Last thursday the family and I drove up to Crested Butte for the Alley Loop nordic ski race. This is the fifth year I have done this race. In 2010 I did the full 42k marathon, all the other years I have raced the 21k half marathon.
2008: 1:46 skate 21k, snowy conditions 2008 report
2009: 1:30 skate 21k, really cold clear report
2010: 3:04:08, skate 42k cold, new snow, badly waxed, good race nonetheless.
2011: 1:24:31 skate 21k, cold, new snow. I was fit and fast and well waxed, 8th male, 11th overall.
2012: 1:21:32 you are reading the report.
It has been a poor snow year thus far in Colorado, Crewted Butte got 30" of snow in the last few weeks before the race which allowed the race to continue as normal. We did hit some nasty weather on the drive up, but there was not too much fresh snow in Crested Butte when we got up there Thursday night.
Friday morning, Clay and I went out for a warm up skate. There was about 2" of new snow on the ungroomed trails. We got fresh fun tracks on Mikes Mile. It was like 2" of ball bearings on well groomed trails. I shot some video. CB is a really beautiful place.
I brought the Pugsley along for some riding on the snow packed roads. They also groom the main street and some of the alleys for the race, so I got to do some fun riding on the corduroy as well. Verdict? It was good. Left mild tracks on warm groomed trails that normal bikes had left deep tracks in, and left barely any mark on frozen trail.
Snow packed riding:
Night ride on the frozen groomed trails in town:
Race morning dawned cold and clear, but warming ever so slowly. By far the nicest morning for the race in the last five year. I got ready and warmed up while they started the earlier races. They had a bit of a snafu with the 42k classic where the racers were coming through the start-finish area on their first lap right when the 21k race was starting. So they announced that they would start us a few minutes early. I would guess a 1/4 of the field missed the start as a result. I happened to be passing though the area thinking I had a few more minutes for warmup, but I was sort of ready and away we went.
Pre race team Southwest Nordic Beer Drinking and Ski Club:
Course starts straight up Elk Avenue and up a hill out of town. I sort of had the plan NOT to be in the top 10 going up the hill, but as usual I was probably in the top 5 midway up before starting to blow up a bit. As we were starting the 42k classic skiers were heading downstream our race. Fortunately there were no major issues, but the timing was pretty poor.
Post Race traditional sweatcicle:
I got into my rhythm as I dropped down in places. The course was insanely fast with frozen corduroy. I did not feel great and took one spill in the early going and then struggled with my internal do not want to race demons for most of the first lap.
My favorite piece of snow removal equipment removing the snow off Elk Avenue post race:
The 42k skaters started earlier than us and did the same course with an extra loop, so where the two races come back together there usually are really fast 42kers moving through the 21k field. This year something weird happened. As they first wave passes me, I got a second wind and caught them and on the long climb into town I was able to keep pace. I was feeling pretty good finally as we wended down through town and the alleys. As we got out of town into the flats again, I was able to pass a ton of skiers and start closing in on groups ahead. The gaps were pretty huge, but I was actually able to close, catch and pass people through the second lap.
Sad yet picturesque use of a Schwinn Cycletruck
I turned on the speed on some of the little sharp rollers and was able to drop a big group save one guy who was pacing off me. I was starting to feel pretty peaked, but still poured it on. This was by far the best and fastest I have ever felt in any XC ski race. As we made it up the long last climb again, I was starting to bonk pretty badly, but knowing the finish was near I held on.
Aida is on her way to nordic mastery:
We hit the last tricky descent and I went wide around a lapped 10k skier, while the guy behind me took the quick inside line passing me easily. The descent has a really fast curve and I got further waylayed by a guy in a Gorilla costume. He sort of did not make the turn at all, and I slowed way down to avoid hitting him. I did talk to Gorilla man after the race, turns out he rented the gorilla suit to spectate in at the tour of colorado, but the rental company would not take it back after a couple of days of him running up mountains alongside the peleton, so he had to buy it, for $80 bucks. Seems like a great deal to me, no hard feelings Gorilla Fella. I was unable to catch the one guy from my race in the last ski through the alley, but I finished up stron in 1:21:32, a 3 minute PR at this race for me. Again, mostly due to conditions. I think if I went out a touch slower and did not crash hard in the first lap it might have been a sub 1:20 day, alas...
Excellent camera ad in the bathroom at the post race meal:
Hilariously the guy who drafted off me most of the last lap came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on being really fast for a big guy. He went on to add that I was climbing really fast for such a big guy. If it wern't so true I would be upset. I probably should get skinnier if I am going to keep doing all this racing, but it never seems to happen anymore.
Picture perfect sunny and 1F, classic ski the morning after the race
Somehow they boogered up the results and had me as the 1st place in the 30-39 age group, I got a pintglass with some other goodies inside a nice awards ceremony at the Montanyo Rum Distillery. They have since amended the results showing me as 2nd in the group and 14th overall male. Sorry otherguy, I owe you a pintglass, some lipbalm a sticker and a scraper. I think I have missed out on one or two awards at this race due to the ceremony being too crowded before, so I will grudgingly accept my ill gotten gains.
Ice Dino in Alamosa on the way back home.
I had a nice very cold classic ski the next morning and then we packed up and had an uneventful drive home on roads completely empty of traffic due to the superbowl.
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