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Author Archive

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!

Racing in the East

26.Jan.2015 by Caitlin Patterson

The month after US Nationals is a good time for skiers to recharge and refocus, at least the way the racing schedule was designed for domestic US racers this year.  From the last day of Nationals, January 10th, there are not any “major” US races until the very end of January – instead, most skiers returned to their home regions for training, rest, or regional races.  Coming right up at the end of this month, on Friday January 30th, the US Supertour circuit resumes with a series of races here at Craftsbury.  We’re very lucky as members of the GRP that the US racing circuit is being brought to our doorstep, lucky that due to the amazing efforts of staff at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center as well as local race volunteers, we’re able to host two weekends worth of high level Supertour races. It’s actually a big week coming up at the Outdoor Center, more than just Supertours, with our schedule of:

Jan 29 – US Masters National Championship: 10km Freestyle

Jan 30 – USSA Supertour 20k / 30k Classic Mass Start

Jan 31 – US Masters National Championship / Craftsbury Marathon – 25km/50km

Feb 1 – USSA Supertour – Classic Sprint

Feb 6 – Dartmouth Carnival / USSA SuperTour – Freestyle Sprint

Feb 7 – NENSA Eastern Cup / Dartmouth Carnival / USSA Supertour – 10k/10k Freestyle Interval Start

Feb 8 – NENSA Eastern Cup / USSA SuperTour – 5k / 10k / 15km Classic Mass Start

 

Check out http://www.craftsburysupertour.com/ for more information, and come out to watch us if you’re in the area! GRP skiers will be racing on January 30th, February 1, 6, 7, and 8th, while most of the GRP rowers will be racing in the Marathon on Saturday the 31st.

A few steps out the door...

A few steps out the door…

But back to this “in between” zone, since Nationals… Pepa has been attentive to our individual needs, and while we have had some group training sessions, there has also been plenty of flexibility for everyone to choose what will help them be best prepared for this next block of racing.  For some people, like myself, this has meant racing just about as much as possible – and fortunately there are nearly always Eastern Cups or college races within driving distance at this time of year – while for other teammates a combination of racing and intervals has been best, or for others taking a mental step back and visiting family and friends while continuing to train.

We’ve had many spectacular days of skiing here at Craftsbury – blue skies, sun, and impeccable corduroy. Luckily for most of us our training plan involved lots of long easy skis, so we had hours to enjoy the trails.  Liz, Kait and I have skied Grand Tour probably 5-6 times in the past few weeks, in addition to many loops around Ruthie’s and Sam’s Runs.  One recent distance day I skied 52 kilometers over the course of a morning and afternoon session! The weather has been crisp, often bordering on frigid, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the skiing, although it sometimes has necessitated toe-warming stops.

Liz, Kait and I out for a classic distance ski... Captured on photo by Andrew.

Liz, Kait and I out for a classic distance ski… Captured on photo by Andrew.

sunrise-ELwindow

Sunrise at Craftsbury

elins

Overlooking Elinor’s house from the ski trails on a frosty morning

sunnytracks

Perfect tracks!

The weekend after returning from Nationals, six of us made the trip up to Rumford, ME for a combined Eastern Cup/carnival, racing a 5/10k skate on Saturday and a classic sprint on Sunday.  We had a fun time racing, even though the snow coverage was rather thin, and our team took many spots on the podium – GRPers on the senior podium as well as Craftsbury juniors on the podium for the junior classes!

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6 from the GRP racing in Rumford

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All three guys skied together during part of the 15k skate

2guys

Pete and Gordon at Rumford

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Alex Schulz in the 15k

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Pete starting the classic sprint qualifier

Pete and Gordon got girled!! Just kidding... Sophie was picking up the medal for her teammate who didn't make it to awards, and she hopped up on the podium too!

Pete and Gordon got girled!! Just kidding… Sophie was picking up the medal for her teammate who didn’t make it to awards, and she hopped up on the podium too!

Last weekend, just for the classic mass start race of UVM carnival on January 24th, Andrew, Gordon and I took a day-trip to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.  Although you wouldn’t know it from the coverage of the recent carnival races (http://fasterskier.com/article/taylor-caldwell-shine-at-uvm-carnival/), we three did actually race! (Keeping the focus on the college racers for their carnivals is great, but it seems like it would be worth mentioning that other racers were there, maybe?! Obviously I’m biased as one of those other racers…)  Gordon was 4th, Andrew 6th, and I won the women’s race, ahead of Katharine Ogden and Anja Gruber, other non-carnival skiers.  It brought back good memories of college racing days, sunny home carnivals at Trapps and the festive carnival scene.

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Men’s mass start at Trapps

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Gordon and Andrew early in the mass start

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The lead pack lapping through, with Gordon tucked in behind Paddy Caldwell in the red bib

Thanks for reading! We hope you’ll join us for the Supertour action starting this Friday, either in person or check this blog and our Facebook page for updates!

