Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope your day was as filled with family happiness as mine. And I hope everyone got lots of loot...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stowe Eastern Cup

Headed north in the midst of a snowstorm with Rob Bradlee, Jamie Doucett, and Erin Dubinski for the Eastern Cup this weekend. We got there without mishap and had a lovely nighttime snowy ski, and I wish I'd figured out how to capture that image of the skier ahead of me sillhouetted against their own headlamp.

Saturday dawned cold and still snowing, I headed up the hill with the rest of the CSU team and we waxed some skis and got ready to race. I managed to putter around for too long and didn't get in a proper warmup, before I realized that it was time to do some racing. The course is a new one, and its not easy, it goes down, through the sugar chute and around the sugar shack, and then back up. Warming up on the course I don't think I actually skied the whole thing once, I would always resort to walking because I'm just that out of shape. Anyway, I had rocket skis that took me down the hill really fast, and by the first part of the uphill I'd caught Cambria McDermott from Stratton. Unfortunately, soon thereafter my lack of a warmup caught up to me, and by the time I'd reach the top of the hill in the false flat I was barely able to stay upright. Cambria didn't pass me back, but it was probably because she was worried I'd topple on top of her if she tried to get around.

I cooled down and treated it like I'd made the heats, but I was pretty unsure for a while. Jess ended up like half a second out of the heats in 31st position, and I somehow put myself into 18th. Damn, I'd have to race again. If I could have traded my position with Jess I would have. The hill on that course hurt that much.

I warmed up again, with more wax on my skis this time, and my body just felt like crud. Doing some pickups it felt like I was pulling lead weights behind me, I was having doubts that I could even get up the hill at sprint pace. But I decided to trust my training and hope everyone else was tired too, so I lined up with eventual race winner Jennie Bender and some other fast girls, ready to face the pain. The gun went off and I sort of churned in place for a second instead of moving forwards, bad start and I was in the back, I double poled hard into the hill and was moving up as I zoomed into the downhill. Then I popped out of the tracks, and was somehow stuck in that tuck position, I couldn't get my legs to move fast enough to change my forward vector from ditch-ward to trail-ward on the turn, and as a result almost fell into an 8-foot deep gully where the trail crossed a stream. My left ski was dangling in the air and my right ski was barely on the trail, but I stayed upright, which was good because I'm pretty sure I would have broken a leg going into that ditch at that speed. Then it was a fight with my head to stay in the race, the logical part of my brain telling me to just ski fast and ignore the ditch-incident, the emotional part of my brain screaming "OMG you almost died!!!!!", it was quite the argument. I caught up to Chelsea Little of Dartmouth on the uphill, tracked her and started up the steeper part of the hill, but now my body had joined the emotional part of my brain and my legs were loathe to obey the rational side. As I crested the hill, now behind Chelsea, my right forearm decided to play this game too, and cramped up, making double poling rather difficult. It was miserable, there is nothing like sucking while trying hard, at least if you're sucking while not trying hard you can tell yourself that you would be better if you tried harder.

(thats me, off in the distance...)

The only positive point about that race was that I was able to smile at the end. Maybe it was a grimace. I'm not sure.

Marsha Rich organized the soup and food for after the race, it was awesome. Here, most of the team gathers around the food.

THE soup pot.

Our J2s rocked it, with Jackson in 2nd, Eli in 6th, and Neil in 9th. Hannah won her B final in a dominating way and ended up 6th. Below is Eli going from third at the top of the hill to first by the finish.

Trapp's trails glittering in the brief moments of sun on Saturday afternoon...

Skate race

It didn't snow that much overnight, but it was still cold when we got back up to Trapps for the skate race on Sunday. The new John Morton trails are a ton of fun to ski, but they're tough, with a lot of climbing. I joined the CSU chain to pre-ski the course, and I definitely felt a warm fuzzy to see 22 skiers skating up the trail all in a line with matching jackets. Thats PRO.

