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.

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