EC #3 Master's Report
NWVE Photos: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Northwest-Vermont-Endurance-329615740404021/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1902002366498676
The Master’s returned to the Eastern Cup this weekend! It was another exciting weekend of racing in Craftsbury. After a move from the Trapp Family Lodge earlier in the week due to thin conditions, racers were set to contend on the Craftsbury Race Loop. Feelings were mixed on the move, though both courses are extremely challenging with a lot of climbing and not much recovery.
Conditions in Craftsbury were excellent. They retained all the snow from last week’s marathon and gained a little more here and there. Temperatures were also cooperative making the races easy to prepare for.
Both days of the Eastern Cup were contested on Craftsbury’s Homologated Race Loop. The base was solid with plenty of snow coverage. Courses were groomed impeccably and set up nicely for both days. They held up well throughout the races.
Conditions on Saturday were cold. The day started well below zero, then a huge temperature increase to the positive teens. Since it remained so cold, the swing was not much of a factor. Trace amounts of snow fell throughout the day. The tracks were firm and deep. The Homologated loop starts out relatively easy but then tests you with some well-placed climbs. Saturday was a 10km interval start classic race. So two loops.
There was much testing of wax for this Eastern Cup. People were attempting to outsmart one another with what concoction they could put on the ski. I went simple mixing green and blue wax as conditions were in-between green and blue wax range. Some were adding in klister; some opted to stick with either green or blue. The surface was abrasive but not as harsh as last weekend. Most of the track had a snowy bottom, making for a softer surface for skiers to race on. Klister seemed to compromise skis giving them a grainy feel over the snow versus the nice buttery feel of what I had on my ski. In a 40m comparison test with another individual, they demanded I turn over my wax and re-worked their skis.
Alexandra Jospe CSU was the only female master that contested the 5km race. She held her own in the combined College Carnival/Eastern Cup field, but CSU's skis were not as hot as we have seen them earlier in the season. What was described as "a little goop" added in may have been the culprit? Paralympian Dan Knossen also competed in the 5km distance traversing the course from the back of the start order working his way up into the field.
There was a spirited contingent of Master's men for the 10km event. Mostly grouped close together at the end of the start order the race started with a quick photo-op of those preparing to take on the much younger field. With all of the collegiate big dogs racing no masters cracked the top 100 on Saturday. Mark Johnson was the top M finisher coming in 107 with a 30:29 on the difficult course. After a friendly exchange between myself, Frank Feist (CSU), Tom Thurston and Bob Arnot (Stowe Nordic), the race was on. I started 15 seconds in front of Frank, then Bob with Tom as the next skier. I knew Frank has been having a good season and has had some decisive results against me in the last two marathons. I took it out fast for the first kilometer hoping to get an advantage before the first hill so that Frank would have to reel me in on the difficult climb. I also wanted to keep Tom at bay for most of a lap. Tom caught Bob by the solar panels and began focusing on Frank and I. The plan seemed to be working as it took them over 3km to catch me, and when they did, I was able to latch on to Frank who was trying to hang with Tom. Phase one of the plan went well. I was feeling good and I knew Frank had put himself into a deficit. I also knew my skis were running very good as I was overtaking other ranked skiers on all parts of the course. As we looped through for the lap Tom gapped Frank and I pulling ahead to make up time on the rest of the field. I also overtook Frank hoping to use Chip Hill to make him crack going into the second lap. Phase two worked as well and all I had to do was ski aggressively and hope for the best on the second lap. I continued passing people and my skis were as good as ever. Tom slowly pulled out of sight, and I could hear a skier on my tails. Peter Milliken (Ford Sayre) had started further back in the order and worked his way into the mix but was unable to catch our cluster due to the time gap. In the final Mark kept an advantage, Peter took second, Tom was third, Matthew Tornianinen was 4th, I was 5th, Frank came in 6th and the most senior of us all Bob was 7th. Chris Burnham also competed but was off his game due to illness. He still turned out a great time and was happy to race.
It was an exciting Day 1 with a lot of fun dynamics. Conditions were about as perfect as they can be. However, the Master’s Main Event was yet to come on Sunday.
While the mercury read significantly warmer, Sunday felt cooler due to a persistent wind that blew in accumulating snow showers. The race was a mass start 10km for Women and 15km for Men. Snow did not start falling until after racing began and initially mixed in well with what was already on the ground brightening things up. A special Master's wave that started five minutes after the main field was a popular option. In the future, I suggest a one minute delay as being sufficient to optimize the ranges of all the athletes dwell times on the course.
