Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 Jack n Jill race at Teton Pass Ski Area + bonus tour

Teton Pass Ski area did did a great job hosting the Jack 'n Jill randonee race for the third consecutive year. The challenging 5,000 vertical foot course is full of skin tracks, alpine scrambling, a summit, and big, off piste runs.  There was a good showing this year, with at least fifty people toeing the line for the combined Rec/Pro division start.  A lemans start had me third off the line, and I settled in to the first climb behind Ben Parsons and Jason Mills.  My body was feeling merely OK, and it was more work than I would have liked to maintain my goal race effort half notch below lactate threshold (read: hurting but not boiling over).  In any case, I just tried to be efficient and not think about how much damage I was inflicting so early in the race.  The two leaders took a 30-second wrong turn, and we all emerged at the top of the cat track more or less together.  We all moved well through gusty winds on the way to the bootpack.  Technical stuff typically plays in my favor, and the scrambling was sufficiently loose and tricky to partially close the gap to Jason.  

The start. Ben and Jason are off the line.  I am just striding off in the center of the photo. 
I had anticipated taking it somewhat easy on the downhills to prevent re-tweeking my ankle, but I abandoned that plan, skiing all out, which allowed me to get about a minute ahead on the excellent summit to base area ski run.  Sure enough, about a third of the way up the second climb, Jason was on my tails, then 10 seconds ahead to the skin track, then about 45 seconds ahead to the bootpack.  At this point, Ben was perhaps 4 minutes out in front, and everyone else was out of sight arrears, so it was a battle for second place. 

The second run off the shoulder of the peak was good, and I was able to move past Jason by aggressively skiing the sticky, tricky quad-frying sun warmed snow.  Based on how things were going, I knew the last climb was going to be a battle, so after sucking down some calories, I settled in at a barely sustainable death pace, checking over my shoulder periodically.  I was hoping for a fade on Jason’s part, but instead Jason closed the gap, passed, then put in a good kick to the top. I was able to find a few last energy reserves and roughly match his kick, and after a double double skin rip, I was just a few seconds behind out of the transition.  It was go time, and I once again let the skis run.  Back seat, barely in control, don’t fall and re-tweek the ankle, but fast.  It was enough to pass Jason for the last time, and a minute or so of furious tucking and double poling got me over the line with an adequate 5 second buffer.  Thanks for the great race, Jason. 

In terms of performance, I didn’t really feel great at the start, but objectively, my body hasn’t really accepted intensity well for a few weeks, so if anything, perhaps I am not in top shape for racing.  This seems to happen each spring – not sure why.  Aside from a horrid third transition, everything went super smoothly.  I tried racing without a water bottle to save weight, and I didn’t suffer from lack of fluids, so I will probably keep doing that for sub-2 hour races.  It is also nice to have the ankle back to 95% strength in a ski boot.  And finally, it was nice to see some new and old faces on race sticks.  John, Katie, and Jen,– glad you made it!  Results here.

There was a five hour window between the race and awards, so I went exploring.  I wrapped around the south side of the resort on roads and trails, and was near the headwater of the North fork of Waldron creek in about an hour, and I just did a big push to the summit of Mount Lockhart.  Summit views were exceptional, no surprise since Lockhart is completely surrounded by the countless peaks of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  Both the NE and SE faces looked appealing, but I opted for the SE.  It was a great run – big open upper face followed by a series of open rolling gullies back to Waldron creek.  I was having a lot of fun, and fueled the energy into another quick climb back up to the East shoulder of Lockhart.  

Looking up into the headwaters of Waldron peak.  
Looking south from Lockhart to Old Baldy.
I skied the SE bowl, which was also good, if not as striking as the previous run.  With awards starting in about an hour, I devoured a few calories, sucked down the last of my water, and pointed the skis uphill to the top of the resort.  The climb was wonderful – easy skinning, blown off alpine meadow walking and talus scrambling to the summit on legs which were totally shot from 5k vert of racing followed by 5k vert of enjoyable exploratory touring.  In fact, I couldn’t help but smile for much of the climb, thinking about how fortunate I am to be able to move efficiently through the mountains on skis.   The top to bottom run in the resort was enjoyable, and the post-race party was fun. Great day.

False summit of Lockhart run.

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