Alaskans can be a strange but hearty bunch. Last weekend's Besh Cup races--established as qualifiers for nordic skiing Junior Olympics--were in Homer at the relatively new trails on Lookout Mountain. They have about 5K of very tough (almost all up an down) trails and that's about it. No lodge, no wax room, no electricity except at the timing hut.
The lodge was a school bus, idling all day. Wax rooms were at the motel or under a tent (for the lucky ones) or just a bench out on the ridge. One team did have a heated trailer and generator. The hosts also put up a couple of yurts as changing rooms and of course the ever-popular giant gong for entertainment, lending that other worldly aura.
Anyway, two days out there in single digit weather (usually breezy) can kind of wear you down. But other than hearing the occassional "geez it would be nice if they built something
here," nobody seemed to complain. They just bundle up and bear with it, and wind chill or not 6 above sure beats 35 below in Fairbanks.
The FAST kids skied well--Erich had an amazing skate race, 5th overall against a good field--and the three J2s on the team are still in the hunt for Arctic Winter Games, although they are going to have to have a big weekend to make it.
I jumped into Sunday's skate race. Two years ago, still injured, I skied the trails classic and have looked forward to returning someday to race. That was a tough course. I've been saying that I wish it would be 15K but after the fact hmmm 10K was plenty, thank you. I haven't seen the technical data but I wouldn't doubt if it's out of USSA, certainly FIS, compliance.
You get 150 meters of flat at the start, a nice (not really) curvy 200 meter hill climb, before dropping down into the gully for 300-400 meters. Then a big bully of a hill climb, must be 600 meters or more. Finally you get a bit of rest on about 1.2 K or rolling terrain before returning to the stadium and the Euro-style bridge, and down into another hole. The climb out is steeper but not as long as the first climb, maybe 400 or 500 meters, followed by some crazy S-turns (3 or 4 in succession), and yet another half K or more of climbing; and then you have to do it again!
Due to my disasterous classic race in Anchorage in late 2010 I had a pretty low seed and was only about the 15th out of the gates--from of a field of about 70--in the interval start (15 sec) format. In a way that was beneficial and I was able to ski my own race the entire way. Passed most of those who started ahead of me, all but one or two I think, and no one passed from behind. That's usually a sign of a good race.
The plan was to ski Lap 1 at Level 3 (threshold) but to push the transitions, and to stay fast but in control on the technical (turny) downhills. I only succeeded at one of three--and even the downhill parts didn't feel great.
With the steep climbs--much like running up Ester Dome (or any trail with 10 - 12% grade)--the line between threshold, vo2 max, and oxygen debt is quite thin especially after you get into your 50s! Anyway, I felt tired up that first hill, and sloppy on the downhill. Then the long hill climb was just brutal. Nevertheless I was reeling them in easily, and my skis were faster than anyone's. (thanks Tyson for the good stone grind last month!).
On the positive side, even though I was winded by 2K I'd already moved up and was catching guys who started 1.5 or 2 minutes ahead. A good sign indeed.
The craziest thing was that on the S turns they had volunteers out there shoveling snow to prevent icing. This was a mistake. I was able to hit those sections fast (semi-tuck) on the warm up. But when they kept piling snow on the curves during the race we had ankle deep ruts on the first lap, and by the second lap these were shin deep. I got through fine but the second time through, I just barely made it through with out falling.
I heard that there were huge pile ups amongst the thick of the pack, those who had started 5 or 10 minutes behind me. I was completely spent by the last half K, and probably lost 20 seconds because I had nothing left.
My splits were roughly 17:20 and 18:05 (or 17:15/18:10). 35:25, 36th Overall and 1st masters. Woot! First race in six weeks and an actual skate race in January.
Even though we've had a rough winter here and I haven't been exactly happy about some of the scheduling things this season, we sure do have it good in Fairbanks with excellent facilities, community, and trails. I like what they're trying to do in Homer (with much smaller community support) and look forward to the day they have some infrastructure built there--and maybe some more moderate trail sections.
The Junior races were fun to watch, saw a lot of good skiing out there and it was just a great weekend to be in Alaska.