Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Boys Are State Champs (Again!)

The West Valley boys cross country team won its first state title in 30 years last fall after two hard fought runners up finishes in 2010 and 2011. In skiing they had a strong but young team this year, a season in which they hardly raced as a team because of bad weather. They had not raced against Anchorage teams all year, and the only two races in which they had a full team (more or less all the varsity-near varsity) skiers in the same race was at a Town Race in January (10K classic) and at the Regional Championships the other week.

Going in everyone knew that powerhouses South and Service High Schools would be the teams to beat, and that these teams usually found a way to win and that they were older-more experienced than the West Valley squad (four sophomores and two seniors made the team).

On day 1 in the 7.5K classic as expected, South took control with a 1:40 lead over West Valley, and Service was another 1:40 back. No one else was very close.

We drove down for day 2 last Friday, which was my birthday. We got up at an unholy hour (3 or so) thinking that leaving at 4 would give plenty of time. Not So! Roads were icy and we got to Kincaid Park just in time to hear the two minute warning for the 12 noon start.

The boys were on fire from the gun, although it looked like South's Tanner Ramey might steal the show--he was out by 15 seconds early on but after an off day on Thursday could he hold it? No. West Valley's diminutive Max Donaldson hung back in third place for most of the first lap before turning it on to take the win by an easy 34 seconds. The trails were rockin' as Jonathan Koenig and my own son Tristan moved into the top 10, right up there with the best skiers in the state. They held on with mighty good form to take 6th and 8th, while young Jesse Mayo just in his second year of competitive skiing held off teammate Riley to score an 18th. The boys had won the day by nearly 5 minutes and now had a 2:50 lead on on South. Almost unbeatable.

They gave it their all on Saturday, with Riley leading off and fighting hard to take 5th, about 24 seconds behind South's Eric Backstrum. That lead switched quickly as Service's Matthew Muffoletto blasted out of the gates and built up a 20-25 second lead of his own by half way through his classic leg. Meanwhile Jonathan moved up steadily and just a km to go, he was 2nd, closing in on a tying Muffoletto. Tristan was about 7 second out of second place, behind a senior from Service who looked bigger and stronger and faster heading out of the stadium. But half way through the leg on the on a mid-sized hill on the Lekisch Loop I could see the Service athlete tie up and make a head check. Tristan was only five or six seconds back and he looked fresh, so I yelled "You've Got Him!"

Tristan exiting the tunnel in the lead near the end of his leg (Anchorage Daily News)

Sure enough when their profiles came into view on the far side of the biathlon range a few minutes later, Tristan had gapped the Service skier and the field. He held on nicely to give Max a 6 second lead, and it was over before it started. Max was totally in control and extended his lead to 22 seconds by the end. Bringing home the state championship for the first time in 20 years.

A job well done boys!

And Kudos to the coaches, Christina Turman, Greg Whisenhant, and Eric Hoffman as well as Pete Leonard and Greg for their excellent waxing on the weekend.

(I helped a bit with the team this season [plus with the skiers that I coach year-round] but was just a parent/fan for state, a role I could get to like).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Edic Leads USA at World Masters

Way to go Dave Edic! With a 5th and 7th so far at the Masters World Cup in Asiago, Italy, the local M6 (55-59) skier is on a roll. He just missed a medal by 8 seconds in the 30K classic earlier this week and also scored well in the 10K. We are often rivals on the trails but also friends, on and off the race course. Kudos to an awesome series!

Sidekick Bad Bob has also skied well at these championships, with 16th and 21st in the respective classic races. Meanwhile, local skiers Chris Puchner, Bruce Jamieson, and Owen Hanley are also competing.

It's been a long-time dream of mine to compete but the timing isn't good, let alone my budget.

Although there are a fair number of masters skiers in this area and the enthusiasm among participants is high, there is not much support or interest outside of the geezers who are out there racing.  I  do think the top four of us actively skiing in the M5-M6 range, adding Jim Lokken) could hold our own as a team in a national competition against any Region in the USA. Add Trond Jensen of Anchorage and you'd have a formidable masters Team Alaska. Not to mention there are several retired/semi-retired Olympians lurking about, very fit too: like Audun Endestad and Todd Boonstra.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

30K Freestyle: Brrrrringing it Home

I enjoy the club's annual 30K event, the Raven Romp, held in mid-Februrary. That and the Sonot are are my two favorites (followed by the Gundeloppet 15K and the January 20K classic/and or Skiathon 20K). I hope they keep this race as a freestyle, because it's a perfect lead in to the Tour of Anchorage and Sonot.

