Sunday, February 7, 2010

Loppet Report

Not too much of a report (I think). The Loppet, as a trail and event, was fantastic. Great organization, a perfectly groomed trail (good snow to thank for that) and a deep field. The start was a bit chaotic, and I definitely didn't get a good position; I'd missed the timing on the first double pole and everyone was off.

And it didn't get much better. The first couple turns were all double poling, and we then headed down in front of the quarter pipe on the snowboard hill, which, on my warm-up, I'd realized was a jump. Not realizing it was a race I tried to catch air. And did so perfectly. I sailed about ten feet and then stuck the landing. Barely. Another skier said "good save" and I said, "that was stupid."

And then for about 10k I felt slow. I think part of it was not having had enough to drink. I really need to remember to drink more. Lots and lots. Three trips to the bathroom the night before. I was cramped up through the hills and flats and across Wirth Lake, and only salvaged some piece of decency by having a couple cups of water at the feeds.

I felt slightly better in the hills in Bryn Mawr, although not good enough to jump on when the first girls passed us. Before we got out of the Flower Gardens, however, the fourth and fifth women (Carolyn Bramante and Lindsey Dehlin—both olympians, which is some consolation for getting girled) passed two of us guys and we jumped on. At this point, Ben Pedersen had been catching up with me and was only a few seconds behind, and I wanted to be ahead of him. The girls set a good pace—not hurried, but solid—the pace I wish I could set for myself at the start of a race, and we steamed through the woods, catching Freddy Kueffer on the last hill and through the feed and on to the lakes. The girls didn't seem to mind leading; they knew they were far behind the top three and would hold off those behind him, and a couple of us guys didn't mind the help. Although on one hill, a guy cheering yelled "let's go ladies—" and added, as an afterthought, "and guys."

That was fine. I was feeling slightly better on the lakes. We went on to the Cedar Lake Trails and after the U-turn Carolyn caught an edge and ate some snow, but there was no reason to try to drop her. She jumped back in. We were headed for the canal when a second waver stormed past. Carolyn jumped on his tail (a draft!). I did too. Lindsey did not. This guy was moving, though, and I didn't quite keep the draft. So I went through the canal on my own, and then around Isles.

Isles was rather well groomed and was very wide, so we were able to cut a couple corners. A couple small groups came and went, and at the end we headed up the ramp and in to the sprint. I was neck-and-neck with a guy going in to the finishes but outsprinted him (always makes things better) and finished, feeling pretty okay.

I grabbed a cookie and talked with Jakob and Emily and John and others, and then went to cheer Macalester skiers on the lakes. Fun times. Then it was time to eat soup, get a brat (so good) and go home. No, it wasn't the Surly festival after the Trail Loppet (when they gave free beer—one per person—until they had more beer than people) but it was good. Then I went home and went to sleep.

My results? 92d place—the lowest I've ever scored in the race—and 120% of the winning time. This is a drop from last year, but it's actually a bad comparison. Matt Liebsch skied this year, and took the title by quite a bit. In last year's race, I finished 17% behind the top three guys. Compared to the third place guy, Andre Watt, who skis about the same pace, I was 16%. I'm rationalizing here, obviously.

Anyway, drink more before races and ski fast. Right? Right. Still best Loppet ever!

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