Wednesday, February 10, 2016

UVM Carnival/Eastern Cup/SuperTour

Quite a lot going on at the UVM Carnival last weekend!  With the absurdly warm weather continuing, Trapps lost so much snow that they had to move the races to Craftsbury (ironically, a mini-blizzard hit the coast of Maine just as we were leaving, so it was pretty sad to drive out of all that lovely snow into the bleak brown landscape of NH and VT).  The folks at Craftsbury did amazing work to squeeze a 2.5k loop out of very limited space and snow - a lot of loops back and forth in the 2 main fields, and a nice rolling segment out in the woods, all covered by mostly manmade snow.  Since the carnival doubled as an Eastern Cup and tripled as a SuperTour, there were lots and lots of people sharing this very small space - a bit hectic but also a busy and fun atmosphere.  The frozen granular snow and lack of big climbs made for a really, really fast race and super tight times on Saturday's 5/10k skate.  Ellie took an aggressive approach to this race and it paid off - she started out fast and pushed hard the whole way, and was rewarded with her first NCAA points ever in 27th.  Amazingly, she was just 8 seconds from being in the top 15 - a really, really close race!  This was a real breakthrough for Ellie, and very exciting for all of us to know that our skiers can be right in there with the best.  The whole rest of the team skied well also - I was really happy with how everyone looked.  Sean scored his first NCAA points in skate (25th), Hannah Marshall skied her best distance race ever (in my opinion), and Mac bounced back from a few sluggish weeks to set a distance PR of 34th.  A delicious dinner at the Miller household with several other team parents in attendance put the cap on a really nice day.

On Sunday we were loaded for bear (ie, klister), but the predicted snow showers were heavier than expected, and there was some real accumulation in the tracks throughout the morning.  We tested a number of options and made a last minute call to go with hard wax for the women.  With such a gently rolling course, we didn't dare to slow the skis down with klister in pursuit of perfect kick.  Fortunately, the women were up to the task - they did a great job of making the kick work and had nice fast skis.  Lucy broke out to finish 2nd for our team - her first time ever scoring points for the team!  As the new snow got skied in and the showers subsided, we switched back to klister for the men, but we stuck with a colder klister than the temps would normally require in the hopes of getting fast skis with just enough kick.  Again, the men made it work, and we had some really nice performances.  Sean led the way in 18th - he continues to set a new standard of excellence for Bowdoin Nordic first-year skiers!  Mac bettered his own PR from the day before in 32nd, just barely missing his first NCAA points, and Jake was right behind with a personal best of 34th - another strong performance in what has been a remarkably consistent season for Jake, with no finishes lower than 38th.  Once again, the whole team skied well and looked very strong.  The best thing I noticed was that our skiers are steadily improve at working the course and grabbing seconds here and there.  Tess did a fantastic job of working the transitions, August experimented with a very aggressive sitting tuck, and lots of people took the opportunity to catch rides off the many skiers coming and going on their various laps.  Very good stuff that will continue to add up and yield better results.

One other cool thing about this carnival was that we had a couple of alumni joining us in the races.  Spencer Eusden '12 was in town for the SuperTour with his Sugar Bowl Academy teammate Emily Blackmer, and Erin Hatton '12 jumped into the classic races.  We helped these guys out with waxing, and they did a great job of holding their own against all the fast HS and college kids.  It's really great to see Bowdoin Nordic alumni staying in the sport (and extra nice to have a chance to wax their skis one more time to make up for all the times I didn't get it right when they were in college!).

The only blemish on the day was sickness - we had 3 skiers who were under the weather and unable to race all weekend, which was obviously a bit of a letdown.  I also got a bit sick on Sunday, which was not fun on a busy klister day.  Fortunately, Tim was on top of his game and was extra efficient in testing and application to make up for my total lack of energy.  Overall, it was a great team effort, and we were well supported by a great crew of parents - a very successful weekend that has us all excited about the second half of the season.  With snow still thin across New England, we're headed right back to Craftsbury on Saturday for the 1-day Dartmouth Carnival - can't wait!

Here are some photos courtesy of Everett Marshall and Kaitlynn Miller:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bye Week & Lake Placid SuperTour

Last week was our bye week - no carnival.  We don't always get a bye week in our schedule, but I'm always happy when we do - I think it's a great thing for the team to stay home, get a jump on schoolwork and rest, and focus on training again instead of the travel/race/recover routine that dominates the carnival season.  Although the temps got really, really warm and we lost a lot of snow, we still had a pretty productive and restful bye week.

