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Author Archive

Nordic Cross at Cochran’s

13.Mar.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

Our team’s skiers and biathletes were involved in all sorts of races this past weekend, in Norway, Slovenia and here in Vermont.  On Sunday March 9th, a particularly unusual race was held at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond, VT – a Nordic Cross race! I heard about the race a few weeks ago and decided that I simply had to go compete, it sounded like too much fun to miss, even though I didn’t really know what it would entail.  Race description: “Uphill, downhill, slalom gates, jumps, and obstacles, all on one pair of skis” – sign me up!  I tried to get my GRP teammates to join me for the race, but everyone had something else to do, apparently…  Luckily Callie, Jack, and Quincy, some of our Craftsbury BKL/junior skiers, also were at the race, so I had company representing Craftsbury in the green suit – we all finished on the podiums of our age groups too!

Jack, Callie, and Caitlin

Jack, Callie, and Caitlin

Cochran’s is a small family-run alpine mountain, and they did an absolutely fantastic job of setting up this race, with a creative and challenging course, prizes for age group top 3, and a pancake feed after the race.  Nordic cross isn’t exactly a standardized race type, in fact this was probably the first one ever in New England.  For this event though, heats of 5 people left the start each minute on cross country skis, so the skiers were racing the clock for overall placing (but of course racing the people in their heat also).

The course had all the advertised components to provide everyone with plenty of a challenge.  The adult course started at the top of Cochran’s, and included: about 6 definitive steep uphill segments as well as a working gradual uphill, many downhills with a variety of gates from slalom to farther apart GS-type gates, some small jumps as well as a few larger jumps, a drop, banked corners, ungroomed sections through the woods, and carved-out bumps on the groomed area.  The path of the course was marked throughout with spray paint guide-lines and arrows, which was crucial for figuring out where to turn next.  An added challenge was the iciness of the hill, which hadn’t softened much in the sun by the start – the first morning of daylight savings, combined with cold temperatures overnight, meant that quite a bit of the hill was a sheet of ice underneath a little bit of softer groomed snow.  So of course it was scraped down to that ice on all of the corners, leading to even more skidding and lack of traction on our metal-edge-less cross country skis.  It’s safe to say that EVERYONE racing snowplowed and skidded the corners, it was just a matter of how much snowplowing could be avoided to pick up a little extra time.

The winning men’s time was 9:32 (Eli Enman), and I was the first women with a time of 10:53, 12th overall.  (Results: http://www.cochranskiarea.com/images/pdf/rank2.pdf) My heat included 3 men and 2 women so it was a great challenge to stay ahead of a few of the guys.  Kids 12 and under did a shorter version of the course, starting lower on the hill, and they were completing their course in as little as 6 minutes. The race was really well attended for a first-time event – several dozen kids raced and 118 adults, including some skiers who had been at JNs in Stowe this past week, various high school and college students, masters and citizen’s racers, ski coaches, and at least one “professional ski racer” (that would be me!).

Women's 20-29 podium, with great prizes from Slopeside Syrup, Skida, EMS, Lake Champlain Chocolate and others

Women’s 20-29 podium, with great prizes from Slopeside Syrup, Skida, EMS, Lake Champlain Chocolate and others

It was a serious adrenaline rush, kind of scary, and also awesome and exactly what I was looking for!  There’s nothing better than this type of event to reinvigorate for the last bit of the season, to remember how cool skiing is and how much fun it is to be able to go off jumps and take sketchy turns on ice, and to burn the lungs with a few uphill sprints.  Yes, in my future races I may be wishing for jumps, but I truly love racing uphill too, so I know I’m in the right sport, Nordic cross was just a great diversion for the day!  Pictures don’t really do the event justice in terms of the intensity of the course, but here are a few from the day.  Thanks to Meredith Young for many of these pictures.  And thanks to Cochran’s for hosting an amazing event!!

