Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confessions of an Aging Ski Racer: Besh Cup 2009

Last week I wrote a bit about our race schedule, complaining some that the races were too short and generally geared for high school skiers. I guess that still holds, but against my better judgment I shelled out $54 for the season’s two final “Besh Cup” races, which are used to decide who gets onto Team Alaska for the Junior Olympics to be held in Truckee, CA in March.

They have Senior and Masters divisions, and I’m not sure why other than to make sure there is some extra competition for the youngsters, to give aging parents and fans a chance to line up against the best in the state, and no doubt to pull in some extra cash for CCAK, the managing organization.

As the 5th and 6th races in the series and the decider for those on the bubble, the courses are particularly, if not infamously, tough. The men’s 10K classic featured 337 meters of climbing over two loops; while the women just did one loop over the same course. The skate course is even tougher and 355 meters climb, including three tough hills—one, a 150’ headwall called the Black Funk, downright brutal.
I’ve had two of my worst three races of the past several seasons on the same classic course. So my goals on Saturday were modest: try to win my age group (helps when chief local race rivals were in France for Masters World Cup!), and do a negative split.

The interval start classic race went fairly well, my kick was great and I was able to stay in the tracks without scrambling or shuffling, and the glide was decent. I've been very inconsistent at classic over the past couple years, and I tried to take it out a little easier, but may have pushed harder than necessary on Tower Direct (2-3K). The second lap was very tough but I kept going by focusing on trying to catch the skiers ahead. Won the M5 age group by 3.5 min and was overall winner for all masters over 40, but I didn't get the negative splits. First lap approx 17:30, 2nd 18:00 for a 35:31 (22% back).

Day 2 of the weekend double featured the 10K skate race. Everybody shot out of the stadium like it was a 1.2 K sprint heat, while I took it out kind of slow, maybe 35th place, and didn't kick into faster skiing until about 3 or 4K. I picked off a skier here and there until 7K, and then it was just a matter of hanging on with about four younger skiers in my sights. I felt fairly good on the climbs, but not particularly fast on the downhill sections. Passed three of the four skiers with just ½ K to go, and had the other one in my sights, but alas, my finishing kick is almost as bad as my starting ability. One passed and other pulled away by 10-12 sec over the final 350 meters. Finished in 33:46 (18% back) for an inauspicious 27th place, but first M5 again.

Maybe I should start concluding these rambles with what I learned and what areas need some work. Hmm, classic, I think the race went just as well as it could have on that day. Maybe easing on the gas just a little the first time up Tower Direct. I felt the low blood sugar thing again, about half way through. Not sure what’s up with that.

Sunday was a better race overall, but at the same time I’m slightly more disappointed. I have no sprint power at the start and finish and it does end up costing places. Equipment-wise my boot wasn’t tight enough at the start of the skate race and I felt it; just a minor glitch. Blood sugar was better because we had an earlier start (11 instead of 12:15) and I made sure to eat a PB sandwich at 9 and Cliff Bar at 9:50, and this was after breakfast at 8. My skis didn’t feel fast on the cold snow; they are nearly new and retain the factory grind, whatever that may be, so it might be time for a grinding to match our local (almost always cold) conditions.

Before the races I told a few folks that maybe this would be it for Besh Cups—that I might retire from this type of competition. I did have a good time out there, but there is something to be said for finding a longer race and/or having more time for the coaching and cheering on of the younger skiers.


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