The Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon is a sign of the ski season winding down. It has historically marked the final weekend of my ski season. As I lined up for the start, it was feeling like a long season, too, with my tank pretty empty after being sick all week with a virus that had gotten into my lungs, joints and muscles.
The race was comprised of two, 21km laps containing long double-sections, some grinding uphills and a couple of steep sections. With fresh snow on top of ice in many sections on the lower half of the course and wet powder conditions in the higher elevations, the wax of the day was a cocktail of klister and stick. I followed the Swix recommendation and went with KR35 covered with VR45. I think it would have worked out pretty well for me if I had been able to put it on my skis with any finesse. Instead, the kick-zones looked like a double-glazed Krispy-Kreme,and like said donuts, the mistake would repeat like a bad burp throughout the race.
I started conservatively, keeping well below threshold on the flats and trying not to redline on the hills. My kick was good. The glide was so-so, though it seemed better than others on the downhills. I was skiing in a small group just off the pace of the leaders. It felt like a manageable pace through most of the first lap, but coming over the last set of hills I started to have some problems and my skis really started to drag. The extra energy I put out to keep the pace drained me and I was blown coming into the second lap. I waited patiently for back-up energy to kick in.
It took more than a few kilometers, but then I started to feel better, though well off the pace with little hope of regaining the front-end of the race. I skied smoothly for the most part, but was feeling the week of being sick. Even being on top my technique, I had little power to put into the kicking and poling and was starting to cramp in my triceps when I pushed a little too hard. The final time up the last hills, I came to a stop as the snow collected beneath my kick-zone and wouldn’t let go. As the course had warmed and I had skied off the VR45, the klister iced up and I ended up with “high heels”: chunks of compacted snow that are the equivalent of boat anchors. Twice I had to stop and scrape the skis clean, losing minutes in the process, just to be able to glide slowly along for a few more kilometers. In the end, I had been overly generous with the klister, especially in the rear of my kick zone, and had waxed too long.
I eventually made it to the finish, exhausted and hollow. I had skied for 2 hours 42 minutes, to 31st place, losing a good 15 places in the second lap. I burned over 2200 calories with an average heart rate of 158 bpm. It would take the next few days just to eat my way back to normal.
This was my fourth year doing Bretton Woods. I returned to the full marathon distance after two years of skiing the half-marathon and the Mt. Washington Cup on consecutive days. My first classic race ever was this one — full distance — back in 2009. I had been skiing classic, poorly, for a matter of weeks. It took me 3 1/2 hours and I could barely walk for the next few days.