Monday, March 04, 2013

Tour of Anchorage 50K: Fighting Angst Needing Sleep

This is going to go down as something of an enigmatic race effort because I'm not exactly disappointed with the outcome but not quite pleased either.

I'll start with the outcome and go into some more background and thought a bit later.

Finished with 2:29:36, my second fastest time ever (2:29:01 in 2008), 27th overall, and 3rd in age class. I'd won four age titles in a row (2009, 2011, and 2012 for the 50K, with a first in the 25K classic just before knee surgery in 2010), so I'd gotten used to winning. But when I saw that Trond Jensen was entered, fresh off several top 10 finishes at World Masters in the past few years and a relay medal just last month, I knew that coming out on top this time was a long shot. And looking at the start list I knew Rich Suddock of Anchorage also would be tough. He's 4+ years younger and we are fairly evenly matched time-place wise.

Still I'd had a very good 30K the other week, and had some good momentum.

However, the last couple of weeks have not gone well. I have been fighting the evil triangle of stress, anxiety, and insomnia for the past two weeks. Other than two decent nights of sleep last week (maybe 7 or 7.5 hr), it's been 3-5 hours a night of interrupted sleep. Such disruption becomes an ugly self-perpetuating pattern and once you're into a cycle like that it's hard break out. Maybe I just need a "vacation." Get away from it all for a few weeks.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen.

Adding to it all was this has always been a family trip, but those plans fell apart at the last minute so it was just me and my son's high school teammate (who had a great race in the 40K). I slept exceptionally poorly on Friday night, maybe got in 3.5 hours and it was a long drive, and a fight just to keep awake all day. Saturday night was somewhat better, but I woke up at 4:45 (could have slept another 1:30 or so easily) and couldn't get back to sleep. Maybe 6 hours.

Wax: (too many people are too hush hush about waxing): I used a mixed bag: Toko LF Moly for base, two layers of Swix HF 6 (Swix recommended HF 7, but I had an feeling that it would be in the teens over night), and the only pure flouro I could get my hands on was Toko Jetstream Red. I actually felt pretty good about the wax: the skis did slow up the final hills into Kincaid but other than that they felt fast. Nevertheless the fact I did overhear skiers from an Anchorage that they went with LF with cold powder. Really? It was perfect high flouro conditions.

So I was feeling a bit out of it by the time I lined up, especially with too short of a warm up (just 3-4 minutes) at Service High School. However, the race itself, I wasn't nervous for that. Just tired. Started in my usual 3rd row position and barely averted a crash when two skiers went down 50 meters into the it (including eventual 4th place finisher Lex Trienen of UAF). I could tell right way that I felt off, my skating felt wobbly on the icy hardpack, and I was at the back of the pack (35th or so out of 40 in the elite wave) by the time we did that short half K loop behind Service and headed out. I was out of breath on each climb and just felt tired, like I needed a good nap. The peleton moved away very quickly just leaving a few of us stragglers. Heading into Spencer Loop at 4.5K, I could see that they were a good 45 seconds up already--when usually I'm right on their tail and ready to take out some of those guys up those long climbs.

I kind of kept in sight contact with three guys up the climbs hills and vacillated between starting to feel better (I was slowly reeling them in) and pretty awful and still out of breath. Normally I think I'd  have got them and then started working on the next group. Not on Sunday.

Hit 10K 34:29 and 15:K in 46:49 in one piece had just caught the three when I slowed for my first feed and water. Ooops, struggled getting that water bottle back into the holder and lost 15 seconds. It happens every time. Two of the guys made a big gap but I caught up to Gary, from Anchorage. We worked together for more than 20K. I didn't feel bad, but not great either. I did notice that my right quad was tight by 20K which we hit in 1:01:08. Even though it was a pleasant 15 or 20 (by far the warmest skate race of the year), I felt chilled. My face felt like it had been slapped around by a Yeti.

At 30K 1:29:06 things were warming up a bit as we approached the coast and I wasn't feeling too bad. For the first time I had some hope for a decent finish. We were pretty strung out, but I counted 3-4 guys up ahead through Westchester Lagoon; usually an encouraging sign as I've been able to finish fairly strong in recent years and catch a bunch of those skiers.

I took a caffeinated gel at the lagoon and dropped a few seconds to Gary, but took over the pull and by the time we hit the hill leading to Earthquake Park he was no longer with me. I picked off a few more fading skiers along the way. I didn't stop my watch at 40K but I think it was 1:59, so I knew I was slowing some.

In the endless winding stretch along the gravel pits before climbing to KincaidI caught a couple more. Up the hill was torture. That part is always hard, because I'm always either in full blown bonk or just about to go under. I felt wobbly but kept an okay pace. There seemed to be more turns and switchbacks this time. By now I could barely catch and pull away from mid-level 25K classic skiers who were approaching 90 minutes into their event.

The stadium was a welcome sight. But somehow different. Usually the family is there, plus dozens of friends from Fairbanks. This year not too many people from here made the trip, so it was quiet.

Done! It was a relief but I finished with mixed feelings. Fast time but weak effort? Looking at the results-- not too bad compared to other years--maybe a minute or two off from a really Good race. It was just that baffling sluggish start, where I lost the group by the first kilometer.  Angst and feeling over tired? Lack of an adequate warm-up? Did they go out way fast?

Otherwise I feel pretty good about it. Each segment got better than the one before it (other than the final 2-3K) and in a 50K you can't ask for more than that.

My TOA 50K History
2013: 2:29:36, 27th OA, 3rd AG, 24:54 behind overall winner
2012: 2:34:03, 36th OA, 1st AG, 24:22 behind overall winner
2011: 2:40:22, 22nd OA, 1st AG, 25:21 behind overall winner
2009: 2:34:37, 36th OA, 1st AG, 25:32 behind overall winner
2008: 2:29:01, 26th OA, 2nd AG, 21:48 behind overall winner
2007: 2:38:41, 27th OA, 4th AG, 24:41 behind overall winner



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