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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

VT to Finland

18.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

My last week in the US was a frantic and busy week.  I balanced packing, cleaning, training, and running the last minute errands necessary before leaving the country for over four months with also wanting to spend as much time as possible with friends and family who I wouldn’t see over the winter. It felt surprisingly relaxing to sink into my airplane seat for a 28 hour travel day from northern VT to northern Finland after all the craziness of getting ready to leave.  Leaving was bittersweet with a mix of saying goodbyes and enjoying the last few nights in my own bed played against the excitement to be back on the road at the start of the season.  Here are some pictures from my last week or so at home.

A frosty early morning in Craftsbury on Little Hosmer Pond
Sunrise at home! The shorter days have provided some wonderful sunrises and sunsets!

A little snow before I left was the perfect transition to winter.  The Outdoor Center also turned on the snow guns too which stockpiled more than the natural dustings.

It’s always fun to wake up to a white blanket outside!
My breakfast view from the cottage.
GRP girls dinner before we head our separate ways to Finland, Norway, West Yellowstone, and Canmore.  We missed Clare but it was a great chance to get the rest of the team together.
Snow on the side of the road (and a little in the road too) for our last rollerski of the year
Eben came home for hunting season and luckily our paths crossed for one day!  It was fun to share stories of recent adventures and travels.
That’s a lot of stuff!  Two ski bags, a duffel bag, and a big backpack for the winter travels.

 

 

It took about 28 hours from to get from Craftsbury to our little cabins in Muonio, Finland which is about 250km north of the Arctic Circle.  It was surprisingly sunny for our ski this morning and fun to ski under the lights this afternoon.

Winter!

 

Ski to Row

17.Nov.2014 by Maggie Fellows

IMG_5017(Elizabeth Sonshine)

The GRP rowers woke up this morning to white flurries falling from the sky and temperatures hovering around zero.  Last week we had a few nice rows on the water before we presumably packed away our boats for the winter and got ready to don our Sauce hats and ski gloves.  This morning I pulled out my rock skis to commute to practice, where Coach Dan rallied us to row for one last time, despite the snow covering the docks and cold temperatures.  When else would we get the chance to row in such unique conditions?  Calm, glassy water with snowy, muffled silence and viscous water.

IMG_5014(Elizabeth Sonshine)

We started off practice with a boys versus girls snowball fight between the docks (3 on 3, not the whole squad).  Then with Hugh leading the charge into the unknown waters we launched for the row.

IMG_0036(Troy Howell)

Some team boats, some singles.

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Griz? Frozen ear maybe?

photo (2)(Emily Dreissigacker)

Quite the day for a last row!

IMG_1743(Phil Grisdela)

Me getting ready to launch, note the ski boots!

 

Frozen Thunder Skiing

2.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

As the first flakes have fallen here in Craftsbury,  winter is just around the corner.  I was lucky to already have a little taste of winter in the form of a 2km ribbon of snow saved from last winter in Canmore, Alberta.  Every year the Canmore Nordic Center buries a pile of snow under a mound of wood chips and digs it up in mid-October to spread around a loop, aptly named Frozen Thunder.  The 2km track takes anywhere from 6-8 minutes to ski depending on how fast the snow conditions are that day.  Since we would usually ski for two to three hours every morning, it was important find technique or pacing cues to focus on or a good friend to chat with, anything to keep the mind active and distracted from counting laps or looking at your watch while skiing round and round.  In years past we have had colder weather and have seen some natural snow or at least new manmade snow added to freshen the track.  This year, though, the temperatures were warm and it rained a few times so many days Frozen Thunder was not very frozen. Over the eight days that we were there, the depth of the snow decreased noticeably and certain sections of the track were much less elevated from the ground than they were at the start.  But a huge thank you needs to go out to the grooming staff for an awesome job maintaining the snow and the ski conditions were awesome all week despite the unseasonably warm weather.

Since I had skied in September in Ramsau, Austria with the rest of the GRP, the transition back to snow was remarkably easy.  I was very grateful to have had the glacier skiing just a month earlier because skiing felt natural almost instantly in Canmore, rather than having the normal few days spent trying to navigate the awkward skis which feel helplessly long compared to rollerskis.  Most of the skiing I did in Canmore was just distance training but Cross Country Canada also organized a couple races  which were a really fun opportunity to put on a bib and go hard.  The lung burn and tired legs were a quick reminder of what racing actually feels like but made me more excited than ever for the World Cup season to start at the end of the month!

I didn’t take any pictures this week so I stole some from Noah’s blog.  Thanks Hoff J!  The GRP skiers are training in Craftsbury for a few more weeks now before hitting the road to start the season!  Happy trails and don’t forget to do your snow dances!

Sunrise at the Canmore Nordic Center

Canmore is one of my favorite places to train and race!

