21 February, 2011
We all lined up at the start line, I pulled in behind Stano Faban (CAD), with my partner James Minifie right behind me. The course profile was around 2250m of elevation gain, and approximately 30km long, up through horrendous logging roads, bootpacks through cliffs bands, and finally into the subalpine with bottomless snow and large deep dark holes to fall into. Overall it had 16 transitions, including bootpacks, and some running (skis in hand) through some funny terrain and through downtown Claut to the finish line the town square. (Photo Below: Teams Start, photo courtesy of skimo.org by: Gerard Bethoud)
The gun went off, and the usual sprint start began, except here's where it all went wrong. 5 seconds in, a racer who started beside me smashed his pole into my gear, knocking my ski off. Immediately stopping and popping the ski back on, I was unaware of the damage inflected, as I sprinted hard to catch the still sprinting Peleton, it came off again. Again and again, this happened. Stop ski on, sprint hard, stop ski on, sprint hard. Anaerobic again and again, running high heart rate sprint intervals spending everything to make it work, until my race setup was done. The ski was broken, and we were forced to stop. The end of our competitive race was here.
However, James (hero of the day), was lucky enough to figure out a way to solve the problem, and after ten minutes of fiddling around we could move again. Ten minutes, in a World Cup race, after going anaerobic over and over 150m into a 2250m course is pretty much a death sentence. But gaining points for Canada's overall placing was paramount. Pretty fried from the intervals, we clipped on the tow line, and began chasing. The tow line allowed me to keep a high pace, but recover enough to drop it and go hard later.
We started picking up a few teams, along the way, discussing strategy and how to race as well as our overall feeling with everything for the rest of the week. On the second climb's bootpack section, my crampons didn't want to work, but after some violence towards them they decided to give in and work. Further and further into the race course, nutrition and hydration began to fail, and time tested systems stopped working and I had bonked. Bonked and trying to step it up, after being anaerobic, nothing working and although feeling like death we did begin to catch and pull in Canadians Stano Faban and Steve Sellers.
It was on our 1350m descent to the valley where we finally passed them, but it cost every last electrolyte and calorie I think I had. Dizzy, and falling asleep on the skin tracks, hoping this course would end soon was wishful thinking. We still had a number of transitions left with running, bootpacks, and muddy skinning to the finishline ahead. Leg started to cramp, on the 3rd last climb, but there was nothing that could be done but keep moving. Skate skiing and transitioning didn't help either, nor did the course official who told us that the finish line was one climb away, and "it will take longer to transition than to climb and reach it," two climbs and 20 minutes away from it in reality. We managed to keep our lead on the other Canadians, but at a high price for me. (Photo Above: Finish Line, courtesy of claut2011.org)
Crossing the finish line, my body was broken. Not just tired, or exhausted, but shutting down. Legs didn't want to walk properly, brain dizzy and wandering, emotionally not bothered (and expected it from the start) but body felt and showed the opposite physically. Never have I been in the hole so deep, not after speed traverses, not after other races, never. It was a truely mind expanding experience, with the body quitting, and the mind quitting, something kept saying go. Lactic acid, prevented me from moving my head and shoulders, and the rest of my body just hurt. It was safe to say, the pain box was expanded, and a new level was found today.
Overall, even with the race a disaster, something out of my control; I feel good about the dismal result. As it's not the result, but I know the training has paid off, and that when my gear doesn't get smashed by another competitor by accident (what happened was one in a million) that my body is able to push hard and the speed is there. Now focusing on recovery, I have two days before the Sprint race, and am really looking forward to redemption on the Individual course. The Teams race was all about learning, even if it came at a price, and during a World Cup competition.
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
With our situation aside, a great finish for top Canadians (Reiner Thoni and Andrew McNabb), taking some of the American Teams (one team having a similiar gear malfunction and being forced to withdraw), and awesome to see the level of Ski Mountaineering Racing from North American's taking bit steps forward. Congrats also go to the Canadian Women's Team Melanie Bernier and Julie Matteau.
Full Results Here