Monday, March 30, 2009

Prospect Spring Fling

I swore off ski racing after the Gold Rush, and so Ed and I headed up to VT for the weekend to hang out with his cousin while watching water boil (Rob runs a maple syrup operation). It was pretty cool to hear Rob talk about how it all works, there is a fair bit of science involved, but what it comes down to is that you basically have to hang around and keep the sap boiling for hours on end. This involves a lot of beer. Among other things.

We went skiing on the Danby road, and basically, a dirt road groomed by snowmobiles had better grooming than we've seen at Weston all year. Perfect spring skiing weather, this is what I was hoping for when I went to California. Sunday I woke up to rain, but there was a race down at Prospect mountain, which is only like an hour away from Weston, so I figured, why not? It was supposed to be a pursuit race and then an obstacle race sprint, with prizes for costumes. We ended up not doing the sprints, though, since it was too miserable to stand around out there. The pursuit was a blast, however. We went classic, skate, classic, and the course (I didn't wear the garmin, it just wasn't that sort of race) went up the big hill you normally enter the stadium on, which is actually quite a long hill. Then it went down, past coach's corner, out on the flats, across the snowmobile trail, back on the flats, and back into the stadium. There were only a couple bare spots, but they were all on downhills, so easy to avoid.

We lined up, and it was pretty cold in the wind and the rain. Luckily, the bumblebee dress kept me pretty warm, its nice skiing in a dress, I might do it more often. My wings managed to not disintegrate also, so that was good. We started up the big hill, and I felt AWESOME. I wish I'd felt this good in any one classic race this year, I felt absolutely untouchable. Maybe its because we were racing on klister and I love klister skiing. Anyway, I followed some highschool boys up the hill, then dropped them on the downhill since I was on actually klister skis, which glide. Then it was very flat for a while and the fact that I haven't skied in seven days (Saturday doesn't count) caught up to me, double poling is HARD! Into the transition zone, and I see two guys leaving it. I put on my skate skis, and these skis have only one purpose in life. It is to go fast in slush. Even on travel wax, they were ROCKETS. Going up the hill was effortless, the skis did all the work. I caught one of the boys on the gradual uphill back to the transition zone, and I was worried he'd catch me back up the big hill. I was starting to feel a little tired, I mean, I haven't trained in a week and this was a big hill and we're going on 10 km, but I just kept slogging and the highschool boy didn't catch up, which I figured meant I was home free. I cruised around the rest of the lap for a resounding win, over the other two girls who were racing :).

This is the glide zone of my ski. The snow was that dirty.
And this is the kick zone. Mmmmm.
And of course, the klister (that started out silver) was this color when I scraped it off...

Since we skipped the sprint, we held the awards soon after the race, and I won cookies. What a great day. They should hold pursuits with multiple changes in real races, it makes it so much fun! I'm really glad I went to this race, since it ended the season on a high note, rather than the depressed angry note after the gold rush.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My California Adventure

I went out to the California Gold Rush, another marathon, last weekend. I had some delta voucher miles to use up before May, and figured this was a good way to do it. I didn't take into account how exhausted I'd be after all my travel this winter, particularly going to Japan and back. That just slayed me. Anyway, Jess decided it was a good idea too, and came along, which was awesome. Greg, one of the guys on the ski-o team, lives in LA, so he drove us up to the race and back, all in all, the logistics worked out perfectly.

If I throw this thing hard enough, will it snap in two? It would fit better, then...

The forecast was for heavy snow accumulation, both before and during the race, but it was actually fairly packed down. Still soft and slow going, but not the disaster I was expecting. The race was up at 7000 feet, so I figured I'd go with the "arrive as soon as possible to race start" approach. This was not a good approach. Anyway, we got up to the race with plenty of time, and I'd actually brought the right skis, so I felt about as ready as I was going to get.

