I think the best thing about the winter season is that even when I get sick and take a weekend off, I can always hit up the ol' Tuesday Night smackdown at Weston and get in something blogworthy.
Before we get to the "action" (spoiler alert: there was drafting), I want to call your attention to a new race on the New England calendar.
Last year my dad and I were kicking around the idea of trying to make a single-loop 50k "Dixville Loppet" up at the Balsams, you know, that place with the giant trail system and amazing snow that never has races, and thus is unknown to the nordic racer dork crowd?
I don't want to give my INTERNET PRESENCE too much credit or anything, but they are finally hosting a race at the Balsams this year, and it's a single lap 30k classic race, aka a moderately more sane version of exactly what we proposed. The great irony it's the same weekend as the damn Birkie, which I signed up for and bought airfare for back in November. So I can't even do the race I blogged into existence. Bummer.
Anyway, if you're sick of skiing on transformed ice, or sick of doing the same 8 races every year (or is that just me?), you should really check this one out. The details are here here, registration is here, and check out the lodging deal -- book a room in their grand freaking Hotel either Friday or Saturday night and you get two days of skiing, race entry, and meals included. It's entirely possible that's too classy a deal for anyone reading this, but hey, they won't know you're a racer bum if you don't tell 'em.
Yes, I just spent half a page shilling for a ski race, but is it really shilling if you believe every word you're saying? I think not. Go to the Balsams.
Aside from that, yesterday was Tuesday, which means Weston beatdown time! After an entirely sedentary week I decided to hit it hard on Sunday and Monday, so of course I felt like crap on the start line. I whined my hardest to Cary, but it didn't matter, I still had to beat him.
The race was also dry run #1 of several to test out my "birkie cam" setup, that is, mounting my HD Flip on my water bottle belt facing backwards. Sadly... trial #1 didn't come out that well. I need to stop moving my hips when I skate. Ah well, I'll figure out something.
Even though I felt like crap, the standard Weston strategy was still in effect -- make the front group and hang until you can't. Sometimes I can hang all the way to the finish, no matter how badly I feel, so it's dumb not to try.
Everything started as usual, I got away cleanly and into around 10th position or so. There was the typical accordion, the typical accelerations, it was all going so well for about five minutes. Then I realized that my lower legs weren't recovering anywhere near how they ought to be, and my time with the leaders was actually going to be quite short.
My excuse for this is that I put my new orthotics in my ski boots for the first time on Monday, skied for 45 minutes while thinking "wow, this is totally different, and my technique is getting messed up by having an actually supported foot." So I got scared and took them out for the race. As a result, my legs/feet had no idea what the heck was going on. "Support me or don't support me, just pick one!" Sorry guys.
Of course I fought too long to stay on the front group (but I'm draaaafting!) so when I finally did get popped, I blew up and dropped an anchor with 10 minutes to go. Excellent. Even worse, I heard a woman yelling at someone for stepping on her poles behind me, so I knew that Anna McLoon and Cary were close behind, and if there's any two people in the race I need to beat it's them.
I got picked up by Anna and Cary, and it was time to GROVEL. They were sharing the work, taking turns, and generally not skiing like they were hanging on for dear life. Me? I dangled at the edge of losing the draft for the next five minutes, while frothing phlegm all over my face.
However, thanks to the race only being 7k, the finish line was approaching just fast enough to convince me I could keep up the suffering. With a two climbs left, Cary went to the front and started pulling away. Oh no! I dug deep, came around Anna, and closed the gap over the top of the climb. I had a lot of cross races to avenge.
On the downhill Cary was free skating while I was tucking, and I got close to him. Really close. And his first pole plant ended up being right in front of my ski, and I stomped it. The pole didn't break, but with his basket pinned to the ground for that crucial second there wasn't much he could do except crash.
I realize that rubbin's racin' and all that, but I still felt like a big tool, so I stopped and waited for him to get up and get back in front of me. But we only had a climb left, so as soon as he was in front I had to attack him anyway to try to win the sprint. In retrospect, standing up to let someone get in front of you, only to go sprinting past 20 seconds later might be as toolish as just crashing them out.
Luckily Cary is a cool dude, so none of this fazed him. He is just stockpiling motivation for our Birkie showdown, anyway, so every time I wrong him it can only hurt my chances in Wisconsin.
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