Yesterday we finished up a fast, furious, and fun Qaniq Challenge in Valdez. Despite an abysmal snow year (they may have more snow than Anchorage, but this little snow is apocalyptically bad for Snowtown) the whole town seems to have worked together to chip some awesome races out of the ice. There is ice because they had 4 inches of rain last week here, then we arrived in time for it to freeze. Before it froze, it washed out the early versions of the pallet bridges as the water came up 6 inches overnight.
The River Crossing on Friday
The River Crossing on Saturday, they really cleaned it up!
This is what we saw driving into Valdez, and it was pretty disconcerting…
Really it’s incredible that these races turned out so well, and I think that town-wide teamwork had a lot to do with it. The snowmachine club helped Parks and Recreation and the Valdez Nordic Ski Club to get volunteers out on the course yesterday for example. As they said at the banquet: this is how we know that cats and dogs can be friends!
Awesome race volunteers on Saturday
(Photo courtesy of Valdez Parks and Rec, Facebook)
This is how organized they were, everyone got their bib and shirt in a personalized packet!
Saturday’s race was a much-shortened ~12km course in town, on the same trails that I had skied on in high school. Since it was icy out and and the hills were minimal, my Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center teammates and I decided to double pole on skate skis. I hadn’t ever even thought about doing that before, I dearly love to stride, but it seemed like a good time to give it a shot. I can tell you it’s not as fun as it looks; even on a short fast course it just drags on at the end! It worked well though and I felt like it was actually faster. If nothing else it was one heckuva workout! I ended the day 26s ahead of Lauren, and the overall winner is determined by the combined time of two days, so it took a little pressure off Sunday’s skate mass start. Not to say that I was unconcerned, mass starts on narrow trails have the potential for catastrophe! My main goal was to avoid disaster… which is ironic because I broke my pole right off the start line. Luckily Lauren had had the idea of stashing poles a little ways down the trail, just in case, so I knew I was going to be able to get a pole. I just had to ski 300m with one pole, get the new pole, and catch back up! After catching up I was tired and content to ski behind Lauren for a little bit. The draft effect was very strong on a fast flat course like that I so following was good recovery. After a while she pulled over for me to lead and I decided to make a move. Sprinting downhill and trying to escape the draft effect, I face planted two minutes later. This meant that I had to get up and make my move all over again, but luckily there was a little uphill where I could do it. In the end I pulled off the win, despite two hilarious and disastrous mishaps, and running scared for the second half of the race.
Lauren and I were pretty happy with the weekend! … even if our faces are a little too frozen for a big grin 🙂
Darryl Verafaillie, the race organizer, and I at the awards banquet. This guy is seriously committed, and just crazy enough to make it all work.
It was a great adventure, a super sweet weekend trip, and some really fun skiing! At the banquet there were some great door prizes, so not only am I coming home with the winners purse, but I also got myself a little pond-skimming kayak. Peter Kling won a GoPro, Scott Patterson got a sweet headlamp, and Dylan Watts got a water bottle and a GoPro selfie stick. Overall, I think the consensus on our haul was that this is the “best race ever” (said at least 3 times), and we all want to come back next year. If you’re looking for a little January adventure next year, make sure you check into the Qaniq Challenge!
Part 3 of the Qaniq Challenge, walking the kayak home from the banquet!
What is next, you ask? Craftsbury, VT SuperTours are, Jan. 30th, Feb 1st, and 6th, 7th, 8th. If you’re on the east coast and want to do or see some speedy racing, that’s where to be! It’s also Dartmouth Carnival and an Eastern Cup all wrapped up together, so there will be a ton of folks and it will be awesome.
After that? There is a big APUNSC plan in the works, but you’ll just have to wait and see… Check back in a few days to see how you can be involved!