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Vertfest Skimo Race - Run


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Snoqualmie Pass , Washington
United States
33F / 1C
Precipitation
Total Time = 1h 54m
Overall Rank = 1/15
Age Group = 30-39F
Age Group Rank = 1/5
Event warmup:

I got to the mountain and picked up my bib then went and got all my gear together. You think triathlon is a little gear-cumbersome, skimo is no different! The good thing about skimo is that most of the gear you don't have to use (hopefully) as it is mainly emergency gear.

To race you needed:
helmet
avalanche beacon
avalanche probe
Shovel
First Aid

I assessed the weather, which by the way was about as opposite of ideal as it could possible be. About 33 and raining with a little wind. The bad thing about that is that you can't really wear a rain protective shell on the way up because you are working your tail off and you would just get too sweaty. The majority of your time is spent ascending. This means that you are going to spend a good portion of your race getting soaked. I decided I would just dress in light layers and skip any kind of rain layer and then just descend as quickly as possible, beeline it for the lodge and change otherwise hypothermia is a huge risk.

I put on my gear, got my avy beacon on and transmitting and packed up my backpack. I opted to wear my helmet on the ascent just because I didn't want any more gear on my back that I would have to sift through at transition on the top when I imagined I would be cold and tired.

We had a safety meeting and went over avalanche conditions which were extremely high. The good news is that the ski patrol had already been out and had triggered most of the dangerous avy areas with explosives. So, we were relatively safe.

After the safety meeting I put my skins on my board and then my board on my feet and went to the start line!
Run
  • 1h 54m
  • 6 miles
  • 19m  min/mile
Comments:

I know I keep adding strange non triathlon races here so I figure I will start with some definitions so you can understand exactly what is going on.
First let me define skimo (the type of race this was):

Ski mountaineering is a skiing discipline that involves climbing mountains either on skis/snowboard or carrying them, depending on the steepness of the ascent, and then descending on skis/snowboard.

Competitive ski mountaineering is typically a timed racing event that follows an established trail through challenging winter alpine terrain while passing through a series of checkpoints. Racers climb and descend under their own power using backcountry skiing/snowboarding equipment and techniques. More generally, ski mountaineering is an activity that variously combines ski/snowboard touring, Telemark, backcountry skiing/snowboarding, and mountaineering.

Now I bet you wonder, how do you go uphill on a snowboard? In comes the splitboard which I will now give you a definition of: A splitboard is regular snowboard that splits a part into two halves that become skis. This allows a snowboarder to ascend the mountain in the same manner as a backcountry skier. Climbing skins are used for traction and the same trail or “skintrack” can be used by both backcountry skiers and splitboarders alike. Once on the top, the user puts the two halves together and it quickly transforms into a snowboard again for the descent!


A splitboard has some major disadvantages to skis. The first and probably most obvious is the transition. Skiiers simply take off their skins, lock down their bindings and go. A spltboard has to literally be reassembled from skis to a snowboard, putting the two halves back together.

The second challenge is more about physics. A splitboard is much wider and heavier making ascending slower due to gravity and friction (more surface area.) Additionally and something I found to be incredibly challenging is when traversing you are less agile and maneuverable and it's harder to do everything from hold and edge to kick turn.

For these reasons, splitboarders have their own category within a skimo race.

Hopefully that clears some things up so now, let me share my experience!

I was kind of nervous for this race. I had no idea what to expect as I am very new to splitboarding in general let alone racing. I don't have a lot of technique under my belt either. I was doing it just for fun but it's a lot to manage when you are trying something new for the first time mixed with avalanche danger and a slough of other things to think about regarding safety. But I knew I was fit and that I would have to lean heavily on that.

We lined up at the start line and I looked around and found a few other splitboard women and struck up conversation with them. They were very sweet and had done the race before. I figured I could just watch them and learn.

