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Mullin's 2018 Noquemanon Race Report


Prep

I think this is going to become an annual trip to Marquette.  Last year and this year we rented an Airbnb right in Marquette and made a nice long weekend of ski racing and fat biking.  There area a couple of places that have got it going on.  Duluth is one, Marquette is another.

Training

This week I finally felt like I was getting back to skiing like normal.  I was able to get out and ski a few times and put full power in without pain.  It still hurts to lay down, but skiing doesn't bother my ribs unless I twist funny.  A few more weeks and I should be 100% all the time.

Skis & Waxing

Waxing looked pretty iffy with highs WELL above freezing all day Friday followed by temps maybe just getting below freezing over night and then warming to mid 30s again.  I was expecting fairly transformed and wet snow.  That is just the conditions I picked up a pair of Rossignol S2's for two years ago.  I nice warm flex with some tip and tail splay and a moderate grind on them.  I happened to be looking at the skis at the shop the other day and there was a matching pair at Cyclova.  If someone was looking for a nice pair of skate skis for warm conditions they should swing in and check them out.

I didn't have all of any one wax recommendation so I made do with a mixture.  A couple of layers of Swix LF7 underneath per the Swix recommendation, then a layer of Fast Wax HF30, followed by a top coat of Swix FC8X.

Turns out the temps in Ishpeming did drop to below freezing and the early part of the course was crusty and frozen.  Not quite so hard that you couldn't get an edge, but definitely hard enough I was wishing I had a stiffer ski.  But by the time we got to Forestville and the sun was starting to shine the snow was definitely getting soft.  So at various points my skis were pretty good and a few spots they were maybe not so good.  It is tough when the conditions vary that much.

Race

Section 1 - Al Quall to Deer Lake

I lined up in the second row right behind eventual winner Andy Liebner.  The race started clean from my perspective.  There was one sketchy moment when the original double poling tracks ended and we were free to skate and then the tracks re-appeared again.  Everyone in front of me made it through fine though.

The race starts with a quick 1km of gradual descent towards Teal Lake and then you get to work real quick with a large 115 foot climb that strings the field out in a hurry.  At just under 3km into the race you swing right past the start area again before heading out for the point to point trek towards Marquette.

Just about 3km in and about to swing past the starting line again.  Photo Credit: MQT Photo


At this early stage I found myself with two guys and a small gap up to Lindsey Dehlin.  Taking a peek over my shoulder I saw that it was a huge gap back to anyone else.  The guys were closing down on Lindsey, but I was feeling a bit worked struggling to relax on my skis.  I opted to focus on skiing smoothly and relaxing instead of trying to stick with the group and promptly found myself all alone.

I had heard that there were some tricky downhills in the first half of the race and in particular the downhills onto the lake crossings.  So I took a particularly conservative approach considering I didn't want to crash on my ribs.  The first descent onto Deer Lake wasn't too bad being a pretty straight shot.  It did take a little steeper drop in the last few feet so you had to be ready to absorb the landing onto the lake.

Section 2 - Deer Lake to Dead River Crossing

The crossing of Deer Lake was pretty awful.  The snow had pretty much all melted and it was skiing on lumpy ice.  There certainly wasn't any skating to be found nor were there any tracks to double pole in.  And the west wind that I was looking forward to blowing us all the way to Marquette was actually close to a headwind on this particular stretch.

I had another skier catch me on the lake so I tried to find the draft off to his side across the lake and let him take the lead on the WALL off the lake.  That climb off the lake was steep.  Like 25% grade steep in some sections.  It wasn't super long, but any climb that steep is going to get the heart pumping hard.

Not sure where this is on the course.  It could be in the first 3km still.  Photo Credit: MQT Photo


I again let the skier who caught me go as I wanted to continue to ski my own pace.  I also had a couple of bobbles on some downhills.  The course isn't crazy technical, but it is definitely not a piece of cake.

There was some flatter sections after we crossed a powerline section.  Around there Ken Wikgren and another skier caught me and I hung onto them for a few km before again letting them go.  Eventually on a long straight section another quick check over my shoulder showed me that Chris Halverson was gaining on me.  Pretty typical race for us at this point.  I go out hard, he eventually catches me, then we see what happens.

After skiing through an aid station and up another super punchy climb there was a few rollers before dropping down onto the Dead River for another icy crossing.

Section 3 - Dead River To 510 (24k Start Area)

The crossing of the Dead River basin was about the same as Deer Lake, just shorter.  Beginning the climb up Granite Point Chris Halverson closed the gap.  After leading for a short while Chris offered to take a pull.  He lead the rest of the climb which was slowly starting to turn the screws on me.

As we finally crested the top of the climbing and started the gradual descent down to 510 I was feeling the effort of climbing.  Chris' skis were also running better in this section and despite drafting and some hard V2ing I couldn't keep the gap to Chris closed down.

Thinking I had half a race to go I had to reign my effort back in or risk blowing up hard.  By the time we reached the 510 crossing and the start of the 24k race, I'm guessing Chris had a 15 to 20 second gap on me.

Section 4 - 510 To Forestville

After crossing 510 I was back into semi familiar territory since we were now on some of the same trails we used last year during the shortened race.  I knew we were going to generally continue heading downhill but there would be a few short climbs in the early parts.

Looking up the trail I could see that Chris was closing in on a couple of additional skiers and I had stopped loosing ground.  Taking just a little more risk on the downhills than I had earlier in the race I was able to close down the gap back to Chris about the same time as we caught Ken Wikgren again and the other skier.

At this point we formed a nice group.  The trails through Forestville are a ton of fun.  Very gently rolling with lots of turning and transitions.  And net downhill still.  I was having a good time skiing in a group through here.  First the one guy took a 10+ minute pull on the front.  Then Ken and I did some sharing of the work load.  At times I was wanting to go a little harder, but only just a little bit.

Section 5 - Forestville To Finish

The announcements at the start line said that the last 5k after the Forestville trailhead were relatively flat and that is where the race would really begin.  That is just what happened too.  Ken went to the front and really started turning the screws in the closing kilometers.
Closing on the finish line.  Photo Credit: MQT Photo


I thought I was feeling good and had high hopes of being the last man standing from the group.  Ken had other ideas though.  I checked back periodically and our group dwindled down to just the two of us.  With about 1km to go we passed another wave 1 skier and I let a small gap open up.  That was enough of a mental break that I lost contact as I was on the edge.

In the end I couldn't reel him back in and I finished 14th overall.

Analysis

Subjective

I had a great race.  Not to jinx it, but I've now finished three races this year without bonking.  Granted one was a 31k, one I was too injured to go hard, and this one was net downhill.  So that isn't quite like getting to Mosquito Brook and having enough energy to tackle four big climbs, but it is encouraging.

Objective

Despite a good subjective measure, the objective analysis using my Birkie Predictor doesn't have me in the elite wave.


What's Next

I'm racing the City of Lakes freestyle race.  I haven't done this race in quite a few years.  I just never could quite bring myself to race the years it was "The Loopit Loppet".  They've announced that it will be the full course so I'm kind of looking forward to it.  I don't have a start in the last two years so I'll be assigned a random wave which is a bummer, but oh well.

Parting shot of the fat biking on Sunday.

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