One of the things I love most about outdoor sports is trying new ones that I suck at. Yesterday I did the Sunshine 5000, which is a "rando" race up Sunshine ski area, down part of the area, up, etc, for a total of somewhere around 4,000 feet of climbing. Josh convinced me to do it Friday night, and after putting good skins on my new (used a few times for going to ice climbs) AT skis I found myself at the start line Saturday morning with Josh, Darryl and around 40 other people. I've been a telemark skier for 20 years--the only times I've skied with my heals locked down was coming out of ice climbs. I had fresh Scarpa Matrix boots on my feet, super fat skins (who knew you had to cut them to size these days) and fat BD skis with Fritschi bindings. It was all basically wrapper-fresh, I hadn't even formed the boot liners to my feet... Perfect, an opportunity to try something completely new...
The first half of the course was a gasp-fest to the top of Delerium dive. I tried to keep the heart rate reasonable but didn't as Josh and I race up the hill for 2000+ feet around mid-pack. Near the top people started to blow up, so Josh and I were able to gain a few places. Josh had a tricky way of taking his skins off with the skis still on, but I tried that and fell over, so I took my skis off which was OK as we had to walk down the stairs to the top of the much-vaunted "Delerium Dive." It took me an extra minute to figure out how to lock my heels down on the Fritschis, then it was point 'em and rip. I was a little worried about this run from its reputation and 'cause I hadn't skied in real AT boots ever, or even downhill boots since about 1984, but it was OK, this AT gear rips. I only had to stop once to let my shaking quads recover before reaching the "skins on" transition to the second climb, boom, back up. Josh caught up to me at the transition--I'd been ahead of him by a bit at the top, he'd made that up by nuking the downhill. There was a guy with big hair I'd passed just at the top of the run, he too caught up to me at the transition. I often find aerobic races turn into a sub-race between me and a couple of other people once the leaders are gone, it makes it more fun. We could still see the leaders busting ass up the hill, and off we went to catch 'em (right...).
The second climb was short, and I managed to keep my "mini-race" guy close as we pulled over the top. I'd assumed we would take our skins off for every descent, but the guy just in front of me kept skiing with his on so I did too, we dropped down another 500 feet with our skins on, just point 'em and go, it was faster than taking the skins off, good tactics. We could see the lead "pack" busting up the third climb. I could feel the load of the last hour so I deliberately slowed down and chewed down a gel and tried to drink some water, but my hose was frozen solid so I was now in "camel" mode, oh well. The gel hit almost immediately, funny how that works, and we blasted up the third climb relatively well, the gap on the guys behind us grew. Another bud from Canmore, Heath, yelled, "skins on as he went down by me on the third descent while I was still skinning up it, so I knew the "keep the skins on" tactic was in force, thanks Heath! I yelled the same to Josh as I went by him. My legs were just worked as we dropped around 500 more feet, I lost all ability to turn and skied into a small tree at the bottom of the third downhill, which was useful for hanging onto as I changed the bindings over to uphill mode. As soon as I started skinning up I felt a blister bust on my right heel, which hurt like hell, but that's racing.
The fourth climb hurt, and my lack of aerobic training started to show. The leaders blasted by on their final descent as I grunted up, fast bastards. I saw Josh come down the third descent as well, he had taken his skins off and was hauling ass as he actually knows how to ski. Unfortunately he missed the turnaround and went all the way to the base of the ski hill, bummer! My friend Ryan was running the checkpoint at the top of the fourth climb, good to see a friendly face there. I had a slow transition but stayed ahead of my mini-race crew behind me, then dropped off down the last downhill with Jello legs and brain. I only crashed once before finally making it to the finish line in one hour 47 minutes. The winner did it in 1: 34 or so, good effort! Josh skied all the way back up from the finish line to the top of the climb he missed, good effort!
So that was a Rando race, pretty fun. I'd planned to ski some more with heals locked down for practice after the race, but my heals were hammered with blisters and I really didn't feel like skiing at all so we ate big and drank in the bar until the awards, which we didn't get any of but still had a really fun time. Thanks to Greg Hill for putting the race on, Arcteryx, Ortovox, Life Link and the other sponsors for the Swag (everybody got something pretty nice who went to the race!), and Josh and Darryl for the motivation. I'll do more of these races in the future, it's a fun format. I'd like to know how I actually placed but the official results aren't done yet, I'll post a link when they go up. Even if I suck I always want to know exactly how much I suck... A four-month pregnant woman did the race, and a woman from Golden skied the full "race" course we did in 2:02 I think, pretty damn impressive (there were two courses, the full "race" course, and "rec" race that missed the last climb, that's what likely confused Josh).
Aerobic racing is painful, but this race inspired me to go backcountry skiing more, the new AT gear is wicked. It's lighter than my tele gear, gives a lot more control and is even better on the flats. The stiff plastic tongues on tele boots really screw your kick and glide up, the stiff tongues drive the toe of the ski into the snow every stride. If the AT gear is lighter, skis downhill and even flats better, well, I think my telemark days are done. I'll still use relatively light XC gear for doing big traverses like the Wapta where it works really well (did that a couple of years ago in a day on nordic gear, definitely a better choice than the relatively heavy AT or tele gear), but I'm starting to think modern tele gear has just reinvented alpine gear without the heal piece--? I ski a lot with a pack in variable snow conditions, I'm just too damn old to face plant hard anymore, power to the tele beasts but I'm over it.
Today I'm worked, so not much is getting done beyond cleaning up and getting ready to head up to Jasper in the morning for an ARD (German TV) shoot with Pat Morrow and my dad, we're going to climb the Queen of Maligne as a father/son team, shoud be fun. Maligne Canyon is where I learned to ice climb way back in the day.