Pre race, we went up next to the antenna up there
Oh the pain. Still, best race ever, or at least dumbest, or more accurately, the race I am least prepared for, yet still participate in. To refresh your memory, this is an uphill downhill ski race. Starts and finishes just above the lodge at the Pajarito Mountain Ski resort (9200ft). In the middle it goes over the top of the mountain (10,400 ft). Since I will probably refer back to it alot, here is the race report from last year.
Zac and I in pre race dork mode...
So anyway, there are lots of things I am good at in cross country skiing, but extended uphills (first part of the race) and scary downhills (second part of the race) are not it. Despite this I get absurd enjoyment from this race. Part of it is that it takes 15 minutes to get to, part is that it is free and part is maybe the whole nordic vs. skinners part. The trail jeep road on the west side of the mountain is groomed for nordic skiing, but those on skins can take a steep shortcut up dogpatch. This allows the nordic folks a fast, long way up, but allows the skinners a shortcut to even things out. There is a middle traverse section of the mountain top that is groomed and pretty much a big advantage to the skaters, and then a steepish downhill down the "I don't care run" that is frankly terrifying on skate skiis and the skinners are at a HUGE advantage, especially if they like going downhill. The skinners usually are on some sort of tele, backcountry or touring gear. The nordic folks are usually skaters, although one guy showed up on classic touring skiis and took the nordic route this year.
Jeri prerace, victory was hers in the womens race.
Unlike last year, 9 of the 12 starters were skinners. Clay and myself skated and Martin classikked. The conditions were odd. After a dearth of snow since january, we got about 8 inches on the ski hill the day before the race. The warm temps and lack of snow put some sections of the back side of the mountain unskiiable, but there were some steep roads that were substituted. The nordic side of the course had been groomed the night before but it was really soft. The dogpatch shortcut was ungroomed. The downhill was groomed, but only one groomer width wide.
Stretching at the startline
The race started a bit late and with a flurry. Clay got out to a really fast start, I sort of flailed behind him in second and super strong skinners Rich and Hans apparently were skating on their backcountry skis not too far behind me. All action at the front and back of the race are hearsay as I was middling the whole way.
The start, Clay out fast, and me doing the pterodactyl behind, caw caw.
As Clay and I headed up the road it was clear that this was going to be a slow climb for the skaters. The snow was really soft and some of the ski resort's snowmobilers had passed up and down the groomed trail churning it up more and making it even softer. I got into a slow rhythm, not wanting to blow up like the year before.
Great view of the fog enshrouded valley
Not much happened for a while. There were some spectacular views on the course, Clay was beset upon by a trio of yellow dogs, but their owners called them off before they ate him. Things got really slow for me and Clay disappeared far off into the heights of the mountain.
Rich skinning close behind me at the start
After awhile we crossed courses with the skinners. I saw my buddy Zach skinning up just below me. He informed me that he thought he was about the 5th or sixth skinner on the course, which put us in the 8th or ninth position. After one more switch back the skinners and skaters joined courses and we headed up a steep off camber groomed trail toward the aspen lift. This part was my darkest hour. It was so soft and so off camber that I was getting no glide and not even able to actually move forward. Zach actually trudged by me on his skins and started to drop me. Oh the humanity. Fortunately after a while the course firmed up a bit with the altitude and I was able to catch up to Zach and drop him. There was a fast short downhill followed by some rolling terrain and I was able to catch Rob and pass him (almost exactly in the same spot that I caught him last year) and almost catch another skinner, Ken, before getting to the top of I don't care. For comparison sake, last year I had passed all the skinners by the top of the descent, but got passed by three of them on the descent...
Flurries blew in midrace
The descent was really soft and I did my best to try and stay upright the whole way, but I quickly crashed pretty hard twice, once almost hitting myself in the head with my own ski, so I decided to try some alternative methods of getting down the hill. My first plan was to try to slide down on my hip like last year. It was too soft and I ground to a halt. I then sort of fell into the successful plan. I basically sat on the tails of my skiis and glided down the slope, half on my ass, half on my skiis. When it was steep, I would grind my butt into the snow and essentially, uh, snowplow with my crotch. When it was a more shallow slope I would kind of paddle with my arms to maintain momentum. It worked pretty well, but I am sure I looked ridiculous. While I am dedicated to you dear readers, my dedication does not extend to wishing that video of my ignominious descent existed.
Jeff, Hans, Clay, post race, 4th, 1st 3rd respectively
About halfway down the slope Rob came blowing by me in a full tuck. I think he took no turns at all. Very impressive. I continued my dog-ass-wipe descent and finally got to the jeep road back to the lodge. As I turned onto the lodge, I attempted to get some speed up, but surprisingly, this descent felt much faster than I remembered it and I ended up snowplowing quite a bit. Fortunately no one else caught me and I finished up. A foggy snow flurry had blown in and I was soaked from the effort of the climb and from rolling in the snow on the descent. I quickly retreated to the lodge to change.
Me finishing, do I look scared? I ain't.
As we gathered in the lodge and swapped war stories, the race fleshed out. Rich and Hans had gotten to the top well in front and Hans ended up being the class of the field and finished in a very impressive 31 minutes. Rich took second. Jeff made it up to the top in third, but was using light backcountry gear and fell alot on the way down. Clay actually out descended him on his skate skiis (and did not fall once, which is really impressive) and took third. Jeff followed in for fourth. Toti was in fifth. Ken and Rob in sixth and seventh.
Race organizer Karen, thanks Karen!
I was 8th, Zach finished in 9th at some point behind me having some descent troubles as well. Turns out the half groomed downhill lead to some spectacular crashes in the soft powder. Here are some overall results:
1. Hans, Skin, 31:56
2. Rich, Skin, 34:05
3. Clay, Skate, 37:31
4. Jeff, Skin, 38:32
5. Toti, Skin, 38:55
6. Ken, skin, 43:17
7. Rob. Skin, 45:13
8. Tarik, Skate, 47:30
9. Zach, Skin, 52:39
10: Ron, Skin, 56:33
11: martin, classic, 1:02:58
12 Jeri, Skin, 1:22:11
Race organizer Jean holding the results
I think I was much faster down hill this year and much slower up hill this year, but the overall result was exactly the same, eight place, and a time that was about two minutes slower. They ran a nice awards ceremony that broke the 12 of us down by both age and technique. Pretty much everyone won either a hat or a pint glass. After the race I ate the hell out of a giant breakfast burrito at the ski lodge cafe and then had a beer as part of the skiesta festivities featuring three local microbrewers. Good stuff and a great time had by most. I awoke extremely freeking sort the next morning from the hard poling up the hill and the hard crashing on the way down. Go races!
Big thanks to Dina for taking photos. All but three in the report are from here. Go see the rest here She got most of the racers finishing and more shots before and after the race.
Post race fueling