Thursday, March 31, 2011

Konieczny Captures Women's Marathon Circuit

Rebecca Konieczny of UAF via West Yellowstone Montana skated away with the unofficial women's three race marathon tour of Alaska.

You could say, well, she was the only person who completed all three races. While this is true, but she did it with style and power by taking 3rd in the women's elite field at the Tour of Anchorage (2:45:18), winning the Oosik Classic (2:39:15), and finishing a strong 2nd (less than a minute behind TOA winner Melissa Lewis) against a good field at the Sonot Kkaazoot (2:36:04).

Konieczny just missed qualifying for the NCAA championships, which held earlier this month in Vermont. Nevertheless, she used the best of her time to against some of the best skiers in the state, including Lewis and Rachel Steer at TOA, and teammate Raphael Sieber at the Oosik.

In the old days of the Great America Ski Chase (now known as the USA Marathon Circuit, which is much more low-key) Konieczny certainly would have had the attention of the factory teams.

Wednesday Night Series #6: 2X 4X 1.1K of Slop and Mayhem

Here's the Official Run Down from Series Organizer Ken Leary

Raphaela Sieber and Cody Priest (in shorts) skied to first place in the final WNRace for the 2010/11 season. A four lap relay on the North Forty trail had 12 teams of two and one team of three skiing 8 laps individually. A party followed the race with pizza, refreshments and series prizes totaling over $600.00 from our sponsors. Somebody went home with TOKO Jet Stream powder.

I would like to thank again our WNRace sponsors Joel Buth at Goldstream Sports, Greg Whisenhant at Beaver Sports, Mike Hajdukovich at Challenge life LLC, the Daily News-Miner and Bob Eley and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks. Please thank these individuals personally and support their businesses when possible.

If you have an interest in a few spring races this April, email me and we will try and put together a few short 5-10k races while the snow is good. Pleae send all feedback to

Thank you for coming out this year for races and we'll see you again next year for the WNRace Series 2011/12.

Tonight's Results:

1. Cody Priest/Raphaela Sieber 28:13
2. Wayne Peppler/Dave Arvey 28:43
3. Jim Button/Roger Sayre 28:50 (geezers, age 45 and 53)
4. Will Coleman/Rebecca Kornieczny 29:36
5. Alex Morris/Alan Spangler 30:06
6. Stefan & Mike Hajdukovich 30:07
7. Dave Edic/Bob Baker 32:02 (geezers, age 53 and 53)
8. Joel Pierson/Julia Pierson 32:59
9. Sam Hiltenbrand/Tristan Sayre 33:09 (youth, age 13)
10.Davya Flaharty/Mark Ross/Ken Leary 34:05 (Ross & Leary were slow)
11.Matt Stoller/Brandon Hoover 40:23
12.Jim Smith/John McKinney 41:15

Here's my Unofficial Report

With 3 inches of fresh snow and warm temperatures (30s and 40s on Tuesday and Wednesday) the trails for the final Wenesday Night Race was described by several skiers as "sucky" in that it sucked and the moisture sucked any speed out of your skis.

With just 12 teams the field was small but included a competitive group of skiers, including several current and former University of Alaska women's skiers plus men's skiers just off of the Alaska marathon circuit.

UAF student Will Coleman took off quickly and blasted to a 10 second lead over up and coming marathon specialist and UAF student Cody Priest, with Jim Button close behind. UAF's Rebecca Kornieczny held the lead through her leg, but NCAA qualifier Raphaela Sieber had caught up by the tag off. Priest took the lead on his second circuit, which the team extended as the race proceeded. Meanwhile a tight, accordian-like, three way race developed for 2nd place developed between the masters team of Button/Sayre, 30-somethings Peppler/Arvey, and the Coleman/Kornieczny duo.

By the end of 8 grueling laps (everyone looked rather uncomforatable!) the Priest/Sieber team prevailed with a 30 seconds lead over Peppler/Arvey, who were 7 seconds ahead of Button/Sayre.

