Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For the love of skiing

I love to ski. This is fairly obvious, I think, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in the training and the racing and the results that I forget the big picture of how much I love to ski. The past couple years I've elevated cross country skiing above alpine or telemark, and this has arguably led me to being a faster racer. Being hypercompetitive, I need to see how fast I can possibly be, and I love the racing side of skiing as much as I love skiing. Cross country ski racing defines a large part of who I am at this point of my life.

After Saturday's race, I was feeling a little bummed out, despite not having had a bad race. I was completely wrapped up in my own little world of analyzing how to make those skis work, what to do about this sort of situation in the future, how my body performed, how to make it recover faster, all the little details that matter after a ski race. And then my ski buddy Randy showed up, and we skied all day Sunday, and I realized how much of the big picture I miss by just racing. Sure, we were training, but it was in complete contrast to the focus that most training has at this point. We were goofing around, telling jokes, planning trips, and most importantly, just enjoying the fact that we were on skis sliding over snow. It was great to ski with a non-racer, someone removed from the intensity of it all, who skis because he loves to ski and be in shape and still can outski his 12-year-old kid.

Having that sort of contrast in your life is a good thing, I think. For me to become the fastest ski racer I can, I have to observe all the details, I have to be focused in my workouts, I have to analyze races to learn from mistakes. But for me to become the best person that I can, I have to remember to have fun on my skis, and to share this joy with those around me. And I wouldn't be surprised if that helps the racing, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Classic race

In brief: I have a pair of klister skis that I'm really, really, really trying to make work as powder skis. This experiment is not so successful, and I had very limited kick. But my doublepoling was on fire!

The longer version: I'm frustrated with those skis. They'll make a good klister ski, and I know that early season races is where you iron out these kinks, but I love that classic striding motion, and I get upset when I can't use it in a race. Listen to those thousand little violins playing for me. It was a good race. I think I can say that. I fought hard, I made do with my double poling, and I think the result was somewhere near where last season ended. That isn't a bad way to start the season. The course was flat, with one hill that they called the wall, so the double-pole and run technique wasn't nearly as disastrous as it would have been on a course like, say, Pineland, or Presque Isle.

So now I'm back in Boston. There is no snow here. Its not even cold here. The potential for being depressed is fairly high, except that I know the county has snow, so the first ECs are on, and I'm sure that Great Glen will do something to hold those sprints. No more 'cross for this girl, I'm a skier now =). A rollerskier...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The speed is there. Unfortunately, so is the spazz.

Cooooold this morning. Frosty breath on my jacket, well under zero at 8:30 when I showed up to pick up my bib. I like to give my lungs at least 45 minutes to get used to this sort of abuse when its this cold, run through all the paces, so a nice long warmup was in order. Rob showed up with my skis (yes, I had Toko wax for me), and they were faster than LF6, which is what I'd been skiing around on. Hard to have fast skis on snow this squeaky. The sun finally came up over the trees, making the air more bearable. I started fourth from last, behind some J2s from Craftsbury. Not a bad place to start from, as my skis were faster on snow that had been skied over.

The beeping starts, and I jump out. Smooth like a ninja, that was the goal. Second pole plant and my right pole strap un-velcroes itself. I managed to not let go of the pole, and tried to get into the downhill fast enough to have momentum to put the strap back on. Got it on, concentrating on not freaking out. At the bottom of the hill I realized I had to start my V2 a lot sooner than I had in my warmup- not a good sign. I caught up to the first Craftsbury girl on the short steep uphill, and she blocked me admirably. I almost had to ski over her before she'd move, but it still feels good to pass someone by 15 seconds in a 2 minute race. Slight downhill, I tucked here even though I probably should have used some V2-alt. Hit the uphill, which had been V2able yesterday, today it was a solid V1, but I'd watched Laura Valaas do that so clearly it was ok. Crested the steeper part and switched to a strong V2, remembering to compress and use my legs and all that. The burn had started, it wasn't pleasant, but its a sprint, so its supposed to hurt. Flattened out into the finish, had to fight to stay V2, still driving, always driving, passed the other Craftsbury girl before the finish lanes. Threw my foot in a halfhearted manner, and had to lie on the snow to catch my breath. Burning lungs, but its supposed to be that way--sprint race in the cold.

