Fear and Loathing on the 10K Trail
With about three inches of fresh snow and temps at 22F what's not to like about that. The course, well we talked about that the other day. We zeroed in on an extra blue wax, and if you wanted some extra kick a bit of Star Tar wax, topped of with more extra blue was the way to go. That's what I used, adding on the layers with about 10 minutes to spare. I had very good kick but just so-so glide so it was a trade-off. But considering the four tough "A" climbs (2X 150 ft, and 2X 100 ft) I did not want a repeat of last week when I waxed too light and paid a high price.
Hit south tower in the middle of the high school's chase pack in about 10th or 11th place. The leaders were not going out hard and were not far ahead by the time we crested South Tower, but after the Descent and Roller Coasters/Medevac and up the sprint hairpin, maybe 2.5K, that was the last I saw of them. My son Mikko and the three or four other high schoolers passed me there and it was all I could do to not lose more ground because it was no man's land after that, with Bad Bob lurking back there. I could hang okay with the kids on the climbs and was content to just stay close.
The second lap was a blur of hypoxia, just trying to maintain form. Mikko pulled ahead of the group and we strung out. I managed to stay about in the middle of that group with Bobby, who used to be on the club's Comp Group back in the day.
I was pretty happy to finish with a sprint at the end, striding seemed better than double poling, to cross the line 12th at 37:21.
Now granted I'm older, more feeble of body and mind than I once was, but I don't recall a tougher 10K - 15K race classic course anywhere. That includes years at high altitude in Colorado, the Utah Winter Games (at 7000 ft) near Park City, US Nationals at Royal Gorge in California, fabled World Cup course in Biwabik, MN, or the 1980 Olympic course at Mt. Vanhovenberg near Lake Placid, NY. The Olympic Course at Lake Placid probably was the most comparable, that had 477 meters of climb (1500 ft) over 15K. Royal Gorge had next toughest. I have heard that the trails in Canmore, Alberta, site of the 1988 Olympics and several World Cups may be even more difficult (especially considering the 5,000 ft elevation there), but when you're comparing a little old citizen's race in the outback of central Alaska with famous Olympic venues it does make you think WTF?!
Again, I get the rationale behind this. Give the top local junior skiers the opportunity to race on the course that they will use for Junior Nationals here this spring. Those who do well at the qualifers next month, as well as the high school regional championsips, will be seasoned/familiar and will have a home course advantage.
Nevertheless, from the perspective of an aging masters citizen racer the course was over the top for 80 or 90% of the participants. Beforehand I was saying that this was it, I'd never do another NSCF Town Series race again. Now that it's over, I'll say while that may not be the case, I would prefer alternative options. For example, the next race is just a 5K freestyle on a course that is just as tough. 5K? How about offering the 20 and over set a rolling 15K on the Gundeloppet course, or some derivative of Outhouse and Tower, or even North 40 (very tough and technical in it's own right, but not in the Gorilla category)?
The kids did well, son Tristan had a big break through in the second half, pulling from 7th to 4th and nearly catching the lead group to finish in 33:54, while older brother Mikko held his own and was 10th in 36:50.
Finally, a really interesting tidbit. Top 3 skiers age 20 and over? Dave (35:00), me, and Bad Bob (38:24). Only 14 or 15 men outside of the junior divisions even raced. For a ski town that's thin, too thin.