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I never reported on the last day of the Craftsbury Spring Tour–I had the fourth fastest split (or fifth if you count Russell Currier, who did not race the tour but jumped in the pursuit and skied to a convincing second). I actually had a good look at second place overall (maybe 20-25 seconds ahead) around 10 km in, and at about that time I briefly held sixth place, but I faded in the first lap and was not able to finish better than seventh. Which still isn’t bad for a full-time teacher and father.

I had lower ambitions and expectations for my race this weekend. I have run about 150 miles since January, and the only fast thing I had done since November was five times 150 meter speeds on Saturday, the day before my first race. But my team needed me, so I was on the start line for the An Ras Mor 5 km yesterday morning. I thought that 15:50 was a reasonable, if ambitious goal, and as such I really didn’t want to go out faster than 5:05. But at one miles I was 4:59. I thought I was fading a bit in the second mile, but I hit that in 9:58. I couldn’t explain why I could still run that fast, but there I was. I was nervous about attacking, even though I was a few seconds from the top 10, but I pushed a little harder than I thought was wise in order to stay in contact. Over the last 500 meters I tried to make a move, but I was swiftly reminded that I might be able to hold an impressive pace, but that developing a kick requires some actual time on the track, and so I coasted across the line in 13th place, 15:28. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this running season!

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I am finishing my season once again with the 3 day mini-tour at Craftsbury. It is a nice way to end the season, since it is a race I try really hard in but that many skiers don’t seem to care as much about (although I did overhear one Darmouth skier who cares enough to say “I can’t believe I got beat by Justin Freeman!”). I was seventh on the first day, in the classic prologue. I followed that up today with 15th in the sprint qualifier (I had a good pair of zero skis–haven’t touched them since I put travel wax on 13 months ago) and ended up 17th on the day. I was 1.26 seconds from making it into the semifinals as a lucky loser. I think I could have done it, too, if I had been smarter tactically…
Anyway, unless I miscalculated I will start tomorrow’s pursuit in bib 11 and I will be aiming to duplicate last year’s top five finish–something I think I can do. We’ll see…

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I raced the Cheri Walsh Memorial race at Holderness today. I have a few ski areas I could call my home course–I trained at Rumford in college, and have raced there often enough to call Black Mountain my home course. I have been skiing at Waterville Valley (whose race I could not attend due to having to teach on Saturdays) since before I can remember, and I have raced enough times at both Craftsbury and Trapp Family Lodge that it is tempting to call these home courses as well. But I teach just 15 minutes down the road from Holderness School, and once or twice a week, every week, each of the last eight winters, I have skied there. (In addition to dozens of races and many other training sessions in my youth). Just this week, I skied the race loop a total of seven times over two days (not counting my warm-up this morning). So while I feel quite at home at a number of ski areas, there is no course I know better than the one I raced on today at Holderness.
I don’t know if that is why I had such a big win there today–almost a minute and a half over second place. I have raced well there before–I have won two other classic technique Eastern Cups at Holderness in the past several years, and the best race of my high school career was a fifth place in the junior division at the Cheri Walsh race is 1994.
I was helped by good skis–I got some help from Maine Winter Sport Center’s Welly Ramsey (actually, he probably helped me more by not racing than by waxing my skis for me, but he did a great job on wax!), but I just felt really good. I passed more than half of the skiers who started ahead of me…I skied the climbs well, powered through the corners, and generally had a great day of ski racing. It makes me a little sad that I won’t get to race again for three weeks, but that also means I get three weeks of knowing that I won the last race I entered…

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For Kris, that is. Though I am proud to say that I am, based on the qualifying list, the 42nd best ranked skier not named to the team. Not bad for someone so old and washed up that my continuing to blog demands ridiculing me on Johnny Klister.
Anyway, today I met Kris at Waterville Valley to help him with his interval workout. We were classic skiing up Tripoli Road. For Kris, the idea was to ski at the high end of level three for six minutes, then hammer for four minutes. For me, the idea was to take the 30 second head start he gave me and try to cling to some kind of lead for as long as I could.
We started the first interval at the very bottom of the road. I held Kris off for almost nine minutes (8:30 for him), but he caught me near to top of the last steep section. At this point I collapsed mentally, literally stopping in the trail for a few seconds and then limping to the finish.
We chose to move the start up a little on the next two intervals, so that Kris could finish on a double-pole section. I was actually stronger on the second interval, not getting caught till about 9:20. I was relieved to be caught–I didn’t think I could hold it together much longer. I think I hung on my poles for 20 seconds before skiing to the end in level 2.
On the final interval, I thought I was moving well, hitting points on the trail in about the same time I just had. But by 8 minutes, Kris had caught me. I attempted to stay with him for a few seconds by accelerating to a full sprint. I did speed up a lot, but not enough to stop him from dropping me like a rock. When I realized how much faster he was, I slowed to a crawl, and limped to the top about three minutes back.
Despite being much slower than my brother, I did feel that this was a promising workout for me. I skied solid technically, and I held my pace despite going out quite hard. And while “much faster than me” is not necessarily all that good, Kris looked powerful and in control as he accelerated past me three separate times. We will know in a week and a half if he is actually fast…

