I now have the dubious distinction of DNFing twice in one race. I entered the 150 mile Tuscobia ski race and dropped out after 30 miles. Then, since I had plenty of time on my hands, I entered the 35 mile ski race. I made it 5 miles in that one.
So what went wrong? Lots of things. The proximate reasons for dropping from the race (both times) were blisters and a sense that I was working way too hard. The deeper reasons are that I wasn't adequately trained for skiing and my mind simply wasn't in the race.
The blisters, or mostly just the blister on the instep of my left foot, were largely the result of having only worn these boots once in the past year. Yep, once. You simply can't expect to put on a pair of boots, especially stiff skate boots, and ski a long distance without getting blisters. I could have suffered through it. I've done it before, but I really didn't want to beat myself up so much that I couldn't walk for a week afterwards. Again, I've done that before. Maybe that's just what it takes to do a 150 mile race. I guess I wasn't up to it.
As for working too hard I am not sure what is up with that. For the first fifteen miles or so I was good, but then I started stopping every mile or two. I didn't feel tired or anything I just had to stop. Whenever I stopped I noticed that my heart rate was way too high. I don't wear a heart rate monitor so I can't tell you what it was exactly, but I know it wasn't something I could have sustained for 40 hours. It felt more like a cyclocross race than an endurance race. I think my cardio-fitness level is okay so the only conclusion I can come to is that my ski technique isn't up to snuff.
Speaking of technique, there were a couple of things that even I noticed could use some work. One, I wasn't always managing to glide fully on the ski. It was more like stumbling than skating at times. I was only using the inside edge of the ski and not getting all my weight over the ski. Two, and this is related, my knee wasn't tracking straight over the ski. That makes it hard to get good glide and is a lot harder on the legs and knees.
Equipment still needs some tweaking before Arrowhead too. I used classic skis but skated on them in the manner of Tim Kelly. There is something to it. I didn't have any (extra) problems with it though as I was using shorter poles (155 cm rather than 165 cm) I couldn't double pole with the same power/speed as I normally would. On the other hand I found I could Wassberg/V2 pretty well with the short poles.
I did find my arms starting to cramp towards the end of my 30 mile ski which tells me a few things. 1)I wasn't drinking enough. 2) I was using my arms too much. 3) I wasn't using my abs/core/bodyweight as well as I should.
One reason for using the classic skis was so that I could classic ski if occasion warranted. About 20 miles in I did apply some kickwax to try and stride, but I couldn't seem to get much kick. The wax I had taken with me is supposed to be a wide temperature range “racing” wax, but I haven't had much luck with it. I have a lot more luck with the good old basic kickwaxes. I will stick to those in the future.
My hydration system needs some work. With the pack fully loaded my gear squeezes the bladder and forces water into the hose even if I have cleared it. That leads to a frozen hose in cold weather and needs to be fixed if I'm going to continue to use this pack. I have a few ideas of how to deal with the problem, but it will require some testing.
By the way, mentioning that you have blisters to a runner is like mentioning you have a bit of a sniffle to your mother.