My Own Personal Race Report

You're darn right that sucked! Very hard effort. I was right behind Sieber on the first leg and tried to hang with her, quickly throwing myself into oxygen debt. This resulted in an asthma attack which instensified after I got home and lasted through most of the night. But hey, that's racing. Sign me up for next year.

Post Race Party

Racers convened at Ken Leary's house, right off of the Birch Hill trails, for pizza and refreshments. And the sponsors provided an array of door prizes, waxes, and gear so everyone won something.

Overall Champions
Men - Wayne Peppler
Women - Julia Pierson
Masters - Dave Edic
Youth - Kuba Grzeda

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Ski Marathon Circuit - Men's

March is one of my favorite months here because there are so many ski marathons. I've sort of compiled a list of the racers who did the big three Alaska marathons in terms of participation (Tour of Anchorage, Oosik Classic, and Sonot Kkaazoot), plus mention several other notable athletes who did at least three ski marathons in the past month. [This list may not be complete so let me know if I'm missing people that you know].

ALL-ALASKA CIRCUIT--TOA, Oosik, Sonot--(Total Combined Time)

Eric Soederstrom---2:33:56, 2:19:06, 2:13:48 (7:06:50)
Don Haering--------2:27:35, 2:26:52, 2:25:10 (7:19:37)
Dave Arvey---------2:33:08, 2:25:59, 2:28:09 (7:27:16)
Alex Morris--------2:34:15, 2:32:07, 2:25:34 (7:31:56)
Roger Sayre--------2:40:22, 2:53:47, 2:34:12 (8:08:21)
Mikail Glasinov----2:51:04, 2:38:41, 2:46:55 (8:16:40)
David Apperson ----2:47:21, 2:54:21, 2:35:11 (8:16:53)
Eric Buetow--------3:53:44, 3:54:18, 3:35:32 (11:23:34)
Tim Mowry----------4:23:48, 4:29:25, 3:51:53 (12:45:06)

Soederstrom, known more as a sprint specialist made some waves earlier this winter with some high finishes at Super Tour and NCAA races in the Lower 48. He improved with each race, and blasted to a near course record at the Sonot to run away with the title ahead of Don Haering of APU (and 2009 AK State High School champion, and Dave Arvey). Haering showed remarkable consistency, while Arvey of Fairbanks was also consistent and strong for each race. Good to see college skiers like Alex Morris and Dave Apperson out there, carrying the torch for the next generation.

Mikail Glasinov and I had a pretty good battle for the age 50+ division. He had an excellent race at the Oosik and had good showings at the Tour and Sonot, and we were only separated by 8 minutes by the end.

Eric Buetow did all 3, and he's almost 60! The intrepid Tim Mowry obviously held back at the Tour and Oosik, but blasted a very nice Sonot. Nevertheless, he could not hold off his wife Kirsten.

Dylan Watts could have easily won the circuit, after taking both the Tour of Anchorage (2:15:01) and Oosik (2:17:02), but he opted for bigger and better than the Sonot and competed in the Super Tour/USSA Distance Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he took 20th in 2:47, about 10 minutes behind champion/Olympian/World Cup skier Kris Freeman.

Bart Dengle was 4th at the Tour (2:15:45), won the Katchemak Bay 40K the following week, and was 18th at the 50K classic Super Tour/USSA Distance Nationals in Sun Valley.

Meanwhile, Mike Kramer of Fairbanks had skied to an impressive 11th at Tour of Anchorage (2:28:25), hung tough a the Oosik (2:37:13), and then skied 100 MILES this past Sunday in the White River 100 to take 2nd skier (10:19).

Tomorrow, the women.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sonot Kkaazoot sounds like a sneeze but it is Athabaskan for spring glide, or spring snow depending on who you ask.

This was my 5th Sonot (2006, '07, '08, '09; injured in '05 and '10). I was one of dozens doing their 3rd ski marathon this month--a March Madness Triple Crown if you will--and had been feeling the cumulative Ks, minutes if not hours of glycogen depletion, lactate build-up, and other maladies all week. Instead of just one day of rest, I took two (and "workouts" were very light).

