2020: Wolf Tracks Rendezvous

Currently in week #08 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this was an event I didn’t even know existed. If not for a nudge/inquiry from Kim Green during the 2020 SISU Ski Fest, I would have likely never learned about it. Minocqua being only 2-ish hours away and in Wisconsin (i.e., Central Time Zone) made it a candidate for day trip adventure and thus, made it easier to sign up! Once registered for the 24 km edition, it made sense to sensibly race this event as a reasonable substitute for a 14-mile LSD run (with few faster miles towards the end) prescribed by the aforementioned marathon training plan – quite similar to what I had done during the 2020 Noquemanon Ski Marathon.

Ski preparation, and a hearty home-cooked meal and watching a portion of Ken Burns’ documentary – The National Parks: America’s Best Idea – with a dear friend were the highlights of Friday. The close proximity of Minocqua ensured a full night of sleep and a pretty relaxed morning. We (Greg, Kim, Shawn and myself) took to the road shortly after 6:45 am and after an uneventful drive that included a stop and munching on Kim’s home-made cookies, arrived at the Minocqua Winter Park around 9:00 am (Wisconsin Time). After parking and picking our race packets, we had nearly an hour to leisurely wrap up final preparations in the cozy confines of the chalet and warm-up as necessary. Kim and Shawn started at 10 am (skate; wave #1) and I was on my way about 10 minutes later (classic; wave #1).

Ski preparation (source)
Ski Salomon S/Race 201 Medium Classic
Base cleaner Toko Racing Wax Remover
Toko Copper Brush
Glide wax Toko LF (Performance) Black
Toko LF (Performance) Red
Toko HF (High Performance) Red
Structure Toko Red 1x
Top finish Toko JetStream Bloc 2.0 Red polished with Toko Thermo Pad
Kick zone Start Skin Grip

Grooming was quite exquisite and trails (skate lanes as well as classic tracks) were plenty fast. After the easy start that lasted 3-4 kilometers, I felt like I had the trails all to myself for the second week in a row. I got to thoroughly enjoy the trails and snow-clad trees as sunshine, warmth and blue skies played a game of peekaboo on what had started out to be a typical winter’s gloomy and gray day. The gently rolling ascents and descents matched Kim and Shawn’s description proving a -2 setting on Turnamic bindings was a good decision. The event provided yet another opportunity to practice the waxing, pole strapping and skiing techniques (specifically: double pole and kick double pole per Shawn’s advice) as well as trail etiquette in a race situation.

While sensible racing was the plan going into this event, going all out over the final 7 km (while preserving technique and pace) was an audible that the day called for about 150 meters before the final aid-station. It’s not every day we get tailor-made conditions – trail, weather and waxing – that bless our outing and it’s certainly not every day that we get to mimic Johannes Høsflot Klæbo – however ridiculous the comparisons might seem and even if the said self-aggrandizing (and of course, unrealistic) imagination never escapes the boundaries of our mind. If I was going to Klaebo up any and all ascents rest of the way, I figured I might as well do so while mimicking his other antics – often confused by competitors to be some weird head game. So, the headband came off within the first kilometer of the aforementioned final aid-station and the buff too made its way to the jacket pocket soon thereafter.

14.46 mi (23.27 km), 1:55:12, 7:58 min/mile (4:56 min/km), 7.53 mph (12.12 kmph)
Garmin Forerunner 945 and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

The finish time when it came, 1:55:12, was good enough for 13/33 overall, 11/24 in gender and 1/5 in AG. I expected to get below what has been an elusive 2-hour mark for this distance so far and to place in the age group but winning it – I won’t lie – was an utter surprise. An equally pleasant surprise was to find the utterly delicious Protein Quinoa Bowl (with a generous topping of fresh avocados!) offered as part of the post-race refreshment nourishment by the event organizers. I’d do this event all over again if there was a guarantee of this Protein Quinoa Bowl’s availability at the end and gladly consume it for just about every meal of the day!! After bidding adieu to Deb, new friends and event organizers, we stopped at Island Cafe in Minocqua (and enjoyed about half of what has certainly been the biggest Huevos Rancheros I’ve ever received in a diner). The return journey was uneventful as well – reaching home around 6:30 pm. It too was punctuated with a couple stops as well as munching more of Kim’s cookies (yes, that’s a lot of food over a 24-hour period).

Yet again, familiar and friendly faces made for a familial and homecoming-like experience throughout the day. Continuing to build on 2020 Noquemanon Ski Marathon, I did considerably better in terms of starting slow and holding the pace/splits fairly consistent with effort as necessary. A mini/side goal to continue working alongside marathon training this winter, as noted before, would be to improve the skiing technique … to an extent that I can ski as fast I can run, if not faster … for I was told again that good technique is free speed.


Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timing folks, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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