6 - The Oosik Classic
My apologies, the following journal entry already appeared as an
article on FasterSkier.com. But don't worry, I have edited it a
bit and added a few special bonus clips, just for you guys.
are many races that skiers take very seriously. They set goals months
in advance, train all year, and peak at just the right time for
maximum performance. The ultimate goal might be to win their age-group,
or beat last year's time, or beat their training partner. People
might say they do the race because it is a lot of fun, but ultimately
it is only really fun if they do well. It is all about the thrill
Oosik Classic is not one of those races.
Oosik Classic is all about fun. Sure there is a ski race, but the
race is really just an excuse for an end-of-the-season party. The
weekend of events is such a great time that it is impossible for
anyone to get too worked up about the race. After all, how seriously
can you take a race called the Oosik? (If you don't know what
an Oosik is, suffice it to say that it is a unique part of the Walrus
anatomy. And it is not the tusk.) Apparently one of the lodge owners
near the race location had an Oosik lying around and volunteered
to donate as the Trophy for the race. That's how the race got its
name. Why someone would just have an Oosik lying around is unclear
to me. Don't ask, don't tell.
Majestic Valley Lodge
Being relatively new to Alaska, I first heard about the Oosik
in early February of this year. This was right about the time that
the minimal snow coverage here in Anchorage decided to float down
river into the ocean and leave us skiers staring at bare ground
and trying futilely to hang on to our sanity. I was in the Alaska
Pacific University weight room with a number of APU Masters Skiers
when someone mentioned that they had heard that the skiing was great
up at Majestic Valley. My ears immediately pricked up and I quickly
asked where Majestic Valley was. It was explained to me that Majestic
was about 2 hours from Anchorage and that Adam Verrier organizes
a great race there at the end of the season. I was told that despite
the miserable winter in Anchorage, Majestic had good skiing and
that the Oosik race was one race on the local schedule that would
probably not be cancelled.
can read in the March Journal about my
first trip to Majestic.
The Majestic Valley Lodge (in back), with Glacier Hall (red building)
Valley Lodge is located about an hour outside Palmer, Alaska
at mile 115 on the Glen Highway, nestled between the Talkeetna and
Chugach Mountains. The beautiful lodge, built in 2001, is home to
the dining area, while guests stay in Glacier Hall or one of the
private cabins, Grizzly or Coyote. All of the buildings look south
towards an amazing view of the Chugach mountains. I was only two
hours from Anchorage, but it is in another world.
The view from Majestic Valley Lodge (the lodge is the main building
in the foreground). Click picture for an enlarged view.
the Oosik, we drove up to Majestic Valley Lodge on Friday evening.
We checked in, and were directed to our room in Glacier Hall. Normally,
you need to book a room for the Oosik months in advance (there are
only about 10 rooms). But I was lucky enough to use a couple of
connections to get a room, mostly thanks to Adam. My dad was Adam
Verrier's ski coach for a year or two in high school. Some of my
first memories of seeing ski races were when my dad would take me
along with his high school team to watch their races. I don't know
how old I was, but at that time Adam was the dominant skier in northern
New Hampshire. Anyway, back to the Oosik.
rooms in Glacier are not fancy, but each has a full-size bed and
a twin bed, its own bathroom and the view out our south-facing window
was just breath-taking. The simplicity of the accommodations helps
focus your attention on the spectacular surroundings. Glacier has
a shared common room, with couches, lots of games, books and magazines,
as well as a coffee maker and a microwave, which we used to heat
up our pre-race Pasta meal. After dinner, I read a book as I watched
the sun set over the mountains, before heading off to bed.
Race Organizer Adam Verrier has organized this end-of-the-year race
for the past three seasons. Adam's vision for this race has
always been to make it an fun get-together event rather than a race.
As he said to the Anchorage Daily News, "No matter what the
snow conditions, we should always have the Oosik Classic Ski Race.
