!" I shrieked like a schoolgirl as I tucked past, thanking my lucky stars that he hadn't done much intensity work this year.
He gamely tried to recover from painting the trail brown (Clif Bar, I guess?) but when we hit the golf course I had a solid 15 second lead and a shot at catching the group ahead.
Technically, I did catch them, going all out across the golf course to make contact -- but right as I reached the back we skied past some female teammates of one of the college skiers in the group. They went nuts. He went nuts. I got dropped.
The group shattered here with 500m to go or so and we did a painfully long double-pole sprint. I eventually got past one guy at the end with a combination of grunting and wheezing, I've found that once I hit terminal sprinting velocity it's really helpful to start making noises so that I don't relax and slow down. I'm not even joking. It works for blogging, too.
So I took 15th place
and more importantly
the title of