20K Classic: More Drama Thanna Wanna
It was my first classic race in about a year. Hard to believe, but after last year's January cold snap in which I barely raced (maybe once in Homer and that was freestyle) I don't think I did any classic races in February or March. I bought a pair of Fischer Carbon Lites last year and have been getting used to them, while working in the glide wax since we got the new snow last month. So far so good.
My goal was to keep Dave in sight through the first lap, which means be in the stadium at the same time (roughly 60 seconds back). Got off to a good start in a thin field. Mostly just us geezers out there and not many at that! Youngster Sean took off fast but he was doing only 10K so I settled in comfortably 5 to 10 sec behind Dave through the Tower Loop's rolling switchbacks.
We were crusing along well, not much over 3 min/KM by the time we hit the biathlon range and I felt that my wax choice (Rode Multigrade Blue on top of a thin layer of Swix VR45) was just about right. But Dave pulled away in the range and on the climb out, and as far as keeping in contact that was all she wrote for me. The tracks seemed more icy on White Bear (verfied by a couple other skiers after the race), and my kick was no longer working. Past the Sonot Cutoff I could only kick double pole and do a very quick short stride, which took a lot of energy, so I went from feeling great at 4 or 5 KM to semi-panic by 6 or 7.
I thought we'd turn at the 4.5 KM cutoff but kept going to the 6.5. The long downhill and flats helped to recover and I was relieved we'd be skipping the hills and technical skiing on Moilainen's Meadow. WRONG! The trail turned right onto the Meadows.
I made it up on the first of the four climbs (each about 25 to 45 sec) just fine and in the tracks, but then my wheels fell off and I had to more or less walk--increasingly slowly--with baby steps up the others to avoid slipping out. Dave and Sean were way out of sight, and I noticed other skiers who had been back by about about 30 sec, to a minute or more were gaining.
We hit 10K well before the long climb out of White Bear, so I knew the course would be long. I met Tamara in the stadium and she had my wax bag ready and it was all I could do to make into the lap lane in time to slip off my skis to add some VR45. The guy in 3rd had been gaining for the past 3K or 4K and passed me within seconds of stopping. I put two layers on each ski. In hindsight that was too much, because I could have gotten by with one probably and saved 30 sec. Plus my skis were a little draggy after that.
The pit stop took about 90 sec give or take a few.
4th place just passed me as I started the 2nd lap after only a sec to grab a 3 oz drink. I passed him again on Stadium Hill and never had to look back. I seemed to be gaining on the guy in 2nd and was about 1:15 behind on Tower and was confident that I was gaining. Bomber Kick! And I love those new skis.
But going around the U turn on Tower I noticed my boot was becoming unzipped (a chronic problem and duct tape didn't hold this time) and my ski slipped out around the dowhnill turn at full speed and I did a season's worst full-on head plant (make that two seasons). That Hurt.
I felt something in my head/neck sort of crack saw a flash and thought momentarily did I just give myself a concussion? However, by the time I was exiting Tower into the stadium area I had regrouped and decided to press on. Second place was out of sight in the biathlon range and White Bear heading out, but I did see him one last time on the long climb heading to Moilainen's. He was just about 1 minute ahead. He'd have to fold pretty big for me to catch him over about 3.5K, but it gave some hope. I poured it on, although coming out of the first climb on Moilainen's I crossed my pole over my ski and went down again. Untangling took longer than I wanted, and by that point my legs were locking up, so finishing the last two climbs was tough!
After all those histrionics over 22KM (course was 22.4KM), not much left at the end. I was spent.
Dave 1:14:28 just blasted the course, 2nd was 1:19:37, and I was 1:21:12.
Now for the silver linings. I'm still happy to get 3rd overall, and in spite of the problems the speed rate was good (3:37/KM including pit stop) and 3:33 if you separate the laps. Moreover, I think my lap splits were very close to even, about 39:50 each excluding the stop. And finally, although I didn't catch the guy up ahead (our final lap was probably almost exactly the same), no one else from behind caught me, and in fact I was able to pull away comfortably, as they were entering the stadium at by the time I got rolling again but were several minutes more back by the end.
Not a big fan of mass start classic races (unless they are small distance races like Saturday's) but I guess I'll sign up for this week's 10K classic.