Monday, June 30, 2008

Humidity sucks

I'm not doing much racing these days. Believe it or not, I'm actually following through with my goal of only traveling every other weekend this summer, and amazingly enough, I have more money in my bank account now than I did at the start of the summer! Actually earning money is kind of a crazy new concept for me. But I also feel rested, motivated, and happy, which is not something I could have said last year at this time. Between April and July last year, I had had surgery, traveled to Michigan for a family reunion, traveled to West Virginia for a week for work, driven to Buffalo for a wedding, ridden the gaps, run the presidential traverse, raced in two mountain bike races and multiple orienteering events, and I hadn't been home on a weekend yet. I guess it is no surprise that I feel rested compared to last year.

Alas, this also means no race reports, which are really the only purpose of a blog. I could regale you with tales of strawberry-picking expeditions, or rollerskiing up the Fitchburg time trial hill (which has the worst pavement I have ever skied on), or riding my bike slowly in circles, but that just doesn't have the same ability to captivate like a race report. So I've decided that I need to use my camera more, and write less. We'll see how that works out...

Anna in her new Colavita kit after hanging in with the men at the Heartbreak Hill race.

What do you do when you have lots of strawberries to use up? Make an overly elaborate strawberry dessert thing, of course! (it has ladyfingers, soaked in a mix of lamic and strawberry syrup, strawberry mousse, angel food cake, strawberry sauce, strawberries, more strawberry mousse, and then stars cut out of angel food cake dipped in strawberry sauce)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Carbon Footprints

I've always considered myself environmentally friendly, a clean hippy if you will. (I don't go for that dreadlocks-birkenstocks-dirty-tie-dyed-teeshirt look, I don't find it flattering to the figure). I do things like turn off the lights, bike to work and carpool to races. I know a lot more about climate change (and other environmental challenges) than the average joe. And I work at The Nature Conservancy! How much more environmentally friendly do you get than that?

And then I took a carbon footprint test. The average US citizen emits 27 tons of CO2, and the US is the highest emitter of CO2 in the world. I emit 36 tons, 68% of which comes from transportation. I am a little foggy on how much of that comes from home energy use, since we don't have to pay utilities, and live in an apartment that is part of a big house. I also don't really know how much I drive, since I totaled my car 10,000 miles after getting it, but if I took the average for how long I had it, that is ~25,000 miles a year. As for flights, I had five short flights and three long flights last year, thats not so good...

Here is The Nature Conservancy's carbon calculator if you want to calculate your own footprint. Unfortunately, as an athlete who is dependent upon snow for races and training, it is difficult to avoid driving. Even reducing the total number of miles driven is difficult. Unlike a cyclist or a runner, who can train wherever they want, we have no choice but to go where there is groomed snow (another carbon intensive activity, I'm sure), and to compete against the level we want involves even more driving and flying. I don't know what the carbon footprint would be for someone who follows every supertour, but I bet its higher than mine. Another problem with skiing is that because of the relatively small number of active participants in the sport(compared to cycling, for example), everyone has to travel to every race, since there is not a high enough density of skiers to have as many local races as there are local bike races. I don't know if that made sense outside of my head.

Next year will be just as bad, with three long flights (Anchorage, Europe, and Japan), and already two short flights, with a couple more to come. The only true solution I can see is to reduce the intensity of my ski racing and training. In other words, back down to an "active participant" level, where I only do races that are close to me, I only train on snow once or twice a week if I have to drive to it, and I don't travel for dryland practices unless I can get there by bike. That doesn't sound like much fun... but it seems to be the only sustainable way to do things. Solution #2... become a bike racer. There don't seem to be too many ways to compromise between racing fast (training in the right places, racing the right races) and saving the world. A depressing thought. Feel free to enlighten me about carbon offsets, because I don't know much about them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am single handedly destroying the earth. We've only got one. How much does it actually matter to me when put up against my passion for ski racing?

And on that note, folks -- EAT LOCALLY!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If only all dopers were this dumb...

"...Mr. Kyro did not aid his own case as he forgot a bag containing doping items (plasma expander Hemohes) at a Finnish gas station during the Lahti games which was picked up by the police."

Full article.

