Monday, November 30, 2009

Last photo dump

Our last day up at West Yellowstone we joined Lauren Jacobs, Heidi Henkle, and some guy named Carter for an OD on the river trails and into the park. Lots of the skiing was trudging along, but it was an absolutely beautiful day. Blue skis and blue wax. My favorite combination. No wildlife sightings, unless you count the squirrel I saw early on, but that may have been in part due to a constant level of chattiness. Just a perfect day to end a fun, snow-filled week.

Travel waxing in the hotel room. Shhhh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

West Yellowstone Supertours

Friday and Saturday featured the real races of the weekend, a 10k skate and a 5k classic. It felt cold, and the snow felt cold too, despite the temperatures in the mid twenties - I have some serious temperature adjusting to do before races in Presque Isle and Anchorage... my feet are still thawing right now. Anyway, I was starting to feel a lot more normal, so I was feeling ready to race and excited Friday instead of sort of wondering if I should do it, like on Wednesday. It was a hard race, lots of flats and transitions, and not many places to rest. I definitely felt all the skiing I'd done this week, especially on the uphills my legs felt pretty sluggish. The coolest part was on my first lap, of the two-lap course, when Dasha Gaiazova passed me on her second lap - she just skied so smoothly, and I definitely entered this star-struck little world trying to match her stride. It sort of worked on the flats, but then we started uphill and I lost her VERY quickly. The race was over soon, I tried to V2 everything I could, and just stay smooth. My Peltonen skis were fast, but with lots of skiing already in my legs I was definitely tired. I generally race better on lots of rest - hopefully this bodes well for later in the season, since this race went pretty well - although I would have loved to have been further up the results (who wouldn't?), I was pleased with my effort, and ended up 11% back, which is pretty good for me.

I didn't do much to recover overnight, unless some playing around on classic skis on the river trails counts as recovery, and didn't really feel like re-waxing my skis from Wednesday for Saturday's race - the weather was supposed to be about the same, so I just heated my kick from Wednesday into a binder for some cushion if it snowed overnight. Which it did. My skis were fast and kicked well, so that was good, but I was really hurting. Previewing the course I had thought that it was really hilly, but racing it felt like a lot more double pole than I'd anticipated. I started behind Katie Bono, who had been finishing in the 20's in the last few races, and there was a ghost behind me, so it was a pretty lonely race. I tried to stay relaxed on the climbs, but I think this just translated to slow, as I found myself doing a lot of jogging up the hills instead of striding - striding just took so much work! I double poled hard to try to make up the suckage on the hills, but it just wasn't enough, and I finished even further back than in the skate race. But I was pleased that I'd been able to go so hard even though I was tired, so that was good. Gotta try and find at least something good about every race...

After the races were over, it was just time to go ski myself silly. First I tested a whole bunch of other companies' skis and boots, call it research if you like. Although each time out I was making it less and less far along the trails, I guess the racing tired me out or something. Weird.

Not much snow in New England, so may as well play on it now, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


We aren't really doing things traditionally... having leftovers for dinner instead of turkey, for example. But, the turkey isn't what thanksgiving is about. As far as I can tell anyway, its about the pies. No, not even pies - its about appreciating what you've got. There is a lot to be thankful for, as corny as that sounds, and its even cornier to list stuff in a blog, but still, sometimes you do have to just sit and count your blessings.

I'm sitting in a warm hotel room, with an upside down pineapple cake in the oven of our adjacent kitchenette, spending time with Jess, four blocks from 40km of perfectly groomed ski trails, in NOVEMBER! I have six pair of fast skis just waiting for the right conditions, brand new boots that fit like a charm, and snazzy-looking poles, all thanks to Alpina. Looking broader, I have a job, that I feel is meaningful and that allows me time off to go on these crazy adventures, I have coworkers who support me, and I have the time and energy to devote to ski coaching, with talented coaches and some great juniors. I have a boyfriend who most of the time believes in what I'm doing with my spare time, unless of course its those 5am rollerskis in the rain (when even I'm questioning what it is I'm doing), parents who love me, and great friends. Before I get too gushy, let me just say thanks. Life is good, and I'm happy.

craaaaaaaazy lady alert...

Now back to the important stuff - skiing! The first race was yesterday, a qualifier-only sprint race. It was on a trail called volunteer, which had some really fun ups and downs (well, the downhills are generally more fun than the uphills in my book) - and it was point to point. An interesting format. The general consensus at altitude is to start slow in the races, and I did that part REALLY WELL. Of course, then the consensus says you have to speed up, and I didn't do that so well. If we look at the bright side, no post-race hack!

The pre-race waxing bustle. I had great skis, Janice of NENSA was waxing for me, thanks Janice!

