2014: Great Bear Chase 10k Classic XC Ski

Having taken my skiing talents (or lack thereof) to the trails only three times, having already signed up to do the Book Across The Bay (thanks to peer pressure from dear friend, Bryant Weathers), my understanding — in late January — was that I would have made enough time to practice and gained more experience to participate in the Great Bear Chase.

A home area event that has been going around for about as long as I have been alive; a chance to sleep in my own bed (or couch) and/or avoid hassles of driving to another town; being with dear friends and community members before, during and after the event; an awesome opportunity to be fed to the wolves bears, i.e., observe seasoned skiers and their techniques; and, a chance for a post-race nap in my own bed (or couch) … were some of the important motivations for participating in the event.

Owing to the much too cold temperatures to ski (February and March), the total number of skiing attempts before the event were limited to three — no more than the number before the previous event, Book Across The Bay.

Summary of training activities
## Activity Date and Time Details
Distance, Time, Pace
# of falls
01 Book Across The Bay 15 Feb 2014 @ 07:00 pm 6.23 mi, 2:26:02, 2.50 mile/hour 4
02 Lakeshore Run 18 Feb 2014 @ 05:20 pm 2.05 mi, 0:25:40, 12:30 min/mile 0
03 Michigan Tech Trails: Oak Loop 22 Feb 2014 @ 04:10 pm 2.00 mi, 0:48:11, 2.50 mile/hour 0
04 Lakeshore Run 03 Mar 2014 @ 05:20 pm 2.10 mi, 0:24:22, 11:32 min/mile 0
05 Michigan Tech Trails: Birch & Oak Loops 04 Mar 2014 @ 12:05 pm 1.50 mi, 0:37:41, 2.40 mile/hour 5+
06 Maasto Hiihto Trails 05 Mar 2014 @ 05:45 pm 1.10 mi, 0:25:23, 2.30 mile/hour 6+

Elevation profile — courtesy of Great Bear Chase


I didn’t search hard enough for the elevation profile for the 10k course (a somewhat bad habit of mine in recent times) but it turned out to be a fortunate mistake — at least, this time. Had I been able to find it easily, I probably would not have signed up for this event. Personal goals for this event (modified after taking into account the aforementioned elevation profile), in order of importance, were as follows:

  1. Finish the race (without severe bodily injuries — either to myself or to any other participant/volunteer/organizer).
  2. Not be the last one to finish (overall, amongst males and in my age group).
  3. Keep the number of falls 5 10 or less while skiing, and 2 4 or less when standing still.
  4. Remember things that were taught — bend the knees, lean a bit forward, balance the weight, and ski poles don’t help when falling down.
  5. Ski at 2.50 miles/hour or faster pace.
  6. Finish under 2:30:00 (~15:00 min/km or less) 3:00:00 (~18:00 min/km or less).

Itchy throat, general body aches and inability to sleep well from a few days prior to the event had me thinking about staying in bed and dropping out. Thanks to the wonders of medical world, a handful of pain killers and muscle relaxers made me forget all the aches for a few hours. Race day conditions were much much better than the previous one, and I was told, that they were about as good as one can expect.

Having seen and chatted with many a friendly faces, and then warming up by the fire with Bryant, we heard the call: 10k classic race will begin in 10 minutes. I stopped to attend the nature’s call and I swear I didn’t take 5+ minutes to do so. No sooner did I get out of the port-a-john than I heard the gun go off and saw all my fellow racers leave the staging area. I scrambled to pick up my skis, put them on, grab the poles (without really strapping the velcro) and weave through the 10k free stylers in the staging area. Jim Tervo was kind enough let me through and Rob Handler, standing atop the first hill, was kind enough to help me put the pole straps on. Not that I had much of a chance to surpass any one even if I started on time, starting three minutes late and being the last one to start pretty much scratched off one of the goals.

The course turned out to be a challenging one — at least for my current skill set. However, there were portions of it that looked and felt quite like the ones my buddy, Bryant, had taken me through earlier in the week. Being the last one in the 10k classic pack, I had parts of the course all to myself, and the lightly falling snow flurries made for a very zen-like experience. I did put on quite the clinic near the first aid station around 3k mark: about how not to climb a hill. Thanks be to volunteers and spectators for turning their face the other way and not laughing at me. I did take the skis off to climb next couple hills but learned the trick to climb the hill by closely watching a plethora of 25k/50k racers that were passing me by.

