Friday, February 27, 2009

Tuesday Night Quickie

Ok, so I was originally going to act like this past Tuesday's Weston Race never happened, mainly because I thought following up a whiny Stowe Derby post with a whiny Tuesday night post would out me as a guy who is kind of whiny. Which, of course, I am, but I put a fair amount of effort into hiding it.

But then Cary called me out in the comments and if there's anything I can't get enough of it's being heckled on the internet, so here we go. The whiny preface is that Tuesday after being sick for two weeks, Tuesday was day #4 of "getting on it," so I had done like, a lot of manly working out 'n stuff the past couple of days, and didn't sleep much because of the Stowe Derby travel debacle, and waaaah, you know? I got on the sweet fixie to ride home at 5pm and my legs were like, "just so you know, don't expect much."

But you never know, right? Sometimes you feel flat but go fast, sometimes you feel great until the race starts, sometimes it doesn't even matter because you're just drafting some guy while skiing on ice. So I went to Weston.

Motivational issues put me into line around 12th place when we got moving, into a first of many super-icy, dark hairpins. Everyone outside the top 3 had to slow way down, tip toe around, and then go mach five to get back on. Invigorated by getting accordion'ed all to hell in the first 30 seconds, I went all out to win a drag race against Dave Stamp and successfully captured the tail end of the front group.

Next time we accordioned, another guy popped off, so I went him to stay on, and then another guy dropped, so I went around him -- can you see where this is going? Oh yeah. Working extra hard to keep getting back onto a group you probably shouldn't be on is not a recipe for success, so I blew up after ten minutes and cried for my mommy.

Eventually a trailing group of four caught and slowly trickled past me. My inability to hold the draft of the second-to-last guy made the last guy decide to come around me, and I realized it was Blazar, which gave me that extra bit of motivation (and draft) to hang on.

I trailed him for a lap and then attacked at the end like a dirty Norwegian. It worked -- but I'm not proud.

Since then it's been all rollers, all the time, except for that time it wasn't. Ski training is over, although ski racing sure isn't. The new bike is ordered, and I'm still about 100 watts away from being fast enough to ride it. Crap.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stowe Derby Race Report

If you read last year's missive, you should know that I have a raging love-hate relationship with the Stowe Derby, because it comes this close to completely ruining the most awesome 5k in cross country skiing (the first descent) with the worst 14k in cross country skiing (everything after that). Be warned that this year's experience did nothing to change my feelings, and I will nevertheless be back next year. Curse you, adrenaline rush!

This year's Derby took place in optimal conditions for descending, steady snow showers all week, and more snow on the morning of the race. Sure, 600 nordic skiers throwing 'em sideways will still scrape that down to ice in no time, but at least the berms were a little softer than usual.

My plan to become an e-celebrity was to run a rearward facing boot cam, since doing that off my seatpost during cross season nearly doubled this blog's traffic. After several bad ideas about how to construct this, Linnea came up with the idea of using a coat hanger attached to my regular mount, and this worked great, as you probably saw.

On the start line I made sure to tell everyone within earshot that I was running a boot cam because a) I'm an attention whore and b) I wanted people to want to ski behind me. I ended up with the holeshot off the line, so this may have worked. Possibly.

I was bib #38 this year, that's 273 places better than last year's seed, but the first corner was still a huge scraped-off mess! I was confused, because I'd been expecting to rail fresh powder all the way to the bottom, but apparently the 35 people ahead of me had already cleaned it off. In any case, the first corner was as sketchy as always, as was the second corner, and also the third.

But don't take my word for it, ask this guy.

After the first three switchbacks its onto the first fast straight section, where I overtook a snow-covered Dartmouth kid who was still in the process of putting himself back together from the previous corner. I hit 39 mph on the straightaway last year, this year I could only manage 35, thanks to the fresh powder.

Unlike last year, though, I knew that the straight ended with a monster hairpin and an assembled crowd of alpine skiers, whom I disappointed by staying upright while flying sideways around the turn. Exiting it I looked back to confirm that I had, in fact, dusted my heat, and I was very disappointed to find #37 trailing me closely.

This guy must've had fast skis or an impressive "weight-to-drag" ratio, because you can see in the video he was half-tucking and skating after this corner while I pulled away slightly on the long straight. I was pulling away slightly because my chest was nailed to my knees, Bode-style. As soon as I skated the next, slower turn he caught and passed me, after taking a moment to wave to the camera.

