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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

March 3

This week I am laying low. I felt a little sick early in the week. I felt like I had been exposed to the flu and it was trying to take over my body. But since I got my flu shot back in November, the sickness was never able to conquer me. After a day or two of mild headaches and minor stomach pains, it left, defeated. Now I feel fine and have recovered from the Birkie well enough to get psyched for the Great Race in Tahoe, CA this weekend. I've never done this race, but it is the biggest in the west (700 people) so it should be exciting. Today I went backcountry skiing for the first time all year. I went up to the Uinta Mountains east of Park City. It was perfect conditions: a firm crust covered with 2 inches of new snow. Without following a marked trail, I went into a ravine and headed straight for the ridge up above. After an hour of switchbacks and no sign of any other tracks I emerged on the ridge and was welcomed with a breath-taking view of the expansive Uinta wilderness. I circled around a small peak and headed down the same ridge I had climbed up, but in a more open section of terrain. My telemark turns were a little rusty and I fell quite a few times on the way down. But I made it in one, grinning, exhausted piece. I am convinced that if everyone would try back-country skiing, all the downhill resorts would go bankrupt.

March 6

Reno, NV

The Great Ski Race, which starts in Tahoe City, CA and finishes in Truckee, is one major race I have never done. It is supposedly the largest race in the West, with 800 competitors. It falls on a weekend that is usually an "easy" weekend for me. After the Birkie, I usually take it easy for a week before gearing up for the West Yellowstone Rendez-vous. This year however, Torbjorn was willing to pay part of my trip to the Great Race in exchange for promoting Nordic Equipment, Inc. at the race It was a deal I couldn't pass up, plus I seem to be racing well right now and I want to take advantage of it. So this morning Torbjorn and I hopped a plane to Reno. After all the travelling I have done this winter, it was kind of weird to arrive here at 11:00 am and have a full day to ski, wax, etc. We immediately headed to Tahoe City to ski, stopping at the finish line on the way. The finish is ridiculous. It is basically a 100 meter slope that would be "More Difficult" at any downhill ski area, with about 20 meters to stop before you hit a building at the bottom. I just hope there are no sprints to the finish! We arrived at Lakeview Cross Country area at about 12:30, registered, scraped the travel wax off the skis and went skiing on the first part of the race course. The course is basically uphill for the first 10K, downhill for the next 10K and then rolling, gradual downhill for the last 10K. The first 10K, although uphill, did not seem very steep. I was expecting much worse. I was surprised when the race organizer said that we could probably V2 the whole uphill section. I was skeptical of this, but after skiing, I was beginning to believe. Torbjorn and I tested a few skis. My Betas were running fast, so that was encouraging. After skiiing, we waxed right at the nordic center. I put Solda F-20 Orange covered with Fluor on my Betas and F-20 Violet covered with Fluor on my second pair. It is old, melting snow at the start and finish, but I suspect that up higher on the trail it might be a little colder and drier. Once we finished waxing and talking with a few local Nordic Equipment customers, we headed back to the hotel. Ahh yes, the hotel. We are staying at the Hilton in Reno. Yes thats right - its a hotel/casino. While this isn't exactly the place I would choose to stay focused for a race, I figure that since my coach made the reservation, it must be ok. This place is wild. The casino is right in the lobby of the hotel and it was hopping on a Saturday afternoon. We were very hungry though, so we skipped the gambling (for now) and headed for one of the many buffets. Usually before a 30K I eat lots of carbos, but there was just too much good food to pass up. Shrimp, crab legs, prime rib, etc., etc. I stuffed myself and then had to limit myself to only one plate of desserts. Anyone who has seen me eat dessert, knows that this took a lot of willpower. Of course, I did manage to fit 3 pieces of pie on that one plate. After dinner it was on to the casino. I had no intention of throwing my money away, but Torbjorn talked me into playing a little Blackjack. So I went to the $5 minimum table, and usually bet the minimum. After a couple hours of wins and losses, I walked away from the table with $100 more than I started with. I then wasted $15 of it on the stupid slot machines before calling it a night. I didn't win a fortune, but still not a bad night's work. But now I have to forget about the madness downstairs and get ready to race.

