Monday, March 21, 2011

Master of Disaster at the Oosik Classic

I hate having bad races, and it's even worse writing about them. But I did learn a couple of things for future reference.

I was little off even before the start. I slept 8 hours the night before. That is rare in itself, and never before a marathon!

We drove from Wasilla on Saturday morning after a week of spring break skiing at Alyeska, and arrived in Talkeetna later than I had wanted to. And then it took me a while to find an electric outlet so I could us a heat gun to apply klister. I have Toko spray-on klister, which is really slick (i.e., it works real well), but was concerned that the application would not hold up for the entire race. I could have gone old school and used a propane torch, and not even messed with the heat gun.

Anyway, barely got to the start in time.

We were all lined up, with just 2 minutes to go when I slipped off my glove to adjust things and I couldn't get it back on! My hands were both sweaty and had some klister residue on them and the liner of the glove folded inward when I took them off. I just couldn't get my index finger in all the way. Dave Arvey tugged on my glove and I tried to wiggle in, but to no avail.

So off we went. I was right where I wanted to be, probably about 20th at the back of the lead peleton as we double poled up the Susitna River. The snow was punchy and in the first kilometer I hit a drift and sunk to my shin and my pole went down 2 feet into the snow, and of course I fell. Lost that pack and by the time I could get up again I was swallowed by the 2nd pack. Made my way ahead of them and moved up again within a few Ks, helped out by Mike Kramer who had come up from behind. By 10K the 2nd pack started coming back. No problem. The leaders were out of sight but 15th through 25th were right there, some just seconds ahead others in trains within 60 or 90 seconds.

However, by 14K or so, my hand started to ache due to the deformed glove positioning. So I had to stop. I took an energy gel and tried to get my glove back on. By the time I got going again (I gave up on the glove and just stuffed it in my ski suit and skied with a bare right hand for the rest of the way) I had lost between 1.5 and 2 minutes. My competitive race was over.

So from 15 to 35K I skied alone. It was an enjoyable ride though. Over the sloughs, alder banks, birch forest, black spruce, and bogs. With vistas of Denali and the Alaska Range. No one was in sight ahead, but I could see a couple skiers within 30 or 40 sec behind. Stalking. Keeping ahead was not a problem, but I couldn't shake them either.

Back on the river--I didn't know if we had 5K to go or 15K. Such it is with the Oosik, where they set the single and double tracks just a day or two before the race, and do not reveal the course until the start of the race.

The tracks on the river were rough and trashed, the snow had warmed up considerably, I had no kick, and my back and shoulders were fatigued from the double poling. I held on okay, but with 2K to go I got passed by one of the stalkers and then by two more with just a half K left. Fortunately the race ended at about 43.5K. 2:53:46, 31st place and 26.7% back from winner Dylan Watts, and a very distant 3rd in my age group. My last outing at the Oosik (2009) had gone much better, so this is a disappointment.

Each race is an experience and there is always something to work on. What did I learn this time? Spray on klister would be fine (that's what the Toko reps were applying), and it goes on much easier and thinner than using the heat gun or a torch. And after the fact my son informed me that simple old baby powder offsets klister stickiness, and hopefully future glove disasters. And one more (I should have learned this one last time), for the Oosik, it's probably best to stay in Talkeetna the night before the race.

Next week the Sonot Kkazoot 50K: Please, please use Birch Hill Trails and do not make this all on the River. Next year: I want to do Katcehmak Bay in Homer and will skip the Oosik (but I will be back).


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