Monday, February 16, 2009

2009 VASA 50 km Race Report

My alarm went off at 4:45 am saturday morning to kick off my 2009 VASA experience. After a little last minute packing and some chow, Sarah and I got on the road just before six. That put us in the parking lot of the TImber Ridge Campground at 7:45, leaving me with 45 minutes to get changed, signed in, and apply kick wax for the day. I wasn’t quite as rushed as last year, but it was still a little tight getting to the line before the 8:30 start. Perhaps next year we’ll try and get on the road fifteen minutes earlier to avoid any unnecessary rushing and fussing. Anyway, the gun went off promptly at 8:30, and the race was on. I felt pretty good off the line despite the complete lack of training in the two weeks leading up to the race. The race pace for a marathon ski race is tough to nail down. In a hundred mile mountain bike race you can’t go nearly as hard because you know you’re going to be at it for over ten hours. Conversely, for a cross country mountain bike race or a shorter ski race you can go as hard possible right from the gun because you’ll only be out for two, or maybe three hours. When you’re looking at four to five hours of ski racing, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere in the middle. You can lean a little towards the harder end of the pace, just as long as you don’t lean too far. In the first lap of 27 km conditions were excellent, and my skis were feeling perfect. I ramped up the pace a bit. I knew I was taking a gamble, but I figured I may as well tick off as many kilometers as I could while everything was going well. And so it went for the first lap. I had one crash about halfway through, but I was back up and skiing within 15 or 20 seconds so that wasn’t too big of a deal. I’d slow down just long enough to grab a cup of energy drink and a banana or orange at the aid stations, and at the 2:12 mark lap 1 was in the books.

I grabbed some chow from the aid station in the transition area and headed out for lap 2. I was still feeling okay, but my right shoulder began to hurt. Thinking back to my earlier crash, I realized that I had fallen on my right side. The adrenalin must have kept the pain at bay for a little while, but it was definitely starting to wear off. A sharp pain in my right shoulder would be my companion for the rest of the race. In situations like that, it’s helpful to develop a mantra of sayings about pain. My personal favorites (in no particular order) are: Pain is just weakness leaving the body. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Pain is your friend, it let’s you know you’re still alive. Back to lap 2. Last year the 23 km second lap was almost completely different from the first. Also, there was not nearly as much climbing. This year, due to a warm spell leading up to the race, they were unable to use this section of the course. So we repeated almost all of the first lap again. This included a particularly nasty section of hills that I had previously thought I was only going to have to complete once. To make matters even a little more challenging, the downhills were scraped down to bulletproof ice with big piles of snow piled up in the corners due to the extra traffic. Thankfully I didn’t have another crash. However, the mental impact of the sketchy conditions and repeating some big climbs that I had thought were done for the day began to take their toll. It’s amazing how much of a factor the mental side of things can make. If you start to focus too much energy on pain, cold, hunger, etc., it can be very counterproductive. The trick is to block that s**t out and focus on the job at hand. I did a good job of this right up until about the 40 km mark. From there on out, I admit to having some very bad and counterproductive thoughts. I was getting cold. My shoulder was killing me. I was hungry. For all intents and purposes, I was running on fumes for the last 10 km of the race. Fortunately, I had just enough left in the tank to make it to the finish line. I skied 50 kilometers in 4 hours and 35 minutes with an average heart rate of 160 and 3,560 feet of climbing. That was good enough for second in my age group (out of three) and tenth overall (out of twenty-one). All in all, a good day I’ll say. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

EdO said...

Good to hear the race went well.

How's the breathing go'n? Your troubles got me back into the habit of checking mine. I am at about 670 daily. Sometimes around 695, but that is not consistant. Ask your Dr for an electronic version. They are more accurate.
Keep-up the post!!!