Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weston Eastern Cup

Weston and CSU ran an Eastern Cup last weekend. That's a big deal, because you have many skiers, and they're all fast. Luckily, Amie Smith did a fantastic job organizing the volunteers and making everything run super smoothly, and I was wicked impressed, as both a coach and as a racer. I decided to race, since they were two skate races and we had the full CSU crew on site, meaning I was basically redundant in the wax tent. The morning was a prelim-only sprint, and the afternoon was a 6km mass start. Short distance mass start races are almost guaranteed chaos, so I was pretty excited about that one.

The sprint prelim went pretty well. I was definitely starting to flag out on the flats, I could tell that I wasn't being quite as powerful in my V2 as I should be. I'd started 15s behind a Dartmouth girl, and while I was making up some time on her, unless I could will more speed out of my body, I wasn't catching her. You know when you're finishing a race and your arms are so flooded with lactic acid that you can barely get your hands up? That was how it felt. Slowest finish sprint EVAR, at least that's how it felt. It was still good enough for 10th, but Corey put something like 15 seconds on third place, basically we got it handed to us.

After cooling down from the sprint, I realized I had a bad race hack going on. My lungs haven't burned like that all season! Clearly I haven't done enough Tuesday night fights. Come time to warm up for the mass start race, I wasn't exactly feeling peppy. I consoled myself by imagining that everyone else was tired, too, and after a barely adequate warmup, I got to my start position, elbows sharpened.
Corey leading it out, I'm in the middle, #309.

I was in the second row, which was great, since there were lots and lots of people. Got a decent start, and then got a bit boxed in as we headed out into the flats. At this point Corey was in front, and she was looking to not be in the lead, but nobody else was stepping it up, so the pace basically stopped. Accordion time! This was good news for one of my skiers who is on the bubble for JOs - Olivia had had a horrible start spot, but was able to ski her way right into the top 15. Finally Anya Bean from UNH took the lead, and we started skiing again, but at this point we had 40 girls trying to fit into the space where 10 would fit easily. It was tight skiing, with a lot of contact. I was being pushed and bumped and kicked and poled pretty continuously, and dealt my fair share of elbows as well. I was still stuck near the middle of the pack, unable to move to either side, and while this was great from a hiding-from-the-wind perspective, it meant that I couldn't move up or back very easily.

I got loose as we started down the little hill towards the stadium for the first time, and moved to the outside, anticipating the accordion effect that would bog up the inside of the corner. Nobody went down that I could tell, but I certainly picked up another five places, and with my head up, I could see more carnage in progress on the uphill. Looking ahead meant that I could pick a better line, and I moved around the people who were tangled up on that inner hill, moving into a good position as we looped around onto the flats by the river. I was entertaining thoughts of moving to the front of the pack and pulling for Corey for a bit, skiing really comfortably where I was, but down by the river there is no wind. We came through the middle hills, and back around past the lodge, to start lap 2, and I liked my position. I also liked how I felt - skiing in control and well within my comfort zone.

Then going up Mt. Weston, I did the rookie thing and got my ski tangled with someone else. Dammit! I can ski this stupid hill just fine when its narrower and softer and the folks around me are flailing masters, but put me on Mt. Weston when its hard-packed, wide, and the skiers around me are the best for their age in the nation, and I get tangled. Grrr. A stupid mistake, and it cost me a few seconds, which equates to a fairly big gap, with many people gapped behind me, including two of my J1s. Out into the flats I started bouncing from skier to skier, trying to gap back up to that lead pack, but then we turned the corner and I discovered that the wind is a cruel mistress. Instant slowdown, and all of a sudden the morning's efforts caught up to me and slammed me backwards. My upper body was so tired I could barely get my poles up, and my legs were just burning. Emily Nice, a J1 from Ford Sayre, took the lead, but I was unable to get in line, and labored in the wind for a while longer, before falling into the last spot in that pack. The pain of racing had caught up, and it stole my motivation from me.

I basically hung out at the back of that pack for a while longer, suffering all the effects of caboosing it on a transition-laden course, and finally made some moves as we re-entered the middle section of the course. My skis were moving faster than the other girls', especially noticeable on the downhills, so I used that to eat up some more places. I watched one more girl get skied over on the last uphill, and then had a deja vu of the slowest finish sprint ever. Weston is a tough course, because there is just no rest for the weary, and the wind exposed my lack of race fitness. Although I ended up 19th, I was unsatisfied with the result. But racing is racing, and high-contact mass starts are part of the game.

