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Archive for January, 2011

Mini-Tours Rock!

31.Jan.2011 by Chelsea Little

This weekend a couple of us went up to Orford, Quebec for a NorAm mini-tour and it was tons of fun. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a mini-tour, think of it as kind of like a three-day stage race in biking. The difference is that on the last day, everyone starts in a pursuit format with the time gaps based on your times from the first two races, and the first skier to the finish line wins the whole weekend. I was excited for the pursuit because I haven’t done a mass start all year (well, I did the one at the Eastern Cup, but I dropped out after 2k, so that doesn’t really count does it?) and I was really psyched for some head-to-head competition.

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole weekend was listening to Matt parrot various French words and phrases in an awesome accent. “Bienvenue!” “Bonjour!” “D’accord!” When I heard actual French-speakers talk, I could no longer take them seriously. Matt has a real talent for accents (example: his Midwestern one) but I didn’t realize that it extended into foreign languages.

Anyway, it was just Ollie, Tim, Matt, Alex and I, and then Ollie got sick and couldn’t join us on Saturday and Sunday, which was a bummer. We were flying solo without Pepa or any sort of wax support, but it worked out totally fine and we all had good skis – even though the boys and I put completely different things on our skis for both of the classic races! It was actually nice to realize that I am grown-up enough to go to a race and do all of the testing and prep work on my own without getting too stressed out or running out of time to warm up (more on that later).

Friday and Saturday went okay for me – I was tenth both days, and felt like I skied pretty well on Saturday in particular. But I feel like I’ve kind of been in a rut lately; it took me a long time to get back into racing shape after being sick for a while in December, and while I have been very consistent all season, it’s been consistently mediocre! That isn’t really our goal around here so I’ve been hoping to have a good race that broke the cycle.

On Sunday, I think I might have had that race. For the women, it was a 15k pursuit, consisting of three loops on a fast but difficult 5k course. There was a kind of flat rolling section between 0.5k and 1.5k, and then a loooooong multi-pitch climb for about a kilometer, followed by some shorter hills and more rolling terrain back through the lap.

I started six seconds behind Sheila Kealey from XC Ottawa, and ten and fifteen seconds ahead of two other skiers. Part of the beauty of racing in Canada is that you really know nothing about most of the people you are competing against, so you have to kind of just ski your race and see how it all shakes out. Anyway, I started off thinking I could catch Sheila; part of the reason I thought this was that she’s only five years younger than my mother. So I took off pretty hard, trying to bridge the gap so I could have someone to ski with.

This turned out to be completely misguided. I never caught her and after a few kilometers of maintaining the gap, she simply skied away from me. It turns out that Sheila is a fast lady- she had the 5th-fastest time on the day! Wow.

At this point, I panicked for a second. I was sure that I was being dropped because I’d gone out too fast, not because she was speeding up. But then I realized that the pack behind me, which had grown to three or four women, was always ten or fifteen seconds behind me and not gaining ground. So I couldn’t be slowing down that much.

Anyway, you are doubtless getting bored hearing about my race, but basically it went really well. I felt like I skied well and this was the perfect skate course for me, with manageable climbs that I could really attack. It was really fun to feel like I was going for it after a couple weeks of races where I was definitely not on the offensive as much as you should be. I think this was the best I’ve ever skated in my life. So that’s nice.

And at the end of the day, I decided that I want to be as fast as Sheila Kealy when I “grow up.” So it’s a good thing that I felt like I was fairly competent at waxing my own skis and all that good stuff. Green Racing Project: preparing post-college skiers for masters glory!

Here’s a picture I took of Tim on the podium on Friday. He’s laughing because Matt said something funny.

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Mid-marathon update

29.Jan.2011 by Ollie Burruss

Just popped out the door to snap a few pictures of the men’s lead pack in the marathon.  Through Elinor’s field (which I’d guess is around 18-19k?) Justin Freeman (Kris’s brother) and Pat O’Brien (GRP) are skiing side by side in the lead.  Dylan McGuffin (GRP) is a few seconds behind, with Ryan Kerrigan (VTXC), Ben Koons (MWSC), and Eli Enman (VTXC/Rossignol) less than 15 seconds behind him.  Tim Whiton (PortNordic) is skiing solo behind the top 6, chasing hard.  Middlebury’s Noah Brautigam is leading the 25k, some 30 seconds behind Whiton.  It appears that Kris Freeman opted not to start, leaving the race for first wide open.

In the last picture, Gilb’s head is turned because he’s just telling me (in response to my subdued, quiet cheering), “C’mon, Ollie, I’m trying to be serious here.”

Planes, Boats, and Automobiles

26.Jan.2011 by Ida Sargent

After a hectic fall balancing school, travel, and skiing, I decided to take the a break from school this winter just focusing on skiing.  So a little over a week and a half ago I left Craftsbury and flew to Finland, starting what will be a two month stint in Europe.