From the base - the race finished going up the right side corridor of fencing up to about the top of the red fence

From the base – the race finished going up the right side corridor of fencing up to about the top of the red fence

Riding the T-bar to the top to preview the course.  Before the race start the t-bar was temporarily stopped so most of us just skied up.

Riding the T-bar to the top to preview the course. Before the race start the t-bar was temporarily stopped so most of us just skied up.

View from near the top, with the course zig-zagging down the mountain

View from near the top, with the course zig-zagging down the mountain

Backwards through these gates

Backwards through these gates

Follow the orange spray paint

Follow the orange spray paint

Kids racers gathering for the start

Kids racers gathering for the start

Racers gather for the start at the top of Cochran's

Racers waiting for start instructions at the top of Cochran’s

Callie, in the green Craftsbury tights, leading around a gate

Callie, in the green Craftsbury tights, leading around a gate. Callie won the women’s 13-15 age group.

Racers criss-crossing the slope during the race.

Racers criss-crossing the slope during the race.

Catching air off a little jump during the race!

Catching air off a little jump!

The pancake station

The pancake station. These women were cooking amazing pancakes for hours to feed all the racers and spectators.

Blueberry pancakes on the griddle

Blueberry pancakes on the griddle

Jack devouring his pancakes!  Jack was 2nd place in his age group of 11-12 year olds.

Jack devouring his pancakes! Jack was 2nd place in his age group of 11-12 year olds.

Waiting for awards

Waiting for awards

 

Rollercoaster Nationals

20.Jan.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiing GRP recently returned from a racing trip to Soldier Hollow, Utah, where we competed in the four races of US Nationals. The races were a 10/15k classic, skate sprint, 20/30k skate mass start, and a classic sprint, in that order spread out over the course of seven days.

Nationals is always an interesting experience, with individual high expectations colliding with an increase in the number and intensity of competitors present at the races.  Especially in an Olympic year, tensions are extra high.  While doing well at Nationals does not directly correspond to Olympic selection, the races potentially have an effect, especially for the men this year.

When I was in college, the races of US Nationals were usually among the first times I really competed for the season.  Especially with Nationals at the upcoming 2014 NCAA venue, and with the distance races as Western college scoring races, there were quite a few college skiers present, and I can sympathize with the difficulty of their position, being thrown into a gigantic field of racers in what could have been between their first and fifth race start of the year.  Many of the college skiers raced very well though, and it was great to have them in the mix with the rest of us professional athletes and the multitude of junior skiers.

For those of us who’ve been racing the US Supertour, we’ve had a chance to adjust to racing and smooth out our routines somewhat, hypothetically.  The first race of Nationals was my 8th race start, and it was nice to be fairly comfortable with my pre-race routine and be able to fine-tune the details that would get me to my best racing form.  I know not all of the Supertour racers, especially on our team, felt quite so comfortable with racing just yet.

The GRP team as a whole had an up-and-down rollercoaster of a Nationals, with a few bright lights of good results shining through a lot of difficult races and unfulfilling results. (The courses involved a rollercoaster effect too, with long climbs and fast descents, but the emotional/results rollercoaster was probably more extreme…)

Our coaches and wax techs, Pepa, Nick Brown, and Bryan Cook, did an excellent job through the week of reassuring and encouraging everyone, and testing many, many combinations of waxes.  While it would be untrue to say that we had perfect skis every day, and in fact a significant bit of our inconsistency as a team was attributable to wax/ski difficulties, the techs did a great job of working through the problems to make each day better than the previous one.  By the classic sprint heats on the last day, our skis were extremely good.  Thanks techs!

Check out the results post in this blog (http://www.craftsbury.com/blogs/grp/?p=5151 or see 2013-2014 GRP Skiing Results Record on the sidebar) for the breakdown of our results for each day.

For more photos and news articles about the races, check out Fasterskier’s and SkiTrax’s coverage of US Nationals, but here are a few to start:

Caitlin and Liz racing in the 10k classic.

