Thursday, January 28, 2010

January thaw

I love our Bill Koch League skiers - the little guys, zooming around at mach 4. But I am starting to get really annoyed with how they take over the ENTIRE ski track. Last I checked, Weston was open during their practices. Its one thing to have a small group to the side where you're instructing, but I almost took out a significant group of 8 year olds last night when they were spread out across the entire width of the river-side snow at the bottom of the curvy hill by the lodge. Way to stand in a blind spot, taking over the entire trail, on a super fast night. Now I know why our CSU skiers tend to take over the entire trail when they're skiing, too. Start 'em young...

BKL-interactions aside, I had a great interval session last night. The snow was super fast, if deep - only so much you can do with completely transformed sugar slush, but I'm trying to figure out how to ski relaxed in that crap. Kudos to Weston for blowing a ton of snow and having something to ski on after our thaw/torrential rains, though! I was doing 40 second intervals, with 20 seconds of rest, and boy did I feel fast during the ON bits. I realized, as I was zooming around, that I'm psyched to race again. It took almost two weeks, but I'm back in that mindset where work is just what you do in the five days between races. Hopefully I can carry this enthusiasm into a frigid, icy, four-lap, crashbury marathon. Here goes...

I also figured out a way (ok, I copied and pasted some html) to put a picture link to my training log at I think thats way cool, although most people just find it dorky. Its all about the colors!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weston Ski Orienteering meet

Ed is doing all of the epunching for the US Ski-Orienteering Champs, so he wanted to have a dry run just to make sure that everything works. We turned it into an actual ski-o race, at Weston, and the only minor issue was that we didn't have a map yet. Ed took over mapping duties from me, because, in his words, I wasn't willing to sacrifice sleep for it. Well, no, duh. Anyway, we went and set up the controls after the highschool skiers were done with their race (Mass. state qualifier for EHS/J2 championships), and actually got some people to turn up, some of whom weren't just my friends who I'd begged to show up. Impressive. The advanced course had a map exchange, because its impossible to do a race at weston without going out to the flats at least twice, and things get too confusing if its all on one map. The two advanced maps are below.

The beginner course went well except for the fact that I forgot to put two controls out there that were supposed to be there. Luckily, we only got three beginners, and none of them got lost. Its a little hard to get lost at Weston.

I skied the course just to make sure everything was in order, and to set a benchmark time. Granted, I designed and set the course, but I still managed a 1-minute victory over the guy in second place. Go me, woo!

The beginner course. #3 and #5 sort of got forgotten, whoops.

So now I'd say we're all set for the champs, at least on the control side of things. Registration should be up later today... its gonna be a good one, don't miss it!

Ski like a girl!

A while back, I think around September or October, Anna Mcloon and I decided that we wanted to host an event at Weston that was run by women, for women. We were hoping to tap into the highschool-girl-potential and make them love skiing and become awesome racers, but as it turns out, we got all adults. Which is totally fine, and often much easier to teach, but next year, if we do this again, we'll probably hold two events - one for girls, and one for women. Anyway, we didn't really have any sort of plan for this, but I roped Sarah Holton and Linnea Koons into agreeing to be instructors. I managed to get our information up on Weston's website, and then we just sat around and did nothing for a few months.

As of Monday last week, we had less than 10 people signed up. Since we'd just lost an instructor (Linnea decided to do the Jackson 30k race on Saturday), we were down to three instructors, with 9 people, thats a pretty nice ratio. I sort of took it upon myself to do all the registration compilation stuff, and since last week was a wee bit busy, I just kept putting off compiling the registration stuff until Thursday night. And then I realized we had ~15 people signed up, which was still fine. And then Friday, we got 20 more registrations. I figured this out at 9pm, at which point, I was close to a panic - a lot of these women had never skied before, and its really hard to teach people how to ski when you have 10 people in a group. Some frantic phone calls and emails later and we'd convinced Erin Dubinski, an ex-CSU skier, to come down for the day, although she could only help in the afternoon. Phew!

