Yay for the Potto Raid!
We did the 4th Annual Potto Raid last Sunday and I think all 15 skiers had a dandy time. That's more skiers than ever, and the conditions were perfect.
It was my first time doing this event.
We looked good lined up in the parking lot before the race. I wish I had taken a photo! It's a gungho crew, with some skiers sporting mix'n'match poles and duct-tape reinforced boot cuffs, etc.
Thanks to RadNord for hosting the event and providing the tasty prizes and after-ski goodies.
Any race that serves Bell's new Hopslam is a standout!
The Raid is a fun day for those who want to put out the effort and skill to ski the whole epic, hilly, narrow, technical, rustic and very scenic 17-mile Potawatami Trail, which is situated in a mixed terrain of hardwood ridges, creeks and ponds between Pinckney and Chelsea.
Downstate snow is a bit shaky so this low-key event always has a back-up date of a couple weeks later---one of them is sure to work.
It takes 3-4 hours to do the loop, which includes about 30 herringbone hills, it seems like. ...And a half mile of climbing in the last mile.
Some skiers choose to take the short-cut to make it a robust 12-miles.
There's all kinds of terrain---screaming descents, a blazing banked turn, tricky turns, erosion-bar drops, a couple miles of flat and some years a few miles of trail-breaking.
The day started at 5F, warming to 20F.
The first half hour is neutral, for chatting, visiting, and warming up. We made a nice line of skiers snaking up through the ridges.
The race proper developed into a cliffhanger with NASCAR overtones.
The first question was: waxable or waxless? Is it smarter to use slightly slower nowax skis that let you avoid stopping to rewax? Once the pace picked up a guy took off on his nowax skis and just kept rolling. He didn't even have any food or drink! I chased after him and might have made him a bit peeved by passing him on a technical downhill. There was no room anywhere else and my waxable skis were gliding fast. Thankfully, we both stayed up. Then I got tangled in fencing on a bridge over a creek. Doh! I took off my skis and let him by. He passed without comment. I then had to stop to rewax and have a snack and a bunch of others re-passed me, too. I was overheating so off went the hat.
I learned after the race that the steady hammering skier was Jim James---mtbike champ and adventure racer known as a "cyborg." Whoa! (Not that I'm totally name-dropping or anything...)
An interesting dynamic developed. Jim stayed ahead, steaming along. Three of us on waxable skis would slowly reel him in...then one by one we'd stop and rewax and he'd get away again. It was the battle of the pitstops. That rabbit out there just kept going and going...
Finally there were just 2 of us in the chase, me and zippy young ex-college racer, Melzar Coulter. I'd emailed with him before but never met him so it was nice skiing with him. He came up behind me and said "Hey, I think there should be a Jack Johnson soundtrack playing." Funny! He said he'd just watched my YouTube ski video.
I was putting off changing wax and had periods of floundering that blurred in with some tricky downhills. I crashed Melzar and I both out several times before asking him if he'd like to go ahead. He was out of sight in a jiffy. I changed wax again and caught back up to him as he too rewaxed, then it was just me chasing Jim with a few miles to go.
I was on empty, having had only a couple sips and nibbles of pizza. I finally re-entered the main trail system and encountered other skiers on the trail. They said "The other guy is only a little ahead!" so I made my wobbly self keep gliding with a semblance of smoothness. I finally saw Jim then caught him and thought we were near the end, with only one big hill to do, so I went hard. ...There were actually 20 more minutes of huge hills. Doh! I was barely holding on, trying not to slip, fall or just plain stop. I had glide, but Jim had traction so I thought he'd be back. I pushed into the finishing parking lot with a minute to spare.
3 hours, 8 minutes. A marathon effort!
It was my first race win in 20 years! Yep, I like a homestyle rough trail, all right! Folks waiting for us honked their car horns and rang cowbells. Melzar came in a minute after Jim, with Ben Caldwell and our host John Rutherford---another no-wax leader---coming in a few minutes after that, then a steady trickle of finishers over the next half hour.
Now it may well be that both guys I passed have simply done enough races recently that dialing back to enjoy the grin factor of the day was preferable to a wobbly droolfest, but I enjoyed the suspense enough to offset my lack of composure.
Two of the front group used race-type skis. I used wide tourers. I'd say to use a shorter ski than usual for this trail, no matter what width---it'll make the herringbones much easier. Lightweight is smart, too. I would also wax extra-long next time, due to the uneven surfaces. And I'd use Start Grip Tape---that would've been great. Lastly, a way to eat'n'drink on the move is vital.
Here's an idea that might be even better: make it a 3-stage day. Say that there will be a snack/rest stop on a bridge or other natural hang-out place situated about every hour along the way. Really, we hardly ever get to ski all together out there and that seems like the most fun part.
Anyway, now out came the pizza and beer, the war stories and the Wow-what-a-day's!
RadNord said, "When you showed up in knickers I knew you were one to keep an eye on!"
Well, ya just can't beat a race with no fee, no organization, no grooming, which is nearby for us downstaters, and which still had everyone raving about the super trail and the great fun and prizes. Go, Jiffy Mix!
Some prizes were beer, others were Jiffy Mixes. There were sweet hats and socks, too, from the local bike shop, Aberdine Bikes. Didja know that Jiffy is a Chelsea company that came out with the first-ever baking mix in 1930?
I also got a cheesy gold medal...a bag of shredded cheese and a pound of Gold Medal flour.
Martha cooked up a batch of tasty cheesy bisquits the next morning, using the Jiffy recipe book that was yet another prize!