February 19, 2012

Aspen and the Owl Creek Chase

And I thought the Boulder Mountain Tour was hard......

The Owl Creek Chase is a 21k race from Snowmass to Aspen that starts at 8,000ft and climbs over 2 passes. It was one hell of a race course. Actually, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it more than the BMT even if I was suffering to breathe and move my limbs the whole time. Being from altitude, I have never thought much of it, but for whatever reason, maybe the combination or not having done it recently or the soft, natural snow or just the extra 1,000 ft, I was feeling it every day there! As I literally crawled my way up the 2nd pass, where the 250 meters from the sign telling me it was 250m to the feed zone was the longest 250 meters I have ever skied in my life, it felt great to start flying down the alpine mountain into town. Unfortunately, as I thankfully tucked across the bridge to the nordic center, I remembered that I still had to complete the challenging 5k race course before crossing the line. I headed out on to the 5k course hearing the announcer start to call in the men's winners. I did my best to listen to what was going down without stopping, making out the names of the 1st and 2nd place men and for the 3rd place all I could make of it was "blah blah blah...Craftsbury....blah...O...." I thought it must have been Patrick. Hoping that good news might bring me a second wind, I charged on, but I was just spent. So I switched modes from chaser to chased and did my best to hold off the hard charging girl behind me to limp across the line in 6th place, telling myself $100.00 is better than none. It was a great race that no doubt makes you feel quite accomplished at the finish.

The day before was no joke either. We had 2 races in one day. A sprint qualifier in the morning and a 5k classic in the afternoon. Being a much better classic skier, I was actually looking more forward to this day than the grueling skate race the following day. I was horrifically surprised to find myself unable to ski with any sort of pop or any sort of sprint speed at 8,000 ft  and was far from the win in the sprint despite managing to narrowly hold off the rest of the field for 2nd place. The 5k went much smoother though. There is nothing quite like skiing a 5k at altitude. You spend the whole time right on the line of too hard and you breathe harder than you've ever breathed before. It's an incredible feeling that I actually quite enjoy. I was a little nervous about pushing over the line and regrettably, I think I held back a bit too much as I crossed the line in 2nd place, just 5 tenths of a second from the win. This is the first time I have narrowly missed a win like that and wow, it is a bitter feeling. Hopefully that was my lessoned learned and I will push a little harder next time.

Traveling around to these races without a team to support you, is not easy nor cheap. It is always great when someone steps up and lends a helping hand to make this all possible. For these races, my Aunt Susan and Uncle Bob were gracious enough to let me and a few teammates stay at their house in Snowmass. It was just wonderful! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a great stay in Aspen in addition to some decent racing.
Yes, Eastern Utah is good for something!

Pat and Nils at the top of the first pass 

Pat and Nils doing a contrast bath, snow and hot tub!

Playing Wii on the big screen, so fast, I couldn't capture it....

And exhausting 

Unfortunately, those are all the pictures I took. I was enjoying myself too much to document much of it! From here I head home for my first weekend off from racing since Christmas! Looking forward to the break. Next, I head to central Europe to race in OPA cup races starting the first weekend of March.