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Last Update: 9-JUL-09

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Here I keep a running diary of all race results, bike, ski and who knows what else might show up. These are generally copy and pasted here from Hill Junkie blog postings. Having raced a number of years now, I occasionally find myself going back to this diary to see what my reflective thoughts were a few years earlier for a race I just did again. Climatic conditions are usually given and how they impacted the race (often negatively, of course). Strategies are discussed, how they worked or failed to work, who was there, team dynamics, anything that can impact a race outcome. If you follow my musings on Hill Junkie, you will not find any new words of wit here.

Links to archived years: 1999-2005, 2006-2007, 2008

2009 Race Season

112) Okemo Mountain Hillclimb, Ludlow, VT - June 27, 2009

Hit number two in the BUMPS hillclimb series today, Okemo Mountain. While Whiteface tends to draw interdisciplinary athletes, the obscure Okemo hillclimb seems to draw as much cycling talent as Mt Washington. A bunch of elite riders showed up, most signing up day-of so I didn't know they were coming. Anthony Coby, Charlie McCarthy, Andy Gardner and David Glick are a few. Local climbing phenom Gerry Clapper (Williams Cycling) was there too. Gerry was the last guy to hang with Roger Aspholm at Housatonic last weekend. Sub-hour on Mt Washington, I expected Gerry to beat me by at least two minutes here. He was the only one in my age group I thought I had to contend with.

Hillclimb race reports score pretty low for edge-of-the-seat excitement potential, ranking right up there with individual TT reports. Today's report is no exception.

We line up for 9am start. There were over 90 of us, in one wave. I queued up in first row, about 10 across. Without warning, the cannon (a real miniature cannon) about 8ft away from me goes off. No count-down. We knew race would start any minute, but this thing scared the crap out of us. The cannon was so loud you could feel the percussion.

Flying down the switchbacks to Rt 103, non-neutral, with riders that perhaps never road race, was a bit hairy. Idea was to stay at the front. Once on Rt 103, it is two miles to the climb. About 8 of us got a nice paceline going at 28-30mph. This fast start makes Okemo unique from the other climbs. It starts more like the middle of a road race where people are jockeying for front position when a big hill is coming up.

The first couple tenths of a mile are wicked steep, maybe 15%. All the young Pro/1/2's and Gerry go ballistic. I think I did a pretty good job keeping check on power. A number of riders went way harder than they should've and I soon passed them. Jeff Johnson (Battenkill-United) was ahead of me. We traded places for a while. I finished comfortably ahead of him at Whiteface last weekend but he was putting me into a world of hurt this morning. Maybe I shouldn't have gone for the mountain bike ride yesterday. I figured I was not having a good day or he was working on borrowed kilojoules. Eventually he snapped and was gone.

I was now gaining on Andy Gardner (Metlife). Andy did 6-gaps with us this year, and I thought to gain on him on something like this probably meant he was not having a good day. Later I learned this was the case. Then a no-team rider passed me and Andy. Who was this guy? He looked younger than me, but put me down another spot overall. Things settled down after that with about 1.5 miles of 12% to go. I figured my finishing position was sealed, as there were no other waves with potentially faster riders in them like at other hillclimbs. Anybody that was going to beat me was already up the road. I got a little bit lazy. I never lost sight of Andy, but there was nobody behind me.

Perhaps I backed off more than I expected. I here something, look back, and Bob Meikle is right there. Crap! Where did he come from? I still had better part of a mile to go, which takes a long time at 8mph. I started killing myself and could not grow the gap. I could not let up for even a second. I managed to hold him off to the line though, with only 9 seconds margin. That is only 100ft at 8mph. Bob is another one of those runner turned cyclist types. Seems all these converts climb like mountain goats on 'roids. I believe Gerry Clapper took up cycling after running not that long ago too.

I finished with a 32:08.2 time. This is about 21 seconds faster than last year. A new PR, right? Not so fast. We averaged around 29mph over the two mile lead-in to the climb today. Last year we strolled along at conversation pace, more likely 25mph average. I got pulled along about 40 seconds faster than last year. Thus on the actual climb, I was 19 seconds slower! To be fair, I did pull through a few times leading into the climb, so I earned my share of the fast stuff. But it wasn't an individual effort. Oh well, that is the way these mass start hillclimbs can be sometimes. I was happy with my result.

I placed 7th overall, 2nd to Clapper in my age group who was 4th overall. Colby won it, crushing the course record by nearly 2 minutes with 27:27. Glick, who established the record last year, was a few seconds slower this year. Ann Howard also broke the women's record by nearly a minute.

Since nobody that beat me at Whiteface made it to Okemo, I should be overall points leader for BUMPS now. This means I'll get to wear the KOM jersey at Ascutney next month. I really wanted one of these. I think the BUMPS team did a nice job with the design.

The rain held off for the race. Results were up by the time we got back down. What a novelty! Awards went on schedule, but most of us were passing out during the awards because food was not served until after the awards were done. That's one way to increase participation during awards! Seriously, Glenn Deruchie (Okemo Resort) and Jack Dortch (Ludlow Rotary Club) and team did a fantastic job putting this event on. Some top talent showed up today, and about 50% more riders participated than last year. That is notable in current economic climate.

Joey B and I went out for a loop ride after nourishment. Plan was to head north on Rt 100, hit the 10% dirt CCC/Shrewsbury climb, then Joey would had back via Rt 103 while I explored a couple more climbs. We no more than got to Shrewsbury Rd and it started pouring out. Neither of us wanted to trash our climbing bikes in mud. Joey headed back, I opted for a Rt 100/4/100A loop with a small amount of climbing. At least it wasn't cold or electrifying out. I got in a solid 100 minutes or so of upper tempo to threshold effort. Guess that means I'm bailing on the Putney MTB race on Sunday. I'm a wuss like that. With all the rain they've gotten the last few days, I doubt I could go more than five minutes at a time without falling off.

2nd Men 40-49, 32:08.2 (2:52.9 back), 7/91 overall (4:40.8 back)

111) Whiteface Mountain Hillclimb, Wilmington, NY - June 20, 2009

The Whiteface Mountain Hillclimb kicked off the 2009 BUMPS Challenge Saturday evening. Whiteface has a slightly different character than the other climbs in the series. It has nothing to do with the fact it's only 8% average grade. It has to do with where it is located. Lake Placid draws athletes from around the world. It is a winter Olympic training center, and it is home to the grueling Lake Placid Ironman, whose road course entails 8000ft of climbing. So the Whiteface hillclimb draws in some serious talent. The skiers may use cycling as cross training, while the triathletes may be in the area for a weekend of training on the Ironman course and drop into the hillclimb race to see what they can do

Do they deliberately make signs this confusing to keep the rest of the world outside of the empire state? You are going north on 9 at the same time as going south on 9N!

The weather was nearly ideal. Temp in high 60's at the bottom, much colder up top, no rain, calm winds, but pretty humid. I thought risk of overheating was pretty low. I've thermally blown up in a big way in this race before.

Hard to say how many were there. Easily over 200. Most mailed in registration, so the 107 on Bikereg.com were a small percentage. On the woman's side, Sue Schlatter and Marti Shea were there, both in my age group and overall female contenders on Mt Washington. These women are wicked fast, even relative to pro's in their 20's. The only male contender I knew going into the race that I had to watch out for was Charley Casey. He beats me on some of the climbs. There would no doubt be other contenders I did not know or that mailed in their pre-reg. I was second overall here one year, so I like to know who my competition is at the line.

There is no "Top Notch" elite category here like on Mt Washington. Everybody goes off in age groups. The 40-49 age group is always the biggest. I bet there were 100 riders. I lined up at the front. With about a minute to go, a guy lines up in front of me. Teammate Brett Rutledge asked "hey, are you Duncan Douglas?" He was. Crap. Duncan is a former Olympian ('92 & '94 biathlon) and is in a rigorous training program to regain world class condition. He finished 5th overall at the American Birkie this year. He just won the foot race up Whiteface last week. I figured Duncan and Charlie would put me down to 3rd in age group at best now and certainly off the overall podium.

We go off. Duncan drills it. After a few hundred meters, we get into the 9% grade. It's Duncan leading and I've got his wheel with a long single file string behind us. I do not use a power meter racing. Brett, further back in this melee, said we were doing like 400W. It did not take long before Duncan and I had a nice gap to the next guy, who was Charlie Casey. Charlie hung just a few seconds back by himself for a long time. We were going so fast up this grade that I was deriving draft benefit from Duncan. But eventually he started doing a lot of alternating standing and seated climbing. When he sat, he slowed slightly. I came around him several times but my power would go up maybe 20W with the wind I was taking at 10-12mph riding speed. There was negligible headwind. At about the two mile mark, I actually drew a sizable gap on Duncan. Charlie was drifting further back. I now began to realize I was having a very good day, and a new PR was a strong possibility. That was all that really mattered to me going into this race.

At one point I had 50-100ft on Duncan. As we approached the toll house, the grade slackens, and so did my power. I knew full well I was riding at a pace that could not be sustained, but I was deriving enough aerodynamic and psychological benefit interacting with Duncan that I think it was worth it in the end. Normally I try to completely ignore other riders during a hillclimb. Duncan caught me before the toll house, about 3 miles into the 8 mile climb. I got back on his wheel, thinking the grade is slack for the next half mile or so and that was a good place to be. When the grade got steep again, Duncan put in a long out of the saddle burst. Earlier, most of these were short and I'd quickly get back on his wheel by maintain my steady, seated pace. But this one drew a large gap, and my pace did not get me back up to him. It was time to pay back the kJ's I borrowed in the first two miles.

A truck was waiting at the toll house for Duncan to come through. It stayed just ahead of him for the remaining 5 miles of the climb with his kids cheering him on. I heard "go dad, go, go, go!" at least 500 times, or about every two seconds for the next 25 minutes. It became annoying after a while. Some race video from Duncan's son shows on his blog. Not sure if I'm the ghost rider just as he enter the clouds.

Duncan very slowly pulled away while I continued to put time on Charlie. It looked like a second place finish in the 40+ group was secure. We had passed nearly all of the under 30 and 30+ riders staged 10 and 5 minutes ahead of us. I was alone in a dark, dreary world. Now it was going to be a matter of finishing time.

The clouds grew very thick as we approached the summit, maybe only 50ft visibility. After rounding the final switchback, I could hear the crowd at the finish cheering the first couple riders to come through. This really psyched me up. It is cool to hear it but not see it through the clouds. I stood to hammer what was left in my legs, which surprisingly was a lot. I crossed the timing chip mats in 48:17. I was super psyched. My prior best was 49:59.6. I crushed my PR from three years ago. Duncan came through less than a minute ahead of me, and Charlie was less than a minute behind me.

