Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ski season: the second half

Some time after the Bogburn, I took over as the CSU head coach, without a huge amount of warning. After an initial rough patch, we ironed things out and life kept on keeping on, but this put a real damper on my own racing. Didn't stop me, though!

Craftsbury Marathon(s)
I showed up to the Craftsbury double-header marathon weekend, and had a great weekend of hanging out with Jess and Kathy, but the new stress of suddenly having a much fuller plate meant I wasn't very focused on the races.

Saturday's classic 50k was one of those days that just makes you glad to be alive. Perfect tracks, sunny day, hard cold snow and a good group to ski with; what more could I ask for? I ended up choosing my klister skis, feeling like they were gliding a little faster, but ended up going a little *too* light on kick. You'd think I'd have learned this lesson by now. So, the skis were fine, but I had to work for my kick, which can make for a long 50k. Luckily, I was confident in my fitness and the speed of my skis, and despite losing a little bit on the uphills, I felt like I was making it up with the rockets I was riding down the hills.

The race started out easy around Duck Pond, and then it felt too easy, so I put in a small surge heading down to Elinor's, so that I could ski the hill alone, which ended up being a good choice, avoiding a crash. The pack caught back up as we headed up Sam's, and at first I was like, this is great that I'm leading, I can dictate a nice slow pace! But everyone just went around me. Oh. I didn't have a huge amount of oomph, and not much motivation to push hard, so just let the pack of six pull ahead.

Lindley V caught me as we headed up Dante's loop, with much kickier skis, and I let her pull ahead, too, but kept her in sight. My fast skis caught her on the downhill. Did some good hard double poling on Ruthie's coming back to the Center, always keeping my head up for any stragglers from the lead pack. Lindley caught up again going up Sam's, but she didn't pull away quite as fast, and then I caught back up to her climbing Dante's loop. I was finding that I did still have really good energy, able to run up the hills, but my arms were tired.

Down Ruthie's again, and the men were passing me now. So when Sarah Graves caught up, I totally thought she was a man first, because she was moving way faster. I hadn't been dogging it, she was just cruising. Tried to match her pace and really just couldn't, so got ready for a sloggy last lap. But, found a second wind going around duck pond, and finally made contact with her as we headed down to Elinor's. She had skis as fast as mine, but with better kick, and I couldn't hang as we went up Sam's. Still fighting around Dante's loop, but it was taking a lot of concentration to ski well up the hills. I was proud that I was really kicking and gliding, not just shuffling. Down the hill I kept the energy high, and finished feeling like that race was very representative of where my fitness is right now, and it was a good classic race for me. 4th overall, first M1.

Jess in the classic marathon

Craftsbury Marathon, part II
Sunday was the 33k skate, and after a pretty restless night I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a dump truck. I'm sure skating 33km is going to help, right? The morning brought much warmer and softer snow conditions, after snow all night. My left elbow was in a world of hurt, but I took some ibuprofen, did a little warmup, and lined up reasonably far back.

Off we went, and I quickly discovered that I didn't have much pop in my stride, but I felt ok heading up the hills. Drifted from chase pack to chase-chase pack, and as we climbed up Ruthie's backwards I realized that actually, I felt pretty good, and this was too slow. So, went a little faster, and only Sarah G kept pace. The climb up Dante's was actually pretty skiable. I continued to try and keep the tempo up, and we swapped leads a few times. Got a little too chatty coming down Sam's, and lost some time there I think.

I was scared of Elinor's, but it wasn't that bad, just 2.5 minutes or so, and from the bottom I could see Elissa ahead of me, looking tired. Sarah put a bit of a gap on me up the hill, but I kept plugging, and caught back up to her and Elissa by the stadium. It was really a problem to V2 today, elbow hurt a ton and my arms didn't feel very strong. Alia Johnson caught up to Sarah and me on the Duck Pond loop, and they actually had a small gap on me heading into lap 2. My goals had been revised down to "finish the race" at this point, so I wasn't exactly heartbroken. But, caught them by the bottom of Ruthie's, and then surprised myself by staying right on them up the climb.

The climb up Dante's hurt, but I didn't get dropped, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Pushed harder down Sam's this time, doing a lot of free skating, and I could tell that transferring all the effort to my legs was starting to have some effects. Elinor's hurt a lot more the second time up, and I got dropped, maybe 10 second gap by the top. I'd been yo-yo-ing the whole lap, so this wasn't surprising, but the string snapped there, and being unable to V2 with any power meant I was really done. Struggled through Duck Pond loop trying to keep fighting, but didn't have much to give, and failed to pass the two fading women ahead of me. Certainly less strong of a result, but I was pretty proud of just getting through the race, given my mental headspace.

Massachusetts Qualifier
The next weekend was the qualification race for my skiers to try out for the U16 and Eastern Highschool Championship teams, to represent Team Massachusetts. The race was out at Prospect Mountain, and Ed and I swapped roles that weekend - Saturday, I was his assistant timing the VT qualifier race, and Sunday, he was my assistant in the wax tent for the CSUers. Saturday was a pretty long day, and Sunday wasn't much shorter, but every one of my skiers skied their way onto either the U16 Team or the EHS Team, which is the goal.

Rikert Eastern Cup
No rest for the weary; we went right into the Rikert EC from the Qualifier. I signed up for Saturday's skate race in the open field, and then did the master's wave for the classic race on Sunday, several hours after the last junior race, so that I wouldn't be conflicted by trying to wax for the kids and also for myself.

