Despite my best efforts, next thing I knew I was waiting at the starting line for a classic five km race in Vermont. This is what a weekend in winter would look like when I was 15. At age 30 I didn't exactly see this coming, but sure enough I raced the first classic leg of the relay at SuperTour finals this last Sunday in Crafstburry, VT. The 15km mass start skate was on Saturday. If you break the weekend down some parts were working in my favor and some were not. In the end, none of it really mattered. I was there to thrash and have fun. Results in the xc and biathlon world are somewhat irrelevant now.
So what went well and what was working against me? The skate race was fun, because there was actually enough snow this year. Not as much as we have back home, but enough to race the full 5km loop. Even more helpful, was the hard packed conditions. When it's not slushy or icy it's fair. You can use good technique and pace yourself accordingly. The course profile was also to my liking. Nothing too technical and with a couple of drawn out climbs.
That much was in my favor, but the race was not devoid of disadvantages. The whole weekend was planned on a whim. With that in mind, I was searching for a good pair of skis to race on. While I was able to find a wax tech with many thanks to the team from Bozman, the quality of skis was a missed opportunity. Everything was coming together too close to the last minute. There was a fast pair of skis from a higher level at my disposal. They were flown over from Europe after the previous world cup. Unfortunately, without any cell service I wasn't able to find them in time to have them in the mix. My skis were decent, but I was loosing more than I wanted to on the downhills. Craftsburry is also a course that I suspect some wax teams know significantly better than anyone else in the USSA crowd.
The other disadvantage I had to contend with was racing in bib 49. In a crowd of 118 this could have been much worse. I was glad to have been moved up as much as I had. Still, 12 kms of that race was spent fighting through the masses. Poles were stepped on, certain words were used, and often I had to slip through a narrow opening to move up at all. I made the best use of the climbs as I could. By the time the race was down to a few kms I could see the lead pack. At that point it started to break up and at that point I was too far out and had spent most of my push just clawing my way up to that point in the first place.
Overall, it was an alright race. I was glad when it was over and was pleased where I ended up given the extra distance I added skiing around others. If I was really concerned I should have planned ahead better on ski choices. A better start placement could have been had if I had done a USSA race at all prior to Saturday. The damage I did on the climbs was noted and I'm confident I could have been with the lead group were things a little different. Still, fair is fair.
And yes I did a classic race on Sunday. For reason unknown to me, it did not occur to me that I should ski in my race skis before the start to give some feedback on the kick wax. So long story short, there was a lot of double poling going on during that race. Without very much kick it's supper hard to make a fast transition into striding on the climbs. The extra effort spent on really pressing the wax pocket only added to the frustration. Thankfully, much like the skate race, this race wasn't much more than just for the fun of it. The rest of my teammates (Clair, Raleigh, and Susan) did pretty well and we were not all that far back.
Come to think of it, that concludes what could be my last xc racing experience. I'm trying not to overthink it right now. I was in southern Maine before the end of the day. On Monday I flew out of PWM and landed in SLC. Now I'm in Heber City, UT hoping there is enough snow to make US Biathlon Nationals happen. Again, these races don't have very much weight on them. Maybe I'm just looking for some closure. It might actually just be authentic Mexican food that I'm really after.
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