Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ken Jones Classic Skimo - Long Distance Race

After the last few skimo races in balmy temperatures, race morning at Lake Louise was back to familiar cold dry conditions at -20C. Race course had 4 climbs, one with bootpack, 4 descents.
2011 Ken Jones Classic race poster was cooler than the 2012 poster!

The cold temps typical for AB meant nice dry snow, no worries on the skins not sticking, and guaranteed solid footing skinning up. It was the racing temp I was pretty accustomed to with the loppets. Still tough to not overdress.

Marg tucked in behind the speedsters - photo from Peter's post

The race started early around 8:30 a.m. with a groomer run from Whitehorn Lodge midway up the front side. Much smaller crowd, with all the hardcore racers and very few backcountry tourers.

The pace went out fast. I hung with the pack and ventured forth once my heart-rate settled. I hovered between Mark Toth (in his 2nd skimo race) and Niall Gleeson.

Lead guys, awesome scenery - photo Chris Moseley

At the top, the marshall had an awesome spot in the sun, sheltered from the cold. It felt super warm, and was an inversion in temperature on the backside.

Quickly ripped off the skins and headed down double-black F-Gully. I made quicker progress down than I had all season with a few turns in a row, gently leaning my butt to rest on the steep descent for a few breaks. It was steep!

The daunting start to the descent from transition! - photo Chris Moseley

At transition, Niall gave me cheers as he had smoothly passed me descending, and started climbing just as I arrived. I put my skins on and just started climbing as the next woman Martha Burley arrived.

No problems on the ascent with the kickturns and skimmed along Hiker's Paradise. At the top, ripped the skins off as quick as possible. The marshall directed me on which descent to go down as we would climb to this same peak again.

I was a little more shaky on the churned snow though kept in motion. Had a nice snowball tumble though just got up again unscathed! Midway down, Martha came storming down past me. I was not sure exactly where the next transition was and was pensive in the lumpy snow. I lost too much speed and once I saw the transition, I had to pole to the marshall.

Went down runs like this, just a typical skimo day! - photo Chris Moseley

For the descents, this was the first time I decided to grab my poles below the handle and not put my hand thru the strap. This worked well for the steeps until I was poling to this transition.

When my hands are in the straps, I naturally release my grip when swinging my arm back (a x-c thing). Forgot the straps weren't on, doh, and dropped the pole! Quickly turned back to grab my pole.

Nice outline from Dave Aschim, an Enduro racer

At transition, I was quick again, though Martha was already up and out of sight. Michelle just arrived to transition as I was starting the 3rd climb. It was awesome to hear her cheer me on!

Climbed to the transition to boot-pack. The boot-pack seemed long probably due to the short baby steps kicked in. I could not look up as the skis attached to my pack held my helmet at a rigid position.

view of the marshall we saw twice and the steeps to descend - photo Chris Moseley

Finally I heard voices and made it up to the same marshall who was kind with his encouragement. He pointed to the next descent. I skittered down and saw where to take speed to pass the previous transition and not have to pole.

Another outline from Dave Aschim. Descent Brownshirt in red

It was now a tuck and fly down a long gradual 3 km descent to the next transition being wary of regular day skiers. A racer came up from behind and it helped me maintain speed to tuck behind him.

Not realizing he was an Enduro racer, he continued to ski fast to his finish as I noticed the hard left turn in front of Temple Lodge for my transition. It was cooling on the hands during that descent.

At this transition, Mark & Michelle came in behind me. Michelle scooted out quickly. I took a smidgeon longer as I put on backup skins. First time I tucked both sets into the front of my jacket. A little bulky! Did not really need to switch though it was good practice and I was happy with the wider fresh skin on.

The scenery was outstanding as we traversed in the dense trees. Even though the track seemed skier set, soon, I noticed no more green flags to follow. I ventured forth though it was aimless to hook back onto the course.

As I would in an adventure race, I backtracked to the last seen green flag. I skied back down the sketchy snow with my skins on. Mark was mislead on this section too and now we were together for the climb.

Mark set a wicked climbing pace! We almost missed another turn as the green flag was already up and around the turn. I now had eagle eyes to ensure I could see each green flag.

Climbing a steeper section near the Rock Garden, Mark pulled aside with cramping. Sad to lose my climbing-mate, I ventured on. Finally saw Michelle up above a-ways ahead. She was storming the climb!

A headwind swirled and it was cooling on the body after warming up on the climb. Despite the inversion at the backside, I was glad to have worn my balaclava from the start.

view from the top of Elevator Shaft - photo

At the crossover section, the marshall stopped me as a skier was descending Elevator Shaft. I took the opportunity to eat a Vega gel. Yummy though ice cold, I took small gulps to let the gel warm up in my mouth. The skier was Martha and I cheered her on with my prime view to watch her zoom down this epic descent.

