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Racing the Sonot Kkaazoot ski marathon

Thu, Mar  29, 2012 - By Randy Bladel

The 25th annual Sonot Kkaazoot ski marathon was held in Fairbanks on March 24th. The name is Athabaskan for "springtime" (Sonot) "sliding your feet over the snow" (Kkaazoot).

The races begin with a mass start on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. After 9.5 K upstream on the river, the course heads into the Birch Hill ski area. The 20 K race peels off quickly and heads back down the river to the finish, while the 50 K course has a nearly uninterrupted climb for 3.5 K 31 K of the course are on the challenging trails of Birch Hill, before heading down an exhilarating switchback descent to the last 9.5 K down the river.

The weather had been sunny, dry and cold, with slow, abrasive snow in the days leading up to the race, but clouds rolled in the evening before, bringing preservation of warmth, humidity, and a bit of fresh snow. While the track was not terribly fast, it was certainly improved. The temperature at the start was 15 F and rose to 25 during the race.

The lead group included most of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks team, who made a fast start. I felt good for most of the first half, until I was caught by a group of three, I suffered on the short, steep hill of the Black Hole trail, but was able to come back to the group and leave them before the descent. I was caught and paced by an Alaska-Fairbanks team woman for the last 9 K, allowing us to reel in one more who had gotten away.

The awards dinner that night was a semi-pot luck good time, with soups, breads, and drinks provided, and salads and desserts brought by the crowd of nearly 300 skiers.

Many thanks to Bad Bob and Sharon Baker, and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, whose hard work has produced this race since it's inception, and to all of the great volunteers on the course.

Sorry to see the end of snow for this season.