“So where’s Nordic Bay?” “I think just over the next hill. Ok, over the NEXT hill…” It’s dark and where on our way to register for the National Masters Championships after dinner. Fortunately, we had a pretty good idea where it was because we passed the sign and driveway on the way into town. Tonight, however, the lights on the sign are off – we later hear they’re having some problems with the lights – but we recognize the turn, find parking, and head for registration.
Well, we tried to find registration. We asked some skiers walking by and found the door to race HQ. The door looked to be an employee’s entrance to the Nordic Bay Lodge, only it was marked with a Toko banner. We walked down a very narrow stairway in and entered into a hallway with two doors. Door number one went to the kitchen. We could see a washer and dryer through the window in the other door. That didn’t look right, but it seemed better than walking into the kitchen. Through the door, and down another narrow hallway, we found into the official registration area.
Bill Kaltz and I picked up our race packet, and then signed up for a Sprint Relays – a brutal 3-person, 9 lap, 750 meter per lap relay the day after the 30 km. Sounds like fun!. We also signed up Ken Dawson for the relay – I’d sent him an e-mail about being on the relay team but hadn’t heard back. He had pre-registered for the relay so we were taking a chance. So we posted a note on the registration sign telling him to sign up!
J.D. Downing was standing under a sign for the Championship Team competition. Only two teams had signed up so for – Torbjorn Karlsen (my coach) had a team, as the Grand Rapids Nordic Ski. I thought I had a NordicSkiRacer Team, but hadn’t gotten any verification back from most of the participants. Picking team members was difficult – you needed 5 team members to finish each race, and could have 7 total on a team. Most people were signed up to only do a subset of races. Of the proposed team, only five were doing all the races.
We had to sign up by 9:00pm. So we signed them up anyways without their official permission! Here’s the NordicSkiRacer.com National Masters Championship Team:
Most of those names are familiar, but who’s Erik Brooks? Well, when I sent out an e-mail to the NordicSkiRacer.com mail list asking for team members, Erik said he wanted to join! And that he was doing the full series! He was on the team.
Did I mention the Erik is from the state of Washington? Lives in Seattle?
Back to the hotel to wax. Dell Todd, Mike Seaman, Jamie Green, Bill and I setup wax benches in the hallway and our rooms and started ironing. It was getting really loud in the hallway until the hotel management shut off the fire alarms…
I waxed with Toko HF Red and Blue mixed 1:1 on one pair of skis, HF Blue on another, each covered with Toko Helix. I ended up skiing with the first pair.
Getting to the Race
The instructions for race do was to drive to the outskirts off the Blueberry trail system, then take a school bus to the start. There was supposed to be no parking at the start. Sounded kind of hokey. It turned out to be fine: One bus stayed parked at the start acting as a warming hut, the other bus transferred skiers. We simply packed heavy and were able to leave our extra clothes in the warming bus.
And the warming bus was very welcome. Sandy the bus driver was entertaining. And because we arrived at the race start over two hours early, so I spent a lot of time in the bus staying out of the cold.
It was Jamie’s and Bill’s idea to leave early – to get the good parking. Huh!
Actually, we were surprised how few racers there were. We looked at the registration list on Friday night and there were only a couple hundred racers – like a bigger Michigan Cup race.
The Women’s Race
Anyways, we did get to the site early enough to see the third wave of the women leave, including Carol Mueller-Brumbaugh and Beth Caldwell. There was definite confusion among the race officials about where the course went – the wave start was delayed until differences were ironed out. Although it was a freestyle race, Carol decided to classic the course. Carol enjoyed the course so much that she took a wrong turn and did an extra 5 km…
It was about 20 degrees at the start, with three inches of new snow on top of the grooming. To all you women racers: Thanks for packing the trail down for the men’s races! It made our day much easier!
The Men’s Race
In the men’s race, age groups left in waves, three minutes apart. There were 17 racers in my wave. The course started out very gently – mostly flat, some easy hills. Then it got a little harder with some small rolling hills. Then the difficultly increased again, with bigger ups and downs. Then we went down a long fast downhill, around a fast corner and hit the “wall” – a leg busting, strength sapping long steep climb that many (if not most people) diagonal skated up, followed by a bunch of little uphills that kept the lactic acid levels in the legs topped off. Finally, a short flat, around a corner, and the first 15km lap of the 30 km race was over.
Me? I purposely dropped back to about 10th place off the start to draft and let stronger skiers pack down the snow some more. I also did not want to blow up – better to start a little slow and pick it up on the second lap.
I stayed with the lead pack for a kilometer, then started dropping off the back with a couple of skiers. I passed Chris Weingartz, who looked like he was having major problems keeping up the pace.
Two skiers were in front of me. The middle one kept running into the poles of the front skier. He was also talking pretty easily. He was trouble. I’m huffing and puffing, and he sounds like he’s out for a nice ski. Eventually he goes around and it’s just two of us. We try to keep up, but it’s not going to happen.
The other skier, Ken from Madison, WI, and I trade off leads and keep a strong steady pace up to the “Wall”. I struggle to keep up to Ken, and over the top he gaps me. It takes several minutes of painful skiing before I catch him, and by that time a group of lead skiers for the age group behind us catch us. Weingartz is with that group. I drop back and slowly lose contact after the midpoint of the race.
For most of the rest of the race, I’m alone, catching and passing slower skiers in other age groups who started ahead of me. I see Jamie Green ahead and really enjoy passing him! (Hi Jamie…). Only to be passed by Ken Dawson.
Ken broke a pole two skates into the race, gets a pole from a bystander and skis most of the race by himself. When he catches and passes me, he’s moving fast!
When I hit the “Wall” the second time, I did a better job – actually V1 parts of it. It’s still a miserable climb.
Still, I have enough left for a fast 200 yard finish.
Except for the steeper uphills, V2 or V2 Alternate were the techniques of choice. Even some of the steeper hills were V2-able if the hill was short and I had lots of speed from the previous downhill.
Overall, I was 10th in my age group in 1:39:02 (I don’t have the other times or the overall winning time. I did hear that Milan Baic finished 2nd overall).
Tomorrow’s the sprint relays – stayed tuned!
-- Mike Muha