Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday night world championships of the universe, or something to that effect

Another Tuesday, another chance to race. After feeling like my head was off visiting another planet last weekend, I figured it was time to knock some sense into me. Namely, by mass-starting a 5-lap 7k race with 70 other skiers, some of whom have rather questionable technique and skiing-in-packs-skills. Colin had suggested that I try to ski with the lead pack, possibly jokingly, so I decided to give it a go. Anna and I lined up in maybe the sixth row back, but there was nobody directly in front of me, for some reason, and Evan Doucett was the row up from there, so I knew it would be a fast start (based on the 8th law of the universe-- highschool boys start races fast). It was pretty balmy out, which meant that my skis were fairly sticky, but Anna and I have a pact that we'll never wax our skis for this event, so sticky skis it is.

Count down to go, and its possible mayhem. Possible, because I was ahead of it, not in it. I was very glad that this time, they started us in the tracks, because it meant that people actually had to double pole instead of starting to skate too early. The first lap was just a loop of the outer trail, and I stayed to the outside and let the mayhem play itself out to my left. My fast start had gotten me into the top ten or so of the guys, and these guys all know how to ski and how to behave when skiing in packs, so I was much more comfortable than in my normal Tuesday starts, when I'm surrounded by people who are a little less skilled on skis and a little more aggressive. I guess the front guys don't need to be aggressive, they just ski fast. By the end of the loop, Anna had caught back up, and I settled in behind Evan up Mt. Weston. He was fading a little over the top, so I skied up to the next guy. I should have known that drafting this guy was a mistake, because he was in windpants. Any master worth his snuff wears full spandex to these events.

Sure enough, windpants-dude got gapped, and by the time I noticed it, there was no way I was bridging it (that would involve skiing faster than Rob Bradlee. Unless its over a 25m sprint, I don't think I can do that). I was unsure of what to do. Pass windpants-dude and ski alone? Draft windpants-dude and hope my poles stayed safe from the guys behind? Luckily, Mark Jacobson (I think) made my decision for me and passed windpants-dude, so I passed windpants-dude also to hop in behind Mark. Another half lap passes before I figure what the heck, I'll go for it, and pass Mark. I got a small gap, just enough that they weren't in my draft, and coming past the finish on lap two I heard Bob Burnham say "I'll work with you Alex". Alright, I like hearing that, so I pushed pretty hard over Mt. Weston and into the downhill. Bob passed me there, and I hopped in his draft, and it was surprisingly relieving to be in the draft again. Then we got to the top of the hill in the middle and Bob just pulled over. Well, there goes my draft. I was far enough in front of the pack that I didn't want to wait for them, so I just put my head down and skied fast for a while. When I looked again at the U-turn after Mt. Weston, they were closing, but not by much, so I figured I could outlast them another lap and a half. Which I did, but it was getting close near the end. I started to feel the burn a bit up Mt. Weston the last lap; according to my new Garmin, I was only moving 5.5 mph up that hill, with a HR of 190 (L4). So, not suicidal, and very definitely not fast!

Some photos from last weekend (stolen directly from Jamie Doucett with no permission):

My "sprint" qualifier.

Me terrifying Nadja, one of our J2s (in the blue and red) to ski faster up that hill. I was telling her to change tracks and go around that other girl, and she did, and she beat her. wooo.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tour de Rumford

This past weekend were some Eastern Cups in Rumford ME. Classic sprints and a 10k skate. I thought that the 10k was mass start, but I was wrong about that. It was fun anyway, but a mass start would have been more fun. I was having problems with getting into the racing mindset this weekend. It never really hit me that I was racing all weekend. I remember at one point in the 10k wondering why it felt so hard to do this. I was also having a lot of trouble finding motivation to race. Driving over to the sprint, Jess and I were talking about ski racing, and it seemed very remote to me. Like it was a very nice concept, and it might be fun to watch.

