Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A SkiMo race weekend; why do I do this again?

This past weekend I joined what has become an annual January pilgrimage to Wyoming ,where skinny people who ski in lycra and on skinny skis drive gawdforsaken distances to congregate at Grand Targhee and Jackson hole to partake in "skimo" races (short for "ski mountaineering, even though the races are almost always inside resorts).  Leave it to humans to take something as sublime and enjoyable as backcountry skiing and make it ferociously competitive!  But more on that later.

My big SkiMo year started with pretty gently riding a bike the length of Vietnam:  slow, all-day riding in heat and humidity at sea level is perfect training for blowing my alveoli to bits in 1-3 hour ski events at 9000 feet in freezing temps!  But given the snow that Ullr so nicely delivered for our holiday season we were able to get in plenty of trudging up and down the local hills.  Ash was supposedly struggling with her post-nose surgery recovery, but we were still managing to put in several back to back 8000-foot days! As they say, make alfalfa when the rain falls, or something like that.....

My legs hadn't really felt very good (when the snow is always good and vacation is on there's no "opportunity" for rest, which helps the legs get goodness in them), but on Thursday I did a march up Snowturd and finally felt a bit better, so with an hour to spare that night I signed up for the Jackson races.  I also reminded myself that whether I'm "fit" or not likely means little in terms of my time or place, and whether or not I'm 12th or 15th or 23rd or 42nd....well, no one cares.  

Two years ago I did this race combination in the opposite order: the shorter, faster Targhee was day 2, and the longer, slightly-slower Jackson race was day 1.  So I thought that going into the Targhee race fresh I'd feel better than the awfulness I had two years ago.  However, I guess that shorter simply doesn't suit me, because I felt like I was about to explode 10 minutes into the first, nearly 2k foot climb and seemed to pay for it throughout the race.  But it was fun racing; I was behind the remarkably-hard charging Powderwhore Big Man Noah Howell for the first half, passing him on a long, quad-screamer descent that was mostly chopped-up frozen chunder right before he bloodied himself on a ferocious crash, and then seesawed back and forth with the venerable Chad Bracklesberg before watching him glide away on the final groomer descent; clearly, he nailed it on the wax!    Our large Utah contingent made its first stamp on the weekend's festivities, going 1-3 and others in the top 20.

Jason Dorais (center) and Tom Goth (right) celebrating.
I was the fortunate recipient of the growler of local beer that Jason won!
That night was a sprint event.  Ever since I realized I was half-decent at these "endurance" activities sprints have been my weakness, whether a too-short event or being able to turn up the heat at the end of a race.  So I was happy to watch.  Again, Utards had a great showing, going 1-2
Andy  -the rightward of the interchangeable brothers - took the win.  Despite looking like he got 2nd, Jason did not; fellow ex-BYU speedster Lars K was fast on Andy's heels.
Andy Dorais has a great account of his convincing victory here:

Sunday's race involved a bit more vert (pushing 8k feet vs <5k on Saturday) and as such the slower pace worked in my favor (as did borrowing some half-pound lighter skis!).  Given Jackson's easterly aspect the base surface was a bit scratchy and the whiff of snow from the night before made it a bit slick, so the uphill skinning was challenging and some of the descents were either a bit icy or chundery - but at least the top had some solid flat light - but that's what these races are about, and it's the same for everyone.  I chugged along in my usual position behind the fast guys and in front of others, and after climbing and skiing, climbing and skiing, booting up, skiing down, skinning again, skiing down, skinning up, etc etc I ended up within 20 seconds and one place away from where I was two years ago.  And as expected, no one cared!  Well, I guess I cared, since I did make the effort to go up there and spend my entire weekend  - and plenty of $$ - to race for 5 hours.  And I was satisfied with my efforts, time, and placing.  And again, the local hard boys Jason D and Tom Goth showed the (Colo)'Rado boys how it was done, going 1-3.
Tom Goth celebrating a very close and strategic finish
The whole racing thing is funny:   I keep asking myself why - after literally 38 years of doing these silly events - I continue to get lured into them.  I actually now consider myself fortunate to never have been Really Good; I've always been behind the fastest guys (and girls!), and as such I have never really enjoyed the Great Glow of Victory that can be so hard to fall from, so maybe the moderately-warm fuzzies of still finishing in more or less the same position I've been accustomed to is still enough.  Or do I do it to "prove" (to whom?) that I'm sorta strong?  And if so, hasn't 38 years of that provided me enough proof?  Apparently not, 'cause I keep signing up.  I think that as we charge around the mountains - or tracks, or roads - we find ourselves wondering "How fast am I?  If I really gave'er, how would I fare in this silly activity?" (against other folks who are also asking themselves that question).  And importantly:  "How much of my ego and identity are wrapped up in my ability to do this or that at X level"?

Strava has emerged to provide a great way to measure ourselves vs others and therefore goes a long ways towards validating our very existence, but a good ol' fashioned "race" where everyone lines up at the same moment in time with the same conditions with the like-minded goal of givin'er as absolutely hard as possible is indelible in some folks.  Last night - in our latest Tuesday night World Cup Skimo race at Brighton - I found myself side by side with local skimo dude/trail runner Ben Sukow and we were working ourselves into a fine lather to beat each other.....for 3rd or 6th or 10th place, even didn't matter one whit!

But I guess it did, it does, and it will......

Some good photos of the race are here: and thanks again to Andy D and Mike Hales for the key gear loans.  But I guess if I continue to do this I oughta mount up and get my own appropriate stuff?  But will I race again?  Whether I want to or should, I invariably and inexplicably will indeed keep doing these silly races.

1 comment:

  1. Tom - nice work up there! Hopefully we'll see you up in the Logan zone for Crowbar this weekend! Keep on grinding!