I competed in a Quadrathon last February at Mount Taylor in New Mexico. The Mount Taylor Quad is a 42-mile race to the top and back down the 11,301-foot peak. The course climbs over 5,500-feet, and includes cycling, running, skiing, and snowshoeing to the top of the mountain, and then repeating each discipline on the way down.
The attraction of the race lured me into registering in the fall, long before I had given much thought to the uphill and downhill skiing aspects of the race. As a former snowboard racer, I hadn’t been on skis since elementary school, yet I saw this race as an excuse for me to invest in a new sport: nordic skate skiing. Prior to the race, I took every chance I could to get on my cross-country skis to get a feel for the balance, technique, and speed of the sport. There were many cold mornings at City Park, late nights at Ruby Hill, and long weekends at a golf course in Summit County, as I tried to master the skis in a short time period. Come race day, I felt comfortable on my skis and had everything I needed for a solid racing effort.
The first half of the race went very smoothly. I climbed on my bike with the lead pack, ran through the mucky access roads, and even enjoyed skinning up the hill on my light skis. After cresting the peak on my snowshoes, it was time to ski down the hill. “The decent is easier if you keep your skins on!” shouted one volunteer. Note to self, always listen to volunteers. Needless to say, I slid down the tight switchback trail using my butt as my only speed control. As the course got even more difficult, and my knees were wobbling past the point of comfort, I opted to take my skis off and chug along the trail on foot. This appeared to be a great idea until I reached the access road again and couldn’t get my skis back on. Ice had molded into the binding, and I could not jam my boot in hard enough to clip-in. I continued on running, clapped my skis together, and again shoved down my foot. No Luck. This process continued every 50 feet or so, and I felt demoralized as the minutes ticked away. Finally, I gathered myself long enough to give my binding a healthy dose of mouth-to-mouth, successfully revealing the binding clip from the ice jam that had built. Finally, I’m back on my skis. An hour was wasted, my energy was sapped and I still had miles to run, and even more miles to bike.
I completed the Quad, and was sufficiently satisfied by the challenge of the course and each discipline. I was pleased to have finished strong despite my skiing performance, and was most excited to not have injured myself. I have never felt so exhausted, so beat up, yet so exhilarated by my accomplishment. And as is true with most endurance fiends, I can’t wait to do it again next year!