Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rikert Eastern Cups

The first race of the season, and my first race as a master, took place last weekend up in Middlebury, VT at the Rikert Touring Center.  CSU, as always, arrived en masse, complete with our awesome wax team and 40+ pair of skis to wax. We got this. I'm not exactly feeling very fit when it comes to ski racing right now; fit enough to run up some hills but no staying power, and definitely no upper body power - you mean skiing on weekends only isn't enough to make you fast? I don't understand. The good news is that each skiing effort feels just a little bit better, so I'm slowly starting to race myself into shape. Ski-o in Norway in two months may not be pretty, but at least it hopefully won't be too pathetic.

The first race was a classic 5k, 10k for the men.  Classic skiing takes more strength than I care to admit, and even though I'd been feeling awesome classic skiing in great conditions at Prospect last weekend, there is apparently a difference between touring through the woods and racing up hills. I struggled to find my stride, and it felt like every double pole was ripping my lats off my body, so that wasn't quite the idyllic striding and gliding I'd envisioned. I tried to keep thinking about skiing pretty, and enjoying the day, and that got me through with a good attitude, but it was disappointing to feel like I sucked so much at a motion I love so much.  Well, let's try skating tomorrow, I've done more of that in the recent past.  The good news was that my elbow tendonitis, the reason behind my lack of ski training, didn't hurt at all, so I figured there's hope, and I should probably do more classic races, and then they'll get easier.

The skate race was a mass start, which is always fun. Thanks to my results from last year, I had a good seed, starting #23, in the third row, so the plan was to just chill, stay relaxed and not freak out about the streams of people going by. I'm good at mass starts, and picked up about 10 places right out of the stadium when the group mentality randomly shifted into snowplow mode, but then things spread out a bit as the big guns up front started battling. I was in a mix of decent college skiers, and doing my best to just chill. My legs felt ok today, but definitely not snappy.

We got to the start of the first real downhill, about 2.5 minutes into the race, and on the first corner, a 180 left-hander with totally fine snow, a girl to my left decided to not make the corner, and headed at me screaming. I step turned around her, but apparently she caused a good 15 person pile-up behind me. Nice one. I never had trouble with traffic after that, though apparently a lot of my juniors (and, more importantly, my coachly rivals, Kathy and Maddy) got caught behind the mess. I skied most of the second and third fingers of the course with Hannah Miller from Bowdoin, going sort of threshold pace up the hills. I can do that, but any harder and my muscles start to shut down. It was fast enough for the pack I was with, and my skis were quite fast, allowing me to tuck past people who were skating in a few places. My upper body was mostly cooperating, as I tried out this V2 stuff, and found it actually much more restful than a flailing V1.

The downhill on the second finger was pretty treacherous, glare ice and not much berm before you fell off the edge of the trail, but I've got good edges on my Madshus and trusted myself, so always made it through fine, generally dropping more timid skiers. Positioning stayed roughly the same into the second loop, hovering around 20th, though the SMS junior from my pack was pulling away, so I moved in front of Hannah to chase a little. Mackenzie was definitely in visual contact for me, and I was shifting into hunting mode, but I could hear from the cheering that there was a group closing from behind. Up the second finger (the only A climb of the course), I was starting to become aware that there is this room inside of me one could term the pain cave, but I hadn't really opened the door yet. It also occurred to me that a real skier would be used to this sort of effort, because they do intervals.  Interesting thought.

By the top I could tell that the top coat of fluoros was wearing off, too much Tokyo drifting around the corners probably, but it was still fast enough conditions that I didn't need much fitness to hang on to my group. The chasing group of a Bates girl and two Canadians caught me up the hill on the third finger, and I hopped in behind, thinking maybe I could get them back just before the downhill. Unfortunately I then did exactly what I'd warned my juniors not to do, and tried to get too aggressive on a downhill, took the inside line and totally slid out on a patch of glare ice, landing face first somehow and popping my pole out of its quick-release thing, which led to me crawling back up the icy hill trying to not get run over by the next pack. D'oh! Pretty pissed about that one.

I made contact with that next pack of three by the bottom of the hill, but didn't have the strength (or, honestly, the desire to investigate that pain cave) to keep up on the loop around the stadium and the pursuant flats to the finish. I'm bummed that I fell on my face, for no good reason, but hey, that's racing, and at least I didn't break any equipment. It felt good to toy with the idea of going hard, and maybe at the next race I'll begin to be able to tap into a real effort. We call this "racing into shape", and it does work, if you can put up with the several following days of tiredness. But again, elbow feels just fine, so this is pretty exciting.


CSU coaches have a thing about bacon. So, Amie got us some bacon tote bags, which is pretty damn awesome.

Unloading Rob's car, full of wax for 40 pair of really fast skis.

These sorts of mornings are the reason I love ski racing, ski coaching, and hell, just skiing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Early season skiing

The early-season skiing's been really good this year, at least for everywhere other than Boston. Weston didn't quite have their act together enough to blow a big enough snow pile to weather the rainstorm last week, so just didn't bother.  Well, three more weeks of dryland training is actually probably a good thing for CSU, since we have more hills when we're on foot than on our golf course. On weekends, though, we've been heading north, and it's been awesome!  Amazing how much better skiing is than rollerskiing.  You mean you can wiggle your way up a hill using finesse rather than brute strength? Crazy!

The weekend after Thanksgiving found us up at Craftsbury.  The skiing was great, and so was the bacon.

CSUers doing no-pole double-pole. It's as ridiculous as it looks.

My J2 ladies posing while out on a ski on one of the many sunny days of our mini-camp.  Such good skiing, on all the trails!

There was an impromptu race on Sunday morning. I went into it fueled with the breakfast pictured above. Because you really can't say no to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center's very own bacon (they could probably tell you the name of the pig it came from) and home made waffles with local yogurt and maple syrup... maybe we'll just blame this breakfast for my somewhat middling results in the race =).

The following weekend was up to Waterville Valley, where we were greeted with surprisingly good conditions, considering the mid-week weather.  We started out by skiing up Snows, which tops out at the top of a small ski run. Chair wasn't running today, but was a nice break.

So today I decided that I didn't want to go back to Waterville Valley if it was going to be icy, since they didn't get the snow dump like western New England, so I joined a car full of folks going to Prospect Mt, in southern VT.  That was definitely the right choice!  Conditions were absolutely superb, mid-winter powder on a firm base.  I was in heaven, and could have skied for ever.

We were also up in a cloud, which made for some surreal views.

My Madshus powder skis love the soft stuff. Classic skiing in good conditions like this probably my favorite thing to do. Like, in the world.  

Hi, me!

The view on the way up. Climb a few hundred feet, and welcome to the winter wonderland!

Now back to roller skiing until the Eastern Cup opener races next weekend.  I'm woefully unprepared to race, but hey, the skiing is going to be great at Rikert!