Monday, March 31, 2008

Rocky Woods Orienteering

In case anyone is wondering, the skiing at Waterville Valley is still superb. I went up there with some CSUers, and it was midwinter conditions. Beautiful skiing!

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful also, so I headed out to Dedham for an orienteering meet, put on by NEOC, the New England Orienteering Club. I ran here last year, and I remember hating the area. I still don't like it, but I had a slightly better run. It was pretty chilly when I got there, and we had to copy our own maps. The map-copying area was in the shade, and I was shaking so badly that I had some major issues getting my control circles round. I should have taken more care, because some of my circles were a little off, causing a couple headaches...

So I started off by bungling #1. I went into the woods too early, almost directly across from where the trail hit the road, and once in the woods, I remembered that I had meant to run the road. Then, instead of continuing on with what I had already started to do, I stopped completely and stood there like a ninny until I remembered what the heck I was supposed to be doing. I was a ninny multiple times on this course. #2 I did the same thing, went into the woods early, where the road crosses a hill, but this time I had planned that. Of course, I then went in the wrong direction so had to loop around and hit 2 from the back side.

In my shivering frenzy to get my map copied so I could go run, I had neglected to mark the changes to the map that the course setter had noticed. One change was that the trail to #3 was not actually there. That didn't throw me off too much, because I could just run the ridge, but I had managed to draw my circle too far to the east, so I was searching up the wrong reentrant for the control, which was actually on the west side. doh! 4 and 5 were clean, if slow, since I hiked/scrambled up the hill. Then going to 6, I ended up in the right spot, but on the wrong side of the little hill, and convinced myself I was in the wrong spot, running all the way north to the road and the pond before I realized I had been in the right spot and went back and got the control.

I ran out to the trail and went around the marsh to get to #7, and again, my control circle was closer to the marsh than the actual control. So I ran around for a while checking every reentrant (the control clue) in the area until I found it. At this point I was definitely cursing my sloppy copying. There was a group of people leaving 7 as I got there, and I tried to get around them on my way to 8, but ended up going too high up the hill, losing more time. From 8 to 9, I sprinted madly through the woods, only loosely in touch with my map and following a rough compass bearing. I slowed down as I hit the trail before heading towards the marsh, and almost overran the control by caught myself just in time. I was almost foiled by some boy scouts on my way to 10, but things were starting to come together for me now, and I got 10 with no hesitation. 11 was a longer leg, but again I followed a rough compass bearing and spiked the control.

At this point I saw two Austrian dudes who I'd last seen around control 3 when I was blundering around cursing life, and my competitive juiced stirred a bit. I hammered through the woods as they went around, and I spiked 12 and got enough away from the control that they couldn't use me to find it by the time they crested the hill. I blundered going into 13, though, by taking the trail to the south of the control and running up the reentrant on the east side of the little hill, thinking I was on the west side. The Austrian dudes caught back up, but the little trail to 14 didn't appear to exist, and they were stopped there looking at their map as I went around on the big trails to 14. I didn't see them again, but I don't know who won... regardless, I was motivated now, and I spiked the rest of the controls in to the finish. I think I've learned my lesson, though-- wear a puffy jacket when copying the map!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

So how did I do? Ski season re-cap.

The training "year" isn't fully over yet, as it goes until the end of April. However, nobody cares about a rest/fun month, and the important part is over, so I'll recap the season in numbers and bullets. If you don't want to hear me talking about me, don't bother reading this.

-Sugarloaf marathon win
-World cup ski-o
-Nationals trip
-Waxing/coaching at EHS
-Getting to hang out with Jess, Dobie, Blazar and other cool folks most weekends

Low points:
-Totaling my car
-Craftsbury marathon
-Rangeley marathon
-Most of the Eastern Cups
-Missing a start

The goals:
Early Season:
West Yellowstone:
-Enter both supertours (Y)
-10% back in the distance race (N; 15%)
-Reach goal: make the heats in the sprint(N)
-Top 100 (Y; 66th in skate race and 65th in sprint)
-Reach goal: top 50 (N)
-Have a race with points <200 (Y; skate race 197.98)
-Top 50 (reach: 30) college girls (Y; 27th in skate race). OK, I know I'm not in college anymore, but I just like seeing how I compare, alright?
Mid- to late-season:
Do at least three marathons (Y)
-Top 3 at Craftsbury (N)
-Top 3 at Rangeley (N)
Eastern Cups:
-1 race 5% back from leaders (N; Presque Isle 5k 7.8%, Rumford 10k 7.75%, Prospect 10k 8.95%, Holderness 7.5k 6.6%)
-1 top 10 (reach: top 5) (Y; 7th in Presque Isle sprint)
Winter training:
-Stay healthy (Y)
-Focused intervals (N; basically I didn't do any intervals due to frustration with Weston and it showed, duh)
-Continue one OD per two weeks (Y)
-Continue general strength every week (N)
-Continue ski-o drills (Sort of; early season was good, late season I got lazy)
-Top 15 at world cup (N)
-One map-specific drill per week (N)
-Win any US event I enter (Y)

