Obligatory Gundeloppet Report
Yeah, yeah, I could roller ski 5X a week, 1.5 to 2 hr a shot, with the occassional 2.5 to 3 hr on Sundays, but no 3X a week at 1 to 1.5 was it, plus some bike commuting and little or no running.
I definitely felt that on Saturday--and this year sure wish the race could have been on the tradtional Sunday start because there was a 16 degree temperature difference, not to mention new snow!
It was about -7 at the start (beats -17 or -30, which is what we were seeing earlier in the week), but the chill didn't seem too terribly bad. The usual suspects lined up on the tracks. Pardon my French initials here, but what the heck is up with having a Citizen race with some 70 or 80 participants with a start line in a stadium that is somehting like 80 yards wide, but only six sets of start tracks are set? That seemed like yet another arbitray BS decision from up top. No arguing, however, even though I tried, out of defiance more than anything. Gracous me! Next time make it 10 lanes wide at least.
Tracks were more or less a mess throughout. After three weeks of wind, deep cold, and no new precipitation, the snow had been compressed into a 3" crust strewn with birch seeds, leaves, and sticks. It's so hard that either the groomers tried and couldn't do much or didn't even bother to till the surface. They did set new classic tracks on Friday, but in the skate lane it was hard to tell if they were able to do anything at all. The trail was rutted throughout, and it was hard to stay on top of your skis. I don't recall feeling less comfortable in a longer race here (some of the past very early season 5K and 7.5K races with sketchy snow aside).
The four or five UAF skiers and Tyson took off off fast and they were out of sight by the time I made the first switchback on South Tower. I was in the middle of a large group, maybe a dozen or so, including a couple classic skiers. A couple years ago Dave skied classic on a cold day, and I was able to pull away half way through. That didn't happen this time!
It was pretty frenetic the first 5 or 6 K, until we hit the Sonot cuttoff and a few of the kids peeled off to the left for the shorter "7.5K" (that was closer to 9). Heading out onto the further reaches of White Bear Loop is where you find if you have it (good fitness) or not.
Our large chase pack sort of thined out into two smaller groups of three or four. Jonathan, Neill, Kramer, and Pat up ahead about 15 or 20 seconds, fast striding Dave making a break (man he was motoring! Rapid and strong diagonal technique, I could not match that tempo), with me Max, Jesse (15K debut) hanging back. I made a move to pull away from those guys and caught a struggling Pat on the big climb out of White Bear, where it had to have been -15. Brr that was a cold stretch and my legs locked up (should have worn the warmer long underwear!).
Dave steadily pulled away from us and the Kramer Jonathan pack was almost out of sight by the time we hit Moilanen's Meadow. All I could do was hang with Pat. I felt good on the uphills, but everytime I'd try to surge around him he'd pick it up just enough to make it difficult. I did get around once, just before Moilanen's, but only long enough to go under. So I tucked in again, hoping that I'd have someting climbing into the stadium.
Pat pulled away easily up that last hill and I just hung on, finishing 10 sec back. Meanwhile, Jesse the comeback kid was only 12 or 13 sec behind me at the finish.
I've done this race a number of times and sub 50 is a decent time, and as well as can be expected. Birthday Boy Dave's low 49 min skiing classic was astounding, or seemed so to me. Watch out World Masters M6!
Meanwhile, here's to moderating temperatures, NEW SNOW!, and more hours over the next month or two.