Thursday, December 31, 2009

Traveling with skis...

Air travel is not taken lightly when you’ve got eight pair of skis as a companion – like bikes, they are fragile, and the airlines like to charge an arm and a leg for that sort of thing. So, there’s sort of an art to packing up these flimsy boards so as to give them the most protection where they need it.

Although I don’t really notice much of a difference between the NIS plate bindings and regular bindings when skiing, the NIS plates win by a loooong stretch when it comes to traveling. It took a couple times to loosen them up enough to get them off easily, but now I can pop the bindings on and off in about 10 seconds a ski. This means that I can pack the skis flat on top of each other, and you can fit a helluva lot more skis into a bag than those with conventional bindings. Another bonus – if you pack the bindings in a small bag in the ski bag, it makes for easy access if your ski bag is too heavy and you have to take something out.

So, the packing process usually takes about 45 minutes, start to finish, but that’s mostly because I tend to get distracted (lets not talk about the travel waxing, pole cutting, basket switching, and other equipment-related shenanigans that were going on last night – to top it off, somebody never cleaned her classic skis after the last race, thank god it was a cold one!). It starts with a big ol’ pile of equipment, taking over most of the living room floor. After checking the weather forecast, I ended up deciding to leave the skate slush skis at home, since all the skate races are in the beginning of the week (when the weather is hopefully more accurate), and leaving the harries at home, since worst case scenario I can always turn my powder skis into harries… lets hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Yes, our living room has been completely taken over by skis, bikes, and other bits of exercise equipment. Welcome to my life.

Then the bindings come off, and the skis get taped together. So do the poles. Side story on poles… I broke a pole in Presque Isle (link), and so Alpina sent me a new shaft, in the form of this year’s poles. Little miss genius mis-measured the pole length, and cut them too sort – YES, I took the grips into account, I think it was just sloppy measuring. Anyway, they’re now about 1.5 inches too short, although given that I’ve been skating on poles that are slightly too long for the past nine years or so, now they’re a more appropriate length. But, I wasn’t about to fly to nationals expecting to race on a pair of poles shorter (or longer, for that matter) than what I was used to. So, I am bringing my old Swix Star poles, too, in case I don’t like how the shorter poles feel. Anyway, the other fun bit was being unable to find any cutting implements at home, and Ed and his truck are in VT with other possible cutting implements, and I knew he’d be upset if I used his good breadknife on carbon fiber. I eventually found a pack of sawzall blades, and you’d be surprised how hard it is to use a sawzall blade without the sawzall. Or maybe not.

After taping the skis and poles into neat little bundles, I make a big ol’ pile o’ clothes on the floor, basically everything I’m going to need for the week. To Jess’ future chagrin, its almost all ski clothing, and there isn’t much by way of changes – but I hear there is laundry at the hotel.

This was a small ski baby, it weighed in at 36lbs. Well under the limit...

Wrap up the skis with your clothes, paying special attention to the tips and tails. I tend to put a double layer of socks over the tails of my skis, and gloves over the tips, with some hats, and long sleeved shirts tie everything on there pretty well. I use pants to tie the whole bundle together, so that you end up with one bundle of skis, rather than a haphazard mishmash of easier-to-break equipment. Although, in all honesty, what is a pair of socks going to do against the abuses of the baggage handlers?

Monday, December 28, 2009


I took a quick trip to Rochester for Christmas, carpooling with my brother. Its funny how when you don't drive a car for two years, you can really make your sister nervous with your driving. Christophe flew in to NYC, to see his girlfriend for a couple days before taking the Fung Wah up to Boston. I met him at South Station with my customary greeting of Chinese pork buns, and we took off westward-bound. Visits home never seem long enough, it was great to just be all together the four (five, if we count Tira) of us, and modern medicines are absolutely amazing - Tira could easily be mistaken for a puppy when shes outside. Only one episode of chasing live deer, luckily, although she does sleep for the rest of the day after a long, snifferful walk like that. Now I'm back in Boston, cramming in a couple days of work before I head off to Anchorage for XC nationals. Maybe there will be a Tuesday night race to break up the monotony of Weston's circle of ice.

Sometimes, for lack of a weight, you do lunges with a small table on your head.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Presque Isle Classic race

Saturday didn't go so well for me. I broke a lot of shit. Although that torn up boot was from rollerskiing, not ski racing.

