11 Club members made their way to Craftsbury for Sunday's Skiathlon, including 5 who had raced the previous day in Maine. Mansfield Nordic does a great job putting on this event. The organization is great, they are generous with awards, and Craftsbury always provides great tracks. This was the first foray into the Skiathlon format for many club members, and questions about boot selection and the transition zone were numerous. The race organizers and volunteers made it very easy to figure out the transition zone, so racers set up their skate skis, and went to work finding kick for the classic leg.
It was another somewhat tricky day, but you only had to ski classic for 6k, so it was not too stressful. It seemed that people were expecting cold powder, but found moist, glazing tracks. The glazed tracks were perfect for Tyler's R-Skins. Others went with zero or skin skis as well. It seems the most popular wax of the day was Toko yellow.
As racers gathered for the start, it became evident that there was a really good turnout for this race, both in quantity and quality. There were plenty of top masters racers, as well as some top talent from the high school, college, and post collegiate ranks. There were also a few faces that decided March was the time to start their racing season. The race start was a bit hectic, no more or less so than the average race start. Tom Thurston had a little mishap, and there were some minor annoyances like the guy in the third row who jumped in between start lanes a half second after the race began. There were no major issues, and the masters racers sorted themselves out among the younger racers. Eli Enman was the top NWVE skier of the day, and also came away with the best race story, crossing the finish line and realizing he had stepped out of his classic skis in the transition zone, stepped into one skate ski, and back into one of his classic skis. Eric Darling, Tom Thurston, and Tyler Magnan skied close together on the classic leg, with Tom pulling away near the end. The highlight of Tyler's race was the transition zone, besting Eric the triathlete and some others. It would be short-lived as the legs became a bigger factor in the skate portion, and Tyler faded while Eric surged forward, eventually overtaking Tom as well. Kyle Darling didn't show much fatigue from the previous day of racing finishing not far behind Tyler.
Some of the fresh faces in the field included NWVE's Rick Kelley and John Witmer. When asked where he's been all winter, Rick claimed he'd been "resting." He was well rested enough to hold off a challenge from the resurgent Tim Cowan, a fellow M7 club member whose much improved form this year has been noticed by his fellow masters racers. Perry got some new skate skis this year, but they cost him some time in the race. They were fast on the snow, but he struggled with the new binding system, and lost a lot of time in the transition zone.
The women started 15 minutes after the men. There was some overlap, because the 12k race was 6 loops of Lemon's Haunt. For the most part, the women were in the classic tracks while the men were skating, so it worked out well. Among the masters women, Elissa Bradley from Ford Sayre ran away with the victory, but the battle for 2nd was tight between Katrina Howe from GMVS, Sarah Pribram, and JoAnn Hanowski of Mansfield. Those three finished in that order with only 30 seconds between them. Jenn Carlson from NWVE was only a minute back of this trio. Sarah was pleased with the day, exclaiming how awesome it was at a volume that could be heard across the stadium. Sarah's exclamation expressed what everyone was feeling. It was an awesome day of skiing on all accounts. The conditions were fabulous, the race was fun and well organized, and there was a great crowd. If you want to turn people on to Skiathlon racing, this is the way to do it.