 We started out with a lot of work on downhills and turns - got to shave off seconds wherever we can, and, more importantly, stay on our feet!
We had some beautiful late afternoon workouts, and the snow held up surprisingly well.
 With no races to worry about, we had plenty of energy for fun stuff.  We did some relays, played some tag, and did our best to catch air on a mini-jump that someone had built in the Oak Hill field.
 The skiers took advantage of the laid-back bye week feel to relax in the clean and comfortable confines of the ski room.
 On Saturday, we went up to Quarry Road for a duathlon with Colby - 5k classic, mandatory boot change, and a 5k skate.  Our skiers were great in the skiing segments and breathtakingly slow in the gear change.  This will be a problem if duathlon w/ boot change ever becomes a regular college event.  But our skiers did have the best tights in the race, which counts for a lot.
 Skiing on Sunday was remakably good - we had a nice long ski and did a few more jumps, just because.

While were were goofing around in Maine, Sam, Tim, and Tara were in Lake Placid for the SuperTour races.  Like everywhere else, Placid didn't have much snow, so the races got moved to the jumps, which meant short loops and lots of climbing.  Sam finished 76th in the skate sprint and 64th in the 10k classic in a very competitive field - all of the top juniors, lots of college skiers, and the usual SuperTour domestic elite crowd.  Although the results weren't quite what he was looking for, he felt good and skied well - definitely an encouraging sign for the rest of the season.  Spencer and Kaitlynn were both at the races as well.  With expert waxing assistance from Tim, Spencer was 35th in the classic and 32nd in the sprint, just barely missing qualification - this has been a theme with Spencer over the past few years....  Kaitlynn ended up 13th in the sprint after qualifying in 7th, and then came back strong to finish 2nd in the classic - great to see her continue to ski near the top after her amazing success at Nationals.

Overall, a good, productive week for the team.  Now we're all eager to get back to carnivals - UVM Carnival at Trapps coming up this weekend!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Colby Carnival 2016

Back to Quarry Road last weekend, this time for the actual Colby Carnival.  This carnival featured a fun and spectator-friendly set of races - a mass start 15k classic and an Olympic-style sprint relay:  2 person teams with each person alternating laps for a total of 6 laps.  For Saturday's mass start, we were able to use the full 5k race loop, which is one of the toughest courses I've seen in an EISA race.  The terrain is all up and down - lots of big climbs with minimal flat - and the downhills feature lots of fast, sweeping turns, which are technical and not at all restful.  It's a really challenging and (I think) fun course - one of my favorites on the circuit.  The setup of the loop also made for an interesting waxing situation - half the lap was abrasive manmade snow, and the other half was more forgiving natural snow.  Fortunately, we had expert assistance from Walt Shepard '10, who showed up armed with a couple boxes of Frosty's Donuts and top-shelf waxing skills.  With Walt's help, we were able to test a lot of binders and kickers in a short time and find a good solution for both races.  The men's race started off conservatively - as the pace picked up gradually and the field strung out, Sean was able to move up from his mid-pack start position, first into the 30s, then the 20s, and finally a strong surge on the last lap to finish in 18th place.  Jake skied really aggressively on the climbs to lock up a 36th place finish, his best classic result by far.  August also skied his best classic race ever, showing much improved technique over last  year.  The women went out fast and the top few skiers got separation immediately, but there was a good cluster of chasers, and Hannah jumped right in with this group.  For a while it looked like she was going to get shaken off the back, but she skied tenaciously and hung on for a 10th place finish.  Emma was seeded way in the back, but she was able to weave her way through the crowds for a 56th place finish as our third scorer.  Other highlights were strong races from Ellie and August - they both showed major technique improvements over last year and put up the best classic races I've seen from them so far.  This was a really grueling race, and the whole team gave a great effort - a day to be proud of.  We celebrated that night with a pasta dinner at Tim and Tara's house, featuring a hotly contested Maine vs. World trivia contest won by Team World (although Maine still claimed the overall victory, 5-3).

