December's great snow was just a tease - for the rest of the season, we southeasterners had the worst snow drought that I can remember. To stay in shape, I'd run at lunch time on a treadmill or meet colleagues for a rollerski after work. We did have one week with marginal snow in February - I even took an afternoon off work so I could drive over to Independence Oaks County Park to ski on good grooming before the white stuff melted.
I had thought I could get in a couple interval sessions between races each week, but that didn't happen. I was usually able to get in one set of intervals or other hard session, but two was too many. I was either too tired from the previous race or too busy to get a session in.
When I could, I drove up the day of the race. This allowed by to wax skis the night before and help clean the house the night before that. Really, it was take the day off Monday, train Tuesday and Wednesday, do house chores Thursday, wax Friday, drive up Saturday...
So how did I race?
Chestnut Valley 12km Freestyle (13.2% back from the top three). Can we say "slow skis"? I was skating down the hills just to keep up with people! That was the frustrating part. The positive spin on the race was that I was catching and passing people on the uphills. All the technique work with Stemn Fjeldheim last June really paid off.
Lesson: Technique matters.
Michigan Cup Marathon 30K Freestyle (11.2% back from the top 3). I purposely decided to go easy from the start, then pick it up on the second lap. My mistake was taking it too easy when the gun went off. I let lots of skiers get ahead of me, forcing me to do extra work to pass them later on the first lap. If I'd gone faster the first K, then backed off, I would have been in a better position. I cracked with a a few K to go and couldn't quite catch back up to the short train I had been in.
Lesson: Get a good position in the first kilometer.
Garland Grip 10K Classic (7.5% back from the top three). Great race! Doublepoled the vast majority of the course. Nice to see my times getting better compared to the top three finishers over the last three races.
Lesson: Upper-body strength matters.
Garland Glide 17.4K Freestyle (9.7% back from the top three). It was the day after the Garland Grip. I felt I did very well in this race, although I noticed I wasn't bending at the ankles and driving my knees down. I started going faster when I started paying attention to my technique.
Lesson: Technique matters on the flats, too! And this race was almost all flats.
White Pine Stampede 33K Freestyle (13.8% back from the top three). Tow problems: I had slow skis for the first 20K of the race, and I choose skis that were way too soft for the rock hard conditions that first 20K. I could not get an edge into the snow/ice with the squirrels under my feet. Result: I wasted a lot on energy going nowhere. Why'd I use soft skis? They were my rock skis, conditions were marginal, and I didn't want to ruin my good skaters.
Lesson: I need some stiff rock skis!
Crystal Highlander 18K Classic (7.6% off the top three). Another good race! Good pace on the long doublepole at the beginning of the race, great striding on the hilly middle session, held my own on the long doublepole section the last third of the race. I gained the most time on the uphills.
Lesson: It's good to know how to stride!
Black Mountain 30K Classic (I don't even WANT to know how far back I was). Disaster! I'd been sick for a week, including taking three days off from work, then went on vacation with Jill to Florida for a week. Two weeks with basically no exercise. Then I jumped in the car a drove north for the race as soon as we arrived at the airport (Jill had a friend pick her up). The first 15K were pretty good, except I misread my watch and thought I'd been out long enough that the finish was just ahead. When a women yelled, "You're half way there!" I almost died. Two K later, I did die. Rewaxing my kick wax helped, but I was pretty much off pace the rest of the distance. Everyone was really nice as they passed me...
Lesson: Don't do a long race without getting several days of training in after an illness.
Michigan Cup 3 x 6.4K Relays. Great effort! Died just a little climbing the hill at the beginning of the second lap, but recovered and finished the anchor leg pretty strong.
Lesson: You can go really hard if you know your teammates are depending on you!
Michigan Cup Standings
Overall, I finished 20th in the Michigan Cup - a bit disappointing on the face of it after last year's 13th and 2004's 14th place finishes.
But I had things working against me this year - I seemed to be under the weather much of the season. I don't know what it was, but people all around me - work and non-work friends - had some long lasting bug, and I seemed to have it, too. I was congested and stuffy all winter.
The best part about the season was being around all the great skiers on the Michigan Cup circuit! Cross country ski racing really is a friendly sport. I enjoyed cheering for others and have them cheer for me. The camaraderie makes racing all the more worthwhile.
What's next? I'm planning to run a half-marathon trail run on April 30 - assuming I get some running under my belt. I'm not really racing it, just going out for the t-shirt. I'm very much looking forward to biking this season, and almost went rollerskiing tonight!