You know how sometimes you try a new sport and you’re really good at it right away without having to spend years honing the craft.
Yeah, doesn’t sound familiar to me either.
Anyway, in another installment of the “trying new things and getting my ass kicked” saga, I competed in the OSCR 50k nordic ski race this past weekend.
The OSCR (originally an acronym for Ovando to Seeley Citizen’s Race) is now a loop course on the Seeley Lake nordic trails. It is widely known as a very difficult course, which contains roughly a zillion feet of climbing. The race is also sponsored by the Trail Head, where I work as a ski mechanic, so why would I not do it, right?
For those readers who have not had the chance to get out and try skate skiing, I won’t beat around the bush: it’s really hard. Also, technique is really important, as is properly cared for and well-tuned equipment.
I was okay in the latter department (as much as entry level rental gear can be well cared-for; at least I had good wax and base structure), but I could certainly use some work in the former. Having been classic and alpine skiing since before I can remember, I am at least comfortable on two long skinny things, but skating is its own game, and as of race day, I had been on skate skis exactly six times in my life. Knowing full well that my technique was going to be a limiting factor, and the icy conditions that greeted us that morning wouldn’t help matters any, I lined up on the outside in the third row at the start.
After some minor trouble getting into the groove of things at the start, I settled in somewhere in the back half of the mid-pack and resolved to be patient, finding a rhythm and sticking to it.
The patience lasted about 20 minutes. Then I awkwardly started picking my way through the field. About 40 minutes in, I found myself surrounded by people I knew, and I knew they were pretty strong skiers. Once again, I resolved to settle in and be patient. After all, I knew this race would take somewhere in the ballpark of three hours.
I held on until the top of the main climb, maybe halfway through the course? Then there was a flat section and…ZOOM! First Kellie took off, then Heidi and Randy blitzed past me and disappeared in the winding corners ahead. Just like that, I was alone. I pushed through a series of false flats, saw the one and only Alden Wright classic skiing the course in the opposite direction (he plays by his own rules), and got ready for a nice, quick descent.
Despite the icy conditions, the descent was not too bad. The only problem was that when I tried to go into a tuck, my back politely informed me that that was not such a good idea. I settled for a weak little half-tuck, standing up every once in a while to shake things out. Nearing the bottom, I saw the legend that is Randy Beckner come back into sight in front of me. Randy is not only a former OSCR champion, but also put me in my place at my first bike race in 2010, dropping me like a hot potato with a quarter mile to go at the Cow Country Classic.
I caught up to Randy at the final aid station, and we took turns taking pulls for a while on a fast flat section, until I got a little too exuberant, caught my outside edge in a snowmobile track, and did a sweet front-flip-somersault-thingy that hurt my shoulder a little, but hurt my ego a lot more. Anyway, with about 8k left to go, I had to make up ground quick, so I got after it and managed to catch Randy again within less than one kilometer of the finish. Once again though, my lack of any finishing kick whatsoever became a bit of a problem, and he beat me to the line.
Final result: 2 hours, 48 minutes, 22 seconds
I was 18th in the men’s field, and 20th overall.
It was a good way to spend a Saturday. I think I’ll do some more drills and give it another try sometime.