by Peter Gagarin

Today was the Sprint Relay, a new event. One team per country. Each team composed of one man and one women. A mass start. Each does 3 legs, so 6 legs for the whole thing, but very short legs.

And like Wednesday's Middle distance, held is a serious snowstorm. But, as they say, orienteering is an outdoor sport, and we race rain or shine, or in this case, snow and wind.

Skiing for the USA were Greg Walker and Ali Crocker, with Greg leading off. Now Greg has been the best of our guys, but even at that he has been about 40% behind the winner in the sprint and middle, whereas Ali has been a good bit closer to the best women. So there was the expectation that Greg might fall behind quite a bit, and then Ali recoup a little, and so on throughout the 6 legs.

Which is what happened to some extent, except Greg had his best day ever at ski-O, so he was falling behind a lot less than expected. And Ali was still skiing great. And the final result was a 12th place finish of the 23 starting teams, and just 3 minutes out of the top ten. That's a terrific result.

Leg 1 — Greg off, the pace is intense, he comes in 19th, but he's just 30% behind (15:11 vs. 11:40), excellent.

Leg 2 — Ali has her best leg of the day, 10:53 vs. a best time of 10:15, 6% behind, wow. Moves the team up to 10th.

Leg 3 — Greg again, his best leg, 14:08 vs. a best of 11:10, 26%, team now in 14th.

Leg 4 — Ali again, must have had a small miss this time, 12:53, but the team back up to 12th.

Leg 5 — Last time for Greg, 14:48, another good one, team back to 15th as the men's competition is fierce.

Leg 6 — And the final leg for Ali, another good one, 11:29, got the team back to 12th. 11th was only 30 seconds ahead. Getting 10th would have required 6 perfect legs. But they were awful close.

Full results as usual are at the event website:

Here are some comments from Greg:

"Sprint relay. Awesomeness. Sprint relays are so fun. You get to go ski really hard for a little bit, then rest for a bit while Ali does some work, then ski really hard some more, then rest more, then ski more, then shiver and change clothes in a windy snowstorm. Since the loops overlap and are on the same map each time, each leg you get to know a little more about the area and it makes you faster and more confident. The three legs were very different from each other, it wasn't just like simple relay forkings, but they still crossed the same terrain and junctions a bunch.

First leg was ok. I got to the other side of the big field and then tried to find a little trail up in to the woods, but missed it in the drifts and had to cut a ways across some other big drifts to get back on it. Which put me behind the Spanish guy, who was going just slower than I was, not really slow enough for me to get around, but enough that I was always on his tails. Also they lowered all the wires with the controls on them, so I caught a control (and the heavy touchless-emit reciever) in the face for a bit of a bloody nose, and also sent the hat flying. Had to turn around to get the hat, as it is fairly magnificent.

Ali had a rock star second leg and made up a lot of places, so I was just trying not to loose too many. Third leg went really well, I had an easy first control, both navigation and skiing, and everything flowed well from there. More climb in this one, so it felt tougher than the first, but everything was clean and the trails were all where they should have been.

Ali had a good fourth leg, then I was back out for the fifth. First control was in the woods a ways off to the right after the lake, but the wind and snow had kicked up so visibility was pretty low when I got there and I didn't want to risk missing the trail in like I did on the first leg. So I went up the big trail and cut over on some little ones (past the first from the last lap). This had some bonus climb in it, but hopefully didn't add too much time, and saved the risk of getting lost in a wide open wind swept field. All good until 4, when I dropped down into the field to get there on the snowmobile road, and ended up skiing directly into the wind. Not so fast. Also super cold. Clean until 7, where I skied through the control but the touchless-emit didn't register, so I had to turn around and backtrack (20 meters maybe? you overshoot by a lot when you're going full speed and expect it to register). Went back to the same control but it still didn't register, the whole emi t receiver was dead (I was sure I got close enough the first time), but they've got two controls out at each one, one on either side of the trail (for going both directions), so I hit the other and kept going. Not sure what the time lost was, but it let the German guy pass me."

And from Ali's perspective:

"This was a blast! Despite wind and snow and drifts. 3 x cool little sprint course, different enough each time, although you were gaffled with yourself, so definitely knew the 2 common controls the 2nd and 3rd times around.

Greg took us off, sprinted into the wind, and handed off to me right with the New Zealand team and Spain I think. The first leg was probably my best, had a clean and fast run, with I think all the right route choices and passed a bunch of gals putting us in 10th.

All the team was super helpful in between, adding clothing to me between the legs, and storing it between. Adrian also gets points for coming over early and walking through the stadium to explain it to us, and Alex for keeping my spare gloves warm in her armpit. Warm gloves rock.

2nd leg, I'm pretty sure I made one bad route choice, decided to go over a hill on a big trail instead of around on flats and a little trail. Little trails are perfectly fast on flats, would have been a fine option. I again just passed the Italian and Austrian gals coming into the finish to tag off Greg.

3rd leg, clean, any route choice errors must have been small, and was killing it to catch the Italian woman at the end, had the routes to the last two controls memorized (we had been in this area each leg before) and was just going going going, but when I came into the arena, she had just made the curve to the finish, just too much to reel in. Afterwards, figured out that they mispunched actually anyways, making us 12th place.

Really was great fun and a good addition to ski WOC (1st time there has ever been a sprint relay.)"


Tomorrow (Friday) is a rest day, then the Long distance on Saturday and the final relay on Sunday.

I think it's fair to say that our Ski-O team is awesome.