Continuing on the last pitch of the climb, I could see Mark back in the distance and was glad he overcame his cramping.

Reached the top, and made my way ok down double-black Elevator Shaft. Took a breather at the crossover marshall. As I wanted to make sure I stayed on course, I pensively watched for the red flags, so descended cautiously.

Once past the Rock Garden, the course turned hard left and followed the 4 km ski-out. It was awesome to tuck with speed, and work the descent to skate-ski on flatter sections.

Finishline was immediately after hitting the ski resort base. Nice warm & sunny finish!

Distance 20.4 km, Ascent 1672m, Descent 2090m

Other racers had gotten lost in the same spot as Mark & I as mentioned in Stano's Report and Peter's Report.

So many racers missed that turn that there was now a nice misleading ski track. Unfortunately, Katarina did not find where the course continued and decided to finish her race early.

Enjoyable race story from Dave Aschim, one of the backcountry tour skiers in his second skimo race.

After a hard day's race, the racers put full use to the lift ticket that came with race registration and headed out to ski more runs! I joined in and skied with Mark the rest of the afternoon. We met up with Steve Sellars and his 12 year old daughter who also raced. Her descending was amazing!

Thanks to Mark who was my carpool buddy. We stayed at the Fireweed Hostel in Field the night before which is a secret haven. We had the chance to practice transitions and dial in our gear in the teeny snowy back yard.

Thanks to Peter who gave me a tour of the runs earlier in the week. That was calming for me to see what I would be up against. Last time I skied at Lake Louise was once in 2003 and prior to that once in1983, and that was only on the green and blue runs!

Practice definitely helped me for race day, and I'd like to make it a habit!

a few internet photos showing how steep these descents are:
avi control on the double-blacks including F-Gully
Avalanche control with snow tumbling down BrownShirt run

2013 Dogtooth Dash Results

Funny about the Dogtooth results... abit misleading. Not just the Elite and Enduro women's ranking, a few Elite men are listed with a finishing time who did not even complete the full course.

These men only did one of the two final loops. By their time listed, it appears they finished faster than they actually would have on the full course. The marshall at the last checkpoint was to write down the time a racer came by each loop.

Yah, it's a good race... just needs an attentive marshall  :)

the race director is best to stick with the mic!

I arranged to meet with the ISMF certified referee David Dornian with the intention to discuss the Dogtooth Dash mishap. When we met, Dave went on and on about regulatory bodies all the way to Supreme Court. He did not touch upon the situation itself. It was difficult to listen politely.

A man listening in on the conversation asked me what happened. I introduced myself and learned that Ryan Johnstone was another referee.

I told him my viewpoint that 2/3 of the way in the Dogtooth Dash, the race director sent two women to the finish line as it was indicated we did not make the time-cut. I rebutted though was still sent to the finish line early. The race director then allowed the next two women competitors behind me to continue on the full course. The race rules indicate that a ranking was to happen at the point of time-cut. In the end, this did not happen.

This referee Ryan then said "What do you see wrong with that?"

Hmmm, I was not sure how to respond. His statement came across cold. It was aimless to pursue a discussion with these unreceptive men. I'm sure they both meant well though it was awkward that the subject was skirted around.

As men in the position of referees who assumably are to act on behalf of fairness in the sport, a pro-active statement from them would be they understood what happened at Dogtooth was unfair.... and they would provoke different action in the future for unexpected situations that occur.

They have plans to bid for an ISMF race.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dogtooth Dash - Dash Deflated

Small but hearty group of starters considering it was the North American Champs race. Temp was balmy at just below freezing. Latest race start ever after noon-time. The course was held from the top of the resort down to midway.

Race was soon to be found more like a triathlon with multiple transitions of gear in the short sections of descending, ascending, and boot packs.

Start was at the top of the ski hill - photo Kicking Horse Resort

Starting with the Lemans running start... spaced racers out minimally for the first descent. Kept racers together for awhile.

The Lemans run around the Eagle Eye Restaurant, 
A top of the World feel! - photo Kicking Horse Resort
The Lemans start was more fun than I thought it would be. One boot was a little difficult to get into the binding, then off on a green/blue descent with skiers all over. 

After the Lemans run, Marg & Sheri Foster getting the skis on before the first descent - photo The Golden Star

With the previous warm days, it would have been best to use wall-to-wall skins. I started with the skinny ones and needed more stability on the steep slippery kickturns. Slipping when I was midway into a kickturn was not pleasant, and ate up time scrambling out from under the snow. Made friends with any trees near my path to grab onto.

There were a handful of us back and forth the whole time. My transitions were a little too methodical and time consuming. I'd eventually catch up and pass the same racers who were quicker in transitions.

The first descent had a nice skate-ski section up a rise before a short quick descent to a crowded transition area to put skins on
- photo The Golden Star

The red flags were difficult to follow downhill, and I scrubbed off lots of speed to search them out. Green flags for uphill, not a problem.

