Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sprinting Nowhere Fast

December 15, 2007

While Kikkan Randall was getting ready for the first ever World Cup win by a US woman (and first US win at all in 25 years!) we had a little sprint race in Fairbanks.

My oh my, did I ever get my butt whapped on that one! And I remembered, there's a reason why I don't do sprint races. I did my first ever xc sprint race in 2004 and it was a painful experience. Racing 1 to 1.5 km on skis is the equivalent of running about three heats in the 800 m on the same afternoon. In other words I'd rather drink bitter tea.

This year I had pre-registered for the entire season series anyway, and did have some fun watching masters compatriots duke it out last year, so by the 12th had decided what the heck.

On race morning I checked the heat sheets online to find that I wasn't the heats 20 for masters division. A few more minutes of perusal indicated I'd be in Open heats against the college racers and high schoolers. Well, my two biggest masters rivals were racing Open as well, it appeared, so whatever, I figured there must be a reason.

The best one I could come up with however, was that some other masters skiers had conspired and paid off the race director to keep us three out of there. In reality it wasn't quite that egregious, but the race director make some phone calls thought that rather than have the three of us sweep the event, as we have most of the time, he'd have us go at it with the All Americans and Junior Olympic studs.

The result was rather Hobbesian: nasty brutish and short. Fifty year old Dave looked good in the first heat but took a distant 6th. Dave has excellent classical technique but he just didn't have the power and turnover compared to the younger skiers.

My heat was was next, and I felt a bit out of place with high schoolers, some 33 or 32 years my junior, a couple of UAF skiers 29 years younger, and an aging open skier, still in his late 20s, born a mere 20 years after me.

Compared to running, it's like being a 50 year old, give or take, masters runner, specializing in longer distances, but only able to crack 2:20 for 800, lining up against specialists with credentials that read 1:50, 1:54, 1:57, a couple sub 2s, and some 2:10-2:15 types. In the end all I can say is that at least it was quick. I was never in it, a good 20 meters behind 7th within the first 200 meters, and finished a distant 8th of 9, at least 25-30 seconds back by the finish of the rolling 1.1 km course.

Bad Bob fared a little better, and finished 6th in his heat. Ouch! 1,2,3, three of the four best masters skiers in Fairbanks were eliminated in the first round.

The regular masters heat looked genteel in comparison. The race director kind of apologized afterward, but I wasn't too bummed, because I'm just not a sprinter. It literally takes me 25-30 minutes just to get comfortable with a given pace.

I'm likely to retire from xc sprinting.

But did you hear about Kikkan Randall?


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