Anyway, fast forward, and I'm in the same place in my head that is very definitely not reality. I also had a small problem in that my watch was 11 minutes slow and I didn't realize this. Apparently, as I was waxing my race skis, Jackson told me that I had three and a half minutes to the start. I said ok, and kept waxing, really calmly, like I had nothing to worry about. I never heard him say this. Four people in the tent heard him say this. when I saw number 410 ski by the tent, I realized I was in trouble, being number 414. I sprinted to the start with my skis half waxed, tripped over a dog leash along the way, and got there as number 428 was starting. I figured, why rush, so casually re-set my watch so I could time the lap, put my poles on, and skied down the trail. I yielded the better line to number 428, since I figured she was racing for real, and I was sort of shuffling behind her up the hill on skis that definitely hadn't been waxed to satisfaction, when I realized, oh yeah, I'm supposed to be sprinting. So as the hill turned I turned on the jets for a bit and got well ahead of her and eventually crossed the line in 3:25, approximately. Had I not had an official time of 6:07, I would have been between 15-20th. For some reason, it didn't bother me at all that I'd missed my start. I mean, sometimes it takes making a mistake to not do it again. It had been six years since my last missed start, so I guess I was overdue for another one. This way, I got to watch the heats, which was fun, although it started to get cold.

The 10k rolled around the next day, and I didn't really feel any more motivated. I knew that I wanted to race negative splits, since highschool hill can be pretty difficult if you've wasted yourself on the rest of the course. I think I took it to the extreme, though, with my second lap about a minute faster than the first one. I felt like I was mostly in level 2, except on the longer hills, and I couldn't really pick up my tempo at all. Finally around 5k, Carina Hamel caught me from a minute back, so I skied with her to the finish. That was a little faster, but it was still surprising to me for some reason that skiing was hard. What is this strange phenomenon? I would say that I was definitely lacking a little focus in that race... waste of money, really, except that I ended up with a decent result anyway.

Freddy B

The Colby boys tore it up this weekend. I love this shot. Briggs is so relaxed, and the Dartmouth guy is just hammering. Different styles...

Hillary barely snuck past Anja to advance to the semis. It was fun watching both of them just fly past Bethann Chamberlain on the downhill. She must have way overwaxed her skis. Silly biathletes.

Colin's cat. Or should I say parrot.

Its just a really strange cat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Switzerland Maps

The last day of racing was the relay. Since I was the only American woman there, I teamed up with a Russian and a Swiss girl for the relay, since the organizers were very interested in having full teams. The Russian girl must have been angry that they didn't put her on one of the two Russian national teams, because she won the first leg, tagging to Karmen (the Swiss girl) in the lead. Karmen dropped back quite a few places, but still finished within a few minutes of the Lithuanian team and the Czech Republic team, ahead of another mixed team. She tagged off to me, I got my map and started hammering... but I wasn't moving anywhere. Gee, racing four days out of five at altitude makes you tired? Says who?

Anyway, I decided to back off a notch of the flail factor and ski a clean race, and I ended up catching the Lithuanian team, putting five minutes on their third skier. I guess everyone else must have been tired too, because this was the race where I was closest to the leaders. Too bad it wasn't an individual race.

Overall, racing here was a great learning experience for me, and I've come away from it much more confident in my navigation on skis. I've also recognized places where I need work, and I'll be addressing these deficiencies before Japan, for sure. Next year, they will also be holding a "Ski-o Tour", similar to the Tour de Ski. This will be six races in eight days in three countries, starting in Austria, moving to Italy, and finishing in Switzerland. I hope to attend this event as well as the world championships, because six days of racing on true ski-o trails (as opposed to just skating trails like we have in the U.S.) should be really beneficial to me.

The rest of the maps (the pdfs are also linked in case they don't show up):

Long course map 1

Long course map 2 (begins at control 22, which is represented as a start triangle on map 2). You can see how the straight line to number 23 goes right past 27--this is where I made the mistake, thinking that the line went to 27 and skipping number 23-24-25-26. oxygen deprivation is a bitch.

Middle Distance: my biggest mistake on this map was going down the hill into the stadium, thinking that number 15 was actually number 14, and having to turn around and climb back up that hill to number 14. Dummy.

Relay, leg 3.

There is more interesting information, results, some photos, route gadget stuff, here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Breaking down a ski-o map

Another long post, sorry. What I'm going to do is talk through the route choices I took in the sprint map pictured above. If you click on the map, it should open to a slightly larger size. If I were savvy enough, I could draw my route on there, but that doesn't seem to be happening...