Once he was in front I could draft him, which negated whatever advantage he had, but I also had no way to get around now that we were getting into the easier part of the course. The fresh snow had only been skied in one narrow groove, so as soon as you stepped out to go around the brakes went on, and you dropped back. So my attempts to re-pass (purely for camera-based reasons) were totally unsuccessful.

Instead, I spent the rest of the downhill wondering just how bad of an idea it was to tuck three feet behind someone at 30 miles an hour. On the last straight pitch, where I hit 45 mph last year, I finally chickened out and hung a foot out into the powder to back off a bit. In retrospect, giving him the pole-push at 40 mph would have been sick.

And then you hit the bottom, and it's all over! I was through the corner at the bottom in 7:50, yet wasn't going to finish until 52:03. Time to ski a soft and narrow 14k!

The big difference in seeding this year made this part of the course really lonely. Last year I spent the whole time being angsty about having to pass 150 people, but this time I only saw seven in the same stretch. It was basically an interval start 15k, not exactly my specialty. Three guys from waves behind me were apparently "real skiers" and thus had no problem closing the gap over the "real skiing" portion of the race. Alas. I did overtake two more people during these extremely unpleasant 45 minutes, so it wasn't a total loss.

The biggest bummer, to me, is that the Stowe Derby doesn't have a split time just after the bottom of the downhill. There's so much regular skiing after the downhill ends, that it's basically just a 15k skate race, with ties broken based on descending ability. Any competent racer can get down the Toll Road within a minute of the fastest descender, so you don't really lose much ground on the awesome part, or at least you can make up a lot more ground on the lame part.

I can accept that part of the draw of the race is the tradition, which requires skiing all the way to town (even though it sucks), but come on, give us something to race for on the downhill!

So... yeah. You can tell I'm still grappling with the fact that I hate most of the Stowe Derby because this post has no flow, kind of like their course! Ha! Anyway, if you want to do a proper downhill-nordic race, head to the Inferno on March 15, it's a scant thirteen minutes of all-out descending and I didn't quite kill myself last year.

After the race I headed home in a growing snowstorm, in a 2WD roller skate without snow tires. I'd been up since 4:30 AM, but I successfully combined abject terror with a large coffee to stay awake all the way to New London, NH, where I discovered that my stupid little car could barely start moving once stopping on the highway. Unable to face three or four more hours of creeping along while nap-jerking, I bailed for a hotel.

The whole reason that I got up at 4:30 (instead of heading up the night before) is that 1) I like bad ideas and 2) Linnea and I did a bitchin snow ride with MegA and JD. If you like pictures and bikes, instead of yapping and skis, you should go read about that instead.

One final whine, because this post is already impressively discontinuous -- holy crap, the road crossing in this race suck. I may have to email the organizers some constructive criticism on that one, as opposed to just vaguely carping about it here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stowe Derby Boot Cam

Stowe Derby Boot Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I only have time to put the boot cam video up for now. Expect a race report late Tuesday night.

There's a stretch in the middle where no one is behind me, and thus the view isn't so interesting, but I overtook another guy near the bottom.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Credit Where Credit's Due

Most of the cycling blogger community will tell you that every motorist in Boston is an incompetent clown who is going to accidentally kill you while talking on a cell phone, and if he somehow notices you before impact he'll probably decided to hit you anyway, because he hates cyclists.

Most of the driving community will tell you that cyclists are road-hogging, lawbreaking, inconsiderate douchebags that hold up traffic just long enough to get stuck at a light, which they then blow, so they can hold up the same line of traffic on the next straightaway while riding down the center of the lane, and if you ever pointed this fact out to them they'd key your car and block you anyway, because they hate drivers.

The reality of the situation, of course, is that most people aren't total dicks, and non-dickery is still normal enough in our day-to-day lives that you don't notice people just being "normal." It's not the 100 cars you pass without incident on your commute, it's the soccer mom who almost right hooked you that you remember. God I hate drivers.

Anyway -- the point of this is that I almost bought it yesterday, and the only reason I didn't is because someone in a car was being impressively attentive.

I was coming home, crossing through Inman Square, it's dark and it's snowing and the light just went yellow, but there's traffic all sorts of backed up because of left-turners so I put a little sprint in to get into the intersection before it went red. I'm overtaking a whole bunch of cars (bad idea #1) when a minivan breaks out of the left-turner crowd to go straight, which kind of crimps the line I was heading for. Fueled by snow-based adrenaline I head for the smallish gap between the minivan and the curb (bad idea #2) and since I'm still overtaking it I exit the intersection drawing even with its rear bumber (bad idea #3).

