A false start, some frantic skiing and then a big crash!
I finished somewhere in the last 3rd, with a time of 16:58.83.
Here's what happened:
The tactic I had come up with for the race went horribly wrong. I am a good skier, better than many of the participants because I am a ski instructor with some experience but not as good a race skier as some of the people with real race/ competition experience. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to start far away from where the professionals were standing so I'd have some space to ski and not get run over by the profis. To get an idea what I'm talking about, check out this picture of the 2005 start:
This year, some people started skiing several seconds before the starting shot was supposed to be fired. It started all the way on the right, furthest away from where I was standing. Before I had realized what happened and started skiing myself, several hundred people were already in front of me. That is including people who were much less well prepared than I was. My ski's were waxed to go very fast, I was using proper racing ski's and I was wearing a racing suit. That was making it really difficult because I was going faster than the people in front of me but there was no space to overtake them! Add to that the fact that a lot of participants who are not used to high speed skiing like the professional racers got nervous and started to swerve and tried to brake. That is not very pleasant for people behind them going at 80 - 100 km/hour (50 - 60 mph)!
Okay, I thought, let's wait until after the big climb up and then start making up time and position on the long straight stretches. So happened: I overtook many and it looked positive for a while. That was up to a steeper part of the course with a big turn to the right. There, right when I was almost at top-speed, someone made a sharp turn right in front of me. I simply could not break out of my track gracefully. I went right off the course pulling a rope and a signpost with me for about 10 meters. After determining that I wasn't too badly hurt (only a bloody nose and lips that were hurting), picking up my poles and climbing back up I continued the race.
The part where I fell was right before a long, flat road where you really needed some speed so as not to lose too much time. Bummer!
However, the fall had shaken me a bit more than I realized and I really couldn't go full power anymore anyway. The new goal was just to keep going and finish, preferably without crashing into anyone.
Here are some pictures of the first skiers finishing and a short report on the St. Anton weblog (in German).
Several minutes after finishing and catching breath I started to notice pain in my ribs and left leg that was obviously suppressed by adrenaline or something. Turns out: nothing broken but a bruised rib and a pulled muscle. A few nights of bad sleep and it will be fine again.
I am glad I participated and learned some lessons for next year: I'll use ski's with a big shovel (fat tip) that are easy to turn in deep, slushy snow and I will start all the way on the right side, right next to the professional racers.
It is definitely a big rush!