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OR Randonnée Rally, Alpental, February 25, 2006

I was determined to participate in the Alpental Randonnée Rally this year as a contestant, but February wasn't the best of months from a health perspective. Ten days of the killer respiratory condition that has been stalking Seattle, followed by stomach flu the week of the event didn't help, not to mention the sore back and hip from tossing a case of Molson on top of our kitchen supplies box before loading it into the car in Whistler on Wednesday . . . I contemplated bailing, but Kevin and Michael were already signed up, so I got out of bed shortly before 5:00 AM and made a move for the Pass.

Although only about 40 people had pre-registered for the event, race organizer Martin Volken and family were overwhelmed with about 35 more eager skiers in the Alpental lodge, so registration and release signing took some time. At 8:30, the group lined up for the Le Mans start adjacent to the Sessel chairlift, and Martin did a beacon check and gave last minute instructions. Pretty straightforward stuff - go up through the red gates, down through the blue gates, don't hit paying customers . . . The course went up Sessel and International, down the Edelweiss side into Rollen, around the rock band to a mandatory boot pack section, then back to the summit. Then came a descent on International, cutting over to Snakedance and through the trees to the base area, where the recreational division finished (a total ascent of about 2,700 vertical feet). The race division went up again following the same path, then cut looker's right toward Piss Pass from the base of Upper International. Racers turned around at Piss Pass, then descended by the same route as on the first lap.

Not expecting to be front runners, Kevin and I lined up near the back of the race group next to Garth Ferber of the NWAC, with Michael and Corinne directly in back of us in the rec group. Martin gave the countdown, and we ran to our skis and began skinning.

The opening pace was brisk but not outlandish; I passed a couple of people and was passed by a couple, but the pecking order sorted itself out pretty quickly and by the time the steep skinning started, the faster skiers had gone to the front and a well-ordered line of people made steady progress up International. Marge passed me on the traverse from Lower International to the base of Adrenalin, then Michael caught me part way up Upper International.

We had both been sick the week of the race, and the conversation went something like this:

"Hey dood, how you feeling?"

"Pretty shitty"

"Yeah, me too"

At the top, I de-skinned and headed down the ridge, making decent time on the choppy downhill and dropping into the Rollen gap. Somehow, I had it in my mind that the course would go the bottom of Rollen, and I made the mistake of taking a couple of turns down the hill under the cliff band, only stopping when I heard course workers yelling at me. I took off my skis and started booting up in partially-consolidated powder while ten or twelve racers who hadn't taken the wrong turn passed me; a pretty costly mistake in terms of time and effort.

Skiing down International was actually pretty good, considering the weariness in my legs and the skinny skis. Dropping into 'Nash was kind of exciting, as the guy right in front of me biffed just as he rounded the corner and I was just a few feet back, necessitating a quick jump over his skis as I hit the traverse. A number of racers seemed to have more trouble with the tracked up soft snow in Sundance and Elevator Shaft lower down, but the course was set to avoid conflict with lift skiers who were already poaching what was left of the soft snow from Friday and it seemed to work.

I was feeling a bit worked after the first lap and a little worried about the second, but steadied my pace a little and headed up again. I passed a couple of people, and came up on Kevin who was one of those who had gone by during my extra-long boot pack. Knowing each other's pace well, we settled into a rhythm and cruised to Piss Pass together.

We kept our skins on for the return traverse back to International, but one of my skins was off-center (the result of applying skins without taking off my skis) and I slipped and fell a couple of times on an icy steep spot, finally taking my skis off and booting for a few feet and allowing several skiers including Kevin to pass by. As we got to the de-skinning zone, Kevin was just about to take off, and I told him I'd see him at the bottom.

My legs were toast for the final ski down, but remarkably I passed about three skiers on the way and opened it up on the final groomed section down Sessel, hoping that no one would pull out in front of me, and crossing the line in 2 hours 19 minutes and change.

After the race, Kevin and I headed back to his house for some relaxation, coffee and hot soup, then went back to Alpental for the awards ceremony. Martin and his daughters handed out some REALLY nice swag, much of it donated by companies like OR, Dynafit/LifeLink, Mountain Hardwear, Petzl and Suunto.

Result highlights included 2nd in women's Rec and 3rd in the men's Rec divisions for Corinne and Michael Trommsdorff (see above photo). Karen Kingsley (I should have suspected something when I saw her pulling away in a RONA team issue skin suit) smoked the women's race field (and all but two of the men's race field) to win her division, while Andy Traslin of Vancouver, BC won the men's Race event.

Race results are here:

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