Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March coaching

March has all the fun marathons, but it also has all the big championship events for the juniors, and this year I put the coaching first. I coached at Junior Nationals for team New England, and then turned around and led the Massachusetts team at Eastern High School Championships. 

Junior Nationals
JNs this year was in Lake Placid, the site of my last JNs when I was a kid. Unfortunately due to low snow they had to move the venue from Van Hoevenburg to the Olympic Jump Complex, which meant the courses got a lot less interesting to ski, with a lot more hill. It was about 60m from the bottom to the top, with very little recovery along the way. The NE team showed their fitness, and left nothing to chance, dominating the entire week. I was in charge of the U20 women's team, and they were a great group. Positive, supportive, and super speedy, headed by Julia Kern, who came through the CSU program. Now she's off racing World Cups, and she showed that she was at a totally different level during the week of junior competitions. Case in point: winning the sprint qualifier by 24 seconds.

JKern and Mackenzie on the podium after the 5k skate

They called themselves the lady bosses. Pretty accurate.

I was super impressed with the quality of this event - the organizers did a fabulous job, with a "chillax" zone for the athletes, an ice cream social and ice skating during mid-week awards, and excellent facilities during the races. Team NE got to stay at the Olympic Training Center, which is always a cool experience for these kids. And with Superior Timing in charge, the racing side of things went off without a hitch. 
I may have escaped one afternoon and trotted up Cascade. love those high peaks. Thank you Inov-8 for my metal-studded Arctic Talons, or that would have been a sketchy run in places.

The jumps made an impressive backdrop to our racing. We had a wide variety of weather, from sunny and 40+ degrees to snow squalls to -8F for the relay morning. Here, a storm rolls in during the sprint heats.

CSU had sent 7 current athletes to JNs; we came away with three all-Americans (top 10 in their age class) and everybody having at least one top-thirty result. Rob and I were there for coaches, but what's great about JNs is that the team is well-integrated, with all the kids hanging out together rather than club-by-club.

Eastern High School Championships
This year, Easterns was up at Mountaintop Inn and Resort, in central VT. We'd just gotten a big nor'easter dump, which allowed the event to use all the trails rather than their 2km manmade loop. That was almost too close for comfort, but the venue and event staff did a fabulous job getting everything packed and ready for the 200-odd skiers and their four races. I had a great coaching staff working for me, which meant that I mostly got to ski around and watch the races. (ok, I may have done a little more work than that given how tired I was on Monday, but largely, I just enjoyed skiing in beautiful conditions). 

CSU qualified every skier who was of age (although two girls ended up not going, one because of illness and one injured), and most of them skied really well. We made up a large part of the team, with the Greylock ski team making up most of the rest of the spots, with occasional other kids. I was psyched to see them all getting along well; sometimes you have problems bringing a lot of ski teams together but most of these guys know each other pretty well. 

Maddy and I got out during the boys' classic race


Team Massachusetts!

After the first three races (5k skate, 7.5k classic, and 1.2k skate), we were in third place, about 600 points behind NH, but only 130 points ahead of ME. VT was way out front with like a 2000 point lead. The relay teams are mixed gender, mixed technique, and our goal was to try and close that gap to NH. Our girls had been holding even, but the boys had been losing ground steadily every day, so this was going to be difficult. Luckily, the boys really upped their game, and we ended up winning the relay, and only a 30-point deficit to NH on the day! After first place our depth dropped quickly, but I was still really proud of the kids for all skiing well above their abilities.

Frank and I out during the sprint race

Pretty idyllic setting

Jeff, Maddy, and I discussing who knows what. Probably waiting for doughnuts.

With that, the ski season is over. We still have some snow, so may eke out a couple more Tuesday night races, and I may have spent an hour practicing my jump skills at Weston yesterday, but I'm looking forward to the "off" season. If only for the relief from driving to practice!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Final Eastern Cups

I registered for both races for the final weekend of EC racing. No good reason for it, especially considering it was two 5ks, which are pretty darn short. I guess I wanted to feel some hurt, and so that became my goal for the weekend - really dig in, and see how hard I could push. After some longer races where it's all a ski-pretty-and-wait game, this would be interesting.

Saturday was moved from Hanover to Craftsbury, which made for a longer drive on Friday. I got up in time for dinner, and had a nice evening at the Village Inn with some of CSUers. No time for a ski, but I tried to make up for that with a heavy foam rolling session, ready for a long day on my feet punctuated with a 15-20 minute burst of adrenaline-filled self-induced wheezing. 

