Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Alley Loop weekend

For weekend number two for the USCSA season we headed down to Crested Butte for two days of USCSA action. Crested Butte is an awesome town with great trails and a ski community to match. The first day of racing was the annual Alley Loop. This is a big ski marathon that attracts racers from all over the area, and we score it as one of our USCSA qualifiers. Day two was a 5k classic race, a RMC USCSA race. 

The Alley Loop is one of my favorite races, and it ranks among the best ski marathons in the country. Every year they move tons of snow into the streets of Crested Butte for the race. It begins on 2nd Street, the main drag downtown, and then heads up a big climb out of town onto the cross country trails. It descends down into the meadows, full of undulating terrain, until at the end of the loop you pass these ruins of an old mine. From there the trail heads up a long climb and descends back into town. It goes down one street, hangs a right into the alley for two blocks, and back onto the wide street for 100 yards of straight, and 90 degree turn onto 2nd Street to lap. Through the lap the way out of town is different from the first. Rather than heading up the trail heads off into a little alley and across a footpath, and out into a flat meadow which eventually meets up with the first lap. The reason for the difference in the laps is that the alleys are far too narrow for a mass start with 100 racers to go through at once without massive carnage.

For the first time since I joined the team we stayed in Crested Butte for the Crested Butte races. In the past we have always stayed in Gunnison, which is a 40 minute drive from the trails. This year we found a sweet vacation rental in Crested Butte just five minutes from the Nordic center. It’s a massive house with two living rooms, a hot tub, steam room, and a huge kitchen that accommodated the whole team at once. We were really blessed to have such an awesome place so close to the venue.

Unfortunately not everything else was so perfect. We had problems with the van on Saturday morning, forcing us to get everyone to the start in Suburban loads. I got in the first trip, but when we got to the start line we had trouble finding the bib pickup, which turned out to be several blocks from the start. When we did find it I discovered the arch strap on my right boot had broken off in transit. Furthermore, we now only had about an hour to the start. I got my boot on and covered the severed strap with masking tape, which actually worked pretty well. It doesn’t get as tight as the strap lets it get, but it’s skiable. 
My Salomon boot with masking tape on the right. This is from the start line
Because of all the delays my warm up got a little messed up, so I basically just shortened every step to compensate. At these races skiers hoping to be in the front rank at the start line have to arrive early to secure a spot. They operate on a first come first serve basis. So that meant even less time. Fortunately I got through my abbreviated warm up and nabbed a spot in the front without trouble.

Here’s a quick summary of my ideal warmup for a 21k.

T minus 1:30 – Arrive at the venue
T minus 1:00 – Get on skis, ski the course (dependent on the course length), super easy
T minus :30 – Two minutes of level 2
T minus :28 – Easy ski
T minus ~:22 – Two minutes of level 3
T minus :20 – Easy ski
T minus :15 – 10-15 seconds level 4, on skis or on foot, repeats
T minus :05 – Shed clothes, get to the pen

For other race lengths I do variations of this. The shorter the race the longer the level 2 and 3. In between the level 2 and level 3 speeds I do a full moving recovery. I find two minutes is about as short as you can do and still get fully in the target zone. Two minutes is pretty short but it works for a long race. The level 4 at the end is as hard as possible. Doing it on foot gets your heart rate up faster than on skis, and if you incorporate poles then you still get your arms warm. In a 21k I usually reason that I will do some warming up in the first couple k. It’s a long enough race where you can get away with that. Also, arriving at the pen with only five minutes to go is often not possible, for instance, the Alley Loop. This is my ideal warm up, I rarely actually get it right. This can be adjusted to personal taste, race distance, and other extraordinary circumstances. The important thing is that you hit every gear in order before the start. 

