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Bonk Series: Sibley Ski Tour
By:  Craig Storey   (2005/02/18)


I bonked badly in the Sibley Ski Tour one year. So badly I've blocked the exact year out of my memory. Luckily it was before internet results so I can't look up my final placing or time.

For those that don't know, 'The Sibley' is the Keskinada of Northwestern Ontario held in Sleeping Giant Provincial park just east of Thunder Bay.

In the way of excuses about why I bonked I would say that things were stacked against me going into the race. Sibley was less than one week after I returned from Nationals out West. In the few days I was home I wrote a half dozen mid terms I had missed during nationals. That meant I was sitting all day studying, not allowing my sore legs to recover and doing zero hours of real training,. Oh, you could count my 1.5 hour run to pick up the registraion kits the night before the race, which did nothing but put lead in my legs.

Why do the race if I knew I wasn't ready? I really like to race! And I had to make a decision to race 3 weeks before hand since I would be away at Nationals when the registration deadline passed. So I registered in advance, because otherwise it would be too late, and once the money was spent I was comitted. Besides, I would be spending 2 weeks at altitude just before the race, so I would have an advantage when I returned to sea level, right?

So I went into the race tired, but so did all of us coming back from Nationals. At least my roomates (also my closest rivals), since they too had had a few exams, though they did manage to ski a bit more than me in the days before the race. But if all of my roomates and closest competitors were going to do it so was I. (There's a lesson about jumping off bridges here, but I don't have any experience with that.)

Race morning came and under normal circumstances I would have never gotten out of bed. I was tired, stiff and my throat was scratchy. Yep should have skipped the race, feeling like I did! But the sun was shinning, the birds chirping and it looked like a beautiful day for a ski. It's one of those situations were it's nearing the end of the season and you are looking to get in any extra skiing possible. Also, you always want to support the local races, and the bigger the race the more fun (usually!). Besides if I didn't feel well part way through I could slow down - after all it is called the Sibley Ski TOUR.

The morning weather was -5C and clear with a chance of snow late in the day. Out at Sibley, a peninsula in Lake Superior, we reasoned it would be more humid and a bit warmer.

I felt good in the warmup and I picked stiff pair of skis for the hard packed ice predicting it wouldn't change a lot throughout the race. I also chose to wear my lightest lifa top and no lifa bottoms given the temperature. Bad moves in retrospect.

I'll spare you all of the gorry details, but here's the summary. Before the race starts we get heavy snow, and people are rilling their skis on the start line...but not me. After 10km of racing all is well I'm with the train leading the race and the pace is easy. After another 10km it's raining hard and the track is getting really slushy. I loose the leaders at this point and I'm with a second group of skiers weighing about 100lbs and seemingly floating through the slush while I am ploughing it off the trail! Just before the 25km mark, where we start the second loop of the course I find out I'm way off the pace. Worse yet I'm soaked to the bone and a bit cold. Luckily the rain has stopped, but it gets cloudy and colder. But slush we skied in on the first lap has turned icy (with some slush on top still) and there are ruts that make it very hard to feel comfortable. The skiing is terrible. Luckily I'm with the other big guy in the race. We're skiing well together and I imagine we are making up time. But at 35km he pulls over and mutters "c'est miserable!". I slow down to see if he's going to keep me company the rest of the way, but he's done. So I'm alone and cold in the woods.

Then it happens. It gets tough to stay on one ski withthe ruts and my legs are aching. Then I feel really tired and cold. After one of the downhills my ski suit freezes so that when I stand up it doesn't touch my back. By 40km I've finnished 3 gels in 10km and they aren't helping. My feet are soaked and really cold, so are my hands - and that never happens. Can fingers fall off at -5C? This keeps me headed toward the finish as hard as possible...but turtles on skis would have zooming by. I stumble a lot on the ruts and at one point my vision is fuzzy.

A few people pass me, then many more. Some even looked like they were having fun! Or maybe they are laughing at me? I've tracked a few of them so often in Lappe races, I'm sure they enjoyed it. (Lots of them tell me this!) By the time I see the finishing stretch I am feeling ill, not just tired.

Luckily my housemates were nice enough to wait for me at the finnish. They helped me change into dry clothes immediately after the race. In 5 minutes I went from taking off my skis at the finish to being asleep in the car. I slept all the way home, 45minutes, then got straight into bed and slept through until the next morning. When I awoke I was sick as a dog!

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