There was nothing but good energy as skiers arrived for the Bretton Woods Marathon. All the fine details were organized, and participants were immediately guided into the flow of how things would go for the day. Registration was efficient, there was a Swix Sample Sale, a waxing area was set up, and the course was marked and set under the majestic Mount Washington towering into the cloudless, wild blue yonder.
Conditions were another shade of perfect for the Spring Classic. The track was not quite as firm as it was for the Mount Washington Cup the day before. The snow had dried a little and therefore did not freeze as solidly after grooming. The tracks were firm packed granular. There were a few icy spots as well as sections with a lot of tree debris. There was also one well-marked rock that organizers were wary of. Upon encountering it on course, it did seem like an exceptionally stubborn rock that withstood repeated pulverizing from the tiller, bent on basking in the sun. The temperature was around twenty at the start and climb to the mid-thirties during the race. The wind was not the factor it was the day before. Skiers were happy and went about testing.
As I was setting up my table, a person asked: “VR40 is kicking, do you think we really need to klister?”
"I am going to go with a universal klister, maybe covered with a red stick wax," I replied.
“But VR40 is working.” They stressed.
“Well, good luck with it!”
It was true that most anything would give some kick, but the Bretton Woods Marathon is
infamous for having dynamic conditions. What you start with may not work later on if you plan incorrectly. The marathon also allows ski switching, so technically, you can have Plan B ready to go at the lap area midway through the race. I do not partake in such things and stick with Plan A. For me, that was, apply some reliable kickers in a short pocket as there is not a lot of steep climbs, but there is a lot of double poling. There was a wide range of options people used to race, and most told a similar story at the end. The VR40 people did eventually go to klister as their skis came back clean after testing.
The course utilized many of Bretton Wood's popular trails and provided many vistas where skiers could admire the mountain, hotel, and resort. Site seeing took place mostly took place on the second lap when people were trying to make the best of the situation. The skiers started in front of the veranda again, looped around the golf course in a parade lap so they could show off their sponsors to the masses gathered on the porch.
The route then turned onto B&M and returned via Willey's Way. Skiers then took Crawford's Pass to Sebosis. Once on Sebosis, the course climbed all the way to Clinton, where it climbed some more before descending onto Beech Hill, then up Peters Path to Dark Forest and returning on Perimeter for the finish of the half marathon or lapping for the full. As advertised, the course was perfectly challenging.
Every race has its distinct qualities. The Bretton Woods Marathon is no different. While it provides a combination of characteristics that distinguish it from other races, such as the reliable dramatic temperature swing between start and finish, the most significant factor is for this one is the sudden influx of peaked collegiate and high school skiers. Generally, the citizen racers do not compete with this cohort as our events are separated over the season. Now that the carnivals have wrapped up, these youth are given the green light to release the stored energy they have been developing since pre-season. It changes the dynamic throughout the field as the masters may think of their style as more refined, yet would not stand a chance in the types of competitions the younger skiers are acclimated to. At Bretton Woods, it is a good balance as the thought of a 42km race is daunting to the younger skiers, and the more experienced racers can help establish efforts but inevitably, the strength of these elite racers prevails.
As can happen at a classic race, skiers were suddenly panicked to get to the starting line. They rushed over to get into position and be ready to go. On the line, I offered to switch spots with Nat Lucy (Mt. Washington). He stated he "was good, and he had a laissez-faire feel for the day." "You know that's going to change as soon as they fire the gun!" Andy Milne (CSU) and Nat just laughed. After some brief, essential instructions, we were racing. Sure enough, Nat was in my blind spot trying to pass before we got 10m into the race.
It was a fast and flat start to the race. The field double poled around the parade loop, settling into a colorful ribbon of skiers displaying their allegiances to their clubs with bright suits. The pace was quick, but things were calm as the racers organized. The tracks were fast, and there was little resistance, and most opted to double pole the entire 4km to the end of B&M. An elite pack quickly formed and included Walker Bean (Dartmouth), Anders Hanson (Colby), Everett Sapp (Harvard), Luke Costley (Ford Sayre), Mark Young (Colby), Joel Bradley (Ford Sayre), Chris Burnham (NWVE), and Timothy Cunningham (SLU). This elite pack did not stay together too long as it split with the college athletes pulling away from the others. Only Luke Costley was able to hang on for the first lap. Among these leaders, only Walker was doing the half.
