Another Tuesday, another chance to race. After feeling like my head was off visiting another planet last weekend, I figured it was time to knock some sense into me. Namely, by mass-starting a 5-lap 7k race with 70 other skiers, some of whom have rather questionable technique and skiing-in-packs-skills. Colin had suggested that I try to ski with the lead pack, possibly jokingly, so I decided to give it a go. Anna and I lined up in maybe the sixth row back, but there was nobody directly in front of me, for some reason, and Evan Doucett was the row up from there, so I knew it would be a fast start (based on the 8th law of the universe-- highschool boys start races fast). It was pretty balmy out, which meant that my skis were fairly sticky, but Anna and I have a pact that we'll never wax our skis for this event, so sticky skis it is.
Count down to go, and its possible mayhem. Possible, because I was ahead of it, not in it. I was very glad that this time, they started us in the tracks, because it meant that people actually had to double pole instead of starting to skate too early. The first lap was just a loop of the outer trail, and I stayed to the outside and let the mayhem play itself out to my left. My fast start had gotten me into the top ten or so of the guys, and these guys all know how to ski and how to behave when skiing in packs, so I was much more comfortable than in my normal Tuesday starts, when I'm surrounded by people who are a little less skilled on skis and a little more aggressive. I guess the front guys don't need to be aggressive, they just ski fast. By the end of the loop, Anna had caught back up, and I settled in behind Evan up Mt. Weston. He was fading a little over the top, so I skied up to the next guy. I should have known that drafting this guy was a mistake, because he was in windpants. Any master worth his snuff wears full spandex to these events.
Sure enough, windpants-dude got gapped, and by the time I noticed it, there was no way I was bridging it (that would involve skiing faster than Rob Bradlee. Unless its over a 25m sprint, I don't think I can do that). I was unsure of what to do. Pass windpants-dude and ski alone? Draft windpants-dude and hope my poles stayed safe from the guys behind? Luckily, Mark Jacobson (I think) made my decision for me and passed windpants-dude, so I passed windpants-dude also to hop in behind Mark. Another half lap passes before I figure what the heck, I'll go for it, and pass Mark. I got a small gap, just enough that they weren't in my draft, and coming past the finish on lap two I heard Bob Burnham say "I'll work with you Alex". Alright, I like hearing that, so I pushed pretty hard over Mt. Weston and into the downhill. Bob passed me there, and I hopped in his draft, and it was surprisingly relieving to be in the draft again. Then we got to the top of the hill in the middle and Bob just pulled over. Well, there goes my draft. I was far enough in front of the pack that I didn't want to wait for them, so I just put my head down and skied fast for a while. When I looked again at the U-turn after Mt. Weston, they were closing, but not by much, so I figured I could outlast them another lap and a half. Which I did, but it was getting close near the end. I started to feel the burn a bit up Mt. Weston the last lap; according to my new Garmin, I was only moving 5.5 mph up that hill, with a HR of 190 (L4). So, not suicidal, and very definitely not fast!
Some photos from last weekend (stolen directly from Jamie Doucett with no permission):
My "sprint" qualifier.
Me terrifying Nadja, one of our J2s (in the blue and red) to ski faster up that hill. I was telling her to change tracks and go around that other girl, and she did, and she beat her. wooo.