Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black Jack Slurpee Loppet

I chose the latter of at least three loppets this weekend between 42 km classic Cookie Race in Kananaskis, 50 km Payak skate loppet in Whistler's Callaghan Valley, and 30 km skate loppet in Rossland.

Small crowd though I was near a couple skiers most of the time. Led my group the first 10k loop of heinous long and steep climbs in 35 min. Starting the race at +3C, it was steamy hot when the sun came out.

After the first 10k loop, I saw one guy stop to remove a layer or two. I really wanted to, though slogged along in my sauna cave.

Taking a moment for food, I then followed a skier who had been behind me. I was gapped a couple times though caught up on the steeper climbs. The classic track was a smidgeon faster so I double poled when I could. 2nd loop was 40 min.

Into the 3rd loop, I threw in the towel with the conditions as they were slurpee-like. Let at least 3 skiers go just like that. Dropped the pace to where I could finish at a happy pace. No-one else passed me so likely we were all sloths in the warming conditions.

Tough conditions - great course!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ullr's Test Winter Tri

18k bike - 10k ski - 7k snowshoe

Small crowd of 10 riders to start including a few relay teams. On the start line, we were told to ride past Nickelplate where "Mike" would be standing with an orange flag to turn around.

The ride was mostly uphill starting from Apex village base.

I chose my cross bike with a studded tire on front and a Conti Top Contact winter tire on rear. The 29-er mtnbikes got ahead on the snowy village start. I was just back of around 5 riders. Rear tire sketched out a little on the graded snow-ice-dirt roads though was ok.
photo Hoodoo Adventure Facebook
I lost contact on a fast open descent hidden by rolling hills. Then, a few guys were riding back towards me. Looking ahead, I did not see "Mike" or any indication of a turn-around. I was at most a min behind the guy in front of me.

Too late as I was flying down the descent. A car flashing lights was ahead. He was one of the organizers and was angry that "Mike" was not at the turn-around. I was told to grab onto the car and towed back up the snowy hill climb (a little scary with handlebars swerving into the car a few times).

At the apparent snow-covered cattle guard turn-around point, I rode back toward Nickelplate. At this time, the rest of the riders back of me were caught in time to not make the same mistake.

I fumbled with putting on gear for the skate-ski leg, then off on snowy tracks. I knew the course description though was frazzled on which direction to start my ski. The course had been changed at the last minute. Thanks to Dave who said "go out Nickleplate race loop"!

Fast though not speedy snow. I caught up to one guy and kept just ahead until the end of the two 5-km loops.

Transition to borrowed snowshoes (thanks to organizers), I snow-shoe raced my first time ever. Awkward! The shoes felt like a hindrance and weighted me down. I was going 10 min per km pace!

First 2.5 km was uphill and tracked up onto Riordhan Mountain. The trail was pretty cool, though I was miserable with weighted feet and stumbling. I took the snowshoes off for awhile and was equally as quick (or slow!) on the soft snow. Put them back on for the steeper climb.

My hip flexors were getting worked, and worse my right knee was aching. Guess an intact ACL is needed! I vowed to never snowshoe again.

Finally, the trail descended. The snowshoes were valuable in their larger platform surface to land on the uneven snow. I slogged along. It was a challenge to keep eyes peeled for the correct trail. There seemed to be just enough "Ullr" signs.

With 2.5k to go, a woman on snowshoes headed towards me which confused me. She got off-track, which was easy to do, and was backtracking.

Just descending out of the trails at the top of Apex, another woman fled by me like a deer. The last 2 km on Apex snowmobile descent was steep. Took the snowshoes off to run the last 800m to the village. My feet spun out like getting off an escalator fast. Ended up 3 min back of the fleet footed woman.

Even the lead cycling guy went way further than me on the cycling section (only other cross rider). The other guys knew to turn around as they did the event years ago. Checking over the bike times, I lost at least 4 min with missing "Mike". Oh well...

I would use a cross bike again. The fast descents were scary though the mtnbikers thought so too. Just had to have faith, and two studded tires would help.

The organization is attempting to bring back an epic event from the 1990's. A downfall for the price of admission was the lack of prizing, no race token like a toque, and no post-event food... making it primarily a lure for racers who like a challenge.

The scenery is outstanding! Fun to bike race in winter conditions for a change.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Nickel Plate Loppet - Winter Wonderland

As a warm-front came in all week decimating the snow everywhere, seemed every skier was surprised at the amazing snow conditions at Nickel Plate on loppet day. Sure, the base level is at 1800m though I assumed the tracks would be glazed and temp warmer.

Tracks were snowy, temp stayed at -5C the whole time with a gnarly strong prevailing wind - perfect, except the wind.
photo - Amanda Kosmerly
The course started on the inner green/blue trails I rarely ski as these are mostly flat. Had a good start. Only a hundred metres after skiers funnelled into two bumper-to-bumper tracks, a small 10 footer climb bunched up at least 5 skiers on either side. I was quick to foresee it and ran up the middle! Put me into an even better position.

