This weekend a significant portion of the team traveled to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Vermont for the season-opener Eastern Cup races.
There were a few nervous moments at the border when we were asked an unusually thorough number of questions about the purpose of our trip. Craig’s career at the National Research Council provoked several follow up questions, but the agent was finally satisfied when, in response to a question about what his research was about, he replied “lasers”.
While there was really no more natural snow at the race site than in Ottawa (my measurements confirmed that there were Ocms of natural snow available at either location), thanks to some snowmaking and a lot of hard work on the part of race organizers there was a very nice 1.5km racing loop available for the races. Given my previous complaints about racing on short loops, some people suggested that I might not like this event. That isn’t true, however. Racing on short loops has always made sense to me when that is all that is available. In other words, while skiing on short loops falls under the “undesirable column” in Saidla’s Complete Guide to Cross Country Skiing, it is considered acceptable in particular situations as required by the General Principle A: Any skiing is preferable to no skiing.
A few weeks ago I irritated an old shoulder injury (to some degree, I admit, a result of adhering to General Principle A too rigidly-hit a rock in very thin conditions), and it didn’t quite feel ready for classic sprinting, so I helped Craig with waxing on Day 1. I am not sure that I have ever really fully participated in this job (as in, waxing for a whole team at a race with live announcing), so I was eager to see what it would be like.
My observations included that it was indeed, hard when the alarm went off. On the other hand, when I went to the dining hall and they were serving Vermont-sized pancakes and bacon it was kind of nice not to have to give serious thought to nutritional considerations.
Thanks to some good planning by Craig, waxing and testing went relatively well. We decided to make an educated guess on the glide wax so that we could concentrate on the grip wax. We waxed four different skis the night before with various klister/binder/hardwax combinations. Two of these were thrown out before we stepped outside because we could see that it had snowed 2cms more than the O that had been predicted. We re-waxed one ski, and tested against what was left of our attempt to get ahead of the game the night before. The re-waxed ski turned out to be the easy winner. From then on we just worked on figuring out how to adjust an already good ski for slightly more or less grip as conditions or skiers might dictate throughout the day. We were, therefore, well prepared for the inevitable moment when Megan would arrive and describe her skis as “kind of slippery…..and kind of draggy”.
Once we got all the skiers out the door with skis that they at claimed they were happy with at that point, we went to see if our skiers could actually make use of our efforts. We were not disappointed. There were actually two races. The first was a sprint “qualifier” (not sure what it qualifies you for, exactly….there were no heats) and the second was a “prologue” (to what, I am not really sure either).
I was very impressed with what I saw, especially given the very limited amount of skiing we have been able to do this year. People’s efforts to improve various aspects of their technique were visibly paying off. Not everyone looked smooth and comfortable, but everyone was energetic, leaving me with a feeling that this will not be the last time you hear from XC Ottawa this year….Special “hats off” to little Lee Hawkings for 12th and 13th places in Open Men, which earned him the Vauhti Performance of the Day honours. Megan also came 9th in the prologue in Open Women, which is no small feat for an FM1 category skier. She managed this, apparently, by employing a strategy of trying to ski two laps in the afternoon at the same pace she skied one lap in the morning, where she placed 23rd.
Full results are here:
For the record, here is what we used for wax. It was about -3C, low humidity, with some fresh powder on top of a granular, man-made base.
Glide: Vauhti Spectra Blue, with Vauhti Gold Fox Block.
Grip: Vauhti K-Base binder, covered with Vauhti K-15, and in some cases, with some K-18 to speed things up (hope I got those numbers right…by 15 I mean the purple can, and by 18 I mean the orange one).
Links to a couple of great pictures of Kyle (he must be the most photogenic of all of us since he has two pictures and the rest of us have none):