Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Great Bear Chase!

Well, pretty great. We've had a long early thaw (it's too early to call it Spring in the U.P.) Everything was so slushy that the organizers cut down the course. The beginning and end start and end in town with several road crossings and snow trucked into the downtown street finish. There were some route changes on the trails as well. The resulting course was 22k, 44k for the 2-lap version. Consequently, snow was good enough to use the good skis, which is nice because I only brought one pair of skis. My old pair is a lot heavier.

Kirsten left her sunglasses in the car and she disappeared until it was time to go to the start. That was scary. With skis on, we had about 1000 feet down the trail to the start. Once there we had to wade through rows of anxious racers to get to our chosen starting place at the back. I get my tunes going, start up the GPS thingy, phone in a pocket, gloves on and poles on. 5 seconds later the gun goes off and - we wait. The first bit was sort of like city rush hour traffic. We had chip timing with little ankle bracelets monitoring our finish time, but no sensor at the start, just the gun. By the time we got to the start line, the starter had counted off "1:40."

After turning the corner and climbing a hill we come to the first downhill. Keep in mind that 2 races and most of our pack have been through before us. There was a line to wait in to go down the hill. Not very racy. I got to deal with a condition I had never trained for. People had been snowplowing down the steep hills, but fast. You can't really snowplow to slow down because there was a really thick windrow with a 2 foot trough to ski through. I tried to just step ski down it. Fine, until I found Kirsten sprawled across the hill; she took a tumble. I tried a hockey stop. It worked fine at first, then as the skis locked up in all that snow my body flew over my feet. I could tell that I was going down, so I rolled over both shoulders and came back to my feet. No poles or skis broken! Woohoo! Not everyone was so lucky. I passed by two other skiers with skis broken in two.

Climbing up other hills we had to wait for other slower skiers. It seemed to take more energy to stop and go than just to ski up the hill. On the way down to the Bear loops, I decided to pass the 4 or so people in front of me. I was worried that actually racing with anyone would be too much too soon. It did make skiing a lot more fun, though.

The Baby Bear was the first metabolic challenge in the race, then the slow uphill of the Papa and Mama Bears. I kept concentrating on balance, max glide per stroke and playing around with the hip forward 'sweet spot' on uphills.

On the way back into the hills, I started to get tired. I kept focused on good form, balance and most importantly, monitoring my dwindling balance at the 'power bank.' I could feel about how much effort I could spend and still continue after. My mind was less able to think about stuff, so I didn't exactly know where I was. I came upon two women who started ahead of me. They were on a different trail and coming over to mine. Oh no! had I missed a turn? Was I on the second loop for the 44k? I stopped and we talked it over. By the time I figured out I was fine, some guy had passed me. I came close but never did catch him.

Kirsten did great, having a great time and finishing 9 minutes ahead of me. Woohoo! I could keep going steady, but I only had strength in the tank for about 4 strokes to accelerate to the finish. Here's our placements out of:

White, Kirsten Houghton, MI

114 of 127 overall

44 of 51 women

301 bib number

Time 01:59:46.5

50-54 Age group 4 out of 4

Average 05:42 / km

White, Charles Houghton, MI

119 of 127 overall

72 out of 76 men

302 bib number

Time 02:08:25.2

50-54 age group 9 out 9

Average 06:06 / km

Not last! Hooray! We actually beat people younger than us! Our age groups are still very competitive, though. That nut would take a lot more effort to crack.

Slushy snow, but it was fun with the right wax. If we get any deeper into this next year, maybe I'll learn some fancier stuff. Rick's advice at Cross-Country Sports was a big help. Clothing worked out just fine. A short sleeve wicking shirt under a long sleeve wicking top, cool weather rowing tights wool socks and a headband. Kirsten had the tights and a ski top with just a workout bra under. By the end, our socks were drenched as well as my headband.

Food worked out o.k. I did the egg with a couple of macadamia nuts and banana chips. The chips took me another 2k to get chewed and wet enough to swallow. I liked apples better. The aid stations had cut up bananas, fresh. That worked better, too. I'm just now thinking that maybe I should have had another feed. Who knows, maybe just fruit?

Next comes CrossFit and the Global C2 Rowing Challenge (at least some meters to do my share for my old gym and get ready for rowing season.) If this thaw keeps up into spring, we could be rowing by mid-April. The Houghton Canal is already sporting open water. It's much too early to get hopes up, though. Usually we can start rowing on the water in May.

Goal reached. It was fun, exciting rewarding and scary. We learned a lot that we wouldn't have done otherwise. It would be great to see more recreational skiers out to try it - We'll go next year. And who knows, Kirsten has been thinking maybe the Birkie?

Here's the data:

Name:Great Bear Chase 2010
Date:Mar 13, 2010 9:28 am
(valid until Mar 20, 2010)
Google Maps
Distance:20.1 kilometers
Elapsed Time:2:12:21
Avg Speed:9.1 km/h
Max Speed:26.8 km/h
Avg Pace:06' 35" per km
Min Altitude:279 m
Max Altitude:369 m
Start Time:2010-03-13T14:28:45Z
Start Location:
Latitude:47.239767º N
Longitude:88.469864º W
End Location:
Latitude:47.238488º N
Longitude:88.465234º W



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