Craftsbury Marathon Race Report

I've done a lot of classic marathons over the years. Well, like five. 250k of skiing, I'll call it a lot.

Our good buddy New England winter *usually* makes these a klister-binder affair, because there's some nice transformed ice mixed in with the powder and with hundreds of skiers going through each track, the ice has a way of overcoming the powder.


But I still can't explain why I thought it would be a good idea to use a klister binder. It was Thursday night, I was tired and in a hurry. The tube of KR20 was right there. So I just...did it. And then only brought one pair of (klistered) skis to the race. Because I am not very good at taking ski racing seriously, anymore.

When I woke up to see fresh snow, I realized I might have a problem. When the snow squalls started during the race, I knew I had a problem.

Since I registered day-of (online reg closed 7 days before the race... sneaky) I ended up in wave 2, which had exactly zero fast people in it. And I had slow skis with amazing kick.

...and that's why I was 2nd place in wave 2 after 22k. If you have good kick you gotta use it, right? So I was crushing the uphills, and getting eaten up on the downhills. But I was feeling good enough (because it was the first 90 minutes) to stay ahead of all but one guy. Nice day, good kick, great conditions -- feels great, man!

Until it doesn't. The problem with the whole "use good kick to make up for slow skis" thing is that "using good kick" still requires working HARD. I was climbing 10% faster but using 8% more effort; meanwhile everyone who was catching me gliding was using 0% more effort to do it...AND I'm a cross racer who does 60 minute efforts all fall. I knew what was going to happen, but I couldn't stop, the skiing was just too nice. Abby Weissman was at the 22k feed station, and I said to her "Abby I'm scrooooooooooooed." She was unimpressed at my fortitude.

I was right, though. This was my 3rd time classic skiing all year (!) so when we hit the 25k mark, it became LACTIC ACID BATHTIME. I got my rubber ducky out and prepared for a nice 25k soak in the pain...tub. All in the name of Birkie training?

The collection of older gentlemen that I had been holding off went skiing away from me and I tried really hard to convince myself that I was having fun. My muscles became progressively less useful, to the point where I really wasn't even breathing very hard. My heart could move all kinds of blood, but it didn't matter, when it got to my legs, they were just like... NO. Take that oxygen back.

Obviously my day ended with a bunch of college girls whom I had dropped at 2k in, passing me while talking to each other -- and then disappearing completely on a climb, even though I still had awesome kick, and thus no excuses.

NO EXCUSES! So I better just stop blogging, then.

The silliest thing about it all is that even though I spent two hours in a hot tub of my own lactic acid at the end, and my skis were endlessly frustrating, about ten minutes after finishing I was like, "eh, that was kinda fun."

Lap one, skiing with a bunch of guys who are twice my age and about to put five minutes on me on lap two. [ Dobie ]


If you're gonna live dangerously and bring only one pair of skis with binder pre-applied, you might as well hedge a bit and use hard-wax binder rather than klister binder. Just sayin'.
Colin R said…
Eric said…
That race is brutal when things don't go right. The worst for me was 06, there was barely any snow, so it was 45k of double poling on the lakes, then the final climb to the common. I was getting passed by tourers at the end.
Julia said…
"...about ten minutes after finishing I was like, "eh, that was kinda fun." That's a bit like childbirth, but it's more like 3 days later that a mom thinks it wasn't so bad. Sorry about your waxing decision; good character building though.
Ari said…
I almost did Craftsbury until I found out that a) online registration ended a week early (seriously? I mean a couple years ago, before the Birkie started filling in December, they had registration open online until the Tuesday before the race and *they have 8000 participants not 400*), b) I couldn't petition up unless I registered a week early (why are there waves for a couple hundred people striding anyway?), c) it was a loop race meaning a good chance of the tracks being shot the second lap, d) I got a cold on Tuesday, e) my ride up finked out and I didn't want to drive 7 hours alone and, oh, yeah, f) IT'S A 50K CLASSIC RACE. I've done one 50k classic race (GGtoBW) and lost to you by 15 seconds and was sick for a week. So F that.

But this brings me to my larger point about the long-distance racing in New England kind of sucking for a bunch of reasons:

1) There are no skate races before March. Seriously, you can't skate a race until you are burnt out, don't want to drive 4.5 hours to ski on a mediocre course (Rangeley) or slush (Sugarloaf). Why is here no big skate race, say, this weekend (oh, yeah, Lake Placid. No thank you to a five hour drive). And, uh, since like 1985 more people have skated than classicked. Also, it's NEW ENGLAND. It's icy or slushy 2/3 of the time. If you have a skate race it's not a big deal. Classic, everyone stays up all night worrying about wax (or, uh, puts on klister for fresh snow).

