Kris raced in Austrian Nationals on Saturday and skied to a comfortable win. I broke my five-year streak of finishing on the podium of the Craftsbury Marathon without a win. But not in the way I was planning. And our dad has a lousy race as well.
For my father, the bad luck started just before the race began. His new skis, which seemed to be running really well, caught on a bit of powder, causing him to trip. As he recovered, he discovered that his binding was broken. With only one pair of skis waxed, and only a couple minutes until it was time to start, he was understandably panicked. He managed to borrow Eli Enman’s warm-up skis, but had to start at the very back of the first wave and spent the whole first lap fighting traffic. Then he had one good lap, and then the wax wore off of his skis (because why put binder on your warm-up skis). So things got ugly from there.
For me, the start was fine. I had fast skis with pretty good kick. I spent some time at the front during the first lap, but I also sat around being somewhat patient at other times. During the second lap, two 25 km skiers from Dartmouth were fighting for the win and I slipped in behind them, breaking the 50 km pack so that only Eli Enman, Nils Koons, and myself were left at the front. Then, as we were coming out of a feed, I started to cut in front of Eli, then went back to my original track, then moved right again when he told me to go ahead. In the back and forth I lost momentum and maybe a bit of balance and I ended up planting a pole right under his ski. The pole shaft remained intact but the basket came off.
I got a new pole rather quickly, and it was even the right size. But it had an unfamiliar strap that was adjusted much too loose for my hand. I spent a couple of kilometers trying not to lose more time as I worked to properly adjust the strap. By the time I was skiing, I was probably 25 seconds down. Over the next six kilometers, I slowly gained on Eli and Nils, coming within perhaps 5 seconds shortly before the last big climb of the lap. When Nils attacked on that hill, I had absolutely nothing to respond with. Over the final kilometer of lap three, I lost the 20 seconds I had painstakingly made up, and I continued to hemorrhage time at the same rate, losing 5 minutes to Nils over the final 12 kilometers.
Eli told my father when he thanked Eli for the skis that he spent the last lap skiing hard on the assumption that I must be right behind him (he was, after all, losing time to Nils despite the fact that Nils had not sped up). But it turns out that Eli actually put four minutes on me.
I spent half of the last lap skiing alone, unable to motivate to go very fast. Then I was passed. I tried to pick it up, but I crashed on an easy corner and two more skiers went by me. All I could think about as I watched them was that they really didn’t look like they were skiing well or fast. And yet not only was I too physically tired to give chase, I also suffered perhaps the worst mental collapse of my career: I just let them go. I think a part of me feared for what would happen if I really gave it 100% and couldn’t even fight back into fifth place.