Monday, February 29, 2016

Gatineau Photos

A few photos from the skate races at Gatineau Park and from Rob's and my tour today.  Such good skiing, so many trails and not enough time to ski them.  If you have time to get up here, Gatineau Parc is an amazing resource about 20 min. drive from Ottawa.  Beautiful trails from very wide park roads to narrower and exciting smaller trails.

Dave Currie

Dave Currie and Rob Bradlee

Frozen Bog on Trail 1
Perfect Tracks and Corduroy
Lead Pack

Rob and Damian Bolduc, NWVE

Rob near the finish

Add caption
Robert Faltus

Rob and Jamie at Champlain Overlook

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Birkie Dispatch - Mari Oye

(Ed. note) For those of you who don't know Mari, she skied with the CSU Jrs in the mid-2000s then went on to Yale where she continued skiing.  Since graduation she's been all over the world and working in exotic locales and had put her skiing on hold.  Now back in the Boston area and back to the gerbil track here is her Birkie report.

Mari (R) and Sonja (L)

I’m writing from a curve in the Yellow River, near Spooner, Wisconsin. The local radio station is playing “Birkie Fever.” For two days, WOJB on the Ojibwe reservation broadcasts skiing news about the American Birkebeiner ski marathon, 50+ kilometres (30 miles) from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.

Which, this year, I signed up to do. A friend from the Yale club ski team was doing the race with all her Minnesota cousins, and since I’m living in Boston now and back in ski territory, I jumped in. I psyched myself out enough about it to make myself train (after spending four years abroad and off skis). I’d never done a marathon or truly long-distance race, and hearing about the course – the years it was below zero and people almost got frostbite, the named hills (“Hatchery Hill”, “Holy Hill”, “Bitch Hill”)- gave me a worry to chew over in a very surmountable way. Getting in shape for a race is an immediate task and a telos. A flexible work schedule and a newly-acquired energetic dog were contributing factors. 

In the end, the race (held last Saturday) wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was great. I like a point-to-point race. I’m used to skiing 1 k loops on the local golf course/ski track, where the manmade snow comes from Charles River water and is often an off-shade of brown—hopefully from leaf tannins, possibly from goose shit or storm runoff. Though I say that with all love and gratitude to the ski track, which makes ski training near Boston possible. I used to race there in high school. Doing those laps is kind of a Zen thing. When we were assigned to memorize something for English class (e.g. the Canterbury Tales prologue), I’d read a line, ski a lap, read a line, so the verses got well tamped-down in my memory. Training this year, we’d do 20 of those 1 k laps in a go.

But anyway, point-to-point skiing is better (from Cable to Canterbury they wend?). It feels like traveling. And for all that talk about the hills on the course, Wisconsin is really pretty flat! Instead of the pain/panic that comes with a sprint race (or a running race, for me), the Birkie was steadier. Skiing with your head in the race is great. It felt fine, just the adrenaline of the start, edging around people to get some open space and skating the corners, easing up the hills with quick feet, rolling on across the second half of the race and the frozen lake at the end, up a bridge and on to the town’s main street finish line. 10,000+ skiers do it (and the accompanying half-marathon) each year.

My hosts, in their sixties, had done 30+ Birkies. It’s “the measuring stick you check yourself against every year – can I do this? Yes, I can still do this,” one of them told me. And a race like that requires zooming out and thinking of yourself more separately from your body - shift gears, accelerate, now, go.  And in the process, it feels good. Maybe because of the endorphins, or the caffeinated energy gel (“gu” – I’m still not convinced it’s food, rather than icky klister in a packet – but I ate probably five of them during the race, and felt like I was soaring. Anyone who knows how I react to coffee can guess…!). The corn snow was a little icy and pretty fast. Coming up to the 20k-to-go mark, I was surprised not to be tired. Instead of trying not to go out too fast, I switched to trying to ski faster. What did you drive up to Mont Ste Anne for if not this? What did you ski up Tripoli Rd a bunch of times for if not this? Go. 10k out it started to rain lightly. The last 4k over the slushy frozen lake were a slog, my previously lightning-fast, well-waxed (rilling was key) skis slowed down, and it felt like there was a cup of water in each boot. It was a slog for everybody, though. “You kids!!” an older guy complained, when another gal and I passed him on an uphill. And at the finish line, I felt fine – like I could keep going and do it again. Only when I was pulling off my wet gear in the changing room did I notice my legs shaking, from cold or tiredness I’m not sure. After that there was hot chicken soup. My friend's cousins fell asleep with their heads on the soup table. Lots of nice Midwesterners said nice things to me, since I was wearing the medal they give to first-time Birkie skiers at the finish.

