Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Ski season wrap-up

I finished cleaning the klister and summerwaxing glide zones last night, that's pretty much the only time all season when I think I have too many skis. Especially classic skis, that have been sitting with klister for a month at room temperature... I'm happy to put the skis away, I have no idea what next season will bring, but its a long way away, and I'm not in the mood to get after it just yet. Those are the sort of feelings you should pay attention to, so I'm putting off writing a plan until at least May, and probably won't pick up the rollerskis until June or July, at this rate. I currently have a lot of enthusiasm for running and orienteering, so I'll just devote some energy to that until I break myself by early summer, according to the pattern of the last couple years.

This was a good ski season - consistent, but consistently better than last year. I like that. I'm not sure how much I want to go into the nitty gritty of my goals, but I made all my goals for the Eastern Cups (really, it was just that last weekend that did it for me, with a 5th and 2nd place), almost made my goals for nationals (I wanted a top 50, but I'm not counting the 42nd place in the classic race, since there weren't any juniors in that one, so way fewer racers), and made my goals in ski-o. I didn't make my goals on the marathon side of things, but I was happy with 16th at the Birkie and 5th at Craftsbury, and I think I'd rather feel pleased with the race than gripe about how I was one place out. This is a strangely positive outlook for me. So, I'll leave it at: A good season. Most importantly, I had a ton of fun coaching and doing ski-o, so that will ultimately be my plan for next season too.

I'll leave you with photos. Because they sum up the season better than words.

Jess and I went to West Yellowstone, which was fun aside from the whole getting-sick-and-losing-six-pounds-in-a-week thing.

I raced.

After a trip to Presque Isle, Jess and I went to nationals. Where we had to deal with some shit, but mostly, had a good time and raced hard.
It was pretty.

Janice took this picture - bright sun during the qualifiers, eh?Too bad it was so dark.

I went to Rumford to race, and discovered that I didn't feel like it anymore. So, I cheered my brains out for CSU.

Then I did Craftsbury, and actually enjoyed myself, despite the frigid temperatures. Strange.

In a complete flip flop of weather, I went from -4F in Vermont to 45F and sunny in California. Life was good. The skiing was good, too.

I did some races, and beat up on the boys when I could.

I went from that ski-o series to the US champs, where I won my first national championships.

Then I went to the last Eastern Cups with CSU, and did pretty well since they were flat courses, woot.

The Birkie was next, big race and fun times with the Colby boys. Last real race of the season, and it felt darn good to be done traveling and being serious and all that stuff.

So I went to JOs as a coach, as you can see I am definitely not serious. But serious about making the kids go fast, they sure performed. Super proud of our CSU skiers, as well as the rest of New England.


I might be done being serious, but I was conned into skiing 24 hours, which had its good points. As well as plenty of miserable points, but to look at the bright side, it could have been raining, instead of perfect spring skiing weather (note that I didn't say perfect spring skiing. That would have involved some grooming).

And then we closed out the ski season with some sketchy, but awesome, adventure skiing.

Sort of reads like "the travels and adventures of Alex", eh?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Adventure skiing

Being ski junkies, Ed and I couldn't resist one last weekend before all the white stuff melts out (most of it's gone by now anyway), plus, some of his southern cousins were up visiting Rob and his sugar house this weekend, which was bound to be fun. We hit up Magic Mt on Saturday, this is probably Ed's favorite place, mostly because its pretty low-key, friendly, and cheap, but more importantly, because its steep. I'd never actually been to Magic, so I locked my heels down for the first time all season and we headed over for their second-to-last day of the season. There were some definite bare spots, but where another mountain would have closed the run, Magic just says, ski it if you can, but don't blame us when you break yourself.

I don't go on chairlifts without my sweet blue fuzzy neck gaitor.

Old school style, check those pink salomon skis!

There was some incredibly sketchy, yet awesome, skiing to be had. Anything ungroomed was pretty solid in the morning, but softened up significantly by the afternoon, making for some sweet bumps skiing. There was a time in my life when I could ski moguls and make it look sexy, now I just bash my way down the hill, and its still fun, but it don't look too good. I still couldn't stop myself from heading down the lift line run, though... Wish I'd gotten a picture of the huge bare spots!

Pretty sure you aren't supposed to see the snowmaking pipes across the trail when you're skiing... or all those rocks. The skiing was that good.

Spring skiing in VT!

Steeper than it looks. But the bumps were the perfect size for me.