Starting at the start triangle, I took the wide trail out of the stadium and took my second right on the narrow trail. I then took my first left and cruised in to number 1. At that point, I had to decide whether I would ski through the control, so to speak, and come out to the main trail again that way, or turn around. It is usually better to ski through a control, since you don't lose any time from turning around. However, in this case I did not want to add any elevation gain on the narrow trails, since they are difficult to ski on. So, I turned around as I got to the control (since I had to hockey stop at the control anyway, that wasn't too difficult), and skied back out to the main trail, where I turned right.

To get to number 2, I knew that I had to get to the skating trail on the other side of that semi-open hill. I did not want to go over the hill, so the next-most logical thing to do was to take the trail that skirts the edge of it. Instead of counting trails, I used the edge of the hill as an attackpoint, and skied hard (maybe 20-30 seconds; it is not a long stretch of trail) until I saw the first trail heading west after the hill. From there I turned right on the skating trail when I got back up to it, and skied through number 2.

From there I took my second left to get to number 3, and skied through it to the T junction, where I went right, onto the skating trail, and then a quick left, back into the maze. The first right got me to number 4, but then I had to turn around, so it might have been faster to go farther on the skate trail and ski through the control. Then there was a relatively long leg to number 5, time for some serious skiing. I came out to the skating trail just below the first bend of the switchbacks, and followed that until the uphill cut-through, which I took, despite it being narrow. Then I followed the big trail up over the train tracks, and took the fourth left into the maze. I used the train tracks as an attackpoint--I skied really hard to there, and then slowed down a little in order to not make any mistakes.

Between 5 and 6 was my only mistake on this course--what I should have done, given my skiing competency vs. my navigation competency, was to go back out to the skate trail and count off the junctions until I got to the right one. Instead, I went through the maze, and made a couple blunders along the way. Heading away from five, I took the right hand junction at the first Y, and at the second Y, instead of going left like I should have, I went right, ending up at my number 8. I was able to match that control code with what I had on my map and relocate, and I then skied past number 7 to get to 6. Once I was there, I knew where 7 and 8 were, since I had just been there, so I retraced my steps. Not a huge mistake, but it would have been considerably faster to take the skate trail.

To 9, I went right left left, and slid down to the control. Having a control on a downhill is tricky, because it is difficult to stop exactly where you want when you're on a narrow trail. To 10 I continued down the hill, jogging right-left and over the little saddle before bearing right, to the trail junction. Then there was another long leg--I went down the hill on the big trail, and at the apex of the first switchback took that little trail, which made a Y, where I went left. I bore left at the next Y, then took the first right up the hill to the control. From there I turned around to get to 12, although I should have skied through it. I went right left left right, and skied through 12 to follow the outside of the maze to get to 13. Yellow denotes open fields, so I could see 13, and by following the outermost trail, I knew I would get there. Often in a race, it is faster to take the safe route (for me) than to take the more direct route.

I skied through 13, and took the outermost trail to get to 14, which involved a steep downhill plunge into a pit, marked as a contour line with a little brown dash in it. To 15 I decided to take te big trail over the steep little embankment, although it would have been more direct to take the little trail straight over the top. To take that big trail I skied through 14, then went left and came out on the road, where I turned right, and then right again on the skate trail over the hill. Then I finished.

I hope that helps to explain how one moves around on a map like that. The whole thing took me about 26 minutes, skiing not all that fast. The little maze parts take a lot of navigating, and it is often faster to slow down the skiing in order to navigate well.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How does ski orienteering work?

I just realized that although I know how ski-o works, a lot of people have no clue. So, I thought I would try to explain.

The basic premise is that the racer is given a map with the locations of "controls" marked on the map. The competitor must visit these controls in the order indicated on the map, and the person who does so in the shortest amount of time wins the race.

The controls are white and orange flags, usually hung in a spot visible to the competitors. The controls are marked as a pink or purple circle on the map, with a dot where the flag is actually hung. In ski-o, the trails are marked in green. The solid green line indicates a wide trail, and the dashed green line indicates scooter tracks. Scooter tracks are trails just wide enough for a snomobile, about 1.5m wide. At the coaches' meeting the night before a race, the race organizer will announce how long the course is, via straight line distance, the amount of climb, and the percent of tracks that are wide versus narrow. The actual distance will be much longer than the straight line distance, because unlike regular orienteering, it is not fastest to cut through the woods in ski-o.