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I had my first real race of the year today. I did race the Craftsbury Opener at Thanksgiving, and I jumped in a time trial with CSU up in Mont Ste Anne around New Year’s, but this is the first scored race I have entered. I did fairly well, all things considered. As FasterSkier readers will know, my brother, Matt Liebsch, and Sylvan Ellefson also entered the Eastern Cup race, so I knew going in I wasn’t going to be contending for a top finish. I had the seventh seed (based on Nensa points), and I got out of the stadium in around 10th place, and faded to maybe 14th on the long descent at the start of the course…I had good skis and fitness, but I didn’t want to fight too hard for places just yet. As we started to climb, I fought back to about 10th place. Somewhere–my memory is a bit hazy here, I fell off of the lead group of nine, which then quickly shrank to eight as Eric Wolcott fell off the pace as well. I spent over a lap trying to bridge the gap to Wolcott…I would get very close at the top of hills only to fade on the flats and downhills. Finally, on the second trip up High School Hill I managed to catch Wolcott, though I was working so hard I nearly choked on my own phlegm as I crested the hill. I skied right behind him until we came through the lap, then he pulled over and I attacked.
I slowly bridged the gap to a struggling Sam Tarling, then passed him and started to gap him, but had to stand up to let him take the lead shortly after. He declined to lead, so I pulled him to the bottom of High School Hill, where he attacked hard, putting 6 seconds on me by the end of the race. I crossed the line in 9th place, a respectable placement given that I was the 10th seed based on FIS points.
Tomorrow is a classic race. With the top 3 from today departing, I should have a good chance to go top 5, maybe even a little better…

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I raced the Nahant 30 km last weekend. Like about 70% of the racers, I was only there to fulfill an obligation to my club. Though I should say that the race, while it had a very low-key, not designed for so many racers feel to it, was on a beautiful course and seemed quite well organized.
30 km is a distance I had never run before. Well over a half marathon, but well short of a full marathon…just enough distance to really beat you up without any kind of bragging rights to the outside world.
And with school, I just haven’t been training. I got sick after the Lone Gull and barely ran 30 km over the following week. The week leading into the race was a bit better, but I was not feeling confident on the start line. I hung back as a lead pack of seven runners took shape. By a mile, though, I decided that the second pack was too slow and set off into no man’s land. I ran comfortably alone for some time, and then I saw Patrick Rich fall off the lead pack. I picked up the pace a bit and slowly gained on him as the miles ticked by. Once I had caught him, I felt strong and dropped him, quickly catching and passing Sean Duncan while I was at it. On a long straightaway I caught a glimpse of Brandon Newbould, who at that point was running i fourth place. He was a ways off, but I was feeling good and thought I might catch up.
I was still feeling good at halfway, and even coming through 10 miles everything was looking good. I am a little fuzzy on the details, but sometime between 10 and 13 miles Patrick passed me back. I had little hope of sticking with him, just watched him go. But I was feeling good about 6th place. By 14 miles, any hope of running 1:45 (my initial goal) was fading fast. But I still felt confident in my placing. At about 16 miles I caught one of my teammates who was nursing a cramp and looked like he might not finish. Suddenly, I was top five! I wasn’t moving very fast, but I could feel the finish line and was excited to have such a strong finish. And then I got caught. Over the last two miles, five runners, including Sean Duncan, passed me. I had the familiar feeling of my mind telling me “those guys are running slow–it would be easy to pass them” and my legs just laughing at me when I tried.
That was almost a week ago. Yesterday I had my first run where I wasn’t miserable the whole time. And today I decided to take off from running. My motivation is kind of low right now, but I am hoping to start ski training soon. It really wouldn’t be hard to double my rollerskiing hours from last year!