Jess and I lined up in the "elite" wave, and when they said go, we all started scrambling, but I guess I'm a lot better at mass starts than Jess, because she ended up at the way back of the pack. We made contact with each other pretty quickly, though, and drove a pack for a little while, until finally a girl went by and I tried to go with her. For a couple km I was able to follow her, but then I found myself doing V1 on the flats and she was leaving me. Another girl caught up and passed me, then Greg caught up and passed me (he'd started in wave 2), and then I was all alone for a long time. It started to snow pretty heavily, and I was getting soaked, so when I started the second lap and the long downhill, I was frozen. I kind of slipped into a super negative slump through that lap, my legs and hips were totally seized up, and it was all I could do to V1 the flats. I started to herringbone the uphills, it was a good thing it was pretty flat, because a long hill would have destroyed me. I was too tired muscularly to go fast enough to warm up. I was so cold and miserable that I was composing the blog post in my head about why I dropped out, when I hear a whistle from behind me. Wha?

Its Jess. Oh thank god, someone to complain to! She said she'd been in a bad way after lap 1 but had a second wind, and although I begged her not to drop me, she said she couldn't promise it. Bummer. Anyway, keeping up with Jess up the hill to the finish/lap warmed me up enough to start the third lap. I stayed with Jess almost until the feed zone and then she dropped me and I was limping along in my own miserable world again. Jess managed to put 6 minutes on me in 10km, so apparently I went waaay slower. Oops. Anyway, I finished. I wouldn't call that racing, it was more "skiing with a number on".

Greg taking off the chains.
Typical Jess =)
We found some giant cement women when we went to search for Chinese food. Although we didn't find any "crab cheese", we did find some "crabmeat with cheese". Close enough!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The garmin has been located, so I bring you the picture from the inferno. My top speed was only 36.5mph, which I guess makes sense since just after that point you have to turn, so if you're going much faster, the chances of dying are much higher. I was still going 23mph when I made the first sketchy turn, so thats not nothing, but I did get down to 19mph for the turn to the xc trails. I was going 24mph when I did crash, but I'm good at falling down because I can get back up quickly :)

Also, I've finally scanned and put up the maps from Japan.

Sprint map
Long: Map 1, Map 2
Middle distance map
Relay map

Enjoy geeking out!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sugarloaf Inferno

It was a beautiful day on the 'loaf, which was good, because if the sun hadn't been out, I probably would have skidded into a tree at 40mph and broken every bone in my body. Instead, it was beautiful, soft, slush, and the alpine part of the downhill was fun instead of terrifying. The inferno is an amazing race, probably my favorite one of the whole winter, because not only do you get the fun (or terrifying) downhill from midway up the alpine mountain, then you get a significant downhill on the xc trails, which is my favorite part of any ski race. The xc trails were actually more hair-raising than the alpine trails, because I knew they were designed for people without edges and so I refused to let myself slide any corners or not tuck, and some of those corners are not designed to be stepped, I think...

I let Ed start behind me this year, instead of starting behind him like last time I did this. I knew if I could hold him off through the truly-gravity-assisted part, I'd be good to go. What really worried me was Colin starting a minute behind me, because he's crazy. And I wanted to beat him. Linnea started far enough behind all of us that I didn't think she'd have the advantage of seeing me and hunting me down, so I was less worried. While my competition warmed up, I stood and basked in the sun. It was so sunny and warm on the mountain that it was easier to stand there and watch people go off than to ski. I tightened up my boots, because I wanted to have the best possible edging ability on the downhills, but this turned out to be a stupid idea, because I tightened them too much and my feet fell asleep. Finally, it was time to go skiing, and I had to wake up out of my relaxed, sun-soaked state. Hey, I haven't seen much of this bright thing in the sky this winter, I miss it.