The competitors all have e-punches. These are little electronic sticks that have an elastic band that go around your finger, and when you get to the control, you stick it in a hole in a box and it beeps. That means that the punch has been registered and you can go on to the next control. If electronic punching is not being used, the competitors have a punch card, which is a piece of paper with a box for each control, and at each control there hangs a hole puncher thing with a pattern of pins that you punch in the correct box on your piece of paper.

There are a couple different formats for ski-o, just like in cross country. The sprint is about 2-3k (these distances are all straight-line distances), with 15-25 controls. The long distance is usually mass start, and should take the winners about 70-80 minutes, often 12-20k. The middle distance is shorter than the long but longer than the sprint, and is usually individual start. The relay is a mass start, and is like a cross country relay race but with maps and stuff.

Lets take the sprint as an example. The following map is at a scale of 1:5000, which is very, very detailed, and it is easy to get lost in the details. The other maps are at a 1:10000 scale. This race is individual start, so before I head to the start, I check that I have my e-punch, which I safety pinned to my glove, my race number is on, and I am wearing my map holder. Entering the starting pen, I must first pass an official, who has two e-punch boxes. The first is the clear box, the second is the check box. I stick my e-punch in the clear box, wait for the beep, then punch the check box and wait for the beep. Once I've been cleared and checked, I go line up at the two-minutes-to-go line. I wait there for a minute, then move up to the one-minute-to-go line. With 15 seconds to go, they give me my map. I have to quickly snap my map into my mapholder, and frantically find number one, figure out where it is in relation to the start, and figure out which way I'm going to ski. I usually get this done just in time before the clock does its last beep and I'm off.

This was the women's sprint course.

After I've found all the controls, in the right order, and I've crossed the finish line, I must punch the finish box, which an official is holding. Then I go to the timing shed, and download my splits. For the individual races, they "quarantine" the racers until everyone has started, so that there can be no sharing of information between competitors. So as I leave the finish, they take away my map (for the big competitions--the local ones, you keep your map. At the end of the week, they give all our maps back, but they don't want you to study the area or the routes too much in between races. Not sure exactly why, since everyone would have the maps, but that is how it is). Then I walk to the quarantine room, where I wait until everyone has started, at which point we can leave and go do a cooldown. Usually it is a 5-10 minute wait, but with more people it is a longer wait.

Speaking of warming up and cooling down--the competitors must stay in the area marked as warmup/ski testing. You are absolutely not allowed out onto the course, at least in the big competitions. This means a lot of time skiing in circles, or running on the road as a warmup.

For the long distance or relay race, both of which are mass start, the course "forks", meaning there are butterflies of loops around a couple controls, so that they can give different varieties of the course to each competitor, so there is no following, but everyone still ends up doing the same course.

I think I've about covered it... feel free to ask questions or ask for more information on something. I'll get the rest of the maps up soon.

Friday, January 18, 2008

World Cup Part II

Sorry these posts are so spread out, access to internet is achieved by borrowing Carl's computer and logging in at the competition center, which is not exactly convienent for anyone. A lot has gone on in the past couple days. Six of us (Ken, Greg, Scott, Carl, Sharon Crawford, and myself) are staying in a beautiful old farmhouse in S-Chanf, and there are a couple other American master skiers here for the world master ski-o champs. There are three events going on here--the World Cup, the European Championships, and the World Master Championships. Greg, Carl, and I are racing in the world cup, which is the same as the EOC, as far as I can tell. Everyone else is racing in the masters champs.

Monday was the sprint race. In orienteering, a sprint is about 3km straight-line distance. I think it ended up being 5-6km total, but they take our maps after we finish and we don't get them back until tomorrow night, so I can't tell you for sure. The sprint did not go that well, although I orienteered well with no mistakes. I was just skiing very slowly, at perhaps 30k pace, and I felt the jetlag and altitude weighing me down.

The trails here are very difficult--although there is one large skating trail that goes through the whole venue, the rest of the trails are "scooter tracks", which are about 1.5m wide, and tend to make mazes. skating uphill on these scooter tracks is very difficult, since you can't use a V1, and if you just double pole, you will likely lose momentum when you poles sink through the deep snow. The fastest way to go uphill on the narrow trails seems to be a sort of jump-marathon-skate, which the Scandinavians appear to do with no effort, but is a very tiring way to ski. As Sharon says, it takes a lot of "arm wax"!