March 7

The Great Ski Race - Tahoe City to Truckee

Today did not exactly start out on the right foot. Before going to bed last night, Torbjorn and I decided that we needed to get up at 5:45 in order to have enough time to eat breakfast and get to ski area by 7:30 for a 9:00 start. So Torbjorn set the alarm and we went to sleep... Any one who has ever shared a room with me knows how I hate getting up early. So when the alarm went off I grumbled a bit, rolled out of bed and into my ski clothes and stumbled downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast. As I entered the restaurant, I glanced at my watch to see how much time I had to eat. I was more than slightly confused when my watch read 4:55! I pointed this out to Torbjorn, who quickly realized that he had never set his alarm clock for Pacific Time. I was up at 4:45 in the morning! Having no desire to eat over 4 hours before the race and also having a strong desire to go back to bed, we headed back upstairs to squeeze as much sleep out of the next hour as we could. The alarm went off again at 6:00 and we tried the whole routine again. This time with much better results. We arrived at the start with more than an hour to spare. I did a little wax testing during my warm-up and decided to race on my Betas. I'm not sure why I wax any other skis these days, because I will do whatever necessary to make sure I can race on the Betas. They are that good. As we lined up for the start, I started checking out the competition. It appeared that no "ringers" had showed up this year. Past winners of this race have included Justin Wadsworth and Ben Husaby, but it appeared that my stiffest competition would be two former University of Nevada-Reno skiers: Tav Streit and Mike White. In my mind I was the favorite and this put a little more pressure on me. When the gun went off, I quickly bolted to the front. I wanted to let everyone know who was in control of this race. I was surprised to have a 20 meter gap only a 1/2 kilometer into the race, but I kept pushing. Not all out, but hard enough that anyone who wanted to challenge me would have to work to catch up. Tav was able to bridge the gap, as I suspected. I hoped he and I could work together to break away, but when I pulled over to let him lead for a while, he wouldn't go by. As he and I played cat-and-mouse, a group of four skiers caught us. I led this group until the 4K mark, when I again pulled over to let Tav lead. I suspected that his skis might be faster than mine and I wanted to get behind him to find out. He wanted no part of this and also pulled over. Mike White then took the lead, with me right behind him. We stayed in this train until the 7K mark. At this point Mike slowed to let someone else pull for a while. I was feeling good, so I took the lead and picked up the pace. I wasn't really trying to break away but I wanted to see who was feeling strong and who would drop off. The group spread out much quicker than I had anticipated and suddenly I had a 20 meter lead. Tav and Mike were trying to hold on, but I pulled away. Once I had a lead, I was desperately looking for the top of the pass. There were about 4 false peaks before I fianlly came into view of the top of the pass. Each false peak took some more out of me, both mentally and physically. On a couple of the switchbacks I could see Mike and Tav working together behind me and I began to worry that I had gone too soon. I made it over the top with my 30 second lead intact, but I was not confident. Before the race, Tav told me about how Ben Husaby had a 3 minute lead at the top last year, but the pursuing group was able to cut that by minute and half on the downhill, just by drafting and working together. I knew that if a group formed behind me, they would try to do the same. I worked the downhills, skating everywhere I could and tucking the rest. Every time I hit a long straight stretch or an uphill I would glance back. But each time there was still no one in sight. At about 20K I started to think that I might hold them off. Then I hit a series of wicked S-turns. They were marked with plenty of caution signs and, having never skied this course before, I expected the worst. I snowplowed (luckily no one saw me) to check my speed to about 20mph and made it through safely, but I lost a few precious seconds. Tav had done this race before, so I knew he would fly through that section at top speed. Right after I passed the 25K mark and the last feed station there was a long straight gradual uphill. Near the top I glanced back and could see no one within a minute behind me! This is when I became pretty confident that I could win. I flew through the last 5K and down the steep hill to the finish. It was really the first time that I have crossed the finish line first, while being cheered on by over a hundred spectators. All I could think was, "OK don't crash on the last hill." Once I had regained my breath, I answered a few questions from the crowd and did a short interview with the Reno TV station and a local newspaper. For a few fleeting minutes, I felt like a celebrity. Tav came in just ahead of Mike to take second, 1:34 behind me. Soon after, the post-race party began. A live band, free food and beer, and a quick awards ceremony put the finishing touches on a great weekend. This weekend was the definition of a perfect race trip. Perfect weather, spectacular scenery, tons of snow, good luck at the casino, a race victory, and an all-round good time. There should really be more big races held in Tahoe. My prize for winning was a nice vest (for the second week in a row) and dinner for two at a local restaurant. Since I had to head almost directly to the airport, I didn't get to use the gift certificate. But that's just one more reason to come back in two weeks for the Royal Gorge Gold Rush. It will be hard to top this weekend, but its worth a try!

March 8

1999 U.S. Masters nationals - West Yellowstone, MT

I've got six years to go before I am a master, but I'll be filing reports from West Yellowstone anyway, since I will be there working for Nordic Equipment. I missed today's opening race because of my late return to Utah from the Great Race, but the winner's can be found on Cross Country Ski World. I'll be heading up tomorrow morning.

West Yellowstone, MT Weather

March 9

I arrived in West Yellowstone tonight, a day later than I had planned. I wanted to get here on Monday, to have a day or so to settle in and ski a lot before starting to work. But that didn't happen, so I arrived here at 7:00 pm and went to work at 7:02. Nordic Equipment is performing two services here this week. We are offering a wax service where we will do a soup to nuts wax job for $40. This includes structure, 2 layers of base wax and fluorocarbons. In addition to this, we are also operating a booth at registration. For this, we basically sit each night from 6-8:30 and answer questions about wax for the next day, ski equipment, and anything else that people want to talk about. I did a similar job at the world masters in Lake Placid last year. It was hell. We were up at 6 every morning to get out to the course by 7:00. We then waxed skis all morning, skied for a hour or so during the races, then went to the registration/awards area to work at our booth until 8:00 pm, then back out to the race site to wax skis until at least 1 or 2 in the morning. Then up at 6 to do it all again. We were extremely busy and since our wax jobs were extremely fast, we had more and more skis each day. For the last race, we had to wax constantly from 6 pm the night before straight through until noon the next day to get all 60 pairs of skis waxed. I was a zombie by the end and it wrecked the rest of my season. So why do it again? Well, I need the money and I was promised that this time would be more tame. For the first race, NEI only waxed 4 pairs of skis, so it looks like I will be able to train, rest, and work reasonable amounts while I am here. Tonight we waxed 5 pairs of skis with Solda F-20 Violet covered with Cold Fluor.

