By: Michael Sinnott SVSEF Gold Team Member, 2013 US Super Tour Champion and Former BMT Champ.
Mike grew up racing as a youngster in the SVSEF program, skied for Dartmouth as a collegiate racer where he helped lead The Big Green to an NCAA Championship. Mike is ranked among the best sprinters in the USA and will be racing World Cups in Scandinavia to start the 2013-14 season. ———–
It’s cold, you are tired, and the feed from Prairie Creek is half frozen to your face. The scenery, sharp and majestic though it may be, just will not sustain you for the final couple kilometers. Some excitable hillbilly is slapping your tails, shifting around, and threatening to end the very existence of your poles. Things are losing their fun appeal. It’s the end of the Boulder Mountain Tour and you need to find that little inspiration to finish strong, because, despite what you told your friends and family, this is a race and you will beat that schmuck who refused to pull.
Everyone who throws on a bib, experienced or green, knows that the big thrill is at the end. It’s the digging and fighting to find a little extra surge across the line. People are there watching, filming, cheering. You need to look good here more than elsewhere, and it feels twice as nice to find that extra something reserved for a cold day in February. The BMT is all about the kick. And the kick is an art.
This winter, while training, spend a little extra time building some speed into your legs. Try doing some short 15 second speeds. Practice giving it your all at the end of a longer day. Little things like this will go a long way to help acclimate your muscles into firing hard when they are full of lactic acid. It’s not a natural feeling to make them snap, but you can be confident that with some practice and a shot of adrenaline, your finishing push will find a substantial spring. To use it right, the kick actually starts coming into play a couple kms from the finish.
I use the aspens as a marker for myself while racing. I know the course, and I know there is an open area followed by a choking of the course as you enter the aspen trees with just a few kms to go. In the more open plains, move yourself into a competitive position to make a run at winning your pack. Once in the aspens, it’s a lot harder to move around through the field and pass people. For me, second place is the place to be here. Third is still great, fourth workable. Fifth place is just too far from the action. Leading isn’t terrible, but it’ll sap a little energy from you compared to the others as you pull them to the line. I like to ski tight up on the person ahead of me, but relaxed. I think of long powerful V1 strokes, loose shoulders, and I try to slow my breathing.
From the Aspens on, I am trying to clear lactate out of my legs and build a small energy reserve. The course winds around, people will become antsy, but it is important to remain calm. Too much thrashing and wasted attempts at passing will wear you out. Let the person in front provide a draft, and slip stream you forward. You’ll pass a parking lot access trail, the trees will thin, and the course will start to open up.
Stay patient. The longer you hold your patience the better. Up ahead, the course bends passed the last stand of trees and juts slightly up for a short finishing stretch. After the access trail, with about 500m to go, I back off my leader slightly then use my arms to ramp up the tempo. I think it’s important to come up for the pass with momentum, from about 3 meters back. My goal is to time things so I build speed, step aside from the leader’s draft, and hit full throttle all at the precise time as the trail bends and things open up. You need to read the pace setter a little, discern his path (usually the middle), and make an aggressive push next to him and by him. It’s a short finish, so every little thing helps. Remember to complete full motions, gliding strong with your hips high.
Often people will try to move faster by becoming too choppy and short. Be confident in your ability to ski, and ski powerfully, snappy, and complete. The draft, the slingshot, the extra relaxation, they all add maybe a few ounces of energy, totaling maybe a few extra feet. It’ll likely come down to a lunge, and you’ll have an edge, but a good lunge can beat a good kick. Keep your weight and hips forward, then extend from there. It’s almost a push from your back leg as much as a reach with your front one, extending straight and true, across the line. Game over.
The race over, it’s important to clear the finish lanes for all those skiers you just dusted. Grab a bite to eat, put on some clothes, and enjoy the day. Enjoy the excitement and the energy in the air. Thank the volunteers. Laugh about your tangle-ups. Look at the mountains, be proud of your effort, and cheer on the other competitors. Its a fast and wild race. Its hard. Its fun. Good luck.