I have *temporarily* misplaced my garmin, but once I find it I will put up the route on Google Earth, it'll be pretty cool. The course started with two headwalls, of sorts, and then a kind of tricky right hander into a green trail, some more screaming downhills on slightly narrower trails, and then a sharp right-hander into the nordic trail system. I skated hard out of the start, because I had to look good for all the people watching, and then I figured I may as well tuck, because it didn't feel fast enough yet, and before I knew it a guy jumped out of the woods and frantically waved me towards a trail heading off to the right, rather than the straightaway I was aiming for. I threw on the brakes, made the corner, and quickly picked up speed again. A lot of speed. At one point, I almost didn't make a mild corner, as I skittered across some ice in the shade, but I held it together enough to look spectacularly terrified in front of the guy with the video camera on the corner into the outdoor center's trails as I barely made that corner.

At that point, you get a tiny bit of uphill, just enough to calm your nerves, before you start the rolling descent to the finish. I passed the guy on teleskis - those had looked like a great idea at the top, but he was side-stepping up the hills on the xc trails - and I found that my skis actually were rockets, it wasn't just the downhill. Then coming into the last corner before a gentle cruise in to the finish, I noticed a woman climbing up over the bank to get back on the trail, and I was momentarily distracted enough that I crossed my tips. Normally, I'd just uncross them, but with my boots this tight and my feet that numb, I went down in a heap and said something intelligent that sounded like "guh!" I got up quickly, and Colin hadn't caught me yet, but I could hear pole plants behind me as I skated hard down the gentle finish slope, and they sounded like they belonged to someone who knew what he was doing, not the guy on teleskis. I sprinted into the finish just barely holding off Colin, so I guess he still beat me but not to the line, and that is what counts. Ed came in a little later, but he didn't beat me :)

Linnea won the costume contest and I didn't take a picture, this is tragic. Imagine this girl with an orange ear-flap hat, and lime green shiny knickers, and you'll get the idea. Unfortunately, this didn't keep her on her feet, which was good for me, because it meant that I won the women's division. And a pie!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Home again

It was a shorter trip, thanks to the jetstream, to come back. We didn't cross the north pole this time. I tried to work my magic trick by not sleeping at all on the plane to make me tired when it was time to sleep, but this has just left me exhausted and cranky.

Ski WOC was kind of a disappointment - I consistently picked the wrong skis (I know, my fault), with disastrous consequences, and my body did not seem to want to kick into race mode. Probably related to not having enough time to adapt to swapping my sleep schedule by half a day, but I thought I was more resilient than that. Anyway, it was frustrating to be unable to ski fast, especially on those courses. I'll put the maps up soon, I just need to scan them first. The courses relied on being a fast skier, since the navigation was so straight-forward, and I just didn't have what it took to contend at the level I wanted to. This is probably also a result of having traveled all over the world all winter - it has been a long season. One more weekend race in California, and then I get some well-deserved (I like to think so, anyway) rest.

It has also occurred to me that I have to change the purpose of this blog, now that the Japan world champs are over. Maybe it will just be me rambling on about life, sort of the same way it is now. Maybe I'll come up with some other crazy result-oriented goal, and put it out on the internets for the world to see. Anyway, I came away from Japan with a head full of ideas for improving the US ski orienteering scene, so hopefully I'll start implementing that once I have some energy again. In the meantime... some shots stolen from other people.

You know how I mentioned that I was way out front at the start of the relay? Thats me, over on the right, ahead of Bulgaria, Sweden, and Finland. Russia didn't even make it into the picture, she's that far back. The other teams also didn't make it into the picture. Booyah! (photo credit Greg Walker).

Here I am slogging in to the finish, at the end of the relay on disastrously slow skis. (photo credit - Japanese organizer)

Sunday, March 8, 2009


This was at the after party.
The last day of racing was yesterday, in the relay. After much debate, the women went with our originally-planned team, although it was decidedly not the fastest team. I wouldn't mind changing some of those bylaws to make things less "fair" and more oriented towards having the fastest people race the most. Anyway, it had gotten colder, and it was still very windy, which meant that the snow was windblown and dry and the slowest thing I've skied on since that long course. Again, a bad pick of skis led to some slow skiing, but I'll try not to whine about that too much. Some day I'll learn to bring enough skis to races so that I can actually race on the correct pair.