March 11

Nationals Masters Recap

Now I know I promised my world-famous "inside scoop" on the Masters Races, but yesterday I realized a fatal flaw in my plan: I can't give inside scoops without being on the inside! For these races I have been relegated to spectator and therefore can't offer any information that you won't find on the results or elsewhere. I could tell you what I know about the races in West Yellowstone, but why bother when there is good coverage on Cross Country Ski World. So Click here for Masters Coverage. What I can tell you is that everybody that we waxed skis for was very happy with their skis. Having said that, on to other business. . .

March Madness!!

Its NCAA tournament time. I love these days. There is nothing I like more than watching so much basketball that I can't remember who played who, or who won. All I know is that I have watched a lot of basketball. Its kind of like being drunk on hoops. Its a beautiful feeling. Faithful followers will note that this is similar to my philosophy on college football on New Year's Day. Here are my picks for today and how they fared. It wasn't a great day for me, but tomorrow will be better. Who would have picked Detriot and Weber St.?

Winners - Auburn, St. Johns, Creighton, Maryland
Losers - Syracuse, UCLA, Murray St., George Washington

Winners - UConn, New Mexico, Iowa, Arkansas, Gonzaga, Stanford
Losers - Penn, North Carolina

March 12

Now that Masters Nationals are over, I can start getting ready for my race - the 50K Rendezvous on Saturday. Torbjorn got us up at 6:30 this morning so that we could go out and take some pictures in the early morning light. It was about -10 degrees fahrenheit and very early. Not a good combination, I better get a few shots in the catalog for this! After skiing we had a huge breakfast, and waxed our skis. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching basketball. Torbjorn came to our room at about 4:00 to suggest that I go in the pool and hottub to loosen up. I told him that I didn't think it was a good idea to do that the day before a race. This lead to a minor disagreement about not only training seriously, but also recoverying seriously. Torbjorn got the impression that I was being lazy, just sitting and watching TV. I was actually about to head out for a run and stretch, but he didn't see that. We discussed everything from hottubs, to summer training, to my commitment. The end result was that I ended up going in the hottub for 15 minutes. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. While I never like having my commitment and dedication questioned, it is good to have a coach that challenges me once in a while, just to keep me on my toes. Then I had to go to registration and work the Nordic Equipment booth. Mainly, I sold waxes and told people what to use for the Rendezvous tomorrow (Solda F30 Violet & S20). At 9:30 I headed back to my room to watch more basketball. I got burned by a couple of close games today, but still an improvement over yesterday. So far I am doing one game better than if I had picked the favorite in every game. Here is how I did today:

Winners - Duke, SW Missouri St., Tennessee, Cinncinnati, Purdue, Miami
Losers - College of Charleston, Kent

Winners - Michigan St., Mississippi, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), Utah
Losers - Rhode Island, Arizona

March 13

1999 Yellowstone Rendezvous - West Yellowstone, MT

I have to say that I wasn't all that motivated before the race today. Having worked the NEI booth yesterday for quite a while and also having that "discussion" with Torbjorn about my commitment left me feeling down and not very psyched. But I went through the motions of eating my oatmeal, walking to the trails, testing skis and warming up. As usual, I decided to race on my new Atomic Betas which I had waxed with Solda F-20 Violet covered with Cold Fluor. When the race started, I got off the line quickly and fell into about 7th place behind a line of Rossignol skiers. For about the first 20K I felt like I was skiing in a swarm of bumble bees. Everyone in the pack was skiing on Rossignols and all except one were in bright yellow Rossi suits. I felt like it was my duty to break up the Rossi train. Since Nathan Schultz dropped out at about 5K and Ian Harvey was unable to hold on to the lead pack, I knew it was up to me to rain on the Rossi parade. I wasn't feeling very good. I was struggling to hold on to the pack myself. My legs were tired and my motivation was still lacking a bit. By the 25K point, the lead pack had dwindled to six. Pat Weaver, Marc Gilbertson, Peter Webb, Tim Tetrault, Torry Kraftson and myself. Soon after, Torry took a hard fall and dropped off. The five of us skied together at a pretty good pace until the 40K point. Here, Marc and Pat put the hammer down. I was feeling better than I had on the first lap, but I had already expended too much energy to hang on. Tim and I dropped off. I was soon able to shake Tim, mostly by shear will. I just kept thinking, "There is no way I can let a Nordic Combined skier beat me." I kept the lead three in sight until about 5K to go and then I REALLY started to die. It took every ounce of energy just to keep my technique from falling apart. As I neared the finish, I could see the three in front of me put on their sprint. Pat was in control, while Marc just beat out Peter Webb. I finished 4th, about a minute behind them. It was disapointing to just miss the podium, but considering that I felt bad both mentally and physically, it was a good result. I also kept my streak of wins in the 18-24 age group alive. For me, winning my age group is a hollow victory, but I am fairly proud that I have won it in all 4 marathons I have done this year. Here are the top 25K and 50 results. Complete results can be found at Cross Country Ski World.

A pretty good day on the court today. Gonzaga and Weber St. really did a number on my West bracket, butI'm still one game better than if I had always picked the favorite. Teams in red were my picks for the second round that already lost in the first round. Can't win 'em all.

Winners - Auburn, St. Johns, Maryland
Losers - Murray St.