A little back story... we got here late saturday night, and I felt fine skiing Sunday, but after a harder workout Monday morning, I felt like utter crap all afternoon. My stomach was all twisted in knots and I really couldn't move. No appetite, and forcing down some lunch had put my stomach into that uncomfortable spot. Tuesday rolled around and I still didn't have any appetite - I made it through a bowl of oatmeal in the morning and about half a bottle of gatorade later on, but I was bonking by the end of the morning's ski - light headed, dreaming of lying down, short of breath, freezing cold, the full-on bonk. I was a little scared, my stomach still hurt if I tried to take any food (which explains the bonk), so called my dad to see what he thought, naturally he said don't rule out swine flu, which had Jess super pumped, let me tell ya... I was able to choke down a couple bites of banana before the afternoon ski, and made it through about an hour before I started to get really cold. Jess dragged me along, being super nice and waiting as I'd hang over my poles at the tops of hills and poking me to make sure I wasn't dead from time to time, and aside from the slightly painful pins and needles and the constant shivering, I survived. But boy was I feeling crappy. Still no food, because that would make my stomach hurt. I was thinking I probably shouldn't race if I was feeling like this, because I was discovering that not-eating leads to being very cold and feeling very tired. Never could have guessed that one...

Luckily, Wednesday morning rolled around and I was - if not quite hungry - at least not feeling miserable. Breakfast went down fine, so I figured I'd race. I didn't feel particularly weak during the race, but I was definitely tired - I expect that the whole starvation diet thing of the last two days wasn't doing much for helping my muscles recover. I've never had a reaction to altitude like this before, it was a little scary, but I'll blame Monday's hard workout. Hopefully after a couple days of regular eating, I'll feel good in the races this weekend. I already felt peppy skiing this morning. Wooooo skiing! Even feeling like there was a monster trying to get comfortable in my stomach the past couple days, the skiing has been great!

The subject matter in these photos is getting a little... dare I say, old? Jess, me, or snow, in any combination.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

West Yellowstone

Due to the nature of Thanksgiving travel, things got messy at the airport - no charge for the skis (woot!), but after we boarded the plane to get to Denver, they announced that they'd found a leak in the hydraulic pump, so were replacing it. One hour later, the engine starts up, and I'm feeling hopeful. Not a long delay, a good chance of still making the connection to get to Bozeman, but then the engine shuts off. The captain comes back on the intercom and informs us that there is now a fuel leak in the engine, game over 'til that gets fixed. Statistically, planes may be safer than cars, but there is no such thing as a fender bender in a plane - accidents are serious.

Luckily, there was a flight to Bozeman out of Salt Lake, via Chicago, so with about ten minutes to spare, they put me on a new flight. Naturally the skis didn't make it. Six hours later than I'd planned, I got to Bozeman, where Jess was patiently waiting for me, and we negotiated our way up the slippery canyon to finally find our beds by 1am. Ooof.

Thanks to an east coast circadian rhythm, we were up early, a little tired but ready to go skiing! We quickly sorted out how to maneuver these long, wheel-less rollerskis, and soon were humming along, albeit at a rather glacial pace to try to stay in zone 1. This altitude stuff is no joke! The snow here is awesome, no rocks or dirt that I could see, and it was the perfect weather for skiing - some sun, cold snow, but not too cold and no wind. I'd forgotten how much I love skiing, there is such a sensuousness to it that you just don't get on rollerskis - whatever it is that people define as snow feel, I've still got it, and there is really just nothing to rival the feeling of gliding.

Huge thanks to Jess for lending me all the ski clothing... jeans just weren't going to cut it!

My camera fell into the snow lens-first (I swear, it did it on its own), so most of my pictures today have an old-school sort of feel to them... I kind of like it.

Friday, November 20, 2009


From Jessica Jerome's blog on Fasterskier.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanks Alpina!


Although I haven't used the classic boots yet, the skate ones are bees knees. Do people still use that expression? The outer looks similar to last year, but there is more padding on the inside and inside the cuff and the heel fits a lot closer - these are some good changes. Even the classic boot feels like it'll be comfortable for 3+ hours! (I may not have skied in the classic boots, but I've certainly pranced around the house in them. What, thats not normal?)

I'm leaving for West Yellowstone in two days, so it was with some relief that I finished my last rollerski workout this morning (hopefully I won't have to pick them back up on Dec. 1... ). Skied to work, just because there wasn't time for anything else, and my favorite comment was "I have never seen anybody doing THAT before". The nice thing is they've repaved most of the storrow-side bike path, although I did almost get squashed crossing whichever bridge it is that doesn't have a crosswalk. Something should be done about that.

A lot of my energy in the past couple weeks has been going into planning the US Ski Orienteering Champs this winter. There was one weekend with no ski races planned on it, although by now there are some planned, over President's day weekend, and I was dead-set on holding the champs that weekend, in hopes of attracting some skiers. We had some pushback, but I think we're all in agreeance now that the event is actually on the schedule. So if you're a skier who doesn't have anything else going on that weekend, stop by Craftsbury to try it out. We have six loaner map holders, which makes things a whole lot faster and easier.