Just below the cloud deck around 4000ft

As Duncan posted in his blog, his average power was 344W. Based on small differences in weight and finishing time, I estimate my average power would have been about 347W, or about 4.7W/kg for a 48 minute effort. This really blows me away. I've never been this strong. I plan to put a subsequent post together with my speculations into why this is happening.

It is interesting to note that Duncan finished 47:22 in the Ski to the Clouds Mt Washington race, about the same time as his Whiteface bike climb finish. I can finish less than a minute from Duncan on the bike, but on skis I am 15 minutes back! I surely would like to improve upon that. We talked a while after the race. He commented he could give me some pointers some time. Really nice guy and a doctor too.

We were all gathered at the BBQ afterwards, waiting forever. This is the third race so far this season where I waited forever for results. An announcement was made that the results were not going to be posted that night. In fact, the chip timing system had failed. There was just dead silence with that remark. Chip timing is supposed to prevent these kinds of things from happening. They said a back-up camera system was used and they would extract results from it. Not a good way to start off a championship series. The Battenkill road race also totally botched up their results, and I believe many discrepancies were never resolved in that race. I left not very optimistic.

So as I'm typing this, results arrive by email. Looks like at least the top finishers are correct. I came in 4th overall out of 216 finishers, missing 3rd by just seconds. The overall winner was Cameron Cogburn, a young elite rider, who finished in just under 44 minutes. On the women's side, Sue Schlatter finished in 49:42 minutes! She's over 40 and finished 7th overall! A lot of strong guys got girled by a 46 year old woman. Sue's W/kg for this duration is no doubt world class for her age. Since Duncan took first in the foot and second overall in the bike race, he will earn the crown for this duo series.

This was perhaps my most thrilling hillclimb race to date, and I've done a lot of them over the last 10 years. Being able to mix it up with other incredible athletes brings an added level of excitement over besting my previous best. The hillclimbing clan is a special breed of cyclist too. It was good to talk with many acquaintences I see only at these events. The Okemo Mtn hillclimb is next weekend. Some fast guys will be there. I can already predict first and second place finishers from the Bikereg list.

So how do you top off a great hillclimb race? Get up early the next morning and climb the mountain again before the toll gates open. Brett and I did a sub-hour, more recreationally paced climb at 7am. The cloud deck was below 3000ft and it was drizzly in spots, but otherwise a fine morning for a climb to revive the legs.

2nd Men 40-49, 48:17 (46sec back), 4/216 overall (4:19 back)

110) Bear Brook Blast-off MTB Race, Allenstown, NH - May 31, 2009

Another fine day to go fast on bicycles this weekend, boys and girls. Yesterday was an all-out 50 minute time-trial on pavement. Today was essentially an all-out two hour time-trial in the woods. My legs didn't feel too bad this morning getting up, but I knew some damage lurked in there. I thought a respectable finish at the Bear Brook State Park race in New Hampshire was still within the realm of possibilities.

The forecast was a bit iffy. Since I've become such a roadie, threats of rain make me bail out of MTB races. The rocks and roots might get slippery, you know. It was clear out when I got up. That was good enough to head up. I was amazed at how many people kept filing into the parking lot. It was overflowing. Back in the heyday of mountain biking, I never saw this many cars in the Bear Brook lot. After the race I learned over 300 showed up. Jack Chapman said last year there were about 180. Pretty nutty. Of course, with that many riders showing up, there were bound to be some fast guys. John Mosher (Corner Cycle) and Tyler Munroe (CCB) in my category (Expert Vet-II) were there. Tyler won the category last year. I was certainly going to watch these two.

Very little of the course was in common with the course I last raced here many years ago. New trails have been built, and I think the race organizers made a nice effort to steer clear of the perennially muddy areas. I ridden one lengthy section of new singletrack only once. The most technical part of the course I was fortunately very familiar with. I pre-rode very little of the course before race start.

The expert fields were so large that each age group got their own start. This was sweet. I'd only be drilling it with 20 guys or so to the first piece of singletrack. We went off shortly after 10am, behind the elites and younger expert fields. I filed in mid-pack with Tyler and John ahead of me. The pace of course was completely incompatible with a two-hour TT pace. That's one thing that sucks about MTB racing, is they put the sprint start at the beginning and then everybody limps over the line at the finish. There's some magical starting effort, one that you don't get bogged down behind too many slow guys and not totally blowing yourself apart five minutes into the race. I erred more on the side of blowing myself up. I was definitely feeling yesterday's time-trial. Not sure if it was just nuisance suffer factor or performance was really being pulled down with it.

About 20 minutes of trying to stay with John and Tyler was enough. I fancied the idea that John would eventually slow down, and if I rode my pace, I'll see him again (yeah, right). I think we shelled everybody else clean out of the group. It was hard to tell, as with one minute field spacings, we quickly overtook other riders. Once I got past most of the other younger riders, I was by myself for long periods of time. This was perfectly conducive to time-trialing for two hours. Now I was just out on a hard ride at one of my favorite places to ride. Before completing the first lap, I passed Tyler standing along the trail. At the time I had no idea what happened. Later I learned he snapped his chain. So that meant I only had Mosher to worry about now.

Lot's of punchy hills to wear you down. Wired computer logged 25.5mi.

I reached the lap point, the site of the infamous stairs, and began my second lap. I knew I was slowing down, but I continued to pass other riders. I started seeing more lapped sport and novice riders now too. It's actually easier to pass those guys than somebody that is going almost as fast as you. I might have been going 2x faster than some of the first sport riders I passed. It takes two seconds to pass them. Just call it out well in advance. Passing an expert ride that is 1 minute per hour slower than you is much more difficult. Fortunately, everybody I encountered was very cool about it and made opportunities for me to pass safely.

Half way around the second lap, I catch a younger rider who then picks his pace back up. This was on a long, very fast part of the course. This could be annoying. At first I thought he'll blow, then I'll pass. He didn't blow up. I think he thought he could ride me off his wheel. I stayed 12" off his wheel, drafting at 25mph on a narrow trail at one point. Roadie skills do pay off in the woods. There's no way, with how tired I was getting, that I could have maintained that pace. We climb Carr Ridge together, but alas, he had real mountain biker skills and dropped me on the bony descent. I never saw him again.

Dropping down the stairs again, I got to go left this time to the finish. Good thing. I was done. It was getting warmer and muggier, and I felt some chills. I don't think I was drinking enough, so I was getting dehydrated and starting to overheat. Cramping always follows this shortly. We took a slightly different route back from the lap point to the finish, for 25.5 miles total. I finished in 2:05:04, second out of 12 finishers for Expert Vet-II (42-49) age group. Mosher not only won my age group, he was overall expert winner with a time just shy of two hours. Being a "fun" race for me, I was quite pleased with how well it went. No mishaps, great weather, and great competition.

After the race I caught up with a bunch of guys I haven't seen in a while. A lot of guys that have been away from MTB racing for a while were there today. I talked with Colin R after the race too. The skinny whippet gave me crap about how roadie this course must be because I showed up. He even asked me if I rode the stairs at the lap point. I haven't become that much of a roadie. I was probably winning MTB races when he was still in high school. He did beat me by a minute and a half or so. Being such a "roadie course," he thought a roadie like me would have the advantage today. Guess those few rocks on Carr Ridge slowed me down.

The course was extremely well marked and marshaled. There would be no excuse making a wrong turn here. Organization was superb. I would look for this event becoming a fixture of New England mountain bike racing in future years. I and everybody I talked to had lots of fun.

2/12 Expert Vet2, 25.5mi, 2:05:04 (5:42 back), 8th overall expert

109) Waterville Valley Time Trial, Waterville Valley, NH - May 30, 2009

An individual time trial is often referred to as a "race of truth." It is called such because team tactics and drafting are removed. Each rider must fend for themselves. This truth is not an absolute, however. A flat TT clearly favors bigger guys that put out raw Watts. A climbing TT will favor small guys that put out high Watts per kilogram. What flavor of "truth" would you like? Both climber and flat TT specialists might do poorly on a technical course with tight turns, so riders with handling skills might come out ahead. Perhaps an honest race of truth somehow mixes all of these elements into one course.

But what about equipment? Pro's pretty much all have the same stuff, get wind tunnel testing, the works. In the amateur ranks, there is wide variation in equipment and how well the rider is fit to his or her rig. I do not have a TT bike. I refuse to go part way by clipping on aero bars. It is an all or nothing deal for me. Unfortunately, equipment makes a huge difference in a fast time trial. There's no way to be competitive with your peer group if you lack the equipment they are riding. To some degree, I resent this barrier to entry. A decent TT setup (bike, wheels, helmet) can easily cost thousands. I can see putting this into a light weight hillclimb bike, as it can be used for road races and everyday riding. A TT bike has very limited utility in my book.

I did the WVTT last year, so my goal was to beat last year's time. The course was extended slightly this year. I used the same bike but with slightly less aero wheels, modest section aluminum Rolf's. I did use my IBC skinsuit for the first time. So all that was pretty much the same. The weather was different, however. It was cooler (cold air is denser, thus slower), and it was windier. There was virtually no wind last year. By 10:07am, my start time, the gusts were picking up pretty good.

My bib number was 3. This meant I was third fastest guy from last year that registered this year and was third to last guy to go off. The two guys behind me were much faster than me last year and would surely pass me early with their TT equipment. One was Patrick Ruane (Sunapee/S&W). Brad Ek (NHCC) was #4 from last, my 30 second man. This was perfect, as I beat him by 8 seconds last year. I figured I would pass him on the climb out, then he'd steamroll by me on the descent back. Whether he'd take back those 30 seconds and beat me in the end was up in the air. Or so I thought.

The WVTT profile. Little ripples at lower elevations are not really there.

I push off, and it didn't take long before I realized I was going too hard. A diagonal head wind had something to do with this. It was taking my speed down and I was over-compensating. The road is quite open and I could see Brad almost continuously. The deal was, he wasn't getting any bigger in my field of vision. I pass my one minute guy, but Brad still looked like he was 30 seconds out. I think it was Patrick that passed me just before the steepest part approaching the Waterville Valley village. He passed me decisively. Then the speeds drop to less than 15mph and all the aero goodies lose their effectiveness. I'm pretty sure I took a few seconds back from Patrick since I gained on him on a constant grade. But once we topped out near the village into a gusty headwind, Patrick and Brad were both gone.

Like last year, riders that were near me beginning the descent put incredible time on me during the descent. Of course, they all have aero equipment. The speeds on the return trip are very high. I saw a max of 43.1mph. Aero is hugely important at these speeds. Unlike last year, nobody passed me on the return. The only two staged behind me passed me heading out, and only one rider I passed was well behind me. Initially, there was nice tail wind heading back out of the village. Much of the course dealt with crosswind. But due to how mountains shape wind flow, we had some more headwind coming the last few km's into the finish too.

