Last year's weird winter of training made for such a good result at the Birkie that the only logical progression was to get even weirder THIS winter... by getting on xc skis a grand total of four times in January. I mean, I still have 26 days until I have to line up against people who get paid to ski race at the biggest race in North America, so I don't see how this could be a problem. Not like my ego is fragile enough that I could already be losing sleep over getting dropped out the back of the elite wave 5k into the race, no, not at all...
ANYWAY the first step to True Nordic Fitness (tm) is throwing down on Tuesday nights at Weston, for 15 minutes of PAIN on a magical mixture of SLUSH and ICE. The daytime high was a mere 42, aka "normal Boston winter," aka "one of the colder days we've had this year," so the conditions were relatively good... wet enough to not be piles of granular sugar on top of ice, but cold enough to not be puddles of slush. It was fast, and fast skiing means drafting, and drafting means FAKING IT. Yes!
They are doing a new "rolling start" at Weston with seeding positions and all kinds of complexity in an attempt to keep clowns from breaking each others poles (protip: a "clown" is anyone who steps on someone else's pole, unless it was you, in which case it was just an honest misstep and everyone should chill out). It meant that we had 300% more yelling and getting-talked-down-to during the preamble and staging, but it did seem to more-or-less work. So there's that. In any case, we puttered around for 60 seconds and then the race "went live."
I slipped into the draft around 8th and noticed that Cary was right behind me, so that made things pretty simple -- hang onto the draft as long as possible, and hope that's longer than he hangs. CROSS CLASH! Or something.
For two laps the pace was more or less reasonable. The ticking time-bomb that was EVERY MUSCLE ASSOCIATED WITH LATERAL MOVEMENT IN MY BODY was quietly tick-tocking away in the background, but it wasn't until the final lap that the fuse started to get short.
By that point the front group was down to nine, and I was more-or-less tailgunning in eighth. I remember thinking that this was a crappy position to be in, and that I had absolutely no ability to do anything about it. Sure, there was a high school girl drafting me, but I mean, I'm sure she feels the same way. Right?
Then we hit Mt Weston for the last time and she rocketed off the back, past three of us, and slotted into sixth right as the group broke in half, with the back three of us missing the split. My brain asked "did that really just happen?" and my legs answered, "OH GOD SO MUCH LACTIC SHUT UP SHUP UPPPP."
So Julia Kern is pretty good at skiing, and Cary and I are washed up old men. Glad we got that settled.
Anyway, Cary, Dave Currie and I went out the back with a few minutes to go, and then we had our own little smackdown. I got excited and attacked my way to the front on the second-to-last hill, and then realized that was totally unsustainable and went right to the back. I can pretend it was part of the plan, though, because the finish comes on a downhill and I totally slingshotted off the draft to win the sprint for seventh with a possibly-frivolous ski throw over Cary!
Then I coughed up a lung and went home, because that was WICKED HARD.
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