Last year’s inaugural White Mountains 100 ultra race was lauded as being one of the best organized, most scenic, most fun races that most of the participants had ever done. In fact, the only two complaints I heard from racers I talked to were that it was very cold and there wasn’t a lot of snow (which created obvious problems for skiers but also overflow problems for bikers and runners). Well, race directors Ed Plumb and Ann Farris are so good at their jobs that, for 2011 they even took care of those issues. Somehow they managed to bump the temperature about 30 degrees and add a few feet of snow.
In every way possible, this year’s WM100 was perfect. The organizers had everything running smoothly. The volunteers were fun and enthusiastic. The racers were friendly and high-spirited. The weather was mild and sunny. The trail was well groomed. And the White Mountains lived up to their reputation for expansive vistas and jagged limestone crags. I mean, really, what better way to spend a warm, sunny weekend than out in spectacular, remote country with a group of fun, adventurous folks. It’s almost a shame that it is a race because I wish I could have spent more time getting to know each person I met and each place I saw. During the race I was suffering physically and I just wanted to be finished as soon as possible. But when it was all over, I wished I had been able to enjoy it longer. It is truly a one-of-a-kind race experience.
I’ll probably end up writing another post about my race, but for now a few thoughts on the race in general.
As I said, the trail conditions were perfect. That trail was probably as close as one can get to an even playing field between skiers and bikers. At least 80% of the course was really good for both. It was a little soft in places for biking, but in most of those same places it was narrow for skiing, so it evened out. So hats off to the bikers who took the first four spots. Those top three guys had a nice battle for the win, with the top woman close on their heels. Very impressive.
Also close on their heels, was Rob Whitney on skis. I cannot say enough about Rob’s performance. I am still in awe. I skied the first fifteen miles with Rob and I thought he was going way too hard. I thought there was no way he could continue to average 10 mph for this whole race. Well, he didn’t. His average speed dropped all the way down to 9.1 mph over the next 85 miles. Incredible. He may not have won overall, but I have no doubt that Rob had the performance of the day. Given the perfect conditions and the way he attacked that course, I will not be surprised if his record time stands for many years.
The other performance that sticks out in my mind is Kate Arduser, the first woman skier. Kate is a very accomplished ski racer, but she now lives in Cordova and didn’t ski much this winter. She showed no signs of rust, scorching the course in 13.5 hours.
Thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, race fans, support crews, and fellow racers for a fantastic weekend. It’s been three days since I finished, and I am still on a post-race high.