Link to the Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/3182789629
The previous 8 weeks of training have been some of the toughest I’ve done. I totaled 126.1 hours and 134,868 feet of climb in the lead up to the Bromley race. Training consisted of brain-numbing treadmill power hikes/runs between 10%-15% during the weekdays, run commuting to work, bike commuting to class, and long frigid skins at Jay Peak during the weekends. I feel that throughout this block I did a really good job of building to a peak, 25,324 feet of climb in 16 hours (week 5), and then tapering down to be fresh and ready to give a good effort on race day. I’ve put in some really impressive workouts and earned myself quite a few QOM’s on Strava because if it wasn’t on Strava it didn’t count. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the past couple of months about training and myself, and I look forward to the running season this summer and finding some new limits.
The 24 hours before this race was a complete shit-show. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak (hello people from the future, what a crazy time spring 2020 was) nearly every event, organization, school, and business has been canceled or closed. Around 5 pm the day before race day we learned the race would be officially canceled, and times/placing would not be for any official USSMA points or rankings. While absolutely heartbreaking, I and 5 other racers decided to go out and time trial the course anyway.
I arrived in Bromley on race day, March 14th, around 9 AM. A few other races were there, and we chatted about the recent events and awaited for Jonathan, the race director, to arrive. Once Jonathan arrived the group headed out to the start line, took a few pictures, and with a countdown from 10 we were off!
Course Description (numbers are elevation gain or loss in feet):
The initial outer loop, done once:
12ft skin to the transition area
Three inner loops of the circuit:
As seems to be the usual in these kinds of races, the pace was hot off the start and I was hurting within the first 500 feet of the climb. From my experience at Middlebury I decided to settle in behind Laura and Jonathan and let the front pack run away. After another 200 feet, Laura made a move and left Jonathan and me behind. I reached the boot-pack with my breath mostly settled, still nearly dead even with Jonathan, and Laura was only 20 seconds up. The boot pack proved to be the slowest part of the course as per usual for me (although you think of all things in this sport I’d be good at the running uphill part). Both Jonathan and Laure pushed ahead and I was content to take the climb easy and save my energy for later.
The first transition to descent was a little difficult. Right as I came up to the transition area a 30mph gust knocked me off my feet. After recovering from my slip I was able to rip my skins and get onto the decent. While the descent was pretty icy, it was nowhere near as bad as Okemo was a few days before the race, so I actually felt pretty confident on the descent, which was unusual for me. Once I finished the first descent and put my skins back on, it was time to start the next hour of suffering.
My goal going into the race was to put myself into a good position going through the 2nd inside loop, so for the first time up the inside loop, I tried to keep things somewhat relaxed and keep reminding myself I had time. At this point, I was about 10 seconds behind Laura and 30-50 seconds behind Jonathan. I took my only nutrition of the day up the first climb, 1 normal Gu, and a drink from my soft flask that had Gu Roctane in it. The climb ended up being much steeper than expected as it averaged a 30% gradient for almost the entirety of the 900 feet. I made it to the top and felt pretty beat up. While I had been trying to stay relaxed, Laura and Jonathan were pushing the pace hard and I was struggling to keep up. Fortunately, I had a solid transition to the descent and thanks to all of the Ice Coast skiing I’ve done this winter, the choppy and bulletproof snow was pretty easy to handle.
Starting the second inner loop was when things started to get really hard. Jonathan had put over 1:30 on Laura and I, and I was struggling to stay 30 seconds behind Laura. Every hundred feet I was worried she was just going to run away from me and I was going to fall apart. Somehow on the last pitch, I was able to dig deep and keep moving at a decent clip. I crested the end of the loop 2 climb and had one of the best transitions I’ve ever had. Going down the penultimate descent went so well I was worried something bad was bound to happen. But, fortunately, I screamed into the last ascent transition, threw my skins on, and clicked into my skis in well under a minute.
