Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paco’s Fun Race, Auburn Ski Club, CA: A Shovelfull of Imagination…

December 18, 2011

Rik Eckert

Nordic racing, like life, goes like this: We look up at the sky, or wherever we like to look, first expecting, then, praying for a blessing for our ritual. Life, it seems, is alternately generous or stingy with treasures. We get a sample of what we hope for, and then… nothing happens. We get over it. We look inside ourselves, throw things on the table, then scarcity of resources sparks up innovation. On December 17, our reliable old early-season friend Auburn Ski Club, usually one of the snowiest places in the country, had a 2km loop groomed, dirt showing in the trees, and a race to put on in the morning…

The club decided to throw a three round individual sprint, followed by a skier-cross style mass-start competition. It was the racer’s prerogative to ski in one or all of the sprint rounds. Anyone could line up for the ‘cross’! Really, the track was remarkable: wide and fast, with a taste of all that hilly terrain they’re infamous for.

From a spectator’s point of view, this was ideal – With a short track and racers starting at 0:30 intervals, there was all kinds of action to watch! Truckee X-C’s Debbie Hakansson kicked from the start gate and hit the finish line 4:03.5 later in her first sprint round. She rocked the individual rounds, with a combined time of 12:19.8, 2nd, just 0.7 seconds behind winner Ellie Phillips. She finished 5th in the 6km mass start in 14:03.5.

My only experience with this kind of format was from watching FIS racing on my laptop in bed, so it took me a round or so to figure it out! I finished the individual rounds feeling pretty good in 14th at 11:52.7. Elias Bucher took overall honors in 8:47.1. Up against a stacked & hungry field, I finished the ‘cross’ in 13:42.5, 20th place. Good enough! Matt Gelso won in 10:22.4.

Obvious Kudos goes to Auburn Ski Club for pulling this one off. I know a team of sharp minds and snow shovels preceded us. I’m always astonished at how beautiful the course is on a race morning at this venue… The only thing we lacked to make it ‘World Cup’ was a blast of Euro Techno Pop over the loudspeakers! Team manager Roger Chaney was on hand to hedge bets with Jet Stream, Finite structure and infinite coaching. I’ve probably slid up to the start gate at Paco’s a dozen times or more, in sunshine and snowstorm – this is the one I’ll remember best.

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