The minivan sees the open parking space in front of Punjabi Dhaba and realizes that Indian food beats the hell out of rush hour driving and heads for it while braking pretty hard. At this moment, I realize that I am completely f'ed.

I've already formulated a "plan" -- hit the car, ride it into the spot, attempt to jump the curb -- when the minivan miraculously sees my tiny Knog light through the darkness and snow in its passenger side mirror and stops hard. I swing through the parking spot he was heading for, push my heart back down my throat, and ride on home.

So I know it's fashionable to act like everyone in a car is a moron, but I disagree strongly. In fact, it's the fact that most cars around these parts are aware of cyclists that makes those that aren't so dangerous.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Flying Moose Classic Race Report

This was originally going to be one of those really short race reports where I say something pithy like "Racing when you're sick = FAIL," but due to the therapeutic effects of the season's first Otis Rideon Monday, my outlook has improved enough to be willing to talk about the debacle I called a "race performance" on Sunday.

The disclaimer is that I've been sick for a while. Twelve days, not that I'm counting, but hey I managed to perform decently at a Randonee and also have a respectable Tuesday night so I thought I'd take the illness-denial lifestyle north for the Flying Moose. Plus, it's my dad's race, and I was signed up as results guru because that's my schtick.

So, off in the car, sans Linnea for once because she's Mrs. Pro Cyclist these days. Instead my college buddy Aaron "not suitable for minors" Duphily came along, I picked him up in Auburn and we spent a solid sixty minutes hypothesizing what the klister situation would be like. We were so worked up about 20km on ice we ended up buying a tube of KR20, which is technically just another klister but behaves more like an epoxy. Then we ironed a crapload of it onto our kick zones, because it was going to be crazy abrasize out there, which of course jinxed the weather into being warmer and sunnier than expected and the snow a lot softer.

Suffice to say my excess of binder meant that at least I could kick everything.

The field was actually more stacked than last year although a bit smaller. Colby and Bowdoin and the entire masters scene were in attendance, plus Adele Espy was back from Junior Worlds, in addition to the standard collegiate beatdown I would be probably receiving the double-my-age beatdown and possibly even the dreaded high-school-girl beatdown.

I got things off on the right foot by putting KR40 on one ski and KR50 on the other, not because I was testing wax, just because both purple tubes look the same and I was probably talking too much and focusing too little. Luckily they both ended up working great, furthering my hypothesis that KR 40 and 50 are actually the same wax with different labels.

Anyway somewhere between the pre-ramble and the whining comes the race. I ended up with a place that would suggest I took it easy from the start but a perceived effort that said otherwise. My non-awesome glide might've had something to do with it. After 1k we crossed the road onto the Gould trails and got the serious climbing started.

I was happily chilling in the single track behind a gang of Masters but a Bowdoin guy behind me was not happy at all, so he went running past me, so I went running with him, and we ran the whole first hill while passing three people. It was pretty awesome and just before I cracked we went over the top, hooray!

Of course this was the first of about ten major climbs at Gould so it was probably not a good sign. Nevertheless I had too much kick so I kept making good progress on the climbs, plus the downhills are fairly technical and we're four miles from where I grew up -- so I had some advantage there, too. Anyway, the point of all this was that I managed to move up a few places and generally ski pretty decently despite feeling like crap. Every time I was about to cross over from "burning" to "numb" we'd crest a hill and I'd stave off exploding a bit longer.

Thing was, though, I was only able to take shallow breaths because everytime I went for the big air gulp I'd start coughing. This may have been reducing my oxygen uptake -- well, that or the pound of phlegm in my lungs that was causing the coughing. Whatever it was -- when we left the Gould trails and went into the Bethel Inn trails, which demanded steady exertion, the rocket exploded on the launchpad and my race effectively ended.

It started with a cramp in my side from taking a stupid feed, then spread to being suddenly very irritated by my heart rate monitor -- I can't take a deep breath because this thing is squeezing me, argh -- so I stopped to take it off, always a sign things are going well. While I was fumbling around Andy Milne passed me, so free of my HRM I set off after him. He appeared to be traveling at around the speed of sound, so I exploded further, and then I started giving up, I just couldn't hold onto any kind of steady exertion, and after trying for a while I couldn't even recover on the downhills.

