Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A New Race

Though it's been a few weeks since the last race of the season, the Lake Louise race, I want to post some thoughts. This being the first year it seemed like "the Lake" wanted to keep the race low key and make it somewhat of a test event. It was only formally announced 2 weeks before the event. This being the case though, the patrols and snow safety guys really pulled out the stops.

We started at mid mountain on the front side and proceeded to the top of the mountain, dropping into the “F-Shoot.” If you’re familiar with Louise, this is the steepest offering they have. Your feet literally drop out from under you. The first time I ever attempted this shoot (on Tele’s) my partner fell and slid high speed all the way to the bottom....no way to self arrest on the steep run.

Next we worked our way over to “Speed Run”. Speed run is where they used to run speed skiing contests. You remember that sport. It was even a demo sport in the ‘92 Olympics. They had a fatality that year and this probably sealed its fate as an Olympic sport. Speed Run was a deleriously pow loaded slope, the only downside was the extremely long boot pack to access it. The boot pack had a huge climb, then we walked along a flat ridgeline for quite a long ways.

After Speed Run we tucked it all the way over to the Temple lodge where we started a long traverse into the Purple Bowl. At Temple lodge there was an aid station. They asked me if I wanted water, I said, “sure!” I only found out after the race they also had Monster Energy drinks-one of the sponsors. If they’d asked me I’d for sure say yeah to that! I could have used the energy shot.

If you’re familiar w/ the Lake, you know that Purple bowl (like Speed Run) is beyond the resort boundary. After the long traverse...very cross countryish-what I like!, we ended up at the top of the Elevator shoot. From the name you can only guess how steep this 3rd big drop is. It was great! With more quality pow. It exited into the Rock garden, a really fun area of rock covered pillows. From there we spilled onto the groomers (finally back inbounds) and down to the lodge via the ski out. It was here that xc skiers again had a bit of an advantage as it’s not very steep and skating and double poling were the order of the day.

I brought along a couple of xc friends for their first ever rando race. One is a World Cup top 40 biathlete and the other, one of the top xc racers in the country (top 30 in the recent nat’l champs in Canmore). I think they were blown away by how difficult the sport is. In XC you get some rest on the downhills. In skimo the downhills, especially in this race are total leg burners. And instead of uphills lasting a minute or so, some of our climbs can be 30 minutes to even an hour (the latter more in the Euro races).

I didn’t ski as well as I’d have liked on the downhills in Louise and lost quite a bit of time, but I did make up some ground on the lower angle uphills. One has to know your strengths and weaknesses. Maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. At this point, my fitness is as good as it can be. This training year is ending after this week and I’ve put in one of my biggest hour years ever. I knew that going to Italy was a privilege...representing your country, and I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could. Unfortunately the Euro races (and Louise!) revealed my downhill weakness, but since then I’ve really been working on it. And yes it has improved. That’s what makes sport fun. Evaluating where you’re at...trying to make yourself better and challenging yourself along the way to bring those incremental improvements that eventually lead to larger change and advancement.

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