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2008 cross country ski racing season recap

Sun, May  20, 2007 - By Mike Muha

It's almost June, and I haven't even reviewed the racing season! Time to get this over with so I can start covering my spring and summer training...

I did not expect much this season: I knew I had trained poorly this fall, and it was no one's fault but my own. For some reason, I had a hard time keeping motivated. Happily, I did better than expected and even put together some good races.

As always, I measure my performance, not by overall and age-division place, but by how far I was behind the winners. The numbers in the table below indicate the percentage I would have to reduce by race time in order to catch the winner or the average of the top three finishers. I use the latter percentage to reduce a bias that may be introduced if the winner has an especially outstanding day (or if a ringer shows up and creams everyone).

Race Date Technique Distance % to catch winner % to catch average of top 3
Holiday Classic Dec 29 Classic 9 km 11.0 10.0
Nubs Knob Freestyle Jan 5 Freestyle 12 km 13.9 12.7
Boyne Highlands Classic Jan 6 Classic 10 km 13.4 11.9
MI Cup Team Time Trial Jan 12 Freestyle 5 km 9.0 8.4
Garland Gripper Jan 19 Classic 10 km 11.8 10.5
Garland Glide Jan 20 Freestyle 19 km 12.1 10.9
White Pine Stampede Feb 2 Freestyle 10 km 8.0 7.8
MI Cup Marathon Feb 16 Freestyle 25 km 10.2 7.4

Holiday Classic 9km Classic

What a race: right around 32 degrees and snowing! But I had the wax dialed in perfectly - at least until the temperature dropped a few degrees and the damp falling snow turned to drier falling snow. I did not ice as badly as some people, but climbing was still a struggle. The race felt hard, I struggled to maintain pace - but I still managed to finish not too far back.

Nubs Knob 12km Freestyle

Even though I skied the course the weekend before, I struggled mightily on the uphills. My only saving grace was my downhill skiing abilities, where I was able to catch and pass many of the people who had out skied me on the uphills. I was disappointed with my finish - I would have needed to ski almost 14% faster to catch the leader.

Boyne Highlands 10km Classic

The following day's classic race was more of the same. I did not struggle as much on the uphills, but only because I paced myself better. Downhills? Crashed twice. I finished slightly better than the previous day, which surprised me: I did expect to have the endurance to do as well on a second day of racing.

Michigan Cup Team Time Trial 5km Freestyle

Short and fast! I was really hurting during the second half of my lap, but turned in one of the best races of the season. Maybe I'm in shape for short races...

Garland Gripper 10km Classic

Finally, a race where I felt in control. Another forte of mine is skiing in traffic. Given the multi-lap format of the race, there were many opportunities to pass others. Being comfortable passing on downhill corners, between tracks, and across tracks helped maintain pace.

Garland Glide 19km Freestyle

Struggled - but finished almost as well as the day before. I tried to pace myself by not going out too hard, but was still dropped by one group, and passed by a couple others. I just couldn't hold on. I experimented with technique to see what was working best - and discovered that "rushing" my skate was slower than maximizing the push. Sten was right.

White Pine Stampede 10km Freestyle

I originally planned to do the 50k Classic. It would have been more of a tour than a race, given the amount of distance training I had. (Actually, it probably would have been a death march by the end...)

Fortunately, the race was shorted to 10Km with a net drop in elevation...and I had a great race, my best of the season. At 200 meters from the start, only Milan Baic was in front of me. At the end of the first K, I was still with the lead pack. I ended up skiing most of the race with a small pack of skiers.

My only real mistake was in the last 200 meters when I chose the wrong person to follow into the narrow finish. There was enough room the two people to ski side-by side up to the single-skier width finish. Todd Vigland was on one side, Cassidy Edwards on the other. I chose to ski behind Cassidy. Unfortunately, Todd had the the faster finish, finishing 7th overall, and there was no way to move from behind Cassidy to behind Todd - too many skiers were following too closely behind Todd. I had to wait for those skiers and Cassidy to finish before there was room for me. I literally had the snowplow almost to a stop at the finish to keep from colliding into Than Dykstra. I finished 11th. I probably would have taken 8th if I were behind Todd. If I'd been really smart, I would have taken the lead in the group a half kilometer back and made them try to pass me...

All in all, it was a really fun race!

Michigan Cup Sprints

As last year, it's almost impossible to work a race AND try to race in it. I did not do too well because I could never get warmed up enough before my heats.

Michigan Cup Marathon 25km Freestyle

Yes, it was supposed to be 30km, but someone's GPS said it was only around 25. Regardless, it was an awesome race and one of my best. I paced myself exceptionally well, with Chris Weingartz and I taking turns up front in our pack. We let Randy Bladel gap. My only mistake was letting Randy gap too much and not trying to reel him in 5km out. As it was, I nearly caught him at the finish even though he had been totally out of sight a couple k's earlier.

What a great race on a great course!

Michigan Cup Relays

There were no splits during the Michigan Cup Relays, so I do not know how I did compared to others. I'd just recovered from pneumonia and a 9 day vacation in Puerto Rico, so I was expecting a weak performance. But on the first hill, I easily skied up to and passed a fast skier and never looked back. I gained back two places for our relay team.

Summary

We had great snow for once - when was the last time that every Michigan Cup race was held? After the first couple races, I felt better and did better. Even though I did not train well, I continue to be convinced that the Sten Fjeldheim clinic in Grand Rapids in the fall helped my technique enough (again!) to make up in finesse what I lost in fitness.