Sunday, January 29, 2012

Race Review - Tour of Anchorage Cross Country Ski Race

Saree Timmons, Tabitha Gregory, and an
unknown skier enjoy a gorgeous day
on the TOA in 2010.

There’s still time to register for the Tour of Anchorage’s 25th anniversary event which takes place on March 4, 2012.  Held at a time of year when winter’s most extreme weather is over, days are lengthening, and temperatures are on the rise, the race is a sure way to kick cabin fever.  Boasting an annual registration near 2,000, the Tour is the second largest Nordic race in the U.S., and as part of the American Ski Marathon Series, it draws elite athletes (last year’s 50K winner finished in a mere 2 hours and 15 minutes).  However, skiers of all abilities participate.  In 2011, the youngest racer was just 8 years old and the eldest was 77.

The Tour features 50K, 40K, and 25K divisions.  All three courses highlight sections of the city’s 130 kilometers of groomed ski trails, and along the way, treat skiers to Alaska’s dazzling scenery.  Skiers kick and glide through sun-dappled birch and spruce woodlands, beside the shore of lustrous Cook Inlet where massive blocks of ice lay jumbled on the tide flats, and, surprisingly, right over some of Anchorage’s busiest streets. 

Plan to arrive early at APU (25K) or Service High School (40K & 50K).  It’ll take a while to get oriented and locate the starting line (especially if you haven’t raced in the TOA before) and participants can wait indoors until it’s time to head out for their wave.
The following tips may make the event more enjoyable for skiers.
  1. If possible, arrange for a drop off and pick up.  Parking space is limited at the starting lines, in particular.
  2. Racers may plan on plenty of food and water at the feed stations along the way, but bring some nourishment and water with you.  Organizers stock a number of tables (see race map for locations) along the course with Gatorade, water, and a variety of snacks like bagels and bananas.
  3. Abide by race etiquette and common courtesy, such as skiing along the right side of the trail so faster skiers may pass.  TOA organizers send out an email prior to race day outlining other helpful etiquette – read it.
  4. Reserve an extra ounce of emotional energy and physical strength for the final two kilometers of solid uphill to Kincaid Stadium.  You’ll need it.
  5. Race with a friend.  Certainly, you can go it alone, and many do, but, in my opinion, the TOA is best experienced with a partner.  It is exceptionally rewarding to cross the finish line with someone else after having traversed the City together!
Skiers may register for the event at  On race day, the best spots to catch the action for spectators include the starting lines, Westchester Lagoon’s water station, Point Woronzof on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and the Kincaid Park stadium finish line. 

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