Saturday was the 10th annual PowderKeg and I think it's the finest race in the country. The race started with a sprint across the parking lot to a transition zone where we put on our skis for the first climb up to Clayton Peak. Jason and Jared had recon'ed the course the day before and were right on when they recommended full coverage skins. The first climb ascended a mogul field that was locked up from the recent melt/freeze. The stupid climb was an accident as Chad got the idea to route the PKeg up that slope when we went off course and ascended it during one of the Citizen races. Anyway, my Pomoca skins were inadequate for the steep ice and I quickly was dropped. A couple others in the lead pack also had similar issues and fell back. Jared however, donned ski crampons and blew through the field passing everyone but Jason. Sneaky guy.
The first descent held the worst snow of the day but there were no major mishaps. In the transition with Jon Brown and Tom Diegle, I could see the leaders moving out of sight. It was to remain that way all morning with the gaps growing slightly at every checkpoint. At times I felt like people were coming back to me and at others I contemplated switching into the rec race so I could be done sooner. With 6 climbs and around 6500 vertical gained, the course was challenging, beautiful, and interesting as it meandered through the Brighton side country.
Near the end of the race, I tried to open it up as I could see 4th-7th right in front, but had nothing. The power was lacking. Once when asked about how they are able to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite, the Huber brothers said, "we have power to spare." I could have used some Saturday. Ultimately, I finished 8th, which was disappointing but a testament to how this race is becoming more and more competitive. I have gotten faster each year and keep slipping in the standings.
|Jason, Luke Nelson, and Brian Wickenhauser on top of the Men's Race Division Podium|
Team Wasatch Skimo
Jason on the other hand has shed weight off his feet, become a better skier, and trained more diligently this year. The result? A dominant performance which saw him take the lead from start to finish. Many others from the Wasatch (adopted member Luke Nelson was 2nd!) also had strong days including Tom Goth and Tom Diegle. Tom Goth is a relative new comer who finished a very strong 5th. Tom Diegle is immortal, finished 7th, and continues to shame men half his age. Teague Holmes and Jared Inouye finished in 9th and 10th respectively. Teague was also close enough to never let me relax, and Jared was battling up ahead in the race to determine 4th, 5th, and 6th before he broke his boot and had to make a moderately challenging descent in full walk mode. I know he was disappointed with the result but we all know how it would have turned out. Many others experienced their own victories or moral defeats but not being able to see the drama, I'll let them tell their own tales.
The Sprint Race
This year there was also an encore race that was held right at the base of the resort. The format was a team sprint relay, with 6 people to a team all having to complete one short climb/descent. It was spectator friendly with family and friends finally able to see what goes on. The mood was lighthearted as the teams were all randomly assigned and at least half the competitors had already downed burgers and their beverage of choice. My team wasn't the fastest but we also didn't lose as I was able to pass Aaron Inouye in the transition to sneak ahead. That felt good beating an Inouye even if it wasn't their ring leader, Jared.
Again, I think this race is the finest in the country. And by finest, I mean the most fun. With 162 racers this year it is likely the biggest as well. One unique aspect is the insane amount of local support. Local companies donated prizes and local ski celebrities were involved by racing, emceeing, or volunteering. But mainly, it's the people of all abilities and backgrounds that come out with enthusiasm and make the race special. I saw truly fruity spandex suits, skirts, costumes, and a horribly awkward tandem tele set up. This year was also remarkable for the increasing number of high end racers that showed up, with Luke Nelson returning and a strong contingent from Colorado making the drive (Wick, JB, and Gaston). Brighton deserves special mention as they play host to the event and really stepped up this year by allowing us to grow the sport through our Thursday night series. An award was given to the three people that have competed in all 10 PowderKegs thus far. I've now done three and hope to make it another 30. So huge thanks to Andrew, Collen and Co for starting up the race 10 years ago. And lastly, I can't forget about Chad and Emily who deserve a big hug, slap on the butt, and a high five for the immense amount of work they put into this great annual Wasatch tradition.
|Women's Rec Podium|
|Men's Heavy Metal Podium|
|Women's Race Podium|