We went adventuring on Sunday - I've never been on the Rootbeer Ridge trail, off the Moses Pond road, and according to our local sources, it was in darn good shape two weeks ago. That's good enough for us, so we headed out on rock skis, unsure of what we'd find. We found some sweet skiing, as well as some super sketchy (but awesome) skiing. We went up the more gradual side of the loop and down the steeper side, which would have been even more awesome if a) either of us knew the trail, or b)either of us knew if there was a bare spot or open river coming up.

Skiing up through a recently-logged meadow. Ed is on my skis because I didn't have thick enough klister, and his were too soft, so when we switched, it was perfect for both of us. And then we switched back coming down, because I want the pleasure of breaking my own skis.

Occasionally the trail did this.

You can't really tell from this photo how rutted out and wavy the trail was - those humps were just the right size to sink your ski into them and snap it in half, so we did a fair bit of looping through the woods to avoid that. Now I'm itching to know what the trail looks like without the snow...

View from Rootbeer Ridge.

Wow, check out how dirty that snow is! Oh, wait.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Danby 24, part II

Get another cup of coffee and settle in, its time to waste a solid half hour reading about my stupid antics...

We started the first lap at 10:45am, and the weather was nice enough that it was already soft and slushy, which made for some slow going. It was clear the road hadn't been groomed in a while, so there were some deep ruts from the snow machines, and the higher we climbed, the softer it was getting. I had a warm LF on my skis, but that wasn't helping, and the dirt in the snow was definitely getting picked up by the fairly aggressive structure on my good rock skis. The first lap was 30km, to the top and back, but it was one of the slowest 30k's I've ever done, and that wasn't for lack of trying. Even on the downhills, you had to skate to move. Lap 1.

It was a beautiful day! Tank top weather. Honestly, I would have been quite happy stopping after that first lap...

This was the lower part of the road, just before the big climb starts - the good snow. Our night laps turned around at this point, because the snow was in better shape, and the ruts coming down the big climb would have been suicidal once it hardened up.

When we got to the top of the climb and started down towards Danby, there was significantly less snow - I guess that side of the mountain gets more sun. We only visited that part of the road once in 24 hours.

Devil's Den, in the White Rocks National Forest.

Ken skiing up through chunky snow.

Greg, me, and Ken, at Devil's Den.

We stopped back at the van to refuel after the first 30km, which had taken close to 3.5 hours, stops included. Ed showed up at this point to ski a lap with us (at least one of us has some sense to not ski through the night), and the conditions were even softer.
Don't mess with this guy and his salami...

That sandwich tasted so good.

We skied back up to the top, but instead of continuing down towards the melted-out parts of the road, we head in to Old Job instead. Route for lap 2.

At the washed out bridge, our turn-around for lap 2.

Coming back up the hill, in our perfect mid-winter conditions.

We finished that second lap around 7pm, and Ed agreed to show up at 11:30 with something hot to eat, he brought chicken noodle soup, which was so awesome its beyond words. We started our first night lap at 8 - we were definitely taking our time with transitions, and its amazing how quickly time passes when you don't particularly want to go off skiing again. I would change clothes, start drinking water (just couldn't carry enough water during the day to keep up with hydration, 60+ degrees is hot work!), eat some food, and then it would be time to go again. Where does the time GO? Anyway, it was still relatively soft as we started the night laps, but with the sun down, things were hardening up fast.

We did three short laps (12km each), and I was glad we weren't going all the way up to the top, since we were turning around before the big hills. Its crazy how time is so fluid at night - each lap felt like it was over very quickly, but at the same time, it didn't feel like time was moving at all as we were skiing. The little landmarks that you'd notice during the daytime (where we cross a bridge, or where there is that big tree stump, etc) were totally useless at night, instead you'd notice things like "oh, there is that branch with all the moss on it in the trail", or "look, the pile of dog poop!" - all stuff on the trail, following the dot of a headlamp into the night. Even I was pretty quiet during these laps, just picking my way through frozen ruts and learning which part of the trail was best to ski on.

These are Greg's best racing socks. Apparently, he is so huge that he can't get ski boots that fit him, so has to wear the thinnest socks possible in order to fit into his boots. Because THAT sounds comfortable.

