Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Craftsbury World Cup

Probably two years ago, Adrian and Ken got excited about hosting a World Cup for ski orienteering in the US. They got the IOF excited (which doesn't take much, considering that orienteering with a global distribution is one of the goals of IOF, so they're always ready to jump if North America wants to host something big), and somehow got us committed to the thing before exactly having all the key players placed. I'm a sucker, so I got roped into course setting with barely a fight. With hindsight, should I have pushed back more, and had them find a different course setter? I'm not being boastful when I say that I think we needed me in the roles I was filling to pull off this event to the level we did, so I'll stand behind my decision to be course setter. But this last week was not easy, especially for a gal who likes her sleep.

But, I got to talk on the radio! Here's a link to the piece by VPR: 

That sounds a little negative. This event was pretty awesome. We just needed four times as many competent volunteers with very specific and hard-to-acquire skillsets working on the event.

I won't bore you with the details leading up to the event. But consider it like planning a wedding, where nobody gets married. And if you screw up, the entire party will be upset at you. Particularly for the World Cup athletes, this is their livelihood. No pressure. 

Early on, Andy Hall had volunteered himself to help with course setting, and that was a lifesaver. We went a few times up to the venue to scout trails, and way too many hours on setting and redoing and redoing and redoing courses, and then redoing again on the night before the event when we finally understood how the map would look. 
Andy and Ollie, clearly in charge because they both have radios and coffee. Ollie was a little skeptical about this whole ski orienteering ordeal, but I think he came around by the time I saw him sharing beers with the Swiss "pirate" wax tech. 

The fun thing about ski orienteering is that the map will change on a daily basis, depending on the grooming. Our Senior Event Advisor, Antti Myllärinen, was a whiz with the snowmobile, and managed to get things groomed that we didn't think were possible. That was pretty great. COC staff currently refer to him as the "badass Finnish groomer," and rumor has it they're going to name a dog after him. 

Antti, our badass Finnish groomer. And everything else.
Our junior IOF Event Advisor, Staffan Tunis. This guy also won the World Cup back in 2012, so it was great to have him around to pick his brain.

Super thanks to Bill and the rest of the Outdoors Center staff for all their help this week. I think they were fairly entertained by the craziness of this sport, and enjoyed learning about something totally different than the usual slew of ski races they're so familiar with. John Lazenby photo.

So the order of events is that you have to redo the map, reset all the courses, place all the controls, and not screw any of that up in about 12 hours before every race. There's no way that's not crazy. Good thing ski-o is so much fun, or nobody would do it. The local kids (and grownups!) were all pretty excited with the narrow trails, too, and people were getting a real kick skiing around them. That made me happy. We had really good turnout for the Tuesday night open race.

Adrian, our fearless leader, in the opening ceremony parade. John Lazenby photo.

The Races
First race of the week was the sprint race for the World Cup, and Middle distance #1 for the masters. Conditions were thin, frozen corn snow that softened into slush for the masters, with a generous scattering of branches, dirt, rocks, and pine needles. It took a good skier to stay on your feet, and Tove Alexandersson, the women's champion, said that she felt like a pinball, bouncing off of trees the whole time. Lots of broken equipment, but that's part of the game in this sport. 

Not such great snow conditions. 

Next up was the middle distance for the World Cup, and the second middle distance for the masters. These were good courses, but the snow continued to be thin. I started to hear some complaints from the older skiers about how they didn't appreciate the thin snow conditions, but they were also complaining when I didn't send them into the small trails, so really, there's no way to win. The wide trails were still in excellent condition, because Craftsbury has one of the best grooming crews out there. Anyway, the World Cup racers all seemed to enjoy the middle distance courses, and that left a warm fuzzy inside for Andy and me. 
Men's middle distance map. Pretty great courses, and the athletes 
seemed to really enjoy them too. Humility has never been my strong suit.


Men's champions on the middle distance: Erik Rost, Linus Rapp, and Jorgen Madslien. Lazenby photo.

Estonian racing through the forest. Lazenby photo.

It happens. Lazenby photo.

Tove Alexandersson skiing aggressively, a style she's known for. Lazenby photo.

Beautiful weather for the sprint distance. Lazenby photo.

Snowfall!

We got some snow finally on the "rest" day, Thursday. It was actually a reasonable dump, 8 inches or so, and that was good news except that it meant now we had to regroom and remap the entire area. Cool, no problem. We got behind on Thursday, and every step seemed to put us more behind, enough that we had barely finished printing all the maps by 5am when it was time to start getting the controls into the terrain. I still think it's a small miracle that our little team managed to get everything into the terrain and with the accuracy that we did - unfortunately, we did have one control mislabeled, and that caused some problems. There was no formal protest, but it leaves a really bad taste in your mouth to know that you've screwed up, and that it ruined somebody else's day. The mistake was in not having somebody who had actually slept review what we were doing. Live and learn, and hopefully never find ourselves in that position again. We also had a crucial gap in our information train, and some of the masters went out without knowing that they had a map exchange to do, which ruined more peoples' days.

On a related note, I don't remember my last all-nighter, but the experience has certainly not gotten any more pleasant with age. Kudos to Andy and Staffan for suffering through it with me.

Anyway, the final race was a sprint relay, mixed gender. This was good fun to watch, with the athletes going head to head for most of the race. The Swedish team of Erik Rost and Tove Alexandersson won the race, even though Tove broke her ski near the end of her last loop. I hopped into the open relay with Ari, just for kicks, and it was fun to race on my own courses. At this point I knew the trails so well that it's not like the navigation was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun anyway. 

Then on to the banquet (with a quick stop by Hill Farmstead). Some of the details for that had been left to the last minute, but we made it work, and the athletes all got their awards. 

Overall, a great week. It may be a lot of work, but it is rewarding to see something of this magnitude come together. Hopefully once I've caught up on sleep I can distill some of our lessons learned into something we can apply to our National Events.

Overall world cup winner Andrei Lamov

Flying ponytails! Salla Koskela, women's long distance winner.

Team USA - Ari and Jimmy! Next time we'll get them some team uniforms.

Race office before the chaos.

Boris was our announcer, and absolutely crushed it. And, he got to announce from the inside of John's sweet remodeled bus.

Not all manmade features are on the map. Probably better throw some snow on this one...

Very serious course setting team.

Office team, getting ready for the chaos

John and his bus

 The crush within the office when maps are announced as ready to return

Long distance medals

Jimmy on the start line. Photo by Greg Walker.

Pain faces. Greg Walker photos


Ed's timing hut. Greg Walker photo

Lamov coming to the finish. Greg Walker photo

Finnishing. Ha. Greg Walker photo.

Mass start - Greg Walker photo

Women's start. Greg Walker photo


Craftsbury breakfasts are my favorite part about going there. This week didn't disappoint. Somehow I didn't gain 5lb. Must have something to do with the 18 hours of skiing and 18 hours of sleeping that happened while there.

A huge thank you to everyone who made this week possible. It was a successful week in a great venue.

1 comment:

Jan Merka said...

Alex,

Thank you and the whole team for organizing the event, I had thoroughly enjoyed each race, great skiing, fun courses, I had a blast.

Jan