Boulder Lake 2011:
The day was cold, and the snow was slow. I was just happy that it had warmed up to zero degrees by the 11am start, and with the sun it felt much warmer than that. The trails were also in great shape this year. I had switched to larger baskets on my poles in anticipation of soft trails (last year I punched through a lot), but the trails were firm and my skis felt good (I had Fast Wax Green with a layer of Rex TK-72 over the top. Thanks Devin!).
Before the race started I heard Nikolai Anikin say that Tyler Kjorstad (who had beaten both Nikolai and I last year) was going to take the pace out fast from the start. When the gun went off, he did. At the end of the lake I found myself in the 2nd position, about 10m behind Tyler, and leading a big pack of skiers. Behind me was Nikolai, and he was telling me to keep Tyler in sight. Boulder Lake is a flat course, with no significant uphills to put a significant move on the competition, but also no downhills to recover. I made the mistake of pulling my competition around the course only to have them all fly by me in the last 3k the first time I did this race 4 years ago, and since then I have learned how this course races - it is one of attrition. With this in mind I did not want to be pulling the field, but I also wanted to make sure that Tyler was not able to pull away from the start and put significant distance on the field. I decided to keep him in sight, but to ski as easily as I could while doing so. This also left him out off the front working by himself for the first 2 or 3 kilometers of the race. Eventually the gap did close (he probably did not like the idea of skiing 31k completely solo) and the pace slowed way down. I kept myself in 3rd or 4th position, completely satisfied to be skiing along at a pace that was certainly slower than most of the 3 hour rollerskis that Vakava does in Afton. Tyler was still the skier at the front most of the time, and every now and then would increase the pace a little, but we still had a pack of more than a dozen skiers going into the first water stop of the second lap (probably 13k into the race). Tyler was leading, Casey was second, a random skier was third, and I was sitting in fourth. At the end of the water stop, Tyler took off with Casey close behind. I quickly surged around the 3rd skier and bridged the gap to them. Looking back we had put a bit of a gap on the field. I mentioned this, and Tyler and Casey motioned for me to take a turn at the front. I went to the front and put in a big surge. I pushed for probably 2k before I turned around to see who had stuck with us. To my suprise, Tyler was gone (and ended up dropping out), and only Nikolai and Casey were still there. We started rotating leads and skied along with the pace up for the rest of the second and into the third lap. At some point early in the third lap I took my turn at the front of the pack and Casey dropped back. Nikolai and I continued on, as the constant nature of the race was starting to give me a blurry tunnel vision. We continued to take turns at the front, and when I was in the lead I would periodically put in a little harder surge to test Nikolai. He had skied the SISU marathon the day before, and I was hoping his legs would be giving out, but no such luck. With about 2k to go the pace was pretty high and I was in the lead when I poled right on the top of my ski. I promptly face planted in the middle of the trail and Nikolai narrowly avoided skiing right over the top of me. As I looked up through one goggle lens filled with snow Nikolai was ahead, but in a true showing of sportsmanship had slowed down to wait for me. I scrambled up and we resumed the race with Nikolai in the lead. After a minute or two he put in a big surge, but I was able to stay on him, and I got onto the lake in what I thought was the perfect position for the final sprint - right on Nikolai's heels. I had outsprinted him from this position successfully 2 years ago, but this year our mad dash to the line did nothing to change our positions, and I finished right on Nikolai's heels. I was very happy with my race. I felt great throughout, which is 2 for 2 feeling good at races dispite my more difficult work/life schedule.
Oh, and 2.2 seconds is not how much Nikolai beat me by this year. It is the combined finish time separation between myself and Nikolai over the last 3 years at Boulder Lake. That is 2.2 seconds over a total of 93k of racing. This year he got me by 9/10 of a second.
Vakava Results at Boulder Lake:
2nd Nate (age group win)
18th Dave C (age group win)
4th Angie (age group win)
5th Cheryl (age group win)