I started early in the second seed, and the snow was just starting. The real snow, that is, it had been snow showering all morning, but it snowed like 4 inches between the start and finish of my race (I might be exaggerating). The course starts with a good long downhill, and I was glad to have glasses for that. I caught up to a UNH girl who had started 15 seconds ahead of me by the bottom of the hill (fast Peltonens, woot!), blasted up the short little kicker after that one, and hit the second fun downhill. Climbing up the first real grind of the course, my glasses started to get too much snow inside the lenses, so it became a real challenge to see. Either freeze my eyeballs open without sunglasses, or put them back on and only see blurriness. I opted for the frozen eyeballs. The long grind levels out into something flatter before you go down a short hill and then do some uphill switchbacks for a while, I could see Keely Levins ahead of me and it was nice to have someone to chase. The snow was starting to get pretty soft, and I had to focus on a light quick tempo to keep my skis moving. The final false flats leading to the finish were incredibly painful, but I forced myself to keep V2ing, and although I didn't catch Keely I was darn close.

I ended up 17th for the day (170 starters), just 6% behind the winner (Sophie Caldwell), which is definitely better than any of my eastern cups last year. They also broke it out by age group, so I ended up on the podium for senior women, with Jess on one side and Lauren Jacobs on the other. Go senior women!

What with snow coming down in biblical proportions, Ilke got the right idea and headed to the mountain for some sweet turns, while the Boston crew left for home, after some debate as to whether it was worth staying north or not. Luckily, there weren't too many cars on the road, they had probably all been scared off by the dire warnings, so it was a clear road home. So much snow!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eastern Cups this weekend

The first Eastern Cup races are this weekend, up in Stowe. These are the races that are used to determine year-end standings in NENSA, and we get awarded USSA points, too, so they're kind of a big deal. If I were a junior skier, I'd be trying to make it to JOs based on my results in this race, so the fields are usually large and stacked with top juniors, collegians, and a couple scrubs like me who can't give up on skiing just yet. There is even a rumor going around that Liz Stephen (US ski team member) is going to be racing, which is good news for the points.

This year, I can run faster than last year. I can double pole faster. I can do more pushups. My training has been more ski-specific. I have better technique. I am more rested. So why am I still so nervous?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Craftsbury Opener

Last year I did the Craftsbury opener, and they had slightly better snow, but ran it as a skate race. This year, on less snow, it was a classic race. So there were a couple spots where some dirt was poking through, and a couple spots where they shoveled (you volunteers ROCK! You shoveled for a season opener race!), and they were advising to not use your best skis. I handily ignored that advice, used race skis, and was fine. At least, I think I was fine, I haven't cleaned the skis yet or checked out the bases, but I'm pretty sure I didn't go over any rocks.

I got up at the butt-crack of dawn, and didn't see the sun until north of Franconia Notch. The roads were good until I got to Vermont, where they went from dry to covered in glare ice. This seems to be a common theme when I cross from any state into Vermont. Anyway, I still made it to the race with about an hour to spare, which was plenty of time since it was a multigrade purple day, easy waxing. There weren't that many other people in attendance, Burke, Craftsbury, and a handful of others like myself. We started two every thirty seconds, one boy and one girl, so it was a relatively lonely race.

I started out, and by the time I got to the first downhill, Topher Sabot, a fellow Alpina racer who had started behind me, caught up. He was passing on the inside of a corner, and got into a rut that threw him outwards into me. For a minute I thought we were going off the edge of the trail and into the trees, but I guess being experienced skiers has its advantages because we stayed upright and on the trail. He was pretty apologetic, but then said, "We're wearing the same uniforms - this should be a new sport! Synchronized skiing!" And I was laughing the rest of the way down that hill. The rest of that lap was sort of a slog, if you got out of the tracks you had to herringbone because the snow was just too deep, sugary, and filled with ice chunks to get your wax to stick, so there was a fair bit of herringbone running. I sort of felt like I was in slow motion but I was having trouble gauging my speed.

