Monday, January 16, 2017

Quarry Road Training and Racing

Quite an eventful week for us!  After a magical start to the winter, we got hit with a nasty January thaw last week.  Pineland lost a ton of snow and had to shut down for a couple days.  This was frustrating, but fortunately we were prepared - the day before the thaw hit, we'd just done a session on mental strength with sports psychologist Tiff Jones.  There was a challenging team exercise combining memory and movement - it was fun and a bit nerve-wracking watching the skiers figure it out, but they did a great job.

While Pineland was closed we took a day trip up to Quarry Road.  This worked out just fine, since we had the Quarry Road Eastern Cup races coming up - nice chance to preview the courses.  The night before the races, we got together at the Alsobrook house for cookies, Pictionary, and 21st birthday well-wishes for Sam.  Three small children were very excited to hang out with the skiers, and there was much showing off.
Saturday's race was a skate sprint.  The refrozen snow was nice and fast - perfect for sprinting.  The team looked really sharp in the qualifier, but we didn't know exactly how they'd fared because the timing got messed up and the posted results were constantly changing.  It was pretty frustrating to sit and wait through lengthy delays and uncertainty, but once again our skiers used their recently honed mental strength skills to roll with the situation.  When everything finally came into focus, we had several people advancing to the heats - Hannah (4th), Mac (6th), and Sean (22nd) made the open heats, with Ian, Russell, and Lily just outside in the junior heats.  Hannah absolutely dominated her first 2 heats and won an exciting battle in the finals to take the overall victory!  Pretty sure that's the first time we've ever had a skier win an Eastern Cup - quite an accomplishment with a very strong field full of top juniors and college skiers.  Mac advanced to the semis and narrowly missed the finals.  There was a very short turnaround between the semis and the B final, and as the racers started off the line it was clear that people were fighting fatigue.  Mac was up to the task, though - he got off to a good start, stuck with the leader in 2nd, and pulled ahead in the final stretch to take the win and 7th overall - great tactics, and a very encouraging sign of fitness to be able to rebound so quickly after the semis.  After waiting patiently for hours and hours, our junior qualifiers toed the line with darkness approaching.  Russell went huge at the start and pulled away to win his first heat.  There was a little excitement before the finals because someone had taken his skis by mistake - he ended up racing on a pair of our test skis.  These had formerly belonged to Walt Shepard '10, which means they were meticulously cared for and still very fast despite their advanced age, much like Walt.  Russell hung tough on his borrowed skis to take 3rd overall for the junior heats, with Ian 11th and Lily 10th.  A VERY long but fun and successful day.

The next morning was a 10/15k classic mass start.  Conditions were pretty straightfoward - abrasive klister skiing - but any time klister is involved there's going to be some scrambling, especially with a mass start and especially with so many people to wax for.  Fortunately, former Bowdoin parent John Eldridge, a local master skier and occasional coach, joined us for the day as our volunteer wax tech.  John's help proved to be crucial - we were able to do some good testing and get the women's skis dialed in on time.  Hannah was on fire and pulled away for a commanding lead late in the race, but she had a dramatic crash on a sweeping downhill turn and went tumbling off the course.  She did a great job of recovering and getting back into the race to salvage 4th.  This was disappointing, obviously, but she was more or less unhurt, and it was really encouraging to see her skiing so well for the second day in a row - definitely looking ready for prime time.  The other women were solid and put up strong races - Ellie even came away thinking she might like classic skiing after all!  Things got frantic in the waxing tent before the men's race, but fortunately we had the cool head and skilled hands of Jake Adicoff available to bail us out, and we got everyone to the start on time.  The men's race was just as chaotic as the women's, with lots of crashes on the technical turns.  Most of our guys stayed out of trouble, and the whole group looked strong, with Sean leading the way in 12th behind a cluster of top college skiers.  The veterans were clearly a bit tired in this race, but the youngsters picked up the slack, with Christian, Orion, and Ian showing great energy and putting themselves right in the mix.  Right now the men's team has a level of depth that we've never enjoyed before - it's going to be fun watching these guys push each other all season.


Overall, two very good races and a great tune up for the upcoming carnivals.  The weekend wasn't without cost - like every team, we had our share of crashes, resulting in some injuries and broken gear.  We'll dial it back a bit in the coming days and hopefully get everyone healthy soon.  Many thanks to John for choosing to spend his Sunday with us - we had good skis today, and we couldn't have done it without him.  Same goes for Jake - gold star for him.  Looking forward to the St. Lawrence Carnival this weekend!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gunstock/Jackson Weekend

Just got back yesterday from a delightful weekend in New Hampshire - great way to start the new year!  On Saturday morning we did a 8/12k skate race at Gunstock - a competitive field with a nice mix of college, high school, and master skiers.  It's good for our skiers to see a healthy crop of master skiers - a reminder that ski racing doesn't end after college.  There were two racers in the M11 (80-85) category - WOW!  That was very inspiring for those of us who are starting to feel the effects of our advancing age.  The course was fun as well - rolling terrain that you really needed to work and some fast downhills with tough turns.  Good showing by the group overall - Hannah was 2nd overall for women, and Russell led the men in 10th.  Our next 4 guys were all within 16 seconds of Russell, which was pretty cool - looks like we have lots of people ready to challenge for scoring and carnival team spots.  Pat on the back for Katja as well for putting up a nice race despite flying from Anchorage to Maine just the day before - can't go much further than that and still stay in North America!

