Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ski WOC Relay

Speaking of the snow that had been coming down all week... It had been dumping snow and blowing it all over the place for most of the week - walking down the path to breakfast, the snow was definitely above my knees!

The relay was the last race of the week. Ali was scrambling, after her fantastic race the day before, I was going out second, to try to hold whatever place she brought us in, and Cristina was anchoring. Cristina basically only came to Sweden to complete the relay team for us, and not being a natural-born skier (she bought skis 3 weeks ago...), she was a bit nervous. I can't blame her! The guys' team was Scott, Greg, and Adrian.

Ali started for us (clearly, not nervous here), and she skied well, although she described her race as shaky - she came in 6th, just behind Finland, Czech Republic, and Switzerland, and ahead of Sweden. Russia and Norway were off the front already.
Relay map. You may have to click on it to see the whole thing. Again, this just shows one of a couple possible forked routes, but it gives a good idea of the general routes people were taking. My #7 was between the two loops of trail, two contours higher than the one shown here.

I took off just behind the Swiss girl, and let her block the wind across the windy field, and then we had different forkings. I caught the Czech girl just before coming back into the stadium, and actually climbed faster than her up the big hill from yesterday, so that was nice. The Swiss girl was just in front of me going up the hill, having had shorter forkings on the south side of the bridge, and having her dangling out there just uphill from me was motivating. I made contact as we double poled across the top of the map, and then I dropped her on the downhill, using this crazy trick called "good orienteering", while skiing like a ninja. I ended up putting 47 seconds on her by the tag zone, and came to the tag in 5th (Sweden had passed me on the climb).

Our time keeper had been negligent, and they weren't announcing any teams other than the top three at the pre-warning (lame), so Cristina wasn't actually ready for me when I came through. I came sliding around the corner, bellowing "CRISTINA!!!!!!" as I hadn't seen anyone in the tag zone - luckily, she was nearly ready, but that isn't exactly a relaxed way to start your leg of the relay...

Punching at one of the controls with the touch-free EMIT system, which is an AWESOME way to have ski-o controls set up.

Cristina bringing it home, for 8th place! Switzerland and Czech Republic caught up to her quickly, but given that our major goal was just to beat the British team, this was actually expected. Lithuania caught up at some point while she was out there, too, but she held off many of the other teams, most notably Belarus, Hungary, and Japan, who I don't think we've ever beaten before. We were incredibly stoked about our finish, that was a really great way to end the week. The guys did quite well, too, finishing 15th. There are a lot more mens teams out there, but all three of them skied a very solid race.

The US women's relay team!
I don't know what is going on in this photo, but I think it's pretty funny.

I was happy to have finally skied a clean race, and a race that I feel good about. It feels so good to pick up places in a relay.

After the relay, we had a couple hours to pack up before the banquet, so I headed out for one last classic ski - for some reason, I'm happier when I close out the ski season with a classic ski, especially when it's on extra blue. This really made me happy, and the sun was out, and I had some views - it just cemented the feeling of finishing the week on a high note.
Ali playing with fire - she totally deserves being called an astrologist when she does stuff like that with her hands over the candles...

The organizers wanted each team to sign something and leave it as a souvenir (I think they were thinking poster, or something along those lines...), so, we autographed Adrian's broken ski, which had both the tip and the tail snapped off.

The banquet was good fun, but the 8-hour bus ride back to Stockholm with our closest drunken Russian ski orienteering friends at 1am was a little less enjoyable. At least Greg found some chocolate-covered muffins when we got to the airport.

Another Ski WOC is in the books. It was hard to feel like I wasn't fit enough for it, but at least that is something that can be improved. At least I did feel like I was prepared for the orienteering bit, this year. I am excited for the World Cups next season - we have some really good energy going on the team right now, and I think it's time to take full advantage of that. Despite having had some disappointing races, I left this Ski WOC feeling like good stuff is underway, and excited for the future.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Long Distance race at Ski WOC

Long distance ski-o races are usually a good thing for me, because they are more physical, require more skiing, less navigating. Unfortunately, my skiing hasn't actually been going that well since February, with each race feeling worse than the last. I was hoping that some rest before WOC would fix things, but for some reason, hoping never gets you too far in a ski race setting...

The Long is a mass start race, with this one having one map change, and various forkings on each map, to ensure that you can't just follow a better navigator. The fun part about this race was that the weather was being pretty nasty all week - after blizzarding all day during the Middle race, it didn't let up, with some pretty serious winds. This meant that all the trails were basically missing when the groomers went to find them in the morning, and they had to completely re-make the small trails. I don't know how many kilometers of trails they had to groom, but I was quite impressed with how smoothly they handled creating a new map and new courses the night before a World Championships race. Kudos.

