It’s not as much fun to write a race report when the day didn’t go as well as you hoped. The Gold Rush skate ski race is 3 laps of a hilly course, each lap starting with a ripping downhill and ending with a climb back to Summit Station at Royal Gorge.
I was enjoying seeing friends before the start and I felt fine in the start coral, so I didn’t see the train wreck coming. They changed the direction of the loop this year, going down the steeper side of the loop and coming back up the more gradual climb.
I struggled more than usual on the downhill, suffering some random quick falls. I figured I could make up for it on one of the three return climbs. The first lap downhill was pretty awful, but I still felt ok.
Then came the first climb. I was off the back of a pack and expected to catch them. I was at full power, but the gap just didn’t close. I checked in with my body position and ski technique. Then my breathing.
It was like driving up Donner Pass in a Honda in “econo” mode: my foot was on the accelerator, but the car just wouldn’t go.
Toward the top of the first lap, my friend Audrey passed (she started 5 minutes back in the shorter “Silver” race). This was not a surprise, as she is a beautiful skier, and went on to win the Silver Rush. Then the extent of my struggle was hammered home when running friend and new skier Luke passed as well. He was worried, “Are you OK?”
I was not ok and really considering dropping at the lap. I talked myself into doing at least lap 2 before dropping. The struggle shifted from doing well at the race to completing the distance. A distance that, on a normal day, would not be a problem.
The downhill went much better for lap 2. I was by myself and actually enjoyed it a bit. I was slightly reenergized by the joy of controlling my skis under my legs. It was enough to get me through lap 2, but I was not improving on the field whatsoever.
As I approached the start of lap 3, I only briefly thought of dropping, but at that point it was more compelling to finish since I had come that far. The snow was warming up and slowing down, which made it less fun, I won’t sugar-coat that one.
It wasn’t pretty, but I finished to a field of cheering friends in 2 hours, 45 minutes. Luke specifically congratulated me on not dropping. And it was actually the fastest that I’ve skied the full Gold Rush course, owing to lots of dedicated ski practice this season and my class at Auburn Ski Club.
In retrospect, I had been really fatigued all week, despite having a really relaxed schedule. I should have seen that coming, but you never know. Onward.