This is a goofy, fun race. I did it a number of years ago for the first and only time and wasnít supposed to be doing it this year because I was supposed to be skiing with the Toolman in Breckenridge. When T-man took ill, he headed home earlier and I was free to enter this race. My friend Ken Leiden was taking over as race director this year, itís 21st year, and he sent me this email with the race description:
Saturday, Mar. 5, 2005
9:30am Registration; 10:00 Start (La Mans Style)
1. All contestants must carry these survival items: Sleeping bag, stove &
fuel, container for boiling 8 oz of water, two raw eggs (in shells &
unbroken), compass, pocket knife, matches or lighter, XC wax, map of
anywhere you have ever skied. Recommended: wind screen for stove and
container for eggs.
2. check-ins: A) Tennessee Mtn. Cabin where you boil 8 oz of water. B)
Top of Twin Twisted Tree where you dig a snow pit, and lay in it in your
sleeping bag (shovels provided). C) Ho-hum Run above the trailhead where
you will telemark down, try two eggs and eat them. Time stops when eggs are
consumed. Approximate distance will be 10km on "skied in", not groomed,
3. Contestants must run the entire course with the same skis, poles, boots,
or snowshoes. Since this is a classic race, skating will not be allowed.
2 mins for the oldest skis (must be over 15 yrs old) or the oldest
2 mins for genuine wooden skis or snowshoes
2 mins for person with map from farthest away place you have skied
2 mins for wearing a costume
30 secs for completing course wearing a silly hat
15 secs for each telemark turn completed on Ho Hum (up to 20 turns)
Additional Awards For:
Most Original Costume
Most Creative egg cooking
Anything else we can think of!
The one other time I did this race, a snowshoer won it and I was second, the first on skis. Actually, that was just my finishing position. I slipped to 5th or 6th when the deductions were all tabulated. Basically, the winner of this race is up to the whims of the judges. That's cool and it's all part of the fun.
This year Kreighton was doing it and he was on snowshoes. I told him that it was an advantage to be on snowshoes, mainly because former winners have been on shoes, but also to relieve myself of the pressure of keeping up with him. It turned out that snowshoes were a distinct disadvantage on this course.
The photo above shows the LeMans start - where you have to run to your skis and put them on when the race starts. Kreighton had special snowshoes where he screwed running shoes directly onto the shoes - there was no binding. This was very light, but precluded a LeMans start. He was about to take his shoes off and do the start in his socks, but I took pity on him and convinced the judges to just let him keep the shoes on, but not start before the first skier.
Here's the LeMans start. I'm on the far left, costume-less, Ken is dressed as a Neon Con (get it?), Lexi, the 20-time winner, is in red. As you can see, the field isn't huge. We had six total racers. The most they've ever had is about twenty. When I last did it, it was 10-15, I think.
You can see my foot in the lower right corner of this photo. I was the first one to take off on my skis. Kreighton followed close behind me and we opened up a bit of a gap. I was doing the race on skis with fishscale bottoms. The other top skiers were on waxed skis and when things got flat or downhill, as it rolls a bit in the earlier going, Jeff and Lexi both went by me. On a steep section Kreighton went by me and I was back in 4th place. A long flat section with some downhills allowed me to pass Kreighton back and get a good gap on him.
Eventually, we get to a steep singletrack section and this is where it gets tough for the skiers. I had to do lots of herringbone and sidestepping here, but continued to work hard. I caught and passed Lexi, moving into 2nd place, but it wasn't long before Kreighton caught and passed me. We were both closing on Jeff, though, and we both went by. I tried to keep Kreighton in sight and when he hesitated at a junction, I caught him and went by, leading the final rise to the cabin, where we'd boil our water.
I told Kreighton to sing out when he wanted to pass. Both Jeff and Lexi had gracioiusly stepped to the side to let me pass. In this race, we go hard, but it is a very friendly race. The terrain eased a bit and the glide of my skis allowed me to get about a 30-second lead on Kreighton by the cabin. At this point we'd done most of the climbing in the race and I knew it was going to be hard for Kreighton to beat me now. Plus, I had a secret weapon.
I stepped out of my skis, took off my pack, and whipped out a JetBoil camp stove. This things rocks! I boiled 8 ounces of water at my house (elevation 5500 feet) in a little over a minute the night before. It maybe took two minutes here at 10,000 feet, but I clearly had the best stove. The problem was that I couldn't operate it! I lost nearly a minute turning the fuel dial the wrong way! Talk about a brain cramp. A volunteer notified me of my error and soon I was boiling water. While the water boiled, I whipped out my camera to take some photos and also distribute candy bribes to all the judges.
