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Yesterday I ran the Mount Washington race for the fifth year in a row. I went in feeling strong; I thought I had a good chance to run my best time ever, possible taking my record from 66:28 to sub-65:00. I also, based on results sheets, thought that I should have the Crossan Cup for the fastest New Hampshire pretty well wrapped up, so that there was no reason not to be bold in going for that record.

The race started well enough. At the start line, the started told us that the race would start with the cannon. Then he paused for a beat, as if he were about to give more instructions–and then the cannon went off. There was an extra jolt of adrenaline as people tried to react, and I found myself leading the race 50 meters in. As we came to the actual climb 100 meters later, I allowed a pack of nine to form ahead of me, and was running at the front of a small chase pack.

I have never been the kind of runner who hits his watch mid-race to collect splits. In most races I can remember them, and in others it doesn’t seem to matter, but at Mount Washington I am often curious about my splits but never can keep them straight. But I think my first two miles were a little slower than they should have been. By the one mile mark a few runners had fallen off of the lead pack and I was running in a group of three (fighting for eighth place) and watching 6th and 7th place not so far ahead of me. Not much changed for the next two and a half miles. I went through the halfway point in around 31 minutes, possibly on pace of 65:00 but suddenly feeling very tired. I let the two runners I was with go and suffered for the next mile. At five miles Zach Caldwell gave me a feed. He was helpful and supportive, and the calories definitely helped, because I started running a little better.
Somewhere in there I realized that Brandon Newbould had closed to only about 20 second back from me. My first reaction was despair–I didn’t think I had much left. Then I thought I should go hard for a few minutes to bluff. Then I figured he wouldn’t even notice, that he just had his head down and was trying to run up the hill, and I did the same.
Around a mile to go–as I often do–I got an extra surge of energy. I was still mostly running away from Brandon but I started catching up to Dan Princic as well. Will less than I minute to go I surged past him. He said “Well played,” but didn’t otherwise respond. I had to sprint up the final climb (a bit of a contradiction, but extremely painful nonetheless) to make sure I stayed ahead of him. I almost caught the 8th place finisher in the process, but settled for 9th place, in 66:29, one second slower than three years ago.
After the race, with a winter hat, pants, gloves, and three layers on top I started down with Kris (15th, three minutes behind me) to look for our father, who was running his first Mount Washington in 20 years. It was so cold that we ended up huddled out of the wind on some warm rocks. Fortunately he had a good day, finishing in 1:43:00 and first of 33 runners in his age group. As soon as he was past we went back and took shelter in the car.

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I have been busy with my daughters over the past couple of weeks, and that doesn’t seem likely to change, but I thought I would write a quick update on my racing, at least. Last Sunday, Fathers’ Day, I ran the Ribfest 5 Miler in Merrimack, NH. I was hoping to set a PR…which basically means breaking 25 flat (why this is “basically” true is a story for another time). With a very strong field lined up at the start (this was a USATF-NE Grand Prix event) it seemed I was set up to be pulled to a good time.
Unfortunately, the weather had different ideas. After a potentially frantic but remarkably calm 180 degree turn 150 meters into the race, followed by a short climb, we started north on route 3. There was a headwind of at least 10 miles per hour, with stronger gusts. Route 3 is many lanes wide so we were getting the full force of the wind with no trees to mitigate it. The lead group of about 10 runners bunched together, and the first two miles felt remarkably like a bike race, with the stronger runners taking turns pulling at the front. We went through 2 miles in a tight bunch at 10:07. At this point there was a stretch of minor road with little wind and the racing really began. Jeff Viega, Brian Harvey, and Nate Jenkins were quickly off the front and gained 20 seconds on me by mile 3, which I hit in 15:09 in 8th place. Through the fourth mile I passed two runners and gained on 4th and 5th place (while also gapping the rest of the field), but even though it was downhill with the wind I hit 4 miles in 20:14 (perhaps the markers were not perfectly accurate?) I pushed hard to finish in 6th place at 25:09, a very solid effort for me given the conditions and competition.

Since I am blogging, I should mention that I ran the Wachusett Mountain race a couple weeks ago. This was a 5 km up Mt Wachusett followed immediately by a 5 km back down. I went in thinking that based on the names on the result sheet from last year and their times that I had a good chance to win. That was my primary goal, and I figured to achieve this I would need a gap at the top of the course and to run faster than last year’s winning time. I managed both secondary goals, holding a 10+ second lead at the top of the climb and then running a series of miles in well under 5 minute pace to finish in 35:43, 7 seconds under last year’s winning time. Unfortunately about 500 meters into the downhill Eric MacKnight came flying by me and put 50 seconds on me by the time we were done.

Anyway, two solid races, and I feel good heading into Mount Washington this Saturday. Sometime in the next three weeks I will write the report on that race :-)

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Yes, this is the kind of blog post title that is just begging to be mocked on the next nordic ski humor/satire/news site, but since being mocked on such sites seems to be my niche, I might as well go with it. Anyway, I ran my favorite 4 times 2 miles in level 3-ish workout today. I can never remember my times year to year, and fast times suggest just as much that I was out of level than that I am fit, so it doesn’t matter. I do know that I have rarely managed to go faster on the second two intervals than on the first two, no matter how slow I start or fast I finish, so this felt good: 11:45 (up) – 10:55 (down) – 11:27 (up) – 10:45 (down). I was working the downhills a bit more than usual as I will be running the Wachusett Mountain 10 km this weekend: 5 km of 7.5% climb followed by 5 km of 7.5% descent. We’ll see how that goes.

Oh–if you’ve read this far you might want to note that I added a second recipe to that portion of the web page.

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Have to pause and actually make a blog post after reading this article about myself. What I like this the links to five year old blog posts. Somebody has done their homework.
And I must admit, when I am digging deep in level four intervals, I am sometimes in the midst of a comeback and then some that has me contending for the win in a World Cup (though even in these fantasies there are extenuating circumstances like reduced field size and tricky waxing…). And I certainly did enjoy finding my name ahead of Patrick Caldwell’s on the results sheet one time this winter. It is not unreasonable to argue that getting beat more than once in a fair race by an 8-years-retired father-of-two schoolteacher should be grounds for getting cut from just about any team…but by that standard there wouldn’t be a lot of aspiring skiers left in the East.
Not sure when I next race (definitely have three races coming in June, but May schedule is crazy). This week had two good days on the track: 4 by (2 times 200 (200 rec) at 33, 1 times 800 (400 rec) at 2:20) and three days later five times a mile at 5:15 (actually the last one at 5:12) with one minute recovery between miles. Historically those are solid workouts for me in May. Some level three on the roads is coming soon.

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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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