The medal has two big, bearded men carved on it, wearing skis and carrying a baby. That’s part of the (wacky?) lore of the event. The Birkie is named after the Norwegian Birkebeiner race, itself commemorating the 1206 AD exodus of the baby Prince Haakon in the arms of two skiing Birch-leggers (Birkebeiners) and mom Inga, party to a Norwegian royal succession crisis and civil war. You can wiki it and admire their outfits. In the current Norwegian Birkebeiner race, competitors wear an 8-pound weight to represent the baby.

Every year two “warriors” dress up in period costume and ski the American race. A few years ago, two of my hosts, brothers, were the ones to dress up and do the whole race on wooden skis. Every year, spectators line the track. This year a woman played Edelweiss on an accordion to urge us up the last hill. One hill had drummers. Another had volunteers offering jagerbombs, with 10k to go (no thanks). At one corner, “Bobblehead Hill”, a crowd gathered to cheer any wipeouts. I skied by two guys in lion costumes and two guys in penguin costumes skied ahead of me.

All of this kind of confirms my suspicion that people in the Midwest need more to do. (Sorry, but it’s true?). Still, better than the snowmobile-skipping contest that’s the other popular event in town – gunning a snowmobile from ice on one side of a river over open water to the ice on the other side, skipping it like a stone. You win if you don’t sink.

I was lucky to be hosted by friends of the family, in a cabin that doubled as an onsen (bath house). There was a sauna, hot tub, and Japanese style teahouse with a view of the bend in the Yellow River. The other half of the cabin had copies of Wisconsin trout-fishing regulations, (what turned out to be delicious) venison and sunfish in the freezer, and fishing lures decorating the walls. Attire of choice was either ski spandex or yukata.

The best raceday advice my hosts (and my fmr CSU coaches!) gave me (comments below aimed at regular folks, and not the elite wave):
- If you're a newbie starting in Wave 9, like me, get to the start early and run from pen to pen, skis in hand. Skis only go on at the last pen before the start. Self-seeded w/in waves.
- If you're in Wave 9, you can't really go out too fast, because there will be lines of people herringboning the hills. Use that time to rest up and then pass them on the downhill. Don't be too polite about waiting though - go around the line and on if you can! (Masshole Boston driver heritage showing here, probs).
- Head up before the hills (up or down) - pick a line based on who's moving faster in front of you
- Draft a big guy while you go over the 4k lake at the end - wind is always in your face
- Classic always goes left when the trail splits, skate right. Don't mix that up!
- Eat at every aid station: gu first, water second so you don't glue your mouth shut. 
- No need to carry your own water/food (unless you need something special): there are aid stations every 5k or so
- Bring dry clothes from head to toe for the pickup bag; it was warm this year, but in frigid years carry extra gloves or at least put on a toasty pair right before the race starts

Now that the race is done, what do I do with myself? If you’re training, the point of the run is that it builds to that overdistance run, and the point of that run is that it builds to the race. But it's also a joy- the right kind of motion feels right – stretching up to a clean double-pole, leaning into hills. And it was a hell of a lot of fun.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Robert's Mt. Orford Mashup - Classic

As Wes suggested an Orford race report, here you go. All temperatures are in Celsius, as per International Norm's. Mont-Orford is a park with really wide, smooth trails, sort of like Craftsbury. The long race is a 30k classic,  on pretty hard trail. This year it was supposed to be 3X 10k.

New Englanders present were Dave Currie, Leigh Mallory, John Brodhead, ‎a Harvard girl, and myself. I apologize if I missed anyone.  

