A Race Too Far

The last of the NENSA Marathon series was the Sugarloaf Marathon.  I was totally psyched about going up again this year after I had such a good time skiing it last year in really good, and unexpected, conditions.  With more snow and colder temps heading into it I figured the skiing might be even better. 

On Friday a stalwart group of CSUers piled into Tom Simon’s car (Mark Daughty, Robert Faltus, Andy Milne and myself) for the trek to Pat’s Pizza in Auburn for an excellent pre-race dinner (and cheap too!) and then  the Wilson Lake Inn and then the morning schlep up to Sugarloaf from there.  Robert, being the shortest, got relegated to the cheap seats in the back from whence a zinger would be hurled into the conversation every now and then, lobbed like a grenade of ridicule.  That kept the conversation going non-stop for 3 hours as we entered the land of no cell phone service.  I was trying to find out the results of the EHS races in Rumfaaad and its tough up there even though we were driving right past the road to Rumford!

After a reasonably restful night, more so than usual the night before a big race, we headed off to Sugarloaf in the early dawn light.  There was much less snow in Farmington than in my back yard, but as usual driving up the road to Sugarloaf, it started piling up those last few miles before the touring center and it was clearly powder snow upon our arrival.  Now, one of the best features of the Sugarloaf Marathon is the very low schlep factor.  On a scale of 1 – 10 this race is a 2.  Not bad.  Lodge is right there, the stadium is right there.  No muss, no fuss, walk up, drop the skis, go register.  No logistics planning needed whatsoever.  Clinton was already there, having just done the surgical strike by arising at 3:45 for the long drive up from Boston for the race!  Other CSUers were trickling in such as Drew Messinger and Cici Cruz-Uribe up from that hotbed of Nordic skiing, Falmouth, MA, Jody Newton and Gray Holmes and Ari Ofsevit.  CSU made up a significant portion of the field, once again!

I hustled out the door to test my skis, but perhaps more importantly, to test myself.  A week ago, while taking photos at the Westonloppet I tweaked my piriformis or something in there somewhere and was having trouble skiing all week.  Yup, it wasn’t feeling any better and so I went in and Tracey Cote, the Colby coach, switched me to the short race.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get a chance to chase Nirmegh (NWVT) or Tom or Mark or Robert.  Last year had been so much fun, but sometimes when you get older you get smarter, at least about some things……  This gave me a chance to get up on the bridge into the stadium and watch the start of the long race with Sugarloaf in all its glory arising behind the stadium.  (See photos posted a week ago.) Fabulous mountain for sure!  Everyone took off, some faster than others and as they disappeared into the woods for lap 1 I went down to get ready for my race.  We took off as some of the faster marathoners were already lapping through.  At the start I was presented with a couple right turns and my butt was not happy going in that direction.  This might be a long short race!  I wasn’t effective at V2 or alt V2 either.  Well, there is always double pole, so I threw that in where necessary and on we went.  V1 was good and going around left turns was good so at least I could go up hill ok.  I settled in.

I’m happy to say that the skiing was truly fabulous with firm powder snow.  Plus, no wind, it was in the mid-20s and so not freezing either.  Hey, we deserved this after the conditions we’ve skied in all winter!  My first no buff race in a long time!    Basically, the story of my race was that I couldn’t hang with anyone so I just cruised along trying to wake up from lack of sufficiently strong coffee.  At this point I thought how happy I was to have moved to the 2 lapper as I was systemically tired.  Andy went by on the long uphill towing a whole group along, including Ari.  They were looking strong and I just moved over to get out of the way and they were gone before long.  The high speed descent was a bit interesting given my injury with its sweeping right bends that normally you step turn around, but that set off alarm bells in my gluteal area and I ended up just steering around it, which in the perfect snow was just fine.  At this point I noticed that Raul Siren was lurking behind me.  Raul and I have had some great races together going back 20-25 years and so now I had a reason to step it up and try to stay ahead of him. 

The Sugarloaf course they now use is really fun and the 2ndhalf of it has lots up smaller ups and downs, many corners to try to maintain speed on and nothing that will kill you aerobically or otherwise.   It wasn’t long and then we were off on lap 2.  On the long uphill Elisa Bradley and Izzy Caldwell caught up.  I was able to hop in behind and hang with them most of the way up the hill before they too disappeared, gapping me where I couldn’t effectively V2.  Once again, on the long fast downhill alarm bells clanged from my butt muscles and then onto the fun part of the course.  I was not moving very fast, but just fast enough to stay ahead of Raul.  When marathon skiers went by I’d hop in for as long as I could to gain, if not a draft, at least some motivation.  I felt and skied better on lap 2 and before long tackled that final nasty little climb into the stadium and I was done.  Not a very inspiring race, but it was great skiing.  I watched Gray and Jody come in and then grabbed my warmups and camera and headed out onto the course to watch the rest of the gang on their 4th lap.  Andy came by still towing Ari and a few others.  Looks like Andy did all the work, but then Ari sprinted around him at the end.  Greg Harkay came up the hill having an excellent race, then Mark came by looking very relaxed and smooth and clearly having an excellent race with Drew right on his heels.  Mark managed to stay ahead at the finish.  A bit later Brett came up the hill and I told him Robert was right behind.  He had thought Robert was further back and so that motivated him to pick it up to the finish.  Robert was chasing but was unable to close the gap by the finish.  Steve Moreau was having a fabulous race in what I believe he said was his first marathon!  Nice!  Cici then came up the hill looking pretty strong.  And then I waited for Tom.  Where was he?  I waited some more but decided maybe I should ski back.  As soon as I got back Clintonwas coming around the corner for his finish looking pretty good for a guy who got up early and drove from Bostonto start his day!  And then more waiting.  Did Tom drop out?  No, finally, he came over the bridge and around the corner into the stadium, totally wasted.  Tom had visited Bonk Cityand dragged himself over the line, barely. 

Inside several CSUers scored prizes for placing in their respective age groups and several scored a Swix hat for being endurance warriers, having completed at least 4 marathons in the NENSA marathon series.  And like that, the season was essentially done.  We piled back into Tom’s car as the sun popped out for a while, feeling very spring-like, and headed for Boston.  Andy graded papers, Mark drove, Robert lobbed one-liners from the back of the bus until he fell asleep from a days hard efforts, I resumed trying to download results of the EHS relays and reading out the awesome CSU results and Tom and Mark bantered in the front.  For a couple of us it had been one race too many.  For others an excellent day.  For all it was one of the best days of skiing of the year in a year with a lot of good ski conditions.

Long day.....

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