Photo By Kris Dobie
Craftsbury has pulled out all the stops in putting on a fine weekend of racing with the Marathon and Ski Festival. Skiers arrived for the marathon excited to get things underway, finding superb conditions and solid tracks. The groomers at Craftsbury worked overtime to make sure each snowflake was in place for the race. The tracks were very firm and finding a durable wax was the skier's main concern. Skiers trickled in and went about getting their numbers and testing skis.
The course was in great shape as predicted and received high praise from all the racers. It was a nicely flowing loop that had all you would expect at the Premier Marathon in New England. Volunteers were stationed at key points, and all aid stops were appropriately manned such that each racer could receive the attention they needed, be it only a drink, feed or more. The surface was a mix of mainly transformed snow with a fresh powder mixed in.
Because the tracks were so well prepared, anything was working fine. Rob Bradlee (CSU) stated he had tested six different combinations of stuff and he would race on any of them. That seemed to be the consensus from most racers. NWVE was planning to mix a durable purple klister (Rex Violet) with a wide-ranging universal klister to address the abrasive snow and the potential warm up. Chief of Competition Ollie Buress noted we had a wider-ranging Klister (Rode KM3) that we have had great success with in the past, so we gave that a shot, and it was received very well from testers. We covered with Guru Red or VR45 hard wax and were good to go. There was a light mood as skiers tested and prepared for the race. One thing that may have gone unnoticed by a majority of people in at the race was that Patrick Cafferky had grown a special Marathon Moustache in honor of his first Classic “48km” race (most had closer to 50km on their devices). Another strange thing that happened was that Sarah Pribram’s rule of going one warmer than Perry Bland was not applied today. Perry almost always races on Extra Blue, so Sarah almost always races on VR45. However, today Sarah stuck to her VR45 as a cover, but Perry tried out Guru Red for his cover. Perry really liked his wax and thought to have the team wax box was a good idea and that we should continue investing in different options and testing them. Swix Nero Universal was a hot ticket today too. Upon arrival, Eli Enman declared that we should go straight to panic mode for waxing so as not to waste any valuable panic time.
Racing got underway at 9:00 a.m. with the women starting first. At 9:15 the men went and shortly after that, the high school challenge began. The start order was a good as the women had a chance to spread out before the men started overtaking them. As the men’s field broke apart, they had people to ski to as they caught the women. This seemed to be a welcome change. While the men were staging we got to hear the announcer, Peter Graves, call the women’s leaders as they looped through the upper field. Hannah Dreissegacker (Craftsbury) and Elissa Bradley (Ford Sayre) were among the top women’s skiers.
The 15-minute gap between the men and women quickly passed and in a rush they started. There was high energy early in the race and a few mishaps that took skiers down Murphy’s Field and as well as a broken pole here and there. Once skier that was amazing to see work his way through it all was US Paralympian Dan Cnossen. Watching him maneuver in the field with his sit-ski was impressive. It would be interesting to see how fast he could have completed his race without all of us as obstacles to work around! The fact that he was gaining the most on the climbs is a display of his raw power, and his ability to stay with the front of the main field is a testament to his skill.
There are too many stories that happened during the marathon to capture here. The big thing was being able to go the distance. The elite pack got away early in the race and Eli Enman was charged with leading the chase. He handled this well skiing Ethan Dreissegacker (Craftsbury), and Joel Bradley (Ford Sayre). While most skiers slowed during the race, entering survival mode over the last few kilometers, some hit it out of the park. Tyler Magnan was one of them. He has always been able to gauge his effort in long races and with excellent technique he conserves energy through incredible efficiency. He was trying a pair of Rossignol R-Skin Skis and was convinced that perhaps these should be added to his quiver of race skis. He made his way through the field thinking that people were dropping back due to having bad days but realized otherwise when he saw the results. Eric Tremble was the last of Tyler’s victims as he moved up through the field. Eric had a strong race staying with the chase group but faded with the final climbs up Ruthies to back to the stadium. Andy Klem found himself isolated much of the race as he started conservatively and methodically worked his way up through the field. He would find small groups to ski with, but would quickly overtake them. Frank Feist (CSU) had a similar experience with skiing negative splits. He was given a boost when GRP skier Wesley Vear glided by with the physique of a chisel, "shoulders twice as wide as his waste." All of the Burnham's were on today, especially Robert (CSU) who made large gains in the final lap. Chris had a great result placing 6th overall staying with the elite pack. Manny Betz was psyched about his ski as he felt great for the whole race. No wax issues or unexpected energy problems. Eric Darling an Luke Schullenberger were mixed in with some of the full marathoners in the chase pack for the first lap of the race. They helped drive the pace and contributed to the effort before things started spreading out on the second lap. Luke was looking good as did many of the Master’s returning from the World Championship to tack on one more race with the marathon. Stephen Wright helped pace me for a lap as well as I tried to hold off Mansfield’s Rick Costanza. Stephen would also keep Rick in his rearview mirror as well as give Kyle Darling some motivation after a little food poisoning affected his performance at White Mountain. Stephen kept a nice consistent pace giving a good reference to those around him on gauging their effort. Leigh Mallory continued on his tear after coming back from the Geschmossel. Leigh has been on the right trajectory all season as he moves up the results page. He will be a key player in the upcoming relay championship where last year he observed porch side in an Adirondack. Tim Cowan impressed as he overcame a series of Craftsbury’s he would prefer to forget. He helped keep Perry going strong as he gained places in the M8 division. Sarah Pribram felt good about her race and with Perry used the occasion to declare their return to competition after being taken down by bad early season colds. Sandy Enman enjoyed getting back into the club scene, bringing the team snacks and is hoping to rope her husband Dave into venturing out to enjoy skiing away from Huntington, and perhaps catch the racing bug. Patrick Cafferky and Jonathan Miller had a 50km duel that kept them going strong to the finish. It was not clear if Patrick’s Marathon Moustache gave him the advantage, though, it has been long suspected that Joe Holland’s (Putney) superpowers are somehow tied to his facial hair, so Patrick may be on to something. It was good to see Jonathan in action during a Classic Marathon. The same back and forth race occurred with Jessica Bolduc and Stowe Nordic’s Carrie Nourjian with each of them countering the other throughout the race improving both of their results.
While normally in Marathons like this the race is very gradually protracted out, the variables of today made for excitement. The conditions were superb, and it seemed everyone was initially on equal ground. However, strengths and weaknesses came into play as the tracks were so fast. Skiers could regain ground lost where their forte’ came into play. Other factors were those of longevity, those that conserved energy, and those whose wax performed well over the duration. R-Skins were turning heads today as well as the new Swix Nero. While not overly superior in the early stages, these variables came into play at the critical moment late in the race. Remember, using the whole distance counts!
Overall, we could not have asked for a better course, day or place to race! The season has been building nicely to this moment, and it was great to see most everyone having a profoundly positive experience with this year's Craftsbury Marathon. A huge thanks is in order to the people at Craftsbury for working overtime this weekend to put on a such a superb event.