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Green Racing Project Blog

Rogla OPA Cup racing, and other scenes of Slovenia

4.Mar.2015 by Caitlin Patterson

Liz Guiney and I traveled to Europe early last week to join the US OPA Cup group and gain experience racing in competitive European ski races.  The OPA Cup (also known as Europa Cup or Alpen Cup) is the central-European equivalent to the US Supertour – it’s a race series that spans the entire winter, where the fastest non-World Cup German, French, Italian, Slovenian, Swiss and Austrian (and maybe a few other countries…) athletes compete ranking points that can give them World Cup start spots, and for general recognition.  Since these races are in Europe and relatively close to much of the World Cup circuit, many racers will bounce back and forth between World Cups and OPA, depending on whether they’re racing well and if their country has spots for them in the World Cup.  So when athletes from guest nations, such as the USA and Canada, show up to race, we have the opportunity to test ourselves against many experienced racers, but with the potential to actually do well and build our confidence, helping us develop to be the level of skier who can compete on the World Cup. The US Ski Team has put together an organized trip to travel around and race many of these OPA cups in February and March, and Liz and I were fortunate enough to have good results at US Nationals in January that allowed us to qualify for the trip.  Although it would be great if anyone who wanted to race could make the trip, unfortunately resources are limited, logistics get complicated with more people, and as a “guest nation” the US is only allotted one tiny wax cabin at the venue, so this year there was a stringent criteria set up for determining who could attend the trip.  Thank you to NNF (the National Nordic Foundation) and the Craftsbury GRP for supporting our skiing development through this trip!

Liz and I in our US gear after a session of classic intervals

Liz and I in our US gear after a session of classic intervals

So, with that background of why we travelled all the way to Europe for a few ski races… Last weekend’s OPA races were in Rogla, Slovenia, so Liz and I flew from the US to Ljublijana, Slovenia.  From Ljublijana it was about a 1.5-2 hour drive to Zrece, a town in the valley below Rogla where we would be staying.  Past years the US athletes had apparently been able to stay up “on the mountain” at Rogla itself, but this year it was some kind of European holiday and the organizers of the event preferred for us to stay down in the village.  It was actually pretty nice, the village had no snow at all, great for afternoon jogs, and the 40-50+ F weather was the warmest I’ve had since the fall.  We did have to take a horribly twisty road up and down from the venue to ski each day, but at least at the top there was plenty of snow and sun shining through on a few days!

Each morning we skied in Rogla, and then generally hurried down to watch skiing World Championship races from Falun, SWE on Eurosport. Down in the town of Zrece, we went on afternoon jogs, one of which included an excursion up the hill to a few churches, wandered to the grocery store for snacks, and visited really cool castle ruins just 7 kilometers away from our hotel!  And then, before we knew it, it was the weekend and race time – skate sprint on Saturday, classic 15k and 30k mass starts on Sunday.  The races went well, but not perfectly – definitely a learning experience for me, about not hesitating, ever, in a sprint race, and about how to ski with minimal kick during a hilly 15k (take advantage of the  downhills, and run the uphills).  While the results, numbers-wise, were not quite everything I was hoping for, I was very happy with my effort and race feelings! To do a 1.2k skate sprint just one week after the 51k Birkie, and feel snappy and awake, is a feat in itself for me.  Now I’m on to Lahti, Finland to race in the World Cup this weekend! It’s an exciting time for GRP skiers, with the World Cup biathletes (Susan, Hannah, Clare) about to start their World Championships, Ethan racing in the IBU Cups in Canmore, Ida and I here at the skiing World Cup in Lahti, and Liz racing this coming weekend in Austria.  Check back for more stories coming soon, and enjoy the photos!

