I've hit Weston three weeks in a row now for what is affectionately known in ski circles as Tuesday Night Worlds. I draw puzzled looks when I bail out of work early to catch a ski race near Boston. People will invariably ask "Is there snow down there?" Yaw, the man-made kind.
Conditions have been pretty good on the 2.4km course actually. No boiler plate ice. Man made snow can be pretty fickle stuff though, depending on how recently it was blown and under what weather conditions. With 4-6 snow guns, Weston can make snow on only a small portion of the course at a time. So in some areas, you get old, coarse granular this is wicked fast, in other areas you get slushy snow that will suck your skis down to a crawl in a heartbeat.
I'm getting a little smarter with ski prep. I've been warming up on my rock skis and then switch to race skis right before the race. The man-made snow is pretty dirty and fouls up a wax job very quickly. No sense in starting a race with slow skis. This week I also followed Rob Bradlee's wax tip verbatim (almost). Kind of silly spending more time prep'ing skis than you will actually spend racing on them...
The prep consisted of applying Toko HF Red, scrape and brush. Then apply Star F1 pure fluoro (I didn't have the recommended Toko Jetstream) and brush. Final step: rill with Toko blue structure wheel. I just picked up the structure tool and it was my first time using it. It puts microscopic grooves in the ski base to give water a channel and break up the suction a flat surface creates. I think this proved to be extremely useful Tuesday night.
Warming up on my rock skis that hadn't been waxed recently, I nearly face planted every time I hit some new, wet snow. It sucked, literally. I was sure hoping my race skis would be more consistent. You'd go from fast ball bearing snow to brakes full on in about 15 feet. Then it was impossible to maintain any speed in the slow snow. Maybe 20% of the course had really slow snow in it.
I lined up 5th row, much further ahead than usual, thinking I shouldn't be there. Too many fast people behind me. With about 3-4 per row, that meant I should expect to finish 15-20th place. I finished 28th two weeks ago and 23rd last week. We self seed based on expected finish. We go off, and immediately I'm amazed with the speed of my race skis. I was coming up on peoples tails. After the partial neutral lap, we go live. For a little bit, a large lead pack stayed connected.
Coming back around Mt Weston on the first lap, a non-racer was in the way. I nearly hit him and went way wide to avoid a collision. I got popped out of the train and lost many spots. Shortly after that, a gap formed. Bummer.
I still was with some fast skiers that normally finish ahead of me, like Robert Faltus and coach Maddy. I noticed though, that when we came through the active snow making area, I could tuck and FLY past Maddy. Her skis were exceedingly slow on that stuff, probably just like my rock skis. I've heard non-skiing skeptics say waxing and ski prep really doesn't matter much, and amateurs are being duped if they believe otherwise. Well, I'll tell you, proper ski prep on Weston's course Tuesday night made a PROFOUND difference.
With that kind of advantage, it didn't take long to put distance on faster skiers on slow skis. I almost felt guilty. But I know all the top guns fuss over their skis. They all warm up on one pair, then pull out the race skis last minute.
During the third and final lap, I was drafting Andrew. We had dropped the rest of the gang with a modest gap behind us. He was much better than I around the 180 degree turns around barrels. I'd get gapped every time and have to claw my way back into his draft. Unfortunately, that meant I was hammering to get back on instead of recovery in his draft. But I made sure on the last two turns I did better to stay on, getting a little recovery. I normally don't contest a sprint at Weston, but I was up for a good final adrenaline rush. The last 100m or so is slightly uphill. I barely edged out Andrew for 15th place out of 80 overall.
I was the most gassed yet upon crossing the line. I'm pretty sure I maintain a heart rate for 20 minutes at Weston that is significantly higher than what I hold doing VOmax intervals on the bike. This is possible because skiing is weight bearing and uses all of your major muscle groups. This drives your HR up. These compact workouts are very efficient. Big return for short duration. It is these efforts on snow that bring about good performance on the bike many weeks later. Tuesday Night Worlds at Weston is my secret performance enhancing drug, and I'll never test positive.
This intensity combined with a late supper means very poor sleep at night. My metabolism stays jacked for many hours afterwards. I usually wake up at 4am and cannot fall back asleep with my heart pounding so hard it makes the bed shake. Seriously.
My trend these last several weeks has been to run short and easy on Monday, longer and harder on Thursday. Tuesday is ski race. Wednesday is VOmax efforts on the bike, which are extra special after Weston. Older readers may recall the good old carburetor days. If the choke was set too lean, the engine would hesitate something fierce when cold. Well, that is how my first VOmax effort goes the day after Weston. The body basically says FU, I'm not going anywhere. It comes around, and maybe the 3rd or 4th effort goes ok. I finish the week out with a 3hr ski on Friday or Saturday and a 3-4hr ride the following day. With potentially a lot of snow on the way, many more killer workouts on snow are in store.