So overall, how did I do? Looking at my goals, I did pretty poorly. I had four races where I felt good, and the rest I either felt tired or very tired, and I was more or less unable to push myself to my limit. I had an indication of this during 'cross season, and I should have been intelligent then and rested more, to be able to come after intensity workouts with a hunger that I never really felt all season. Instead, well, instead you can read my blog. It's mostly whining about not doing as well as I would have liked in ski races. Partly this is because I am an athlete; I can't help but feel that I can do better than I am, but partly this comes from higher expectations than my fitness could support. Was I out of shape? Hardly. My lack of focused intensity, however, did not allow me to tap the fitness that I know was there, and this is entirely my own fault. Weston may not be ideal for training, but I let it get me down too much. If you're interested in training numbers, here is my training log at attackpoint with the totals.

What went right? I would say that this is the season where I learned to pace myself in a race. This was a big step forward, but I still need a lot of work. At the Rumford 10k, I paced myself so well that I had a 2 minute negative split on 15 minute laps. The Craftsbury Opener was my first good race. Nationals 5k skate was my second good race. The Rumford race I just mentioned sort of goes down as a third, although I think if I had perhaps paced myself less agressively it would have gone much better. The Holderness 7.5k mass start was my fourth decent race, in terms of how I felt, but placement-wise, it was aweful, and I was frustrated by other skiers the whole time. So really, only my early season was any good. To figure out why, we move to the next question.

What went wrong? In a word: August. This post was about when I realized how much I was tearing myself apart with all that travel. The travel manifested in me getting sick, then sicker, then injured thrice over before I finally got smarter and took two rest weeks. Even those rest weeks did not fully recover my wrecked body, though, and the result of continually pushing was a horrid cross season. West Yellowstone was where I managed to turn it around, but only a little, as I recognized that I could pull one good race off of a lot of rest, but any races soon thereafter were pure painfests with nothing to show. The taper to nothing that I did before nationals worked, but only for the first race, as expected. Things might have looked up after that, but traveling to Europe wore me out more than I thought it would, and a little mental burnout ensued. I continued racing, though, dragged myself through two impossibly hard marathons and then got lucky when everyone else was more burned out than I was to show up to the last races of the year, giving me the win at Sugarloaf and third at ski to the clouds.

So what needs changing? First and foremost, I am going on a "travel diet", from May through October: I am only allowed to leave a 50 mile radius from my house (a few exceptions, like Otis or Windblown) every other weekend. This will hopefully prevent back-to-back epic adventures, and save me money to boot. Next, I need more intensity, especially during the winter. Training at Weston is not my favorite thing to do, but as I discovered this year, fitness is useless without the speed to use it. But I knew that. The next thing to do is listen to what I already know and listen to what my body is telling me. If I ever get this recovery thing down, look out everyone!

So what's next? I've transitioned to an active recovery period, as much for my mental state as for my body. A couple orienteering meets are coming up, ideally I'll run really fast and not get lost, then things will be splendid. Hardcore training starts again in May, don't expect anything epic until after that. A couple mountain bike races this summer, probably the gap ride, possibly the presi traverse again, and maybe even a road race! That will take a lot of peer pressure though.

time to wax some skis...

Monday, March 24, 2008

It doesn't get much better than this

It started with a sunset run on Friday, possibly one of my favorite activities other than sunrise runs (that means you don't have to finish in the dark). I love Hale reservation-- its not that big, but once you're in it it feels huge, like you're actually out of the city. Except that you can see it still. But that is cool in its own right.

Saturday was the "Formula One" race at Gunstock. They have loads of snow, so they'll probably just keep hosting races until it all runs out. I think Igor came up with this one just to get his kids having fun on snow. Mass start. 800m skate loop. Switch to classic skis. 800m classic loop. Five loops of each technique. First there was a "qualifying" round, to determine the order in the mass start, which was only two lanes wide and after about 10 feet did a 180 into the slalom course. WOOO!

