Potto Raid: Good times! No injuries!
The 5th Annual Potto Raid came off without a hitch. It's such a glorious trail to ski on! 16 miles of the 68th-ranked mtbike trail in the USA. Is there any better ski event in Michigan? There may well be better trails, but I'm talking events.
The "real" ski events go for the grooming, but there's a whole nother value to explore out there: SINGLETRACK!
Let's find and ski more of these great trails and routes and start annual parties on them!
Many people probably thought that the Potto would be canceled because an icy trail seemed inevitable, but the shady trees kept the snow quite nice. It started at 25F and never got much above freezing. Sure, there were roots and rocks on some hills, but you just step and hop over them, no biggie!
10 die-hards showed up for the glory of this no rules, no fees event. 7 skiers, 2 bikers on studs and a runner with cleats. One skier used semi-tele boards, another had metal edges, 2 guys used hardshell kneepads, just in case. No one bothered with a helmet (but that's not a bad idea). Everyone had nowax skis. Boy, they make a racket!
We spontaneously ran the course in convivial fashion, regrouping as the spirit moved at prime rest-spots. This really makes such a marathon into a fun time rather than a gruelfest. How many other events think to do this? So we had several Stages. What fun! We'd wait a couple minutes each time, the leaders getting more of a rest as their preem prize. The day sorted into several miniclusters that each did their own thing, with one group stopping for an early beer and taking the shortcut, why not.
We had cowbells, beer and pizza in the parking lot afterward, with car stereo DJ'ing.
I was proud to two-peat with a course record of 3:05 and won a sixer of Hopslam, yeah! Plus an armload of Jiffy Mix prizes. The good prizes went deep, including a nice wool hat and plush jacket from Aberdeen Bike.
As usual, we had a neutral first section, to give time to chat. Then host John Rutherford totally won the next stage and its coveted Aggressive Downhill prize. If you can clean the Potto downhills, you easily gain minutes on your fearful rivals. Ben Caldwell made the next move and led the next section. But I got the final two stages, with their slightly less extreme yet still fearsome downhills.
One bridge at the bottom of a drop-filled downhill was totally bare of snow. So I hit all that wood at speed and crossed without slowing a wink. I was wondering how that would work.
The nowaxers were good also because their friction helped us survive the downhills.
To give a few more examples: one of the faster but easier downhills early on has four big drops in it. This comes right after the longest twisting gully-type downhill, which peaks with a sliding, dropping hard right.
In the final stage there's a gully-drop with roots and rocks and a hard left with a tree in the middle of it followed by a sliding, dropping right -- I crashed there when the fear of cleaning the first tree-filled left caught up with me a heartbeat later.
Oh, and I dismounted and ran down the scariest pitch of all, with big root-filled changes -- chicanes -- the worst one dropping around a thigh-hill log. In previous runs I'd always cleaned that section but this time was icier and barer than usual and every other time I was dumbfounded and rather shaking that I made it, so Ben and I ran -- while John aced it and put massive, highspeed distance on us. It's interesting that I'd always cleaned it when I didn't think about it -- coz it's on you quicker than you realize it, if you don't know the trail. But this time when I gave myself a moment to ponder what was coming up I totally dismounted. Likely smart, given the ice. But the idea of making it if you don't think about it is an interesting one.
Then there are the dozen or more twisting, root-filled herringbone CLIMBS.
But the views! The lake overlooks... It's a great trail.
Last year we had more snow and more skiers. Hopefully that'll happen again and we'll get some more folks who are usually only found on groomed courses to come see what all the fuss is about. The word is spreading but the "real" skiers are still afraid of the harshness and no-grooming. And the risk, I suppose. They don't want to wreck their stuff or get hurt, as their season is short enough as it is. Still...SOME will want to verify their skills one day and taste a Truly Epic Trail!
I enjoyed wearing a light vintage wool and knickers set-up -- it worked great. I should've trusted it more, as I went out with a vest over a light plaid shirt. The vest and hat were soon shed and were just dead weight.
I had a pleasant time with technique as well. When we were skiing as a group I saw that the 2-step *pendulum* doublepole was a dandy way to ski. It's stable on uneven trail and it's a doublepole but far-less intense than a regular kick doublepole. So you work your arms a bit more than in diagonal stride but less than with a KDP -- and you have an upright posture that lets you see around easily. I've been promoting the 2SKDP lately but didn't realize how handy the pendulum poling action is -- where you pump your poles without planting them, swinging your baskets ahead of your grips. I'll do a YouTube soon to show what I mean. This is nowhere online at present nor in any in-print book -- it's a 1950's wood ski move. It's still great for cruising on a homestyle trail.
So that's the report!
Oh, the day before I did the "Frosty Freestyle 15" -- the first Michigan Cup race in SE Michigan in decades! About 170 skiers showed up -- see, that's what happens when you offer a groomed course! I hadn't known that Brighton offered groomed skiing like that, but they keep it good for both skaters and classic skiers over there at Huron Meadows Metropark (a couple miles south of the I-96 / US23 exchange). Part of the race was on a golf course but they also have nice forest sections.
My skis were slow but at least I found that I could still go at max heart-rate for a whole race. I got 37th. I went out with the lead group but soon found that I had messed up my base prep since I was losing feet per stride, on downhills, too. In "real" racing your bases really matter. You can have great skis but without the right prep, you're toast. Of course, racing or skate-skiing regularly is the only way to get your act together. I skate-ski once a year these days so I can't expect anything more than to just have fun -- thankfully, I didn't go so hard a to be in misery, but I guess I came close. I suppose I get whiny because I used to have my racing act together better -- though I never did have my base-prep skills on par with cohorts. At one point I found that the rear of my left ski was gliding OK, which made me chuckle -- you gotta use what ya got! Another funny thing was when a guy passed our little cluster of skiers. He got a few feet ahead then stumbled every few seconds. He must've been pushing it extra-hard. He never crashed outright, but would teeter and wobble as we all blazed along. So everyone has their own version of the ragged edge. So that's all!