Support along the course from fellow racers, volunteers, photographers (Adam and Adam), friends cheering me on around the finish area, dear friend Kevin announcing my name (and a chat with him) as I crossed the line and post-race meal (veggie pasty and Keweenaw Brewing Company beverage) with friends made for quite a memorable day. In what still remains a mystery, I somehow covered the second 5k much faster than the first 5k, completing this 10k race about 10 minutes faster than Book Across The Bay. The map, speed, elevation and heart rate spectrum are a courtesy of Garmin Forerunner 405CX and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress.

5.92 miles in 2:13:26 @ 2.70 mph, 22:13 minutes/mile
Splits: 19:21, 24:24, 25:59, 22:48, 21:35, 19:15
Every (semi) major spike represents a fall.


Comparing the results with the goals I had going into this event, I

  1. Finished the race and did so without any observable bodily injuries — to me or to anyone that was in my vicinity.
  2. Was the last one to finish (43/43 overall, 18/18 amongst males and 6/6 in my age group). I could shamelessly, without giving details, claim a top 50, top 25 and top 10 finish in each of the three categories. On a more serious note, it was nice to see many of my good friends earn podium finish and some bling.
  3. Fell at least 25 times, if not more, while skiing and 3 times while standing still. I was pretty much owned by just about every hill, every slope, every loop and every corner of this course. It will take, I am sure, many more wonders of the medical world to cure the aches over next few days.
  4. Used velcro straps properly for ski poles, remembered to bend my knees, glide a little, lean a bit forward, let go of the poles when falling and mostly balance the weight.
  5. Skied at 2.70 miles/hour (my GPS tracks indicate 3.30 miles/hour for a moving time of 1:48:38).
  6. Finished in 2:16:21.5 at 13:38 min/km (well under 3:00:00 at 18:00 min/km).

Thanks be to my good friends — the Abbotts (Kathy and Mike), the Blakes (Amy and Scott), the Boissevains (Margi and Paul), the Brewsters (Katie and Brian), the Bunkers (Kris and Kate), the Carlsons (Abby, Cassondra, Josh, and Justin), the Carmeans (Jess and Tim), the Engstroms (Christine and Jaime), the Fredricksons (Lynda and Dave), the Gracis (Kara and Sam), the Griffis’ (Veronica and Adam), the Handlers (Christine, Rob, Shannon and Stephen), the Kramers (Mandy and Jim), the Lehtos (Tammi and Chris), the MacDonalds (Cynthia and Bruce), the MacInnes’ (Elizabeth and Scott), the Obermanns (Catherine and Tim), the Ontls (Kelly and Todd), the Oppligers (Shawn, Emily and Doug), the Resslers (Dee and Tom), the Richards’ (Carrie and Dr. Bob), the Smigowskis (Christina and Tim), the Stenvigs (Chelsea and Nils), the Tervos, the Vendlinskis (Andi, Jim and Rick), the Vertins (Melissa and Joel), the Vizankos (Kelly and Steve), the Watrous’ (Liisa and Matt), the Weathers’ (Stacy and Bryant), the Wilmers’ (Kelly and Stephen), the Youngs (Amber, Christine and Michael), the Zerbsts (Kristen and Ron), team /var/run (Nancy Banfield, Josh Myles and Amy Blake), Keweenaw Running Group, Amy Madsen, Ashley Ames, Dr. Bryan Suits, Caleb Wendel, Chelsea Trowbridge, Christopher Schwartz, Darcy Donnelly, Erin Kauppila, Greg Reed, Jesse Cleaver, Julie Ruotsala, Katie Temple, Kelly Boyer, Kelly Wooten, Kelsae Eliszewski, Kim Green, Laura Mlynski, Lauri Keteri-Smith, Leah Tollefson, Louisa Raisbeck, Lynette Potvin, Lynn Czarnecki Makela, Marc Rea, Maria Janowiak, Mark Mehler, Matt Manders, Matt Mlinar, Mary Webster, Michael Babcock, Mike LaMotte, Nils Stenvig, Randal Harrison, Ray Sharp, Rebecca Anderson, Ryan Towles, Riccardo Tortini, Robert Larson, Dr. Robert Weidman, Sam Roache, Sarah Conner, Sarah Menassian, Scott Gibbs, Shreya Kumar, Sue Peterson, Todd Ontl, Tony Schwenn and more (in and outside of my community) — for more than making up my lack of knowledge, by taking me out for skiing and/or facilitating skiing attempts and/or sharing what they knew. Thanks also be to the organizers, first responders, medical staff, plethora of volunteers, vendors, Swedetown trails folks, trails crew, friends who came out to support, Superior Timing, brockit photographers and more for making sure the event went as smoothly as it did.