So like a true champion, I stopped on a climb, leaned over my poles, and thought long and hard about how unfair it was that I was getting my ass handed to me. During this time Adele passed me to complete the beatdown trifecta, which didn't improve my spirits.

From there I plummeted backward, losing another five or six places and eventually finishing twenty-seventh. The only bright side was that I resolved to stop doing stupid exercise things until I kicked whatever sickness was ailing me -- but then I woke up Monday feeling a tad better and Linnea was like "hey, want to go to Otis?" so that plan went out the window less than 24 hours after it was hatched. Such is the power of the bermed twisties.

My disc rotor almost fell off, a sure sign Thom P didn't work on this bike.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday Night Ski Crit

Boston's finally back to its normal temperatures, so you know what that means -- Tuesday Night Icy Granular Ski Criterium! No more of this powder business, no more using my hated cold skate skis, time to break out the Madshus aquatreads and fly!

I was still sore from Sunday and nursing a lingering head cold, but the draw of Weston was just too strong, so much for "don't race when you're tired and sick."

Last time I was way too casual off the line, today was different, I flipped out like a ninja from the first skate stride, passed the row in front of me and fought my way into the train in 5th position as we headed out into the flats right behind Andy. So far, so good.

I ended up averaging 27 kph for the race, we were well over 30 kph on the flats at the start. While there was plenty of draft to be had, putting the power down on ice at that speed was difficult. As a result, Bret Bedard didn't pull his usual disappearing act, he went out fast but we all tried to stay with him.

Obviously that express train was going to break somewhere, and it ended up breaking just in front of Andy -- he's has a V1-singlespeeder style of racing and at 20 mph on slightly downhill ice, he kind of gets spun out. I was torn between "playing it safe" and "trying to go with the move," so I made a stupid compromise with myself that instead of trying to pass and get across the gap right away, I'd wait until the first hill and try to slingshot it.

Of course as soon as we were out of Bret's draft the pace slowed a bit and the gap started growing fast, by the time I started my bridge attempt it was probably almost 50 yards. Nevertheless, the adrenaline rush of being able to go crazy fast on ice was pretty powerful, I just turned off my brain and went to 1k-sprint-jump-skate mode. Halfway across the gap I knew I was going to pay mightily for the effort, but it was too late to go back to safe racing, and I wasn't gonna get hung out in no-man's-land like last week.

I made contact with the front three group and all I could think was "holy crap you have to recover." Unfortunately it was still being driven by Bret, who wins these every week and is much faster than I, so I can't really recover when I'm going above my race pace just to hang on. Luckily I got popped at the same time as Rob Bradlee, so I had someone to keep trying to work with to maintain the 5-10 second lead we now had over the everyone who'd been on the wrong side of the split.

I was still in damage control mode when Rob asked me to take a pull, and being an honorable guy I did, plus if I had just stood up and done nothing we would have been even closer to getting reeled back in. Rob came back around soon after because I was pretty obviously cooked, and he did it going into Mt Weston, gapped me over the top, and that was the end of that.

Thus ended my rockstar bridging attempt. I got picked up by a 7-strong chase group being driven by Kris (crap!) and went straight to the back. Commence groveling.

After a lap of trying to recover on the tail end of an eight-person accordion I was feeling just enough better to realize that the tail end of an eight-man accordion is a terrible place to be skiing. Since we were nearing the finish, moving up wasn't easy, but some draft-overshoots and boxing out on the corners got me up to fifth in time to enter the octagon, er, final set of fairway climbs.

As usual we were flying through lapped traffic and everybody was scrambling to move up, and as usual I kept putting off making "the move." This really hurts, can't I just try to win by going anaerobic in the last sixty seconds, why do I have to move up now, yadda yadda yadda?

Duh, the reason you have to move up is because when you hit the final climb and go three-abreast around lapped traffic there is NOWHERE TO GO from fifth place. So I really wanted to flip out and make some places, but everyone else was flipping out too and the trail is only so wide, then we got crunched down to single file on the last hairpin and I was still in fifth. A lapped guy fell, so I went super wide off the corner, into the classic tracks, yeah this is exactly where you want to start a sprint from, fifth place and barely on the course (you idiot). All the trashing in the world only gained me one place, so I crossed the line fourth in the group and 7th overall.

