The Bretton Woods Marathon was held on Sunday. After the success of the Mount Washington Cup, the day before skiers wereexcited to repeat the experience one day later at the same venue. The energy was good as people checked in and received their choice of a commemorative hat. Inside the lodge, people were happy and optimistic about how the day would turn out.
Outside the lodge, things became a little more challenging. A light snow had accumulated a couple of inches between grooming and the race. Temperatures were in the twenties and rising, a trend that would continue throughout the race potentially hitting a critical threshold where the properties of the snow change significantly. Every wax was working, but the million dollar question was what was going to work if things change?
Skiers took to testing and concocting the perfect solution. In NWVE's tests, we had some feedback that: ruled a couple of waxes out, gave us a fast contender with Ski*Go Violet, and a "toothier” option with Rode MultiGrade Violet. We also received word that Guru Red under the toe improved things. Skiers made their decisions and as time wound down committed to what they had as they headed over to the start. Things were not as simple as they seemed as parts of the course where we were testing had been re-groomed after the new snow, but a majority was not going to be touched. In addition to the rising temperature, the changes in elevation always play a part in this race.
Skiers lined up early keeping their skis moving with anticipation. The course was another citizen’s friendly loop that could be made as hard as you wanted it to be. The course began with a parade lap around the golf course at Bretton Woods so skiers could showcase their sponsors to the masses that had gathered to watch from the historic hotel’s veranda. Once the parade loop was complete skiers entered the woods and skied along the Ammonoosuc River on the Bridle Path. The course then took Willey’s Way back toward the golf course where it picked up on Crawford’s Pass to Sebosis. Skiers then Climbed Sebosis to Porcupine Lane where they continued to climb to Clinton. Once on Clinton, the climbing continued with a few steep sections before entering Crawford Hollow. Skiers then climbed Beaver Pond to Dark Forest taking a downward trend back to the golf course. Skiers then swung wide of the golf course going through Rye Fields before reconnecting with Perimeter to the Lap/Finish Zone. Half Marathoners did one lap while the full marathoners completed two.
The race fields were large thanks to a big boost of college teams using the event as their season’s last hoorah. It is nice to have this population represented in these races as they are all competitive and excellent skiers. It is also nice to have their confidence filling in where gaps usually form throughout the race. The addition of their diversity to the field enriches the experience for all. Racing got underway with gusto as the youthfulness in the field influenced a fast pace from the gun. It was neat to see the different college teams joining forces with each other and then some of the citizen racers peppered throughout the field. As we "paraded" around the golf course, people jockeyed for position with many opting to ski wide or in between the set tracks. This is a move not popular with the master's crowd; however, those that attempted were those likely to pull it off.
It was on this parade lap that people began to come to terms with their waxing decision. It is difficult to pinpoint the culprit on the disparity of ski speed, as most were using very similar if not the same wax. It became apparent that while some labored, others sped away. After some further investigation, we found that some clever skiers had adjusted their bindings prior to the race to weight them more towards the tails, taking pressure off the tips, allowing the ski to surf instead of plow on the new snow. This simple and minor adjustment made sense and had a significant impact. It is now just a matter of remembering it in the future.
Packs began to take shape and seemed to be centered around schools. Chris Burnham was the top NWVE skier for the day and the first non-U23 finisher. He was in the middle of a feline frenzy as the UVM Catamount's Greg Burt served the UNH Wildcat's Jakob Velle and Will Bodewes. Chris held his own among the collegians and stuck with Burt as he made a move on the second lap.
Next up for NWVE was Tyler Magnan. Back for another day, Tyler was not firing on all cylinders and had less than optimal skis. He switched skis in the race and found that he had two pairs of duds for the day. Tyler raced with CSU’s John Sakalowski who had rockets under his boots, Dartmouth's Rena Schwartz, and Nansen’s Dennis Page. The race was dynamic among this group of hammer-heads each with their own strengths. Frustrated and fatigued, Tyler made the best of it.
Stephen Wright and Ed Hamilton of NWVE had outstanding races. Both slowly advanced through the field as skiers settled in after the start. Ed had some fast skis as he closed out the Half Marathon taking 3rd overall! He caught and dropped Stephen and as well as Eric Darling (NWVE). Stephen pulled Eric down the finishing stretch helping him secure 4th place. Stephen then proceeded for another lap to complete the full distance.
While these people were advancing, I was slowly drifting back in the pack. This gave me a chance to ski a while with several racers. Bob Burnham CSU was skiing very strong as was Joe Holland (Putney). On a technical turn where the groomer had left a drop-off that caught me by surprise, I fell backward forcing Rober Faltus (CSU) to bail. We both recovered and continued racing. Robert fell back as we climbed, but Nat Lucy (Mt. Washington) was working with a couple of SLU girls and Julianne Stemp (Unattached) to bridged up. I was determined to hold position after losing a couple of other pace lines and worked hard to stay in. Luck would have it that my skis were improving by this point with some warmer air.
