Thursday, January 29, 2009

NOC: Long distance

This race went much better. I was there for the start, which helped things along tremendously. I will post pictures and maps when I get a chance to do so, this internet station is not ideal. The course was two loops, and you picked up a new map after the first loop. I navigated very cleanly for the first part, and skied hard, I felt like I might actually be racing instead of just skiing around with a map wondering vaguely where I am. The second loop I think I lost some time, I was getting quite tired and so it took more looking at the map to get to where I was going than I would have liked, but luckily most of the big climbs were on wide trails, which made it enjoyable to hammer out a steady V1 rather than hop and skip and struggle on the narrow trails uphill. I ended up skiing a lot with a swedish girl, who I suspect is much faster than I am, but when I had memorized a section of the map and was just racing, our speeds were similar, I was probably the faster skier but a real klutz in the woods. Anyway, I ended up 17th of 20, which doesn't sound great, but actually was a very good result in a field of Scandinavian ski orienteers. I am happy with that result and that race, hopefully I will only improve in the middle distance tomorrow.

This is the first map of the long course. After completing the course, you ski through the stadium and pick up the second map.

This is the second map. The total distance was 14km, straight-line distance, while the shortest skiable route was something like 16-17km.

The fields are actually pretty small for the open, or W21 class. There are 250 registered racers, but most of them are raing in the junior ski orienteering world championships, so they are on different courses than me going different distances.

Today is a rest day, and tommorrow is the middle distance race. Saturday is the relay, where I will at least do the first leg, and then Sunday I start the long trek home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nordic Open Champs: Sprint

I arrived in Sweden around 2am on Saturday morning, thanks to plane delays, and stayed with my friend of a friend of a friend, who turned out to be quite nice and now I'll rank him as a friend. Saturday morning, Neil (the new friend), Boris, Kat and I drove north and went skiing along the way at Falun. You know, world cup trails. That Falun. All the trails weren't groomed, but the ones I was on were still darn nice! We made it up to Orsa, and the next day went skiing at Mora, where the Vassaloppet finishes. This is apparently THE RACE to do 'round these parts, so someday I think I'll come back. After our ski, we headed up to Gronklitt, the ski area where the Nordic Open Champs and the Junior Ski-o champs will be held, and met up with Carl Fey and his wife Natasha and their 3-month-old baby, Erik, the family I'd be staying with this week. I know Carl from past ski-o races, as he is an American who has chosen to live in Sweden, so it is a nice setup.

Monday was the model event, where the competitors get to train on a map similar to the ones we'd be competing on. Not much to say about that. Today was the sprint, and I would say it went horribly. I was standing near the start area, taking off my warmups, and I looked at the clock, to see how long I had. I knew that I went at 11:08, and I thought that the clock said 10:52. It actually said 11:02. So I warmed up for another 7-8 minutes, and then went to the start only to see that I missed it. Oops. I took off, completely frazzled, and made it through the first two controls, but then totally blew the third one, losing contact with the map and wasting precious seconds to retraece my steps to somewhere that I recognized. Another oops. The next couple were ok, but going to number six, I stopped trusting myself and thought that I had gone too far, when actually I had not gone far enough, and I wasted a lot of time (4-5 minutes) skiing in circles before I realized what I had done. Another oops. Anyway, I finally made it to the finish, something like 15 minutes out of the lead in a 15 minute race. Bad race. I am cringing still just writing about it.

This is the map, the start is at the triangle and the finish is the double circle.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Goodbye London, hello Sweden

My brief sojourn in London is coming to an end, it was great to see the family and be on vacation for a couple days, but now its back to business - ski orienteering! Tonight, I head to Stockholm, where I'll spend the night with a friend of a friend of a friend, whom I have never met and only have vague instructions as to how to get to his house. I trust this friend link, though, since it starts with Anna and I trust Anna, therefore I should trust a friend of hers, and therefore I should trust a friend of his. Makes sense to me!