Soon the water was going at a hearty boil and I was off down the trail before anyone else had boiled their water. I was now confident, being the first one up the hill, I knew I was fit enough to win. I knew I had the best stove. Now I just needed to push to the finish. I cruised down the steep upper section and then climbed back in a loop to where Kreighton had hesitated on the ascent. I met Ken here, on his way up. He was a bit surprised to see me already heading down and he asked if I was first.
I took the left turn and tried to work hard along the single track trail that went for a long ways along the side of the mountain. The track was narrow and I knew it would be very difficult for Kreighton. I knew he was no longer a threat. But Jeff and Lexi had faster skis than mine and Lexi had caught me before on this section, but I had too big of a lead today.
I made one wrong turn and headed up the wrong trail, losing maybe a minute or so, but no one caught me. I got back on track and headed down to the wide trail, where I made the correct right turn and climbed steeply up a trail to the snow pit test. I stepped out of the skis, grabbed a shovel and dug a big trough. I pulled out my sleeping bag and got into it, lying in the trough. The officials made me zip the bag completely up and made sure I was below the snow level. When I got the thumbs up, I tried to unzip the bag, but the zipper was jammed. Dang! I tried for a few seconds and then just pulled the bag down without unzipping. I jammed it into my pack and was off before anyone else was in sight. I had to have at least five minutes on the field.
Now things went bad for me. I missed a crucial turn to the left and headed way down the wrong trail. When I hit the ascent course, I knew I was in trouble. I turned around and followed the ascent course back to the finish. I then had to climb up the slope, reversing the course to the top of the telemark hill. I got to the top of the hill, just as Jeff and Lexi emerged from the trail and started their descent. I had fallen back into third place. Dang!
Jeff couldn't ski downhill very well and he fell. Both Lexi and I went by, doing our 20 telemark turns for the judges. She skied into the finish area ahead of me, but I had the Jet Boil. I fired it up and started cooking the eggs. Lexi was doing a much more elaborate job with her eggs and even lit some sparklers. She was also telling the judges about how you couldn't win this race without a costume and to notice her style. I knew I had no chance to beat her in the final standings, but I did get my eggs down before her, posting the fasting finishing time of the race at 1h10m. Lexi doused her eggs with beer to cool them down enough to eat fast and finished a minute after me. Jeff was 3 or 4 minutes later, to complete the top three.
It was twenty minutes before the next racer came in and it was our race director, Ken Leiden, the Neon Con. He had stripped off half his costume due to over heating and this decision would cost him the Best Costume award. He casually cooked his eggs and coasted to a 4th place finish.
Don, the Sushi skier, came next down the ski slopes and then Kreighton came from the other direction, the direction of the start, and the direction I finished before climbing up the finishing hill. I kidded him that he needed to climb up that hill as well, and he even started off in that direction, before the judge told him to just take a penalty. Of course, nothing is too official here and there was no point in making him climb up the hill when he was already in last place.
Kreighton and Don had one heck of an egg cook-off. Don made Egg Sushi and won for the best egg cooking. Kreighton made Eggs Benedict and finished a very close second. Kreighton also won for best costume, though I thought Ken's was better, because Kreighton stayed in costume the entire race.
We waited for the judges to work their voodoo magic and come up with a final standings. I wasn't surprised to see Lexi with the victory. I was surprised to even get second place and only did so because Jeff was equally lacking in flair and the gap to the next racers was just too great.
In this race everyone brings a gift and you choose your own prize based upon the order of your finish. Here I am (photo above) with my selection - an Australian Port. This turned out to be a poor choice. Sheri and I drank it at dinner that night and it was too thick and too strong for our unsophisticated palettes.
Ken took fourth, then Don, and finally Kreighton. Only the top two finished out of time order - unusual for only two to be swapped at this race. I had a great time in this goofy race and if I can just put together a costume and some style and presentation and better egg cooking and better route finding and... Well, I just might stand a chance at winning this thing. Especially if the field gets any smaller!
Thanks for a great race, Ken!
I made a short video of this race and it can be viewed here: Rising Sun Video.
All photos in this report courtesy of Ken Leiden.