Monday, March 9, 2009

Tour of Anchorage

My legs may be far less than pleased about the tour, but Sunday's race was an all out success in my book.For those not wishing to read the full report I'll give the brief and start with photos.I finished the 40km (25mi) race through Anchorage in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 8 seconds, taking 121st of 281. The winner of the 40k finished in 1:46:32, with second a minute behind and third four seconds behind that. The top three were 17, 16 and 16, respectively. For my age group, 18-24, I placed 9th of 15. The winner of my group finished 1:49:18 and was 18 years old.

Kieth and Emily scraping and waxxing down skis into early Sunday morning at Emily's Aunt's house in Anchorage.

The finish at Kincaid

Here's an unidentified 50k finisher topping out the climb

Another 50k finisher, who I will say, if I had a longer head of hair, looks a lot like me. Strange.

Kieth powers over the last pitch of the climb to the finish

Through the finish line

Kieth celebrates his finish with a PBR.

After a morning spent frantically running around town and the lodge getting things together and squeezing in a pre-race ski, I finally met up with Kieth, Edie and Emily from the Tuesday night races along with Emily's husband Kyle, Saturday night in Anchorage.
I did manage to swing by Adam's place first and talk fishing among many other things for some time
When I caught up with the crew, they informed me that they had conferred with a respected ski shop, and the recommended wax was blue, for snow in the teens, not purple, which my skis now had two solid coats of.
Oops. Anyway, I was glad I got those extra few hours of sleep the night before as we ended up staying up till past 1 waxxing and rewaxxing.
Sunday morning we awoke, glad to have the harder wax stiff to the skis, as temps hung in the single digits. Keith and I headed to the 40/50k start and without much delay were suiting up.
In the chaos of the hundreds gathered in the Service High School parking lot we still managed to cross paths with Tom from the Tuesday night races and park next to Tony, of Alaska Backcountry Mountain Bike Tours. I credit Tony and his guide crew from the summer of '04 as the reason I'm here today, though I haven't seen him since I rode the Russian Lakes trail with him back in June.
Anyway, time was short so we couldn't talk much. I had just about 5 minutes to ski around before my heat lined up.
Heats went off in waves of 50 racers every two minutes based on how skiers seeded themselves. I seeded myself to finish in 3 hours.
I knew pretty quick off the start that I'd seeded myself too far back. The group went out slowly, with little confusion. I saw one person ski off the trail and go down but for the first 5 minutes things remained calm.
The slow pace was ok by me as I needed still needed to warm up, but my skis disagreed.
They were ripping every time the trail sloped downward. I hung back for a while, but coming up over a short climb I came too close to an older woman in front of me. Somehow I skied over her pole and down she went, with such a force too I was at first confused that somehow I'd caught her ski.
I apologized profusely, still confused as to how someone could go down so hard by having their pole caught, but when I offered my hand she refused.
I decided at that point it was time to start moving through.
The beginning of the course wound up and down gradual hills through some beautiful stunted spruce forests and wide open birch glades.
Passing was limited, and I found myself taking every opportunity I could get to sneak through my heat.
After about 20 minutes I burst through and suddenly found myself alone.
The solitude didn't last long.
I was humming right along, and soon found myself passing stragglers from the next heat. Eventually I hit that pack too, and found myself fighting my through before finally finding myself out in the open again for a bit.
Passing and pacing would go on like that until I reached the point where the 25k racers joined up.
It didn't take long to reach the first feed zone. As I rolled in organizer were handing out cups of water.
On the advice of my friend Justin, I carried only a cliff bar and no water, depending on the aid stations located every 10k or so.
The first cup of water was a near disaster. My hands were strapped tightly into my poles, so clasping the cup with both hands I tossed it back hopping no one or thing got in the way of the poles now pointing directly ahead.
Afterwards I learned to take the cups with my index finger and throw the water or sports drink back in two greedy gulps; watching the tip of the outstretched pole while using the other to continue polling through the feed zone.
Despite my early mishap, I found skiers to be very courteous on the trail, and so long as I didn't make an ass of myself trying to pass through a narrow section, and let the skier in front know I was coming in on their left or right, they always moved.
Occasionally some would shout encouragement.
One guy in particular, had way too much energy.
Running next to Tudor Rd. I passed a guy who started shouting encouragement. He than asked if I was a "Fairbanks boy." It took me a second to process what he was saying, but I suddenly regained enough self awareness to realize that while I was cruising along at a reasonable clip, I was still skiing in a forest green wind breaker and rain/windpants with a beard that was fast freezing up in breath and snot. I probably looked like I should be on top of some lonely mountain, not next to one of the city's busiest highways.
I took the question as something of a compliment and continued on.
After Tudor the trail took on an urban nature, crossing the highway on a groomed overpass.
The course would continue to make use of tunnels and overpasses as we shot through the city.
Once I passed the point where the 25k racer joined the race I began to pass a steady stream of skiers. The course was generally wider after that however, so I never found myself getting too tied up.
One constant fear I had through the whole race was burning through my wax. After getting out of the city I started skating along the coast to Pt Worzonof. I knew the snow along the shore might be warmer and I was getting increasingly paranoid I'd hit stickier snow. A short climb got my heart rate racing when the snow started sucking me down with 15k left to go.
As it turned out, it must have just been a warm patch, as after that the snow returned to normal.
The final 2k of the race was a climb up to the Kincaid Stadium.
Racers were literally dropping like flies on the long steady climb.
My legs has given me notice at about 32k and my shoulders shortly after, but somehow they managed to get it together enough to power me on up and to the finish line at the top.
I'd been half expecting to pass Edie and Emily, who raced the 25k, on the course, but was glad to see they had both made it in well ahead of me.
We were all piled into Kyles truck, parked with a perfect view over the finish.
Keith, who raced the 50k, made a strong finish an hour later.

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