It was still winter for a little while longer at the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine on Saturday. Overnight, temperatures had dipped below freezing, meaning the track had frozen up nicely and would be fast for at least the first half of the race.
My warm-up wasn’t promising. I still felt out of sorts from the virus I had been dealing with for the past three weeks. I had barely done any training since Bretton Woods and hadn’t been on snow since then. My heart rate didn’t look good. The oatmeal from breakfast brimmed at the base of my esophagus.
The pace off the start line was relaxed. I started in the middle of the field and took it easy, slowly working my up to the lead group. Over the rolling hills, my heart rate spiked. Despite the easy pace, I couldn’t get it to come back below threshold. At the end of the first of four laps, I backed way off, let the lead pack go away. I tried to ski at my own pace. I did the next two laps at what would have been a comfortable training pace, but my heart rate said otherwise. The hills were getting to me and I was feeling them deep in my muscles as the track started to soften up. The tank was empty.
As the temperatures climbed, dehydration was becoming a possibility. At each feed zone, I tried to take on liquids but nothing was moving through the oatmeal. With one lap to go, I took an extra-long feed and forced down some gel and settled in for the final 12 km. I wasn’t tired but I could already feel my muscles starting to cramp. I hoped I would be able to finish…as long as I kept the cramping under control.
By the last lap, spring had fully arrived. The snow had turned to slush and sucked at my skis. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face. I crossed the finish line without aplomb and my feet promptly cramped up. I took off my skis and put them away for the season.
Distance: 50 km (advertised), 44 km (more likely)
Time: 2:17:08 (15:27 behind the winner)
Place: 15th (50 starters)
Average HR: 163
Max HR: 177
Calories: 2013 (I was still full of oatmeal at the end of the race)