Noah got artsy with his skiing shots and I think this is a cool image of me skiing over the top of the hill
Some one pole skiing to work on technique early in the season.
I had a great time hanging out with my Canadian friends!  We had dinner at the homes of Chandra and Perianne who both live in town and each of the evenings was a highlight of the camp.  Here’s a picture of dinner at Chandra’s house where she cooked a delicious feast of four lasganas, two giant salads and a couple amazing carrot cakes.
Since we will be in northern Finland for Thanksgiving probably eating fish and reindeer, we celebrated early and cooked a Thanksgiving feast except with chickens instead of turkeys as we couldn’t find turkeys at the store.  It took all the stoves and ovens from the four different team apartments with tiny kitchenettes to create the feast as well as several hours of chopping and prep but was worth the effort for the fun evening with the team.
Racing!  The Classic Sprint was organized in the King’s Court format so everyone did all four rounds and moved up or down in the seeding based on their placing in the previous heat.  The other fun twist was that guys and girls were combined so I raced most of my heats with guys but had fun skiing one of the rounds with Peri.

 

Reflections on a Sourdough Summer

30.Oct.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

Food is an important part of any athlete’s daily routine, and a part that we often overlook sharing much about. There are certainly some pictures we’ve posted of particularly notable edibles on this blog, but in general I don’t believe food has gotten quite its fair share, compared to how much of our daily thoughts and life it occupies.  That’s not to really imply that any of the athletes at Craftsbury take the food for granted – we are extremely lucky to be able to eat at the spectacular Craftsbury dining hall for most of the year. This post, I have to warn you, is going to be all about food, and the process of making one particular kind of it – bread!

While I’ve always considered sourdough bread to be among my favorites – along with crusty European baguettes and German pretzel rolls – I’d never made sourdough myself until this summer. On frequent enough occasions in the last few years, I would make oatmeal whole-wheat sandwich bread, baguettes, and various other types by hand, and I have done some experimentation and made complicated-sounding breads just for the sake of trying something new.  I’m not a bread machine person, or a person who tends to avoid making things that sound complex.  But sourdough… I always stopped before venturing into sourdough… Because even though most of the instructions say “it’s really pretty easy” to create a sourdough starter, and other such reassurances, those statements are usually followed by what seem like long lists of instructions consisting of a different step every day for 4-6 days and then a lot more attention to the sourdough after that.

Note: Before you get too far into this, beware – I am passionate about baking and bread, and cooking explorations in general, and when I’m enthusiastic about something in this way it leads to long descriptions.  Scroll ahead to the pictures or skip to a different blog on our site if you’re impatient, otherwise, carry on reading!

This summer, I suppose you could say that I needed a cooking or baking outlet, preferably one that did not result in a profusion of sugary dessert-snacks to feed my team/housemates and myself. I unquestionably love sweet things (yes, thank you for pointing out Pete H, I have a sweet tooth!), but I’ve gone through a time of giving more thought to nutrition and food choices this year, which leads me to gravitate away from excessive sugars if possible.  Bread was the perfect choice, because the GRP skiers consume a considerable amount of bread for breakfasts and snacks, and bread is a healthy baking result derived from a process that can include creativity and embellishment.  So it was an ideal summer to venture into sourdough bread baking.

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!


What exactly is sourdough, you might ask?

Well, from the standpoint of the basic grocery-store consumer, sourdough bread is typically a crusty, white bread with a particularly tangy taste.

From the standpoint of the baker, or someone who wants to know what makes this type of bread distinctive, it gets a bit more complex. Sourdough bread is baked from a dough that is made with a sourdough starter. It doesn’t have to be a white bread, sourdough breads cover the spectrum from whole wheat to rye to white to a variety of other grains or mixes.  A sourdough starter is a way of cultivating natural yeast – rather than using store-bought yeast from a jar or packet, the natural yeast contained within the starter leavens the bread, causing it to rise and develop air pockets. This natural or wild yeast can’t be called on at any minute though – while it is in the air around us, it has to be properly cultivated and encouraged in order to be concentrated enough for use in bread.  A starter is typically made from just flour and water, although as I understand it, starters can sometimes contain fruit juice in the early stages. It takes a little while to establish a good population of yeast, but then once the starter is “active” it can be maintained indefinitely for future use, and shared with friends too.

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

Stirring down the starter - a big batch since I'm getting ready to bake something

Stirring down the starter – a big batch since I’m getting ready to bake something

 


Caitlin’s sourdough starter process:

In mid-May of 2014, when I returned to Craftsbury to start the new training year, I knew I would be at the house where I live in Craftsbury with few interruptions until the fall, and it would be a perfect time to start the process of a sourdough starter. On the recommendation of my teammate Emily, who had made sourdough this winter, I looked on the King Arthur Flour website (one of my favorite recipe sources) for guidance about starting sourdough.  Here’s the link to their page about starting sourdough: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/04/05/creating-your-own-sourdough-starter-the-path-to-great-bread/

As the experts at King Arthur attest to, creating a sourdough starter is as much art as science – there are many variations and suggestions out there, but there is room for flexibility within a framework of conditions that will enable the growth of the sourdough yeast and bacteria. I started with 1 cup of rye flour and 1/2 a cup of cool water from the tap. After 24 hours, half of the original was discarded, and I added a new 1 cup of King Arthur “Special” bread flour and 1/2 cup of water to what remained, and mixed everything together.  The 3rd day started the twice a day feedings – to add new flour and water is considered “feeding” the starter.  Every 12 hours, I’d check on the starter, which was in our kitchen on a shelf, discard half of it and feed it with a new 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water (always “special” bread flour from here out). This is not a process to undertake if you’re particularly short on time, flour, or capacity to remember to do something every 12 hours – luckily I had plenty of everything, with a busy training schedule which fortunately causes me to return to the house frequently.

