Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

Here I come!

40 miles. Start at 11 pm. Open water. Dirt. Snow. Wind. Sounds fun? . . .

We are required to carry survival gear.

Guess the weight of my pack?  Excluding water.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wasatch Powderkeg -- How it Actually Went Down

Congratulations on the race, its organizers, volunteers, Brighton, and its participants for a great 10th annual Powderkeg. I'm always amazed at the great people that this race brings out and together.

In the Women's event, Gemma won, followed by Kim Young from Jackson. Can't remember who rounded out the podium.

In the Men's heavy metal, Chad Ambrose took the honors, and brother Aaron got 3rd.

Andrew McLean won the Masters men division. In talking with him, I learned that the first unofficial Powderkeg occurred before 2003 when Andrew and a couple others decided to race a course from Alta to Cardiff, hitting designated checkpoints. Soon thereafter, the Powderkeg went official.

In the Men's race, top 12 were as follows:

Jason Dorais
Luke Nelson
Bryan Wickenhauser
John Gaston
Tom Goth
Jon Brown
Tom Diegel
Andrew Dorais
Teague Holmes
Jared Inouye
Nathan Brown
Courtney Phillips

Sorry to stop there, but that's all I personally witnessed.

Jason Dorais had a really really great race. He led everyone out at the gun, dropped everyone on the first technical climb, and then proceeded to distance himself. Through his efforts, he was able to relax and be conservative on the downhill, and easily cruised to the win. It was a dominant performance.

As usual, Wick did not disappoint, and lost the second place spot by about 1 second. He passed Luke on the last descent, but had to scrub some speed on a big rollover. Or so he says. Like I said, I think he like the drama and to put on a good show. :)

As I predicted, Ambrose took the heavy metal division. Congrats to him on his first rando race. And congrats to Aaron for getting on the podium.

Throughout most of the race, I participated in the race for 4th place with John Gaston and Tom Goth. In the end,although Gaston went off course, and had to boot back on course, he was able to catch and pass me, Goth and Brown to take 4th place.

I witnessed huge growth from Tom Goth. This is first year rando racing, and I didn't expect such strong competition from him. Until he dropped me for good, he and I traded spots several times. In the beginning, right after I stuffed myself into a tree, I passed and got the jump on him on the first descent. I led till the 4th climb. There Gaston, me and Tom had all come together. I dropped a skin and had a really slow transition and let Gaston and Goth get a gap. Gaston held the gap until the Milly booter. I caught Goth on the 4th descent, but he passed me on the 5th climb and I struggled to keep his tails. I finally bridged the gap to both Goth and Gaston on the booter. Then I passed them on the ski off the top of Milly.

I desperately wanted to hold off Gaston and Goth, but on the final climb, I started to cramp. In fact, I'm pretty sure we all were hurting because although the battle was intense, we were all moving in slow motion. I had to stop and shake out cramps. Goth and Gaston continued on. Soon Jon Brown had joined us and the battle. As he passed, I hoped that I wouldn't let him down on the upcoming Elk Mountain Traverse.

On the last descent, I launched into it, having hopes of regaining 4th. I went straight off of Wolverine Bowl, and as I tried to scrub speed in the valley below, my left boot felt squishy. Then I felt a pop and my whole foot came out of my boot. That's the first time I actually blew my boot off my foot. Standing in the snow in my sock, I picked up a piece of carbon, and jammed my foot back in. But despite my best effort, I couldn't ski the most challenging part of the course in the way I wanted. I crashed two more times, and then I gave it up. At that point, the parade had begun. First, it was Gaston, getting back on course. Then Diegel, Andy and several others. At the final checkpoint, I scrounged a Voile strap, and that assisted me to the finish line. After the race, as I thought about it, I think that I damaged my boot in the ski off of Milly. I skied that section with my skins on and heels unlocked and remember torquing the boot pretty hard.

In Japanese, there's a saying: mo shoganai. Roughly translated, it means, there's nothing to be done or it can't be helped. In a way, I feel that way, but in another way, I have only myself to blame for my travails. What I'm mean by that is that I've noticed that I seem to always have trouble at the Powderkeg. Even the year I won, I broke my boot and skied Stupid chute floppy. I've been DQed for going off course. Last year, I crashed, lost my contact, and DNFed. In fact, I lost my contact this year skiing fast off Brown Spot, but luckily, at the bottom, I found it stuck to my sunglasses lense. The PKeg is important to me. But I have to stop skiing it in a frenzy. I need to just relax and race as cleanly as possible. That's my goal for next year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wasatch Powderkeg Predictions

You know when an event has arrived when predictions, and perhaps bets, are made on who will win.  The Powderkeg is having its 10th annual anniversary this year, and it looks to be very well attended, a compliment to the race's founders (Andrew McLean ) and current promoters (Chad and Emily Brackelsberg) and to the race itself.

I visited the list of entrants and it's impressive.  There are lots of people coming.  And there are lots of fast people coming.  For fun, here are my odds:


Gemma Arro Ribot 2-1.  She is a fast Catalonian woman who is on the Spanish National Team and who has medaled at the World and European Skimo Championships.  She can go up very fast.  But can she she the crust?  I think she can well enough.

