Saturday, December 29, 2012

MitoCanada PLPP Challenge - Okanagan

I was excited to see Jeff Krar's Facebook post saying he was going to x-c ski 100-km at Telemark trails in spirit as the rest of the MitoCanada gang were skiing at Peter Lougheed Prov. Park (PLPP).
Mito-Canada Skiers at PLPP - photo Bryon Howard
Being out in the O.K. already, I was inspired to join Jeff! We started at 7:30 a.m. just as it turned light in the morning.

Fresh snow was coming down and expected to fall most of the day. The early morning freshly groomed tracks already had snow in them. It was going to be a longer day and harder ski than the previous day's fast crisp trails Jeff mentioned he skied on.

Started with Fern Creek to Crystal Rim loop. Finished with Rabbit, Telemark and Panorama Ridge. 30k done.

At our first break, I grabbed my new Atomic Skintecs. My effort was now twice as it should be! I decided to turn back for my waxable skis.

The magnetic skin strip was dragging at the front a few mm. Too snowy to adjust the strip. My goof!

Next loop of classic got us to 68-km. Another break, and switch to skate gear.

Had warm turkey stock from my thermos, cacao coconut drink, bananas, egg salad... a few dates, Vega gel, and raw energy bars. Good fuel!

Jeff and I were happy with the new motion of skate-skiing. Soon, I was unhappy with the gritty slow glide on Fern Creek trail. Much happier as skis glided faster on Telemark loop.

We skied in the dark the last 19-km. It was surreal and beautiful with a red sunset glow on the horizon. Did a couple 5-km out & backs on Telemark with a last few km to top up the mileage.

My headlamp fizzled towards the end. I had faith following Jeff closely, dimly lit by the teeniest Petzl beam, to ski two loops on easier trails. One last look at the GPS, I exclaimed "100-km"!

Happy skiers Jeff & Marg - 100 km completed! photo Nancy Krar

Jeff was an awesome ski-mate and I appreciated his support to the end. It was cool to be part of the MitoCanada x-c group ski even though we were a couple mountain ranges apart.

Final stats: 100 km, 8 hr 44 min, 8134' elevation gain!

Gotta mention, in the 7-day period ending with this 100 km day, I put in 240 km of skiing! Awesome

Kool Raw Snowman under the Okanagan Christmas Tree

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Vert180 - skin learnings

Vert-180 - defn: number of times to skin up and ski down in a 3-hour period. Event held in the evening at local ski hill C.O.P in Calgary (Canada Olympic Park). 125 metre elevation gain each loop.

my long rookie play-by-play until I get my act dialed in

  • The climbing part of the Vert-180 course, relatively easy as it's my forte and I like climbing. 
  • Descending, better once the snow-making machines were redirected and visibility was more than 10 feet! Eventually, had a straight run down on the bumpy terrain. Needed to be wary of skiers swooshing down.
  • Transitions - got more efficient each loop even with quirks. Always cool to hear the music at the lower transition and see the crowd.
  • Boot pack section was unfortunately removed. It would have given a different dynamic with transition times - disruptive like barriers at a cyclocross race.
Biggest Challenge:
Dealing with a skin flopping off the ski and landing in a heap early into the event... was a test of perseverance to not give up on the equipment and figure out how to continue with non-adhering skins.

Over a week prior, I was anxious to test out my new setup after getting the bindings mounted at Gears Up in Canmore. I did a run up Sunshine ski-out and was amazed at the minimal effort to move with the gear. Certainly a change from the heavy rentals I used the prior weekend.

The skins I received were too long for my short ski. These already had tails which I wanted to keep as I doubted I would make another pair with tails. It was nerve-wracking to take a knife to the expensive skin material to shorten the skin and figure out how best to make the tip. I googled for others' input and brands with pre-made tips. Finally, I sliced and diced and re-created a new tip. 

I practiced ripping the skins off in the house, and putting them back on. Probably, better to do outside in the snow, as I might have gotten debris on them. The skins seemed sticky enough though definitely not grip-proof like the rentals.

