Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday - 2-2-2013 - Winter Wild

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Saturday left me with a dilemma of what to do...since the Exeter Snowshoe race was cancelled again this year due to no snow, I was left with next to nothing to race on Saturday (that was worth any sort of drive). I am leaving for a work trip on Sunday, so I had to either find a race on Saturday or run something interesting in the mountains, but solo because KT is racing up in Quebec today.... I opted to suck it up and go against my better judgement and try one of the Winter Wild races.  I swore I would never do one of these races because they are a combined class event where they allow people to use just about any method to get up and down.  You can run up and run down (with snowshoes, cramp-ons, trail shoes, etc.) or you can ski up and ski down.  You can also run/hike up with your snowboard on your back and then snowboard down....but the rule for skiing is that you need to ascend w/ the skis on.  For folks who telemark ski, unless you completely stink going up, you should be able to beat anyone running as the amount of time you make up on the descent is staggering.  I knew that most likely there'd be a couple skiers that would pass me on the downhill section. Last year a guy won this particular event while running (but apparently barely) and it was supposedly the first time a runner had ever won outright.  I can honestly say that neither of the two skiers who passed me today could have done the event last year because my time was a minute and a half faster than the winning time from last year and 2 skiers were ahead of me...  So needless to say I rather dislike mixed events (although this series and race in particular is super cool and is really well organized)...To my surprise however, it kind of made it fun once I tried it...I knew I wouldn't be able to hold off the top skiers, but it was fun to try.

Warming up... Photo by Gianina Lindsey
I headed out VERY early to Ragged Mountain in Danbury, NH (so a townbagging opportunity!)...left the house at 4:30am as the race started at 7am (because they need to be done before the mountain opens for skiing).  I got there while it was still pitch dark and met up w/ Ryan Welts, Kristina, and the rest of the acidotic crew who were there in lieu of the Exeter race (actually some have made both these Winter Wild races AND the snowshoe races in the past because they are so early in the morning)..  This was the second of 8 events that are spread out across 8 different mountains in the Winter Wild series.  I couldn't get any intel on the course ahead of time other than Sam Wood's comment that it goes 'straight up'.  Well, that was apparent as I was trying to warm up a bit and I was checking out the main trail (under the lift) that goes straight up the mountain (called Exhibition). The conditions seemed super fast and packed (as I imagine ski areas would be in these temps)... I opted for no snowshoes and instead just Kahtoola Microspikes over my Mudclaws (though a lighter demo pair)...Everyone told me that I'd be crazy for wearing snowshoes, so I caved and slapped on the spikes.

I was very concerned about the state of my hamstrings and calves, as I have had an issue crop up with something on either side of my body in just about every run this week. I've been stretching and massaging like crazy...almost overdoing it as my muscles have ached over the last day and a half.  I was just hoping that on the downhill I could hold it together.  That is when my calves tend to give me problems the most.

As the race began, I went out fairly conservative because I could only see so far up the mountain and wasn't sure how much more there was over the crest of the 'false summit' that you can see from the bottom.  I had great grip, but only a minute or two into the climb, things got steep (go figure) and my pace slowed to a borderline hike (as did most peoples')....but I kept running. I never walked once.  I sidestepped a bit as I tried to mix it up and stop the monotony of leaning way over forward and trying desperately to just keep picking up my feet as I went straight up the slope.  I kept looking back, as I normally do and I noticed that the two telemark skiers who were wearing matching speed suits, were skinning up pretty damn fast.  One of them looked to be right with Ryan if not right in front of him.  About half way up, I knew that any small hope of me having enough of a lead at the top to hold off a skilled downhill skier down more than a mile of steep ski slope was out the window.  This kid was not too far behind me ON SKIS on the way up and he looked to be almost gaining on me.  At that point I just focused on trying to make sure I could get the win for the running (OPEN) category.  I held onto the last bit of challenge I had for myself and just kept running. I wanted to make it to the top without powerhiking and just barely made it.

Finally I hit the top and had to yell at a group of about 4 or 5 ski patrol guys who were just standing there, asking them which way to go.  There were a few ways to go it looked like and I wasn't sure. They told me at the bottom that there would be people up telling you where to go. They may have not been ready for me or something, but they seemed confused and didn't answer back the first time. I staggered side to side a bit with my arms in the air (I felt like I was being a jerk, but it was the heat of the moment and I was freaking out a bit)... I had to ask again which way and then said 'Blueberry' as I knew the first trail down was called 'Blueberry'-something (Blueberry Patch). Then one of them pointed in the direction I was already committed to running in fortunately, so I proceeded to bomb down the ski slope, hoping I just didn't slip and destroy myself.  I swear wearing a helmet even for running is probably a good idea in this race.

