After the success of the first-ever World Cup in ski orienteering held by the US last year, the International Orienteering Federation was anxious for the US to hold more World Ranking Event (WRE) races. Mostly, this is self serving in the interest of US ski orienteers, as it maintains our WRE points and keeps the field more competitive for all athletes, but it also helps the IOF claim that it has another country hosting top level ski-o, and apparently that's something they're interested in claiming. So, after taking an IOF Event Advisor clinic during the World Cups last year, Ed and I both became IOF Event Advisors. Personally, I would rather race than advise an event, but Ed likes hosting events, so became the IOF guy for a WRE race at Kingdom Valley Nordic, Ken's house in Chester VT. Since Ken's trails are densely packed and not too big, the event would be a sprint race, and then we had a less-official sprint relay in the afternoon. To entice more people to come, we added two more races to the weekend - in Grafton on Sunday, and in Craftsbury on Monday (MLK day).
I was certainly most concerned with the WRE race, needing good points to help with seeding in the World Champs coming up. I did a good warmup, and settled my mind for the race. Choose good routes. Ski deliberately. Go fast where you can, but slow where you have to. Know what happens next. Be confident in your speed and your brains. The mantras are familiar, well worn and well practiced. It's hard not to get frantic in a sprint, the seconds go by so fast, and all those seconds add up to minutes. But three seconds taken to double check a route are well spent, compared with 20 seconds lost taking the wrong route.
At 15 seconds before the start, I get my map. Flip it over and put it into the map holder calmly, snap the snaps as I find the start triangle and #1 and glance over the rest of the course. It's short, 2.3km, but with big hills and many narrow trails. The beeper beeps its final beep, and I have a plan for #1, so blast out of the start, accelerating fast and double checking the route to 2. Left on the big trail, then down the hill on the little trail, always bearing left, simplifying the map so that I know I only need to take the outside trail. The control is where I expect it, and I punch feeling full of confidence. Spiking the first control sets the scene for the entire race. Now it's go time! (see map below)
On the way to 2, out in the field, I see Anna V, who started 2min ahead of me. She's made a mistake on #1, but moving pretty quickly. I struggle a bit on the off-camber trail through the field, and Ken's neighbor is out there watching the skiers going by, with a bemused expression on his face. What a goofy sport. I read ahead through #5 as I spike 2 and 3, closing the gap to Anna. She pauses at the intersection with the dotted trail (snowshoe or otherwise very rough trail), and I flow through, confident and excited. My first hesitation occurs here, as I didn't read quite carefully enough to notice that the control was on the left branch of a junction, but luckily my head is up, and I spot the control as I come in, and readjust the map in my head. Unfortunately I haven't read ahead quite enough, and take a right turn when I hit the big trail, rather than continuing straight. Realizing what I just did, I carry on with speed, better to keep moving quickly than to change your mind, but I lose some seconds on that leg.
Now we're in to the climb. 6 was fine, but I carried too much speed down the hill to 7, and overshoot the control, needing to turn around sharply. Up the hill to 8, and then a longer uphill to 9, where I'm starting to really feel the lungburn. Punching 9, the trail keeps climbing, and I try to read ahead as much as I can remember, while carrying as much speed as I can. Finally I crest the hill, and take the narrow sketchy trail downhill to 10. I've decided to flow through 10, and thus saved some elevation, but at 11 it's time to go uphill again, and I'm really working now. It's easy to make mistakes when you're pushing too hard, so I make sure I've memorized the downhill leg to 13 and the exit from that control before flying down the hill, passing some other skiers from other courses and nearly catching air a few times on the bumpy descent! At 14 I'm out in the fields, and I scrutinize the map as I head to 15, just to triple check that there isn't an extra control somewhere that I'm missing. Nothing would be worse than a mispunch now! No hidden controls, so I blast toward the finish at full tilt, knowing that every second means several WRE points.
Kingdom Valley trails: WRE sprint (click for larger image/ability to turn on/off routes).
In the end, my effort was good enough to win the race, 24 seconds ahead of Ali, and then ~4min clear of Anna. I was really psyched that how I felt about the race was reflected in the results, as that's such a rare occurrence. Even better is that I felt there were a few places I can improve. In the men's race, Greg won, followed by Adrian and then Scott, also US Team members.
Women's results, with splits.
Overall results, from the IOF website.
Podium from the morning's WRE - all team members (this is probably a good thing).
In the afternoon, Peter helped Ken and Ed set up a very informal sprint relay, where people raced on teams of 2, and each person raced three times around a ~1km loop, with different controls each time 'round. This was much fun, and added to the general feeling of goodwill and community. All proceeds went to the Ski-o Team, which was great, and earned us a good chunk of money to put toward Kazakhstan.
Team members heading to Kazakhstan this March: Scott Pleban, Adrian Owens, Greg Walker, Anna Voegele, Ali Crocker, Alex Jospe.
I missed Sunday's race, as I had to go back south and coach at the MA state qualifier race, but I was back in VT by Sunday night and Monday morning we headed up to Craftsbury, for the long distance races. Adrian hosted this race, and did a great job, utilizing the extensive snowshoe trail network as well as the ski trail network, for some added Euro-style ski-o practice. I really enjoyed barreling down those narrow trails not quite in control, pushing my limits of ski handling and map reading. The snow was absolutely stunning, and I ended up skiing a great overdistance workout, doing not just the blue course, but also the green course and another 15km or so of straight skiing, for a solid 45km day. Yay birkie training! Thanks to my speedy Madshus skis, I ended up winning the blue course, barely 45s ahead of Scott, so that was sweet too. A good day!
Results, with splits. Also, unofficial green course results, unofficial because we'd already picked up controls, and because I decided to tack on another 3k around Sam's run between control 11-12...
Not a bad weekend when you win every race you enter =)
Craftsbury long distance, map 1 (click for larger image/ability to turn on/off routes).
Craftsbury long distance, map 2 (click for larger image/ability to turn on/off routes).
Next up is the Jackson 30k classic. I'm feeling a bit flat from some volume lately, but hoping a rest day or two will solve that, and I'll be sharp and ready to go to help CSU win that club championships!