“Sittin’ on top of the world…”
Given the current state of the snow pack in the surrounding mountains, i.e. thin, Irwin and the Irwin Rando Race organizers managed to pull off a near-perfect event.
Of course, it helped that the skies were clear, the temperature hovered around 30 degrees the entire day, and there wasn’t even a hint of wind.
In classic Irwin Rando race fashion, athletes were treated to, or subjected to, depending on your musical tastes, the Grateful Dead as they prepped for the race start at 10 a.m.
Slow dirges, including “Box of Rain,” kept pre-race nerves manageable, so it seemed, as athletes went through their gear and put in some quick warm-up sprints uphill.
By the time they lined up for the start, the music took an appropriate turn to the classic Grateful Dead cover of “Sitting on Top of the World.”
The up-tempo version had the front of the pack charging up the first climb, with Brian Smith and Marshall Thomson building an early gap on the men. Sari Anderson was off the front for the women, with Janelle Smiley trailing close behind.
Smith and Thomson hit the first transition together and turned downhill for their first taste of the “thin conditions.”
“It was interesting,” says Thomson. “We knew it was going to be thin. The downhills were actually better than I was expecting.”
Thomson remained on the tails of Smith on the second climb that had a little bit of everything for racers.
The up-track meandered through the trees before turning out onto a slope that offered everything from sun crust to rock, to bushes and even some mud before turning onto the boot-pack up 207 chute.
“I just kept my head down and put as much pressure on my feet as possible,” says women’s winner Stevie Kremer.
In there, racers found a nice sliver of frozen snow to climb up before jumping back on their skis to head to the ridge-top for the second descent.
Race organizers put another stellar downhill together, given the conditions, and while some racers were tripped up by the random willow or hidden rock, most made it through clear of bodily harm.
Thomson made his move just as he and Smith were nearing the top of the final climb, ultimately building enough of a gap to take the win.
“I felt good and decided to see if I could pass him and he just started cheering me on and said to take it,” says Thomson. “I just had a little bit of gas left. I was just so stoked to be even close to Brian.”
Kremer started off in third place on the first lap but made her way securely into second place behind Sari Anderson by the time she hit the boot-pack on the second lap.
Kremer also waited until the third and final climb to take the lead. When she hit the final transition at the top and headed down for the final descent, Anderson was right there near the top ready to make the final turn as well.
“She was right there,” says Kremer. “I just told myself to not look back and did my best to not fall but in the end I still did a face-plant at the bottom.”
Kremer picker herself up and charged her way to the finish line more than three minutes ahead of Anderson.
“The places I was most frustrated with were the transitions,” says Kremer. “That was the hardest part.”
Both Thomson and Kremer hope to make the trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo. for the USSMA National Championships on January 7 and then will be on Crested Butte Mountain for the 2012 North American Ski Mountaineering Championships on January 28.
See full results online at www.crestedbuttenews.com.