We didn't have much of a lesson plan, but we had enough of one, and more importantly, Sarah has these ice-cream-making balls that you can ski around with - you put all the ingredients for ice cream into the ball, and ice and salt goes around the outside of where the ingredients go, and then you ski around (shake it) for 20 minutes and you get ice cream! Everyone there seemed to have a great time, and maybe even learn something. We had three lunchtime talks - Callie Gordon came and gave us a talk on nutrition for women, Anna did a waxing demo, and I gave a talk on sports psychology and what to wear while skiing. Then it was back outside. The sunny weather and warm temperatures helped, too, rain or snow would have been miserable.

Callie and me soaking up the sun during a short break from the outside technique bits.

The group of us, minus a couple people (10?) who'd had to leave already.

I'm getting the ice cream started - we hooked the bag's string around our ankles and skied around for 10 minutes to get it going. It was really obnoxious to ski with this thing around my foot, but we'd forgotten to bring any string to tie it around peoples' waists.

I was making people do crunches to learn how to properly do V2 alternate... they loved me for that one!

Anna giving her waxing talk.

The ice cream ball relay.

That was a super fun day. If a bit tiring. Big thanks to Sarah and Anna and Erin for helping out, and to all the women for participating!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The things keeping me busy this week

1. Coffee, in a somewhat constant stream.

2. Work - supposed to be working on one grant, and I managed to make a mistake a while back on a different grant that I'm now trying to fix by Friday morning and I'm having massive work-related-guilt about working on the wrong grant, and not getting done what needs to get done under the grant I'm supposed to be working on (most people would not be bothered by this. maybe I'm just too ethical, or something.)

3. Running two events this weekend - Ski like a girl! on Saturday, and a ski orienteering race on Sunday.

4. These events require a little prep work. Lets talk about the ski-o meet first - there is no map of Weston. A map is sort of a prerequisite for an orienteering meet. Since Weston is a small area and its all out in the open, you'd think it would be really easy to make the map. I guess to an experienced mapper who is comfortable using ocad (the orienteering mapping software), it would be easy, but to someone who has rarely if ever used ocad, I'm still on the steep, lower part of that learning curve. Simple tasks seem daunting. At least I am really good at downloading the data and putting it in the right formats... then once I get the basemap (basically just contours and an aerial photo), I get to go out and field check everything - trails, large individual trees, fences, you know, all those things you could possibly run into while skiing. Luckily for me, Ed likes doing stuff like this, and will probably save my ass when I can't finish the map in time.

5. Once I get the map done, I have to design some courses. For the most part, designing orienteering courses is fun and easy, but when its a ski-o meet on a golf course, it actually takes quite a bit of thought to make it interesting, so people don't feel that they're just skiing in circles.

6. I have to acquire all the various bits and pieces for e-punching for the event - luckily, Ed is running all of that, to iron out the kinks before the US champs on February 13-14, where he is doing all the e-punching. Poor Ed gets volunteered for so much crap 'cause of me...

7. Then there is the Ski like a girl! event. Luckily, I have Anna and Sarah helping me out, and they're both super competent and good instructors, but Anna and I both suffer from the problem of only ever coaching people who already know how to ski. So, we have to brush up on how to teach true beginners how to ski, come up with a lesson plan, and make this whole thing run smoothly. Anyone want to donate a whole bunch of hot chocolate? I feel that hot chocolate is a very necessary part of learning how to ski.

8. Lets make things a little more complicated, and teach the rest of the CSU orienteers how to ski right before the ski-o! This means I have approximately half an hour to set all the controls for the event, since there is a MA state qualifier ski race at Weston in the morning.

9. I have three athletes right now who after last weekend contacted me wanting to get together some time this weekend and talk about training plans. I don't know when that will happen, but training plans can't really wait, when JOs are on the horizon...

10. Grad school applications... I just finished those. But, it deserved a mention, since that was where most of the related stress came from.

I feel better now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rumford EC: Skate race

Chris Burnham photo. Proof that my ankles do bend, and I do know how to have a forward body position. yay! We can ignore the fact that it looks like I'm just running.