Winners - UConn, Iowa
Losers - Stanford, North Carolina

March 14

Today was almost perfect until about 12:00. I slept in until 8:30, rolled out of bed, and went to the Yellowstone Conference Center for a huge breakfast (waffles, omlettes, donuts, fruit salad, sausage, oatmeal [OK, OK, I skipped the oatmeal this morning], blueberry crepes, the list goes on). When I was sure I was too full to move I rolled myself out the door to go skiing. It was about 45 degrees and sunny, and the snow was freshly groomed and cold enough to ski on hard wax. Perfect. I skied for about an hour and a half. It was definitely the best classic ski I've had this year. I was dead tired from yesterday, but I wanted to ski all day. But then I would have to do the five hour drive back to Park City in the dark, which I preferred not to do. So my perfect day ended prematurely. I checked out of the hotel, checked the basketball scores, loaded up the 4Runner, and headed home. About those basketball scores: I got hosed today, as I suspect most people did. Temple? Purdue? Miami of Ohio?!?! I did pick SW Missouri St though, and I correctly guessed half of the Sweet Sixteen. Teams in red were my picks for the second round that already lost in the first round. Can't win 'em all.

Winners - Duke, SW Missouri St
Losers - Cinncinnati, Miami

Winners -Michigan St.
Losers - Kansas, Rhode Island, Utah

March 18

The past few days have been tough on my skiing motivation. Its been 60 degrees and sunny in Park City. The crust skiing is coming into its prime, but I have been exhausted every time I go out. At Nordic Equipment I have been assembling some beautiful bikes and it has me dreaming of heading down to Moab. But, while there is snow, I will ski. So today I headed back out to Tahoe for sprints and another marathon. This weekend I am kind of going it alone. None of my teammates are heading out until Friday. But I wanted toget here in time for the Lexus Sprint Event tomorrow. I won money in the first two Lexus events, so I figured it was worth it to come to this one as well. But that means renting a car on my own. Being only 24, standing at the rental counter I felt like they were taking a vacuum cleaner to my wallet. Not only is the cheapest car over $30, but it is $20 extra per day since I am not 25 yet. Only four more months until I am legal, but for now I pay through the nose. My first thought as I drove out of the airport was, "I better win some money in the sprints tomorrow." With $1000 for first place, $600 for second, $300 for third, and $100 for fourth, I figure to have a decent shot. I am staying with a friend in Truckee, so I caught a little dinner and headed up the pass. I got to his house at 9:00 and soon went to bed.

March 19

Lexus Sprint Tour - Royal Gorge, CA

I got to Royal Gorge this morning at about 9:30, and was surprised to see a lot of top skiers mulling around. Pat Weaver, Nathan Schultz, David Chamberlin, Eli Brown, and Pete Vordenberg were among the skiers testing skis and getting ready to sprint. This shook my confidence a little, but I knew that I had made the finals in two previous events with even strongers fields, so I remained positive. In my first heat, I was matched up against Tav Streit, Mike Lloyd, and Someone named Tony who was the hometown favorite. Tav took it out hard from the gun and I was struggling to stay stride for stride. The course started out up a big hill which took 30 seconds to complete. About halfway up, I switched from V2 to V1 jumpskate and took the lead. By the top of the hill, I had a bit of a gap. The course then did a U-turn and headed straight back down the hill. At the bottom of the hill is a HARD right turn into the woods. We saw some amazing crashes in warm-up, and I didn't want to do it in the race. My skis were flying down the hill. I started very wide on the corner and cut to the inside at the last second. I cruised through the corner and glanced back to see that I had a ten meter lead and there was no one close behind Tav. Knowing that two would move on to the next round, he and I cruised through the last U-turn and through the finish and on to the next round. In the next round it was Tav and I up against Ian Skinner who advanced by thrashing Eli Brown and Pete Vordenberg. In my next heat, only one would advance to the final. Again, Tav went out hard, but I turned it on halfway up the hill and had a slight lead over Ian at the top. I negotiated the corner fine and hammered through the finish a couple meters ahead of Ian. In the other semi-final, Lars Spurkland won easily and Nathan Schultz edged out Dave Chamberlain and Pat Weaver. Eli Brown claimed the final spot by winning the consolation round. The final went the same as the other rounds. Very close up the hill, but I turned it on enough to have a lead at the top which I held to the finish! Thats a $1000 paycheck!! Yeehaw. Nathan Schultz took second, Lars Spurkland third and Eli Brown fourth. My check makes that car rental a little easier to swallow. It also means I can afford to get my stereo in my truck fixed in time for Spring Series, which is very good news. After the Gold Rush two years ago, I thought about moving to Tahoe I liked it so much. Now, after going two for two this season in California, it sounds a pretty good idea. This is the only place I can seem to win races. The women's final was more exciting. Barb Jones took the lead up the hill, in front of Coreen Woodbury, Anna Sterner, and Karen Radebold. But Barb took an aggressive line through the turn and paid for it, as she went down, Coreen got tangled up with her and fell also. This allowed Anna to cruise by and take the win followed by Karen in second.

