Test your Sonot Kkaazoot fitness in Distance Race #3 on Sunday

The recent extended cold spell (in relative terms) has limited most skiers to shorter classical workouts. However, the 10 and 30 km Distance Race is scheduled for this Sunday, 18 February starting at 11 a.m. and will be a classical technique race. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race coordinator says the course will be the same as in 2017. That course is shown below:


According to my notes, the course started at the biathlon and went out White Bear to the Hilltop turnaround, back on White Bear, East Ramp, Relay Loop to Outhouse, first cutoff to Sunnyside, turnaround at Section Line Cutoff (as we did on Distance Race #2), rest of Outhouse, Relay, Roller Coaster Bypass, and White Cub to biathlon for each 10 km loop.

Sign up here: https://register.chronotrack.com/r/35560

While you have your credit card handy, why not sign up your valentine for the 31st annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot? What better gift than good health and fitness. Remember early registration ends on 23 February so it’ll never be a better bargain than now. https://sonotkkaazoot.org/register/

This is the likely the last year for staggered starts and the non-marquee events like the 50 km CL and 40 km designed to encourage the more recreational skiers. So if you have been training toward participating in the 50 km classical or 40 km events, it’s time to register because we haven’t gotten the number of participants in these events to justify the time and expense to continue them.

Nice skiing on the Chena River today

From Bad Bob Baker: I skated the river this morning.  The Chena is in great shape and fairly fast with decent snow under the bridges.  All questionable areas were well frozen and in good shape. Ski with a partner and enjoy the smooth skating.  Dress warm!  Be safe.

Sonot start area on 2-6-18 sm

Chena River near the Sonot Kkaazoot start area–Photo by Bob Baker

View of the Chena River on 2-6-18 sm

Chena River skiing 2-6-18 sm

All photos by Bad Bob Baker during this morning’s ski

Chena River groomed–faster but colder than Birch Hill but be careful!

Bad Bob, who turned 60 years old last week, groomed the Chena River again today and rerouted the trail in places. He reports that the Chena River is ready for skiing and is much faster but much colder than Birch Hill. 

HOWEVER, ALL RIVER TRAVEL ON ICE IS HAZARDOUS SO DON’T SKI ALONE. This is the response of groomer Bob Baker to a comment on an earlier post about unsafe spots on the Chena River:

Yes..there are still some bad spots on the river. I caused the hole this person mentioned just upriver from the foot bridge…and now, after 3 days…that hole has frozen over pretty well… but nothing is ever for CERTAIN when it come to safety on the Chena River. What the packing and grooming will hopefully do, is break down the insulating snow cover, and help freeze the packed trail thicker. The grooming helps expose some of the bad spots, but it’s not an instant fix for thin ice. We have another 6 1/2 weeks to go before the race, and it’s my hopes that now that the river has been packed, it will help in the freezing process. I did reroute a lot of the course today, only to find some other NEW HOLES…. I will keep grooming, every week or 2 and move the trail as needed. If people choose to ski on the Chena River, they are doing so at their own risk…. The preparation I’m doing now, is hoping to prepare the river for a safe route come late March for the SONOT race start. For the most part, the river is looking better with each passing week. I would strongly suggest that people don’t ski the river at this time, and if they do, to not ski alone, and be very aware of open holes, steam, and soft spots (overflow), and use extreme caution and alertness!!! It should only improve as the days go by, with these nice negative temperatures we are having. REMEMBER…traveling along any river in the winter is always hazardous!! KEEP YOUR GUARD UP.. PAY ATTENTION… STEER CLEAR OF OBVIOUS BAD AREAS and STAY ON THE PACKED TRAIL…. “

There are less than 3 weeks to sign up for the 2018 Sonot Kkaazoot at early registration fees.

Chena River 1 sm

Chena River 2 sm

Photos by Bad Bob Baker

Chasing the Sun on Moose Mountain

Have you ever wondered how Sonot Kkaazoot creator and long-time organizer, Bad Bob Baker was able to set up the Sonot Kkaazoot course and then ski the race? Grooming and  skiing are part of his life on Moose Mountain. On Saturday, 23 December 2017, Bob shared his “home trail” with us when he organized a Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks Tour that began and ended at his house.

First, he headed off and groomed the 10 mile long, out-and-back trail to eight foot width, returning home as just a hint of predawn light was visible from his deck:

Still dark when Bob finished grooming

He put away his grooming equipment and then began directing vehicles around his parking area so that none of the 16 vehicles would be blocked by another. His years at H&S Warehouse were evident as Bob packed the cars with care, precision, and only inches of clearance between them.

Around 10 a.m., we headed out the trail and soon began the long climb:

And the uphill begins

where smiles were seen on skiers like Sharon Baker and Norma Haubenstock, who opted to stride up the trail:

Sharon & Norma striding up MM

while your blogger, who opted to skate, was struggling to make forward progress. A little snowball of a dog couldn’t figure out why I needed the entire width of the trail as she ran between me and her skier behind me.

Bad Bob, photographer for this post, passed us and skated up to the ridge before sunrise. Here is one of his photos of charred black spruce from the May 2011 forest fire in the foreground and the Alaska Range in the distance.

Sunrise on MM with Blk Spruce skeletal remains

Eventually,  the sun illuminated the windy summits and the valley below:

View of wind on Alaska Range

All photographs in this post were taken by Bad Bob Baker

It was a fantastic day with temperatures in the 20 deg F range while the Fairbanks airport stayed below zero. Descending from the ridge, the low-angled solstice sun glared in our faces, resulting in a few falls on the groomer-created moguls. However, the landings were soft, and soon we were back at the Baker’s house to refuel with Karla Taylor Welch’s chili, Gina Chythlook’s pie, and numerous other baked treats.