Time to figure out what skis need to come to West with me... and which ones Boulder Nordic already has... and how empty my wax box is... maybe I should have done all this before the day before I leave. Whoops. Check back in a few days for sweet pictures of snow porn!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blue Hills Traverse

I did this race last year for the first time, it was mostly a trail run, but there was definitely some navigation involved, and I decided to give it a go this year as well - actually it had been on my calendar for a long time, as I felt I'd have a chance at actually doing well. Unlike most orienteering, this race lets you follow, and much of the running is on trails, so I don't lose out as much as I would to more experienced orienteers on a "real" course. The Blue Hills East map is much older than the West one, and really, it just sucks to orienteer on. Things aren't quite as accurate as I'd like, and the fact that none of the blue features (ponds, marshes, etc) were visible threw me for a loop a couple times.

The first leg was ~2km long, and I quickly decided that the road looked like the safer choice. Unfortunately, I was following Boris, who took a huge group of us (being favored for the win, people figured he'd be a good person to follow) almost 180 degrees away from #1, and although we got to the road eventually, we probably could have saved a few minutes by getting there more directly... I was hoping, once we hit the road, to really hit the afterburners and take off, but quite the opposite happened. My intense week the week before had caught up to me, apparently, and I was working REALLY HARD to keep that 8-min mile I was holding. I watched Marie, a fast Swedish chick studying in the US, run away from me, and there was nothing I could do about it. This was disappointing, but I figured, why let up, maybe fast people will make mistakes.

I caught up to Tim Parsons, one of the faster "old but accurate" guys, and we started narrowing the gap on his 15yo kid who was up ahead of us. Ben (Tim's son) didn't look like he was pushing all that hard, and I remembered finishing close to him last year. Leaving #1, I found myself in a pretty prestigious group - JJ Cote, Greg Balter, Tim Parsons, and Ben Parsons. This meant that we were moving pretty cleanly towards #2, although Balter was running away from us. We hit the last trail crossing, and slowed down as we entered the woods. Here was where I managed to make a 9-minute mistake - I thought we'd gone too far, because I hadn't realized that the scale of the map was a 1:15,000 instead of the 1:10,000s that I'm used to. I spent a long time circling that area, reattacking the control twice, and finally getting there around the same time as Vanessa Wood, a local runner whose boyfriend does a lot of orienteering but she doesn't do as much. At this point, I was kind of pissed, when you spend nine minutes wandering in circles, it feels like thirty minutes, and my prestigious group was gone. I should have just trusted them!

#3-4 were fast and accurate, but Vanessa wouldn't be shaken. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we crossed the road and onto the newer map, although looking at my garmin tracks versus the red line which is how I drew my route, I don't know how accurate the Blue Hills West map is, either. What the heck was going on between 5 and 6? I was running on the trail. What was my garmin doing? The garmin route to 3 also looks a lot more wiggly than I remember running...

Vanessa and I continued to run together, although we were certainly not working together - it was a series of attacks, she would attack on the trails and I'd try to make up some ground in the woods. I know following is allowed in this race, but by #8 I was starting to get really annoyed that she was able to use my accurate navigating to spike each control - something she probably wouldn't have been able to do on her own. She finally dropped me running up the hill to 9, I just couldn't make my legs work anymore, and had to walk it. I thought I'd do something clever to 10, and it was actually a good plan, but I managed to fluff it up and go down the wrong trail, and then I let the vegetation push me too far to my left on the way to 11 - at this point I was sure Vanessa was GONE. But leaving 11, she was coming in to it, clearly my observations had been correct, left to her own devices she didn't do so well. Unfortunately it was a lot of uphills and trail running to 12, and she caught up.

Finally by 13 we had some actual orienteering, there was navigating to be done and while I wouldn't call the woods technical, being the better technical orienteer meant I could put some time on her, a couple seconds here, a couple there. Unfortunately, there was a long freakn trail run to 17, and she closed the gap really quickly. I don't think I've ever been in a situation before where I couldn't just run away from people. Yuck. I was ready to cede the race at this point - she was opening a gap, I was tired, my knee hurt, and I just wanted it to be over. Luckily for me, Vanessa misread her clue sheet and didn't see the control at the top of the cliff for 17, and I caught up to her while she was standing there and scrambled to the top ahead of her. I was worried she'd catch me as I was hiking up the ski slope - definitely couldn't run it - but I got to 18 just ahead of her, and then gallumphed down the slope to the finish with complete disregard for my ankles, while she slowed down a bit because shes not quite so dumb as me.

