Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Worlds in a Blizzard

I sat on the fence until do-or-die time on whether to head down to Weston for the Tuesday night sprint race. I missed last week when it was pouring rain. Skiing 3.5hrs in the rain at Jackson the weekend before was enough for one week.

This time it wasn't rain, but snow. The area was in midst of winter storm warning, and greater Boston area was getting hammered. Ski racing in a blizzard wasn't the issue, it was getting there and back.

I left 30 minutes earlier than usual. It takes me less than 45 minutes to get to Weston from Merrimack, NH normally. I plan to get there 30 minutes before the race, so I had a whole hour of margin. It wasn't even snowing in Merrimack. This was purely a coastal storm. I should be fine, right?

I didn't reach snow until almost reaching Rt 128. 128 was a parking lot. I'll be fine, I thought, it's just a bottleneck from people getting on. Nope. I continued to crawl at 3-5mph for much of an hour. F-bombs! I could have worked and accomplish great things instead of pissing more of my life away in a car.

There was so much stop time, I actually could take my shoes off and lace up my skate boots. Yeah, I finished changing while on the road. At least that would be out of the way if I did in fact make it to Weston before 7pm.

I got there in time to barely get two laps in around the 0.95mi course. Not much of a warmup. It was snowing hard, and all the snow guns were going for good measure. Yippee, this was going to be a full-on power slog.

I lined up in 4th or 5th row and got the best start ever. Going up the first hill sucked with everybody bunching up and poles punching in to your knees. The normal lead pack drifted away after that and I was left leading the chase group. How can this be? I don't belong up here. There were way too many fast dudes and gals behind me.

Sure enough, as we started to complete the first lap, I imploded. Seemed like 10 skiers came around and there was nothing I could do about it. It's not like you drop in behind them and get pulled along in the mashed potatoes conditions.

I managed to stop the hemorrhaging of positions in the second lap and recovered a bit. I tried unsuccessfully to picked up a spot a couple times. Poorly timed and burned a match or two each time. No shortage of tactical errors in this race.

Coming into the finish, Tim, Mark, Marv and I were sprinting for the line and nearly overtook Robert. Very close. I was able to hold off Marv but not overtake Tim or Mark. It was surely my most taxing effort in many months. All of us hung from our poles for a good minute, gasping, trying not to fall over, before moving to scoring booth.  I needed that fix. Good stuff.

I finished 16th overall, further back than 10th two weeks prior, but only 12.7% back from the winner. That might be the least back ever for me at Weston. When I first started doing these crazy races, I was regularly 20% back.

I skied a few more laps in the natural and man-made blizzard before bonking hard. That was unexpected. Only an hour of skiing and I was hallucinating from glucose deficit. The course was getting really shitty to skate anyway, so I called it a night.

Pulling layers off in my car, I ripped about half of the hairs in my eyebrows out because they were frozen to my balaclava! Sweet! I had a small granola bar and partial Gatorade in the car to help with bonk recovery and to hold me over until I got home for a late supper.  The try-to-beat-the-storm traffic was surely cleared now, right?

Yep. But not the freakin snow plows!! On both 128 and 3, I got caught behind echelons that had just started ahead of me. 18mph all the way to Rt 3, then wouldn't you believe it, a different set on Rt 3 all the way to Billerica. Why does it take 9 plows to clear 3 lanes of highway? To piss the Hill Junkie off, I'm sure.

Interestingly, by the time I got to Lowell, there was no snow. It was like a switch turned off the snow storm. At least I wouldn't be shoveling my driveway again. And it also meant I could ride the packed trails from work on Wednesday.

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