Sunday I was hoping things would go a little better. I took the J1s to tour the course, since I hadn't seen it yet, and it was just as I remembered - awesome. Gradual uphills with a couple switchbacks, and twisty downhills, but I really didn't like the start area - a two minute uphill leading into 2k of downhill. I figured I could start hard since there were 2k of downhill after the start, but I miscalculated my warmup and didn't do a hard enough one. This meant that the start felt really hard, and I naturally didn't recover much on the twisty downhill. I was in third position for a while, but I knew I'd started too hard - my lower legs were just brimming with lactic acid, and I had no choice but to go into damage control and begin the packslide. I slid back from the lead pack, and damage control was done by the time a chase pack had formed, including myself, two middlebury girls, a GMVS girl, and Lauren Jacobs (Craftsbury Green Team). There might have been more people strung out behind us, but coming through the lap, I was feeling in control enough again to push the pace a bit.

Going into the second lap I was trying to keep my form together, but I was pretty redlined - this course felt like there was zero rest, except for those twisty downhills, which are somewhat restful, unless your lower legs are all cramped up, then they become a bit stressful. Anyway, I managed to not get dropped by the J1 from GMVS until we were nearing the top of the course, and I just couldn't go that fast anymore. A gap opened, and I couldn't close it. There was a Stratton girl ahead of me as we started the climb to the stadium, and I thought I could get her, although there was a fairly serious gap to close. I started double poling as hard as I could, not quite sure I'd make it, as we started that loop around the stadium. One last hill, and I could see Izzy striding ahead of me, this was going to be a lot of work. Luckily, I'm bigger and stronger, and my double pole was going a lot faster than her striding in the finish chute - I ended up beating her out by 1.4 seconds, which was enough for 12th. 5 seconds back from that chase pack, and about two minutes behind Sophie Caldwell, who won comfortably over her sister. It was a good race, but as always, there are the what-ifs. What if I hadn't started so fast? What if I'd done a harder warmup? Would the outcome have been the same?

Anyway, I feel good about these races, and I feel like I'm set up well going into nationals. We'll see what happens...

Part of our plan for world domination involves a sweet ski rack and a whole bunch of fischers (what?). My peltonens served me well, I beat a bunch of people on fischers, so there!

The two guys in charge of this CSU-world-domination thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eastern Cup #1, Presque Isle ME

CSU headed north en force this last weekend - 20 athletes, coaches, and parents, packed into two fifteen-passenger vans. Lets just say that kids used to traveling in their parents' volvos with a Thule rack on the roof have a little to learn about packing light for a ski weekend. But we fit all the crap into the vans, loaded up, and drove north for a long while. Eventually we got to the Nordic Heritage Center, one of my favorite places to ski, and managed to get on the lit trails just as the sun was setting. The one problem with this was that the 0.2km addition to the usual 1km sprint course did not have lights, and did have a nasty corner. You'd be moving at 25+mph in a full tuck and then you had to bang a 180 and try to carry some of that speed - not easy! The J2s weren't doing the corner, so that meant that there wouldn't be J2 girls snowplowing the snow away, but I'll admit I was a little apprehensive of the heats. Near the end of our ski that night, I was doing one more lap with Corey and Hannah, and that corner was pitch black - I came around it first, and didn't quite make it, sprawling across the trail just in time for Corey to ski into me, leaving a sweet bruise on my knee (totally my fault). Luckily Hannah avoided the pile-up, but I figured that meant it was definitely time to call it a day.

Saturday dawned cold and sunny, and I got there early with Rob and Jamie to test some waxes. Heading around the course the first time, I slid out around that corner, it wasn't a hard fall but I just couldn't get an edge on the cold snow and wasn't deliberate enough about stepping it. I stood up, and realized I'd left half my pole in the snow. My guess is that I whacked the pole pretty good when Corey skied into me last night, and hitting it lightly that morning was the final straw. Damnation. This was on top of noticing that the cuff of my [brand new] boots had broken in transit, too. Luckily a little duct tape fixed that problem, but I was feeling a little shaky regarding my equipment by that point, a broken ski would have to be next.

The rest of the wax testing and warmup went smoothly, though, and I was feeling ready to go on the start line. I should mention how awesome the sprint course at the Nordic Heritage Center is, its just full of transitions and ups and downs and turns and FUN! A great course for someone who can ski transitions and really glide. I started 15s behind Olga, one of my skiers who graduated last year and is now at Colby, it would be fun to be chasing someone I knew. I didn't have a great start, for some reason it took me by surprise and I wasn't all that smooth out of the gate, but I got moving quickly, and really powered into that fast downhill. It was definitely fast enough to get that flying sensation as you went over the little drop, and it was actually a little scary to be in a full tuck. The best kind of downhill!