Back to the Alley Loop. A lot of people wanted to be in that front row so we were packed in like sardines. This dictated my tactics early on. Basically I wanted to cover the 120m double pole faster than everybody and hammer up the opening climb. This would hopefully break the field enough by the top that everyone would have some freedom of maneuver. I was pretty nervous about breaking a pole in the double pole because we were so close together.
Us at the start. Mason is on the far left, the three of us on the right are Sam, myself, and Ben
When the gun went off I executed my plan. I hit the end of the double pole in second, and had already created some space so I could move around. Free from the risk of broken equipment. I hit the hill and took the lead. I pushed the pace all the way up the hill, then slowed down a little on the rolling section after the climb. After that there’s a fast downhill with two switchbacks to make things interesting. When I rounded the switchbacks I looked back and was pleased to see that the field was already really strung out and that UW had places 1,2,3, and 4. I slowed down a little more because I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace for another 19k. Sam and Mason pulled in behind me and we had a little train going. In the meadows we began to pass the back part of the 42k race, which had started 15 minutes before us. We were cruising at a reasonable pace but we also had to dodge 42k skiers. Sam and I switched who was leading a couple times.

As we hit the turnaround point on the lap we were joined by the four NCAA skiers in our race and a couple other guys. On the big climb back towards town one of the CU skiers moved to the front and lifted the pace significantly. By the top of the climb there were seven of us in the lead group: Ian Boucher, Max Scrimgeour, and Jackson Hill from CU, Lars Hannah from DU, and Mason, Sam, and myself. We shuffled back in forth for placement in the group down the hill into town and through the alleys. When we took off down the narrowest of the alleys past the lap marker we were forced to double pole due to the narrowness and the sugariness of the hauled snow. 

Once we got out of the alley it’s a lot of flat. Lars Hannah moved from 7th in the line around all of us to the front and lifted the pace. This put me way out of my comfort zone. We were zipping by masters really fast and I was working to hold on.  
Sam, me, and Mason on the second lap
On some of the little climbs in the meadows whoever was dictating the pace at the front would slow way down, almost to a walk on the bottom and then accelerate over the top to try and drop us. At this point Mason was a little ways back and I was losing connection. Every time I clawed my way back but the changes in pace were really affecting me. The group slowly pulled away from me but I didn’t lose sight.
When we hit the big climb I was really suffering. I could see the group pulling away from Sam up ahead. I pushed up the steep part to where it was a little more gradual. Sam had somewhere around 15 seconds on me at this point. I realized it was still possible for me to catch him so I lifted my pace here and could quickly tell I was closing the gap.

I hit the downhill and caught Sam at the bottom. We hung the right into the alley and there really wasn’t room to pass so I was content to sit behind him. When we swung left onto the road I went around on his left. I then had the inside on the 90 degree left hander to the finish. I sprinted hard and just beat him in. My last effort had really destroyed me and I basically collapsed on the ground and vomited out all the Gatorade I had taken as feed. This is how I want to feel after every race.  

Sam and I ended up just under a minute behind the NCAA guys who won. They came in more or less together.

In the USCSA, the UW men got the first podium sweep of the season, with Sam, Mason, and me. It was fun mixing it up with the NCAA boys and racing together with teammates.
Ben was 10th and Taylor was 13th.

On Sunday we raced a 5k classic, on the same course that we did in December and before that last February. Everything went smoothly that morning, and we had beautiful conditions with warm temperatures and cold snow. This made waxing really easy.

I definitely woke up on Sunday still feeling tired from the race the day before.  Though I had done my best to recover, it can take more than 24 hours to get back to 100% after an effort like mine the day before.
I was the third starter. Because it’s a 5k I went out really hard. Essentially the first half of the course is all double pole, while the second half is very difficult, starting with a massive climb right in the middle. I wanted to make some time on the double pole where I am usually stronger. I caught the guy in front of me pretty quickly and set my sights on the next guy. It was Nate Maddox, a fast skier from CMU. I had gotten close to him by the top of the big climb, but didn’t gain much over the latter half of the course. I was in a lot of pain, feeling the previous day’s effort. I struggled throughout the rest of the course and never got around Nate. Not my best race.
The podium. L-R: Mason, me, Nate, Elise, Bob from WSCU, Meghan
Still, when the results came in I was second, eight seconds behind Mason. Nate was third. Trevor came in 9th, Ben 11th, and Taylor 12th. Sam took the day off.