Last Tuesday night Jamie told me that type of weather makes NE skiers tough. Well today was another example. It seems to be one of those winters where Mother Nature is working against us. ‎The forecast was for 5-10cm of snow, great! But temps were at -1C, and climbing to +5, with light snow changing to light rain. We woke up to 10-15cm of snow, yahoo, but the temp was as forecast. Also, earlier in the week, they had spread snow in the overflow parking lot for the starting plateau. Well it got washed out, so we were now doing a 30k individual start, really old school. The race schedule was delayed half an hour, putting our race at noon (not good for us as snow was supposed to change to rain). As well, the groomer broke down, so our course was changed to 4 X 7.5, I thought no big deal, but it turns out half the course wasn't groomed! It was only skied in by earlier racers. Boy, it was a shocker when at about 3k I was on 15cm of soft track.

But the story of the day was what wax to use. We had plenty of time before the start, so we decided to ask the clubs who were set up with their waxing trailers." How's it going" we asked. ‎A nightmare, nothing is working. My brother and I tried various universal and silver klisters, not great. We covered it, better but really not good enough for a 30k. We asked for more advice "use your arms". Then getting close to start time, let's try the zero skis? By far the best, they finally worked after 4 years in my ski bag. At least they worked for me, as my brother had good grip, but his skis were dead slow. Zero skis can be hard to match to the skier, but today mine paid for themselves! 

I'm not sure yet how everyone did, as half way through the race, it changed to light rain. So we were pretty wet and getting cold at the finish.

Tomorrow is a 15k skate, tired body, but no rain in the forecast.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Flying Moose Classic

Thanks to the late start time of 11 am I decided, along with several other CSUers, to make the longish trek up to Bethel, Maine for the Flying Moose Classic 22 km race held at Gould Academy's course. It was going to be cold.  Would the forecast winds hold off long enough to get the race in without loss of fingers, toes or nose?  The long drive was easy thanks to the early hour and virtually no traffic.  And, there was no wind!  Rob and Kathy were already waxing skis when I arrived and slowly the troops gathered and started testing skis.  Most everyone had to bump their wax up a notch given the loose, granular old transformed snow under the thin layer of new snow.  There was barely enough snow for a track, but that seems to be par for the course for this season.  Without the wind the skiing was quite comfortable, even at 12F. There was a 10 min. delay at the start to get the timing working properly and even that delay was not uncomfortable as the sun popped out for a while.

Within 200 m of the starting line this course starts climbing in a series of steps with one downhill and then a relentless series of ups.  Even though I had slotted myself in where I belonged I was completely gassed in about 1 km and had to back off.  I was desparate for a downhill and a bit of rest.  I had already been gapped and I could see Rob and Kathy disappearing into the distance and I had exactly 0 gears to shift into.  Now this course is pretty tough with 2 sections - a hilly 4 km loop and a much easier 3 km loop.  That first loop has some squirrelly downhills (think Bogburn on wider trails).  Well, I was so tired when we got to the squirrelly downhills that I completely spazzed and did a nice superman wipeout on the second one.  I had to let several skiers go by before I could get up without interfering, dusted myself off and headed down the next downhill and corner - CRASH.  WTF!  At this point I settled myself down and decided that I just had to get going and finish this section of the course.  I was still exhausted and so I just plodded up the next couple hills and started to gather myself to resume chase.  I had no idea where everyone was.  Jim Fredricks had pulled out due to a muscle pull and all the rest of my competition was somewhere ahead.  On the easy part of the course I pulled it together, finally caught my breath and got moving and started to catch up to a few people.  On lap two I could see Jonathan Chaffee ahead and gave chase.  The downhills were almost easy now that I focused on them and I started feeling pretty respectable.  I passed several skiers being a bit timid on the long fast downhills on the easy part of the course but I also got passed by some of the 10 km skiers who started 2 min. after us, most notably CSU jr. Matt Moreau who shot by and promptly disappeared ahead.  Matt went on to win the 10 km by about 50 seconds.  Well done!  Ex-CSU Jrs. Hadley Moreau finished in 9th and Carina Wallach finished 12th in the 10 km.

Lap 3 was the best yet.  At one point where the course doubles back on itself I could see Rob, who was struggling with fighting off a cold.  I quickly realized however that he was still way ahead of me at that point in the course. I finally passed Jonathan and nailed down a couple more spots on the final downhill and long climb toward the stadium and finished hard.  A backwards race for sure, but at least I was able to salvage a strong finish after such a lousy start.  Steve Lake was the first CSUer finishing in 18th having had a good, solid race. Rob finished 21st, I was 25th, Gray Holmes was 39th, Clinton Kreuger was 43rd, and Jody Newton was 45th overall and the only CSU woman.

