Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scintillating Night Series 5K

Wow, even at -4, that was a fast and furious 5K. Only 18 skiers showed up. I was hoping for a top 5, but when we lined up knew that might be tough. It was.

Wayne Peppler and Dave Arvey took command right from the start, and we had an immediate pack of 8 heading out of the stadium, double poling at sprint speed. I was surprised to be ahead of Dave Edic on Relay Loop and actually stepped aside to let him ahead, probably 800 m into the race. By then the train of six skiers was 30 m up on us. I hung with Dave, and it actually felt slow at times until we were half way up East Ramp (1.6K) and onto Tower. Mike Hajdukavich (What the heck!?, I'm always ahead of him) was flying on Tower and Dave set off after him. On the first switchback I tried to close the gap and got to within 10 meters of them, but my heart rate skyrocketed into 190s, I later learned, and I was effectively done.

That was a fun little ski, and reminds me of living in Bemidji MN in the 1990s when we'd have similar Tuesday night races also under the lights and with small but good group of skiers. Looking forward to the next three night races in February/March.

1. Wayne Peppler 14:50
2. Dave Arvey 14:50.5
3. Max Kaufman 15:44
4. Mike Kramer 15:59
5. Dave Edic 16:31 *1st Master
6. Jan Grzeda 16:35 * 1st Youth
7. Mike Hajdukovich 16:46
8. Roger Sayre 17:25
9. Ken Leary 17:45
10. Julia Pierson 18:29 * First Woman
11. Heather Best 20:28
12. Joel Pierson 21:01
13. Jane LeBlond 22:42
14. John McKinny 23:47
15. Zail Gavin 24.56
16. Tom Olendorff 24:57
18. Debbie Looney 25:23
**. Guest timer: Mark Ross

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Saved By Zero-not quite!

One of my favorite 80s tunes, from the Fixx.

We've had colder snaps in our (almost) 7 years here, but this has been the longest. Other than a brief two day warm up over the first weekend of December, it's been sub zero every day dince November 29, so that makes 30 of 32 days. Not just light deprivation (sub 4 hours of daylight for a month), I am a wee bit weary of making sure that I have every bit of gear ready, and dry, so that something doesn't freeze up while skiing or running.

Warm up expected this weekend, with temps into the 10s and 20s!!! Time to go run around in shorts and a t-shirt!

Meanwhile, trying (not successfully yet) to get somewhat psyched for tonight's 5K classic race, now postponed four times, at Birch Hill where the temps have warmed up to a crisp -3 F.

Ran 3.6 miles today over part of the Chena River Run course. Knee feels good, and I wonder what I can do off of a winter's training and maybe 30 miles a week of running by early May.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Besh Weekend!

The kids skied very well this weekend! My race was a bit of a wash, but maybe that's to be expected.

On Saturday Kuba and Erich lit up the J2 semis with both taking a relaxed looking 2nd in their heats. Tristan made the J3 B-Final and took 3rd in that. Joe (13th) and Mikko (18th J2) didn't pass beyond the qualifiers, but this was a Besh Cup debut for each, so they did well.

In the J2 final the plan was for Erich and Kuba to take control from the start and go 1-2. Kuba took the lead and Erich was fighting for 3rd and 4th, but fell at the turn around. Kuba held the lead until the final 50 m, and he was edged out by Erik Backstrum of AK Winter Stars.

For Sunday's 5.6K classic Erich was skied to an inspired 4th place in a race where Backstrum and Jack Parke took command early and never let up. Kuba took 6th, a big improvement from last year. Unseeded Mikko had to start on the back row but moved from 50th to top 15, to take 14th. Now he won't have to worry about seed times. Joe took it out hard in his first ever 5K and held on for a very respectable 7th place, while Tristan was 8th.

My race? After 4 hr waxing skis and then cheering the kids on, it was almost an after thought. The tracks were icing up so I put on a sticker, but that might have been too much. As soon as we skied out of the stadium the pelaton pulled away and skiers seeded behind me glided past. Nevertheless I had great kick on the ups and could gain a little ground there.

