With apologies to the Grateful Dead
Who says the old goat is over the hill? I set a new P.R. at Saturday’s 10 km Lumberjack Scramble in Tupper Lake, NY.
I’m glad I did it, but it happened in spite of mistakes that made for a good learning experience.
My time was strictly due to icy, rocket-fast blue klister conditions 0n a relatively easy loop. With only 200 meters of vertical gain, the course by and large was a double pole derby. There were a couple of steep, short climbs that I had to herringbone. There were places where I slipped, and that’s where the lessons start.
Deluded and optimistic, I’d applied a hard wax binder to my race boards before departing for the Adirondacks. Having checked the weather twice a day for the previous week, I should have known better and applied a klister binder instead.
Arriving late at my crash pad on Friday, I slept until the slothful hour of 6:30 AM before waking and organizing for the 50-mile drive to Tupper Lake. I arrived 90 minutes prior to the start. Should be plenty of time, right? One had to walk 200 or so yards from the lodge to the start line as the snow cover was so thin.
I walked out to the course to do a recon and returned to the lodge to apply klister. I was fine applying a base klister, but did a somewhat slapdash job applying blue. The fact that it would warm up by the start didn’t cross my mind. In retrospect, a bit of orange or universal dabbed in with blue would have done wonders in the places where I slipped. If only I’d arrived earlier, so I didn’t feel rushed.
But it would have been even better if I’d skied smart.
When the start went off, I did what Roy Selland says every snow-starved New Jerseyan does: instead of skiing smoothly, I tried to kill the snow. That just doesn’t work. In the pictures of your correspondent on Tupper Lake XC’s Facebook page, I’m skiing tense, with hunched shoulders. What ever happened to relaxed, long strides?
For that matter, what ever happened to redlining your heart rate in a 10 km race? I just couldn’t seem to do it. That’s what happens when there’s no snow and you blow off roller skiing for two months. Redlining my heart rate while running: no problem. Redlining on skis: big problem.
After warming down with the Peru Nordic crew, I made it back to the lodge and won a door prize – yay!! – and enjoyed a cup of chili. The organizers thought of everything here. One doesn’t often find hot food available at shorter races.
The volunteers who revived the Lumberjack Scramble did a great job, working like crazy to get a race course going on really thin cover. While I could have skied better, I still had a great time. The trails are really nice: a bit narrower than some places, with a nice, old-school feel to them. Tupper Lake XC is worth seeking out.
On Sunday, I skated for three hours at Mount van Hoevenberg. With thin cover, only the cross-country side was open. After a no-poles skate warmup on the easy trails near the stadium, I headed out to Porter Mountain.
Close to the stadium, the trails were icy. Although the grooming crew marked exposed rocks with neon pink spray paint, I still managed to ding my boards.
The further away from the stadium one skied, the better conditions got. Out on Porter, there was perhaps two inches of packed powder atop ice. Porter was roped off at the turn on to the Horseshoe downhill. It looked like others had poached the roller coaster downhills, but I chose to honor the closure today.
With such thin cover, all the bumps made themselves known. The downhills were wicked fast. Except for some wayward hikers who trashed a section of the Cascade Loop, walking without snowshoes, I had the place to myself. It was really quiet for a holiday weekend.
I skied two laps of Porter Mountain, finishing with the Ladies 5 km loop, and was gassed. Normally three hours here isn’t a big deal. As much as it sucks to roller ski in cold weather, today was another reason why I need to keep doing that when there’s no snow.
As I write this, Mount van Hoevenberg and Tupper Lake received five inches of snow, with another four to eight inches forecast for tomorrow. With a little luck, we may have the Lake Placid Loppet after all.