Behind this group, the field strung out with skiers trying to bridge or create a chase group, but nothing ever really organized. Neal Graves (Stowe Nordic) skied valiantly, but could not hang in. Tyler Magnan (NWVE) methodically worked his way up after a relaxed start. As some skiers dropped back, the elite women moved through. Rena Schwartz (Dartmouth), and Lizzie Larkins (UVM) were on the move early in the race but never benefitted from a large pack. Behind them, a group of Colby Women did organize along with Stephanie Nichols (SLU), biding her time. This was about the point where Robert Burnham (CSU) brought together a friendly group. Robert was skiing very well and had a few college buddies, as well as Nat Lucy and me to work with. Robert kept us going, giving orders that some obeyed, and some were not inclined to follow. In our rearview was Andy Milne (CSU), seemingly the only thing we were united on. Do not get caught by Andy! While many skiers had fantastic first laps and struggled with the second, Andy experienced the inverse. At some point, the women skied away from us, but Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) caught and joined us for the middle of the race.
From this point, the field spread out over the first lap. It was quite a mix of skiers with differing strengths—the fearlessness of youth combined with the endurance of fully mature muscles of masters. The match-up was not compatible, and clusters of each united and stuck together. This is not to say that they did not continuously overlap, but the groups generally used their advantages together, causing separation. This phenomenon is not unusual or unique to skiing but seems more defined in our sport based on experience. Some have to do with when you learned to ski, some have to do with the level of skiing you have reached, and some have to do with where you come from geographically. Without fail, people tend to find their niche, especially in a race like this.
One of these groups was Robert Faltus (CSU), Jonathan Rodd (NWVE), and Dan Quinlan (CSM). This trio trucked along between two groups of collegiate skiers. Unable to stick with those in front, but uncatchable by those behind. John Lazenby (Onion River) skied close to the small group but peeled off to finish the half. Then there was the ski factor. Judd Hartmann (NWVE) was able to chase down Kenneth Kimball (Mt. Washington), and Gordon Scannell (Schussverein) as their wax started missing. Judd was one of the few that reported great wax for both laps without changing skis.
Michael Hakim (NWVE) returned for the second day of the weekend. He had a very conservative start but worked his way up through the field. He spent some time skiing with John Broadhead (Craftsbury), Judd, and Kenneth. John has been on an upswing, that carried over to the Craftsbury Tuesday Night Race, overtaking some people he has been chasing all season. You do not need to see the Craftsbury Green to pick out his distinctive form. Michael cruised along using some klister given to him by teammate Ed Hamilton and eventually won the M3 division.
Many more skiers enjoyed the race. One of the common occurrences was that fatigue led to slippery skis. After a solid first lap, the second was a struggle. For many, their wax was still there, but the ability to muscle through evaporated at a critical time. This happens to be on the steepest climbs the furthest from the finish.
At the front of the field, three skiers broke the two-hour mark. Luke Costley sprinted to the win over Anders Hanson, with Everett Sapp a close third. A few more collegiate skiers came in around the two-hour mark along with Charlie Maitland (MNC). Chris Burnham was the second Senior male, and Joel Bradley was the first Master. Lizzie Larkins edged Rena Schwartz for the women’s overall. Sara Graves was the top Master Woman.
The Bretton Woods Marathon delivered an incredible experience yet again. The gorgeous weather roused the weary that had just completed the challenge as they recovered and took stock in what they had achieved. We trekked up to the banquet hall for a delicious meal and the awards ceremony. During the ceremony, Ellen Chandler noted how much the younger athletes contribute to the sport. She urged those that are graduating to take a look around and join one of the great clubs that were racing at their sides. She emphasized that it is the best next step to a lifelong enjoyment of the sport. People lingered talking about the race and how they got through with many crediting the bright day and magnificent views. As we hobbled back to our cars, there was already talk of what race would be next. Thanks to all the people who put this race together from the crew at the Mount Washington Resort, and the New England Ski Museum!