Silver Fox Trot
After a morning of ski testing and course tours, it was time for my start, near the back of the field thanks to my continued non-updated USSA points. It was nice to use the full 5k loop, which skis really nicely. I love that course, with real stride-able hills, and some good elevation change. My goal, as stated above, was to really suffer, but also to remember to really ski, rather than just start shuffling or running. The course starts out with some flat stuff, then the sneaky little sprint hill climb, which starts out kind of steep, then levels off. Managed to keep striding, no running, focused on the weight transfer. I could see my 15s girl, a local C'bury kid, and I passed my 30s and 45s girls up that first hill. Starting in the back is good for my ego, if not my results.

Down the windy sleeper hill I actually caught my 15s girl, but she pulled even and got ahead up the steep part of the A climb. I got her back as it evened out, and then whipped past three more girls on the downhill - really good skis today. One more scalp at the bottom of the hill, pretty recovered at that point, then the second A climb. The tracks were wiped out near the top, so I did some herringboning, but really shouldn't have. Pretty wheezy by the top of the wall, but I got past two more skiers, and discovered that my double pole has actually returned to levels I haven't seen since 2012 or so. Around the tight little corner and then into the tracks with my head down, recovering as much as I could before the final B climb.

All my fans were on that hill, so I may have gone a little too hard, as I got to the top and had pretty much emptied the tank completely at that point. Stayed in a tuck too long down the other side into the rollers, and nearly came to a stop, but standing up was a questionable activity at that point, not to mention skiing. Final downhills to the little marsh and then back up past the cabins, managing to kick and glide even though all I wanted to do was shuffle. Or maybe lie down and take a snow nap.

Pretty good race-feeling, and I don't think I've pushed that hard yet this season. Feels good to suffer like that, especially while knowing you're doing it with good technique. My result was kind of crap, but, I can't complain too much, and I was happy with the race. Probably the best skis I've been on in 2-3 yrs - those Madshus Redlines are magic on hardwax.

Cheri Walsh Memorial
Sunday I could feel the fatigue of the hard effort and the coaching, with heavy quads. It had snowed a decent amount on both Friday and Saturday, so the course was soft and slow. Not my favorite conditions, but I had a good pair of skis for it. I limited myself to a single course-tour with the U16 boys that morning, and it was good to analyze all the turns and transitions. The Holderness trails are fantastic, filled with transitions, and in soft snow the narrow trail feels even tighter. Very reminiscent of Mendon Ponds, where I grew up learning to ski.

Suffering. I could use more right ankle flexibility, in my life, but particularly when skating up steep hills please.

I got in a decent warmup, maybe a little on the short side, but I'd seen some foam rollers inside and my quads were tight and heavy, so I went to take care of those first and that ate some time. Starting near the back, as is the new normal, would have been a problem at 15s intervals, but it was 30s intervals and I had a ghost in front of me, so a pretty clear course. My skis were good, but not amazing - I think it was all slow out there. Not my conditions, on an icy day I would have rocked that course a lot harder. But, this is still a good course for me, despite nearly 2k of winding climbs, some of them really steep. My main goal for the day was to beat my fellow coach Kathy, starting 1.5min ahead.

I tried to stay light and quick on the climbs, but was still wheezing at the 1k mark. Passed my 1-min girl, got a brief breather on the downhill, then into the second climb, where I did try to push some V2. Caught my 2min girl on that hill. Both of these were my skiers, so I tried not to be too aggressive. Then it was into the rollers, and it's so hard to generate speed on the winding flat stuff when you're already red-lined. All the hills on the course are short and sharp, requiring some hop skating and more strength than I have to give, but I was finessing my way through it. No snoozing on that course.

I got a split from Doro around 3.5k that I was 8s down on Kathy. The final 1.5k are mostly downhill with some transitions, and Kathy is one of the few people who'll ski a downhill better than me, so I knew it would be hard to pick up 8 seconds on her. That didn't stop me from trying! I was still wheezing the whole way down the hill, working each corner and crest and dip for everything it was worth, pushing through the wobbly legs and exhausted shoulders. It wasn't pretty, but I was hauling. Thank god for that final downhill into the stadium, to catch my breath before a sneaky 500m around some soccer fields that just didn't want to end. I concentrated on continuing to try and eke out the seconds and had a decent kick, but unfortunately Kathy made it around that course 1 second faster than me. D'oh!

That was good enough for 15th, my first NENSA point of the season (and first one in a couple seasons, I would imagine), and Kathy and I were the top CSU ladies on the day. A rare occurrence, and one that means my kids better start skiing faster. It felt so awesome to really redline it this weekend. Purposeful suffering can be so cleansing.

Came home and got to do a different kind of workout!