Backyard Report '04: US Masters Nat's come to Michihoots
[This report refers to the 2004 Backyard Challenge between Mike "Hightech" Muha and myself, the Backyard Retro Dude. A couple other Ski section reports refer to it.]
OK, I admit it: Hightech beat Backyard in our first match at the US Masters National Championships in Marquette, MI. Congrats to Hightech Mike for his victory!
But I don't think it was Backyard that let me down at the Natls. It was me. I blew the start. Sneaky prep for starts is actually part of Backyard Lore. I usually do special pre-start stretches but I forgot this time. Doh! I saw Sten stretching and he won! See?
Also, my Backyard apparel kept me warm yet breathable in the zero degree weather of both races I did that weekend, so that was a plus. Remember: stylepoints are a part of the Challenge!
It was great fun to participate at the NM's. It was a whirl of elite skiers and organization. Very impressive what the small crew of organizers achieved! It was fun...all the way up to my race...and after. But during it...
The course we skied in Ishpeming (U.P.!) was lovely. I'd never skied up there before---one big reason why I went. My trashed old skis were great. But I blew it. I get a bio-mental response whenever I botch a race: while skiing I want to sell my stuff. That's what happened. I haven't had those thoughts in ages... In this race when we hit the first uphill I could hardly move. Game over. I had no range of motion. Plugged up plus pain. My heart-rate seemed OK. I don't really know what went wrong: first race jitters perhaps. The first km was an intense, crowded downhill. It was dicey but I was cheery, so I don't know what went wrong. Still, on the last loop I realized that a friend was right behind me, then got some morale, dug deep and got around the course on an efficient line. He tried to come around me at the finish but no go. He had had a bad one, too.
It was pretty darn neat to do a race alongside quite a few former Olympians and National Champions of all ages.
Several of us lost our motel rooms due to not booking ahead, but we ended up with a Backyard victory: we spent a couple fun days camping on the floor of a lovely downtown Marquette house of a friend of a friend's roommate.
My half-Noquemenon skate rate went much better. But no Mike! I got to the start early and enjoyed watching the frosty 51kers drop on thru out of the woods. I helped a wobbly guy put some different wax on his skis and get him under way again. Maybe volunteering is where it's at! I started my race relaxed and worked on not working and then went by tons of people. I did a lot of V2 for the first time---achieving a major Backyard goal---and enjoyed it. My old skis were great. I glided past anyone I was near. But I only occasionally felt finesse. And whenever I did, I went faster. More skate snow time is key here. It was nice to remember that going good up hills is more a matter of going softly, of setting the skis down right. It was neat seeing the big bay in Lake Superior in the distance when we popped out of the woods on a ridge at the high point of the woodsy course. That's where we were headed! So the last 10k had lots of dropping and twisting down, down, then we wound our way thru town to the big stadium finish by the water.
The party after the Nokie also saw Backyard points scored when I had the privilege of accompanying lovely ladies for funky dancing---while wearing Sorels (thus points)---to a fine Chicago funk band (BUMPUS!). It was great having a trombone blowing right at my head. Having a Norwegian ski racer gal hand me whisky on the rocks out of the blue was also a highlight and surely worth a point or two.
I had asked her if her friend had raced and she said "Yes, the 51k classic...with courage, stamina and STYLE!" and gave a beer salute. Now THAT's what I call Backyard!
After the weekend was over, and we were leaving, it was really nice to be invited to come back to our new friend's house---"you don't even have to call." (Washing dishes is a Backyard must.)
Marquette seems like a super town! I'd never spent time there before. Classic and pretty, with all kinds of history plus contemporary culture with wilderness right at the edge of town. I had breakfast before the race and the lady restaurant owner asked if I was doing the race. I was in my civvies but she caught the vibe somehow. I said Sure and she said she was also, with her teen-ager. Nice. The whole town was clearly into the race, with lots of signs on stores and such.
So that's it for my racing for now! Back to the yard! Maybe one more race at the end of the year.
Backyard ratings are probably best taken at the end of a season. Hightech likes to race and spend money the whole season---they can do that due to their year-round specializing and less fun-having. With Backyard, you usually test your skiing after doing a lot of it, and you can't do it until it snows in your yard! Then you race your best just before it melts.
Maybe by then I'll have met another of my goals: to lose 10 lbs. Yard skiing finally now has me down 5 lbs.
Hightech guys spend a lot of time and money fiddling with ski bases. Backyard gets some old skis that fit OK, wax em up and go! My skis went great so far this year (and last). They fit me all wrong---way too soft---and their bases are trashed and not at all flat, and they don't get fancy wax, but they GO! If I could just catch up to them...
Of course, training on touring skis made my first time on race skis (on the morning of the Natls) a bit squirrely, almost resulting in a spill. However, that same training, on bad trails, probably kept me on my feet! I've had no racing falls in a long time. I give the credit to Backyardism.
Shoveling my whole driveway is getting easier and easier, so the Integrated Priorities aspect of Backyard is succeeding.
Two other families are now using my yard trails---which are mostly on the neighboring vacant church property, and are thus basically public, but they do end up toodling by the windows due to trail integration. High marks for the Sociability Rating of Backyardolatry!
My homemade tracksetter works for both classic and skate. Just unscrew the ski-shapes for skate, and pull two loops. The trick is to set the track every time it snows more than a couple inches: keep it packed. But it's hard to pull more than about 80#. If you attach it with inner-tubes you can classic ski pull it nicely.
A great Backyard benefit of the tracksetter is that it simulates hills! A great thing for this flat region.
I still think that a few hours of Backyard action each week is enough to have fun at modest-length modest-terrain ski races. ...And that by the end of the season it will let me gain a bit on a certain Hightech Mike!
And let's not forget our other goals: I suggest that Backyardism helps you keep the weight off and stay fit enough to not get heart-attacks. If you do manual yardwork year-round, you're never blindsided. Push-mow and hoe in summer. Rake in fall. Shovel in winter. Treework with ax and bow-saw in spring. Toss in some neighborhood running and rolling around. And don't get up for too many second-helpings. --Equals fit-for-life. And *possibly* some gains on the Hightechers! Well, that's the theory!
Since the big racing weekend, I've been skiing every day in the yard and a few miles away at the state game area. On my touring skis and waxless skis. It's been a blast. Doesn't take much time to see a lot of highspeed nature every day this way. The kids are getting out on skis as well. Toodling around the yard trails on their own. We meet up at intersections of the "train tracks." Henry is just getting better naturally. Neither will accept ANY instruction.