1a) There are no skate races south of Quebec, or wherever Rangeley and Stratton are in Maine. I believe there are ski trails south of there.

2) Races take themselves way too seriously. The Seeley Classic, which is the big classic-only race in the Midwest (22/42k on the Birkie Trail) has a similar number of participants to Craftsbury (about 500 over the two events, so it's actually bigger) and they have DAY OF registration. I mean, they could close it a week before. Or the night before. But they don't. Also, no waves there, just 220 people starting together. Koombayah. Plus $50 buys you race entry and a sweet hat.

3) 26k in Jackson is NOT a marathon. It's a mid-distance race. That leaves three marathons. And not a single one in February.

4) You can get 100 people to show up and ski circles around friggin' Weston on a Tuesday, but you can't get more than 200 to ski the preeminent marathon in the region? Seriously?

5) 50k of classic skiing sucks. Using the Birkie's calculation (1k skate = .85k classic) it's like skiing a 59k skate race. The only similarly long race in the country that anyone actually skis is the Mora Vasaloppet, and that race has one hill so it's not that bad. (min/k on that race are sweet)

6) There's no real training race for the Birkie, which at least a few dozen people from the region want to do, unless you want to take your chances with dying at Craftsbury. I think NENSA wants to keep the Birkie a secret from New England because it will show what happens when you put on races that people actually want to ski.

Ari said…
So, New England seriously needs a skate race that is less than three hours from Boston, preferably point-to-point, and takes place during the month of February. Seriously, if anyone could put that race (even without the point-to-point aspect) on I bet 300 people would show up and each pay at least $50 for the privilege of doing some Birkie training. (Hint, that's $15,000 dollars up for grabs.) Want to promote a race next winter? Yeah, me neither, but it would be nice.

Anyway, that's a bit of a rant, isn't it? Maybe I should just be happy that we have three feet of snow, that I can lay down on a bunch of masters on Tuesday nights, that my skis are fast (that's why I've been racing well) and figure that my summer base is going to get me through the Birkie, because good luck finding a 50k race before then. Or maybe we should all go have an impromptu 50k race somewhere in a couple weeks (say, the Ellis-Hall loop at Jackson twice, that's like 40 and has some hills).

Ugh. Okay.
megA said…
You got passed by college ladies who were chatting, and you didn't try to chat them up? Seriously? If you're going to tank a race, you should at least try to get some digits.

Cary said…
And you covered my GLIDE iron in Klister. Man you are filled with bad decisions.

Who the hell is Ari? That dude needs to whine less.

It was better birkie training than what I did that weekend. But yeah, marathons are fun.
Cary said…
At least Dobie got a pic of you looking good while #293 screams in pain behind you.
I'm sorry I missed this post until now. I do love to read about suffering!
Emily said…
I'm one of the college girls who passed you teammate and I skied the whole thing together. I definitely appreciate that it sucks to have bad wax, but just because I'm a girl who goes to college doesn't mean I'm not a serious athlete.

xcpaige said…
Hey - this is college girl #2. Thanks for the shout-out.


p.s. That was Emily's first 50k.
Colin R said…
Emily & Paige -

Thanks for reading. Definitely wasn't trying to imply that I was getting passed by non-serious athletes (that didn't happen until 45k or so...), just using the fact that you guys were having a conversation while passing me to emphasize how much worse of a second lap I skied than the folks I was racing against.

And getting beat by college girls in ski races is kind of a theme around here, so that's just the icing on the blogworthy-material cake.
Aaron D said…
Jeeze Colin, this blog is getting pretty popular. You'll be getting buyout offers anytime now.

Anyway, have fun in the county this weekend. I'll let you know how the flying moose is.
Cary said…
Geez Colin you are such as ass using talking college girls as the benchmark! Tell Paige to send some Tad autographs our way! I hope you got their digits. Alot of women could use a huge baller like you.
brian s said…
Don't sign up for craftsbury ahead of time. Just pay the extra $20 and sign up day of race. I signed up (paid my $120) and the next day they changed it from a 50k point to point to 4 laps of an 11k course (with 600 people on the course). What a nightmare. When they changed the course, I asked to cancel my application and they said "no, its our policy....." The course often changes, so just sign up day of race.

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