I leapt from the starting line, pushing myself backwards as quickly as possible. Executing a slow yet flawless 360° turn, I continued backwards for a few more yards, where I then turned and skied forward towards an obstacle placed upon the snow that forced me to jump or hop to maintain progress. I cleared this without incident and willed my body to relax as I reached the “right leg glide” sign. Cruising down a modest hill, I fought the desire to dab my left ski into the cold, soft snow – and incurring a five second penalty. I reached the intersection of this “figure-8” course and pushed a strong V2 up an incline where I was faced with a “limbo” maneuver. I squatted as low as possible, cleared the obstacle, and headed towards the “left leg glide” section. So far so good! No penalties! I raced back to the trail intersection where I was expected to execute a clean stop. Finally, after climbing a small incline I skied around a little slalom and crossed the finish line.
All of this good fun was concocted by Andy Liebner and Bill Kaltz as part of the Tour De Michaywe’ (a Michigan Cup event) - a two-day series of event designed to test every skill a Nordic skier should possess.
On Friday, 21 brave competitors showed up at the beautiful Michaywe’ Golf Course near Grayling, Michigan, to test their stamina and hone their techniques. We were to ski a “skills course” in the morning, which would set up the placings for the afternoon’s “speed heats.” For example, my time on the skills course was good enough to put me in 11th place overall. Andy Liebner beat me by 15 seconds, and Milan “The Man with the Bionic Knee” Biac came in a close second. Glenn Goodman, Doug Heady, Steve Smiegel, and other well-known Michigan Cup skiers participated and everyone laughed as they shared stories of their success or failure at this event.
With temperatures in the single digits, we all rushed indoors to eat chili and recover for the speed heats. As the air warmed to a balmy 10° F, we all headed out to the sprint trail. Groups of five racers sprinted at full speed for nearly five minutes on the nearly flat course. We had zigzag around some trees, make a sweeping right-hand turn, and push our bodies into a biting headwind towards the finish. Each heat (we all completed three) provided an opportunity to move up in the standings. I was able to move up to 8th. Andy and Milan fought hard for first and second place, and Glenn Goodman and Steve Smiegel were racing for third place.
Eric Parrot from the Grand Rapids Nordic Ski Team at Tour de Michaywe ski race
Done for the day, we all retired to our lodging to wax skis and rest for the Saturday events, which would surely test our early-season endurance.
On Saturday, the temperature was again frigid, but under a slowly appearing sun we staged our classic skis at a trail crossing and lined up at the starting line. Every five seconds a skier sprinted away on to compete an 8 KM freestyle loop. This course was not overly hilly, but the extremely cold snow limited glide. We skied back to where our classic skis were staged and swapped skis and poles as quickly as possible so we could ski a 3 KM classic course. I was still in 8th place as I double-poled like crazy to stay near Don Camp, but Don wasn’t having it and he used his strength on a long uphill to beat me back to the finish by 15 seconds. Following what was beginning to become a pattern, Andy won the race. Milan was right behind him.
Back at the Michaywe’ lodge, we indulged in more chili for lunch as we warmed our frozen hands and dried our sweaty gloves and boots. The final stage of the Tour de Michaywe’, a 6.5 KM uphill classic race, loomed. Many skiers used the time to fine-tune their wax. I was pleased to still be in 8th place overall, and my goal was to try to beat Don Camp yet keep Robin Luce and Chris Weingartz from catching me.
As the sun warmed our skin, we all left the starting line in an order determined by our results in the other events. Andy left first, followed by Milan a few seconds later. Glenn Goodman and Steve Smiegel headed out into the woods, followed by Doug Heady. Randy Smith left 2.5 minutes after Doug, and then Don left a minute later. As I left the starting line I could see Don ahead of me, but I was actually more concerned about Robin and Chris catching me, as I only had a 22 second head start – and those two guys are much better at the classical technique than I am. I had little difficulty catching Don - my skis were very fast as I double poled the flat first kilometer. But when we headed uphill, my skis began to slip and I was forced to run in the softer, untracked snow. Don pulled away, and around each turn I could see Robin and Chris making up ground on me. Finally, I reached the top of the hill and skied with reckless abandon downhill. I seemed like I got no rest at all though, as I had to climb the big hill again. Fortunately, I had just enough left in the tank to reach the summit ahead of the other two guys. I executed a flawless downhill run and ferociously pushed myself forward with a furious double pole. I had opened up a small gap on Robin, but Chris Weingartz, a classic specialist, easily overtook me on the final little climb and beat me to the line by a few seconds.
At the finish we all congratulated each other for our efforts and headed back to the lodge for awards.
No one left without a prize, as The United States Ski Pole Company had enough swag for everyone. One lucky competitor (Bill Kaltz!) even won a pair of ski poles in a raffle.
For a first-time event, Bill and Andy, the volunteers, and the Michaywe’ staff are to be commended. It was the perfect way to spend a couple of days skiing and sharing time with our friends.
|Place||Name||Team||Finish time: Skiathlon and Pursuit||Class|
|1||Andy Liebner||NSR||1:00:14||Senior Men|
|2||Milan Biac||VASA||1:01:15||Senior Men|
|3||Glenn Goodman||VASA||1:05:34||Senior Men|
|4||Steve Smigiel||GRNST||1:05:45||Senior Men|
|5||Doug Heady||NSR||1:09:21||Senior Men|
|6||Randy Smith||VASA||1:12:31||Senior Men|
|7||Don Camp||GRNST||1:15:06||Senior Men|
|8||Chris Weingartz||SS||1:15:35||Senior Men|
|9||Doug Cornell||NSR||1:15:39||Senior Men|
|10||Robin Luce||HH||1:15:58||Senior Men|
|11||Bill Kaltz||NSR||1:17:25||Senior Men|
|12||Steve Smigiel||GRNST||1:27:07||Senior Men|
|13||Rick Neier||XCHQ||1:32:20||Senior Men|
|14||Ernie Brumbaugh||GRNST||1:32:48||Senior Men|
|15||Chris Anderson||GRNST||1:40:30||Senior Men|
|16||James Fenn||XCHQ||1:41:58||Junior Men|
|17||Peter Johnson||GRNST||1:42:34||Senior Men|
|18||Dan Nolen||GRNST||1:58:45||Senior Men|
|19||Naomi Jarvis||XCHQ||2:05:35||Senior Women|
|20||Spencer Ruffner||NSR||2:08:19||Senior Men|
|21||Richard Wells||XCHQ||2:47:31||Senior Men|