The long course was on Wednesday. I'll go more into detail on the courses when I can post the maps, so you can follow along with what I'm saying. This course, however, had 340m of climb, over 12k. That makes it very hilly. A lot of that climb was on scooter tracks, which makes it even more difficult. This was possibly the hardest orienteering course I've ever done, physically. To make it tougher mentally, there were 44 controls. Normally there are around 25 in a long course. This meant that the winner was hitting one control every minute to minute and a half. I usually like long courses, because there is more time for skiing between the controls, but this was not a course for that. I had to constantly stay on my toes to not miss a control, and I ended up not seeing a whole loop of four controls on the map, near the end, disqualifying myself. I should mention that while the uphills are difficult on scooter tracks, the downhills were positively terrifying. Picture yourself on a gladed ski run that you would do on alpine skis. Then picture some snowmobile tracks running through it, that you need to stay on lest you sink to your waist in powder, with many twists and turns and junctions. You are on skinny skis, and if you miss a junction or take the wrong one, you face minutes of difficult, frustrating climbing. I fell more in those two hours than I have fallen on skis in the last three years, combined. This was also the first time I had ever voluntarily gone down a hill on my butt. I luckily avoided breaking any skis, poles, or body parts, but I managed to fold the aluminum part of my mapholder in half, nearly snapping the plastic part of my map off the holder. Hopefully the organizers don't consider english swearwords grounds for disqualification...

After a frustrating and exhausting long distance race, we had a day off, and the race committee organized a field trip for the athletes up a mountain on a train. The train tracks went straight up the mountain, at a 45 degree, possibly steeper, angle, and the train was pulled by a cable. At the bottom, Sharon noticed that you could rent sleds to come down. No waiver, no helmets, no instructions, just ride the sled down. I agreed to be her partner. Sharon is three times my age, so I figured she wouldn't do anything too risky, but it turns out that girl is crazy! Riding up the train, we could see the track heading down--it looked vertical. It switchbacked down the mountain, with steep pitches and sharp corners, and I was terrified. The first turn, we rolled the sled, and the rest of the team (except Greg and Ken, who went down first on a sled) could not stop laughing. We sort of got the hang of it after that, until we got to this really steep part, and we couldn't slow down at all (you slowed down by dragging your feet in the snow), so I bailed, and Sharon went straight over a cliff. Luckily, it was a small cliff, but I was worried that I had just watched the most experienced member of the US ski-o team disappear over the edge of a cliff. The sled trail was much milder after that, and by the time we reached the bottom we really wanted to do it again!

Today was the last day of individual competitions, with the middle distance. 6.3km, 9km perfect route choice, with only 140 m of climb. I felt like I skied a lot faster today, although I have now counted 6 mistakes, which could add up to nearly 5 minutes. The most costly mistake was when I thought a control was at the bottom of a 2 minute climb, instead of the top, and I went all the way to the bottom before turning around and climbing back up. So not only did I lose the time going down and back up, I got more tired for the remaining controls. The other mistakes were stil minor, but they add up, and it will be interesting to compare my splits to some of the other fast people.

Tomorrow is the relay. I don't think I have a team yet, but I will at least be allowed to ski the first leg.

Sharon waving to the crowd as she starts the sprint. When she finished, the announcer said, "and here is world famous Sharon Crawford!"

Scott with a broken ski after the sprint. He was still our fastest skier!

Crowds at the opening ceremony

Opening Ceremony

USA ski-o team and masters team: from the left: back row: Aims Coney, Ken Walker, Greg walker. Front Row: Terry Myers, Scott Pleban, Sharon Crawford, Carl Fey, Alex Jospe

Men's mass start fore the long distance.

Me, before the sledding. In the background you can see the lakes where the Engadin marathon starts.

Greg (front) and Ken (rear) screaming around a corner.

The venue and the view

The finish.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Switzerland World Cup

I've arrived in S-Chanf yesterday, after not just a crying baby, but a SCREAMING baby through the middle of the "night" on my overseas flight. I met up with Greg and Ken Walker (the father-son power-team), and we drove over a sweet pass, which was almost closed, to arrive in S-Chanf just in time to ski in the dark. S-Chanf is the location of the finish of the Engadin marathon, which I think may be a world loppet, but I am not positive on that. Anyway, the Engadin trails are fantastic, very well groomed and amazingly wide (and beautiful, for that matter). By that night, Carl Fey and Scott Pleban had arrived, and we were all in a really nice old farmhouse in the center of town.