I took the nasty corner really wide, which let me carry a ton of speed around it and up the little hill to the flat part before the steep awkward hill - I could see I'd already made up a lot of ground on Olga. We'd been playing with lines up the awkward steep hill the night before and decided that the outside line was actually fastest, since you could carry more momentum, so I powered up that and floated up the gradual hill following it into the stadium, really thinking about narrowing the V and driving my knees forward. A powerful V2 won me plenty of speed going into the rollers (my favorite part of that course, these two roller-coaster-like hills that you can just bounce right over if you play it right), and I powered up the last hill trying to stay light on my feet and really starting to feel the burn in my legs. Through the last little twisties and into the finish chute, I could see Olga not too far in front of me, but I wasn't going to catch her.

I knew I'd done well, that course suits me, so I treated it like I'd made the heats even if I hadn't, doing a good cooldown and all that good stuff. Then comes the best part, the CSU food table, although I'd say we had an excess of cookies and not enough real food, but I'm certainly not complaining. The results took a while to come out, and once they did it was the usual scramble of people to see who'd made it to the heats - we had Corey in the J2 girls, Eli and Hamish in the J2 boys, and Chris barely squeaked in as the 30th J1/OJ boy. I qualified 3rd, 0.01 out of 2nd but 11 seconds out of first - Sophie Caldwell CRUSHED the field. Of course, she also has a good chance of winning nationals, and was top 10 at junior worlds, but still, thats impressive.

More warming up, I got a decent warmup since I was in the fifth heat. Thanks to the way they were doing lucky loser, I just had to be in the top three to advance to the semi finals, so I wasn't quite as nervous as I normally am on the start line. The gun went off and Lucy Garrec got the lead, and I tucked in behind her going around the first 90 degree right-hander. My skis were criminally fast, though, and I chose to go past her in a tuck rather than scrub some speed going into the corner. Then I'm not really sure what happened, I think since I had been passing on the inside, I just didn't have enough room to successfully negotiate that corner without sliding, and I found myself sliding across the trail and basically off the trail - unfortunately I didn't take anyone else out with me.

I got up quickly and by the top of the awkward little hill I'd made contact again. The pack was spread out in a line, and I thought that I'd have to get around the girl in fifth place on this uphill so as to make more passes later on, so I tried to squeeze through a spot where there wasn't exactly room, and I was just coming off a sprint to catch back up. I caught my outside ski in the loose powder, and my lactic-filled legs were unable to deal with that sudden change and I fell on my butt. This is actually a very difficult position to get up from, especially when your ski tips are pointed uphill and you're sitting back on your tails facing the uphill. By the time I was back up, the pack was across the biathlon range already, and I knew I just didn't have it in me to catch back on. I tried anyway, but my day was over. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed, hugely disappointed, especially knowing that I had the speed to be on the podium, but anything can happen in a sprint race. Sometimes that anything is good for you, and sometimes its not. This wasn't my day.

Smiling on the downhill. Jamie Doucett photo.

But, its a Saturday, so there is always tomorrow...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Ice Weasels Cometh

I pulled a well-worn move and volunteered Ed to help me park cars at the Ice Weasels race Saturday - its a good thing he was around, because he carefully placed cars in a parking lot that was a little bit on the small side, and if I'd been in charge I would have run out of room really quickly. I think we only made one or two enemies making people park on the cornfield... sorry, dudes, had to get there at 8:30 for the premium spots.

Once we'd gotten most people crammed into the cornfield, we wandered around poaching frozen kale from the course. I should mention, this is an actual farm they run the race on, some relative of Thom's owns it, and it pretty cool that they let us ride bikes all over it. It was pretty snowy out, I wanted to go to the start line on a pair of skis, but I was informed that that wasn't going to fly with the USAC officials. Damn.

The women's field wasn't huge, but it was big enough to be respectable, which is all we ask for, really. I'd preridden a couple laps, and I knew it would be slippery, so the goal was to just stay upright. I should mention, I'm in ski-season-mode now, I did NOT need to get hurt because I was riding my bike in circles in the snow and I fell over. Having not been on a bike since Canton, both my handling and my legs left a lot to be desired, rolling vs gliding, its not as similar as you might think. The course was super hard to pass on, since there was one line that the cat 4 men had graciously packed down for everyone else, and everything else was like a huge, neverending sandpit of loose, deep snow. Which is fine, I like sandpits, and I like them even more when they don't put sand in my drivetrain, but no matter how well you ride in the sand, its still slower than riding hard-packed mud. So, passing was sketchy at best.