For further reading about our experiences, check out Liz and my personal blogs, where we’ve been posting additional stories and pictures about our trips: elizabethguiney.blogspot.com and caitlinpatterson.blogspot.com

Also, I wrote about the classic mass start races at OPA for NNF, which you can read here: https://www.nationalnordicfoundation.org/2015/03/caitlin-patterson-slovenian-opa-cup-day-2-classic-mass-starts/

Liz Guiney and Chelsea Holmes skate through mashed-potatoes snow a few days before the races in Rogla

Liz and Chelsea Holmes skate through mashed-potatoes snow several days before the races in Rogla

Through the woods to the church

Through the woods to the church

An afternoon jog into the woods and up to a church on top of the hill

An afternoon jog into the woods and up to a church on top of the hill

Church on the hilltop above Zrece

Church on the hilltop above Zrece

Looking down into the valley in Slovenia where we stayed

Looking down into the valley in Slovenia where we stayed

The Konjice Castle ruins, nestled in the hills above the town of Slovenske Konjice, which was only about 7km from the village of Zrece where our OPA group stayed

The Konjice Castle ruins, nestled in the hills above the town of Slovenske Konjice, which was only about 7km from our hotel in Zrece

The central courtyard of the castle, complete with green grass

The central courtyard of the castle, complete with green grass in February!

Arrow slits overlooking the valley

Arrow slits overlooking the valley

One of the newest parts of the castle

One of the newest parts of the castle

Liz on the castle walls

Liz on the castle walls

Cavern, with lock-able gate, under the castle

Cavern, with lock-able gate, under the castle

Lead men's pack descending on the 2nd lap

Lead men’s pack descending on the 2nd lap of 6 during their 30k mass start classic race. Look closely to see the stars-and-stripes USA suits – my brother Scott Patterson is 4th from the top, and Eric Packer is 2nd from the top, they ended up 10th and 13th place.

The lead pack of men early in the race

The lead pack of men early in the race

Bryan Fish and GRP alum-now coach Pat O'Brien prepare to give feeds to the men in the 30k classic

Bryan Fish and GRP alum-now coach Pat O’Brien prepare to give feeds to the men in the 30k classic. Pat raced in a “wax tech relay” on Saturday, and though I didn’t see it myself, apparently he threw down some impressive super-speed turnover

The junior men's race passing by a tracked snow vehicle

The junior men’s race passing by a tracked snow vehicle

Lex Treinen loops through the fields

Lex Treinen loops through the fields

Feeding and cheering

Pat O’Brien feeding and cheering, as Reese Hanneman passes by in the 30k

Miles Havlick and Eric Packer collecting feeds during their 30k

Miles Havlick and Eric Packer collecting feeds during their 30k

Liz and Becca Rorabaugh

Liz and Becca Rorabaugh enjoying the sun and spectating

Behind the Scenes at the Birkie

3.Mar.2015 by Caitlin Patterson

 

The GRP Birkie crew, from left - Gordon, Andrew, Maggie, Phil, Caitlin, Kaitlynn (missing Steve)

The GRP Birkie crew, from left – Gordon, Andrew, Maggie, Phil, Caitlin, Kaitlynn (missing Steve)

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the American Birkie (and believe me, that time has flown by!). Before it gets too late and irrelevant though, I wanted to share a few behind-the-scenes photos from our GRP Birkie trip this year.  Four skiers made the trip, three GRP rowers, and coaches Pepa and Nick.  Most of us drove to Hayward, WI from Craftsbury, VT, a relatively unmemorable 2 day drive that actually passed fairly quickly, at least for me.  Maybe that had something to do with enjoying my reading and knitting projects, and also with the fact that I knew I would be flying out of the midwest afterwards, not having to repeat the drive in a few days going the other direction like many of my teammates did.  We did have a few issues during the trip…most notably related to the plumbing in our rental house and a brief “run in with the law” – but we grinned and groaned and laughed our way through that, in addition to the 51k race, and it was overall successful and a great trip!