We had perfect temperatures (about 10 at the start and 20s after the first 12K or so), which was a huge relief. Trails were relatively fast throughout but in some areas very dirty with spruce needles, dirt, birch seeds, and sticks, mostly from a massive wind storm last month. The trail crews did a wonderful job of getting things as ready as possible (sans a Piston Bully)

The field was deeper this year than any time I've been here, featuring several NCAA D1 skiers and some national class club skiers, as well as a small horde of teenagers.

My best finish was 6th in 2009 (weaker field) and best time on this course was 2:41 or so in 2006, but under slower conditions with fresh snow on the track.

As usual for this year (3rd time in a row), the lead peleton of about 20 (including some 20K skiers) broke away into two groups and I dropped back to no man's land.
Karl Kowalksi

but I was lucky to latch onto one of the college women's skiers and we worked together through 7K before she dropped off.
Karl Kowalksi

Up the big ski hill I saw a pack of 6 making their way up, about a minute ahead. I tried to reel them in, but didn't want to go under so had to keep the effort in check. In the past I've pushed too hard here and have paid a price over the last 10K. Skied alone through 25K or so, and then started gaining on a couple guys from that group. But they didn't drop off either, which was fine. The lead pack of women was just a minute or two behind and it was good to have some company.
Aly McPhetres

Slugged it out alone from for about 20K, but caught Riley, one of the youngsters as we entered Black Gold. Over the multitude of switchbacks and climbs out of Black Gold and Outhouse loop I realized I was out of energy gel, the packets had dropped off my belt. So Mike Kramer fetched me a brownie at 35K, which helped a little although it kind of sat in my mouth for throughout Tower Loop because I couldn't swallow.

Caught Nick and Pete from FXC on Relay and Tower loops and so we had a nice little coaches battle going on--I just hoped I wouldn't choke on the slowly dissolving brownie, let alone bonk, collapse on the trail only to be mistaken as detritis by the clean up crew.

The downhill at the Birch Hill ski slope was insane. Nick is built more like a linebacker or tight end. He dropped into a tuck at the top and left me in a semi-tuck/sometimes snowplow (my max speed was 30.5 on that descent, which is moving well for skinny skis). So he had 25 or 30 seconds by the bottom of the hill.

On the river I had to reel him, ever so slowly. All focus ahead, knowing that with each step, that the redoubtable Melissa Lewis and that train of elite women were not far behind. She is deadly on the river; twice I've been taken down over the final kilometers, past Bassett Hospital, which seem eternal.

It took over 6 or 7Ks, but finally caught Nick and Kyle. After catching them I didn't push too hard hoping to have something in the tank with 1K to go. That didn't happen, I'm not much of a sprinter, but did have slightly more glycogen reserve than Kyle.

Puke light on overdrive, crossing the finish line.
Karl Kowalksi

So 13th overall with 2:34:12. So my lowest finish in this race but best time. Top 10 would have been nice but that was 6 minutes ahead.

Sure enough Melissa Lewis was just a minute back leading a string of several women and men skiers.

Erik Soderstom, 2010 1.5K US nationals sprint winner, won in 2:13 by out kicking fellow UAF skier Ray Sabo.

Three marathons in 21 days, two age group wins, and a third place. Not a triple crown, but I'm happy, although very tired. In fact I felt somewhat sick to my stomach for 36 hours after the race.

The biggest compliment of the day came from none other than Mark Ross, who asked "So what's your secret? Taking any enhancements?" Now that was funny.

Time chill for a while.

THX to Bad Bob for good RDing and NCSF for making the Sonot happen. It's my favorite local race, and I won't miss going up and down the ski run next year! Three cheers for new trails.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yea!, boo!, yea! and on let's bring on some spring

Looks like the Sonot 50K will start and finish downtown on the river--and cover all of Birch Hill trails--for the first time since 2007. So that's a big yea!

Add to that, the trails should be fast. We've had an endless high pressure system in the Interior and days have been getting warm (30s) while the nights have been cold (single digits above or colder). Look for winners to be in the low 2:10s. Yea!

Most of the high use trails at Birch look pretty good. Firm and fast, favoring the skiers with good balance and it doesn't hurt to have a decent engine with all those big hills. Yea!