I finished with a 49:27.15, almost a minute slower than last year. The course was extended a claimed 600m this year, making it an even 20.0mi (32.2km), so times should be slightly slower on average. But the wind was the biggest factor. Here's some stat's:

2008
19.7mi (31.7km)
48:32.0
70F, calm winds
24.35mph avg
2009
20.0mi (32.2km)
49:27.15
63F, moderate NW wind
24.27mph avg

So very nearly same average speed on cooler, windier day. I'll take it. Very good chance I averaged higher power and had a better race this year than last year despite not placing as well. It is interesting to note that I averaged 19.7mph heading out to exact half-way point (right at taking left to loop through village), and I averaged 31.7mph coming back. Combination of gradient and wind was behind this. Last year I had max speed of 38mph, this year 43mph. The average speed is pretty impressive I think considering I rode cannibal, it was breezy and there's about 1100ft of climbing on the course. Don't think I got girled either.

Doing a little "research" on the web, I could expect a full TT setup to boost my average speed by at least 2mph on this course. A boost of just 1mph could have netted me a win in my age category. Does this bug me? Just a little. Does it bug me enough to drop some serious nickle on a TT rig? Probably not. The so called race of truth is more like a race of best setups in the amateur ranks. There are some stage races I'd like to participate in sometime. No TT bike = not competitive in the GC. I keep threatening to make the plunge. Maybe this year will be the year.

5th Masters 45+, 20.0mi, 49:27.15, 18/87 overall

108) Lake Sunapee Road Race, Sunapee, NH - May 16, 2009

I've raced Sunapee three times in the last four years. A good finish there seems to elude me. In '05, I placed 22nd in the 4/5's. In '06, I placed 7th in the M35+. I wussed out in '07 due bone chilling rain. Last year I placed 19th in the M45+. The course favors neither pure sprinters nor pure hill climbers. Neither does the Turtle Pond course, but I've won that one two times in a row now. I trained hard for the past week, slept poorly last night, and pretty much was relegated to the fact Sunapee was going to be a race of survival for me.

I was psyched to find ideal weather. It was just warm enough that long layers weren't needed. That meant probability of cramping should be low. A pretty nasty east wind was brewing up though, and that would surely play a factor in the race.

At the Wednesday night Exeter Cycles ride, two guys approached me about Sunapee. One was Michael Claus (OA/Cyclemania), the other was Keith Button (NorEast Cycling). Michael thought it would be great if OA could get Stuart Abramson in a break with me. I have no idea if Stuart knew about this or not. Keith hung with the killer lead Exeter group Wednesday and took 2nd at Sunapee in '07. He was interested in working with me too. Yeah, this would be cool, but what are the odds of that really happening?

I knew of Stuart from hillclimb races. He smoked me on Mt Washington a few years ago and will probably do so again this year. I see he's signed up. But I didn't know him by face. Lining up, I asked a random OA/Cyclemania guy which one Stuart was. That proved to be a very valuable piece of info. The fields were limited to 75 riders this year due to road construction. I shuddered when I saw the funnel we'd have to go through at high speeds on the drive in. Our field max'd out. There were at least 10 OA/Cyclemania guys there. I had three IBC teammates with me, Kevin Young, Mike Harris and Brian Anderson. I guess Paul Curley (Gearworks) was doing the same thing as I before the race, asking my teammates "which one of you guys is Doug Jansen?" I spoiled his sprint finish at Turtle Pond a couple weeks ago.

We go off at 9:20am. I'm shivering to start, but I knew the internal fire would be roaring in a few minutes. We no more than go "live" after getting out of the rotary, than OA sends a guy off the front. It wasn't Stuart. They have other contenders in the ranks though. Should I worry about it? Look around. Is anybody else worried about it? OA didn't seem to be blocking and the guy didn't drill it. Perhaps they were just testing the waters. In the first few miles, a few more of these launches occurred, most of them with an OA guy in them. There would be no point in going with a break if there wasn't an OA guy in it. They had enough firepower to viciously gun down anything that didn't represent them.

Our field survived the big hills on Rt 11 intact. We veer off onto Rt 103A. This begins the next series of rollers with a couple nasty ones mid way. Stuart lights it up on the steep one. It is still early in the race, but I felt maybe this could be the move. It only will be if I meant it when going with Stuart. Amazingly, Keith was right there too. So was Tyler Munroe (CCB) and Rick Sorenson (Battenkill-United). I'd love to take credit in initiating the move, but that goes to Stuart. The pace was surreal. We crested the top with a huge gap to the field. We had the right teams represented and no spoilers (you'll have to guess who they are). Hammer time. Keith completely killed the descents. This helped the nascent split to stick. Tyler played the role of crew leader, as we certainly weren't very synchronized to start. Once we got a paceline going, we began to grow the gap, just barely.

The nice thing being in a small break so early was that we weren't going to get squeezed through the ringer merging onto Rt 103. We could go nice and wide and hammer all the way through the construction. Climbing on Rt 103, the field was always in sight. I had moments of doubt. I think the others did too. You gotta try though, right? It ain't over 'till its over. We get back to the big rollers on Rt 11. Keith starts having trouble and we lose him. Now we have most of a lap to go with just four guys and the field maybe only a minute or so back. We were fighting a vicious wind here too. I'm learning this can actually work in a break away's favor. Nobody likes to work into the wind. You need really strong team commitment to continue hammering into the wind to bring back a break. If not, the "let the other teams do it" mentality takes over, and a dedicated break away group rides away. I think some of this went on today.

Two laps of this gives about 4000ft of climbing

On the last part of Rt 11, we caught the Cat 4 field. This was a mess. Traffic was backed up behind them. This meant we had trouble bombing down the one hill plugged with traffic. With just four riders, we got around the large field fairly easily. I think the Master 45+ main field had a little more trouble. Not sure if we had a net advantage or it was a wash.

Our break away gets into the Rt 103A rollers, where we started the break. Now I'm not feeling so great anymore. I had been setting pace on most of the climbs. My tendency was to go too hard for the other guys. We all needed each other, so I had to throttle back just a tad. Now I felt early cramping coming on. How can this be? It was so cool out and only 90 minutes into a race. True, the last 60 minutes have pretty much been threshold+ time-trail effort. I didn't expect it though. I just pretended it wasn't happening. I think the other guys were getting tired too, as I sensed more coasting or soft pedaling on the descents. I came up a few times to max out the speed on descents. This is one place the field usually does not work at all, and we couldn't afford to waste this "bandwidth."

We passed another sizable group, maybe dropped 35+'s. They latched on. Our follow car had some words with them about that. We round the corner through the construction one more time. On the ensuing Rt 103 climb, I could see our field not far back. As long as we continued to work it, I thought we'd be ok to the finish. Sensing the fatigue in my break mates, I contemplated going early on the four-step climb on Rt 103. If I failed, I figured the worst I'd do is fourth place anyway. Then I thought if I stayed with the group, I'd surely be able to beat one of them up the finishing grade and at least claim a podium spot. I'm sure the others were thinking these thoughts too. I tested the waters at one point. I don't think they would have let me go without a fight. I decided to ride this train all the way home.

Finally, we reach the high point on Rt 103 before descending to the rotary. We don't see the chasing field, but I know they are just below the lip we came up. We all sat up anyway. I got stuck up front with about 1km to go. I coasted all the way down to the rotary. Still up front. We coast around the rotary. Still nothing happening. We soft pedal into the bottom of the finishing climb. I think we slowed to about 10mph here. Either Rick or Stuart said "so now what?" Nobody wanted to go first. It was one of the more extreme games of cat and mouse I've experienced in a race. Then I think it was Rick that said "hey guys, they're coming!" Oh crap. He launched, I grabbed his wheel. We were maybe half way up the initial steeper part at the bottom. To my surprise, Stuart and Tyler did not respond as quickly. The grade slackens for a bit, then there is one more little steep bit to the line. There's that moment in a race that's like "shit, I could win this thing!" - that extreme moment of adrenaline. Should I try to go around Rick now on the flatter part? It was still a ways to the line and he could draft me for several seconds and come back around. If I waited, I was afraid Tyler or Stuart would catch back up. I went for it then. Rick wasn't able to grab my wheel. I had a few bike lengths on him when I crossed the line for the win. I nearly fell over after crossing the line. I no more than stopped and whoosh, the rest of the field came though. If we had dicked around any longer, we surely would have been swarmed.

Finally, the Sunapee curse has been broken. I thought a win here today was a very long shot. Luck plays a role in bike racing. We happened to have the right guys in the right place at the right time, although three of us were watching each other. I learned after the race that my teammate Brian blocked for me. No doubt Stuart's and Tyler's teammates did the same for them. I talked with Mystic Velo after the race. I guess they and Gearworks put in a lot of chase effort. We had a superb break away group. Everybody worked hard, and I wasn't the only one having cramping problems at the end. This was possibly the hardest earned win for me yet and one of the most satisfying. I believe it was my fastest Sunapee race to date, around 1hr, 53min. I have a topic for a future post brewing. It will be on how ad hoc alliances are formed during cycling races. Not sure if this happens in other sports or not. It certainly makes cycling more sophisticated than stick and ball sports.

1/67 finishers Masters 45+, 46mi, 1:52:50

107) Fat Tire Classic MTB Race, Farmington, CT - April 26, 2009

A few weeks ago I struggled with what to do with this weekend. The options were:
a) Do just a road race on Saturday then hit some mountains on Sunday.
b) Start my venture back into mountain bike racing on Sunday.
c) Do both races.
I hate Sunday races, as if I want to do well, I generally take it easy the rest of the weekend. This double sucks if it is an off-Friday weekend (my company has every-other Friday off). I love doing epic rides on off-Fridays, and this can leave me cooked the rest of the weekend. I rarely race twice on a weekend. Only time I do this is Mt Equinox hillclimb on a Saturday, then Bow Road Race the next day. Hillclimbs are short. Legs still have twitch the next day. So I picked option a), the Turtle Pond road race on Saturday.

What I haven't commented about on Hill Junkie is that I've been unloading bikes. The Jansen stable has acquired too many bikes. I've been listing them on Craigslist. Earlier this year I sold my wife's road bike, a Trek 2000 WSD. She has some problems with arthritis in her hands, and the road geometry just doesn't work for her anymore. Then a week ago, I sold my Ellsworth Isis dualie. The Titus I recently built up replaces it. I also don't ride my Dean Torreys Ti cross bike much anymore either. So I listed it on Craigslist.

This is related to bike racing, folks, you'll just have to suffer through the details. A week ago, a guy from Brooklyn finds my Dean Torreys on Craigslist and wants it. Now Brooklyn ain't exactly local. I send a zillion hi-rez photos. He still wants it, but Cow Hampshire is a long haul from the big city. He floated the idea that a deal was far more likely if I could meet him part way. I mentioned there was this little MTB race near Hartford I had thought about earlier. That was half way. Before we ended the conversation, he had me signed up for racing on Sunday. Funny how stuff like that happens.

