So earlier today, ahead of this weekend's XTERRA Winter World Championship at Snowbasin, they held a media day. Typically, this involves a bunch of reporters and cameramen coming up, talking to some athletes and event organizers, then scarfing down a buffet lunch and taking home some swag.
XTERRA decided to do things a little bit differently though.
Yes, those latter two things were still done, but this time, the press had to pay for it. Not with cash, but with many expended calories.
See, the XWWC is more than just a triathlon - it's a quad-athlon: Mountain biking, snowshoeing, trail run & then randonee (aka ski mountaineering).
The media would have a race of their own on a thankfully shortened course.
Now I haven't been on a mountain bike in years, and have never tried to ride one in the snow. And as it's only March 5, I'm nowhere near top shape after a season of letting the lifts carry me uphill and gravity pull me down. I've never been on skis with climbing skins on them. This is not a recipe for success.
As we got into the registration room at Earl's Lodge up at Snowbasin, I see a lot of fit looking reporters - not the usual "hey, they have snacks in the media room!" crowd. KUTV is there, as are the Deseret News and Sports Guide Utah. They look like folks who spend a lot of time outdoors...not a good sign.
We head up to the start gate, and I'm assigned my mountain bike. I've been told to let some air out of the tires to give better traction on the snow, and to be sure to sit way back on the seat. That's great advice as when we start, it's straight downhill, and not 50 yards in, someone takes a full-on header over the handlebars. The rest of us avoid similar carnage as we skid down to the
bottom. They said it would be "hard-packed trail" but that's a misnomer, as everyone starts to quickly sink into the snow, leading to everyone hopping off their bikes and pushing them back up the hill. By the time I get back to the transition area, I'm gasping for breath and cursing my ego forthinking that this was something I could do.
I strap on the snowshoes and back down the hill to the same loop. Down is good, but my hips are starting to ache -- then of course, it's back uphill again. Somehow I manage to get up again, but let's just say my synapses are not quite firing on all cylinders as I try to get the snowshoes off for the run portion.
Down and up again, watching a couple of guys pass by me heading up as I'm going down. 1st place is not gonna happen for the O-man today.
Switch from shoes to ski boots, and clip into the pair of Goode carbon fiber randonee skis I've been given for the day. This is my secret weapon. Everyone else has been assigned Black
Diamond telemark skis (lighter boots, heavier skis), but the Ogden-based manufacturer has generously offered to let me give these a try. There are at least three people ahead of me as I start my slog up the mountain to the ski course.
I should point out that the men and women competing in the actual race on Sunday will goup and down multiple times, pulling on the skins and taking them off for the downhill portions. We're only doing one changeover, and that makes all the difference as when I get to the top, I see that two of the other racers are having some issues with their skins.
I peel mine off, clamp down my AT bindings and race for the finish. One guy was so frustrated with his skis that he took them off and was walking down the hill...I pass him just at the final gate and cross the finish line at around 52:00 -- the best solo effort of the day.
My legs are sore for sure, and I'm sure I'll feel it even more tomorrow, but it's good to be the top finisher in any race - media or not.
Look for the action (including some hilarious audio commentary from me along the way - I was miked up and had a helmet cam on) this weekend on UNPLUGGED.