I really like to think that skiers are clean. Nothing pains me more than to have a colleague or other non-athletic person ask me if I think there is doping going on in skiing, even at my level. Of course I don't want to think its happening! Why would I compete if I thought everyone else were doped? How can you be a fan if you suspect someone is cheating? Such a depressing topic. Wouldn't it be sweet if there were massive phenotypic changes when someone cheated, like they grew wings or something? Literally, not figuratively. Then we could nail 'em with birdshot...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Franklin Falls rollerski time trial

The NENSA camps at Lake Placid usually end with a time trial, and the past couple camps it has been on the Franklin Falls road, which goes up the shoulder of Whiteface. The course starts slightly rolling, climbs for a bit, then climbs steeply for a bit, and finishes with a flat section, a tiny bump, and another flat section. Not easy. Overall it is 7km, and I wish I'd been able to charge the stupid Garmin (now it won't even charge. gah.), to get the total ascent. Its a lot.

The boys went first, they do an extra flat out-and-back on a side road, that way they'll pass us and we'll all finish closer to the same time. The girls started a minute later. Just before the start, I jumped into the woods to pee. The ground was pretty muddy, and I got some mud and little pebbles under my boot, making it difficult to get my ski on. I get it on, kick it around, it seems to be firmly attached so I line up. Four strides in, I'm suddenly scootering on one ski wondering why my left foot feels so light. Oh shit, where did my rollerski go?!? Turn around to get it, make sure its on this time, and head off, maybe 50 feet behind the pack. I can see the lead pack skiing relaxed, and I really want to be up there with them, but I know that bad things will happen if I go into an all-out sprint at the start of an uphill TT.

I try to stay smooth and I start passing some girls, start the first climb and my legs definitely feel the effects of the past week of training. My calves are threatening to cramp up, but I focus on a smoother stride and I think I can maintain what I'm doing. Then the road kicks up, and damn this thing is steep. I put my head down and just grind away, and when I look up next I can see I'm closing on Parker Tyler, one of the Stratton girls. About halfway up the hill, the guys start to catch me, and at first I worried it was some of the girls I'd already passed, but not to fear. After what felt like forever, I got to the top of the steep part, and the road flattens out. At this point I only have one tempo, its just a switch between V1 and V2, no sudden changes are possible. Real slobberfest going on, I don't seem to have the energy to spit. I kick it into V2, its hard but not suicidal, and I reel in Parker. Then we hit the last little bump and I can't V2 that, I have to V1, and she gets 10 feet on me. The road flattens out again going into the finish but I can't pick up the tempo, my limbs are too wooden, and I cruise through the line just behind Parker.

Overall this was a great camp. It was so much fun to be training with other people, at a really high level, and not be sick or tired. The OTC in Lake Placid really allows for the best quality training you can get, and I love that I was given the opportunity to take advantage of that. Next camp is in August! I can't wait =)

A train of Stratton skiers on our distance double pole yesterday

Saturday, June 21, 2008

NENSA camp updates

Today we went for a hike. My garmin battery died about halfway in, so I don't have a cool garmin map, which is really too bad. Anyway, we got lost at the beginning, looking for a trail that ended up not existing, and then we got lost at the end, looking for the same trail to complete the loop. It all ended well, though, and we didn't leave anybody in the woods. Jess will probably know what peaks we bagged, but we had pretty good weather, just the occasional spot of mist, unlike yesterday's rollerski when I definitely got pretty well rained on. Then after some core strength stuff we went and played mini golf, and I got not one, but TWO hole-in-ones. I still ended up 18 above par...

pictures are in no particular order.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Regional Elite Group Camp!

I'm up in Lake Placid right now, with like thirty other kids (most of whom are like eight years my junior), at a training camp for the top skiers in New England. We're staying at the Olympic Training Center, which is just a great place to train, since you have absolutely all the resources necessary right around you. Not to mention, the rollerskiing here is about a bazillion times better than in Boston...

I got a ride with the Stratton kids, so that I would only have to drive about halfway, and we showed up just in time to check in and get training. We had a fairly easy day, just a run and some mobility work, and them some rock climbing for fun in the evening, but today we did some real work. We started with some L3/4 double pole intervals in the morning, 5-6 x 3 minutes. The girls all started together, which was fun. I found myself near the front, which was a nice change from last year when I was sick, injured, and exhausted...

