Downtown Nordic has members that cover the complete range of skiing ... from recreational skiers to grizzled veterans. Our first report comes from one recreational skier now making his first "stride" towards grizzled veteran. First year club member Jacek Siudowski shares his story from last week's Wednesday night race.
(As an aside, at Jacek's first club practice, Coach Tim was not aware that Jacek was Polish and there was a moment of quiet awkwardness in the group when Tim announced that for the next drill no "poles" were allowed.)
Now on to Jacek's story ...
Racing Experiences of an Inexperienced Skier
However much research you do, and however much you talk to experienced skiers prior to your first mass start skiing race (on a fast, icy course to boot), there are some things you are completely unprepared for. Well, at least I was. So, all of you skiers who are considering taking part in races, let me share with you some of my experiences from my last mass start race:
At the mass start, if you don’t want your eye poked out by a flying pole or your foot impaled by one, start either ten meters ahead of the pack or ten behind. Since the first option is out of the question: no self respecting pro skier will let you, a rookie, in front of him (there is a pecking order in skiing, you know), stay well behind of what will in a few seconds turn into a pack of mad hounds. That’s what I will do next time. Standing right in the middle of the, at first, chatty and encouraging bunch, I was blissfully unaware of the whooshing, darting pole tips that would in a few moments miss my head by barely inches. Then there were elbows in the ribcage, holes in the ski boots, and bruises on my calves. Although I dished out some (sorry about your foot, Neil), it wasn’t nearly as much as I got. That’s inexperience for you. Next time I will be better prepared or, more likely, will just stand well behind.
Most of you, fast skiers, have hardly any idea what goes on behind you. So let me enlighten you. During my first wipe-out, while gracelessly picking myself up, I was passed by a “midget” racer, probably the last one of the field. Despite, just like myself being close to a cardiac arrest, he still turned to me and asked me if I was all right. Now, that would never happen to you anywhere else in the world, I thought, this brotherly concern for a fellow competitor’s well being. I did not reply, because when my heart is racing like a Ferrari I can’t speak, and he just went by. Next time we “met”, this time he wiped out some distance down the track so I, thank god, caught up with him, there was significantly less friendly concern. I, still unable to speak, cardiac arrest ever closer, passed him by without a word and he didn't move to make it easy for me. Well, further still (yes, you guessed it) I was down this time and he (you probably guessed it too) caught me, again. This time forget the civility altogether. All that was left was the gritty resolve on both our faces to beat the other one. No concerned questions, no well-wishing, no stepping aside to let pass, just a dogged determination to get the better of the other one. As we stumbled along, the lead in this race within a race kept changing many times along the way. I am not going to tell you who won that duel, that’s not important, but I can tell you this, potential first time racers: when someone asks you during a race if you are all right, they are not being friendly, they are only trying to gauge how exhausted you are and how much of a threat you still pose. My advice: say nothing or “I’m wiped” to fool them. “Friendly Manitoba”, yeah right!
Post race talk
When after the race someone says to you “You really looked good at the last stretch” don’t get fooled by that either. That basically means you looked less than good during the rest of it.
Well, If some of you got the impression I’m prone to exaggeration perhaps you are not far the truth. So, without exaggeration I can say this: despite all that happened, or more because of it, I loved every minute of it: the competition, the spirit of camaraderie and the true, drop of a hat willingness of my more experienced fellow-DN-skiers to help me with my technique and racing and share their knowledge. Even the fact that after I crossed the finish line I felt like I had left my lungs in the snow behind me, won’t discourage me from skiing and racing again. So get ready, you’ll be seeing me in many more races to come and the gloves, sorry the poles, will be off.