Sorry these posts are so spread out, access to internet is achieved by borrowing Carl's computer and logging in at the competition center, which is not exactly convienent for anyone. A lot has gone on in the past couple days. Six of us (Ken, Greg, Scott, Carl, Sharon Crawford, and myself) are staying in a beautiful old farmhouse in S-Chanf, and there are a couple other American master skiers here for the world master ski-o champs. There are three events going on here--the World Cup, the European Championships, and the World Master Championships. Greg, Carl, and I are racing in the world cup, which is the same as the EOC, as far as I can tell. Everyone else is racing in the masters champs.
Monday was the sprint race. In orienteering, a sprint is about 3km straight-line distance. I think it ended up being 5-6km total, but they take our maps after we finish and we don't get them back until tomorrow night, so I can't tell you for sure. The sprint did not go that well, although I orienteered well with no mistakes. I was just skiing very slowly, at perhaps 30k pace, and I felt the jetlag and altitude weighing me down.
The trails here are very difficult--although there is one large skating trail that goes through the whole venue, the rest of the trails are "scooter tracks", which are about 1.5m wide, and tend to make mazes. skating uphill on these scooter tracks is very difficult, since you can't use a V1, and if you just double pole, you will likely lose momentum when you poles sink through the deep snow. The fastest way to go uphill on the narrow trails seems to be a sort of jump-marathon-skate, which the Scandinavians appear to do with no effort, but is a very tiring way to ski. As Sharon says, it takes a lot of "arm wax"!
The long course was on Wednesday. I'll go more into detail on the courses when I can post the maps, so you can follow along with what I'm saying. This course, however, had 340m of climb, over 12k. That makes it very hilly. A lot of that climb was on scooter tracks, which makes it even more difficult. This was possibly the hardest orienteering course I've ever done, physically. To make it tougher mentally, there were 44 controls. Normally there are around 25 in a long course. This meant that the winner was hitting one control every minute to minute and a half. I usually like long courses, because there is more time for skiing between the controls, but this was not a course for that. I had to constantly stay on my toes to not miss a control, and I ended up not seeing a whole loop of four controls on the map, near the end, disqualifying myself. I should mention that while the uphills are difficult on scooter tracks, the downhills were positively terrifying. Picture yourself on a gladed ski run that you would do on alpine skis. Then picture some snowmobile tracks running through it, that you need to stay on lest you sink to your waist in powder, with many twists and turns and junctions. You are on skinny skis, and if you miss a junction or take the wrong one, you face minutes of difficult, frustrating climbing. I fell more in those two hours than I have fallen on skis in the last three years, combined. This was also the first time I had ever voluntarily gone down a hill on my butt. I luckily avoided breaking any skis, poles, or body parts, but I managed to fold the aluminum part of my mapholder in half, nearly snapping the plastic part of my map off the holder. Hopefully the organizers don't consider english swearwords grounds for disqualification...
After a frustrating and exhausting long distance race, we had a day off, and the race committee organized a field trip for the athletes up a mountain on a train. The train tracks went straight up the mountain, at a 45 degree, possibly steeper, angle, and the train was pulled by a cable. At the bottom, Sharon noticed that you could rent sleds to come down. No waiver, no helmets, no instructions, just ride the sled down. I agreed to be her partner. Sharon is three times my age, so I figured she wouldn't do anything too risky, but it turns out that girl is crazy! Riding up the train, we could see the track heading down--it looked vertical. It switchbacked down the mountain, with steep pitches and sharp corners, and I was terrified. The first turn, we rolled the sled, and the rest of the team (except Greg and Ken, who went down first on a sled) could not stop laughing. We sort of got the hang of it after that, until we got to this really steep part, and we couldn't slow down at all (you slowed down by dragging your feet in the snow), so I bailed, and Sharon went straight over a cliff. Luckily, it was a small cliff, but I was worried that I had just watched the most experienced member of the US ski-o team disappear over the edge of a cliff. The sled trail was much milder after that, and by the time we reached the bottom we really wanted to do it again!
Today was the last day of individual competitions, with the middle distance. 6.3km, 9km perfect route choice, with only 140 m of climb. I felt like I skied a lot faster today, although I have now counted 6 mistakes, which could add up to nearly 5 minutes. The most costly mistake was when I thought a control was at the bottom of a 2 minute climb, instead of the top, and I went all the way to the bottom before turning around and climbing back up. So not only did I lose the time going down and back up, I got more tired for the remaining controls. The other mistakes were stil minor, but they add up, and it will be interesting to compare my splits to some of the other fast people.
Tomorrow is the relay. I don't think I have a team yet, but I will at least be allowed to ski the first leg.
Sharon waving to the crowd as she starts the sprint. When she finished, the announcer said, "and here is world famous Sharon Crawford!"
Scott with a broken ski after the sprint. He was still our fastest skier!
Crowds at the opening ceremony
USA ski-o team and masters team: from the left: back row: Aims Coney, Ken Walker, Greg walker. Front Row: Terry Myers, Scott Pleban, Sharon Crawford, Carl Fey, Alex Jospe
Men's mass start fore the long distance.
Me, before the sledding. In the background you can see the lakes where the Engadin marathon starts.
Greg (front) and Ken (rear) screaming around a corner.
The venue and the view