Today was the model event, which is where we are allowed to train on a small portion of the map, in order to become familiar with the way the trails relate to how they are shown on the map, and other important things like that.

Tomorrow, the sprint!

More views from the window.

Typical little Swiss town on the way down to S-Chanf

A typical "control" on one of the narrow trails. Very visible, you just have to get to it!

Friday, January 11, 2008


The Colby guy's ski team just won the first day of the Bates' Carnival! Woo! Results are here. Four skiers in the top seven, with Matt Briggs (CSU grad) in 4th! This is a pretty momentous day for Colby skiing. I don't know if this is the first carnival day they've ever won, or not, but either way, its impressive! Go Colby!!


In my last post, titled "master blasting...", I did not mean to insult master racers in any way. I was playing with the term "master blaster", and it was a bad pun. A master blaster is the stereotypical master endurance athlete who has forgotten that we do this for fun. He is usually male, over 30, possibly in good shape but more likely a desk jockey during the day who used to be a good athlete when he was younger. Most importantly, he takes himself very, very seriously, especially when it comes to racing. For a good master blaster, every workout is a race, but the true blaster attitude comes out during races--it is all on the line, and beware anything in my way!*

So, if you consider Tuesday night races to be the world championships of the universe, and you wax up with pure fluoros for these training races, you're right on the line of becoming a master blaster. You know which way you're tipping if you're smiling and gracious at the start, or if you're fighting for your front row position and skiing over small children to get there.

My main point, though, is that being a master ski racer (or bike racer) does not make you a master blaster. It is master skiers who keep this sport alive, and it is often master skiers who coach the next generation of skiers, which is vitally important for this sport. I hope I didn't offend anyone with my last post (or this one, for that matter).

*There are varying degrees of master-blaster-ness. I'm describing the worst case here. And some master blasters are actually very nice people, they just also happen to be master blasters. Also, triathletes are very good examples of master blasters.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Master-blasting on Tuesday nights

I just can't help myself, if there is a race I go to it. It was positively hot out there, so i wore Linnea's amazing blue hibiscus short spandex. The only problem with these is that there is no elastic in the waist, yet, so I was a little worried that they would fall down and I would moon everyone behind me. Luckily, they stayed up. I also found out that the "racing red" lenses in my glasses are too dark for Weston's lights.

After futilely yelling out to the crowd "does anyone have a scraper!?!?" I decided to just ski my travel wax off my skis. By the time we started racing, I think most of the wax was gone. It was enough that I could keep up with the guys on the downhills, but that may have been because they were trying to V2 on an uncertain surface in the dark into a headwind, so a tuck was just faster. I didn't want to go much beyond threshold, so I started easy, trying to avoid the general mayhem that comes with Tuesday night races. Once it looked like my poles were no longer in danger of being snapped by over-zealous males, I started moving up, which I had plenty of time to do since it was a "long" race, at almost 7km. The low point of the race was when I couldn't remember how many laps I'd done, and I stopped at the entrance of the finish chute trying to figure it out. Oops.

Thats it for racing until Switzerland. I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Home at last

Sunday, they delayed the team sprints for about two hours, since they were having some issues with getting the start lists out. We thought about it for maybe fifteen seconds, then said, screw it, lets go home. The team sprints weren't that important to us, and we were facing a 14 hour drive, so we piled in and took off. We made good time through the U.P., maybe a little too good time. At least I wasn't driving...

I also had a pasty (pronounced: pass-tee), which is apparently yooper food of da gods. I was pleasantly surprised, although it could have done with less potatoes. Around Flint MI, we decided it was time for some dinner. Matt had one of those Tom-Tom GPS things, and so we asked him to find us a place to eat. He started listing names, and when he said "Thai House", Jess and I jumped on it. We followed that damn thing's directions, and ended up on a dirt road about two miles off the highway in a trailer park... I guess the Tom-Toms aren't perfect. Luckily, there was a cheap Chinese place around the corner, so we ordered "crab cheese" (crab rangoons) off of the "dinner blate" menu. A high quality establishment, for sure.

