While a good contingent of the team was up in da UP racing the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, I stayed local and added a few more laps around the Elm Creek man made loop doing the Baker Shaker ski race.
I think I may have injured myself though. After a solid workout at Elm Tuesday night with Mitch and Tommy, I was kind of looking forward to an 8 lap race on the course. I'm pretty sure that is clear evidence something isn't right in my head.
Not much special here. After picking up my bib I went out and skied about 5 km. A little more would have been nice, but that was what I had time for. The trail was in good condition and pretty dang fast. Above freezing temps the day before and temps just below freezing over night made it nice and slippery without making it overly icy. Fast Wax HSF-20 on my A skis. They started fast and stayed fast despite the warming temps and reported slowing down of competitors skis.
I lined up on the second row I think. Off the line there was a little jostling but as far as I could tell no one went down. Starting from the practice field there isn't much runway until you get to the trail so its probably best they started us tightly packed instead of all spread out.
As you might expect, things started out pretty hot downhill for the majority of the first kilometer. My start seemed pretty good as I only did a little bit of passing/being passed through that point. Up the climb to the practice field that first lap I was near the back of the lead bunch of 20 or so. We were stringing out some, but there was definitely some jockeying going on.
Nearing the end of the first lap there was a few gaps forming. I could see there was a lead pack of 6, a chase pack of 7 and then myself and three others. I contemplated trying to catch up to the chase pack but was concerned that I would blow up. My race strategies have been a little more conservative in general lately. If I go out too hot and push it over the edge things get very tired, sore, and I start skiing tight, which throws off my technique which then just continues a viscous cycle and things don't go well. I felt as though I was on the edge so opted to not push.
I ended up leading our second chase back for the remainder of the first lap and most of the second lap. I pulled over at the end of the second lap to let someone else pull for a while. Post race I met my fellow racers John Hopkins and Blaze Fugina. Blaze pulled through and led for the second lap. I took a few short pulls over the next lap or so, but nothing significant. John stayed safely tucked at the back. Without saying as much, I offered to lead more by pulling along side Blaze. Essentially saying, I'll pull if you want to let up a second and pull in behind. He seemed happy to lead so I was happy to follow.
I decided I was going to race with these guys instead of going for a finish time. My skis were definitely the best of the three. I felt pretty good in the middle of the race. I did my best to conserve energy without stepping on poles. I was only moderately successful at the latter. Sorry guys.
Lap 5 or 6 I started to formulate my strategy. I was a little concerned that John was conserving even more hanging out at the back. I tried to keep an eye on him. I could see that Blaze was starting to feel the efforts. There was more V1 than on previous laps and a little more body language at the tops of the climbs.
I debated between surging at the start of the last lap on the slight decline, or saving it for diving into the donut and pushing the last 800 m or so. My concern with the former was if I pushed too hard and didn't get a gap I might blow up and limp in the rest of the lap. So much for go big or go home.
I opted for the latter and as we went under the bridge heading for the donut I pushed hard up the little hill, across the flat, and into the downhill. I wanted to get that gap and use my faster skis to make it stick. I never looked back and just hammered the hill as hard as I could. I could taste my efforts towards the top. I managed to keep it together and continue my push all the way back down under the bridge and to the finish line.
I clearly had saved something in the tank. I managed to put 13 seconds into Blaze and 32 into John over that last 800 m. In post race discussions it was my push up the donut that sealed the deal for Blaze. He said when he saw me doing V2 up the hill he said no way and gave up the chase.
I feel good about racing yesterday. It was fun and my fellow competitors were good racers and it was fun to chat afterwards.
As for the overall results, I wonder if I couldn't have done better. Blaze talked about trying to pull us up to the first chase group. Had we worked together more, I wonder if we couldn't have done that. I don't think that group made any progress in gapping us over the last 4 or 5 laps. 1:17 would have been a lot to pull out though. It would have been over 8 seconds/km faster. What if I had pushed to hang onto the back of that pack and hung there? Would I have blown up? Would I have been able to conserve at the back of a group of 8? I guess I won't know for sure.
As far as the magic spreadsheet goes, there weren't all that many racers in common with the other races this year. It topped out at 6 co-racers at the Holiday Tune-up back in December. It appears to generally be on par with that race at -1.2% faster. There was a decent comparison against the 2014 Birkie and results continue to stack-up as an improvement over last year.
Only time will tell. Just under 27 days to be more specific about the amount of time.