Course meanders on Meadow track before going round about in Evening Star, Night Hawk towards a wicked climb up Cannonball then a more wicked descent over to Eagle's Nest climb, flat Upper Meadow, to a couple hurtful climbs in Vindicator, and finally down Last Chance for one 15-k loop

If I chose the left hand side track, it seemed the turns always went right and I was skiing the greater distance. When I shifted over the the right hand side track, the turns then went left, doh! Was able to maintain good contact with a handful of skiers as well as a few junior Nickel Plate skiers racing the 15k.

Cannonball switchback hill climb and descent was breathtaking to race up hard, and then eye-opening to make the corners at a blazing step turn pace and stay upright! One guy swooshed by me on this descent.

Had good company up Eagle's Nest trail, slopping thru a short snowdrift section, into Upper Meadow green loop where I was then on my own into the headwind. After a few more awesome climbs and a 1 km descent to finish a loop, no-one was in sight as the junior racers finished their 15k race.
Crazy amount of double-poling in such a hilly place!
- photo Amanda Kosmerly
Happy to have the same guy ski by. We had been near each other since pre-Cannonball climb though he had faster gliding skis than me. Managed to stay in reach of him as we took the best line crossing the flat tracked corners time and time again. At the Cannonball hill climb, I hoofed off and kept my gain on the descent this time.

On Eagle's Nest climb, I had a red-clad skier in sight. His climbing grip was noticeably slipping. Caught him on the snowdrift section and was smart to stay behind him with the headwind around Meadow.

Finally onto a big climb, I hoofed and knew I had to work any descent to stay ahead. Saw yet another guy ahead which helped me work the next few climbs. Came close to him though did not catch him before the last 1 km descent.
Amazed I stayed ahead on the descent! - photo Amanda Kosmerly
The red-clad skier was only 10 sec back of me at the finish, with my mid-way skier bud another 20 sec back. I finished 37 sec back of the last guy I saw in front of me. Funny at the peak of the last climb, I was within 15 sec of him... which shows how much time I can lose with lightweightedness!

Pleased with the hard effort. At such a hilly venue, I was surprised the course was mostly double-poling!

Nice to hear Steve King's voice as announcer.

Both Amanda and I laughed at how tight the generic race bib was - first time! Bummer for the big guys! Amanda had a good 15k, and was cheering at the finish.

Nice to see other Edmontonians Taras Pojasok and Laurie Murray. One man and his wife mistakenly wore each other's bibs. He placed a few minutes earlier than me in the results with her name down. Good tactic!

Post-race food was awesome with veg chili and homemade cookies.

Test run on my race food storage… lately I've been tucking a date on each side of my Camelbak straps. Sometimes difficult to grab with gloves on. As I usually wear my Camelbak, I hung a couple dates using dental floss from the Camelbak chest strap. It was amazingly easy to grab to eat them, and the dangling dates tucked behind the provided bib# nicely.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Kelowna Apple Skiathlon!

Finally took opportunity to use my new pre-owned skiathlon boots at the Kelowna Apple Loppet held at Telemark nordic trails.
After a few days of rain and melt in the lower levels, 11 cm fresh snow fell overnight at the nordic venue at 1000m. Light flakes fell during part of the event with the sun poking out mid-way. Concerned about grip at the mild, just below 0C temps.

I set up my skate gear on a rug at my numbered spot in transition. A time chip was strapped to my ankle as I lined up for the classic start.

Classic course was 2 loops of 7.5 km before switching to a 13k skate loop.
In there somewhere… photo Telemark Facebook
The pack broke apart within the first 3 km of climbing. With the twisty trails, I felt distanced from the skier in front. On a straight-away, I gained optimism when I saw I was only 50m back of a pack of skiers. I pushed on alone.

Course followed Telemark loop merging onto Rabbit trail with its twists and turns.

Had ok grip, not stellar. On the few steeper sections, I skimmied in between the tracks on the fresh snow with better traction and speed. Glide was decent. Double-poled single-kicked whenever possible.

Managed to grab a date I had tucked under my Camelbak straps, now having gopher cheeks and breathing hard at the same time. Was glad I used the Camelbak as I drank a lot more than a little cup could provide from the feed zones.

Finishing my 2nd loop, I stopped at my race number spot in transition. Quick and easy to clip out of classic gear, step into skate gear, and I was off. The skiathlon boots finally came to good use!

Fortunately, the first part of the 13k skate loop was mostly descending down Fern Creek trail. Gave time to chill. I found double-poling was quicker in the tracks than skating in the soft trails. The long hill climbs on the soft track took forever.

First time on "Carol's Trail" which has 4 boomerang type steep descents and ascents. With the soft snow, I could barely one-pole ski or herringbone up a couple of them. Caught a few skiers towards the latter half.

The descending final trails on Fern Creek to Rollercoaster (appropriately named!) were a gong show with consecutive sharp corners. I had a skier in sight that helped me gauge the turns. A little icy underneath the snow had me shuffling my skis in quick micro step turns. I can not believe I stayed upright!

Coming into the finish area I double-poled hard past this skier only to find out there was still another 400m loop of Forest Trail before crossing the line. Worked it and held my spot.

Good effort, liked the switch-up of disciplines.