Climbing a mountain on rollerskis . . . it's not something you get the chance to do very often, and not always appealing to the cross country ski crowd because the effort and pain of the uphill isn't rewarded by fun downhills. O.k. . . . it's a sufferfest. But the XC Ottawa women's team must find this kind of pain appealing, having started an annual tradition of racing the Climb to the Castle, an uphill rollerski race in Willmington, New York. This year, Ingrid was returning for her 3rd climb, Liza her 2nd, and Sheila trying her 1st.
The race typically draws a competitive field, with US National Team skiers and biathletes making this a regular event on their Fall racing calendar. The race follows the Veteran Memorial toll road for 5 miles up Whiteface Mountain -- the average grade is a relentless 8%. The challenge of steady climbing is often increased with high winds, especially towards the top of the climb, which can bring some skiers to a standstill.
Organizers put on another great event this year. Despite the level of competition and difficulty of the course, the race has a friendly and casual atmosphere. It was no surprise when Liz Stephen (US Ski Team) won the women's event, breaking her own course record, only 2 weeks after setting a course record running up Mount Mansfield. She is quickly becoming one of cross country skiing's best climbers: last winter she was bested only by Norway's Therese Johaug in the Tour de Ski climb up Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme. The men started 10 minutes after the women, so it was fun to see their race unfold as the top men skied by. US biathlete Tim Burke was the 1st to the top. Sheila and Liza had good climbs, finishing 11th and 14th. Ingrid's challenge was made even harder as her glute muscles went into protest mode (climbing nonstop can do funny things to you . . . ) but toughed it out for 16th spot among the women.
Here are a few pictures, and a race video by Ski Trax's Gus Kaeding.
Liza and Ingrid warming up
Ingrid makes suffering look good!
Ingrid nearing the finish
The castle (on another day - it was cloudy and foggy at our finish - sadly, no views!)
All smiles, all done. Start line is beyond the sign - seriously, the road is much steeper than picture suggests.