Some of side trails could have used a lot more work after the big storm we had in February. Moilanen's Meadow was punchy--on Tuesday my poles punched through the crust on almost every plant. A light V2 works best, and I might use medium-sized pole baskets. I heard that Outhouse was in similar shape, and North 40/Black Cross loops were in real rough shape a couple weeks ago. So that makes about 14k of fair to poor trail conditions. So that nets neither a yea or a boo. A meh, instead.

They are closing Birch Hill's main lodge on the 27th. Big Boo! for that. They could keep it open another week or two.

The next two or three weeks actually are the best times of the year to ski, but this is when everyone seems to abandon ship. Trail grooming continues, but more at the whim of the groomers. Sort of a simultaneous yea! & boo!

That said, the Borough/NSCF groomers are awesome and have done a great job this year. Yea!

I'm forward looking to the Sonot, and starting to bounce back from the Oosik. Yea!

Moreso than in years past, I'm looking forward to the end of winter. This has been a long one. Yea! for spring, but perhaps boo! for me and staking any claim to being a hard core.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Master of Disaster at the Oosik Classic

I hate having bad races, and it's even worse writing about them. But I did learn a couple of things for future reference.

I was little off even before the start. I slept 8 hours the night before. That is rare in itself, and never before a marathon!

We drove from Wasilla on Saturday morning after a week of spring break skiing at Alyeska, and arrived in Talkeetna later than I had wanted to. And then it took me a while to find an electric outlet so I could us a heat gun to apply klister. I have Toko spray-on klister, which is really slick (i.e., it works real well), but was concerned that the application would not hold up for the entire race. I could have gone old school and used a propane torch, and not even messed with the heat gun.

Anyway, barely got to the start in time.

We were all lined up, with just 2 minutes to go when I slipped off my glove to adjust things and I couldn't get it back on! My hands were both sweaty and had some klister residue on them and the liner of the glove folded inward when I took them off. I just couldn't get my index finger in all the way. Dave Arvey tugged on my glove and I tried to wiggle in, but to no avail.

So off we went. I was right where I wanted to be, probably about 20th at the back of the lead peleton as we double poled up the Susitna River. The snow was punchy and in the first kilometer I hit a drift and sunk to my shin and my pole went down 2 feet into the snow, and of course I fell. Lost that pack and by the time I could get up again I was swallowed by the 2nd pack. Made my way ahead of them and moved up again within a few Ks, helped out by Mike Kramer who had come up from behind. By 10K the 2nd pack started coming back. No problem. The leaders were out of sight but 15th through 25th were right there, some just seconds ahead others in trains within 60 or 90 seconds.

However, by 14K or so, my hand started to ache due to the deformed glove positioning. So I had to stop. I took an energy gel and tried to get my glove back on. By the time I got going again (I gave up on the glove and just stuffed it in my ski suit and skied with a bare right hand for the rest of the way) I had lost between 1.5 and 2 minutes. My competitive race was over.

So from 15 to 35K I skied alone. It was an enjoyable ride though. Over the sloughs, alder banks, birch forest, black spruce, and bogs. With vistas of Denali and the Alaska Range. No one was in sight ahead, but I could see a couple skiers within 30 or 40 sec behind. Stalking. Keeping ahead was not a problem, but I couldn't shake them either.

Back on the river--I didn't know if we had 5K to go or 15K. Such it is with the Oosik, where they set the single and double tracks just a day or two before the race, and do not reveal the course until the start of the race.

The tracks on the river were rough and trashed, the snow had warmed up considerably, I had no kick, and my back and shoulders were fatigued from the double poling. I held on okay, but with 2K to go I got passed by one of the stalkers and then by two more with just a half K left. Fortunately the race ended at about 43.5K. 2:53:46, 31st place and 26.7% back from winner Dylan Watts, and a very distant 3rd in my age group. My last outing at the Oosik (2009) had gone much better, so this is a disappointment.

Each race is an experience and there is always something to work on. What did I learn this time? Spray on klister would be fine (that's what the Toko reps were applying), and it goes on much easier and thinner than using the heat gun or a torch. And after the fact my son informed me that simple old baby powder offsets klister stickiness, and hopefully future glove disasters. And one more (I should have learned this one last time), for the Oosik, it's probably best to stay in Talkeetna the night before the race.

