Monday, December 01, 2008

Turkey Days Race Fest, looking for Mojo

Turkey Day Relay (Friday November 28)
We may be old (combined age of 150) but our team “Still Got the Mojo” held on for a respectable 4th out of 80 teams at the 3X5K Turkey Day Relay here in Fairbanks. Other than some strange temperature fluctuations, conditions were near perfect. I waxed up with Star LA 8 after dinner, expecting 5-6 degrees on Friday, but woke up in the morning with temps at 18 and climbing. So I dripped in some Toko HF Red. This combo has worked well in mid temp conditions, say 12 to 22 degrees. However this time the addition may have been a mistake, because by race time the temp had dropped back down to 6 or 8 degrees.

Meanwhile, to our chagrin, our team name had been vandalized to “Still Got the Mojo (NOT!)”. We have our suspects and will get back at them. Dave Edic, who has been skiing very well to brilliantly this year, got a fast first leg. The top three teams (open, high school, and college) broke away early but Dave held off two other strong high school teams to bring us in a solid 4th place in 14:13, with the announcer (obviously a conspirator) emphasizing the NOT! in our name.

Bad Bob, as usual clad in blaze orange, took the hand-off and skated out of the stadium with a half dozen teams within 20-30 seconds behind. Could he hold it? It was a chilly wait. Bob, still hacking from a recent cold looked strong despite the announcer’s exclamation that he was “struggling”. A solid in 15:09 and we remained in good position at 5th.

Those high school teams were not far back but I focused on form and tempo, with the plan of skiing within myself for the initial third of the race, before trying to ski hard once I got onto the rolling switchbacks Tower Loop. Caught the 4th place team at 1.6K and V2’d up East Ramp, up to Tower Loop. The high schoolers were only 20 sec back. Half way through Tower I started lapping gaggles of other teams still on their second leg. Hoping to catch just one more skier at the top of Tower (3.6 km), I was thinking about the steps ahead, when suddenly I found myself in the air and landing hard on my left hip. I got up quickly and jumped back into the track, only losing a few seconds. The fall left me with a grapefruit sized welt-bruise on my thigh and a very sore elbow (hopefully not cracked!).

Felt mildly wobbly on Rollercoasters and humped it into the stadium with a 15:08, to keep us in 4th overall in 44:28—4.5 min behind the winners (the Old Schoolers), and 3 min behind the college team (Testosterone Avengers) and first high school team (Three H’s). Still, we were 40 seconds up on the 2nd group of high schoolers (Something Crazy).

Overall, we did show some Mojo out there. But then again, I’m biased. I am not jumping up down excited about my own race (seem to have dropped a notch compared to recent years), but know that except for the fall, I skied as hard as I could. And it certainly went better than last week’s disaster at 10K.

Turkey Day Individuals (Saturday, November 29)
On Saturday Dave and I piled into Bob's Prius for the 50+ miles to Salcha, AK for the Turkey Day Individuals. I was very tired, but wanted some redemption at classic 10K before our annual mid-winter 6 week racing hiatus. Conditions were as perfect as they could be for Salcha. It was about 0, no wind, and the snow was soft. It was old man’s day, as the youngest amongst the men was mid 40s.

I fretted with wax until the last minute and did not want a repeat of last week. I went with alternating layers of Swix VR 40 and VR 30, making the 40 about half the length as the 30. This time I might have gone a little too short in the wax pocket. Things felt a little draggy while warming up and testing, so with just a few minutes before the start, I shortened the wax pocket about an inch under the heel and again toward the tip.

We had 30 sec interval starts and I was 4th out of the gate. Had a great start and by 2.5K had caught local 50+ racer Ken Leary who has also been skiing well this year. I’d mostly been double poling and kick double poling on the that portion of the course. But we both started spinning our wheels once we hit the steeper climbs on the Pick Axe Loop. The down hills were a wild ride! Fast accelerators, inevitably with a sweeping turn at the bottom. Staying on my feet was a challenge, especially since Ken is better at the downhill sections. I’m okay to decent at down hills, but Ken and Bob can just fly.

Between 6 and 7K, Dave and Bob, who had started 2.5 and 1.5 minutes back, came barreling through. We hung on skied as a fairly tight pack for a few Ks before they gapped us and blew ahead on the final climb on Grizzly. I faded over the last K but was able to hold of Ken, barely by 7 sec, to finish in 36:40. Dave was almost 3.5 min up in 33:15 and Bob was over 2 min ahead in 34:22. Better than last week, for sure, but still not where I’d like to be.

Next up, the Gundeloppet 15K freestyle on December 14. Now we’re getting into the distances where I usually feel more confident. Nevertheless, those guys ARE in good shape this year and I’ll have to ski to my top level just to stay close.


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