And if there's no snow here at all, we should go for a hike
in the woods and call it the Oosik Classic."
philosophy behind the Oosik is very similar to big ski marathons
in Scandinavia, where crowds of people camp out on the side of the
trail and drink beer and build bonfires while the racers go by.
The only difference with the Oosik is that the racers themselves
camp by the trail and drink beer around the bonfire, after the race
is over. The Oosik has a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants feel to it.
From what I have heard and seen, there are always last minute course
changes, sketchy sections of what might loosely be called 'trail',
and sometimes conflicting trail markers. All of which keeps the
competition from getting too serious, but which also belies the
amount of effort Adam puts into organizing this race. This year
the Oosik had about 100 racers. This was down from 150 last year,
but still an impressive showing considering that many people haven't
been able to ski much this winter.
Yes, this was part of the race course
most european races, the Oosik starts a little later in the day.
The Oosik started at noon, which was just about right on this cool,
but sunny spring day. As everyone tested wax prior to the race,
the snow was staying nice and cold, even though the sun was shining
brightly. Extra blue was kicking great in the rock-hard tracks.
We knew that sooner or later, the snow would warm up, but how much?
Should we risk putting on a warmer (ie slower) wax? Most people
did not. But as it turned out the snow started to warm up just as
the race started.
Oosik Race Start
first 15K was on very challenging trails at Sheep Mountain. From
the start, we skied through a gravel pit, and right up out of the
gravel pit on a very steep incline. We kept climbing on a narrow
trail through the woods to the top of the Sheep Mountain trails.
From here there was a screaming 2K of downhills, with tight turns,
high speeds, and just enough panic to let us all know that we were
in for an interesting day. Welcome to the Oosik! Soon after, we
had to pass over a frozen waterfall of ice which had covered a section
of the course. Yep, definitely the Oosik. Some skiers tried to go
around it, but I just did my best to get up enough speed to cruise
straight across it - with no sudden movements - before gravity pulled
my downhill and into the bushes. I made it across standing up, but
barely. At this point I was trying desperately to hang on to the
lead group of skiers. My kick was was not working very well and
I could not get into rhythm, but I kept them in sight.
15K we came flying back down into the gravel pit, up through some
more bushes (Oosik!) and onto a long gradual uphill, about 5-6K,
on the Old Glenn Highway. Despite the fact that we were climbing
for so long, this was a great part of the course. Amazing views,
and the even grade meant that I could finally get my wax to work
and get into a rhythm. As I started up the hill, I saw Frode Lillefjell,
who had been in the lead pack ahead of me, pull off and start applying
klister to his skis. My kick was not great, but I saw no reason
to stop and re wax. A few minutes later, Frode caught up to me.
His skis were kicking great, but they were a bit slow. The 25K racers
had started 30 minutes after us and had headed directly for this
uphill, so we were able to feel good about ourselves by passing
some of the slower 25K racers as we climbed. Frode and I stayed
together for the rest of the uphill. I managed to get a little ahead
on the downhill, but he quickly closed in at the bottom.
this point in the race, we had to cross the highway to ski the Majestic
Valley trails. Originally, this crossing was supposed to take place
through a tunnel under the road. Adam and Trond Flagstad had shoveled
this tunnel with snow the previous weekend and dubbed it the Oosik
Express, because of the downhill that would shoot you into the tunnel.
Adam seemed confident that this route was safe and that it was 'a
go'. But a few skiers who showed up early on Friday, and were
well aware of the Oosik's reputation, decided to check out
the tunnel for themselves. Upon inspection, these skiers immediately
became concerned because of its steep and icy entrance and exit,
as well as the boulders lining each side. Hey, that's the Oosik!
Adam reassured them that it was fine, but he then decided that he
should test it himself, just in case. He grabbed his skis (metal-edged
no less) and headed to the tunnel. The first time through, he crashed.