Women's Results
Men's Results
Right after the race we drove up to Jackson - after a nice afternoon ski we settled into our lodging right across the street in the legendary Eagle Mountain House.  We put the wraps on a fun and busy day with some Thai take-out and our first Maine vs. World challenge, a memory competition.  With so many people and so few Mainers on the team this year, we have 3 teams:  East, West, and Central.  Team East took the first round on the strength of a clutch final round performance by Lily.
Sunday was v. cold but also beautiful and sunny.  We started the morning with a downhill lesson and several mini-laps through the toughest turns of Jackson's 5k race loop, which we'll see again soon at the UNH Carnival (and hopefully NCAAs).  With some solid improvements in turning skills, we switched over the classic and finished the workout with a long easy cruise through the woods.  The tracks were perfect, the views were fantastic, and the downhills were fast and technical.  Just a great, great day of skiing - one of the best days we've had in a long time.
One other note from the weekend:  US Nationals got underway with the 10/15k skate and classic sprint races.  Jake raced and was solid in both, with his best performance coming in the skate - he finished 105th in the biggest Nationals field I've ever seen.  Kaitlynn Miller '14 was 22nd in the skate and qualified 1st in the sprint, ultimately finishing 3rd to earn her third Nationals podium in the past 2 years!  She'll be back at it later this week in the 15k classic and skate sprint, while Jake is on his way back east to rejoin the team.  Looking forward to lots of great racing to come!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fall Training Video

Happy New Year!  We're back - first practice of 2017 tomorrow.  Here's a look back at our training from last fall:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Semester Wrap-Up

Fall 2016 is officially over, and not a moment too soon!  After a few hectic weeks of studying, taking exams, and writing final papers, everyone's ready for a break.  Training is always spotty at this time of year - people are tired from Thanksgiving Camp and busy with schoolwork, and the variable weather and early darkness limits our training options.  Nonetheless, we managed to do some fun and productive workouts.  Here are a few of our highlights from the last days of the semester:

 Fun team stuff indoors on a dark afternoon.

 Visiting our old friend the bike path for the first time in a while.  DP while towing a partner - good solid challenge.
 Creative strength work.
 Early morning parking lot agility.

 A few of our skiers (Sam, Sean, Rachel, Jake, Christian) jumped into the Aquathalon - annual run/swim showdown between the track and swim teams.  They did OK!  No one had to be rescued from the pool, so that's a small victory.
 Early snow!  We were able to do a couple workouts around the athletic fields on campus, and then Pineland opened up at the start of exam week.  Always a good omen for the winter when Pineland opens before the end of the semester.

On our last day of team training, we drove up to Quarry Road - just enough snow to pull off a sprint relay with Colby.  Fun stuff and a short but hard race effort.  Hannah and Russell were our top team and won some sweet prizes!

A few skiers (Hannah, Mac, Jake, Lily, Ian, Fiona) were able to finish exams in time to do the Eastern Cup Opener in Craftsbury.  It's always tough to go straight from exams to a race weekend, but they got some good solid prep for the carnival season.  Thanks to Deb Miller for hosting the group like she has so many times in the past!

Now almost everyone has gone home - time for the skiers to catch their breath and put a few weeks of good hard training in the bank to set us up for carnival season.  We'll be back at it in no time!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Love In The Time of Cholesterol: Thanksgiving Camp 2016

Another great camp in the books!  Here are some highlights from Thanksgiving Camp 2016:

- Loaded down with a massive quantity of groceries (including 288 eggs), we set off for Quebec on Tuesday afternoon.  We ran into some weather from before Jackman to after St. Georges, which was not super fun, but nothing too scary.  Capable driving by Mac and the coaches kept all three vans on the road (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of Colby's vans), and we made it to Foret safe and sound.

- The skiing was excellent.  For the last several years, the folks at Foret have done a great job putting together a 2.5k loop with snow saved from the previous winter - a nice mix of terrain with some good climbs, fun transitions, and quick little descents.  Much nicer than the typical mini-loop you usually get in a low-snow situation.  As usual, we did a ton of good technique work.  This is our most productive week of the year - just endless hours of skiing on snow with a constant focus on getting technique dialed in.  It's always really fun and rewarding to see people making big and small improvements day by day.