Saturday morning we'll drive north, as Boris, Kat, and Neil want to go skiing anyway and figured they'd watch a day or two of the competition up near Mora, just further north and on more remote. Hopefully they won't mind stopping at Mora along the way so we can get in a good ski, as most of the ski-o competition areas will be embargoed from competitors skiing on the trails before the event. No point in giving anyone an advantage.

Here, its raining and 45 degrees. Time for a run in the the treadmill anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rumford EC: Classic mass start

Sunday dawned not quite as chilly with snow falling. The race was a 10km mass start classic race, and I was seeded #38, which put me in the fifth row. It was snowing nonstop through the J2 races before us and through our race, so the tracks were barely there in places, but were definitely faster than the loose powdery stuff out of the beaten trail. The gun went off, and we all started scrambling. I was in the middle of the field, and so pretty stuck in terms of getting around people, since there was just nowhere to go. We came through the stadium and the girl in front of me came to a stop as we started climbing, so I managed to sneak around a couple people on the outside, before we headed into the downhill. It was crazy, just this long line of people, some double poling, some tucking, nobody going anywhere fast, but just fast enough that if you got out of the tracks it was decidedly slower. Finally we started some uphills and I could scramble around some people, but it was still pretty packed. Going up highschool hill the first lap was basically a walk, since there was just nowhere to go.

By the second lap things were spreading out a little, and my fast skis were making quick work of the downhills. It was still pretty tight, but no more walking, thank goodness. I found myself in a group with some Bates and UNH girls, and going up highschool hill the second time the Bates team was going crazy cheering. I just told myself that they were cheering for me, and let that boost me over the top. By the next little uphill I'd caught a girl from Burke, and I could see a group with some Dartmouth skiers, but there just wasn't enough course left to catch the Dartmouth girls. I felt like I was slogging out there, but i guess everyone else was, too, because I didn't finish all that far back, even though it felt like I was in 50th place. I ended up 24th, which is an improvement over my starting seed, so that is a positive way to end it!

Now I'm off to Europe for a week or two; a couple days in London to visit my grandfather and then over to Sweden for the Nordic Orienteering Championships, near Mora. Internet will be spotty, but I'll do my best to keep you posted on how things are going. I expect to place much higher in the world championships this march than I will next week, since the Scandinavian countries can only send six women to the world champs, and this event will be very well attended. Given how much ski-o training I've been doing recently (none), this could be a painful stab to my ego!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rumford Eastern Cup weekend: The sprints

Thanks to Jamie Doucett for all the sprint pictures!

This past weekend I headed north to race in an Eastern Cup in Rumford, ME. The sprint was Saturday, and the mass start classic race was Sunday.

The qualifier went well for me, and I ended up 10th in a tight field. Going into my quarterfinal, I knew it would be tough, as I had Sophie Caldwell (#1), Hilary Rich (#11), and Lauren Jacobs (#21 I think). I had a good start, but then I hesitated, not wanting to lead, and tried to tuck behind Sophie. Hilary took this moment of hesitation to move up, and Sophie kept sliding back, it felt like. Going into the uphill, I tried to hold my position behind Sophie, but somehow lost it to Heather Mooney, another Stratton skier, on my left, and Lauren on my right, putting me in the middle where there wasn't really room for a middle. Rather than freak out and flail and break everyone's equipment I chose to slot in 5th on the outside and hope to get around people. I got around one by the crest of the hill, got around another on the S-turns, and worked the downhill as hard as I could but Sophie and Hilary were enough in front that there was no chance of getting into that coveted 2nd place. Heather almost beat me to the line but I sneaked in third, a possible lucky loser. Given that I had been in the first heat, I got the chance to fully cool down and cheer for our J2s before finding out if I was a lucky loser. Turns out I was, so I tried to get back warmed up for the semifinal.
I'm in the back, stuck in fifth coming up the hill.

I don't even remember who was in my semi, but just after the start, I was in a very good position, until somehow I got taken down. I don't know who did it, only that it felt like my ski got pulled behind me and then my knee wrenched funny and I went down tweaking my shoulder too. I got up slowly, it sure sucks getting old, I bet if I were a J1 I would have bounced right up and kept going. The other girls were long gone, so I skied the rest of that lap slowly to take my place in the B final.

