Rando racing (skimo) is hard. Best analogy I can make is doing an XC mountain bike race with no flat and very technical descents on a rigid singlespeed. Analogy only as I’ve never done an XC-length bike race. And in all fairness, the skiing might be a bit less white knuckle if I were more skilled. Which brings me to skimo race revelation two: I am slow. I don’t say this because I did the first ascent in 45 minutes while the winners did it in 28. I don’t say this because I took 2:45 to finish and the winners took 1:45 (ish). I say this because that first ascent felt on the rivet, the second and third ascents felt about the same, and while the fourth and final ascent was painful, I still could have kept going at the finish (though I really didn’t want to). From the second transition onward I played cat and mouse with three other folks, a fellow men’s telehead, a splitboarder (no female knuckledraggers in either division) and a female AT’er. I kept pace with them on ascents two and three, transitioned much faster, descended much slower, had it all fall apart on the last descent (I ran into a tree, not on purpose), and dropped them all on the last climb.
In summary, the race was too short. I seemed to have trained myself to keep a depth of reserve which, at least on Saturday, I was unable to tap. Which is not to say that I wasn’t totally thrashed afterwards. I was not about to let any of those three catch me, and jumped to third in race tele as a result, rather than fourth and DFL. I was able to eat a grilled cheese in the summit house after, and a Coke was mana from the almighty, but at slightly reduced pace I reckon I could have gone on a good bit longer.
The course itself was awesome. Click through for a description and maps that don’t do it justice. Much more ascent than descent, which I knew would suit me. Lots of tough off-piste skiing, which did not. The surprise was the technicality of the skinning. The course was not closed, and Saturday lift lines were a mob scene up there, so even though the leaders surely set us a nice skin track on the ungroomed sections, plenty of folks bombed down in the long minutes between and made experience in steep track setting very important. A few folks were utterly undone by the initial ascent up Haskill’s. Ditto the approach to North Bowl Chute; folks in my neck of the pack had to start booting a hundred vertical feet or so before the leaders, as the tracked out pow over hardpack gave us nothing to work with. The booter itself was steep, the first time I’ve gone up something that steep on snow without an ice axe. Had the tele guy and splitter ahead of me (who I purposefully let lead and set steps) cut loose, I would’ve taken a long and rough ride.
In summary: do this race next year! It’s a very authentic alpine experience for being entirely within a ski resort.
Saturday was an action-packed day by Flathead valley standards. We played host to our second roller derby bout, which was rougher and more entertaining than the last one. October’s commentator is due some redress for my prior excoriation, as his strengths were yesterday evening highlighted by their absence. He may have been annoying, and occasionally mistaken, but he was at least audible and attempted to explain the oftentimes not obvious (due to speed and subtlety) events of the bout. I’m still not sure how Missoula got that last point to win after the buzzer.
Still feeling frisky(ish) Amber (who won women’s rec tele) and I headed into the park today to have a go at skiing from the Mount Brown lookout. Our crack of noon start was not quite adequate, but we made it higher than I made it last time, and enjoyed some high altitude cold smoke, mid altitude cream, and low altitude fluff over ice combat skiing (which the Marquettes make E Z). We were also treated to graupel, thin flakes, fat flakes, sunshine, and clouds in rapid succession, a level of meteorological indecision which Glacier does better (and by better I mean beautifully) than anywhere else I’ve been.
It was, in short, a very good weekend. Which we were, especially in the skiing department, due after last weekend’s unconscionable liquid precip.