Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lake Placid Fiasco

The Lake Placid Loppet causes me to tremble every time I think about it. I first did this race in 2004 with barely a season of ski experience. It took me nearly 4hrs to complete it that year and I finished 62/65 of the 50km skiers. I managed to stoop to new lows during this year's race.

Nothing went well in preparation. A double-dip snow storm midweek meant I didn't get to Weston on Tuesday. I went a full week without skiing. In fact, I went a full week without doing much of anything. That is very uncharacteristic of me. After a punishing ski a week ago on Saturday, my body nicely overcompensated by Tuesday, then promptly went over the peak and downhill. By this past Saturday, I was all stiff and lethargic.

I didn't sleep more than 20 minutes the night before the race. Don't know why. Wes DeNering, Brett Rutledge and I carpooled and shared a room at the Willkommen Hof B&B. I cuddled up with my noise machine. It sufficiently drowned out the snoring of the other two. Yet I could not sleep. I wasn't stressing over the race. My only goal for the race was to not crash. I've yet to finish a Lake Placid Loppet without crashing hard on one of the hairball descents.

Wax tips for the race were all over the place. Forecasted high was around 30F, but lows ranged from around zero to +11F. The temp was actually in the 20's by race time, but the relatively new snow was cold, soft and aggressive. I waxed way too warm. I had good glide starting out, but by 10k in, I felt like I was on sandpaper snow.  Things only went downhill from here.

I lined up in third row. We go off and I soon realize that third row was like 2/3 of the way back. I got stuck in a long conga line working its way up Porter Mountain. Brett was about 12 guys up and Wes was right in front of me. On the first significant downhill about 4km into the race, I took the outside line. Wes went to the inside. The two guys immediately in front of me went down and of course blocked any exit path for me. There was no way for me to recover and I didn't want to hit anybody, so I bailed. That really sucked. Not even 10% of the way into the race I already missed my only objective for the race. Now Wes and Brett were clear out of sight.

I began hammering up Porter Mtn. Soon I caught and passed Wes. Brett was now just four guys ahead of me. The descent from Porter gave me the willies. I scrubbed speed. Wes came flying by. In the next couple of minutes, Wes put at least a minute on me. Brett must have handled that descent better than I, as I never saw him again.

Russian hill was next. I caught back up to Wes. Don't remember if I passed him again. I do know that after the Russian descent, I never saw him again. How can I learn to descend like that? Climbing is easy. I get creamed on the descents. I figure I give up 15-20 minutes over the course of three hours by scrubbing speed off on every descent.

By now my skis were getting slow. After the race, Brett commented his got faster during the race. He waxed with blue, I with red. I finished the back 10k of the first lap without much issue. I had hoped to at least finish the first lap without getting passed the leading 25k skier. I not only got passed, but got passed with about 10k to go. This guy passed me in the first tunnel. I didn't know there was enough room for two skiers in there. He flies into the tunnel, yells out to me that I'm ok, and flies by on the rough outside the tracks. Could have sworn I heard his clothes (or maybe skis?) rubbing against the corrugated culvert tube. Is that nuts, or what?

Beginning the second 25k lap, I was slowing down a lot. My skis were slow, and I was getting slow. My hips were hurting. Must have been from all the power wedging down hills. The second lap is always a frightful mess. Hundreds of skiers have been around it by now, including all the 25k skiers, most of the 50k skiers on their second lap, and all the classic skiers that started an hour earlier. The soft base was chewed up into foot deep ruts across the width of the trail. Alpine skis? No problem. Flimsy free-heel skate skies? I come undone.

I stayed upright down Porter and Russian. On the last hairball descent, the one where they have multiple EMTs with radios, I tanked hard. I had no choice but to ride a rut, and the rut got the better of me. I face planted spectacularly. I plowed at least 30ft with my face leaving a deep gouge in the snow. Both eye sockets were packed with snow. The spectators cheered once they saw I was alright. I told them I got an instant icecream headache. I had snow packed in everywhere. I was surprised nothing hurt too badly.

I got back up and continued the descent. As soon as I got up to speed, wham, I face planted again. WTF! It felt like I nailed a rock. Impossible with a 2ft base. I looked around to see if I hit a gel wrapper. I hit one earlier and it nearly took me down. Nothing there. I started back up. I got into a little powder again at speed and wham, head slam with no warning. What was going on?! I was pissed now. Same ski came to an instant stop.

I pulled the ski off. I thought maybe something happened to the binding. The ski looked fine. I ran my hand down the length of the ski and felt a crease in the front half. What the... My ski was cracked. Every time I reached speed, the front part of the ski would fold over backwards and the ski would just bury into the snow. Race over. I had about 10 easy kilometers to go.

It appears in the initial crash on this descent I drove my knee into the front part of the ski. This fractured the ski and explained why my knee cap hurt. This race was going no where good for me anyway. My first ski DNF.  Best I figure, I would have finished about three minutes behind Wes, in 8/11 for age group had I not wrecked. Brett took 6th and had a pretty good race.  What sucks the most is I owned only one good pair of skis. My rock skis are in pitiful shape. Skis are getting pretty picked over at this point in the season. Not sure I'll replace them before next season. Maybe its time to start thinking more about all them bikes hanging in the basement.


DaveP said...

Love the photo. Have you considered duct tape?

Alex said...

Such a bummer about your ski. Hang on to the good one, eventually you'll accumulate enough skis (and have broken enough) that you can have a sweet mismatched pair of rock skis =). I think there is some website somewhere where people advertise the flex and length of their single skis, and try to find a matching one, but I don't know how to find that site.

The downhills definitely got hairy, but I find the easiest thing is to put your skis in the rut and let the rut take you around the corner, keeping your weight pretty neutral and centered. The other good option on the hills that had a sharp turn was to step turn on the outside of the berm. Learning downhills is just a matter of comfort on skis - practice descending small hills while standing on one foot, and take big hills as fast as you possibly can.

Maybe next year you can have a good race at this one...

Alex said...


Ski repair!