They did a countdown and we were off! Much like any race, there is kind of a panicked sprint start then everyone settles into a more sustainable pace. I plodded my way up the mountain and could feel my heart-rate climbing quickly as well. Things were going smooth until the first traverse. As I had mentioned before, sharp traversing turns are really hard on a board. I slip back, almost fell, awkwardly stepped, slid again...eventually I got it but the two women I had talked to earlier easily passed by me. I watched them and tried to learn from their technique. Soon, I got minimally better at the turns but it was HARD! Especially because the entire first section was full of them.

I struggled and flailed my way up through the trees and along the base of the north facing cliffs. I passed the two women towards the top and kept my momentum. I was sweating buckets and I probably looked like I wanted to murder someone. I reached the first check-point and a woman shouted, "You're the first place female splitboard!!!" I smiled and then totally fell on my face at her feet. I sheepishly said, "Yep and first idiot too." She laughed and said, "Nope, not the first" Hahahaha.

I kept pushing. And crashing. Push, crash, push crash. Then I finally came to the midpoint on the mountain. I took a moment to drink some water (which I was almost out of) then pushed on. There was a small descent which I was nervous about because you are basically skiing downhill on your splitboard (which it's not totally meant to do) but I managed to do it without crashing. We started ascending again, steeply. There was one very steep section I needed to get up but could not figure out how to make the turn. I just couldn't get traction. So, with all my strength and agility I threw myself in a grand fosbury flop-like move up over the cornice of snow, again at the feet of a course marshal, rolling into a somersault then pulling myself to my feet. The marshal was dying laughing, he said, "Wow, and here comes the somersaulting starfish! Can't say I've seen that move before!!!"

I just had to laugh at myself. I was a sweaty disastrous shitshow with literally zero finesse. I continued up the mountain then my heart sank when I saw we had to transition out of our skis/board and boot-pack (meaning hike on foot) up a super steep chute between the cliffs. Attaching my board onto the backpack I was using would be extremely cumbersome and I didn't want to waste the time so I scooped up my poles and board and carried it up the chute. Unable to use my hands (they were full) I had to be very careful with my climbing and take care in NOT slipping and sliding all the way back down.

Luckily I made it to the top ok and put my board back on my feet, continuing on up. I took a peak back to see if the other split-boarding women were nearby or not. I didn't see either of them.

I continued on up, getting better at traversing and turning, bit by bit. But I fell. A lot. It had started to pour down rain at this point and ironically I was really, really thirsty as I had gone through all my water.

We got to another section we had to boot pack, this time there were ropes to climb with but again, I didn't take the time to put my board on my back so I couldn't use the ropes. Luckily again, I made it ok.

The course marshal at the top was awesome, cheering us on and dancing, playing music on his portable speaker. He told me I was the first split woman and cheered me on as I put my board on yet again.

It was the final push to the summit. I felt aerobically maxed out. My heart was pounding so hard the entire ascent between the physical effort, struggling with my actual efficiency and skills and the adrenaline of fearing for my life at certain points (it wasn't THAT dangerous but I didn't want to fall off a cliff due to a mis-step.)

I gritted my teeth and got through the gate at the top where again the volunteer cheered me on for being first female split. Some of the other skiers I was around cheered for me (they had been observing my struggle first hand lol.)

Surprisingly the transition of my snowboard from ascending mode to descending mode went better than it ever has! I removed the skins and put them in my bag, put my board together and transitioned the bindings, collapsed my poles and attached them to my backpack and I was off!

On the way up all you can think about is how nice it will be to go downhill. Problem is my legs were SHOT and we had to ride down technical terrain. I took my time through some of the more precarious portions then was able to gain some speed. I could see the debris field from the large avalanche the ski patrol had triggered earlier. I was very thankful for them!

I made a few more of the descending checkpoints quickly then finally could see the finish. I was so excited! I linked some nice turns in the slushy snow and crossed the line under two hours.

