|It was a cold day, and the only photo I got was inside the food tent :)|
By Ben Mullin
Finally a marathon race this season with good conditions. Well the snow was good albeit squeaky slow, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, and the race temp started about zero and ended about zero. Two out of three ain’t bad. After a week of travel followed by the Marine O’Brien race on sinus crud I was feeling a lot better during the week and really looking forward to laying down a good race.
I brought two pairs of skis, one softer pair with straight Fast Wax HS-0 and my better stiff pair with Fast Wax LF-10 and Toko Xcold powder. On the little test loop the conditions were firm and it was hard to determine much difference but the mixed batched seemed ever so slightly faster. After three km my fingers were killing me so I called it a complete test and put the soft pair away and tried to find somewhere warm to wait until closer to the start.
After a final restroom stop and deciding I did want my water bottle with, I heard “second and final call for wave 7” (me). I rushed over to the start and stripped my warm-ups and slid into a spot about four rows back next to Ben Jonjak. 43km is a long ways to go, so no real need to be on the starting line when the field is only 65.
A high school friend and team mate was a few lanes over and in the second row. Nick completely killed me at the City of Lakes Loppet two years ago. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about racing against him not knowing where his fitness was this year.
After a brief false start when the starter accidentally pushed the horn we were officially off. The start was clean until someone crashed almost directly in front of me in the first corner. I just managed to clear their splayed poles. There was plenty of traffic for the first 3 or 4 km with people coming and going. During this time I moved up to just behind Nick and followed him for a km or so. When the group in front of him started pulling away I decided to go around. I was really nervous not wanting to go ahead and then blow up to get passed back again, but I also didn’t want to let my concern over one person dictate my race. Post race discussions seem to indicate it was a tough day out there for him. The next rematch will be the Birkie. Of course he’ll be skiing out of wave 2 and I’ll be out of wave 8.
So I pushed on and hopped onto the train of about 6 other people. The pack of 6 broke up at the first aid station around 7km and ended up with just two other people and myself out front. A few km later we reeled in Tim Wilkie and he joined our little group. We skied the rest of the first lap pretty solidly. Somewhere in the last 5km or so I pulled away a little bit, but never made much ground and as we came through the lap Tim and another guy caught back on. Tim and I spent the next 12km or so trading leads.
Up until the second to last aid station at about 33 km I was feeling good and having fun. I was starting to tire and cramp just a little bit. Tim also indicated he was tightening up though. Pulling through that second to last aid station Tim slowed down while I took my Gatorade at a little faster pace. I figured it was my chance to make a gap stick so I went to push it a little bit. And bonked.
It wasn’t a complete bonk, but man was it hard to hold anything resembling even moderate technique and it took serious mental effort to move up the hills. With about 5km to go and just after the last aid station Tim caught back up. Given how much I was struggling I figured he was going to blow me out of the water, but he hung behind for a little while. There was someone hanging just 20 or 30 second up the trail from us and Tim finally made a move. I figured it was over at that point and just let him go. I kept it together enough though to pull in the other guy. As I did I got my last little energy back and managed to push the last 2km enough that I pulled Tim back to within about 50m by the finish.
What a great race though. The trails were in great condition, the skies clear, and the zero degrees didn’t even feel that bad. My face was chilled at points and my hands only just started to get cold in the last 5km. I felt really good (except for that last 10km) and I am very happy to have skied with people for an entire race. Historically I seem to get hung out to dry in no man’s land skiing by myself even in a 10km.
Post race data analysis is a little in conclusive. My analysis relies on competitors in common between races and the field at BSG only had a few people in common with other races I’ve done. That said it does appear to be a solid race and it was the first marathon I’ve completed. So while it may not be the absolute best race I’ve done, I will call it very solid and encouraging.
Other Cyclovaers had good days as well. Tommy Krentz, Kevin Rodgers, and Ryan Rodgers all collected age group hardware.
Fun times with good people and a nice confidence booster for my first Birkie in three weeks.