Kris, meanwhile, played it much smarter, never worse than second or third on the last lap, second off the last corner, and won the sprint for fourth. Nicely played...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mad River Randonee Race Report

This Sunday the winter hunt for blog-worthy activities got taken to a whole new level with the Mad River Randonee Race. My buddy Justin (a veteran of many a western randonee race) was all like, "hey, want to do this hardcore rando race at Mad River?" and last time I did a crazy race with him and Linnea it was the Gunstock Winter Tri, which turned out just fine, plus I had new-used telemark gear to break in, so I was wicked into it.

It should be noted that prior to Gunstock, the other "bizarre winter event" Justin, Linnea and I did was the Jay Winter Challenge, which was effing brutal. If I didn't have the memory of a goldfish I might have been able to use this to realize how hard this randonee business is.

It might be hard, but there were still around a hundred people gathered at Mad River Glen for the start. Seriously, a hundred people thought this was a good idea. I was comforted by the size of the crowd; if I die in the woods, there will at least be some other people to go Donner Party on before I pass.

There were three divisions, Race, Recreation, and Heavy Metal. Obviously, since I'm a racer I should be in the Race division, so I signed up for that despite it being the most competitive. I was secretly hoping that it would be a bunch of fat alpine skiers and my advanced nordic technique of "go really hard for like an hour" would be more than they could handle. The fact that Justin is skinnier than me and has been known to run the odd marathon should have clued me in that this was not the case.

Anyhow, we all put our skis down for a Le Mans start and since I was in the "Race" division I got to put mine near the front, which of course didn't matter at all because I fumbled around like the rookie I was with my bindings and headed up the hill solidly in the back third of the pack.

This being Mad River, only a hundred yards up the hill the ski trail turned into a sidehill singletrack sort of deal and we bottlenecked immediately. I was sorely tempted to become "obnoxious guy behind you at a bottleneck," but I remembered that clown at Soho and held my tongue as we stood around looking at each other and generally not racing despite the fact that I signed up for the "Race" division.

Finally we started moving again and I noticed that the narrow skins Justin had loaned me had pretty good glide on a sidehill if I dug my edges in (since the only covered about the middle 50% of the base). I awesomely slid past some people who had wide skins and thought about how clever I was.

Soon we got back onto a proper wide trail and racing got started in earnest -- slow motion uphill walk-racing in a blizzard! I forgot to mention earlier that the weather was crazy -- 34 and snowing HARD when the race started. It looked like this:

(This picture was of course taken by Linnea, as I would never slow during a race to use a camera)

Other than my heavy-ish equipment I was pretty well suited to walking uphill, as it's only slightly more gross than cross country skiing uphill. I got my suffer on and quickly started moving up through the pack of fellow trudgers. Soon I was only two skiers behind Justin; it was safe to say I had mastered randonee racing in 15 short minutes. In fact so you should definitely quit reading this blog post and go sign up for a rando race, because you'll probably kick ass at it also. It's a fundamentally easy sport, I tell you.

Then we hit the mogul field.

At this point, my Garmin faithfully reports that it took me eight minutes to cover a tenth of a mile.

As you might imagine, this problem was not experienced by the majority of my competitors, who were running full-width skins and also may have had more than 15 minutes of skinning experience. The first time I slipped on an off-camber mogul face, I sighed, dug my poles in as hard as I could, and pushed over the top. It hurt like hell, but I haven't been doing pullups for nothing, right?

Then I slipped on the next mogul face, failed to catch myself in time, and fell down. The guy behind me realized that I was going nowhere fast and tacked across the slope in a different direction as I flopped around helplessly.

I looked down the hill and saw that I was, at least, so far ahead of Linnea that she was out of sight. So no matter how badly I was struggling, at least she wouldn't pass me.

Four minutes and six moguls later, she skinned past as I stood, gasping from my latest failure to double-pole up a sixty degree mogul face.

So that's why everyone else had wide skins.

Make no mistake -- with some experience I probably could have gone uphill in moguls many times faster. The problem was, the second my ski slipped my inclination was to put it on edge, after all, that's how to transition to a herringbone on xc skis. But on tele gear with narrow skins, that drops you from tenuous skin-to-snow contact to ZERO contact, which leads to you going straight the eff backwards because you're on a really steep incline.

