This is my first World Masters event and I am impressed. It is not only very enjoyable, interesting, and stimulating, but the competition is also really fierce. There are 1223 athletes present representing the best of 23 countries. The athletes that travel here from abroad generally are top athletes who focus on this event every year. I know that the Russian government pays their athletes for good results here adding even more incentive to show up ready to rock (which they have!).
The competition is hardball too. Normally participating in an event such as this results in understanding between nations and cultures and new friendships, but I should also add that this is a sometimes happenstance and certainly not the focus. Results are obviously the focus for the contenders anyway. There have been many instances of shoving, tripping, team tactics such as blocking for a stronger teammate, and even lying and cheating. I don’t think that there is a need to dwell on this or go into more detail, but you should know that these competitions are for real, especially when things head out into the woods.
I have to say for my part, despite many excellent US results (including a number of awesome victories), I am getting tired of hearing the Russian National Anthem. I am not going to make any big talk regarding this as I clearly have my hands full, but being a patriot, I have even more motivation to see if we can’t win the relay on Wednesday and perhaps I can sneak something in on Friday’s 45k skate. (I’d be really happy with a podium though on Friday, truth be known).
Something else that really has to be said is that when you simply sit back and look at these athletes, especially the older ones, you can only be grateful to be involved in such a beautiful and healthy sport. The older men and women here generally look 20-30 years younger than their actual age. They are fit, healthy, happy, and simply awesome. The women are awesome, but I really got choked up when checking out the 80-84 and 85-89 year old men last night at the awards. These guys are studs! I can only hope to approach their shadows when (if) I become their age. I don’t just mean athletically, but simply as men. They are strong, erect, vibrant, wise, appear cheerful regardless of circumstance, and sharp! You could put these guys on some kind of health product packaging and it would sell like gangbusters.
The conditions have been fairly straight forward. The first day was tricky as it was snowing and 32F. Hairies (or no wax skis) were clearly the way to go even with the breaks in the weather. There were some who waxed and did OK, but the vast majority had their best results without wax. We went out and confirmed that the hairies were working regularly throughout the day with positive results compared to a variety of wax combinations. They offered solid kick (where the track was iced, out of the tracks was excellent) and superior glide. Some probably had difficulty with the hairies because their skis were too stiff. Hairies need to be applied on soft skis. The entire kick pocket needs to have solid contact with the snow and furthermore, it needs to be taken into account that there is no wax on the base to take up some of the camber. Bottom line is that the skis must be very soft or they will slip.
Yesterday’s classic race gave us the opportunity to showcase one of our classic kick wax solutions: a thick short layer of Carbon Basewax Green (that’s it, nothing on top). This should generally be done on a pair of hard track skis as the green is draggy when there is powder present, but it is obviously very durable and offers â€œroller ski kickâ€. If you keep it off the snow during the glide phase, you have an awesome pair of skis. We waxed many yesterday including a few eventual gold medalists on the day.
For glide, things have been interesting. The contrast between the snow that is exposed to the sun (meadows and other open areas) and the snow that is shaded by the forest is extreme. That said, waxing has had to be done with the shaded dry snow in mind. We have gone mostly with HF Red and JetStream High Speed (for sure in the classic races due to the strong glazing). For skating, the JetStream High Speed and JetStream Moly have been running similarly obviously with the Moly running better early and the High Speed later. Structure has also proven to be important. We have had best results with multiple passes of the coarse linear Structurite tool. The tool scores the base enough to have the skis run in the wet stuff, but the structure is shallow enough (and linear) that it still runs well in the shaded snow. Although it is a linear structure tool, when multiple passes are applied the lines don’t line up perfectly resulting in a very useful and universally fast structure.
I will continue to add commentary and photos if I have something to add as the week progresses