I had the most productive night yet!
I managed to get off a few hours early to get in a couple of runs on my new skis before the race.
I had intended to use these just for racing, but I might wind up skiing them all the time. It was already 14 degrees and hard when I got there and the snow was hard enough people were having trouble, and it felt like hero snow to me. People were actually taking their skis off and "skiing" down runs in their boots, if that tells you anything. These things just rock. My biggest problem with them was it took a couple of runs to figure out how to get them to release enough to hockey stop. It's like these things are nailed to the ground.
The pace setter ran right at 20. My first run was 25.87, my second was 24.55. Slow, but I don't think I could have even made all my gates at those times with my old skis, in these conditions. By the time we were done and the course was open for practice, it was down to 4 degrees, and the course was rutted and really, really packed and getting slower every run.
About half way through practice, with some coaching, "high and early" suddenly clicked and I started to get it. Spend almost all the rest of practice just working on picking out my line. It made it a little harder now too, because instead of following in the ruts like I was, I was now having to ski across them.
I had still been running mid 24 to mid 25 all night. I wasn't happy with my times, but they were holding consistent while everybody else was getting worse as the course degraded.
At the end, somebody also pointed out I also wasn't working as hard at angulating as I should be after a run of 24.87.
I made my last 2 practice runs making a better attack and trying to ski cleaner. Everything just came together all of a sudden, and I ran a 22.72. On my last run I got bucked out of my line by a rut and had to really scramble to make the next couple of gates and still made a 23.40. I was told it looked like I was in the 21s on that run until I lost it. I just might have a chance to be dangerous yet.
"Look at least two gates ahead. Turn early. Turn high. Engage the tips of the skis. Be smooth. Take the straightest line from the last gate to the finish. Have fun." really helped.
Thanks everybody for all the good advice.