This year, I showed up at the Kingston Roller Ski races with fully doped roller skis. Bought the inline skate wheels, might as well use them.
The Wings of Skitan been great at the Climb to the Castle and the Prospect Sufferfest. But the Kingston race loop is a whole different animal. Flat and fast, it’s high-tempo skiing with two bumps masquerading as hills. But it was the ensuing downhills that I stressed about while driving to Kingston. Over the years, I’ve had a few hard falls, with the scars and bruises to prove it. While race organizer Greg Malia has persuaded the town to pave a couple of especially bad sections, there are still bumpy, cracked bits of pavement waiting to upend an unwary skier.
Under sunny skies, with a stiff breeze, I went out for an easy warmup. Where you leave the school parking lot, it’s about three feet of vertical gain, but with the wind right in our face it felt much harder. The Wings of Skitan had a kind of inexorable acceleration going downhill, but the hills weren’t as long as I remembered. Good.
For the 5 km classic race, I decided to do like the big kids and double pole on the Wings of Skitan. In the past, I’d used my Jenex V930s. The flats were no problem, but I had to stride the little climbs, and that cost me big time.
At the start of the classic race, I went out hard but not crazy, letting the pack sort itself out in the first few hundred meters and staying out of trouble. Leaving the school grounds, I picked up the pace. But by that time, Owen Putman and Tim Huneck were off the front. Wanting to save some upper body strength for the skate race later, I didn’t burn myself out trying to catch them.
Coming in to the end of the lap, a made the hairpin 200 meters from the finish, then realized, oh shit!! I went around a manhole cover. The wind had blown away a traffic cone marking the real hairpin. I turned around, skied another 15 meters, made the correct corner, and hammered it to the finish. It didn’t cost me anything: Tim Huneck had a minute on me, and there was no one close behind. But it was frustrating. I ended up in third place overall. Great, but now it was time to recover and prepare for the 10 km.
A too-short recovery, and then it was time for the main event. As always, the field is bigger for the 10 km skate race. Tweny-some guys with fresh legs toed the line with those of us who’d skied the classic race. I seeded myself behind the redoubtable Josef Iwan. When Malia called, “Set. Go!” we flew down the start, around the dogleg and out of the parking lot.
A group of six separated themselves from the pack, including Brian Halligan, Owen Putman, Huneck, and Iwan. Gradually, I reeled someone in and worked to separate myself. But I couldn’t quite catch the lead group. I skied the next nine km in no man’s land, going hard but not closing the gap. In the end, I finished sixth overall. Tim Huneck finished ahead of me, with almost the same gap as in the 5 km earlier.
Overall, it was a great day. In spite of my various orthopedic issues, I’ve got decent fitness heading in to winter. The lesson from today? Continue to work on upper body strength. Looking back, I skied gingerly over the poorest sections of pavement, and that cost me time. Gotta ski with abandon next year. Bring on winter!