Being an insufferable racerhead has some benefits. Let's say you skied terribly on Saturday, and almost decided to bag the rest of the ski season, and not race a bike until April 10th. That would be a rough 6 weeks, wouldn't it, with "I skied the worst race of my life in the biggest race of the country" as a sendoff to your 2010 nordic season?
But wait! Why not take one more shot at ski racing, when there's 20 minutes of pain just down the street every Tuesday night?
The pro thing to do would obviously have been a proper rest week, but I decided to mortgage my recovery a bit in exchange for a bit of sanity. It didn't help that (pro skier) Alex was talking trash after beating me by 22 minutes in Wisconsin, and made it known that this would be her lone Tuesday night appearance. I figured the standard for hanging up the skis would be "can't beat Alex in a 7k," and headed off to see if I should continue my season.
It hasn't been below freezing in what, four days in Boston, so Weston was sloppy. The hills were ankle deep mashed potatoes, and the straights looked firm right up until you tried to push off, upon which you'd bury your ski as the snow gave way and almost fall over. It was nasty, calf-burning skating. I was not happy about this before the race, no matter how times I tried to remember, "it sucks for everyone."
I found Alex and started whining up a storm before we started, even though I promised I wouldn't make any excuses.
And I felt like a fool when the race started, and I somehow slipped into 4th place, and after 200 meters thought to myself, "oh. I can do this, after all." Conditions were crap and no one could ski fast, and my super-rilled Weston-killer skis were actually better than most. And when you're plowing through slush, being 145 lbs is a pretty big advantage. What was I so worried about, again?
Two guys got off the front immediately, so us regulars were going to race for 3rd place. Fine with me. I jumped in the track on a downhill because it was way firmer than the trail, which was a genius move that took me straight to the front of the group. Crap, now I'm leading on lap one. Significantly less genius.
I noticed I even had a bit of a gap, but I wasn't about to try to solo 18 minutes to the finish with a bunch of stronger guys chasing. I've seen how that goes, they catch me on lap 2 and drop me on lap 3. Ok, so just get off the front!
I got someone else to lead and snuck back into second, but my darn fast skis had me overtaking him on the next downhill. This should've been good, but I had to step out to the side to get some wind, and then I couldn't get back in because everyone tightened up in line. I drifted back pathetically while trying to find a gap to jump into.
Finally I found a spot behind Rob, but this spot only existed because Rob decided that it was go time and headed to the front. I followed him, because I didn't feel half as terrible as I should at this point. We went thrashing up Mt Weston in 6 inches of slush, and oh yeah, that's what I usually feel like by now.
Still though, over the top in 2nd in the group means everyone else is feeling it too. I started up a cheesy inner monologue about how this was the last Tuesday nighter of the year, we had ten minutes to go, and I could totally f-ing do this. Totally!
I got shuffled back a bit but held onto the rapidly shrinking front group as lap two ended. One of the CSU juniors got around me just in time to get himself gapped...dammit. And I was so close to redeeming myself, too! I got back around him but couldn't catch the draft, no matter how fervently I tried to harden up. The bottom line was that accelerating when you're skiing through something with the consistency of hummus isn't really possible.
Right when I was about to give up, though, the group took a curious line through some of the soft stuff next to one of the few firm sections on the course. I was about 10m back so I diverted to the hard snow, got the first solid pushoffs of the entire race, briefly doubled my speed, and just like that I was back on!
With the end in sight there was nothing to do but froth all over myself for a bit and then try to win the sprint. Frank and Rob got some separation while I was still celebrating closing the gap, so they were gone, but I did get around Andy and Dave to pull in a 5th place on the night and some much-needed redemption. I'm back, baby!
With a 50k this Saturday I suspect my ski career's revival will be short-lived. That's ok, I'm not sure how much longer I can handle reading about everyone else's training rides, anyway.
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