Eight Women got things started. Alexandra Jospe (CSU) elected to start with the Open Field, but the remaining seven took advantage of the more refined wave. Kathy Maddock (Dublin) dominated the Master's wave from wire to wire with an impressive ski. On her first lap, she was able to reel in some of those who had a five minute lead on her. The chase group was led by NWVE duo Jessica Bolduc and Sarah Pribram. Mansfield’s Joann Hanowski lurked within range, as well as Cheryl Carlson (Ford Sayre), Anna Rehm, and Ellen Chandler (Ford Sayre). After about 3km Jessica and Sarah broke away and the rest of the pack fell apart. Kathy was out of range and not to be caught, but the battle for second was on with the teammates working together to increase their lead over the rest of the field. Jessica's skis were fast and the day's conditions were turning in favor of the powerful skiers. As the Master's Women rounded coaches' corner for the final time, it was clear that there was going to be a sprint for second. Even Bill Koch watched intently to see how the intra-team battle would turn out. Out of view of the spectators who clambered to get to the optimal sprint viewing positions, Jessica put in a late surge to gap Sarah hoping to avert a sprint showdown. She crested Wilbur's alone before the final runout into the finish. Sarah was 10 seconds behind. Joann finished 4th still a little fatigued from a road trip to the World Masters Championship. Cheryl finished in good spirits happy to have a good Eastern Cup Result. Anna Rehm had a lot of family support that was excited to see her racing and hoping that she will reconsider her one race per year limit! Ellen Chandler cruised in not far behind putting an uncharacteristic skate race under her belt. It was fun watching the Women’s race and how things panned out from lap to lap..
After a snowy intermission, it was time for the Men to race. During the break, the snow intensity picked up and started to change things on the course. At first, the additional snow seemed like a good thing. 22 Men started in the master's wave, a number we have not seen in an Eastern Cup for some time. It was announced that this would be a showdown of who's who in New England as we received our instructions and commands. The race started with the youthful Jake Hollenbach setting the pace. The remainder of the field let him hang off the front for a while before reabsorbing him around the 1.5km mark. The field stayed together fairly well for about 4km of the race when things began to turn interesting. A group had split off after a crash that took down Stowe Nordic’s Neal Graves. The chase pack lingered about 100m back by the time they looped through the stadium. Jake remained a force at the front pulling teammates Eric Darling, and Tom Thurston. A dark horse donning a ski race suit for the first time, Mansfield's Andy Bishop, was also pushing the pace even taking the lead for the masses gathered at Coaches Corner. Closing fast on the elite pack was Neal Graves. A couple who could not hold the pace fell back and then another group formed behind the aggressive skiing of Tyler Magnan, Rob Bradlee (CSU) and myself. Barry Kitch (CSU) was hanging in with this group as we all took turns trying to shake each other off. Bob Gray (Ind) was at the helm of the next pack which included Christopher Naimie (Bow Nordic), and NWVE’s Tim Cowan and Perry Bland. While the fresh powder was on top of the snow things seemed to be going good, but as it got worked in with the icy mix below, things started changing. Tyler’s skis bogged down, as did others. Skiers could feel the changes in the snow underfoot. This, as well as fatigue, added significantly to the dynamics later in the race and those with high power output began pulling away from those who rely more on efficiency. By the start of the 3rd lap Neal had caught the front pack and taken a few moments of respite to catch his breath. He popped off the field with an impressive surge up Chip Hill and was not to be caught. Jake, Eric, Andy, and Tom slowly drifted apart over the last lap. Rob gained the upper hand over me as I started to feel Saturday’s race in my legs. Tyler had a frustrating last lap as his skis continued to slow as the racers tilled the course more and there was nothing he could do about it. Bob Gray made a move drawing only Christopher and leaving the rest of the pack behind. Bob would continue to drive the pace dropping Chris on the final climb up Screaming Mimi. Tim and Perry skied it out happy to return to EC action. Tim found it entertaining that some of the first Elite Open racers opted to draft him a bit into some windy sections rather than just go by. It helped him pick up the pace a little. Bob Arnot had a little company skiing away from Dan Ott on the final lap.
NENSA's effort at making the EC more inclusive and appealing to Master's racers was a great success! Master's appreciated the format and responded well with easily a doubling of their registrations for these events. The inclusive atmosphere was topped off with some sweet prizes from Laughing Moon Chocolates. Skiers enjoyed the rest of the day skiing and cooling down off the race loop enjoying the return of winter.