My ski club managed to get a full team together for the race. We figured we had three strong legs (run, kayak, ski) and two unknown ones (bike, hike). If the unknowns could do as well as last year's team, then we figured we could break 5 hours. Well, they didn't, and we didn't
but at least I have a few stories to tell.
First off, it was fun to meet Rider.steve, seeker and skilasnow while at the Ravine. And the atmosphere at the hike/ski transition was great... a mix of anxious skiers waiting for their hiker to arrive and spectators in awe of the people doing the race solo.
Since I expected my hiker to be at the ravine by 11:15 am (if all went well), I wanted to be up there an hour before so I could do a practice run to get a feel for the snow conditions. This was a view of the Ravine...
And my first view of the race course on Left Gully. And then came the realization that I was doing the race from the very top
I got in view of the floor of Ravine around 10 am to see the first hiker "running" to the transition zone. He tagged his skier, but his skier didn't get going right away, which was weird... looks like he had to go pick up his pack and skis!
We then saw the 2nd place team's skier take off and quickly catch up to the 1st team's skier on the climb up Left Gully! The 1st place team also got caught by another skier, and ended up in 3rd place.
Since I figured I had an hour or so to kill, I decided to take a 15 min hike up the Chute and do some warm-up turns. To my surprise, I felt great and my little 15 min hike got me up to the under-side of the big rock that marks one side of the Chute. I put my skis on and made some turns on a fairly firm crust, thinking to myself, I hope this softens up a bit more before I have to race.
Well, it got harder instead! We all watched some spectacular
in the Chute and below the Lip. And by now, it's 11:15 am and no sign of my hiker, and it's getting colder in the bowl... I finally spot my hiker around 11:45 am and get ready... He tagged me at 11:47 am and I started charging up left gully. I also started passing people on my way up... about five of them... By the time I reached the "neck" of the gully, only 15 min had elapsed, so I was flying! Got near the top and was thankful that someone had kicked steps before the whole thing had frozen up. Then I wondered if anyone makes hand crampons, because they would have come in useful on the last icy pitch...
I got to the top 23 min after having started and barely felt tired. Took a couple of minutes to drain a bottle of water, put my skis on, and switch my boots to ski mode. I then took the icy traverse over to the first gate, then another icy traverse across to the second gate, and so on with more icy traverses. At one point, I lost an edge and had to hip-check the hill to keep going in the right direction. I felt something burning in my right tight but ignored it until later (see below). I negotiated my way around a skier and then made my way to the finish, not quite in race mode, but in survival mode... I raced "up" left Gully, but I "survived" down. Total time for the round-trip was 29 min, which ranked me #9 out of 45 people (and the fastest T4T'er of the day!).
As others have said, the course was a mix of steep frozen ruts up top and softer ruts near the bottom. Not very pleasant to ski on! The earlier racers had slightly better conditions... As a team we finished 21st out of 25, which was disappointing. But at least we weren't DFL! Here's picture of me with our tardy hiker.
The surprise of the day occurred when I headed to the hot tub after the race... This is the bruise on my right thigh. I figure that the zipper of my (awesome) Mountain Hardwear Synchro pants got driven into my leg by the icy slope when I had to hip check the hill to stay upright...
It was fun to do the race and I think I might try it solo next year, if I can get into running shape. I was shocked by how fast I was able to climb up. I think I gained red blood cells from having been at altitude the week prior, since I didn't feel any fatigue during the race
Nor any fear of the steep pitches!