So faithful readers know by now that I won Saturday's race. It was not an easy win. In fact, Saturday night I was thinking I would bring the cross bike, hope the guy likes it and buys it, then just go for a trail ride in the area. Skip the race. I know guys that do two races most weekends. I can't figure out how they do it. Maybe most aren't 46 years old.

So Sunday rolls along. Forecast is for record breaking temps. Argh! Not only were my legs wrecked from Saturday, the heat would surely be final nails in the coffin if I raced. You've probably read here before I do worse than most in heat. In a controlled study at UNH a few years ago, it took only 20 minutes for my core body temp to reach 103.5F. A degree higher than that you can go into a coma and die. This was at 95F, very low 25% humidity, with two industrial fans blowing on me while cranking out about 350W on a trainer. Needless to say, I was not able to complete the study. The researcher made an observation that surprised me. All of the other test subjects began sweating profusely much earlier than I did even though my core body temp rose much more sharply. I have an unsupported theory why I handle heat poorly. Mooky stipulated a while back that I may draw heavily on Type 2a muscle fiber. This is not as efficient as Type 1 muscle fiber. Not as efficient means waste, and in this case, a byproduct can be heat.

I decided to see what I can do in the heat and go for training value. I packed two bikes and headed to Farmington, CT. Selling my cross bike went smoothly. By race start, the temperature was into the upper 80's. At least the humidity wasn't oppressive. I checked the day-of registrants. I saw John Mosher. Hmm, looks like competition to me. Not having off-road raced in several years, I didn't know who any of the other guys were. Getting close to race start, I see a pair of national champion jerseys. Could it be Bold and Hines? Yep. Crap. That's just more riders pushing me closer to the bottom percentage-wise. I think Jonny Bold overall wins a lot of these things.

Our race start was delayed 15 minutes. That's another 15 minutes to roast in the heat. I think I chugged about 2 liters of water in the 90 minutes prior to race start. I did not pre-ride the course. I figured all that would do is raise my body temp, and that would hurt me more than bumbling around on the first lap. I mostly just soft-pedaled around the parking lot. Mosher and Hines lined up next to me. Hines was in my Turtle Pond race, so at least we were on an equal playing field. What I did not know at the time was that Mosher and Bold also did Turtle Pond, the M35+ race in the afternoon. Guess all us old farts were on an equal playing field.

The whistle goes. Pace goes ballistic. That is what I hate most about MTB races. It was all coming back quickly. They get it all wrong. You should ease into it, do equal or even negative spits, you'll get to the finish quicker, dudes! But I guess everybody is petrified of getting caught behind a rider that slows them down in the singletrack. I think I was one of those riders today. I was near DFL heading up the starting slope. I literally ate a lot of dust. A few minutes in, there was this slightly greasy off-chamber bit that nearly sent me sliding. Riding wheel to wheel, I didn't see what was coming up, not having pre-ridden.

I finished the first lap in 22 minutes and change. My five minute "timer" went off. This timer chimes once and notifies me that if I continue at this pace, bodily functions will shortly begin shutting down. It was so friggin hot. Lap two, things start spreading out. I crossed the line 2 minutes slower than my first lap. Not good. Now the thermal alarm is chiming away. I started getting that nauseated, goosebumps feeling that can precede major cramping episodes. My pace continued to erode. I was still passing tons of guys though. This surprised me. I passed most of the guys from my field in the first lap I think, now I was passing younger guys from fields staged minutes ahead of me. Nobody I passed earlier was passing me back, so despite my slowing pace, I was at least hold ground in my field.

My third lap was slower yet again. Having backed down and poured water over myself at the feedzone, I felt a little less heat stressed. I reached an equilibrium. The pace was still hard. There was zero recovery anywhere on the course. A "roadies dream?" Maybe. Watershed Wahoo from years ago was less technical, a lot faster, but not as smooth. The Winding Trails course was 30-50% singletrack (lots more than years past, riders say). It was mostly buff, a few rooty sections, lots of double track, and just throw power down with reckless abandon everywhere. It was indeed my kind of course. Just wish I had fresh legs and 20 degrees off the thermometer. I just might be competitive on something like this. I thrive in 90 minute TT efforts.

On my fourth and final lap, I find I can start ramping the power back up again. I passed Mosher earlier who looked like he was fixing a flat. I wondered if he would come flying by at some point. I'm still passing lots of younger riders. Then I see a stars and stripes ahead. Really? Must have been Hines. My perception was I was doing poorly because I felt so awful. Things were nicely spread out on this lap, and I knew the course now. I was braking much less. I was becoming reacquainted with carrying speed through turns. My final lap turned out to be quite a bit faster than my third lap.

I crossed the line with 1:35:09 for the 20.4 miles I measured. That was about 10 minutes slower than I anticipated, but that was based on last year's finishing times on a course with less tight, twisty singletrack. This netted me 4th place out of 14 finishers for Cat 1 40-49 age group. Bold and Hines took 1st and 2nd. A guy I didn't know finished just seconds ahead of me in third. Had I known he was in my age group, I think I could have done something about that. It took me a long time to get used to not seeing numbers on back of jerseys. You have to pass them and look back to see what age group they are in. It looks like some masters schooled a lot of young guys here today.

I was excited to see how many riders showed up. There definitely seems to be a resurgence in mountain bike racing. Many high caliber riders were there. Thom P and 'mates were there. Also talked with Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) who raced earlier. Think I have to do more of these. Definitely signing up for the VT50 this year. Given conditions, I was quite pleased with how my race went. I didn't even fall off my bike! There certainly were plenty of opportunities to clip trees at 20+ mph. Maybe I'll even do more double race weekends this summer.

No racing next weekend. I will miss Jiminy Peak, which makes me sad. I like that one. But I'll be missing it for the right reasons. Teammate Brett Rutledge and I will be heading down to Asheville, NC for four full days of "spring training." There's lots of peaks down there we haven't bagged yet, such as Mitchell, Clingmans Dome, and Brasstown Bald. Good chance we'll hook up with a local rider I've "met" through my website.

4/15 finishers 40-49 Cat 1, 20.4mi, 1:35:09, 5th overall Cat 1

106) Turtle Pond Road Race, Concord, NH - April 25, 2009

Snagged another great finish today. I hit the Turtle Pond Road Race with four IBC teammates in the Masters 45+ field. Lining up, there appeared to be far more than 54 riders than were pre-registered, including some additional contenders. I saw that Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports) signed up. I was going to keep a close eye on him. He can be tough as nails and nipped me at the line a couple years ago at Bow for the win.

There were two notable climbs on the course. Oak Hill, gaining over 200ft in a steep section just after the start/finish line, and Hothole Hill, a steep 100ft grunt about 3-4 miles out from the finish. We do five 11+ mile laps for a 56 mile race. Topo 7.0 says over 900ft of climbing per lap, but I know that is too high. It is probably more like 700-800, for 3500-4000ft for the race. Starting out at base of Oak Hill was neutral. Once cresting top, racing went live and attacks ensued. Several other teams were well represented, including CCB, Gearworks, Corner Cycle, and especially OA/Cyclemania with over a dozen guys. Blocking was well executed any time these teams sent somebody up the road. I managed to get into or bridge up to a couple of these breaks, but we were mercilessly reeled back in. Teammate Brett Rutledge came around the blockers many times when IBC wasn't represented in the break away and other teams weren't willing to work. There were so many OA/Cyclemania guys that it was almost impossible to get around the blockers sometimes.

I stayed near the front of the race for four laps. I was quickly becoming cooked and discussed lead-out strategy with teammate Steve Gauthier while finishing the fourth lap. He can sprint. This field wasn't going to let a hillclimb weeny like me get away. I even thought I wouldn't do this race again, as it wasn't selective enough. Things sure looked like they were going to end in a bunch sprint. I generally sit up and get out of the way for these things. But if I could string things out in the home stretch, I thought perhaps that could keep things under control and give Steve a shot for the win.

We hit Oak Hill on our fifth and final lap. Thus far, I thought the Oak Hill ascents were pretty tame. I see Paul Wonsavage is already at the front of our pack of 30-40 guys. I work my way up to him. Paul starts stringing us out and I stay glued to his wheel. The pace was no longer tame. I started to not feel so great, having moments of doubt, like maybe I should just let him go. I hadn't been looking back. I figured the field would just scoop us up as we crested like the earlier climbs. But no. As Paul and I crested, we had sizable gap on the rest of the field. No words were necessary. We both knew what to do. Paul took some monster pulls on the descent. I also put my best effort into it. The rest of the IBC contingent knew what to do too. Brett and Kevin Young came to the front to disrupt chase efforts. Before Paul and I knew it, the field was no where in sight.

Continuing in time-trial mode, we worked very well together. But man, I was hurting. I'm sure I had drool and snot all over my face. Then we get to that Pothole Hill kicker. I gapped Paul but didn't mean too. I was pretty sure we still needed each other at this point, as it was 3-4 miles to the finish and I did not know how far back the chase group was. I let up slightly, but Paul wasn't getting back on as quickly as I would have liked. I decided to go it alone, head down, all-out hammer to the finish. On a long straight-away, I could see the pack. Yikes. Once I got to the small rise to the line, I was finally able to relax. I won with 17 seconds on Paul, who had 4 seconds on field. I was happy he made it too. Teammate Steve took 6th place in the bunch sprint for the remaining podium spot. Some great work by my IBC teammates helped secure the win.

Nothing like finishing a race at 20 minute time-trial pace. That turned out to be way harder than Battenkill last weekend. Shorter race, all paved, but way higher average intensity. That's also now 2-for-2 wins at Turtle Pond. I last raced Turtle Pond in 2007 and won in a very similar way. This year though, the break started at the top of Oak Hill, where I've never seen a winning break start, 10 miles from the finish. It was a spectacular day, just starting to get hot as the afternoon races were lining up. I was tentative on the course changes safety-wise, but the narrow fishing area was well marshaled. There were no crashes. I think the course changes are a keeper. It's been a while since I sauntered over the line for a win. To think of it, Turtle Pond in 2007 was the last time. Hope they get today's finishing photo on Bikereg.

1/50 Masters 45+, 57mi, 2:24:37

105) Tour of the Battenkill Road Race, Cambridge, NY - April 18, 2009

This year's Tour of the Battenkill was a low key event for me, yet I was pleasantly surprised with the result. My fitness isn't quite where it normally is at this time in the season. Thus I was not going to stress over Battenkill, just treat it as a training race. I have an inverse relationship between how well I sleep the night before a race and the importance I attach to the race. "A" race, sleep poorly. I slept like a rock Friday night.

It was chilly out. I still took a third water bottle in jersey pocket since I didn't line up feed support. I struggled between wearing long jersey and knee warmers or just arm warmers. I figured the three times I've done this race now, I'll be warm in no time. I erred on the light side. Dave Penney (Penney Cycles) rode up with me. Kitting up, he lost one of his gloves. He hunted around a few minutes before asking if I saw it. The velcro part was stuck to his ass!

