This weekend it was time for leg number of two of the reality check chronicles -- an individual start, 13k classic race called the Bogburn. I was on the fence about this one until Alex -- fresh off a trip to US Nationals in Anchorage, that saw half the races canceled -- rallied the troops and got four of us into her car and on the road from Boston at 8 am.
It was definitely the right decision. The snow was deep, the trails were awesome, the downhills were sketchy -- as far as old-school venues go this one was hard to beat. There were a disturbing number of college teams in attendance, but I'm far past matching myself up against guys who do "dryland" and "ski camps" and whatnot. I was more interested in seeing if I could hold together something resembling "race pace" for 45 minutes of hilly classic skiing. Despite my pull-up dreams, the upper body strength is lagging well behind where it should be.
With 15-second intervals between starters I was expecting a lot of traffic, mainly passing me, so I was pleasantly surprised to not get passed by anyone for 2/3rds (5k?) of the first lap. Unfortunately, when I did finally get caught by someone it was by my 1:15 man (!) and he was dragging along my 45 second man with him, so yes, some people out there were skiing much faster than me.
The lap ends with a stair-step climb back to the finish which is probably the longest on the course; I hadn't skied this part during the warmup, which only compounded my misery here. I got caught by my 30 second man (a Dartmouth kid) and my 15 second man (a Colby kid) who were skiing together, right as we turned the corner to where about five members of the Dartmouth girls team were cheering. Despite the fact that I had only lost 30 seconds in first 20 minutes to the Dartmouth kid, I probably lost another 30 just on that hill, such is the power of da ladies. Colby kid was also motivated by the college girls, so he disappeared up the trail as well.
I finished the first lap and noticed that Colby kid's crowd-pleasing efforts had done a real number on him and I was suddenly closing rapidly, now that we were back in the ovary-free parts of the course. This made me feel a lot better, although the Dartmouth kid was still pulling away.
I closed the gap down and passed him back, dear god, I think we're actually have fun and being somewhat competitive here! Wait, that's because I'm on the generally downhill part of the course. My arms were, of course, not up to the task of climbing any hill longer than 30 seconds, so I felt like a rockstar through the rolling descent -- and turned back into a pumpkin on the real climbs near the end.
The stair-step climbs back to the end of the lap, and the finish, were pretty killer. I could feel the finish line just minutes away, so I kicked it up a notch, then Emeril was like BAM, that's my trademark, and I almost threw up. Turns out that supplementing a light breakfast with McDonalds en route is not a recommended fueling strategy, despite Thom P's claims that "breakfast is the freshest meal they make at McDonalds!"
Anyway -- with two steps to go I suddenly felt a novel pressure in my stomach that was very alarming. I slowed down. I turned the corner to find Alex and Linnea waiting for me -- time to force that Egg McMuffin back down.
I sped up just long enough to be kind of photogenic, then trashed over the last hill and slid in for a big bad 40th out of 99.
The tale of the Garmin showed an only slightly positive split between laps, which is very encouraging to me -- at least I'm in touch enough with my slowness to start slow, instead of detonating like I have in the past, when I tried to ski like I had been training for it. All things considered it wasn't too bad a result -- after all, it's only January 10th, I still have two months to find enough muscular endurance to not embarrass myself in the March marathons. Low expectations really are the foundation of happiness.
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