I qualified fourth, ahead of all the highschool boys (goal: beat all highschool boys). That put me pretty far up in the mass start, and I skittered around the first corner terrified I'd get run over by the overzealous and uncontrolled highschool skiers. There was no jump first lap, that came on the second lap. By the bottom of the hill I was in 7th or 8th, but luckily I can transition fast and I know how to classic ski, so by the end of the classic lap I was back in 5th, more or less holding even with a highschooler I'd seen racing at EHS last weekend. Each lap, Igor would change the jumps after the slalom somehow-- second skate lap, there were three jumps spaced pretty closely. Third skate lap, the jumps were wider. Fourth lap, Igor was standing after the three jumps holding more bamboo that I ducked under (Maybe I was supposed to jump it?). Fifth lap he was holding the bamboo even lower (jump it, you idiot), so I barely squeaked underneath it. I think he was changing around the jumps depending on who was coming down the hill. Luckily the classic laps were just normal, giving me a chance to catch back up to the highschooler who probably didn't know how to use klister based on how much he was slipping, and recover a little. I ended up in fifth, ahead of all the highschoolers. This felt like a cross race! To make it even better, we got chocolate as prizes.

The BKL skiers on the slalom course.

Practicing jumping over the foam things before Igor replaced that with three bamboo jumps.

I need to be on that top step because without it Linnea would be taller... at least I didn't start eating my chocolate while on the podium, like Colin did.

Sunday Callie came down and we went mountain biking. Restoring the balance in Alex's world.

Callie explaining something...

A good day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Body-slamming trees

Its generally not a great idea. Slamming one's body into trees, that is. During this activity, I happened to be wearing my GPS. Here are some interesting stats:
Speed I was going when I entered the corner and realized I was going too fast: 26mph
Speed I was going when I hit the trees: 20mph
Max speed during the course of the race: 35mph

When I first got a road bike, I was in fifth grade. I was amazed at how fast you could go, and I got a spedometer for my birthday so I could clock my top speeds. Knickerbocker hill was the biggie around where I lived, and until I got older and stupider I had to work hard to break 35mph down that hill (there is a stopsign at the bottom... details). Its fast. Yeah, I had no point except to say I'm glad I walked away from that crash. One more race tomorrow, then that might be it for snowtime.

Colin stole (well, I guess I gave it to him) my google earth picture from my garmin and nicely annotated it, so I stole it back and added the location of my corner:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Product Review: Peltonen Skis

"Are those new Peltonens?!?" was the question I heard at least four times while waxing at Eastern Highschools. Yes! They are!

Alpina is bringing in Peltonen skis to the U.S. now, I'm not sure if Alpina is the only distributor, but the U.S. hasn't seen new peltonens in many, many years. The only world cup skier I could find currently on Peltonens is Ville Nousiainen, a Finnish skier, and he is pretty fast. Of course, Sam Morse also skis on Peltonens, and he is also pretty fast.

Peltonen claims to be the world's first XC skis with nanotechnology, using Hybtonite. I don't know what Hybtonite is, but it has a nice feel on my tongue when I say it. Anyway, they have extra light tips and tails, and three profiles-- wet, universal, and warm. I assume each of these comes with a factory grind, but people tend to not stick with those nowadays. They also have an optional NIS plate, which might be becoming a standard thing out there, I'm not sure.

Alright, on to the actual testing part. Skate skis: These skis were very nice. I compared them to my Atomic RS11s and some old Fischer RCS skis that I still race on. In terms of weight, they felt comparable to the Atomics, which are lighter than the Fischers (granted, I was just holding them in my hands). On snow, the factory cold grind was running pretty even with the Q1.3 grind on my Atomics from Zach Caldwell. The conditions were pretty sugary, and the flex was just about perfect for those conditions, resulting in my rocket skis during the Sugarloaf Marathon. I felt comfortable enough on these skis after 15 minutes of skiing that I chose to race on them, and I am very glad that I did! The downhill cornering and tracking was very good--I felt like I had a lot of control on all the hairy corners and switchbacks, and the skis felt light underfoot, allowing for some quick movements. On the flats and uphills, they were fast and stable, but not too stable. They felt pretty lively, unlike my Fischers, which are probably too soft, or any of the Rossignol skis I've tried, which feel like blocks of wood strapped to my boot. Overall, I'd say that they feel most like Atomic skis.

Classic skis: I have to be honest, I was using a powder ski in klister conditions... the review isn't going to be stellar. These skis felt very similar to Madshus classic skis, with a nice pocket despite being pretty soft skis. I had good control on the downhills, with the skis responding similarly to skate skis on the corners. They were a little draggy, but we all know that is what happens when you klister up a soft ski. The factory cold grind was definitely not agressive enough for the slush I was skiing through, so saying that they were slow is hardly fair.

