Race – Ken Jones Classic

Leaders starting the Ken Jones Classic. Photo from Ski Lake Louise.

The 2013 Canadian Ski Mountaineering Cup wrapped up this weekend with the Ken Jones Classic at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta. I left Vancouver early and made it to Lake Louise late in the afternoon. I had just enough time to go for a quick leg-stretcher ski behind the hostel along the river. The Hi-Hostel in Lake Louise is the only reasonably priced place to stay in town and so most of the out-of-town competitors stayed there.

A 8:30am race start dictated a 5:15am wakeup time so we sleepily had breakfast and headed to the hill in the -20 deg Rocky Mountain cold. We checked in at the base and told a cold lift ride up to the mid-mountain lodge for the race start. As usual, Brad took off from the start like a rocket with Peter and myself trailing. We traded leads up the groomer and onto a skin track. In sight of the top transition, I pushed hard to open a gap and give myself a little extra time to rip skins. Brad passed me on the first descent but lost time putting skins on so I took the lead up the second climb.

Now with Peter just behind and a gap on Brad, I was feeling good and cruised to the next transition. The second descent was a steep chute with churned up snow and made for hard skiing on the skinny skis. I lost time looking for the next transition and Peter and Brad caught me putting on skins. Disaster threatened when I switched to using my backup skins and ripped the tip connector off while pulling them apart. I had to stuff it back into my suit and pull out the failing primary skin that I had balled up. I left the transition way after Brad and Peter and had to run to catch back on.

Eric leading the first climb at Ken Jones Classic. Photo from Ski Lake Louise.

We hit the bootpack together and Brad took the lead. I don’t know who dropped into the third descent first but I think I came to the bottom of the steep chute first. I think Brad had a big fall here. From the chute, it was a long low angle descent on groomers and Brad passed me. I tucked in behind and we cruised down to the base of the fourth climb. The transition was poorly marked and we missed it. Brad slammed on the brakes hard and tangled with a tree. I missed the tree but overshot and had to sidestep back up. We all transitioned together and I took off up the final climb leading. Brad passed me on a corner ┬áto take the lead 1/3 of the way up and then we opened a gap on Peter. Passing a tree in the fast low-angled section, the track below me gave out and I slipped into the tree-well getting one ski tangled and losing the other. Brad skied away while I got myself back upright but Peter had caught me. A few seconds later a skin failed and came detached slowing me down further. Peter passed me just after coming out of the trees and I had lost all my gas. I held on with him until my ski came off again (I probably didn’t attach it very well after the tree) and he opened a gap on me. From there I couldn’t close the gap and finished the climb in third. I was hoping for a miracle descent to catch back on but finished a few seconds back. Brad was 1st, Peter 2nd, Myself 3rd. Stano and Nick battled the whole race finishing 4th and 5th respectively.

Nick racing at Ken Jones Classic. Photo from Ski Lake Louise.

Overall the race was not my best. Without skin and gear problems combined with tangling in the tree and some confusion on the descents I probably could have finished higher up. On the other hand, that is just skimo racing so it is hard to complain. On the plus side, all three of us had technical errors with crashes etc. so none of us can really say that this thing cost us and major disadvantage. Finally, I am very happy with third and those guys worked hard to top the podium plus it is a fun race at a cool resort on a beautiful day. It was really fun to be in a tight race battling it out with two guys at a similar speed. It is much more motivating than racing alone, left behind by the pack.

After warming up my fingers and toes in the day lodge, I changed gear to my big skis and spent a few hours riding the lifts skiing Lake Louise and waiting for the awards ceremony. They have some nice steep terrain there and it would be awesome to go back on a powder day. The drive home was long but uneventful with junior racers Martin and Katerina to keep me company.

Stano had already topped the rankings of the Canadian Cup and with this race I managed to sneak ahead of Peter into second.

Results are here

Gear Notes:

  • Standard race kit from Dynafit, Patagonia, Plum and Leki
  • Suunto t6 HRM w/ cadence
  • Primary Skins: Coltex PDG Backup Skins: POMOCO Race

Nutrition:

  • 1 Gu Gel
  • 2 Gu Chomps
  • 400ml Water
  • 500ml Q-Energy

Physiology:

My first three climbs, I was able to maintain a 174 bpm average heart rate. The final climb was initially lower angle but then increased though I stayed at 167 bpm the entire time. This is a fairly significant drop and possibly indicative of a bonk. Looking at my energy consumption, this is entirely likely. I need to be more proactive about taking gels whenever possible – something difficult to do in a tight race.

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