Follow on Strava

Monday, 25 January 2016


I first tried Ski Mountaineer Racing about 2009 or 2010. A long time ago.  While never really training for the events, I enjoy the spectacle of the event - getting to the mountains & experience winter to the fullest.
I recently acknowledged how much I enjoy this sport, became a little frustrated with my sub-standard gear so 8 days ago I picked up the phone (on the advice on a few of Canada's fastest skimo racers including Mel Bernier) and called Telemark-Pyrenees in Spain ... and spoke to a guy, "I'm 49 years old, love this sport, and will never win a race. What gear should I purchase?"

4 Business days later - I had some very light and fast new gear!  $2,500 CDN bought me some skills!

On Saturday I lined up at the start with the usual small group of 20 or 30 people.
We went up, and down, up, and down, up and down ... and covered 15 km and 1750m of elevation. For me, the ups were faster, but the downs were much slower. This gear is so light ... it made skiing down a bit scarry. I felt like a beginner.  Because it had rained in Fernie the day prior, the course was icy. While there were nice patches of snow, for the most part - it was icy (and scary). A fall would definitely hurt ... so speed control was my mojo.

In the end, I was faster. I was about 50 minutes behind the winning male Travis Brown and just 15 minutes slower than winning female Kyle Toth.  Normally I think I am at least an hour slower than the top males. I'll have to look back on past years results .... hmmm ... yes, I do really care. Interesting!

While the course was probably the least interesting that I've ever skiied (we didn't get above alpine), I got to see a very old friend who I met in 1990 in Guyana. Was the same day out and back 3 hour drive to Fernie worth it? Absolutely!


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Wapta Ski Mountaineer Weekend w our Canadian Skimo Team

Sport is a funny thing - you get a taste of it, you develop it, you challenge yourself ... and it takes you places.

In 2008 after the World Championships Ironman my family was vacationing in Kona and we ended up meeting Bruno Long at a coffee planation. He was hitch hiking and needed a lift. We immediately were having a great time hanging out. He told me about his roommate Jeff who was doing Ski Mountaineer Racing.  I was immediately intrigued.

Beginning that winter, I started doing the occassional skimo race. I think my first race was in either rented gear, or on my Telemark skii's.  I ended up buying a used lightweight skimo boot from 'legend' Steve Sellers, that I just replaced last week. At that time, Steve also recommended I buy a $250 set of skii's on sale at MEC, and Mohair skins.

For the most part, I don't ski mountaineer. I don't train for skimo. I only 'participate' in skimo races.  (I would like to do it, I would like to train for it, but I have not 'really' allowed it into my life - as it has not been a priority.) Since 2009, I think I must have done ... more than 5 ... but less than 10 races. With a good fitness base, I tend to finish mid pack.

Having the gear, fitness, and willingness to participate in Skimo ... leads you to special places, and I think, life events.
You see, a few years ago, I made the decision that I would do an Ironman race in age group, as I "age-group up" .... meaning every 5 years. I've kept that going since in my early 30's in 2001.

In November I registered to race Ironman Arizonia in 2016.  To mix up training ... I decided to do some skimo racing ... I did the Vert 180 and having a not too bad a result, I invited myself along to The Canadian Skimo Team training weekend run from Bow Hut Dec 11-13, 2015.

Over the course of the 3 days we skiied 3500m of vertical.
It was pretty stellar ... I got to do more of this.

Castle Mountain Resort Skimo Race

On Saturday I entered Canada's first ever Skimo Sprint Race. We lined up in groups of 3 ... and skiied, boot packed, and skiied uphill, before transitioning for the downhill. The winners did the entire thing is less than 2 1/2 minutes. I finished almost 2 minutes slower, in about 10th place. ;-)

Did I enjoy it?
I enjoyed the camaraderie at hanging out at the bottom of the hill ... watching some pretty exceptional athletes prepare and execute some pretty trick moves to be fast.

In order to be fast in a sprint race like this ... there are a few requirements.  While fast twitch mussels are required to win, you also need to have practised lighting fast transitions, and have pretty sleek fast racing boots and skii's.
I suffered in all departments!

Sunday was the main event ... where we lined up and skiied to the top of the mountain ... then boot packed a bit higher. I kept one of the fast girls in sight to nearly the top ... until my ski fell off a 3rd time ... when I dropped farther behind.  The wind was howling, snow was blowing ... and it felt pretty extreme!
The descent down was pretty awesome ... however instead of going to the extreme bottom of the run, I turned left and got of course. I missed the climb to the top of Huckleberry Chair then Haig Ridge. I was disappointed to have missed a good portion of the course ... and was therefore disqualified.

What did I Learn ... Does this matter?
Well, I received a message from one of our best Canadian Female Athletes on Monday ... asking me if I wished to order a Skin Suit.  I said Yes.
I really enjoy these sorts of endurance events ... sufferfests.  I think it is the "awe" of the event.  For the most part, I am just a regular guy who likes to drink beer on the couch ... but somehow ... if I'm lined up with a bunch of people ... and someone yells "Go" ... I love to just try to follow as long as I can!  I see some pretty neat things ... and experience a whack of emotions in a short period of time.  I Love it!

Should I invest in better, faster gear ... and then practice fast transitioning just to have a chance at being competitive?
I'm struggling with this. The sport is 'fringe'.  On Saturday I finished about 10th overall ... which doesn't sound too bad. However, that was DEAD LAST! There are not a great deal of participants.
On Sunday there were about 30 people ... perhaps only 15 or so doing the longer 'competitive' course.

I enjoy the longer course ... and on this course I'm racing with North America's fastest. With lighter gear ... instead of finishing 1 hour and 20 minutes behind ... I finish 1 hour behind.
However, I think I would like to get lighter gear ... I guess the only reason I don't ... is I'm quite frugal.
Life is short.

Canada's First Sprint Skimo Race, Jan 9, 2015. Jason & Mark Toth beat me easily in this heat. (Pic credit to Mark Gallup.)