After Saturday’s race, I got some decent rest in before the race at Sunlight on Sunday. We had five people crammed in our slope side room, a little crowed…but not too bad.
Since my morning plan seemed to work the day before, I stayed the course and choked down a few calories before heading out the door. Over eighty participants showed up for the North Face Heathen Challenge, with many of them being the same that raced at Snowmass…and some still competing in the second day of qualifying for the US Ski Mountaineering Team. I felt a bit sluggish during the warm-up, but tried to stay focused since you never know what will happen when the gun goes off.
The race started off with the dreaded lemans start, where we all run to our skis and click in, before running sprinting to get out front. I had a good start and was first out, followed by Scott Coldiron not too far behind. I need all the help I can get in these races and I was glad I didn’t get bogged down fiddling around, trying to lock into my bindings.
The field quickly spread out and I soon found myself in about 10th place, chasing Mike Kloser and trying to find my rhythm. The first up track consisted of some groomers and a few switchbacks in and out of the woods, ending in a transtion at the top of the mountain. I passed at least one person during the first descent, which stared off with some high speed tucking, some steep off piste terrain in the middle and a cat-track back to the base area that you had to make sure you kept your momentum up for.
I was felling a little more positive about the day as I zoomed into the transition, but I busted one of my skin tip attachments which killed my buzz quickly. I flailed a bit trying to swap out skins in my pack and I think I lost close to a minute with the error. From now on, I think I’ll race with at least one back up skin on my body, to make skin recoveries a bit easier to deal with.
Zahan had now moved in front of me and I followed him up the same ascent to the top. I saw him reach for some energy gel just before the next transition and I thought about doing the same, but my CamelBak was frozen, so I made a move to get around him instead. The first half of the next descent was similar to the first, but ended in some lower elevation skiing through some tight trees at the bottom. The snow was really punchy and I buried the tip of my ski twice, bringing me to a complete stop both times before the next skins-on transition. The last uphill was all in the trees with a bootpack thrown in for good measure.
Two racers, Zahan and Max were breathing down my neck now and I made a wrong turn just before the top, following the cat track, instead of the skin track that cut the switchback. It seemed like the three of us were ripping our skins at the same time, but I managed to make it out first and held them off to the finish…finishing 9th overall.
It sounded like the competition for the top spots was also tight, with Ethan, Cary and Brian Smith also at the last transition all together. Finishing in the same order in the end, with Brandon French and Scott Coldiron getting 4th and 5th place. Wick and Jon Brown had the next two spots. Click here for Men’s AT Race results.
Pete Swenson is working his butt off
this winter keeping the US rando race circuit alive.
Be sure to thank him at your next race.
Anyway, I’m done with racing for a little bit, and I’m waiting to find out if I made the team. If I do, I will be leaving for Europe in about a month and will have to get my act together buying plane tickets, planning logistics and buffing out my race gear in preparation for the World Ski Mountaineering Championships. Nevermind trying to come up with the funds for the trip.
After a 6 hour drive from Glenwood Springs after the race, I’m now in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. It doesn’t start until Tuesday, so I’ve got some ski partners lined up for some skiing today. It will be nice to be back on the fat skis ripping the powder again. It sounds like we are getting hammered at home right now and it sucks to be missing it, but at least I’ll hopefully be getting my own in the Wasatch backcountry.