The second time, he made it. Upon further review, Adam decided that
a 50% success rate for a former Olympian was not an acceptable safety
level. So the tunnel was overruled, we had to take our skis off
and run across the road.
quickly pulled away from me after we cross the road, on the first
uphill on the Majestic trails. The last exciting part of the race
was a very steep and very fast downhill with about 5K to go. It
was long enough that you got a good bit of steam going. Then at
the bottom, the trail was just uneven enough, with just the right
amount of turn and bumps, to throw any overly aggressive skier hurtling
on his stomach or butt toward the snowbanks. Oosik. Both Lars Flora
and Frode Lillefjell apparently took spills here. I was able to
safely navigate the hill, but only because a skier from the 25K
was going down the hill ahead of me in a wide snowplow and I had
to slow down until the trail was wide enough to pass.
here is was smooth sailing to the finish line. I finished 6th -
slightly behind the top five, but well ahead of the rest of the
pack. Trond Flagstad proved once again that he is the Oosik Master
by winning for the third time. Lars Flora used his sprinting speed
to edge out UAF skier Peter Barton for second. In the women's
race UAF standout Sigrid Aas was the winner, with APU's Erin
Quinn-Hurst in second, while Nicole DeYoung was third.
Trond Flagstad 1:44:25; 2) Lars Flora 1:48:07; 3) Peter Barton 1:48:08;
4) Zach Violett 1:48:26; 5) Frode Lillefjell 1:49:49; 6) Cory Smith
1:50:39; 7) Trond Bjorn-Jensen 1:56:22; 8) Benji Uffenbeck 1:59:00;
9) Colin Quinn-Hurst 2:06:04; 10) Scott Hauser 2:08:50;
the 25K race, the women's top three were Sara Hansen, Becky
Hauser, and Hege Hjelmeland. In the mens 25K, it was Patrick Gilroy
taking the win ahead of Mark Brady and Kerry Klauder.
girlfriend Linda also raced - only her third xc ski race ever (she's
quickly becoming a convert). The 25K was the furthest she has ever
skied, but she performed extremely well on this slightly treacherous
now it was about 3:00 pm. The race may have been over for most people,
but the fun was just beginning. The Majestic Valley Lodge prepared
a terrific post-race barbeque of Bratwurst, potato salad, cookies
and more, which we washed down with a donated keg of Midnight Sun's
Oosik Amber (fittingly enough). The sun was shining outside, but
the temperatures were still a little cool for springtime, so most
of us hung out in the beautiful lodge while we digested our meals
and socialized with our fellow skiers. Awards were presented to
the top three in each race, and there were lots of generous raffle
prizes as well. Following the awards, usually there is a band that
kicks the party into high gear. This year, since the race was questionable
due to snow conditions, Adam did not book a band. So the party dispersed
temporarily. Some people headed home. Those of us who stayed to
enjoy the lodge and the surroundings for another night either napped,
relaxed our weary bones in Majestic's sauna, or took the party
in the evening, after everyone had a chance to relax and regroup,
the festivities were ignited again by the bonfire. A crowd of about
30-40 hearty skiers sat huddled around a bonfire sharing stories
and drinks, while watching a modest display of Northern Lights.
There were even a few full-moons out - but thankfully the boys who
streaked out of the sauna and around the bonfire quickly returned
where they came from. The fire finally started to dwindle down in
the wee-hours of the morning. At this point, I made my way back
to our cozy room in Glacier Hall to finally collapse from a long
The morning after the race we were all in the mood for a leisurely
and hearty breakfast. I had heard great things about the meals at
Majestic Valley, but because of our race schedule and the barbecue
yesterday, I had yet to eat a meal in their dining room. But Sunday's
breakfast more than made up for any meals I missed. The lodge prepared
a mouthwatering meal of omelets, home fries, grapefruit, and deliciously
sinful cinnamon buns. Life is good.