March 21

Gold Rush - Royal Gorge, CA

I don't like these early morning starts. An 8:00 am start means that I am supposed to get up at 5:00. Well, I cheated a bit and slept until 5:30. I arrived at the start at 6:45 and began to evaluate my wax. I didn't put the all-important fluorocarbons on my skis last night because I didn't know how warm it would be in the morning and I wanted to be able to rewax if neccesary. A good plan in theory, but it didn't work so well. I had waxed for old, melting snow (Solda F-30 Orange) and it was actually in the 20's and snowing. I should have rewaxed with Solda F-20 White, but it was 7:15 before the waxbench and iron were all set up and I had very little time to wax and warm up. I was starting to panic. So I just threw on 2 layers of Solda Fluor (with Torbjorn's help) and headed to the start. That's when the day started to turn around. I knew today was going to be a good when they started playing the Star Wars theme before the start. Not only is that the best psych-up music ever created, but we also watched the entire Star Wars trilogy yesterday. Very good karma. When the gun went off, Eli Brown shot to the front and I jumped in behind him. For the first lap of 17K the lead pack was huge. I kept glancing back, but I couldn't see the end of the pack. Must have been at least 30 people. I spent most of the first lap evaluating. I felt tired. My skis were not very fast. I was struggling. But I hung in there. Then on the last climb into the stadium, someone pushed the pace. I was dying, but I hung on with every ounce of energy I had. Soon our lead pack had dwindled to 7. Pat Weaver, Nathan Schultz, Pete Vordenberg, Scott Loomis, Jon Engen, Tav Streit,and myself. We skied together for the entire second lap. I felt a little better that lap, but I still was struggling. Fortunately, I was starting to sense that the others were not much better off than me. Climbing into the stadium, the pace was much slower than the first time up that hill. For the third lap, I was at the back of the pack just trying to stay there. At about 35K, Pat Weaver made a decisive move and broke away. We never saw him again and conceded that it was now a race for second. Then at the 43K point, a funny thing happened. Our pack started breaking up but no one really took the lead. Tav and I, sensing that they were all tiring quickly, made a surge towards the front. Jon Engen and I got away. With 4K to go, I tried to make a move. I hammered along a gradual uphill, trying desperately to lose Jon. No luck. So I let him take the lead for about a kilometer, while I rested behind him. Then, with 2K to go, I made a sweet move. We were both about to lap a slower skier as we went around a sharp left corner. Jon went around the outside, so I shot to the inside and barely squeezed between the slower skier and a tree. This gave me a slight lead over Jon and I went all out to get away. I managed to get about 10 seconds ahead and it was all I could do to keep that lead up the last hill. As I came into the stadium, I knew I could hold on for second. This kind of blew my mind since, just a few K's before, I had been struggling to stay in the top seven. It just goes to show that if you hang around long enough, anything can happen. For those of you who know me, you know that I am usually pretty reserved in my post-race evaluations. "It was OK" is my standard response whether I finished first or last. So this may shock you: I am ripping it up right now. For the past month, I have physically pushed myself beyond my perceived limits and all my expectations. Though I am feeling tired from all this, my results just keep getting better. I haven't been on a roll like this since my senior year of high school. It is a very good feeling and it has me burning to step it up even more. OK that's enough bragging. I hope I didn't jinnx myself with that outburst.
Here are the top finishers. Full results right here.
  1. Pat Weaver
  2. Cory Smith
  3. Jon Engen
  4. Pete Vordenberg
  5. Tav Streit
  6. Scott Loomis
  7. Nathan Schultz
  1. Laura McCabe
  2. Barb Jones
  3. Robin Masters
As for an update on my NCAA brackets - I came within 3 points of picking the entire Final Four. If St.John's could have won, I'd be sitting pretty.

March 24

Spring Series!!

This is it. The final race series of the season. After a month of marathons, most of us are feeling a bit tired. Now just in case any of us have any energy left, we will now do seven races in eleven days. By the time this is over, we will all be ready for spring. These races are pretty laid-back. When we are racing, it will be all-out as usual, but off the trail the atmosphere is much more relaxed. By this point everyone has already defined their seasons and this week is more of a celebration than anything else. Its kind of like the last day of school. Given that introduction, I hope you will understand if I don't give you all the inside details off the tracks. I don't want to incriminate anyone. Now that I have set the stage, here is the prologue:
Today I did the drive from Park City to McCall, Idaho. I was fortunate enough to get Frosty Whitworth, a former teammate of mine at Waterville Valley and Holderness, to come along with me. Otherwise it would have been a lonely 8 hours. The drive is typical of the western U.S. (lots of nothing) until the last hour and a half. From Boise to McCall it is essentially a gradual climb up a long and winding canyon to get to the plateau where McCall is. The Canyon was spectacular. Frosty was driving at this point, I stared out the window at the unbelievable Payette River, which had me wishing I had brought a kayak. Most of it looked do-able, but there were sections that I knew were beyond my abilities, and the whole thing was spectacular.

March 25

We woke up today at 8:00, expecting to race the Lexus Sprints at 11:00. But at breakfast we were informed that the race had been delayed until 6pm. This was kind of a bummer because the track would have been hard and fast this morning, but it would no doubt soften up through the day. So instead of racing, we went to Ponderosa State Park, where the weekend races will be, and skied for an hour. The snow was extremely dirty, but the trails were fun, in a rollercoaster sort of way. For the rest of the day we just hung out and waited for race time.

