Two Races Two Outcomes: But Where is Dave? Dave's Not Here!
First up was the Wednesday Night Race. It might just be my last. After a tremendous couple weather weeks here, the temperatures dropped into the single digits on Wednesday while the wind gusts kicked up to the 30-40 mph range, and average wind speeds were in the teens all day. That makes for -10 to -20 wind chills. We usually don't get weather like that here. Just a few times a year.
The trail was full of debris, in fact there was a tree 400 meters into the race, and it was ungroomed and scoured from the winds. I don't think I got in enough of a warm up either. It was kind of fun to have a dozen or so ringers from Anchorage and Lower 48 line up, including a World Cup skier who got beat! The course started at the biathlon range took the Sonot connector to the bottom of Birch Hill downhill area and came right back up.
Here's the News Feature:
As soon as we turned around, where I fell, and started the climb I knew I was in trouble. I pushed it for about a half K, and caught a couple guys but could no longer get a good breathing rhythm, so I just shut down to avoid an asthma attack, not to mention having legs gummed up with so much metabolic waste. Tanked. That rarely happens, especially in a skate race and one with a long (2K) uphill. Normally I do best on hills.
I have enjoyed the Wednesday Night Series for the past three years and support the idea. However, some bad luck (primarily weather/sketchy course conditions and course marking) seems to follow these. Plus, 5K or 6Ks are just so damn uncomfortable anymore. I'm likely done for the year, and maybe for a while longer.
After that fiasco I wasn't so confident about the 20K Skiathon. I'd enjoyed this classic race in the past but it had been six years since the last time I did it (conflicting with the Oosik Classic, spring break, and injury).
After the long week at JNs a 20K seemed over the top, especially being just six days ahead of the Sonot. But I wanted to give it a go, and when Dave--fresh off three top ten finishes at World Masters--said that he'd be a late entry, and joked that he'd wax up three, make it four pairs of skis I had even more incentive.
Not to mention this is about the only local race NOT at Birch Hill. No more fences, no more rules, no more you know who's dirty looks!
We lined up, and it was apparent that like the famous Cheech and Chong skit from decades ago, Dave? Dave? Dave wasn't here! Well, 50 or so people did line up and I had my skis waxed up with LF4, two layers of binder (very abrasive and dirty snow) and 4 layers of Rode Multi-Grade Blue. It was about zero, and would be colder than that on Smith Lake, and no more than single digits by the time we'd finish.
Pete a visiting MD from Idaho--fresh off a top 20 finish at the Boulder Mountain Tour last month--took off right way, leaving me, Greg, and Erik as a nice chase group. They had faster skis (that binder!) down the long 1 km downhill stretch to Smith Lake, and I had to work to reel them back in by the T-Field. We mostly double-poled and kick double-poled for about 5 or 6K until we looped back onto the hilly Midnight Express. In years past I sort of dreaded these hill sections, because I had stiff skis and would have to work extra hard to stay on top of them. But I love my new Fischer Carbonlites, and the extra layer of binder did it's magic. The hills felt quite manageable.
Greg dropped off on Midnight Express, while Erik and I cat and moused along for several kms. At the end of Big Whizzy, just before 10K (37:20), I was feeling pretty good so I put in a surge through the five or six way intersection and down the short (400 m) Calypso loop. That has a fairly sustained steep climb coming out (40 sec or so) and I pulled away there.
The rest of the course along Skaarland Loop, across T-Field and Smith Lake, is mostly double pole so I went kind of mad with it. Keeping a good tempo, while making the most of striding out on the short rolling climbs on Skaarland Loop. I had a good 30 second advantage coming back to the T-Field but got momentarily confused with the course direction on the little power line connector--no sign or arrows there, just some pin flags on the main T-Field route--so I had to stop and think for a bit. Erik came back into sight and I jumped onto the connector and hammered.
I felt good until Smith Lake with 2K to go, and up the road I was feeling the burn but decided I wanted to keep that 2nd place, for posterity and to make up for falling apart on Wednesday. My classic skiing isn't that good anymore, I've really struggled over the past several years, but this was easily my best one in a long time.
They still haven't posted official results, but here is the top 4 more with times more or less:
1. Pete 1:08:44
2. Me 1:13:03
3. Erik 1:13:52
4. Greg 1:16:40
The next person was over 1:30.