White Mountain Marathon

It annoys me to no end to post this five days after the event, but that’s the new reality of OXF.  Life is a little crazy as I transition into the life of not only freelance writer and athlete, but also personal trainer.

The way this winter is shaking out, I’ve got limited opportunities to race.  With the Lake Placid Loppet postponed until March, I made a last-minute decision to race the White Mountain Marathon in Jackson, NH.

Just north of North Conway, Jackson bills itself as “a whole New England Village dedicated to nordic skiing.”  Two trips to this race haven’t afforded an opportunity to see the whole village aspect of the local nordic ski scene.  (Anyone wanna sponsor an impartial investigator?)   But one thing Jackson has is trails.  From multiple trail heads, one can access over 100 km of both groomed and backcountry skiing.  And if alpine skis are in your quiver, you can do some of that too.

Sadly, a weekend isn’t enough to explore all this.  On Friday night, I flopped with old friends John and Debbie, and we drove to Jackson the day before the race.  Saturday afternoon, we skied Hall Road and Maple Mountain to clear the carbon out, so to speak.  Returning down Hall Road, we took a serpentine connector that dropped us in to the Ellis River trail.  This I remembered from the previous time I’d raced White Mountain.

Sunday, race morning, dawned wicked cold.  Three degrees combined with gusting winds compelled the organizers to shorten the race to 22 km, cutting out many of the most exposed sections.  I corked several layers of kick wax over the klister under layer I’d put on the night before.  Let’s rock!

It was an easy ski to the start: we stayed with Debbie’s folks in their condo across the road from the ski lodge.  The race course goes right by their condo.  Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Treadwell!

The race started by the covered bridge, and went one and a half laps around the field before crossing the road.  Cresting the little bump by the ski lodge, I pulled a hamstring.  It hurt, but after driving 400 miles to get there, I wasn’t gonna crap out two km into the race.  Just stay on top of the skis and don’t slip.

On a little rise beneath my hosts’ condo, some bonehead chopped right in front of me, and promptly face planted.  Mr. brown wind pants and red top, I didn’t know you were gonna win the race three km in.  While he got up and scampered away, I lost my momentum, slipped, and aggravated the hamstring.


Start of the White Mountain Marathon. Photo courtesy of John Hart.

A little further out, I had to herringbone significant sections of Yodel.  The corduroy going uphill beside the tracks afforded some grip, and in the windblown sections, I was fine.  But where the tracks were glazed, I had nothing.  So be it.  I settled in.  Run uphill where necessary, kick and glide everywhere else.

This year, the race course included two laps around the Wave.  There was a big Lap/Finish sign, but a barrier blocked most of the lane that led to the Wave.  WTF?  Was the trail closed? I came to a dead stop before scooting by the barrier to get back out to the Wave.  I wasn’t the only one who was flummoxed here.  The trail could have been marked a little better.

Coming off the Wave and headed back to the Yodel, eventual winner Eli Enman stormed past, with poor Torin Tucker, who would pass away in Craftsbury a week later, right on his heels.

In the end, it wasn’t my best day, but it was still fun.  Looking at my skis afterwards, the forward part of my kick zone was shiny on both boards: the abrasive new snow had worn off the kick wax right off.