I eventually made it out of the moguls, through a combination of sidestepping up and tricep-tearing poling, with a healthy respect for this randonee business. I congratulated myself for not crying in frustation (at least not so that anyone heard) and got back to trudging uphill.

I had lost so much ground that even trudging all-out for the next forty minutes, I only passed four people by the top of Mad River Glen. I caught Linnea right at the top and she took another picture:

This picture is of my back because hey it's a race I gotta go!!

The ridgeline from Mad River to Sugarbush North was deep and my classic race poles were totally useless. Luckily there were plentiful trees, so I was able to conquer most of the steeper pitches by skinning until I slipped, then lunging to the side and grabbing a tree branch. Cling to tree, regain balance, reset skins, and then lunge for the next tree up the hill. Repeat until incline has been cleared.

The downside of this was that it wasn't very speedy and left me covered in snow. But, I only had to take my skis off twice, and I was never so frustrated that I broke my poles over my knees, which after the mogul field was a very real possibility.

After nearly two hours and 2600 vertical feet, I reached the near-top of Sugarbush North and got ready for the "fun part." I whipped off my skins while keeping my skis on my feet (the only pro move Justin had time to teach me) and passed a few suckers who were doing sissy stuff like putting on more clothing.

The descent started off bombing down a blue trail in dense fog, so I got my first alpine turns of the year in as I went as fast as I dared given the abysmal visibility. The fog started to clear, so I went faster, and my quads started to burn a bit. Hrm.

Then some ski patrol guy waved us off onto a steeper trail without snowmaking, and I was confronted with ice and rocks and the odd mogul. Super G turns became GS turns. GS turns became edge-to-edge traverses. Edge-to-edge traverses became stopping, leaning over my poles, and whimpering as my quads burned. The folks I had passed at the top zoomed by. "This is my first day on alpine skis this year!" I yelled as they disappeared down the hill.

So the fun part turned out to be just as painful as the non-fun part, which I guess makes the whole race one big non-fun part. I suffered my way though a few more minutes of traversing down to the bottom, then headed into the Slide Brook Basin for climb #2.

The first uphill had a bunch of people stopped, re-applying skins, so I surrendered to the groupthink and got out mine as well. This was completely the wrong choice, as there was another downhill lurking. Protip: if you see herringbone tracks up a hill in a randonee race, don't put your skins on. The leaders know the course -- do whatever they did.

Soon though we headed uphill for reals, but we were on a nice wide trail, snowcat groomed, about the width of a cross country ski trail. No moguls. Steep as hell, but I wasn't slipping so long as my skis were flat. My competitors' randonee smarts were no match for the fact that I could go faster just by working really hard. Really, really hard. Skinning is like classic skiing with 1% of the normal glide; but if you really get into it you can glide a tiny bit. So I got totally into it, especially on the shallower hills, gliding six or even eight inches per stride.

The second climb is a mere 1900 vertical feet or so, and right when I was nearing a super-hard bonk I crossed under the Slide Brook Chair. A helpful ski patroller told me it was only 150 vertical feet to the summit. It turns out he was a lying bastard (it was 350 vertical feet) but that lie was enough to get me there. I'd been skiing alone for half an hour, but I saw two people ahead of me in the woods at the very top.

They were taking off their skis when I came out of the woods, so I scoffed heartily and used my one pro move to yank my skins off quickly and stuffed them frantically in my jacket. It's a race, goddamit!

The second and final descent was a lot easier than the first, I didn't even have to stop to take a break. Which isn't to say it was without horrible quad-burning, but the knowledge that I would soon be able to stop this madness went a long way to toughing it out. I followed the pointing ski patrollers and assumed I would be done at any minute.

Then some crazy ski patrol lady pointed me up a hill, and before I could say "seriously??" like the valley girl I am, I found myself skating all-out up that hill. Because there was someone herring-boning slowly about 100 yards up it -- and all my long races end in sprints.

I threw down the meanest, awkwardest, V1-on-tele-skis the randonee scene has ever seen, I was snorting, panting, stumbling in a full-on anaerobic rush to get to the top first. It was the ugliest thing I did in a three-hour race filled with ugly moves on randonee gear -- but it also the highlight of the whole thing, finally getting to use something I actually train for. The ridiculousness of "racing" for a bottom-half finish against a lady who was casually walking didn't even cross my mind, I went flying past her a few yards from the top, it's a small miracle I didn't yell "eat it!!" as I thrashed past, tucked straight down the last hill, crossed the line and lay down.

