The first real 50k. When a boy becomes a man. This is what separates the wheat from the chaff. It’ll put hair on your chest and grit in your gut. Or something like that. I’d seen people bonk, and I knew what it felt like to hit that brick wall of glycogen depletion, so I was a definitely nervous when I signed up for the Tour of Anchorage.
After eating an unhealthy amount of pasta the night before, and loading up on the oatmeal that morning, we rolled down to the start. The elite men were set to go off at 8:30 am and ski into the sunrise. Cold, fast snow. Fast skis. Jitters. All of anchorage to ski across.
I felt surprisingly fast and relaxed. The top guns took off harder than I usually do in a 10k, so I pretty quickly decided not to kill myself by trying to hang with them. I led the chase pack up the steep hills of the first 10k, and on the downhill, Rob Whitney and I pulled away from them. We worked together, swapping leads every minute or so for about 15k through the winding flats of Campbell tract. I felt in fine form, and I couldn’t think of a better partner to be racing with. Sure enough, at about half way, we caught a glimpse of some of the leading stragglers. Rob picked it up to catch them, and I tried to hang, but with 25 k to go, it just wasn’t worth it to risk exploding.
The next 25k rolled by at a comfortable hard pace. Skiing in no-mans-land was a bit lonely, but I got a chance to really focus on my own skiing without having to coordinate with anyone else. I felt really strong, relaxed and fast the whole way in. On the last hill into the stadium I passed a couple of the leaders who had fought hard and lost. They were really on their last legs. It was all they could do to finish. I felt for them, but I was mostly grateful to have dodged that fate myself.
After being so nervous about racing a marathon, I felt full of self-confidence after finishing 10th overall. I felt strong the whole way. The tour may be flat and somewhat downhill, but I raced hard for 50k nonetheless. Its good to feel all of that training and racing pay off.
Photos by Anchorage Daily News