 Sunday's sprint relay had a much different feel - bright and sunny, with everyone fired up but also laid back and ready for a fun race.  With 20+ teams in each heat, the skiing was fast and furious, with big potential for carnage on the downhills and chaos in the tag zone.  Somehow, the skiers managed to minimize the mayhem, and the races went off pretty smoothly for most people.  Unfortunately, our skiers were not most people - we had more than our share of mishaps.  Each of our three men's teams had a crash on the big tricky downhill turn, along with a lost pole and a minor fall on a climb.  This was frustrating, because when the guys were on their feet they were skiing really well - all three teams were right in the mix and would have certainly finished higher without the crashes.  But crashes are part of ski racing - now we know what we need to work on going forward!  The women had better luck - no crashes - but also a stroke of misfortune.  Hannah and Ellie were skiing well and hovering around 5th or 6th when another skier stepped on Ellie's pole and pulled it out of her hand, and she had to ski most of a lap with one pole, Jessie Diggins-style.  She skied remarkably well, but obviously dropped back a few places.  Hannah skied a great last lap to bring them back a bit, and then Ellie closed it out with a tremendous effort on her final lap - she got caught by Colby's top skier with a couple hundred meters to go, but somehow held her off down the stretch to hold onto 10th place by a ski length.  Although it was disappointing to miss out on a bigger finish, this was still pretty exciting - those Colby women are two of the best skiers in the league, and it was a major accomplishment to edge them at the line.  Our other two women's teams skied great as well - both had exciting sprint finishes, and although we were just on the wrong side of both of them, it was still a lot of fun and also valuable experience for our skiers.  A fun day and a fun carnival - I'm really happy with how our team skied and very proud of their effort and good energy, and I'm confident that we'll keep getting stronger as the season goes on.

We had amazing support this weekend - several Bowdoin students and a couple alumni showed up, and there was an army of parents serving up great food and taking photos (all of the great photos for this post are from Everett Marshall and Doug Hands).  Everyone's presence really helped make this a fun weekend.  We're lucky to have such a great group of people supporting the team - thanks to all of you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bates Carnival & Eastern Cup

The first carnival of 2016 is in the books, and it was a good one for Bowdoin Nordic!  Heavy rain early in the week wiped out the skiing almost everywhere around New England, including Black Mountain.  Fortunately, the good folks at Quarry Road agreed to host the race - they stepped up and made a TON of snow to cover a 1.5k race loop.  With a little fresh snow mid-week, conditions were pretty much perfect for Friday’s classic sprint.  The day started out well with people burning up the prelim – H. Miller (11th), Sean (15th), and Mac (29th) all qualified for the heats, with Jake just missing in 38th and H. Marshall posting her best race ever in 49th.  Things got better in the heats, with both Sean and Hannah advancing past the quarters.  Sean made the semis with a great lunge at the line; although he was knocked out in the next round, he came back strong in the B final to lock up 10th place – the best debut of any Bowdoin nordic skier ever! (at least in the EISA era).  Hannah was solidly in control in the quarters and semis, finishing second in both behind the top-seeded skier.  She ran out of gas in the finals but still hung on for a career-best 5th place finish.  It was a fantastic start to the season and an exciting day that got the whole team fired up and feeling confident.

 That night, we stayed in Augusta due to a nasty storm in the forecast (kind of silly to stay in a hotel 40 minutes from campus, but there was nothing available in Waterville except a place described as “scary” – after getting caught in the middle of a drug bust outside our motel a couple years ago, we try to be choosy about our lodging these days).  The storm hit that night, and we woke up to find our vans encased in ice with a couple inches of fresh snow on the ground.  The snow kept coming down throughout the races, making for soft and silky smooth skating.  The temps were colder than originally forecast, and our wax call for the men was clearly too warm.  For a minute it looked like we were in trouble – fortunately, our salvation arrived in the form of James Crimp ’13, who braved the storm and drove over from Rockland to help wax.  James was a total hero and helped us blast through the ski prep – we couldn’t have gotten it done in time without him!

The races were almost as exciting as the lead-up.  Since the event was a combined carnival/Eastern Cup and also was held on a short loop, there were skiers coming and going constantly – lots of passing and being passed, and lots of opportunities to work with other skiers.  Our skiers battled hard and looked good – I was pretty happy with how the team skied.  Somehow, though, our results were only OK, which was a bit of a surprise.  Just a reminder that our league is really deep – a lot of good skiers showed up ready to ski fast on this day.  Jake had the race of the day – he skied with a ton of fire and posted a career-best carnival finish of 35th.  H. Miller led the women in 19th – she was obviously a bit tired after a very long sprint day, but she hung in there nicely and put in a great surge in the final kilometer.  Marshal also had a great race – he latched on to a Williams skier early in the race and skied on his tail for the rest of the race, staying smooth and relaxed the whole time.  It was great to see him skiing well after so many setbacks last season – hopefully the first of many good races this season.

