Sunday, February 24, 2013

ROAM Randonnee Rally Skimo - Net Gain!

The word "powder" in Coldsmoke Powder Fest had me concerned with the upcoming ROAM Randonnee Rally ski-mo race at Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC.

The Coldsmoke Powder Fest is a weekend of clinics and events, so I signed up for an Alpine Skills clinic the day before the race.

Alpine Skills Clinic - Friday
After my first run, I was designated to the "intermediate" group to my dismay. I relayed my goal of desperately needing to learn how to descend double-black diamond powder runs. I'm not sure how the instructors perceived that comment, as it was clear I needed the basic technical skills (ha!).

Fortunately, the instructor leading my group was Alison Gannett, world champ big mountain free skier! She leads women's camps called KEEN Rippin Chix.

Starting with basic skills, Alison helped my little group improve quickly that she took us down black diamond runs, even Terra Ratta, a double-black diamond run.

The biggest thing I took away was to focus down the fall-line. Previous to learning this, I was stuck on looking down at my ski tips. What a huge difference that made. I was thrilled to have gone from a scared stiff descender to a skier, still scared, though armed with functional tools to get me down a steep run.

Marg Fedyna, tele-queen Martha Burley, Michelle Roberts
 photo Michelle Roberts

ROAM Randonee Rally - Saturday

I got to admit, I was quite abit tuckered from my Friday's events... all day ski clinic, being outdoors in the snowy blowing day with minimal food & water (I'm a constant grazer), the late race meeting that night, as well as prep for the race... including time with my old training bud Dave's family (originally from Edmonton) who I was staying with in Nelson.

Martha, fresh from the World Champs in Europe, raced to the front with Michelle on her heels. I had to chill to a pace on how I felt. Soon enough, I dodged into the front before the low grade climb went into the switchback snowy hillclimb.

Fast race start - Marg in MitoCanada green & black

Working the climb, my ski flew off on a kickturn. Darn, this was the first time I felt confident to leave the ski leashes off.

Note to self... put a darn sticker saying "LOCK" in front of my ski binding. 3 for 3, in each of the recent ski-mo races, my ski has come off when doing a kickturn on a climb as I forgot to lock the binding.

While I was stuck in the deep snow, Martha, Michelle and a rescue skier guy passed by. I finally put the ski back on, locked the bindings. Moved forth before the next skier caught up. Thought Katarina would be coming by soon though she was having her own fun with skins not sticking.

Stopped again to dislodge mounds of snow in the front cuff of my ski boots. Stopped again as a twig on a tree branch poked into my helmet holes and prevented me from going forward. I wondered how long my fingers would keep warm in the now wet gloves.

Before the top of the climb, I eventually caught back up to Michelle and rescue skier guy who politely let me pass. Martha was in sight.

At the top of the climb, skins were kept on for a slightly descending rolling traverse. Very sketchy movement here... and as race winner Stano Faban stated in his race report we were "feeding on the fresh storm snow"! I took a nice snow-dive, as Michelle and rescue skier guy glided by. I told myself to be calm and go a chill pace.

First transition. My attempt to rip off my skins had me fall to the snow. The new skin's glue stuck too well. Sitting in the snow, I tugged off both skins. A little concerned that my butt was now damp from the wet snow, so glad the temp was warm and just below 0 C.

The steep entry to the first powdery descent still looked daunting! As I skittered down, I had to really focus to remember Alison's teachings. Looking down the ever so steep fall-line, I managed to make a few turns in a row in the powdery snow. Cool, it works!

Major untouched powder section. I scooted over to avoid other racer's tracks and set my own trail in the fresh deep powder. That was a first deep powder run for me! Meanwhile, fat ski racers were zooming by like they were couchsurfing.

On the next climb, I had to re-pass at least five of those fast descending guys. By the time I reached the top, Michelle and rescue skier guy were in sight approaching the first bootpack.

Another weird traverse with skins on, to reach the White Lightning major bootpack. The approach was on unsettled snow where I fell thru to my thigh. I invented a crawling technique using my poles flatly on the surface as support. Michelle has a nice recap of this section.

The footsteps into the bootpack section were nicely formed. It was an endless stepladder up. At the top, switched to dry gloves.

Another steep powdery descent slowed me up longer than I would have liked as fat ski skiers floated by again. I enjoyed the final skin up to the last descent. When I crossed back into the ski resort boundary, I was ecstatic to be on a run I did the prior day.

With a few hollers of "where are the flags?", a skier pointed me toward a red flag that was the loop of the final skate-ski to the finish. I was surprised it was only 2:15 hr effort as it felt longer.

downloaded GPS data shows 9.9 km; 3600' elevation gain; yellow - bootpack

highlighted yellow were bootpack sections
Night before plummeted 33 cm of fresh powder before the race. Throughout the whole race, I experienced that fresh powder as I was pretty much snow covered all day from falls and crawls. So glad it was warm out!