Next week the Sonot Kkazoot 50K: Please, please use Birch Hill Trails and do not make this all on the River. Next year: I want to do Katcehmak Bay in Homer and will skip the Oosik (but I will be back).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tour of Anchorage 2011, an improbable finish

Ever have one of those races, in which you think you’re having just one of those days, believing that you’re heading for abject disaster but somehow everything sort falls into place? I was surprisingly un-fired up this time around, and didn’t start feeling the excitement much until we were on the way to the start. Even that didn’t last very long.

Sunday was an odd day. We were all expecting perfect temperatures in the teens and twenties with super fast conditions. The temps were right on (a little cold, +7, at the start and maybe 20 at the finish), but the snow felt surprisingly slow.

Techie stuff: Atomic World Cup skate skis with a find grind. Wax was 3 layers: Swix LF4/LF3 combo for hardening, a layer of Star HA8, and then topped with Star F2 Flouro powder. I guess it worked.

Foothills and Spencer Loop (0 to 10K)—The leaders took it out fairly moderate for the first couple Ks, and I was still in sight of James Southam’s yellow jersey. But I suddenly found myself in a no man’s land with no one within 20/30 seconds on either side. It would stay that way for the next 47K.

Campbell and Chester Creek urban trails (11 to 30K)—This part of the course is the most fun. The trail descends gradually and winds toward the coast as pass through greenbelt, over bridges, underpasses, and overpasses. No other ski race in North America has anything like this.

Just before the Westchester Lagoon (at about 30K) I passed Will, a local college skier who usually is in the top 20 or so but was having a tough day. And as I emerged into open park area at the lagoon I saw Max, another local skier, ahead by a minute or two.

Coastal Trail (31 to 49K)—The coastal trail is deceptively long and grueling, it is where TOA race dreams get lost. I could feel my quads tightening, especially the right one, and had to dial back into a gentle glide. The snow was mushy and dirty—it looked like brown sugar and felt like slick sand. Up the hill through Earthquake Park I didn’t want to bonk with 10 or 12K to go.

Don’t look back. Just go.
No one ahead. No one behind.

I got through the final feed station (at 42K/with 10K to go) and almost stumbled flat on my face.

Climb into Kinkaid Park (49 to 52 K)—We were down to guts and glycogen. After all those kilometers alone I had two skiers in sight. We started the face slapping ascent (300 feet of climbing) toward the stadium and finish. Suddenly a bunch of those skiers who had pulled away at 2K were coming back, and I passed 4 in the final 3K.

The 50K ended up being more like 52. Finshed 22nd overall with a 2:40:22. Can’t figure this one out. Never felt good and it seemed I was about to blow up the entire way.

This was my 7th Tour of Anchorage and 5th age group win. Trond Jensen of Anchorage was at World Masters (5th in the 10K classic on Monday), and he's in a class by himself for our age group, at least in our region.

Nevertheless, the weather, course, and logistics have been near perfect every time, which is why TOA remains my favorite race in Alaska.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ready or Not Here Comes March Ski Madness

The ambitious plan here is to race three marathons in the next four weekends, plus take in several days of skiing at Alyeska.

Although training has gone pretty well--and great compared to last year and what I thought might be possible at the beginning of winter--I don't think I'm as fit as 2008 and 2009. More like 2006 (when I did the 40 at Tour of Anchorage and was about 10th at the Sonot), or maybe 2007.

In January and February I got in the requisite hours (I think), about 90 hr total. December was more like 32 or 35 hours. What I did lack this time was a consistent 2.5 to 3 hr ski most weeks, interspersed with 1.5 to 2 hr mid week efforts, often with 45 min to 1 hr at L3. Those were hard to come by. Still I got in several good efforts of 2:00 to 2:50, including the the grueling 30K race the other week, the only time I felt a bonk.

I'm actually kind of looking forward to the end of winter. This has been a long-cold one.

And the racing, it's all for fun anyway.