Sunday, January 27, 2013

Local Loppets - Double Header

Squeaked in the back-to-back days of Beckie Scott Loppet on Jan 26, and Tawatinaw on Jan 27. Both races had about 50 hearty skiers. Maybe only three of us did both. One had an Olympic Gold Medalist!

So much more fun to race at training pace on a trackset course we rarely ever ski on, than to train on the same old trails.

On the line - Ryan, Jason, Cameron, Marg (in green), Jeff tucked in

Becky Scott Loppet - 29.2 km, 1:59
(2011 time 1:52 duking it with Jeff & Helge!)

Good snow, -15C start, -11C finish. I was deceived by the sunshine and lack of wind in Vermilion, and underdressed a smidgeon. 75% of the course is shaded anyway, with the coolness from the lake for a good stretch each lap.

Typical herringbone climbs which was tough to match Helge's pace! I soon dropped off on my own. Even though I finished 1 min after the next guy, there was no sight of him in front with the twisty trails.

My hands were frickin' cold, enough to consider dropping out after each 10 km loop. My mind was either on sending warmth to my fingers or minimizing the pain from my underarm with every pole stroke midway thru the race.

Could have been in better spirits with my mitts on! Will not let my body get cold like that again. Not fun shuddering in front of the fire at the end. Very cool to see Becky out.

Tawatinaw Loppet - 25.7 km, 1:46 (laps 1/2 - 51/55 min) 2011

Colder start at -19C, finish at -8C, crazy! Knew best to dress up one layer with the 2nd day of racing, and getting overly cold the prior day.

The speedy 15 km skiers set a quick pace at the start. Within the first 50m, a polite newbie paused to let in a skier, had his ski pole in my path causing me to go down. Quick to rise though I was off the pack's pace.

Skied with Wietske, a guy, and a strong young woman up the climb. Followed them down the first descent, and overtook on the next climb. Wondered where Wietske was... Taras and Greg were in sight on the double-pole ridge section.

The trails were wicked, especially the latter 5 km of swoopy trails and major descents, including the few last herringbone climbs. Treat to bomb down the 1 km descent for the 2nd loop. Far back of the boys now after the descent, too light!

Found my heartrate was low and I was at cruising pace, not race pace. Enjoyed the last lap though super lonely.

Found out Weitske fell on her One Way pole switching lanes, and it broke. She gutted out 10 km with one pole, picked up another for lap 2, and finished. It would have been fun to race with her.

Wish more skiers would come out to these wicked races!

photo - David Cure-Hryciuk
Finished off the day on the AT gear skinning up the ski hill with an easy descent on Tawatinaw's black diamond run!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Whitefish Whiteout - 2nd Real Skimo Race!

My second real ski-mo race and my first time skiing at Whitefish Big Mountain Resort. Last time I was in the area was in 1997 for a 3-day road bike stage race, including a climb up to the ski hill.

Marg tucked in amongst the Canada Suit Guys (with blue helmet) - photos Whitefish

Course - 4 ascents (including a bootpack section), 3 descents. Hill-climb finish!

Climbing - Physically challenging. The first climb was like a roadbike TT on groomed track. The rest of the skinning was on steep pitches with loose deep snow, sketchy, and energy robbing.

Descending - workable as the runs were carved nicely; gates to guide the course. Just like mtn-biking, it would help to know the course.

Bootpack Section - Total fun once I was out of the deep snow falling in to my knees. Vertical snow steps, steep like a snow version Grouse Grind.

In the video, funny clip at 1:30 where I am slo-mo in folding my skins, 
as the racer next to me fights with removing a skin off his ski... 
also, black/white clip at the end of the video of me heading to the finishline

87 skiers, rec & racer categories, lined up on the most outstanding weather day. Clear blue skies with brilliant views, mild temps, awesome snow conditions. Heard it was rare to get the clear views.

After way too long of pre-race instructions while we were waiting on the raceline in minimal gear getting cold, the race finally began up Toni Matt groomer, a designated resort climb route.

fast start 
The Canada suit guys took off. I kept Steve Sellars in my sight knowing he'd set a good even pace that would work for me for the first while.

Brad Schalles leads Peter Knight - good example of working hard
(or Peter's definition of smiling less & suffering more!)

I went my normal hard up the climb and held a good position within the top 10. Impressive with a couple guys around me with fat skis and heavier gear.

The climb was open and non-technical though was steep and taxing on the lungs. My legs were even burning.

Top guys duking to the top (Peter Knight, local Ben Parsons, Brad Schalles)

There was one person ahead 20 metres that I thought could possibly be a woman. We were climbing at the same pace. Seemingly so close in distance, yet so far in actual time and effort.

Marg's last push to the top - pretty focused

At the top, had an ok transition. Was met by mountain bike friends Tim and Tracie Brezsnyak (Deadgoat racers) who were awesome to follow me down the hill. Tim was super supportive with his comments as I bumbled along.

Beautiful views, snow-clad trees

I was actually skiing parts of the hill. Skittered when I was unsure about a line then took a few turns. Descending Cal's Country was manageable though Haskill Slide was challenging yet no-where near as daunting as Lone-Star from last week's Castle Mtn race.

