Vertical Logic

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Irwin Skimo Race

The photos of skiing in Crested Butte were enough to provoke jealously all Fall. Adding Irwin to this winter's race calendar seemed like a no brainer because of the conditions. Complete with a cat ride to a full backcountry race, an awesome post race party with the CB crew and a powder day on Sunday -- all expectations were exceeded.

The Irwin ambience
The Race

My favorite slippers
The morning was cold, but not as cold as expected earlier in the week -- around zero with light wind and snow. After a quick change into boots under the La Sportiva tent and warmup I towed the line with the rest.

The first climb started up a low angle cat track for the first 400 ft vertical, suitable for the drag race. I took the holeshot and focused on good technique, getting some glide instead of the inefficient jog. The breathing and gear clatter decreased as the race unfolded. Once we exited off the cat track we started up a skin track set the day before. There was now a couple inches on the skinner.

Not wanting to give up the work I had put in off the start, I kept some pressure on. At the first kick turn I saw Marshall Thomson, John Gaston and Brian Smith behind me. Once we got above treeline, about 1k ft of climbing I sensed that the race was coming back together without a fresh skintrack. I stepped aside to let Marshall take a pull. The last 500 vertical of the first climb provided more trail breaking for Marshall and a good opportunity for the rest of the field to hitch back up.

Lots of spandex in the backcoutnry
At the first transition John took off first, followed by myself. In the flat light John went down in some variable snow. I lead until the flat just above the trees where Max Taam came by. The mellow powder run was a blast. Max, myself then Brian arrived at the bottom transition (adjacent to the start/finish line). Brian got the jump on me to the start of the second climb.

We were treated to a fresh skintrack and the race was on. I followed on Brian's heels and we made an efficient ascent through the forest. Unfortunately we caught the individuals freshening up the skinner in less than 1000 ft vertical. The course then made some kick turns up to the booter. Towards the base of the bootpack I stepped out of my binding on some firm snow. I frantically messed with it and tried to catch back up to Brian.

The booter itself was very short -- 100 ft vertical or so. We switched back to skinning from the top of the booter. Unfortunately again there was significant trail breaking from the overnight snow and winds. The race came back together. Notably John had caught back up.

I got the jump out of transition but was quickly passed by Brian, Max and John on the powdery flats, at which point I hitched a ride on the train. At the bottom we all arrived within seconds of each other.

I had a good transition and was out first, stepping over ski tails and poles as I squeezed my way from the back of the transition zone. Brian and John followed closely. I threw down what I had left on the next 900 ft vertical. The third climb hadn't been freshened up either and when I hadn't dropped Brian or John I gave them a turn, hoping to recover for a final move and preserve the gap we now had over Marshall and Max.

Brian took a pull and then John. At the top of the climb instead of making a move I was on my heels. At the transition John was gone as I started to rip my first skin and Brian was gone when I ripped the second.

The third descent was steeper up top and had nearly a mile of double poling and skating to the finish line at the bottom. My legs protested on the final descent and the double poling on unsupportable snow was painfully slow. Finally I hit the cat track for the start of the skate. Only one set of tracks was on the snow in front of me. Shortly after though Brian, a strong nordic skier, passed me. Despite a hard effort that was how it remained -- losing to Brian by 5 seconds and John 28 seconds.

Post Race

One of the funniest stories of the race was that Brian and I somehow switched poles in one of the transitions (bottom of the second descent?). Fueling the narrative further, my poles are 5 cm longer -- for a shorter guy a convenient length for the skate to the finish! Honestly I never noticed the whole time, but it makes an entertaining story.

The post race party at the Brick Oven in CB was fantastic as well. Free pizza, beer and hours of talking skiing! Does it get any better? Put this race on your calendar next year.

Thanks to Wick and the other race org for a great event. Looking forward to other trips to CB this winter for more racing.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing this blogs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!