Super fun course with all the crazy powder. Wish I had photos of the amazing backcountry scenery we raced through...

As tired as I was from an all-day clinic the prior day, my downhill skiing was way quicker than without the clinic... a definite net gain in time and effort!

Sunday - Troll Loppet at the Paulson X-C Ski Trails

Missed out on the KEEN Rippin Chix clinic, definitely next year. Went with Dave and his daughter Zoe to the Troll Loppet. I first ever skied with Zoe way back in Edmonton when Dave used to pull Zoe in the pulk!
Zoe (on left) and her ski friends - photo Dave Paetkau
I purposely did not register as I'm race loppeted-out. I did follow the lead guy's pace as it was a nice training pace for me. He preferred to follow me, so I lead him out for the first 20k. The trails were in awesome snowy shape and the scenery was outstanding!

Evening drive with Dave's family to the Ainsworth Hot Springs to explore the caves made for a great night's sleep.
Dave cutting up a nice new chubbier wall-to-wall skin for my AT skis

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Gatineau Loppet - Point to Point

Excited to ski the new point-to-point course at the Gatineau Loppet. I ski raced the formerly named Keskinada Loppet ( : race story) back 2005, 2006, 2007, winning the classic race in 2007 (love the horse wreath around the neck!), 3rd in the other years. At that time, the skate race was the money race.

All racers were bussed out at one time, a 40-min drive away. The start was in the middle of nowhere with no shelter to keep warm.

After getting off the bus, there was 30 min to start time. Huddling in my down jacket, I gave in my bag to shuttle to the finish with 5 min to go. Little did I know the women were allocated the far right two lanes, the men had 6 lanes. I was close to last in the lane, not knowing if any woman would let me squeeze in. I did not know where to seed myself amongst them.

narrow startline tracks for the 55km classic loppet
- photo Gatineau Loppet
Up ahead, I saw that the narrow track climbed immediately. Doh, that is my strength. Fortunately, at the start most everyone could keep the hard pace for awhile. Though, I really needed out of my lane. It was challenging to cross-over and over to crawl my way forward as everyone was a decent athlete in this first wave.

After a km, there were only two set tracks (definitely room for a third one like the American Birkie) and then flattened path. To pass, one needed to briskly double-pole around slower skiers to jump back in front on the tracks. It was tiring to continually do this, I hung back for a few minutes for a breather.

Early on, the tracks were slightly glazed and the first thought was "this will be a fast ski - awesome!". Not soon after, the tracks were more snowy, reasonable glide though not a "fast" glide.

Wicked climbs came that were not too steep though herringbone was the best option. They were pleasantly long! (that's a Marg-specific definition). The scenery was brilliant on these trails. Interspersed, were long twisty narrow descents that looked safe with the snowy trails.

I was ready to take the descents full on when the person in front began to "snowplow"! I slowed to prevent catching them when a skiff of snow caught a ski off guard and I snowballed two full revolutions. I was amazed everything was in tact, poles and skis and me!

It took many kms to catch and pass that crowd. It was a game of catch-up the rest of the way. Cool, that I saw at least 10 women throughout the course, rare in most events.

On an out-back section around 27 km, I was only 5 minutes back of Karen Messenger from Canmore (winner of 2013 Cdn Birkie pack), then 2 more women before me. Not sure of my placing, I knew there was at least Shelia Kealey, Tara Whitten ahead and a few others.

This section of trail was fun, twisting in the trees, with quick lefts or rights. Then came the toughest part of the race... the open rolling Gatineau Parkway route... a.k.a. boring for the next 15 km.

The Parkway hills were a little too steep to conservatively double-pole single-kick up and a little too gentle to efficiently diagonal stride up. I stormed up with whichever technique worked best and would slowly gain on skier after skier. Only problem was I could not keep my lead for long on each following descent. Nor could I keep up in their draft. My weight or my skis (?)

Bonus for the Camelbak, I passed skiers at each feedzone. I just came upon a strong woman double-poler. I wondered how long I would stay ahead of her on the Parkway.

For the last half of the race, I continually passed a French speaking skier with bib number 49 back and forth. He had the most wicked glide descending, and I would race by him on ascents. Later on one descent, from behind he said "I will push you", and he did. It was awesome to pick up some speed. Great comradry, though not so great from the racing perspective. Only happened once.

