4th year for Dogtooth Dash, the Canadian Nat’l skimo championships. Kicking Horse mountain hosts the race, but the moniker for the event comes from one of the mountains we ascend. In the previous 3 episodes each one turned into a "Dogtooth disaster" for me. Broken poles, stickless skins, sprained ankles, etc. etc. Each year it seemed like I found a new way to have a poor race. This year was different...no disaster.
My mindset was, have fun, put together the best race you’re capable of and let the results take care of themselves. Perhaps too in now my 5th year of racing I’m finally figuring this sport out a bit. We started with the traditional run around the restaurant. Funny how the big guns hold off on this part. I think there were 3 women out of the top 4 in the run section.
It was crazy socked in this year. We tried flying as usual down the cat track, but you couldn’t see through the fog, hence it was a bit spooky. One guy was blitzing so fast that he didn’t see the groomed edge and yard saled so far it couldn’t believe it. I heard later that he never did find one of his skis and had to drop out.
I couldn’t believe how high my heart rate was. I was in the top 3 or 4, but knew I better calm down a bit. After our 3rd descent there’s a series of switchbacks that in previous years really slowed me down. I didn’t lose time on them this year, but with about 50 of these kickturns in the race, if you’re just a couple seconds faster, you can pick up a couple minutes.
As the race progressed I fell into 6th place. For awhile I was 3rd male and thought how cool it would be to podium at our natl’s, but I lost a couple places (one to eventual women’s champ- the Burner). This is a tough race and didn’t panic with Peter passing me about 2/3 in and another newer skier just behind me (I later learned he was fresh off the NCAA xc ski circuit-so it didn’t bother me that I couldn’t easily pull away from this unknown newbie). I tried to focus on my race and tend to my nutrition. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the heat of trying not to lose any seconds you don`t fuel your body enough. I downed a couple double caffeine gels and on the final bootpack felt a trend towards cramping, so I pulled out my gel flask of my trusty pickle juice (see my earlier blog entry from Ironman about this miracle cramp cure).
As I climbed I used a new strategy this year. Last year I discovered that in steep terrain and new snow wall to wall skins really allow you to climb and stay relaxed. You don`t get a whole lot of glide, but in so many N. American races (as opposed to Euro races) you don`t get a lot of cross country terrain....it`s mostly going steep up. So as I used my ``wall to walls`` I put my head down, relaxed and really tried to go.
Just before the final climb to the finish I got a couple breaks. Peter, who`s becoming a good friend travelling to the last couple races together, had a slow transition and then fell and sorta died out, so I passed and put 3 minutes or so into him. It seemed like Erich an American skier from Montana, who was just in front of me all day simply dissappeared. At first I reasoned he must have took off, but then I wondered if he`d made a wrong turn at the confusing last intersection. Turns out the latter was the case. I felt bad for him, but then later remembered that at his home town course in Whitefish, I ALWAYS seem to get lost and make wrong turns, including this year where I think I scrubbed about :10 going off course. Erich`s a good guy though so I did feel a little bad. But then on the final bootpack and uphill into the finish Jeff C. Let me know that I was 3rd, but I better get moving `cause Erich was charging hard. It took all the energy I had just to keep moving, but a couple glances backwards made me realize that the male podium was back in my grasp. Yahoo!
In one of the skimo blogs a writer mentioned about this race that a couple of the faster guys (including himself) weren`t there. But when I reviewed last year`s results (where most of the big guns WERE there) I still would have come in 3rd and done so with a 7 minute cushion. Next up is Nelson ROAM rally. There should be plenty of guys gunning for it!!