As if the combined Eastern Cup/carnival wasn’t enough, the race also served as the Maine State Championship.  Colby dominated to bring home the Chummy Broomhall Cup for the first time in 4 or 5 years.  We finished 3rd once again – one of these years we’ll win that cup!  Jake and Hannah earned All-State honors for their efforts – First Team for Hannah and Second Team for Jake. 
 One other highlight from the day – Kaitlynn showed up to race, fresh from her amazing performance at Nationals.  Not only was it great to catch up with her a bit, she also won the race and made it look easy – super controlled and powerful the whole time.

Even after such a long weekend, one skier hadn’t had enough – Sam decided to race in Sunday’s Eastern Cup classic race to score some points for JN qualifying.  He was seeded way in the back of the mass start, but managed to pass a ton of people to move up to 28th by the finish in a very strong field.

Overall, it was an exhausting but successful weekend.  I’m more certain than ever that our team is ready to put up some great results this season – can’t wait to head back up to Quarry Road for the Colby Carnival this weekend!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Jan Camp So Far

Jan Camp 2016 is underway - the first week-plus has been busy!  We started up on the first weekend of the new year with five hardy skiers:  H. Marshall, Lucy, Tess, Mac, and Wil.
 The first thing we did was head up to Quarry Road in Waterville for a classic time trial.  No other teams were back yet, unfortunately, so we had to settle for time trialing ourselves.  Lucy pulled off the upset to post the top time for women despite not having raced classic since the Hoover administration.  Mac and Wil were locked in a tight battle until Wil took a wrong turn 200 meters into the race, leaving Mac racing only against himself (he won).

 After a nice PM jog and a restful night in the scenic village of Kingfield, we ventured into the woods to explore the Maine Huts and Trails system in Carrabassett Valley.  If you live in New England and you haven't checked out these trails, you should remedy that - they're beautiful, challenging, and totally free to the public.  We had a great OD ski full of long climbs, fun downhills, and gorgeous views.

 By the time we got home, Pineland had scraped together enough snow to open the trails.  The skiing was really good!  We can always count on Pineland to do more with less.  Over the next couple days, teammates gradually trickled back to campus while we did intervals, specific strength, worked on technique, and practiced our downhill moves.
 Before we knew it, the weekend was almost upon us, and we headed up to Jackson for a mini-carnival organized by UNH.  We had a lovely pre-race ski on Thursday afternoon, highlighted by a little extra strength work when we had to push the van out of a snowbank on the way out of the parking lot - perfect race prep.  Friday brought a 9k skate - H. Miller was our top women, and Jake led the men, with Sam and Wil close behind.  Saturday was a classic sprint - 2 person teams alternating for a total of 6 laps.  After scraping off the rust on Friday, everyone was pretty peppy.  The women were particularly energized, because just before their race started we found out that Bowdoin Nordic alumna Kaitlynn Miller '14 had won the National Championship classic sprint! (an amazing accomplishment that deserves its own blog post - coming soon).  They crushed the double poling and dominated the downhills.  H. Miller and Ellie were in the mix the whole race and finished 3rd amidst some very strong skiers.  Tess gets extra respect for switching to skate skis for her last 2 laps and double poling the whole course - the only skier in the race bold enough to attempt this feat.
 We closed out a great trip with a pancake breakfast at the home of Angus ('89) and Rachel ('87) Badger.  They live on top of a big hill at the end of a country road - after our previous van mishap, we decided to walk the last couple pitches up to their house.  The women made friends with the Badger family sheep, while the men got a head start on the pancakes.  Angus and Rachel have been big ski team supporters for a long time, and it was fun to chat with them and two of their kids who were up for breakfast, Nina and Willem.  Thanks for the hospitality, Angus and Rachel!
Despite full bellies, we rallied for one final ski on the Jackson trails as the rain started coming down - we finished wet and chilled but happy.  All in all, a great trip, and we feel very lucky to have packed in a lot of skiing now that New England is pretty much bare after yesterday's monsoon.  Now we're enjoying a rest day and looking forward to more snow soon!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Fall Training Video

Happy New Year!  Several of our skiers are returning to campus for our first team training of 2016 this weekend - can't wait to get started!  For now, here's a video recap of our training for Fall 2015:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

European Marathon Adventures

Recent Bowdoin Nordic grads Tyler DeAngelis and Jackson Bloch are headed to Europe this winter to race in eight of the world's greatest ski marathons.  They'll be blogging about their adventures - check it out!  Also, here's a nice article from the Portland Press Herald about their trip.  We're all really excited to follow their travels - good luck guys!