Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tour of Anchorage 2011, an improbable finish

Ever have one of those races, in which you think you’re having just one of those days, believing that you’re heading for abject disaster but somehow everything sort falls into place? I was surprisingly un-fired up this time around, and didn’t start feeling the excitement much until we were on the way to the start. Even that didn’t last very long.

Sunday was an odd day. We were all expecting perfect temperatures in the teens and twenties with super fast conditions. The temps were right on (a little cold, +7, at the start and maybe 20 at the finish), but the snow felt surprisingly slow.

Techie stuff: Atomic World Cup skate skis with a find grind. Wax was 3 layers: Swix LF4/LF3 combo for hardening, a layer of Star HA8, and then topped with Star F2 Flouro powder. I guess it worked.

Foothills and Spencer Loop (0 to 10K)—The leaders took it out fairly moderate for the first couple Ks, and I was still in sight of James Southam’s yellow jersey. But I suddenly found myself in a no man’s land with no one within 20/30 seconds on either side. It would stay that way for the next 47K.

Campbell and Chester Creek urban trails (11 to 30K)—This part of the course is the most fun. The trail descends gradually and winds toward the coast as pass through greenbelt, over bridges, underpasses, and overpasses. No other ski race in North America has anything like this.

Just before the Westchester Lagoon (at about 30K) I passed Will, a local college skier who usually is in the top 20 or so but was having a tough day. And as I emerged into open park area at the lagoon I saw Max, another local skier, ahead by a minute or two.

Coastal Trail (31 to 49K)—The coastal trail is deceptively long and grueling, it is where TOA race dreams get lost. I could feel my quads tightening, especially the right one, and had to dial back into a gentle glide. The snow was mushy and dirty—it looked like brown sugar and felt like slick sand. Up the hill through Earthquake Park I didn’t want to bonk with 10 or 12K to go.

Don’t look back. Just go.
No one ahead. No one behind.

I got through the final feed station (at 42K/with 10K to go) and almost stumbled flat on my face.

Climb into Kinkaid Park (49 to 52 K)—We were down to guts and glycogen. After all those kilometers alone I had two skiers in sight. We started the face slapping ascent (300 feet of climbing) toward the stadium and finish. Suddenly a bunch of those skiers who had pulled away at 2K were coming back, and I passed 4 in the final 3K.

The 50K ended up being more like 52. Finshed 22nd overall with a 2:40:22. Can’t figure this one out. Never felt good and it seemed I was about to blow up the entire way.

This was my 7th Tour of Anchorage and 5th age group win. Trond Jensen of Anchorage was at World Masters (5th in the 10K classic on Monday), and he's in a class by himself for our age group, at least in our region.

Nevertheless, the weather, course, and logistics have been near perfect every time, which is why TOA remains my favorite race in Alaska.


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