First off, the return home after last week's hut trip was nothing short of awesome. Sometimes skiing abundant powder or steep terrain will jade you for a a couple weeks but that wasn't the case, especially with all the snow we've had on the east coast recently. This allowed for some excellent skiing on Mount Washington as well as ideal conditions for the Burke SkiMo race. Race report after catching up on the midweek activities.
On Tuesday Alex Leich and I headed up Mount Washington and worked our way to the edge of the snowfields just before sunset. We were short on time and played it safe working our way down Left Gully, Little Headwall (still pretty thick and open water), and the Sherbie. It's exciting to see how much snow is up there and we're lined up for a promising April, May, June??
And to top it off, we scored legit powder in Gulf of Slides on Friday. We = David Crothers of Julbo and CJ Congrove. It was unexpected since the winds were going pretty good but somehow the snow wasn't really wind affected except up higher on the ridge. We made a few laps and really couldn't believe how good mid-winter conditions can get here in the high alpine of the White Mountains. It's really all about timing because the conditions are day to day, hour to hour. Some photos from that outing:
Ok, and now the race report!
Burke was my first SkiMo race. You can read about it here. I didn't really know what I was doing or have a clue about the course. This year I was much more prepared and relaxed. SkiMo has taken the back burner since I returned from Idaho which is reflective of the great ski conditions we've had. Last year I spent a lot of time lapping the resorts just to get on snow. That said, I was still excited for the race and to get a nice leg & lung burning effort.
Hilary and I made the 2 hour drive over and arrived at 9am, love the 10am start. We caught up with friends and registered then dialed in our gear. I had mounted her up some race skis the night before and she finally has some lighter touring boots so she was poised for a good race. A short warm up to make sure gear was good and a critical last minute bathroom break and we were at the start. The course was the same as last year with less mandatory boot pack on the first climb.
I took a spot at the front of the start line and we were off. To my surprise, I was passed by at least 10 people which caught me off guard. I guess I have zero speed on the flats. The next minute was spent battling back towards the front because heading into the single track there's limited passing opportunities and it's easy to get gapped by the leaders as a result. This brings up another thought - who was fast? The mix of new Canadians, Vermonters, and the OG NE Rando crew it was hard to tell if this was just people going out too fast or if this was a super fit crew. Turns out they were FIT because we never slowed and continued to push the pace and close gaps. I had a few mishaps in the woods including snagging a tip, popping out of a binding after the booter section, and a couple other slips. I think it's equal parts rust and not having the right poles - I should have at least got some backcountry nordic poles for this race! Instead I used backcountry poles with tips that weren't very sharp and baskets that got in the way. Too lazy and cheap to replace my broken ones from the beginning of the season but I could have easily ordered something from Fischer.
Heading into the woods I was probably in 7th place. I worked my way to 3rd and held that to the top of the mountain. On the first descent I took it conservative, knowing that we had a lot of race left but I did manage to catch up to Ian Clarke (2nd place at the time) and Ed Warren who lead the entire first climb. Damn, I didn't even realize it was him. We reached the unmarked transition zone all around the same time and I was a bit too casual getting my skins back on as Ian was gone and Ed not far behind. I hurried after and was impressed that Ian put a 30s gap on us right off the bat. Fortunately we were able to reel him in during the boot and I also was able to pass Ed who slipped in the mixed conditions (either ice or powder on crust). When we transitioned back to skinning I had some ice in my toe inserts and had issues getting my skis back on, Ed passed me back and then we continued back up trying to catch Ian.
At the top Ed and Ian had put a little gap on me but I pushed the descent and was able to catch them at the bottom transition. I had a much smoother experience here but they both seemed to have a little extra gear and put a healthy gap on me right out of the gate. I didn't have much gas at this point and just worked on the climb. We started to lap a couple of the back-of-the-packers but I wasn't closing the gap on Ed or Ian who were now 20 and 40 seconds up on me respectively. I looked behind me and saw Milan in his goddamn jeans not far behind but far enough that I could relax a little. At this point I was just planning on enjoying the descent and not blowing up, I had a good race going so don't crash and burn now. BUT as I was skating to the East Bowl descent I noticed that only one of my heal pins wasn't in. There must have been ice still in my toe inserts causing the misalignment of my boot. I stopped and switched skis and it didn't make things much better but I had wasted enough time at this point. I just took it easy and enjoyed the groomer descent.
I finished a couple minutes behind Ian and Ed who had great races. The course was FAST and you can't me making mistakes and expect to do well at a race this competitive. I would have liked to had better conditioning for the race but I was healthy and had plenty of skiing in this season. My endurance is great, just need to get some speed back. Looking forward to get a few more races in this winter!