Happy Holidays from all the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks volunteers who organize the Sonot Kkaazoot. Give yourself the gift of good health in 2018. Register for the Sonot Kkaazoot during early registration. Just click on the “Register” tab at the top of this post. Bad Bob and Sharon Baker are signed up. Why aren’t you?

Motivation to sign up for 2017 Sonot Kkaazoot


Bad Bob skiing 45 km race–photo by Dave Edic

Having a heart attack (and medically dying) just 9 months ago hasn’t stopped Bad Bob Baker. In training for the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot, he’s in Switzerland at the World Masters where he’s raced in the 30 and 10 km classical events and the 45 km freestyle one. He is scheduled to ski in the M2 (age 35 to 39) relays today and do the Engadin Marathon (42 km) on Sunday.

Here are some excerpts from Bad Bob’s account of his 45 km freestyle race, in which he experienced the scary scenarios that keep skiers up at night.

We woke to beautiful  blue sunny skies and cooler temperatures, around  28 degrees.  I lined up with 59 others my age, but actually, many did not show up…but 59 had signed up to skate. 

We started our 3 X 15 km loops with a bang.  My skis felt great, but I would not know how I would feel until another 200 meters.  Sure enough, at around the 200 meter point, I had pushed too hard and found myself off to the side, allowing all except one other racer to go by.  At the top off the first little uphill, at about 1/2 km, I was ready to shoot downward on a straight easy tucking fast section for perhaps 1/4 of a km.  By the time we got down that hill and crossed the bridge out of the stadium area, I had moved up at least 6 or 7 places.  Ahead was a few kilometers of easy fast flat race trail.  I thought I should move up even more.  Instead..my physical state just would not allow it.  I felt very tired and winded, and found myself dropping most of the positions I had just gotten back. BUT..the weather was spectacular and took my mind off the race a bit and how I was feeling. 

Next up was the first big climb.   I did not fare well, still dropping in position. By the time I got to the top,  I was probably nearly last, and feeling the worse I have felt yet.  NO energy and stopping several times to catch my breath.  I even felt a little pain in my chest perhaps…So, I just took it easier.  As I made my way around that first  15 km lap, it became the same pattern as all the other races, fall behind on the uphills and catch back up on the downhills. By the end of the first lap, I had settled in to my pace, but with much more pain and effort than the previous races.  My first lap was one hour and 2 minutes….

My next lap got a little better as far as breathing went, but suddenly my left leg became sort of useless, hard to explain, it was not cramping, more like aching and uncoordinated.  I found myself starting to double pole instead of skate, trying to bring my left leg back to usefulness.  Somehow I was climbing better/stronger on this lap, and actually caught several other M6’s on the uphills???  AND, I still had my downhills to gain ground.  At the end of the 2nd lap, my time was about 2 hours and 5 minutes.  I had only lost about a minute from my first lap time, which surprised me, cause I felt like I had overall, slowed much more, even though some of my uphills we going better. 

The 3rd and final lap was one spent thinking a lot about how nice it was to be on the final lap, and that I could not wait to finish, as the effort was taking all of my experience to keep moving.  I never totally bonked, but I did feel very, very slow, but I was still gaining of my closest competitors. Also, the weather had gone from bright sun, blue skies and fast snow, to cloudy skies, mushy, slower snow and a lot less spectators on the course. I finally made it to the highest point on the course, on the 3rd lap, at the 39 kilometer point. From here it’s mostly downhill, with only 3 notable ups, none of which match the earlier ones. At the top of the last little uphill, I passed by Dave Edic, still out there cheering me on, and asking me if I needed anything.  From that point (42 km) on, the last 3 km included a full kilometer of a downhill tuck at 30+ mph  followed by a gradual downhill into the finish.

Believe it or not, several times in the last 2 km, I had trouble skating, mostly from fatigue. The final turn into the stadium had turned into 6 inches of sugar snow, but I managed to actually put on a little sprint in across the finish line. My time was 3 hour 9 minutes and 46 seconds.  My goal at the top of the hill back at the 42 km mark, was to beat 3 hour 10 min. I knew it would be close, and I would have to push hard… SO…overall, it was my toughest race, and the race I felt the worse, but, it was the most satisfying to finish. 

I was over an hour behind the best skiers in my division……that’s hard for me to imagine.  They almost lapped me.   The winner of the M6, was around 2 hours and 4 minutes.The thing that immediately came into my head was that 45 kilometers is about 28 miles, so I skied a sub 3 hour marathon pace, so if I were running, that sounds pretty fast to me.  MOST importantly, I know I can still do this, this racing thing, and I have no doubt, I’m only going to improve.

Fairbanks Sonot Kkaazoot skiers and volunteers,  Chris Puchner and Bruce Jamieson, who are M7 skiers, skied 2 laps in their  30 km World Masters freestyle race. They finished in 2:19.31 and 2:19.50 respectively, and will be in the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot.

So what is keeping you from joining Bad Bob, Chris, and Bruce at the start line of the 30th annual Sonot Kkaazoot?


(For more about Bad Bob’s amazing recovery, listen to part 1 of Robert Hannon’s Northern Soundings interview on KUAC-FM at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 March 2017. Part 2 will air on March 28).