A couple weeks ago I was bitchin' about riding in salt Slurpee conditions on the road. Well, tonight I had the opportunity to ski in such conditions, minus the salt. Ever drink a Slurpee, suck all the good stuff out, so all you had left was flavorless slush? That is exactly the material we raced on at Weston tonight. It was raining when I arrived.
I had reservations about even going. It snowed all day at work in Merrimack, NH. Soggy snow can really suck to ski on. But I think Weston got more rain than snow, likely a good thing when the temperature is 35F. I applied Fast Wax bronze, a warm temp high fluoro wax. I do not have a riller to add structure to my skis as waxing sage Rob Bradlee recommended. Maybe all those gouges in my rock ski bases would channel some of the water away.
Warming up, I was pleasantly surprise by how fast conditions actually were, probably the fastest conditions I've been on this season. My skis seemed faster than anybody else's on the downhills warming up. I did several laps, but then I thought my skis started getting slower.
I lined up in sixth row next to Marv Wang, one of my nemesis' on skis. He is easy to mark in his IBC colors. We side-skirted Mt Weston the first lap, but somebody still managed to biff right in front of me. Then it was a major cluster of people trying to get around with no shortage of ski and pole entanglement. It was my worst start here ever, I think. My peer group was gone.
On the second lap after things thinned out, I started picking people off. I could see Marv way up there. I noticed my skis were getting grippy on the descents and people were passing me. How can this be with less than 10k on my wax? I still made progress on Marv, but the rest of the group I normally hang with was gone.
Lap three was spent picking off about three more guys, just barely. Each time I passed a guy, I had a drafter for a while. It wasn't until the last 500m or so did I draw a gap and clinch my position. Marv finished just a couple seconds ahead of me. Haven't seen results yet. Probably finished around 20-25th position. The race went 5.3km and took around 16 minutes. Talking with Colin after the race, apparently structure can make a pretty big difference in these conditions, more important than wax in fact. He skied a blistering pace using an aggressive structure.
Post mortem analysis of GPS data confirmed my suspicions. My skis got progressively slower with each lap, not just in the race, but for the whole evening. My fastest descents were on the first couple laps warming up at an easy pace. The descents of my last racing lap peaked at about 3-5mph slower than warmup laps, not even breaking 20mph. Don't know what to make of that. Too warm of a wax and it wore off right away in the icy slurry? Cheap Fast Wax when I should buy some Swix or Toko HF? Maybe my bases need a refresh grind. Most of the original grind structure is gone in the binding area, and maybe this glazed over look doesn't hold much wax anymore.
Regardless of result, I got a superb workout. 16 minutes at the very cusp of hurling can't be had any other way this time of year. The conditions never got slow, just slower for me. I skied a long time after the race, focusing on areas that seem to hurt me in the race. The really steep punchy climbs were one. I seem to get bogged down in deep slushy stuff, where other skiers I worked so hard to pass on the flats delicately scooted back past me. I finished the evening with 26.8km in 1.6hrs with 1455ft of climbing (on a golf course!). Well worth the trip down from Cow Hampshire.
Heading home in my endorphin induced haze, I just had to turn some AM talk radio on. Seems the whole country was tuned in to the Mass election. The evil empire to my south just became a less evil.