With Wildcat SkiMo out Shoe to the Clouds was a nice replacement. I had raced this a couple years ago when it was part of the GSSS and it was my intro to the Auto Road. This year I had minimal expectations but wasn't feeling too dinged up so that was encouraging. I wanted a hard effort and this race will deliver that no matter how fit you are.
This year they incorporated a Fat Bike category which dominated the pre-reg #s with 120 (vs 30'ish for the ski & snowshoe). We were started in waves by discipline in 5 minute intervals with the skiers first, snowshoers second, and bikers last. The addition of the bikers was a non-issue.
It was a cold morning but significantly warmer than the previous day (still in the single digits at the start). Hilary and I took a short mile warmup to make sure we had no issues with our gear. All was good and we headed over to the start. I didn't realize this but due to the massive loss of snow during our warm spell they had to truck snow around to make the course connect across the open fields. Much appreciated Great Glen!
We started our wave at 10:05 and Kevin Tilton took out the lead. I was very comfortable letting him pull me through the flats. We quickly separated from the rest of the field and settled into a good pace. The first mile had a small climb and we rolled through at just over a 7 minute pace. The next mile came back to the fields and had a nice downhill and that mile was 6:45'ish.
We rolled another 0.3mi to the start of the Auto Road and Kevin was still setting the pace. At this point I was fine, not feeling peppy but definitely not hurting. We passed a couple bikers who passed us heading into the climb and continued to pick of skiers. Not too long into the climb I passed Kevin and he never made a move to regain the lead or close the gap. I continued to work and slowly built a gap over the course of the next couple miles. I kept looking back but was still catching glimpses in the rearview that continued to push me. I recognized that familiar feeling of horrible that hill climbs reliably bring out.
The climb in general was a consistent burn. Looking at my splits / pace my effort was consistent even though I felt as though I was dropping off considerably. I passed Josh Flanagan and Brian MacIlvain who respectfully stepped up and competed in the ski which I found impressive given their recreational nordic backgrounds.
The last quarter mile I had a little kick and was psyched to finally see the finish. I came through with a sub 52 minute time on a slightly shorter course but really fast conditions. It was considerably faster than 2015 but KT would have still beat me.
We were handcuffed to awards since Hilary won for the females and Brian was 3rd for the Skiers, and Tristan was first for the skiers. The prizes were beers and cookies which I can't complain about. One issue was that they raffled off prizes across all disciplines which didn't really make sense - snowshoers and skiers were eligible for biker items and vice versa. At 2pm we got out of there and Hilary made some laps at Wildcat while Brian and I checked out Tuckerman Ravine.
I was please with the race and putting in a running race effort that fits will with my training block heading into the INFERNO.