How to tell if you’ve had a good race? That’s a common question in skimo racing where courses, competitors and conditions can vary so much race to race, year to year. My good friend Stano, on his blog, Skintrack, has some good insights. He suggests having a few specific goals within the race to shoot for. At this year’s Dogtooth Dash, I had 3. 1) ski consistently strong (aerobically) 2) solid downhills 3) fast transitions.
For goal #1 I felt I mostly achieved my target. I used a heart rate monitor during the race to gauge my effort. Early on I used the device to control my excitement and not go too hard (I stayed w/ the pack the first climb, but backed off on the second). I observed that I was able to keep it pretty high for the rest of the race. One of my strategies to keep the intensity high was to attend to my nutrition. Going over 2 hours especially mandates a plan. So often in the heat of racing you don’t want to take the seconds to feed, but you’ll always pay for it later....hence a strategy/plan. I’d planned out ahead of time exactly where I’d take my gels (2) and drinks. I stuck to the plan and was glad I did. One more thing.....my last feed was some Red Bull. I could feel it kick in. I’ll definitely do this again!
As for #2, conditions made the downhills especially challenging for me. It had snowed most days last week and with weekend downhill traffic the double black downhills were especially challenging with skied up powder and on one downhill, a cut up sun crust. This weekend, Scott Simmons (USA & race winner) travelled with me. He shared that he only owns 3 pair of skis, all race skis. It’s what he skis on exclusively. He mentioned that one really learns how to ski downhills well when you do all your skiing on our micro sticks. And boy can he rock on the downhills! When I think of where I’ve come in this mini skimo discipline (dh), I have satisfaction, as I’ve definitely improved the last 2 years; however, there’s a lot more ground to make up. But that’s what makes sport so fun... the challenge of applying yourself to improve. I’d say I really didn’t meet my goal for #2.
#3...transitions. Mostly ok. I was skiing with a taped up broken finger. This slowed me down a little as most technical stuff had to be done with just the one hand. Still I did ok. Except for the disaster. While ascending Terminator Peak boot pack the 2nd time, there were some ultra slow and out of shape hill patrons that were so worn out from their little bootpack that they refused to move over an inch and give me any room. The second person actually bumped into me as I passed them, actually my skis, attached to my pack. It made one of them come off and it slid down the hill and came precipitously close to going over a several 100m drop. I had to duck under a safety rope to retrieve it. If my skins weren’t still on it would have shot over the cliff and my race would be over. I lost about 5 minutes retrieving it. I was so bummed.
I ended up 18-20 minutes off the podium (which I was on last year). I could have done a lot better with solid downhills and no boot pack disaster, but when I compare where I’ve come through the 5 years of Dogtooth Dashes it’s pretty satisfying. I’ve actually really improved a tonne. Kickturns, fitness, transitions...even downhills have come so far.
I have an XC ski friend that was doing his first skimo race. He’s really fit and previously firmly booted me out of my local master’s xc ruling spot years ago. Yet in skimo he’s starting out where I once was. It was fun to recall the excitement of discovering a new, cool sport, yet one that is really hard. The challenge of mastering a new discipline and the frustration of making so many mistakes and having your result come nowhere near what your fitness level would dictate.
The adventure continues!
(photo: Malcolm Taylor)