Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 US Skimo Nationals and Grand Targhee Report Card

Special Announcement: Thursday night at 7:00 PM, we will be holding the first Wasatch Citizen's Series Skimo Race.  We will follow different formats, but this first one will be a "Vert Style" race where a short course is set and everyone tries to do as many laps in a certain amount of time, say 60 mins (maybe 90 if we are all feeling spunky).  See here for more details and subscribe as well to get future updates.

U.S Ski Mountaineering National Championships:  (8000 foot race at JHMR)
I went into this race with 4 goals.  They were to go under 2:50, place in the top 10, beat a friend of mine (who doesn't want to earn bragging rights over someone that perennially beats you?), and to have a clean race.  I went 1 for 4.

Blurry fast start
The race started quickly with Scott Simmons and Marshall Thompson taking off in an early break away. I felt good heading up the first steep climb and was in 6-10th place (not really sure).  Then, just ahead, I saw JD start to switch back up the steep groomer.  "What an idiot," I thought.  Then it hit me too.  I'd made a mistake waxing my skins and cutting them too short.  I was passed by a train of people as I alternated slipping and struggling with making my own switch backs.  Now there were two idiots out of the whole field.  Must be genetic.  Finally, topping out the steep first half of the first climb, I was able to make a move.  I caught most of the people that had passed me earlier before dropping in for the first steep icy descent.

For the rest of the race, the places were pretty much settled.  I shuffled back and forth with a couple guys but really felt like I was racing against an inevitable implosion.  Training with a newborn in the house has been somewhat limited and I think while my top end speed is better than last year, my endurance is worse (yep, just pulled the baby card).

On the final descent, I stopped a couple times to try and sooth cramping legs and was utterly relieved to hit the final groomer that runs into the finish line.  I was even more pleased to find out that brother JD earned a podium spot with a third place finish after rallying back from his early mistakes.

Climbing: B (I felt pretty strong on the early climbs)
Skiing: C (I was able to pass probably as many as passed me.)
Transitions: C- (missteps, fumbling with skis on the boot pack, and scraping snow of skins)
Endurance: D-  (near disaster on the last climb)

Overall: C+ (Since the climb weighs the most it buoyed my self given grade)
Can anyone tell who is who?
Getting back to those goals, I barely managed a top ten place thanks to some help from others mistakes.  My time was hurt in large part by my own mistakes (poor endurance and nutrition) that led to a really terrible last climb and descent.  My buddy gave me a clinic in every aspect of the sport except the first climb.  And, as far as having a clean race, I have a long way to go.

In the end though, the main goal is to have fun.  And, while suffering for nearly 3 hours isn't most people's idea of fun, it always seems fun, especially after the fact.
Luke, Scott, and JD (who needs a sponsor btw)
Top Ten:
1. Luke Nelson
2. Scott Simmons
3. Jason Dorais
4. Brian Wick
5. Ben Parsons
6. Cary Smith
7. Pete Swenson
8. Jared Inouye
9. Jon Brown
10. Andy Dorais

Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic:  (5000 foot race at Targhee and surrounding backcountry)
Team Wasatch up front (Luke is an adopted member)
For the second race, most of the same characters were present minus Simmons and Wick (out of the top 10 from the day before).  Every single person claimed or faked feeling tired and sore from the day before while chatting before the start, but at the gun, the usual fast pace ensued.   I tucked in behind Cary Smith and topped out the first 2000 foot climb just as the leaders were pulling out of the transition.

Other than a minor crash (tired legs), I felt like I skied the first descent well until I still saw Jared fly by.  Still hanging onto the same goal to finally beat him fairly (got him by a millisecond when his boot broke last year), I caught back up after the transition but got caught behind once we hit the skin track.  At the top of the second climb, Jared bid the rest of us adieu as he skied a blistering leg, solidifying a solid 4th place finish.  To my surprise, I past a couple guys on the descent but transitioned slowly and allowed Kroger to slot in front of me for the final climb.  While I ate better during this race, I still lacked the usual endurance and turned my attention to keeping Jon Brown, Pete, and Michael from swallowing me up.

Dropping into the final descent, Kroger was still mine if he made a mistake, but I was still vulnerable to those just behind me if I made one.  I made five.  Basically rolling down the final chute in poor visibility, legs cramping, I watched Kroger ski away as he skied fast and clean.  Again, I felt relief once I hit the final runout to the finish line where I found Jason and Jared waiting to celebrate being done.  It was only after pictures and walking inside that I heard second hand that Jason actually won the whole damn thing.   I'll take credit for that as while warming up, I told him half joking, half serious, to quit screwing around and go for the win.

Climbing: B+ (Could mix it up with some competitive guys)
Skiing: C- (Como se dice junk show?)
Transitions: C- (Getting passed in transitions shouldn't happen)
Endurance C-  (Better than the day before but could use some work)

Overall: B- (Again buoyed by the climbing but room for improvement)

Happy to be done with 13,000 feet of racing

Again, I had a blast and it seemed everyone else had a great time as the mood was light hearted both before and after the racing.  I'm still chasing that perfect race where I feel like I put together all aspects of this sport to the best of my ability.  That chase and the really cool group of people that are involved make it a really addicting game to play.

Ample evidence of recent crashes

JD sponsored by  Check it out.
Top Ten:
1. Jason Dorais
2. Luke Nelson
3. Ben Parsons
4. Jared Inouye
5. Cary Smith
6. Chris Kroger
7. Andy Dorais
8. Jon Brown
9. Michael Hagen
10. Pete Swenson

Some notes from the weekend:

We are all recovering now from back to back ski mountaineering races this weekend.  There was a great showing from the Wasatch, which will hopefully continue to grow over the years.

I think Jason was the surprise of the weekend (to everyone but us), taking third in Jackson and winning the Targhee race.  Once he gets race specific boots and has a clean race...

A few notable players were absent, specifically a couple Colorado fast guys and last years National Champion, Brandon French, from Montana.  However, some new names appeared and the field seemed competitive as always.

The Jackson race was slightly longer due to the poor snow conditions and a new route around Corbett's

The Targhee race was slightly more difficult than last year due to more variable snow conditions.

Some final grades:

The Wasatch: B+
Solid turnout both in number and in the standings with a dozen or so in attendance and 3 in the top ten both days.

JHMR and Grand Targhee: A
Both resorts put on great unique races that were challenging in different ways.  The Jackson race is LONG, with 7500-8000 ft of vertical depending on whose watch you believe.  And, the skiing is steep, icy, bumps.  Targhee has more of a backcountry feel, is shorter, but also had challenging skiing with the variable conditions.

Outdoor Research: A
The tittle sponsor for this years event, OR did a fantastic job providing shirts to all and prizes to the winners and for the raffle.  Since OR is paying more attention to this sport, I'll have to start paying more attention to them.

Jason Dorais: A-
The minus comes from him spotting the field a couple minutes on the first climb at Jackson when he found his skins too slippery and stopped to switch them for a set with better coverage.  The switch came after he looked like a fool (the only other idiot that did this was me), switch backing up the climb while the rest of the field skinned straight up.  He also had skin issues the second day but lost a less significant amount of time, maybe 30 seconds.  The A comes from rallying to a 3rd place finish at Jackson and winning the whole thing at Targhee.

Winter 2011/2012: F-

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