Saturday, March 29, 2014

Another Open Slope Video

Pretty nice spring skiing at Windblown today.  Slapped a little Rex OV and OI on the skis and took off on the slushy but firm tracks.  Ran into Wes and Robert and had some fun on the open slope.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sugarloaf Marathon

Given that the Sugarloaf Marathon was to be held the week after EHS this year, I decided to get my butt in gear and get up there for the final big race of the season.  The decision was made easier when I found out that a strong CSU contingent was also going to go and that I could get a ride with Frank and Andy.  No driving for me!!  Woot!  The fact that winter was still very much with us and that I could get in some good skiing at Weston and on the local golf course during the week and the reports were of good conditions at Sugarloaf sealed the deal.

On Friday Frank and Andy met me at my house and off we went in the late afternoon for a planned dinner rendezvous at Pat's Pizza in Auburn, ME with a few of the other CSUers.  Frank drove, I zoned out and Andy graded papers in the back seat.  How relaxing!  I'm not used to that......To add to the positive experience, it being my birthday, Andy and Frank bought me dinner and dessert and a shot, the last being just what I needed the evening before a race!  Tom, Mark, Clinton and Robert joined us at dinner before finishing up the trip to the Wilson Lakes Inn.

After a good nights sleep we all met in the lobby for a little breakfast and coffee (well, for Andy and Frank, a huge pot each of oatmeal cooked on a hotplate) and then off to the races.  Farmington must have had 4 feet of snow on the ground.  It was quite amazing.  The drive to Sugarloaf was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to get numbers, warm up, make clothing changes, chat with friends, warm up some more.  Wait, this wasn't like the Birkie at all!  It was relatively warm and there was plenty of time to get to the bathroom and the relaxing.  Tom and I forged a strategy of going out relaxed for 1 lap to see if we could get a good group going.  When the gun went off I got going slowly and sure enough we got a nice little group together almost immediately of Tom, Mark Danyla (Maine), me, Brandon, Mark Doughty and maybe a few others here and there as we started the longest of the climbs.  The skiing was fabulous!  Right there made me happy to have come.  Best skating since Mt. Ste. Anne I think.  That, and I was happy to get back to Sugarloaf for the 1st time in many years, a place at which I truly enjoy skiing.  Up in front of us, Frank, Andy, Bob and Jim Burnham had hammered off the line and somewhere just a curve ahead was Robert Faltus and Andrew Messenger and behind came Clinton, Igor, Anne Burnham, Jud Hartmann, Dmitriy Leyfer and Steve Hunt.  Lots of CSUers and friends in this race! There were some sneaky, tricky corners, like the hard left after a long, fast downhill that almost got me.  I almost took out Mark Danyla with my last second skid around the corner.  Later on there were all these little rollers with corners that kept you on your toes and were really fun.  4 laps on this course was not going to be boring! 

After the fairly relaxed pace of Lap 1, Lap 2 was a bit more energetic as we traded off taking the lead of the group.  I led one section, then Tom moved to the front and then Brandon.  The snow was now well skied in, so my skis felt fast and I was skiing comfortably and trading the lead helped all of us stay in the group. We chased some kid up in front of us, stretching out a bit after the feeds and then getting back on the paceline.  This was really fun!  On lap three I got gapped a bit in the flats, but asTom took the lead up the long hill with Brandon right behind I was able to get back on and took a pull down on the rolly, twisty section.  I was starting to feel my lack of skate race experience of the past few years, but other than that I was fine.  The last hill into the stadium area is a bit of a wall up and over the bridge and that got me genuinely tired heading into lap 4.  CSU alum Calvin Wight seemed to be a personal feed handler for me at the lap, so I got plenty of fluids.  The start of Lap 4 started to get to me.  My arms were getting tired as were my legs and I was dangling off the back with the proverbial rubber band getting pretty stretched.  The last time I skated a marathon was in 2009, when I bonked massively at Rangeley.  I was hoping to keep it together and this being only 40+ km I knew I'd make it, but I was struggling a bit.  Brandon seemed to push the pace a bit and Tom took over.  We had caught 3 people ahead of us so now we had a group of 6 and I was still dangling off the back as we headed up the long climb for the 4th time.  When we got to the feed at the top of the hill Dave Birrell (his daughter had skied EHS with my daughter) skipped the feed and pushed the pace to try and drop the group.  I took a cue from him and chased, skipping a feed and trying to build the gap on the downhill.  While it worked for Dave and he gapped me, Tom was on to us and gave chase.  At some point back down on the flatter section I looked back and darn it there were 3 guys in my draft.  It sometimes does not pay to be the big guy in the front!  I stayed at the front, pushing around the corners hoping someone would drop off but on the two steep rollers my thighs started to cramp and as I slowed, Tom took his chance, came around and gapped me.  Brandon was right behind and so it remained for the rest of the race.  Up ahead, Frank (24) dusted Andy (27) and Jim (26) on the wall near the stadium with Bob (30) close behind.  CSU alum Nathan Moreau (Bates) finished his first marathon in 14th, Ari was 33rd, Carey 34th, Robert finished 39th, 4 min. ahead of me, Andrew was 41st, Tom 45th, me 46th, Brandon 47th, Igor 50th, Mark D 51st, Clinton 60, Dmitry 61, and Steve Hunt 73rd.  Anne was 13th among the women.  In the 25 km Steve Moreau was 10th.  I met my goals of finishing a skate marathon and having fun.  The skiing was really nice, the course was really fun and it was good to see so many Weston skiers make the trek north for one last blast of winter.  I hope to be back next year!