Going in on Sunday I was disappointed to see the temperatures drop over the weekend, after several weeks of nice weather here. If it's a skate race this year, it must be cold. All but the Besh Cup 5 the other week (which was at a balmy 5 above) have been sub zero.

The groomers and grooming machine did a nice job, and at -7 before the start the trails felt reasonbly fast. Before we got the groomer last year it would have been sandpaper slow at those temps.

My training has been going pretty well, but this has been an odd/challenging year for racing (they all are in their own way), and I didn't know how I'd fare in the cold temps and longer distance. The lead pack, dominated by UAF skiers started out pretty slow and I had them in close sight (not more than 10-15 seconds) through the first 3-4K, hanging back in 8th or 9th place. They broke it up on White Bear after the Sonot Cutoff. By then I was in no-man's land and stayed there through Moilanen's Meadow, when a couple guys started to drop back into my view. I was borderline too cold, but not uncomfortable either; an extra layer of tights or UnderArmor could have helped and my feet were cold. Otherwise, layered up and duct tape on my face to fend of the cold temps and fine snow that was falling.

Just before the the lap I passed one of the UAF skiers (Peter, who is redshirting) and slowed in the stadium to fish out a gel from my water bottle holder. I should have had someone hand one me one because it the gel was so cold I had to chew it. Took a drink at the feed station but was cotton mouthed--and this would affect me later. Peter came back on me and we pulled through Tower pretty strong, reeling in Wyatt (another UAF redshirt) and Max.

Out on White Bear, just past the Biathlon Range, we formed into a group of four, the pace was quickening. Although boderline hypoxic I was feeling good, I was also very dry-mouthed (despite taking a drink every 20-25 minutes on the first lap), and had to get another. I was terribly slow getting that water bottle out and open and some liquid into my parched but chilled throat, that they had all gapped me by 15-20 seconds by the time I could get it back together on that flat stretch between the 4.5 and 6.5 K cutoffs.

Peter and Wyatt had pulled away at a strong pace, but I was able to catch Max before the long cold descent at the far end of the White Bear loop. I was a little ahead coming out of "the hole" but oy, my legs started to lock up. With 5-6 K to go, I had to back down a bit. So tucked in behind Max and regrouped. Up the long steep part of the hill Peter was out of sight but Wyatt was still there, so I put my head down and went after him. And that's pretty much how it ended. I think we were gaining on Kramer, but both of them were too far up to catch (as if I'd have anything left for a sprint). By the end I was getting dizzy and bleary, lost in my own personal ice fog.

The finish was and will be largely anonymous, but 6th place overall with some pretty good skiers in that top 5, I'm not disappointed. Also won a pair of Swix poles in the drawing (inadvertantly--haha probably NOT--left off the club's official write up). Woot!

Thanks to Raven Cross Country and Buetow Dental for sponsoring this event and for their support of the Distance Series. These are the races I enjoy the most.

Top 10 Overall
1. Logan Hanneman, 1:27:33.0
2. Ian Wilkinson, 1:30:23.2
3. Peter Brewer, 1:35:45.3
4. Mike Kramer, 1:36:47.2
5. Wyatt Mayo, 1:37:17.3
6. Roger Sayre, 1:37:52.5
7. Max Kaufman, 1:39:43.7
8. Dashiell Feierabend, 1:42:18.9
9. Gary Holton, 1:43:23.5
10. Melissa Lewis, 1:47:53.3

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Belated Wednesday Night Race Report

I'm a bit behind here with many things going on lately at work and at home. And within that, a lot going on in my head about the local ski scene. Some of it I'll probably post someday, but a lot will just stay where it is with me/maybe with a few friends and family.

Let's just say, #%^&%&$& some folks sure are amped up around here! There have been a lot of changes this year, some might say improvements. Maybe not. Someday I look forward to residing in how should I say, a more laid-back ski community.

The race!

For starters, I didn't even want to be there on the line on Wednesday. The Besh Cup weekend was exhausting, 10K race included, and I'm not real keen on racing in the evening. Family time. Dinner. Relax, read. You know normal things like that. Nevertheless, I do like to support the series and what it stands for so I like to make at least half the races each year.

It was a cold, about 1F, and snowy night. The crowd seemed a little thin, but the usual masters suspects, Dave, Jim, Bob, and Max (technically a sub masters (50 and up) in the series but still spry in his 40s I consider Max to be in the masters crowd). And the infamous Mark.