Some of the CSU ladies.
What goes up, must come down. I loved the manmade additions to the course, I've never seen Weston with legit hills before!

Super-PRO waxing setup, we had some good skis out there.

Spectators everywhere!
The famed Mt. Weston was tamed for this race - they widened it, flattened it out, and removed some of her crest. Still a good hill, but not as bumpersticker-worthy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Perfect skiing

I'm sure everyone has their memory of a day when the skiing was utterly perfect. I just made another one of those memories - temperature in the low 20s, blue sky, hilly trails, fast skis, corduroy so set that you can hear your skis humming as they cross the ridges. We had the trails completely to ourselves.

Ed and I were up at the Balsams, meeting with various head honchos of various things to talk about the ski-o race we're putting on. Everyone is super helpful and super enthusiastic, so I'm pumped. Its going to be a sweet race, we just have to convince people to show up. After the meeting, we skied. We were allegedly checking out trails and fixing intersections and covering everything with a GPS, but really, it was just beautiful skiing. That's one way to put me in a really good mood!

Now back in Boston, and prepping for the Eastern Cup at Weston tomorrow. That should be a pretty sweet race, too - Amie Smith is in charge, and you know when Amie is in charge, things are going to go EXACTLY right! I'm actually pretty psyched to race - there are two races in one day, but they're both skate races, so the waxing is easy, which means I can actually do a warmup, unlike at Lake Placid. And I just checked the seed list - I'm actually seeded by NENSA points, so for the mass start I'll have a good start spot. Fast skis on a transition-laden course... only I can get in the way of me having a good race tomorrow!

Monday, January 24, 2011

White Mountain Classic 30km

The one-day club championships for NENSA took place, like it does every year, at the Jackson 30km classic race. This year they put the course up over the "wave", an awesome downhill that has a bunch of whoop-de-dos and a couple corners that are just tight enough to keep you on your toes. Of course, what goes down must come up, so there is a fairly big climb to get to the top of the wave, but luckily it was designed by John Morton (or at least edited by him), so the trail skis really well, with a lot of rollers and some bits of recovery. The rest of the 30k course consisted of double poling through golf courses, which, when you didn't start rollerskiing until September and didn't double pole until November, isn't great news. Luckily, I was pretty good at faking it, thanks to fast skis. The course was also shortened, from 30k to 26, which definitely worked in my favor. Since everyone starts all together in this race, no men's wave and women's wave, my race plan was to go out hard with a bunch of guys, hope all the girls were behind me, and just ski with the guys and hope to not get dropped. Forget pacing, it's over-rated!

The morning dawned clear and cold, but not nearly as frigid as predicted - I don't think it dropped to the -6F it was supposed to, and this meant that the temperature was actually pretty comfortable for racing. Waxing had the potential to be a bit tricky since the tracks in the fields were all windblown and powdery, and not only is windblown powder wicked slow, nothing kicks in it. Luckily, all the climbs were in the woods, and the tracks were rock solid and beautiful under the trees. My skis were close to perfect. I could have used a smidge more kick, but that could also just be that lack of arm strength talking - I never slipped, but I did herringbone some things that I should have strode.

I seeded myself about where the other women had seeded themselves, and when we started moving I quickly jumped out of the tracks and onto the icy crust between them, double poling aggressively up towards the front. We did a parade lap around the golf course, and by the end of this I was basically behind Rob Bradlee, which means I was near the front of the race. I knew that when we started climbing, I'd lose this position quickly, in fact, I didn't really want to be as far up as I was, but the icy crust combined with fast skis was letting me double pole with the guys at no real extra effort. We did more loops around the golf course on the other side of the road, and then started up the Yodel trail, and I quickly discovered that I was paying for those fast skis - I couldn't stride up the steeper stuff in the tracks, and was herringboning far more than I should have. Sigh. A group of guys went past, and I made no move to match their speed - I knew that I was double poling faster relative to my climbing speed, and I didn't really feel the need to blow up just yet.

We crossed the second road onto the Eagle Mountain golf course, and got more loopty-loops on that field. Luckily for those loops I was hanging out behind a tall guy drafting, doing a fair bit of kick double pole, and mostly just feeling like I was out for a relaxed ski. It was an absolutely gorgeous day - blue sky, blue wax, the best sort of combination there is. I made a goal to myself right then that no matter how I did in the race, I was going to truly enjoy the day of skiing, because there was nowhere else I'd want to be.