I made many last minute changes to my rig the day before the race. First, I like to spin, so I modified the gearing. I put a 27t cassette on back. Up front, I pulled the 39t 10spd Dura-Ace ring off, put a 38t 9spd ring on. Teeth are slightly thicker on 9spd, but my gut said I should be ok. One tooth in 39 is only about 2.5%, but if you are on hairy edge of blowing legs up, this can make a difference. For tires, I put on brand new 23mm Michelin Pro2 Race lined with Michelin latex tubes. This was huge risk, and it nearly cost me a whole lot more than just the race, as I'll explain shortly. Finally, I did not want to use my carbon wheels on such a pocked up course with good chance for rain, so I used my slightly heavier and slightly less aero Rolf Prima Vigor's. This meant I had to swap out the cork pads too. When I changed the rings, I noticed the crank was wicked tight in bottom bracket. It wouldn't even spin half a turn when flinging it. It was clinched in way too tight. I raced all last season with it this way. Could this be why I had a mediocre road season yet crushed several hillclimb PRs on a different bike? Probably not. I made sure I delicately torqued the retaining cap during re-assembly.

I did minimal warmup, which turned out to be wise decision. I'd guess over 100 guys in the 40+ lined up. First 10 miles of race was recreational pace. Everybody was talking. I stayed mid pack. My strategy was to do no work, ignore attacks and break aways, yet try to stay with a core group. A top 20 finish would have pleased me going into this race.

Then we hit the first tests of the course. These would be the double humps on Perry Hill and Juniper Swamp roads. Dirt of course. Juniper Swap made me wonder if I should just ride off course and do a solo training ride instead. Numerous riders came around me. The gravel was loose. Despite my modified gearing, I was mashing. Standing up only accelerated rocks into the guy behind me. Fortunately no splits formed over this mini-beast. We all got back together.

Life was good for a while again. There were no more discriminating climbs for the next 13-15 miles. But the next one was a nasty one, one we used to finish the race bombing down in years past. This was Joe Bean Hill, all paved on the climb. It gains over 400ft in just over a mile. Amazingly, I stayed in contact with the lead guys over this one. Our field became quite fragmented, maybe 20 guys in front with another similarly sized group not far back. During the ensuing descent over a few miles, much of the field was back together again.

Somewhere along here, a couple guys got away. I think Tom Butler (CCC/Keltic) was one of them. I wasn't sure how many there were, as I was riding very defensively away from the front during this race. CCC/Keltic, Corner Cycle and Westwood Velo were well represented and all were positioning riders for a win. The pace became very subdued between the climbs. Ridiculously easy, in fact. I'll take it, but we sure still had a big pack together. The race just wasn't busting up like it did in years past. The new course layout and direction had a lot to do with this I thought.

After Joe Bean and some sketchy dirt descent, it was many miles of slightly downhill pavement into Greenwich. It was trying to sprinkle now, so the complicated set of turns had me nervous. Jonny Bold (Corner Cycle) turned up conspicuously missing. Reports were he flatted. I thought for sure his team would bring him back into play, being a top contender.

We get into bunches of more dirt. Some of this stuff was just plain mean. Pre-ride reports from last weekend possibly underpredicted the looseness with more than a week of no rain. A rider from my field had just rag-dolled into the corn field. I didn't see it, but others said it was horrific. I was going well over 40mph on that section littered with giant craters and nasty looseness if you got off the main track. I jettisoned a full, large water bottle on one hole. I didn't freak, as it was so cool out. My bike made a horific cracking sound when I hit that monster. A little later, I'm not sure if it was Mountain Rd or Becker Rd, I nearly had an incident. I was hauling about 40mph and got a little too far right when the road was sweeping left. It was loose as marbles and cambered away from the turn. My front tire started skidding and plowing. This went on for the longest time, and I dared not touch the brakes. I was quite certain I was going into the woods and began looking for an opening in the trees for a "controlled" crash. Somebody must have been watching out for me, as I saved it. I soiled my chamois just a little though. New Michelin Pro2 Race tires are very steeply crowned. I think this made them particularly vulnerable to knifing behavior. I just may go with slightly used 25mm tires next year. That was way too close of a call.

A Cat 4 field passed us somewhere along the back side of the course. This was the most bizarre thing, as I'm riding next to Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo, National CX Champ). How can this be? It was a surreal situation. Little did I know at the time that he had a teammate up the road. We picked up Tom Butler and whoever he was away with somewhere along here too. Maybe it was Meetinghouse Road. Anyway, the race controlled by these two strong teams with their guys up the road basically meant we weren't really racing by being good little boys in the pack. I was surprised that more tactics did not go on until this point. The race was 80% over, yet I felt I hadn't really started racing yet. I didn't know who all was up the road at the time, so I chalked it up to the new course layout being the culprit, not team strategies.

After Meetinghouse Road, which was in decent shape and much easier ridden in the new direction, there was a gradual paved climb. At this point we had a pace car in front of us and I assumed we were all back together now. Unbelievable. We must have had 25-30 guys. I've never been in a lead bunch this big at the end of a Battenkill race, and we had some real fire power in the field.

We finally get to Stage Road, the final exam of the race. I presumed, incorrectly, we were all together. I couldn't believe I was still in the lead group with only 5-6 miles to go, albeit a very large lead group. I hate sprints. I suck at them. I prefer to just get out of the way when it gets messy. I had hoped Stage Road would whittle our pack down some.

As expected, Roger bolted as soon as his tires tasted dirt. We were overtaking riders from a couple different fields now. Roger's move was decisive and impressive. I overheard riders from another field comment something like "what the f-, who was that!" I too gave the hill a good shot. The gravel was in fair shape here. Amazingly, I drew a gap on the rest of the field. Nothing like Roger, but seconds none the less. I then wondered if I should drill it and solo the rest of the way to the finish or save something to see who comes over with me. If I drilled it and failed, I would finish near the back of the pack. If I saved something and only 5 or 6 riders come over first, we could work together the last four miles, netting me a top-10. My legs felt amazingly fresh for the end of Battenkill. I attributed it to sitting in the whole race, few hijinks going on throughout race with conversation pace between climbs, and not stressing over who's doing what. Or maybe there's magical power in all that lava dust I inhaled in Hawaii for the last two weeks. Anyway, I was somewhat dismayed when about 10 guys overtook me, both by the number of guys and with how much force they overtook me. I guess I didn't really let them catch up after all.

So now there's a mile-plus of downhill and three miles of very fast flat to the finish. We had 10 or so guys plus Roger a minute or so up by now (not knowing he had a teammate ahead of him). I thought we were sprinting for 2nd. Now we were racing, boys and girls. Attack, counter-attack. A lot was at stake. The group had several CCC/Keltic guys in it, including Andy Ruiz. With about 2km to go, one of the CCC/Keltic guys bolted but then faltered just ahead of us. I bridged up, nobody followed. I then put the hammer down, chin to the bar, eyes straight down my fork. The gap grew, but I had a tag along. I hit deflection, motion for the CCC guy to pull through, he does, and promptly slows down. Is he blocking for somebody I don't know about? It was quite a cluster on Stage Road with riders from at least three fields intermingling. I think he was just cooked. I then took another monster pull at speeds near 30mph. The gap grew a little bit. I motioned CCC guy to pull again. I got about 5 seconds of rest behind him then decided to go for it. We still had well over 1km to go with at least 8 guys just 5-6 seconds back. This was shear lunacy, I thought. Gotta try though, right? Most of my wins happened in moves like this. I managed to put a very small gap on CCC guy. Finally that cord snapped and he was gone. I pass the 1km to go banner. But now the pace is furious behind me. Guys are leap-frogging each other. I'll never make it. I'm three stages beyond redlined as I make the final turn to the finish. I see it now, but the gap behind me is closing rapidly. No more looking back. It will be what it will be. As I crossed the line, a pack of guys was no more than 1-2 seconds behind me. I did it. Finally another podium finish at Battenkill. And I wrote this one off! There's a lesson in there somewhere that's probably material for another post.

As I wound down, I saw Roger with teammate Todd Cassan. That's odd, how did Todd get up there. I stopped to congratulate Roger. Turns out Todd won. Silly me. Suddenly the whole race started to make more sense. I'm sure Roger and mates regulated our race to assure Todd's win. No wonder the Cat 4's passed us. Then when the time was right, Roger took number two spot. Nice 1-2 sweep guys.

We avoided heavy rain but it sprinkled just enough to make the bike despicable. Dave, who started half an hour behind me, got caught some downpour action. He appeared to finish quite well in his Cat 4 field (hopefully not the one that passed us). I believe there were three Cat 4 fields on the course.

Apparently there were issues with results. After waiting an hour, we had verbal agreement for first three finishers and we did the podium thing. Podium finishers were given a fine quart of Vermont upstate New York chocolate milk in a custom edition glass bottle. Very nice touch and great race recovery drink.

3/83 Masters 40+, 62mi, 2:51:53, 41sec back

Ski-17) Sugarloaf Marathon - March 22, 2009

This post may be my last ski report of the season. Waterville Valley suspends regular operations for the season as of today but may open for two days next weekend. Then that's it. When I get back from Hawaii mid April, I have bike races lined up.

I made a late decision to do the 50km race at Sugarloaf. It clearly cuts into prime cycling training. It was a three day weekend for me (my company works 80 hours in 9 days and has every-other Friday off). It would have been nice to get in some big rides this weekend. But no, I had to squeeze the last bit of juice out of this epic winter by doing the season closing race. Skiing only once in the last two weeks added to the insanity of signing up. In fact, I've skied less than 50 hours so far this year. Seems like I've done a lot more than that.

I went up the night before with Dave P. We stayed at his wife's folks place in Hartland, ME. Dave and I were doing the 50k race, Beth was doing the 30k tour. They prepared a pasta feast for us skiers. Very yummy sauce, salad, fresh bread, even an icecream based desert. I cannot say no to stuff this good, even if I'm way past the full threshold. I think there was a sinister plan in there somewhere. The Woodbury's certainly know how to host athletes. The meal and room were much appreciated.

Now only if the race could go well, it would be a flawless weekend. Reports from Saturday were to expect some boiler plate on the course. Brett R. went up earlier in the weekend with his son for some Alpine skiing. He also went out on a Saturday morning surveillance lap of the course. The report scared me. With my Hawaiian trip only a week away, injury was not an option. We got to the venue plenty early. It hadn't snowed overnight. The course looked to be tilled up nicely, very coarse granular that sounded like gravel under your feet. But just an inch or two under that was solid ice. Crap. I just knew after the first lap all that wonderful granular was going to be scraped off the descents.

