Event: long distance classic, which was supposed to be 15k/30k/45k
Conditions: foggy/humid and cold, with a nippy little wind
Well, that was interesting! Here's what happened: the 15k loop that everyone had coveted turned into a reality, so racers would do either two laps for 30k or three laps for 45k. (Older age groups did three times a separate 5k loop for 15k.). It was going to be a sweet loop, with hills hills hills and some more hills, then about a 5k stretch of relatively flat for recovery and to see new territory, then more hills back to the end of the lap. Sounds like a good plan! What ACTUALLY happened was at some point in the race a train -- yes, a TRAIN -- parked on part of the 5k flat part! How often has that ever happened? Um, never. So some of the earlier starters made it through the flat part before the train appeared, and some from other earlier age groups made that turn onto the 5k flat part, came upon the train, and then bushwhacked around it in the deep soft untracked snow to get back on track. Pretty soon the course marshals found out what was happening and closed off that part, shouting "Course change!!" and waving away people who were flying down a long high-speed hill, expecting to make the left turn, directing them to the right and a long steep uphill instead. Mayhem, as you can imagine, ensued. Age group 8's Betsy Youngman, who is pretty much always in first, emerged from the bushwhacking back onto the regular trail to discover that there were slower group 8 women ahead of her! Racers who don't speak much English were confused by all the shouting and waving at the bottom of a long hill; racers who believe it is your job as a racer to know the course were confused by being sent off in a different direction. Then as people approached the lap lane/finish lane, there was some mix-up about how many laps different people should be doing and people were sometimes directed the wrong way. Suzanne, for example, on the end of her second lap was directed to the finish, while the Norwegian woman she had been pacing with, same age group, who was right in front of her, was directed back out onto the course for another lap. It was nutty! There were some angry racers milling about at the finish line, comparing stories and blowing tempers, and some more philosophical, who said, hey, stuff happens.
And then there was Rune, who had planned to double pole the whole thing again on Kent's skating skis, knowing that each of the three laps would have a flat distance to recover and to balance out the flat-to-hill ratio. Literally as he was standing on the starting line, the starter announced that the course had changed and was now four times the much hillier, no flat sections, 10k loop. Oops, too late to change skis! So he double poled the whole damn thing and finished in third, behind a Norwegian and a Swede who also double poled, but not very happy with the turn of events. At the finish, it took several minutes before his usual smile appeared, and a couple of f bombs may have been uttered. He said that was the hardest double poling he has ever done -- he is a rock star!
So the awards ceremony was interesting, trying to figure out what distance various skiers actually did and how to rank them. They finally decided on four separate distances for men's age group 7, which was most affected by the train: 20k, 25k, 30k, and 35k! Women's age group 7 had two distances, 20k and 30k. In women's age group 8, there was no need to break out a separate distance for Betsy Youngman, the only woman who took the longer route, because she won anyway.
Suzanne, who has been having an excellent MWC, came in 6th; Per, who struggled with his wax, decided to tour the race and finished in 12th; Paul finished in 4th; and Pat, who has turned out to be a local celebrity, won her age group, giving her three gold medals in three races. She has been interviewed on television and people are asking to take their picture with her, the three-time gold medal winner and the matriarch of the games!
As for me, I DNF'ed, a huge disappointment and a great big dish of humble pie. I knew I was out of my league in this event, and this race was just too difficult for my skill and fitness levels. After the course change, my spirit sank too low to recover and the thought of another lap of struggling and stumbling on the hills was just not fun. A DNF is never fun, but sometimes a dinner of humble pie is followed by a dessert of renewed focus and commitment to training, so something good can come out of a frustrating and difficult day. Onward, xcskigirl!
Tomorrow is the last race of the MWC, a 45k skate race which is now reduced to 40k because of the train and Kent's last chance to catch up with Rune in the medal count, and Saturday is the 21k Puoli Loppet for those of us who are still here and still want to ski.
Whew, crazy day.