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Virtual ski race brings athletic competition back to Carleton

The Nordic Ski Club hosted a virtual 5k this past week in the Arboretum, bringing a semblance of athletic competition back to Carleton. To ensure social distancing and accommodate busy eighth week schedules, skiers completed the race asynchronously using the Strava app to log their individual race times. The window for competition began early Friday morning and ended at 9pm Tuesday. 

“Each skier downloaded the app on their phone and then started an ‘activity’ at the start line,” said Oliver Tullio ’24, who organized the race. Strava used participants’ phones to track their location and time their race from start to finish. Marked by bright signs, the course directed skiers along a loop throughout the Lower Arb, beginning and ending at the gated entrance near North Division Street. 

Tullio used Strava’s route-map interface to plan out the course and skied it himself beforehand to make sure the pacing, hills and finish were adequate. The race was completed in classic style, where skiers use their arms and poles to generate momentum, relying primarily on hills to generate speed. Skiers were not allowed to skate even if they had their own set of skate skis. 

Thirty-one skiers posted times, including an additional 10 skiers who completed the course for leisure. 

Top three finishers for the men included Antero Sivula ’24, who finished with a time of 18 minutes and 36 seconds, followed by Oliver Tullio (19:03) and Antero’s older brother Tuomas ’21, who recorded a time of 20:27. For the women, Cara Meyer ’21 took first place with a time of 22:15, followed by Emma Watson ’23 (22:25) and Maya Strike ’21, who posted a 24:25 finish. Skiers were also divided into pods, who competed against each other based on participation. 

“There were definitely some logistical challenges,” said Tullio, who noted some inefficiencies with the app’s tracking system. “For a few people, Strava claimed they didn’t complete the course, even though they did, so we recorded the total ‘moving time’ during their Strava activity.”

There were some difficulties ensuring participants stayed on course when they completed the race on their own. “We tried to make sure everyone knew where to go by posting signs and sending out a gallery of course photos in advance, but inevitably a few people took a wrong turn and ended up doing the wrong route,” Tullio added. 

The event can be deemed as a success for the Nordic Ski Club, which saw an increase in membership this winter as demand for COVID-friendly activities on campus rose. To provide a competitive respite from mounting end of term exams and papers, the club found a creative way to help its skiers put the skills they’ve developed throughout the term to the test. Additionally, the competition allowed participants to fulfil their race requirement for PE-credit.

 “It was really nice to be able to get some friendly competition in and really feel like you’re part of a team by ‘striving together’ towards a common goal,” said Tullio, referring to the inter-pod competition. “It’s rewarding when people tell me they liked the course or enjoyed getting the chance to push themselves, as it makes me feel like I’ve made a positive difference, which is so important in such times.”

Tullio and the Nordic Ski Club hopes to organize a more competitive off-season training group this upcoming year in preparation for having a race team in the near future when in-person competition against other schools is made possible. As of now, the club remains focused on developing the skills of newly-joined skiers and providing a fun way to earn PE-credit.

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