Overall, I would give the skate skis an A+ (the + comes from the fact that they were so much faster than everyone around me at sugarloaf on the downhills...), and the classic skis get an A-, with the - due to the dragginess, which is because I was using a powder ski on a klister day. dummy. Very light, responsive skis, that were fun to ski on. Hopefully these skis will be available to the public pretty soon. I think they will have very competitive prices, since that seems to be one of the goals of this little Finnish company. I think I will be skiing all on Peltonen by next year!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sugarloaf Marathon

Thats me, winning the sugarloaf marathon =) (Kris Dobie photo)

Saturday was one of those awesome days when you get up at 4:30 in the morning and go to meet your ride north and he's still asleep... luckily, Blazar rallied quickly and then drove really, really, fast up to Stowe for Eastern Highschools. I was wax bitch again for the classic sprint and mixed gender, mixed technique relay, and as with J2s, I learned a ton about klister waxing, and got even better at applying klister without a bench. Our Rhode rossa-multigrade mix worked awesome, and Olga (one of my CSUers) won the sprint and Nadja (another CSUer) was 9th. A western Mass kid was 6th, and Chris Stock (CSU) was 12th in the sprint. The afternoon relay was fun to watch, as it was girl-boy-girl-boy; classic-classic-skate-skate. We had good wax again, and our first team ended up winning. A fantastic day for Massachusetts! They followed it up on Sunday with Olga winning the classic race for the girls and Chris winning for the boys. I should mention Isaac Hoenig was 4th in the guys' race and Jimmy Burnham was 11th! These kids know how to ski, and its exciting watching them put it all together.

Jamie getting the good stuff going...

The Massachusetts EHS team waving their state flag (appropriately attached to a ski) after winning the relay!

After the relay, Blazar and I booked it over to Sugarloaf. In Blazar's words, he "drove like a rockstar", and I only put my foot through the floor a couple times. Needless to say, we made awesome time, and I got to bed relatively early hoping to feel rested for the marathon. I've been pretty tired all week, so I didn't have high hopes of feeling good, but apparently you don't need to feel that good to do well. I'll admit the start list was pretty thin when it came to girls, but given the way I felt I preferred it that way. Robyn Anderson and Lauren Jacobs were the two I thought I might have trouble with, so when the gun went off, I got right behind Robyn. She was going really slowly, though, so I decided to go a little faster.

The course started with a long, gradual uphill (the garmin data is coming, hold your horses) for about 4k, then some rolling ups and downs and then some screaming downhills, with some tight corners and high speeds. Then there was some more loopety-looping on trail 10, and the lap finished with some flat stuff going into the stadium, at 16km. Three laps of that and then you could finish. Pretty hilly, but fast conditions. My first time up the hill I took it pretty easy, just barely into L2, since I hadn't gotten around to warming up and bad things happen when I don't warm up and then go too hard. No girls passed me, so I was comfortable going my slow speed. At the top I looked back and didn't see Robyn, just Lauren was behind me, so I decided that I didn't really need to go any faster than I had been. On the rollers after 4k I came to realize that my skis were ROCKETS, I was dropping my pack like nobody's business. I was skiing slow enough that they could catch back on, though, so it was pretty easy skiing the first lap. I had borrowed these skis from Dorcas, since Alpina is now bringing in Peltonens and she wanted me to try them out. Gotta say, I like them a lot.

Near the end of that lap, Lauren took the lead for a bit, and she was definitely going faster than I had been going. I didn't like this, so after a while I took the lead back and we slowed back down to granny speed. I made sure I was eating and drinking a lot, because I didn't want to do something stupid and get beat in a race I was basically controlling, and the Colby kids (who ran the race) were really helpful at the feeds.

Going up the big hill the second lap, Lauren took the lead again and sped up. This was faster than I wanted to go, but still within my comfort zone, so I just stayed on her heels and found a rhythm to settle into. She admitted at the top that we had just been going a little faster than she had wanted, but I'm guessing she was seeing if she could drop me. At this point we started chatting a little more, and then the downhills started and my rocket skis carried me away. After the long downhill of death (straight down the fall line for ~200 feet, then a 180 at the bottom), where my GPS says I hit 35 mph, I wrecked pretty hard on a relatively fast corner. It was one of those "look where you want to go, not at where you're going" situations, I was staring at this tree hoping I didn't hit it, and the rut I was following shot me into the woods and slammed me into the tree. I lay there in a heap of limbs and ski equipment for a second, doing the mental check to see if any body parts were broken. Nothing was sending jabs of pain sharp enough to cut through the adrenaline, so I moved on to the "check your equipment" step. It all looked intact. Now I just had to extricate myself from this awkward position of being stuck in the snow amid the trees. At this point Lauren went by, saw me there, and came to a stop. "Oh my god! are you ok?!?" I guess I looked more tangled up than I thought. Yup, I'm fine, nothing broken, carry on...

