Here is a timely race report for the Pajarito Pinhead challenge, Los Alamos' local uphill downhill nordic/skinning race.
A mighty week of flurries and whatnot dumped a foot or so of new snow on our favorite mountain the week before this race leading to great conditions on a 94" base and somewhat oddly for march 13th an open ski hill for Skiesta and the associated festivities. (base is accumulating as we speak as it is dumping snow as I type this!)
early morning ski hill displaying perfectly groomed conditions
Here is my whiny part of the report. Despite an excellent ski year and lots of skiing leading up to the beginning of february I was laid low by a sinus infection mid february, followed by two middling races and then a nasty cold the wed-thurs-friday before the race. I was sort of recovered by race day, but not really. I only did the race as it was 10 minutes from the house and for some perverse reason, I love this race.
The race, for those who do not know, is the best race ever, and perhaps one of the races I am most poorly suited for. It begins with a mass start from the ski lodge up one of the jeep road. After a bit of climbing the race diverges and one of two paths you may take. If you are on backcountry/at/tele gear you may skin straight up dogpatch to the summit. If you are on nordic gear you keep on going up the steep but not too steep jeep road. The course comes together at the top of dogpatch, hits the steep trail over the top of the mountain and then across the top, down the fairly steep I-don't-care run and then back down the jeep run to where you start. Total elevation something like 1200 feet climbing followed by the same descent. The first year, the skaters took one-two. Last year the skinners took one-two. This year, well, read on!
Pre race assemblage. Note Zack is facing wrong way and Mike starts with skis in backpack
Like I said, lots of new snow, but the last few days had been really warm (50's) followed by cold nights, so the course ended up being pretty much well groomed frozen corduroy at race time. Both the jeep road and dogpatch had been groomed, in startling contrast to last years mushy fresh snow festival.
A strong field of 15 or so lined up, pretty evenly matched with 7 skinners, 6 skaters and two guys on classic touring gear. I think this was the field record. Anyhow after a bit of warming up and then panic as everyone realized it was 40 degrees and climbing rapidly we started the race.
At the start, last years winner Hans Hanson (last year on telemark gear, this year on skate skis) and Gene Dougherty took off fast with me a bit behind. Now I will pretty much give you the Tarik view of the race as I could not see much other than ahead of and near me.
Anyhow, as we started climbing I felt pretty good. Hans and Gene were way up front and I was skating along merrily with a skier or two close behind. I was in no shape to chase or really go hard, but was focused on maintaining form and glide on the steep and off camber climb.
Shortly into the climb Susan Hanson and Sanna skated by me and slowly pulled away. And not too shortly after that I passed Sanna who was stopped on the side of the trail leaning on her poles looking about to puke. I was hurting badly but was somewhat relieved that I was not hurting as badly as Sanna.
I followed Susan at a distance and could watch ahead as Hans was distancing Gene. We made a switchback and doubled across the mountain to even more off camber trail. it was pretty hard skating, but the course was still hard and fast. Susan was skating away from me, but I snuck a look back and no one was anywhere near me. Eventually we crossed the dogpatch skiers and I think I crossed just below Rob, skinning up the trail. We made two more quick switchback and joined the trail with the skinners up a very steep pitch. I was pretty much 5 feet behind Rob up most of the pitch. I had no glide and was barely skating at all. I could see Gene up ahead with form looking worse than I felt. Susan was closing in on him and I imagined that I was catching them. Hans was no longer in sight.
typical pre-race dork mode photo
There were skiers and snowboarders coming off the lifts by now, fortunately there were not too many and there seemed to be no problems with anyone getting in anyone's way. Just a steady stream of people hauling off the lifts, looking quizzically at us idjits practically crawling up the hill and then dropping down the steep runs.
At this point in the race I felt as though I had been sick all week. My form went to hell, I had no glide and I really was working hard just maintaining my will to keep going, let alone race. After a long stretch trying in vain to get closer than 5 feet from Rob, I looked up and realized not only was I not going to catch Susan or Gene, I could no longer see them either. updatecheck Mike Engelhardt's brief race report in the comments for the view from second place!