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I race the Lone Gull 10 km today. I was not expecting a great race. It has been a challenging last week and a half as the school year has gotten underway. I am coming down with a cold. I haven’t done anything fast (or anything over 8 miles) since my 400 m intervals a couple weeks a ago. And I am on duty this weekend, so I had to stay up until past 12:45 and then get up at 5:45 to drive to the race. Oh–and the race’s web page only had directions to the school that sponsors the race, not to the race site itself. So I had a stressful ride down, and showed up a little later than I planned.
I went out very conservative in the first mile, coming through in 20th place in 5:04. I moved up a couple spots by two miles, and came through in 10:17. That seemed a little slow to me, so I pushed on the next downhill and opened up a gap over most of the pack I was in. One BAA runner (Nick Wheeler) came with me, and the two of us worked together, coming through 3 miles in 15:15 in 7th and 8th place. Nick slowly pulled away over the rest of the race. I managed to pass one of my own teammates, and I finished in 31:54. This is only 18 seconds off of my PR, which I set at the same race four years ago.

The fairly small gap to my PR tells me two things. First, I am not great at running to my potential when I am fit. I have probably had the fitness to run a good minute faster than I did today, but the best I have ever done is 18 seconds. On the other hand, I also know that I have the ability to get more fit than I am right now. A full minute might be hard, but 30 seconds wouldn’t be. If I can get a little more fit next year, and then run as effective a race as I did today, I can take down another PR.

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Tomorrow the rest of the students show up, and I become a full time teacher, working the next 20 days in a row (not all day every day, but pretty close) and with it being my responsibility to bring my younger daughter to school in the morning, and with my wife getting ready for a marathon, today was literally the last day it was easy to find the time to train (it will get easier again when I am done coaching mountain biking in mid-November). So I went to the track and did 400 meter repeats. This was probably useful training, but mostly it just feels good and is familiar. I ran the first two intervals in lane 6, then two in lane 5, etc. I kept everything between 67 and 69 seconds. And now my legs have that good, faint, post-workout ache. If you read FS news you know I had a solid race up Mt Mansfield, and I am hoping to hold the fitness for two more weeks when I race a flat 10 km. Probably no posts until then, but tune in to see if I can salvage the season with a new PR (31:36 is the target–I have run that time twice, including once on that same course).

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That sums up my last three races. I raced the Carver Cranberry 5 miler two weeks ago. I went out conservatively, was rather aggressive in the second and third miles, and I hung pretty tough at the end. I ended up running 25:06, only three seconds off of the time I ran there two years ago (which is my PR, though not my best ever five mile effort…).
Three days later I ran the Yankee Homecoming 10 miler. I went out controlled for the first five miles, going through in 26:20. I was in about 15th place (the top three were all crazy fast, and there was a deep field). I only lost one place after that (and two people ahead of me dropped out), but I ran 27:45 for the second half of the race, with the last mile just under 6:00.
And today, I ran the Cigna Elliot 5k. This is always a big focus for me, and I have been tapering in an attempt to run a really good time. I was 4:49 for the first mile, picked it up to 4:47 for the second mile, and then fell apart, finishing in 15:15, 30 seconds off my PR. I still got the asterisk (for a pretty fast time given my advanced age) but it was not was I was hoping for. I have a few races left this season, maybe I will come around, but I am just not putting together fast races these day…

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The title says a lot. Shortly after I last posted, my wife and I (but not my kids!) headed to Greece for 10 days. I did a fair amount of training on the service roads for the olive groves in southern Crete, but nothing fast, and getting over jet lag twice didn’t help my fitness either. I have races three times since: I won the John Langhans race in Woodstock, VT, but in a slow time; I finished third in the Stowe 8 Miler, again in a rather slow time (I was over a minute out in a race that my time two years ago would have won); and today I raced the Bill Luti in Concord, NH.
I have been running the Bill Luti since I was in high school, and a few years ago I was briefly the course record holder (I won against a weak field the year they changed the course). This year there was a huge thunderstorm in Concord and they had to make a last minute course change (the regular course being blocked by multiple downed trees and at least one downed power line). I quickly found myself in third place, chasing Jeffrey Veiga and Alex McGrath, two recent college graduates who on the track have run sub-29 and sub-14 respectively. In short, quite out of my league. I managed to keep Alex worried for most of the race, running not more than 10 seconds behind him, so that he could hear people cheering for me, but in the end he ran 25:10 and I ran 25:30. Jeffrey was almost a minute in front of me, running almost fast enough to be able to protest the reduced course record bounty (because we were not running the normal course). Given that Alex was over a minute ahead of me last week, today is a good sign. I will try to be more rested for the 5 miler next weekend, and hopefully I can get close to my goal of 25 flat. And I will try to blog about it promptly as well!

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