So, I was feeling pretty unsure about racing after I finished my cooldown on Saturday. I got back to the Reuter's house (staying with Colin's parents is definitely the highlight of the Rumford weekend - we had a four course dinner Saturday night!) and went for a jog, which just made me more depressed because my feet hurt from running around all day in ski boots. So then I stretched a lot, and took a contrast shower, and had an awesome dinner, and got my feet up for a while, and I decided that if this didn't recover me, it just wasn't gonna happen.

So, Sunday I drove over in time to see the J2s race, although I missed the boys' race because I was leading the J1 girls on a course tour. I think it was a pretty useful thing for them, we talked about how to tuck, and carrying momentum, and after one gradual, straight downhill, I asked, "was that faster? was it more fun?" and one of my girls turns to me and says "that was so scary!!" Ohhhh geez. Anyway, my girls looked pretty good on the downhills in the race, although the uphills for some of them were a different story. Its quite rewarding to watch people do what you tell them to do and have it make a difference. Go me!

My plan was to ski part of a warmup and then evaluate how I felt and whether or not I'd do the race. The cold felt like it was under control, but skiing up highschool hill the first time, I knew that there was no way I could make it up this thing twice, at race pace. Better to not push it today, it was superfan time. I missed the J2 boys, but I got to watch Corey go all superpower on highschool hill - she said she was totally tunnel-visioned by the top, I can believe it, that little chica was redefining what we mean by HAMMERING. She held off Heather Mooney by four seconds, those two girls are benefiting so much from having each other to race against. Impressive. The rest of my J2 girls did great, too, with Cate placing 8th in her first 5k and first EC, and Olivia in 11th in her first EC. Blake was just psyched to beat people, and really appreciative of my cheering on Highschool Hill.

The J1/OJ/open women were next, and I definitely felt some pangs of regret watching them whoosh by. If I felt good, I could totally be a contender in that race, but it would have been a miserable experience to race feeling the way I did on Sunday. Lauren rocked it to second place, representing for the washed-out seniors. Hannah, my first-year J1, clawed her way up to the lead group and snuck into fourth, with this huge grin on her face - there is nothing better than knowing you're having a good race while its happening. My other J1s, the ones who think the downhills were scary, skied mostly as a pack near the end of the race, but totally rocked those downhills.

At this point my voice was getting a little hoarse, I'd been screaming a bit much.
Catching my breath between screaming at innocent little CSUers... Chris Burnham photo.

I was having a great time, though, its really fun to cheer for people who are doing well in their races.
In the J1/JO/open men's race, Kris Freeman was impressive, basically skiing tempo and dropping the field, but the prize for hardest breather goes either to his brother Justin or to Ryan Kelly, the Colby assistant coach - those guys were working harder than anyone else in the field. It was impressive. My boys skied well, especially some of the guys who normally finish a lot nearer to the back of the field, and my voice was shot by the time their race was done. Maybe I should cheer less intensely, but I don't know how. It was super fun being a spectator for a day, though, especially at a race where I knew so many of the racers.

Monday, being a holiday, meant I could go somewhere and ski my brains out, so I just followed Colin and Linnea to Bretton Woods, where Colin was racing, and Linnea and I trudged through the snow sort of breaking the trail for the race. It was far enough removed from racing (if you ignore the fact that we were on race skis, on a race course, with a herd of racers bearing down on us) that I had a great time. I needed that. My brain needs a break from racing, and my body does too. Hopefully I can continue with this streak of mature decisions about racing, although I'm sorely missing those Tuesday night fights...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rumford EC: Classic Sprint

For some strange reason, sitting on a plane for five hours with sniffling people after spending the night in the airport (i.e. not really sleeping) left me sniffling too. I thought I was all better by Friday morning, so planned on going up to the races and racing, but in hindsight that might not have been the smartest thing I could have done. I was suffering a little from some mental burnout, too - for a wannabe pro like me, nine races by mid January is a bit much, especially with all the other stuff going on in my life. I was definitely feeling the whole "washed up senior" thing.