Since I registered day-of, I was in the back (third) row. Luckily, moving up was easy enough thanks to a couple people falling down on the first corner, and I found myself in third. Karen Potter was gapping us fast, I had a brief moment where I thought that maybe if I were on her wheel, I could ride that fast, but it became quickly apparent that first I'd have to close the gap, and that wasn't happening. I got myself into second in one of the few places where I felt safe to pass, on the uphill after the double barriers, and by the end of lap 3 (4?), Frances Morrison had caught up. She was definitely faster on the few straight bits, and trying to stay in front coming into the barriers (and the twisty bit where I was better than her) I came into a corner too hot and laid it out in front of the crowd. RIGHT. on. my. roadrash. Ouch.

I'd actually gone down just a minute or two before, on the same side, so after that I knew I had to back off and just stay upright. Luckily, we were lapping people already, so I closed the gap once or twice, but I just had neither the desire nor the legs to stay on her wheel going through the start area with three to go, and that was the last I saw of her.

Anyway, I backed of a little, not too much, but just enough that I wasn't seeing cross-eyed, and that helped with the whole "staying upright" bit. I was having a ton of fun out there, and I'm super sorry to the girl in black on the mtb who fumbled when I lapped you - I didn't mean for that to happen, but thats sort of part of the game, you know? Didn't have to swear at me.

We saw this gem on the course after the 4 men had raced... thats gonna make it hard to pedal your bicycle.

We stuck around for most of the elite men's race, mostly just so I could collect the prize money, Ed was getting really cold just standing around all day and they had run out of beer by 1pm (which was highly upsetting, as it meant I didn't get any, since I was waiting until after my race. Next year, guys, don't tap the keg until noon, k?). Things were getting pretty awesome during the guys' race, with the kids going crazy with cupcake and dollar feeds. Where were they during the women's race, huh? Sort of annoys me that we obviously aren't cool enough for cupcake feeds. But whatever. The atmosphere during that last race of the day was great, that is what cx racing is all about. I may be a skier, but I'm going to miss cross season now that its over.

One of my favorite moments was the guy who picked up the dollar from the barriers, stopped to try and stuff it in his shorts, and the next guy comes by and steals the money from him. Lost the place AND the cash! Should have stopped for a beer feed instead, Kevin was supplying Ryan Kelly with one each lap.
The kids were LOVING this guy, although he must have been so full of cupcakes by the end of the race that he couldn't move, I swear he took one each lap.

Friday, December 11, 2009

An unfortunate run-in with a sand trap

I went skiing on the Concord golf course yesterday, because Weston didn't have much snow left, and Maurice and Susan (Maurice is my great uncle) live right next to the golf course, so I could go visit with them first. I haven't skied on this golf course before, and I was impressed with how hilly it was. Quite some terrain! It was also very landscaped, with all the greens on little raised hummocks and some serious sand traps out there. dum dum dum...

I didn't expect much from the snow, just because Concord had snow coverage didn't mean it would be good conditions - it had rained there, too. The "snow" was more of a crust, like summer glacier snow, all lumpy and wavy and bumpy. It was icy enough that although I was attempting to classic, my wax was gone in about five minutes (binder? Who needs a binder?), so I started sklassicking, that awkward motion of sort of skating on classic equipment over sketchy snow. The uphills were alright, fun even, but the downhills were downright terrifying. Oh, I should mention it was dark. My light is just not quite strong enough, and so I couldn't really see very far down the hill - given the icy conditions, I was moving pretty quickly down the hills, and whatever was at the bottom was coming up at me FAST. For the most part, I could interpret the shadows well enough to avoid any major obstacles, but my depth perception was all screwy, so there were several instances of me frantically waving my arms trying to stay upright as the hill kept going down while I thought it was supposed to go up - as I said, depth perception (and up/down perception, I guess) was all messed up.

Anyway, after about an hour of this, I decided I'd had enough. Not much training benefit to be had, and I was sick of being scared of every downhill. I was on the flat part near the lodge, and I saw a little uphill ahead of me. I was moving pretty fast, so I figured my momentum would take me right up the little hill, which it did, but then my ski tips disappeared out from under me and we had a little face-snow interaction. It happened so fast, that my first thought was "why is my light pointed at the snow?" Then I realized my face hurt, I wish I'd taken this picture before cleaning up the blood on my chin. This morning its scabbed over, looks even more impressive.

this may be the most un-feminine picture I've ever taken of myself, I tried to smile but my lips hurt from kissing the ice.

