Home Sweet Home Racing

Home Sweet Home Racing

Racing at Kincaid is incredibly fun. It never gets old. There are so many different trails and loop combinations. You can find pretty much every kind of terrain from long steep uphills that are followed by ripping fast downhills with turns, short steep rolling hills or long gradual restful descents. If you are on a long easy ski, there are many viewpoints that you can’t help but stop for. Virtually any race held at Kincaid is bound to be hard.

My brother and I on a sunrise ski at Kincaid on Christmas morning at one of my favorite viewpoints

This week’s four UAA Invitational races were no exception. Every race followed the same 5k course, with a 2.5k loop added for the last race to create a 7.5k loop. As you can see on the course profile map below, there was a substantial amount of climbing. One of the most dreaded climbs at Kincaid, Hairpin, was halfway through the course, with still more than half a kilometer of continuous climbing after that. Hairpin in gnarly because it is a climb that starts off fairly gradual right out of a screaming downhill (with a mini-jump in it), then pitches up so steeply as it makes a nearly-180 switchback turn that you have to herringbone, then continues at a lesser-but-still-strenuous uphill grade before making another switchback and plateauing just enough to almost catch your breath before you climb another half-kilometer to the next downhill recovery section. And then there are still two more long gradual climbs to go. The course is a leg-burner. With that said, it a course that brings out true fitness and the best skier wins.

 5k course map

The first race was a 5K classic race last Saturday. Along with sporting some swanky new APU race suits that finally arrived after several months delay, the conditions were PERFECT, with the new slightly moist snow setting up really firm fast tracks. Dylan Watts and Bart Dengel gave us wicked fast skis with perfect kick, for which I am incredibly thankful. Those were the best classic skis I’ve had in a while. I finished 8th on the day, ten seconds out of fifth. I was pretty happy with that, after really starting to fade around 3.5-4.5km. My legs were feeling a lot more energetic than they did in the Midwest races. I was the lone APU representative in the women’s race both days, after learning that morning that my teammate Kate Fitzgerald had unfortunately come down with mono. The men’s race was well represented though, with Brent winning by two seconds the first day and ten seconds in the skate, Mark in 6th and 4th, and Dylan in 9th.

Monday was the next race, a 10K skate, two laps around the course. I finished 13th that day. As I mentioned in a previous post, my calves have been giving lots of problems in skating. Last week, I got some deep-tissue massage work done on my legs. It was painful, but it made a difference! My calves didn’t hurt at all in the 10k skate. The problem that I did run into though was that I didn’t know how to go hard in a skate race! Since I have been unable to skate effectively and push myself when my calves hurt so bad, when they didn’t hurt, I didn’t know how to push myself. Hmm… I think I was also somewhat holding myself back because I was always thinking ‘ok, when are they going to start cramping? This hill? The next hill?’ and I didn’t want that to happen so I didn’t go as hard as I probably could have. Now I know. I would have another chance in the 5k skate race on Thursday.

Tucking in the skate race in our spiffy new suits

As luck would have it, I didn’t get another chance to test my legs in a skate race. Tuesday dawned a beautiful sunny clear day and I got to spend all day in bed with the stomach flu. Wednesday I felt significantly better and was able to ski, but still felt pretty tired. I warmed up for the race on Thursday, but just didn’t have any spark. I decided to take another day before sinking my body’s energies. I was really looking forward to the 15k classic mass start race scheduled for Friday and I wanted to do well so I needed as much energy in store as possible. So I spent Wednesday and Thursday trying to eat as much as possible (I need that extra weight for the downhills too…)

I love mass start races because they are tactical, make you pace yourself differently than on your own, work with and off other skiers, and they are downright fun to ski. But I was super nervous for yesterday’s race. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fare for 15k after being sick, so while I had visions of how I wanted to ski or where I wanted to place, I really had no expectations. I decided I was just going to race how I felt and be satisfied with that. As with all mass starts, there was a fair amount of yelling, skis overlapping, tripping and pole breaking in the first couple of kilometers. I managed to get caught in a tangle when some people (including me) jumped out of the tracks to avoid a fallen skier ahead of us only to find ourselves ankle-deep in powder on the side of the trail, skis crossed.

Our coach Erik Flora is always telling us that the best way to deal with chaos in mass starts, sprint races or just crowded trails is to just make yourself as small/narrow as possible, keep your poles close to your body, stay calm and don’t make any sudden movements. So when I found myself in this situation, I just stood there while the other girls got their skis out of my way. After the mess cleared, I was literally in last place going into the first big climb. The pack was still all together though, so I just found myself a clear track and calmly skied my way further up in the pack over the next kilometer or two. Not having high expectations for myself allowed me to just ski very relaxed and smoothly, which usually translates to skiing more strongly and efficiently. 2k later, after watching some competitors’s poles break in front of me, I found myself on the back of the lead pack of ten or so girls climbing up Hairpin. And then I fell. Go figure. On an uphill, in the tracks. Or rather, the tracks were just ending before a corner and as I started to make the turn, my ski tips crossed and down I went. I felt rather foolish. I lost contact with the leaders, and from there to the finish, I was skiing mainly with one other girl from U. of Denver. We worked together to push ourselves and chase the leaders, and managed to catch one girl at about 12k and came within 3 seconds of catching another who had fallen off the pace. We had a sprint to the finish with me just barely edging her out, and then I faceplanted. But I was finished so it didn’t matter and I could just lay there as long as I wanted. So in the end I finished 7th, which I was more than happy with. It was a solid week of racing, with tough competition, the best courses I’ve skied all year, beautiful weather, and fast skis. My body is tired now. But it is a good tired, like I’ve worked hard and come away a better skier, rather than tired in a way that I want to lay down and never move again (which I felt like with the stomach bug). With 13 races in the past 5 weeks, the next few weeks will be some good training time to rest and recover. I’ll leave you with some cool photos of Anchorage lately.

 An avalanche in the mountains. Photo by Brad Dickerson

Nearly full moon over the Chugach Mountains on a beautiful February day. Photo by Brad Dickerson

Ridiculous amounts of snow are choking neighborhood roads as the plows create gigantic berms. Photo by Brad Dickerson

A moose using the car buried under a million feet of snow to reach very high branches. Photo from ADN

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