Sunday, January 31, 2010

William O'Brien Race Report

If you've been following along you may have noticed that I went skiing—lots—in the last couple of days. This is a good time of year to do volume, and with 2:00 on Friday and 2:40 on Sunday I am working up towards the long races which are upcoming in the next month. On Friday evening, I skied the whole City of Lakes course through the Bog, and then returned, which is, oh, about 29k, and yesterday I skied that much, and added on two extra loops of the first 8k—so about 45. Can anyone see where this is going?

Well, a couple good things. The course was gorgeous. I'd never skied William O'Brien before and was impressed. It is rather far away from the Cities, which is a shame—further than Woodland which is about as far as I drive just to go skiing for an hour or two—but it is just a splendid course. Lots of hills, up and down, great views across the Saint Croix to Wisconsin, a sweet bridge under the railroad, beautiful hardwood stands and prairie and the like. And the snow was in very good shape considering the weather recently—it was easily to edge and pretty fast, with maybe two uphill icy spots by the second lap and a couple squirrely downhills (especially as they got scraped off) but overall very good skiing.

Also, I totally hit the wax, kick and glide. Glide was pretty easy: moly and Fast Wax LF teal (no need for uber-flouros on cold, icy snow, although it wasn't that icy). And one of my skiers (Collin) came within a sprint (1 second) of winning). Kick was more of a guessing game. Since I didn't see the striders skis until the morning of the race (and then only after cajoling some keys to get in to the athletic facility), it was a race time decision. With the striders going out first. I told everyone to grab their bibs and got to waxing. On went the blow torch, and out came the klister.

I'd remembered reading something about Toko green base klister, and saw a tube. Huzzah! Then I grabbed some temperature-appropriate Swix and spread it on top. This was covered with a thin layer of something cold (some Toko blue, I think) and the skis were handed off with moments to spare. "If you don't like your kick, uh, put something else on" I said. He came fifth. (I could have won the 12.5k classic race. Damn.)

Me? Well, I went in thinking something like "if I feel good, I'll go hard. If not, 25k training day!" I started next to Katie Splan—a Mac professor—earlier one of the skiers had said "I think that's my biochem professor." She asked how I was feeling. I gave a non-commital answer. Results aren't out, but she may have beaten me. The field was huge—probably over 200—which many people said was the largest field in the 39 year history of the race. There were long lines to pick up numbers, but everyone who was paying attention (i.e. six out of the seven Macalester students there) made the start with ease. I was lined up in the third row—waxing had given me a late start—and with a narrow course, it would be a crazy start.

The gun went off, oh, four feet from me, and we started double poling. It would be a while before I skated. I fell in right behind a pack which formed ahead of me, but, well, didn't feel like going and catching it. I didn't want to kill myself early and bonk later in the race. Up and down a couple of the hills, a guy passed me and said "let's go get 'em!" I jumped behind—the big pack was still visible—and started gaining for the better part of a minute. And then, maybe four k in to the race, I had a bonk.

It wasn't a hard bonk—I didn't have that much gas in the tank to begin with. (The fact that Adam Swank won the Seeley Classic and won the 30k Boulder race the next week, well, is impressive. Of course, he is a beast.) But I stopped making up time. And within the next few kilometers, the folks I'd been skiing with and skied away from passed me. Whoops—I think I may have skied too much.

The other issue was the wind. In addition to 75k or skiing in the last 40 hours, there was a brisk northerly breeze blowing down the course, which I had not properly prepared for. Now, how do I say this? I was, uh, lacking mid-section protection. Let's see … boxers, long johns, shorts, spandex—not enough. But it wasn't brutal, which means I started to, uh, thaw out on every uphill, meaning that I got light-headed and nauseous (the body is well engineered to punish you for doing bad things like mis-dressing) and then refroze going down the next hill.

While most of the climbing was at the start of the race, the north-facing sections were near the end. I was skiing with a group—drafting a bit—and one skied off. The guy behind me said "do you want to go catch him?" Nope—I happily let him around. Yes, it was a 25k training race.

After diving through the wind at the lap—straight in to the wind—this became a common occurrence. Someone would get behind me, I'd let them pass (my skis were slow, I think they do need a stone grind). Going down a hill with about 6k left, I caught an edge (the hills were getting gnarly) and fell to the side of the trail. Once I was going down—knowing there were a couple folks behind me (I'd passed a couple of striders) I had a controlled skid off the trail. Having stopped, out of the wind, I was warm and happy. 6k to go, in to the wind.

I didn't get passed by many more folks during the rest of my ski. (It had ceased to be a race.) With about 3k left, I picked up the pace a bit—not that there was anyone nearby—and with an open kilometer in to the wind near the end, bit down on my tongue. The last hill was icy, but I made it down, and then, to prove I was still alive, put my head down and sprinted the last 300m—that's how I should have been skiing the rest of the time. Or maybe I just wanted to get the hell out of the wind.

We finished, I became happier, drank water, and decided that it was the least fun I'd had in a race in a while. The combination of the cold and the tired compounds, with interest, as the race goes on. Still, it was a lovely, sunny day in a beautiful park, and I can't complain too much. Results aren't up, but other than me, all the Macalester kids did well (and I don't really count) so that's sort of successful. Hopefully this will be my "bad race" for the year, and it'll only get better.

And, no, I won't be skiing 75k the two days before the City of Lakes next week.

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