A few of the big CSU presence - Back: Clinton, Jamie, Tom, Andy, Bob, Jim
Front: Steve, Frank, Anne

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eastern High School Championships

Next up on the end of the year schedule was the E. High School Championships back up at Mt. Top for a return engagement.  What a difference in conditions compared to a couple years ago though!  Last time the kids skied in barely frozen, dirty brown, yucky snow whereas this year there were piles of the real thing.  Temps, instead of rising into the high 50s, barely made it to 30.  And most important, instead of messing around with klister we managed with zeros and hairies for one race and stick wax for the other classic event!   Plus, I just parked my car in the lot for the weekend and left it driving.  Sweet!

Friday's skate races were held on nice snow, although a bit soft on the steeper hills where the course got chopped up.  The courses were 2 loop affairs, so that was a lot of skiers going around twice, but they held up reasonably well.  The CSU girls and the Mass team hit the ground skiing fast right from the get-go to set the tone for the weekend, which for the girls was "Catch me if you can"!  Fresh off JNs, Julia Kern, Leah Brams and Cate Brams fired off a shot across the bows of the other teams in 1st, 2nd and 4th.  Grace Smith (Greylock), fresh off a great weekend at J2s picked it right up and came home in 14th, followed closely by Clara, Rebecca and Katrin in 16th, 17th and 19th.  What a great start to the weekend!  7 in the top 20.....not too shabby! 

Ahemmm, Kathy was a NH coach this week.....
Talia and Izzy

The boys went next with Lewis 5th and Warren Taylor (Burke) 7th skiing strongly for top 10 results and Eric Guba (Acton) and Chris Koziel in 26th and 29th for top 30 results.   After the races the kids went off to get in hot tubs while coaches waxed classic skis for the next morning's races.  Its a tough life.........

Saturday morning was one of those classic NE mornings for classic skiing in March.  Nice and cold to start, but with the temperatures climbing steadily.  Rob and Jamie started testing wax right after breakfast on the nice, solid tracks which were starting to glaze.  Temps rose into the waxing death zone around 28-32 for new snow.  VR 60 and 65, while getting good kick, started icing.  Toko yellow was not much better.  Then the kick started to break down.   Rob fired up his zeros and I then grabbed them for a spin around the whole course.  They worked everywhere!  No icing.  Sweet!  Making the call, zeros were rounded up from everyone and Gunther and Rob plugged in the orbital sanders and went to work making hairies.  No wax at all.  Other teams kept at it with wax.  The girls mass start went off with NY, NH and Julia and Cate right in the mix.  A few minutes later CSU took complete control of the front of the field with Cate in the lead and Leah and Zoe in her draft and Julia just behind that threesome.  This was looking good!  A bit further back came Rebecca, CharCole, Sonya and Rosie moving through the pack.  This was looking awesome!  Then Katrin, Meg and Gabby.  Holy cow, this was unprecedented!  It only got better from there.  Cate and Leah hammered each other all the way to the finish with Cate taking the win in a mano a mano duel.  And then, the Mass team and CSU parade.  Oh, this was sweet indeed!  Julia and Zoe rounded out the top 4, Rebecca and Sonya in 10 and 11, CharCole 15, Talia 16 and Rosie 17 for 9 in the top 20.  Wow.....

We now scrambled to get all the boys onto zeros or hairies.  Rob and I got ours out, a pair of Alex's skis got put in the mix, girls skis were borrowed and off they went to the start.  Lewis got in the game early and had a good race in 6th, Chris K moved way up finishing 12th, Will popped a HUGE race (he liked the longer distance) moving into 14th, better than his J2 races, and Warren Taylor into 21st.  A much better race for the boys than on Friday.