Bad luck with the pole strap, I have no idea how to determine how much time I lost by not being able to push the downhill, but I was only out of the heats by about 6 seconds (I'll know for sure what the time was when they publish the results). Still a solid result, not what I'd hoped for, but that is sprint racing. I knew going into this that to make the heats it would have to flow perfectly, and it was far from it. The speed is there, no doubt, but the spazz is still overpowering it.

Thanks Freddy B for the pictures.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Apprehension. Confidence. Fear. Excitement. Doubt. Mostly, doubt. Its all there in my head, its all running around, the course is zooming around my head in fast forward, over and over. Can't stop. Can't wait. Paralyzed. Ready to drop the hammer. Scared the hammer won't be found.

Its that feeling, on the line, when you are so nervous you can hardly breathe. Your heart hammers in your chest, the butterflies are practically in your throat. Poles are shaking, even planted in the snow. Your whole body is shaking, so nervous, so strung-out, any second now and you'll false start. Five ... beep, beep, beep, beeeeeep. Two strides into it and you've completely forgotten the butterflies of the start; your adrenaline is now working with you to make every stride as much as it can be. Hundredths of a second count, here, a tenth could separate 16th from 23rd. That feeling-- I live for that feeling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Its finally winter here; we got lots of snow last night. I took pictures, but my computer decided to have an identity crisis and no longer turns on, so I can't post these lovely pictures of snow everywhere. You'll just have to take my word for it.

The ski fest is on for real, now, there are ski company folks everywhere, and tons of people everywhere, and I think I may have preferred this town when I had it to myself. Although I definitely prefer it with snow on the ground! This also means that the races are ON, which is a big relief, because I didn't exactly come out here for a vacation... although its been a fun one! I can't WAIT to put the hammer down!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spring Skiing

Today I skied for a Long Time. Suffice it to say that I had to eat a lot of food afterwards, and everyone else had left the plateau except for one Finnish guy, who luckily felt like giving me a ride. Conditions would have been great in April. Absolutely FANTASTIC spring skiing. Too bad its November...

However, the forecast is calling for up to six inches tomorrow night and constant snow through Tuesday. They make the call Tuesday at noon whether or not they'll hold the supertours. If they cancel the races, I know someone who will be a very unhappy camper.

I ran into Freddy B today. I almost didn't recognize him without the Brikos. I tried to take a picture of both of us, but I was too short to fit into the frame, so I had to ask someone else to take the picture. Incompetent? Quite possibly.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today was a haiku day. The morning's haiku:

My skis kick and glide
I love extra blue weather
Effortless skiing

The afternoon's haiku:

Huffing and puffing
Slower than cold molasses
I don't belong here

I'm tempted to come up with a new haiku every day, but I don't think I'm that creative.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I was close to a breaking point. I could see the snow. I had to get to it. So, I rented a bicycle. The poles I could tape to the frame, but I later found out that the true purpose of the helmet was to protect my head from being bludgeoned to death by my skis while riding uphill.

Its not perfect, but its early season skiing, and its damn nice. And I ran into Sam Morse, who is now skiing with the national guard. Small world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I know I should be all down about there not being any snow here, but I don't think I mind. I went for a thoroughly satisfying rollerski into Yellowstone, and while I wouldn't call it fun, because rollerskiing in mid-November doesn't warrant that word, I felt better after that workout than I have in a long time. I don't mean physically, I've been riding the rollercoaster in terms of how my body has felt all fall, but mentally and emotionally, I was right where I wanted to be. It was hard not to feel inspired by the scenery of Yellowstone park, and the conditions were pretty perfect for rollerskiing, since the road is closed to motorized traffic this time of year.