By the bottom of the hill I'd caught back up, and I skied cautiously behind her for most of the rest of that lap, finally taking the lead again when the tingly feeling in my left leg went away. Crossing the bog headed out on our last lap, Laurent mentioned that she'd be taking the downhills pretty easy this lap, since "our" legs were tired, and I thought that was a very good idea. We kept it smooth up the long hill, and then I pulled away quickly at the top as my rockets picked up speed. I was sliding more of the corners than I normally would have, but I had made it this far and I didn't want to wreck again. The plow made its appearance in more than one place; the downhills were scraped pretty clean of snow at this point.

By the time I got to the bottom, I was still feeling relatively fresh, and I let Lauren take the lead through trail 10 to see how she was doing. She put in one or two semi-surges, but I could tell she was tired, and I figured the easiest thing would be to wait for a sprint, since I didn't feel like working any harder than necessary. This was also the riskiest strategy, since even though I felt pretty fresh, I still would have just skied 48km, and that can lead to me doing stupid things, but I didn't feel like breaking away now and working hard for 2k. We crossed the bridge and I let my skis take me past Lauren on the downhill. The last hill of the course she tried to pass me, so I put some power into two or three V1s to get over the top of the hill, then cruised along in a fast V2alt to the finish hill and into the finish, about 5 second ahead of her. The Colby team was going nuts, it was awesome to ski into what felt like a home-town crowd at the front of a race.

The Colby ski team!!

Starting lap 3 (Kris Dobie photo)

All in all, this was a fun race to do, even though I was butt tired going into it. I lucked out in having a thin girls' field and fast skis, but I was proud of how I used my head and didn't do anything stupid like stop eating at 32km. Unfortunately my left hand is pretty badly sprained from my little run-in with the tree, but I'm lucky to have escaped so unscathed. In my experience the tree usually comes away with less damage than the skier...

Friday, March 14, 2008

One race left...

My desire to race is close to nil, which is pretty perfect timing, given that I have one race left (possibly two) and its the end of the season. I won't be heading out to Fairbanks for Spring Series, if any of you were wondering, mostly because I don't have that kind of dough floating around, even after my winnings in the race to the clouds.

This weekend is the Eastern Highschool Champs, where I'm coaching on Saturday; with any luck the waxing will be extra blue and everyone will be happy. My desire to wade through gallons of klister is also pretty low... but if it needs to be done it needs to be done. Sunday is the Sugarloaf Marathon, hosted by the Colby ski team as a fundraiser. If you're interested in doing another marathon, this should be a good one, come support my alma mater ski team!

Provided I survive another fifty kilometers of skating (have I mentioned my knee makes funny, painful, creaking noises when I skate and that my calf wants to blow up when I skate fast?), they are promising another Tuesday night race next Tuesday. The snowpack has mostly dwindled to a puddle of goose-poop-slime-slush, but who can really say no to skittering around a golf course on skis?

Here is the fun stuff, though: Saturday the 22nd, Gunstock is tempting us with a Formula One Spring Fling. Here is some more information. Basically, its a 500m skate qualifier, then a mass start pursuit-type sprint race. Your position in the mass start is based off your qualifier, and you do ten 500m laps, switching equipment every lap. I CAN'T WAIT! This basically takes the parts of a pursuit that I'm best at (transitions and sprinting and mass start shenanigans) and makes that the whole race.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

For real??

When I take the bus, I tend to pick up a Metro (the local free paper) to do the crossword. I usually skim the headlines, but my expectations are never too high that there will be anything other than Massachusetts policy stuff. This, however, blew me away.

"Woman pried loose after two years on toilet". Front page news, right there.

"Wichita, Kan. Authorities are considering charges in the bizarre case of a woman who sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years--so long that her body was stuck to the seat by the time the boyfriend finally called the police..."


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The case for bike commuting

Recently, when I've wanted to go to Weston to coach or race or just ski, I've been stealing Ed's truck from him at work and driving there. Let me tell ya, driving in Boston at 5:30 pm, not so much fun. Normally, I take a bus, so I can chill out and read a book and ignore the fact that I'm mired in traffic. But the buses don't go to Weston. Unrelated, I rode my bike yesterday. I re-discovered a couple things I'd managed to forget.