We had slightly better weather (well, less snow, just as much wind) in the morning. I had a good start from the gun, and at the bridge over the road (about 800m into the race), I was something like 10th, it felt nice and easy, and I avoided all the bottlenecking there. Unfortunately, the entire map is situated on the side of a mountain, so the course had 480m of climb over 19km of skiing (The Lake Placid marathon had 400m of climb per 25km loop, to put things in perspective), and climbing on skate skis has been especially sucky for me this winter. Much of the climbing could be done on wide skate trails, although in retrospect, I might have done better if we had all had to double pole up the narrow trails - right now I think I am relatively better at uphill double poling than uphill skating. Regardless, there was a lot of climb, and on the first 160m climb to the top of the hill, a lot of people passed me; just couldn't go any faster. Ali passed me relatively early, and she was just moving much faster, I could only hang with her for a minute. She ended up having a spectacular race, finishing in 8th place - best ever finish by an American, at any orienteering event! I was thrilled, but of course that leaves me feeling jealous, too - how could I not be? But it's not a bad sort of jealousy, I think, because I am still super excited by how well she did - I just wish I had done so well, too.

This is the first map (might have to click on it to see the whole thing) - this just shows one of the possible forks, but basically everyone goes more or less to these areas. Check out that first leg - just power up that big wide trail for a loooong time.

One of the things that is unique to ski-o compared to skiing is the length of some of the climbs. In skiing, the longest climbs you'll ever see are in the 4-5 minute range. This takes a very different type of power application than a 15 minute climb, like the climb to #1 on this map. I can suffer for 4 minutes, but much longer than that and it becomes even more blatantly clear that I do not have world-class fitness. IOF does not impose FIS's sissy rules about climb lengths and altitude limits. Sometimes, I wish it did...

The second map. Again, up the long slog of death!

So, I waddled up the hill, wheezing and hauling some heavy-feeling legs one step at a time. Not a great feeling, but, the downhill legs were wicked fun, so they almost made up for the long climb. I whooshed past a bunch of girls who'd gotten me on the uphill, and because racing is sort of magic like that, I forgot how much the climb had hurt, so I was almost mentally ready for it again when I exchanged maps and went uphill again. Unfortunately, I did make a minute+ mistake on my #6, which meant I lost the pack of girls I'd been skiing with, and added extra climb to the overall. That pack ended up finishing four minutes up on me, and although I didn't feel like I'd gotten that much slower on the second lap, it is definitely faster when you have others around pushing you. I did catch a Hungarian and a Czech skier near the top of the hill the second time, which felt good, and I used my best kamikaze-downhill-ski-o-through-narrow-trail-mazes technique to drop them on the downhill, which would have worked better if I hadn't crashed quite so hard near the end...

I was zooming down a wide trail, and had my head in my map, and the trail was turning, but I was not turning. Caught my right ski in the fluff, and that yanked my head up pretty quick. I managed to extract the right ski, while keeping the left on the packed trail, but at this point I was basically doing an arabesque on skis. In attempting to bring my right ski back to the trail (easier said than done - there were little trees and stuff sticking up through the fluff), my hamstring decided it was NOT enjoying this non-ski-like movement, and cramped up painfully. So I had to abort operation put-ski-on-trail, and that led to a spectacular crash as my ski caught those little trees on the side of the trail. Luckily, the snow only wedged itself under the mapholder on parts of the map where I'd already been, and no equipment broke.

After that, it was just three controls on the other side of the bridge, but I was pretty flustered after my crash, and I knew the Hungarian girl was just behind me. I could feel the effort of the race in my arms and legs, maybe I should have had another feed, but let's just say I didn't feel any more spry 1.5hrs into the race than I had at the beginning. She made contact with me at #10, and then I missed the quick little left turn onto the big trail, had to take a shortcut, and by then I was 50m back. I tried to catch her, thinking that if I entered the finish with her I could take her in a sprint, but I just couldn't get her - I made up 6 of the 10 seconds, but still finished 4s behind her, in 25th.
Trailing behind - just couldn't get her.Damn. The tiredness hits, always, as you cross the line, and realize you can stop skiing now.

25th is good, and I got good points from the race, but it was disappointing to race at the World Championships feeling like my legs were made of lead. It was still my best-feeling individual race of the week, but none of the three races left me feeling satisfied. I suppose that's why we keep ski racing. Luckily, with Ali finishing so well, the entire team was pumped up, and we went into the relay day with really high spirits.

Some photos from the race organizers:
The start - Both Ali and I were in the 3rd row (Ali on the left, I'm just in front of the girl in the blue headband), but I moved up quickly, to avoid mayhem at the 90 degree right turn and at the bridge across the road, which was really only wide enough for one skier at a time, unless you're at the back of the guys' field, where they apparently tried to fit two abreast, and that didn't work at all. Below, Adrian and Greg are just chilling, reading their maps, waiting for the chaos in front of them to clear out.
Coming around the corner, I'm the little one on the left behind all the tall people.