I did a very minimal warmup before lining up. Much to my surprise, we were staged according to registering order. I registered just before it closed on skireg.com, so I was in very nearly the last row. The gun goes off and we begin double poling across the bog. I saw only one skier tangle up and go down. Then we get into the trail. Immediately things grind to a halt. This sucked. I was stuck behind a long line of college team girls. Every little rise we came to saw the speed go to zero or close to it. At one point, things stopped, and a girl came up beside me and stopped with both her skies standing on one of my skies. I could not move. I was stuck behind this slow moving mass going up the 400ft climb. It was maddening. A few of the girls were even chatting, not too concerned there was actually a race going on. A couple others would not budge despite repeated calls to pass. About 75% of the way up the climb, I finally cleared this mess with a huge gap ahead of me. In fact, I don't think I could even see the next skier. That is how far back this group was in just the first 3-4km. I very quickly opened a gap behind me.

Beginning the hairball descents on lap one, I immediately knew there was going to be trouble on laps two and three. The course is 16.5km and we do three laps. I utterly suck on icy descents. I did not know the course at all. I unnecessarily braked a few times, got too much speed other times. The granular cover was still good, but by the time the rest of my field plus the 30k race and tour fields staged behind us came through, there was going to be ice.

Lap #1 was a breeze. Conditions were lightning fast despite plowing through deep loose granular. It probably didn't matter what wax or ski structure you used. I was able to press hard into the big climb the second time around. I passed a couple guys and had no interference from a chatty group plugging up the trail. It was my fastest time up the 400 footer and the only time in the whole race where I actually felt like I was working hard. Then came the descents. The steep straight-away with sweeping right hand turn caught me off guard. I had way too much speed going when I realized hockey ice is not a good surface to scrub speed off on. I went down hard, possibly at 30mph. Bruised sit bone and thumb jammed back wicked bad were the result. The two guys I worked so hard to pass came flying by. I was flustered now. In the next two minutes, I went down two more times around bare ice corners with a wee berm to hold your outside ski. I am completely clueless how to ski stuff like this. I think somebody like Colin R would crush the competition on this course though. I was now pissed and quite certain I would hang it up when (if) I made it to the finish area. Sustaining an injury that would wipe out a tropics vacation was not worth it.

I get back to the bog and reconsider my desire to quit despite my thumb throbbing so bad I could not squeeze gels with it. I figured I can't quit a race Dave was certain to finish. Descending is not one of his strong points either, but I figured I lost so much time on that descent he was surely just behind me. He beat me by several minutes at Rangeley last year. We're both improved this year, so it was up in the air who was going to finish first.

With two of three laps complete, I still felt fresh going into the wall climb the final time. This race just wasn't taking anything out of me. It seemed half the time I was putting the brakes on, not doing any work. I skied with about 50oz in my Camelbak again. I only took gel handups, of which I could only get half that crazy thick stuff out each time. I passed the two guys again that passed me when I was in crash mode. I flew past them in fact. I can put minutes on them in a single 400ft climb, yet give it back just like that on a descent. I really need to learn that trick. It could take 10-15 minutes off my race time easily.

A brief, heavy snow squall moved through. It dumped just enough saturated soggy snow on the course to really take the speed down in some areas (not on the scraped off ice though). It made things really tricky, as you'd alternate between granular (fast) and soggy snow (like glue) instantaneously. It made it almost impossible to maintain fore/aft balance in places. Many others I talked to after the race experienced this. You could barely see the new snow pellets, but you sure could tell when you skied on it.

Beginning the hairy descents for the third time, my mantra was "don't crash, think Hawaii." I crashed again anyway. At least this time I knew where all the bad areas were and scrubbed speed before getting to them. There was no edge to be had on any of the steep stuff. I even managed to pick off another guy dusting himself off around one of the meanies. I saw several others go down, even on the first lap. This was easily the nastiest conditions I've raced on. I think Sugarloaf did the best they could given recent weather and lack of snowfall. Send a hundred-plus skiers around a few times, that sugary stuff has nowhere to go but pushed out of the way, leaving boiler plate exposed.

So I managed to hold off several skiers I passed in the last lap to the finish. I finished in 3:02hrs and change, my fastest 50k marathon yet. Next year I would like to get below 3hrs. I should have been able to do it here today. This course is way easier than Lake Placid, yet I was only 4 minutes faster. The conditions were "too" fast in that it made control dicy, thus having to ski defensively at reduced speed. The third lap soggy dump didn't help either. The 50k race had nearly 4000ft of climbing in it. Didn't seem like it, but all those rollers add up. That was the easiest 50k race so far for me. No bonking, no cramping, still going strong after three hours. I've felt more trashed after some of my Waterville ski sessions. Two PR's today, fastest 50k, and the most crashes by far in any race. There's irony in there somewhere.

Dave finished about 5 minutes behind me. He too has skied only once in the last two weeks and a handful of times in the last couple months really. Beth finished her 30k tour strong, amazingly having skate skied only once this year. Brett finished solidly at 4th overall in the 30km race. I think we all agreed that we'll do it again next year. Many thanks to the Colby crew for staffing this race. I finally met Luke, who manned the first feed station.

9/13 Men 40-49, 33/64 Finishers Overall, 50km, 3:02:48.5

Ski-16) Ski to the Clouds - March 8, 2009

Headed to the Rock Pile for the Ski to the Clouds race today. I almost bagged the race, seeing a lot of rain fell there last night. Deja vu all over again. Last year it poured the day before then temps plummeted to scary cold. The course then was like skating on 2" ice cubes frozen together. Conditions were vastly different today, but not necessarily better.

Get ready for some whining. Jill from Alaska embarks on a 350 mile bike race on the Iditarod trail, gets frostbite and may lose portions of toes, yet I haven't seen any whining on her blog. Guess I'm a wuss.

So how do you maximize sufferage during a ski race? Here's how:

1. Do your federal tax return the night before. This will raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and make you cuss. Just try to figure out the 2008 stimulus thingy that carries over into 2009 if you didn't get it all in 2008. You will go to bed late and spend eons calming down before you fall asleep. To maximize the impact of lack of sleep, do this the same night the clocks jump ahead one hour. I swear I no more than fell asleep when the alarm went off for the 2.5hr drive north.

2. Get in four hours of training on the bike in the two days prior to the race. You will surely feel this in your legs even if you take it easy. Ski to the Clouds wasn't exactly a priority race for me, but I got more than I bargained for.

3. Look at the weather report to see plummeting temperatures predicted with overnight snow, then bring your cold structure skis with cold wax when conditions were just the opposite. The temperature was over 40F at the base, warmer than the high forecasted for the day. There was standing water in the staging area. The Mt Washington Auto Road was stir-with-a-spoon pea soup. I had my old RS:11's ground with a deep warm/wet structure. They would have been perfect with a yellow fluoro. Instead, I had flat structure with two temperatures colder wax. To make sure the climb was extra soupy, the sun came out, yet the wind carried rain over from the black cloulds over the Wildcat side of the valley.

The lead pack entering climb. Courtesy Great Glen Trails Photo Library.

4. Overdress. I overheated before we even got into the climb. A simple skinsuit would have been enough, even for the descent after the finish. I wore AmFib bib tights, heavy base layer, and Pearl Izumi thermal layer. At least I ditched the hat and put on some light gloves.

5. Eat a bagel with Gatorade within 1hr of race start. Less than 1km from finish, I developed a side-stitch. This wasn't one of the pansy rib cage ones, but rather lower like in liver area. I've gotten these in intense MTB races before, and you can kind of soft pedal them out. How do you do this going up 12% grade in ankle deep slush at 3mph? The pain kept getting worse, and I kept pushing through it. Eventually my liver told me if YOU DON'T STOP NOW, I'M GOING TO EXPLODE! I doubled over in pain, waiting at least a minute for the pain to subside. Two people I fought hard to pass and stay ahead of passed me back. One was Donovan, Justin Freeman's dad. I never caught him back. Between broken wheels (2008) and side-stitches, I think the Rock Pile has put a curse on me.

Not much of a race report, eh? All I can say is that I have never suffered harder for 62 minutes on skis. That's right. I measured only about 9.2km distance and it took over an hour. They don't call it America's toughest 10k for nothing. So Justin won it by one second in a sprint with Jesse Downs. Duncan Douglas was third overall (he was 5th overall at the American Birkie, and he's 43!). I was way down at 26th overall, 24th for men. There were 70 finishers. Full results and photos here.

Race profile. Pronounced dip in HR near end is where I doubled over with side stitch. Weston level HR for an hour!

Given my whining above, I didn't do any worse relative to Justin or others in my peer group than last year. Last year I was 37.3% slower than Justin, this year 36.3% back. Everybody took longer this year, partly due to shortened course last year. I'm a little faster relative to world class cyclists on this mountain at 32% back, yet finish in the top 2% out of 600. Skiing is a humbling sport. Maybe next year I'll treat this race more seriously. That is tough, as I really like to ramp up cycling hours this time of year. With the race being on Sunday, it kills the whole weekend if you are tapering for a race. Overall, it was a good day. I had a chance to talk with several bicycle hillclimb enthusiasts after the race. Carol Meader (PVC) and Bob Donahue (Gearworks) raced today. Steve Vosburgh (CCB) spectated, nursing an injured ankle. Would I do this all over again? In a heartbeat.

7/9 Men 40-49, 26/70 Finishers Overall, 9.2km, 1:02:21

Ski-15) Weston Tuesday Night Sprints - March 3, 2009

What's a cyclist to do when you get a big snow dump in March? You ski it! Not only did I get a chance to ski tonight, I got to race the last of nine races in the sprint series. I competed in five of them. The last few weeks have had some dicy conditions, and being busy at work I felt the haul down to Weston wasn't worth the time commitment. Tonight was worth the drive. Conditions were likely the coldest and slowest of the season. I heard one skier comment "who'd expect packed powder in March!" The snow was a bit squeaky though, and after three laps of the long course, it was pretty chopped up.

After a respectable warmup, I lined up. There were a ton of junior skiers there tonight, I believe some are going to the junior Olympics. Great. I was going to get smoked by 14 year old girls. There had to be the biggest crowd there ever. I could not see the back of the staging line. 100+? I settled into around 25th place and held it for a while. Passed a few, a few passed me on the first lap. I saw a pole laying in the snow and didn't think much of it. Shortly later, I pass Marv Wang, sans one pole. I've never beaten him, now I'm thinking great, the only way I'll beat him is with one arm tied behind his back, almost literally.

On the second lap, I'm riding the Jamie/Victor train. Marv comes flying past, now with two poles. I was impressed with that recovery. The suffer factor was uber high. I was quite certain I was skiing at a two lap pace, yet we had to do three laps. We shelled a couple skiers out of our group, yet a couple others bridged up. It seemed I was playing a zero sum gain in this race. I really hadn't any expectations other than getting a spanker of a workout. I was not recovered from a hard weekend.