The B final had some good sprinters too, and my main goal was to at least be even with my qualification place (4th in the heat for 10th overall). We started out and I had a decent start, slotting into third. I moved up to 2nd on the hill, but got a little bumped on the first turn and moved back into 3rd. Coming down the hill I was in contact with 1st and 2nd, but I couldn't get enough speed to slingshot around them. It came down to the fact that Sophie McClelland and Corinne Prevot are just faster finishers than I am, and I finished in fourth, although it was close.
Just after I fell in the semi-final. Its my new dance move, the butt spin with skis on.

In the end, it was fun to ski in all the rounds, and I'm glad they used the lucky loser format, giving me a chance to do more than just a quarter final. Good times!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Alex is cutting up a chocolate cake into pieces, and hands Ed a piece of cake

Ed: mmm, this is good, is this the cake you were going to use the sour cream for?
Alex: yeah, but I used yogurt instead, it makes it healthier
Ed (considering): well, its good anyway, it has really good texture
Alex: that's because of the zucchini
Ed (looking aghast): there's zucchini in here?? No, you're lying! There is NOT zucchini in this cake!
Alex: (laughs hysterically)
Ed: You're lying! We didn't have any zucchini, you couldn't have used one!
Alex: No, look, see heres a little green piece from the zucchini
Ed: looking betrayed, finishes his piece of cake anyway

Score one for the zucchini!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday night race numero uno

The real races happen on Tuesday nights. According to some people, anyway. Regardless, contact races are fun, and its great mass start practice. I was supposed to do some threshold work, and luckily the race was being run up on the flats, where race pace is really near threshold pace. Its always more fun if you can actually race people instead of having to hold back with the lame excuse of "training".

I felt like I had a target on my back, I heard "ooh, theres Alex" from more than one master who I've probably beaten without knowing it and created a lifelong grudge... people kept encouraging me to move further and further forwards, despite me telling them they'd just pass me back, and then I realized, they wanted to pass me. Of course! So, I slotted in beind Colin, knowing I wouldn't finish anywhere near there, but everyone seemed to want me up front. Maybe its an effort to apologize for the past two years of getting stepped on and skied over by guys who didn't want to get girled...

We start on a downhill, and I see Blazar go down in a heap, looked like he poled between his legs. I think he took out a couple innocent bystanders, so I was glad to be away from that. Soon thereafter, he passed me back pulling a line of guys, all pumped up from mass starting, and I let them go until I got up on the flats, where I could really push the pace without burying myself. Jamie went by, and I figured I should go with him, since hes a smooth skier (thats what you get, for being a coach), and provides a great draft. His skis were running pretty quickly - sometimes, refusing to wax your skis for a training race just bites you - but being able to get in a lower tuck meant I didn't get dropped too hard on the downhills. He made contact with Blazar's group soon after, and I didn't, but then I saw Marv Wang faltering on the flats off the back of that group, so put my head down to try and get him. Unfortunately, I ran out of course, as they ran a pretty short race, but next time, Marvin, I will catch you...

Tuesday night race #1, done! I won't be there for the next couple weeks, but these things are getting more and more fun, maybe I'll give up on real racing and focus my season on my overall standings at the Weston sprints...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I got back from nationals on friday afternoon, and didn't feel like I'd had enough racing yet, so headed north to the Bogburn. In retrospect, mabye that wasn't such a great plan, because I felt like a real zombie all day on Sunday, even today I still feel a little sluggish. Regardless of how I felt, though, I had a good time up there. I'd never skied Bob's trails, and they're great! Old school beyond old school, I don't think you could hold a skate race on those trails, they're that narrow. Constant transitions, hairy downhills, gradual striding uphills, man that was a good course.