So that puts me as fifth girl, 25th overall. Not a great run, but I was pleased with my orienteering, and it was fun to battle with Vanessa the whole time. But boy does 10 miles of running not feel good when you're not used to it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More testing

Friday was my first 3000m of the year - usually I try to do one in the spring, too, but I just never got around to it this year. One of my junior skiers also wanted to run a 3k, having missed the last one with the team, so we joined forces to battle the track in the dark. It was warm, but really windy - a headwind right down the home stretch, and Hannah, being ~6" taller than me, was definitely benefiting from the tailwind more in the backstretch. We did a solid warmup, and lined up. I was hoping to use a similar pattern in my splits as last year - starting fast, getting a little slower, and then finishing a little faster. Hopefully I'd be faster, but I wasn't holding my breath for that, given the ankle sprain and other various issues through the summer, any running I've been doing has either been slow (warmups) or in the woods, which also tends to be slow.

We started out, and I drafted Hannah going through the first 200m - that one was fast, 42 seconds. I thought i might have a chance of having a good 3k, but when I hit that back stretch with the tailwind, I knew it wasn't to be - I just couldn't pick up the pace for that part, despite having the tailwind. I knew I'd need to be moving there, because the wind in the homestretch was strong enough that it was adding ~2 seconds to each 200, which is significant - and I was only losing 1 second on the back stretch. So each lap was 1-2 seconds slower than I wanted it to be. The pacing structure was right, I just couldn't move fast enough. I ended up 10 seconds too slow, 12:10, but I was satisfied. The wind might not have been worth 10s, but it was certainly worth some seconds, so that was good enough. Hannah didn't break her record, either, finishing just two seconds shy of it - 11:59, a darn good effort, given the wind!

Saturday, it was pouring rain, and the November blues had hit hard - my desire to rollerski in the rain was quite low, to put it mildly. I had read about the Ski Erg competition on fasterskier, and some of the CSU masters had sent a link to it, so I figured, hey, the Community Rowing Center is close, I'll go do that. I don't think I set any new records, in fact some more of my juniors showed up and trounced me, but I did get a long-ish "warmup" on the thing, as an alternative to rollerskiing, staring out the window watching the rowers fight the torrential rain.

It looked pretty gross out there, so I went orienteering soon thereafter. Running in the woods in the rain just makes me feel hardcore, I guess.

We did some experimenting, to see what technique was fastest. It turns out, double poling on that machine isn't quite like a real double pole (it really is upper-body-only) and its not very fast, the fastest technique is to just hang on to the cords and jump up and down as fast as you can. I wish I'd gotten a photo of Jim doing that during his test...
Jumping up and down.

I can see the ski erg being good for strength, but not really as a substitute for testing on skis or for just going skiing. Technique is just too big a piece of the skiing pie to leave it out like that.

Presto, Lori's dog, was really excited when he realized we were going orienteering. And then he got out of the car and realized it was raining, and the look on his face was clearly saying "I did NOT sign up for this. Why is the weather ruining my run?" Upon getting back to the car, it was pretty funny watching him attempt to get dry RIGHT NOW. He wears a rain jacket because if you had 0% body fat, you'd get cold too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Double pole time trial

Due to a lack of big hills on which to do a double pole time trial, CSU uses Annursnac Hill, and just goes up it four times, then adds the uphill times. Rest is kept at an exact 5 minutes. Frank just loves designing tests, although I think he isn't so psyched that the top kids have started to beat him... Anyway, I feel like any test you can repeat consistently has value, even if there is less value than a 12-min hill, which is debatable anyway. As far as I can find, here are my times from previous double pole tests, starting in 2006. I didn't do any tests in 2007 (the scientist in me is screaming WHY?!?!?!?!), and just one test in 2008. Ideally, I'd like a spring test and a fall test each year, but I hardly live in an ideal world.

August 2006: 17:36
November 2006: 15:41
September 2008: 12:46
June 2009: 13:31
November 2009: 12:39

As you can see, yesterday's time trial was a new personal best, but only by 7 seconds. I was sort of hoping for more improvement than that, but I guess any improvement is good. My technique has definitely changed since 2006, incorporating more time rocking back on my heels - this works really well for applying power in anything other than all-out sprint situations. The temperature was hovering around 55-60F yesterday, so pole tips didn't have any problem gripping, and last November it was 63F, so luckily the conditions were similar, leading to more confidence in this PB.

I started fast, we were all in a group and my star J2 (Corey Stock) took off like a rocket. I thought I'd keep up with her, but she did it in about 3min flat, and I came past the first set of mailboxes in 3:05. Still fast, but I didn't anticipate getting faster. The second rep I started just behind Rob and Bob, and reeled them in by the top, still feeling pretty good, although I felt like my gloves were falling off, which makes holding the poles hard. All in my head, of course... the second hill was 3:08. Slower. Could I keep it under 3:10?