I couldn't believe I had won! I couldn't believe I was still in one piece!
What would you do differently?:

Practice technique, eventually get a better board, practice, practice, practice. Bring more water.
Post race

Profile Album


Last updated: 2016-02-15 12:00 AM
Running
01:54:00 | 06 miles | 19m  min/mile
Age Group: 0/5
Overall: 0/15
Performance:
Course: Ascending and descending to the top of Denny Mountain 5,610' from the base area ski lodge and for approximately 4K gain total, ish
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall:
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Evaluation
Course challenge
Organized?
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

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2016-02-15 2:12 PM

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Seattle
Subject: Vertfest Skimo Race


2016-02-15 2:41 PM
in reply to: #5167266

User image

Master
4375
20002000100100100252525
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Bwahahahahaha!  Somersaulting starfish!  Fosbury Flop!   So awesome.  Congrats on the win, and just on being awesome in general!

2016-02-15 3:07 PM
in reply to: IronOx

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303
100100100
Raleigh, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race
Wow, a win on the first time out! awesome!!!
2016-02-15 4:41 PM
in reply to: #5167266

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Pennsylvania
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Incredible drive.  Incredible fortitude.  Incredible athletic ability, even if at times it earns you the nickname of somersaulting starfish! Oh, and incredible pictures, yet again.  Oh, the beautiful, interesting, astounding adventures you get into!  Congrats again, and keep on having fun and living life as it should be lived - making oneself happy.  You never cease to amaze me with your endless talents!

2016-02-15 4:45 PM
in reply to: awm007

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Master
6534
5000100050025
Orlando
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Another epic race!  Congratulations on the win and the unique technique!  I wish we had thing like that here, but we don't get a lot of snow around here.   And we're a little short of mountains 

2016-02-16 10:35 AM
in reply to: #5167266

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Veteran
1900
1000500100100100100
Southampton, Ontario
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race
that looks like quite a race. Im glad you did well.


2016-02-16 10:42 AM
in reply to: #5167266

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Master
6586
50001000500252525
Rio Rancho, NM
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Salty the Somersaulting Starfish!!!

What an incredible experience. You always go big or go home, this time it was GO BIG. Congrats on the win and for experiencing your way through another adventure.

2016-02-16 11:25 AM
in reply to: #5167266

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Master
7714
50002000500100100
Raleigh, NC area
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

What an adventure!

2016-02-16 11:37 AM
in reply to: 0

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Master
3869
200010005001001001002525
Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race
Adrienne, that looks like too much fun! Talk about an all around athlete, nice work little starfish

Edited by reecealan 2016-02-16 11:41 AM
2016-02-16 12:18 PM
in reply to: #5167266

User image

Master
2405
2000100100100100
Falls Church, Virginia
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race
Wow, what a fantastic debut! I loved the explanations of what skimo is and the splitboard, so thanks for that. I would have been lost in trying to follow along otherwise.
Congrats on a great race!
2016-02-17 11:43 AM
in reply to: IronOx

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Seattle
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Originally posted by IronOx

Bwahahahahaha!  Somersaulting starfish!  Fosbury Flop!   So awesome.  Congrats on the win, and just on being awesome in general!

Haha thanks! 



2016-02-17 11:43 AM
in reply to: awm007

User image

Seattle
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Originally posted by awm007 Wow, a win on the first time out! awesome!!!

Thank you!

2016-02-17 11:44 AM
in reply to: melbo55

User image

Seattle
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Originally posted by melbo55

Incredible drive.  Incredible fortitude.  Incredible athletic ability, even if at times it earns you the nickname of somersaulting starfish! Oh, and incredible pictures, yet again.  Oh, the beautiful, interesting, astounding adventures you get into!  Congrats again, and keep on having fun and living life as it should be lived - making oneself happy.  You never cease to amaze me with your endless talents!

You are too kind Melanie. Hey, a starfish has to be athletic to somersault I imagine  

2016-02-17 11:46 AM
in reply to: amd723

User image

Seattle
Subject: RE: Vertfest Skimo Race

Originally posted by amd723

Another epic race!  Congratulations on the win and the unique technique!  I wish we had thing like that here, but we don't get a lot of snow around here.   And we're a little short of mountains 

You've just gotta wait out climate change

 

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