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The record book gets a rewrite and an ornery moose gets a workout at the Tour of Anchorage ski race

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: March 8
  • Published March 7

The record book will show Rosie Frankowski crushed the women’s record and Tyler Kornfield tied the men’s record Sunday at the 50-kilometer Tour of Anchorage cross-country ski race. But it won’t tell the real story.

The real story is Frankowski didn’t need an EMT and Kornfield didn’t need a taxi.

And moose on the trail did their best to disrupt things.

Frankowski sliced nine minutes off the record she set in 2017 and placed 12th overall in a field of 220 men and women. Her time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 49 seconds included a minute or two when she skied off the trail after being charged by a moose on the Coastal Trail.

Kornfield equaled the record of 2:04:41 set by Brent Knight in 2013, and he probably would own the record outright had he not been delayed a few minutes when a moose put up a road block that halted the lead pack of eight men, Kornfield included.

“There was a year-old moose that wouldn’t get off the trail,” Kornfield said. “We were stuck for about four minutes. We just gathered there. Two people would try to go past the moose, and the moose would charge those people.

“Eventually our whole group got past, but it was a while.”

The encounter happened on the Coastal Trail between Westchester Lagoon and Point Woronzof, well before the finish line at Kincaid Park. The eight skiers -- Kornfield, Thomas O’Harra, JC Schoonmaker, Logan Hanneman, Forrest Mahlen, Kai Meyers, Garrett Butts and Michael Earnhart -- slipped past the moose one or two at a time, Kornfield said.

Then they all started racing again. No one gained an advantage by taking off before the whole group passed the moose, which Kornfield said would have been bad form.

“We’re all teammates, and I don’t think it would be a happy practice for a couple of weeks or years” if someone had taken off without waiting for everyone else, he said.

Once they started racing again, Hanneman -- who just returned from the Nordic World Championships in Germany -- attacked a hill and Kornfield followed. Schoonmaker -- also just back from the World Championships -- joined them and the three of them traded the lead for the next several kilometers.

“With 5K to go, Thomas caught us and seemed like he had a good rhythm, so he passed us and I kind of hung with Thomas,” said Kornfield, a 2018 Olympian. “With about 2K to go I put on a big surge and Thomas didn’t have an answer.”

O’Harra finished second in 2:05:03 and Schoonmaker was third in 2:05:26. The entire moose group claimed the top eight spots.

The Tour drew more than 700 skiers and more than 200 fat bikers. In order to hold the race during the pandemic, racers started in waves of 10, with each wave separated by two minutes.

The top 30 men went out in the first three waves, followed by an elite women’s wave that included Frankowski. She passed all of the men in the third wave, some of the men in the second wave and did a little dance with an ornery moose before passing it too.

Frankowski, also a 2018 Olympian, said she thinks her moose was the same one that held up the men’s lead pack, although her encounter came closer to Kincaid Park.

“It was about 10K to the end and people were yelling at me, ‘Moose! Moose!’ and there was a (another racer) stopped in the trail,” she said. “Well, I’m going for the W, I don’t care.’ ’'

And so she kept on skiing.

“The moose charged me and I had to ski off the trail and into powder,” she said. “He came at me. I hid behind a tree, and I was circling the tree and he was circling with me, and then I jumped back on the trail and skied away.

“I’ve never been that afraid of being charged by a moose in my life. But my teammates are coming behind me and they (are) good sprinters, so I was like, ‘This moose is not going to stand in my way.’ ’'

Frankowski said the moose was close enough to touch. She said she screamed for help at one point, even though she knew it was futile.

She easily beat her 2017 course record of 2:23:42 and finished more than four minutes ahead of runner-up Becca Rorabaugh (2:18:57), who was a little less than a minute ahead of third-place Anna Darnell (2:19:44).

Frankowski, 29, said she skied by herself for 90% of the race after pulling away early from the rest of the women in her wave. She was proud of how well she performed without having anyone to work with throughout the race, and she was grateful she finished in one piece.

“It was kinda stupid what I did,” she said, “but I didn’t get trampled.”

Kornfield, 30, was pleased to prevail in a field loaded with talent. With the exception of a handful of skiers who are still in Germany, nearly all of Alaska’s elite skiers were in the race.

It was his third Tour of Anchorage and his first victory. He placed third in 2017, and he needed a taxi to finish his rookie race in 2013.

“I got too cold after 15K and had to take a taxi home,” he said. “I underdressed not realizing there are big fluctuations in temperature in the Anchorage bowl and when I got to the Campbell Creek Science Center it had dropped to about 10 degrees and I was barely wearing anything.”

He sought shelter at the nearby Alaska Native Medical Center, thinking he could warm up there and ski home. He never warmed up enough to do that, but he spotted a line of cabs outside the hospital, and was lucky enough to find a driver who would take him and his skis -- and the promise of payment once Kornfield got home.

Kornfield joked that before Sunday’s race, he thought about putting some money in his ski boot, just in case.