Gunnar Hagen Race Reports

When this is the WSDOT forecast for Snoqualmie Pass:

"Rain before 4pm, then a chance of rain and snow. Cloudy. High near 34, with temperatures falling to around 32 in the afternoon. Wind chill values as low as 22. Southeast wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible."

... it can only mean it's Gunnar Hagen time!  And actually we lucked out; the rain held off until after the 30k racers started, after the 7.5k racers started, after everyone finished and Augustina and Anne recorded their results, after Esther and Steve's delicious lunch was devoured and Jeff delivered his usual top-notch job as MC.  Then the rain started, and then no one cared because another super fun Gunnar Hagen was in the books.

I had promised this blog's training contributors, who kept us up to date on their training progress all summer and fall, that I wouldn't bug them again until next summer.  But then I thought, we're leaving the theatre without watching the end of the movie.  We're putting down the book before we get to the last page.  We want to know how our contributors' first race of the season came out!  So I asked and they delivered, once again.  Thank you, contributors!  

Very front of the pack, overall and age group podium, all distances, national and international (full-time job)

Leading up to the first race of the season, the lesson is to not try to catch up on training you haven’t done, rather focus on getting the most out of the training you have done.  That means backing off on volume, and for me, I follow a script I learned back as a junior skier: hard intervals 3 days before the race, a day off, then easy skiing the day before the race.  It has worked well over the years and I generally feel rested and sharp on race day.  Nonetheless, racing is much harder than intervals and particularly the first race of the season!  The first lap was hard and the thought of three more seemed like it was going to be a serious challenge, but one hill at a time, one lap at a time, and before you know it, the first race of the season is done and the feeling of accomplishment sets in.


Front of the pack, overall and age group podium, all distances (full-time job)


My plan for the 7.5km race was pretty simple. Find a klister that would work fairly good - I didn’t need to have perfect kick – I wanted something that wasn’t dragging on the downhills but enough kick for striding gradual uphill terrain. Skins were too draggy/slow.  For such a short race, my plan was to go out fast because each hill was pretty short with a downhill right afterwards for rest.  I pushed each hill as best I could. Overall the race went better than expected considering my colds/covid during Nov/Dec.


Middle of the pack overall, age group podium, World Masters distances (retired from job)


I am basically a citizen racer ( way) past my prime, trying to stay within range of past performance but with realistic expectations about achieving that. On that basis I have to rate my first race as ‘okay.’ I didn’t go as fast as I imagined beforehand I could. My training in the prior three weeks had been spotty and I was relying on my solid dry land and early season skiing base to give me the needed muscle and lung power to go fast (for me) for 7.5 kilometers. I made tactical errors, double-poling sometimes where I should have been striding, and choosing to wax on the slippy side so that I had to run up all the big hills (I hate that!!) And I started to feel pretty tired about 4km s in. However, I kept up a pretty steady pace, and after getting passed by a high school girl who had worked very hard to catch up to me, I stuck with her another few kilometers to the finish. I had it in mind to be right on her tail at the end but couldn’t quite swing it and she pulled in 20 yards ahead.  I finished right in the middle of the pack. My age-related results were very strong. I loved wearing my racing suit. And I always love the KSC course. Not bad! But I have goals to improve for the next race: better balance of double-poling and striding; more hill workouts to improve my anaerobic capacity; better decision-making about my wax. 


Middle of the pack overall, Kongsberger skate races only (for now!) (full-time job)


I recently completed my first classic ski race – the Gunnar Hagen 30K! 
In the early fall, I continued my summer pattern of mostly gym workouts during the week and one long “over-distance” hike on the weekend.  I had a goal of hitting some longer day objectives this hiking season, so gradually started to increase my day hike mileage from the low teens to the high teens / low twenties.  Some of the more memorable objectives were:  South Brother, Gothic Basin / Monte Cristo-Silver Lake, Ruby Mountain and a very cool Alpine Lakes loop that links Pratt to Melakwa Lake and then down Denny Creek.  
Taking advantage of the sunny mid-October weather, I capped off the hiking season with a 1-day push to summit Glacier Peak (~35 miles).  I don’t think I was quite ready for the jump from low-20 to mid-30s mileage, but the payoff was spectacular – miles of glacier carved, above treeline hiking in a sea of mountains.  (Goal for 2023 is to climb Rainier, so that I will have climbed all 5 of the WA State volcanoes!)  
I spent the month of November recovering from my first bout with Covid.  Gratefully, no respiratory symptoms, but I had very low energy for the better part of a month.  So no training at all that month, and limited gym training in December during a busy work season.  
In late December, I got on snow for the first time this season when my family and I spent 5 fantastic, snowy and cold days in Mazama.  As a Christmas present, I got my first pair of classic (skin) skis from Mark at Nordic Ultratune so I could finally race the Gunnar Hagen.  (Well, first real time racing the GH:  several years ago, I double poled the 7.5K on skate skis….)  I was able to get out on the new classic skis twice before the race – not quite enough time to learn good classic technique as I found out!  
Racing the GH was super fun – and humbling.  My technique was terrible, but I felt like my fitness from the early fall / summer carried me through.  Even the slightest incline proved a challenge for me to stride up, so I began to herringbone jog up every hill – channeling my inner-Klaebo.  I finished back of pack for my age group, but I’m excited for more classic skiing and racing in the future.  Racing for 30K hopefully helped to ingrain the classic stride movement in my muscle memory.  
A couple of additional observations:  
·       It’s so cool to be able to put on a bib and be in the same event as the amazing skiers that do these races.  
·       About halfway through the race, I started to appreciate the subtle tradeoffs that the classic technique presents:  the balance between kick and glide, when to double pole vs. stride, stay in the tracks vs. step turn on the downhills.  
Finally, what a cool club and community we have!  It’s so amazing to see the meadow transform from a snowy plain to a race course in little more than an hour.  I’m very grateful to be a part of this community and to help put on an event that brings more people into this sport.