Monday, 17 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Days, 3,4, and 5

I have a bit of catching up to do. Day 3 was a day off, in honour of my birthday! Okay, maybe not, but it was good to have an "almost" day off.

There was still a course to ski and a captains meeting to be held, but other than that, Day 3 was uneventful. Except for the cold! It was still in the -20's!. There is an incredible amount of snow here, as you can see in this photo of the timing hut. Have a look at the snow piled on the roof!

On top of the snow they already had, a storm blew through on the last day (we were able to finish the event, though) and dumped even more snow. The storm was so bad, Trish and I had to stay an extra night before hitting the road.

The facilities continue to impress me. The stadium has lighting, which means the volunteers can get set up the night before an event and not rush around trying to get the stadium set up just before the event. Also, there is a place for the volunteers to go warm up while running an event. I think this is hugely important, since with out the volunteers, there wouldn't be any events.

Of course the volunteers are in it for the athletes and there is nothing as rewarding as seeing them perform to their topmost ability and enjoying the event.

Day 4 saw the continuous pursuit event where the skiers start in the classic style and change over to the "freestyle" (which is almost always a skate technique). This usually requires a change of gear. Skiers place their skate gear in the exchange boxes, then after their prescribed distance in classic style, they enter the exchange area to change over their gear and continue the race in the skate style. There is one time for the whole race, so changing over quickly is key.

One enterprising coach handed out skate poles to his athletes at the top of the hill before the stadium, saving them precious seconds on the change over (they changed on the downhill portion prior to entering the stadium). A couple of skiers thought this unfair, but there is nothing in the rules that say you cannot change poles on the course (or use skate poles during the classic portion, for that matter). The temperature was warmer than the sprints and surprisingly, the Ski Patrol reported a number of black fingers and toes. I think the extra distance made for worse exposure for wind chill and resulting frost bite. Racing gloves do not afford much protection! Results from the Continuous Pursuit race one Zone4 are here.

The event for Day 5 was a classic-style middle distance event, which ranged from 2.5 km for the "midget" category up to 20 km for the "open men" category. The weather took a turn for the worst, with a blizzard warning issued from Environment Canada. The temperature was a balmy -13 C, but there was even more frostbite than the day before. High winds and exposure over a longer distance (i.e., longer time) dramatically increased the risk of frost bit and I saw a lot of white patches on skiers faces, especially the younger skiers. I was disappointed to see so many of them in racing gear. I don't think they can generate the heat while competing that the elite athletes do. The "buffs" (you can see some in the photo below and go here for info) can help, but I really think parents and coaches need to step in and provide more directed guidance on appropriate clothing.

Its not just the athletes who need to dress properly. So do the volunteers!. I found the NEOS overshoes to be awesome. They are very warm and offer a high degree of improved safety since you can wear them over ski boots (which are notoriously slippery). More information on NEOS is here and results from the day are here.

The event was very well organized and congratulations are due to the event organizing committee. It is obvious this team has run this caliber of event many times. More photos from the event are here.

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