stuffing myself at breakfast and feeling sore from yesterday's
race, I hardly felt like skiing. But I was determined to convince
Linda to join me for one more ski before leaving. I had a hidden
agenda for this day. We had enjoyed a wonderful weekend ski getaway
and I wanted to cap it off with a bang. We skied easily out to a
spectacular viewpoint (see view picture above), where I dropped
into a telemark turn position and asked Linda to marry me. Thankfully
she said yes! Truth be told, I had been trying to find a way to
propose for months now, but her schedule and the poor weather had
made it impossible to get away for the weekend, and have just the
right 'moment.' I finally had a chance for that moment and it was
everything I hoped for. So yes ladies, I am off the market. We are
both very excited.
was a very poor winter in Anchorage. But for two magnificent days
at the Oosik Classic, that seemed very far away. Thanks to Adam
Verrier and Majestic Valley Lodge (and countless sponsors and volunteers!),
we were all able to wrap up the season on a very positive note -
and make it a very memorable weekend in my life!
another account of the Oosik, check out the article in the Anchorage
Daily News: You
Can't Be Serious
more info on the Oosik, go here.
more information on a vacation at Majestic Valley Lodge, click here.
20- Cory's Excellent Adventure
As you well know if you are reading this, winter here in Alaska
was miserable and I suffered a lot. No snow, no races, no adventure.
It was very hard to find interesting stuff to write about without
good skiing or races taking place. So I apologize for the subpart
writing on this website this winter - and I am going to make it
up to you!
I had no great adventures to write about this winter, I am going
to make sure that the spring in filled with them. After all, I have
to keep the readers entertained.
is spring, and to clear my mind of all the misery of this winter,
I am embarking on an adventure.
is the Master Plan for Cory's Excellent Adventure.
Three weeks, four states, three big trips.
May 5-9: Trip 1 - Backpacking Resurrection Pass, Alaska. Linda and
I and two others are going to do a hut to hut backpacking trip along
the 35 mile Resurrection Pass trail on the Kenai Peninsula. This
will be very scenic and fairly remote, but it shouldn't be that
strenuous - more of a warm up for the other events. Not yet sure
if this one will happen - might be too much snow on the trail. But
maybe we can ski it?
May 11: Fly to New Hampshire
May 16-20: Trip 2 - The Appalachian Extreme. This adventure race
is 3-4 days of non-stop navigating, paddling (flatwater & moving
water canoeing), mountain biking, rappelling, and trekking
through the mountains of Maine and New Hampshire. I have wanted
to get into Adventure racing for a while now, but never could find
both a) the money (Entry fees can be thousands of dollars - and
you thought the Birkie was expensive!) and b)willing teammates.
But recently I was approached by a team who lost a member due to
injury and needs someone to step in at the last minute. It is an
opportunity I couldn't pass up.
May 23: Fly to Utah
May 24: Trip 3 - White Rim 100 Mountain Bike ride. Ever since I
moved to Utah in 1996, my roommates and I talked about about doing
the 100 mile White Rim trail in one day. It is hard, but many people
have done it and we wanted to add our names to the list. We never
got around to while I lived there, but this spring we're doing it.
Its time to put this baby to bed. Plus I really need a Moab fix.
That is one of the only places I really miss living in Alaska -
the desert of Southern Utah.
May 26: Fly back to Alaska.
Yes, it will be a very interesting month of May. So stay tuned.
There is no turning back now, the tickets are booked. Let the fun
begin! The things I do for you people.
So I was thinking as I was out training today- I should document
my current training regimen. "How to prepare for an adventure
race in three weeks." Not for the weak at heart.
been a while since I've had a real story to tell you guys, and this
seems like a good one to document in detail. I am focusing my training
on the adventure race. The Alaskan hike should be pretty easy, and
the Moab ride is just a personal fun thing, not a race.
provide daily updates of my training to let you see what it is like
to try to prepare for a three-to-four day, non-stop, event in three
weeks. Okay, truth be told, I am not starting from scratch. I didn't
ski race much this winter , but I am in good general aerobic shape.
