With some hesitation, I headed over to Weston on a frigid Tuesday night. Two reports from day before said the 1.6km course of man-made snow was icy. The weathermen totally whiffed on the forecast giving coastal areas 6-12". We got a mere dusting the evening before. The hope was around-the-clock snow-making would improve conditions on the course.
I didn't look at the forecast closely enough Monday night to see that the temp would plummet Tuesday evening. Rob got his Toko wax recommendation out late to the CSU group, so I waxed with Toko HF Red based on a temp in the 20's. It turned out a colder wax would have been better...
The course was in decent shape. The straight-away's were pretty hard packed, but the corners were good. I tend to flail on hard packed snow and have trouble transferring power to the surface.
I warmed up two laps on my unwaxed rock skis, which felt pretty fast. I then pulled out my new Salomon race skis with the HF Red wax. They were blazingly fast at first. I selected these skis for cold, softer conditions I typically ski in at up in the White Mountains. They handled very differently than my Atomic's on the Weston hard-pack, not in a good way. I stuck with them for the race though.
We were doing four laps for 6.4km total. The race is now broken up into two waves, A and B, to reduce carnage that upwards of 100 racers can inflict on each other heading down a golf course fairway. The fastest half go with the A field. Since I usually finish about 20% back from the leaders, I seeded with the A group. Still feeling the effects of a solid five day training block coupled with slightly sketchy conditions, I lined up very near the back.
Weston racing also does a "NASCAR Start," where we do a neutral half lap to space everybody out. The pacer picks up speed as we cross the start-finish area and the race goes "live." I started to freak before we even started racing when I found myself already going pretty hard, looked back, and there was nobody behind me!
The field bombed past the clubhouse and down a steep little hill with a sweeping left-hand turn. As I crested the drop, I saw skiers cartwheeling all over the place. The wide trail was edge-to-edge entangled poles, skis and bodies. It looked like a good third of the field went down. I was sooo glad I started at the back. I had time to stop rather than be caught right in the middle of that mess. I scooted around people and was off.
The first lap, a lot of fast folks passed me that got caught up in the melee. I was trying to mark people I know and can hang with for a little drafting/pace lining opportunity. The crash messed everything up. Those that went down were full of piss and vinegar and flew past me. No chance to latch on.
I started reeling people in over the next couple laps. I caught back up to Marv, who crashed and passed me shortly after the big pile-up. If I can stay with him, I usually have a pretty good race. Staying with Marv the last lap and a half was not easy. He'd gain on me around corners and the straight-away's, I'd catch him back on the climbs. It didn't help matters that my skis slowed quite dramatically from when I first put them on. Toko Blue would have held up much better. Thought I was going to pass Marv with about 500m to go, but he would have nothing to do with that. I finished in just under 20 minutes, almost exactly 20% back from the fastest skier.
As always, you nearly pass out after crossing the finish line at Weston. Once you regain your breath, you begin hacking up lung from gorging on such cold, dry air. Good stuff. I skied many more mind numbing laps after the race for about 24km total. Got exactly the workout I was looking for. You can't get this much endorphin, adrenaline and red-zone heart rate on a trainer in your basement.