After about a half hour, I realized how silent it was aside from me. All I could hear were the click of poles, the squeak of my bindings, and occasionally the breeze in my ears when it picked up. Unlike yesterday, when my brain was running overtime for no reason during my run, my head was utterly empty. No song in my head, no story playing out, no plans being made, no mantras about technique, just an awareness of my body and its setting. It was almost trance-like, except that I felt ultra aware of everything around me.

The cool part was when I saw a herd of elk (I think they were elk--some sort of leggy quadruped), crossing the road. They saw me and all stopped, so I stopped. We spent a while looking at each other, and then both decided that neither of us were a danger to each other, so kept on, the rollerskier on the road, the elk following the river that paralleled the road.

Just an excellent day, overall. I think Keither Urban says it right.

I got the one I love beside me
My troubles behind me
I'm alive and I'm free,
who wouldn't wanna be me

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

West Yellowstone

I'm here! The "real" ski season for me has really begun. Except for the minor fact that I'm not skiing, yet. I mean, I would be skiing if I could. In fact, I'm pretty sure that up on the plateau there is skiable snow, but I'm broke and under 25 which means I can't get up there until somebody else goes up there, and takes me along for the ride.

Yesterday when I got in, there was no snow in town, and Tim Weston (the coach at Bridger ski foundation in Bozeman, and is originally from Fairport so I felt ok with cold-calling him to get a ride) decided that we may as well drive up to the plateau. there was maybe 1-2 inches of fresh stuff, and some harder snow underneath that, but nobody has been skiing there yet. Maybe 3 inches total. Skiable with rock skis and a sense of adventure, maybe.

Last night it snowed a bit, but by now its mostly burned off the roads and sidewalks. I went for a run on the rendezvous trails, and there was full snow coverage, but it needs another couple inches to be skiable. The trails are in great condition, no potholes or rocks or dog shit, so I believe fasterskier when they say that 3-4 inches will allow for grooming. Back into the waiting game...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Putney CX

So, if you've been reading my recent race reports, they've been pretty negative. Sorry about that. This one went a lot better, I felt like I was finally racing about as fast as I was last year. I just came off of a pretty massive rest week, so its a good thing that I felt rested, and while I still didn't feel blazing fast on my bike, thats because its a bike, and cyclists sit down to do their sport. What is with that?

I liked the course, it had a sick run-up, and some fun corners and technique-y things that meant you had to stay on your toes. Of course there were the mandatory flats of death, in this case a cornfield that was just sticky enough to sap your life force, but thats par for the course. The wind started to pick up during my race, but the earlier part of the day had been just gorgeous--warm in the sun, and brisk in the shade. Its about time!!

Things spread out relatively quickly, and I hopped on Linnea's wheel because I trust she isn't going to do anything stupid on the downhill, and half the lap went well. Then in the cornfield we were behind some chick who was getting gapped, and I knew it got windy around the corner, so I punched it to get around her, but I didn't quite make it up to those nice looking wheels ahead before I hit the wind, and it literally took my wind right out of my sails. I had hoped to stay with Linnea because she always gets faster throughout the race, but I was pretty well gapped by the time we even hit the run-up. After the barriers I looked back, and it appeared that the girls behind me were also pretty well gapped, so it was on to chasing down some fast starters to see if I could reel them in. By the end of that lap, I noticed that Erin Duggan was off the back of that pack, and knowing that she has perfected the backward slide, I started to dig to try and catch her. I don't want to sound cocky, but I was definitely reeling her in, and very much looking forward to taking a rest when I got on her wheel... clearly, I was thinking ahead too much.

