Slush rush 8K skate: the highlight of the race was at 1K when three deer were crossing the trail right before the skiers. The third was late and got separated from others. Surprisingly, it was not scared of a bunch of potential pole hunters and ran along the trail for a few hundred feet, then finally outsprinted us and reconnected with friends.
Pepsi Challenge 48K skate (2x24K loops): I started out conservatively, but found myself in the lead around 4K in. I enjoyed leading the pack for the most of the first loop. With the snowfall right before the race there were 2 inches of fresh snow other the trail. The classical wave started before us. They packed down the steep hills and set a pair of tracks on the rest. We (the lead pack of about 7-8 people) found that it was faster to double pole in those tracks than break through the fresh snow. Luckily, the rest of the field did not realize that, and by the time we looped around, the course was nicely groomed.
|Early in the race|
At about 31K two skiers broke away. The slow conditions really wore me out and I skied with other two guys for the rest of the race. The final 2K net downhill turned into a wax race. I was able to keep up with Drew Holbrook by sprinting on a few available uphills, but the last 1K was completely downhill and I finished 4th.
|Bronze trail on the Sunday after Pepsi|
Woodlands loppet 20K skate: with the winding and very hilly course through the woods this is one of my favorite races (they have held three during the year and I did two). With a big snowfall that week, it was great to ski in mid-winter conditions in mid-March (especially, after mid-March conditions in the mid-winter), with temperatures in the lower twenties on a sunny day, and to finish the race season with the win.
Overall, I had a great long race season with 13 races (oh no! I should do one more, any suggestions?), 2 wins, 2nd at Vasaloppet and 34th at the Birkie. Much better than the previous year when I only barely managed to have a good Birkie (56th). The key to improvement was 1. Being conservative: I never went over my limits and finished each interval session with the feeling that I could do more. Also I had a two week recovery/easy block in October and in early December. As a result I have not been sick for more than a year now (compared to being twice sick last season). 2. I reduced the volume but increased the quality. I introduced much more hill workouts this year: rollerski interval sessions on the hills near Lake street/East River road (the 3K interval I made up has some V1 hills and with its ups and downs is quite ski specific except for a stop sign at one of the downhills) and running intervals at Battle Creek or Afton SP (I think running steep hills is very similar to V1 skate). And as a result I had big improvements in my uphill skating.
P. S. A lot of late season skiing! I enjoyed four morning classic skis at Wirth this week. Thanks to the grooming crew for maintaining good tracks throughout the week. Skated on Friday and for the first time saw geese on the ski trail (Front 9). They seemed to just arrive from south. As I made the second loop they were still stuck on the same place trying to figure out what’s going on and if they should continue north for a better place.
|Basset Creek at Wirth (March 27)|
And then the Woodlands were great today for my 50 K. With 30 F (30 K at 50 F yesterday) at night it was fast but with plenty of edge. Thanks a lot to the Elk River groomers for the great end of the season ski! They rolled the course, detoured a waterpool and even shoveled one of the uphills!