Nikki Kimball 4-1.  She is an ultra runner and has been a member of the US National Snowshoe Racing team (don't laugh, after all, we're talking skimo).  She is an accomplished nordic skier and once was Ultra Runner of the Year.  But can she ski?  Fast?  We shall see.

Meredith Edwards 5-1.  This girl can run.  And she is determined.  A couple years ago, I saw her finish Nationals at Jackson, but just barely.  She looked like she might have died a few minutes prior.  But she finished.  I think I saw her rallying at Teva Games recently.

Kim Young  9-2.  Kim is just starting skimo, but she is very fit.  Earlier in the season I went skiing with her, and she throwin' down with the boys (who were in tights and skinny skis) in baggies and Havocs.  She's since conformed to the tight ethic, and with a few races under her belt will be a force to be reckoned with.

Emily Sullivan 10-1. The other night Emily asked me if I cheated in every race.  Talk about a loaded question and a false dilemma.  She has been a regular participant of the Wasatch Skimo weekly series, and she has prepared well.

Heavy Metal Men

Chad Ambrose 4-1.  He's a regular partner of mine and I know he's got the fire.  I've seen Chad bear down and he can suffer with the best of them.  He's got lots of race experience on foot and on the bike, and so I have to give him the nod over the person listed below.  In other words, he's a class A sandbagger.

Aaron Inouye 9-2.  Look for Aaron to be on the podium.  He happens to be my brother.  And he's a samurai.  He has the potential to be a part of the new guard, but he's deep in his studies right now.  Nevertheless, he will give Chad and all the other sandbaggers out there a run for their money, or brand new pair of skis as it were.

Dave Bergart 5-1.  Dave is slow to convert from the "other" discipline.  Perhaps because he's a nordic skier, he thought he had to telemark.  Now he knows much better.  With the other sandbaggers, Dave will probably be mixing it up with guys on light gear.  Dave informs me that he is racing on "dork sticks," which I can only take to mean that he's in the race division.  Heavy Metal sandbaggers, breath a sigh of relief.

Jon Schofield 6-1. I snubbed Jon in my initial odds.  Apologies.  Jon has the ability to be fast.  In fact, he is fast.  Once he got a speeding ticket on his bike. But it's taken awhile for Jon to tear himself away from his snowboarding passion.  Sorry, but splitboards simply don't work for rando racing.  They're cool and all -- mostly for joke fodder on the skin track, but for fast travel, sorry.  Jon is moving towards the light is right philosophy at a glacial pace, and I hope one day he arrives.  Until then, he's on Megawatts or something like that.  Maybe he'll bring his "light" setup, which are Dynafit Stokes.  If you see him behind you, you better run.

Men Race

Luke Nelson 2-1.  Luke is the defending champion.  He's part of the "new guard," but he's also a proven entity.  He's won the race before.  He's the current US National Skimo Champion.  He's a past member of the US National Team.  He blitzed the Wasatch 100 Ultra race this year.  He's a Sportiva ambassador.  And blah blah blah.  Yes, he's highly decorated.  He's a freakin' gazelle (do they go uphill fast?).  It's his race to lose.  NO PRESSURE.  Don't biff it!

Jason Dorais  5-2.  Jason is one of my training buddies.  I know his strengths.  And I know that he's got talent.  He's part of the new guard.  He podiumed at the National Skimo Championships and the North American Championships.  His oxygen carrying capacity makes me want to stuff cigarettes into his mouth.  He just got some new boots and shed substantial weight from his feet.  He's learning to ski faster and better, but every once in awhile likes to magnificently yard sale.  He could win the Powderkeg outright.

Bryan Wickenhauser 3-1.  Old guard.  But still very fast.  He's got mad mad skimo skillz because he's a many time US Skimo Team member.  The thing is, Bryan has lost the one spot in two recent races by a total, yes TOTAL, of 4 seconds.  He lost the Teva Games race by 2 seconds and then the recent Power of Four race by 2 seconds.  I think he just likes the drama.  He's definitely a crowd pleaser.  Kill it Wick!

John Gaston 7-2.  New guard.  I don't know this guy that well.  I met him a few weeks ago decked out in a new skinsuit and full on race gear.  I thought he might be Euro.  But when he talked, he didn't have an accent. John and his twin brother just won the Aspen Power of Four race, which is a huge accomplishment.  I'd say he's not proven yet, but with that result, I can't.  On top of that, I know he can fly uphill.  At the Teva Games, he crushed all the skimo elite in the uphill.

Jared Inouye 4-1.  I'm probably considered old guard.  And those odds are pretty generous.  But it's my blog, right?  I won the PKeg once when all the elite guys forgot to show up.  But I'll take it.  It was an honor.  No one else from Utah has ever won the Keg.  Jason?  I'll be gunning as hard as I can on Saturday.