The women swooshed by me with grace, it was impressive to see.

skittering down!

Next skin up ventured into a steep gladed run. It was challenging in soft snow which provided no solid base to push off from. My actual step turns went well with all the "training" from the Castle Mtn race.

Skin tracks went all over. I started taking my own best line merging into another racer's. I attempted to minimize energy loss though there was alot of slippage on this steep climb.

At the top, saw Tim again. Skied down more black diamond runs, skittering and making turns. It was helpful to follow blue or red gates to guide my path. Scraped thru double-black diamond East Rim safely.

Marg unknowingly following Michelle (bottom photo) with Tim in red spectating (on right)

Next skin was short though challenging with more steep gladed run up N.B.C. It was not apparent where the bootpack section was to begin. Looking ahead, one skier was bootpacking while another was skinning

much steeper than it looks!
I was tired of slipping and transitioned to boot pack in not the best spot. My legs dived into the snow up to my knee with each footstep.

Once I got into the middle of the run, nice kicked in steps guided me up. It was steep like the outdoor stair climb Grouse Grind. The odd step was too high for me, and I wavered a little backward. I kept thinking "weight forward" as falling backward was not an option.

I caught up to a few skiers that slowed my pace a few minutes until they cleared the top of the boot pack. Thinking it was transition to ski, I was told it was still a short skin up to the top.

I reached into my jacket to grab my skins, and was surprised they weren't there. "I lost my skins" I said out loud. Another skier exclaims, they are "on your skis"! Oh yeah, I forgot!

Love that scenery with Jenny Pierce skinning up

Zipped up the short skin to transition to ski. Got cheers from the Canadian guys who already finished.

The last descent on Glory Hole started out with tight single track around fir trees with minimal room to turn or brake. I followed two skiers that were my pace. Further down it was open and turnable.

Marg chilling with Chance up the last climb - smiling!

Last climb up near Hell-Fire was tough again with steep loose snow. My skins did not grab and I sunk and slipped my way up. I realized 2/3 way up that my top boot buckle was still locked so maybe due to hindered weight shift.

Last 400m was a slight grade kind of flat, and I did my best to ski in cross-country ski style. I was 6th woman in and was welcome by the other 5 women. Very nice comradry.

The Skimo Gals
Michelle Roberts (Cdn), Katie French (USA), Marg Fedyna (Cdn), 
Nikki Kimball (USA), Martha Burley (Cdn), Jenny Pierce (USA) 
- photo from speedy Nikki Kimball

Yay, I was the 1st woman on the climb, and Canadian team member Brad was the 1st guy.

Cdn guys took 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th (Stano Faban , Brad Schalles, Peter Knight, Steve Sellars, Nial Gleeson). Canadian women took 3rd, 4th and 6th (Martha Burley - tele-queen, Michelle Roberts, Marg Fedyna) - awesome!

My GPS claimed elevation gain 5500', elevation loss 3360', contrary to other reports of 4800' gain. Whatever it was, it was alot of sketchy climbing!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Castle Mountain Ski-Mo Race - Double Black Diamond?!

Ahhh, what happens when a cross-country skier gets put on a double-black diamond downhill run... a long and tedious shuffling descent full of snowball tumbles and burning quads! I definitely would have won the longest timed descent section :)
top of Lone Star, bottom 2000' down double-black diamond slope - photo Levon Jensen

An eager group of 27 ski-mo racers lined up for the 1st ever ski-mo race at Castle Mountain in southern AB, nick-named "The Best Ski Hill You've Never Heard Of".
Michelle & Marg amongst the Canada Team suits - photo Levon Jensen

The course circumnavigated the ski resort counter-clockwise, mostly at the ski boundary line. Maybe 3-km of the whole 13-km course was on groomed trail. The rest was skinny trail steep incline bushwacking, scrambling rocky terrain, descending double-black diamond 30%+ pitch powder, and navigating thru tree-d cat-skiing powder.

Original course plan
The course was EPIC! As the event progressed, I thought the challenge was as tough as some of my adventure race experiences.

My endurance fitness helped me with a good start following the lead guys into the single-track trails. Once we hit the steep pitches needing kick-turns (yeah, first time doing these!), I had to let a couple guys and the next couple women, Michelle Roberts and Katarina Kuba, pass by as I was flailing like an upside down turtle.

As a newbie, I was glad to use my ski leashes, definitely a ski-mo racer styling faux-pas. When my ski tip got stuck in the snow on one of my kick-turns, my ski-boot released from my binding (I forgot to lock the front binding). I was happy the ski was dangling from the ski leash and had not run off.

