Lesson’s Learned


Last turn to the finish line.

2016 Alley Loop ski Marathon, Crested Butte, Colorado

The little town of Crested Butte is proud of their local ski marathon but there’s probably debate on which part of it they are most proud of.  It could be the costume portion of the event in which they brag  as America’s Largest Costumed Cross-Country ski race. Or, it could be the Bar Crawl, complete with wacky games held in the closed off main street on race eve (Friday night). Whatever it is you can’t discount the popularity of 300 participants braving that chilly single digit race morning.

42K Classic event? What was I thinking?
Here’s a recap:

I’m a bit rusty on waxing. Predictions were in negative teens overnight and warming to 20 by mid day. The night before I camped out at the nordic center/ice rink and borrowed the wax bench to iron in a binder wax followed by multi layers of blue and green wax.

(Note to you: Check out the Ice Rink!  A nice facility with small nordic center which also doubled as the warming hut for the regulation size outdoor ice rink, complete with Zamboni. It was packed with teens coming out in droves for a social night of free skating in the 5 degree weather.)

It was minus 19 that morning –  a perfect excuse to wear a thin clown suit for an extra layer for warmth. 9:40am start for the 42K Classic. My wax is kinda okay – not the best grip but I’m hoping it’ll get better as the day warms. Glide could be worse but maybe that will improve over time too. One hour later: glad I’m wearing the clown suit because no one is taking me too seriously and my slow speed fits perfectly with my costume.

Overall, my skis were dogs! My skis were not only slow but slippery as the day progressed. I had waxed too warm for the conditions – I layered blue waxes, when green was the true call. Waxes are supposed to interact with the ice crystals so that the snow can stick to the wax (grip) but break away from the wax during the glide. If the wax is too hard (cold) the snow crystal can’t dig into the wax and you have slippery skis. On the opposite side, if the wax is too soft (warm) then the snow crystals start digging into the wax and not break away and makes the skis slow, kinda like rubbing two pieces of sandpaper together. In extreme cases, a too soft, or warm wax, will collect a pile of snow on the bottom of your skis so you don’t go anywhere at all. The snow doesn’t break way from the ski bottom and you’ll often end up with a mound of snow attached below your feet.

What’s the solution if the wax is too warm/soft? It’s pretty easy, just requires a scrapper and a little effort to remove the sticky wax then reapplying some colder wax. Easy to say. So why didn’t I do just that? My waxes were in a fanny pack attached to the small of my back…

… a stitch in time saves nine. I could have saved time and physical energy, and cut nearly an hour  off of my 4 hour jaunt if I had stopped and re-waxed. I did have some trouble with my bindings and that probably clouded my judgement. In hind sight I had the perfect opportunity while I was skiing with a local guy about half way through the event. He was just out having fun on the trail and would gladly helped my with my weird binding prediciment.

But I didn’t stop. It was a beautiful day. My hopes of the snow warming up never happened but I was so emotionally charged by just being in the event I had a serious euphoria high going on. I was so happy to see the finish line I nearly cried.

Lessons learned? I should have stopped and re-waxed. Good lesson. Too bad our best lessons are learned by mistakes.

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