We woke up this morning to 45 degrees and a howling Western wind that had turned our driveway into a sheet of solid ice. Instead of making sure that our van wouldn’t get bogged down in a snow bank as we had a couple days before, today we were making sure that we wouldn’t fall on our butts on the way to the cars or slide off the road out of our neighborhood. Luckily we made it to our races without much incident, and by 8am the seven Alaska Pacific University men were doing our warmup laps on the short, relatively flat, and fast sprint course.
We were all feeling quite good with little pressure to perform well after the race preview put out by fasterskier called the APU men a “slew of other men” who are gunning for the top spots without bothering to name any of us. A few of us did some faster warmup sprints to get our legs ready and to figure out how to navigate in between the maze dirt spots on the course. I also saw two squirrels.
Before long the qualification had ended and all four of the elite team men-Eric Packer, David Norris, Tyler Kornfield and I- had qualified. Junior Thomas O’harra ended up only a few second out of qualifying even though the organizers started him at the back of the field by some sort of clerical error which resulted in him having to pass four skiers during his race including one of the blind skiers who skied with a guide. I was quite happy with my result of 23rd on a fast flat course, which generally is not my forte.
We cooled down for a few minutes and then skied back to the parking lot and from there walked over to the Holiday Inn where I had a room reserved courtesy of my having finished in the top four of the Supertour last season. The four of us spooned in the two queen beds and watched a man eat kombucha noodles and fermented rice on the travel channel’s “weird foods” program. We were back on the trails an hour before our 11:45 first round.
I was put in a heat with Packer, and just barely managed to squeak by Kris Freeman for fourth place right behind my teammate.
This theoretically put me in contention for a “lucky loser” spot in the semifinals although I doubted I would qualify. Still I carried on with my jogging and skiing in between heats to wait until they announced the lucky losers. It was getting within a couple minutes of when the semifinals should have started and they still hadn’t announced anything. I asked one of the starters if she knew when we would know who had made it through. She smiled and said that she didn’t even know what race was next. A few of us who had finished third or fourth in our quarterfinals waited eagerly near the start line to see whether or not we would be racing again, and ten minutes after the scheduled start, the woman at the start looked down at her clipboard and realized she had the results in her hands. She called out the names one by one, and lo and behold, I had made it into the semifinals! Not so fast though–suddenly another official came running over with another sheet of paper, which was supposedly the correct one. Since I had qualified as the second lucky loser, I figured that any change would necessarily kick me out of my spot, but these new changes just shifted some of the racers in front of me and gave Miles Havlick a start spot that he didn’t think he had. His coaches ran around screaming for him for a few minutes until he showed up and unrobed for the start.
I didn’t make the A final in my round, but nonetheless and contrary to all the information that had been posted about the races, a B final was held in which I was to take part. I wasn’t very excited about racing again because the starts were already some twenty minutes behind schedule, but I put on a good face and ran around and skied circles and begged my teammates for extra coke to sip for energy since I hadn’t planned on racing so many times.
Finally the race got started. I think a squirrel ran under my ski at the start because the first thing I did in my final heat, and my first semi final performance in a national sprint, was to fall on my back. I finished sixth and got back on the course to see Eric Packer finish 4th as the second American.
So if I’ve learned anything it is that one should never be where one does not belong.