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


Aaron Falkenberg said...

Have you DH skied your whole life, Marg? How is it compared to using a regular parabolic DH ski? I had no idea they sent you down runs like that.

Marg Fedyna said...

Ha ha, no! The last time I ever skied DH was once in 2003 on a workday outing. Prior to that, I skied a few days in 1983 on University Ski Week Break! Prior to that I skied as a kid on blue and green runs on a few family trips.

Skimo racing on double-blacks was a surprise. My real DH experience is from Jan-Mar 2013!! It's been a huge learning curve, with lots more to come. The skills I learned in my lesson at ColdSmoke PowderFest in Feb were similar to first learning to descend a technical steep MTB trail with the butt behind the saddle and focusing on where to go - key tips.

PS: I rented parabolic skis in 2003, I remember they turned easy. The race skis I use have minimal curve, skinny at the waist (60mm), and super lightweight (635g ski binding 185g). Easy for the ups, work on the descents, easy to tumble down with

Interested to skimo?!