Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tuesday Night Reality Check

Everyone's favorite fitness test/sufferfest was just as brutal as expected this week. The recent melting had chipped away Weston's outer loops, but the cold nights had allowed them to complete the inner section for the traditional "three fingers" course design. A record 88 skiers show up, and for the first time in the history of self-seeding people were actually reasonable -- 22 rows, 4 skiers per row. It looked like Nascar.

My rep from last year was only good enough to get into row 4, but since the plan was "make the lead group, hang until you can't" it was a totally workable start spot. When the tracks ended I used my cyclocross-start-freakout skills to dart around a row of people and settled into around 10th. After the prologue lap ended, I noticed some free space behind me -- make the front group: check.

Two minutes in, it felt just like last year, skiing behind the same guys with the same questionable technique, feeling the same burn accelerating, so I reasonably assumed it would all go the same as last year -- hang on to the last lap and sprint it out!

Four minutes in, I noticed with some consternation that every single muscle on the outside of my leg was on fire. I noticed this at the same time as I noticed the gap in front of me had reached three skier lengths. I grudgingly closed the gap, but the writing was on the wall.

Turns out cycling doesn't require strength for lateral motion or stability for a push off, and skiingwalking slowly around the woods doesn't build it. Which is to say, my ass was on fire.

The lead group dropped me and I went into time trial mode, losing a good 80 yards on them in a lap. No matter, still holding down my place, I thought, except a five-man group was suddenly bearing down on me. There's 88 people on a 1.3k loop, did you really expect to ski in alone?

Right. I tried far too long to hold off the group until I eventually gave in and the leader came around, reacquainting me with my good buddy the draft. This immediately improved the situation, but I continued to slip back, until I found the one and only Kris Dobie suffering at the back of the group, where I joined him. I could tell he didn't recognize me, giving me an unfair amount of "gotta beat that guy I know" motivation.

With the end fast approaching, Cary popped up spectating and started cheering for Dobie. He also didn't recognize me, I guess, or else was wise to my plan and didn't want to blow my cover. In any event, the yelling got Kris moving up from the back and I knew I had to do the same. And just like a cross race -- I didn't.

Instead, I double-poled down the third-to-last shallow descent while trying to reduce the burning in my... cheeks, remaining dead last out of our six-man group. I started bargaining with myself, making deals, maybe you can win a six-up sprint from the back, off a hairpin corner, in lapped traffic. Yeah, this can totally work.

I'm not 100% sure that my decision to double-pole for a good 20 seconds to rest my legs was why the group appeared to slow on the next climb, but I'd like to think it was. They fanned out, but left some room on the inside, so I jumped from last to first, and it became suffertime.

Luckily if there's anything I still have going from cross it's hurting really badly for the last (or first) two minutes. I wove through lapped traffic (not because I'm dirty, they were just everywhere, I swear) and counted down the strides until the last hairpin, got a quick rest on the final downhill to hold back the time bomb in my legs, and trashed across the finish line.

Whereupon I nearly threw up, and my lungs didn't recover for 24 hours. A scant three weeks removed from cross season, and a 20-minute effort already qualifies as boot factor five... dear god.

End result? 12th place, 55 seconds behind the lead group, 2 minutes behind the solo winner. To answer: "How bad is my fitness?" -- "Slightly worse than last year."

16 comments:

Luke S 1/08/2009 11:22 AM  

Come on...those guys are pushing 50 some of them. Pathetic.

Colin R 1/08/2009 12:23 PM  

You're just cranky because I alluded to calling you a fat bastard.

C-BOMB 1/08/2009 12:48 PM  

I was a bit surprised, I'm not gonna lie...I guess core strength with Alex does pay off...or was it all the binge-drinking combined with the walking not skiing>?

Colin R 1/08/2009 12:53 PM  

Well, I didn't actually manage to hang with the lead pack until Jan 22 last year. I'm probably about the same place as I was last year. Let me tell you Cary, ski racing when you haven't been doing it is HARD. You might want to try one of these before the supertour. Maybe.

Luke S 1/08/2009 3:38 PM  

No I'm really gloating unfairly because nothing unexpected hurts when I try to go hard on skis...only the things I expect to hurt. And at this point I'm fairly confident in my ability to ski as fast as Rob Bradlee. Unless I fall. Multiple times. Which, as you know, is not out of the question.

rosey 1/08/2009 3:45 PM  

i stopped by during my ride home to check out the scene. it was comically similar to a cross race except i could not find the pits? lots of people in funny outfits with piles of extra gear socializing before the agony was to start.

rosey 1/08/2009 3:52 PM  

i was actually loitering around the snow cat watching people come by the left hand turn closest to the registration building. people looked even more similar than at a bike race. i kept looking but did not see you or Carey. I was on my cross bike, wearing a blue and white jacket. there was an impressive amount of people for a tuesday night on icy snow.

Colin R 1/08/2009 3:55 PM  

Yeah, I did see you then, when we were getting instructions 'n stuff. Everyone looks different in spandex, but I was the guy in red with black (reference here) hanging desperately onto the lead group.

Anonymous 1/08/2009 5:51 PM  

Egad! 88 racers on a Tuesday night! And we struggle to get 50 racers at the Flying Moose Classic (this year on Feb. 15, 2009 -- a shameless use of my son's blog to get registrants, http://www.caribourecreation.com )

Mom 1/08/2009 5:54 PM  

Didn't mean to be anonymous. The above comment from ever-loving Mom, of course.

Colin R 1/08/2009 6:21 PM  

Well, move the town of Bethel, and its snowfall, and its trails, down to Boston for the weekend and I guarantee you'll draw 88 racers.

Kris Dobie 1/08/2009 8:19 PM  

here's an idea...we should get in shape and beat the old guys...

Luke S 1/08/2009 10:24 PM  

I'm pumped for the Flying Moose...it will be my first 20k classic ever.

Alex 1/09/2009 8:08 PM  

Colin, do you realize that in that picture of you you're barely ahead of some people who look like they learned how to ski yesterday? Just sayin...

Colin R 1/09/2009 8:13 PM  

Dobie -- we will... by March.

Alex -- Are you familiar with this thing called an "interval start?"

mkr 1/10/2009 7:42 PM  

Excellent job. I didn't even dare go for fear of embarrassment. I think I chose wisely. However, I went down to Otis today and chased masters mutants KH, MM, JB and SM around on MTB. I chose poorly.

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