Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So I suck at ski racing

March is for ski racing and Team Blackstrap (neighbor John and I) kicked off the season with the Rangeley Loppet. Lots of other friends raced too. This is the fifth year I've skied and the fifth year I skied this race. I "toured" the first year because I was too chicken to register as a racer, then raced the 25K (2008), 50K (2009), 25K (2010), and now the 50K again. I was shamed into the 50K after doing the 25K last year but the reason I opted for the 25K last year is because ski coaching de-fits you. This year I attempted to coach and train for a 50K and felt pretty fit going in. We'll return to that thought in a minute. I work pretty hard on my skate technique and I was also feeling very good about all my gears and my downhill turns.

Rangeley hadn't received any of the rain/ice that southern Maine received in the past week so the conditions were a little bit of fresh snow on top of packed powder. I consider these conditions medium speed. The kind of crushed and groomed ice that we get at Pineland is what I consider fast. More importantly, the snow was soft enough that the climbs would get a little chopped sugar and the sharp turns would get very rutted, which would matter most on the 2nd lap.

I was placed in the first wave and by the time I got to the start I was at the end of the line in the first wave. No matter, I suck at ski racing so having all these folks in front of me would keep me from going out too fast. The first four miles feels flat and is a net downhill. There was an unpredicted high wind blowing down from Saddleback so drafting was a key strategery of mine that I've hadn't done well in previous years and I tried, largely unsuccesfully, to draft behind some Colby women and assorted old men that I had caught up too. The little down hills told me that my skis were slow so I had to work just to draft, which kinda misses the point.

Miles 4-12 include 3 big climbs of 220, 300, and 200 feet. The Colby women had dropped me on the downhill in between climbs 1 and 2 but I caught and passed 2 of them by the top of climb 2, which is the biggest and had a big wind in my face...or in the face of the master blaster I was drafting. I let the girls pass at the top of the descent because I thought they'd have faster skis. I've been really worried about my skis so I had them hotboxed this past week. This didn't do squat. The first part of the descent is less steep and I had to work hard to keep up with the women. Then we got to the dead tuck section and over about 3/4 mile I lost probably 200 meters. Uggg. My skis suck! And if I'm not gliding as fast downhill then I'm also not gliding as fast on the flats with each pole/skate push. Which all adds up to more work just to ski the same pace.

Miles 13-15.5 include the descent from the last climb and a flattish section in the bog. I had lost almost everyone in my group on the descent so I was now skiing alone. My legs were also very tired and I debated pulling over after the first lap and just taking a slow 25K time. But I didn't.

I skied alone the entire lap 2 and mostly thought about DNFing and heading back to eat chilli and chocolate chip cookies. The wind was ripping on the powerline trails (Saddleback actually closed all their lifts). My skis were even slower than the first lap. My legs were tired. And I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration, including cold hands (it was mid 30s temperature) because they had stopped sweating. I stopped to drink profusely at each feed station. I struggled to eat gels while skiing. It wasn't a repeat of the Great Glen 300 from two years ago but my body was semi-shutting down. For whatever reason, I pressed on and finished lap 2 about 14 minutes slower than lap one, which gave me a 3:14:11 overall time and 56/75 men.

My analysis: I felt very good about my technique and pretty good about my fitness going in but I'm not at all happy with my time. I did very little tempo or interval training and all but one of my long skis were punctuated with numerous stops because these were all done with friends. Real training requires skiing alone. Ultimately, I think I just suck at ski racing. On the positive side, this was my first race that I didn't fall and I was actually really comfortable hammering the rutted turns in the first lap (not so much lap 2 when I was wobbly from fatigue and dehydration).


  1. I can't fathom doing that distance on skis, let alone doing it fast. My hat is off to you, sir.

  2. Nice job Jeff. Ski racing is not easy. I ski raced in high school and have a hard time skate skiing more than two hours. The good news is that's more training in the bank for next year.

  3. I agree with Kevin on both the "nice job" and "ski racing is not easy." I believe Ryan would say "ski racing sucks" :-) But seriously, you are relatively new to skiing, and you're doing great. So, what race is next?!

  4. Totally badass Jeff, seriously. That's crazy distance on skis. Consider this an "information gathering" assignment. No doubt you will be posting next year about how much you slayed your time from the previous year and how you were able to make tweaks based on what you learned. More importantly, I've decided that should I ever become a British spy, my name will be Rangeley Loppet.

  5. Rangeley Loppet. I love it. You should write spy novels Mindy.