I coulda swore I was taller than that...

Ali getting interviewed after her awesome race!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More publicity links...

You're probably done hearing about Ski WOC, but I'm not quite done talking about it. The team was pretty active with posting stuff to the blog, so I've put the links before, if you just can't get enough of ski orienteering.

(This is how you got internet - by holding your computer at just the right angle in front of the window...)

Relay recap
Photos from the middle race
Photos from the long race
Ali's interview after 8th place!
Mixed relay video
Team sprint
Photos from sprint and middle races
Middle distance recap
Middle distance report
Video from Men's sprit
Sprint recap
Photos from Tänndalen
Pre-model video
And some final photos

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sprint and Middle distance at Ski WOC

The weather couldn't have been any different between the sprint race, on Tuesday, and the Middle distance, on Wednesday. Tuesday was warm, maybe a little windy, but sunny and bright, except for a quick snow squall, lasting all of 10 minutes, right during the women's red group (good thing they started behind me) - this shuffled the results a bit, but not too much. Ali had a great race, ending up in 18th, the best finish ever by an American woman.
The view down the lake Tuesday morning.

I had a very frazzled race, with a decent placing (24th), but I was pretty unhappy about how the race went. Apparently, Swedish coffee is like 10x stronger than the weak American stuff I'm used to, either that or I had more nerves than I knew what to do with. Either way, I was so nervous before the sprint I thought I might puke. Normally, nervousness disappears once you start skiing, but that never happened. I was physically shaking for most of the race, and fell once because of it, and caught my tips in the snow on the narrow trails a lot as well, unable to calmly pull them out. If you want to read more whining, you can read the race report on my training log, here.

Adrian after the middle race - only a small blizzard...

By Wednesday morning, despite a pretty horrendous night of sleep, I had my nerves back under control. The race went off under some sweet blizzard conditions, howling wind, dumping snow, all that good stuff. It wasn't really much of a problem, since everybody is at the same disadvantage since nobody can see anything, except that all the small trails got blown in, so you couldn't see where they went. Since ski-o navigation mostly relies on trails to create route choices, this is problematic. I had a lot of trouble with navigation, and made a lot of mistakes. Like, a LOT of mistakes. Pretty much every control. I haven't looked at the splits yet, but I wouldn't be surprised at more than six minutes of mistakes. Sigh. I ended up 30th of 53, which isn't a bad placing, but I was not happy with the race.

Again, you can see the control-by-control whining on my training log. That may have been my worst ever international event, but the fact that I was actually able to control my body and SKI (even if it was in the wrong direction), meant I felt better about the race.

So I certainly don't feel good about the first two races, and when there are only three individual races, that leaves a lot of pressure on the last one. I'll be trying to control the nerves, and hopefully I'll remember that ski-o is wicked fun. Racing aside, the team is pretty great this year - spirits are high, and everyone gets along. This is more important than you'd think. Race mornings start with Ali dancing around the room in her long underwear to "Spice up your life".

Check out the wind blowing snow off the mountain. This same wind brought in the blizzard, hopefully by tomorrow it decides to clear out... the organizers are certainly having a headache about all this snow and wind!

Tomorrow is the team relay - one man and one woman, each country gets one team. Naturally, I had hoped to be the one skiing, but my performances so far have certainly not provided any reasons to put me on the team, and hopefully Ali will ride high on the success of her last two races. She's pairing with Greg, who was the top American for the men both days. I am super duper psyched to cheer for them, and I think it'll be an exciting event to watch.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I borrowed Cristina's headcam to ski the model event. I did the skiing, she did the editing. If you have three minutes to spare, check it out, at the team blog, or below. The video was so awesome (I may be a little conceited) that it deserves its own post.

SkiWOC 2011 - Model from Cristina Luis on Vimeo.


Sunday afternoon, we packed up and left for Tänndalen, courtesy of a mini-bus driven by Erik, with some Austrians and a whole bunch of skis. Things went pretty smoothly, except for the point where Cristina and I mooned two separate cars while peeing basically in the shoulder of the road (the snow banks were too deep to climb into). We got to the event center by 4pm, found our rooms, and then some dinner and some other Americans.

Sunday and Monday have been super sunny and nice out, and we've acquainted ourselves with the general layout of Hotel Tänndalen (I just like typing Tänndalen. Umlauts are so cool).
There is a good dynamic in the girls' team, and the guys seem to be behaving as well. We're in two separate suites - the girls have a cozy one (that we actually like better, because there is a nice area for stretching, and a clothes-drying machine thing), and the guys have a slightly larger one with leather couches.

Nikolay, Greg, and Ali, relaxing in the swank (soon to be stank) room.

The Swedish Ski-O Tour company has a Ski-WOC car. So cool. Makes me feel PRO.