After some lunch (and ice cream), we went over some technique video, and then regrouped a little later on for some circuits and an easy run. The run was slightly less easy than I'd like, but Jess said she was leading, which would explain that =). The circuits were tough, which is a nice change from some of the CSU stuff, and by the end my arms were pretty cooked from the double pole intervals and the arm stuff.

I just spent two paragraphs talking about training. Sorry. Here are some pictures to tide you over! I'll try and take more during the OD skate tomorrow, if its not raining.

Rock climbing at High Peaks

Check out my guns!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Been a while...

Sorry to keep all three of you who read this blog waiting anxiously to hear the latest and greatest from the fabulous life of Alex. I took a short vacation before heading off to Lake Placid tomorrow, down on Nantucket with Ed's family, where they have a house that is normally all rented out in the high season, but I guess we aren't there yet. First I took a small detour up to UNH, though, to do some physiology testing with NENSA. I'd never done this before, but it wasn't as hard as it looked to breathe through the little tube thing. They make you run for a while, and every once in a while (3 minutes, to be exact), I'd get off the treadmill and they'd poke my finger to test the lactate level in my blood. This is useful data for us crazy skier folks, because then we can correlate how hard an effort is to the heart rate, which is data that can be taken easily while out skiing or running or bumbling into trees on a bike. A useful test to do, for sure, and most skiers on "real" teams do this at least once a year.

My fingers, unfortunately, are frigid even when I'm running as hard as I can on a treadmill in an 80 degree room, because they had to poke six different fingers to get enough blood out of me. At least they weren't taking blood from my toes?

The woman behind all the scenes! Janice is the one who makes NENSA happen, in my eyes.

Then I drove the other direction for a while, missed one ferry by 15 seconds, so went to get some DELICIOUS ice cream to console myself and wait for the next one.

Father and son fiddle with mechanical things.

Ed drove the tandem...

I found pretty things to take pictures of...


Looking back at the second seat. "wasn't there something there before? It got all quiet all of a sudden..."

Inside Cisco Brewery.

The distillery at Cisco. The stuff on the counter are their infusions-- strawberry-kiwi, and pineapple-habanero. The pineapple-habanero one tasted like chinese food to me... but in a good way.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cupcake Prime!

I know that all my readers are just dying to know how the bake sale went, so I won't hold you in suspense. It was a success! We more than broke even (my original goal), we made money! How much money? Well, $80. But, we reasoned that we just paid entry fee to one eastern cup, each. Most of that was sympathy money, I think, with people dropping a fiver into the donations bucket and just taking a cupcake. Not that that is a bad thing, at all. Some people truly are generous. I had a great time doing this, but I think Jess might have felt like she was a baby duck innocently out for a swim that ended up in class three rapids...

I'll admit, we made way too much stuff for this. But this is mostly due to me being entirely too enthusiastic about baked goods, and not listening to Jess saying "really Alex, we don't need the scones", as well as it being almost 100 degrees out, leading to people wanting cold lemonade far more than baked goods that taste best hot out of the oven. I'll also admit that I've made prettier-looking goodies... It's remarkably hard to frost a cupcake in an elegant manner when your kitchen is 110 degrees already.

So, I'd say this was a successful test. On a smaller scale, I'll be able to do it again. The car bomb cupcakes were a big hit, as were the chocolate chip cookies. Look for those items in the future... I'm thinking I'll try and do at least one more Wells, although without my trusty baking partner it will definitely be on a smaller scale, and hopefully a couple cross races. Who knows if that will fly, since those are real races, but its worth a shot.

Jess giving me one of those looks that says, Alex why are we doing this what have we gotten ourselves into!?!??!

Some teammates came out to support me =)

The setup.

If I know Callie, the only reason she came all the way down to Well's ave was because she knew I'd have cupcakes/scones there... Here she is sprinting for a cookie preme.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bake Sales and Bike Races!

Bike racers! This is your lucky day! This Sunday, Jess and I are going to be selling our cupcakes/works of art at the Wells Ave race, and you can be there to buy them. The scoop is this: they put skiing nationals out in Anchorage, AK, next January, and both Jess and I are going to race there. Because there is no point to being wicked fast on skis if you can't race against the best in the country to prove it! Just plane tickets are upwards of $800 right now, and with gas prices the way they are, they won't get much lower. So, we're trying to raise some money to get ourselves way up north this winter.