Sarah Pribram (NWVE) was with friendly company skiing with Jim Fredericks (MNC) and Marika Massey-Bierman (Williams, Craftsbury, MNC, & EABC). It had to be a bittersweet moment for Jim as the skiers his coaching as significantly influenced skied by. On the one hand, it is rewarding to see your athlete excel, on the other, when has Jim not raced like hell!
A little further back Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) and Brendan Barden (NWVE) were skiing with Ford Sayre’s Jonathan Chaffee. Chaffee had a bead on NWVE’s Michael Hakim, and his hard to shake on this course. It was great to see Michael at one of his favorite races as he prepares for another in Lake Placid. Jonathan would pull Brendan Jessica along, eventually passing Michael, but he held position taking the M3 category proving it is never too late to show up and get the team some points.
Teammates Perry Bland and John Witmer (NWVE) had their hands full for the second day with Doug Armstrong (Mt. Washington), and Cheryl Carlson (Ford Sayre). Doug and Cheryl are formidable and experienced opponents, but even with sub-par skis Perry would have nothing to do with it. As he sensed the finish, he dug deep gapping the pack. John was taken a little off guard when Doug made a move of his own. Cheryl stayed steady, focusing on some future races.
MNC Master’s Karen Alence, Joy Grossman and Ellie Bouffard were pleased with their ski as well as their position on the results page. They joked that their strategy for the upward trend was due to finding slower people to race! Jokes aside, they were hanging with some well-credentialed skiers like Jody Newton (CSU) and Ann Bushey (Stowe Nordic).
While it was thought that many of the younger skiers would turn off for the half marathon, a vast majority were in it for the long haul. The field continued to spread out, but Bretton Wood’s was alive with activity. While not always within sight you could hear racers through the trees. The long grades made for unique opportunities as the race field spread out.
With ski switches and differences in endurance, Chris found himself alone for much of the second lap. Tyler stayed in as best he could. He left it all on the course and had nothing to contest the finish. Stephen, on the other hand, was on a roll and continued making gains finishing just in front of Annika Martell (Colby) and Ryan Sederquist (UMPI). I made gains on the group I was skiing with on the climbs, and even passed a few skiers; however, Nat encouraged the SLU skiers to go for it in the final kilometers. The plan backfired for him as they dropped him quickly and then passed me. I was running on fumes and could not match the effort as the women put a minute and a half on me with 3km to go.
Winston Goodbody (Death Valley Nordic) made it out for the event. He found some company with seasoned marathoners, Michael Melnikov (CSU) and David Freedman (Mt. Washington). These three had steady guides with JoAnn Hanowski (MNC) and Gordon Scannell (Schussverein) for lap one, but when left on their own for lap two things broke apart.
Jud Hartmann (NWVE) enjoyed his second day of racing. While some (Robert Faltus) were ready to end the days of double distance weekend’s with this 10km and 40km, Jud pondered what it would have been like to combine the Rangely 50km and the BW 40km. Bruce Katz (Unattached) had the answer to that, and it looked good as he has come on strong at the end of this season. Bruce even had an M8 podium on day two. It will be interesting to see what he has in store for Lake Placid as his season is really heating up.
Brendan Barden was happy his skis improved for the second lap. He felt that there was a temperature inversion as he seemed better at the top of the course. As with me, the temperature, snow and ski flex had everything to do with our speed issues on the course and our mid-life mid-sections had nothing to do with anything. Hannah Barden (NWVE) joined the team for the second day of the weekend after spending an inspiring week skiing the Chic-Choc Mountains. She felt that the climbing there had prepared her well for Bretton Woods and she was so wrapped up in racing on the first lap of the marathon that it was not until the second that it occurred to her to look around and admire the views. Once she had this awareness the vista’s paled in comparison…or was it the other way around? She was happy to finish and even more psyched to learn she won her division at the awards ceremony!
The Bretton Woods Weekend concluded with a delicious pasta feed. The Butterscotch Bread Pudding was a very popular dessert for everyone who worked up a huge appetite. Joe Holland joined the NWVE table and traded stories with Ed, Steve, and Perry, and Jud sat in as well after Michael had to make a quick exit. During the awards ceremony, many NWVE Racers were called to receive prizes for their respective
categories. One of the best things about the team this weekend were all the fresh legs that came in to support those that have had a busy racing calendar. The club continues to look great and perform at a growing level. It was with this energy that we departed the venue looking forward to another weekend coming up!