Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hero Snow

It seems many cyclists are cursing the snow this winter. It's not like we've been having an epic winter. Just a couple major snowstorms so far. It does take a long time for a two foot dump to melt though. Roads are messy and trails are unrideable for big chunks of time.

I've learned to embrace the snow. My primary midweek workout for for the last few weeks has been to hit the Tuesday night sprint race at Weston. I was bumming this Tuesday as rain overtook New England. Just before the cutoff time, I called Brett who lives not far from Weston to get an on-the-ground report. Weather radars can lie, you know. Nope. It was really raining. Then I recalled skiing at Weston once in the rain and it wasn't too bad. So I called the ski shop to get up-to-minute snow report. Not glazed over. Hmm, I took a leap of faith, changed, and headed down. I'll ski slushy corn snow any time over glazed hardpack like last week.

When I got to Weston, it was raining lightly and cars were starting to stream in. Clipping into skis, I asked somebody that looked like they were just wrapping up how it was. He looked at his buddy and said "possibly the best groomed ever!" I thought yeah, right. I pushed off to find the course in pristine condition. The full width was perfectly planarized, barely touched corduroy, slushy corn snow but quite fast. This was hero snow. You could not make a mistake on it. Very forgiving. And as a bonus, the full course was groomed and lit, including the flats all the way out to Rt 128.  Now only if I had fresher legs...

After a solid warm-up, I lined up for the race. We were doing three laps for 9.6km. The rain and humidity rendered my glasses more nuisance than help. I never skied without glasses before. Since the course was flawless, I just might get away with it.

With a smaller group than usual, I seeded in a very forward position, third row. After our neutral "NASCAR" start, the race goes live and ballistic. Apparently I didn't warm up enough, or I was much more tired than I thought. I got swarmed and just like that I was 20-something back.

Immediately, gaps started to form. Nooooo! The group I thought I was entitled to be with was going bye-bye. I had some work to do. I came there for a workout, after all. I popped out of the slipstream and chased the next group fragment down, caught them, recovered a little, and repeated. This required huge kilojoule expenditure.

By lap two, I caught my peer group. In it were Maddy, Joe Brenner, Robert, Mike and I think Nate. I thought if I could just hang with this group, I'd do ok. I started with these people and burned a lot of matches to catch back up to them during the first lap.

We all took turns at the front, but Maddy spent a lot of time toeing the line. A few times Mike let a gap open up behind Maddy. I came around to shut it down, but Mike would zip back up, leaving me out of the slipstream. Joe was more than happy to let me flounder off to the side. The slinky effect in the line was pretty severe, as I think everybody had trouble holding Maddy's "wheel."

Then on the third lap, Mike let a sizeable gap open between him and Maddy. I thought that was it, she was gone. But I bolted, and this time Mike wasn't able to respond. Joe didn't either and got stuck behind Mike. Perfect, Mike can block for me without even knowing it.

I went deep into the red to catch Maddy. Maybe she punched it too. The pace slowed a bit with about half a lap (one mile) to go. Joe was was bringing the others with him precariously close. If he caught us, it would be game over. I came around to set pace for a bit. Even at 12-15mph, it is amazing how much harder it is to lead on skis, plus you can't just tuck in the draft on the downhills, expending zero energy. I petered out and got over so Maddy could lead again. It wasn't happening. Now Joe and the others were no more than three seconds back.

I continued to set pace for the remainder of the final lap. Chasers were never more than five seconds back. I was dying. I never put myself so close to the hurl threshold for so long at Weston. I did not want Joe to catch me, and I could tell he wanted it badly. No rest on the final descent before the finish. All work. There was no margin. I expected Maddy to blow by me, but in my determination to hold Joe off, I just edged her out at the line. Joe was only three seconds back.  I think I had to wait more than a minute before I had enough composure to give the score keeper my time and name. Race went just over 29 minutes, and I snagged a top-10 finish. Woo-hoo! A few of the fast guys weren't there though, but John Sakalowsky was, and I was a respectable 15% back from him.

It rained lightly the whole time, and low parts of the course were filling up with puddles of water by the time I left. I nearly had the course to myself as I skied three more laps in the rain. It was so hypnotic to V2 for 30+ minutes straight after the race. I bet that will be it for the natural cover section. I was psyched to experience a probably once this season ski at Weston. That made for three seriously hard workouts on snow in four days. Other than a bit of biking in Saturday's triathlon at Weston, the bike is almost becoming a distant memory. What have I become?


Anonymous said...

well rounded, sounds like.

DaveP said...

good gosh, by my calculations, i think you have become a wooly one eyed green monster! and i thought they were extinct, never to return.

Anonymous said...

A legend.

Torbjorn Phillpotts said...

Thanks for taking time to write these blogs...they are very entertaining. See you on the road someday.

Luke S said...

Doug, you should come up and ski in Jackson sometime. I can give you a couple of routes that will blow your legs off.