Monday, February 9, 2009

Great Glen Race Report

Or two reports. See also the post below this one! The NWS had the expected overnight lows in Pinkham notch at 24F and warming up to 35 by 3PM. They were backwards. The temperature was 47F and raining in North Conway at 8AM, low 40s in Jackson and was 40F and light showers at Great Glen when we arrived at 8:30. Uh oh. I had waxed with Ski-go orange LF. What I didn't know was that apparently the area warmed up to 50F that night! The precip quickly turned to snow after we arrived but the T wasn't really dropping below 40F. Oh, and the winds were huge - 20-30MPH with gusts over 40MPH? During the race, the temp cooled to about 35F or maybe a little less.

The race is a 5K loop that skiers ski as many times as they can within the 300 minute race time (yes that's 5 hours). Skate or classic. Solo, 2-person, or 4-person teams. The race started off with a bang (literally!) and I ended up behind one of the little Bill Koch skiers who took off like a rocket. He was pretty fast but I just couldn't get complacent following a 12 year old shrimp, so I took him on the first tiny uphill (admission. I did 10 laps and the Bill Koch foursome did 10 laps. Their average age was about 10.5). I then followed a woman named Susan with really good form for two laps, then passed her on the one climb on the course during the 3rd lap. Everything felt good. The glide was slow, but I really only noticed this on the downhills, especially right at the top when my head was a little two far forward and my skis didn't want to catch up and I had to keep myself from launching myself into a face plant. But at least it wasn't soft, which were the conditions of the only other two races I've done (the Rangeley Loppet).

My longest ski prior to this was about 36K and I stopped that day because I had bonked with no energy. My longest run ever is about 20 miles. So 5 hours of skiing intimidated me and I wanted to make sure I drank and ate enough during the race. I probably lost the hydration battle before it begain. I went out 3 times during the week, each time drinking 2-3 beers (which is about my limit), including the night before the race. Anyway, I stopped after lap 3 to drink some and eat a shot block. James warned me to keep the shot blocks on my body or else they would be hard candy. I of course left my shot blocks in my little bag by the lap line, so I only got one shot block down and that took about 6-7 minutes of chewing.

Since I had only that single shot block, and I was afraid of bonking, I stopped after lap 5 to drink a little more and take another shot block, which I had put in my pants pocket to warm up. It didn't. Each lap was 5.25K so I hit the 30K mark before coming into lap 6, at about 2:17. That's pretty slow and my legs were starting to tire.

My hands started to chill in my thin Swix gloves during lap 6 so I pulled over after lap 6 (31.5K) to eat 1/2 my pb&j and change into a fresh pair of thick Swix gloves. My hands must have swelled because it took about 4 minutes to put the gloves on - they just wouldn't slide over my hands. Add one minute to eat the pb&j and I was in the pit stop for 5 minutes. Too long! Susan with good form passed me while I was in the pit stop and she was looking strong and fit.

After lap 7, everything went downhill steadily. Wierdly, I still felt good on the climbs but I was out-of-balance and flailing on everything else. I stopped after lap 8 to drink more water and finish my pb&j. With this stop, I would was still on pace to do 12 laps only if I didn't stop again (or slow down any more), so I was thinking that I'd do that 12th lap even if I couldn't quite squeeze it into 5 hours. During lap 9, my hands started to chill in my thick swix gloves but, curiously, they weren't sweating (my first pair of gloves cause my hands to get cold because the gloves were wet with sweat). I thought I'd take one last water break (this was my 5th stop!). Then I decided to go to stretch my legs and go to the portapotty to pee. My urine was very dark - meaning that my kidney's were re-absorbing all my water. That and the fact that my hands were chilled instead of sweating meant that I had low blood pressure due to dehydration. My 10th lap was uneventful. I still had lots of time to do an 11th lap but there was no way to do a 12th. My legs were tired and a bit unsteady but it was mostly my dehydration and cold hands that I was worried about, especially since I have the two frost bitten fingers that still haven't recovered from mid-December. So, I unclipped from the skis and called it a day. 10 laps and 52.5K in 4:20.

So, for my skiing I need to work on getting more power out of my upper body. My legs were shot because they were doing too much of the work while my upper body wasn't at all exhausted. Ryan has some really nice photos and video on the race website and a small clip of the video shows me doing a V2 with some really wimpy poling. And for race management, I need to be able to figure out how to ski for 4-5 hours and more efficiently hydrate and re-fuel. This isn't easy with thick glove and poles strapped to my hands.


  1. Great job working through tough conditions, that's an impressive distance to cover. Sounds like you learned a few things about hydration/nutrition that will be important as you undertake your first ultramarathon run this summer, right? We'll expect you on the team with the Snowplugs for the 50k at Pineland.

  2. But who will man the Oak Hill aid station?

  3. Great job out there. Ian does have a point.