A small group of Masters Skiers gathered for the return of the Annual Sweetheart Race in Woodstock, Vermont. Skiers were sent to the Knox Meadow staging area on a warm spring-like day. The sun was shining, jackets were left in the cars, the snow was softening, and the parking lot was a muddy mess. Skiers got underway prepping for the race and testing wax.
Temperatures were approaching 50, with a strong breeze blowing through the venue. The snow was transformed from rain earlier in the week combined with the warm spell. The track was somewhat variable, though glazed and softening. It was also a reservoir for Beech Tree leaves as well as evergreen needles.
The stadium was on the southern end of the Mt. Peg trail network in Knox Meadow. Skiers headed south, looping around the meadow, and then made their way up the hill on some switchbacks to Easy Glade. They followed the trail to the northern end of the network then returned to the Stadium via Brookside East. Skiers completed three laps before dipping into the finish.
With testing underway, Perry’s crowns were working. He eyed some of the options I set up on the table and stated that “it’s usually not a good day on that stuff,” pointing to some old ToKo Orange that has been in the club’s wax box for decades. “We’ve never used it,” I replied. Other options were Rode KRs3, Rex 2251 (OV), Rode Rossa, Aqua Klister, and Guru Red. I went to work comparing the KRS3 and 2251. I liked the 2251 and called it as the wax for the day. Others tried Zeros that were working, and Stephen had Swix KN44 NERO, and John had Aqua Klister.
People generally stayed with what they had, with a few electing to go for the 2251.
We gathered for the start and were given some brief instructions. The first turn was flagged off, and we needed to ski through the flags; there was a bare spot on one of the downhills that was being shoveled and some other general instructions.
Soon the race was off with a clean start. People settled into their paces, and we were underway. The leaders stopped at the first turn but were urged to continue going straight by the chase group. Someone in the back of the field corrected the instructions after the elite pack had resumed going the wrong way. The field made the turn, and the leaders had to catch back up. Jim Fredericks (Craftsbury) took the lead in the right direction. Soon the leaders retook the field, and things were back in order. Chris Burnham (NWVE) and Thomas Clayton (NWVE) set the pace, and the rest of us tried to follow. It did not take long for them to be out of sight. Adam Groff (Ford Sayre) and Stephen Lake (EMXC) led the chase group, with Luke Shullenberger (NWVE) and Stephen Wright (NWVE) hanging it for most of the first lap. Ed Hamilton (NWVE) and I held back a bit anticipating a slog. Ed’s skis were running relatively faster than mine as I had opted to add a little Aqua Klister under the toe that grabbed everything in the tracks. It kicked well, though! Jim Fredericks (Craftsbury), JoAnn Hanowski (Craftsbury), and Rosemary Shea-Cobb (MNC) formed a small pack keeping Ed and me in sight for a lap. Things broke apart after that as much of the field took a wrong turn on the return to the lap finish area. Some course markings were relocated, and it was unclear which way to go. Several skiers took a detour, including Tricia Groff (Ford Sayre), Todd Taska (Unattached), John Witmer (NWVE), and David Crosby (Woodstock). Perry Bland (NWVE) overtook the errant skiers knowing the right way to go but not knowing they had gone off course. Jerome McDougle (Unattached) and Karen Alence (MNC) stayed on course.
Being three laps, one would think that the error would only happen once, but it was tempting to take the wrong turn every time through. It only happened once, but it was close because it looked similar to the left we needed to make to restart the loop.
As the race progressed, the skiers gradually spread out. Chris took the lead and expanded it to over two minutes. Thomas held second position. Adam and Stephen would go back and forth, but Stephen would have the advantage at the finish. Luke and Stephen Wright stuck together, but as the race went on, Luke’s Zeros did not slow as much as those skiing on klister. He opened up a minute on Stephen. Ed and I played a little cat and mouse until the start of the third lap, when I could not catch Ed on the climb. He pulled away and gained a minute on me by the finish. JoAnn made a move late in the race; Rosemary chased but could not get around Jim. It was one of the closest finishes of the day. The tracks were saturated and slow as the course returned to the stadium. Fatigued after 15km of challenging skiing did not make for much of a sprint. Jim held off Rosemary. Todd and John recovered from their wrong turn. Todd was disappointed as there were some course disputes the last time he came to Woodstock. He was also a bit miffed that a guy who was on their home course could explain to the race director the unmarked junction with precision yet not know the right way to go during that first lap. Perry Bland finished the race to cheers from the club. He looked good double poling in and did not round out the field this weekend. A few skiers were yet to come in, and a couple had even given up due to the conditions. Karen finished a little later, and Jerome closed out the day.
After the race, skiers cooled down and compared the debris their based attracted on course. Ed thought his were bad until he saw the leaf pile on mine. Luke was also mortified, I joked that it was not from the race, but I had skied through the parking lot back to my car. While there was disappointment with the wrong turn, skiers were appreciative of the event and the effort it took to finish. The wind was no longer the warm sunny breeze we had at the start but had a bit of a foreshadowing chill. As we drove home, we encountered precipitation in solid form. Great job to all who participated!