Lexus Sprint Series - McCall, ID

This sprint event probably had the best field of any so far this year. The entire National team was there, as well as some Juniors from Sweden, and most other top racers in this country. Unfortunately, the course was not up to the same high standards. For some unknown reason, they did not do any grooming on the track and it was extremely soft and dirty. In most sections of the course there was a thin strip that was firm and the rest was mashed potatoes. This meant that it was essential to get out of the start quick and get in good position early. The course was shaped like a lollipop. The was a straight downhill out of the start, with a flat loop on a lake at the bottom of the hill, then a straight shot up the hill to the finish. There were seven people in my first round heat, including Rob Whitney, Scott Loomis, and two Swedish juniors. Only three of us would advance. I got off the line good, but hit a soft spot, lost my rhythm and was back in 5th when we hit the lake. I was lucky enough to find a firm part of the track on the outside as we went around the lake and made a move past Scott and the two Swedes. I chased Rob up the hill and he and I and one Swede advanced. The next round was more intense. Right at the start, Eli Brown had a bit of a false start, but got away with it and tried to take the early lead. I fought him for it, but when he ran into me and almost broke my pole I lost my balance, fell into a soft spot, and dropped back to fifth. Going around the lake, I made my move on the outside again, but was only able to get into 4th (again three would move on). I was behind Eli and two Swedes as we headed up the hill. The Swedes were clearly tiring, and I felt strong. I began looking for places to pass, but the other lanes were too soft. As we approached the finish, I realized that I had to try the other lane and hope for the best. I knew that if I hit firm snow, I could easily outsprint both people in front of me. I mad my move. . . and sunk up to my shins in soft snow. This took away all my speed and any hopes I had of moving on. It was very frustrating because had the course been in acceptable condition, or if I had been more of [explitive] I could have moved on. But all is not fair, so I went into the consolation round. At this point my motivation was gone and I was skiing rather than racing, but I managed to make it two more rounds before losing to Justin Wadsworth in the last race before the final. The final consisted of Marcus Nash, Kris Freeman, Justin Wadsworth, and Eli Brown. As usual, whoever got out first was in control. In the end Marcus won, Kris Freeman second, Justin third. What I learned from my heats and from watching the final is that you have to be obnoxious and overly aggressive. If you worry about equipment or running someone else over, someone else will take advantage of you. Its unfortunate, but thats the way it is. There was no women's race, due to lack of participants.

March 26

Today we moved out of our cramped room at the Super 8 Motel and into a nice condo. It is a nice place with more room. Its a bit more expensive, but with six people and cooking our own meals, it will be reasonable. Plus it is nice to have some space. I skied the 5K classic loop this morning very easily. It was tricky waxing, but I slapped on some Swix VF60 and made the best of it. I skied only for about half an hour and called it a day. This afternoon, we registered for the races and then checked out the ongoings at the Super 8. Almost overyone else is staying there and it was quite a scene. There were about 30 people waxing skis in the parking lot, music blaring from car stereos, and people hanging out of windows or on tailgates. It was a regular party. This is what Spring Series is all about. After socializing with the crowd for an hour or so, we headed back to the condo. I will kind of miss being the thick of the action at the Super 8, but most of the rooms have 5 people in them. Good for the social scene, bad for racing. The condo is a better way to go.

March 27

10K Classic Race - McCall, ID

I am usually a better classic skier than skater, but heading into today's classic race I was a bit concerned. Including yesterday, I have classic skied only three times since the beginning of February. I'm not really sure how it happened. I think it was a combination of doing a lot of skate marathons, having red klister conditions in Utah, and wanting to work on my skate technique, but all of a sudden it was late March and I had not been classic training. We need more classic marathons - but that is a side note. A more pressing need was for me to get back my classic magic during my warm-up. It was very tricky waxing again, since the snow had iced up overnight, then a couple of inches of new snow fell, then the snow started to melt again in the morning. I knew I would never find the right wax all by myself, so I asked my college coach, Ruff Patterson, if I could wax with the Dartmouth team. As always, Ruff was more than happy to help. After some preliminary testing and watching the women's race, we decided to go with Swix silver universal klister covered with Swix XF60 hard wax. It wasn't perfect, but I knew it would work as well as anything that anyone else would use. After skiing a quick warm up, I went to the start line. Right from the start, I knew I was out of practice. I was working very hard, but I was thrashing and not getting nearly enough stride length or glide. I also hadn't raced anthing shorter than a 30K in two months, so my tempo was lacking as well. I hammered the whole course, but when I finished I knew that it had not been a great race. As it turned out, I finished 11th, two minutes behind Marcus Nash. The only good aspect of this result is that tomorrow is a pursuit start. Not only will it give me the opportunity to improve on today's finish, but I will also be starting a good group of skiers. Kris Freeman, Chad Geise, myself, Justin Freeman, Scott Loomis and Magnus Erikkson are all starting within 10 seconds of each other. But as for today, it is Spring Series and the race is over, so it must be time to relax and hang out. This afternoon everyone congregated at our condo for a barbeque. It was a great opportunity to tell stories about today's race, talk smack about tomorrow's race, and plan other festivities.

