Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vail Winter Mountain Games Skimo Race

On Saturday, I raced at the Vail Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer, formerly known as the Teva Winter Mountain Games.  Vail is an interesting venue and it's always fun visiting Colorado to race.

The skimo race is part of the COSMIC series put on by Pete Swenson, held in conjunction the Mountain Games.  The skimo race seemed to be a huge success.  At early morning registration, I attempted to console a disheartened Pierre Wille as he had just driven from Aspen to learn that the race (capped at 200) had sold out and he couldn't race.  (That was remedied, and he did, indeed race.)  Let's just say that pre-registration is not something on the minds of most skimo racers.

The course is somewhat unique in that it features a full tour of Vail, like 19-20 miles.  This translates into a few punchy climbs, some challenging (one suicidal) descents, and lots and lots of low angle skinning.  Compared to other courses, this one is long and flat.  But, still fun.

The race started out under relatively clear skies and relatively pleasant temperatures.  But as we topped out on the first climb, a snowstorm rolled in, making the race cold and even more challenging.  At one point in time, I had several icicles on my face.  At the start line, I made the mistake of not taking a buff, goggles, or a jacket.  So, when things got dire, my only option was to rev the engine as hot as I could and forge ahead.  It was a cold race.

In the end, Jan Koles took top honors, edging out Bryan Wickenhauser.  Actually, Brian Smith won the whole race, but since he was in a separate contest (the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, skate+skimo+vertical race), we all got bumped up.  These guys were followed by Mike Kloser (also UMC) Billy Laird, me, Ben Kadlec, Jon Brown, Mike Hagan, Chad Ambrose, Colin Cares, and so on.

I was happy with 4th place.  I had a slow start and moved from 15th place or so to end up where I did.  Last year, I cramped and bonked spectacularly on the final climb, so I was quite satisfied when I had the condition to go fast on the final climb.  Maybe a slower start is better?  Or maybe, since this was my first race of the year, I had some fresh legs.  Who knows?  It was a pleasant surprise, especially since my water froze during the first half of the race.

I was especially happy for Chad for being solidly in the Top 10 in his first ever skimo race in the "elite" field.  While taking part in his post-mortem, I prodded him a bit about the fact that he stopped to put clothes on and to eat 2 Snickers.  That was certainly the rational thing to do.  In any event, he raced strong and will be a force to be reckoned with.

For the record, Chad and I drove from Vail to his house in Sandy, Utah in 5 hrs and 35 minutes.  That includes the time it took for Chad to get pulled over and receive a speeding ticket.

Notably missing were several of the guys who are now in France racing.  Although I'm sure I would have bumped down several spots, it would have been fun to have them in the mix.

Some pics I found on Facebook:

Jan Koles from Slovakia and presently of Colorado, winding up to crush everyone.  He moved remarkably fast across the flats and he is an impressive downhill skier--apparently, a deadly combination.
Me trying to get some glide and a gap between Colin Cares and Jon Brown.
Since my boots are broken, Jason let me use his Aliens.  
It's nice, after the fact, to see what was happening at the front of the race.  Ben is getting stronger and I think he's got a lot of potential.  Ben Kadlec,  Mike Kloser, Colin Cares, and Billy Laird.  
CHAD AMBROSE, focused on some flat skinning and not the awesomeness to his left.  
Jon Brown.  I've raced with Jon for several years now, and he never ceases to amaze me.  Obviously, he is gutting it out here.  But here's the rest of the story.  On his first descent, he broke both of his poles, one 20 inches below the handle, and the other 10 inches from the bottom.  Did that stop him?  No way.  He kept gunning, pole-less, for 12 miles.  Not only did he finish the race, he won some money too!

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