Then the golf course ended and we started up the Wave, and my focus narrowed down quickly, as I was herringboning and jogging again, losing the group of guys I'd been drafting. Another group caught me as we skied through the fields and caught some views of Mt. Washington, and I hung out behind them as we entered the woods and started climbing again. I couldn't go right behind them stride for stride, because they were all big tall guys with a powerful kick, and I'm just little Alex with a quick light tempo, but I kept them in sight, and just kept chugging away up the hill - nothing majestic about my skiing, but it was working. We finally turned the corner up top and headed into the wave, and I wish I'd gotten a chance to ski that downhill before the race - it was a bit terrifying because it was so fast, the corners were so icy, and I had no idea what was coming. There is one little bump where you catch air, and as you're airborne, the trail turns, so you have to be pretty nimble to change direction quickly once you hit ground again.

I enjoyed the roller coaster ride, and as we popped out of the woods back onto the golf course, I discovered I'd made contact with my group of guys again, but they were spread out. A couple klicks of double poling, and I'd passed four of them back. There was one section of trail that was pretty low on snow, it was bumpy and had a couple potholes and rocks, but it just reminded me of skiing at Harriet Hollister, makes you ski with finesse. Back up to the fields, and more endless double poling, but this time no tall guys to draft. I was still enjoying the day of skiing, but starting to wonder how much longer it was going to take. Into the Wave, and by this point I was lapping skiers who were still on their first lap of the Wave, so there was much more switching tracks - made the downhills really exciting! I was getting tired by this point, but I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't stop running, even when I really wanted to take a break when herringboning. The downhill was much more fun the second time, because I knew what to expect, and I took it right at the edge of control, the best way to ski downhills. I could see three guys from my pack spread out in front of me, but for all my efforts, I couldn't latch back on.

My double poling muscles were pretty pooped at this point, so I was doing a lot of kick double poling, which my striding muscles weren't all that pleased about either. At turns and corners, I could see someone making up time on me, and I couldn't tell if it was a guy or a girl, so I kept the pedal down and motored for the finish. Luckily, it was a guy, because after descending the Yodel trail, he caught me in the fields, and I'm not sure if I'd have wanted a sprint at that point. I meant to sprint him for the finish, but I had neglected to read the course map closely enough, and I thought we still had to cross the road and do a lap of the golf course before finishing, so I was really confused when I crossed a red line in the snow and all the people in front of me were standing around blocking the way. Race brain. Anyway, brain fart aside, I ended up winning the race for the women, so it appears that my race plan of just starting fast and seeing what would happen, worked!

There was a delicious lunch served to racers afterwards, and CSU had a ton of age-class winners, so everyone was in high spirits. I won a shirt in the raffle, and CSU won the overall title (I think... there seem to be some strange ways of counting points, so maybe we didn't win. I like the story better when we won). That was fun, but I'm glad I'm not doing Craftsbury this year... 26km was long enough!

Thanks to Jamie for the photos!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lake Placid Supertours

Thursday morning, post-snowy-fun-day, I packed up and headed to Lake Placid, to be the head coach for CSU for a weekend, since the race was an out of region race, and not many kids were going. The waxing looked to be easy, and I had Janice Sibilia to help me out if I needed it, since she was doing wax support for some seriously fast skiers - XC Oregon, CXC, Sun Valley, and Noah Hoffman (USST), among others. I got there early enough on Thursday to help her test some wax, and luckily, it was cold and new snow, so waxing was pretty straight forward. I had everyone's skis by 10pm, and got enough done that night that there was minimal work to do on Friday.

These were Friday-Saturday races, because it was also the Saint Lawrence Carnival, and the EISA Carnivals are always on Friday and Saturday. Hence getting there on Thursday morning. Friday dawned cold and clear, with some snow showers moving through occasionally, and the waxing stayed easy. I got all the girls out, and with one exception they really liked their skis. Just having two J2 boys meant that I could get them testing their skis before I decided that I would go race, too (I had signed up ahead of time, just in case I'd have time to race, which I didn't really expect). It was sort of a last minute decision. Didn't go great, but I didn't really expect it to, so that was fine.
Hanging out before the race.

Eventually we were back at the hotel, and the parents treated me to a nice dinner at Mr. Mikes. I'm not sure I've ever been to Lake Placid and not eaten at Mr. Mikes. I remember eating there when we had states up there when I was a sophomore in highschool. Anyway, I decided that I had time to fluoro skis in the morning, and managed to not wax any skis Friday night, it was wonderful.

Saturday was a skate race at the biathlon side, and things went very well for most of our kids, except Hannah.

