Nothing Beats a Ski Race!

It's ice from your breath folks
Man! It's been a frustrating winter...mainly because it hasn't snowed. However, a few clicks in to the Sisu Ski fest and I'd forgotten all about our early season dry spell. We had a beautiful day that hovered around 15 degrees and we even got to ski through a light snowfall. This is how it's supposed to be up in the Northwoods in January!

As always, the race is just a destination, the fun comes from the whole journey. On the ride up I joined forces with Tommy K and my friend Cory that I know from High School. It's always nice to have the opportunity to spend time with the classmates you don't see that often. The older I get, the more fondness I have for those who were there at the beginning.

Some of the crew at race end after stuffing ourselves with pasties
We had a huge number of Cyclova skiers at Ironwood...our club travels well! It's fun to get to the warming hut at ABR early and then cheer as familiar face after familiar face comes walking through the door. Everybody's always got their game face on prior to these events. 42k is no joke, especially in a year like this where we haven't had that much time on snow. But the fact that the temperature was sitting in the teens meant spirits were high. Hey...you can't complain unless it's -15, and even then the complaining does you no good.

Mullin warming up at the start
There was a bit of snow on top of a hard base. I wouldn't call the trail especially fast, but that's what you need. I've done Birkies without having done a 42k race prior, and it isn't fun (right around KM 35 you really start to hurt).

In the old days, there used to be a series of 10k to 15k races all throughout December. We'd almost always have four or five of those under our belts before hitting the first marathon (read all about that in this book). But these days, nobody can make any snow stick prior to Christmas, and all the brave souls that used to organize events have switched to Fat Bike racing. Maybe we can talk ABR into hosting a Saturday/Sunday pursuit event (classic and skate) in December in the near future. I miss the short events.

I felt pretty good as I started to ski, but very soon it became apparent that my top sustainable pace was something in the 4:30 minutes per k range. I usually aim to do around 4 minutes per k, but I didn't protest. Sometimes it's better to simply settle in and take what you can get. This is where a couple shorter races would have helped out though...I can't be bothered to do interval training (which would also have helped).

The snow was coming down fairly hard for the last 10 k or so, and I crossed the finish line looking like somebody'd shoved my face into a cotton candy machine. It was kind of funny to stand there at the finish line. Everybody else looked clean cut like they were waiting around for a job interview, and there I was looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining

Once I got the race over, it was off to stuff myself, then pile into the car for some good conversation on the way home. Finishing an event like that puts you on a high that lasts a couple days. Even going into Sunday I was sitting around happy and content with a solid ache in my legs to remind me of Saturday's effort. There's no better way to hit the reset button on your brain, take yourself out of your weekly rut, and clean the slate for the trials ahead. Boom! Bring on the Birkie Tour!



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