Entries in Pierra Menta (5)


Pierra Menta - Day 4

Well, we made it. There were times during the first stage where I wasn't so sure we would. Nate was in a bad way that day and had to dig deep to finish. We hoped for something completely different on day two and that's what we got. Days three and, finally, four were more of the same with only slight variations in energy and motivation. One thing is for certain; there were no discussions of dropping out after the beginning of the second day.

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Pierra Menta - Day 3

It's good to be done with today as the last day, tomorrow, is typically the shortest. Today's menu involved long climbs, a few boot packs and enormous crowds. Although the dodgy weather prevented us from doing the super aesthetic ridge on the Grand Mont, we did a mini version of it nearby. Some easy rock scrambling with a fixed rope for a hand line in places. The final booter felt almost Alaskan with the French version of tundra underfoot for the final 100 vertical meters. Good variety.

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Pierra Menta - Day 2

What a difference a day makes. Things didn't go perfectly but it was so much more satisfying that it's easy to overlook some of the glitches today. Nate essentially felt close to normal, not perfect, but his speed and endurance were what we were hoping for. We spent the day picking off dozens of competitors. I love doing that, of course. Feeds the rat within, I guess. But more importantly, we raced well, transitioned mostly like pros and skied all the descents cleanly, save for my little knee tweaking tumble 5 minutes from the finish. More details later.

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Pierra Menta - Day 1

The first day of the Pierra Menta turned out to be more interesting than either Nate or I wanted. A smoldering virus ruined Nate's day and I, of course, had to watch the carnage unfold while my own aspirations of some sort of decent performance vanished.

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The Pierra Menta

My trip to Chamonix looms close now. I leave in 12 days. Hard to believe it's almost here. Along with the general planning for skiing and staying in the World's epicenter of ski alpinism, I thought I'd try to get into the Pierra Menta, the so-called Tour de France of skimo racing. Of course, I really haven't raced for nearly two years but I figure as long as I'm over there I should try to do this amazing race. 

I got Nate Brown, the other member of the "B Team" to come on board. Getting into the race is no foregone conclusion. Aside from the obvious language barrier when communicating with race organizers, there're a few hoops to leap through, as well. While I consider the United States to be the most painfully litigeous nation on the planet with people suing over the stupidest shit, France, apparently, has similar worries. Not only did we cough up the 900 Euro for the team entry fee, we had to purchase rescue insurance ($450 through Global Rescue) and join a French ski club (110 Euro) to ensure we had the requisite liability insurance, too. Additionally, the PM is organized by a group responsible for a few other large format skimo races, collectively known as La Grande Course. It's 20 Euro just for the priviledge of considering your application.

But, hey, we figure you only go around once so why not? If you Google the event you'll see why it's a must-do for every skimo racer with the means to make it happen. The courses are long, mostly high in the mountains off piste and the competition fierce. Not that the B Team plans on racing too hard. We'll bring cameras and try to enjoy ourselves while still skiing reasonably fast. Some of the technical sections develop slow ques along ridges so anyone out of the top 30 teams is going to be one nostril breathing at times anyway. 

The race takes place over 4 days and all stages start and finish in the same town. The price of admission includes a bed to sleep in and breakfast and dinner for the 4 days. Not bad. We're pretty excited to be totally immersed in a skimo orgy. I'll get there two weeks ahead of Nate so I should be able to get acclimatized a bit so I don't suffer up high. I'll also get to work on my downhill fitness since I don't get much of that at home, especially with our lean winter thus far. 

Gearing Up

Although I'm not racing these days, I couldn't help but equip myself appropriately for the event. I bought some Scarpa Alien 1.0 and a pair of this year's Hagan X-Race skis.
I need to equip my Plum Race 145 bindings with the little toe lever widget to make them IFSM legal.The guys at Plum have graciously offered to mount my skis when I get over there. I'm psyched to pay a visit to the factory and meet the crew. Stay tuned for some inside info on that scene. Should be interesting.

Some of my training has involved tooling around a hilly section of Nordic trail near my house. I go in the dark after work so I can avoid the stares and questions when I go skinning by on skimo gear. Most folks don't know quite what to make of it. The boots are kinda loud so it's hard to hide. But it's allowed me to get a feel for them anyway. I finally took them out for some real skiing last weekend with my Cho Oyu skis. I'd say it was not a great combo as the snow was punchy and those skis may have been a bit much to push around with race boots. The thing I noticed is that with the thin race liners, it was hard to feel like I had a tight fit around my skinny ankles. When I tightened the cuff cord enough to be snug, the act of throwing the lever became very hard and the cuff dug painfully into my ankle. Not good.

I started thinking out how I could improve the fit and performance. Two springs ago I put Intuition liners in my Dynafit TLT 5 Performance boots. I kep the old liners. I decided to see how those slightly more substantial liners would fit into the Aliens. I think it's the answer to both my issues and comes with a 53 gram penalty. Given our level of competitiveness, that's perfectly acceptible. The other thing this solves is the annoying difficulty I have getting in and out of the Scarpa sock liner. Without a tongue, it's a serious struggle and I find that levering against the sharp carbon cuff edge can result in near laceration of hands and fingers. Glad to be done with that.

I recommend this mod without reservation for those who need a better fit and more performance from their Aliens.