We had rocket fast skis, and I told Hannah I'd bring her skis out to the start, so she could keep warming up (she was the first starter, the rest of us were 15min later). Bob B. was hanging around the waxroom desperate to be useful, since I'd been kicking parents out of the waxroom all weekend, trying to keep up with Janice's system (stay out of her waxroom, unless you belong there, basically). Since I could tell Bob would be happier if I was giving him tasks, I asked him if he could take the girls' race skis out, and while I meant "to the start", he didn't catch the telepathic bit of my message, and had the skis out by the warmup area, instead of the start, which is a perfectly logical place to be. This meant that Hannah never got her race skis, had to race on her warmup skis, which were butt slow. So basically I blew her race for her, and I was in pieces about it. Luckily Hannah is a mature kid, and has since forgiven me, but its hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake like that. That's what sucks about ski coaching, when you mess up, you blow other people's days.

I did that race, too, and it went even less well than Friday, and I hadn't really been expecting that, so it was a bit of a disappointment. Ah well. Then a long drive back to Boston, but I was giving Brian Gregg, a skier from CXC, a ride to the airport, so at least I had company.

Now back in Boston, and I feel absolutely shattered.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snow day

Big nor'easter came through on Wednesday, snarling everything up for the serious people of the world. I thought it was great.

It took us a solid 2 hours to shovel the driveway. Talk about some general strength work, that stuff was cement. I was legitimately sore the next day! It may have been from the extreme sledding... I realize that at some point, this vacation thing will end (and probably shouldn't have gone on nearly as long as it has been), but that was a super fun way to spend a snowy day.

It looks like less of an impressive feat than it actually was.

So once we could leave the house, we headed over to Ross and Sam's place, to play in the snow. It was dark, but cloudy enough that the city lights kept things pretty bright, and we had some great extreme sledding through the woods and snowball fights. No better way to enjoy a snowday!

Follow a day in the snow with chocolate mousse, and you'll probably find me in a good mood. Sam agrees with me on the wonders of chocolate mousse. I just realized that that was basically a photo documentary of Sam - the boys were too busy throwing snowballs at us to be featured in any photos.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday night master blasting

I didn't blast any masters yesterday, but I like the term. Because of the no-heat-in-the-house thing, I meant to get out of the house and hang out in a Starbucks all day doing work or something, but I just never managed to leave. So, I spent all day freezing cold, and I'd woken up with a sore throat, and by the time I made it to Weston to get ready to race, I had some serious chills and shakes. I wasn't sure if this was a fever coming on, or I was just being wimpy, so I decided to go do a warmup on skis and see what happened. The warmup didn't make me feel any better, but the chills sort of went away, just aches remaining, and I figured maybe a race would blow out whatever was going on with my body. I also discovered that my skis were butt slow - its been so cold that the manmade stuff at Weston was actually acting like real snow, and I certainly wasn't waxed for that. Usually, in the sugar, wax doesn't matter, but Tuesday night it made a difference.

I lined up a little back from where I was finishing last year, but as I felt like a complete pile of dog poo, I didn't want to have to start too hard. Off we went, and for most of the promenade lap I was passing people, but going into lap 1, I realized I was burning too many matches, and had to back off. I felt alright, skiing, but pretty weak - every pole plant made my head hurt, and my feet were frozen, but it was ski racing, so things like that don't bother you too much. Anyway, at some point Blazar passed me, and in his draft, I could keep up on the downhills. Otherwise, I would just get dropped. Eventually he started looking behind him for me to come around, and I did a jerk thing and attacked up Mt. Weston. That put Blazar to the back of the pack I was with, but I couldn't hang onto my own pace, and slid back some more, after little Zoe, a J2 I coach, took off the front.

Lap 3 I was starting to hurt for real, and not just because of slow skis. The fact that I haven't pushed myself to ski race pain yet this winter was catching up, and my body didn't know what to do with itself. Also, having my feet be frozen was causing my left shin to cramp up, and when that shin goes, there is nothing I can do to make it relax. It basically disables my entire leg, not cool. I should learn to better manage my cold feet. So yeah, the third lap was a sufferfest, and two guys broke off the front of the pack I was in, and then two more passed me on the last uphill. I rallied with a sprint past one guy (Alec, I guess, looking at the results), but the highschooler kid who'd passed me on the uphill kept his lead.

Definitely NOT my best showing at a Tuesday night fight ( results), and I have since concluded that ski racing doesn't make your headache and aches and shakes go away. But the good news is that I didn't wake up with a fever this morning, and actually feel pretty normal, so it seems my plan of racing away the sickness worked. Woot.