What I need to focus on in my training is two-fold: 1)Get in specific
shape for each of the disciplines and 2) Make sure my body is ready
to handle the beating after a winter of non-impact sports.
gone out a few times so far this spring, but most of my exercise
has been skiing. Now, it is time to start hitting the pavement and
my "official" training yesterday with a bike ride. All
the trails around here are still muddy, so I did a loop around the
city on a paved bike path. Not strenuous, but I was pleasantly surprised
that I rode for three hours with minimal discomfort. A good start.
(Right now, my teammates are probably thinking "We're screwed."
But I've got plenty of time - three weeks!)
I went for a run. I used to be able to throw on the the running
shoes in the spring and immediately head out for a two hour run.
Not any more. My legs are getting creaky in my old age (28 for anyone
who's counting) and now I have to start out small and work up, or
risk injury. I've been out a couple times already, so I figured
I was ready for a test: an hour and twenty minutes all on pavement.
I hardly ever run on pavement, but with limited dry trails around
Anchorage right now, it seemed like a good way to see how the legs
would hold up.
run was fine. I felt slow, but I always feel slow on pavement -
I like being on narrow trails where the trees whizzing by makes
me feel fast. My knees where a little sore when I finished, but
not bad. Another step up the ladder.
Still feeling good on day three, I decided to go for another bike
ride, but add some vertical gain. There is a dirt road that starts
near my house and goes up to an area called Stuckagain Heights.
MY guess is that it is about a 1000 foot elevation gain to the top,
over a few miles. Not huge, but a good stepping stone. I biked from
my house to the top and I felt good so explored all the side roads
as well. The whole workout was about 1:20. My legs were sore when
I got home, but in a very good way.
Today I was thinking that this training thing was going to be a
breeze. Already on day four and still feeling great. I decided to
go for a run on the the COstal Trail today. Again, a paved trail,
but I the legs were feeling good. I ran ten miles at an easy pace.
When I had two miles left, I felt strong so I decided to see if
I could remember what a 7 minute mile felt like - not too fast,
but fast enough to get me moving. I hadn't looked at my watch all
day and hadn't run a timed mile in ages, but I started my stopwatch,
picked a pace, and vowed to stay with it for a mile (they have mile
markers on the trail) and se how close I could come to a 7:00 minute
mile. My time: 6:55. It is amazing feeling when you know your body
Originally I had thought that I would take two days off in this
first week. After all, I am not trying to get in better shape, I
am trying to get my body accustomed to different activities, and
it is important to let the body rebuild as you tear it down. After
the first few days went so well, I was thinking of not taking a
rest day- until I woke up this morning. My knees were very sore
from running yesterday. I decided reluctantly that it was time for
a day off. Maybe this won't be so easy.
I have been trying to figure out how to train for the paddling part
of the race. All the lakes around here are still frozen. Perhaps
I could get down to Seward or Whittier and rent a sea kayak, but
not until the weekend at the earliest. I figured that double poling
uses many of the same muscles (arms, back, stomach) so if I did
some double pole training, then got on the water next week, I'd
today, for the first time ever, I went rollerskiing in April. Well,
that's not entirely true. A few years ago we did a rollerskiing
photo shoot in April, but that doesn't really count. This was the
earliest in the training year that I have ever done rollerski training.
My previous record was May 1, about 5 years ago when Torbjorn made
us do do a rollerski time trial on May 1. ouch.
time was much less painful. I picked a nice gently rolling bike
path and double poled for two hours and 20 miles. I knew my arms
were still in pretty good shape from the winter, but even so I was
pleasantly surprised to feel strong right up until the end. Now
as long as that transfers to paddling I'll be doing just fine.
other part of this race that I am completely inexperienced in is
rappelling. I have never done any rock climbing, but I need to be
certified in repelling before i can compete. So today, I stopped
in at the local mountaineering/ski store AMH, and convinced the
resident guru to give me some lessons next week.
The achy feeling in my legs from the run on Wednesday lingered longer
than I hoped, but I was feeling good enough to go for a hike today.
