October 23, 2017

Snowshoe + Snow Mountain Bike + Nordic Skate Ski = Winter Triathlon

A selection of the rental skies available at Ski Cooper: the "Madshus" 185s were my weapons this year

Over the weekend I competed in the 3rd annual Aria Spa & Club Winter Triathlon.  Hosted at Ski Cooper’s Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, this annual event offers an excellent winter challenge and a great off-season training day.  The weather was perfect, the sun was out above a crystal clear blue sky and the snow was FAST!   This marks my second year of competing in this winter madness and the experiences from last winter really paid off.  Although nearly thwarted by I-70 ski traffic (I left my home at 6:00 a.m. and did not arrive in Leadville until 9:15 a.m.), I arrived at Ski Cooper approximately 1/2 hour before the starting gun (Bruce of Pedal Power  ALWAYS starts his races on time … this year was no exception).  After a quick run into the Nordic center to grab my rental Nordic gear, it was off to set up my transition area.  Snowshoes on feet with neoprene booties … check.  Mountain bike with helmet and gloves (AND tires set ridiculously low to 12-15 psi) … check.  Nordic ski boots unlaced and ready to go … check.  “Alright folks, let’s gather around” … Bruce calls the racers together at the starting run.  “3, 2, 1 … shoe!”

5K Snowshoe

The shoe course climbed quickly up groomed trail before splitting into a steady climb of single track.  The abundance of consistent snow throughout the winter offered a great base and the trail varied from packed steps to deep plunges through powder.  I quickly settled into a comfortable climbing rhythm and tried to keep my heart rate in the mid-130s (I let it drift upwards a few times), knowing that I needed to conserve energy for my weakest discipline—the Nordic skate skiing.  I kept a steady pace, only slowing to walk/climb the steepest sections.  I have included a short video clip of one of my walking climbs below:

 

10K Mountain Bike

After ditching my snowshoes and grabbing hydration along with a quick bite of solid food, I was on my bike and away (after the 10K hike-a-bike last year, I abandoned my clipless peddle system in exchange for big platforms … this made the transition faster and provided great stability out on the course).  I transitioned away from the Nordic Center and out onto the road leading to Ski Cooper.  The out-and-back course provided some really fast cruising at both the beginning and ending sections of the bike, as the course followed the snow packed entrance road.  Once on the Nordic trails, my bike setup hooked up and I made good time.  In stark contrast to last year’s first race, I rarely struggled for traction and made short order of the bike course.  See the Flip video I managed to shoot while cruising along on “Fish Flats”:

 

8K Nordic Skate Ski

The best comes last at these events!  I slipped into my boots and grabbed my skis with more confidence this year.  I had travelled to the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center earlier in the week to take a second skate ski lesson.  Unlike last year, where veteran athlete and instructor Roxanne Hall had guided me through my initial Nordic skiing start, this year I gained further instruction from Coach Don Quinn.  Don is a Nordic skiing master and an all around nice guy.  We reviewed the keys to efficiency on the skis: balance and a feel for the snow as well as the mechanics of the V1 and V2—we spent the remaining time working on general skiing and climbing (my weakness).  My time with Don paid huge dividends this year during the race.  Where last season I frequently had to remove my skis and walk, this year I skied the entire course!  Once out the starting chute for the ski, the course turned into a long climb (better than 3K uphill … as a guess).  I went anaerobic pretty quickly and did my best to conserve energy for the remaining 5K.  At the mid-point, this year’s course offered some welcomed downhill and I did my best to take advantage of the “free speed.”  I made good time and by maintaining a steady pace and focusing on the techniques Don had taught me earlier in the week I was actually able to overtake some other skiers.

I crossed the finish line (which, I might add, rests at the end of a steep climb) and nearly collapsed.  Unlike last year, where I finished second to last, the post-race party was still in full swing with competitors and families enjoying a BBQ on the deck of the Nordic center.  I will be planning to compete in BOTH of the winter triathlons next season … I think!? (the Street Swell Winter Triathlon takes place at the CMC campus, also in Leadville, CO, on February 19th, 2011).  I am also committed to devoting additional training days to improve my Nordic technique next season and am already researching the purchase of my own gear.  Another great Leadville event … I can’t wait for next year!

Gear Notes:

In addition to the terrific conditions and great weather, some gear changes also contributed to my overall improvement this year.  As I discussed in my early summary post that highlighted last year’s event, I once again elected to use Bontrager XDX TLR 2.4s mountain bike tires along with a container of Super Juice Tubeless Sealant and pressures set at 1 Bar (14.5 PSI)—again, just the right setup on the bike!  As an FYI, I save this tire setup exclusively for the snow!  I also abandoned my clipless pedal system (I use Crank Brothers titanium egg beaters on my MTB) and instead substituted a large platform pedal—this allowed for a reduction in my transition time (I simply transitioned directly from the snowshoes to the bike) and provided for quick dismount/remounts when the snow became sketchy.  A quick word about Nordic skate skis.  Based on my discussion with Don, select a true “glide” skate ski (not a “waxless”/no-was ski that you will quickly outgrow).  As far as the bindings, Don has skied forever on the SNS (Salomon Nordic System) binding and highly recommends it (note that the NIS:Nordic Integrated System and the NNN:New Nordic Norm exist as other binding/boot options).   At approximately 5′ 10” and 170 lbs., I ski  a 185-188 cm Nordic ski, with a poles in the range of 160-165 cm (a “rule of thumb” is that the pole point, when turned over on its end, should approximately rest under the chin).  As always, I relied on my Crescent Moon Gold Series 12 race/running snowshoes … they never let me down!

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