Caitlin and Liz racing in the 10k classic.

Bryan Cook (former GRP skier, now wax tech) runs past the start pen.  Behind the men, including Gordon and Andrew, are lining up for the 15k classic.

Bryan Cook (former GRP skier, now wax tech) runs past the start pen. Behind him, the men, including Gordon and Andrew, are lining up for the 15k classic.

Podium! I think I can safely say that my personal highlight of the week, 3rd place in the 10k classic, was also a team highlight.

Podium! I think I can safely say that my personal highlight of the week, 3rd place in the 10k classic, was also a team highlight.

 

Many clear skies and mountain views in Utah, until it clouded over for the last few days of racing.

Many clear skies and mountain views in Utah, until it clouded over for the last few days of racing.

Pete, Andrew, Pat, and Rosie Brennan played an epic(ly long) game of Catan on one of the off days.  Don't scoff at Settlers of Catan until you've played it, it's a great game and highly entertaining!

Pete, Andrew, Pat, and Rosie Brennan played an epic(ly long) game of Catan on one of the off days. Don’t scoff at Settlers of Catan until you’ve played it, it’s a great game and highly entertaining!

Liz during her skate sprint quarterfinal.  She made it through the semifinals into the B final and finished 9th overall.  Photo by Bert Boyer, http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com

Liz during her skate sprint quarterfinal. She made it through the semifinals into the B final and finished 9th overall. Photo by Bert Boyer, http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com

Skate sprint quarterfinal, Caitlin tucking in behind Jennie Bender, eventual race winner.  Photo by Bert Boyer, http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com

Skate sprint quarterfinal, Caitlin tucking in behind Jennie Bender, eventual race winner. Photo by Bert Boyer, http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com

Entering the finishing stretch during the Skate Sprint final.  Although I was last in the final for 6th place overall, looking at this picture reminds me how close together everyone finished - it was an exciting race!  Photo by Tom Kelly/USSA

Entering the finishing stretch during the Skate Sprint final. Although I was last in the final for 6th place overall, looking at this picture reminds me how close together everyone finished – it was an exciting race! Photo by Tom Kelly/USSA

 

Andrew qualified in the top 30 for the first time at Nationals in the classic sprint this year!  Here he's racing in his quarterfinal.  Photo from Fasterskier.

Andrew qualified in the top 30 for the first time at Nationals in the classic sprint this year! Here he’s racing in his quarterfinal. Photo from Fasterskier.

Alex Shultz racing in the semifinal.  He qualified 12th and ended up 8th after a day of tactically smart skiing.  Photo from Fasterskier.

Alex Shultz racing in a semifinal of the classic sprint. He qualified 12th and ended up 8th after a day of tactically smart skiing. Photo from Fasterskier.

Frigid Bozeman

14.Dec.2013 by Caitlin Patterson

The day following Liz’s excellent post, “How to Stay Warm in Barely Legal Temperatures,” the skiers in Bozeman, MT did get to put their staying-warm skills to use for a classic distance mass start Supertour race.  Sunday December 8th dawned cold, but slightly less cold than the previous day, and we were hopeful that by the 12pm scheduled start the temperatures would be within the legal range.  From our perch in the big house overlooking the Bohart Ranch venue, we made frequent trips to the window to check out the scene, and even more frequent trips to every weather forecast website possible to check out current temp and hour-by-hour trends.