Results are here

This weekend is our home race! The Cowboy Chase is always a great weekend. This year we have a 5k classic team start on Saturday and then another 21k on Sunday. It’s going to be fun. Both days have citizen races as well so everyone can come out for it!

Cowboy Chase info here.  

Monday, February 08, 2016

Skier of the Week University of Colorado Invitational - January 23-24

Elise skiing through the pack in the Mass Start Classic

We feel that it’s a little dangerous to choose this young lady for Skier of the Week since we seriously suspect that the best is truly yet to come but when an athlete has a start to a season like this one it needs to be recognized.

If you asked Elise how this season was going she would shrug and say, “OK, this is the first time I haven’t made a step in my skiing.” While this can be seen as true from a certain angle this angle would completely dismiss the incredible consistency that she has achieved.

It started with a solid performance in the classic race at US nationals, where she skied to 150 USSA points, the lowest USSA points she has ever achieved.

The next race of note was the 20km freestyle. She simply skied with poise and power. She skied with a pack of skiers who, on paper, were in a different league with points well under 130. She lead, fought, followed, pushed, and showed her true strength right through to the finish!

This fantastic start to the season was followed by a long two day drive home which then turned around to another long drive to Bozeman for MSU. Once again having what she felt was a lack-luster weekend she still had what would have been considered a fantastic Division I race for most anyone else. She finished the 5km skate in 21st, missing the top 20 by less than 10 seconds.

She then skied to an incredibly strong finish in the 15km, fighting with some seriously strong women to a 15th place with

As most of the rest of the team went down to exhaustion and illness for CU, leaving just 3 women standing. 

Despite feeling fatigue from two weeks with the top racers in the nation Elise still managed to ski to a strong 22, 3 seconds out of the top 20, in the 5km free.

Finally, on a brutal 15km course Elise skied the first race she had been working for the entire year. 

Due to her high FIS points, the earlier races hadn’t been recorded yet, Elise started in the back row of the mass start, well out of contention for any stellar race. She didn’t even think twice and charged through the field until she found a great group of women skiing 12-20. They changed leads, charged hills, lost people off the back of the pack until there were only 4 strong women left in the last 3km. The final sprint was tough with incredible racers and Elise held on for 15th. While not her best ever place it was an incredible race and she proved she truly belongs with these , mostly European, recruited, scholarship athletes. She beat the 3rd woman of every team except one and every team out there would love to have her.

Because of her amazing results and consistency, with three races below 151 USSA points. We expect much more to come and an incredible season already under her belt Elise Susler is our Skier of the Week!


Postscript: Elise has since crushed the USCSA field in the first four races and at the Alley Loop and skied to her best points of the season beating all but 2 of the Division-1 women the race. The two who beat her have traded the wins at the D-1 races. She is really starting to show some form!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

USCSA number 1

Wow! We’re at the halfway point for the season. We’ve done a lot of racing so far this year but we still have a lot more left. 

I realize this post is a little late. With school I don't have quite as much time to write these up. I try to make them good and worth the read so it takes me a little bit. 

This weekend was our first race in the USCSA season, hosted by Colorado Mesa University. I elected not to race this weekend due to lingering fatigue from the long season I’ve had this year. I’ve put in 137km of racing this year by my count, and I would like to save a little bit for the end, so it was an off weekend for me. That being said I accompanied the team to Mesa for the races and served as team photographer/cheerleader.

We traveled with 17 athletes plus myself, a huge increase over the meager five that we had in Steamboat. We stayed at a sweet ranch close to the venue. Unfortunately finding our lodging was quite difficult in the dark, and involved backing Clifford plus the trailer down narrow icy roads several times. The road to the place was treacherous, but we did make it eventually.