Race evening temp was -10C with a weird warming trend over the next few hours, which was welcome as I got weary.

It was cool to see the National team members in their red/green skinsuits. I lined up behind them at the start. They took off fast. I managed a good pace knowing my heartrate would settle down soon enough. 
misty climb up - photo from
Transition to ski:
I chanted the mantra boots-binding-skins and thought about the next steps.

Boots - close the top buckle
Binding - flip the heel-lift back to allow my heel to lock in
Skins - shift forward, grab tab on tip, lift ski, rrrrip skin off

Well, the rip turned into a double-rip motion with a step-down in the middle to maintain balance. Not so good as I got moist snow-machine blown snow on the bottom. Folded the skins and tucked them into my jacket. Fumbled with the top strap from the pack in the way of my jacket zipper.

First descent with minimal visibility and not knowing exactly where to go, I followed two women swooshing across the whole course. I couldn't see past them to pass by. Though probably only seconds, funny to swoosh knowing it was a straight down descent.
Eventually, visibility was clearer to bomb straight down, with a hard right hand turn to stop at transition. Love those edges! so unlike x-c gear.
transition area - photo from
Chanting the mantra on the speedy bumpy descent:
   Boots - open the top buckle of the boot
   Binding - press front binding down to release boot;
              - flip heel-lift forward
   Skins - apply skins

Happy it was easy to step into the binding with the guide holes on the toe of the boot.

Eye-widening Experience:
Only an hour into the race (5th loop) after putting the skins on, I shuffled a few steps, slipped and noticed a skin was left behind me. At first, "DNF" flashed in my mind. "No, not so early in the event!" 

I picked up the lifeless skin and hastened to reapply. I made it part of the way up the hill and the skin went flying in front of me. Ahhh! I stepped to the side, chilled out, took lots of time and applied friction on the skin. I forgot about the technique Jeff Hughes (adventure race bud from 1998) mentioned about using the edge of the ski to brush the ice off the skin.

For the next 10 loops at transition, I spent extra minutes to insure the skins were going to stick by using friction to warm them up. Only bonus was I was super well rested before each climb. 

I kept catching up and passing a woman in a skinsuit. Each lap, I had to catch up and pass her again and again as her transition was flawless.

On climbs, I naturally push up and over a rise in a hill. I could sense there was someone close behind a few times and had National team members pass me. As they passed, I wasn't too far off their climbing pace (except for Reiner Thoni who blazed by!). It was ultra cool to see Melanie Bernier and Peter Knight climb by smoothly together one time. And, got to witness them pass by me quite a few times!

Steve Sellars (2nd place male, and 50+) thought I was purposely working not to let him pass on the climb. Nope, just my technique to push on! He eventually passed by stealthly. One night, I bumped into Steve practicing transitions when I was skate-skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Practice helps! He was speedy.

Food Access
Crazy, I didn't eat during the whole event. Managed a few gulps of water, here and there from my Camelbak. The yummy dates in a ziploc bag hung out in the lower access to my pack the whole event. 

I could have gotten to them in seconds though with the extra minutes warming up the skin, I was stubborn to not take the few seconds. Fortunately, with an evening event, I was plenty fueled before-hand.

Gotta work on attaching external pockets on the front pack straps for easy access to food.

Super happy I persevered. Better for me to learn about the skins now. Lots to work on with gear: using skins with no tails, having a backup pair in the pack, most definitely to rip the skins off without hitting the snow, and maybe reglueing this pair.

At the race, I laughed when I saw two women each take an end of a skin stuck onto itself, and rip it apart. I looked over and said I was envious of the grip!

I was thankful that the extra time spent warming up the skin worked and I was able to finish. Guesstimate with the lost time - for sure would have squeezed out 1 more lap. 2, not sure though would have tried!

GPS stats: 1904m elevation gain, 20.3 km distance, 
2 1/2 hours moving time!  which meant 30+ min transition
max 70 kph at some point! Mostly max at 50-60 kph

Thanks to the organizers for keeping this event going. Race numbers doubled and hopefully that trend will continue.