The NENSA Marathon Series kicked off with the White Mountain Classic. The day began with a little Olympic Fanfare as NWVE ceremonially delivered the Team Championship Plaques to race headquarters. Some questioned what was going on, others coveted the award, and a few wondered if returning the Plaques to be displayed at registration was a sign of weakness (like training). But the trophy deserves to be on display so that all clubs can be motivated by the possibility of taking one home for a year.
After a little fun with the plaques, we got down to business with testing wax. Testing went a little better this week. The reminders from the Geschmossel kept us on task and gave us confidence in our choices. As with last week, several options were working fine, though with the tough climbs this week not many were up for a double pole. I believe the only person on the starting line with no kick wax was Kris Freeman (Caldwell Sport). That is not to say that others did not have limited kick, but that was by accident. It was fun to see all the different decisions on wax. NWVE stuck with the predicted wax of alternating layers of purple and red hard wax for the most part. It was working good, had little consequence and covered the rapid warm up.
While we were warming up so did the temps. It seemed as though within a matter of 5 minutes it went from the low-twenties to the mid-thirties. The snow was slower to warm-up, but there was a lot of variabilities depending on if the sun was hitting it, it was windblown, wind-swept, if the river jumped the banks, in the woods, in the fields or littered with tree debris. I found my skis to have reasonable kick everywhere throughout the race. They were slow for the second half of the first lap but improved with the warming.
After some brief instructions that mainly said go right and stay to the right, the commands were given. The field was a little smaller this year due to the Master's Worlds drawing a few of the usual contenders. The reduced numbers made for a good start and most racers got on course in an orderly fashion. It is a fast double pole start and the glazed tracks aided in maintaining speed.
Chris Burnham, Tom Thurston, and Eric Tremble led the charge for NWVE off the line. Kris Freeman immediately took control of the race, but he was accompanied by a couple of other younger racers. For a good part of the first 5km of the race. Chris, Eric Tremble, and Tom were part of a chase group. Eric Darling was taking a more conservative approach remaining just out of contact with the group at the start. Tyler Magnan as well as Stephen Wright were there too. I settled in behind Kyle Darling for the flat start as there was some wind, my skis were not rockets, and Kyle smoked me last weekend. Patrick Cafferky and Kasie Enman were not far behind, and Manny Betz, Jessica Bolduc, and Perry Bland kept good company with some of the other masters. Cipperly Good and Brad Ketterling were also excited to get the race underway skiing with a few that Cipperly raced at the Geschmossel. This was how the first part of the White Mountain Classic panned out. It begins with a nearly 3km drag race to Yodel. Yodel is a 1km climb that brings athletes to the primary race loop. This climb thins the field, and those that may not have been too speedy on the flats can begin to make up ground on this climb. Once on the Eagle Mountain Trails, the loop was expanded. The organizers utilized the field a little more, but a majority of the extended distance on the Henry trail off the 5km race loop in the woods. This was approved by participants and provided a little more climbing, but some fun trails to race on. The Wave was nicely groomed with only one set of tracks, making it easier for skiers to negotiate this thrilling downhill. After going back into the field and past the feed station racers skied along the Wildcat Brook. This is where one of the most significant factors of the day was in full force. The wind was extreme on the upper section of the course and made an impressive variable. Skiers had to find the fastest snow, and modify technique. One gust lifted a skier right off the trail landing few feet away in the rough.
