Monday, February 20, 2012

A Lttle Bit (30K) of Vindication

We weren't even supposed to be in town for the final Distance Series race this weekend, and I had planned to go to the Sven Johannsen 30K in Anchorage. But plans for a mini-coup, seven of us flying down in a chartered plane, fell through a the end of the week, so here I was. The bonus was that I got to see my kids race in their final high school race of the season on Saturday.

Anyway, 30K is a good honest distance and we haven't had opportunity to have a decent freestyle 30K since I had moved here. Until last year the Raven Romp (or whatever name derivation) has always been classic or pursuit (15 classic/15 freestyle). Last year deserves a ** because it was -5 and started dumping snow like mad--ended up with 2 feet--and it was just a death march even though I placed decently. Just slow and miserable.

In 2008 and 2009, when we had US Senior Nationals here, I had hoped for a distance freestyle race but that wasn't to be: 30K pursuit and 50K classic both years. In 2008 I tried the pursuit--just 6 days after a hard effort at the Sonot--and fell on my face literally and figuratively. It was a disaster.

Finally--at the middle of last week--they decided to open up this race to both classic and freestyle. Some incentive to stay home--save some pennies for those classic skis--and the weather has been amazing lately.

At the start 17F, clear skies, with hardpack groomed to perfection. Can't get better than that. Wasn't thrilled about the 4X 7.5 (7.4X) km loop, however. And no one I talked to thought that was a great idea. Spectator interest. Hmmm, yah. We get 8 spectators instead of 7, hey that's almost 15% increase!

Lap 1: The start as was mild as the weather, and for about 3 or 4K I was tucked in with the lead group of 6 or 7 skaters. Tyson was skiing classic and he immediately took the lead, and barely looked back. Great day for Tyson. On the Tower Direct portion, Cody took charge and gapped the field a bit, and I dropped back to no man's land in 8th place. Stayed there throughout, and was surprised to see a split of 21:12 and to be feeling 95% to 99% in control.

Lap 2: The skate leaders were 20 sec or so up, and had reeled in Cody. So I set out to catch Max. Did so on Tower and we skied together I think for most of the 2nd lap. It was then that Lex, UAF skier and last year USA ski team for U23 world championships, and doing classic came barreling through at the bottom of White Bear. And so it would be. Ended lap 2 in about 43:30, feeling pretty good.

Lap 3: The leaders were a good minute ahead, but Dave had fallen off so went after him. We skied together through the entire lap and pulled ahead of Lex only to have him catch us at the bottom of the hill. He had very fast skis! At the end of Lap 3 (approx 1:06:00) I decided to push and keep pushing until I couldn't no more.

I didn't really gain on the leaders, still sort of in sight on the switch backs, but dropped Lex finally. Or so I thought when he caught me again--for the 4th time--at the bottom of White Bear. It was great to ski along with him, he knows how to get the most out of the trails with snappy transitions and cutting the tangents. Power and grace. Was right with him at the top of Warm Up, and gave it everything to keep in contact but couldn't hold on. So he was 8 or 9 sec ahead.

Buried anonymously in 5th place skating, 7th overall. But this was my best 30K and perhaps one of my best races since moving here. Just haven't had the opportunity for distance freestyle other than the Sonot under good weather. I felt like a fool in 2008 after that pursuit at Nationals. I still may be something of an overaged two bit hack but this was 30K of sweet vindication.

Final Note: Skiers chose freestyle by a ratio of 3:1, plus a few more did go down to Anchorage. Hint. Maybe keep this as annual race as skier's option: those who want to skate can do so, those who prefer classic, have at it!

Freedom of choice what a concept.


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