With a jury meeting scheduled for 11:30am, and the women’s start planned for 12pm, Liz and I didn’t have much of a choice but to venture out before any decision about the race was announced.  We typically like to warm up for around an hour, or at least start our warm up an hour prior to the race so that there is time to test skis, change into race suit and bib, and maybe eat a snack.  So at around 11, we bundled up and left the house, even though the temperature still was a bit low, something like -6 to -8F.  While skiing through the stadium during the beginning part of the warm up, we learned that the start was postponed at least until 12:30, so Pepa encouraged us to jump in the car and stay warm rather than skiing too much.  At 12 we were still in the car, waiting on an updated decision… which came at 12:10, informing us that the start was now postponed until 1pm.  So more waiting.  At 12:25 or so it was time to get out of the car and get ready, but shortly after starting to ski, we learned that now the start was postponed to 1:30pm, and that instead of a 10k mass start it was changed to a 5k mass start.  Yikes!  At this point there’s not much you can do except find amusement in the situation, keep trying to stay warm while skiing around, and wait to hear what comes next.  The last time I did a 5k mass start was as a J2 in Houghton, MI for Junior Nationals in 2006 (I think)… so this was going to be an interesting format.  And then, 15 minutes before the start, after mentally preparing for a 5k, it was turned back into a 10k… sort of a relief, sort of a bummer.

So finally, after the many delays, the race was set to start.  Most of the women reluctantly pulled off warm up pants and jackets at the last minute, and some just kept them on, and everyone had buffs or neckwarmers and hats and a few of us even raced in AirTrim breathing masks.  I often find with race that I feel like I’m in a bubble, in touch with the turns of the course and the skis on the snow and my body, but nothing else in the exterior world.  Wearing a breathing mask, which I find worthwhile for the warmth and humidity it adds to the air, combined with general cold, makes the bubble effect more pronounced.  Hearing, feeling, seeing is dulled and my mind is focused towards one goal – to ski as fast as possible and finish the race quickly in order to get out of the cold.  Of course that’s pretty similar to the goal in any race… race as fast as possible… but something about the extreme temperature adds an extra urgency.  All unpleasantness about the cold aside, I was actually very happy to get to race, and it was a fun mass start.  It was a difficult day to be well prepared for the race when it did happen, but all of us racers were in it together adapting to the challenges.  Chelsea Holmes skied very well and broke up the women’s field by half way through the race – I chased her down with all the energy I could muster, and though I fell a painful 43 seconds behind her by the finish, I was still pleased with 2nd place.  Liz skied to a strong 7th place after passing several racers in the 2nd half of the race.

 

 

Women's race shortly after start, Caitlin and Liz in 2nd row

Women’s race shortly after start, Caitlin and Liz in 2nd row. (All photos by Margaret Hillhouse)

Chelsea Holmes (7), eventual race winner, leading Caitlin (3) up a hill

Chelsea Holmes (7), eventual race winner, leading Caitlin (3) up a hill

Liz Guiney climbing during the race

Liz Guiney climbing during the race

Caitlin cornering

Caitlin cornering

Caitlin within a few k of the finish

Caitlin within a few k of the finish

The men’s race started before the women were even finished, but Liz and I watched the end of their race during our cool down, and all the GRP guys were certainly fighting for their positions – Gordon was close behind the lead pack in 10th and Andrew slightly behind that in 12th.  A few of the guys were a little disappointed with the results I believe, but I’m confident that they’ll be building into the season and getting stronger after more race starts – watch out for them in future weeks!

Men's start

Men’s start

Post-race look.  I think I nailed the natural version of those eyelashes Liz talked about in her post - they were quite distracting, though not quite as bad as the frozen contacts.

Post-race look. I think I nailed the natural version of those eyelashes Liz talked about in her post – they were quite distracting, though not quite as bad as the frozen contacts.

Raising the core temperature in the hot tub after racing.  Hats were imperative for the outdoor tub.

Raising the core temperature in the hot tub after racing. Hats were imperative for the outdoor tub.

