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Mullin's Seeley Hills Classic Race Report

In my SISU report, I said I was signed up for the 22km race at Seeley because I wasn't sure I could pull off a classic marathon.  One of the reasons I wasn't confident is I'm worried about missing the wax for the day and having to double pole and/or herringbone the whole thing.  As I was looking at the forecast on Tuesday it was for race time temps in the single digits above zero which means kick wax is a bit of a no-brainer.  So I decided to switch to the 42km.  And every time I checked the forecast the rest of the week it got colder and colder.  I think the temps at the start ended up being around -6F.  It warmed all the way up to -5F at the finish.

With family obligations on Friday evening I opted to glide wax my skis on Thursday evening.  Given the weather trend it wasn't likely to be wrong anyhow.  I put two layers of Fast Wax HSLF-10 in, followed by a layer of HSF-10.  I did one more layer of HSF-10, but that last one I mixed in some Toko X-Cold powder.  I've used the same formula in the past and found it good.  Today was no different and I found my skis running well all day.

For kick I ironed in and smoothed out a layer of Swix VG35.  My plan was to then try either Rode Special Green, Multigrade Blue, or Swix VR30 at the trail.  On my drive up Saturday morning I realized while driving through St. Croix Falls that I left my wax box on the wax bench.  I had the Multigrade and VR30 in the car though, just no cork.  I figured I could bum a cork from someone so it wasn't a big deal.  Ultimately I went with 3 thin layers of Multigrade Blue.  It kicked like roller skis for the first 15k or so.  By the time I was done through a combination if it wearing off, me getting tired, and the track being pulverized I wasn't kicking nearly as well.

Clothing wise I was well prepared.  Sporthill windbriefs and Smartwool socks to start.  Then my new Swix RaceX Bodywear Windpant baser layer.  That stuff rocks.  I've had "cold issues" this year but not since I got those, not even today.  On top I put on some light weight arm warmers I normally use during fall running season under my lightweight Smarwool baselayer.  CyclovaXC ski suit of course.  I kept my vest on for this race as a wind proof layer to keep my core warm.  A windproof baselayer probably would have been enough in hindsight (not that I have one).  Topped that all off with some slightly thicker than normal windproof gloves, moleskin cheek patches, gobs of Dermatone, last year's Seeley hat, and my CyclovaXC buff.  I wear the buff all the time now (all the time being defined as when I'm skiing).  I'm a huge fan of buffs now and its always good to display more team colors.  I'm not sure there are any left at the shop, if there aren't harass Ben Jonjak about getting more.

My warm-up this time was pretty short.  I'm not sure if you knew it was cold out.  Tommy and I skied north about 1km and did a couple of short hard efforts.  Before those I was COLD!  Afterwards I felt much better and was ready to line up.


I lined up on the left side one row behind Tommy.  This was probably 8 or so rows back.  The start to this race seems a little sketchy going 4 or 5 wide and hitting a big turning downhill within the first 500m.  I had far less of a race strategy this week than last.  Tentatively it was to stick with Tommy until I couldn't and then see what happened.

Right before the first big downhill I saw my first crash.  Someone must have tripped or tried to change lanes or something because they face planted right in the middle of the trail at the top of the hill.  After navigating around that and down the first hill without incident I somehow ended up in front of Tommy.  By the end of the second major climb things were starting to settle down and I found myself right near the front of a little pack with a substantial gap up to the next group that quickly grew to just empty trail visible.

Right before the race Tommy was giving me some strategy tips, of which I apparently followed none of.  Instead of sitting up a little and slipping into the pack and letting them do the work since I clearly wasn't going to bridge to the next group I hovered right at the front.  The whole time I was thinking I had no business being in front of Tommy, but I couldn't let go and slide back.
Splits are Boedecker, Fire Tower, Boedecker, OO, and Gravel Pit
As we progressed north of Boedecker things started to thin out a little and eventually I think shortly before Firetower Tommy went to the front and the pace lifted.  There were a couple of guys coming back to us and we were leaving folks behind.  After the turn around at Fire Tower I managed to stick on Tommy's tails for a couple of k before we started climbing again and he slowly pulled away.

At this point my skis were still running fast, but my kick didn't seem as solid as earlier.  I was certainly feeling the effects of the effort so far and I was less than halfway done.  I was mildly concerned that I had over cooked it already only a third of the way into the race.

The rest of the way to OO, then on to Gravel Pit was a bit of a blur.  I was skiing near a couple of other guys.  I'd be hard pressed to tell you who they were other than the guy in the lumber jack suit (Drew Holbrook apparently) who eventually really kicked it in and passed Tommy and the guy in the cowboy suit.  In general I think I lost a place or two net during that stretch.

A huge thank you to Kelly Randolph of Once In A Blue Moon Studio for being out and taking fabulous pictures as always.
Once I hit the turn around at Gravel Pit I tried to stick to cowboy suit guy.  I was keeping up with him on the downhills and he was pulling away slowly on the uphills.  I eventually lost him though when I tried to get a drink from my bottle on the last big downhill at about 30k.  Shortly after that I got caught by two more guys.

I tried to stick to those guys and was pushing pretty hard.  They gapped me just a little bit up Picnic Table hill and that was enough.  Despite pushing hard all the way to the finish I couldn't quite close the gap down again.  The good news is that despite my earlier concerns about being over cooked early I never bonked in this race.  I was able to push hard to the finish and was only suffering from some pretty tired quads and hip flexors.


My subjective analysis was a little mixed.  While I was happy I was able to push the pace early and not bonk late, I wouldn't say that I felt strong the whole time.  Despite knowing that the long race field is full of studs I was sort of disappointed to finish 41st.  A gap of only 2:22 to Tommy wasn't too bad again. I could have raced a little smarter, but thankfully didn't suffer big consequences for my error in judgement.

Crunching the numbers though it was another solid race.  The best race by the numbers in fact.  If I limit my correlation algorithm to only use people who were 50% or less back in each race it cuts down a little on the variation you get further from the pointy end.  The people at the pointy end are usually pretty consistent.

Still a bit of scatter comparing classic to skate.  I highlighted myself as one of the highest above the line indicating Seeley was the better race.
If you take the last two years of races and run the correlation on them to last year's Birkie, things are definitely trending in the right direction.  Last years Pepsi was an improvement, but the first two races this year are even better.

Predictions and correlations aren't the same thing as actually racing, but this is definitely positive reinforcement that I'm doing the right kinds of things.

What's Next
Getting over sore classic muscles is step one.  I'm pretty wrecked one day after the race.  Hip flexors and back are both well worked over.  Thankfully my toes which hurt pretty bad last night are mostly good today.

Theoretically this coming weekend is the Marine O'Brien race.  I'm not signed up yet given the questionable conditions.  Snow doesn't seem likely this week either.  I'll see what the organizers have to say and go from there.  Registration is closed for the Three Rivers Rennet and the Noquemanon is a long haul.  I'm hoping O'Brien is a go.

1 comment:

  1. Now that I know you a little bit, I enjoyed your post! Keep them coming!