KONIG LUDWIG LAUF, 2017
Apparently last week Obberammergau was a winter wonderland with cold temps, full snow coverage and fresh snow in the trees. Then starting on Tuesday, it started raining. Race weekend had a freestyle race on Saturday and a classic race on Sunday. The main event is the classic - which I was doing for the first time.
When I got there on Saturday afternoon, it was warm (+9C) with rivers of water near the course. Much of the course had been underwater so the course was shortened and moved in places, and they did a lot of work draining water (ponds had been forming) and adding snow. The course was shortened from one 50k lap to two shorter laps totaling 38k. This also cut off the longest, steepest climb. I had planned to double-pole and when I heard this there was no doubt in my mind that it was a DP race! The night before, I saw some people waxing - and I only saw people putting straight glide on their skis. Overnight it froze, resulting in rock hard tracks made from large-grain refrozen snow. The tracks were super fast!
Race morning I was able to walk out the door of my hotel in Ettal, walk to the other side of the parking lot to the ski track, put on my skis and ski 1km to the start. Could not have been easier!
The race was FAST. I was not in the elite starting area, but started in the second row of the non-elite. 95% of the people around me were double poling. There were only three hills where you would consider kicking. I DP'ed up these without much problem. Each one had steep sections that required a lot of strength, but there was so much ground to recover afterwards, that it was not an issue. I only saw maybe five people trying to kick or herring bone. It was challenging to feed because (1) I avoided the drinks at the aid station due to food allergies, and (2) the trains of skiers were going fast and when I grabbed my bottle or food from my waistbelt, it was easy for the train to get ahead. I will need to work on my feeding.
The last hill was ~1k from the finish, climbing up to the base of an alpine area. This was arguably the longest, hardest hill on the course. Leading up to the last climb was a very fast straight section. I was following a Norwegian who was setting a screaming pace! When we started the last uphill where there were extra tracks, I went around the Norwegian and told him "You set a great pace! Now get on and follow me!" However, he could not hang on. It was a hard hill mostly because of the length, but also with a kick up at the end. I muscled through it and caught up to a splintered group near the top of the hill. The hill then immediately turned down toward the finish. This downhill was an open field groomed for skating (no tracks), with the course making twisty turns, including some 90-degree turns. With the ice-hard corduroy it was hard to stay up or turn. I stayed up, but also could not go quite as fast as I wanted. At the bottom of the hill was a small bridge, a tight turn, then onto a running track into the finish. I was not able to pass anyone in the last section.
I finished 127 out of 1000-1200. My time was 1:46 (earning me third American!). Winnning time was 1:26!!! I was very pleased with my race, staying strong the whole way and with my finish place. With some more DP training and some intervals/intensity, I should be able to get into the top 100.
After the race I talked to Tyler Cornfield and _____ of APU. They had come in 7 & 8 - in the lead pack. They said that just before the last uphill, the lead pack was ~25-30. At the top of the hill, they were down to 12, led by Tony Livers. On the downhill, skiers were trying to get ahead, cutting each other off... then Stanislav Rezak went down and Tony Livers had to avoid him. Max (name?) of Germany had been 30m off the pack at the top of the hill; however, with the pack cutting each other off and with some skiers going down, Max was able to somehow get through/past this group and into the lead for the win. Germany was excited to have a homegrown Germany winner for the first time in 30 years!
After the race, all the racers went into a gymnasium to pick up their drop bags, get food and take showers. Only in Bavaria is the first refreshment draft beer! The race was sponsored in part by Ettal / Benedicktiner beer which is brewed by Benedictine Monks in Ettal, across the street from my hotel. Pretty nice!
I raced on Propulsion Cold (Warm may have been a little better, however I chose my skis ~ a week before when conditions were cold) waxed for me by HWK (thank you!). They were fast and glided up many hills. Gliding on the downhills, my skis seemed the same or slightly faster than those around me. I know that the stiff forebody of the Propulsion gave me a lot of control to navigate the last downhill. I was very pleased with the skis! For bindings, I used the Xcelerator 2.0 Classic front with R4 heelplates to get my body up and forward for double-poling. That was a good call. For boots I was on the Super Nano Classic which gave me plenty of control - although knowing how icy and twisty the last hill was, I would now consider racing in skate boots just for additional control on that downhill.
I really applaud the race organizers and course staff for getting the course in such good shape despite the crazy warm weather!
Obberammergau is a small village in the Bavarian alps. This is what Leavenworth strives to be :). If you ever have the opportunity to race in Germany, do it - you will have a lot of fun!