Buddy and me during better times
See that picture above? With me and the 7 foot tall bear costumed skier? Those were the good times. The Alley loop starts on Elk Avenue which is the downtown main drag in Crested Butte. This year we started by going up Elk avenue and looping back through the alleys. We were supposed to follow the guy in the bear suit through the sketchy parts of the alleys as a neutral start. Here is what happened. I was on the front row of the starting line. Buddy the Bear was in front of me. The race started. Everyone started skiing except the bear. The bear was still dancing. I hit Buddy the bear hard and bounced off. By the time I recovered everyone was way up the road and the bear still had not figured out what just happened. That, pretty much, sums up my race. You need not read any further, that was the best part of the report. For those who are looking for the usual overblown, late and too wordy report, please read on. For everyone else, thanks for coming by.
Start area with imposing massifs in the distance
Paul and I made the drive up to Crested Butte to race the Alley Loop race. We left on a friday, made it uneventfully under clear skies up to Gunnison by midday. We checked into a hotel (the tidy and cheap ABC motel) and I walked around Gunnison for a while checking out the town and photographing bikes. I had a nice chat with the owner of Tomichi cycles about the wealth of local mountain biking and skiing, and then headed back to the hotel. Paul and I then headed up to Crested Butte to get our reg materials and get some dinner. By the time we got back to Gunnison it was 4 degrees F and dropping.
Whole famdamily, crested butte is good stuff
The next morning we awoke to -12F at 7am and shivered our way for some grub at the W cafe there in Gunnison. I think I got serviceable huevos rancheros with bacon. Yum. We headed up to crested butte which was reading a balmy -5F as we pulled into town a coupe hours before the race. We scored a nice parking spot right next to the course and got our chips. Temp now -4. I took my time getting my chip for the ankle, hitting the loo and getting dressed for the race, by the time I was all suited up for it was 5 or 6 F at 9am. And my hands had no feeling at all. Poor glove choices (none) while getting the skis out of the top of the car and my boots laced left me with numb fingers. I skated around a while and realized they weren't getting better, so I went into a local restaurant and warmed my hands in the bathroom sink. Better.
As usual it was a snow cruiser fiesta in crested butte
I skated around a bit and watched the kids races, got warmed up and realized that even though it was probably 8 degrees, it was not the 15 to 20 degrees the forecast called for and the squeek squeek emitting from my skis meant I was waxed a bit warmly. I did a warmup loop with my buddy Clay and former SWnordic ski member Denny and then watched them line up for the start of the 42k. Right before the start Lenard Zinn (also a former los alamosite) came by and said hello and disappeared into the 42km race pack and was gone as the races had begun.
Pre race hyper dork pose. Oh yeah.
A few minutes later I lined up on the starting line and then, well, read the first paragraph again. After that, I furiously sprinted up Elk Avenue passing about 20 people and ended up at the back of a pack that seemed to be a good fast bunch. We turned off of elk avenue and into the twisty alleys, replete with 90 degree turns, bridges and little whopdedoos. Despite the lack of a pace bear, we took it pretty sanely through the alleys and as things opened up, off we went. There was lots of passing and jockying for position and after a bit I settled into a good group. Alas, we soon came up upon the tail end of the 42k race and there was some chaos trying to pass through them. I got a little too jiggy trying to weave between racers and I crashed and one of my skis buried itself in the side of the tail. It took a while to get it out, I had to back up slowly to get free of the snow bank. The pack I was with skated off into the distance and I chased futilely.
The 42k skiers do three laps of a course was the same as the 2 lap course us 21k skiers did, plus an out and back loop, so after a while the 42k racers split off from our race and then further on, faster 42k racers who had done the out and back already caught up to and passed us. This is nice as you can watch much faster skiers blow by you and occasionally get a burst of speed. You can also get demoralized when you see some fairly young looking women wearing purple spandex with puffy tails and mouse ears blow by you like you are standing still... Alas, after my crash, I was getting a little demoralizd and was skating and squeaking along and looking at my ski tips.
Finally the first lap was done and we skated through some back alleys, up elk avenue and then down some more back alleys at the start of lap two. This year I had a pretty clean shot at the alleys on the second lap and was moving pretty fast and proud of how I handled all the little turns bridges and whoopdedoos. At this point Lenard Zinn lapped me and said kind words of encouragement as he zoomed by me. A few minutes later I came upon him in pain on the side of the course being tended to by a spectator. He crashed and dislocated his shoulder I found out later. I yelled out to some spectators to help him (who told me the guy helping him was a doctor) and I told the next course marshall of the crash (she said help was on the way) and I skated out into the meadow.
The second lap was about as squeaky as the first, but as I got into my rhythm of ski tip looking, I realized that Crested Butte is a beautiful place and maybe I should look around. So I did and boy is it pretty out there. I kind of got into an enjoy the view epiphany and then looked down again and realized that my knees never really get balanced over my ski. I think I have always done this, but never noticed. You get more glide the more balanced over the ski you are and I was kind of buckled inward as I glided along. Self realization!. I tried to work on this and work on getting my poling to the right better and my V2 smoother and suddenly I caught and passed the guy in front of me. Yay me.
Look at the bent right knee, I don't think it should be doing that
I started skating hard for the finish and though I was tired I felt pretty great and I headed back into town for the finish. Just before descending into town a guy came out of nowhere to pass me, I followed him as he skated away from me and then I was surprised to see he finished just ahead of me instead of heading out for a third lap like the 42kers. Crap. there goes that last pass... But anyhow, I finished and felt good. Though I warmed up quickly during the race, it was still quite cold out, maybe 10 or 12 F, so I ran to the car and changed into my warm clothes and watched Paul finish strongly and then, a while later Clay finish well in the 42k. The race had a New Belgium Brewing company sponsored beer garden with a free cup of beer for all racers, so I headed to the finish, got some free soup and a beer. They had a nice dark beer with high alcohol content and espresso infusion or something. It was delicious. I usually am not a fan of dark beer that has strong coffee flavors in it, but it might have been the post race hunger, or it might have been good. I think it was a one off beer, I have not seen it in stores or on their website.
Post Race Frosting
The end result was 16th overall male in the 21k in a time of 1:30:32. Despite the slight miswax it was about 15 minutes faster than last year, which is probably close to 100% due to faster conditions. There were four guys ahead of me within a minute and that was probably the group I lost contact with when I fell on the first lap. Oh well. Next time, no falling for real. I really need to stop doing that. Overall it was a great race and a bunch of fun. Maybe the marathon next year...
Paul and I caffinating at the Camp Four
After the race Paul and I walked over and enjoyed an excellent espresso in a tiny paper cup at Camp4 coffee, then we hopped into the car and drove to Gunnison for more coffee and eats at the Bean. Then we zipped home, enjoying the views, including seeing a bobcat, bald eagle and a herd of antelope in a five minute period between Gunnison and Saguatche. Damn, Colorado, you are good.
The Bean in Gunnison for more coffee and grub afore the long drive home
Dina's photos here
2008 Alley Loop race report
Winter Assault Sale
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