March 28

15K Freestyle Pursuit Race - McCall, ID

My pursuit races usually go something like this: have a great classic race and then drop back a few spots in the pursuit. But today I was excited because I didn't have a good classic race and my skating has improved recently. This gave me good reason to think I could actually move up a few spots. I went out as hard as I possibly could for the first two k's. I was red-lining, but I knew that if I could just catch the few guys in front of me, I could catch a ride for a while. Of course, Justin and Scott were right behind me thinking the same thing and they were closing fast. By three k, we had consolidated into one pack of seven people. We were moving fast and closing on the 6th, 7th, and 8th skiers ahead of us. At five K, the course went up a long gradual climb for about 1.5 Ks. As the pack caught the three in front of us, I began to drop off the back. I tried my hardest to keep pace, but I was dying. Chad Geise had already dropped off, and it looked like I would be the next victim. Fortunately, as we went over the top of the hill and came towards the stadium to start the second lap, the pack eased up a bit and I caught back on. For the next lap, we skied hard, but not all out. We managed to drop a couple skiers and we could see Dave Chamberlain, in fifth place, ahead of us. At this point, our pack contained places 6-12. I began to feel a bit better as we neared the finish and this caused me to make a tactical error. With 2K to go, I think I was somewhat delirious because I decided I was going to drop the whole pack. I hammered all out up the last major hill. This expended almost all of my energy, but I didn't lose anybody. I quickly dropped to the back of the pack. As we neared the stadium, I was in 12th place. I had recovered just enough to sprint. Being last in the pack, I had to work harder than anyone else. I managed to get by Kris Freeman and then I nipped Scott Loomis at the line. Though I only moved up one place today, I was happy with my effort. I didn't get dropped and I actually moved up in a skate pursuit for the first time ever. On tonight's agenda: Jack Russell ( a band including Marcus Nash, Scott Loomis and occasionally Miles Minson and Justin Wadsworth) is playing at the Forester Club here in McCall, so this afternoon we rested up for a night out.

March 29

Today was a R&R day. I slept in, then went to brunch at the McCall pancake house. After a huge breakfast, we went to the health club at our condo. A few games of basketball, and good time in the hot tub, pool and sauna had me feeling much better. Then it was back home to watch the NCAA title game. This year I correctly picked over 2/3 of the tournament games, picked three of the final four, and picked UCONN to defeat Duke in the title game. The bummer is that I didn't enter a pool. It figures.

March 30

This morning we had to pack up and leave McCall. It took a good couple hours to clean the condo, do laundry, and pack up. Then we hit the road for Boise.

Freestyle Criterium - Bogus Basin, ID

We checked into our hotel at about 2:00 and hung out for a couple hours before heading up to Bogus Basin for the 6:00pm race. The drive up to Bogus Basin is wild. It is half an hour of continuous switchbacks and U-turns with no guardrails. We arrived at Bogus a little dizzy and became even more so when we saw the course. The course started straight up a downhill ski run, whih climbed for over two minutes. Then the course did a U-turn and dropped off a small cliff into the stadium area. OK maybe it wasn't a cliff, but all the elevation gained by 2 minutes of climbing was erased in about 10 seconds of descent. The course then went up and down a couple of smaller hills before coming into the stadium. For the preliminary rounds, the men would do 2 laps with the top seven from each prelim advancing to the final. After looking at the course, I was almost hoping that I would get eliminated in the prelims. My heat was not very strong. The top two skiers, Justin Wadsworth and Havard Slobakken (Norwegian National Team) were in my heat, but other than that, it was all skiers I could beat. As we started out up the hill, I was conservative. I went just fast enough to stay with the pack. The pack started to break up near the top and I put the hammer down and moved up to third. I stayed in that position until halfway up the hill on the second and final lap. By this point, we were clearly going to advance, so I let up and cruised in finishing in 5th place. We then had about an hour and a half to sit around and wait for the final. The more I sat around, the more I lost my motivation. I knew the final was going to hurt and the more time I had to think about it, the more I dreaded it. While I warmed up, I watched an exciting women's final. Beckie Scott of Canada had a huge lead starting the final lap, but Jen Douglas turned on the turbo boosters and made up a 30 second deficit in 2K to take the win. When the gun went off for our race, it was a little more intense than the prelims. We hammered up the first hill. By the top I was in good position, about 10th and feeling good. The downhill was ridiculous. It was a train of about 30 skiers on each other's heels, going 40 MPH, snow flying our faces so we couldn't see a thing. If anyone had fallen, it would have been a level carnage yet unknown to cross country skiing. But we made it. Going up the hill the second time, I was moving up, but I was exhausted. I managed to get into about 6th place, but when it became clear that the skiers in front of me (Havard Slobakken, Justin Wadsworth, Pat Weaver, Andrew Johnson, and one other) were too far ahead to catch my motivation sank to the same level as my depleted energy stores. If I wasn't going to win money, I might as well back off and save it for another day. I dropped quickly and ended up somewhere around 12th or so. Slobakken won, followed by Wadsworth and Weaver.

March 31

The skiers are dropping like flies. Maybe it is the intense schedule: ski, party, travel, then repeat. Or maybe people are just ready for the season to be over. Or maybe it is just freak occurences. Marcus Nash is out with tendonitis in his wrist from playing guitar too much, Nathan Schultz left for home due to sickness, and Robert Whitney was a victim of the trecherous downhill last night when he flew down the hill at full speed and collided with a course worker. He broke his shoulder and is out of commision for 6 weeks or so. Those of us who are left headed to Sun Valley today. We left Boise in a blinding snowstorm, but Sun Valley was true to its name and the weather was clear and warm when we arrived.