By the second lap I knew I had to pick it up a little, but I was still stuck in this slow motion feeling. Finally some of the Burke Mountain boys started to catch me from behind, so I had the incentive to see how long I could ski with them. On the last major climb, another guy caught up to me, and then as we got onto more skiable snow rather than herringbone-able snow, it turned out I was faster, and almost ran him over coming over a bump. Oh stiff skis, how awesomely you run! Anyway, I held him off almost into the finish, but his finishing sprint was faster than mine. I ended up winning my age class, and I was third overall, 44 seconds behind the winner, 20 seconds behind second place, (40 minute race) both of whom are really good classic skiers so I didn't feel that bad about it, especially given my slow motion race. But I'm going to need to remember how to go fast before next weekend.

And now its 60 degrees and raining. December weather in New England is a fickle thing...

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ice Weasles Cometh - Spectator's point of view

Everyone was in a great mood saturday. It was chilly, but sunny, and I showed up to the race, put on by Colin, Thom, and IBC, to sell some cupcakes.

This is what I call "the cupcake palace", and it is made using Alex-logic and copious quantities of duct tape. Ed was convinced that it would collapse, but it stayed up! Only the highest-quality materials were used in building this monstrosity... titanium and carbon fiber, oh yeah!

I had a great time, not racing, just watching, heckling a little, selling my wares, bartering for real food with cupcake food. I would have liked to race, by the time I got there I was wishing I'd put my bike in the car, but it was better that I didn't. I don't think I saw a single person there who wasn't smiling, although not everyone was smiling quite this much while racing...

I'm amazed this girl stayed upright...

Cross season is over now. Not that I partook in any of the racing-fun since Noho, but I will miss it nonetheless. By next July, I'll be wishing I were riding my cross bike... cursing myself for not racing more than I did.

But its ski season for real now, despite mother nature disagreeing with that point... Sunday featured a one-day-surgical-strike for the Craftsbury Opener. I'll get to that later. For now I'm just getting pumped to ski on 300 meters of snow on red klister. Woot.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Partly moony

The rollerski intervals I had planned for Friday morning got bumped to Friday night upon seeing the amount of rain coming down in the morning. I find it much easier to motivate myself to go do rollerski intervals in 35 degree rain when I'm fully awake rather than happily in bed. Funny, that. That night hooked up my mtb light, put a blinky on my waterbottle carrier, and wore a reflective vest, so even though it was wet pavement with wet pine needles in the dark, I was feeling like Captain Safety. The moon was full, though, and the rain had stopped, so between the moonlight and the occasional lonely street light, the lights I had on my body were more for visibility than lighting.

As I took the last three strides of my last interval, my light died. Fortuitous timing, to be sure, but I discovered that it was indeed bright enough to see by moonlight. I was in a quiet, heavily wooded neighborhood, and skiing alone in the dark was eerie, almost as though I'd stepped into another world. The clouds were whipping across the sky, causing flickers in the moonlight, and they were backlit enough that they almost seemed to glow. The wind was a dull roar through the pines, but it didn't reach me on the road, except in the form of dropped pine needles, perfuming the air with their spicy scent. This world in which I'd found myself was a beautiful place. Partly moony described the mood, as well as the weather.

Doesn't every gal my age spend her friday nights doing rollerski intervals in the dark?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Skis! and Cupcakes!!

These came in the mail yesterday.
Only without bindings. It didn't take long to figure out how to use the NIS plates, and the concept seemed very simple, but the practice took much more elbow grease and much less wimpiness than I had on hand. The gimpy thumb didn't help.

So I've waxed up the skate skis by now, and I tested out the WSB (wet snow base) skis at Weston yesterday. It was indeed wet snow, in fact I'm surprised there was any snow. But the verdict is that these WSB bases looooove the wetness, they were flying. Wax was toko LF moly, for all y'all wax nerds saying "but you must have had the right wax!"