Very Swedish-looking place, with thatched roofs.

This is the view through Cristina's night vision goggles. It just looks cool, though blurry.

This is our waxing area. The table is quite wobbly, so Ali is performing the extremely important job of stabilizing the benches.

I like the Spanish team's suits, so I took a picture of one.

One of the Italian women skiing past a control. We're using the touch-free EMIT timing (like we did in December), which is awesome because you can just ski past a control, whack at it with your hand, and keep going. Today was the model event, (map), so we got to practice all sorts of things, like flying past controls, narrowly avoiding trees, and face-planting into snowbanks.
Walking to the opening ceremonies. I feel like there are a lot of photos of me in a red jacket and a hot pink hat.

And if you can't get enough of the media... here's a link to the US Orienteering Team blog, that has a sweet video of our pre-model-event ruminations. I think it's mostly giggles.

Tomorrow is the first race - the sprint! I'm nervous, but I feel good about this. Just go fast and don't mess up, simple.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Last day in Mora

We had one day left in Mora, and because it hadn't snowed too much on Friday, decided to go back to the place with all the narrow trails we'd been at on Thursday. The snow actually made things really nice, since it was just an inch of fluff, and that made the trails much softer. Some sprint training, with a Swedish friend of ours (Leif), then a relaxed lunch and a nap, and then it was time to go pick up Ali. This turned into more of a fiasco than it should have been...

We were supposed to pick up Ali from the train station at 5:29pm, and so we left the apartment at 5:10 to go get her. We got to the end of the curvy road, and I'm just following, because Greg and Cristina have both been outside before to do things other than skiing (Cristina needed a diet coke last night), plus, they've both looked at a map. But they turned right at the end of the curvy road, and I thought we were supposed to go left. Meh, they know what we're doing. After much walking, we got to a train station, which was decidedly NOT the train station where we'd been dropped off.

At this point, the train was just about arriving, but no Ali. We headed back to the first train station, where we should have gone first, if I had just spoken up louder. Greg insisted that we take the scenic route, which took us by the lake, and while it was indeed scenic, Ali was actually walking towards town, along the road we would have found her on had we not taken the scenic road. Argh.

So, since we were at this point 20 minutes after the train, I headed back to the school, to see if she'd somehow found her way there (we didn't have an address and hadn't told her how to get there...), and the other two waited at the station. She wasn't there, and I got out my computer to see if we had any news - maybe (hopefully?) she missed the train? Anyway, Greg and Cristina got back then, because the next train wasn't until 7:30. But then I got a chat from Ali saying she was in the Best Western, so we went over to pick her up, where she was, very much in need of a hug and a friendly face. I felt pretty horrible - there's nothing quite so bad as arriving somewhere when you don't have any way to contact or get to where you're supposed to be staying, and previously-made plans aren't working.

To top things off, we haven't fixed our stove yet, but luckily Cristina talked to more strangers, and we used another random girl's kitchen ("Cristina! There's people! Will you go talk to them...?"), and when I ran downstairs to grab a spatula, Ali was sitting on the couch, covered in nutella, and giggling, so clearly, she's doing ok.

We were supposed to bring sheets, and Greg didn't get this memo, so he stole a couple blankets from Delta. They almost fit him.

Let loose in a Swedish grocery store, the first thing I do is find the "health food" aisle. mmmm crazy eyes.

Greg, on the other hand, found a sausage of lingonberry jam. This is significant, because according to this thread on attackpoint, Greg had already eaten all the lingonberries in Sweden on day zero (context in the link).

I went for a quick run on Sunday before we left, and brought my camera. It was so pretty out!

Now, we're off to Tänndalen with some Swedes!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Photos from day 2

Out on the river trail to the Mora trails. It was snowing today, and a bit warmer - right around zero. Glad I wasn't classic waxing...

Quickroute from the first sprint that we did yesterday. You can see where I blew it on the way to #6 - took that right turn, thinking I was taking the right fork. At least I caught it, but not that quickly...
Quickroute from the second sprint. This one was longer, and had two butterflies on it. Again, I made a mistake near the end - my concentration needs some work. I missed my turn to 11, realized it, took the next turn, and then could see the control, so tried to take a downhill shortcut. Unfortunately, I hit something solid under the snow, got onto one foot, thought I could ride it out, and failed, landing with a poof in a pile of snow. Then, I couldn't extricate myself from that pile of snow, so spent a while floundering around trying to stand back up. Of course, when I got to the finish, Erik was waiting for everyone, and said something along the lines of "you met some snow, eh?" That was embarrassing. Sigh.

And from the afternoon's training - follow the highlighted line. I sort of had some issues around the marsh, and by the time I figured out where I was, I backtracked to get back on the line.

Cristina was really excited about cheese slices after the first ski.