Monday, March 5, 2007

Tuesday Race Report

ARFE-SmartWool becomes Frigidly Inflicted

by Kristoffer Nielson

Team ARFE-SmartWool is getting tired of being nearly derailed by snow storms. On Friday afternoon, Erin and I sat in our living room discussing whether we should embark on what turned out to be a two-and-half hour drive to Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont, where this years Frigid Infliction was held. We were both home from work due to the storm, and the media had been making news of it all day long. After some deliberation we decided to take on the risky drive and began to creep through the snow on our way to race check-in and gear check.

We spent the night cozied in our sleeping bags, camped in our tent close to the start line. The maps were all pre-plotted--we were able to get a good night's rest.

The race started at five AM and consisted of three disciplines: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and 'post holing'. The two decent storms we've had this season left four fluffy feet of white stuff for racers to deal with. The gun was off and so were we.

The first leg was on hard-packed ski slopes towards the first CP. There were two checkpoints between the start and TA1, but we were only required to visit one of them. And CP3 had been removed by the race directors because of the mass quantities of snow. Most teams chose CP2 and stayed on the main trails heading up while we decided on a less-than-obvious route choice and broke trail for a small handful of distant followers. Despite a few frustrating incidences with Erin's gaiters falling off, we managed to hold a lead, found CP2 with ease and were the first team to arrive at the TA.

We transitioned quickly, getting a new map and changing into our snowshoes. The next section of the race consisted of four CPs that could be collected in any order. We decided to break them into two loops, CP5 and CP4, then back past the TA for CP7 and CP8. CP6 had been removed again due to snow. Most teams fought the steep accent to CP4 first and the on up to CP5. We had blown by the trail that leaded up to CP4 and decided then to take the longer, yet more gradual incline around to CP5 first. CP5 was on the northern point of a ridgy summit, and we climbed a short, steep accent, breaking trail up to the punch. We found the entry point using a solid catching feature, a trail merge, right before cutting up towards the CP.

We were off again and despite a ten-minute bobble with a wrong turn before CP4, we were feeling good about our racing and were enjoying all the grand views of the Green Mountains. We worked our way up towards CP8 only to find that it had been miss placed. Although we were very confident that the point had been misplaced we hesitated a bit because of the fiasco we experienced with CPO at the Swamp Stomp in Florida just a few weeks earlier. After about fifteen minutes we decided we were sure of the misplacement and decided to move on. Later it was confirmed by the race director that the CP had indeed been misplaced.

[Bolton Valley has lots of trails!]

From CP8. we came off the ridge to collect number 7 by dropping just over three hundred feet in elevation, down a drainage. We made short work of it and were quickly on our way to TA2. There we received instructions and a point on the map where we would go to find our skis. When we arrived there we quickly threw our shoes in our packs, strapped our snowshoes under the convenient outside bungee, and changed into our ski boots which we had been carrying.

We skied a short bit before realizing the temperature had risen immensely and the kick wax we had on the our skis was useless. Despite the lack of kick to our classic skis we managed to quickly collect the next three checkpoints, CP9, CP10, and CP11. There was a key route choice on the way to CP11 that avoided lots of slow moving steep terrain. Excited by the fact that we had spiked all of the ski controls thus far, we were delighted to find out from the crew at CP12 that we had over an hour lead on the other teams. But racing in winter snow has a caveat: as first place team, we'd not only broken trail for all the other teams, but effectively were navigating for them as well. We had to be clean and make route choices quickly to avoid being run down.

The ski to CP13 was extremely difficult in 4-foot-deep snow. We travelled the Catamount trail for awhile, found our cut-in, and decided we had to hike carrying our skis and poles the whole way. It was simply not possible to advance any further while on skis. We navigated our way directly into CP13 but did not see it at first because it was placed seemingly higher on the slope than the map was showing. After hiking up the steep face through waist deep snow and collecting CP13 we made our way slowly, breaking trail towards CP14. Our route had us contouring across the slope slowly gain elevation while looking for a large reentrant/drainage that held the CP.

We spent the next hour-plus searching for CP14 in frustration--and what seemed to be a maze of unmapped drainages. Two other teams caught up to us and were also unable to find the CP, we decided to bail to a bigger relocation point on a huge ravine. Within minutes, we found the CP. Still, it was possible we'd blown our lead, and we rushed off with the other teams in hot pursuit. We finished the difficult trail break up to TA3 still in first place, though, and nearly set the Tyrollean traverse on fire as we crossed it in haste.

We quickly threw on our snowshoes and ran the three remaining kilometers to the finish. We were the first team to arrive, earning us first place overall and in our division, finishing in just under ten hours. Big thanks to SmartWool, which kept us warm during the race, and GoLite, whose packs managed to hold all of our stuff!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Congratulations again to you both for posting the fastest time on the course this past weekend. You certainly fought through some tough challenges! And I'm also glad you enjoyed the snowshoe section...there were certainly some fantastic views. The sun even peeked out for a few minutes at one point.

I'm looking foward to seeing you at an event in the future.