Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to maximize ski race suffer factor

Headed to the Rock Pile for the Ski to the Clouds race today. I almost bagged the race, seeing a lot of rain fell there last night. Deja vu all over again. Last year it poured the day before then temps plummeted to scary cold. The course then was like skating on 2" ice cubes frozen together. Conditions were vastly different today, but not necessarily better.

Get ready for some whining. Jill from Alaska embarks on a 350 mile bike race on the Iditarod trail, gets frostbite and may lose portions of toes, yet I haven't seen any whining on her blog. Guess I'm a wuss.

Staging area. Standing water, bare patches, >40F.

So how do you maximize sufferage during a ski race? Here's how:

1. Do your federal tax return the night before. This will raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and make you cuss. Just try to figure out the 2008 stimulus thingy that carries over into 2009 if you didn't get it all in 2008. You will go to bed late and spend eons calming down before you fall asleep. To maximize the impact of lack of sleep, do this the same night the clocks jump ahead one hour. I swear I no more than fell asleep when the alarm went off for the 2.5hr drive north.

2. Get in four hours of training on the bike in the two days prior to the race. You will surely feel this in your legs even if you take it easy. Ski to the Clouds wasn't exactly a priority race for me, but I got more than I bargained for.

The lead pack entering climb. Courtesy Great Glen Trails Photo Library.

3. Look at the weather report to see plummeting temperatures predicted with overnight snow, then bring your cold structure skis with cold wax when conditions were just the opposite. The temperature was over 40F at the base, warmer than the high forecasted for the day. There was standing water in the staging area. The Mt Washington Auto Road was stir-with-a-spoon pea soup. I had my old RS:11's ground with a deep warm/wet structure. They would have been perfect with a yellow fluoro. Instead, I had flat structure with two temperatures colder wax. To make sure the climb was extra soupy, the sun came out, yet the wind carried rain over from the black cloulds over the Wildcat side of the valley.

4. Overdress. I overheated before we even got into the climb. A simple skinsuit would have been enough, even for the descent after the finish. I wore AmFib bib tights, heavy base layer, and Pearl Izumi thermal layer. At least I ditched the hat and put on some light gloves.

5. Eat a bagel with Gatorade within 1hr of race start. Less than 1km from finish, I developed a side-stitch. This wasn't one of the pansy rib cage ones, but rather lower like in liver area. I've gotten these in intense MTB races before, and you can kind of soft pedal them out. How do you do this going up 12% grade in ankle deep slush at 3mph? The pain kept getting worse, and I kept pushing through it. Eventually my liver told me if YOU DON'T STOP NOW, I'M GOING TO EXPLODE! I doubled over in pain, waiting at least a minute for the pain to subside. Two people I fought hard to pass and stay ahead of passed me back. One was Donovan, Justin Freeman's dad. I never caught him back. Between broken wheels (2008) and side-stitches, I think the Rock Pile has put a curse on me.

Race profile. Pronounced dip in HR near end is where I doubled over with side stitch. Weston level HR for an hour!

Not much of a race report, eh? All I can say is that I have never suffered harder for 62 minutes on skis. That's right. I measured only about 9.2km distance and it took over an hour. They don't call it America's toughest 10k for nothing. So Justin won it by one second in a sprint with Jesse Downs. Duncan Douglas was third overall (he was 5th overall at the American Birkie, and he's 43!). I was way down at 26th overall, 24th for men. There were 70 finishers. Full results and photos here.

Given my whining above, I didn't do any worse relative to Justin or others in my peer group than last year. Last year I was 37.3% slower than Justin, this year 36.3% back. Everybody took longer this year, partly due to shortened course last year. I'm a little faster relative to world class cyclists on this mountain at 32% back, yet finish in the top 2% out of 600. Skiing is a humbling sport. Maybe next year I'll treat this race more seriously. That is tough, as I really like to ramp up cycling hours this time of year. With the race being on Sunday, it kills the whole weekend if you are tapering for a race. Overall, it was a good day. I had a chance to talk with several bicycle hillclimb enthusiasts after the race. Carol Meader (PVC) and Bob Donahue (Gearworks) raced today. Steve Vosburgh (CCB) spectated, nursing an injured ankle. Would I do this all over again? In a heartbeat.


Luke S said...

Solutions to your problems: Change pre-race. There's plenty of time, and its worth sacrificing 5 minutes of warmups. I've shed and added layers before races plenty of times. Also, someone there should have had a riller. A rill would have made your cold grind less of an issue. Also, trust Toko. Their Wax tips are generally pretty accurate. Also...bring two pairs of skis. The other stuff like the sleep and the food and the taxes...thats worth complaining about.

Hill Junkie said...

Luke - how did your Rangeley race go? Looks like conditions were pretty fast.

I had an assortment of clothing options with me. I should have changed to something lighter. Last year it was so much colder at the finish, and I can't make the 8am cutoff to send dry clothes up. I would not want to rill my cold skis. I thought about waxing up the warm structured RS:11's but didn't want to commit that much time to this race. Guess I have no right to whine.

Hey, a few of us were wondering, do you know if we are skiing the same course as last year at Sugarloaf?

I just found this on Ski to the Clouds. Three Olympians were there!

Anonymous said...

Count again, there were at least 4 Olympians on the mens side. Justin, Duncan, Marc, and Dan.

Luke S said...

Rangeley was super fast for 25k, then the sun came out and it slowed way down for the second lap. I lost 2 of my 4 gels to clumsiness, and died trying to cover a move at 35k or so, rode the edge of a complete bonk from like 38 to 49k, but used the very last I had to win a sprint finish. Decent for a first marathon, but lots of room to improve. Colin absolutely annihilated me.

Toko/Holmenkol/V2 rillers don't cut structure, simply press it. Comes out with a few wax jobs.

Sugarloaf will be similar, if not identical to last year, as far as I know. Not being there last year, I don't really know what it was like, but I know its the same 3-lap format.

Hill Junkie said...

Anonymous - I stand corrected. Being relatively new to the sport, I don't know too many names. This NENSA article talks about Marc. Looks like Dan competed in the 2002 biathlon. Mt Washington does have a way with drawing talented athletes, whether it be running, biking or skiing.

solobreak said...

Duncan is back racing bikes again once in a while too. He won the Barkeater Stage Race (Lake Placid) back in the 80's. Now he lives out near Rochester. I saw him at Perinton last year. He finished well...

Anonymous said...

It definitely sounds like some gameday decisions definitely hurt your race, the good news is that your ski training, or should i say hill searching, leaves you as probably the most specifically trained racer for this unique race format. Most skiers don't go for a 3 hour ski looking for nothing but climbs. And judging by some of the people you beat or almost beat, I think its time you stop taking advice from Luke and start giving him advice instead, cause you just might be faster

Big Bikes said...

Great report!

Anonymous said...

nice post and thanks for sharing....

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