Fourteen hours in the car sounds like a lot, but it ended up not being so bad with three drivers and two ipods (mine only made it to Canada before the battery gave out). We got to Rochester by 3:30 am, and I finished the drive to Boston the following day. Overall, a great week! A HUGE thanks goes out to Janice for waxing all our skis and basically giving us the fastest boards out there. Life is so much more relaxing when you aren't doing your own skis or going to coaches' meetings.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


I don't have any awesome pictures, because my camera battery died. I'll just share this one:


I know that I shouldn't have such high expectations having not raced on this level in the past four years, but when you feel that you've put together a good race and you end up 65th, its somewhat disappointing. I think I need to go all Marit Bjorgen style and get stronger. It was a fun course, I liked that there was a downhill and an uphill, and as usual times were really tight. I think it was like 10th- 30th were within four seconds or something. I still find that really cool.

Watching the heats was fun--it was particularly impressive when Kikkan Randall fell on the downhill in her quarterfinal and was already leading by the time they came around the uphill. That girl is on a roll, its awesome. I was secretly hoping that Laura Valaas would beat her in the A final, but Kikkan has some world class speed going for her. It was crazy how strung out that last heat was, I guess a fast race will do that.

Then Jess realized that she'd lost a pair of classic skis, and we went on a wild goose hunt to find them, until we finally looked where she'd left them last and they were there. Excitement all around. Tonight we gave up on eating pro on the go and ordered pizza. But I've finally put up the other PROs on the GOs. Tomorrow, classic team sprint and a looooooong ass drive home. Pirate Power!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Nationals 10k classic

Modern snow shaping equipment amazes me. We have 450 skiers racing here, each doing two laps of a course, plus everyone warming up on the course. That is 1350 skier laps on those tracks. By the end of the day, those tracks were still rock solid, the only sign of 1350 skiers going by being the pole trenches, which weren't even that bad. I suppose having fresh snow and a cold night to set things up doesn't hurt... but I couldn't help but be impressed. I guess I could have been focusing on my race instead. huh.

My race was blah. My body felt blah. My attitude was blah. But I had a rockin pirate headband.

The plan was similar to the last one, something along the lines of negative splits, the only problem was that I started slowly and got slower. Bad races happen. Its been great having Janice wax for us this week, I had some wicked fast skis today. I made a mistake testing skis at the wax test area instead of on the course, since the race tracks were so much more glazed, but that was my fault. Live and learn.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nationals 5k skate

Steph Crocker in the snow.

Its been snowing for the past 48 hours, give or take a couple, which I suppose causes the U.P. to live up to its reputation. The course was pretty firm during the girls' race, though, so I was happy, since my only skis with a cold grind are pretty stiff, too, and don't do so well on a smooshy course. I just used the word smooshy.

I had a plan for this race, since I tend to go out way too hard in 5k races, and I didn't want to blow up. The course started with some flat then a long downhill, then a long uphill, then another long downhill and essentially the rest was rolling or uphill. So, I wanted to take the flat part as hard as possible, rest on the downhill, ski comfortably up the first uphill, and go from there. I did that, although it was hard because I could see my 15 second girl the whole time up the hill and I really wanted to just catch her, and later on I could hear Jess, who had started 15 seconds behind me, and I really wanted to run away from her like a scared rabbit. Starting the race, a terrified pine marten or something had bolted across the trail, and that is fairly close to how I felt. They really shouldn't put friends 15 seconds apart. Anyway, I managed to ski my own race, and I caught my 15 second girl on the last uphill into the finish, and the finishing straight is possibly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I really didn't think I could I could take one more stride; had the finish line been ten feet further I'm not so sure I would have made it.

Overall, it was a good race, and I was very pleased with my effort. Times are so close at these races, especially in the "B" seed: I got ahead of Jess by 12 seconds and 20 places. I think that I got every second out of that course that I could, but its rough looking at the results and seeing your top 50 goal 18 seconds away. 2004 nationals skate race: 132nd place. 2008 nationals skate race: 66th place. Maybe compartment surgery did make a difference... or maybe I just got faster.

Pre-race prep

One civic, five people, skis and poles... and then some snowy doughnuts.

We had some spectacular moroccan couscous for dinner, Jess sure knows how to make that vegan crap taste good! Check it out here. We also discovered that you can make Annie's mac and cheese perfectly well in a microwave.