Somewhere in the middle of Corbet’s I had to decide:
Drop the iced Buff that was choking off precious oxygen, or protect my face and hope my numbed hands didn’t freeze solid.
I raced my first Randonee event yesterday; a grueling course that zigged and zagged its way across Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It was an extremely fun event, I only wish I had my gear a bit more dialed in. A new race backpack which I was unfamiliar with, less than fresh climbing skins, and general inexperience with the format all added stress and reduced speed.
The start of the race was the coolest part: a mass start with all souls clambering for post position. I quickly found my pace, and was moving at a good clip. –going to take a break from the narrative for a second and briefly touch on my reasons for racing: 1. Ever since I started skiing with Mere I have grown to appreciate speedy uphills 2. kinda and extension of one; I wanted to get a feel for her sport 3. My aerobic fitness has increased greatly over the past two years, and I wanted to be able to weigh my progress against the fittest– The tête de la course flew up the first climb and out of sight in minutes, and I was left straggling at the back of the peloton. I maintained this position for the whole race; I ended up yo-yoing with 10 other racers. One would pass at a transition only to be passed in turn at a downhill and so on.
The first downhill was heinous; refrozen icy moguls with 4 inches of sticky fresh on top. It was impossible to tell the difference between a soft pile and a rock hard, eat-your-knees bump. Smooth sailing to the top of tower three. Transition then one of the best Tower Three chute’s I’ve ever skied. As the course clears the top of Toilette Bowl the wind really starts kicking up. Hands start to numb on the White Spider, and as I rise to the top of the Headwall a gust of wind-driven snow stops me in my tracks and burns my face. It is at this time I simultaniously praise the thick layer of Dermatone on my face, and curse the lack of foresight at bringing only sunglasses and no goggles.
Shot 10 was some good skiing, and as I’m settling in for the climb up Tensleep I realize all of my water is frozen solid. Nothing to do but keep going. At the final patch of trees, I don my puffy and buff and prepare to enter the jagged maw of Corbet’s. Transition to bootpack, and the volunteer is telling me to keep my face covered as there are white patches beginning to form. The buff, already saturated with ice, was making breathing extremely difficult, but removing it allowed the icy wind to burn my skin. My hands are already long numb. Nothing to do but keep going. The bootpack is steep and arduous, but the ladder finally enters view. The top of Rendezvous bowl slaps me in the face and calls out my lack of goggles as my contact lenses freeze to my eyes. I throw on my iced sunglasses to offer any sort of barrier but still I am frozen in place by the arctic blast. Finally there is a minute break in the wind and I seize this moment to attack the final bit of the climb. Safely tucked in behind Corbet’s Cabin for my transition I battle with myself, should I step inside and warm up? Hell no. Nothing to do but keep going. The blood and feeling rush back into my hands all at once, and with it comes such a white-hot sensation it takes my breath away.
On the ski down, once again I lament at my lack of goggles, I feel wet behind the ears at my lack of preparation. The wind in my eyes and the ice on my glasses make it impossible to see. Blind, I make it to the bottom of Cheyenne Bowl and am greeted by milder weather. The final climb and descent are relatively uneventful, though I would have killed for some water. The harrowing part was over, and I was able to find solace even in the familiar burning of exhausted legs.
Great experience, Great race!