Skiers returned Sunday ready for another challenge. Several inches of fluffy snow fell overnight, and the Craftsbury Groomers worked another of their miracles packing all the new stuff on top of this season's deep base. It was a jolly atmosphere, though you could see fatigue written all over those that had raced on Saturday. Skiers lined up to get their bibs and chatted about the outlook for the day.
The trail was Saturday's course backward. The only modification was in the stadiums where skiers started in the lower field followed by a Parade Lap in the Upper Field before being sent out to Wilbur's. For the finish, skiers dropped into the Lower Field and had to make a 180 around the Yurt through the NWVE Waxing Area. Temps were warmer on Sunday, hovering around 20, with overcast skies. The trail was soft new snow.
If you think racing the course backward was more of the same, you are gravely mistaken. Those fun downhill sections from Saturday turned into grueling uphills. There were two continuous climbs from the lowest point on the course to the highest, with a few other short but steep hills near the end of the loop. The near Devine miles of striding on Saturday were a distant memory as the reverse course skated much differently. It is not to say that it was not a blast and fun ski, but the difficulty was a surprise for the unprepared skier thinking it would be similar to the day before.
Skiing got underway with the Men first. With only two laps and smaller fields, there would be little lapping, and it was figured fewer women would catch the men. Times may tell a different tale, but that would not be known until all was said and done. There was a bit of concern about the fairly short parade loop, but it turns out that skiers were in the right mindset to make it a fair start.
Racing got underway, and skiers were soon dealing with the realities of how they got there. Some were fresh, having this be their first race of the week while others received feedback from muscles not fully recovered. CSU's Robert Faltus had some excellent words of wisdom when it comes to racing the double marathon. Having done so many times in Gatineau his “take the second day as it comes” was excellent advice. You cannot push it too hard early the second day, because you do not know where the ceiling is or where the bottom will fall out.
A couple of skiers were aware of this and took advantage right from the start. GRP Skier Adam Martin took off, and Craftsbury Ski Club Coach and Race Director Ollie Burruss was eager to hammer early and see what happened. It is quite the testament to the organization when the race director can participate in the event like this. The track was soft, but those behind Adam had the advantage of seeing where the firmest snow was by looking at the impressions he left.
An elite pack formed and was comprised of many from yesterday’s group. Joel Bradley (Ford Sayre), Eli Enman (NWVE), Neal Graves (Stowe Nordic), Chris Burnham (NWVE), Tom Thurston (NWVE), William Goodfellow (Unattached), and “Fresh-as-a-Daisy” Jake Hollenbach (NWVE) set themselves apart from the rest of the field early in the race. This group stayed together for the first lap but split in two for the second. Chris Burnham, Tom Thurston, and William Goodfellow slowly drifted back. Chris skied mostly on his own in the final lap while Tom and William stayed in contact.
At the front of the field, Luke Shullenberger (NWVE) was driving the pace. Skiing with him were Mansfield skiers Charlie Cobb and David Johnstone, as well as Jay Davis from Ford Sayre and Nick Brown of Craftsbury. These guys stayed very organized and did not give an inch during the race. Nick Brown did fall off the pace after a lap but held his position on the tough lap holding off the late-surging David Herr (Unattached). I got off to a good start with Patrick Cafferky (NWVE) carving the way for me around Wilbur's. Initially, I felt lousy but then got things going. Around 5km that was over and people started passing me. Craftsbury Juniors, Griffin Wright and Finn Sweet strolled by using the first lap as a warm-up for a workout on the second. It was nice to have them accompanying us as they chatted away. I had settled in with Rick Costanza (MNC), Josh Sayre (Cornell), Steve Sonnesyn (Wayzata Nordic Ski Club) and Kirk Kardashian (Woodstock Nordic Runners). While Finn and Griffin coasted along, we were racing hard. Ed Hamilton (NWVE) skied through with Michael Millar (MNC) on the long downhill on Sam’s. It seemed ski speed was a big factor. Another that flew by was Robert Bradlee (CSU) bellowing something about needing to get some ToKo as he passed us like we were standing still. It may have been the wax, but more likely ski selection was the biggy. Right behind this pack was Nat Lucy (Unattached) and Peter Harris (Craftsbury) making their presence clear in the rear-view mirror as well as some chatter to let us know we could not falter.