The view from our place
On race day, the size of the field impressed everyone. In previous years the USCSA RMC has consisted of four schools: Wyoming, CMU, Western State, and the Air Force Academy. This year, in addition to these schools we are joined by Colorado College, and OSU Cascades, a USCSA team from another conference, who competed here and will also be at the Cowboy Chase. 

Not only are there more teams this year, but the number of athletes in the races has doubled, and the level of competition is much higher. We won’t sweep every podium at every race this year, which might sound like a regression, but we all much prefer having strong competition to race against. Previously we have done 20 man sprint brackets, but this year we did the full size 30 because of the large fields. Each heat was much more competitive this year and there were battles to move on almost every time.

Saturday was a classic sprint, a preview for the second race at Nationals. If you aren't sure how sprint racing works, I've gone over the basics in a previous post. The question of the day, especially for the men, was whether or not to double pole. The course is very flat, with one tiny but steep rise early, a little bit of a gradual up, a quick downhill and then somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 meters of flat into a headwind, which was variable in its strength throughout the day. In the qualifiers, Kyle and Mason chose to double pole while everyone else chose to use kick wax. A few guys from other teams also chose to double pole. When you double pole a classic race you wear skate equipment. The advantage is that your skis will glide much faster than if you were on classic skis with kick wax, but the tradeoff is that it takes more energy to climb and you may be slower going up too.

The team performed well in the qualifier, with Mason taking bib 1, Kyle in third, and the rest of the team taking 5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th. The girls were equally as strong, with Elise in first, Sierra in second, and the team taking 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, and 18th. 

Taylor and Mason in their quarterfinal
The heats began and I had a blast watching. On the men’s side, the boys showed up in force, with the entire team advancing to the semifinals. Mason and Taylor went 1-2 in the first heat, Trevor easily won his, Ben was an easy second, and Kyle took the last heat while Sam came in third for the lucky loser. 

 For the girls, Elise was dominant throughout, winning her quarterfinal and followed by Britta in second to secure a spot in the semi. The girls continued to shine as Sierra and Leann went 1-2 in their heat, and Bridget took her quarterfinal ahead of Meghan, who secured a lucky loser spot with a fast third place. Unfortunately Kristy and Victoria didn’t get past the quarterfinals, but they still put up a strong showing for UW. 

Sierra, Leann, and Kristy in theirs
The semis were even more fun than the quarters. For the men both semis had large groups swinging around the wide left, everyone competing for a coveted top two and the guaranteed spots in the A final. Those who don’t make the top two or get the two lucky losers compete in the B final to determine 7th-12th place. The first semi had four of our boys in it: Mason, Taylor, Trevor, and Sam. At this point Taylor had switched to his skaters, and Trevor double poled on his classic skis. The group stayed together up the hill and into the woods, and emerged on the other side with five skiers. Sam had fallen off early with dragging skis, and opted to save it for the next round. The five in the group continued together through the flat, with Mason pulling a little ahead. At the end Mason slowed down and finished second, Taylor was third, Trevor 5th and Sam 6th. Taylor now had to wait with anticipation to see if he would make it to the A final. That would depend on the speed of the second heat.

Kyle and Ben raced that one. The group stayed fairly tight through the entire heat, with all six athletes hitting the flat together. The long straight into the headwind began to separate the group, and Kyle looked to be in trouble in 5th place. But he had another gear and managed to go around everyone to take first, while Ben lunged for third place right behind. 

After the semis, Ben emerged as a lucky loser while Taylor missed out. 

(UW, L-R) Trevor, Mason, Taylor, and Sam in the semi
The girls’ semis was next. The first one had Elise, Bridget, Yara, and Britta. Elise quickly moved to the front and the heat turned into a battle for second place. The group strung out on the flat and Yara came in second, Bridget 4th and Britta 6th. This meant that Bridget had a small chance at the lucky loser. The second semi had Sierra, Leann, and Meghan racing. The group stayed together up the hill but splintered on the flat. Sierra emerged in front and lead the group in, with a significant gap. Meghan came out in third and Leann was 5th. 

Meghan got a lucky loser spot to advance to the A final. 