Unfortunately for me, the uphills ran out with 4 km to go. I worked hard this latter half of the race double-poling on the descents to keep away. Darn it with all the double-pole only track at the end, that same woman strongly glided by me at the 1000m sign. Oh well!
Marcus Boyle and Marg at the expo, pre-Classic race
Came in 11th woman overall, 3:41, 26 min after the lead woman. Managed 3rd in my age category with one 55-60 year old ahead yet.

Comrad skier Number 49 gave me a hug at the finish. He told me he was wowed by my ascending though my double-pole needs work - ha, funny!

Need better Startline Provision for Women Racers

Article mentions the lead woman saw no other woman, and that Sheila Kealey had to work her way up. Not the best start for a competitive field. It is a disadvantage to have the women line up in a line.

Need to revise the women's startline!

Possible solution is to have the women start 1 min after, or even 10 sec after, and use all the lanes. Allow the women to intersperse amongst the men like in most races. Will provide the Gatineau Loppet feedback.

Skate race - Sunday
After an awesome potluck Sat night dinner with local skier friends of Marcus, attempted the 51 km skate race the next day. Super freezing temps with a killer windchill had the organizers postpone the race start.

I bundled up, went with the plan to ski for mileage, skis barely moved as if on sandpaper and a strong headwind was cold and blustery. When we were on the fun trails in the trees my skis and I worked well. Soon back to the open freezing Parkway. Made a wise decision to turn around after 18 km. Trudged back to the start in a  frozen state for a total unofficial 25 km ski.

Saw previous Vancouver roomie Carolyn Daubeny who had a fantastic race up until 45 km when a man bowled her over (and unnecessarily on the open Parkway). Part of her ski boot broke making it impossible to ski. She was willing to run it in, though not official in the rules. She would have been top 5 of the women.

Heard Sheila Kealey had a similar incident though only her pole was clipped by a follow too close man skier. It took her time to grab her pole and glove, and possibly put her out of contention for a win, not sure.

As I was skating a chill pace, I saw neglectful etiquette amongst a few of the men skaters. I threw out the odd comment if I could like "we HAVE the whole parkway" as they would swoop in so close by. Saw one man ski over another skier's pole which snapped. Thought a fist fight would occur!

I prefer classic racing - much safer!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Canadian Birkie - Slow Mo

As I just caught up to a couple skiers and followed the superb technique of pack skier Karen Messenger, I was surprised to have already reached the Islet Lake feedzone 33 km in. To get to this point, there are normally technical twists and turns in the trail which need quick step turns and footwork.

Since the fresh morning's snow made the trails a slogfest, all the "caution" signs on the steep downhills and corners were ignored. The descents were slow and easy to get down. So, I actually did not notice where I was on course without the normal bombing descents.

The prior day had the best possible Birkie conditions with -6C start and solid snowy tracks. A surprise to everyone was the evening cloud cover that blew in which warmed up the early morning air to +2C and brought along an hour of fresh soggy snow flakes - a x-c skier's race-day waxing nightmare!

Note, the Canadian flag blowing stiffly in the wind!

I did not bother covering my few layers of VR60 on my base binder. It was easy to find a spot in the front at the start and lucked out with being in the right hand lane. All trails merged nicely on that side.

At the start, the fresh snow in the trails and the headwind on the 1-km loop on the lake had skier's merge into single-file quickly. Heading into the double trails in the trees, no grip was to be had. Went with double-poling for a few km with bumper to bumper skiers.

Mito skier Bryon Howard took a pic of his bumper to bumper crowd

Getting further into the trees the snow changed and the skis gripped nicely. I virtually ran up the hills with full-on grip, kicking the clumped snow off at the top to glide onward. Got away on a group of skiers as they stopped at the first feedzone and my Camelbak served me well.

Did not have a train of skiers to follow though usually had a skier in the distance to mark and catch up to. Made it fun! When I did catch up to a skier, the guy followed my heels for awhile.

Crossing Islet Lake behind Karen, I was barely moving skiing into the strong headwind. My poles wavered in the wind gusts and no ski tracks were to be had.

Getting into the hills, I ran up and gradually got away. Was on my own until I saw the odd skier on Fenceline. With only 12-km to go, the course headed off the open trails and back into sheltered Wanison trail. The snow was soft. I had a few scary moments with clumping snow on my skis that would not come off!

As I was immobilized, the only skiers that passed me in the race that I did not catch up to happened to be two women! Chantell Widney, a strong Olympic distance triathlete new to x-c skiing skied by strongly, and a woman from Calgary I did not recognize.

I danced around on my skis, attempting to kick off the clumps. Within a couple hundred metres, I was amazed they started gliding again, though the women were out of sight.