Ed was there at 11:30 with a pot of chicken noodle soup, which pretty much made my night. I'll admit I was pretty jealous at the fact that he'd gotten to take a hot shower, and was going back to sleep in a bed, and I almost considered bailing, but my pride wouldn't let me form the words. We were skiing again by 1am, and the snow had turned to solid ice at this point. Ken determined that he wasn't having fun on either the uphills or the downhills, so turned in for a van-nap after one night-lap, but Greg and I kept trucking. I'd switched to dry boots, which was pure heaven, and so far things were feeling pretty good. But as the night wore on, my ankles and calves were getting pretty beat up, just because of all the icy ruts we were skiing over. The downhills had become pretty suicidal, with ruts, bumpy waves made by snow machines, and not much visibility, but I stayed upright, for the most part - I definitely top sided a couple times when my ski would catch a rut and immediately change direction.

We stopped for another break at the van at 4am, and headed out by 5. The sky was lightening as we came back, and Ken joined us for the now-light-but-still-frozen 6am lap. My ankles were completely shot at this point, as were my calves and shins, and my knees didn't feel all that great either. We were staggering around, V1ing the flats because its a stable technique, double poling when the idea of standing on one foot was too much, although that was not making my elbows happy. But when the sun came up, so did my energy, and we were all pretty giddy by 8am, when Ali Crocker showed up to join us for a lap. She was fresh, which wasn't fair, but then she broke a ski (just the tail, so she could keep skiing on it), so that evened things out a bit and made us zombies look less clumsy.

We headed out for our final lap, up to the top of the mountain and then just straight down, and although it wasn't quite as soft as the day before, it was slow going because of the frozen snow machine ruts. Back to the van, after 180km over about 17 hours, and Ed was there with steaming pancakes and maple syrup. Ed is pretty much the best support crew EVER for stupidly long events.

Now that its over, I don't actually feel too bad for it. No blisters, no injuries (although my elbows don't work anyway, and stairs don't exactly feel fantastic on my knees...), and there were actually points where I was having fun. There were also points where I was decidedly NOT having fun, mostly after exiting the van and heading out to ski again. 5am: "This SUCKS. There is no way I am coming to California to do this next year." Because naturally, Greg thinks we should do this in Yosemite next year. And since Ken got to nap, he doesn't think its that bad an idea. I don't know if I can handle that much non-competitive skiing again...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Danby 24, part I

The back story:

Greg and Ken Walker are crazy. I've known this for a while, but they're crazy in a friendly sort of way, which is actually the most dangerous type of crazy, because it sucks you into it without realizing that you're doing crazy stuff too. I joined them for an adventure race last summer, which went pretty well, at least in terms of team dynamics. I'm pretty sure neither of them ever get mad, which is a good trait for long distance events. Anyway, Greg was trying to convince us to fly out to Yosemite to ski for 24 hours with him, and although you could tell Ken was being swayed by the idea, I wasn't having any of it - skiing for 24 hours and its not a race? That's just stupid!

The reason this idea came up is that last year, Greg did what he called the "Yosemite 24". He had been living in LA, and would drive up to Yosemite to go skiing, ski in the morning, take a break for lunch, ski in the afternoon, and do it again the next day (did I mention he's crazy? At least by now he's moved to Tahoe so he doesn't have to drive as much). So, his dad made some rib about just skiing continually while up there, agreed to go do it with him, and the idea was born. Of course, Ken failed to show up, which meant that Greg did it alone. Since then, he's been bullying Ken into joining him for this year, and somehow I got included in that group of "wimpy east-coasters". As we sat in the sun after the Birkie, it was decided that we would just move the event to the east coast, because Ken and I had made it clear there was no way we'd be flying west. I thought I could still get out of this, because Greg didn't buy a plane ticket until a week ago, and I was sure I could talk Ken out of it, and more importantly, we didn't have a venue for this stupid thing, but it all sort of fell into place at the last minute.

What have I gotten myself into?!?

24 Hours of Danby

The Danby-Mt Tabor road is a seasonally-maintained road going from Landgrove to Danby, in southern VT, that gets groomed for snowmobiling through the winter. Ed and I ski there a bunch when we're up in the winter, and more importantly, its not at a ski area so there are no insurance snafus to keep us from skiing through the night. The road is ~20km long, which makes a 40km out-and-back, with multiple side-road options into the Green Mountain national forest. All in all, a pretty good venue for skiing continuously for 24 hours. I was still battling some questions in my head as to why I was doing this, but I figured at the very least, I'd get some skiing in, hang out with two friends, and eat lots of kitkats.

Somewhere in there are four pounds of Kitkats. We hit up Costco pretty hard before driving to VT.

