Sunday, March 5, 2017

Race Report -- Ozbaldy 50k

The 50k Ozbaldy was today and people, we don't get much better days than this for a ski race, here in the Pacific Northwest.  It snowed and snowed all night, and then Sunday dawned bright and bluebird, with temperatures hovering in the low 30s...

... perfect for a little trail-side sunbathing.

So 70 racers tackled five laps of the course at Cabin Creek, with Linnea Rooke victorious for the women and Justin Wade for the men.  A 10k at the same time for juniors was won by Cooper Jackson and Andreea Ghizila.  Thank you, Susie Main, for these pictures of the 50k winners, basking in their glory in the sunshine:

Aric Gaither, Justin Wade, John Svensson

Linnea Rooke

Many volunteers had a hand in creating such a great race experience, starting with Jonathan Loeffler, first-time race director, long-time ski racer, who handled cat herding details with such aplomb that he was able to jump in the race himself, always the sign of a well-managed race!  First-time timing chief Augustina Harper, together with Vesa Suomalinen, smoothly managed a brand new timing system, working with timing crew Elizabeth, Erik, Tom, and Courtney.  Gina and Susie handled front-desk duties, and Kare and Aase Gjolmseli were as awesome as always in the kitchen, keeping racers fed and happy all afternoon, even without some of their most seasoned helpers.  Chief of Course Rune Harkestad, together with Peter Boveng, Chris Queitzsch, Max Limb, Erik Brooks, Jim Lindsey, Jon, Brandon, Alex, Todd and Aaron, managed course set-up and take-down, and Joan Nordheim was on hand to gather bibs at the finish line.  First-time starter Mandy Nelson sent the racers off with a flourish; Joy, Robin, and Dale managed the parking lot, while June Lindsey swept the course near the feed station and picked up wayward cups and gel wrappers.  Even our bell-ringers were superlative this year!

As was the feed station crew: Lisa, Victor, Robin, Joy, TJ, Emily, Brandon, and, of course, Oliver, chief garbage collector and runner of drink refills:

And Peter, who brought feed station duties to a whole new level.  When the water jug ran low, he carried it back to the cabin on his skis,  refilled it, and snowmobiled it back out to the feed station.

And when one racer walked back to the feed station carrying a ski with a broken binding, he, well, he just fixed it, and sent the racer back on his way!

A 50k is a long long race, with plenty of opportunities to live and die and live again, and the feed station is where the hero stories play out.  Racers coming through the feed station are by turns funny and focused, snippy and grateful, steadily deteriorating as the race goes on or looking stronger and stronger with each lap.  The feed station is where strong tough men push themselves so hard they can't go on, and strong tough men regroup and find the resources to finish.  It's where a small determined woman quietly manages her feeds, skiing resolutely to the end and finishing her first 50k, even when the timing crew has finished their duties and left.  It's where the lead pack flies through in an exhibition of fluid speed and grace, and where an exhausted racer on his last lap almost skis into a tree.  And it's where a blind skier, with Anne Egger as her guide, refuels before she finishes two laps of the race, a distance five times longer than her previous longest ski.  Heroes, every one of them!

This was the last Kongsberger race of the season, so a big shout out goes to our sponsors: Madshus, Second Ascent, Essential Baking, Waypoint, and Clif -- thank you all, for your generosity and your support.  Thank you thank you, volunteers, for giving up your Sundays to create a fun and generous race experience for people you don't even know.  And a great big thank you goes to Super Groomer Nick Whitman, who went above and beyond the call of duty last night; it snowed hard all night, so he just kept grooming all night, and left the racers with a super fast course.

And of course, thank you, racers, for training hard and making a commitment and paying your fee and showing up and putting on a bib and doing your best, however that came out this time. We'll see you next year -- have a great summer!