There was a lot of action in the upper section of the course. The technicality of the trails, the climbs and the wind all made for exciting racing. Groupings formed, but few packs stayed together. There was a lot of cat and mouse in play as variable conditions suited different strengths. Chris Burnham would ski through a few that could not hold Freeman's pace, Ford Sayre's Joel Bradley did the same working his way up to third place. Neal Graves (Stowe) was in a good pack with Tom & Eric T., Charlie Cobb (Mansfield) Chris Bean (Onion River), John Sakalowski & Frank Feist (CSU).This group would remain relatively close though Neal was able to pull away with Evan Wetzel (Waukesha). Eric Darling was on his own much of the race overtaking skiers that dropped off the elite and chase packs. He almost closed up to Frank in the final kilometers as he fell off the pace of the chase pack. Tyler Magnan had a good race going with Jimmy Burnham (CSU) and Torin Laliberte (Unattached). These guys kept each other within sight for much of the race which helps keep the pace going. Dennis Page (Nansen) had a great result as he chased CSU's Ari Ofsevit. He looked strong in the wind. I had a back and forth race with Elissa Bradley (Ford Sayre) Brian Lavoie (Stowe Nordic) and Owen Searle (Unattached) for the first lap, but began to fade when hitting the flat sections. On the second loop my skis were much faster, but not fast enough to regain the ground lost when the snow was powdery. CSU's Andrew Milne came within striking distance, but in a mission to hold of Ava Thurston (Mansfield) I made a hard effort to ski the second lap perfectly. Stephen Wright looked good often leading a small group with strong double poling. He too, skied through them advancing many places from where he was at the top of Yodel. Something was not agreeing with Kyle after a superb start of the race. As that worked its way out, Kasie Enman caught up with him. They skied together on and off depending on if the grade was positive or negative. Robert Burnham, James Doucett, and Steven Moreau, all of CSU, kept a solid pack going throughout the race using teamwork to get by Kasie and Kyle. There were lots of Burnhams' taking age group wins today playing a key factor in many results. Leigh Mallory did his own thing as he picked off skiers one by one. He must have liked the conditions and racing as he decisively won the M8 division this week which was one of the most contested. Patrick Cafferky became a little frustrated with some skating taking place on the course by other athletes but channeled the energy to his legs. He skied up to Victor Golovkin (CSU) who agreed that there was some egregious technique violations buy other skiers but he was not too phased by it. Todd Taska surmised that we have good snow in Northwest Vermont as we have not had a big presence in Craftsbury. He uses this race as a tune-up for other major events but generally avoids classic technique. Jessica Bolduc and Manny Bets skied most of the race together and were joined by Doug Armstrong (Mt. Washington) who was pleased with the day. Jessica got away from Manny for a bit, but on the return down Yodel he closed in almost overtaking her. Did I say something about the M8 division? Leigh hit it out of the park. John Lazenby (Onion River) was a distant second, but Doug Armstrong, Gordon Scannell (Pineland), Donavon Freeman (Mt. Washington), Bill Holland (Onion River), Bruce Kats (Unattached), Jud Hartmann (Unattached), Perry Bland and Roger Wilson (Drifter XC) were all in the fight for third. Perry was in good spirits after a two-week battle with a bad cold. He was happy to be racing and is looking forward to one of his signature events next week. Brad Ketterling gave something blue for NENSA Executive Director Amie Smith (CSU) to chase. It was Brad's first race with the club for the season as he has been doing more biathlon related skiing. He liked the course and had a lot of fun on it. Amie has been lassoed by CSU to up her registrations to earn points in an attempt to bring the Club Series title back to Massachusetts. Cipperly Good had the advantage in a photo finish with Jody Newton as they raced wire to wire. M11 Larry and Sara Mae Berman were on hand to keep their club in check in their pursuit to retake the One Day Club Championship prize. They also showed some much younger competition how it is done.
The big thing ended up being the wind. While we were worried about the temperature swing, all we could talk about was how tough the wind was when you were skiing against it. To train for this condition, I will have to upgrade the oscillating fan near the club Ski-Erg to a 42" belt drive drum fan. You might think that double poling in place would be enough for this condition, but the wind really made your arms burn up, and you had to change your stance to keep from going backward.
After a cool-down and some tabulation, we headed over to the Community Center for some lunch and awards. The company was good, and we traded stories about the wind and the debris it put on the course as well as some of the great racing we had. Age group prizes were given out with NWVE and CSU taking many of the top honors. Suspense built for the Club Championship results. CSU's Andy Milne added a few notes of the long-standing rivalries in the sport, some of which predate the existence of NENSA and NWVE, and under protest awarded the Men's title to the defending champions NWVE! On the Women's side, there was a tie that needed to go into tie-breaking rules. On this day the defending champions got Berman'd with Sara Mae doing what it takes to make the difference that put CSU ahead. Overall it was an excellent outcome for another great race. Thanks to all the racers, volunteers, people cheering,(especially Ron Newbury and Justin Beckwith) and staff at Jackson for making the White Mountain Classic another success!