The conditions were frosty fast at the inaugural Frosty Freestyle 5/15K cross country ski race at Huron Meadows Metropark on Saturday, January 16. After a week of above freezing temperatures and bright sun, the weather cooled to below freezing, setting the stage for a fast race course.
Skiers came from all over the lower peninsula of Michigan, plus from Indiana and Ohio. As part of the 22-race Michigan Cup Series, racers from Traverse City, Petoskey, Grayling and other "up north" cities travelled to southeast Michigan in search of Michigan Cup points.
Grand Rapids Nordic's Dave Maclean rocketed around the 15K course to finish first in 37:32 after leading Traverse City's Cliff Onthank (Vasa Club) and John Gravlin (Linwood, Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop) around the course. Onthank and Gravlin sprinted for the finish, with Onthank getting there first.
Ann Arbor's Cheryl Darton once again showed she's one of the best skiers in Michigan by taking first in the women's 15K. Straits Striders Tracy Hardin skied in second, followed by Catarina Gulledge of Cross County Ski Headquarters fame..
The race start was broken into three waves: 15K Men, 15K women (above), and 5K racers. (Photo by Hal Gould)
In the 5K race, young Alexy Vermeulen was the fastest male, followed by Scotty Albaugh and Bill Bowman. In the women's 5K race, Lisa Kaniewski skied into first. Megan Ditty was second, with Beth Powell rounding out the podium in third.
All skiers raced a 5K loop through the north end of the Huron Meadows Golf course. The 5K racers finished back at the start line while the 15K racers continued on a different loop to the south end of the golf course. After looping back near the start/finish area, the race continued around Malty Lake, a mostly forested area. Each loop of the course was a bit harder than the one just before, with more hills and more turns.
The 5K racers are off! Many are first time ski racers. Welcome to the sport! (Photo by Hal Gould)
The weather was great: a little below freezing at the start of the race, maybe a little above freezing by the end. Overcast, but hardly any wind.
Would there be snow?
Given the warm conditions leading up to the race - including one day with the temperatures near 40, many racers were worried about the snow conditions. All were pleasantly surprised at how much snow was on the trail. Frequent grooming by Adam Haberkorn at Huron Meadows kept the trail packed, minimizing loss due to the warm weather and bright sun. On Friday, Haberkorn and crew patched the few bare spots developing on the trail, but the start area looked totaled. Quick thinking: they used a tractor to pile snow, then used a snow blower to spread the snow throughout the start area!
A bigger worry on race day was ice. The temperature dropped to the mid-20's over Friday night and the trail froze up hard. There was some worry that a two downhills near the beginning of the third loop might be a little icy from some skiers. Grooming the morning of the race softened up the conditions enough to make the hills doable.
The leaders near the end of the first 5K loop in the 15K event. Dave Maclean (Grand Rapids Nordic Ski Team) leads, followed by Cliff Onthank (Vasa Ski Club), John Gravlin (Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop), and Aaron Ditty (Team NordicSkiRacer). The order would remain the same 10K later at the finish line. (Photo by Hal Gould)
Although most skiers skated, a substantial number classic skied - and the hard conditions did cause some problems. The track was very hard and the snow totally transformed. Klister was the wax of choice. Anyone using hard wax struggled. Even no-wax skis slipped a bit. Classic skiers sho got out of the tracks generally had better grip.
Those same hard tracks were used by the skaters to pass skiers in front of them, or to take a break from skating. Skaters could be seen doublepoling down several sections of track, with the tracks sometimes faster than the skate lane.
Guess we needed triple redundancy...
Alas, all was not good with the timing: Even though an extra timing device was used as backup to the primary device, both failed during the race, the second failure not identified until nearly all the skiers were in. We have some times, but not very many. My sincere apologies. We're really embarrassed by this...
The beginning of the photo galleries:
Many, many more photos to come!
Results: See updated results on the 2010 Frosty Freestyle results page.