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