Thursday, February 17, 2011

What a difference a month makes!

The race season started pretty slow for me. I didn’t do any races in December because I didn’t feel ready and still didn’t feel all that ready by mid-January for Boulder Lake. The following races were a bit better, but progress felt pretty slow. I was starting to feel decent at COLL and had a good race, but I had to work pretty hard to do it. I had a pack of three women on my tail and had to hold them off all across the lakes mostly by myself. I was pleased that I had managed to keep ahead of them and was tired but not baked at the finish.

Then came Mora. I really fretted before the race not knowing what to expect with the weather. A long slow slog through the mush was not appealing and after racing most races around 0 degrees I had no idea what to wear. After some last minute clothes changes I got in a little warm up and found a spot on the line in the third row. The start went very smoothly with no mishaps and I was off with the crowd. I looked around and didn’t see any yellow (women’s) bibs. I always get off the line fast and then ease up and settle in. People started passing me and a bunch of yellow bibs from the 58k went by. Then Elaine Nelson and Sarah Kylander-Johnson from the 35k went by. They were at the end of a very long train. They were going just a bit faster than I wanted to go so I didn’t latch on. But then I looked behind and realized that there was no one close behind me and I’d be skiing alone if I didn’t hang with the train ahead. I thought I should probably try to catch up but after a short bit decided to just let them go. I’m going to World Masters in a couple weeks and didn’t want to bake myself now so I figured I wouldn’t fight for it. So I skied alone for at least half the race. I was grateful for all the classic skiers along the trail. Many of them cheered as I went by and I didn’t feel so lonely. About 1/3 of the way I passed Bruce Adelsman taking pictures and he said I was about 40 sec. back. At the feed station before the big hill I started passing a guy here and there and thought, “Now that’s interesting.” I didn’t know if they were really falling back or I was reeling in the back of the train. When I hit the bottom of the big hill I looked up and could see Elaine and Sarah near the top. I thought, “Now that’s really interesting. But don’t get too excited and go too hard up the hill and put yourself under.” So I just skied the hill strong and smooth and not too hard. I passed a few more guys and then caught Elaine and Sarah’s pack at about 10 or 11 K to go. Things just kept getting more and more interesting every few K’s. I hung there a minute to rest and see what they were up to. They weren’t up to much and I felt good so I figured I’d just keep going. You just never know what will happen in a situation like this. They could pour it on once they realize you’re there and drop you again, or jump in and hang with you, or let you go. I figured the only way to know what would happen was to try it and see, so I made my way past. Elaine said hi and asked how I was. I said good and asked her the same. She said, “Oh, you know…” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, I know…” (See my entry about Boulder Lake. Elaine smoked me by 5 min.) So I kept my pace and they didn’t follow, the most interesting development yet! But you can never count on anything and I kept looking back now and then to see if they were catching up, but they just kept getting slowly further and further back, and then they were gone. At one of the road crossings a man called out, “You’re the first girl, way to go little lady!” Little did he know that this “little lady” was 43, “little old lady” more like it. About 5k to go I found a pack of men and skied with them the rest of the way in. I finished in first a minute ahead of Elaine and Sarah, skiing a comfortable pace the entire way. It felt so good and what a fun race to win with all the hoopla at the finish! Afterwards Dave asked my why I skied so well and I’m not sure, I just felt good. So here are the top 10 possible reasons…

10. good wax (FastWax tan with a healthy top coat of pure fluoro, same skis I always race on)
9. caffeine laced gel before the start (I’d never tried caffeine before)
8. fast snow (I do better in faster conditions)
7. drank my own homemade sport drink for feeds with lots of electrolytes (another first, I have troubles with low electrolytes so I figured I’d try wearing a bottle, which I never do)
6. decent sleep the few days before (rare)
5. good nutrition in the days before (dropped a few pounds so I’ve been on a see-food diet, see food and eat it)
4. good recovery after races and intervals (easy days are EASY)
3. skied my own race at my own pace (funny how that works)
2. finally raced myself into shape

And the top possible reason…
1. all the stars and planets were perfectly aligned!

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