Cayuga Nordic Classic: A Trip in the Wayback Machine

Phobia de calcitrant crescimentum quoque calefiebat: Latin for “fear of kick waxing too warm.”  If you can phrase it more elegantly than Google Translate, let me know.  But I think I’m afflicted.

In my ideal world, I like getting at least one 10 km race under my belt prior to the Lake Placid Loppet.  This year, it worked out: the Cayuga Nordic Classic, in Hammond Hill State Forest, east of Ithaca, NY, fit the bill.

Hurtling north on dark, fogbound roads, I was concerned about the conditions.  The post-Christmas dump of snow was melting away fast.  Hammered by warm weather, Saturday’s forecast called for race day temperatures of nearly 50 degrees.

We started two at a time, a minute apart, in an open field.  Paired with eventual men’s winner Tom Chappel, I gunned it from the start in a field into the woods.  With only one track, I wanted to ski at my pace.  At the edge of the field, I slipped in front.

The first two kilometers was a steady climb through mixed hardwood and evergreen forest.  But the klister that worked earlier during warmup was now slipping.  I’d decided against touching up the kick zone with silver prior to the start, and it was time to pay the piper.  This is something I’ve done repeatedly over the last few years, and I’ve got to change this habit.  Ten minutes into the race, it looked to be a long day.

Imagine what ski racing might have been like 50 years ago, and you’ve got an idea of what the race loop was like.  Narrow, because you’re on a series of hiking trails rather than a purpose-built ski loop.  A single track through the woods, narrow enough that herringboning, as I had to do periodically, was tough.  Due to the warm weather and because the club were only allowed to prep the trail the night before/morning of the race, the track was soft.  Old school skiing, bring it on!!

After the first road crossing, Tom went by me, skiing steadily away through the mist and fog.  A few minutes later, Yvette DeBoer, who would be the overall winner, blew by.

The far side of the loop must have had a northern exposure, because the track was colder and I had better kick. But we were racing in above freezing temperatures, and the snow ranged from wet powder to slush.  You saw the gamut on a six kilometer loop that we skiied twice.

After the race, there was a very nice feed in the hut at the trail head, and I got to renew old acquaintances and make new ones.  Cayuga Nordic worked their collective butts off to put on a very good event.  This video gives a sense of the trail and the conditions.  Full results are posted on their website.  And I got a very nice, unique trophy for being fifth male overall.  Yay!