Laura and I left for the third inner loop with only a couple of seconds between us. Within 200 feet of the climb, I was able to catch up to the back of her skis and was surprised to feel like I was having to slow down to stay behind her tails. After 100 feet of sticking close behind her, I decided that if I was going to make a move it had to now. I knew that the second pitch was much steeper, and that time would be difficult for either of us to make up. So, I summoned all of the strength that I could find and shot up the last 200 feet of the first pitch. While usually in a situation like this I would make an effort to pretend like what I was doing was effortless, this time there was no way I could even pretend this was easy. My heart rate was north of 180 and every breath was a desperate reach of my lungs to find any air to supply to my desperate quads. Cresting the first pitch I could feel that Laura hadn’t covered my move and I had put in about a 5-second gap between the two of us. The next 500 feet of climbing was probably the hardest out of the whole season. I knew that with the growing gap between us I would be able to keep the lead as long as I didn’t blow up, but the only thing my body wanted to do was lay down in the snow and take a nap. This race is the shortest “endurance” event that I’ve ever done where true exhaustion crept in. It took full concentration on every “step” and pole plant to ensure that I was continuing to move forward. The last 20 feet were truly miserable as thanks to the warm sunshine, the icy snow had melted into slush causing me to slip twice and almost fall again. Thanks to mostly sheer luck and some pushed beyond their limit quads, I was able to top out the final climb. I again had a terrific transition and had both skins off and was clicked into my skis in under 30 seconds. For the final descent, I didn’t bother to fold my skins as I was worried any wasted seconds would hurt me. During the descent, the icy snow had softened up nicely, but it didn’t really make a difference as I wasn’t planning on making any turns. Tucking into the finish I saw Jonathan and enjoyed the final few hundred meters to the end. This was a season’s worth of work that culminated in a brutal, but nearly perfectly executed race. There was no fanfare or spectators to congratulate me. But, Jonathan’s praise for my performance and appreciation for pushing him throughout the morning was far more meaningful.
I think from this race, and my first SKIMO season in general, I’m going to take away that things can get better in a race or training workout. I, for the first time ever, put in 3-5 hour training days 2 days a week for over 8 weeks. Throughout those workouts were a lot of terrible lows, but also some amazing highs. While the weather might be bad now, the wind could be harsh, stomach problems could be rampant, water could be frozen, skins could not stick, or any other host of issues could be going on, they will all get better with time. Not always before clicking off the watch at the end, but things will get better. I’ve had a problem both in races and training of getting too caught up in the moment with how hard things are, whether the climb is really long, or the weather/trail conditions are terrible, or the pace is too hot and I can barely hold on, it has been hard for me to find a way to stay calm and wait out the bad times. But, thanks to this winter, where I wasn’t given a choice as to what the weather could be or to just drop out and go home (The bus arrived at Jay Peak Resort at 10:30 AM and didn’t depart until 4:15 PM). That lack of option forced me to find solutions and persevere through difficult hours. Although as I write this we are amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and nearly the entire world has been shut down, I am looking forward to hopefully racing the Dirty 30 50k and SUM100k this summer. I believe that thanks to all of my early season training and hard work throughout the winter, I will be poised to run well this summer, or whenever races start back up again.
My gear for this race stayed pretty identical to my Middlebury Race, with only a few noticeable exceptions.
I used the Black Diamond Mont Blanc glove, which I cannot recommend enough. More than enough warmth for any skiing above 10*F, good wind block on the top of the hand, and amazing grip on the palm and fingers for holding skins and skis, even when things get wet. https://www.skirack.com/black-diamond-mont-blanc-gloves-13132860
I swapped from using poles with basket straps, to poles with hand grip straps. Although they are slightly more difficult to put on, the difference in power transfer has made such a difference I think the trade-off is worth it. https://www.swixsport.com/us/poles/nordic-poles/racing/quantum-6/
Instead of wearing ski pants, I wore only 2 pairs of leggings in order to have easier access and transition speed with my boots.