After countless short STEEP switchbacks (50-ish), I eventually got better with finding my balance point and not sliding backwards. The occasional tree branch was my friend as I grabbed it for support. Once the climbing followed a straight-away, I caught back up to lead woman Michelle.
sketchy rocky bootpack - photo Levon Jensen
Almost 3000' elevation gain later, we reached the boot-pack section together on the open windy ridge. I was surprised of the technical difficulty of the next scramble on the rock, 220' up and 220' down. Had to slide thru a rocky crevass to land safely on the snow below.
the rock crevasse with the landing a long jump away - photo Levon Jensen
At my height, my skis are not far off the ground when hanging off the pack. My skis were jostled and I had to re-adjust them on my pack a few times.
Michelle quick on the boot pack - photo Levon Jensen
Michelle dashed ahead nimbly. My gloves became damp and fingers were now cold from tumbling in the snowy scramble. I stopped in a sheltered area from the wind to switch to dry gloves, extra hat, and sunnies before reaching the transition.

views outstanding - photo Levon Jensen
At transition while I was removing the skins, two more women caught up, Sheri Foster and Katarina. I shakily followed Sheri's line in the off-camber ridge to the top of Lone Star and gulped when I looked down the double-black diamond snowy run. It was a continuous 30-degree+ fall line for about 2,000 feet!

Gosh, I struggled like a beginner mountain biker on their first attempt at a technical descent... no, it was WORSE as I couldn't get off my equipment and walk down! Wide-eyed, I did my best to scuttle and swoop down. I traversed as far as I could before I forced myself to turn. It took FOREVER to get down.

My quads were aching. I stopped many times to take a breather. Took an effort to push on through my fear. My breath-rate was higher than when I was climbing!

2/3 way down, I stopped and looked back, then wayyyy up... crikey that was steep! I managed to actually swoop the rest of the way down as it might of been only a black-diamond run.

I was happy to hear two volunteers blowing a whistle and made my way towards them. I jokingly told them I was a x-c skier. They pointed me towards the course and said "to enjoy the cross-country ski trail"!

A short respite on an easy traverse, then transition to skins. Meanwhile, another woman showed up on a split-board! I cheered as I was impressed not realizing it was Christine Misseghers, a fellow mtn-biker from my past racing days.

Peter with speed - photo Levon Jensen
I was thrilled to be climbing again and scooted off with full energy. I was surprised the hard effort of slow skiing on the descent did not hurt my climbing muscles!

Following the Huckleberry chair, descending snowboarders cheered! When I heard a cowbell in the distance, I was excited to see AB Ski-Mo's biggest fan Mary Knight, Peter Knight's mom and great supporter.

Caught up to Katarina, then Michelle. Only Sheri ahead.

At the next transition which was supposed to be boot-pack was now the descent, as we managed to skin up the potential boot-pack section. I did not see Sheri. She is a strong climber AND descender, so first was out of contention.

Wide-eyed I scanned the full-on powder in a VERY steep tree-d cat-ski area. The volunteers said to go straight down and to turn at the cat-track road not visible from where we were.

I cried, and again scraped my way down, this time with the trees in the way and deep cat-skiing powder to contend with. Oh, it was not pretty and took me FOREVER. I tumbled many times though never hurt myself.

Straight down from the top of Haig Ridge - lots of trees!
Finally, I saw the cat-track road when I was on a high ridge. I did not care to backtrack for a safer route, and slid on my butt down to the road. It was now awesome to skate-ski and double-pole to the finish.

Finished just under 3 hours... 4 min back of Michelle and 15 min back of Sheri, with Katarina and Christine back only a few minutes. Awesome woman's group of racers!!

This was my first "back-country" experience. Yeah, nothing like learning all the details in a race! I am very GREEN with no real downhill training.
We had scrambled over that rocky peak in the race!

Ideal weather... -13C, sunny blue skies, minimal wind. The scenery was outstanding whenever I made the effort to glance about. Total elevation gain 4950' and around 12.8 km in distance.

RACE REPORT by lead man Stano Faban

newspaper article

Big thanks to Brent Harris and Dave Dornian from Alpine Club of Canada for their enthusiasm to put on this race. Everything was done well. I totally enjoyed the friendliness of the racers and support.

Also, super thanks to racer Paul Leroux who I met while I was getting my gear together before the race started. I was frazzled, and he was calm and helped me.

Finished off the weekend with an awesome cross-country ski at Allison Creek x-c ski trails in the Crowsnest Pass with a social ski with my old Edmonton buddy Lori Mangion, and with past adventure race teammate Dave Whitten.

It was fun to follow Dave on the twisty fast x-c descents needing quick technical decisions. Gosh, there's skill in me somewhere to learn how to AT downhill!

Thanks to Levon Jensen for his awesome photos...

Final homeward destination... spring water haul near Longview.
Love the mountain view with the sunset!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Kat Scratch Loppet - Spray River West

Just happened that a Kat Scratch Loppet was on today when I asked Linda if I could join in on a ski. I was allowed entry! as it is an event put on within their own ski group "Skiing with Ian". This is maybe my 3rd or 4th Kat Scratch event since 2003.

Here's the video coach Ian Daffern took as we skied by. Note, when Sean was on the return ski, Ian followed Sean while filming and cheering oncomers on! Pretty impressive.

It was awesome to get a hard effort in since putting alot of mileage over Christmas. I got away on Gilles on the long steep climb. On the return Gilles flew by me on the double-pole section and descent.

Amazing scenery!

Location - Spray River West
Distance - approx.  20km (out and back trail)
Temp -   Track -11.4  and Air -14 at the start warming to -9 by finish.  Weather - clear, sunny and cool