Took two untimely falls on the Lekisch Loop, the 2nd with just a couple Ks to go on on a very fast downhill turn. That was a scary, bad fall, and I lost 40 sec from the skier I was with! 30% back from the winners, and 12 to 13% back in my age group? Oy! The gap is only 20%

and maybe 5% in skate races.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gundeloppet 15K, slow but not a death march

The 15K Gundeloppet--named in honor of Swedish 4-time Olympic and 7-time World Champion Gold medalist Gunde Svan who raced a World Cup race here in the 1980s--is probably my second favorite local race, after the Sonot 50K. Other than the marathon it's the longest skate race in town and the only 15K at all. Local race schedule could use some tweaking.

Our trails had been fast following the November ice storm, but that came to an abrupt end on Saturday morning when about an inch of fine powder fell through the dark icy skies. It was -4 at the start and the snow was slow, so slow that a lot of people chose to classic ski instead of skate.

Unless you're totally into classic (or must do so because of knees or something, as I've been for most of the past season and a half), that was probably a tactical error.

The 90 racers included most of the UAF team, a smattering of high schoolers, and several of the old dogs like me who keep racing/don't know when to quit.

Within the first km, the pack of 10 or so (mostly UAF) had pulled away already, and I was almost alone chasing a 2nd pack, including 3 classic skiers: high schooler Stefan Hajdukovich, sub masters Dave Arvey, and age group rival Dave Edic. They were flyin! And I thought there was no way I'd be able to keep up for 15K, let alone for the first 5.

Distraction and focus came from UAF's two top women, Germans Raphaela Sieber and Theresia Schnurr, who skied up from behind on Relay loop at about 1K. Seiber pulled steadily away and by 3K was leading a pack of 4 or 5 men. I tried to settle in, skiing with Schnurr through the climb on Tower about 30 sec behind the "train" of about 5 skiers who were drafting off Sieber. Just before the top of Tower, at the highest point on the course I passed Schnurr, and headed to White Bear now sort of in no man's land. Somewhere through there I had passed Arvey and Edic, but young Stefan was kicking and gliding very strong up ahead, mostly outside of the tracks--which hadn't been re-groomed following the snowfall.

UAF's Dave Apperson pulled up on me by the Sonot Cutoff and we took off in pursuit of the group ahead.

We caught Raphaela's train on White Bear Hill, a 5 minute grinder, at about 10K. I just hung on, at the back of the 7 skier pack. Jim Button and Wyatt Mayo busted out about 2/3 of the way up the hill, and I was thinking that few years ago I might have tried the same move, or at least gone with them, but this time I just continued at the back of the pack.

With about 2K to go, coming out on the hill in Moilanen's Meadow, I passed Raphaela and Max Kaufman--can't count the times Max and I have met on White Bear hill and in Moilanen's. That surge hurt, and it continued hurting all the way up the last hill on White Bear Access, a 1.5 min climb followed by some techincal up and down S-turns. Although this is my favorite stretch at Birch Hill, I was in a fog and slowed. Raphaela caught me in the stadium, and I hung on, barely.

We rounded the final turn toward the finish and with 100 m to go, I gave it all and outkicked her by a couple of seconds. 16th overall, 1st in age group, and 2nd 40 and over (about a minute behind master's skier Jim Button who I think actually raced in that 1980s World Cup race with Svan, and about 9 minutes behind UAF's David Norris--hopefully Norris will have some World Cup starts in the next year or two.

So a good showing for FAST, former and current. David, now a Nanook, won for the 2nd year in a row. Logan won the high school division, Kuba took the high school 7K with a stellar perfomance, while Sam took the middle school crown. And now as the oldest and grumpiest FAST skier, I skated away the old man's title.

Next time won't be so easy as Edic will think twice about doing classic in a freestyle race, and Lokken on a comeback of his own is only going to get stronger!

A lot to be thankful for. Completing a tough skate race with slow conditions, the knee held up throughout, it was only a little sore after the race, and the overall finish was fairly close to where I had left off in winter 2008-2009.

On to Besh Cups, where I'll be coaching more than skiing.