- Of course, the next most important part of camp was the food!  Thanksgiving dinner was excellent.  I'm always impressed by how a bunch of college students can work together to pull off a nice big dinner like this - every year they do a great job.  We also had our usual cooking competition for the other three dinners.  This year's groups were divided up by region:  East, West, and Midwest.  East went first with a hearty batch of cheesy calzones, bruschetta, a salad of delicious kale gently massaged by Luca, and cookies and ice cream for dessert.  West followed with an array of quiches, an accidental smoke alarm, hash browns, a spinach salad featuring goat cheese and blueberries stolen from Team Midwest, and an outrageously tasty carrot cake with maple frosting.  Midwest provided the big finish with a regional-themed meal (no, not hot dish) - pasties, arugula salad with hazelnuts and other crunchy good stuff, and handmade nut goodies (apparently this is some kind of midwestern dessert - delicious and super unhealthy).  All three meals were delicious, and the judges were impressed by the skills and creativity on display.  It was a tough decision, but ultimately Team Midwest earned the gold star.
- We did a 5/7.5k time trial with the other teams training at Foret.  With 7 EISA teams plus Laval, it was basically over half of a carnival field, rounded out with skiers from OSI and a few other club programs.  Jake and Sam were on fire to lead the men, and Rachel was our top women.  As with any race, we had individual ups and downs, but this was a great day overall - so many people showed that they've improved significantly in the past year.  In particular, the men's team looked super strong - they held their own against some of the best skiers in the league.  A time trial in November isn't the same as a carnival in February, so we try not to get too high or too low about the results we see at this time of year; still, it's hard not to be excited and optimistic after such a strong showing.
Men's Results
Women's Results
 (Lots of pepper flips at this camp - Cirque came out on the wrong end of this one and ended up racing in donut tights).

- BSF skier Sawyer Kesselheim flew out from Montana to participate in this camp.  Sawyer will be Jake's guide in future Paralympic races, and this camp was a great chance for them to spend a lot of time skiing together on snow and establishing communication.  It was super fun to see them tearing through the time trial as a unit.  Having Sawyer around was beneficial for the rest of the team as well - always good to have a veteran skier around as a role model, and I frequently used him as a good technique example for our skiers.
 - We got a decent amount of snow in the last couple days of camp, and by Sunday morning there was enough to venture off the loop and out into the woods.  Most of our skiers took the opportunity to explore a bit for our final ski - a fine end to a great week of skiing.

All in all, it was a nice smooth camp - super fun and super productive.  There's still a lot of work to be done between now and carnival season, but we've made a good start down that road.  Hopefully we can continue our momentum in the coming weeks!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Beaches, Brunches, and Time Trials

Lots of good stuff happening since Fall Camp - here are a few of our highlights:

 Great workouts and beautiful fall scenery all over southern Maine.

Our first round of beach skiing intervals at Morse Mtn - tide was a bit high for optimal sand skiing, but we pushed through and got a great workout.
 Huge crowd at our annual Family Weekend brunch!

Most of the boys went up to Fort Kent for a training weekend featuring a nice classic time trial (won by Sean) and lots of health food.  Much thanks to Ian's brother Seth for hosting!
 Meanwhile, the women and a couple of the men did a cold and rainy skate time trial back home - a good tough day to prepare for the real thing.  Top times by Lily and Ian.
 We couldn't get enough of the time trial thing, so we did a skate sprint at Pineland the following weekend - Sean and Lily were our top skiers again.  The Cork family was in town for a visit and brought a large supply of Frosty's donuts - amazing!
 We finished up the latest training cycle with a nice rollerski to Fiona's house in Freeport.  Thanks to Jim and Lucy (Fiona's parents) and Rosita and Will (Lily's parents) for an absolutely fantastic brunch!
Words of wisdom that all Bowdoin Nordic skiers should take to heart.

A very successful training period overall, despite some setbacks with illness and injuries.  Looking forward to crushing it in these next couple weeks before we're finally on snow for Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Early Snow Above and Below

Here's a guest post from Kaitlynn Miller '14, who spent a couple weeks chasing snow in Europe with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project:

I count myself lucky that for the past two years my team and I have been able to get on snow in September and this year was no different. However, instead of just going to Austria for our fall camp, this year we added a weeklong stint in Slovenia skiing in an underground parking garage turned summer ski tunnel. Despite the oddness of our surroundings (think cement walls and fluorescent lights), I actually enjoyed skiing in the tunnel and we had a very productive week focusing primarily on speed and technique. In addition to skiing, we also got out for some running adventures in the surrounding mountains.

Tunneling in Slovenia (photo:  Pepa Miloucheva)

Enjoying some time above ground during a run/hike in the Triglav National Park
After wrapping up our speed-focused week in Slovenia, we headed to Austria for a distance block at altitude. This was our third year in a row skiing on the Dachstein glacier and it's safe to say the third time was a charm. We had an incredible streak of weather with eight strait days of sun and stable ski conditions. We skied every morning and then either ran, rollerskied, or did strength in the afternoon. At the conclusion of our eight days in Austria I had trained over 32 hours! Needless to say I was ready for a few days off and some time at home. If you want to read more about the camp and see LOTS more pictures, you can check out my personal blog:

 Perfect weather on the Dachstein!

 Attempting some synchronized skiing (photo:  Sam Dougherty)

 Enjoying some nice klister skiing (photo:  Caitlin Patterson)

 Running through an Austrian moonscape

 Even the rollerskiing is scenic in Austria (photo:  Pepa)

Got to go for a hike with friend and Bowdoin alum Stephen Ligtenberg who happened to be passing through Austria on his way to a whitewater race!