Early on, before the pain sunk in. Jamie Doucett was out there taking photos, blinding people with his flash, and got some of me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A true vacation

After nationals, I headed to VT to hang out with Ed and have a true vacation for a couple days. This concept of vacation is a foreign one to me - you mean, you're supposed to do nothing all day?? Luckily, I figured out how vacations work pretty quickly, and I didn't realize how badly I needed some R&R until I got to VT and started sleeping 11 hours a night. Boy was that nice. There is something truly special about waking up, and not having ANYTHING that you have to do, other than maybe go skiing at some point. We had some wonderful meals, wonderful company, and wonderful skiing. I needed that.

I am SO SICK of driving.
Used to know this road so well. Any guesses on which road and where on it?

Rob and Anne have a puppy now. She is so cute, I had immediate puppy-itis.

Time for a ski! The Danby road was nicely groomed, until it snowed on our sweet tracks.

We spend so much time hanging out at the Ogdens, we invited them over (in their matching West River BKL jackets) for some llama stew. It was scrumptious. Many games of Uno followed. I lost.

So, with vacation over, I headed back to Boston on Monday. The heat was off in our apartment, and I figured it would just take a while to warm up, so I set the thermostat and headed out for a ski (40km at Weston. WHY????), but it wasn't any warmer when I got back, and there wasn't any hot water, either. I should have A) called our landlords, and B) gone somewhere else for the night, but I was tired, so bundled myself up really well in bed and tried to sleep. Ed wasn't coming back until Tuesday, and I figured I'd wait for him to get home before I called anyone, planning to spend most of Tuesday running errands (in my car, with HEAT), but I never got around to that, and spent much of the day under fifty thousand blankets in bed. I was feeling kind of achey and tired, not sure if it was because it was cold inside, or I was (am?) coming down with something. Eventually I waxed my skis (start green, I was cold, man), took off half my layers, and drove to Weston for the night race.

Ed arrived at some point while I was skiing, and has informed me that its really bad when a house doesn't have heat. You're supposed to call the heat people immediately. Whoops. Anyway, we're all set now, and life is much better after a hot shower.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Skiing nationals

I decided not to race at nationals this year, mostly because I'm not in shape for it (I flunked the double pole test), but also because its not worth getting a stupid USSA license for three races a year. But, a couple CSU juniors are up here, and Rob assured me that I wouldn't be useless if I came by, so I've been hanging around, doing some cooking, some cleaning, some waxing, some skiing, some coaching, and a wee bit of work unrelated to skiing, of all things. Its not a bad life.

The first race was Sunday, and I missed that one. Monday we headed north to Rangeley, which has snow, and that was some nice skiing. I attended a technique clinic with Janice Sibilia and Matt Whitcomb in the afternoon, and while it was nothing groundbreaking, it was still informative. That wasted much of Monday, and Tuesday was spent skiing with the girls and testing wax. Wednesday they get to race, and I can't wait to bring my cheering voice! I'm leaving after the race, to head back to VT with Ed. Vacation is almost over... and I'm actually looking forward to being home, and acting boring, for just a little bit.
Matt and Janice giving a clinic. It was pretty windy, but the 100m area we were on was perfect for what we were doing.

The CSU house is a rambling farmhouse, and there is lots and lots of room for people. Also nice to have a big kitchen. We've been mostly sharing the cooking duties, although I'm doing my best to keep the kids off their feet.
Chris is talented - playing the piano upside down.

Erin travels with a stuffed codfish. In her jacket. Poor Erin had to leave Monday afternoon, because her grandmother, who she is super close to, got sick, and it sounds not good. Its awful when real life interrupts ski life, I hope things work out.

Cate has a problem with saying "like" too much. So, she accumulated 5 pushups for every time she said "like" on the way over to Rumford. After deciding on that, Cate was strangely quiet for the rest of the ride. She still managed to accumulate 55 pushups by the time we got there. Hannah is a tough taskmaster.

Monday, January 3, 2011

More traveling...

I have more photos to dump from Mont Saint Anne. The skiing was really phenomenal, and I got my camera fixed, which made life much better. From Mont Saint Anne, I drove south to meet Ed in VT, and life got even better, by the mile. New Year's Eve in VT, and then by Sunday we were working on ski orienteering stuff, for the race we're holding in the Balsams. From there, I moved on to Rumford, where some of CSU is holed up waiting for the nationals races to be held. Not much snow in Rumford.

Aw, brother-sister stretching, post-ski.
Me, Erin, and Kevin.

The city skyline from the Chutes de Montmorency.

Quebec City at night. All lit up.