After a two year hiatus, the Boston Vassaloppet was back at Weston Ski Track.
We lined up for the delayed start: a mix of adult racers, fast juniors and new skiers, for 4 laps of the 2 km course. It was a bright sunny day with good stick wax conditions, but it was warming fast and the course was mostly flat, so kick was of minimal concern.
I wasn’t expecting much in terms of competition. I recognized all the threats, and I was thinking mostly of the workout and maybe some nice prizes for a victory. And of course…the tasty treats at the end.
I went out fast and pulled a small group clear on the first lap. By the second lap, I had whittled it down to just one other skier — a CSU junior who I knew was strong, but didn’t expect to hold on over the distance. By the third lap, my upper body was getting tired. I tried to remember the last time I did an Ercolina workout…and had to go back to some time before Mont-Sainte-Anne. The course was mostly double-poling and, with all my efforts going to running and striding, I had been focusing on anything but.
Coming through for the final lap, I heard Andy yell at the junior, “Don’t let the old guy do all the work. He could be your grandmother!” I pulled off and let the boy take a pull. I tried to get clear on the last hill, but it was too short and I was slipping too much. With a kilometer to go, he took up the pace. I was going anaerobic in my arms. We threaded our way through the traffic of lapped skiers. I was coming unglued. After pulling him around for 3 laps, he was now pulling me…and pulling my arms out of their sockets.
He gapped me going into the final downhill. I tried to close up and gained some ground, but there was no way I would pull him in before the line. So I coasted in for another second place. I was frustrated for a moment or two. The course wasn’t hard enough to be decisive to my advantage. I needed more hill and striding. This young skier — also a rower — towered over me, a mountain of upper body muscle. I suddenly felt old and washed up.
Then I saw how happy he was, posing for photos with a crown of elderflowers on his head. I congratulated him and reviewed the race, explained my strategy, where it had fallen apart, where he had done well, and what he could do better next time.
I skied a few more laps to cool down, then I ate 3 hot dogs, 2 semlor, some blabarsoppa and a bunch of coffee.
I love this race. Even if the competition isn’t very deep. Even if I’ve never managed to do better than second place.