 

While most of the GRP Supertour skiers headed back on Tuesday to Craftsbury, where they’ll be helping with the upcoming master’s camp and racing in the Eastern Cup in a week, a few of us stayed west for one more weekend of races.  So now Liz, Andrew and I are in Rossland, British Columbia with Nick waxing our skis for two Canadian NorAm FIS races.  Saturday we’ll race a skate sprint and Sunday a 10k/15k classic individual start.  None of us had been here before, and the impression so far is very good! Lots of fresh powdery snow, scenic tree-covered mountains and hills in every direction, relatively warm temperatures in the low 30s, European-style hilly and hard courses on wide trails.  Check out the race website here for information if you’re curious: http://skiblackjack.ca/noram (and www.zone4.ca for results)

Also don’t forget to watch for all the GRP skiing and biathlon athletes racing around the world this weekend: Ida in the Cross-Country World Cup in Davos, Switzerland (www.fis-ski.com), Susan and Hannah in the Biathlon World Cup in Annecy-Le Grand Bornand, France (www.biathlonworld.com) and Clare, Ethan, and Mike at the US IBU Cup Trials in Minnesota from Saturday through Wednesday of next week (http://www.teamusa.org/US-Biathlon.aspx).  Wish us luck!

Utah Update #1

12.Oct.2013 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiers and biathletes are in Utah for a high altitude training camp right now (actually Susan and Hannah aren’t here yet but will be traveling to Utah soon).  The majority of us arrived at a house in Heber City where we’re staying on Monday evening, having started our day at 3am in Craftsbury in order to drive to Burlington and catch the 3 flights that would take us to Salt Lake City.

While we’ve done distance skiing, agility practice, and speeds in the past few days, today was the first day of serious intensity.  This morning we had a L3 skate rollerski workout at the Soldier Hollow rollerski track with all of the other athletes from the USST, APU, Sun Valley, Stratton, and many other clubs. (L3 is below race-pace, where blood lactate doesn’t build up higher than about 4-6mmol, a pace that could potentially be sustainable for over an hour.)  While some athletes did 10-15 minute L3 intervals, or continuous L3 that was pushed up to L4 by the end, as far as I know all of us GRP skiers did controlled L3 for 40 to 60 minutes continuously.  Our biathletes did shorter L3 intervals combined with shooting.  It was important for us to be conservative with our L3 pace and not get carried away following other skiers, especially since this was our fourth day at altitude, which is typically one of the hardest days to feel good during the acclimatization process.  As far as I heard, most people on the team did a good job of following their own pace even if it meant dropping back from a larger group.  Here are some photos I took of the men’s workout, which I was able to take since they started their intensity an hour later than the women’s group in order to minimize traffic conflicts on the rollerski track.  Considering the size of the men’s group I was very glad not to be out skiing any more once they started their L3.  These photos aren’t nearly as good as the professional-quality ones that have been circulating, and I seemed to have missed catching a few of the guys, but I hope they give you a view into our workout.

All smiles after the workout!  Left to right: Caitlin, Clare, Ida, Liz

All smiles after the workout! Left to right: Caitlin, Clare, Ida, Liz

A great day for a rollerski on the freshly paved track at SoHo

A great day for a rollerski on the freshly paved track at SoHo

 

Pre-interval chaos

Pre-interval chaos

Andrew and Pepa confer before the intensity session

Andrew and Pepa confer before the intensity session

Part of the group lining up to start

Part of the group lining up to start

Men's group passing through the stadium area

Men’s group passing through the stadium area

The pack continues

The pack continues

And continues...

And continues…

Fascinating western fall colors, it almost looks like a painting instead of a photo.  Specks near the center of the photo are the guys tucking the big downhill

Fascinating western fall colors, it almost looks like a painting instead of a photo. Specks near the center of the photo are the guys tucking the big downhill

The pack again

The pack again

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Gordon and Pete

Gordon and Pete

Pete flying around the stadium corner

Pete flying around the stadium corner

Pete and Gordon passing through the stadium

Pete and Gordon passing through the stadium

Andrew

Andrew

Climbing Hermod's Hill

Climbing Hermod’s Hill

Gordon and Pete through the stadium again

Gordon and Pete through the stadium again

Heading out again

Heading out again

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