Waxing conditions took a radical change an hour or so before the start of the 16 Km Grand Travers Cross Country Classic on Sunday Feb 10, creating a last minute nightmare. The snow started out course, crusty, and moist, the legacy of sunny and near 40 F temperatures on Saturday. Temperatures were around 32 F - klister conditions.
And then it began to snow.
And the temperature began to drop.
People with waxless skis - and there were many - had no problems at all except for slower glide.
Dick Fultz and I tested klister out behind the Cross Country Ski Shop in Grayling starting a 6:15am. After a number of iterations of Toko viola, multiviola, silver, and orange, plus a few Swix klisters thrown in for good measure, we determined that every wax we tried either slipped or was grabby. We had our favorites, but decided we'd better try them out at the race site. I scraped my skis quickly, and we drove to Acme.
About halfway there, it started to snow - all the time we spent testing wax was wasted.
At the race site, I talked to a couple people, signed up, used the rest room, went back to the car to put on some wax thinking I had a least 30 minutes. Then I looked at my watch: 8:59. The race started at 9:00! I slapped on some hard wax over my scraped klister, put on my boots, put on my bib...NO BIB TIES! Running back to the registration area in the warming house, I overheard the most wonderful news: "The race start is going to be delayed for a few minutes..." The registration people helped with my bib and I dashed the quarter mile to the start.
The start area was setup with four tracks, and of course there was no room anywhere near the front (another bad thing about being late for the start). I skied up to the third row, between the tracks and the snow bank.
Digression: I did hear a couple of people yell "Hey, how about starting at the back..." If I were them, I would have felt the same. Because I have a good start, I calculated that I would actually cause more problems passing people in the first K or so than I would pushing my way toward the front at the start. Given my last classic finish - 14th overall - I figured jumping in between the 3rd and 4th row would put near where I would finish. So, I apologize to all those I offended, but I think I did the right thing for everyone. End Digression.
The race began. There was actually surprising little congestion. At the first uphill, there was just enough room, if people were careful, for racers to ski in either track and let someone herringbone up the middle.
From the first kick, I knew I was in trouble - I had NO kick. I ended up being one of the people doublepoling and herringboning up the first hill. People would pass on either side, and I would tend to pass them again on flats and downhills. This "you pass me, I'll pass you" continued for the first 5 Km until a set a downhills let me lose many of them. For the next 5 Km, I pretty much held my own, duking it out with the same 2 or 3 people. In the last 6 Km, especially when we turned onto the Headwaters loop, the uphills started taking there toll. Enough snow had fallen where I was getting a tiny bit of grip, just enough so I could take short steps up the hill. Any attempt at a longer stride failed. Other racers started passing me. Sometimes I was able to pass them back on the next downhill or flat, but overall, I was losing ground. I was passed by two racers on the last hill to the finish.
My time: 1:05:02, 24th overall.