I went in the lodge and lay down some more. Then I lay down at the awards ceremony. In fact, wanting to lie down has been a dominant theme of how I've felt since then.

Justin the rando hero finished in a solid 13th place; I ended up 29th overall (19/22 in the race division, ouch) a whopping 38 minutes behind him. Linnea was a further 33 minutes behind me, which pleased me, but she wasn't nearly as disabled by the whole ordeal, which is quite annoying.

The best and worst part of the race is that it only took me 3 hours of recovery to start a sentence with "Next year I'm going to do X differently..."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Things That Make Me Angsty

...18% service charges.

One of these days, BikeReg. One of these days...

In other news, King of Burlingame is open, if you'd like to commit to getting your act together two months in advance.

Update!: Bikereg says this is an error due to how the promoter set up the event, where the license fee is being treated as a second race instead of added fee on the first race. They gave me back $1.25 and changed the event setup, raising my total monetary gains from 2 years of blogging to $1.25. And also indicating that they listen to their customers/angsty bloggers, which is awesome. I still get worked up about paying a surcharge sometimes, but dear god, they suck so much less than!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Return of Tuesday Night

After two straight weeks of Tuesday night no-shows it was time to get back to my pole-stomping ways out at Weston. The remarkably good winter continued and we got 3-5 inches of snow during the day, but of course this made for interesting commuting and racing.

The drive out wasn't dangerous, although what little faith I had in Bostonians' ability to drive in snow was ruined by a herd of 30 cars, having a contest on Route 2 to see who could be the most terrified of passing a salt truck. As a native Mainer -- who would pass a plow truck, on a double yellow line, in 8 inches of snow, in a rear-wheel drive pickup, with nothing in the bed, with a logging truck oncoming, uphill, to school (both ways) -- I was disgusted.

The next outlet for my misanthropy was Weston, who was presently addressing the new snow situation by driving their snowcat around at top speed with the tiller depth set on "oil well." This had the predicable result of turning 3 inches of soft new snow into 5 inches of a soft, ice/powder mix.

But -- it wouldn't be called Tuesday Night World Championships if it was easy, right? We lined up seventy-five skiers and headed straight into the 1.5-skaters-wide trail around the upper flats. I slotted in to about 12th place and started playing the "don't step on any poles" game. I knew I was dangerously far back, but there wasn't much to be done on a trail that narrow. Anna McLoon was even further back than me, so she started trying to move up in the narrow space next to the train -- she got past me, then the next guy, and right when I was thinking, "hey, that's working, I should do it" she got stepped on, and that was the end of that. Thanks to my lack of mental toughness, and excess of complacency, I decided to stay in 12th place and "see what happened," as if I didn't know exactly what that would be.

After we left the flats we entered the hillier part that snakes around the fairways, and on the first snowmaking-exaggerated climb we did a WICKED accordion, coming to a complete stop at the bottom. Over the top we didn't do the all-out sprint you might expect from that kind of accordion, which relieved me until I realized that was because the conga line had broken further ahead and the top six were skiing away.

Finishing up lap one I came around to the head of the chase group and hit Mt. Weston with as much fury as could be mustered in deep, loose granular. I gained a little gap over the chase group and decided that I was now making a "bridge attempt" to the leaders, who were probably only 10-15 seconds up the trail.

Ignoring everything I know about cycling I tried to bridge it steadily, and it was totally working until it stopped working. Somewhere on the back of the upper flats I stopped gaining on them and started hearing footsteps behind me. A good indicator that your bridge attempt is failing is when someone has successfully bridged to you.

It turned out to be Anna catching me and she immediately asked to lead. I had already decided that this was one of those unfortunate times when the race was behind me, so I was happy to take a ride. She was also tiring, though, so we made no further progress, and eventually two other guys from the former chase group made it back to us.

Nothing really changed until the end of lap three, of course, when business time got started with Dave Stamp* attacking with three fairways left to ski. Anna had been leading but seemed disinterested, so then Terry went after him, and I just chilled behind because, uh, skiing is painful. I can close that gap later.

Finally we crossed into the last sixty seconds of the race, where my "oh gosh this hurts" mental block gets lifted. I closed the gap back to Terry and Dave and then we had an awesome three-abreast drag race through lapped traffic and fresh powder to the final 180 turn. I narrowly squeezed them out to turn first, and get enough of a gap down the last hill to "comfortably" ski in for 7th place.