I scrambled, and got off to an awesome start, way out in front of everyone by the end of the double pole zone (ok, maybe not way out in front, but I couldn't see anyone to my immediate sides). Unfortunately, at the end of the double pole zone, we hit the skating tracks, and they hadn't tilled, and I almost fell on my face, my skis decelerated that quickly. We did the usual long climb out of the fields, and I could see the race separating into people who were on good skis versus those of us on bad. It was just two races. I spiked 1, at the top of the climb, and then we went screaming down a skating trail to get to 2, which I also spiked. I had cut across the field, because it was just as fast to ski on the new snow on top of the crust as it was to ski on the groomed trails, and I came to 2 from the top of a little cliff. I didn't want to just jump, it was a bit high for that, so I did a strategic roll, rolling downhill over my back, sideways, and landing with my skis on the trail. I wish someone had been there to see it, I was quite impressed with myself.

3-6 were all in the maze, and I discovered that I could actually classic ski through the woods faster than I could skate on the trails. Then I discovered that where the guys had double poled and broken through the crust was much faster, so I started following the guys' cut-throughs any time I could, and that worked well. Then we had to go up the wall, and that took a while. I almost caught our third skier on the men's team, everyone was hoping for a sprint finish, but he held me off by 20 seconds or so. Bummer.

Anyway, I came through as the 7th team, which is where I had been on the relay in Russia as well, so I guess I tied the best ever American result! Our second leg, Julie, had a clean run, and then our third leg, Candi, had a typical leg, but managed to come in under the time limit.

we were all getting kind of silly watching the men's relay. We figured that Greg didn't need his jacket while racing, so Marie-Catherine and I took it over...

Sue, breaking it down...

Adrian passing off to Greg in the men's relay.

International relations.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ski WOC Middle race

It was really windy today, which meant it was good to be short to tuck, but bad to be light because I got blown all over. I felt like I had a lot of small mistakes, especially at first. The course started by going down the wall we had come up yesterday, with a control half way down. I tried to slide on my butt, and I kept punching through the crust with my butt, so I had to sort of scooter down in bumps. It was neither fast nor sexy. I made it down the rest of the hill no problem, and spiked 2, which was in the marsh. I decided to try to follow the river rather than read the map, and that was easier, I think.

3 was also in the marsh, and I was trying to follow the trails there, but they were all blown in so you couldn't see them too well. This led to some problems, until I recognized that it was a foot-o course, not a ski-o course, so I skied all over the crust with no problems. 4 and 5 were still in a little maze, sort of next to the fields from yesterday. I passed Candi looking lost at the top of a little rise, and dropped into the marsh to get 6, but it took a while for some reason. Then I was going to 7 and I saw the Russian from 4 min back catching up to me, and I got to 7 ahead of her but barely. I took a different route out to the field and got there at the same time as the Russian so I followed her across the field and into the other maze to get 8. At this point the Lithuanian from 2min back caught up, and I went behind her, but she was skiing slowly, so I went back around her crossing the field to 9. I was starting to get the hang of just crust skating, and the wind was pushing me in the right direction. I had the 3rd fastest split going to 9, and almost caught back up to the Russian.

I have to admit, I sort of followed the Russian towards 10, but, I was following on my map and I knew where I was. I cut across the field too early to 10, but I had to avoid the fence so I guess I had to cut where I did. 11 was at the base of the climb, and 12 was at the top of the hill, and I tried to book it up the long skating trail. I think I attacked it too hard, though, and my boot was too tight, because my left calf got super cramped up about halfway up. I passed Sue and cheered her on, and then got worried she'd catch back up because I'd slowed down so much. I finally got to the top and between the oxygen debt and the tight calf I sort of stumbled around until I got to 12. Then I did a smart thing and used my mad foot-o skillz to get down the golf course, just following the edge of the forest. But I went too far to my left, lost maybe 20s getting to 13. Then it was straight over to the go control, and it was so windy I almost got blown back up the hill. gah.