Dash, practically the lone citizen racer holdout under the age of 43 anymore blasted out, and I was thinking uggh, not this! as I tucked into about 4th or 5th place. On Relay Alley return Max picked up and reeled in Dash; I tucked behind Dave and watched the widening gap until we got about half way through Rollercoasters. This was earlier than I'd wanted, but my skis were running well and and those guys already had 15-20 seconds and if I'd have any chance of catching them I didn't want to lose more time.
Dash came back quick--or did I pick it up pretty hard?-- and I caught him in the stadium after White Bear access. I started to work on Max and by the time we came through the first lap I was 10-12 sec back. However, I was feeling the burn already and couldn't get enough oxygen into my tired legs to go any faster. I knew it would be a long second lap.

About half way through the second lap I  could hear Dash coming up from behind, but I didn't have enough to do much about it. Coming out of White Bear Access the last time the gap was only a few seconds. I expected him to blow by but no, so I tried to keep it strong. Out of Warm Up I thought I might actually hold him off, but sheesh that was wrong! He blew by under the building and into the home stretch. Wasn't even close as I was 4-5 seconds back and something like 25 behind Max up front.

And then the pain set in. First I noticed that my nostrils were searing from breathing in the cold air. And my right ear, felt like someone had jabbed a One Way ski pole 2" into it. My buff had slipped off my hat and even though it's a thick wool/blend Swix cap, it felt like it had been jabbed and then the projectile twisted. About 40 seconds later, and for a good five minutes thereafter, my breathing could not catch up and my lungs and chest were on fire. I didn't have an asthma attack or anythiing but it hurt to breathe for longer than normal. So I just bent over hand on knees and tried to regroup for a cool down.

Ouch! I'm 54, not 24. Why do I do these things still?


Monday, February 04, 2013

Another 10K: More Loathing Than Fear

I've done four or five previous Besh Cup freestyle 10Ks here, it's usually been the final event of the six race series on Super Bowl Sunday. And all the other ones I've done have been mass start. This time it was the penultimate race, on Saturday, and it was interval start. Also a new course this time. And I thought the old one--with South Tower, White Bear, the arduous Black Funk Wall, and Tower Direct...and White Bear again--was tough. This one seems even more difficult.

With 177 meters of climbing, maybe it is. One thing for sure, you have a long tough climb out of the Black Funk hole, up to the top of Tower, for a skier of my lessened state, 7-8 minutes of climb with a 20 sec downhill.

I probably should have brought my heart rate monitor, but had more than enough on my mind with six skiers on the team also racing, and I'd been up waxing since early.

I dialed back on Black Funk and Tower Direct, but then again saw that I was closing on Bad Bob who had started about 1.5 minutes ahead. My skis were pretty fast and I actually caught him on the downhill on Tower, even though he's 30 lbs heavier. We cruised through the stadium and down into White Bear in style and Bob hung close up the long climb back to Sidewinder, but a faster skier overtook us both and I latched on for a few hundred meters. After that I was on my own, although I had David and son Mikko (J1s) lurking back there. A couple other masters skiers were up 30 sec ahead, so I'd closed the gap some on them. I think the section that did me in was the second time up Competition. I was dead tired after that and never recovered.

I was also feeling some blood sugar issues, second race in a row. I think I ate well enough. A bagel and bowl of cereal with banana for breakfast, and a Cliff Bar two hours before the race. It was only an 11 AM start, so it wasn't like I was starving. But I felt light headed, a little weak, and a big pit in my stomach like I hadn't eaten in 8 hours.

On Tower Direct my plan was to gradually accelerate the effort. However, the reality hit and all I could do was maintain and not fall on my face. Things got dicey on the downill, off that first pitch on White Bear, when I started choking and gaging on mucous in my throat. I cleared that out, and hit the bottom of the hill in high velolocity and my vision became blurred. Just 1 km to go. David, who started 30 sec behind me, was closing in so I gave it my all, although kind of dogged it on that transition over the top because I was feeling so peaked. Finally, on the switch backs coming into the stadium I felt like puking--this happens on most of those hard 10Ks, right about at that spot. I gave it all I had in the stadium.

The result, 42nd place (but only about 3 seconds out of 38th) in 33:12, but a ridiculous percentage back from Lex Trienen (let's see that's 6:15/26:57 blah blah), about 23.2%. Both time and place were off a bit from all my previous outings where I've managed to be in the 20s-mid 30s place wise and at 20% or under behind the winner. Maybe Lex caught a flyer as he won by 45 seconds or so against some very good college and post college skiers.

So even if it wasn't my best race, it was my best effort on this day.

Next up: the kids! They did me proud.