Anyway, I figured I'd at least start the qualifier - after my warmup, I didn't feel like death, so I tried to put together a solid race. Unfortunately I'd waxed my skis a little too heavily - they kicked like mules going up the hills, but the long, gradual, slow downhill back to the stadium was much slower than it should have been. I ended up almost getting caught by Heather Mooney, who had started 15 seconds behind me, and it was all on that downhill - I had been gaining on both my 15 and 30s girls up to where the hill pointed downwards. I qualified 8th, but I didn't feel that that finish was representative of how it could have been.

For the quarterfinals, it had warmed up a bunch, so now we were on straight klister. I went with a pretty thin layer, erring on the side of more glide, less kick. I liked how it ran, but it turned out that in the race it was a bit too light. The first hill I spent my first three strides running in place, before I hopped out of the track. I was able to run back up to the pack, and right up the side, which got me into fourth. Going up the second hill, I ran around fourth place and into third, and then my skis glided well enough to get me up to second to advance to the semifinals, although I was definitely losing steam in the finish straight.

I could definitely feel that I'd been sick all week and had a stressful couple travel days at this point - my motivation was at an all-time low, and that quarterfinal had felt much harder than the qualifier. I jogged back to the CSU waxing area and gave my skis to Jamie, who was being my wax tech for the day (and let me just say how AWESOME it is having people dealing with your race wax!), and asked for a little more kick - I specified exactly how many dots of klister I wanted and where I wanted them, so it is entirely my fault that I had too much kick and not enough glide in the semis... whoops. Looking back, I really should have stuck with the light kick approach.

The semifinal started, and I instantly could tell that my skis were too slow - I was near the back in the first double pole bit. I didn't move up much on the first uphill, and the little chicane downhill after that I got dropped, hard. I was a couple ski lengths behind fourth place going up the second hill, but by the top of the hill I wasn't any closer and I just didn't have much energy to spare, so I decided to save it for the B final.

I didn't have time to change the skis, although I probably did if I'd been motivated about it - you'd think I'd have learned by now that having slow skis that kick was less useful than fast skis that were a little slippery. Really, this is even more my fault, because I hadn't brought my klister skis. I looked at the forecast, and it said Saturday would be a high of 26 with a chance of snow in the morning. Not 45 degrees and sunny. My klister skis would have let me have both kick and glide, since they're stiff (I mean, they're designed for klister, duh), but this genius left them at home.

Anyway, having finished last in the semifinal (I thought I was fifth, but I guess the Dartmouth girl must have snuck by at the line), I had last pick of the lanes, so I was in the far outside lane. Then I almost false-started, and caught myself on my poles, just as the gun went off. This meant that everyone else leapt forwards while I was still sort of pushing myself backwards, so saying that I had a bad start is sort of an understatement. By the bottom of the first hill I'd made contact again, though, by using my short-person-tuck technique, demonstrated below:

Going up the first hill, I hopped in the left-hand lane, which was on the outside, and made it just past the third place girl, when the girl in second, Rachel Hall (SMS), jumped out of her track and onto my ski tips. This is legit, I mean, its sprint racing and just about everything is legal in sprint racing, but there is a sort of unwritten rule that states "don't be a dick". That was a dick move. Since there were about four inches of overlap between our skis once she was in my lane, I was all over her skis for a bit. Maybe I should have hopped lanes again, but I decided to just ski behind her to the top of the hill, despite the fact that she was just blocking, not actually moving up.

We went down the hill and my patent-pending low tuck worked, I didn't get dropped, although I did enter the second hill in fourth, behind Lizzie Anderson (Ford Sayre). We got to the crest, where the herringboning starts, and I couldn't herringbone very effectively thanks to the sprained ankle, but I managed to pull even with her and when we turned the corner I turned on my jets. I should mention that while I did have some jets at my disposal, they had about three instances where they'd work today, and I'd just used up two of my available jumps in my quarterfinal and that first hill of the B final. My body wasn't all that happy with this whole racing thing, today.