Full field on the starting line
Eventually the trail flattened out and I finally dropped Rob, skated along the backside of the hill and then hit the last climb to the summit. I felt like crap, but knowing the end of the climbing was near, I pressed on. As I made my way up the last stretch I saw a guy hiking while carrying his skis over his shoulder. I could not catch him on the uphill. Turns out it was a fellow racer, Dylan, who I presume had taken his skins off too early on the brief descent and was now regretting that slightly. Finally we curled around the Mother lift and began descending gradually on Rim Run. I finally dropped Dylan and could see Toti off ahead of me, but could not catch him as I very quickly came to the top of I-Don't-Care.
The skaters skate off in tiny puffs of snow
I am proud to say I am a disaster going down really long steep stuff on skate skis. My theory is that I have too much inherent potential energy for snowplowing on edgeless skis to arrest my descent. I did make two nice snow plow turns before I fell hard and resorted to my time honored technique of sliding down by sitting on the back of my skis or on my hip. So this I did. I made it about halfway down the endless descent when Dylan passed me, followed quickly by Rob who was, as usual, was going mach-1 downhill. The nicely groomed downhill was hard enough that I actually caught my edge while I was sitting on my skis and had them roll under me painfully. It was a pretty fast descent all things considered, but it seems to go on forever and my butt is still bruised from the bouncing and the scraping.
As it looked like I was almost at the jeep road, I watched Sanna gracefully snowplow past me on the very steep last pitch and disappear down the trail. I made my pathetic way down to the jeep road and descended quickly to the finish feeling pretty bruised and battered, but happy to be done.
Tail end of the field at the start
Results looked like this (photo evidence (here and here, with annotation, this is at least double or triple transcribed off the race entry forms so sorry for inevitable misspellings :
29:12 Hans Hanson - Skate- New course record 35:12 Mike Englehart - Skin* 35:30 Gene Dougherty - Skate 37:24 Susan Hanson - Skate - First Woman 37:43 Jeff Johnson - Skin 39:35 Toti Larsen - Skin 40:18 Dylan Harp - Skin** 40:42 Rob Cunningham - Skin 42:11 Sanna Sevanto - Skate - Second Woman 43:00 Tarik Saleh - Skate 50:49 Zach Baker - Skin 54:57 Hawke Morgan - Classic*** 55.35 Martin Peck - Classic***, + 56:38 Paul Graham - Skate, + 1:08:39 Jerri Sullivan - Skin - Third Woman.
* = Started with his skis in his backpack and booted up the hill ** = at least he was booting up when I saw him *** = were on edgeless touring (classic skis) and, AFAIK went up the long way with the skaters + = deskid at the top of the descent and ran downhill to the jeep road
I assume that I lost about 3 minutes on the descent to those around me, which was better this year than other years. I think I lost 7 minutes on the descent the first year. This was my best time, the course was super fast and despite the cold I was probably fitter than years past as well. The course was a touch icy for the skinners and many of em had issues with grip on the way up, hence the booting up.
I ate a giant breakfast burrito, traded war stories with the rest of the racers, went to the awards ceremony, won a nice beer glass and then went snowshoeing with my mom, who is visiting this weekend. She took most of the pictures.
I tower over a rare fledgling ski-dino post race
Big thanks to the organizers for putting on a great fun free race with great prizes. everyone should do this. It really hurts, but it is worth it.
I think I would like to do better last year, but I really need to practice going downhill on skate skis and/or go much faster uphill, probably by loosing some weight. I finished right behind Toti and Rob for three years running now, so I predict it will happen almost exactly the same way again next year anyway.
mid schnitzle feasting at the Longbranch in Granby, Colorado Maybe I will get off my ass and write some race reports. Suffice to say, I did not enjoy trying to race 42km when it was 44degrees and sunny. I enjoyed stopping half way through much more.