I brought my new skis that still aren't broken in, against better judgement. I didn't fuss too much over waxing. I put on Toko HF Red and followed that with Star F1 fluoro for 0 to -6C. The course was in mint condition, nicely packed powder, but a little slower than last year. I did less than 1km warmup.
I lined up third row, but another skier moved in at the front and pushed my lane back. BrettR was in the second row of the adjacent lane and DaveP was behind him. Many lanes quickly funnel down into a narrow trail. I was probably 50 skiers back as we entered the trail. The first little riser we came to nearly brought everybody to a stop.
My skis felt the fastest since I bought them, which isn't saying much. With a cycling trip coming up in a week, I wasn't going to take any risks in this race. I did well at Rangeley last year and had no chance of topping that this year with ankle and ski woes I've suffered through this season. So I might as well enjoy the ride.
When we got to the first long, gradual climb, I stepped out of the conga line and passed 10 skiers. I began bridging the gap to Brett. Only Victor was between Brett and I as we crested. Didn't last long. The course descends through a bunch of chicanes. Every one of the 10 skiers I easily passed on the climb passed me back. I suck donkey balls around corners at speed.
It seems every sport has its prima donnas. Early in the race, a female skier didn't like how somebody else was skiing and let them know. A little while later, she was screaming at me. I'd get passed, only to be slowed down by her on the next rise. After I got yelled at for the third time, I told her if she didn't like how I was skiing, then she shouldn't slow down so much on the climbs. The next climb I dropped her for good. Not everybody has rockstar ski technique, so keep your commentary to yourself and deal with it.
I had nobody to draft up the 2km climb into the wind. It was brutal. Like last year, the only edible food on the course was dry cookies. And like last year, I tried to eat two cookies after summiting that hill. I think I blew one third out of my mouth, another third I inhaled into my lungs, and the final third actually made it to my stomach. Most skiers remembered this from last year and took gels with them. I'm not that smart though. I did take a bottle of strong Gatorade with me. That got me through the first lap.
Lapping at the start/finish, I hollered over from my time. It was 11:15am, which meant the first lap took me 1:30. My first lap last year was around 1:20, but the laps were about 1km shorter last year. So there was no way I would come in under 3hrs. I didn't really care. I still felt great, as I wasn't killing myself.
Photo credit: Jamie Doucett
I skied by myself most of the time on lap two. A few times, different college girls caught and passed me. I didn't think I was slowing down. I found the college girls all had two things in common: their skis were slightly faster than mine, and they could RAIL the corners. Even though I bet I had 40 pounds on some of the girls, I could not stay with them in a tuck on the fast, gradual descents. Close, but maybe 3% slower. Where I really lost time was the turns. I absolutely have not figured out how to ride berms. I have this maybe-not-so-irrational fear that I will wreck and break something on my body. Brett has a similar mental block carrying speed around turns. We discussed getting professional help with this next year, as in one-on-one instruction on downhills.
The sun tried coming out towards the middle of the race and the snow got a tad sticky. But half way through the second lap, clouds moved in and the temp dropped a few degrees. My skis got even faster than at the start of the race. I felt great on the last few climbs and pushed pretty hard. I fully expected Dave to pass me by this point. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, as he has a knack of sneaking up on me three hours into endurance events and yelling out a "Yeah, Baby!" as he flies by. I wondered if I lost track of him at the start and if he was in fact already ahead of me. I kept pushing just in case he was still back.
I finished in 3:01, just missing the three hour mark. This is interesting, because my second lap was only one minute slower than my first lap. I've never come anywhere close to even time splits in a 50k race before. Dave came in two minutes behind me. Brett finished six minutes ahead of me. I expected Dave to beat both of us based on perimeter loops at Waterville Valley over the last few weeks. Dave didn't use a fluoro wax though, so I think he had a ski handicap. Not only did most use fluoro, many rilled their skis too.
It started to rain as soon was we left for home. We decided to take a more "scenic" route home along Rt 16. I've never been through Errol or Berlin before. Rt 16 is a real piece of work in winter. Giant frost heaves either sent my Matrix airborne or bottomed it out in gravity cavities.
When I pulled my sock off at home, blood began to run down my ankle. It seems the ski boot pinched against one of my screws again and cut the skin. The dry sock I put on after the race fused to the scab that formed, and that ripped off with the sock. I contemplated having Cathy fish around in there to take that aggravating screw out.
I plan to get both screws removed before the next ski season gets underway. No way am I going to put up with this for another year. Unless conditions are good at Waterville next Saturday, this might be a wrap for my ski season. I don't plan to ski after I get back from Arizona.