So, I put in a surge, in the right-hand (outside) track, trying to pull even with Gage, who was leading. But whaddaya know, I got almost even with Rachel and she jumps on my skis again. I forget what exactly I said, but it was along the lines of "seriously? again?" With more energy I would have taken the next right-hand track, but with her on top of my skis, my acceleration had been killed, and I was feeling too old, fat, slow, and washed-up to respond to that attack. I tried, but she had a gap, and Lizzie moved into her hole behind Gage. By the top of the last hill, that group of three had about two ski lengths on me, enough that I wasn't going to get any drafting benefit on the downhill. I was in a low tuck, trying as hard as I could to pull my kick pocket off the snow, when Lauren Jacobs comes by, literally flying at twice my speed. I tried to catch up on the double pole section, but the funny thing is, if your skis are dragging in a tuck, they'll drag even more double poling, because your weight actually gets forwards. I was done, just moving through quicksand, a tempo more appropriate to a 30k than a 1.4k race, but it was all I had. I knew that the Dartmouth girl was closing, but there just wasn't much I could do about it. Thank god the race ended when it did, I threw my foot for all it was worth, and it was enough to hold her off, although another couple inches and she would have had me.

That was good enough for 11th on the day, and suddenly my cold from last week was back and I felt like utter crud. Tired, the kind with a capital T. I figured I'd go through all the right motions that night, and see if I could bounce back for the skate race, because that promised to be a super fun event. But I was pretty disappointed with the whole sprint thing - had I been healthy and somewhat rested, I think I could have been a contender. At least the CSU juniors did great, we had skiers in each age category make the heats! See Jamie's report on how the day went for CSU - here is a spoiler, they did great!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home, sweet home

After a hellish 7-hour layover in the Seattle airport, where I huddled in a corner trying not to shiver too badly while I "slept", I made it back to Newton. That felt like a pretty long day, but the upside is that I got a lot of work done on the plane, and did my laundry as soon as I got home, so life suddenly feels a lot more organized. Amazing how having clean ski clothing can do that to you, its just too bad it gets smelly again so quickly. I decided to skip the Tuesday night race, for many reasons, but the most important one being that I don't need to push myself into sickness right now. Travel is stressful on my body, and I'm just now admitting that after knowing it for a long time - and just now accepting that its stressful, and doing something about it. But next Tuesday, all y'all masters better watch out...

I decided to join the CSU orienteers instead of the race, because they were doing a night course at Hammond Pond - my goal was an easy half hour of running to loosen up. I more or less put that plan into place, except for the parts where I was pushing the pace or leaping through the snow giggling, or the fact that I actually ran for 45 minutes. It turns out, I really like running in the snow. This might make me a traitor to my sport, but it is super fun to go gallumphing through the woods in untracked fluffy snow in the dark. My sweet new headlamp is super strong, and the snow helps reflect the light, so the orienteering actually gets much easier, and the snow covers up all those pesky rocks and blueberry bushes, so you can run a little faster. While running faster wasn't my goal, it happened anyway... whoops.

Anyway, that was a nice way to not think about ski racing for a night, to unwind a bit and let my legs stretch out, just to have fun. The fun factor was at least one order of magnitude higher than a Tuesday night master blastering. But next week... its on!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nationals Classic Sprint

I was going to write a race report, but the photos from our rest day are far more interesting than an account of a 1.4km qualifier. Maybe I'll get there.

We had a rest day Thursday, so that afternoon Jess and I went on an adventure. It wasn't much of an adventure, all we did was drive down Turnagain arm, but, it was certainly better than sitting around in the hotel room all day again - we both tend to get a little stir-crazy if we are cooped inside too much, so we planned on doing some sort of driving tour somewhere back when we were in West Yellowstone. The weather was pretty nice near Anchorage - cloudy sky with many levels, not what I'd call overcast, but definitely not sunny, although the sun poked through from time to time, creating some truly dramatic light. This might just be a hotel, but things were just glowing from the always-sideways light here.