After warming up in the yurt and swapping some race stories Clinton and I bundled up for the ski back to the parking lot.  The wind was now howling and it felt a lot colder.  We'd gotten the race in just in time.  Results and a video of the start are posted on the Bethel Outing Club site.  Link below:



Friday, February 12, 2016

Massachusetts State Championships

Here is a link to an article and photo of Will Rhatigan in today's Globe:

Full results can be found HERE

CSU Jrs. fared well with Will Rhatigan winning the boys race followed by Jacob Jampel in 2nd, Tyler Lee in 5th, Jordan Fried in 9th, Aiden Nichol 19th, Henry Johnstone 21st, Kevin Telfer 25th, Devin Wong 30th Dwight Fairchild 36th, Eli Newell 45th.

On the girls side CSU Jrs. dominated the top 15 with Chantal Raguin finishing a very close 2nd with Gabby Vandendries 3rd, Izzy Cole 4th, Claire Telfer 5th, Emily Nottonson 6th, Rebecca Feist tied for 7th, Lydia Yoder 11th, Ella Redmond 12th, Kate Weinberg 13th, Lorelei Poch 19th, Rachel Lorenc 21, Elinor Graham 26, Flora Fried 33

I apologize for anyone I may have missed in the results.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tues Race

Wave 2 Leaders

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Craftsbury Marathon, Or Why Didn’t I Try Those Skis First

One of the cardinal rules of racing is not to try something in a race that you have not tried in practice first.  I’m sure many of you may have done yourself at some point. My favorite is many years ago one of the CSU Jrs. who shall remain nameless, at a big Eastern Cup race out at Notchview, decided to try out a RedBull right before the start of a 10 km classic race.  Yeah, not a good idea.  The RedBull and that morning’s oatmeal ended up out on the course at about 8 km at the top of a nice long uphill, a nice course marker for the rest of us to avoid.  My mistake was not quite so gross, but consequential nonetheless.

Back to Craftsbury.  Lisa and I headed up in time to squeeze in a bit of skiing and wax testing at dusk.  I’d prepared test hard wax skis and klister skis given the lack of snow and what was there being transformed and quite sandy in texture.  The hard wax skis were fast and almost worked well and I’d have been tempted to go with them if I was younger, stronger, more fit, less elderly, had skied more this year and wasn’t worried about scraping around some of the corners etc, etc.  But I’m not those things, so I decided klister covered was the way to go.  (For wax geeks, old Toko Viola klister mixed with Toko Red klister, covered with Toko red hard wax.) That decision made, we had a nice dinner at COC, I klistered up my brand-spanking new, never skied on klister skis, leaving off the final cover layer until morning and headed over to our usual B&B for a good night of rest.  The only real worry at this point was whether it might snow over night.  I need not have worried.  The ground was just as bare the next morning as when we went to bed.  Tom Simon, Clinton Kreuger, Frank Feist, John Sakolowski, Jim Ellis and Bill Holland had all rolled in later than us but were up early to cram a few calories in before the race and have the requisite wax discussion.   Bill had successfully stirred the pot the day before with emails discussing klister binder, various klister mixes, etc.

Arriving early enough at COC to grab one of the nice new indoor wax benches, I waxed up Lisa’s skis and put on Toko Red stick over my klister to try them out and headed out the door.  For the first time in years I was not half frozen with buffs, muffs, lobster gloves and the like.  It was a balmy 20F and no wind!  Kind of tropical for the Craftsbury Marathon.  My skis worked well and I was satisfied.  I touched up Lisa’s skis and headed for the start.  As a precaution in case it warmed up and I’d need to rewax, I put red and yellow stick and a cork in my CSU jacket and hung it on a barrier by the trail.  This would turn out to be a wise move……