Following the feed at the food table, ski prep began for the 1km sprints, to be run with wave starts.  This is always a fun format to watch and you get a better idea of how everyone is doing and it can make for some exciting racing.  1st up were the girls again and once again CSU set the tone.  The fearsome foursome of Julia, Zoe, Cate and Leah grabbed 4 of the top 5 spots with Rebecca, in her favorite event, moving up to 8th.  Next up was Janelle having herself a huge race to finish 17th and Sonya in 20th.  Unfortunately, there was one really tricky corner and several skiers crashed out in the deep and heavy snow off the course in the midst of having otherwise good races.  With this race the girls team cemented their hold on 1st place overall! 

The boys had a bit better time with the tricky corner and there was some great racing.  Chris Koziel stepped up to the plate and vanquished all foes with a masterful race V2ing the entire course.  No one could touch him up the final hill to take the win.  Warren was next up in 17th and then Jacob Meyerson in 29th.  With the conclusion of the sprints the Mass team now sat in 3rd place a scant 60 points behind Maine.  The relays would be important! 

Sunday dawned nice and sunny, but cold.  Waxing was not going to make the difference today as lots of stuff worked well in the colder snow.  Today would come down to each skier's performance.  Mass lined up some good teams and was shooting to regain the top spot for the 6th time in 7 years.  Last year the relay was overtaken and had to settle for 2nd, so pride was on the line.  Doro rallied the troops during the course tours and before long the scramble leg girls were lined up in the sun for the start, which began with a long climb through the fields before hitting the woods.  By the top of the fields Julia had already established the finish order for the #1 spot, having put a narrow gap on the field.  The next 3 teams in her draft were Cate, Rebecca and Rosie.  Wow, awesome!  By the tricky downhill corner in the field, Julia had a 20 sec lead over VT.  Cate, Rebecca, Sonya, Talia and Rosie were not far behind.  Handoffs to the boys at the top of the hill were executed and teams shifted around a bit.  While the lead of team 1 was cut into a bit, Lewis maintained his lead and handed off to Zoe for leg 3.  Zoe maintained the lead over VT, skiing the same time as Carmen Bango while Leah made up several seconds on the field.  It would come down to the anchor leg of Chris.  Chris skied off the front and iced VT by stretching the lead another 10 sec. and Mass regained number 1 in the relay.  Not far back, the 2nd Mass team of Cate, Will, Leah and Warren finished 5th, but by only a whisker as Warren put in a furious charge up the last hill, almost catching the Maine boy asleep as they both shot their foot at the line.  There was much discussion about who had actually finished ahead, but the decision went to Maine.  The real story of the day, however, was going on behind the leaders as the other Mass teams totally rose to the challenge of besting Maine and skied very impressively so that the Mass team moved into 2nd for the weekend!  That is only the 2nd time we've gotten 2nd since the CSU Jr team was formed. 

I should add here that it was a bit odd to see CSUers Lily (NH), Hadley (ME) and Sydney(NH) skiing for their respective state teams.  We missed them on our team, but of course it was fun to cheer for them too.

It was good skiing and a great team effort at Mt. Top for Team Massachusetts.  Moving into 2nd was the icing on the cake and everyone headed home happy.  However, not until the traditional Mass team photos, with and without warm clothes on.  Some traditions must go on despite 19F temps!

Monday, March 24, 2014

J2 Championships

Now that winter is winding down I have some time to report on the J2 championships.  This year they were held at the Rickert Nordic Center in Ripton/Middlebury, VT.  I had never skied at Rickert before and I must say that the courses used were really nice and challenging with 3 good climbs and some twisty-turny downhills that kept you on your toes.  CSU had a good crew of J2s on the Mass team including Joey Carleo, Will Rhatigan, Tyler Lee, Jackson Hardin, Jacob Jampel, Lydia Yoder, Julia Homa, Janelle Deneau, Izzy Cole, Talia Seltzer, Gabby Vandendries and Madeline and Hannah Rieders.  Upon setting up shop next to the Midwest's CXC team tent, I chatted a bit with one of the coaches, who asked if I knew Maddy.  Of course, I replied, she's one of our coaches!  Turns out he skied with Maddy in high school and both were MVPs on their team and they were best buds.  I sent off a photo to Maddy.  Its a small world.......

