I did not expect much as racing season rolled around. I felt my training hours were down in the fall and I hadn't done anywhere near as many interval sessions over the fall. I just hoped I didn't embarrass my team out on the race course.
The reason? I'd spent most of late summer doing job interviews and most of the fall learning a new job. Both were more important than training.
Surprise! Despite my concerns, I had a great season!
Garland Gripper 10K Classic (9.2% back from the top three). Surprise 1: I thought I'd finish much further back but ended up 8th overall and first in my age class. I made much of my gains on the uphills: I was able to stride while others struggled. My doublepoling seemed pretty effective, too, although Nick Baic said I wasn't completing my doublepole.
Garland Glide 16K Freestyle (9.6% back from top three). Another surprise! 13th overall, 3rd in age class. Although I finished lower in the standings than the day before (8th), I was closer to the winner (9.7% behind rather than 10%). I had a poor start when I got squeezed out during the doublepole section. I took the next couple kilometers very conservatively so I wouldn't blow up - very easy to do on a flat course with no downhills for rest.
About third of the way around the first lap, I started picking up my pace and passing people. Only one person passed me, and I passed him back by the end. The easy first portion of the race paid off - I had enough left in me to hold off and gain on a group of skiers charging from behind.
I did have a binding problem: When I put on my skis on the start line, I didn't get my left boot fully engaged in the Salomon Pilot binding. The toe was in, but I wasn't hooked in underneath. This caused the tail to drag the entire race. It did not seem to interfere too much, so I choose to continue racing rather than stopping to fix the binding.
Lesson 1: Check your Pilot bindings before you start the race! Lesson 2. Start out a little easier can make for a fast race.
Noquemanon 45K Classic (16.0% behind top 3 Michigan Cup skiers, 21.0% back of the top three overall). Great kick, great glide on downhills, draggy skis on flats, a little icing toward the end. I kick waxed too warm and too far back on my ski - great for steep hill climbs but not for doublepole sections. Had nothing left for the last 16k (think death march). Still, for my first classic marathon in 20 years (?) I did OK. And it was a great course!
Lesson 1: spend more time testing kick wax before the start of the race instead of panicking at the last moment and waxing wrong. Lesson 2: I should have learned from Lesson 2 from the Garland Glide...
White Pine Stampede 20K Freestyle (10.6% back). 14th overall, 2nd in age class. What a great race! I decided early on to follow either Ken Dawson or Chris Weingartz - whoever was faster. Turned out to be Ken. We had a pack of 5-6 and I stayed in 2nd or 3rd position until 3-4km to go when I jumped and created a gap. Todd Vigland bridged and I let him lead until the finishing stretch where I out sprinted him at the finish. Tactically, a perfect race for me!
Lesson: It's not who's fastest at the start, it's who crosses the finish line first. Taking it more conservatively at first made for faster race.
Michigan Cup Sprints. Not very good... Not much energy today, plus I was busy organizing the race. Had nothing for the race.
Lesson: It's hard to race when you're trying to run a race.
Gran Travers 16K Classic (6.3% back). 8th overall, 2nd in age class. Had a good Gran Travers race, beating up on all the people who did the Vasa yesterday! Actually, I was REALLY impressed with how well many of the 50k racers did in today's classic race - you never would have know they'd had a hard race yesterday.
Michigan Cup Marathon 30K Freestyle (8.5% back). 11th overall, 3rd in age class. Had a really fast start at the Michigan Cup Marathon. I fact, I backed off after the first 200m to get back to a place I thought I might be able to defend. Skied with the top 10 for a couple K, then broke off into no-man's land: skiers ahead, skiers behind, no one with me. The Dell Todd, Bob Smith, Rod Halstead group ahead of me slowed a little, and I was able to catch up. I skied with the group until the steepest section of the hill at the start of the 2nd lap, and couldn't recover enough to catch back on. Rod and I ended up skiing in the rest of the way together, where he took off with a k to go and I couldn't hold on.
Lesson: I need to work on steep uphills.
Hanson Hills 12K Classic (10.3% back). 6th overall, 3rd in age class. Small crowd at the Hanson Hills Classic meant beaucoup points for those of us who showed up. Several Birkie skiers drove back to Michigan to ski the race today, so there was good competition. It started snowing just as the race started. Tracks glazed until snow started filling them in. I experienced a little icing on the snowy hills at the end, but seemed to have fast skis for the day.
Lesson 1: Good classic technique pays dividends. Lesson 2: Smaller Michigan Cup races pay big points!
Michigan Cup Relays, 2nd leg, freestyle. Team: 2nd place in age category, 4th place overall with Yvon Dufour and Dave Fanslow. Not the fastest time for me - but I wasn't expecting stellar results after spending the previous couple weeks in St. Thomas. Still, we managed to finish 4th overall and 2nd in our age category thanks to Yvon's and Dave's stellar legs. I wish I could have matched their pace.
Lesson 1: Taking a vacation in the middle of ski season doesn't help with your racing. Lesson 2: Taking a vacation in the middle of ski season does help with your marriage!
Michigan Cup Standings. 14th overall, 3rd in age class. I think this is the first time ever that I end the season in the top 3 for my Michigan Cup age group! Another great surprise!
So why was I wrong? Why did I have a good season when I was sure it was going to be a bust?
2006-2007 Training Diaries