Beginning the third lap, my GPS armband velcro strap came loose. That really sucked. I was not going to forfeit a $500 GPS to a training race. I had to coast for about 10sec and fiddle in the darkness to find the strap to pull it tight again. I lost contact with the train. I killed myself going over Mt Weston to regain the guys I was with. Jamie and Victor are good guys to draft. After sweeping around the flats, coming back around Mt Weston, you go up the steep little hill by the lodge. I was overtaking another on it and caught the other guy's pole with my ski tip. I went down. I got up immediately, but the train had left the station. There was nobody behind me at that point, so I more or less soft pedaled the remaining kilometer or so to the finish. The hills got chewed up good and were very slow. Lots bunching up on hills and tripping on poles and skis were going on throughout the race. I might have caused another skier to bobble too, so I guess I was even.

Don't have a finishing place, but my time was 29:07 for about 9km. Warmup and laps after the race netted 24.8km, 320m vert in 94 minutes for the night. It was chilly, 19F at race start and dropping from there. Got the spanker workout I sought. The endorphin juices were freely flowing on the 45 minute drive home. Lets you think new thoughts, and you'll never fail a pee test for this kind of buzz.

28/68 Men, 29/81 Overall, 9.1km, 29:07

Ski-14) Lake Placid Loppet - February 7, 2009

Well boys and girls, the Lake Placid Loppet ain't no Weston sprint race. I had serious reservations about going back after being physically and emotionally crushed by this event in 2004. It was my first ski race, and frankly, I had no business being there. I not only finished DFL in my category back then, I was nearly DFL for all categories. I signed up for the 50km race this year, hoping to show an improvement over five years ago. Brett Rutledge came up with his family. He opted for the 25km freestyle (skate technique) race this time. At least we wouldn't be going head to head.

I didn't really have a goal, as I'm not very results oriented. Remember, the process of staying fit and learning new skills is an ends in itself for me. Brett is more results oriented. He really wanted to break 1:30 for the 25k and finish on the podium. Given decent conditions, I had no doubt he'd break 1:30. Brett gave me a goal too. He said I should shoot for 3:10 in the 50k. Like you can really plan that out. I was going to start no harder than my long Waterville Valley training sessions and let the chips fall where they may.

The forecast was funky. Bitter cold overnight with lows near 0F, then rising rapidly in the morning to high 30's with rain in the afternoon. How do you dress and wax for that? Pretty nutty stuff. It was already in single digits when I got to my motel last night. At 8am when I went to grab a coffee, it was +2F. I did not stress over this race and slept well in fact. But now I was starting to freak. 50km on sandpaper snow? When I left for the venue at 9am, the temp had risen to a whopping +7F at the motel in Lake Placid. When I got out of my car at the Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex five minutes away, it felt mild. That's strange. Apparently the air aloft was much warmer. The sports complex sits a lot higher than Lake Placid. Brett said it was +20F already. Maybe my wax would be ok after all. Than I ran into Charlie Casey, a formidable hill climber on the bike, who measured the snow temperature. Just under the surface it was below zero. Hmmm...

The 50k and 25k freestyle skiers went off at 10am and 10:15. I did negligible warmup. I was not going to start hard enough to need a big warmup, unlike Weston. I placed myself in third row with 10-15 people per row (the Olympic stadium is very wide). I thought I was the only Fred in the group with a Camelbak until I spotted a kid in the front row with one too. Just two of us out of upwards of 60 guys lined up. The gun goes off and the frenzy begins. I surmise that anybody attempting the 50k at Lake Placid is pretty good (unlike me in 2004). There was no tripping on poles as we funneled into the first bottleneck. Most of the trails here are very wide.

The course immediately begins climbing. You do a wall, loose 2/3 of it. Repeat often. Eventually you hit the high point of the course and the reverse order occurs. You drop a wall, climb 2/3 of it. There is no hiding in the pack here. The climbs are heinously steep and this splits things up very quickly. Unfortunately, some of the descents are just as steep with very sharp right-angle turns at the bottom. This is the Lake Placid trademark. The course quickly gets rutted and bermed up. First lap isn't too bad. After hundreds of skiers have been through, it is rough second time around for us 50k skiers. We do the 25km course twice.

With frequent snow this year, the course was in mint condition. There was zero ice. Just perfect corduroy to start. The glide was maybe a tad slow to start, but as the temps continued to rise, my skies kept getting faster. There was no sandpaper snow as I feared. In fact, these were the best conditions of any ski marathon I've done. Ideal.

I passed about 9-10 skiers in the first 10k of the race. I never felt held up, and in fact, it maybe was a good thing I started in third row to keep me from going out too hard. Maybe I started a little too slow, but at least passing somebody every kilometer makes you feel good about yourself, even if they are slow. There were spectators around the course. Russian Hill seemed so easy that I had to ask somebody as I crested it if it was Russian Hill. Beanbender at Waterville is way harder than Russian Hill, yet Russian Hill has a huge reputation of being a mean monster.

The course comes through the stadium at the 15km mark the opposite way we started, then goes out the other side for another 10km of rolling hills before completing a 25km lap at the stadium. At 20km, I felt really good. I saw no one in front of me, nobody in back. I was in my own little endorphin time-trial world feeling good about myself. When I came through the stadium again to begin my second lap at 25km into the race, I didn't feel so good. At least none of the 25km skiers staged 15 minutes behind me passed me. This means I must have had a good first 25k. They only have 25k to do, so that means they get to kill themselves and go a lot faster than us 50k racers should go. Our race doesn't really start until the 25k mark.

Carrying about 50oz of Gatorade with me, I was not taking any water from feed stops every 5k on the course. The only way I passed some guys was because they kept stopping to take feeds. Sure, the added weight slows me down too, and this can be a far bigger penalty on skis than a bike. Rolling resistance is negligible on a bike compared to sliding resistance on skis. But I knew what I was drinking. I took Gu feeds at the 15k, 25k and 35k stops without actually stopping. They had the tops ripped off already.

Going into the hill section on lap two, my legs started to tremble on the really steep bits. I felt my speed dropping by the minute. I kept looking over my shoulder. Nobody. Then I see another rabbit ahead, pass him, then nobody front or back. Several of the descents are so hairy they have spotters there with radios. Injuries are common. Brett fractured his ankle in 2004. In the first lap, twice I narrowly avoid skiers that went down right in front of me at high speed. I went over 30mph on some of the descents. On my second lap, I wasn't nearly as nimble. On one drop, I got a little too far back on my skies, startly flailing violently trying to get them back under me like a cartoon character, only to land on my ass anyway. I was over a lip in a blind spot and thought for sure the skier I just passed would cream me. It was so steep I had trouble getting up. Bummed me out, as the race had gone perfectly until that point. I lost no more than 15sec, so no biggie.

After getting over Russian Hill the second time, I started to bonk. This was one of those bonks that comes on so fast that you hallucinate. Perhaps I did not eat enough Gu's. I felt so awful, that I not only lost my will to race, I lost my will to live. Put a bullet in me now. The 10-15k I still had to go seemed insurmountable.

As I approached the stadium around the 40km mark, a skier I had passed much earlier flew by me. I really suck at descents. This bothered me. Brett was now spectating at the finish and told me he won his race category. Now I had to get this pesky guy that just passed me. Nobody had passed me until now. He quickly put 100m on me by double poling in the tracks. They looked pretty icy. The temp had risen well above freezing now, so the the skate lane was getting just a tad tacky. I noticed my new nemesis floundered on the ups. I caught up to him. I knew there were some pretty big climbs in the last 10k, so I had to put good distance on him there. I was in no condition to sprint this one out, and I'd lose that battle anyway. I passed him on the next rise, then he dangled just seconds behind me. You know that saying "out of sight, out of mind?" I had to get out of this guy's sight. I killed my self trying. It's amazing how something stupid like this can shock you out of a hallucinogenic bonk state. The only deal was, I did shake him off my tail, but now I was having severe cramping spasms all around my upper thighs with 3km to go. I couldn't do squat on the hills. I was quite certain I endured these minutes of unspeakable pain for naught. Finally I hear the stadium announcer and figured I was safe for whatever silly position we were going for. I finished in 3:06:32 with 30 seconds margin to my nemesis, who happened to be in a different age group. That was good for 4th place in the 45-49 men, 18th place overall men and woman 50k freestyle. I got girled by one woman. Barometric altimeter said there was over 4000ft of climbing in the course.

This was my best ski marathon to date. I took 42 minutes off my time from 2004! I hit everything right in this race. I have the right skis now, I lucked out with the right wax for such a funky temperature range, I dressed very light and it was just right, I fueled correctly before and during the race (maybe another Gu might've helped). The only bobble was crashing myself in lap two. I don't have exact lap times, as I buried my Garmin in my Camelbak and they didn't have a visible clock at the start/finish for racers to see. Best I can tell from the data, my splits were about 1:30 for the first lap and 1:36 for the second. Looking at the HR/Elevation plot, you can see where I faded fast at 40km. Then I get passed, became motivated to do something about it. HR stayed nice and high for the rest of the race. Brett kicked butt in the 25k race, winning the 45-49 age group by two minutes. Nicely done.

Not sure I'll do another 50k this season. I may do the 10k TT at Dartmouth in two weeks. Mostly kids will be there, but a few of us old farts might crash their party. Still plan to do the Ski to the Clouds race at Mt Washington in March. And of course, I may hit another Weston race or two. It's about time to start riding again.

I'll leave you with a photo from the drive home. I found a new way to Lake Placid that is much quicker. It goes over Rochester and Middlebury Gaps, part of the 6-Gaps of Vermont ride. The mountains are every bit as beautiful in the winter as they are in the summer. You see a lot more without the tree cover. The drive over on Friday was especially nice with at least 100 mile visibility.

4/9 Men 45-49, 18th Overall, 50km, 3:06:32.7

Ski-13) Weston Tuesday Night Sprints - January 27, 2009

My sprint race tonight forced me to tap into a dry well. I expected as much. The weekend entailed some pretty serious volume and intensity both on skis and the bike. Normally I do recovery rides at lunch on Mondays. Yesterday I was so beat up I didn't even bother to take a bike to work. 46 year old bones just don't recover the way my 35 year old bones did when I first got into cycling. I pretty much figured one day off was not going to have me in good form by Tuesday. Then again, these Tuesday night gigs are all about learning to go fast on skis, not about results.

I'm now three for four on Rt 128. Four visits to Weston have had me stuck in non-moving traffic due to accidents three times. Don't people know how to drive down there? There hasn't been snow on the roads for over a week. Last week when there were no accidents, it took me 46 minutes to reach Weston from Merrimack. Tonight was nearly double that. Needless to say, I didn't get much of a warmup in tonight.