Anyway, other than a bunch of hesitations in the beginning, it was a pretty ok race. I was bummed to lose the Russian going up the hill, but my calf was blowing up, I think my boot was just too tight. Ended up 25th, 21% back. Splits. This is a good race, one of the best the Americans have ever had, but I'm not entirely satisfied with my results in the individual races this championships. I guess if I were complacent in my results I would not keep trying to improve myself.

Tomorrow is the relay, I am the first leg, followed by Julie and Candi.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rest day

Today we had no races, so I filled the day in other ways. First, Sue and I ran into town (about 2 miles), hoping to see something a little more real than what the resort had to offer, but all we found were gray houses and gas stations and stuff. Too regular. Anyway, we got back and they were holding a Japanese tea ceremony for the competitors to learn more about Japanese culture, so I went up to that. It turned out that these were just some of the hotel staff who knew how to properly do a tea ceremony, and it was neat to learn about the origins of the thing, and watch the precision with which the girl was doing things. Apparently, these started as something that Samuri would go to, and the deliberate movements came from showing a visiting samuri that he did not need to fear poison. Now it is mostly women who perform the ceremony.

The rest of the day I looked around for souvenirs and wasted time like that, I guess the pictures tell the story.

Here I am in the tea ceremony, clearly having doubts about the green stuff in my mug...

Here is the world famous Sharon Crawford being served tea.

They give you a sweet bean paste thing beforehand, supposedly to combat the bitterness of the tea. It didn't taste that bitter, though.

Searching for souvenirs, I found some polar-bear-flavored ramen. There was also bear-flavored ramen.

The view from out of a rainy window to the alpine slopes.

My HRM finally bit the dust, and in need of a new watch, I found one in the souvenir shop for a reasonable price. This says "samuri". Thats what they told me, anyway.

no comment.

I almost bought this. Is it a joke? Or is it for real? Or is it something else altogether?

This is the side of the hotel facing the alpine slopes. Lots of windows in this place.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ski WOC Long distance

Map 1

Map 2

Today was the long race. I had high hopes, since it was supposed to be very tough and I like tough courses. It did not go so well, though. I picked the wrong pair of skis to race on, a pair that was very good in cold dry conditions (what can I say, I tested on the warmup track which was not in the sun and had not been skied on much, and didn't take into consideration the forecast for +4C. Yes, stupid). It warmed up to +4C, and it was very sunny, and very slushy by the end. The slow skis were a factor the whole race, but they were really driving me nuts on the last long climb that had 225m of climb. I wanted to die. This was my fault, I could have taken a route that was more direct but went up the wall that I had climbed in the first lap, and that was mentally so grueling that I did not want to do it twice. This was stupid, because that would have been faster, and I would not have noticed the slow skis as much because I would have just been herringboning. Stupid. The word of the day today: stupid.

I had a not so great start, I was in the third row and the first control was in the same direction for everyone, so we were all in a long conga line going up through a field, and there was no going around. I tried to just stay calm and plan out other routes, but it was a little frustrating. I finally got around some of the slower climbers as we went into another field, that was more steep, it was a narrow trail but enough people had been herringboning and coach skating that I could almost V1, although mostly it was a coach skate. I got to 1 no problem, and headed off to 2 on some narrow trails along the ridge. It turned out this was all downhill, and I voluntarily slid on my ass a couple times, because I saw no bail-outs and the trail was already snowplowed out. Some of those little suckers were STEEP! I guess that is what you get for volcanic terrain. Anyway, I got to 2 no problem, but it felt very hesitant, probably because of all the butt sliding. Then I made my first and biggest mistake, going to 3. I was on a big trail, looking for a little trail off to my left, and there was a guardrail to my left, so I was sort of skiing without thinking and I missed the trail, where people had piled snow. This ended up being a 3-4 minute mistake.