Chris Kroger 21-5.  THE Old Guard.  I hesitate to place myself above Krog, however incrementally small the odds are.  Krog won the 1st Powder Keg, in which I was a participant.  This was when there used to be a shack at the base of Milly.  I was blown away by the time Krog threw down.  Krog was a god in my book. Krog has been a member of the National Skimo Team more than anyone else.  And once, ha, get this, at the PKeg, he CRASHED 50 meters from the finish and gave up the one spot to Ethan Passant.  Sorry if that brings back bad memories.  Talk about drama.  Krog is a fellow La Sportiva ambassador and I think he is just coming into form. Don't count him out.

Andrew Dorais 22-5.  New Guard and a training buddy.  He calls himself a Sherpa, but he's really not.  Andy and I have a friendly rivalry going.  I have to bank my gloating currency during the winter because he's a fine runner and beats me up in the summer.  And as the new guard, he'll only get better. Andy is a tough dude.  I know that because he accompanied me on two of the hardest things I've done: the WURLOS and the Grand Teton Speed record.  He could ride his infectious enthusiasm all the way to the line, if he doesn't forget his poles at the top of the mountain.

Jon Brown 9-2.  Old guard.  JB is from CB and he is a sinewy endurance freak who was an adventure racer in a previous life.  He and I are partnering up for the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse at the end of March and so I wish him well in the Wasatch.  JB belongs to the elite Team CB Mafia.  One day I will break their secret training code and learn how they go so fast while they are so high.  JB would be higher on the list if his DH skillz were just a bit, ahem, more refined.  Look for him to crush the first climb.

Downtown Nate Brown 24-5.  Nate is from Jackson and is the current record holder for the Trifecta -- Grand, Middle, and South Tetons.  He is fresh off a win in Bozeman where he bested some of the old guard and the new guard.  You can find his name in the American Alpine Journal because he's an accomplished climber.  He wears tights on Teton Pass unabashedly.  He used to smoke like a stack, but I think that only toughened his lungs up.

BRAIN aka Brian Harder 5-1.  Old Guard.  Yoda is to Luke as to what Brian is to me.  Sadly, he is moving to Alaska.  Brian, if I haven't told you, there is no grass in Alaska.  It can't be greener over there.  Move to the Wasatch.  Be with your herd!  Brian and I have had some good runs together and I know he is capable of putting up a fight and coming up with results.  Plus, he hasn't been working for the last few weeks and last week, he put in a world cup class training week.  Fire up that diesel engine!

Michael Hagen 21-4.  Hagen is the importer and purveyor of Hagan skis.  Hagan skis have bumped up their game and have a great product this year.  Word is that Hagen used to be on the special forces.  I believe it because I know how tough he can be.

Teague Holmes 11-2.  Adopted by Team Wasatch, Teague knows fast.  Teague knows snow.  He won one of the skimo weekly series.  He's lightened up significantly.  He's a nice guy.  He's podiumed at the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse.  He can get it done.

Tom Goth 6-1.  Tom is an Ironman, multiple times over.  This year, he has embraced the way of the skimo and has a lot to show for it.  He's got a top ten result or two and shows lots of promise.  He's a Wasatch Skimo member and the future is bright for him.  New guard.

Courtney Phillips 7-1.  Courtney knows how to suffer.  He has not one, but two pair of full on race skis.  He's hooked.  He will not go away.

Andrew McLean 10-1.  In any bad assery discussion, which this has turned out to be, Andrew must be mentioned.  Andrew deserves mention not only for the bad assery distinction, but because he is the person who had the vision to start the Powder Keg 10 years ago.  Cheers!  Kanpai!  Salud!  Andrew was rando racing before it was ever invented.  Legend has it that he an the old timers used to race from Alta over the hill to Cardiff mine and back.  Is this true?  He is signed up this year.  If you see him, bow down and worship.

Watch out for other Wasatch Skimo members who know speed.  Adam O Keefe.  Tim White.  Layne Caldwell.  Jim Knight.  Trent Duncan. Eric Bunce. Tom Diegel.  Chis Peters. Luther Birdzell.

Ok, who'd I miss?

Have fun out there!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Skimo Tips

Don't forget to sign up for the 10th Wasatch Powder Keg.

To speed up, here are a few things I will try to remember:

1. Alter your cadence.  Move your feet fast when it is flatter.  On the steep part, sometimes it helps to alternate big steps and faster steps.

2. If you move your hands faster, your feet and cadence will move/be faster.

3. Push through with your poles.  Keep forward momentum.

4. Don't step on your own skins -- snow will contaminate and cause eventual failure.  Get a clean rip.  Failed skins are to skimo what  flat tires are to bike racing.

5. Don't clomp.  Slide your feet, don't lift them.

6. Step SLOWLY into bindings, and get a clean grab the first time round.

7. Use alternate poling when the snow gets soft, manky, breakable.

8. On the descents, don't turn (ok, scratch that).

9. Go all out, but don't blow up.

10. If things start to suck and you start to hate racing, wipe the spit off your face, open your eyes and look around.  It's a beautiful day.

Clown day?

Heading into work. Forgot my dress shoes. Which do you think works best with slacks and a dress shirt?

A. Man Uggs
B. Hokas
C. . . . Never mind.