Merging onto the 31-km race course, the tracks were glazed and relatively FAST-er. It was nice to double-pole quickly for awhile. Alas, soon had to turn back to the Fenceline and slow-mo trails.

Plugged along. I had no concept of time. Forgot my GPS in my warmup jacket pocket at the start.

Nice to race and be unaware of time. Only issue was not realizing that the extra effort skiing in slo-mo snow required more fuel. I was in need of a few more calories.

Whoever was coherent with 5 km to go will remember the Viking with the horns at the orienteering feedzone. Found out he is Jim Stewart, uncle to one of my co-workers

Just finished drinking my Camelbak full of fresh coconut water (from the actual young coconut NOT tetrapak or can). Grabbed some water at the last feedzone and had an orange slice tossed in my mouth by a volunteer (thanks!). My date supply had fallen out while skiing and only managed to have one earlier.

The last 4-km was a long period of time to double-pole in, even though it was on slightly glazed tracks. Finally got to the 2-km sign and the 400m sign, yay, the finish! I was surprised my time was almost 1 hour slower than my last Birkie. With 3 speedy 20+ year-olds as top 3 women, came in 6th woman overall.

Carolene Kuschminder - 2nd, Marg Fedyna 1st, Viking Medal Presenter (Age class 40-49)
Fun to hear everyone's war stories of the day! I have not felt every muscle ache in any event I have done like this one, well, at least since a couple of the days at the 28 day adventure race in New Zealand. This was a full on body workout ski race!

A woman in the change room recognized me from skiing the American Birkie last year. Pretty neat to meet Magdalena Bowen who came up from Bozeman, Idaho.

Cool to wear the MitoCanada colours and to see all the Mito skiers out!

Viking skiers congratulate Brian McKeever - photo Shaughn Butts
Probably having raced in these conditions before, the National team skiers knew better. Winner Brian McKeever used skate skis, and a couple others went with the "hairies" technique using a classic ski with roughly sand-papered gripzone and no grip wax.

There was no grip wax job that could combat all the wet varied snow conditions of the day. The learnings from the experienced!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Video from Castle Mountain Skimo Race

Awesome memories watching this video... except no footage of the scary double-black diamond powder descent - video by CastleMnt

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Nipika Classic Loppet - Double-pole & Scramble

Rest weekend... nah, wouldn't want to miss a trip out to the Nipika trails near Radium Hot Springs. I did forego doing a double-header and opted out of the skate race for Sunday.
 showing the awesome tracks and scenery - photo

Last time I raced a loppet here was 2006 when we had to remove our skis after a huge descent, and cross a narrow metal bridge with metal steps - twice! It was wickedly crazy fun, though super glad the course now sticks to the same side of the creek. Funny recap of the bridge crossing from 2006 on my old website (see Jan 24 posting).

30-km classic (2 loops), -4C to start, brilliantly sunny, +1C finish

Small and speedy crowd. Looked like a group of 20 guys stormed ahead of me. Tons of double-poling.  A small group of 4 guys passed me.

The first climb was herringbone and it was cool to see bumper to bumper skiers slowly making their way up. Again, I was skiing alone most of the course with minimal visibility of the next guy ahead.

Team MitoCanada Tent -
Mark Toth, Nancy Krar, Jeff Krar (my 100-km ski buddy) - photo Nancy

Last night, I put on a very thin klister blue for base binder. Before the race, I topped it off with 2 layers of VR60 at the MitoCanada tent before Team Mito scrambled off to the start. One more layer of wax might have helped.

Had just enough kick to single-kick double-pole, as most of the course was double-pole and the climbs were so mushy it was herringbone.

Team MitoCanada - Troy Hudson, Darryl Mekechuk, Mark Toth, Mikhail Kudienko, Jeff Krar - photo Nancy Krar

The descents were fast and windy. One descent caught me by surprise with a 180 turn at the bottom. Prepared to take a fall, I did my best to stay low as I turned into the corner.

Surprise - my skimo legs had me naturally heavy weight the outer ski, and voila, I snapped into the turn upright! It wasn't a fluke as I did the same wicked turn the 2nd loop too!

Of that group of 4 guys, I was happy to catch one guy on loop one, and caught another two on the second loop. They were sketching out on the ascents.

I ripped up the climbs by scrambling up the snowy track in the middle. Skis iced up then glided well after getting back in the track.

Happy warm finish - photo Nancy Krar

My 2nd loop was pretty close in time to my 1st loop. Total time 1:53 (GPS 28 km)

Awesome temp skiing in minimal gear, no worries of getting cold.

Drank up my fresh coconut water I put in my Camelbak.

Good company to carpool with Darryl Mekechuk and Brooke Campbell with entertaining stories! and pee stops!

Scenery outstanding!