I led the way results-wise with a 5th place finish in the Elite Women’s race, very happy to be back on the podium of top-6 and in the prize money! My teammates did impressive things behind the scenes in at the Birkie too — Kait fought back from a massive bonk early in the race, able to finish strong and pass people by the end.  Maggie, Phil, and Steve completed the astounding feat of racing 51k in their non-primary sport, and racing it quite fast at that, with Phil and Steve finishing within 40 seconds of each other after skiing the race separately!  Andrew successfully did everything he could to avoid muscle cramps during the race, then threw in a big finishing sprint and lunge, passed several people, and cramped about 5 feet after the finish line – perfect timing! (He did in fact have to be physically carried beyond the finish, as he could not move his legs for a few minutes.) And Gordon was a great teammate in addition to racing fast – when the pack he and Andrew were with caught me on the lake, he let me into the drafting line in front of him – and he kept our Birkie spirits (and fever) high and outlook positive in the days before the race.  And thanks to Pepa and Nick too for all their work testing and preparing skis, giving advice and encouragement, and then feeding and cheering along the course during the race!  Be sure you’ve read the news recap of the Birkie week here with full results details for the GRP, and enjoy the pictures.

Kait and Maggie in front of the bridge, complete with face tape that protected our skin on a cold ski

Kait and Maggie in front of the bridge, complete with face tape that protected our skin on a cold ski

Previewing the bridge that we would need to climb on Birkie day

Previewing the bridge that we would need to climb on Birkie day

Looking down towards the finish, 2 days before the Birkie, from the top of the new bridge

Looking down towards the finish, 2 days before the Birkie, from the top of the new bridge

Shadows on the bridge

Shadows on the bridge

GRP guys enjoying a pre-race ski

GRP guys enjoying a pre-race ski

Delicious spread of burrito fillings, complete with homemade tortillas - thank you Maggie and Phil!

Delicious spread of burrito fillings, complete with homemade tortillas – thank you Maggie and Phil!

This policeman looks kind of angry here, but he was actually very nice, and we got off with a warning... (Friday morning, fortunately not Saturday)

This policeman looks kind of angry here, but he was actually very nice, and we got off with a warning… (Friday morning, fortunately not Saturday)

Andrew shows off his physio tape before the Birkie - it helped him prevent arm cramps during the race!

Andrew shows off his physio tape before the Birkie – it helped him prevent arm cramps during the race!

Birkie morning

Birkie morning

Kait and I tied strings to our GUs, taped the strings to our bibs, and put the gel packets down our sports bras.  Keeps the GU warm, and the string made it easy to pull out - successful feeding strategy that i'll be using again!

Kait and I tied strings to our GUs, taped the strings to our bibs, and put the gel packets down our sports bras. Keeps the GU warm, and the string made it easy to pull out – successful feeding strategy that I’ll be using again!

Take your enthusiasm to the fields and write it out...

Take your enthusiasm to the fields and write it out…

Thank you cake from the rowers - thanks for joining us, and for the cake!

Thank you cake from the rowers – thanks for joining us, and for the cake!

Knockout World Championships

2.Mar.2015 by Ida Sargent

We skied for the last time this morning in Falun.  The fans were gone, the stadium was empty, the banners taken down, and us orphan Americans without a home to easily return to, were the only skiers out on the trails.  Another World Champs is finished and it was an incredible knockout week for the US Ski Team.  There were strong perfomances in almost every race and then having two American flags raised above the podium was unbelievable and a testament to all the hard work we have put down as a team! Congrats to Jessie and Caitlin for very inspiring races!

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PODIUM!!

A well deserved champagne toast after an incredible day!

A well deserved champagne toast after an incredible day!

I had the opportunity to literally open the World Championships, starting bib number one in the first race!  The eruption of the crowd when I tripped the wand is a moment I'll never forget!

I had the opportunity to literally open the World Championships, starting bib number one in the first race! The eruption of the crowd when I tripped the wand is a moment I’ll never forget!

The race didn't go as well as I had hoped or planned but that's ski racing.  There are some things that you can't control but I gave everything I could in the tricky conditions and kept fighting all the way to the finish as my pain face shows!

The race didn’t go as well as I had hoped or planned but that’s ski racing. There are some things that you can’t control but I gave everything I could in the tricky conditions and kept fighting all the way to the finish as my pain face shows!

photo (2)

A TV screen shot before my quarterfinal heat

Sophie and I cheering with our awesome PTs Ana and Zuzana on the relay day.  A huge thanks to all the coaches, techs, and volunteers that helped the team this week!

