Wednesday, January 30, 2013

White Mountain Classic 30K January 26, 2013

The day of the race rolled around after a week of COLD temperatures. It promised to stay chilly with temperatures reading '0' as I headed into the Mt. Washington Valley. The morning began inauspiciously with a searing headache that seemed to have haunted me off and on through nearly three weeks of being 'sick'. I medicated with a gigantic cup of coffee sipped over the course of my drive to Jackson. I have come to these decision points with racing in particular, where I make the decision to do it despite what I could call legitimate excuses, and then put on blinders and block out any negative thoughts or questions. It was a good way to start this particular day because somewhere in my muddled brain I put the drive at around 1:25 which is about 30 minutes UNDER actual even driving like an insane person down mostly empty roads. My adrenalin fired up as the clock ticked away and I zoomed along. Pulling into Jackson just shy of 9am gave me enough time to get my bib, hit the bathroom, pull on my ski boots and head out. The guys at BNS had already waxed my skis with some mixture of magic powder topped with binder and Universal kick wax which they thought would work. I trust them, so I decided it would work. It had to, because there was no time to go messing with it. Donning my puffy coat, I stripped down to my racing tights, wore the fat lobster mitts and a Smartwool neck warmer and took my insulated bottle of warm Powerbar Perform over to the golf course start area. The announcer was chatting away and people were in various states of preparation. It was cold! But the sun was out and there was no wind which was a definite improvement over other years. I had about 5 minutes to 'test' my skis and felt I was already warm because of the sweat I'd worked up driving there. Warming up seems to be no problem for me; I can be at full tilt in a very short period of time.
The course was a fun one. Start with a loop and a half around the golf course letting everyone sort themselves out a bit, cross the road, then meander through the golf course a bit more and head into the woods for the rather lengthy and steep climb up the Eagle Mountain fields. At the top, one more road crossing and then 3 laps that consisted of some rather vigorous ups and downs on the Wave (serious stuff) and a mega amount of double poling all around the fields finishing with a steep little climb towards the Eagle Mountain House and then down for a repeat.
I lined up in the front third not wanted to repeat the experience of a few weeks back when I raced a 5K skate with the college women on the Wave and I politely slowed down and let so much of the pack in front of me that it necessitated herring bone for nearly 1kilometer. I didn't want to get stuck, but I also didn't want to get run over because the key point here is that I had not been on my classic skis for TWO YEARS, which marked the last time I did this race. That is probably not good training, right? Here's the funny thing, this happens every year. And somehow, I go out and bust my ass and finish somewhere in the top 4-7. Every time. And the thing is, nordic skiers generally SKI a lot. I look at the people around me and they are from Vermont and the mountains of NH and they are coaching skiing or training on snow... But I swim, bike and run with occasional strength thrown in. This year I did actually skate ski four times before the race including one race, so I guess that was an improvement. The gun went off and it was the usual mass mayhem of people double poling, tracks reduce and athletes are left on the edge or jumping into the track in front of someone else. It was a polite start though, patience ruled, so everything went off well. Minus a little side stepping and a few jerky spots it was no time before we crossed the road and headed towards the climb that always hurts more than any other part of the course. I had to hit it with a little 'V' because I was slipping a tiny bit and about half way up the first hill noticed that I was sucking mega wind and I could feel the cold sear of it in my lungs. Ouch. We worked pretty hard up the hills and with great happiness saw the road crossing and at that point I went into my deep breath, relax, time to go mode. The first lap was solid. I worked it hard, the uphills of the Wave were rough and a V run was required in spots. Luckily my pro downhill/cornering skills are quite useful on the technical nature of the loop and also, I'd done the loop three times when I was in Jackson a few weeks back to race. My skis felt really fast and light and so all was well. Passed through the feed station two times before heading back into a second lap. Drinking with big mitts is hard, so I didn't bother yet. Second lap, settle. Seemed all good, climbing, tucking, working. Back into the fields, double pole madness, skipped the drink again and headed back up for the last mega climb. This is where arm fatigue became a factor. My triceps were crying. Every time my ski slipped out behind me I jammed the poles in for traction. It required a re-focus on core, clearing my mind and pulling my hips forward to keep from kicking out the back. On the third lap I was passing slower people who were on their earlier laps and as I side stepped one guy I just caught an edge and fell forward. My arms went out in front and I landed in push-up position and felt my arms scream. I almost couldn't push myself back up. This is somewhat humorous as it is happening... the voice in my head is going on about how stupid that was and how maybe if I trained some I wouldn't be having this problem. Anyway, I did get up and kept going but fatigue was there, no doubt. I did grab a drink the next time through the aid station and it was almost hot and felt so good going down. Addressing nutrition on these longer efforts would make sense. Eating anything while out in the cold and moving forward seems impossible. A friend showed me GU all over her front after the race, apparently she tried to eat it and had minimal luck. Last part of the golf course, there I was double poling as hard as I could. Snaking behind me I could see a few guys, one from Maine who I knew, and I just didn't want them to catch me so I kept at it. The last time up the nasty hill to the Eagle Mountain House required a rather deep dig into my Self, but after that big DOWN, tuck and finally the Lap/Fin sign- always my favorite to turn to the fin side and say good bye. There were still a few K left, but they involved some scary down hills (the ones we had to come up first) and did I snowplow down one of them? Yes I did. A few seconds of that is better than falling. Emerging onto the golf course I put whatever was left in the tank and flew on over to the finish. 1:44:54. The first Maine Nordic finisher, first in my AG and 7th woman overall. The young people win. I think they train too. As always, Nordic skiing rocks. It's all about being super smart and reading the terrain, maximizing glide and technique, breathing deep and just pulling every ounce of muscular power and endurance from your body. That said, I was useless the rest of the day. Sign of good race.