Wasatch Powderkeg 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

US Ski Mountaineering Teammate Chris Kroger and I after the Race

 This past Saturday was the running of the 9th annual Wasatch Powderkeg. This year's event, like last year, was held at Brighton Resort in the heart of the Wasatch. Brighton is a wonderful host for the resort and the terrain around the area (most of the race was held outside of area boundaries) made for a brutally fun race. This was my third time racing the 'Keg, but I didn't race last year when the venue was first changed from Little Cottonwood canyon and the Alta/Snowbird area. I had heard good things about the course and knowing some of the race directors from ultrarunning I was very confident that it would be a top notch event, turns out I was right.

As I waited in line to have my gear checked before the race I took note at how many people there were getting ready to hit the course, there were a ton! They hold told us at the race briefing the night before that they thought they would have record attendance and the crowds verified that they did. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 racers toed the blue line for the 7:00 am start. The race directors held to their roots and started the race with a run across the parking lot, skis on packs for the race divisions and skis anxiously waiting at the end of the run for the rec division, the run went quick (it was only 400 meters or so in distance) and there was a bit of chaos as racers scrambled to get skis on their feet and get moving up the first climb.

I moved to the front almost immediately after getting my skis on and made a concerted effort stay smooth and relaxed. In training I often repeat the mantra "smooth is fast", and I felt that I was moving smooth and fast as we skinned across and up Brighton. About 3/4's of the way up the climb it left the groomer and traversed a tracked out slope and moved into some moguled terrain before topping out onto the groomer just below the Great Western Quad. Here the rec racers would turn right across the top of the area and the Race division folks we turned left and kept climbing to the top of the peak above the lift. Still in the lead at the top transition I tried to do a smooth transition and headed down the descent before the next racer arrived. The skiing was pretty tough, it had been really warm the day before and barely froze overnight, the perfect recipe for manky breaking crust. I survived the descent, quickly transitioned and headed out, again without seeing another racer. The second climb had several icy kick turns, that I found challenging yet enjoyable, near the top I had a good view to look down from where I had been, I saw one racer starting the ascent and a couple in the transition area, they all looked like they were moving fast. So I put the hammer down to the transition, had another smooth transition, a short fast descent later I was again transitioning then skinning up the third climb.

The ascent was very near the descent so I could time how much lead I had, turns out I had about 3 minutes, still too close to relax so I kept the pedal to the metal up the climb where I rejoined the first climb just below the traverse. I found myself in the middle of the rec field and on a much smoother skin track through the moguls than the first time through. All of the other racers were very supportive and courteous to yield the track as I moved by. This time at the top I turned right, transitioned, and then tucked the whole next descent. Now at the top of SnakeCreek Quad, I transitioned again and headed up climb four while sucking down some EFS and taking a few nips off of my EFS liquid shot.

At this point I was using the rec racers to help me keep my pace up, I would set my sight on a racer and tell myself I would have to pass them before the tree or the corner. This kept my cadence quite high and the pace quick. The next transition was very crowded as I was now in the thick of the Rec Racers. Yet, I was able to transition much faster and pass several racers as they worked on swapping from up to down. A short moto course through the trees and then we got to ski a nice open shot, which would have been great if it wasn't for the pesky breaking crust everywhere. I quickly noticed that just skiers left of the flags it was much more supportive crust which I could high speed side slip without breaking through, that is until about ten feet above the next crowded transition zone where I took quite a beat down for the crowd.

I quickly found myself skinning again after the transition and set to work passing as many Rec Racers as I could. This particular climb was quite icy and unforgiving to poor skinning technique and fatigued legs, lot of racers, myself included, worked harder than necessary as skins would slip slowing progress.  I was grateful to put that climb to bed and eager for the long descent back to the bottom of Millicent for the final climb. The descent itself was mostly tracked pow and icy bumps as we had re-entered the edge of the area, and the last bit was a very fast groomer.

Another transition and I found myself reeling in the leaders of the Rec Division. I caught them about half way up the climb. The skin portion of the ascent went by quickly, at the top of Milly was a nice booter, about 600' of booting up a very well set boot pack and I was at the top of Millicent peak, I chose to leave skins on for the short descent towards Stupid Chute as there was still about a 100' climb left before the final descent. At the top I ripped skins and dropped into what looked to be the best skiing of the day and turned out to be the worst. More breakable crust but this time it was very variable. It would support until you got up to speed and then yank the rug out from under you leading to a high speed beat down. It was frustrating to not be able just to rip through it but soon enough I was crossing the lake. My difficult descent continued as I penguin shuffled across the lake, I didn't feel it was long enough to justify skins but it was just long enough to second guess myself.

After the lake was a sporty descent along the area boundary, a short groomer, more bumps and then the finish line. I was ecstatic to have just had a perfect race at the PowderKeg, and before I could fully gather myself I reporter from Park City TV handed me a mic and asked for an interview (I have never had anything like that happen). I was a bit self-concious with the camera rolling thinking of all of the frozen snot that was probably all over my face, but I tried to give a good interview and savor the moment.

Podium shot- Luke Nelson 1st, Chris Kroger 2nd, Jason Dorais 3rd

I spent the rest of the morning hanging out with friends and my family at the finish area, enjoying a beautiful morning at Brighton. All in all it was a great race, well organized, a fantastic course, and a heavily supported raffle- after all what else does a racer need?

Picture of Race Results (I will post a link when it is online)

Gear Used:

La Sportiva Stratos

La Sportiva Skimo Race Suit

Ski Trab World Cup Skis

First Endurance Liquid Shot

First Endurance EFS

Smith Phenom Goggles

Camp Speed Helmet

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