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Alex Howe and Pete Hegman powering through a recent interval session

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Liz Guiney leads Kait Miller and Emily Dreissigacker in skate intervals

 

 

A Week of Falling Trees

15.Dec.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiers returned from Montana to Craftsbury last week, on Tuesday, a day that also marked the beginning of a week of falling trees.  Tuesday morning or afternoon (I’m guessing, since I wasn’t actually here) it started to snow, and by the time we landed in Burlington at about 5pm, there was a thick coat of slushy wet slop on the ground with more falling.  During the drive to Craftsbury the precipitation turned decidedly more solid, but still wet and heavy, huge flakes and clumps of snow.  All of us were relieved to make it safely to Craftsbury, and we settled back into our house and fell asleep amid a continuation of the storm.

The next morning I remember waking up a bit of rain/sleet on the window, and noises of wind, but nonetheless a beautiful wintery landscape, complete with snow-pasted trees and deep banks of white.  As we prepared for a morning ski, an email message came through from Pepa informing us that there were many branches knocked down onto the trail and it would be great if we could help pick up some of them while out skiing.  From our house, nothing seemed particularly out of place, though the trees had an above average amount of snow coating branches and trunks.  However as soon as a few of my teammates and I entered the woods on our skis, it became apparent what the storm had been like – branches all over the place, big clumps of small sticks protruding from the middle of the trails like pins in a pincushion, and larger branches strewn about, and an occasional entire tree across the trail.  The groomers were only able to take the machines around a few of the small core-trail loops, and even that I’m sure took considerable clearing.  Beyond the few short loops of freshly groomed trails, all hands were on deck cleaning up the rest of trails.  Kaitlynn and I skied a few of the core trail loops, and then ventured out onto Ruthie’s Run, which took a record-long time to ski around, between the constant pick-up-sticks and ungroomed 8+ inches of snow with an icy and grabby top crust.  We counted big trees down on just Ruthie’s out and back trails – chainsaw-worthy trees – and our count reached 12 by the end, in addition to at least 15 small trees (actually mostly tree-tops), and at least 10 bent-over trees that would need to be cut or helped to straighten.

Andrew strides up an ungroomed hill on the first day after the big snow

Andrew strides up an ungroomed hill on the first day after the big snowstorm

Kaitlynn picking up sticks

Kaitlynn picking up sticks

Arches all over

Arches all over

As it turned out, it wasn’t the bit of wind that accompanied the original storm that caused most of the problems – it was the weight of the heavy, wet snow that coated all the trees.  Because Day One of major tree clean-up was followed by Day Two, and beyond… It seemed from reports that easily as many trees fell the night after the storm as the night of the storm – collapsing under the weight of the snow, tipped over the edge of their breaking points by more snow that continued to fall.  We’ve had intermittent power outages at the Outdoor Center and the GRP houses since Tuesday night. On the second major clean-up day, I joined the crew out on the trails for the afternoon, dragging branches and trees and picking up countless sticks. Ruthie’s Run had been completely cleared the day before, but we spent 3 hours with 7 people out clearing it again.

One of the chainsaw crews: Lucas Schulz, Eric Hanson, Alex Howe, Ben Dann

One of the chainsaw crews: Lucas Schulz, Eric Hanson, Alex Howe, Ben Dann

Trail clearing crew

Trail clearing crew

A Pisten Bully is useful for pushing trees out of the way and grooming as you go

A Pisten Bully is useful for pushing trees out of the way and grooming as you go

Another one

Another messy tree

View from the back of the Pisten Bully after the trail has been cleared

View from the back of the Pisten Bully after the trail has been cleared – it’s a little messy with tiny branches and bark left behind, but really nice skiing!

Thanks a ton to the grooming crew including Keith, Lucas, DJ, Eric Schulz, Eric Hanson and all of the GRP athletes and everyone else who put in hours and hours clearing the trails and making them skiable again so quickly! And for operating the generators when needed and keeping the Outdoor Center going!

The rate of trees falling seems to be finally declining, and hopefully we’re nearing the end of power outages too, here a week after the storm. It’s still wise to be a little bit extra cautious on the trails when rounding blind corners, you never know what might have fallen down since the last time you skied the trails!

Kaitlynn skating during one of our distance skis on Sam's Run

Kaitlynn skating during one of our distance skis on Sam’s Run

After a relatively uneventful ski, 4-5 days after the storm, we came across this 14+ tree pile-up

After a relatively uneventful ski, 4-5 days after the storm, we came across this 14+ tree pile-up

Completely uprooted!

Completely uprooted!

Candlelit evenings with no power, but not quite device-less...

Candlelit evenings with no power, but not quite device-less…  (In which I happened to be reading about Powerlessness, apparently!)

Wintery landscapes

Wintery landscapes

Icy trees

Icy trees

Throwback to Montana - we haven't seen much sun in Craftsbury, but wintery snowy landscapes make me almost as happy as sunshine and the smiling faces of my teammates!

Throwback to the women’s team in West Yellowstone, Montana – we haven’t seen much sun in Craftsbury, but wintery, snowy landscapes make me almost as happy as sunshine and the smiling faces of my teammates! This week has been a bit unusual, but I’ve actually enjoyed it, and we fit in lots of great training sessions!

Awesome wax techs Bryan Cook, Nick Brown, Brayton Osgood (L to R) in sunny Bozeman, where they nailed kick and glide two days in a row! Thanks guys!

And one more photo from Montana! Awesome wax techs Bryan Cook, Nick Brown, Brayton Osgood (L to R) in sunny Bozeman, where they nailed kick and glide for our classic race weekend! Thanks guys!

Icy trees