Monday, January 19, 2009
Thursday evening we arrived in Bethel, ME to temperatures edging lower and lower below zero. All we knew about Saturday's race was that it was supposed to be cold. Really cold. After dinner the athletes bundled up to walk a minute down the road to play a couple rounds of Lazertag, the only source of entertainment in town. As expected, Evan repeatedly came in first place with his special combination of frontal assault and stealth tactics. Also unsuprising, Lucas usually came in last, as he was more apt to organizing cease-fires and peace negotiations between the red and blue teams.
Friday morning was bitterly cold- somewhere between -10 F and -25 F, but we all put on our best pair of windbriefs and balaclavas for the drive up to Black Mountain. Fortunately the temperatures were creeping up as we apporached the venue, but the wind racing across the stadium still made most of us take refuge in the trees as we previewed the classic course.
Saturday was still about as cold as expected in the morning, with the low of -26 F, but up at the trails it stayed above zero to the delight of the racers who recently returned from Anchorage. The course had a lot of climbing in it, which combined with the cold temps and soft snow made for a challenging race! After the prelims, Burke had 4 racers (Corinne, Janey, Sam, and Lucas) in the top 30 of a very competitive field. In the Quarterfinals, Sam led a pack of Dartmouth skiers up and over the hill, but then was narrowly beat out in the finish to take 3rd in the heat and 14th overall. Lucas also had a very respectable quarterfinal, as he started out in the back of the pack but pushed his way into third by the top of the hill. Despite his extremely strong performance, he also did not make it out of the quarters, and came in 18th overall. Corinne and Janey were placed in the same quarterfinal- unlucky because of the lower chances of both making the semis, but also lucky because they could work together during the race. Corinne was looking like a true sprinter as she dominated the other girls going up the hill and picked the best lines for speed as well as blocking. Janey broke away from the pack up the hill and attempted to get around another girl, which was actually a smart move, however it didn't help her in the end and she finished 25th overall. In another "Burkies learn their lesson" moment, Corinne lined up at the start of her semifinal heat with her warm-up skis on. Although she still looked like she was in top form from the start, her skis let her down in the slow snow, advancing her to the B-Finals. Proving that it was the skis and not her legs getting heavy, Corinne once again skied great in the B-final and got herself into a mad sprint to the finish with her future Middlebury teammates Kate Barton and Sophie McClelland. She was second by a few inches placing 8th overall!
Sunday was a completely different kind of race in every way. The air had warmed considerably, there was fresh snow on the ground and plenty more coming down as the races went on, the races were much longer (10 and 15k), and they were in a mass start format. The course was divided into 5k laps, which included a generally downhill section for the first 2k, then a long gradual uphill, then two long steep climbs including High School Hill, a name anyone who has raced at Rumford knows. There were mixed feelings about the race after the team had come back through for a cool down. Yannick had a very strong race; although he started way in the back lines of the mass start, he was able to stay light on his feet and continually pick off racers throughout the 15k course. Janey also had a stand out performance, placing 26th overall. Tomorrow the team is heading over to Lake Placid for a 7.5k classic race on Saturday. This past weekend was another oppertunity for all the athletes to evaluate thier strengths and weaknesses and we have been working through a few minor technical issues this week in preparation for the coming weekend. Stay tuned!