Snow, snow, snow, snow, and somehow a 30km classic race Saturday and 15 km Freestyle to end the Michigan Cup season.
That should some up the storm of the year. With all that snow the Black Mountain Classic got off to a late start with volunteers going above and beyond to ensure their would be a race. 2 years ago during my first season, I did this race and it really made a lasting memory. It could be the best classic course in Michigan, the Black Mountain gourmet lunch after, or the people who put the event on. Last year, lack of snow canceled the race and this year we got a months worth of snow the night before. With roads unplowed, power out and 18 inches of wet dense snow, they pulled it off.
Here is the breakdown from Denny Paul (race director and son of Odin)
Well the race had just as much excitement. The first lap saw about 5 of us slowly drift and come back to the pack because of a wrong turn and no one interested in packing down the snow filled track for the guys behind them. Halfway around on a a few climbs the newly crown Michigan Cup champ Eli Brown attacked myself and Denny Paul (after reading that article about his morning, I’m thinking about just referring to him as son of Odin from now on.) I quickly chased and luckily for me, Eli had no interest truly paving the way for me to follow in a nice fast track. Son of Odin caught back up a couple of kms later while we played our games of cat and mouse. I knew that once the trail was cleared, Eli was going, so I saved up a bunch of energy. With Lap 2 starting, I prepared for the pain. Eli took off at a sprinting pace, and I chased and chased and chased. He established a good 30 second gap within 2 km. I was feeling great and was shocked that the pain did not come. After a bunch of twists and turns I did come to find something odd. I stopped for a second to look at corner and noticed the skiers marks were going around the corner at me. In the chase, I made an error in decision making. I somehow confused the splits and 2 way sections of the trail. I went left when i should have gone right, it was the next intersection I was suppose to go left. I had no idea how long I had been on this split. After skiing back for what seemed like 10 minutes, it was about a minute and half in reality. I was back on the race course. With about 8-10km roughly left I knew son of Odin had to be in front me. It wasn’t until a long climb I finally caught a glimpse of him. He turned around at the top to see if any one was chasing and I’m sure he didn’t expect to see anyone because he took about 10 glances back trying to figure out who was behind him. On a steep hill, I caught him and explained my adventure. I proceed to ski like mad to make sure he didnt hang around with about 1 km left I was exhausted and broken. The final km featured lots of fast downhills and cruised in about 6 minutes behind Eli and a minute ahead of Denny. I was a bit bummed to not really know how much time I lost but with that said. 2nd place will do any day.
Boyne Highlands 15km Freestyle
The last race of the Michigan Cup and one final mountain to climb. Yes the race went up the mountain. With this being the end of my season, it was the first for my girlfriend in her short 2 month skiing career. I felt a slight knot in my stomach as the race time temps were near 10 deg F and about 15 degrees cooler than what I waxed for on the previous Thursday. Not so much for me but Kate, my girlfriend. Our skis were slow and I noticed anyone I skied near easily pulled away or caught me on down hills. The race organizers did a fantastic job, they groomed the 1st km about 4 skiers wide and most of the course easily 2 skiers wide. From the gun, no one was in a serious mood to push the pace. With the previous days work load, I was in no hurry for pain. Fellow teammate John O’Hearn led the pack out and up the first steep climb pushed a rather hard pace. By the top I stayed consistent with my high tempo low power and felt great. I took a glance behind me and noticed only Brendan Baic was able to stay with us. On the downhill I realized the Baic family is always around me. Team Priority Health skier Milan Baic was off at the World masters but John O’Hearn his son in law led and Brendan his nephew was behind me. John I could see was paying the price and his tempo slowed. I decided to go around and start the climb up the mountain by myself. What seemed like an hour I finally made it to the top and had a comfortable margin. As we slowly descended into a valley, I kept an attacking pace and decided I wasn’t going to look back the rest of the way. The slow snow or slow skis made the gradual climb back out of the valley miserable but I kept the high tempo and allowed the terrain to dictate my technique. With every climb, I worried about Kate and if by the end I would be a single man for getting her into this. Once at the top of the mountain again, we got about a km or so of fast twisty madness to rest our legs. The final few kms featured more climbing as if we didnt do enough yet and in the back of my mind the question if my girlfriend was going to kill me increased. Over the last climb and to the finish line for my 3rd win of the year felt great. This miserable winter had challenged me in ways I could never imagine. It was over, no wait. I had to go find Kate. So that minute of happiness turned quickly into a frantic collection of warm up clothes and back on to the trail I went. The 2nd place finisher came in about 2:30 back and Team Priority Health skier John O’Hearn followed in 4th, 30 seconds behind 2nd. I ascended back up the mountain with hope Kate would be coming down when I met her, I had no desire to make my way to the top. I did tell her I would ski back to meet her so with little choice, up the mountain I went. About halfway up she came cautiously around a corner with a big smile. She was having fun and taking her time down the hill. For her, climbing is the easy part. The downhills and flats give her the most problems because of the speed. Over the final 5 km she explained all the things she learned and how she passed someone. I was thrilled to see how many of things we went over she began to do properly. With a few breaks and some lessons we made to the finish as I followed her. It was then I almost finished first and last in the same day. Kate did beat one racer and was so happy to do so. In the end she won her age class being the only one and was awarded $30 gift card. With the whole winter focused around me, the best race of the year was easily this one. Never would I have thought skiing the final 5 km with Kate during her first race would be my favorite moment.
Sorry for the long blog. It was a great year and with the relays Sunday, the end is here. Now can it get to 70 deg as fast as possible.