At the short forced run-up, the first two laps I had just dismounted and pushed my bike up, letting the rear of it bounce. I was pretty much right on Erin's wheel coming into that on lap three, and I went with the same method, but this time lost my chain. And, being a race, my attempts to put in on where neither efficient nor effective, and it took some serious shaky-hand yanking to get it out from where it was stuck between derailleur and frame, or wherever the hell it had gone. Not so pro. It felt like it took me 10 minutes, in reality it was probably only about 30 seconds, but three girls had gone by (the ones who I thought were so far back I'd never see them again). I caught the first pretty quickly, overtook the FTS girl on the downhill, and ineffectually chased the West Hill girl for the next three laps. Painful. As much as I like run-ups, because I'm good at them, they still hurt, and each time over the barriers I could tell how not-recovered I was.

Anyway, I got close (10 seconds?) to the Putney girl in the last lap, because she was fading hardcore and I didn't slow down too much, but it just wasn't enough, so I finished in 11th. I kind of wanted a top 10, but mechanicals are part of bike racing. And now I know that I'm faster at doing things if I take a deep breath first, and then think about what it is I'm doing. Fun race, though, and a great venue, I'll definitely be at this one next year.

And now its ski season!!!!!!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Unscientific Experiments

1. Massage: Does it make a difference?

My legs were feeling pretty trashed after last weekend's double race at the end of a high volume, high intensity week. I was at the point where walking up stairs got me out of breath faster than a fat kid with asthma, so I considered getting a massage. However, my current monetary state prevents me from getting massages, so I decided to do an experiment. While I was doing laundry, I massaged out one leg, and then compared its recovery to the other one. I generally don't like massaging my own legs because I have to make a very conscious effort to keep the leg relaxed, but I successfully worked out some monster knots in ~40 minutes.

The conclusions to this experiment? On Tuesday, my left leg felt a lot better than the right one. Going up stairs, my left leg didn't really notice that it had to step up, it was all peppy and playful. The right leg was more or less paralyzed and felt at least 25 pounds heavier. On Wednesday, while walking up stairs, the left leg still felt a little better (more pep, felt like less work to get to the next step) than the right one, but I no longer sounded like the obese child with a breathing problem. By Thursday, both legs felt the same walking up stairs. So, maybe massage does help recovery. At least it felt like that leg was recovered faster. But with no control, how is one to know??

2. Drafting semi-trucks: Do you really get better gas mileage?

I was out in Northampton MA for work all week, and as that is ~100 miles from here, I figured I would see what was the best gas mileage I could possibly get. I have a 2002 civic, which is pretty new to me, and I've been getting between 33-38ish mpg. My old car (1993 accord with a multitude of problems) could manage 32 mpg when driven by an old lady (me), so I figured I could beat 40 mpg on the new car. I've gotten 40 mpg while driving on state highways over hills, so I thought I had a good chance of beating that driving on a flat interstate.

The method was to drive 65 mph on cruise control at all times unless a truck passed me, at which point I would just draft the truck. This worked, and most of the trucks I was drafting went between 60-70, so I wasn't losing any time. Granted, I don't think they liked that I was drafting (some might call it tailgating), because they couldn't see me. And it wasn't the most restful experience I've ever had. But I stuck to the plan, and was all excited to see if I got 45 mpg or something. Well, for 202 miles I got 5.1 gallons, so not any better than 40. Not doing that one again.

If you have ideas for other unscientific experiments (or even an idea of an experiment that can be done scientifically, with a hypothesis and method and stuff!), let me know, because I'm having fun with this!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ski Boots and Bindings for Sale

Thanks to my awesome sponsor Alpina, I am switching from SNS to NNN, so I have a lot of bindings for sale. I also have some boots for sale. Price is negotiable on all of these items, and I'll take special circumstances (trades, for instance, or if you're more broke than I am) into consideration. I am especially interested in trading for NNN2 bindings.

size 39 Sportful 6.9 Skating, pilot bindings. Bought in 2001 but never used. $50.

size 39 Salomon classic boots (bumblebee yellow). Used and abused for three seasons, including rollerskiing. $30.

4 pair of Salomon pilot bindings, good condition (all were on snow skis, not rollerskis) - $45 each.

2 pair of Salomon classic bindings, good condition (both from snow skis, not rollerskis) - $30 each.