The starter is supposed to be highly active and ready for baking within about a week.  Mine was only slightly active – swelling a little between feedings, with a few bubbles – after about 1.5 or 2 weeks, and I started to get kind of nervous, afraid I might have to start over. At that point I chatted with Emily again, who recommended putting it in a warmer spot to see if that helped the activity level – for a truly active starter, you should expect that it will double in volume from one feeding to the next. I found a spot out of the way, on top of our freezer, and started leaving the container there.  Vermont in early summer is moderately warm but not at all hot, and it turned out that was exactly the missing piece – heat! With the starter on the warm freezer top, it became much more active and was soon doubling. Time to bake!

 

A dash of honey

A dash of honey to sweeten the dough

All shapes and sizes, and fillings - several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

All shapes and sizes, and fillings – several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

Sometimes several batches at once

Sometimes several batches at once

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb


To make a true sourdough bread, you need an active starter, flour, water, salt, and nothing else (other than time)! It’s also possible to make a bread with store-bought yeast supplemented with sourdough starter to give it flavor.  And, there are a number of other bread-related items that can be made with sourdough starter, much of it as a way to use the otherwise-discarded starter (what you would throw out when the starter is fed).  So I’ve dabbled in many variations, and quite a few shapes too. Below are suggestions based on what I’ve done, and links to the recipes for trying it yourself:

Sourdough bread: in baguette or loaf form, all white flour or 1/6-1/4 whole wheat. It can be “flavored” – mixed with shredded cheddar cheese, mixed with blue cheese and cranberries, with walnuts and cranberries, swirled/wrapped with cheese inside, swirled with apples and cinnamon sugar, and more. See this recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/extra-tangy-sourdough-bread-recipe (I’ve never used the optional sour-salt – if your sourdough is active it should have plenty of sour flavor as is.) Try out the recipe just plain a few times to get acquainted with it, with only white bread flour because it behaves more predictably, and then make additions as desired! Be warned, this bread does basically take two days – it’s not bad, but does require some serious planning ahead to time all the stages to fit within the other constraints of your day.

Sourdough-yeast hybrid: Try it also with rolled oats and whole wheat flour, cinnamon-cranberry swirl bread, cheese swirl bread, etc.  Recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/rustic-sourdough-bread-recipe  (when using rolled oats, I added 1/2 cup of oats per recipe, and 1/2-1 cup of whole wheat flour, each of those in place of the white flour called for. However I also adjust the moisture by adding more flour or water as I knead the bread, since I know approximately what I’m aiming for after having repeated this process a fair number of times.)

With extra starter: sourdough popovers, sourdough waffles or pancakes, both of which are fantastic and quite easy.  Recipes: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sourdough-waffles-or-pancakes-recipe

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-popovers-recipe

In general just check out all of King Arthur Flour’s sourdough recipes here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough/view-all

Oh, and if you’re not quite into all the sourdough complexity, but are inspired to make bread anyway, try this excellent sandwich bread, of course from King Arthur again! This was one of my go-to breads before sourdoughs: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/vermont-whole-wheat-oatmeal-honey-bread-recipe


Ready to roll - cranberry cinnamon bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

Ready to roll – cranberry cinnamon swirl bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

The swirl bread after baking...

The swirl bread after baking…

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl snack

Waffles!

Waffles!

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train immediately

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

Throughout the summer I’ve been quite pleased with the flavor and texture of my sourdough breads, and my housemates surely enjoy them too, as the bread has seemed to disappear about as quickly as I can make it.  Particularly if it’s full of melted shreds of Cabot cheddar cheese! I actually really like the opportunity to experiment on flavors and additions, which is facilitated by how quickly each batch gets consumed.  And, a side benefit of making all these batches of bread… hand-kneading… when I was younger my mom always tried to convince me that I should knead more bread to make my arms stronger. They’re stronger this year, which happens to be a good thing for ski racing! Whether from kneading or from an improved strength training program, who knows, maybe some of both!

When I left for fall training camps these past few months, I put my sourdough in a jar with a lid, gave it one last feeding, then popped it straight into the refrigerator. It actually keeps for a while, and just needs to be taken out and fed a few times before it’s nicely active again – I took out the jar 4 days ago, having just returned from Park City (see Liz’s previous post for tales of our training activities there) and it’s definitely active and ready for bread-making by now.  In fact last night I made sourdough popovers to go with dinner, and don’t tell my housemates, or else there could be a stampede, but there may be fresh bread this evening.

Thanks for reading!!

~Caitlin