Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy Birch Hill!!

Well, we can't do much about the weather but we're off to a terrible start here, with temps dipping into the -20s and -30s consistently and even colder in town.

What I'm really getting at is that we don't have to have a Panglossian ski club, with a handful of deciders, that dictates everything Nordic in this community.

For example, this year a relatively logical race schedule (considering weather patterns) was overturned and now it heavily favors classic races. My favorite races over the past 7 years have been in order: the Sonot 50K (which thankfully they haven't touched this year in terms of technique and hopefully NEVER will), the 15K Gundeloppet in December, and the Turkey Day Relays. Those have always been freestyle. Now 2 of 3 are classic.
Don’t get me wrong, I like classic racing and in particular have enjoyed the 20K races, the January Jaunt and Skiathon.

The club's only skate races (a 10K and 20K) this season are in the coldest weeks of the year, the first two weeks of January. This community should have at least one freestyle and one classic race per month. (The sprint races are a wash bafor most post-college and masters skiers, unless you're Kikkan Randall that's really your thing).

God forbid trying to invoke change at a board meeting, and I wouldn't suggest a camp out in the timing building. But staying at home and grumbling about doesn't help much either.

If you like the idea of alternatives, then think and act independently. For example, if you see the need start your own training group or racing team--at any level, juniors, open, masters--then feel free to do so. And keep those middle school programs going! I think Tanana is the lone survivor, which is too bad. Nevertheless, it's exciting to see Christina Gillis’ new women's group this year. Hopefully other ideas will keep cropping up, and will thrive.

And I'd love to see other people take some initiative to put on some other choices for races around here, especially when the race schedule is capriciously turned upside down. Although I appreciate what the club does, it would be great to have some other options available for citizen racing enthusiasts.

Types of races I'd like to see:
A two day pursuit over New Years. New Year's Eve 10K classic, and New Year's Day Freestyle.

Some additional longer races. Maybe a 25K freestyle two weeks before the Tour of Anchorage, that would be a good tune up.

A late season multi race, some combination of snowshoe, bike, ski, run, and maybe even ice skate.

A late season series, like Tour de Fairbanks, but taking advantage of our amazing polar spring--almost always the best time of the year to ski, but when you see the lowest participation rates. Sometimes it seems like rollerskiing in July is more popular than sliding on fast snow in April.

Try new trails for some events, like the musher trails right North American and the Sonot. Or offer a freestyle race at UAF.

Finally, to end this November rant on a frigid day I’d also like to see new music at for the town races. Ummm, there have been a few decades and a lot of music since the 1970 to 1972 era.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When the bottom falls out

You could say oh well, it's just that time of year--throw another log on the fire, dig out another blanket, warm up your car longer--but this is a little ridiculous to have -40s in mid-November. That hasn't happened here since winter 1969-70.

At least now the temperature inversion has kicked in. On Wednesday and Thursday there was no inversion so it was -35 to -41 in town, and only a few degrees warmer on the hills. Yesterday evening was strange though: in town (at the university, elev 450 ft) it was -34 at about 5 PM; On Birch Hill on the other side of town (elev about 900 ft) it was -29; in between at our house (1,250 ft) the temperature was a balmy -13. With in a couple hours it was -10 at home and at Birch Hill.

The upshot of all this drop in temperature is that the big, I mean BIG, races that the had scheduled for the Tour of Fairbanks have been semi-cancelled. No UAF vs UAA grudge match, no APU testing their early oats, and no clubs or teams from the Anchorage area. Now it's just another Town Race, without even the university on hand. That means it will be 90% high school and younger. I didn't even sign up--too much classic waxing to do--for the Town Race on Saturday (hate huge mass starts on short races, a sure ticket to anaerobia). However, I did sign up for Sunday's 10K freestyle on the "new" course (more overhauled than new). But that's a goner.

Wonder if I'll get $25 entry fee back? Probably not, but you can always hope.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boy that was Stupid!

The resurrected Wednesday Night Cross Country Ski Series here is not unlike an all-comer's track meet in a university town, totally low key atmosphere but tends to draw out a high proportion of very good athletes. Most everyone out there was a solid skier--as one of them said last night not many mid-packers.

Conditions were excellent with 12 F and we've been getting fresh snow almost every day or two.

Got off to a good start, about 5th-6th place throughout the first km, and was just deciding to close in on 4th place Peter, who was about 15 m ahead when I tripped on a light beam or something and hurtled forward and did a major chest plant, OOOMMHPSSAA, and I started babbling and swearing as 3-4 racers sped by.

I was 50 meter behind by the time I got up, but reeled them all in within a km, as we climbed East Ramp, but up everyone cut right onto Tower Loop when I thought we had some more climbing to do, up to the old sprint course cutoff on Tower Direct. I was certain we had to go straight because there were two flags on the sprint course headwall, and we were supposed to go up through those and to the cutoff. Right?

So I stopped in my tracks, "No no we go straight, see the flags! Peter stopped, me but all the others (Jim, Dave, Gary, and then everyone else) took the right turn. I saw Ken, the Race Director, about 200 m down below at the top of East Ramp and hollered, holding my arms up like Charlton Heston's version of Moses with in The 10 Commandments--me just with ski poles and in utter bewilderment.

He heard me and gestured but I could not tell WTF he was saying so I skied on down to him. Indeed, we were supposed to turn onto Tower, did you get the memo? Umm, yes, I read it, but didn't look at the attached map: Turn on Tower Loop and do 1K and return on the sprint course cutoff...not take Tower Direct and turn on the old sprint course cutoff (which is what I thought)...

I am really sorry Peter!

So, with most of the field long gone I jumped back in and reeled in as many as I could. Finished 10th, overall and passed several other skiers along the way. Probably lost 1.5 to 2 min with those histrionics.

Stuff of minor legend I guess, as everyone was talking about it post-race. Mostly I just feel stupid, but then again enlightened because everyone else here in the Fairbanks ski community has known that for quite some time.

Didn't sleep well either. My ribs hurt from the crash.

1. Mike Kramer..................14:35
2. Max Kaufman................14:52
3. Jim Button......................15:11
4. Jim Lokken ....................15:34 (1st Master)
5. David Apperson.............16:20
6. Gary Holton....................16:23
7. Dave Edic.......................16:24
8. Melissa Lewis.................16:56 (1st female)
9. Mike Hajdukovich..........16:57
10. Roger Sayre....................16:58 (skied an extra ½ -1 kilometer)
11. Bob Baker......................17:12
12. Matt Stoller....................17:30
13. Peter Fix.........................17:31 (skied an extra ½ -1 kilometer)
14. Mark Ross......................18:24
15. Byron Broda..................19:06
16. Ashley Strauch...............19:53
17. Brandon Hoover............22:17
18. Pete Wilda.....................22:19
19. Adam Johnson...............24:23
20. Jim Case........................25:54
21. Debbie Brown...............26:42
22. John McKiney...............26:06