1 pair of Salmon classic bindings, one of which is in good condition, the other one has a broken baseplate and was duct taped to the ski so is sticky. $20.

1 pair of Salomon skate bindings, not pilot. Had been on rollerskis. $25.

1 pair of Salomon classic bindings, from rollerskis. Binding clip part is in decent condition, but the baseplates were duct-taped to the rollerskis. $15.

(The rollerskis are not for sale. Sorry)

Shoot me an email or call me up if you're interested in any of this schwag. Or if you have some NNN bindings you want to trade me.

-Only 2 pair of pilot bindings left.
-The two pair of good classic bindings are sold.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

CSU Rollerski Race

This was a fun event. It was too bad it coincided with the Bowdoin Duathlon, because it was a pretty small turnout, but it was a nice, if windy, day, and I won some gels. It doesn't get much better than that.

I was pretty tired, so its a good thing that this is a rollerski race in eastern Massachusetts. Translation: flat. I had pretty much the slowest skis out there, but there was only one other girl racing the skate division and she was a Harvard skier, so I wasn't too worried. John Rich got away from me early (V2 aeros), and a Harvard guy (Chris Nabel I think) went after him (proskis), so I figured they were gone, but at the top of the hill my superior balance got the best of Chris and I caught back up. Another master on fast skis (ski skett sharks, which are essentially racing rollerskis) drafted me up to Chris, and I hauled them around until the first classic skiers caught up. I decided after the first lap that I had been going closer to 30k pace than 15k pace, so I picked it up and that really made me hurt. But I shook everyone off my tail except Chris, who I think was double poling behind me because he didn't quite have the balance to V2.

Pictures stolen without permission from Jamie Doucett:
The start. Giant fields, as you can tell... but a fun race, none the less!

Its a windy day. You think to yourself, oh, there is the smallest person on the course! I'll draft her! Meanwhile, I try in vain to catch Frank Feist.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Chainbiter CX

Alternate title: last place needs love too.

I have to admit I didn't really have high hopes for placing well in this one. I'm sleep-deprived, overreached if not overtrained, not riding my bike, and mildly burned out on biking. But, I bought this damn UCI license, so I gotta do some more UCI races. GRRRR to being cheap and needing to justify purchases!

Going into this race, I just wanted to suffer. I wanted a good hard race pace effort that would put me at redline and make me hurt. Bingo! It was finally more like cross weather, although the torrential downpours never materialized, and I was a little disappointed about that. But the chilliness meant I finally got to whip out some nordie tights, gotta get those sponsors their air time; there ain't nobody around to clog the view when you're caboosing it! Yeah, so you know you're going to have a great race when you're getting gapped in the sprint for the hole shot, in this case a clusterfuck over a curb that a lot of the women were running over. Then into some sand, and whaddaya know, someone bites it and this genius here couldn't anticipate that happening and get off the bike early. Anyway, the early shenanigans didn't matter, because when we hit that false flat past the pits I found myself in dead last so fast it was like a kick in the gut, I wheezed and muscled my bike in my easiest gear all the way around the turn and them bombed the off camber to catch back on. Lost more time after that because, you know, we had to ride our bikes and I don't seem to be any good at that nowadays.

The first lap was the only interesting one by race report standards, because after that I was soloing it in second to last, desperately holding off that DFL spot. I quickly learned that my strengths lay in the second sand pit and the runup, other than that I just moved backwards. So, I rode my bike, I ran with my bike, and I suffered like a sick dog being kicked by third-grade bullies. Which is all I really wanted, really. What a sick sport. I will admit, I was having entirely too much fun just railing anything remotely technical, I haven't a clue how that compared to my competitors because I didn't see anyone, although I was hoping Lynne Bessette would lap me and put me out of my misery, but no such luck.

