Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Elk Mountain Grand Traverse? 2011 Off the couch....

When the van dropped me off at the house on Sunday, Anne had left a note and was at the city pool with the kids. I was hungry and a little car sick all at the same time from the windy roads. I was also a little tired. I had just returned from Aspen. How's your Aspen? It all started a few days earlier...... Play Wayne's World "back in time footage".

Monday the week before I had run into a couple of friends that were doing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse (GT). They both thought I was doing it. Nope. Just not motivated at sign up time in December. I also hadn't lined up a sucker, er I mean partner. You have to go through check points with your partner so it is good to have a compatible person for the 40 mi slog, er I mean ski. I came home and Anne was smiling like she had a secret and knew she was right about something at the same time. She finally tells me that our friend Ted was looking for a partner for the GT. She had been giving me a hard time all winter saying that someone was going to call and I was going to do the race. I kept telling her, "No I don't think so...." I have a really hard time saying no to an adventure...... I went back and forth several times. I could do it I think. I have all the stuff I need from last year. I am in pretty good shape. But the weather could really suck. A storm is supposed to be coming in. I could be really sore/tired trying to get there. Ted has about 10 years on me and he hadn't done the race really fast in the past so I figured at the minimum I could go as fast as him. I finally called and said I was was 90% in. He said he wasn't planning on racing so I thought I could do it "tour" mode easy enough (maybe). It turned out his first partner had to have hernia surgery a while ago and his next partner had cut the tip of his thumb off with a skill saw. An interesting side note, Ted and these two ex-partners along with another guy doing the race had all joined me on 3day ski in the backcountry 8 years ago around the West Elk mts. Ricky G who started the race was also on that trek. RIP Dave M....

So I dug out all my GT gear. Ted was using light weight backcountry gear. Just a bit heavier than nordic gear. So I decided to use the same. I had some light alpine touring stuff but thought it'd be best to go on the same type of skis. Other stuff; beacon, probe poles, shovel, pack, ski repair kit, ski skins, goggles, stove, head lamps, gloves, hats, bivy sack, pole basket, ski binding, clothes...... He came by on Wednesday and we sorted out our shared gear. He said he would come by on Friday and take me up to the registration Friday morning. So it was a go.

The registration went smoothly. It's always fun because you know most of the people doing the race and some I hadn't seen in quite a while. We had an express pass to the front of the line as we had already purchased our COSAR back-country rescue cards. And then the lady felt sympathetic for me switching partners late as he had cut off his thumb and only charged my $25 instead of $75. And we got a low number for the gear check. They fed us some fine pasta lunch after the prerace meeting. It sounded like the chances were good that the weather would break just enough to give us a window to get to Aspen.  Our gear check went well--nothing missing. I always feel like I forgot something. Now we just had to get everything else ready and come back at 10:30 for the prerace check in at the high school. 

Ted swung by and we headed to Crested Butte at 10pm. It was snowing hard and we could barely make out the road. Hmmm. It was getting colder as we went also which is good. At CB, the temp was around 25 at 11:00. We got our beacons checked and gave them a bag to carry to Aspen for us. Then time to check out the wax. If the temperature is too warm, then you can't get the kick wax to work and the snow melts on you as it falls and you get wet and cold. We went with a extra blue. There was about 4-5 inches of fresh snow on the course in town. Ted's pack was a bit heavier than mine but he was well stocked and had lot of kick wax. Then we saw Bryan, Becky's partner in a panic. I did the race in 2009 with Becky as a late switch also. Bryan was testing his skis. Apparently for the first time of the year. Anyway he grabbed skis with pilot bindings and his boots were the older version. The problem--the old boots didn't fit into the groove of the new bindings as the groove on the boots was too small. So Ted pulls out a knife (remember Ted was our Mr. Gadget) and gives it to Bryan. Bryan starts cutting his boot and last I saw of him and Becky, they were discussing what to do.

As midnight approached, the snow began to let up.  We lined up for the start; it was very pleasant out with just a little wind and snow. Reverend Tim said the traditional prayer and they said some other things that I couldn't hear and off we went out across the nordic ski track with the fresh snow and up to the ski area. 