I managed to not keep track of time, and came in from testing some wax, saw that I had five minutes, and decided to touch up my already-good wax job. Doh. Time flew, and suddenly I was panicky trying to get to the start. I grabbed my garmin but forgot my gloves, contemplated skiing without gloves, decided that was a bad idea, ran back to the wax table, exchanged garmin for gloves, and sort of made my start. I mean, I started out on the course before the girl 15 seconds behind me started, but I didn't have poles on, yet. I was walking, trying to figure out the new exel straps (first time using those poles), and I heard someone say "slowest start EVER". I look over and thought I saw a Stratton kid, and thought, "I don't even KNOW you, who are you to insult my incompetence?" So I said "shut UP" rather forcefully, and then immediately felt bad about yelling at some J2. turns out it was Colin, so I don't feel bad anymore.

Once my poles were on, I started racing. The girl 15 seconds behind me caught up to me, as I was still in flustered-mode, then I came out of that mode and smoothed it out a little, passed her back, caught the girl ahead of me, then Erika Flowers and Sophie Caldwell caught me, and I should have maybe tried a little harder to ski with them, but that hurt, and not having pre-skied the course I didn't know how long that hill was going to go on but I didn't feel like blowing up if I wasn't near the top of the hill. Not the most competitive spirit I've ever been in, but I was having a good time out there, and I didn't care too much about the result, since I didn't expect much from it. Its a good thing I didn't care, because I got beaten by a lot of people I normally wouldn't want to get beaten by. I did not win the spandex...

Tonight, tuesday night smackdown. Its on, my threshold workout vs. your race...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Not a great day

Yesterday the weather finally cooperated enough for the classic sprint, and warmed up to -3F or something like that. Of course, it was much windier, which made it feel like -20, I felt colder than I had all week, but it was a warm wind, relatively speaking. I was super psyched to finally be racing, but maybe expending all that nervous energy in the past week took more of a toll than I thought, because as I started my warmup I felt pretty blah. Eventually I got around to doing some intervals, and noticed that my heart rate was running really high, for a relatively low perceived effort. I tried to put this out of my thoughts, and headed over to the start for my qualifier.

A little side note - my favorite part of racing here was having somebody cover you with a fleecy blanket before the start, that velcroes together so that you can stand there without losing it. Those blankets were sweet. Anyway, they yanked off my blanket, and I took off chasing the ghost 15 seconds ahead of me.

I felt smooth and powerful out of the stadium and up the first part of the hill, thats like 100m, and then I planted my pole between my legs going around the corner. Doh! I didn't go down, but it threw me off my rhythm and going up the hill felt awkward and inefficient. Down the hill, took the corner too wide, and into the rollers in the stadium I was having issues. Anywhere there was a transition, I bobbled it, especially going from double pole to striding. Then crossing the culvert, about to overtake my 30-second girl (I started third from last, with people who legitimately have 600 sprint points), a wind gust hit me, and pushed my pole inwards just as I was applying the power in a double pole, and I poled my boot pretty hard and went down. And then flailed for a little bit trying to get up and get going. Yargh. More transitions, more bobbles, finally just hammer down the finish and I did not feel strong, but rather, relieved that I had skied so badly I would definitely not have to do any more of these.

I crossed the line, and then I collapsed. I've collapsed after races in the past, but its always been a decision, of sorts. "oh, good, I'm at the end, now I can lie down in the snow", and I lie there for a sec and then get up and carry on with life. But this was more of a "oh, look, my knees are collapsing. Why am I lying in the snow? Its cold out" thought. The volunteers dragged me away from the finish, and I swear I tried to help them and use my legs, but it just wasn't happening. That was when I finally noticed the fluttery heart feeling. When I could stand on my own, I wobbled into the warming tent by the start and sat down. The fluttery heart feeling wasn't going away, so I lay down, and then Will Sweetser came over pretty worried that I was going to freeze to death or die of a heart attack, despite me telling him multiple times that the cardiologist said I wouldn't die from this. My heart still wouldn't stop fluttering, it was pretty scary, as this was much longer than any of my past episodes. This makes me think that it probably started while I was racing and I was so flustered because I was skiing badly that I just didn't notice. Nat Hertz says it right on fasterskier - "As far as sensations that are unsettling as an endurance athlete, a weird heart beat is probably up there as one of the most disconcerting". Word.

