I realized the other day that I had virtually the exact same January 2010 as January 2009. Same races, same training, same results. I think I'm turning into solobreak. And now it's February 2010, and I have the same head cold that I had for the first week of February 2009. Creepy.
Of course, I did do one thing differently in January, I finally hardened up and did a 50k before March.
Sentences like that one prove that I'm not a real skier, because it's past mid-season for most people at this point, and they've been on snow for 2+ months, rollerskis since September, and are trying to "hang onto their form" as the season drags on. Meanwhile, I'm congratulating myself on the fact that I skied for a whopping 3 hours without breaking down completely.
Craftsbury is the "big" New England marathon, which isn't saying much compared to actual big marathons like the Birkie. But since I'm registered for the Birkie (wooooooooo) I figured it was probably a good idea to get a 50k under my belt before then. Cary and Blazar, fellow Birkie travelers, felt the same way, so off we went to Vermont as the temperature plummeted. Race day morning was forecast to be -10. I slept in my windbriefs, just to be safe.
Somehow, I am e-friends with the only 'cross racer in Craftsbury Common, so we had the nicest lodging hookup of anyone in the entire race. We were literally able to ski to the start line from Sheldon's house. We had to drive away from the start line to pick up our bibs. Sheldon and Linda rule, and I can't give you their last names, because then you might locate them and steal my lodging.
Obviously, with it being below zero outside, bib pickup requiring a drive, and the race starting at 9, we were going to cut it close on time. I got up, shoveled down some gruel and coffee, and all of the sudden it was 8:15, I didn't have wax on my skis, I wasn't dressed, I hadn't even used the bathroom, and we had to ski 2.5k to the start. I ran around wildly for 20 minutes, threw every piece of clothing I owned on, and rushed off toward the start line.
Of course, when you're wearing double long underwear and 3 jackets, while skiing to avoid missing the start of your race, you generate a lot of heat, even if it's -4 outside. So when we got the start line with five minutes to spare, the first thing I did was start ripping clothes off. Because obviously, when you've just coated yourself in a layer of sweat, you should strip down until you feel "comfortable" and then head off skiing for 3 hours with zero chance of changing clothes.
I think the only thing that saved me from dying of hypothermia was that I didn't have time to take off much. I ditched my pants, jacket, and the vest I had under my suit, and by the time I got my number back on they had just called "one minute." Well crap. Let's just go ahead, then.
Luckily I was using the "put dudes in the way so you start slowly" strategy so lining up at the back was no big deal. It worked really well. Really really well. The race started, we went 50 yards to the first hill, and then we stopped. I walked up the hill, the tracks narrowed down to 4, and we stopped again. We went around the field to the first herringbone hill, and I stopped again.
I realized that I needed to ski faster just to warm up, because it was -4 and I had just taken off most of my clothes.
Ok, so Cary could be seen about 10 skiers ahead, and I was cold, and there was kind of a track on the edge of the trail. All of these problems could be solved by trying to pass ten people on the next hill, so I went ahead and did it. Everything was going so well until the track ended, and I became "dude who really wants to get into that line of skiers."
If it was a World Cup sprint I would've just leaped onto someone's tips and been done with it, but 50ks require a bit more civility. Somehow I got into the middle of the two tracks, which now meant that I was pinballing between two lines of skiers. This was not an improvement, and they were displeased enough by my antics that no one let me in. Including Cary.
Eventually things sorted out, but hey, that was embarrassing!
All the flailing did get my up to Cary, which meant I could calm down again. We skied together for a while, maybe to 5k or so, but then I took the lead on one of the downhills and never saw him again. Apparently, he learned the hard way that Toko spray-on green klister applied 30 minutes before race start is not an adequate binder for an icy 50k. He eventually stopped to rewax twice.
After shedding Cary I strode up next to Luke from Colby, and we skied together with some masters for the rest of the lap. Luke let me know that he wasn't going to get dropped easily by skiing all over my tails for Ruthie's run. Ah well, that's what college guys do, right?
On lap two I ended up at the front of our group going into one of longer climbs, and gave it as much gas as I'm willing to give with 35k left. After a few minutes, no one was in sight behind me, so I guess it worked. I actually felt really good on lap two, but still managed to go a minute slower than lap one.
Finishing lap two I noticed that it seemed like I'd been out there forever, and yet clearly I was only halfway. Oh yes, I remember how this works... I feel good right until I want to die in every single marathon I do.
So of course lap three I was still mostly functional, but the writing was on the wall. I stopped catching people, and started suffering to stay with the group I was in. I remember thinking, "wow, the guy in front of me must have no wax" as he double-poled up a 3% grade, followed directly by "wow, I can't believe I'm getting dropped by a guy double-poling up a hill."
I dropped another 2 minutes off my lap time on lap three, but it wasn't until about 10k to go in the race when I completely dropped an anchor. Just like my last classic marathon. Pretty much everyone I'd been skiing with left me in the dust. My hamstring started threatening to cramp, so my stride became what could generously be described as a "power shuffle." My arms were long since trashed, so I navigated most of the lap via "power shuffle."
The results were not pretty, I added five minutes to my lap three time, and staggered in at 3:05 for 54th place... 35 minutes back.
And best of all, I considered this a total success.
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