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Team NSR and GRNST at the Engadin Skimarathon

Thu, Mar  23, 2017 - By Allen Sorgenfrei

A report on the Engadin Skimarathon, St. Moritz, Swizterland.

Despite a very disappointing year for snow in Europe, rumor was that there was still snow in Switzerland. We drove there from Munich, which was spring like, with not a snow pile in site. My brother-in-law came to do the race with me, along with support from his wife Amy and my other sibling Steve (the driver and cook). Rain came down the entire drive, we drove through Seefeld, home of the 1976 Olympic Nordic races, pretty good snow, still raining. Still raining as we got into the St. Moritz valley and found our apartment. Time for a ski just before dark. The rain was maybe letting up a little. We found the half marathon finish at Pontresina: it was rocking, music playing, ready to go. We found out later that the first ever night race for the Engadin week was ongoing, and they were getting ready to accept the finishers.

The next day was bright and sunny, it had frozen overnight, and all looked much rosier. We headed for town, skied through the marathon village area, and up some of the few hills the course has to offer, so we would know what to expect. Back in the marathon village later, we picked up our bibs and toured the tents - Fischer, Madshus, Toko, Swix, Ovomaltine, the usual. We ran into Caitlin and Brian Gregg, who were testing a raft of skis. They invited us to the sprints that evening. At six, they turned the marathon village into a sprint course, and sent the skiers around a dog bone loop. They had pros, citizens and kids. Quite a spectacle. Brian did not advance from the qualifiers and Caitlin opted out. Some of the kids races were pretty exciting. The pros did pretty well too.

Allen Sorgenfrei and Craig Hughes

Allen Sorgenfrei and Craig Hughes

Saturday, again bright and sunny. We toured the last 10 km of the course, saw how they were delivering food and water to the aid stations, and wondered how they were going to cover the 300 meters of road through a small town. There are a couple of hills in the last 5 km, and then we tried some of the downhill turns into the stadium. We took the train back to the apartment, and got busy waxing skis.

Sunday morning, up early, walked to the train station (they provide free train rides for the skiers). Then onto a bus for the last 15 km to the start. The start area is on the shore these days, no more 200 meter wide start lines on the lake. We got ready, warmed up in the tent for a while, then dropped our clothing bags into the trucks, and to the start line. We had managed to get into the Elite A wave, and saw Don Camp lined up a few rows behind, with a number of his crew fresh from the World Masters in Klosters. He had been cleared by the doctor to compete, after missing almost all of Worlds with a nasty virus or something.

We started with the first gun, and skated onto the lake. The wave quickly dropped us, and 12 minutes later the next wave came blasting by. Don was also going our speed. We all must have missed the wax a bit. 10 km on the lakes, then had to wedge into four lanes going up the hill leading onto land, and through town and the marathon village. Climbed the hills, still a bit slow with the traffic, and onto the sunny flats, then into the woods.

The big downhill in the Staz forest was a clown show, a few curving downhills, not that bad, but snow plowed into a sugary mess by those downhill skier types. I made it through intact, and then a big fun downhill tuck into Pontresina. Half way done. There was Don, who had gotten taken out by someone on the downhill in the woods. On through town, suffered through some slow plugged uphills, then the flats by the airport, and into the final hills. Marathon skated past a bunch of people on the uphills, and double poled by some more on the flats. I guess the wax was improving. Into the stadium past the minion costumed brass band, and finished. I found Craig, who finished 30 seconds ahead, and then Don arrived about a minute back. Steve Smigiel the Elder was there as well, but we never saw him.

We got our clothes and changed in the parking lot, it is how it is done there. We talked to Caitlin, who finished 3rd. Brian had gotten 53rd. We later found out that Team Gregg had a bunch of skiers there that day.

After some refueling, we got into the car and headed for Munich. A good race, well organized, good flow at the start and the finish, grooming was great, tracks were intact almost all the way.