Monday, March 25, 2013

The Great Ski Race

One of my favorite places to ski during college is in Truckee, California.  Sunny, warm, lots of snow and a variety of venues make it hard not to smile.  It has been seven years since I have graduated college and since I have skied in California.  There are two marathon races that I have always wanted to do out there, the Gold Rush and The Great Race.    

The Great Race starts on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and climbs 1200' up and over the pass before dropping 1800' to finish in Truckee.  As chance would have it The Great Race was last weekend and worked perfect with our plans to come and train in California in preparation for the Super Tour Finals here in April. 
Check out the profile (dark purple) and my corresponding heart rate
After 5 days of consistent sunny days and below freezing nights we woke up on race morning to light rain.  I had waxed our skis in anticipation of the rain, but I didn't factor in all of the climbing on the course and the potential for new snow at the top.  My skis were great at the start but as we climbed higher the rain turned to snow and that turned into about 4 inches of powder.  At this point the racing really got interesting.  I had about a one minute lead on the chase pack but the aggressive grind I had chosen was like sandpaper on the fresh snow.  I looked back and could tell that I was getting caught.  This wouldn't be that big of a deal except for the fact that I was working pretty hard.  I decided to just ride my threshold and make the most of it.

Wyatt caught me about 2.5km from the high point of the course, I continued to lead hoping that he would just settle in behind me at our current pace.  At one point Wyatt asked me if I was just going threshold for today.  I didn't really want to tell him that I had chosen the wrong skis for the day but at this point it was pretty obvious.  It was just about all I could do to stay on him for the last little bit of the uphill.  When we reached the high point the fresh grooming ended and we were faced with breaking trail.  Finally I at least had the advantage of resting in the draft.

My skis weren't getting much faster, but I knew that as we continued to descend my ski speed would increase.  I offered to do some of the work up front and we switched off leads to try and stay away from the others.  Still, I had worked hard enough on the climb that I didn't want to overextend myself too much.  I already had the twinges of cramps coming on in my legs.

At one point I looked back and was surprised to see two other skiers catching up to us.  Wyatt put in a bit of a stronger pull but it became obvious that these guys were going way faster than us.  It turns out that we had several minutes on them at the top. When they caught us they just skied right through us.  One of the guys gave us a hard time for making the 'old man' lead.  I recognized him as Marcus Nash and smiled.  I had to tell him that I had a poster of him above my bed growing up.  Spencer pulled away from us and I decided to put in a big push to try and hang on.  Wyatt skis were starting to slow down and my were starting to come back to life.  I worked as hard as I could, but Spencer continued to pull away.  I think he had about a minute on me at one point as I struggled in the fresh snow.  Finally we dropped low enough that my skis started to run.  At first they were just a little bit better, but then they turned to rockets.  With about 5 km to go I could tell I was gaining quickly on Spencer.  It was a tricky race in that with such variable conditions there really was no way to have fast skis the entire race.  My skis were pretty slow in the fresh snow, but they were fantastic in the wet soft snow.

The race finishes with monster downhill.  Plenty of great crashes kept spectators entertained throughout the afternoon.
Marcus, Me, and Spencer on the podium with our beautiful glass plate awards

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