I put on a 12 pound pack (in the race it will be more like 20 I
think) and Linda and I went for a three hour hike up McHugh Creek
trail. It was beautifully scenic, and while we didn't make it to
McHugh Lake at the top in our three hours, we still had some nice
views and my legs really seemed to enjoy the hiking- they felt better
when we got back than they did before we started.
View towards McHugh Lake
View of Turnagain Arm from McHugh Creek Trail
The trails are getting drier now, and I am itching to to get in
some 'real' running. I went to Kincaid Park today and ran the Andrew
Lekisch trail. This is my favorite ski trail in town, but I think
it is now my favorite running trail as well. It is so much fun to
run, with its ups and downs, and twists and turns. I didn't plan
on running for very long - I wanted to see how I felt after my first
run with some real climbing in it. But I felt good so I continued
around some more of the Kincaid trails before calling it quits after
about 1:40. Saw 5 moose, which is about par for the course in Kincaid.
after week one, training is on track. But now the real tests begin.
Week one was "ease-into-it-and-don't-get-injured week".
Now we start the real training.
This morning while getting up from my desk to get a bite to eat,
my right calf muscle felt unusually tight. This concerned me because
the last time it felt like this was two years ag, after a very steep
run too early in the training year. That run left me with a minor
case of tendonitis that took about three weeks to shake. The hills
in yesterday's run had felt good, but had I overdone it? I took
a day off to see if the feeling would go away.
My calf was still tight today, but I really needed to train. I figured
a bike ride wouldn't strain my calf too much. In spite of the injury,
I decided it was time for a real test. I needed to see how much
I could handle at this point. I rode from my house to the top of
the highest road I could find - the dirt road to Glen Alps trailhead.
From my house, I estimated that it was about 2000 feet of vertical
gain. The climb was grueling and early on my legs suffered, but
then I got into a steady rhythmn and just kept turning over the
pedals. I made it to the top feeling much better than I expected
too. This was good. I have a feeling that this adventure race is
going to be all about finding a rythmn and maintaining it. Total
ride time was about 2:15.
I wanted to go running today, but the calf is still tight. This
might be a bigger problem than I thought. Instead, I worked out
a compromise. I went rollerskiing to work on upperbody strength
again, and then followed that workout with a short hike/run to test
the leg. After a bit of experimenting, I found that if I used a
diagonal stride motion with my arms and kept my legs still, it felt
similar to a kayaking motion. I startedto overexaggerate tehe side-to-side
rotaion of the upper body to work the stomach more. This felt like
very good training for paddling. After two hours on the Costal Trail,
I made my way back to Kincaid Park, where I changed from ski boots
to running shoes and hit the trails. After about 20 minutes, the
leg started to tighten again. I had planned to run for an hour,
but I cut it short to 40 minutes.
was my climbing lesson. Climbing is something I have always been
interested in. After all, if you live an active outdoor lifestyle,
chances are you are going to be haning around with some climbers.
Most of my friends climb, but I have just never taken the time to
learn. I am hopeful that this race will give me the kickstart I
need to start learning. But for now, I am just repelling.
instructor, Nick, and his wife have taken me to a small spot called
Boy Scout rock. After showing me how to get set-up and clipped in,
Nick has me practice feeding the rope and starting and stopping
on flat ground. After a few minutes, he decided I was ready to try
the 20 foot drop. My first trip down was slow and jerky, but I was
surprised at how comfortable it felt. This was not hard. I made
about 10 trips down the rock and that was it. In about an hour,
Nick seemed convinced that I knew the minimum that I needed for
the race. I was a bit concerned because in the race the cliff would
be 150 feet or so, and I had only done 20. But Nick assured me that
the motions are exactly the same, the trip just lasts longer.
had been the major obstacle for me when I was decided whether to
do the adventure race or not. But now I had overcome that hurdle.
The only thing left to worry about is training.
far I have been happy with my training. I have put it some good
workouts. But I know I really need to step it up now if I am going
to be ready. Another day or two to let the leg rest, then I feel
I need to get going.