When I went to bed Saturday night, I was pretty fatigued from a classic 50k, but I figured that shouldn't be too much of a surprise. I set the alarm for another stupid-early time and lay down, falling instantly asleep.
When I woke up, I was still in the same position I lay down in, but I had apparently aged 50 years overnight. Either that or my spine had been stolen by elves while I slept -- in either case, my hip flexors, groin and lower back hurt more than I can ever remember. These muscles are integral to pretty much anything beyond sitting down, and definitely a big part of "skating" (but apparently not enough to be trained by it...), so I was in for a rough day at the Inferno.
With several days of above-freezing temps and below-freezing nights, the conditions were going to be loose granular, which is to say "fast as hell." Given that the race starts out going straight down an intermediate alpine trail, the name of the game was going to be risk management, since the penalty for crashing could easily be a lot worse than lost pride. Luckily I honed my risk management skills that morning in the ultimate no-crash-zone, "driving to the race." After two hours of wondering if my car would get back on the ground in time for the next corner (it's frost heave season on Rt 142), I got to 'da Loaf and got ready to throw down.
The much-ballyhooed Colby nordic team didn't show up, probably because they had to catch up on their post-season drinking, which meant my task -- win a ski race for the first time in two years -- was a bit easier. Still though, Kyle from Saint Lawrence was there, and I nearly broke my leg last year, so it wasn't exactly a done deal.
The Inferno is the only noridc race you can legitimately use the word "headwall" to describe the course with. According to my Garmin I went from 0 to 42 mph in just over ten seconds, which is basically as fast as my car accelerated when fully loaded. The difference is, when my car hits 42, I don't go "HOLY SHIT" and throw my arms out, then again my car doesn't go over headwalls either, so maybe this whole comparison is kind of stupid.
Anyway, 42 in the Inferno is a lot scarier than 45 at Stowe because you don't have a runout, you've got to get it back down to a manageable velocity in time to make the first right hand turn, conveniently located on the second headwall and barely 25 seconds into the race.
After that, it's just a question of harnessing the fear-based adrenaline into stepping what you can, sliding what you can't, and sprinting when it's not downhill, for 9 more minutes down to the finish line. This time I was rocking the forward-facing boot cam, so you can experience the Inferno for yourself, albeit with about 2 minutes of uphill edited out:
Sugarloaf Inferno Boot Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
I never know what to say when I do well at things. I didn't crash and I went wicked hard, aided by seeing Alex ahead of me for the last minute or two. I wanted it really bad but couldn't overtake her at the line (she started 60 seconds ahead), but anyway, I pulled off a 17 second victory over Kyle from Saint Lawrence and took home the WINNAH'S PIE.
It was a great way to end the season. I think more ski areas should hold event specifically tailored to my strengths, it would be... uh... good for the sport, yeah, that's it.