I love the Chena River to Ridge (CR2R) race. For those that don’t know the course, it starts with about 5 miles of fairly flat trail with some overflow. Then there is a several mile very long climb to the ridge followed by some small ups and down but still trending up on the ridge. Then 10 miles mostly downhill on the Compeau Trail but with a few soul-sucking uphills if you aren’t prepared for them. Then back to the start and out for a second loop on the Stiles Creek Trail with another big climb and another long downhill (but this time with steeper ups and downs) followed by about 8 miles of flat at the end. That's 55 miles with over 5000 feet of climbing. You can do either one or both loops. Either way there is a lot of climbing and great views.
The trail was soft and got even softer as I started climbing up from the Colorado Creek Cabin. It was mashed potato snow for all of the climb and the traverse along the ridge. The trail finally firmed up a bit for the 10 mile descent after the check point. One good thing about all of the new snow was that the downhill was not a scary, out-of-control, snowplow-until-your-quads-scream-at-you descent. In fact, I hardly had to snowplow at all. I still managed to fall several times after getting my ski tips stuck in the deeper snow near the edge of the trail. Oh well, soft snow made for soft landings and no injuries except to my pride!
|Mashed potato snow - Yuck!|
A few runners started passing me about 4 miles into the course. Pretty sad when runners are faster than skiers. But such was the case. More runners passed me as we made our way up the big climb. It was slippy on skis with the new snow, so I had to mostly walk and herringbone instead of actually ski. But on the long downhill back to the start I was able to pass almost all of them back. It was so fun to finally make miles without a lot of effort. I think the runners were a bit envious of me swooping by them.
|Laura McDonough, a well known Anchorage endurance runner, catches up to me on the climb.|
I started passing the bikers around Colorado Creek Cabin, 6-7 miles in. Before that, some of them had already decided to turn around and DNF. I ended up passing most of the bikers. They had to push most of the 10 miles between the cabin and the checkpoint. And even when the bikers could ride, it was pretty slow. It did not look like fun although they seemed to be making the best of it. What else could they do? I was extremely glad I had made the decision to ski. Skis were the way to go out there on the course.
|This was Alyssa's first fat bike race. If she can do this, she should do great with other races.|
I was back and forth with a lot of the 26-mile skiers. About 8 of us showed up at the checkpoint within 5 minutes of each other. We were all in good moods and having fun. I don’t think any of us were really racing. About 4 miles from the finish, I had to stop and refuel. In the couple of minutes that I stopped, four skiers passed me. They were all faster than me on the downhill, so I never caught any of them. Oh well, no podium finish for me!! But I was happy to have that sugar and caffeine in my system for the last uphill that was ahead. And it allowed me to push on the flat and stay ahead of a runner who I passed just a half-mile from the finish. I guess there was a little competitive spirit left inside of me.
|Taking a break at the check point/aid station.|
|Finisher photo with Becky, who finished a few minutes in front of me.|
My stomach didn’t do well all day, and I had a hard time eating enough. At only four hours in, I tried to eat some Skratch chews but couldn’t get them to go down. I ended up spitting them out, which set up a gag response. That doesn’t usually happen until about 10 hours into an event, not at only four hours. I’m not sure what happened, though I haven’t really done any hard efforts this winter. Maybe not enough training? Doesn’t matter, except I didn’t eat much for a seven-hour effort, and when I don’t eat, I definitely slow down.
|Snow art by one of the bikers.|
The last 2 times I skied this race, I was able to ski the first 26 miles in 5.5 hours. This time it took me just under 7 hours. My excuse is the conditions. And not fueling enough. But I know it’s inevitable that I will start slowing down. I think I still have visions of what I should be able to do, which may not actually line up with reality. I probably am already slowing down compared to five years ago, but I don’t want to admit that! I’m really hoping I have a few faster (for me) years left. I still do intervals and have started being more consistent with strength workouts, but I'm not sure they are making a difference. Maybe it’s time to start adjusting my goals to be more realistic about my age?
Nah, not yet, but maybe soon. I still have a few goals out there that I want to accomplish. Like the Unbound Gravel 350 and the Trans South Dakota. And that Everest that I didn’t finish. Might have to go for that again, too. But for today, I’m just going to relax and rest.