(UW L-R) Elise, Yara, Britta, Bridget in their semi
Up next were the men’s finals. The B final always runs first, and it is followed by the A final. Three of the six athletes in the B final were UW, which is a very strong showing. Sam threw his skate skis on for this one, and he later mused that he probably could have skied a stronger semi if he had been on skaters for it. The fatigue was beginning to show, and the group fell apart earlier than in the previous heats. However, Sam skied the entire heat in front and Taylor followed him. The two of them had a gap on the rest of the heat coming in, and Sam had a gap on Taylor. Sam took the B final to get 7th place overall, and Taylor was behind him in 8th. Trevor came back after falling behind early to grab the 5th spot in the B final for 11th overall. 

Mason took the lead early in the A final but he was followed closely by Ben and Kyle. UW’s three skiers in the A final immediately took over, but the other three were right behind. The group separated in the woods, and Mason emerged in front with a short lead over Kyle who was being ridden by another skier. Mason maintained his gap and took the win, and Kyle beat out his competition to get second. A bit further back Ben fought and finished in 5th.

In the girls’ race we once again had three in the B final and now four in the A final. 

The girls’ B final had roommates Britta, Bridget, and Leann skiing together. The skiers headed up the hill in a group and emerged from the woods in a line. As they continued up the flat the pack strung out a little more. Bridget was in a battle to take the B final, and Britta, Leann, and another skier were fighting for the next places. Bridget was narrowly defeated at the end, so she finished 8th. Britta also was beaten on the line, and came in 10th with Leann right behind for 11th overall. 

Elise, who had been the clear favorite all day, continued her show of force and quickly took the lead in the A final, with Sierra skiing right behind her. Yara and Meghan were in back but there was no gap to the rest on the hill. When they hit the flat Elise had a clear gap to everyone else. Sierra was in second with a further gap to third and 4th. Meghan was a bit further back in 5th and Yara was in 6th. The gaps stayed about the same, and that was the final finish order.

Elise seeing how much she's winning by
UW had convincing wins in the team race for both races. I had a lot of fun sprinting back and fourth between the finish line and the first hill, and I think I got some good shots. 

That night it dumped snow, and in the morning it continued to snow. After (only) a little trouble we got everyone down the hill and to the venue. When we arrived we were horrified. The parking lot had been plowed, which was great, except they had burmed in the trailer and our tents. Assistant coach Ava and the honorary assistant coach, me, got to work digging a path so Clifford could get the trailer. It took a lot less time than I expected, so I had plenty of time after we finished to do a ski of my own.

Day 2 was a 10k mass start. 
Unfortunately I failed as a cameraman on Sunday and missed the start. It was just a bad day for pictures and cheering in general because the course goes off into the woods for most of the race. I found one spot towards the end of the course, where I hoped I would be able to see everyone and still make it back to the finish. Unfortunately this didn’t work out, as I didn’t get everyone there and still didn’t make it back in time for the finish.

So I don’t have a lot to write about for this one because I didn’t really see much. When Sam passed me he was around 20 seconds up on the next guys which was a group of three. One of them was Mason. Kyle was next, all alone. Gradually our guys came through. Elise came by with a massive lead on second place, Meghan, third place, Sierra, and fourth place, Bridget. After that I figured I needed to get down to the finish, so I moved quickly. But not nearly quickly enough. I got to the finish and Sam had already finished. He won by a big gap. Mason came in 4th, not far behind 2nd and 3rd. The nasty conditions, snowing with lots of powder on the ground, made for a long race with lots of separation. At the end the results stood Sam first; Mason 4th; Kyle 7th; Trevor 11th; Ben 14th; and Taylor 16th, in a field of 26. For the girls, it was Elise 1st; Meghan 2nd; Sierra 3rd; Bridget 4th; Kristy 7th; Yara 11th; Leann 14th; Britta 16th; and Victoria 18th, in a field of 24.  
Sam on his way to victory in the 10k
Results from the races are here

This weekend we travel to Crested Butte for our second USCSA race. I’ll be back for this one. We’re doing the 21km Alley Loop, a super cool race where they groom up the streets, and a 5km classic.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mind, Body, Soul

Sorry this post is a bit belated but life happens and gets crazy sometimes!