1. Biking up hills is hard work. Even the little hills kind of suck.

2. Biking makes my butt hurt.

3. There are not only a lot of stupid people driving cars; there are a lot of stupid people riding bikes out there too.

I don't really feel like ranting, I just feel like complaining. Maybe someday I'll re-remember how to love riding bikes. Definitely not there yet... Tonight is the last Tuesday night race, before Weston dissolves into a puddle of goose poop. Woo! Spring skiing!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ski to the Clouds

Pleasant weather in Jackson!

This past weekend, J2 skiers from all over New England were racing at Jackson. A wide range of abilities were demonstrated on those trails, and Massachusetts had kids over the whole spectrum. The morning was a 5km classic race and the afternoon was a classic sprint, and given the forecast of somewhere around 35 degrees and a wintry mix, I volunteered my waxing services to the Mass team, guessing we'd need all the hands (and wax testers) they could get. Luckily, the wintry mix was rain, and it didn't start doing its thing until the sprint was almost over, otherwise it would have been a much longer day of standing around waxing and screaming and cheering and running up and down hills. We had some good results in the classic race, one of the girls I coach ended up third, which is awesome! I had missed the skate race on friday, showing up right as the sun was setting. The wave is an awesome downhill on the Jackson 5k course, but the wave in the dark is even awesomer. A huge thanks to the Burnhams for letting me spend the night in their house up there!

Chris Burnham showing us how its done.

I skipped out on the relays on Sunday to race the Ski to the Clouds race up at Great Glen. This was a really cool race-- it started with 4km on the Great Glen trails, and then finished 6km up the Mt. Washington auto road, 2000 feet higher. Instead of the sunny 40 degrees I had waxed for, Mt. Washington valley was surrounded by a cloud, with blustery snow and ice all over everything. They had to shorten the race, finishing at 4km up the road instead of 6km, because the planned finish area was supposedly glare ice. Nobody complained!

I sneaked a peek at the start list, and saw that I only had Kathleen Maynard and Kelsey Allen to race against. I was guessing that I could climb with Kathleen, but I knew Kelsey would be faster up the hill, because she can't weigh more than 85 pounds. My race plan was to go as fast as I could on the flat part, and then ski controlled up the hill. Unfortunately, my calves had other plans. But we'll get to that.

They fired the cannon (no, Great Glen can't just use a gun--they use a CANNON to start their races. It's fantastic), and everyone takes off double poling. It was really windy, so I just kept double poling within a tight group of masters until we hit the woods, where things spread out a little bit. Before I knew it, the first 4km were over, and the auto road was looming. It is definitely steepest at the bottom, either that or you just get used to that grade higher up. They had recently groomed it, but it had set up fairly nicely on either side, as long as you avoided the middle. I was alternating 20 strides V1 left then V1 right, so as to not tire out one side more quickly than the other, but for a long while the road was tilted up to the right, making it faster to V1 right.

I started the climb feeling hopeful, thinking that if Kelsey passed me I might be able to ski with her, but very quickly my calves made themselves felt, cramping up worse than they had at Rangeley. I tried to relax, but every time I would drive my knee forwards, my calf would cramp up more, resisting the stretching motion from bending at the ankles. This gave me a very upright skating position, which I figured I could keep up, but it was slow. As the climbing continued, the cramp in my calves got worse, although it was definitely worse in the left one than the right. When Kelsey passed me, I skied with her for about 45 strides (remember, I was counting), and it didn't feel that hard cardiovascularly, but my calves were rebelling in a way that I knew would cause me to sit down soon, so I had to back off. As Kathleen went by, we had a conversation, I forget about what, but it was frustrating to know that if I could just cut my lower legs off I would be able to ski.

Frustration aside, it was a beautiful climb. I almost wish I'd skied with my camera. I felt like I was out for a hike, ascending through the mists to who knows where, the road looking out at these ravines going off to the sides, occasionally clinging to the side of a mountain and sometimes following a ridge. I had no sense of time or distance, I've never had to climb uphill continuously for 4km before so I didn't know how long it would take, and when I finally got to the finish I was convinced that I'd only gone 2-3k. I was about a minute behind Kathleen and something like 3-4 minutes off Kelsey, but I didn't stick around long to chat, because although it wasn't as windy there, I knew it would be frigid going down. I had managed to miss the clothing drop-off cut-off time, so I would have to descend in my race suit. Luckily Kathleen had an extra wind breaker, so I pulled up the hood, settled into my snowplow and started down the hill.