Definitely confusing reaching the Eagle Eye transition area with people cheering and no-one really directing the athlete. Tough to see any flags with all the commotion.

Warm day, and dressed as light as I would have wanted to. The sun was out to start, though a snowstorm blew in later in the race.

Follow the leader up the first skin track
As I was bootpacking up, 2/3 the way into the Elite course, the Elite racers were to turn to the left to complete two more sections, the Enduro racers (shorter course) were to turn right to head back up to the finish at the Eagle Eye restaurant at the top of the hill.

A voice from a marshall said "turn right". Knowing my course, I stated, "no, I'm Elite, I'm supposed to turn left". I was told "you did not make the time cut, you HAVE to turn right". Hitting the top of the steep bootpack, the voice was from the race organizer Ian Gale.

I was surprised to be in the position of race cut-off time. I rebutted as "this is a championships race", "I'm challenging a few women behind me for 3rd place right now". At that moment, I was barely 2 hours into the race, and guesstimate that it would have taken another 1:15 to finish the full Elite course.

I waited for Ian's response, and he directed me to the finish. I put in a challenge and it was over-ruled. Bummed not to get to complete the Elite course, I "respected" his judgement call and headed the last 200m up to the finish.

The next person to cross the finish was Peter Knight who wickedly came in 3rd! and top Canadian!. He had to pass my competitors up the boot pack on his 2nd loop. A woman with a radio walks up to me and says "Ian is sorry and will comp your entry".

Confused... My competitors, the racers that were just behind me, got to stay on course! Abit disheartening...

I spoke with the referees David Dornian and Brent Harris at the finish line on what happened. I spoke with Ian when the timesheet was put up. There seemed to be no concern about the situation.

Weird - and tough to not be heard... this would be the deflating part of dogtooth dash.

What to do...
Being involved in high level sports for many years, I chose to pursue the situation with the referees and organizer. It's a growing sport and best to figure out how not to have situations like this pop up in the future.

Not the best way to attract participants if they are randomly sent out of the race!

The "cutoff time" was in place before the race started. The Elite woman in 2nd place was told she barely made the "cutoff time" and could have been in the same position as me. An Elite woman just in front of me was sent to the finish early, and then me. Then, the decision changed.

Having a "time cut" then reneging it after following through with it, and then not respecting their own rules about ranking is questionable... The Alpine Club of Canada lists guidelines that state racers will be ranked from the checkpoint a judgement call is made.

On the topic of course length... if the top 3 women are not making the time cut, then that's a course issue that needs to be assessed before the race begins. Any world cup events I've been in (cycling) have always adjusted the laps or distances varying with the weather and conditions of the day appropriately.

I look forward to working with the Alpine Club of Canada on this. They have been actively enforcing the rules, at least in regards to carrying the shovel, probe and transceiver.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prairie Mountain Winds

Always a nice venture to run up Prairie Mountain any time of the year with a not so far drive past Bragg Creek.
view from my crouched spot hiding from the 80 kph winds behind the rock cairn at the top
Super snowy climb up not a problem with the Kahtoolas. Lots of glissading down. Balmy +7C day.

Short clip of the blustery snow at the top. Almost felt like I could have gotten blown off the peak!

pic from

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Backcountry Race-Ski Venture

Michelle wanted to try out her new race skis, and I was happy to have a partner to train with on the AT skis. It was cool to see Peter's smile when he found out we were going backcountry on our race gear. Peter was just back from his World Skimo Champs venture in Europe.

This was my first actual backcountry tour on AT gear, despite the fact the three races I had just been in covered very backcountry terrain. I was hoping I'd not be too far behind Peter & Michelle on the descents .

Driving on the Smith-Dorien Trail gravel road from Canmore, the wet mud conditions turned snowy soon enough as we went higher in elevation. Soon the snow was too deep for the car to head to our planned destination. We parked on the side of the road, geared up, and made our way towards nearby Commonwealth Ridge.
Peter set the first tracks on the approach, then Michelle. I took my turn once the climb started now having to choose which way to go up. As this was a training effort and I knew it was slower setting a track, I went a good clip not wanting to be too slow for the team behind.

Michelle took over at a good time when we had to make alot of steep powdery kickturns.

Backcountry AT race-gear skiers - Peter Knight, Marg Fedyna, Michelle Roberts
The fresh snow was at least 30 cm deep. My first descent was shaky. Once we figured out a loop with more clearing, it was a good time!

I took many powdery tumbles, enough to have soggy socks by the end with snow making its way into my boots. Easy to get stuck in the deep powder, making for a challenge to get out of its depth. Will look into gathering appropriate clothing for AT as wet socks are not a safe option for the backcountry.

GPS download looks more like 14.4 km and 1400m elevation gain

Super fun time!

Marg & Peter taking a food break - photo Michelle Roberts