Monday, February 27, 2012

Bridger Bowl, Skin to Win Race Report


Mens Pro  
(Yeah NFB!)
BrownNate 342.2235 

Womens Pro

(2.2235 = 2 hr, 22 min, 35 sec)

The Race
I arrived early enough to get a sufficient warmup and was generally feeling healthy going into the race.  The le mans start was fair.  I started very hard, but shut it down quickly, a strategy that seemed to work well.  The first climb quickly settled into a lead pack of Ben, Travis and Chris K, and a second pack of Brian H, Nate, Erich, Gemma and me just behind.    There was a sizeable gap before the third pack, headed by Michael B.  I was able to pass Erich and Nate on the steep hill, but was unable to open a gap on the North Bowl Road, despite a full effort.  I transitioned well to bootpacking, but still was not able to open a gap on Nate.  I sideslipped past Gemma into Hidden Couloir, and the skiing was great.

I took a quick break at the bottom of the run to put skins on and pound some electrolyte water.  Nate skied into the transition as I was starting up the motor room bootpack.  I maintained my gap on Nate and was able to largely reel Brian in on the second climb.  I maintained during the second run and third climb, and we all passed Chris K, who was having skin and binding troubles.  My first climbing skin failed at the end of the third climb.  Nate passed me at the beginning of the final climb as I was rummaging through my pack for a backup skin.  I was able to stay close behind Brian and Nate during the climb to the ridge, but my backup skin failed at the ridge.  The weather had turned to a whiteout, and the last thing I heard from Nate before he skinned off into the whiteness was "Gnar gnar".  Indeed.

It got a little western in the whiteout, and my race mantra slowly transitioned from "skin to win" to "skin to finish" to "skin to f*ing survive".  I lost perhaps 10 minutes on the final ridgeline traverse due to two more skin failures, multiple low visibility crashes on the ridgeline, nursing cold fingers, and having to stop to put on my emergency shell.  The final ski went without incident, and I skated into the finish line in a respectable 4th place.  My fingers were very cold, but an intense screaming barfies session and a warm cup of soup was all it took to be back in the land of the living.

The race went well, aside from skin failures, and I was pleased with 4th place.  My pace, my fuelling strategy, and general race execution were all OK.  There is always room for increased fitness, and I will continue to work on that.  Obviously race skins will be reglued, and I will pay more attention to using synthetic skins or better backup skins for races with a high probability of skin failure.  Also, the skin tracks were all too steep.  It may be worth trying to rig up heel lifters for races like this.

I was excited to see Nate win.  In addition to maintaining a strong, steady pace, his conservative decision to use synthetic skins payed off.  It is also worth mentioning that Nate took the time to help Gemma ski into the entrance of Hidden Couloir, and it was encouraging to see his display of sportsmanship.

The weather was difficult.  10 of the 19 men in the race division did not finish, including several very fast racers.  There were a lot of strong women this year, which was great, although it was sad to hear about Gemma's DNF.  This may be the only time I every beat Gemma - she is fast!  Leah did the race course and can count herself among the few brave souls who finished.  Nice work Leah.  And of course, thanks to Bridger Bowl for hosting this amazing event - I'll be back next year.

Nate's Account
Race Video and results

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