Before I get to the skiing, I cannot emphasize enough how great a job Make-A-Wish NH does. The Make-A-Wish kids and their volunteer wish grantors are the real heroes here. The differences they make helping families find happiness in the midst of awful circumstances sets a positive example we can all learn from. This year’s 100k Challenge raised over $133,000 (a new event record). That works out to about 12-13 wishes. Our pain and struggle on the slopes is all in fun. Positive fundraising fun. We can quit anytime. And even if we don’t, we are done by 4:30pm. Make-A-Wish kids and their families understand and experience both a pain and happiness we can only imagine.
And now for the 2013 Wildcat 100k Vertical Foot Ski Challenge breakdown. After spending a very cozy night just one mile down the road in the Spotted Salamander Room at the AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge with the family, it was finally 100k day.
6:30am – Buffet breakfast with UNH running partner Tom Milliman whose son and friend were also setting out to complete 48 runs at Wildcat that day. Their plan involved snowboards. Best of luck. The skate across the top of Wildcat to the Lynx trail is already challenging enough for me.
6:50am – Back at the room to wake up my ride, I mean, my family. The clock is ticking, but we’re only a mile away. Next closest lodging options are 10 miles in any direction. Joe Dodge is more than worth a few extra coins for this event or really anything involving a very early start around The Tuckermans area.
7:05am – Arrive at the Wildcat base lodge. As family Sherpa, I had a few things to handle before registering. All of the skis had to be racked across the bridge by the lifts. Of course Amani’s bindings needed some adjusting too. Nothing like cramming everything in at the last second. Heather and the kids plan to snowshoe Great Glen Trails after breakfast at the lodge. They won’t be back for skiing until after lunch.
7:15am – Finally got my registration materials. Lucky #13. Make-A-Wish also gave us a laminated card with a picture and story of a Wish kid we would be skiing in honor of. Alex played hockey and skated avidly until he was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 8. The illness brought with it treatment cycles and physical ailments that would make skating very difficult for Alex. Even when healthy and able, rink time was not available or too crowded for a recovering 8 year old to jump into. Make-A-Wish brought Alex’s dreams to life by building his family a small rink at his house that Alex can use any time. Great stuff. Better than coffee in the morning to get energized for the task at hand.
7:30am – I stagger out to the lift where most of the day’s record 39 participants are already lined up waiting to go. Homer, creator of the 100k Challenge at Wildcat, gave his usual speech about the event not being a race. Winners are annually decided at the event by fundraising totals, not speed or number of runs completed. Let’s keep it safe.
7:34am – Lift load. Wildcat runs the Wildcat Express quad at max speed for the event since the rest of the mountain is relatively quiet on a Monday in March. 6 minutes 30 seconds to the summit at most.
7:40-9:00am – The clear blue sky above only hints at the sun to come. The slopes face west. The sun in the east has yet to clear the 4,000 foot peak. With warm weather in the 40s and weekend crowds eating away at the snow the last two days, grooming was a challenge the night before. The course is a bit choppy. Still very hard packed and fast. That beats the slop that the sun brings, but the morning’s flat light makes determining the oncoming terrain a bit dicey. Nothing like last year’s foggy start though. Visibility is flat but not blind.
9:20am – 10 of 48 laps in the bag. Or about 21k vertical feet. Still feeling strong. Time to pee. Last year I made the mistake of wasting time in the lodge. This year I used the side of the trail like so many guys I skied past last year. I christened a wide trail turn off just below the Tomcat Triple Lift trail crossing about 1,200 feet down the mountain. By mid-afternoon this area would see more action than your local fire hydrant. DON’T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW!
10:00-11:30am – The sun begins to fill in most of the course. Things are getting soft but not quite mushy yet. Jamming to some tunes and enjoying my eats (prosciutto on country white and a Cliff Bar). Wildcat provides food and beverage at the bottom. I grab some Powerade but stick with my own food. This is no time to take chances. Long day. Though I did miss cookies as big as your face so maybe I’ll pay more attention to the table next year as a shoot by.
Noon – My legs are beginning to fall apart. Not in a quitting kind of way, but some maintenance is in order. No idea where I am on laps at this point. Waiting for Heather and the kids to read my progress to me. Wildcat maintains a board at the lift but standing there reading my lap totals isn’t going to help ski the trail and the clock is ticking. The lift closes at 4:30pm. No exceptions. There is plenty of time, but you just never know. Take a bad fall, spill Powerade all over yourself. Need to pad your time a bit.
12:30pm – 30 laps. Thanks for the progress sign.
1pm – Heather and the kids have arrived in support. Unfortunately that vice grip feeling that nearly derailed me last year has been setting into my quads on every run for the last hour. Time to manage my minutes like an old NBA veteran looking to stay in the show. Plenty of time to spare between now and 4:30. What’s 20-30 seconds off each of the remaining runs? Surprisingly that’s all it takes to relief that horrible muscle spasm feeling. I implement a 1,000 vertical foot limit. Every run is now broken up with a stop in front of the Tomcat lift pole. Move my legs around to release that locked in feeling and complete the less steep second half of the course.
1:20pm – Clouds begin to blanket the sky, but the sun has already done its damage. Mushy mounds and inconsistent sticky snow make holding race lines very tricky for a non-racer. Time to shift gears and just ski. The dinner buffet does not start in the pub until the lift closes so no sense in being done too early. Taking my turns and my lift pole stops, I never suffered through my runs like I did last year. Live and learn.
1:30-3:30pm – Amani and I shared lift rides on every third or fourth run. I broke left for the Lynx course and he free skied to the right until finding me at the quad again. Turns, turns, and more turns. Many of the 39 participants adopted this system this year. I certainly wasn’t the first. Glad to have some company on the stops. Quick words of encouragement and off you go. The larger pack this year meant more crowd control on the trails, but nothing obstructive. Everyone mostly managed the S turns well enough to avoid spilling in front of oncoming skiers. The lifts weren’t nearly as lonely either though solo rides with music are a nice break up to the workday as well. Somewhere in this timeframe I built in another stop before the lift pole stop. The beginning of Middle Lynx is steep and choppy in the mush. Stop 10 seconds then drop in for another big turn before the standard lift pole resting area.
Gracie helped keep the lift loading area slick and bump free.
3:40pm – 48 runs. 100k vertical feet. DONE! Well almost. Before packing it in, Amani and I took one last ride up together to bang out a few super soft bumps on Catastrophe, Alley Cat, and Panther. Panther runs right under the quad. Thumbs up and words of encouragement for participants still on their mission as I chased Amani as best I could through the mogul field. After that, I was truly spent and ready for a beer.
4:30-6pm – Wildcat food and beverage staff do a great job after the race. Garlic bread, salad, meatballs, tortellini alfredo. And of course, Tuckermans Pale Ale on tap. A former Wish kid turned ambassador brought the house down with an incredible story that started with a heartbreaking diagnosis, chemo therapy, mean school kids, and brothers staying with grandma before ending with a reunited family swimming with dolphins and cancer remission. Make-A-Wish absolutely changed this young woman’s life when, as a girl who was just told she had cancer, she and her family needed it most.
As was the case at the Acidotic snowshoe race on Saturday, Wildcat raffled off about 15 great prizes to the remaining 25 participants in the pub and I got nothing. Luckily all participants received a 100k trucker’s hat. Even #13.
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