Lets talk about ski prep for a minute. If you've just gotten new skis, and you didn't get them stoneground and hotboxed, or you got them stoneground but not hotboxed, you have to prepare the bases for them to run optimally. Ian Harvey wrote a really nice article for the Cross Country Skier Magazine explaining why you have to do what we do to prep skis. You need to start by brushing the base, a stiff nylon brush or soft copper brush works well, and then iron in, scrape, and brush 4-5 coats of a really soft wax. Then alternate a really hard wax with a really soft wax twice, scraping and brushing in between. Then a layer of graphite or molybdenum (I honestly don't know the difference between them, but I hear they all do the same thing in regards to static-ness), then your wax of the day, and then you're good to go! I was speed waxing this morning, and I got through three pair of skate skis in an hour. Thats fast. If I dare say so myself.

On a more important note, for those of you who don't ski or care about skiing, I will be making one more appearance at a cross race - unfortunately not to race, but the Ice Weasels Cometh will have cupcakes! You can get your drooling started now, the flavors will be car-bomb cupcakes, creamsicle cupcakes, and mint-chocolate cupcakes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Great Glen Sprints

Since the Crashbury opener was moved to next week, which actually works better for me, I decided to hit up the Great Glen Sprints this Saturday, and make it a weekend of skiing. I picked up Erin, one of my CSUers now in college, along the way, and having company made the drive far more enjoyable. I left at this time of day:

Upon arrival at Great Glen, I went to change into my race top and realized I'd forgotten it. I almost didn't race, because my ego can't handle not looking PRO at all times. Erin talked me through this crisis, and I went out to warm up. I quickly noticed that my heart rate was running really high, and I felt pretty weak. This sort of stuff scares me, because that weak feeling is how I feel during and after the fluttery heart things, but the high HR was not abnormally high, so I tried some pickups. These just proved to tire me out, my three minute level three pickup turned into thirty seconds before I had to stop and rest on my poles... yikes. You're probably thinking HTFU, but, to ignore a high heart rate that might be an indicator of oncoming sickness and do a sprint race would be stupid, with nationals just four weeks away.

I spent a while trying to decide whether I wanted to even start the race, doing the total paranoid athlete thing and being scared of trying to push through something that might have consequences, and then I realized that it was 11:30am and I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast at 6, so I went and ate food. That didn't help the high heart rate thing but I was much less hungry.

Great Glen had about 8-10km open on the trails, but it was pretty sugary snow over a hard icy base. They chose to run the sprints on their snowmaking loop, up top, which was about 400m long. The first heats would be two laps of the course. They did an interesting thing with the qualification round, in that instead of having an individual qualification (which probably would have just taken too long), they seeded the skiers randomly into heats of four, and two people moved on. This method would never work in a larger race, and even with the 100 people signed up, it was a little faulty, as it meant that the final wouldn't necessarily be the fastest people, because what if the four fastest guys were all in the same qualification heat together? Anyway, it made for a much more fun qualification, but maybe next year they'll seed the racers by NENSA points or something to make it more fair...

My first heat was with Kirsten Gill from Bates and two UNH skiers that I didn't know of. I started out fast, and took the first corner in first, but Kirsten came around on the downhill and edged me out as we went into the second lap. We'd gotten a good gap on the two UNH skiers, so I made no move to get around Kirsten, and we glided in first and second to move on. I should mention that there were some loooong waits, as they started the men first, at noon, and then ran them all the way through their qualis before starting the women, so really we were starting at 1pm, which would have been nice to know before I started warming up at 11.