The third hill I started with Rob, and pulled ahead on the flat section near the top, but it was starting to hurt. It was my upper thighs that were feeling tired, of all things, I guess its true that lactic acid accumulates in your legs when you double pole. My arms just didn't get that tired, it was my legs protesting. Not fair! 3:11 for that third one, losing three seconds per rep, I needed to stop the hemorrhaging of seconds. We started the fourth, and I could tell my snap was gone. I pushed hard, and was pleased that my form held together nicely, but I just couldn't go any faster, and Rob pulled away on the steep part. 3:15 this time. Yarrrgh! I'm still happy with my result, but I just wanted to go faster. I guess that's always the case...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Niflheim Nordic S600 Rollerski review

So, Ed has been developing rollerskis. I was his testing department and marketing and sales department, until he fired me for being too "negative". I call it constructive criticism. Whatever, I wasn't getting paid anyway. The genesis for these skis was in part due to my constant complaining about V2 skis - CSU gets some sort of deal with V2, which is fine for the newbies who want combi skis, but once they get to the point where the combi skis are turning into classic skis, there are only two options for skate skis from V2 - the big-wheeled Aero skis, and the fancy shmancy carbon narrow-wheeled skis. Aeros suck, don't get me started on how they're too fast and too high maintenance and too tippy and too heavy. The XL98 (the narrow-wheeled ski) has its own range of problems - if the wheels didn't disintegrate within a month of buying the skis, they might be decent skis. Its not like V2 gives you free wheels to replace the ones that had the rubber fall off, you have to buy a whole new set. Oh, and these cost about $350.

WHY, then, do CSU juniors/parents keep buying V2 skis? Clearly its not for the quality...

Speed reducers. V2 is the only brand (aside from the woodski brake, and some sort of speed reducer thing that sort of works on certain models of Proskis) that offers any sort of braking/safety device. I've learned that parents will go to any length to keep their kids safe, even if it means replacing the wheels of your XL98s every two months. There are many brands of cheap aluminum skis out there, generally in the $150-$200 price range, but thats all they are - cheap aluminum skis. No way to stop beyond the usual tried-and-true gravel slides, running when you hit the grass, U-turns... you get the idea. If you want to be able to slow down on rollerskis, you're stuck buying V2. Not a pretty option. I don't mean to bash V2 too much, their classic skis are perfectly functional (if ridiculously overpriced, but then look at Marwe, its just the price to pay for classic skis).

So, Ed saw a niche that needed filling, and he filled it. He has this dream of getting rollerskis into the hands of all high-school skiers, skis that are safe, skis that are affordable to a skier who isn't necessarily pursuing this sport with the single-minded focus of most rollerski-purchasers. He developed a company called Niflheim Nordic (as Rob said, this is why they usually keep the engineers separate from the marketers... but its a cool name nonetheless, meaning the land of snow and ice in Norse mythology), and he got cracking on researching his patents, doing his engineering, designing something that wasn't going to be any bigger or clunkier than the average rollerski. Although he wanted to keep these affordable, he was very concerned with also making sure they can stand up to the abuse we ladle out to our rollerskis - rough pavement, rain and pavement gunk, getting thrown in the back of vans, 280+lb skiers with bad technique, you name it, the ski has to be able to survive it. You know how many tons of force that aluminum can withstand?

So there is the back story. The part you're here for is to read about how they ski! I've been on them for a while now, mostly because Ed had dismantled my old skis to compare his skis to how Elpex does things, and never bothered to put them back together again... anyway, I've been forcing myself to actually use the speed reducer, because since I don't normally use one, I don't really see the need for a speed reducer. I am going to break down the ski component by component, for easier reading.

Speed Reducer

For comparison's sake, know that I have only used a V2 speed reducer once. A lot of people (Ed demoed these skis at the CSU rollerski race) expressed concern that the little bar you pull on to set the speed reducer is too little - I didn't have any issues with it, but I am young and flexible with good balance, so bending down to put on the speed reducer while rolling didn't pose much of a challenge.

There are five different settings for the speed reducer, and to activate it, you pull back on the bar and lift the thingy to whatever setting you want it on. The speed reducer wheel touches the rollerski wheel at its lowest ("off") setting, but applies no resistance. At this setting, the ski rattles a little over rough pavement, but that was the one negative thing I could find to say about these skis. My favorite thing about these skis is that you can ski with the speed reducer on as much as you'd like - unlike the V2 Aeros, that isn't going to cause your tire to pop or wear down faster. This means you can precisely modulate your speed - ultimate control over ski speed. Skiing with the J2s, I find myself using the 2nd or 3rd notch, skiing with the older kids I leave the speed reducer off.

Going down hill, when I put the speed reducer on full, it basically brings me to a stop. Where is the fun in that? But inching down hills is exactly what certain highschool girls need in a rollerski.

Taking off the speed reducer is super easy - you just pull back on the bar, and the thingy snaps into the "off" position on its own.

Niflheim Nordic is offering wheels in two speeds - slow and medium. Ed mounted the skis I've been using with the medium-speed wheels, but really, it doesn't matter, because you can use the speed reducer to create slower-rolling wheels. These are the same 100mm wheels that everyone else is using in their skis, and you can use these wheels in other skis too, if you wanted to do that. No difference.