This weekend is our "pilot" bakesale--we'll give out some cupcake premes, we'll be set up right next to registration, we'll have coffee, scones, and healthy muffins for the health-conscious racers, and we'll have boozy, sugary, creations from heaven for everyone else. We'll be there from ~10am-noon, approximately, and if this is a good idea, we (or maybe just me, since Jess lives in Rochester and was just here for a conference) could make appearances throughout the summer.

Our list of goodies, rather tentatively, is as follows:
-Margarita Cupcakes
-Car-bomb Cupcakes (Guinness cake with Bailey's frosting)
-Vegan Lemon Cupcakes
-Cookies and Cream Cupcakes (possibly)
-Sparkling Cranberry Gem Cookies
-Chocolate Chip Cookies
-Lemon Bars
-Strawberry Scones
-Soft Pretzels (possibly)
-Healthy post-race Recovery Muffins
-Cinnamon rolls (possibly)

See you there! (and if you have any special requests, you can leave them in the comments)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Nordic skiers tend to be geeks, at least the ones I've met fall into that category. I sort of thought maybe I wasn't smart enough to be a "real" nordic dork, but then I realized that since my old computer died, I don't have all my training data from the past six (give or take) years that I've been "collecting" it, and this really upset me. For example, yesterday I time trialed a 3k. I've been doing this since I got to college, so at one to two 3000m tests each year, I'm missing ten data points. I would love to see how I compare, but all I have to go on are vague memories of faster times. From what I can remember, it looked sort of like this:

13:30ish (Sept.)
12:45ish (Nov.)

12:46 (Sept.)
12:36 (Nov.)

12:37 (Oct., in NZ alone)

12:30ish? (Sept.)
12:18 (post highschool PR. Its post highschool because I think I was a lot faster in highschool. I'll say thats thanks to running track, because I didn't get any fatter or in worse shape after highschool) (Nov.)

12:36, I think (Nov.)

12:38 (June)

I'm obviously not much of a speedster. They say female elite skiers should run something like 11:30, but that seems like it would be bit of a stretch for me... even if I were doing running intervals and speed and drills. Which I'm not. I don't know how much I was held back by leg speed, my average HR for the test was 187, which I've always presumed to be my upper threshold limit, with a max of 191, which just doesn't seem that high. Maybe I just need hills to get a higher HR? Maybe I don't have as high a max as I though. Maybe I'm way overthinking these sorts of things. Regardless, I'm very glad that I will be running a treadmill test to figure these sorts of things out with NENSA soon.

The thing that bothers me more about losing my training stuff (which hopefully Ed can recover, using his magic computer whiz skills), is that I don't remember my numbers for the strength test in past years. I think my previous best for situps in a minute was 84, and then 80 after a minute rest. This beat all the guys on the team, and I was very proud of me. The format of this test is that you do as many exercises in a minute that you can, you rest a minute, then you do another minute on.

situps: 87/79
pushups: 60/41
dips: 10/7
pullups: 3/6 (I should have done pullups before dips, because I KNOW I can do more than 6 pullups. But my hands were really sweaty and kept slipping on the bar, and my triceps were shaking from the dips, which I should probably practice a little more...)

Anyway. The joys of being a Nordic dork. I think I've just lost the last three readers from this blog...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Freedom Trail!

I may have lived here for a while, but I've never done the touristy things around Boston. Luckily, Jess is here for a conference and wanted to do some touristy stuff, so I had an excuse and joined her. We wanted to go to the New England Aquarium, but it was too expensive, so we walked the freedom trail instead. It was a lot of walking and I was tired by the end. I guess I'm not in shape or something...

Anyway, because I bet lots of other bostonites haven't actually seen their city, here is the visual tour, of sorts.

Old state house, which used to be a school and is now a steak restaurant.

The craziness that is Quincy Market.

One of the things I actually like about this city is the strange juxtaposition between old and new. Other cities have it too, but Boston likes to make a big deal out of its historic stuff, so I guess its just more marked.