I heard I was about 45 seconds or so ahead of the 2nd place guy who was skinning up.  That is not enough time (by a long shot).  About a minute into the descent, he screwed by me like I was....well....running and he was skiing :)...  He wasn't just lollygagging down the hill either...he was a skilled downhill skier (probably a racer obviously) and he destroyed me.  Gone....2 seconds and he was out of sight.  He passed me right before a junction where we bear left onto a cut-across trail that connects to the Main Street trail that heads straight down the mountain.  There was a guide standing at the junction, right in the middle of the ski trail that you SHOULDN'T go down.  Fortunately for the skier, he was the skier almost went right....he had to put the breaks on temporarily and one of his skis popped up in the air...I swear he almost lost it as he had to correct and just made it left before going down the wrong way.  Further down the trail were big ice patches that looked incredibly dangerous.  I went around them as best I could as I started to really struggle on the descent.  Running down a ski slope that is that steep, is very difficult.  I really hadn't thought about it.  I had a lot of twinges and pain in my calves and hamstrings and quads as I was on the gas, yet on the brakes as well.  You just really can't go 'all out' because you'll you have to be on the brakes yet still try to run really beats you up.   Another problem I had was that everything was obviously super white with no contrast.  Because everything was groomed perfectly, and there were no bare spots or rocks or anything visible on the wide ski trail, my depth perception was really off.  I remember having this problem when I tried to ski as a kid.  I couldn't really wear goggles because I couldn't tell where the dips were.  Well, needless to say I was constantly finding myself misjudging the dips in the slop and coming down awkwardly on some of my strides.

This is the dude that won....Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Finally as I could see the finish line area near the ski lift at the bottom, the second skier screwed by me like I was standing still (I might as well have been). I wasn't too far off from him at the end, but I'd like to see how fast their descents were compared to mine.  I bet if my descent took 10 minutes, theirs was 2....but then again, they had to slog up the mountain ON SKIS..... I still say it doesn't quite even out if you are a good downhill skier and you are fit enough to hike quickly uphill on skins, then you got it made.  Just after the 2nd skier passed me, my back completely locked up on me. I had a horrendous knot in the middle of my back..never before in a race have I got that.  That is how ridiculous the downhill was on my body.  I cruised into the finish area just behind the other skier and finished up as the first runner.  I talked to the guys afterwards and commented on how fast they climbed w/ those skis.  Then one of them let me hold one of the skis and I could not believe how friggin' light they were.  It was unreal.  They were like holding a pair of shoes.  Still though, it was VERY impressive to see how fast they climbed w/ those on.  The guy who won killed the climb....I was shocked.  And he's obviously a very good skier as well...

All in all, I was pretty happy that I got the race in and it was fun to try it. Everyone has raved about the races and it was good to get over to one and run at a place I'd never been before.  It was a well organized event and everyone there seemed really pumped and into the series.  It is pretty fun to compete against people using all sorts of methods to get up and down (there were no xc skiers there this time I think because this course is really steep).  There was a cool raffle afterwards (I got blanked though) and I got to hobknob with the acidotic crew (why is 'acidotic' not capitalized?).

Full Results - oh and by the way.... 3 miles?  I doubt it.  It might not have even been 2!

Photo by Gianina Lindsey


  1. Congrats on the win Jim! Sounds like a super tough race. Skiers def have an advantage. I've been eyeing these races for the past few years. Wanted to run one or two but have been hurting the past three winters. Then again, I think the downhill will destroy what's left of me!

  2. Congrats to Jerimy and Josh, and thanks for the fun write-up!
    But just to clarify, even on such a short low-angle course, you still would have beaten them had they been on inherently inefficient telemark gear.
    Instead, they were on ski mountaineering gear. That ski you held is from Hagan, an Austrian company distributed in this country out of Colorado.

  3. Thanks Dan. Give it a try when you're back in the swing of things!

    Jon, thanks for the correction on gear/method. I know zero about skiing and that is very obvious :).... Thans for the info :)