The story about the skiing bit will be continued tomorrow... hang tight.

Monday, March 15, 2010

JO Relay

The Junior Olympics wrapped up on Saturday with the relay race and then the dance - or the "stanky grind fest" as Boobar liked to call it. For the relay, since we had 12 J2 skiers, we had two teams of three for each gender. For the girls, Heather, Maddy, and Corey made up one team, and Hannah, Heidi, and Cate were the other team. The boys were Paddy, Eli, and Jack, and Tyler, Hamish, and Devlin. Those are four pretty stacked teams!
Modeling my sweet NE J2z hat. And the sexy coach's bib.

The boys went first, and Paddy led them off well, getting a lead within the first kilometer. They went into the woods and it seemed like just two minutes later they were coming up the hill in the field. Paddy was still in first, by about 10 seconds or so, and Tyler was about 15 seconds back, sitting comfortably in a pack of six or seven other guys. Paddy tagged off to Eli and Tyler tagged to Hamish, and the boys went zipping off onto course. I ran back to the hill in the field to watch, and Eli came up still ahead of a hard-charging intermountain team, awesome work for a little guy. Hamish had picked off three teams, and was now skiing in 5th, so when he tagged off to Devlin they were still in a clump. Jack held the lead for the first team, and Devlin almost closed to the Alaskan team in 4th place - he said it was definitely his best race of the week. The first team won, and our second team was also on the JO podium in 5th!

Paddy leading the field after ~1km, heading under the bridge.

Hamish in the tag zone.

Jack chasing the gold medal!

The girls raced next, and Heather and Hannah were leading out the two teams. They both got off to a clean start, and slotted in behind other skiers to conserve energy. By the time they came up the hill in the field, Heather was skiing in second just behind the first place team, and Hannah wasn't far behind, in a pack of fast skiers. Heather tagged to Maddy, and Hannah tagged to Heidi, and the second leg skiers went to work. Both skiers maintained their positions, and Maddy even pulled ahead into first place by the end of her leg, giving Corey a nice cushion going into the anchor leg. Heidi tagged to Cate in 6th place, but in a group from 5th through 9th.

The J2 girls' start.

Here they come! Under the bridge.

Corey raced hard, and kept her lead over the intermountain team, for first place. Cate had a rough break, and got caught behind a midwestern girl who was snowplowing on a downhill - Cate tried to go around on the inside, but she got tangled up and fell, and couldn't make up the distance back to 5th place. She still brought home the second team in 8th place, a darn fine showing!

Hannah modeling her oh-so-fine "NE J2z" hat.

NE J2 girls after the relay.

We all stuck around to watch the older kids' races, and with the weather as sunny as it was, the boys were soon taking off their shirts and hucking snowballs (I don't know why that sequence of events, it looked painful when they got nailed with ice balls, but those are 17yo boys for you...). A four-region snowball fight broke out on the hillside during the J1/OJ girls' race, with team Alaska charging the Midwest and Far West divisions in a sneak attack - it was some good spectating. New Englanders were involved, but luckily they stopped throwing snowballs when the racers came through.

Our J1 boys had an ok race - their second-leg skier, Austin Cobb, lost a ski at 1km, which certainly slowed things down for him as he had to retrieve that, but the OJ boys who had been near him showed great teamwork and waited for him to get his ski, then worked as hard as they could to pull him back up to the pack. In what was probably the most exciting race of the day, Sam Tarling went from 4 seconds behind the Alaskan OJ team (currently in the lead) to 6 seconds ahead, in an amazing display of sheer guts. Cheering Sam skiing up the last hill, with ~0.5km left, he was trailing the Alaskan, and going flat out. As a coach, you can usually tell when a skier is just totally filled with lactic acid, and watching Sam, it was fairly obvious that he just couldn't go any faster. Somehow, he pushed through to a totally different level, and DROPPED that Alaskan skier (who is no slouch - David Norris was top 5 at senior nationals) like a bad habit. That was the sort of performance that gives you shivers to watch.

I should also mention that New England OJ boys took four of five podium spots. We call that domination. Wow.

The older girls were the last race to go off, and after some tight racing, the J1s took 2nd and 5th, and the OJs took 3rd and 4th.

The J2z hanging on top of the van waiting for everyone to be ready to leave.

NE J2s after the flower ceremonies.

We stopped at a Chinese buffet for lunch on our way home sunday, and Chris found crab legs. He took a while to figure out how to eat them though...