Managing sugars and insulin. This year I was trying my new Dexcom 7 continuous glucose meter (CGM) which I kept in my ski pants pocket. I checked my glucose at the start and it was looking good. I had taken 15U of Lantus at 9:30. I was also carrying my meter and Humalog insulin in a pouch that I hung from a cord around my neck and tucked under my shirt to keep it from freezing. This race really is hard for me to control my sugars. Maybe it is because it starts at midnight or that it is so long. Bike rides I can easily go for a long ride and about the same time as a race to try and anticipate what will happen. Not as easy with this race. OK I could get up and ski at midnight but for 40 miles? Maybe....

We started at a mellow pace for me and hit the top of the ski area with no issues.The easy pace was good for checking sugars. I could pretty easily look at the Dexcom and I could easily get ahead enough to check it with the meter every now and then. The graph below shows the Dexcom results. Blue dots are its readings and the red are the inputted values from my meter. As you can see at about 4am, I checked my sugar and it was much higher than the CGM. So it reset the meter. Then a while later I tested it again and it was way lower. Down in the too low range actually. At this point, the meter gave an error saying that it didn't know what was going on. So I had to wait and later I entered a value and it started going again. The next reading was a bit off but then the next was more in the ball park. So far in my testing it seems that the meter has more issues in ski races.....?? We'll see as biking starts up soon.

Dexcom results for the race






We skied down the back side of the ski area with only a few crashes on the skinny skis and headed out down east Brush Creek. We held a pretty mild pace and skied with the likes of Jim Dirksen and Dave Scheefer. Dave wasn't looking hot and I figured he would be farther up. We slowly climbed up to Friends hut. I had enough time to visit the pit toilet, drink some water and hang out while waiting for Ted. I was feeling pretty good, Ted was slowing down and said he didn't feel super.. The volunteers at the Hut were super helpful and nice. One was a girl, Amelia,  in Anne's class at WSC. She was very spunky. Many students help out with the race. Everything from the mountain rescue team to giving water out.  Now the big climb starts. Ted was moving even slower up here. Must have been his huge pack! The weather on Star Pass was very nice. No wind! It was still pretty cold but the sun was beginning to hit the top of the peaks, clouds hung on the tops of some and down in the valleys. The 1/4 moon was out. Highlights: at the top you traverse over to the descent. Here I didn't slide down a large section of sun crust! A girl just ahead of us slid down for quite a ways and was still trying to get back up when we went over the pass. As you begin the descent, there were several large ice steps with quite a fall beneath them and then a huge bowl of powder. I made it across without falling and actually caught some older guys on AT skis at the bottom of the 1000' drop. We slowly climbed back up out of the trees and over Taylor pass. Again NO WIND. These passes are usually so windy and cold you could easily be on Mt Everest. The sun was now out and I was getting very warm. The pace was very easy for me and I had to wait quite a bit. I didn't care really except that I was so hot. We made it to Barnard hut and had a nice long break. They make you stay 10 min but we were there at least 25. I had some pizza, raman noodles and filled my water. Dirksen was there and was looking pretty haggard. I put on some of Ted's warmer wax. Ted stayed with his blue extra.

Ted, Jim Dirksen, and Me.


Now we just had 7 miles of Richmond ridge. The snow was nice in the shady areas and I was getting good kick. Ted was having a hard time and ended up putting on his skins. This ridge just sucks. We got through it and skied down Aspen mountain. Many people cheered us on as we descended. But people don't slow down for you. While going past a "slow" sign, I swear a guy passed me doing 50mph.

At the finish, 14:28:30
I felt pretty good at the finish. I ate some soup they had for us and got a beer in my new beer cup. I also got a hug and a medal! We hung out in the sun for a while and then got a ride to a friends small house across town (Thanks Tom!). We showered and took a nap. Then we hopped on a bus that evening for the awards. And then we went back and fell into a deep deep sleep........... The next morning we took the free bus to have breakfast. We also grabbed the free paper with the GT race story. I guess the property taxes must be quite a bit around these parts. Aspen people just are just so different also. Many had shoes that probably cost as much as my bike... Then the van ride back..........................