Had to return to Weston again tonight for my weekly endorphin fix. They were serving up double shots. The 15" of new snow was groomed out nice but still soft in most areas of the course. At least the snow had decent glide. For those that didn't make it tonight, the course was longer than last week, went up more hills, and went three laps. Factor in the softness, it was a power course that would require some stamina. I felt my prospects should improve given this scenario.
Hard to say how many were there. At least 70 I'd say. I did not see the buses this time. As usual, I lined up in the sixth row. Brett Rutledge also made it out tonight and found an empty spot in the row ahead of me. I'm learning to dress lighter for these things. Despite being quite a bit colder than the first two weeks, I had a single layer on up top with my IBC wind breaker vest. I've had the vest almost a year now, and this is the first time I used it. I'm convinced it is impossible to get cold in a sprint race.
We take off at the base of Mt Weston. I lost only a couple positions this time on the start. We did not go over Mt Weston starting out, but it was in the course for laps two and three. There were some tangle ups at the start. With such a wide area, they were easy to avoid. Brett got a really good start and was about eight guys ahead of me. He and I are quite closely matched in training. He has much better form than I do, but I carry a little better fitness over from the bike. I hadn't gone head to head with Brett at Weston in a couple years. I've never beaten him there.
The first lap had a lot of tripping on poles going on around the corners. I started picking people off right away, avoiding the minor mishaps. I was more than 25 back once things got sorted out. Each time I passed another guy or two, Brett passed one or two also. My mantra became "had to catch Brett." He hooked up with some pretty fast guys and started to pull away. I was not going to catch him drafting slower skiers. I went into no-man's land for a good portion of lap one to latch on to Brett's train.
In lap two, we had a five or six man train. Things started slowing down so I came to the front on the flats. After 500m or so, I felt uncomfortably close to the hurl threshold. I capitulated the pull and let the three remaining others, including Brett, come by. We maintained a good pace for the rest of lap two. During lap two, I passed a guy that had on an obnoxiously bright headlamp. When I got in front of him I could see nothing but my own shadow. The snow to the sides was blinding blue-white, but blackness in front of me. Lamps should not be allowed during the race.
In lap three, we caught up to a couple others, including a big guy I later learned was Jamie Doucett. Life became good again. I knew my effort dropped quite a bit drafting Jamie. I couldn't be sure if it was because the pace was slower or purely drafting benefit. Regardless, I was content riding this train home.
Coming back from the flats, we climb that steep little bugger by the lodge building. Jamie is up front, then one or two other guys, Brett and then me. Brett caught an edge or tip maybe cutting the turn going into the hill a little too tight. He piled in right in front of me. I was almost as pissed as he was, not that he piled in in front of me, but I wanted to see how this thing was going to play out at the finish. We had less than a kilometer to go. Neither of us can sprint on the bike. Now I had several seconds lead on him with a sizable gap to the train I was supposed to ride home. I managed to get back on Jamie's group, tried to pass them on the next hill, but was completely gassed at that point. I had nothing left to contest the sprint and just stayed tucked in behind Jamie over the line.
I think this netted me 14th place overall with a finishing time of 25:47 minutes. Thus this race ran almost twice as long as last week's race. This finish should pick me up in the standings a bit, maybe bump me up a starting row. In the HR data, the elevated area is the race. You can see the precipitous dip near the end of the race where I got on Jamie's train, then things shoot right back up after I struggled to get back on when Brett bit it. In hind sight, I should have taken advantage of a couple opportunities to "attack" this group well before the finish. I hadn't planned to hit Weston every week. I would probably go through withdraw symptoms if I missed a week now.
From what I learned the last couple weeks about my two sets of RS11 skis, I knew better than to take my stiff racing ones. In these soft conditions, I would have been utterly doomed. Like at Rangeley last year. I took my rock skis. They felt perfect for the course, super stable, and my glide was just as good as others on the descents. Last week I would get gapped even drafting on the descents with my stiff racing skis. I have a potential pair of used RS11's in good shape to check out this weekend. They are soft flex with cold structure, which should be identical to my chewed up RS11's I use for training. I would then sell the stiff ones. They are in near new condition if anybody is interested.