After about 15 minutes, I was normal again, so I went out for a cooldown and almost ran into a humungous moose. Alaska moose are bigger than the ones in Maine!

So, a pretty sad ending to a frustrating week, but I'm glad I went out there, though I have no idea why. But it sure does feel nice to be home. I'm headed north to the Bogburn tomorrow... gotta do SOME racing!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Heat wave

There is a high predicted of +1, a veritable heat wave. This means that we WILL race today! Classic sprint, in hard tracks, it'll be a good time! Then at 1am I leave for a fun-filled red-eye, I can't wait.

Yesterda Jess and I headed out for a bundled-up ski, it was chilly, but with the proper clothing, anything is doable, so we were actually pretty toasty warm. And even the camera batteries survived!

This is the ocean.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The current temperature is -21F. When I checked this morning, there was a predicted high of -8. Now the predicted high is -10. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a race report...

Like everyone else here, I came here to race, and like everyone else, I am not happy to be not racing. As much as I know it does no good to be angry at the weather, I can't help it. We all paid a lot to get here, to stay here, to race here, and not just in money - time, energy, emotional investment, everything. For one race. Thank you, cold snap.

False hope...

We didn't race today. They got us all excited, announcing that the race had been pushed back and would be a 5k instead of a 10 and we all rushed to pick up bibs and get warming up, and then they cancelled it. Whose genius idea was it to hold nationals in Anchorage in January? I'm sure this is a great place in March, the volunteers and the grooming and the facilities are all awesome, but the weather doesn't want to cooperate.

And I feel like I have a little yippy dog caught inside of me that is just so full of nervous energy its going to start bouncing. Jess and I have a plan, when the race is cancelled again tomorrow, we're doing classic intervals. And when its cancelled thursday, we'll do skate intervals. A girl's gotta do SOMETHING, after all...

Dorcas working some magic before we find out the race be cancelled.

I found out today why Kincaid is so wiggly and hilly and bumpy and fun to ski on, while the rest of Anchorage is so flat - sand dunes! Thank god for the geology majors in our midst.

So, Jess and I went skiing and took action shots in front of the tidal flats.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Finally, a race!

It was pretty balmy today, only -5 this morning instead of -16, I could feel the change just walking out to the car. My nose hairs didn't freeze together! They'd shortened the 10km skate to a 5km, and they ran it on the classic course which has less gnarly downhills and shorter uphills that are more gradual, although they felt pretty steep to me. I guess when its this cold, the slow skis make everything feel steep. After acquiring some ipod speakers for our wax trailer, it was go time. I have been on the edge of my seat ready to race, and I was psyched beyond psyched to be finally standing on the start line. Ski racing woooooot!

I was in the F seed (did you know they had seeds all the way back to J??), which wasn't a bad spot since my skis were running faster on snow that had been skied in, but it was so far back that I would be continually passing people, giving myself a false feeling of fastness. I started 15 seconds behind Meghan Killigrew, a Stratton Mountain skier who is really fast, usually, so I figured if I could catch her it would be a good race. I started out with a fair bit of gusto and had to rein myself back a little, knowing that the first hill would kick me if I didn't take it back a notch first. My skis were remarkably fast on the flats and downhills, but they were quite grabby any time they were on edge. This meant that I tried to stay light on my feet, almost as though I were skiing in slush, to get up the hills. It sort of worked...

By the middle part of the first hill, a girl from Gustavus Adolphus, who had started 15 seconds behind me, caught me. The trails are wide here, so passing isn't a problem, and I tried to stay with her. I actually passed her back on the downhill, but we started climbing again and she dropped me just after going through the stadium completing loop one (I think of this course in three loops, each coming back into the stadium and then going out to do a different loop). I caught back on after the first downhill of the second loop, and then we started climbing what I consider the steepest hills of the course, and I couldn't hang. I heard her coach screaming at her that she was having a great race, and I wish I'd hung with her, but I couldn't move going up those hills. Near the top of the steep hills on the second loop I caught Meghan, who was starting to double pole, I've been there, its no fun. I came zooming into the stadium and was pleased to note that my body was going through the motions my head was telling it, despite my lack of oxygen. The word "stacked" was in my head, that was how I wanted to start every kick in my V2, stacked on top of my feet and ready to apply the power, and that word made me feel very in control, smooth, powerful. It was good.