Rikert is a super fun course, twisty and technical, and had good skis, if not such good legs. I was sluggish, un-warmed up, and still had my head in coach-mode, but it was fun to pull on a bib and try really hard at something.

Sunday's citizen race was even less of a real effort from me; I got caught talking to some parents after the junior races, and nearly ran out of time to get my own skis waxed. Not only that, we'd run out of the hardwax we'd been putting on the kids skis, so I ended up just slapping on some toko red and heading to the start, shivering and wishing I were still in a warmup jacket. Luckily, it was a mass start, so I had the motivation of passing all the people who'd started ahead of me as I slowly got warmed up. By the second lap, I felt like I was racing, and was having a good time hunting people down. My pace may have been more 50k than 10k pacing, but it was worth it. 

One of *those* days

Bretton Woods camp and final ECs
After my half-hearted efforts at Rikert, I decided that I shouldn't sign up for more races. I managed to escape from work enough to catch three days of our training camp at Bretton Woods, and the vibe there was just great. We did a lot of resting as well as training, but it was a ton of fun skiing with the whole group, doing some norpining at the alpine hill, and just getting in lots and lots of beautiful skiing in a winter wonderland. 

Vibe was great. So many smiles!

We went straight from Bretton Woods to the final weekend of Eastern Cups, with two short skate races on Saturday at Dublin, and a distance classic race on Sunday. The Dublin Double went well, with CSU kids taking all sorts of podiums, on a beautiful sunny day. Can't get much better than that! Ed was timing, and we were stayed at Kathy's house, which just made things fun. Sunday morning we woke up in a snowstorm, and headed to Holderness to do battle in the final Eastern Cup.

Fresh snow and temperatures right around freezing are the hardest conditions to find the right kick wax in, and of course that's what we were facing. We nailed it for the earlier races, but then totally missed the wax for the older boys, when the snow transitioned to rain partway through their race. I can't predict the weather, yet, apparently that's a skill I have to develop. It was interesting to watch them race, and see how much of a difference a fighting attitude made - some of my boys had great races despite really slippy skis, because they just never gave up. In the words of one kid "well, my skis didn't have great kick, but they were wicked fast, so I just double poled really hard!"

This was the final race to determine who qualified for the Junior National's team heading to Anchorage. We sent 2 U16 girls, 4 U18 girls, 2 U18 boys, and 1 U20 boy. A pretty big contingent! 

U16 Championships
I took a weekend at home while Ed timed the Bill Koch Festival, and then it was off to the U16 Championships, in Bethel, ME, with Team Massachusetts. I've never skied at Bethel, so it was fun to explore a new trail system for a great event. CSU sent eight skiers to this championships, and the girls were especially dominant, with one of my gals winning every race she entered. 

A cool barn up in the County. Tough living up there.

We did have a snafu for the classic distance race. Somehow, Team MA had gotten into our heads that the boys race was at 9:30, and the girls race was at 10:30. We distributed information all over the place (including the team meeting, the night before) with this incorrect information, and were thus very surprised when the announcer started calling people to the line a half hour early. We managed to hustle the girls down to the race, but the first three starters all missed their start. We kept calm, and I assured the girls that we'd fix this problem after the fact, because it wasn't their fault, and they went off several minutes later when the Technical Delegate deemed it a good time for them to race. They all three skied very good races, with Clara winning, Francesca taking 3rd, and Mica taking 4th. However, the jury ruled that because it is a skier's responsibility to know their start time, they should all incur a penalty, and assigned a 5min penalty to each girl.

This seemed wildly unfair to us, and not just because we wanted to see the girls on top of the podium - no matter where they'd finished, it wasn't their fault that they'd missed the start - it was the fault of their coaches and team leaders! We ended up going over the heads of the race organizers, and appealing to NENSA itself, which decided after much debate to reinstate the racers. Phew. 

CSU contingent at U16s

Eastern Highschool Championships
With that excitement over, it was time for the Eastern Highschool Championships, in Fort Kent, ME. The last time I went to Fort Kent in a bus, it took rather a long time to get home. We were praying for better weather this time, and we got it. The bus didn't get stuck even once, and we had a grand old time with a big group of nice kids. The CSU kids knocked it out of the park again, with Linden winning the classic race and the overall, and Devin 2nd in the overall and top 10 in all the races. Mica continued to impress, and what I loved most was watching every athlete on the team lift up the people around them. 

This is my waxing face, apparently.

Those are my CSUers leading the race

Positive vibes on team MA

The MA EHS team

Meanwhile, the kids at JNs in Anchorage were kicking butt, and are coming home with four all-Americans and one podium, for the 7th place girls' team in the country. 

Quebec City World Cup Finals
The final hurrah was simply for spectating. Kathy and I headed to Quebec, to watch the World Cup finals. Alex Harvey was racing the final World Cups of his career, and experiencing the roar of 30,000 Harvey fans was a physical experience. It felt very special to be there watching him win the last race of his career, on home turf. Of course we snuck in a little skiing of our own, too, and a lot of pastry-eating, and the weekend ended up being a ton of fun. 

Great view of the women's pursuit race. Go USA!

Now Ed is off to Supertour Finals in Presque Isle, and I'm going to do some laundry. 'Twas quite the winter!