So we stole the truck, and headed south towards Girdwood. We didn't really have a plan, we were just sort of tootling along and occasionally stopping to take pictures. Who knows what we actually were seeing, but what was amazing was that as soon as we were into the arm itself, the weather was super different - raining, this time. It was too bad, because I bet it would have been beautiful in good weather.

This is from a parking lot that was marked "Chugach national forest". We found poop. Sheep?

Then we kept driving south, and ended up at Girdwood, where Alyeska, the downhill resort, sprawls. We found an interesting road to drive up (although it was pretty icy, and Jess was nervous), that ended at a mine, but the road to the mine was too icy, and we didn't think we'd get back up it, so we turned around. There was also a sign for the iditarod trail, which we later wikipedia'ed to find out that this is the historic Iditarod, rather than the current one that they race on. The historic one went all the way from Seward to Nome, now it starts in Anchorage. Pretty narrow for a dogsled, eh?

Nice, Jess, get that sign right at eye level...

The sun popped out on our way back north - I find myself taking lots of pictures of the sun, here. I think I've developed an obsession. 11am is too late for sunrise.

On the way back we stopped at Potter Marsh, which had some cool boardwalks. Didn't see any wildlife, just some strange tracks in the snow that looked like there were made by some animal with long slide-y things on its feet, that angle outwards...

I can't speak for Jess, but I know I felt a little mentally refreshed to do something (however trite and un-environmental and pointless it may be) other than race-related stuff, resting, or work.

Friday it had cooled down a little and the tracks had really set up nicely, so it was just beautiful skiing. I had bomber kick and great glide, and to make things even more fun, I think I remembered how to classic ski. I haven't remembered how to have a high tempo while classic skiing, but I felt really good about actually kicking and gliding after all that running that I did during the 20k. I ended up 53rd, so well out of the heats (I guess 8 seconds is "well out"), so Jess and I hung around and watched the heats - sometimes you just have to be a superfan for those eastern skiers!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nationals 20k Classic

We woke up to fresh snow and a moose eating the bushes outside of our hotel balcony. I guess he wasn't that big as far as mooses go, but I thought he was a big dude.

The venue looked like this, just below freezing and snowing buckets. God knows the place needs some new snow, but I deliberately left my hairies at home, so I was a wee bit nervous.

The 20k classic race today was pretty tough - the courses here have a lot of hills, and not much double poling, which is my forte. It started snowing around 6am, and by the time I finished my race there were six inches of new snow! I really liked our wax, given the conditions - not perfect, but darn good. It was a little bit grabby on the first two laps, but my skis are stiff enough that my glide was excellent - I love catching up to people on the downhills!

The field was a little smaller than usual, because the juniors were taken out of the race to do a 5km - I had a ghost in front of me in the starting grid, so I got off to an excellent start, which in this field, is not necessarily a good thing for me. I didn't WANT to be going that fast once we started climbing! I let myself slide backwards for a while, until I found a pace that was more comfortable, but the deep snow made the herringbone parts pretty hard. The three laps were difficult mentally, and on the first lap I found myself in a very negative slump - thinking about how I was just slogging around through the deep snow, with skis that were grabbing, and everyone was passing me. Of course once you start thinking that, it comes true, but finally I snapped out of it, by telling myself over and over "I love hills!" My brain is pretty dumb, so it believed me, and I started having a lot more fun by the time I got through the second lap. The course was speeding up, despite the snow, which meant that my skis were just about perfect now - fast on the downhills, and just the right amount of kick on the uphills. I was also constantly telling myself to stand up, because I find that when I get tired, I tend to hunch over, and then I can't kick as well, so this was a good mantra to keep my core involved and my kick working.

By the time I finished the third lap, I was super glad to see the finish. I'd been trading back and forth with a couple different girls, right in that 38-45th place group, and despite feeling a little more positive about ski racing and life in general, I wasn't feeling all that competitive, and couldn't seem to kick myself into gear. I thought I'd be able to catch the University of Utah girl, since she was skiing much the same as me - double pole like hell, and then walk/jog (definitely not run) herringbone the uphills. I tried not to walk when people could see me, but herringboning was causing sharp pains in my ankle, so it was an awkward motion for sure. Jess had passed me on the first lap, but she was fading on the third lap, and I thought I'd get her... I just didn't have enough real estate in the end, but I was closing fast! That was a long race, and the snow just soaked through every piece of my clothing, my hat was so wet that I could wring it out! Skiing in a heavy snow is always a good time... Anyway, not a great race, but it was fun to have it be a mass start - this was a definite character-building day!