The first stop was in Vierumaki, Finland for a U23 World’s pre-camp.  Vierumaki is a little more than an hour north of Helsinki and is home to a National Sports Institute, a golf resort, and not much else.  It was a great location for training and recovering from all the travel and time change with easy ski trails looping through the golf courses which surrounded our hotel.  The weather was cloudy and grey but compared to northern Finland earlier this fall it seemed very light and warm!

ida-steals-a-bike

Lahti, Finland, a city which is home to a World Cup and World Championship venue was only 20 minutes away so we visited it a few times.  The stadium was huge and the courses very challenging so we had fun skiing on the courses especially during harder intensity workouts.

lahti jumps

Then last Sunday our team took a ferry from Helsinki, Finland across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia.  The 10 floor ferry was more like a cruise ship with a dance club, stores for shopping, karaoke bar, Wii room, slot machines, restaurants, lounges, and cafes.

ferry

From the “sun decks” we could watch the boat moving through the very icy waters.

helsinki

From Tallinn we drove 3+ hours south across the country of Estonia to Otepaa where the U23 and Junior World Championships are being held.  We’ve spent the last couple days previewing the courses that were also the site of last weekend’s World Cup races.  All the teams are here testing skis, training, and prepping for the races which start today in the Tehvandi Stadium.

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I’m getting very psyched to race especially after not doing much of that in the last month or two but I have a few more days to wait.  My first race is on Saturday so until then I’m going to have fun cheering on my other American teammates and watching some of the races which are being televised on Eurosport and Estonian TV!

Bitter Cold Biathlon

25.Jan.2011 by Lauren Jacobs

The range at Jericho played host to another set of biathlon NorAm races this past weekend. I missed the first ones right after Christmas because of a cold, so it was exciting to finally get down to race on what is essentially our home biathlon course. We go down there quite a bit to train with Algis and it’s always fun to race at a venue that you know so well. The forecast for the weekend was bitterly cold and we prepared by basically packing every single article of the warmest ski clothing available. Plus hand warmers, key to keeping your trigger finger warm.

Saturday was a sprint race, which in biathlon means two shooting stages and 7.5 km of skiing for the women. Susan won and Hannah came in 2nd!

Hannah racing to victory in Saturday's race.

Hannah racing on Saturday.

Susan only missed one target on Saturday but neither Hannah or I were particularly happy with our shooting. I went 3-3, meaning I missed 3 targets each in prone and standing. That’s pretty bad for me in prone. I went hard and felt good skiing, though. As I crossed the finish line and tried to catch my breath, Algis was standing there and John Madigan checked my bolt and waited patiently for my bib.

Bent over my poles, I asked Algis, “What happened to prone?” I knew he had been looking through the scope and I thought maybe I hadn’t taken the wind into account.

“What happened to prone? Let me tell you what happened to prone.” Algis is one of the nicest people I know but he couldn’t hide the frustration in his voice. “You didn’t do what you train! You slowed down, became cautious. Your range time was almost a minute. You tried too hard to hit the targets.”

“Was it the wind?” I asked, “I took a click.”

“No, it wasn’t the wind. Your misses were all over the place.” He patted me on the shoulder, releasing me to take off my bib and go get warm.

Whoops. A range time of a minute is a good 20 or more seconds longer than I have in training. After cooling down, changing my clothes, and getting something to eat I went back to chat again with Algis. He talked to me about needing to act with confidence on the range, being sure of every action. Slowing down because it’s a race and you’re afraid of messing up will guarantee that you do mess up.

And that, right there is the big reason I love biathlon. I love the fact – even though it can be agonizingly frustrating – that shooting is so mental and that the smallest of changes will be the difference between missing a target and hitting one. Perhaps it is because most of my personal athletic history was in gymnastics, a sport where the changes required to stay on the beam instead of landing in a heap on the mat are too small for most people to see. Shooting is pretty much exactly the same and I love that you have to pay such close attention to it.

Needless to say, Hannah and I were both looking forward to another chance to improve our shooting the next day. Sunday’s race was delayed by an hour to allow the temperatures to warm up to a balmy 0 degrees. Using overmitts and hand warmers, I managed to keep my trigger finger warm and I went into the range thinking “confidence. confidence. confidence.” Coming into the first prone stage I kept my normal cadence and only missed one! In the middle of my next ski lap Algis ran over to me and told me to take two clicks up, even though I had had four hits they must have been low. Back at the range again I took the correction, dropped into position, and fired off five rounds. Only one miss again, but this time it was the last one, guess I got a little too excited. Still, I was really happy with my prone shooting. (Standing was still rough, I definitely have a lot of work to do there…) Even more importantly than hitting targets, Algis told me later that I decreased my range time in prone by 20 seconds. So Sunday was a good race, and with no frost bite!

I must be finishing here because I dropped my overmitts after the last shooting stage.

Sunday's race set a personal record for the most layers worn in a ski race.

Hannah skiing wicked fast on Sunday.

Hannah skiing wicked fast on Sunday.

My Dad and I after Sunday's race. I actually was trying to smile here but my face was too frozen to make it happen.

My Dad and I after Sunday's race. I actually was trying to smile here but my face was too frozen to make it happen.

Next we head to Lake Placid for one more weekend of NorAms.