Of course, the gore factor has nothing compared to what my leg looked like after crashing on rollerskis last weekend. That bruise has gone through all the colors of the rainbow by now (except a pale pink, we're still waiting on that one), but the damn road rash catches on my pants at work, making movement pretty painful. I've got to stop falling down!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snowballs and hot chocolate

We headed to Vermont last weekend, for some last chillaxing before the ski season really hits. I hit up my favorite rollerski loop, over Terrible mountain and around through Londonderry. I was skiing with Ken Walker, one of the guys on the Executive Steering Committee for ski-o, which always makes for an interesting ski. Unfortunately I took a spill on the big hill going down to Londonderry, this has been a bad season for rollerskiing for me, first my tumble in July when I put both feet into a storm sewer (whoops. No sympathy for that one) and then this one, where I don't know what happened, aside from me being on the ground with roadrash on my hip and a bruise on my thigh. At least I wasn't going mach 4 yet, probably only 15-20mph when I went down. Should have been using the speed reducers...

I also got really cold when it started snowing near the end of our ski. I know, its snowing during a rollerski, no sympathy there, either, but I was starting to get pretty worried about the roads icing up and whatnot. And being able to feel my feet, they were frozen pretty solid. Tore up my new boots in that crash, grumble.

Sunday dawned far too snowy to go rollerskiing, I shouldn't complain, except that I didn't have regular skis with me. However, the hillbounding was excellent, since the dirt roads were plowed, and the poles give you some grip on the ice. Luckily, my ankle was fine with the running, and I didn't twist it again.

We headed up the hill to Anne's house in the afternoon to help her move around some furniture - Julian isn't quite big enough to carry picnic tables and whatnot. Mostly, Ed did the heavy work, and I threw snowballs back at Julian. Running interference, someone has to do it.
Hi Anne!
I put my camera away just in time - that camera sees enough snow in the lens as is! Louisa is in the background, Rob and Anne showed up to help out/hang out too.

Julian quickly learned who not to throw snowballs at...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Smart vs. Tough

Hillbounding tonight, I was INTO IT. Really ready to just slay the workout, I was super pumped because the meat of the intervals was 12x30s sprints, and I love 30s sprints. It was warm, too, which always helps, despite the darkness that happens way too early this time of year. Just me and the winter moths, today, teeshirts all around (because winter moths wear teeshirts too). Anyway, finishing up my warmup, I rolled my ankle. Didn't step on a rock or anything, it just went over the side, painfully enough that I had to sit down for a few minutes. This made me REALLY. REALLY. ANGRY. Fucking livid begins to come close to describing how I felt. I wasn't wearing my ankle brace, because I feel that it distorts my form and causes knee problems, but I thought I'd be able to stay upright since I had poles in my hands. This BLEEPITY BLEEPITY BLEEP ankle just won't heal, and its entirely my fault for pushing it - you'd think that four months would be enough that I could jog down a hill with a bright light and not break myself. Clearly, its going to be a much longer recovery than I'd anticipated.

Sitting there in the dirt, sobbing a little just because I had no other way to let out this storm of emotion inside of me, I weighed the pros and cons of continuing the workout. Pros: I had a full bottle of gatorade (can't waste the gatorade!), I was already here, I needed to do the intervals. Cons: If I run on it now I'll push my recovery even further back, it hurts to push off the ankle, I need to be somewhat healthy to ski fast. And then I justified continuing in a couple different ways, and ended up with the justification that I was already hurt, so pushing through and letting the adrenaline carry me through the pain wasn't going to set me that much further back. I'd just be tough, rather than smart. Been smart way too much already this fall, which might explain the nice consistent training I've had, but I'm lacking on the toughness scale. Time to sack up, its just an ankle sprain, and I can walk and I have poles, what is all the whining about?

I carefully limped down the hill, and tested out the first threshold interval. The flatter parts where the bounding was closer to running was kind of painful, but there were no sharp pains, and those are the ones you actually have to listen to. I got to the VO2max stuff, and found that by really pushing off of my poles, I hardly used my legs at all. Score! Of course, by the time I was done with the workout, I was limping pretty bad. Hopefully rollerskiing doesn't make this stupid ankle any worse than it already is. Back to RIICEing, minus the R. Plus an extra I for ibuprofen.

Because a caveman would keep running away from the sabre-toothed tigers. They ain't scared of no pain when faced with a REAL reason to run.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Photos from Win Goodbody.

Hopefully Alpina changes their suits soon, I'm a little sick of the black butts. Kind of looks like I'm sitting back, too. There's still time for technique changes...