So it was sort of a fluke, but I decided late Thursday afternoon that I was going to try and nab a spot in the pack at the Irwin Rando race. No time like the present and all that, really I wanted to see what it was all about and baseline my performance today against what is out there. Dave and Kristen at Rock and Roll sports also influenced me to make a go of it regardless of the gear in my quiver.
I was lucky to get a spot; this was one of the closest knit and happy group of people I’ve met in a long time. Being brand new to the sport of BC racing I was amazed at the encouragement I got on the cat ride up and from other competitors at the starting line-up.
The count down was shouted out and we were off. I lined up at the back of the pack because I knew I was going to be slow. Another guy with big fat Black Diamonds was right beside me and we shuffled up the hill together. I’m pretty sure that if there were dust on the ground instead of snow the two of us would have been choking in it. Truly amazing how fast these folks can move. Brett and I climbed the first couple of switch backs together, but I began to pull ahead of him somewhat and by the time we got to the old Irwin lodge I had put some distance between the two of us.
He called out “Hey! There’s a skin track over here off the road.” I looked over my shoulder and thought “shit!” He waited for me to come back down the cat track and sure enough there it was. Green flags poking out of the snow in the trees.
I said my thank you and we started to climb again. Again I pulled ahead of him as we switched back and forth though the trees. Soon I couldn’t see him on the corners, but there was a nagging doubt in my mind that I was approaching a scarp that looked like it was going to require me to boot pack my skis.
Sure enough right before the steep traverse that approaches the boot pack section of the course two course marshals skied up behind me. “You know this is the second loop?”
“Ah, now, but I was beginning to suspect something was amiss.” The chatted with course control not the radio. Finally I decided that I’d just continue on from where I was at. If I was DQed oh well, first race, but at least I’d get some nice turns in, right? They liked that idea too, and if I wanted to push up the third loop that was ok with them as well.
So I let them pass and started to climb up the traverse to the boot pack section. The snow on this section was rotten and/or nonexistent. I felt the exposure and my big tele skis weren’t much more than a nuisance on this part because I couldn’t hold a good edge where the snow was thin, couldn’t kick turn the switch backs like I wanted to, and where there was shade from trees my skis turned the skin track to sugar powder. Honestly it was a little scary.
I ended up taking off my skis a little early and following one of the volunteers boot pack tracks up to the official boot pack portion of the course. As I ascended this portion of the route the first racers started passing me (lapping me?). Truly amazing what you can do with 700 gram skis, and these guys are monster climbers.
Getting my skis on my pack on that approach was a bit hairy, but I managed. When I made it to the boot pack I remounted the skis so they were really secure and ascended the couloir. The rope was helpful and I’m glad I had a helmet. Hawk was at the top of the slot yelling encouragement to everyone on their way up.
I summited this portion of the climb and watched as a few other competitors mounted it as well. Finally, I reinstalled my skis and headed up the course which now followed the scarp up to its summit. The view to my left was breath taking, and at one point I wondered a little off course to see over the north east side of the scarp. Little exposure and plenty of sunshine all the way to the transition zone and descent.
At the transition zone Rick and another guy who’s name I can’t recall cheered me in. I took my time here, the climb with those big skis and boots on had really beaten me up. We watched as a few racers passed me and then I got back into my bindings and they pair of them sent me down the hill telling me to drop a knee.
Holy cow! If you ski Colorado snow conditions every winter and get an opportunity to rip the pow-pow as soon as it settles then I can see how you might be inclined to call what I skied on Saturday afternoon crap. If however, you haven’t had the pleasure of carving that choice crust with some big fat tele boards for nearly 20 years and you, like me, found yourself on a glad of relatively undisturbed Colorado choice white, you too would probably be overcome with a blissful joy difficult to describe and only measurable because your smile spans the space between both ears. That was amazing!
Every inch of that descent was bought and paid for with the climb to the top, but I left some seriously beautiful S-tracks which are probably still lined with gold.
As I re-joined the cat track I headed into the finish line and the cow bell was ringing. I seriously don’t ever want to race in that gear again. Ever! But the race itself was a memorable experience I’m going to stew in for a while. Thanks again to all those people who made it happen (I wish I was better at remembering names) and to all those people I met along the way. Next time I’m going to kick it with little tiny boots and wafer thin skis, then, at least, I’ll be able to stay in the dust cloud.