Seeley Hills Classic Race Report

OK folks, it was a busy weekend.  Grab a beer and settle in for the first of two race reports and associated analysis… or just skim for the pictures.  I was going to put them both here… but as usual, my report got a little wordy.

Seeley Hills Classic

Pre-Race

First on tap this past weekend was the Seeley Hills Classic race.  This was my first year doing this race billed as the “Unofficial Classic Championships of the Midwest”.  Being the same weekend as the Marine O’Brien race which I also wanted to do, I opted to ski the 22 km race instead of the 42 km.

I skied the course from OO to Gravel Pit back on New Years Eve.  It was that evening I took a spill standing at the OO trailhead and sprained my wrist pretty badly.  This past week I was working my way into using that arm again skiing.  It isn’t 100% yet, but I can generally ski with minimal discomfort now.  This was good because I can skate with one pole, classic not so much.

Ready for my MMA fight, or a ski race.  One of those.

CyclovaXC had a good crew heading up.  I counted no less than 14 people either wearing CyclovaXC kit or with strong team affiliations.  It is so much fun being part of a team like that and mingling before and after a race.

The other nice thing was getting help waxing.  I am NOT an expert in kick waxing.  Given the warmish temps approaching freezing and the potential for some precipitation I was potentially going to be in trouble.  Tony Lushanko called the waxing for me.  Rode Violet with a cover of Ski Go Red.  It kicked perfectly for me and my glide was not compromised.  Thank you Tony!

I happened to have Violet, and Tony let me use his SkiGo Red as I only had Purple.  It is still a little black magic to me.

Race

This was a fun race for me.  I lined up much closer to the front than I normally do.  Starting south of OO on the classic trail we were only 4 or 5 lanes wide and I picked a spot in the 4th row next to Tommy and Eddy.  Looking at last years results I was optimistic of a top 20 finish so this seemed right.

Off the gun we set a good pace.  Over the first 2 km or so there was a lead pack of about 6 that broke away and then a chase pack of around 12.  We were supposed to ski on the left side of the trail, but as the leading group with no returning skiers we were switching back and forth at will.  This would come to be a problem once we turned around and everyone else was doing that too.  I got yelled at a few times that I was on the wrong side.  Sorry, but I was avoiding the 100 people ahead of you who were also on the wrong side.  Better group discipline next time.

This was a great start and I was hanging with some big dogs.  Tommy, John Munger, and Jay Wenner to name a few I recognized.  This was a big deal to me.  These guys are studs.  I was at the trailing end of the chase pack.  There was a bit of an accordian/whiplash effect going on at the back skiing onto the tails of guys skis in front of you at the bottom of the hills and then having them accelerate away from you as they began striding.  I knew I was going fairly hard, but I thought I was in control.

Then we hit the major climb at about 5.5 km.  Up until then we’d lost 150+ feet net and definitely had far more descending than ascending.  Up the hill I realized that while it was cool to be running with the big dogs, I was a bit out of my league yet.  Tommy was making a move for the front and the chase pack was moving away from me.  My breathing was ragged and my HR was within about 8 bpm of max.  I knew it was time to let them go and race my own race before I blew up completely.

Yeah, ouch.  Where the big dogs took off without me.

There were a few of us that got spit out the back of that chase pack.  It is a little fuzzy now where we all ended up, but I was nearly alone at the turn around at Gravel Pit.  I grabbed a quick drink and started back.  I was caught shortly by Bob Peterson in an Out There kit.  He was moving good and I could only hang for a little bit.  I kept my head down and kept trucking as best I could.

Somewhere around 11 km Allen Limberg came up behind me.  I could hear him coming and made sure that he had to earn his pass.  He jumped over to the other side of the trail to make the pass and get a gap.  Once he came back to my side I made sure to close the gap and then stuck to him.  I was striding better than him (thanks again Tony) so I kept it relaxed as best I could to let him pull me along.

The last major climb at around 15.5 km was brutal.  I stayed with Allen and was prepping my head for a last effort to make a break for it.  The next short climb I went for it.  I pushed hard over the top and tried to get some separation.  Unfortunately it didn’t work.  He was able to stick close enough that he could pull me back in on the downhill and then slingshot around me.  The final short climb with about 100 m to go wasn’t long enough and he had enough sprint speed to hold me off to the line.

Driving hard with about 100 m to go.  Awesome photography by Kelly Randolph (many more photos here)

Super fun racing.  ChronoTrack has some cool finish video.  The camera angle wasn’t great for this race, but you can still see me beat out in the sprint finish here.  Finish Video

Analysis

Great finish for me.  18th overall and first in the severely underrepresented M35-39 age group.  Seriously, where are all my peers?  Whatever, I guess I’ll take it.  I couldn’t stick around for the awards so I don’t know if I’ll get my plate, but it looks pretty sweet and I hope I can.

From a general impression stand point I thought the race was really good for me.  Hanging with the studs for 1/3 of the race and then not completely blowing up after that.  Someday I’ll hang with them for the whole race.

But what really matters is my spreadsheet.  OK, it isn’t everything, but it is one of the few data driven means of comparing and predicting I have.  In addition to its usual shortcomings, comparing a classic race against mostly skating races is questionable.  There are people who are definitely better at one technique than the other.  Or maybe they missed the wax for the day.  The end result is that it can really skew the results.  But I’m looking at it anyway.

Comparing against the past three Birkies (of which I only did the last two), this is by far a very favorable race.  With 35, 31 and 32 common racers, there is a good field to correlate.  My predicted times for the races would have put me in 271st, 276th and 271st place in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.  Not too shabby and incredibly consistent which gives some credibility to the comparison.

Numbers, beautiful numbers.  (I spy 3 elite wave Birkie skiers after my name, just sayin’.)

Maybe I’m just a stronger classic skier relative to my skating than the other people in the comparison.  Maybe I’m better at 17 km than 50 km.  Maybe I’m actually in some of the best shape of my life.  Maybe there is some of all of that.

Birkie in T-32 days…

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