Unfortunately, I had claimed that "February is when I would have the fitness to throw down with the lead group," so I better get my act together next week!

* I was like, "why does the name "Dave Stamp" sound familiar?" and it turns out he's my second cousin (or maybe third, I dunno how you count that stuff). Weird.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dixville Loppet Non-Race Report

A rare open weekend on the winter calendar (or any calendar of mine) led to some actual halfway legitimate training! Well... legitimate by my standards. No powermeters or heart rate monitors were checked; no intervals were timed; no max heart rates were achieved. So I guess it was actually "unstructured overdistance" and the best Joe Friel would let me call it is "transition." Damn. And this post started out so promising, too.

Anyway. 7 hours of low intensity sounds like something a coach might prescribe to someone, at some point, so I'm gonna say it was exactly what I needed, at this point, and move on with it.

Saturday was an amazing snow ride in the Fells with Linnea,Kate and Sara. I've espoused the joy of snow riding enough here that I'll skip the introduction and cut straight to the Goldilocks -- the snow wasn't too hard, it wasn't too soft, it was juuuuust right. And just like Goldilocks, we were trespassing* -- since the Fells is closed to bike traffic from Dec 15 to April 15 -- but the three bears never showed up.

*Clearly the spirit of the winter cycling ban in the Fells is to prevent erosion and trail destruction from mountain bike use when the trails are wet. Riding on top of a foot of snow doesn't violate the spirit of the law nor cause any lasting effects. My conscience is clean.

If that ride wasn't so fun I would considered it the beginning of the 2009 training season, but I can pretend it didn't count (much like the Gunstock Winter Triathlon) and stay true to my February 23 start date for becoming a serious biking professional**.

Snow Log of Doom from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Sunday was attempt #1 (out of 1, probably) to ski the entirely fictitious Dixville Notch Loppet at the Balsams. I sent my dad the course map last week and we were inexplicably stoked to ski 50k while climbing several thousand feet.

Everyone knows the most important thing to do before a long ski is to put on some fresh wax, and more flouros are always better, so we rocked some pricey HF7 so we could set a respectable course record for the Loppet. Since the forecasted high was 22, and we were starting at 9 am, this made perfect sense. If you were an idiot. Which apparently we are.

There was half an inch of fresh snow on the trails when we started out in 10 degree weather. The overnight low was around zero degrees and it was cloudy, so who knows what the snow temp was, but it was far below the 18 degree minimum my wax was rated for. Going up the first hill my skis sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. It took over 45 minutes to reach the 5k mark, because we started with 1000 feet of elevation gain. I'm not really a hill junkie so this was hardly euphoria.

It was a brevet-like stupid adventure, and we stayed true to the brevet spirit by venturing onward in spite of the fact that there was no good reason to be doing this.

As the day "warmed" up to 15 or maybe even 18 degrees my skis never became even remotely fast, but after a while you get used to it and start to think "my god, this place has a lot of really steep hills." Which it does. And they are much steeper when your glide sucks.

The good-bad news is that the lap only ended up being a tad over 40k. I think you could still do a single-loop 50k at the Balsams, but you'd have to be totally extreme about it (we skipped the insane climbs over Peregrine and Abenaki, for one) and you'd probably have to cross Rt 26 (which would never work in a race). The good part of that news is that there were 4100 feet of climbing on the loop -- that's 100 feet per k for you math fans, and plenty of k's are downhill -- so it's basically the hardest 40k you can ski anywhere. I'm confident that this would be the toughest marathon in the NENSA series, and that's not just my terrible wax talking.

The stats:
~41k (the Garmin made some questionable calls on our path, so I don't trust it exactly)
~4000 feet of climbing

Max climb: 800 feet in 4.3k at the beginning.
900 feet in 5k at the 17-22k marks.

Max descent: 1160 feet in 9.6k from 7-16k
800 feet from 31-36k.

Throw in the climbs we skipped (Abenaki and Peregrine) and you've basically got the gap ride of nordic skiing. Which does have a sick sort of appeal, doesn't it? I might have to go back and do that. On a warmer day. With Cera F.

Despite my glide and elevation-related whining, it really was an epic loop, and unlike a brevet, I don't need months of recovery before I'd agree to doing it again. If this thing ever really turns into a race, it would be wicked.

**Yeah, right.

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