The rest of these shots are from our rest day on Tuesday, I have no idea who could be wearing the husky mascot, but it was just sitting there in the lodge... We started skiing around 10:30am, pretty dark out, but at least we got to watch the sunrise again.

Jess, you are a goof.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Nationals 10k skate race

This is our new rig. The van got a flat, and the only thing they had that was big enough was a truck the size of Texas. Both Janice and I are getting a kick out of driving something this big.

This was a pretty good race for me - I have been doing better at skate races recently, so I had some high expectations that I was trying to tamp down - "you know what to do" is what I tell myself before a race to calm down. My brain doesn't have to overthink things, my body knows what to do and my brain knows the course well enough, there is no need to stress over it. That mantra generally worked pretty well, and I was relaxed on the line, telling myself to start conservatively. This course seems really hilly to me, and some of those little guys are quite steep, so I didn't want to start too fast and blow up. "Relaxed but not sloppy" were the words of my day.

They pulled the blanket off my shoulders at 30 to go, and I threaded my poles over the starting gate. The clock showed 5 seconds to go, 3 seconds to go and I was off! My Peltonens were fast, Janice had waved her magic wand over them and they felt like rockets now, and I V2ed right to the base of the first steep hill. That was when I was met with a surprise - despite the rock-hard warmup tracks, this hill was 6 inches deep in sugar slush. Just like Mt. Weston, I thought I'd escaped that crap by coming here! Trying to find the hardest packed line, I eventually made it up the hill, seeing a girl in yellow ahead of me who was on her second lap - time to start chasing! My skis ate up the downhills like the beasts they are, and I had closed the gap by the time we crossed the road. She was skiing pretty well for her second lap, and on the hill past the biathlon range she got a split that she was in 38th. So this is how fast I have to ski on my second lap to be 38th... I passed her on one of the few V2able sections, and thanks to my quick skis, I had a small gap by the time we passed the icebox and started climbing the big hill.

Coming up the steep turn on the hill, I saw a pack ahead of me - mostly people on their second laps, but my 30-second girl was just ahead of them. I tried to stay pretty light on my feet around that corner, it was deep sugar slush, but not as bad as that first hill, but I could feel myself bogging down anyway. We hit the flatter hill and the Michigan Tech girl came around me and just took off - I didn't think I could go that fast without blowing up, so I let her go. By the bottom of the downhill (which had some nice recovery, I liked that part), I'd caught up to the back of the little pack, which was breaking up. First up were two other Michigan Tech girls, and then a UAA skier, who stuck with me up to the top of the hill, although I put a gap on by the bottom. It feels so good to pass people, and its so much fun to have other people out there to interact with.

Coming into the stadium, I finally caught my 30-second girl. I was feeling pretty good at this point - definitely like I'd worked hard, but not all that close to blowing up. I got in front of my 30-second girl before the steep little hill on the sprint course, and then just tried to stay relaxed and comfortable up the hill - it was already deeper than the first lap. My skis put a gap on her coming back down, but on the hill by the biathlon range her coach shouted to her that she was tied with her sister, and that she could track people. She took off, and I did my best to stay with her. We got out of sight of her coach, and she slowed down again. Ahha, I understand that move! I took the lead again, opening up a gap on the downhills, enough of one that she didn't close it until after the steep little turn up the big hill. She was clearly a better climber, but I was doing what I could to make my fast skis work for me and work the transitions, so when she passed me on the more gradual part of the climb, I stuck with her, wheezing my way along. Did I mention I think this is a hard course? My left shin was starting to feel really cramped up at this point, so I just made even more of an effort to be relaxed - not easy when you're yanking your ski tips out of deep sugar slush.

