Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are: WinterWild 2013

It was a wild morning for Outdoor Mom at the WinterWild race at Bretton Woods, an uphill/downhill race that challenges skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and runners to get up the mountain and back down in the fastest time possible.

The night before, ski bag was packed, skins placed on my telemark skis, blister block purchased, and alarm clock set for the 6:30 am race.  I congratulated myself on how organized I was and went to bed early to get a good rest before the race.

Unfortunately, I set my clock for 5:15 pm rather than am.  I woke up on my own at 5:32 and in a panic  rushed out the door... to find that it was dumping snow.  Normally that would be a cause for celebration in my world, but wet snow on unplowed roads meant I wasn't making up any time on my way to the ski area.

As I arrived at Bretton Woods in the dark and quickly grabbed my gear and headed to the lodge, I overheard the events director tell someone in the parking lot that the race start had been pushed back to 6:45 because of the morning's slow driving.  Phew.  I  rushed to register and said hello to friends and family who were also racing.  Tracy and Fred, visiting from New Mexico, were also up before dawn to race up the mountain.  Tracy would be skiing with me, while Fred ran.  I also saw friend and fellow blogger Organic Runner Mom, and my cousin Becky and her family, Mark and Casey, who were in the running for winning the overall WinterWild series.

Out at the start, I panicked again when I saw that only one of my poles was with my skis on the rack.  I figured that one of the other competitors must have inadvertently grabbed one of my poles, and I rushed around looking for it, and had the race announcer ask if anyone might have it, but with no luck.  I thought I might have to abandon the race, but saw that there was another single ski pole, very different from mine, sitting on the rack, so I grabbed it and figured I might as well make the best of it and use two different poles to trek up the mountain.
The start courtesy of SNAPacidotic

Flustered and with barely enough time now to get into my bindings, the race started and Tracy and I headed up Two Miles Home towards the summit of Mt. Rosebrook.

For those of you wondering about the difference between telemark and alpine, the actual telemark ski has become very similar to alpine, but often lighter.  The major difference between the two types of ski gear is the binding.  Unlike a downhill binding that locks in the entire boot to the ski, the telemark binding is only attached at the toe, allowing the heel to raise up and down.  The free-heel concept allows for a telemark turn going down the mountain, where you do a lunge-like bend for each turn.  It also allows you to "skin" up the mountain.  For those times when you want to ski somewhere that doesn't have a lift, "skinning" can often be the most efficient way up the mountain.  Originally mountaineers really did use animal skins, but nowadays we have synthetic skins for the bottom of our skis. Going uphill, you adhere the skins, which are cut to fit, to the bottom of your skis.  Like an animal's fur that slides smoothly in one direction and roughs up in the other, the skis slide uphill, but catch in the other direction, keeping you from slipping backwards as you ascend the mountain.  Going uphill, a free heel allows you to "walk" up the mountain on your skis.

Once I got past the fact that my morning hadn't started so smoothly, the skin up Two Miles Home was beautiful.  Dawn was just brightening up our way as we began, and every tree bough was blanketed with fresh snow.  I resisted the urge to diverge from the race course to grab some turns in the powder as we passed Inferno and Snowmaker's Gully trails.  Unlike last year's race that ascended the steep Waumbeck trail on the opposite end of the resort, Two Miles Home is a much more gradual incline - although the two kickers near the top of Mt. Rosebrook felt steeper than "intermediate" going up!

Tracy urged me on to start picking off some of the skiers ahead of us (the runners were long gone), but I couldn't maintain her pace and she climbed ahead of me.  At the peak of Rosebrook, Tracy was clipping back into her bindings as I was just starting to take my skins off.  Now for the fun part!  I zoomed down High Ridge and Outer Bounds, past the top of the Zephyr Quad and down Range View to the finish.  I made it up and down in 55 minutes and 11 seconds, and I'm guessing 51 of those minutes were used up on the ascent.

The Downhill courtesy of SNAPacidotic

Back at the lodge, Outdoor Dad and the kids greeted me with smiles and cheers.  I explained to my husband the confusion at the start of the race when I couldn't find my pole, and he went to check the car and parking lot to make sure I hadn't dropped it on my way in.  When he saw the pole I used as a spare, he realized my mistake: he had gotten a pair of rental poles for our visiting friends, and I had grabbed one of the rentals instead of my own when I was rushing in the dark that morning.  That pole that just happened to be on the rack at the start of the race was the one I had brought from the car!  

Well, I felt quite silly having been so confused at the start of the race, but happily everything turned out okay.  I hadn't actually lost my pole, and I managed to win my age group in the Telemark category of the race despite my foolishness!  We all had a good laugh at my expense.

One of the best parts of this race were all the PRIZES.  Not only were there nice mugs for placing in all of the different categories, but it took nearly an hour to get through all of the great raffle prizes they had, including eggs and t-shirts from Pete and Gerry's.  Tracy won a gift certificate to Poco's Bow Street Cantina in Portsmouth and Fred and I won beer from 603 Brewery.

We filled the remainder of our day enjoying all that new fallen snow on the runs at Bretton Woods.  And I even used my own poles.

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