Rollerski Shaft

Ed seemed to be really bothered by all the paint chipping off of my Elpex skis. I never really thought about it, but it does look cheap and used. So, the Niflheim Nordic skis are anodized, which means you'll never get the paint chipping. Woot. I like the color, although I did ask for a special pink pair for me and didn't get it. Boo.

I don't know all the specs about how the aluminum is made or whatever, I do know that Ed spent a lot of time doing the models for the shafts and they're way strong - we're talking tons, not hundreds of pounds. Since they are aluminum, you do feel the road a little bit through them, but I'm used to that, since I was skiing on aluminum skis before, too. The center of gravity is the height of the center of the wheel, so to people used to Marwe skis (one of the only brands other than V2 that sets the center of gravity lower than the wheel center), the skis might feel tippy. Again, I'm used to that, so haven't really noticed it.

I gotta say, I really do like these skis, and not just because Ed makes them. They're about the same weight as my Elpex F1 skis, even with the speed reducer in the front, and actually the extra weight in the front evens out the balance of the ski - ever notice how rollerskis tend to be way rear-weighted because they just aren't long enough? These skis have a nice even balance, which translates to a nice feel when skiing on them. You do feel the road through your feet, since they're aluminum, but they're also $145, so I'm not going to argue with that. My feet aren't so sensitive that I would spend three times that amount for a composite ski. Go check 'em out! Perfect for the safety-conscious skier on a budget.

Monday, November 9, 2009

CSU's Pine Hill Orienteering meet

Ian and Lori were the course setters for Sunday's meet, and it went really smoothly, with the exception of #5 and #6 on the advanced courses being switched. That would be my fault, I apparently can't tell the difference between a 5 and a 6, and didn't notice that I'd put them backwards (they were ~1km apart, so this was definitely not just messing up - it was deliberate, if unintentional) when I set them, nor when I hit #5 (which was labeled as #6), it was only when I got to 6 and noticed that it was labeled as #5 that I was like, ohhhhh ****. Luckily, not too many people had been through there already and they weren't messed up by it. Too much. What could have been disastrous was that I'd switched a yellow course control with a white course control - those being the easiest two courses - that were right near each other (~15 feet). Luckily, I decided to run the yellow course first, and noticed the switch, so was able to change it before any yellow or white runners came through. *phew*!

I guess that's one way to ensure that you won't be asked to hang controls again... at least I can find the right spot, just don't ask me to do numbers.

After running the yellow course at race pace, I figured it was time to do a real course. Given that my knee has been hurting after long runs, I decided to do the green course - about half the length of the blue course, but sharing many controls. I didn't manage to get 10min/kms (thats for the straight-line distance, so not quite as disgustingly slow as it sounds), which was sad, but the woods here are fairly thick, as evidenced by all the green on the map, and I didn't feel like pushing hard. Even on trails I doubt I was ever moving much faster than a 10-min/mile.

The color-coded stripe is my route. As you can see it was pretty clean, but there were some definite bobbles in the control circles. My overall goal for the day was to run cleanly, but more specifically, my mantra was "compass, look around, plan an exit strategy". I was pretty successful with that, never deviating too badly from my desired path (although I thought I was going much straighter from 3-4 than the route shows), unless it was to run on trails. The Fells is so full of trails, it would be easy if it weren't confusing. Its actually much more pleasant to run in the woods, all the rocks on the trails hurt my feet and threaten my ankles, while the woods are nice and leafy and pretty even.

In the end, I won! (scroll down to the green course). And, I beat Ed, which is far more important than winning... apparently, someone informed him that I was running green, so he specifically ran that course to try and beat me, but made enough 2-minute errors that I came out ahead. The even better news is that the run was short enough that my knee didn't bother me, so running shorter may have been the smartest thing I did all week! Since we all know there was no way I WOULDN'T run.

It was a slow and steady sort of day, but slow and steady was good enough. Maybe I'll figure out fast and consistent next... seems like I'll have an even better success rate with that strategy - I'll try it at the Blue Hills Traverse next weekend. If you're a runner with a sense of adventure, this is a good one to check out - following is permitted (encouraged?), so you technically don't need map-reading skills, although they help. Plus, its local. There are some recreational courses too, for the less-adventurous of my readers...

I headed over to Concord for a rollerski practice after finishing the orienteering, and ran my boys through their paces... V1 seems to be eluding them, although they look darn good in V2. We'll get there, gotta work on the V1 while we are still rollerskiing and not yet on the flat gerbil-loop of Weston. Sunday (hell, Saturday too!) was a beautiful day to be outside, and I hope I saw enough of the sun to get me through another zombie week - morning workout in the dark, evening workouts in the dark, its a good thing they make vitamin D supplements and bike lights.

This week - double pole time trial and a 3k! Boy I just can't wait...

