Suddenly, the White Mountains 100 is upon us. It starts Sunday morning.
For my previous previous ultra ski races, I spent a lot of time preparing. This one, not so much. When you’ve got a three year old and an infant, things like the WM100 slide way down on the priority list. But now that it is go-time, I feel the need to release a lot of the thoughts about this race that have been swimming in my head for the past few months.
For a race that has only been run once, and that I’ve never done, I feel like I have a long history with it. About a year and a half ago, I got a mass email from Ed Plumb, who I knew from skiing to McGrath with/near him. He was putting out feelers to see if there was interest in having an ultra race in the White Mountains north of Fairbanks. Apparently the response was an definitive “yes” because within a few months the race was scheduled for late March. I desperately wanted to do it, but we had a baby due two weeks later, so it was a no-go for me. But my friend Bill signed up. And so did a ton of other people. Without yet even saying the word “Go!” Ed and Ann had already created the most interesting ultramarathon race around.
When race weekend rolled around, our baby was clearly not coming for a while yet. So I seriously considered flying to Fairbanks to stand at the start line, skis in hand, just in case one of the 50 racers didn’t show up. Glad I didn’t, because all 50 people started. Like I said, this race quickly became kind of a big deal.
I was determined to race this year, but I was away on vacation when registration opened. There were only 5 spots available for new racers, and despite getting up in the middle of the night to register, I ended up #10 on the wait list. I was really bummed, but Ed worked his magic over the next couple of months and was able to increase the field size from 50 to 65 racers. I was in!
So this is a long-winded way of saying that I am really excited to finally be in this race.
My training for the WM100 was focused on one goal: beat myself up, little by little. I only had about 5 hours a week to train. I figured my cardiovascular base was probably still there (more or less). But since I haven’t been doing a lot of skiing, I was worried about my body holding up to the abuse. Skiing 45 minutes a day was not going to prepare my feet, hands, knees, and back for skiing 100 miles. So I figured the best way to prepare was to subject myself to long (4+ hour) skis once every week or two. And that is it. That is all I had time for. So, by my count, I’ve put in exactly eight quality training sessions for this race. Not ideal, but I feel strangely content with my preparation.
With that in mind, here are my goals for the WM100:
- Finish without getting injured
- Have fun exploring a new area
- Go as fast as I can while still accomplishing #1 & #2
I know it sounds lame…don’t get hurt, have fun, yada, yada. But I really think that is all I can expect from myself. However…here’s a little secret, just between you and me. There is a little voice in my head that won’t go away. It keeps telling me that, training be damned, I can still compete. I try to ignore that voice as much as possible. After all, I don’t want to be “that guy,” the over-the-hill, washed-up racer who is pathologically competitive and is a menace to himself and others out on the course. I may be over-the-hill and washed-up, but I don’t want to be a menace. All I am saying is that the little voice is still there, so if things are going well, I’m going to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
I am scrambling to decide on gear. As I began packing last night, I realized how many decisions I still have to make. Which skis? Which backpack? Reports from the trail have been varied, so that hasn’t helped. My strategy is to take a gigantic duffel bag of gear to Fairbanks with me, and decide at the last minute.
This article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is a good preview of the race. So if you are planning to follow along (do so here), here are a few things I will add:
- If the trail is in decent shape (and I think it is), a biker will win. In the past few years, I have sadly had to come to terms with the fact that today’s snowbikes are so fast that, unless the bikers have to push, there is no way a skier can compete in these types of races. Last year the fastest skier (Mike Kramer) was almost four hours slower than the fastest biker (Jeff Oatley). And those guys are both roughly equivalent endurance studs.
- The News-Miner article glossed over Rachel Steer and didn’t even mention Kate Arduser, either of whom could easily be the top skier overall, never mind fastest woman. I am desperately concerned about getting girled.
So that is about it. Hopefully, I’ll have a full report for you when it is over.
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