The next three controls were accurate, but very hesitant, and the skiing felt sluggish. Then I hit the wall, and I could see four girls near the top a girl partway up, and realized I wasn't quite as alone as I had thought. This wall is like highschool hill times six - just a soul-sucked-death-march uphill. I put my head down and tried to coach skate faster than the girls ahead of me, and by the time they reached the top I was closer than I had been, so I continued with skiing "fast" and reading my map. I made it through the map exchange, and got some badly needed sports drink and water. Did I mention that it was warm out? I think it probably got much warmer than the predicted +4, but I have no way to telling. The sun felt like it was melting me, though.

The first two controls were in similar locations on the second map, so I planned out the rest of my route while skiing on autopilot, and decided that I did not want to ski the wall again. This was probably mostly mental, because it would have been faster to go up the wall, but whats done is done, I decided on the death-march of the big trail, with butt-slow skis, and I had plenty of time to consider other, faster, routes on my way up. I had passed one Kazakh on the second lap, and I came within 30 seconds of a Lithuanian, but I was much further back than I had expected or hoped. Dang.

Anyway, its over, I'm tired, and I wish I'd gone faster but I have two more races to make up my mistakes to myself. Its frustrating to have a bad race because of equipment, but these things happen, and I only have myself to blame. Of course my best slush skis are sitting in my living room under a nice layer of summer wax...

The men's start.

I came up with a duct-tape and dental-floss solution to the floppy emit brick - the dental floss goes around the brick, and the duct tape holds it to my index finger.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WOC sprint race

Today we kicked off the first ski orienteering world champs outside of Europe with the sprint race. The start was remote, which meant that we all got bused up to someplace else and finished in the usual finish area. This was also a downhill sprint, losing 100m of elevation and only gaining 40m over the whole course. So it was fast, with fast skis and a 1:5k map - this meant that I always felt that it was just coming at me too fast to keep up with, mentally. I can't show you the maps because they don't let us see them until after all the races are done, just in case teams wanted to memorize the trail network or something. I skied well, for what its worth in a downhill race, and I didn't make any mistakes in the navigation. That was the more important part. It just felt too fast, though, and my brain still doesn't feel caught up with my body. I ended up in 22nd, which is definitely my best sprint result ever, and beats my 24th place in the long in Russia two years ago. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come. Tomorrow is the long race, which is typically my forte. We have 675m (I think) of climbing, over 16km, which is A LOT. I like that, for some strange reason.

If you want to follow the race live tomorrow, here is the link to the main website, and you should just be able to click on the button that says "live results". Also, if you're a big nerd, you can check out the splits, to see where I lose or gain time on my competitors.

The hotel here is kind of crazy. It has an amusement park as part of it, which I suppose is only open in the summer, given the amount of snow over some of the important bits... but the hotel (resort, really) has a regular hotel part, where we're all staying, and then the tower, which I think is more rooms (we aren't allowed into it because then we could see the courses, which would be cheating), and there is a monorail between the two. We are allowed into the restaurant at the foot of the tower, so I have take the monorail to get to the restaurant. Its faster to walk, but I wanted the experience.

This sort of shot is a lot easier to take while riding than while skiing...

One of the controls with a Finnish skier leaving it on the model course.

This is the team, except for Sharon who is looking at her feet for some reason. Back to front, left to right: Adrian Owens, Greg Walker, Neil Hunt, Alan Oprsal. Sue Grandjean, me, Sharon Crawford, Julie Raymond, Candice Raines.
A better shot of the team, stolen from Sue.

Breakfast before the sprint. That is miso soup in the corner. And some salmon and green thingies. The white bowl is yogurt with (I think) kiwi sauce. It just tasted sweet. Normal breakfast, eh?

Here is me leaving the last control.