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Only just got around to downloading photos from the camera... I hate how after daylight saving's time more workouts happen in the morning, in one way its fine since I'm a morning person, but it means that I'm tired at night and don't get anything done. Like downloading photos from the weekend before. I've put all the kids' race photos from Canton up on flickr, if you happen to know someone who had a kid in the race or you had a kid in the race or you want to see some cute lil' buggers on bikes, go check them out.

This was the only photo I took of myself dressed as a pirate. I'm trying my darndest to look tough, I'm pretty sure I was growling "arrrrrrr" as I took the photo, but I don't think I have the look down yet. I do like my elegant little parrot on my shoulder... wish I'd raced with him there.

Following are some of my favorites from the kids' race. They were all so focused... learning to be good bike racers at an early age, I suppose.

This girl got off to a pretty bad start, almost going off the course, but she held it together until the third corner, where she endoed and started crying. I felt sort of bad, I mean, its supposed to be fun, and her mom was urging her to get back on her bike and finish. Just give the damn kid a hug already.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CSU Rollerski Race

After my rather busy Saturday, I was utterly exhausted by the time I got home - completely depleted. Ed was at work assembling his rollerskis, so I didn't even have anyone to complain to. I went for my tried and true and believed-in recovery technique - contrast shower followed by standing on my head followed by a nap - ate some dinner and fell asleep by 8. Apparently Ed had a whole conversation with me when he got home and I don't remember a thing about it. Anyway, Sunday morning dawned, and we packed up the rollerskimobile and headed north to CSU's rollerski race in Andover MA. My knee was a little stiff from whatever was going on yesterday during the orienteering, but I figured that the course is pretty flat, so I wouldn't be bending it much. It ended up being fine, so its good I raced.
The start, from Chris City.

Last year, I ended up losing a sprint to Audrey Mangan, a Harvard skier on faster rollerskis. I didn't want that to happen this year, so I started fast, with the first group of masters. It broke up a little up the first hill, but I worked hard to keep up - there is a lot of flat on this course, so its worth it to go under a little on the hills - plenty of recovery. We also had a nice tailwind for that long flat section after the hill, and really were flying. I crested the hill with John Rich, just behind Dave from Ford Sayre, and then Jamie came by, pulling us up to Rob Bradlee and Bob Burnham. This was good, these guys would help me separate myself from Audrey or any other fast Harvard girls, so I worked hard to close the gap. Then Jamie slowed down, so I went around, and strung it out a bit.

Poor Bob got stuck drafting me - I don't provide much draft to those guys - but I just kept hammering away, because I wanted to test the hypothesis that I am a sick nasty double poler and I can HAMMER for 15k no problem. We turned the corner and headed uphill and Rob came around, I knew skiing in front of Rob Bradlee wouldn't last. Bob came around me next, and quickly closed the gap up to Rob. I just couldn't go that fast up the hills, plus this section of road had more wet leaves, so my skis would slip occasionally. Anyway, Rob and Bob had a 10s gap, more or less, going into the long gradual freshly-paved uphill on the back side of the course - I really liked this section, my poles dug so nicely and my skis rolled so smoothly, black powder is straight up heaven on rollerskis. I closed the gap, so got to draft, since we were going into the wind now. That provided a nice break, and I was feeling rested as we crested the hill and started into the final downhill of the lap.

Chris City photo.

I put in a surge over the top, got in a low tuck, and opened a tiny gap to come through the start/finish area. Thats right, I beat Rob for 7.5km! Of course, we started up the big hill again and Rob dropped me like a rock, Bob caught up and I couldn't quite match his stride either. I wonder if tall people have more of an advantage up hills on rollerskis than snow? Or maybe I was just tired... We were strung out going into the back of the course, I couldn't close the gap on Bob and he couldn't close the gap on Rob, but he closed the gap by the end of that flat part and I was still dangling off the back. Luckily, we were alone on the road, no sign of Jamie's group or any Harvard girls.

I didn't close any gaps up the hill or even on the black pavement, although I like to think I moved up a little bit there - stronger kick double pole than Bob's, but my upper body was starting to get pretty tired by then. Still moving fast, but it was taking more effort now. I couldn't close the gap, and finished about 30s behind Rob and Bob - Bob took the sprint. It was a good race, though, 43:50, which was close to four minutes (FOUR MINUTES!) faster than last year. If I can do this tired, what can I do when rested? Hopefully its not just because of the nicely paved back section of the course, that definitely sped up times this year.

Boy I can't wait for snow...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Canton Cup

I'm not sure this race deserves its own post. I showed up around 1:45, after running for three hours, with not enough food or water having been digested, or ingested. I was also dressed as a pirate, and realized quickly that it was way too warm to race in my pirate costume (with my faithful parrot - I mean, duck - pinned to my shoulder). I took pictures of the kids race, some of those kids were cute little buggers, and there were some great diggers, but the kids' race was at 2, and my race was at 2:30, so by the time I finished with taking pictures and got kitted up in a more temperature-appropriate outfit, I had three minutes to race start. Yay for no warmups!