I took back the lead after the last real uphill, and kept it, although she was hot on my heels up the last bit of hill, but I wasn't going to cede the best line around the corner and it was too much extra distance for her to go around, thankfully she didn't track me. I got a nice gap from the downhills into the stadium, and then just started hammering as much as I could - my finish stretch split was the 21st-fastest, which is kind of cool. Definitely a hard race, and not my favorite types of conditions, but it was a good one, and I thought I played it well. I was probably helped more than I realize by my 30-second girl being a stronger climber, because she made me climb out of my comfort zone. The end result was 52nd, 7 seconds out of that top-fifty goal. If only it had been harder packed conditions I might have been able to push harder because my shin wouldn't have been hurting, but I thought I did well to stay relaxed, but not sloppy. Good race, and I hope I have another good one in me for Wednesday's classic!

Full results are here - I did pretty well compared to some of the usual eastern girls, although maybe they just had bad races.

Today, we'll test some skis and waxes, and then Jess and I are headed out for a drive along Turnagain arm, just to see more of Alaska than the tourist shops downtown and Kincaid park.

This is our place. Pretty roomy! (there are two bedrooms off the hallway that aren't pictured.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sprint day

It was balmy Saturday morning, 5 degrees! The women started at 10, and it was definitely still a little dark. Good times. I got in a good warmup, but once I took my jacket and vest off I knew I needed another layer, I was chilled by the time I started. I'd also warmed up in boot covers, and when I took them off, my boots felt too loose, but I didn't have time to change that. I felt clumsy up the first hill, skis slamming into the snow, trying to swing my arms up faster and just failing at it. Then I freaked out on the downhill - I'm not sure whats up with me and downhills lately, they're scaring me and I can't seem to relax - I started out stepping, on the line I wanted to follow, and then freaked out, and slid the rest, basically killed my momentum and my legs felt locked straight. I tried to power around the rest, but I just felt stiff and awkward, not at all fluid or loose like I'd felt yesterday. My legs were pretty flooded with lactic acid by the time I hit the finish, I couldn't get moving very fast, and then the lung burning began when I finished - that is a long, hard sprint course, and I probably should have paced myself a bit better. Damn. I wasn't smiling at the end, it didn't feel good, or fluid, or fast. I am disappointed with that race, still searching for something positive to bring from it, but its the first of four, so I'm putting it behind me as best I can.

Janice took this picture - bright sun during the qualifiers, eh?

This was the view when I started my warmup.

The sun rose as I did my cooldown, I'm glad I had my camera!

Friday, January 1, 2010

XC Skiing Nationals

I'm in Anchorage with the NENSA group this week - Janice is leading it, and Jess, Heidi Henkel, and I are the athletes. We're staying in some place with a kitchen, so for a brand-new "eating PRO on the GO" series, check out the recipes page - I'll try to keep it updated. We're waxing in the bunker with a bunch of other teams (ventilation, what?), I hope to minimize my time in there when people start burning in the fluoros, but we're sharing a corner with Stratton and the Craftsbury Green Team. Gives us a sense of a little more camaraderie, I suppose, to have more than just three of us.

The courses are in good shape, today we figured out the sprint course (awesome and technical, but long, like 1.4km. ugh.) and the 5k, which is one lap of the two-lap 10k skate on Monday. The 5k has some amazing downhills, I'm super glad I saw them, but it also has some rather intimidating uphills. Why do those always go hand in hand? Anyway, hopefully there are enough transitions for me to make up for lugging my gdonkadonk up the hairpin hill.

Skis were fast today, which is always fun. I feel good, and it was super hard to not start racing around - as Dhont (my highschool coach) used to say - "don't leave your race on the trails!" If you want to follow the races (not sure how live they'll be), or get updates or whatever, here is the website for the championships: Now its time to go wax some skis!

9:00am and its still dark, with a "dense fog advisory", causes hoar frost on everything - pretty, if you can get over the cold dampness.

Our waxing area, Janice's test skis and some rocket-fast Peltonens lined up to go.

The bunker.