I came through the bridge heading out on the third loop, and that first uphill was deathly slow. I tried to stay light on my feet, and I reeled in another two girls by the top of that hill. I knew I had to give it everything here, the transitions were starting to take a lot of thought to ski them well, but I was pleased with the way my body was responding to my head asking it for more power. I caught a Dartmouth girl going down one of the sweeping fun downhills, now I was really moving, it certainly hurt but I wasn't going to let up this close to the end. I came through the tunnel back into the stadium and didn't see anyone else in front of me, and V2ed hard over the last hill under the spectator bridge. A long downhill and then it was the final push into the finish. Hard race, and very few spots to get a break. I was happy with it, though, and glad that I had been able to race it according to my plan. I was smiling once I caught my breath after the finish, happy to have gotten to race, happy to have raced well.

They post the results as they come in, electronically, as you finish, so I started looking for my name. And kept looking. Finally, in 64th place, I saw it. WTF. It is not fun to feel that you've skied a good race and then see that you're just as slow as last year. What bothers me the most is how much it bothers me that I'm bothered by the result, if that makes sense. I skied a good race, a hard race, and I should just be happy with that. The end result was 66th, the exact same place as last year, and the exact same percent back as last year. YARGH! is what I have to say to that!

Tomorrow they are hoping to hold the 10km classic race. I will be asking more of my body, and gosh darn if it isn't going to give it. I am ready.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

No racing today

I was hoping, praying, begging that there would be a race today, but it wasn't to be. I think it warmed up to -6, but that just isn't warm enough. Luckily they cancelled it before I even got a chance to warm up, so I got out for a ski after the cancellation. I am so bursting with energy right now that if I don't race tomorrow, I might explode. Bloody guts all over everything.

The trails are in great shape, it just needs to warm up enough to let us ski!

A view. I will be hard pressed to actually pay attention to my race and not to the views here.

A tree covered with rime ice

Do we look cold?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hurry up and wait!

We showed up to the race course today hoping to race. I say hoping, but not expecting, since the predicted high was -7F, and I don't think it ever got above -5 today... First they delayed the start to 1:30 (from 11:30), then to 2 as just a qualification round, and then they delayed the race until tomorrow. Which is predicted to be just as cold. Could this be a nationals with no sprint competition? I hope not...

I went and skied part of the 10km loop after the race was cancelled, and this place is just BEAUTIFUL. The rime coats every surface, looking like new snow, the mountains hover in the distance, and the trails are twisty and turny and have hairy downhills and long uphills and I can't wait to race on them!

Sunrise over the mountains

Friday, January 2, 2009


I'm up in Anchorage now, after a week in southern VT with Ed doing some sharpening/tapering/resting/whatever you want to call it, the last week before nationals. We had a good time, but it was -10F at the new year's party, temperatures similar to AK right now. I guess I was prepping myself? I'm sitting here and its almost 9am and there is still no glimmer of a sunrise. How do people live here in the winter?

The flight from Boston to Portland OR was hellish, or would have been without my new noise-reduction headphones, it seems all the families with young children were traveling home from the holidays and they were all on my flight. Then, since I was on the same plane to Anchorage, they politely asked those of us not changing planes to stay on the plane for a quicker turn-around, and it felt a little like quarantine or jail or something. Just let me off the plane! Only twelve hours later, I was here. Woot.

Anyway, just a quick update on where in the world is Alex Jospe, and now shes off to wax some skis and check out the classic sprint course. Classic sprint is tomorrow! Provided they can hold it, the high is currently forecast at -5F, and the legal race temperature is anything above -4F.