It snowed on Friday. It snowed overnight, and it was snowing as we carefully drove to Boyne Mountain for the Boyne Grinder 10k. I could be wrong, but as I stepped into a snow bank to walk to the trail, I sank up to my knees in exceptionally light lake-effect snow, maybe 14 inches of it. It was so light, I could walk normally through, as if it wasn't there.
I'm glad Boyne used the power tiller and their big groomer to pack it for the race!
The start was near the groomer shed...wherever that was. There was a groomed trail that meandered to the shed in a roundabout way, perhaps a mile ski. Or you could walk along the road to the start - probably a quarter mile. Three skiers arrived a little late to the start, one in time to get his jacket off in time, the other two stuck removing their warmups as the race started.
Ski racers gathering for the start of the Boyne Grinder
Originally, the race was to climb the trail "Grinder" to the top of the Boyne Mountain alpine ski area, do a loop through the Vistas trail at the top, then descend Grinder, with a prize for the person who gets to the top of Grinder first. There were high winds, however, and the Vistas is almost entirely in the open, so the course was moved. Instead, we raced a "lollipop" course: 2.5 kilometers, most of it uphill, along Littlehammer, then joined the Innsbruck 5k loop before returning on the now mostly downhill Littlehammer.
Innsbruck has been around since the beginning days of the Boyne Nordican. It's was cut as 5 kilomoter double-tracked classic racing loop in the days before skating. Featuring lots of climbs, steep descents, semi-technical corners, there is almost no place to rest. The descents are fast, with no chance to recover before the next climb. The "flats" are all gentle uphills. It's was an awesome classic trail system...but not as great when more skiers started skiing. It was really too narrow for both a skate lane and a classic track.
This fall, Innsbruck received a much needed upgrade: it was recut so Boyne's18 foot-wide groomer could pass. Now it's possible for a skater to skate pass a slower skater, and the more technical turns are a little easier because the turning radius is wider. Boyne plans to continue widening other trails for next season. This is great news because the narrower trails are all in the woods and protected from the winds...which is where you want to be on a day like today!
With lots of climbing ahead of me, I started conservatively. Good thing, because I was gasping for breath within a kilometer! And I was not alone. Although groomed to perfection, the new snow still made the climbs soft and slow. I had to diagonal skate up the steeper pitches to keep from going under. I saw one or two skiers who went past the redline and had to pull over to catch their breath. I thought about it on a couple climbs myself...
The saving grace for me is that I can descend with the best of them, and I made up all sorts of time over stronger skiers who were out climbing me. I passed several skiers who had crashed on the most technical downhill on the course, turning left off Innsbruck on to the fast, tight, serpentine downhill at the start of Littlehammer. It was obvious lots of skiers snowplowed the curves (in fact, race director Nick Baic warned skiers at the start line that snowplowing would be a good option for those with less polished downhill skills), but even then, soft snow or tight nerves caused some headers into the soft snow.
Of course, I was no where near the top finishers. The "Ryans" (that would be Ryan Halstead and Ryan Harris) once again fought to the end, with Halstead winning in a photo finish in 24:47, Harris a fraction of a second behind. Sean Brownell, a junior racer, was third in 25:47.
Junior Erin Lipp was the top women, finishing in 28:46, with another junior, Hannah Davis, second in 30:22. Brenda Carlson was the third fastest skier in 31:40.
Ya, the course was hard, but the skiing was spectatular!
|BIB||LAST NAME||FIRST NAME||CITY||TIME||OVERALL||MI CUP
|1st Overall Female|
|Girls 19 and Under|
|Female 20 to 52|
|Female 53 and better|
|1st Overall Male|
|Boys 19 and Under|
|Male 20 to 49|
|Male 50 to 58|
|Male 59 & Over|