Behind the scenes of the Great Ski Race
Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would wear pants like these.
While for brevity’s sake we won’t go into the chain of events that led to this reporter’s lower half shrink-wrapped in tight blue spandex, it must be said that the mere fact that I voluntarily donned this borderline Nordic fashion is a testament to the infectious nature of the energy surrounding last Sunday’s 26th annual Great Ski Race.
In particular, that of race organizer Doug Read and wife Laura, race hosts Kevin and Valli Murnane of Tahoe City Cross Country Ski Area, and local Nordic pacesetter Tav Streit and sister Mandy.
An historic occasion apart from my own initiation to cross country skiing, this year’s 30-kilometer trek from Tahoe City to Truckee was completed in record time by four men and five women under a sunny Sierra sky.
This year’s competition’s top two places again went to a couple of fast out-of-towners, with Patrick Casey of Salt Lake City, Utah, setting a new course record (previously held by former U.S. Ski Team member Ben Husaby) of one hour, nine minutes and four seconds. Casey was able to shave one minute and 44 seconds off Husaby’s six-year old record.
Next in was Peter Webb (1:09:17) of Ketchum, Idaho, who reprised his second place finish of 2001 to win the silver. Holding up the honor of the local contingent, Tav Streit (1:09:35) of Tahoe City was the third of four skiers to break the previous time record, comfortably cruising into third place ahead of 1999 Great Ski Race champion Cory Smith (1:10:04) of Park City, Utah. Rounding out the top five was Colin Mahood (1:11:08) of Bend, Ore.
On the women’s side of things, Brooke Baughman of Ketchum, Idaho, completely annihilated another former U.S. Ski Team member’s speed record by winning in a blistering time of one hour, 15 minutes and 16 seconds. Baughman managed to eclipse Nancy Fiddler’s nine-year-old record by six minutes and 43 seconds.
Second place went to veteran Suzanne King of Bend, Ore., with a time of 1:16:47, narrowly edging Tessa Benoit (1:16:49) of Hailey, Idaho, by a scant two seconds. The fourth and fifth place finishers were Julie Southwell (1:18:04) of Bend, Ore., and Truckee’s own Karen Radebold (1:21:02).
“The course was fast,” said Oskar Kollen of Tahoe City, who recorded a personal best time of 01:25:36.0. “If it wasn’t for the banked turns I would have killed myself.”
“The party at the end of the Great Race is enough to motivate anybody to ski fast,” said Northstar-at-Tahoe Cross Country Ski Manager Tor Brown, who finished 28th at 01:19:48.9.
Full results online: http://www.thegreatskirace. com
Third overall and first to greet the throngs of local Nordic participants at the party at the Cottonwood Restaurant was Streit, who had time to speak to the press on his 27th birthday the day after the race.
More interested in the experiences of others than in his own accomplishments, Streit seemed the embodiment of the spirit of the Great Race, so it seems only appropriate that he answer questions about the Great Race, nutrition and boy bands:
Tav Streit: You’re not going to tell anyone I wore tights, are you?
Nathan Laver: No, I won’t tell anyone you’re wearing tights. So, how did the Great Race fit into your cross country skiing season?
TS: Good question. In the national scheme of things it may not have the most prestige but being my local home race, the biggest race in the area, it probably means more to me to win this than a lot of other races. But to win would be awesome, because it’s my local home crowd. The Great Race without a doubt is my favorite race of the year and the one I like to do. Besides the Olympics, but that’s just not gonna happen. But legitimately, it’s the coolest race there is without a doubt. Free beer, $30, T-shirt E even though it was ugly this year.
NL: What color is that?
TS: I don’t know what color it is. Nasty brown or whatever. You can quote me on that, they need to work on the color. Best course, best conditions, best people, can’t complain. Straight up, that’s honestly my favorite race.
NL: Do you think you helped Patrick (Casey) win by giving him tips and pointers before the race?
TS: I did help pull Patrick to the lead but then he was definitely the man. I may have played a part in it but he definitely deserved the win. He was as strong as a six-legged mule.
NL: So I hear you started in alpine skiing?
TS: Yeah, I was an alpine skier and a runner, track and cross country.
NL: And why cross country skiing?
TS: I actually started my senior year of high school to stay in shape for track. I became way better at that than at alpine skiing and I maintained my scholarship when I went to UNR by Nordic skiing so it made more sense. And I fell in love with it. You just can’t beat it. It combines all the best sports. It combines NASCAR racing, mountain biking, alpine skiing, running, you can’t beat it. Yeah, there’s no football in there. There’s no baseball in there. I’ll give you soccer, though. I like soccer.
NL: Is there anything concerning nutrition that our readers need to know?
TS: Balance, variety, and moderation are the only three ways. And eat less and exercise more that’s how you lose weight. Anything else is just a fad diet. Fad diets don’t work. It’s a lifestyle.
NL: Do you want to talk a little bit about the cross country lifestyle, because I hear that’s a big part of it?
TS: You don’t have to be a granola-loving, tree-hugging, hippie beard-wearing, granola eating sap to be a Nordic skier. Oh, I better put tight-wearing in there. Nordic skiers are truly the best athletes of the world. Best endurance athletes. I’m going to change that to endurance athletes because there’s a lot of great athletes out there.
NL: So, within the sport do you consider yourself the boy band of cross country skiing?
TS: No, I don’t. Although I should be in a boy band. Maybe I shouldn’t be talking about this in an interview. You know I’ve got N’Sync tickets for Thursday night?
NL: You’re on the record, dude.
TS: That’s OK, I got them for my birthday. Don’t put that in the paper, I’ll be made fun of forever.
E I just, you know I like to have a good time, I like to race hard. And I like to ski. Anything on skis. I like to telly ski, downhill ski, water ski. I love it all. Anything that has to do with water or frozen water. Frozen or not, put me on skis and I’ll dig it.
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