Course was similar to last week with one additional hairpin turn thrown in and a little bit more climbing. There were many giant moguls created by snow guns to ski over, and the guns were blowing tonight during the race. This was the most technical and most fun course I've skied yet at Weston. It was also the coldest night. My skis were very slow, but I think everyone's were slow. I seemed to hold my place just fine drafting in paceline down the hills. My recently acquired RS:11's performed well.

I started in the 5th row. I think mostly slow guys were behind me, as few to none passed me double poling. I was no more than 14 back once the skating began, my best start to date at Weston. It all went downhill from there. I continued to hemorrhage places the entire race. In the first of two laps, around six guys passed me, including Marv Wang. He was easy to pick out, as we were both wearing IBC colors. I haven't beaten Marv yet but can stay with him. I did my best tonight to shaddow him. On the second lap Jamie Doucett passed me. I followed him to the line last week for a 14th place overall finish. I was struggling tonight though. Just didn't have any punch over the top of each hill. I stayed with the Marv/Jamie group to the finish. I was last guy out of more than 10 in that group to cross the line. I got nipped right at the line by Rene Harde.

My Garmin measured 5.82km with a 17:26 racing time, netting 22/76 overall. That is exactly 20kph, which is a fairly typical speed for me at Weston. It felt a lot slower. Looking at my HR data later, my HR responded nicely at the start and stayed dead flat for the rest of the race. My avg was 169bpm, max only 173bpm.

It's not worth backing down on Sunday to do a little better at Weston on Tuesday. I need the Sunday bike training days. I have a ride planned on Hawaii in early April that might possibly be the hardest ride I've ever done. It will go 97 miles, have 15,000ft of climbing, done with a MTB with knobby tires, mostly paved but good portion of it is rugged, loose 4WD road, and the average altitude will be around 10,000ft, max'ing at nearly 14,000ft on two different summits. It will take over 8hrs riding time to complete. My longest ride so far this year has been 2hrs, and only 4-5hrs per week.

You can't beat Tuesday night at Weston for the cardio training value. That is one reason I go. Another reason is going fast on skis under your own power is quite exhilarating. For a klutz like me, it is no small undertaking to learn how to ski. The learning process itself is highly rewarding. I have much more to learn, and as long as I keep chipping away at technique improvements, skiing will never be boring. I'd like to poke into the top 10 some day at Weston, but I've got a ways to go.

21/63 Men, 22/76 Overall, 5.82km, 17:26

Ski-12) Weston Tuesday Night Sprints - January 20, 2009

Had to return to Weston again tonight for my weekly endorphin fix. They were serving up double shots. The 15" of new snow was groomed out nice but still soft in most areas of the course. At least the snow had decent glide. For those that didn't make it tonight, the course was longer than last week, went up more hills, and went three laps. Factor in the softness, it was a power course that would require some stamina. I felt my prospects should improve given this scenario.

Hard to say how many were there. At least 70 I'd say. I did not see the buses this time. As usual, I lined up in the sixth row. Brett Rutledge also made it out tonight and found an empty spot in the row ahead of me. I'm learning to dress lighter for these things. Despite being quite a bit colder than the first two weeks, I had a single layer on up top with my IBC wind breaker vest. I've had the vest almost a year now, and this is the first time I used it. I'm convinced it is impossible to get cold in a sprint race.

We take off at the base of Mt Weston. I lost only a couple positions this time on the start. We did not go over Mt Weston starting out, but it was in the course for laps two and three. There were some tangle ups at the start. With such a wide area, they were easy to avoid. Brett got a really good start and was about eight guys ahead of me. He and I are quite closely matched in training. He has much better form than I do, but I carry a little better fitness over from the bike. I hadn't gone head to head with Brett at Weston in a couple years. I've never beaten him there.

The first lap had a lot of tripping on poles going on around the corners. I started picking people off right away, avoiding the minor mishaps. I was more than 25 back once things got sorted out. Each time I passed another guy or two, Brett passed one or two also. My mantra became "had to catch Brett." He hooked up with some pretty fast guys and started to pull away. I was not going to catch him drafting slower skiers. I went into no-man's land for a good portion of lap one to latch on to Brett's train.

In lap two, we had a five or six man train. Things started slowing down so I came to the front on the flats. After 500m or so, I felt uncomfortably close to the hurl threshold. I capitulated the pull and let the three remaining others, including Brett, come by. We maintained a good pace for the rest of lap two. During lap two, I passed a guy that had on an obnoxiously bright headlamp. When I got in front of him I could see nothing but my own shadow. The snow to the sides was blinding blue-white, but blackness in front of me. Lamps should not be allowed during the race.

In lap three, we caught up to a couple others, including a big guy I later learned was Jamie Doucett. Life became good again. I knew my effort dropped quite a bit drafting Jamie. I couldn't be sure if it was because the pace was slower or purely drafting benefit. Regardless, I was content riding this train home.

Coming back from the flats, we climb that steep little bugger by the lodge building. Jamie is up front, then one or two other guys, Brett and then me. Brett caught an edge or tip maybe cutting the turn going into the hill a little too tight. He piled in right in front of me. I was almost as pissed as he was, not that he piled in in front of me, but I wanted to see how this thing was going to play out at the finish. We had less than a kilometer to go. Neither of us can sprint on the bike. Now I had several seconds lead on him with a sizable gap to the train I was supposed to ride home. I managed to get back on Jamie's group, tried to pass them on the next hill, but was completely gassed at that point. I had nothing left to contest the sprint and just stayed tucked in behind Jamie over the line.

I think this netted me 14th place overall with a finishing time of 25:47 minutes. Thus this race ran almost twice as long as last week's race. This finish should pick me up in the standings a bit, maybe bump me up a starting row. In the HR data, the elevated area is the race. You can see the precipitous dip near the end of the race where I got on Jamie's train, then things shoot right back up after I struggled to get back on when Brett bit it. In hind sight, I should have taken advantage of a couple opportunities to "attack" this group well before the finish. I hadn't planned to hit Weston every week. I would probably go through withdraw symptoms if I missed a week now.

From what I learned the last couple weeks about my two sets of RS11 skis, I knew better than to take my stiff racing ones. In these soft conditions, I would have been utterly doomed. Like at Rangeley last year. I took my rock skis. They felt perfect for the course, super stable, and my glide was just as good as others on the descents. Last week I would get gapped even drafting on the descents with my stiff racing skis. I have a potential pair of used RS11's in good shape to check out this weekend. They are soft flex with cold structure, which should be identical to my chewed up RS11's I use for training. I would then sell the stiff ones. They are in near new condition if anybody is interested.

13/59 Men, 14/74 Overall, 8.1km, 25:47

Ski-11) Weston Tuesday Night Sprints - January 13, 2009

Owie! This one hurt. Warming up, I immediately recognized my skis were uber slow, especially on the downhills. I waxed with a colder HF. But I wonder if more is going on that just that. I used my race skis tonight. They are RS11's, just like my training skis, but I think they may be one notch stiffer. At 192cm, they may be too stiff for me. They surely felt different than the skis I've been on all season so far, yet they are identical model. I definitely need to sort this one out before the bigger races.

This time we seeded based on last week's result. I was in row six just like I self seeded last week. Also like last week, there were bus loads of kids there. It was a new course format that I could not figure out warming up. I prayed that those I followed did not lose contact with those in front of them, and somebody up front knew where they were going. I immediately lost ground on the double pole start, maybe five or six came by. We were not in tracks. It was a slight downhill, and my slow skis were no doubt a contributor. Two skiers tangled just after the skating began, with at least one going down. I was far enough back to avoid it. I held my ground for a while on the first of two laps, but man, it sure seemed like there were a bunch strung out way ahead of me. Things split up, and I was at the back of the third group.

We ventured onto part of the golf course that has no lighting, a section I haven't seen used in Tuesday night races before. The ground there undulates something fierce. It was the most unnerving feeling not knowing if your ski was going to plant 4" high or 4" low. The snow was super moist too with temp in the mid-30's. It very quickly packed down and became hard and less edgeable.

In the second lap, I passed six skiers. One stayed on me along the straight away across the back of the course. I tried to hold him off at the line, but I think he just edged me out for 22nd place. The clock appeared to die again. I estimate my race went 4.86km in 14:53 minutes per GPS (I was too busy trying not to hurl instead of hitting the lap button right away). No results yet, but I was told I was 23rd to finish out of at least 70 that started. Another clean race for me with no crashes or close calls.

21/58 Men, 23/74 Overall, 4.86km, 14:53

Ski-10) Weston Tuesday Night Sprints - January 6, 2009

Tuesday night I competed in my first race of 2009. I hit the Weston Tuesday Night Sprints, a training race series. Conditions were reasonably fast, and CSU had a nice 1.5km circuit set up with thee hill blips per lap. While warming up, multiple bus loads of serious looking college teams unloaded before the 7pm race. I thought surely none of them will be racing. I was wrong. At least three quarters of them lined up.

We self seeded, which amazingly sort of worked. I had no idea where to seed myself with so many fast looking skiers less than half my age. I was about 6 or 7 rows back out of 20+ rows, four per row. I was surrounded by Harvard girls. We go, and I immediately realize I can't even double pole as fast as the Harvard gals. Then the skating started. I was certain I was going to get schooled by every 20 year old female there. To my surprise, there were no crashes as things slowly thinned out in the first lap. Then I began reeling skiers back in. Only a few passed me during the start, and I was pretty sure by the end of the second lap I had a net gain relative to my starting position. My seeding position was spot on.

I settled into a groove and continued to pick people off. By the fourth full lap, I was picking people off more rapidly. I was not fading at all, yet those around me seemed to begin dropping like flies. Around the last hairpin to the finish, two skiers tangled and went down right in front of me. That cost me a spot as a cluster of us were looking at a bunch sprint on the wide straight away to the finishing chute. I finished 23/68 men, 24/88 finishers overall. This was an all-time record number of skiers for a Tuesday night The race was about 7km long and took me 20:45 minutes to finish (results).

The course consisted of essentially three out-and-backs with hairpin turns at the ends where we had to ski around a barrel or cones. Not much different than a 'cross race really. You start in a massive bunch, everybody near the front wants the hole shot, then things near the back pretty much grind to a halt around the first several corners. Instead of locking handlebars, you are tripping over poles and other skis.

You gotta love short efforts like these. 60 seconds into it, you are on the verge of puking. Then you have to maintain that for 20 minutes, punching it up even harder as the finish nears. Nothing will get you a better endorphin buzz than a ski race. Nothing will push your heart rate higher. The only downside to these sprint races is they are in the evening. When I push myself that hard late in the day, then having to eat something afterwards, my metabolism stays in overdrive most of the night. My HR remains at least 50% higher than resting rate and pounds so hard I can feel it making the bed shake. And my mind stays 100% wide awake. I can't sleep. I get the same thing doing Wednesday night Exeter training rides too. It's the intensity that does it, not so much the total training stress.

23/68 Men, 24/88 Overall, 7km, 20:45