It's been 13 months since my last interval start ski race, so I was inexplicably pumped for a 10k skate race up at Pineland. "Man, I can't wait to ski alone for half an hour! Just me and my pain, out in the woods for a ski, interrupted only by the occasional terrified glance backward to see if anyone is catching us." It's gonna be great!
With the Birkie looming in 14 days there was no way that Cary could afford to let me get in any extra training in, so he joined me on the drive up through the snowless coast of Maine.
Of course the race was close to said coast, and as a result there was virtually no snow to be found at the race site, either. We parked in a field that had been plowed, but if you climbed over the plow banks -- grass. The only snow in the whole field was at the edge against the trees, where it was slightly shaded from the afternoon sun.
Oh, this is going to be great. Glad I brought my rock skis.
Once in the woods, though, everything changed. The immaculately graded trails couldn't have had more than 3 inches compacted snow on them, but they were perfect. With nary a rock to be seen, I headed back to the car after a few K to switch to race skis.
Dear Everyone Who Skipped This Due to Snow Concerns,
It was awesome, suckers!
-People who raced
For maximum excitement, the organizers decided to put us on course at 10 second intervals. In theory this would reduce lapped traffic, with everyone starting within 10 minutes of each other, but at the expense of having more traffic on the same lap, right? I'm not sure it made sense, but it was certainly good for the old self-esteem to have 6 people within a minute ahead of me. 3 or 4 were college girls so I was EXTRA EXCITED.
Unfortunately my ten-second man was Ben Haydock, who is about a mile tall and skis for Colby. He immediately opened up the gap, while I tried to convince myself I was just "starting conservatively."
After the first k or so, the course turns back on itself, and I saw Cary go by less than 30 seconds behind me. He started 30 seconds back, so I was definitely either "starting conservatively" or just "sucking."
Luckily, the course was packed with traffic, so I had lots to distract me from the fact that I might be sucking. I probably passed 10 or 15 people in the first 15 minutes. Clearly thing weren't going that badly.
More importantly, when I got back to the spot where I saw Cary on lap 1 he was nowhere to be seen, and I started seeing a tall guy ahead of me through the woods. Both good signs that I might be pulling my act together.
The tough thing about 10 second intervals is that even if you can see your 10-second man, he's still probably beating you. I started to think that I was beating Ben because I could see him, but then I made the mistake of counting how many skate strides it took me to get to where he was -- oh crap, 22? Unless I'm somehow taking two strides per second... yeah, no.
Still though, I was catching him ever so slowly as the k's ticked down, which was a nice alternative to hanging out alone with my pain, the novelty of which had long since worn off. I did my best to keep WANTING IT instead of just skiing, which led to crossing the line only 7 seconds behind Ben with a healthy amount of spittle on my face. Ski racing!!
Cary came through 46 seconds later, ensuring that he would be allowed to ride in the car on the way home and not be shot in the woods on our cooldown.
This race report was very positive. It might trick you into thinking I am a good skier. In that case, please do not look at the results, and definitely don't notice that Jake Hollenbach put almost 20 seconds per kilometer on me.