The course for Friday's skate race was pretty hard and some of the corners got scraped down to ice which made things pretty interesting for the later starting waves.  J2 races are all run in wave starts with 1 skier from each team.  In addition to the NE teams, partial teams from NY, Great Lakes and CXC attended, which made for better competition.  The girls got the weekend off to a fabulous start as four Mass girls placed in the top 10, led by Gabby in 6th, Talia in 7th, Grace Smith from Greylock in 8th and Janelle in 10th, followed by Izzy in 18th, Hannah in 24th, Madeline tied for 39th, Julia 53rd and Lydia 67th.  On the boys side Joey finished a solid 5th in a close race followed by Will in 16th, Jackson 34th, Jacob 37th and Tyler 50th.   With the races over for the day the team headed back to the Middlebury Inn for dinner.  While the Inn is very nice, somehow they must have thought they were not feeding athletes and so dinner was, shall we say, a bit on the skimpy side.  Following dinner a bunch of kids went off to the store to try and find a bit more sustenance.  An army moves on its stomach, and so do cross country skiers!

Saturday dawned pretty cold and as soon as we wolfed down a good coaches breakfast, Alex and I headed back up the road to start wax testing.  The forecast called for a pretty quick warmup into the waxing death zone of the low 30s.  With a lot of testing we nailed down the kick for the girls race using stick wax (Toko yellow covered with Red) and no klister (YES!!!) and off they went.  I was concerned it would continue to warm up too much but when the first girls came into view Talia and Janelle were killing it.  Vermont, on the other hand was having all kinds of problems with their skis.  Eventually Talia and Janelle finished 2nd and 4th and quickly followed by Gabby in 7th, Grace in 12th and Izzy in 16th. Hannah came in 27th, Madeline 40th, Lydia really moved it up, coming in 54th and Julia 79th.

For the boys we changed the wax to straight yellow, but the conditions now got kind of weird.  The tracks had started to glaze in the sun earlier, but now heavier clouds rolled in and the glaze froze.  The boys did not have great skis.  On the good side, none of the boys had particularly good skis.  However, Maine clearly had the best skis and it showed in the results.  Joey struggled a bit and finished in 12th, behind Matt Wiseman of Greylock in 10th.  Jacob had a great race and moved way up to 26th with Will right behind in 28th, Tyler in 52nd and Jackson in 66th. 

Suzanne Carleo organized a great food table for the intermission before the afternoon sprints.  The weather turned cloudy and the wind came up and before too long waves of sprints headed out onto the challenging 1K sprint course.  Once again, Talia and Janelle led the way for the Mass team, finishing in 8th and 9th.  Izzy fired off a great sprint and came in 12th.  Gabby was 29th, Hannah 32nd, Madeline 39th, Julia 61st and Lydia 74th.    The boys races followed, with Joey banging out a good one for 4th place.  Will came home in 17th and then Jacob surprised himself having a great race in 25th.  Jackson moved way up to 32nd and Tyler in 67th. 

Back at the Inn, the team headed off to the banquet while coaches waxed and then sought dinner on their own.  Turns out the banquet was a bit skimpy too and they ran out of pasta.  Hmmmm, seems to be a pattern here.   That, and the kids would lose an hour of sleep with the time change.

Sunday's race was the mixed gender, mixed technique relay, always a fun event.  Once again Alex and I headed over at the Crack O' Dawn, and froze until the March sun popped over the horizon.  It would stay colder for the relay, so waxing wasn't a big problem and we went with Swix 45 and 55 (sorry Rob).  The relay is always exciting, particularly the start.  With a downhill start at the beginning of the race, even with the really wide course, it had been decided the girls would do the scramble leg as that might reduce the total chaos.  I don't think anyone broke a pole or fell, so I guess it worked!   Talia got the first Mass team off to a great start in the classic leg handing off in 2nd.  CSU girls led off several of the other teams as well with strong performances by Izzy and Lydia.  Talia handed off to Matt Wiseman who had a solid leg handing off to Janelle.  Janelle skied well and handed off to Joey who brought the team home in 4th.  The 2nd team with 3 CSUers finished in 9th. 

The Mass team showed a lot of energy and had a lot of fun during the weekend.  It didn't hurt that the weather was basically pretty nice, mid-winter conditions.  Everyone gained a lot of good experience and for the first year J2s they survived banging out 4 tough races in 3 days.  I had fun as head coach and working with the other coaches and particularly enjoyed having Alex wax up the test skis for me to test!  So awesome!  Kathy got a lot of grief from NH coaches for being on the Mass team at J2s.  Next up, EHS!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Awesome spring skiing at Windblown

4 cool girls enjoying the sun, Kathy, Katrin, Doro and Julia

This is how you secure your gloves while shooting pics

Nice turns on the slope
Katrin and Gunther at Windblown summit

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Racing Continues on Weston Glacier

While most of Massachusetts is hoping spring would show up already, many Tuesday night skiers showed up once again for another few laps of the Weston Glacier, this time in a pursuit race.  I snapped a couple photos in the gathering twilight of the start of the race before I had to leave:

NASCAR start