April 1

Classic Criterium - Sun Valley, ID

Today was the race I was really excited for: a classic criterium. The loop wasn't quite as hard as Bogus Basin, but it still had a fast downhill with a sharp turn. The preliminary time trials were at 9:30 am and the top 20 advanced to the finals at 6 pm. So essentially, if you make the finals, there goes you whole day. The track was hard and icy. Ruff again helped me with kick waxing, but it wasn't really necessary. The course was almost all double pole. In fact, the junior with the fastest time double poled the entire course on skate skis. I didn't feel particularly great in my time trial, but I knew I was moving fast because Trond Nystad started in front of me and I almost caught him and Justin Freeman started behind me and I beat him by 30 seconds. Not bad for 4K. I ended up with the 5th fastest qualifying time behind Havard Slobakken, Justin Wadsworth, and two other Norwegians. This got me pumped for the final. Unfortunately I had to wait around for 8 hours before I could get after it. I went home, got some lunch, took a nap, cleaned and waxed my skis, and waited. For the final, Ruff and Cami again helped with my skis and this time I was glad to have wax. I was a little slow getting off the line at the start. I wasn't worried because I figured that the 6K final would allow plenty of time to move up. What I hadn't counted on was that on the largest uphill, one of the two tracks was blocked off to ensure that we would be single-file down the big hill. This meant that the 0.5K that was prime passing area, was off-limits for passing. On both the first and second laps, I got pinned in behind slow skiers on the uphill and lost touch with the pack. It was especially frustrating because I always felt strong near the top of the hill where others were fading, but I couldn't pass them. Even so, I skied a strong third lap and finished in 9th place. Not the best strategic race for me, but I was still happy with my strong showing in the prelims.

April 2

Today we had planned to go crust skiing, but when we finally rolled out of bed at 10:00, we decided that we wanted to lay low and rest. Its been a long week. I went for a run, which was more than anyone else I am staying with did. We went to a matinee of "EdTV" (good movie) and then waxed for tomorrow's 10K skate.

April 3

10K Skate - Sun Valley, ID

Not much to report about this race. I was tired. I started thirty seconds behind Robin McKeever and on the first lap, he was pulling away from me slightly. I felt exhausted the whole way, but the further I went, the better I was able to fight through it. I ended up gaining on McKeever, beating him by 15 seconds or so. By the end I was dead, but it was a respectable race anyway. I finished 10th, but less than 20 seconds from 6th. Wadsworth won, followed by Solbakken. Now, on to the relay.

April 4

National Relay Championship - Sun Valley, ID

This is it - the last day of the season. The race season started exactly 5 months ago on November 4, in Fairbanks, AK. I am very ready for the season to end, but first I needed to do this relay. My teammates on Team TUNA/Nordic Equipment were Scott Loomis and Erik Stange. I was exhausted this morning and I did not want to get out of bed, never mind race. But knowing that two teammates were relying on me and that it was the last time I would have to do this for seven months, I stumbled out of bed and got ready to race. I did the first leg, which was classic. Scott did the second leg and Erik the third, both of which were freestyle. In typical end-of-the-year apathetic fashion, I didn't even touch my skis before this morning. I still had klister on them from Thursday's race. For today's race, Ruff just slapped on a couple more layers of klister on top of what I already had. When the flag went up at the start, I got off the line quick. Exiting the start area I was in second place, behind Ian Skinner who started like a bat out of hell. Within a kilometer, Justin Wadsworth, Kris Freeman, and I had passed Ian and had a 5 second lead on the pack. We increased this lead over the next K. By this point it was clearly a three man race. Near the top of the second hill at 2K, I heard Justin say something to Kris and a moment later, Justin took off. I tried to get around Kris to stay with Justin, but due to a trick section of downhill turns, I was unable to get by until we lapped through the stadium at 2.5K. By this point, Justin had 10 seconds on me. To my surprise, I quickly dropped Kris and set my sights on Justin. He increased his lead to 15-20 seconds, but for the last 3-4 K, I held steady and didn't lose any more time. Justin would be tagging off to Mike White, so I knew that if I could just stay close Scott would have a chance to take the lead for us. I also needed to get as much time as possible between me and the skiers behind. I finished 20 seconds behind Justin and 40 seconds ahead of Robin McKeever of the Canadian National Team and Kris Freeman, who tagged off to his brother Justin on the NENSA (New England Nordic SKi Association) team. Scott quickly caught and passed Mike White and built up a significant lead. By the end of the second leg, we were out in front with Justin Freeman and Mike White coming in about 20 seconds back. Scott tagged Erik, Justin tagged Andrew Johnson, and Mike White tagged Pat Weaver. The chase was on! Andrew and Pat worked together to reel in Erik and they were soon in the lead. Pat made a move at 3K and quickly had a formidable lead. Andrew began to drop and soon the Swedish junior team skier had passed him to move into second. At the finish, Weaver took the win for XC Oregon, the Swedes took second, NENSA came in third, and Canada fourth. I believe that we ended up in 6th place. I was very happy that I finally had a good race at Spring Series and ended a great season on a positive note. In the women's race, Jen Douglas performed another one of her come-from-behind victories, passing both Canada 1 and Canada 2, to help her teammates Wendy Wagner and Kristina Joder to the win. Canada 2 took second, and Dartmouth (Abi Holt, Kate Pearson, Barb Jones) finished third. But since this was the "National Club Relay Championship" and neither of the top two teams were offical U.S. clubs, Dartmouth won the National Championship! Congratulations to Abi, Kate, Barb, Ruff, Cami, and the whole team!

Well the season is over. NOW, ON TO MOAB!!!! A skier's work is never done. . .

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.