Apparently at some point during the race, I got a clod of dirt or sand in my right eye, I've spent the last six hours or so with my eyes closed, and I still can't see shit out of that eye. I couldn't find my glasses in the mess I'd made of the front seat of the car until after the race. I sure hope this is a temporary problem, because I almost wrecked myself riding a cooldown with one eye, and I have a rollerski race to dominate tomorrow (like someone this tired will be dominating anything, HAH), and its hard to do this stuff with no depth perception. Now I know how pirates feel; maybe I should dress up as a pirate tomorrow and wear an eye patch.

Don't worry, next week is a rest week, and I'll sleep a lot. Then maybe you can read a positive race report. Or training report. Or just a report on what my favorite type of halloween candy is. Right now I'd say laffy taffy is leading by a good shot, they have the unfair advantage of having jokes on the labels! How do you beat that?? Why was the policeman in bed? Because he was an undercover cop!!! groan I should really get more sleep...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Shark Attack!

My halloween costume involved a couple paper bags, and two cans of paint. Although I used white-out to get the teeth all shiny white. Please note the dorsal fin on the back. I was going to do a tail, too, but I ran out of cardboard. And biking to work with a hammerhead shark costume was no simple feat.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


For work, I've been doing some maps and reports for the Central Appalachian area's caves, and last monday and tuesday we had the meeting to talk about it all. The meeting was interesting, but the part that was even better was when they actually brought us into a cave. I didn't think I would like being in a cave, because I generally don't like small dark spaces that are underground. But, we were told that we would be going into one of the biggest caves in Virginia, so I was slightly reassured.

When we got there, two guys gave us a little talk on the history of the cave and caves in the area, and then explained where they would be taking us. The shorter guy was going on a slightly more strenuous route, for "those of us who like climbing up and down", while the taller dude was going to take the group more interested in the larger passageways. The Boston contingent chose the walkable passageways.

The cave opening was this door into a highway culvert--I guess that many of the caves on private land are gated, to keep out intruders and to keep the inside of the cave more like what it had been before us pesky humans had come and disturbed everything. We descended the culvert, which had a wooden ladder on it, and soon found ourselves clambering downhill through a big tunnel thing. It almost looked manmade, until you paid attention to the faults in the rock and the way the ceiling was formed. Occasionally we'd pass smaller passageways to the sides, some of them way up high, some of them half-filled with rocky debris from the last floods, most of them too small (according to my expert opinion here) for an adult. We saw the occasional bat, mostly eastern pipistrelles, which had the cave biologists in our group very excited. Frankly, there wasn't much life down there, so I guess seeing a cave beetle could set you off if you spend enough time underground.

We stopped at one of the side passageways to take a look down it. I poked my head up there, and decided there was no way I would ever fit through there. It disappeared off into the darkness, barely big enough for a small cat to squeeze through. Our guide said he'd been down there, apparently it leads into a much larger room, but there was no way that we were going there.

This cave apparently has 17 miles of passageways, and we saw barely a mile of it. Our guide took us up to the upper passageways, which were a little drier and a little larger, and we only had to crawl once. At one point, he showed us "the pit", and with my dinky little light I couldn't see the bottom, which is supposedly 150 feet down. We did get to see some sweet helectites (I really don't know what these are, they were described to me as "stalactites that have gone crazy"), they were these delicate little crystalline things, I guess they're pretty rare. Mostly, the cave just looked like slimy limestone, with not much happening biologically. One of the first things I noticed was the lack of airflow-- if you farted, it smelled for a looooong time. I did this experiment away from the group, luckily.

After the helectites, our guide was talking about taking us through "the rabbit hole", but luckily we were out of time. I know that I had no interest whatsoever in going through something called "the rabbit hole".

Cavers come up with some interesting names for their caves... I made a list of my favorite ones from the caves we were looking at during the meeting:

50 Foot Hell Cave
Commander Adama Killer Bat Cave
Dying Skunk Cave
Hellhole Pit
Holy Terror Cave
Mashed Finger Cave
Rubber Chicken Entrance
Salamander Suicide Pit
Sheepshit Cave
Thistle Ass Cave
Stupid Cave
Stupider Cave
Definitely Nasty Cave