The start was smooth and I slotted myself in with the usual crowd, Robert and Peter Harris just ahead, Chris Osgood off to one side and Tom right behind me through the first field.  Rounding the first corner who should be untangling himself but Robert, who’d had some miscommunication with Lary Martell.  They were all tangled up but the rest of us flowed around them and moved on, my one thought being that yes! Robert was behind me.    It was a bit exciting on the first few downhills with some better at negotiating fast turns than others.  Chris Osgood shot by on the right as I was stuck behind a slower skier.  And then we settled in for the long haul.  Down the giant slalom turns in the field and finally to the first long climb up Ruthies.  Here we were on natural snow, what was left of it, with a nice icy base and some glazed powder mixed in.  Suddenly I was getting very little kick.  This was not good.  I worked hard to stay with my cohort as Robert came back by, recovered from his fall and all smiles.  He was moving!  Half way up and my arms were getting thoroughly thrashed, making up for a lack of kick and I skied out of the track.  My thoughts turned to rewaxing at the lap.  How disappointing!  I clearly didn’t get enough klister into the wax pocket and couldn’t get the wax down enough to stick well.  If I stopped I’d lose everyone, but if I didn’t stop I’d beat myself silly and die a horrible death out on the course somewhere.  All because I’d never tried out these skis before.  Stupid!!  The only consolation was that my skis were fast, so I hung in on the downhills.  I got gapped on those tough little hills heading back to the center.  Rewax or die.  It was a simple choice.  And so, as I lapped through at the end of lap 1 I pulled over at my coat and slapped on some Toko yellow stick, corked it quickly and got back on my way.  I probably lost a couple minutes, but it was soooooo much better.  I was tired from thrashing and so tried to settle down and see who I could chase.   Its amazing how much more relaxed I was now that I had better kick and could run up the hills better.  It wasn’t perfect, but a big improvement.  It didn’t hurt that now the tracks had some loose snow in them either and were skied in.  Lap 2 went by without incident.   On lap 3 I caught up to Tom Simon on Ruthies after chasing him  for a long time.  Somewhere on the long Ruthies climb Jimmy Burnham came storming past.  What the hell?  Why was he behind me?  Turns out Jimmy also pulled over at the end of lap 1 and went for the full klister rewax at the Burham Family ski bench, parked by the course.  Well, it seemed to work pretty well because Jim was on the move.  I was again flagging, but with Tom in sight I was motivated and somewhere along the way I got by him.  Now in this mix were several people I was chasing and going back and forth with.  Up front was Dan Voison, a bit too far ahead, and two NWVE guys, Tristan Leggett and Rick Kelley.  I’d go by Rick on downhills and he’d come back by on uphills, clearly with superior kick.  Tristan was bouncing around and stopped several times to rewax I guess.  Back and forth we’d go but heading into lap 4 they both were fading into the distance ahead.  I had to get around this course one more time and I was hurting.  The lack of December skiing was clearly getting to me.  I broke the course down to uphills which were slowly killing me, and downhills, which I was enjoying.  The last time down the giant slalom hill was really fun, skiing outside the berm and passing a lapped skier and down to the flats.  Wait, Rick was pulling over!  Yes, he was rewaxing!  Boom.  That spurred me on.  Last time up Ruthies, shuffling along, surviving.  On one of the last uphills to the Center and there was Tristan again, rewaxing I guess.  But then he just ran by me and was gone.   I knew I had to keep it moving because Tom wasn’t far back.  And, finally, the finish.  Phew, that was another tough Craftsbury Marathon.  These things aren’t getting any easier!  My age group had done well ahead of me with Chris Osgood and Peter Harris having excellent days and so I was relegated to 3rd.   Frank Feist had an excellent day, sub-3 hrs. to come in first for CSU, while Hannah Smith, unbeknownst to me, was less than 30 sec. faster than me for 1st CSU woman and 6th overall.  John Sakalowski  was 2nd CSUer, also having a good day in a sub-3 effort, while Ari Ofsevit was 3rd CSU in 3:05.  Robert Faltus stormed around the course 10 min. ahead of me even with another fall, followed closely by Jimmy Burnham who couldn’t quite make up for the time rewaxing.  Tom Simon was just behind me, followed by Victor, Clinton, Ann Burnham, the only other CSU woman going the full distance, Tom Smith, Michael Melnikov and Jim Ellis, skiing his first full distance Craftsbury and looking darned good doing so.

In the 25 km Bob Burnham was first CSUer, followed by Gray Holmes.  Jody Newton was first CSU woman in the 25 km followed by Lisa Doucett, Ken Walker, Larry Berman and Sara Mae Berman.