|Frozen beard at Badger State 2014|
Whoa...that was a beat-down!
The 2014 ski season has been a lot of fun so far. There have been a couple of times (Sisu and Marine O'Brien) where I actually felt like I was in a race again. No, I wasn't competing for overall or even age class results. But I was in groups and making moves and doing all the things that make racing fun.
The other two races were just a death march to the finish as thousands (maybe millions) of people came flying by. The second of those two death marches happened today at Badger State games.
The one good thing about this good/bad scenario is that it's been happening on alternating weekends. What that means is that I should be good at both the Pre-Birkie and Birkie!
It was frigid again this morning as I made the drive down to 9 mile recreation area in Wausau WI. at 9 the little app on my phone said -1. I was thinking it'd probably be warmer at race time, but as I left my car at 10 the app said -2. Still, I don't know how accurate that stupid thing is because it didn't feel like a freezing day. I just went with a smartwool top along with a balaclava and I didn't get cold (although I didn't really feel comfortable throughout the day either).
Like I said before, I had a pretty good race at Marine O'Brien (by my standards) so I was hopeful that things would be on the uptick. To that end, I decided to go ahead and hit it a little bit at the start. Over the last couple of races, I've been "slow-poling" the starts. The idea is to get through it clean, avoid pile-ups and broken equipment. Still, even with "slow-poling" I usually get out pretty quickly.
Well, today I lined up right between Leske and Mackey. When the gun went off we started to hammer semi-easily. Then Leske decided to do a flying "glide test."
"Man, I got no glide" he said as he slid nearly to a halt.
That inspired me to hammer for about five strokes. About then we got to the end of the set tracks at the start and I found my gap, started skating and...
It was clear pretty quick that I wasn't where I should be. It's a sinking feeling when you see considerable gaps open up with every stroke. I hate getting in the way of other competitors, but fortunately there is a lot of space at the start of Badger state. I hammered to the top of the first hill, then jumped in the tracks to get out of the way.
Badger opens on to a long downhill, so I let a couple people pass and then merged back into the group. After a while, I met up with Mackey (who had had a much more sensible start than I did), and we skied together for the first lap. However, just before the finish area, I told him that I thought I was holding him back.
"Oh, I just want to set a good pace and not blow up," he said. He was doing his first marathon, and that was a veteran move for an 18 year old (I wish I'd been as smart).
"Well, just go ahead and see how you feel," I said.
He drifted away from me and I didn't see him again until the finish line. It really became just a matter of settling in for the long haul and not working so hard that I sweated so much that I got cold. I eventually finished in 3:19 (or thereabouts), which was quite a bit slower than the 42 k up at Sisu.
One of the quirky little things about Badger is that they split the 42 up into "A" and "B" starting groups which are determined solely by age. It makes it kind of fun because it means I get to see Tommy, Duane, Eddie, and Dan as they all come flying by. However, I wish they'd revert to an "elite/non-elite" system.
It was fun when Tommy came flying by. He was ON one today and had about a five minute lead on the next guy in the "B" group. He still had enough energy to growl a hearty greeting as he went dancing up the hills.
Next came Eddie who was mainly swearing about how tough it was that day. However, Eddie just rends the course as you all know.
After that came Duane, who was kind of mumbling in fury about his wax.
Finally came Dan, who worked himself so hard today that he couldn't see straight at the end of the race. I'm being serious about that. He said to me, "man...the last half dozen corners were a blur, if I had to drive home today I couldn't do it!"
This of course made me burst out laughing, although I am slowly learning that a more appropriate response is to verify whether or not your friends are in some truly grave state. However, Bob Peterson was along, and he's a doctor, and he didn't seem all that worried so I figured I didn't need to be.
Afterwards, we had a little huddle and decided that anything more than Start Green today was probably over-thinking things. I used the exact same wax that I had on my skis for Marine O'Brien, but they just didn't roll. It's kind of hard to get an accurate temperature for 9 mile since it's in a swamp and it seems it creates a pocket of cold air that doesn't exist elsewhere. Also, this was fairly new snow that had been through a couple very cold nights, so it was abrasive and fluffy.
I felt bad for the people who were doing classic technique. This was one of those rare days where there was no benefit to jumping in the tracks. When you looked into the tracks, there wasn't any of that shiny glaze that all the skiers create on a normal day. Instead it looked like a sidewalk that had just been shoveled.
The end result of all this was that there was no free lunch at any point on the course, you had to work for it, and it beat you down (unless you were Tommy, then it was a cakewalk :) ).
Still, all is good. A day like today toughens you up for the next race, and if your wax wasn't right, heck, that just makes you that much tougher than the guys who nailed it. Here's to hoping that Dan is seeing straight again in time for the Pre-Birkie! I'm thinking I've earned a couple beers and a day of watching football. Are there any good games coming up?