Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Russian Ski Race

This past Sunday was the All Russia Ski Day (Лыжня России), which consisted of ski races happening all over Russia, all at the same time. There were over 4000 racers competing in Novosibirsk. It was likely one of the most intense races I've ever skied with some VERY serious and competitive masters men and women. In the US we have "master-blasters," those 40-60 year-olds who are constantly out to prove something in their midlife crisis. In Russia, it seemed like there were hundreds of them, all far fiercer than their American counterparts.

The competitive wave included all bibs less than 1000 (probably about 300 people), and my bib was 8000-something. Not to worry, I just hopped the fence into the starting pen like all of the other greater-than-one-thousand bibs who wanted to be in the real race. Since plenty of the ten-thousand-plus folks had Russian National Team suits of a late 90's vintage, I figured no one would say anything and fell in behind them at the start line. When the race organizers began to yell at us about our improper bib numbers, they all just started yelled back. When the organizers started to yell at us for creeping over the start line, the racers didn't yell back. They just false-started. Causing the entire wave to trample those same race organizers. All of this happened a full three minutes before the race was actually supposed to start, and there was no stopping and restarting this bunch. It was amazing.

The race was only 10km long (skate), and the wave stayed as one drawn out pack. It was really just a 30 minute long mass start. We were all constantly passing and being passed by other racers with lots of shouting, pushing, and stepping on each other's equipment. The course looped around through the woods, making a few dips into and climbs out of a gully. It finished with a 3km trek around a giant, normally windswept field. Fortunately, on the day of the race the sky was clear and the air perfectly still at a cold 5 deg F. The highlight of the race was definitely the LARGE military helicopter which buzzed the open field as we skied by so its cameraman could get a good shot of the race from eye-level. I've had to ski in a lot of conditions before, but icy, exhaust-filled helicopter rotor-wash has not been been one of them.

In the end, I finished 44th (or 144th?). I'm unsure of what the guy yelled at me as I finished and with the false-start and wave-jumping that was going on, I'm not sure anyone kept track of results. As I didn't get kicked out of the start pen, trampled by far the most furious mass start I've ever seen, or blown over by the helicopter, I was pretty happy with my result, whatever it was.


Blogger Rory said...

I'd like to see you start carrying Carolyn's rifle to ski races, just to deal with antsy race officials and overanxious master-blasters...


20 February, 2007 05:30  

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