Saturday, Jan 28th – GoreTex North American Ski Mountaineering Championships Sprint

Early Saturday morning my watch started beeping.  I searched under the covers for my left wrist with my right hand to turn it off before the baby woke up.  And while doing so it slowly dawned on me the reason why.  Oh yea, its race time!

I got up and got ready, making sure I had all the required gear before I headed out the door.  Stepping outside the front door I was immediately assaulted with the cold.  Holy cow!  Ok, the bus has got to start.  Driving a 30 year old diesel in Gunnison presents its own challenges, but fortunately I know how to tease this beast.  Both batteries engaged, ether in the intake and cold start knob fully extended my rig finally turned over and caught.  Only ten minutes behind schedule.

We hit Hwy 135 the inside temperature of the bus hovering just below freezing.  Note to self, make sure you have a blanket in the bus when you’re driving this early in the morning.  swinging by Camp 4 coffee I nabbed a coffee and donut and then I arrived up on the mountain and parked in day parking near a bunch of other racers.  Freaking cold!

The sun was just starting to show itself one the east side of Crested Butte when I skinned up and started up under Red Lady lift to the Uley’s Cabin.  The race crowd was pretty spread out over this pre-course but it was obvious where to go.

Arriving at Uley’s most folks were trying to limber up by skinning up and down the piste to the north of the sprint course.  I joined in, the ski up from the base had warmed me a tad and with the possible exception of my left foot I was feeling pretty comfortable.  The left foot was chilled down to the Mitek anchors.  Ouch, I was hurting mostly because I’d left my boots out in the van the night before, but I couldn’t seem to get that foot to warm up.

Eight or ten laps up the piste I gave up and went into the cabin.  Boots off I tried to warm up both the boot and my feet and it was warm enough inside to actually make this happen somewhat.  Ok, back outside I wanted to see the Women start and race.

One at a time the entered the gate and got their countdown.  Bang they were off, 10 m to the hill and then climbing the kick turns like Valkyries — ok they weren’t actually singing or riding flying horses but wow they were fast.  They cleared the course in very little time.

Next up the men started to line up for the gate, I was 23rd in line.  Everyone was jumping and stamping their feet trying to stay warm before they shot out on their interval.  My turn came much faster than I anticipated — three, two, one!  I was moving with long strides across the flats to the hill.  I hit the kick turns and the first thing I thought was damn this powder is a lot slower than the piste.  It was like skiing through mashed potatoes.

First transition, I ripped the right skin quick and had it tucked quick.  Left skin not so much.  I ripped it about half way and then couldn’t get it to budge.  I had to kick my leg up and pull it over my shoulder while the guy behind me passed.  Ok, locked heals, hit the descent.

First turn I realized my boots weren’t locked.  Bloody hell!  I went head over heals and rolled down more than half the hill.  At least I wasn’t the only one, the guy ahead of me hit a rock or something and went down too.  I crawled out of the powder, brushed it out of my eyes and finished the decent into the second transition.

In the second transition I was chanting work on easy in because up until this point I was working on frantic and I knew it.  This seemed to slow things down enough.  Skins came out and went on dry skis, skis went down on the snow and I locked binding in one try.  Poles in hands I hit the second ascent.

I kept on chanting work on easy as I struggled for breath and to stay moving.  The boot pack appeared in my narrowing vision and I pulled skis pretty quick and had them in my pack.  Not perfect, but the mantra was doing its good.  Three or four steps in I post-holed to my groin.  There was a certain amount of cursing probably not as audible as I imagined.  I pulled myself out of the hole and reached the top, only being passed once.

Up the rest of the climb and into the third transition I noobed out completely.  Instead of ripping skins I unclipped my bindings.  Oops, well the skins came off none the less and I clipped back in and locked my boots this time.  I crossed the line at 12m8s dead last in the pack.

The cold I’ve been fighting off all week came on like gang-busters and my nose started running like the Mississippi.  Hacking cough came on full throttle and I wondered off into the trees to clear my head.  Ouch!  But I kept on thinking I did it, I finished.

No pictures, my phone turns off at about 0C and it died earlier that morning.  Race results can be seen here.

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