Second lap, they changed the format, so that the skiers would only do one lap of the course, and only one skier would move on. I checked my heat, and saw that I had Natasha Kullas as competition. I know she is a fast sprinter, and after watching some of the guys' heats, it became obvious that if you were not starting in the left lane, and you weren't leading 15 feet into the race, you would not win it. This was because the course narrowed just before the finish to avoid an icy patch, and with 10m to the finish from there, the guy in second NEVER got around the guy in first. So, I made sure to get that left lane, got a fast start, and I was in front. Going into the "downhill", I kept skiing much further than I normally would have, to be sure nobody with faster skis would come around me. Tasha was behind me coming up the hill into the corner, but, there was nothing she could do at that point, so I moved on.

At this point I was definitely not feeling very powerful in my movements, but they changed the format again, in response to a lot of griping, back to two-lap heats. These were the semi-finals coming up, so two people would advance. I didn't recognize any of the names in my heat, and figured I'd go with the usual strategy - get out fast and lead it from the front. It was a fast enough course, with no real uphills or difficult parts, that this wasn't a suicidal strategy, the one-lap heats were taking 30-35 seconds. I jumped hard from the gun, led into the downhill, and a UNH girl on faster skis got around me. I was content to follow her, in fact, once I noticed that the other two girls were way back, I let her build a substantial lead, because why waste myself, right? The gradual uphill was feeling pretty tough, at this point, and even after eating food I did not feel strong or fast. Nor did I feel like racing, but it seemed like more fun than just tootling around on the trails at mach 1. (sugar snow is fast stuff).

The final was myself, the UNH girl who I don't know from the last heat, Marlijne Cook (UNH), and Kirsten Gill (Bates). It was two laps, again, but positioning still mattered. I ended up drawing the far right lane, and although my start was fast, I didn't move left soon enough, and Kirsten and Marlijne busted through that hole I'd left open. I tried to cut in behind Marlijne, but the other UNH girl was holding strong and wouldn't let me in. I slotted into fourth, down the hill, and coming around the first lap, the UNH girl was getting dropped, and there was nothing I could do to get around her. I sort of resigned myself to fourth, but then she slipped a little on an icy patch, and had to throw in some V1 strides, so I gathered enough momentum to draw even with her on the downhill (the only possible place to pass), and use my momentum to come into the uphill corner to the finish in front. Phew, third place was mine, but it was frustrating to have played the start wrong, because those first ten seconds mattered entirely too much.

But it was just as well that I placed third, because first place got Atomic skis, which I couldn't have used anyway, second place got a swix ski suit, which I didn't need, and third got a polypro shirt, which I do need! Its a large, but maybe I'll grow into it?

Finishing the quarter final just ahead of Tasha Kullas. Photos from Great Glen, thanks!

Starting the semi final, the UNH girl who ended up leading it is on the far left (the best lane to start from)

Sunday Erin and I drove over to Waterville Valley, after spending the night at Kathleen's parents' house, and the snow was much less sugary. It was a chola-binder-covered-with-special-purple sort of day, and there was plenty of terrain there to satisfy my OD needs. About 10 CSUers showed up, and I actually felt quite useful as they re-learned how to classic ski using wax instead of ratchets... If you're going to Waterville, know that the skiing was good and I used race skis with no problem, but only Tripoli and Livermore roads are open.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last couple days at Salmon Hills

The snow was goooood.

Jess and I jumped into a relay-style time trial with UVM, Middlebury, Williams, and a couple others. Jess headed out first, avoided an encounter with the dog (check her blog for her account of the dog...), and brought us in fifth. I went out and chased hard and had the usual first-time-on-snow issues of lower leg cramping, caught Mary Stewart from UVM and Fiona Worcester from Williams, and didn't see anyone else out there. We were doing three laps of a 2.5km loop, and it could have been crowded, except it wasn't. It felt good to test the legs on snow, instead of pavement, and I liked how I felt. Too bad Paul didn't get any times for me or Jess, it would have been nice to see where we landed in the pack of top collegiates.

One last shot of snow-porn on which to feast your eyes...