The past few weeks of racing at at NCAA races and US Nationals has been a blur of excitement and exhaustion. Like many of my teammates something comes alive in my soul during ski season that lies somewhat dormant for the rest of the year. I have been embracing that awakening and trying to find balance in the rush of race season.

            I need to brag about my team for minute. Not only are they super fast, good looking, brilliantly smart and have great character but they are also incredibly brave. Meghan fighting her way through larger than life races at senior nationals, Leann finishing her first NCAA race ever not letting the fast Europeans scare her away, Bridget coming back and raging after a long hiatus from racing, Will and Sam inspiring us all when they represent the team strongly in every brutal 30k they finish, Taylor refusing to give up his great race even when the pack is no where in sight and the look of pure joy on Sierras face in a sprint.

            But despite these victories I think the bravery shows when the hardest choices have to be made. Sierra had to sit and watch from the sidelines the first few races as her knee recovered from an injury. Knowing Sierra, it caused her nearly as much pain not to race as it would have if she had raced. Ben listened to what his body was saying in the middle of two races and decided to drop out and rest for the next week. Taylor before the Bozeman 5k, and I at the nationals sprint, each decided not to start a race when and off day just didn’t feel quite right and the love of skiing just wasn’t in my tired body. Knowing when to sit out of a race and lay aside your pride and knowing your body well over the years is a honed skill that is perhaps more useful than the ability to finish every single race no matter what it costs you.

            Taylor and I cooled down in Bozeman after the 5k that hadn’t gone as smoothly as hoped for anyone on the team, we looked up at the Bridger Bowl mountain covered in snow and watched the flakes swirl in our beautiful snow globe.   We discussed how ski racing is mental, physical and spiritual, just like a good relationship. It takes everything you have every day you choose to do it whether it’s a good day or a bad day. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Steamboat races

The semester started this week so we have been busy with school as well as preparing for our next races. It’s a real pain being back in classes now after focusing completely on skiing for the last five weeks where we got to briefly live like professional athletes…

When organizers are planning their race courses they often will attempt to make the best course possible out of the existing trails. These trails often vary in their difficulty, so organizers have to come up with an appropriate course that will meet FIS/USSA standards. This is why we often do lots of laps. At Steamboat, however, organizers do not have to worry about coming up with a racecourse. 

Steamboat has a 5km course that is FIS homologated, and obviously was created for the sole purpose of hosting races, as opposed to having pleasant afternoon skis with your grandmother in mind. In fact, this 5k trail was cut into the hillside originally to host world class Nordic combined events, with its prime location adjacent to the jumps. Because the trails were built to be a race course, they are quite difficult, and their geographic location contributes to the challenge as well. Because the trails are built on a hillside, there is very little flat so you are always going up or down.

The trail. You can see the big hairpin ahead, which is also part of the race course
The actual race course sends you out the stadium, around a hairpin and almost immediately up a monster climb. It is extremely steep for the lower half, but it continues to be steep all the way to the top, which is a long ways up. Then it continues along some undulating terrain, down a hill, up and down another, and finally an extremely long, gradual up. This is at the 3k mark. From there the next 2k are all on one big roaring downhill back to the stadium. It’s a weird course because when you see each marker for another kilometer gone by, you ask yourself how it has taken so long to ski 1k, 2k, 3k. Then you do the last 2k in about three minutes. We did the same course both days, two laps the first day and four the second. 

It was another 10k and 20k for the men this weekend, and in the same technique as the previous races as well. The 10k interval start skate was held simultaneously with the RMN Junior National qualifier, so I was surrounded by juniors on both sides. I was a little perturbed by this because I would much rather be surrounded by the other collegiate athletes so I would have better rides to catch, but what can you do? 

