The following is an interview of SLC Samurai by JLI, a more balanced alter ego of SLC Samurai.
JLI: So, I heard you did the 2007 Powderkeg on Saturday.
JLI: You'll have to excuse me, but what does "Hai" mean?
JLI: Why do you grunt when you say it, is that some sort of samurai thing?
JLI: During this interview, would you mind simply saying "yes"?
SS: Yes, ok.
JLI: So, you're a samurai right? I didn't know that samurais skied?
SS: One of the hallmarks of samurai is adaptability. For centuries Samurai have taken what's good, then adapted, and made it better. In your parlance, Samurai go with the flow, but are good at figuring out how to even go faster.
JLI: Ok ok. So, if you're really a samurai, do you wear one of those dress things when you race?
SS: You mean a kimono?
SS: Apparently, you didn't hear me when I said that samurai are adept at adapting. If you must know, I wore tights. That's what rando racers wear these days.
JLI: Right. So the Powderkeg is a rando race. Can you explain to me what a rando race is?
SS: Sure. A rando race is a backcountry ski race. The race consists of four climbs totalling 5,500 vertical feet. Skiers ski on lightweight alpine skis with lightweight AT boots. To go up, skiers use climbing skins, which are stuck to the bottom of their skis. To go down . . . well, I think you get that part.
JLI: So how do you "walk" while you're clipped into your skis?
SS: Good question. AT bindings, which is short for "alpine touring," release at the heal and pivot at the toe in uphill mode. When you go down, you lock your heel down, and ski just like you would with normal alpine skis. If you want a visual, click here and then click on "Pierra Menta." You can also go here.
JLI: Funny, I've never really heard much about this "rando racing" stuff.
SS: It's a growing sport. In Europe, it's very popular. It started in earnest in the US about 5 years ago. Some advocates compare randonee racing to mountain biking and say that randonee racing is like mountain biking was in the 1990s. As with cycling, I doubt the popularity of rando racing in the US will ever rise to the European level. No matter, it's fun and I hope it continues to grow. It certainly deserves to.
JLI: Is the Powderkeg a popular race?
SS: In the rando race world, it's probably the second most popular, with the first most popular being the national championship race in Jackson Hole, WY. The Jackson Hole race is being held next week, so most of the contenders showed up at the Powderkeg race. I think most of the top 10 were from out of state.
JLI: Did you contend?
SS: For the win?
SS: No, I appreciate that you do not doubt my abilities, but I did not seriously contend for the win. Although, as you see in the picture above, I had a pretty good start.
JLI: Oh, so who won?
SS: Ethan Passant, an avid road racer, took first. Chris Kroger, a Jackson ski patroller took second. And Pete Swenson, a former pro mountain biker, took third. Kroger ate it a few meters in front of the finish line and Passant took the win.
JLI: Wow, must have been exciting. What were their times?
SS: The winning time was about 2 hours and 2 minutes.
JLI: Did they win anything cool?
SS: Probably the coolest thing was that by winning, the top 2 finishers earned a spot on the US National team and will get to compete at world cup venues in Europe.
JLI: Did the winners . . .
SS: Um, excuse me, but do you think we can focus more on the samurai please?
JLI: Ok, I get star stuck every once in awhile, I apologize. So what was your time?
SS: 2 hours and 22 minutes.
JLI: Wow, so those guys put 20 minutes into you huh?
SS: Yes, I gave up 20 minutes. And I nearly achived my goal of finishing in the top 10.
JLI: Oh, so what place did you take?
SS: I took 11th place.
JLI: Not bad. Not bad samurai. So where did you give up time?
SS: It's hard to say. Unlike last year, I didn't have any major mishaps. I think more than anything, I simply wasn't as fast as the frontrunners. They were faster up the mountain; they were faster in the transitions; and they were faster on the descents. Of course, they also had super light equipment. But like cycling, it's the engine that matters most.
JLI: Do you think you can get faster?
SS: I think I could definitely get faster if I specifically trained for rando races. My legs felt pretty decent on the uphill. I suffered real bad on the downhill. I wasted some time getting my skins on and off. Of course, I didn't flub up like the guy who forgot his skin in the transition zone or like the guy whose ski fell off his pack and went zooming 1000 vertical feet down the mountain. Incidentally, his ski ran right over my boots. I caught a glimpse of "MX:20," the name of the ski. Isn't that the name of a missile?
JLI: Pardon me, but I'm the interviewer.
JLI: So it sounds like your race went pretty smoothly.
SS: It went pretty well. I feel like I did the best I could. I had a few mishaps that I'd like to avoid in the future.
JLI: Like what?
SS: Well, I crashed three times. Two were really bad. In the two bad crashes I lost my poles and sunglasses and after I slid to a halt had to side step up the mountain to collect my stuff. The other crash was going up hill. I got a cramp, couldn't move my leg, and then kind of did two somersaults down the mountain in slow motion. And then there were the ice moguls at the start of the race. It was hard skinning up those.
JLI: Why was it so hard to go downhill?
SS: Going downhill was tough mostly because of the snow conditions. I may as well have been skiing on solid rock, bumpy rock. On the decents, I simply tried to stay on my skis, survive, and go as fast as I could. Since the snow was so hard, it was easy to go fast. The control part was the hardest. It felt like someone was hitting my thighs with a baseball bat.
JLI: Ouch. That must have hurt. Did you feel like dropping the F bomb when you crashed?
SS: I'd be lying if I said no. It was frustrating not being able to keep up the speed and was especially frustrating when I hit the deck.
JLI: I notice you're having a bit of difficulty holding up a cup and lifting your right arm.
SS: Yes, I damaged it a bit when I crashed.
JLI: Well at least you're ok. It's getting late and we should retire soon. Let me ask though, do you think you might want to get more into rando racing?
SS: Possibly. I'm looking into getting some super light equipment. It would be kind of cool to contend on a national stage. It's nice because the national stage isn't that big. So I have a better chance of doing well.
JLI: Thanks for the interview samurai. In fairness, I should ask if you have any questions for me.
SS: Actually I do. I notice your hair is getting kind of long. Are you going for the Bruce Lee look?