Today I went and "raced" in the Arc'teryx Sunshine 5000, a randonee ski tour race up at Sunshine. I did this race last year, and despite not having done all that much (OK, OK, one backcountry tour and two days in ski areas is closer to "no") skiing this year I ended up on at the start line wiht somewhere around 35 other people. Right away it was clear that there were some "real" competitors there--Lycra suits, Scarpa "race" boots with tele-style "bellows" for easier flex on the up sections, special packs with a loop and a hook thing to hold skis and some other techno-wizadry I didn't get to see as it went uphill really fast while I didn't. I just like huck-a-lung events, something about roasting your body and mind sure is, well, not fun but invigorating sort of. Before I get into the blow-by-blow of I'd like to thank all the volunteers who worked on the event--I didn't ski by one without a, "Give 'er!" or better, thanks for that.
This year's course was definitely closer to 5,000 feet of up and a similar amount of down. I don't know how to work my watch to figure the exact vert out, but the course basically involved skiing up all of Sunshine's main lifts and down 'em with some boot-packing thrown in. I've been running a fair amount and skate-skiing some so I thought that would provide a good aerobic base--I was right about the aerobic part, but neglected to actually train my hip flexors or quads. This proved unfortunate; I keep having to get up while typing this to stretch some part of my legs out, I didn't know legs could vibrate in such odd ways. It's cool to have something that hurts worse than my elbow though...
The scenic highlight of the day for me was skinning up to the top of Lookout Mountain with the peaks all firing away in the sun. It was a damn fine day to suffer. The physical highlight was one turn coming down Fat Daddy (or whatever it's called). I was going way too fast and thought about just sliding it out on my side to resolve the situation, but leaned over and dug the edges into the snow and somehow railed through the crud like I knew what I was doing. I'm a survival skier, but with locked-down heals and some fatter skis it's a whole new world. I love it when situations that don't seem resolvable somehow do, that's a lot of what makes these sports so much fun. I'll remember that one turn for a while and try to do some more. Skiing rocks.
For most of the race I was battling back and forth with a Lycra dude. He'd pass me on the ups with aerobic skill and good form, I'd use spastic survival skiing and aggression to get ahead of him on the downs, repeat. It got to be pretty fun in the way that only a good mini race within a race can be, thanks to him for that (never did get his name, good guy). On the second to last climb my right and then left quads started to really cramp up; I've never had leg cramps before, I think playing hours of pond hockey on Thursday night might not have been a good idea. I adopted a weird thrutching movement to maintain some forward movement, which became more complicated as my hamstrings decided to join the general protest. The next down was just quad-lacerating, which I dealt with by straight-lining in an effort to either crash or get it over with as fast as possible. I didn't crash.
At the finish line I collapsed in the snow like a sack of, ah, take your pick of substances. It sure was fun. I mean that--it's one thing to go hard while mountaineering or on your own, but you never truly know how hard you can push until you actually race with other people. I went as hard as I could, and it felt good. The awards party was good fun, a free beer and tons of schwag. If you entered this race you got a prize, thanks to all the companies who threw in for that. A guy from Crusted Butte (Ethan?) kicked ass and won the rig in an hour and a half. The top woman was only about 25 minutes behind, fine effort. I was a bit behind that. A bit covering a fair amount of time. No link up yet for the results, but check the Alpine Club of Canada's site.
The awards are where excuses get made and criticisms leveled. I don't really have any excuses that don't sound totally lame, nor criticisms. The day was stunning, the course challenging and the overall vibe really good. I'm going to race next year if I'm in town, but this time I'm going to train. John Irvine, a bud at Arc., has promised to race next year, I'm throwing down the gauntlet. He worked the course this year and seemed to enjoy it as I skied by at top of the second to last climb, which I thought was the last. I topped out and realized that there was one more to go, and all I could say was the obvious, "Oh, @$@$!" He said, "Hey, let's hear a more positive attitude!" Next year buddy, next year, grin.
PS--Sean won the "Climber's division," with Jeff in there as well. Good work. and if you want to see something truly sick, check out the nutters down in Colorado racing in a 24-hour suffer fest... Go Greg!