The morning after the Jay Peak race, I headed to California for a week of work. 12 hour work days and two cross-country flights are not ideal for prepping for a race. Luckily, the Berkshire East race was on Sunday and I was able to stay with family the night before giving me some much needed rest and a shorter drive in the morning.
The temperature was again in the single digits when I arrived in the parking lot. The sun had not yet risen over the ridge and the temp would rise into the low 20s for the 10AM start. The course is a 3 lap route plus a short bootpack section on the last lap. The ascent route is a scenic, low angle trail well clear of the ski runs.
18 racers lined up for a Le Mans start before heading up a short sledding hill and then winding around the side of the mountain. I was in the lead at the first transition with Josh F. a few seconds back and Jonathan S. right behind him. Firm but edgeable snow on the descent let to a cat track with a short pole and skate section into the transition zone just above the start. A clean transition and I was out just ahead of Josh and Jonathan.
On the second lap I was still feeling good but could tell I was putting in more of an effort that the first lap. After a clean transition on top and bottom, I felt that I had extended my lead by a few seconds over Jonathan with Josh less than 30 seconds or so back. Around halfway into the 3rd lap I felt like I hit a wall. I could hear Josh gaining on me but didn’t have much left in the tank. He passed me looking very strong and opened up a nice 30 second gap of his own. I choked down my last gel and some water and immediately felt a surge. I picked up the tempo and was able to close the gap before a flat section just shy of the skins off transition. We came into this transition at the same time but I started the descent first. A new addition to the course this year was a short groomer leading to a bootpack. Not wanting to blow by the crossover trail, I took it easy on this section and Josh was right beside me. We agreed that the next left was the correct route and boot tracks on the far side of the trail confirmed our assumption. I had a few second lead on Josh as we started up to the final transition. I was not feeling great but could hear Josh stop and curse at his backpack multiple times as he was having some gear difficulties. Josh caught back up as I was pulling my skis off my pack. Luckily I was able to get out of the transition first and hang on for the win. Josh crossed the line a few seconds behind me with Jonathan a few seconds back in 3rd.
If not for Josh’s trouble with his quick attach loop on his backpack, almost assuredly he would have passed me. I have had my fair share of gear trouble in races and know just how frustrating it can be.
Backcountry conditions are less than optimal, to say the least, in the northeast. Hopefully conditions improve enough to get out for some longer days before heading to VT in two weeks for the Mad River Glen to Sugarbush event. This race always draws a big crowd and has some long difficult descents.
Thanks got out to Berkshire East, Jonathan S. for organizing the NE Rando Race Series, and all of the sponsors that have donated prizes. Next race in the series is March 11th at Magic Mountain.