I realized, on the start line, that I really didn't want to race my bike. I also realized, I hadn't pinned my number. But the official was very nice, and told me that since everyone else had their number, they'd be able to figure out who I was. Damn, that excuse won't work. Off we went, and my body quickly realized that I hadn't warmed up and my legs were tired. Unlike MRC (the other race where I also skipped the warmup), there weren't any sloppy corners to make up ground, Canton was dry and fast. I made two sketchy passes, got myself up to 6th, and then slowly dropped back to 8th place. Then a girl in front of me rolled her tubular, and I was back to 7th. Wheee! Two places out of the money!

And then my legs stopped working, and people were riding away from me. I didn't have any fight, nothing was happening to close the gap. I remembered Cathy before the race - "remember, its supposed to be fun". This wasn't fun. I had two options - I could drop out, or I could slow down until it was fun again. I decided that since the official had already let me race, I may as well finish. Unfortunately, at a slower speed, it wasn't that much more fun, it was just slower. I tried to think positive - "that girl who rolled her tire is going to be so psyched when she catches up!" And then I finished my four laps and I was done. And grumpy, and tired, and my body hurt, and I wanted to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep, not hang around until the end of the guys' race and do course take down. Grumble. I'm not going to do that again, no more racing unless I actually want to race. No more cross races on no warmup, either...

That might be it for CX for the year for me... West Yellowstone is around the corner, and that means SKI SEASON!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hale Reservation Local Meet

Saturday was one of those days when I got home around 6pm and instantly fell asleep for an hour. It was also one of those days when I actually came to the conclusion that something was stupid as I was doing it. This is a rare occurrence in Alex-land. What I wanted to do Saturday was run at a local orienteering meet, but IBC co-sponsors the Canton Cup, so I had to go down there to help out. I had agreed to take pictures of the kids race and then help take down the course, since my race was at the end of the day, but since the kids' race wasn't until 2pm, I had all morning to orienteer! I bet most people would have been smart enough to choose one or the other, but I'm not most people, I think three races in a weekend is a good idea.

The black line drawn in pen (if you can differentiate it from trails) is my route.

Anyway, one of my goals for orienteering is to get faster at the super easy courses - the ones that the little kids run. Mostly this is so that I can get used to making snap decisions while on the fly, and hopefully I'll then carry this speed to the advanced courses. So the first order of business was to run a yellow course (the second-easiest). I went out and did a fairly thorough warmup - if I'm going to run hard, I'm treating it like an interval - laced up the ankle brace and headed to the line. The course was very easy navigationally - all the routes were on trails, with the controls just off the trails in the woods.

I quickly discovered that while it is faster to run on trails, rocky New England trails have much worse footing than squishy open woods, especially when you're going all out. I was spending a large portion of my energy watching my footing, and this meant that each time I did look at the map it had to be more "quality". But I could really hammer on the trails, and I made it through most of the course with no mistakes, until my penultimate control - the lactic acid must have finally been overwhelming me, because I made a stupid mistake and wasted four minutes (in a 20-min race, this is HUGE) wandering around a hilltop. After four minutes of that, I was recovered enough to realize what I'd done and fly through the rest of the course, but it is still somewhat embarrassing to make a big mistake on such an easy course.

Anyway, intensity for the morning over, I exchanged my yellow course map for the blue (the longest advanced course). I had noticed that my right knee was feeling a little weird as I finished the yellow, but I chalked that up to running hard, which I haven't done in a long time. I figured I was running the blue at an overdistance pace, so my knee wouldn't hurt. The first couple controls on blue were just beautiful - I should probably do more warmups that are hard and with a map, I felt totally in contact with the map and my surroundings. The woods at Hale Reservation are kind of shitty - lots of high bushes and blueberries in an otherwise open forest - it makes it hard to carry much speed through them, if you value your skin. Even with spandex or nylon pants, I leave these races in the woods southwest of Boston covered in red welts. Its too bad that the mapping does not reflect the actual density of the woods, because it really slows me down to push through the thick stuff.

In my vast intelligence, I hadn't eaten anything after the yellow course, so I started making mistakes after about an hour. That funny twinging feeling in my knee had morphed into a dull pain by control 11, and by 14 I was limping pretty badly. It didn't help that there were some long trail legs, when I had nothing to think about other than my knee hurting. I made a bunch of mistakes, but cleaned up my act by the end, and finished in about 2:15. Between the warmup, the yellow course, and the blue, I was at close to 3 hours of running. Whee! Time for a bike race!

Anyway, the knee thing seems to have cleared up by now, it was stiff Sunday but fine this morning, I'm hoping it was just related to my biomechanics when I am wearing the ankle brace. We'll see if it comes back...