I thought it would be fun to ski down the auto road. I thought wrong. Maybe metal edges would have helped, but it was littered with death cookies that I either didn't notice or ignored on the way up, and the grade was steep enough that I had to stop four times to rest my legs. Mostly it was my calves cramping, probably residual crampy-ness from the climb, but coming down was much harder than I thought. By the time I hit the bottom I was so cold I was completely useless, and the whimpering noises were trying to come out of my mouth as I struggled into my warmups before skiing back to the lodge.

All in all, that was a great race. They are absolutely right to lable it as America's toughest 10k, because climbing for 4 (or 6) kilometers is no easy task, even when done at a controlled pace. Although I was frustrated at essentially finishing last for the women (the next women were 10 minutes back), I was glad that I raced. This also marks the first race where I have ever accepted prize money... does this make me a pro?

This is my HR graph from my garmin (have I mentioned I love this thing?). Note the drop in HR as the elevation climbs... even fat kids should get out of breath as they climb higher. yargh.

This has got to be one of the coolest Garmin maps ever. I think the original finish was supposed to be up at the treeline.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Goose poop

Weston smells like a pile of manure right now. I'm blaming the geese. My postage stamp of snow grows ever smaller... but at least it was too icy to groom into sugar, so we actually had some decent skiing last night.

I was so proud of my CSU kids. They've got crap for snow to train on, the birds are singing and the joggers are out there shirtless but they've got championships coming up and they're staying darn focused. At practice last night they were so mature; I just told them the workout and then we did it. I almost thought I was coaching a college team, not a gaggle of highschoolers; hopefully they'll all get up north and actually go skiing this weekend...

This weekend the J2 Championships are going on up at Jackson. I'm coaching, at least on the classic day, maybe I should change that to: I'm Jamie's wax-bitch for the day. Hopefully it will just be straight rain with no snow or other wintry-mix-crap thrown in. Sunday is the ski to the clouds race, at Great Glen and then finishing up the auto road. Hopefully they'll let us ski down it, too.

This weather gets me thinking about my bike. More specifically, about riding it. When this thought turns to painful reality, I'm not sure I'll like it, but daydreaming about riding bikes in southern France isn't half bad... Because I'm bored, and I bet you are too if you're reading this, check out some of the pictures from our trip there a couple summers ago.

I love this shot. It seems so sinister, in a way, as though the bikes have been put in jail. If only there was a lock in view, it would complete that imagery.

The general vista.

The ochre mines in Roussillon. turned my feet all orange.

The general look of the roads.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tuesday night slush-fest

The ski season in this tropical metropolis is starting to wrap up; last night was the last scored Tuesday night sprint at Weston, and the sugar-slush at Weston is starting to deteriorate faster than they can groom it back into uneven piles. The heavy rain last night and this morning didn't help matters, I give Weston another week or two before it transforms back to a driving range.

Anna didn't deign to show up last night, so I figured I would take it out about tempo pace since I definitely felt the effects of the hard marathon last saturday. A whopping 36 people came out in the chilly downpour, ready to fight for the last chance to win points. We start out double poling, I'm maybe in the sixth row back, when suddenly the guy in front of me leaps to the side, and I see a guy lying on the ground trying to not get totally killed. I make it far enough to the side to just ski over his pole and his ski, avoiding the body, but gliding over the ski takes me down, and I instantly go into protect-my-equipment-at-all-costs mode, with my poles sticking straight up in the air even as I'm trying to finish my tuck and roll and get back on my feet where its safe. Luckily, I didn't get trampled, all my equipment was intact, Jon (the guy who I almost skied over) was fine, and his poles withstood the trauma of me skiing over them.

That was the exciting part. The rest was me just picking it up to tempo and skiing. I have a newfound respect for people who start in the back and work their way up through a pack, especially when there are highschool boys involved. I passed people for two laps, and then it got more spread out as I got up to where I normally ski. It seemed like everyone was spread out, despite the warm rain-laden breeze coming up off the fairways, there weren't too many packs.

The rain didn't stop all night, and after getting a whole extra set of clothes wet from running this morning, I've now run out of hooks, doors, and chairs to hang wet clothes on. It better stop raining soon...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rangeley Marathon

After Craftsbury, I was really looking forward to Rangeley--a relatively flat, fast, skate 50km. I must have jinxed myself, because it was anything but fast. My time for the Craftsbury race was 3:18, on a difficult course with no kick wax. My time for Rangeley was 3:17, on a relatively flat course, skating...

Less snow fell than had been predicted, but it was still pretty soft. I was trying to pick out the girls in the pack, by 1km I realized I was in front of them all. This was a good start, because it was possible that I could end up in a pack of masters skiing faster than the next pack that had girls in it. Granted, that involved skiing fast enough to keep up, and I couldn't tell if I'd started too fast thanks to the adrenaline rush.

