What a day! The snow was so fast that I didn't have time to stop and take A SINGLE PICTURE!!! Folks, I keep telling you (and some of you never listen) but Badger State Games is one of the best races of the year! It's a marathon distance race on a challenging but not ridiculously difficult venue. Sure, there are some long, grinding hills, but there aren't any of those "vertical wall" climbs that single-handedly add 15 minutes to your overall time.
Also, 9-mile is essentially in a swamp so it holds the snow better than the surrounding area.
There is nothing better than waking up on race morning and heading out to your car to find that the temperature is already about 18 degrees. I don't know about the rest of you, but the hardest part of race morning is rolling out of bed and facing the pitch black of a Wisconsin winter morning. When that pitch black includes a temperature of -86 degrees and gale force winds...sometimes I'm tempted to roll over and watch netflix all day.
But hey, when it's 18 at the start with a high in the mid-twenties, you don't have anything to complain about. That's the kind of day that you remember why you got into skiing in the first place.
There was a huge contingent of Cyclova people out there at Wausau. It's fun to see the boys and girls in green and go up and share a few words in that nervous hour before the event. More and more I'm starting to really appreciate that pre-race time. Everybody is marching in a straight line. Everybody is on the same page. Everybody has the same goal, and it's awesome. That happens so rarely in life...all your friends are always pushed and pulled in different directions, and it's just great to see people come together even for a brief moment. That's when amazing things happen!
Just doing the warm-up I knew it was going to be a good day. The trail was hard, and even the soft snow on top was packed into little ball bearings. We lined up and started without incident. There's a bottleneck early in the race, but there are also a couple places where the trail widens out enough to pass. In truth, the track was so fast that there was no need to pass for the first 10k or so. You just got in line and hammered.
The hills broke things up as they always do, but by then the field had spread out enough. 9-mile doesn't have any turns that keep me awake at night, but with the fast conditions there are a couple right handers that got a little jittery. The effect was compounded by the fact that everybody started snow plowing which started bringing up some dirt on the second lap. I hit a rock hard at the end of the first lap, but not hard enough to knock me down...eh...that's what stonegrinding is for.
Micah caught up with me at the end of the first lap and I skied with him until about KM 33. We had one of those annoying deals where we passed a guy in the shorter race, who proceeded to sprint in front of us and then immediately slowed down right before a narrow stretch of trail; so we were stuck behind him for about a K, but that was fine since it was kind of a rest.
Micah bolted on the hills. Later he said he wanted to get around the two or three upcoming sharp turns without worrying about having anyone behind him (sound strategy). If you've never raced Badger State, the race is essentially over at KM 40. After that, it's a nice set of rollers that trend downhill into the stadium. I hit that section hard and even managed to pass a couple guys right before the finish. Passing them didn't matter a whole lot since I was racing at the back of the field, but it's always fun to finish a race strong.
In the end I finished in 2:37. The winners were under 2 (check out full results here). Lately I've been celebrating doing marathon length ski races in the 3 hr range, so this was perfect. It's good to have a reminder how much fun high speeds on skis can be. A lot of this result is due to the fast conditions, but I think I'm in a little better shape than the last couple years. Who knows, sometimes a fast race helps you find the motivation to train a little harder and go a little faster.
We were all smiles at the end. It's nice to get your cup of soup in your race clothing and not stand there shivering...it's just nice to ski when it's not -10! Perfect conditions, and based on the forecast, the Pre-Birkie is going to be awesome as well. Days like these are the reason we ski, it'd be insane not to participate in these events with 1,000 of your closest friends!