Two skiers we have not seen for a while in Club Racing also united for a lap. After shepherding me in the start, Patrick fell back to ski with Dhyan Nirmegh (NWVE). This winter has been too good to stay in retirement, and a summer pep talk from Murray Banks (MNC) left an impression. Skiing with Patrick must have gone well as Nirmegh indicated that he would like to do some other races. Another Club newbie hopped in the race. Cody Boissoneault (NWVE) was back at it after a few years off. Cody also indicated that he would like to get back into some racing. He may have been a little humbled by his place in the field but had good company with Federico Montanari (Unattached).
Jon Miller (NWVE) returned to club racing after having to miss the Zak Attack due to work obligations. Jon has been taking a new approach to fitness, utilizing the weight room a lot more. He noted his endurance had not carried over so well and suffered a bit but had plenty of strength and balance. He also brought along his wife Emily Miller (NWVE) who I believe skied her first club race ever! Conditions were favorable to those just getting their seasons started with the soft, slow snow being very forgiving. Speaking of Millers, Kaitlin Miller (GRP) took the Women’s overall in the 33km skate.
Brendan Barden (NWVE) took on the Brodhead Challenge and skied the first part of the race with Robert Faltus. Apparently, Brendan did not heed Robert’s advice skiing positive splits. A little strain from Saturday’s race bothered him. He skied through it, all the while giving Thomas Smith (CSU) a nice NWVE uniform to look at the whole way. Perry Bland also toed the line for the second day. Skate is a distant second to his favorite discipline; however, the skiing was good and is enough to make anyone happy. Perry skied with Craftsbury's Ken Walker before picking it up for the finish of the 16km race.
The Women's race was stacked with great skiers making it the stronger of the two fields. It was very top heavy with many driving the pace. Several GRP skiers were racing fresh for the day, and Master's skier Kathy Maddock was right there pushing them along. Cathy had one of the fastest first laps outpacing Recent Olympians Hannah Dreissigacker (Craftsbury) and Lea Davison (Unattached).
Sheila Kealey (Ottawa) was marked wearing the Leaders Jersey and 16km winner Camille Bolduc (Craftsbury) found her a suitable mentor along with Alex Jospe (CSU). “We skied smooth and kept taking turns throughout the race” exclaimed Camille, a young Junior describing her ski with the masters. Sara Graves (Stowe) had a strong race with Alia Johnson (Unattached). Sara and Alia were alone the whole race skiing between the elite pack with Cathy and the GRP, and the main field led by Sheila Kealey.
Kasie Enman (NWVE) soloed the race until she started catching the men. It was motivation to pick them off, but not much in the way of support as she cruised by without picking up any company. Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) eased into the race finding her way through the field with a fast pair of skis. She also caught some of the men and had one of the biggest sprint finishes of the day against Bruce Katz (Unattached). Jessica had caught him in Murphy's field with a quarter mile to go, but Bruce was determined not to let another NWVE jersey by. He sling-shot-ed by on the last turn around the yurt, and there was nothing Jessica could do to counter.
Speaking of Ricky Bobby’s Shake-n-Bake move, Jake Hollenbach saw yellow (Eli had the yellow bib for the men) as he approached the finish and his instincts kicked in using his “fresh” legs to go around Eli and Joel to take third for the day. It is hard to imagine fresh legs after a 33km slog in soft new snow, but remember Eli and Joel’s had 83km in them. Eli retained the Leaders Bib and took the overall in the Brodhead Challenge. On the women’s side, Emily Stitt (MNC) overtook Sheila Kealey for the win in the Brodhead Challenge. NWVE had three of the top five men in the challenge and one of the top ten women making for a solid club showing in the combined event.
After the race people caught up on how the double had treated them. We admired the work of art that will be a permanent fixture at the center commemorating the Brodhead Challenge and those who win it on an annual basis. A meal was provided by the café that people lined up for. Awards were held, and people lingered as they rested for their journey's home and to recover enough to watch the Super Bowl.