Sophie and I cheering with our awesome PTs Ana and Zuzana on the relay day. A huge thanks to all the coaches, techs, and volunteers that helped the team this week!

Early last week I had my own knockout experience but of a slightly different kind.  I was finishing a workout with a few short speeds.  The snow was icy and fast and at the end of one speed, I poled between my legs and faceplanted on the snow.  The crash knocked the wind out of me but I was initially most concerned whether anyone had witnessed it or if I could pick up my broken glasses, watch, and other pieces of the yard sale fall without anyone noticing.  I finished the ski feeling a little shook up but nothing too concerning.  But as the day progressed a nagging headache refused to go away so I mentioned it to the team doctor mostly just hoping to get some Tylenol from the med kit.  I had an early flight the next morning to go to Slovenia for OPA cup races the following weekend and I didn’t want a headache to keep me awake.  Our doctor immediately ran me through a concussion test (which I thought I passed with flying colors but apparently not) and the coaches and doctor decided to cancel my travel plans.  Initially I thought they were overreacting as it was just a little headache and I was very much looking forward to seeing my US friends and teammates racing on the OPA circuit as well as some fun and sunny racing in Slovenia that weekend!  But within a few hours I was very thankful that our doctor had recognized the early concussion symptoms and the next day was grateful to be curled up in my bed in a dark room rather than trying to navigate airports and travel amidst waves of nausea, dizziness, and throbbing headaches.

A week has now past and I’m slowly emerging from the concussion haze and returning to some very easy training.  It has been extremely challenging to go from the feelings of peak fitness to feeling worn out or dizzy after only a short walk.  Hours and hours spent hanging out in a hotel room in the middle of World Championships and at first not even being able to read, watch tv, or surf the web have been equally painful.  My mom always says, “everything happens for a reason” and I repeat this to myself as I knit, color, or partake in other mindless activities to pass the time.  Each day I feel a little more like my normal self and am excited to return to racing.  Tomorrow our team is travelling to Lahti, Finland for World Cups on Saturday and Sunday!

Putting Oslo Behind, Moving On to World Championships

17.Feb.2015 by Clare Egan

I just wrapped up a week in Oslo, Norway, competing at Biathlon World Cup 8. I am working my way up from the very bottom, which gives me an exceptional opportunity to improve. I did a 15k individual format race with 4 shooting stages, a 7.5k sprint format race with two shooting stages, and a 4x6k women’s relay, with Annelies Cook and the GRP’s Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker.

In the individual, I was 82nd with six misses [1p, 1s, 1p, 3s]. I was disappointed with the last stage but otherwise content. Then in the sprint, I narrowly avoided getting last place, finishing 91st with six misses! Six misses out of ten targets is not good. I am trying to focus on what was good, which was the work I did on the course and on the range; I did everything on my checklist as far as skiing technique and shooting process, and stayed in control the whole time. My misses were really close so I just have to be a tiny bit more precise. Then I had one more opportunity to race today in the women’s relay.

But Sunday proved to be another rough day for me in Oslo. Our team started off well, with Susan using only two spare rounds and skiing the fastest course time for the first leg to tag off in 6th place. But that was the closest we ever made it to the front of the race. Hannah, Annelies and I each had two penalty laps. As I skied my second penalty lap, the winning team from the Czech Republic lapped us and crossed the finish line, so I was pulled from the course and was not allowed to finish. With the exception of Susan’s race, this was not the kind of performance that any of us aspired to as we prepare for World Championships. (See US Biathlon’s race recap of the relay, here, and World Championships roster announcement, here.)

I am trying to focus on the few good things that I did this weekend, even if they were very few. My prone shooting is consistently solid and my ski times are getting faster as I race more. The third component of biathlon, my standing shooting, needs major improvement, but I did hit four out of five targets in one stage of the individual race, so I know the skills are there. We have a few weeks now to practice before World Championships begin in Kantiolahti, Finland on March 4th. I am grateful for the example of my more-experienced teammates and the guidance of US Biathlon’s world-class staff, for helping me keep my head above water. Onto World Championships!