Friday, April 01, 2011

Just another weekend ski... 24-hour X-C ski

What to do when it's March 26th and winter snow prevails?... X-C ski 24 hours!! I decided last minute Friday to enter the Canmore SkiFest and drove down Sat morning for the 11 a.m. race start. With a stressful week of new work and late nights, I was in for participation to get in a distance ski, rests and fun. I heard "30 seconds to go" called out a few times as I was running from dropping off food at the feedzone scrambling to get my ski gear on! Off we went... a nice group of 20 skiers.
At ll a.m. temp was -4C and snow conditions were perfect with skis gliding effortlessly. The lap was about 3-km with 48m elevation gain. The mountain views were outstanding!

Gentle climbs to start with gentle descents. Half-way was a 180-corner descent, challenging to stay tucked in the tracks with a wicked "S" curve. Excellent section to keep me alert each lap swooping down fast. A few corners then up a short steep climb. That lead into a long deceiving climb which was the hardest section for its deception of ever ending. Final stretch of one-skate looping by the biathlon area past the start/finish area twice.

I thought a 3-km lap would be boring to ski for any length of time. It was an excellent distance... the laps went by quickly knowing what was ahead, a short lap gave sufficient opportunity to switch clothing (much needed in a cold-temp event), easy access to food, and a warm chalet to go into for rest.

Skiing the lap... always looking where to conserve energy and where to go fast. The fun fast descent was a treat to tuck and rest (the speed and S-turn put a huge smile on my face each time!! and possibly a "woo-hoo!"). Went as easy as possible on the hillclimb to minimize effort. Many sections to ski one-skate technique which was relaxing yet efficient.

I thought of the course as "laps" not mileage. I'd decide to ski 10-laps before taking a break... well, 10-laps was 30-km! Funny how the mind works. My laps were consistent with a few fast ones staying on the heels of the MitoCanada guys or eventual solo male race leader Leighton.

I carried a Camelbak with Vega Sport drink for intermittent energy and no excuses for not hydrating. Lack of pockets had me with a lack of carrying food. Eventually, I did the chipmunk method of stuffing my face and chewing as I skied, only to have a fellow skier chat with me soon after. After 20-laps, I took a longer food break.

Although the temperature was mild, a cold wind blew on the return direction and made it difficult for my body to stay an even temperature. The snow seemed to be getting sluggish by early afternoon. Around 27-laps, my energy levels crumbled. I still pushed it in to complete 30-laps. I was done! I decided to take the much needed recovery from my busy week. I ate, attended to foot blisters, then crawled into my sleeping bag. I didn't set a time limit, just rested until I felt ready to get up.

2-hours later, I surprisingly was back on skis and very refreshed. I admit to eating a couple pieces of pizza on the feed table though I attribute alot to my race food concoctions. Along with my Vega drinks where the colour grabs someones attention, some treats I brought which I really enjoyed were fruit of any kind especially pineapple and fresh young coconut water and coconut meat. Dates and figs were yummy. Throughout the race I premixed up whole food vitamin C powder, MSM crystals, medicinal mushroom mix with a little elk antler powder for replenishing my diminishing immunity stores and drank a little throughout the event. The solid food I brought wasn't too appealing and I was surprised I devoured a couple pieces of pizza which I haven't eaten in years. Endurance racing and eating doesn't ever surprise me!

Cyd Fraser, with 24-hour mtnbike experience, was up around 6 laps on me. I skied relaxed and was happy the snow had frozen up and was fast again. Within 4-laps, I gained a lap on Cyd and slowly we played the Turtle & Hare game.

At 10:35 p.m. I had completed 50-laps. Even though I was feeling great I decided to take a full-on rest. Again, I refueled with Vega recovery drinks and food, and crawled into my sleeping bag. Race director Richard was kind to wax my skis, as I was going to do that myself. Meanwhile, co-race director Kamila was surprised to find me in my sleeping bag. Her timing was great as I was ready to get up.

Off I went around 1 a.m. and never felt sleepy the rest of the race. The snow was super fast, the wind was calm, it was easy to see on the lit trails, it was really meditative to be out on skis at that hour. More Turtle & Hare game to catch up on Cyd's relentless consistent skiing and 5-lap gain. It was awesome to hear cheers from the announcers throughout the night over the loudspeaker.
It was impressive to have groomers come by a couple times throughout the event, even at night. The tracks were in great shape the whole race.

Packing for this event, I neglected to bring "cold-weather" gear as predicted temps were to be balmy. I forgot that the body depletes in endurance events and clothing helps to keep in the warmth. Thanks to Christina, a 12-hour relay skier, who overheard my plea for mitts and offering hers. It was a game of jacket on/jacket off to keep the body temp regulated.

I caught up to Cyd and kept my pace going. My goals shifted as the event went. At one time I was determined to ski 100-laps. My 2nd break cut into that goal. I noticed Cyd taking longer breaks. As I jumped into this event unprepared, I decided to ski whatever was necessary to stay in the lead. I ended up skiing 87 laps or 261-km.

Many thanks goes to the race organization which was World Class. Richard & Kamila, Peter, the Zideks and volunteers were amazing. The town of Canmore gave great support to this 1st time event and hopefully many more. The participants and their support were encouraging. Anyone on a relay team seemed to have more fun and it was inspiring to see all the recreational skiers.

24-hours of x-c sking is wayyy less painful than 24-hours of mtnbiking. Other than my foot blisters, and post-event foot swelling (long time on the feet!), recovery was pretty easy. Thanks to Tim for driving back to Edmonton!

Next time, I would like to challenge the World 24-hour X-C- ski record (prepared!) held by Kamila Borutova of 333-km, WITH Kamila skiing it too!

Definitely a nice way to end the ski season...