Monday, February 25, 2008

Empire State Games Ski-Orienteering

The Empire State Games is supposed to be the showcase event of the best winter athletes in NYS. Alas, the NY highschools always hold states on the Monday following ESGs, so the cross country races consist of a few crazies who do both and everyone who didn't make states. Not the most competitive field you'll ever race. Ski-orienteering, on the other hand, used to have its most competitive event at ESGs, especially since it is open to non-NY athletes if they follow the rules to get in. NY was the place to be if you wanted to be a good ski orienteer in the U.S. Unfortunately, this no longer appears to be the case. It is possible that I am just spoiled from having done the majority of my ski-o racing in Europe, but I had pretty high expectations from ESGs, and they were not met. If you aren't in the mood to hear my whining just stop reading now. Scroll to the bottom for pictures.

I was not at ALL pleased with this event. I don't know who set the course, but whoever it was, I will not attend another ski-o that he sets. First off, the course was a foot-o course to be done on skis. Don't get me wrong, I love summer orienteering where it is all in the woods and there aren't even trails on the map, but this is ski-o, and the idea is that the navigation is the difficult part, not the mode of transportation. There was more bushwhacking required than anything I've ever skied, even in this country. Maybe I have it wrong, maybe US ski-o does NOT want to be at the same level as its euro counterparts; if that is the case they're doing a damn good job ensuring that they never come close to that level. Putting controls on snowshoe trails in the middle of fucking nowhere with pretty much zero navigation to get there and zero thought except "should I try and ski this crap or just take my skis off and run again?" is not a ski-o course. I think there were maybe two good route choice decisions, the rest was pretty much 'just ski there' routes. Or should I say just run there.

Secondly, why, why WHY put your e-punch puncher things dangling on the string? That essentially takes away the point of e-punching (maybe I'm wrong again. Maybe the purpose of e-punching is NOT to make things easier and faster). Everywhere else I've been, and I hear in California too, the e-punch box is nailed to something solid. Not dangling on a string so that you have to use two hands and move it up off the knot and maneuver your finger punch to fit just so between the string and the hole. When I asked about this, I got a "well, I just don't feel comfortable nailing it to trees here" and a change of subject. WTF.

Third, a note on lake placid grooming--buy a new piston bully. You have one of the best trail systems in the northeast, hands down the best in NY, why are you persisting in grooming with a snowmobile? Even the "race course" on the biathlon side wasn't tilled. This is the biggest event that placid will see this winter, and they can't break out their piston bully. Grrr. Some of the hills were snowplowed down to ice from the tourists, enough so that it was impossible to skate up the hill because there was no edge to be had. I had to doublepole up more than one hill because it was impossible to skate. This is avoidable with decent grooming.

If I wanted a straight ski race, I would definitely not have driven all the way to Lake Placid for it. I'm not saying that everything has to be a maze, but nine controls over 9km, compared to 44 controls over 11km in Switzerland, is just pathetic. There was little to no thought put into this course after control #2, by either the course setter or anyone skiing the red course. Ski-o is supposed to use your navigation skills, not your bushwhacking-while-carrying-skis skills. No way am I attending ESGs next year, the girl who was 45 minutes behind me can win instead.

Nonetheless, Lake Placid was beautiful with the new snowfall:

Cheri Walsh Memorial JOQ/EC

Sunday was the last EC of the year, at the Holderness school. I love these trails, especially for classic, but here goes the bitching again, you can't hold a mass start 7km race on those trails. The course started with a pretty big uphill after a stadium loop, and I had decided that I would take it easy up that hill and then let the hounds loose. Unfortunately I've discovered this year that my hounds are actually three-legged blind pekinese, but that still seemed like a better plan than destroying myself up that hill and then limping in to the finish.

Well, that was dumb. I got caught in traffic, knocked down once on the stadium loop, almost taken out while trying to herringbone twice, and spent the whole race skiing defensively and being frustrated. I never got into my stride, never got to actually SKI. That would have been a shitty ending to a shitty weekend. Luckily, Jess and I went out skiing on the awesome tracks afterwards and I was in a good mood by the time I got home.

perfect tracks.

Jess and Alex celebrating the end of an awesome ski season filled with fun adventures.


Colin R said...

As long as you're bitching, you should point out to someone at NENSA that it's the 21st century and women can actually race a distance longer than 7.5k without collapsing from exhaustion.

But you should know from cross that a 80 person, 20 minute mass start race means you basically have to go nuts from the gun. Or maybe you didn't know that? You should ride B men next year, you'll figure it out in a hurry :)

Alex said...

yeah, cross wouldn't teach me that, since the women's fields are rarely larger than 20 people...

Luke S said...

Well I had a similar experience at Holderness, except 15k was enough to destroy me utterly. I got knocked down THREE times in that stadium bout LAST out of more than 100...I'm not even bothering to write a report cause it will be so negative and bitchy.