Conditions for the race Saturday were great. Temperatures were in the low teens, which is fine with me, and there was a hard snow pack. This was the first day of the season that I’ve gone with my cold weather skis, my old Atomic WC hard track, over my warm skis, Fischer CarbonLite plus. The Atomics are significantly older and this is only the second time since I got the Fischers that I’ve used the Atomics. The Fischers usually run faster regardless of the weather, but I keep the Atomics around for days like these.

The town below us, with the resort in the background
When I hit the course I quickly caught up to the skiers in front of me. I took the first climb conservatively knowing that it would be futile to hammer that huge climb so early. But by the time I reached the top I was really suffering. I continued to suffer very hard through the rest of the race. I think I was not totally healthy, and I’m sure that contributed. Though I kept passing skiers I really didn’t feel so good, even though my first split had me in 20th in the college field. As the race went on it was nothing but pain. Now ski races always hurt, but I felt like I was about to die the entire race. Normally you shouldn’t be feeling like that until later in the race. 

My splits later had me dropping places, and I ended a disappointing 28th in the college field. Sam was the only other male to race from our team, and he had a killer day, finishing 25th, 19 seconds ahead of me. We beat a handful of the NCAA athletes, which is a positive. Sickness has wrecked our team, and besides the two of us, only Sierra, Elise, and Meghan made it to the start line. 

Day two was the mass start 20k classic. I was looking to improve on my poor result from the 20k in Bozeman. We had great conditions again, a hard packed trail and temperatures in the low twenties. This made waxing a breeze. I went sticky on the day because there was so much climbing. Because the first 3k are mostly climbing, and we spent probably 80% or more of the race on the first 3k time wise, the right call was sticky. The little bit of time you lose on the downhill from the extra wax will be more than compensated on the front part of the course. 

The pack hammered the first part, but I was able to keep up without trouble. When the trails got steeper the pack tended to slow way down, but it would accelerate over the tops ferociously. I skied at the back of the pack but the pace was comfortable for me. 

At the last little up before the big downhill I lost connection just a little bit. I knew I was ahead of a few skiers, namely two guys who’d broken poles and lost a lot of time. One of them caught me and I skied with him and another guy for a while but eventually they dropped me on the second lap. The other broken pole guy caught me, and same thing. I skied behind him for a while before getting dropped. On the third lap I saw an MSU skier ahead, Noah Anderson, and I figured I could get him. There was a UAA guy, Marcus Dueling, even further ahead that I was hoping to get too. 
Christi got this shot of me on the last lap

I’m not sure how I ended up so far behind relatively early, after I had skied so comfortably with the pack on the first lap. I think I was worried I would blow up like I did in Bozeman so maybe I was holding back because of that. Whatever happened, I was basically on an island. I was ahead of Sam, who was the next behind me, and behind the guys I had been skiing with. Fortunately on this course you can see a long ways ahead of you at a lot of sections. For instance, in the stadium you do this weird out-and-back, so I was seeing the front guys go out as I was coming in, so I knew that even though I was behind I wasn’t that far behind, and that I was doing a lot better than last time. 

I eventually caught and passed Anderson, and I had my sights set on Dueling. As the race progressed, I wasn’t really gaining any ground. I hit the last lap with a significant deficit to him, but when someone is in eyesight you always believe you can catch them. I raised the pace a little at the start of the lap but still didn’t really gain. I was isolated but I now had him to push me at least. The gap stayed the same basically all the way around, and towards the end I think I gave up because I know he gained time on the later part of the course. So I didn’t get him.

I finished 26th, which is two places better than Saturday. However, to be honest this is probably because so many people DNS. Day one had 35 college skiers and day two only had 28. That being said, I felt much better on the second day, so that is a positive to take away from the weekend. I felt stronger and less sick. 

Results from the race can be found here.

Next week we have our first USCSA qualifier, in Mesa. This will be the first race of the season that the Competitive Team will be traveling to, so our numbers should be boosted considerably from this week! It should be a great weekend for us after so many punishing races in a row.