Facing frost, racers try to stay hot | VailDaily.com

Facing frost, racers try to stay hot

Ian Cropp
Vail CO, Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyVail Mountain's Wes Batts races past Boulder's Parker Keegan on Saturday during the Vail Classic Nordic race in Vail.

VAIL, Colorado ” Mother Nature knows no bounds.

Less than a month ago, with unseasonably high temperatures and almost no snow on the ground, Nordic athletes were wondering when they’d be able to train.

On Saturday, at the opening high school Nordic race, skiers took refuge inside the Vail Nordic Center during an hourlong cold-weather delay.

With temperatures dipping to minus 23 Celsius, the race was postponed until the thermometer made its way back to minus 20 Celsius ” the lowest temperature at which a race can be held. Low temperatures present a threat for cold-weather-induced asthma.

“You have to prepare differently,” said Vail Mountain’s Rob Fitz, who seemed to adjust pretty well. “We did that. We stayed inside most of the time, had a quick warmup, came back inside, then did some stretching and went right out before our start.”

And once the racers hit the course for the Vail classical race, the clear skies created a bit of an obstacle.

“Another challenge was half the course was in the shade, so it was unbelievably cold, and the other half was in the sun, and it made it tough to wax and to race,” Eagle Valley’s Sage Smith said.

Vail Mountain’s Karlie Moore, already feeling some pain in her back from a lingering disc injury, had a severely cold left foot to add to the list.

“I couldn’t feel it,” said Moore, who was able to thaw her foot following the race. “My pinkie (toe) is dark purple now, but it’s getting better.”

But like most of the racers out there, Moore put the cold aside and worried about the competition.

“I was trying not to think about (my foot),” she said. “I was trying to think about Jessica (Linder) behind me.”

On the girls side, Moore and Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder battled for a top position. Moore left the start one interval (15 seconds) ahead of Linder and appeared to finish 40 seconds ahead of Linder. Results were not available at press time. For updated results, check http://www.rmnordic.org.

While Linder certainly kept her eye on Moore, there were other racers in her sights.

“I mean, yes, that was a good carrot out there, but more of a goal was trying to pass as many people as possible,” Linder said. “You know how far certain people are ahead of you: ‘This girl is a minute ahead,’ so if I passed her, I know I’m doing pretty good. There’s a competitive nature in everything, and it was good having Karlie up there ” she pushed me, and I think we pushed each other knowing that we were there.”

Kicking it off

For club racers, Thursday was the fourth competition this year, as there were a pair of races last weekend in Summit County and a skate race at Cordillera on Friday. Battle Mountain’s Connor Wallace, a club racer, got a chance to compete alongside the Huskies and is excited about this season’s prospects.

“Last year, we didn’t have too many kids who were committed,” Wallace said. “A lot more people are coming out this year, which is awesome. It makes things more fun when you have guys who want to go out and do well.”

Eagle Valley doesn’t have many club racers, so Saturday was the true opener.

“We had more time (on snow) than last year,” Smith said. “Last year, we had a week on skis. This race wasn’t bad. I definitely think our guys would benefit from some outside-of-high-school races.”

With many racers making a transition from fall sports like soccer and cross country, the endurance seemed to be there, but Nordic-specific skills may take a bit to shore up.

“The only thing I’m kind of lacking is upper-body strength,” said Linder, one of the state’s top cross country runners. “Runners want to stay light on top, so now, I’m just trying to build that up before the actual season starts. I’m trying to get my arms in the right mode for doing some nice double poling.”

Saturday’s race is the only high school Nordic competition in Eagle County this season.

“With all other sports, you have a bunch of home games, but with Nordic you only have one,” Wallace said. “Of course you want to do well (at home), plus it was the first high school race of the year.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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