Within another half a kilometer, I could tell things weren't going well. I was floundering in the deep snow, unable to find a rhythm, over-exerting myself and generally just skiing stupid. Hannah Dreissigacker caught up to me around 3km, and while I wanted to ski with her my body had other plans. I was still skiing badly, expending far more energy than I wanted to, and despite knowing this I couldn't stop flailing about. My calf/shin combo that has been bothering me since returning from Europe started to cramp up really badly on the first climb, possibly due to the soft snow and possibly due to me having forgotten how to ski smoothly. By the time I hit the first feed station (6km) I was already thinking about dropping out and curling into a fetal position in front of the heaters in the tent.

Then Colin passed me, and suddenly I had someone to complain to about my calf being so cramped up, and it came out in this pathetic little whiny voice, and then I felt even more sorry for myself, why was I doing this, it sucked, it hurt, my muscles were rebelling against me, wah wah wah. Luckily he'd passed me near the top of a hill, and going down the hill I noticed he wasn't going very fast, so I skied back up to him and rode his draft for about 10km. Things started to look up as I began skiing within my comfort level, concentrating on skiing smoothly and stopping the flail. Of course that couldn't last, so going down one of the hills, I was looking at my waterbottle belt trying to get a gel off the strap, and I fell in a hole. I don't know how that hole got there, with that much snow on the trails, but I definitely tried to taste my skis, gotta say the raspberry cliff shots are far tastier than the fischer ski flavor. Colin, good friend that he is, was doubled over laughing at me.

After that I started to yo-yo, catching on when I realized it was windy and I didn't want to ski this alone, slowly falling back on the hills, and finally a pack caught up to me, Colin looked back and saw girls, got scared and took off, and I was skiing with a new pack. This one had Kathleen Maynard and Kelsey Allen, Kelsey was floating right up the hills being as small as she is, but we dropped her pretty hard on the downhill back to the stadium. The flats were the hardest part, it was all I could do to just churn along in V1. I came around the lap and Ed was there with another water bottle, I had finished most of the first and three gels that past lap, I was feeling good, although more tired muscularly than I thought I should have been.

I skied with Kathleen and an older guy until about 29km, when I noticed that my V2 wasn't moving anymore. I had to think about every motion that goes into V2 to make it a fast stride, but it didn't help, I was starting to yo-yo, and this lasted for about a km before I gave up and decided to just ski my own race. By 30km, things were not looking too good, I was moving backwards fast, and my shoulders and back were more tired than they've been since the tricep cramps in Switzerland. I was thoroughly puzzled, because I had eaten a lot of food over the first 30k, and a massive breakfast and a late dinner, I should have had plenty of glucose doing its thing but I definitely felt bonky. I came into the feed at 31km and I stopped by the picnic table and had a little feast, drowned it with a couple cups of drink mix stuff, and took off up a hill.

It sucked. The food hadn't kicked in yet, and I was just done. Kelsey passed me, a couple more masters passed me, then Linnea Rooke passed me. I started a chant in my head "just keep skiing". I stopped saying that at one point and I actually stopped skiing. If there had been a way to drop out at that point I would have dropped out. But by the bottom of the hill, another 5km into it, I started feeling a little better, there was a little pep back in my stride. My upper body still felt trashed, but I was able to get around it by using my legs more. I started one of the middle climbs that is long enough to see ahead, and I saw a big group and got motivated, a little tiny bit. I just concentrated on keeping the rhythm going, no power going through it but if I could turn it over I could get to the top. By the top I'd passed a bonked Colby kid, a bonked Dartmouth guy and a bonked Bates guy. I saw the 40k sign and I was motivated instead of discouraged. Heading into the last climb I saw Kathleen up ahead, and I kept turning it over, trusting that I'd catch up by the top, I did, and put some time on her, I hoped it was enough to get me through the flat last 3km, because I knew I couldn't sprint. One more master was eaten up in my pathetic charge and then Kathleen caught back up to me on the flats, and there was nothing I could do about it. Whatever fight I'd started with was long since beaten out of me.

I was so glad to be done with that race, it was about an hour longer than I had been planning on finishing, and I was wiped out. There was a little hill from the finish to the tent, Ed pushed me up, now that is service. We went for a "cooldown", until I realized I was too cold and he had to push me down the hill too. Definitely difficult conditions, but a helluva lot better than Craftsbury. Skiing on Sunday was a far better way to spend my time.

Linnea, bringing home the hardware in the 25k.

The proper way to enjoy a big snowdump (hint: the answer is not "ski 50km").