Most hotels are drearily cookie-cutter so it's always exciting to get to stay somewhere a little bit more unusual. For our Houghton trip APU is staying about 15 miles away from the venue at the Oak Street Inn in Calumet. We rented out the entire Inn-- 2 suites with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and living room and a small house. Six girls in one suite, 5 boys in the other, and a house for the grown-ups (4 coaches and 5 athletes). I'm in the girls' suite, sharing a room with Kate Fitzgerald. Calumet had its economic boom time awhile ago so the place feels very antique and old-fashioned. When I first took stock of my bedroom I listed bed, one bedside table, one table-ish chest of drawers, small closet. Then on closer inspection I discovered that my chest of drawers was actually a record player and that my bedside table was a sewing machine. huh.
With the antique furniture, the gray-green plaster walls with the white wainscoting, the old brass light fixtures and ornate heaters came a very small TV. Not being much of a TV watcher I hardly noticed that detail but the boys certainly did. Clearly, they couldn't play 4 person Halo on such a small screen. The first day in town they went to a Rent-A-Center and rented a 60" TV for the week. and they're pretty dang proud of themselves.
We didn't get to bed until 4:30 this morning. APU seems to have a penchant for flying into a big city in the late afternoon, going out for dinner (always Mexican), and then starting the seven or so hour drive at 8pm. I guess there's no really good way to get to Houghton and driving all night did actually get us there. It's not quite as bad as it sounds since Houghton is on Eastern Standard Time instead of Central. We did eventually wake up this morning and went for a nice morning ski at two in the afternoon. The Tech trails were fantastic today-- plenty of new snow firmly packed, the race courses were marked and the even have some of the fencing up already, and if not exactly sunny it was at least a pleasant temperature. It's quite a change from the conditions last year. It's good to see the U.P. living up to its reputation finally.
I had a hard time packing this morning. Probably mostly because I gave myself too much time so I spent it all pondering what to bring. It's much better when I only leave myself an hour and I have a frenzy of grab, stuff, zip, gone. When I have time to think about what I'm packing I feel like I'm preparing to head out on the Oregon Trail. I have a weight limit (50lbs) and a size limit (1 duffel) and certain types of weather (cold) and events (races) that I have to be ready to encounter. I wouldn't have so much trouble with the weight limit if it wasn't for the small library that I like to carry around with me. It breaks my heart to leave unread books behind. This trip I had to make two big sacrifices-- Pelear and Volokhonsky's new translation of War & Peace because it's takes up too much space and Harry Potter et le Sang Mele because, um, I don't actually speak French (yet). Don't worry, I've already read both stories so I'm not missing out on any content here, just the language. This type of dilemma makes me think that I should look into those digital books. hmm, should have thought that one through before Christmas.
Oh well, now I'm packed and in seattle ready for a solid day of traveling and many hours spent waiting around in airports tomorrow. Don't worry, I've been reading Stardust in the airports this season and I'm about a quarter of the way through so I should be able to polish off another quarter tomorrow. (Thank goodness for chain bookstores all being arranged the same- I can walk in and walk directly to Stardust without having to look around.)
KO and I skied up at Stevens Pass with our dads this morning. It was quite perfect. Stevens was actually closed today but we were hoping that Mike would have groomed anyway and when we pulled up he was just getting ready to drive off in the bombardier. So we had fresh tracks on mainline all the way up to the top!
Owen and I did our traditional double pole from the parking lot to the top of mainline and, um, maybe I'm just a little out of shape but I'm pretty sure my arms are going to be sore tomorrow. It is nice to have Owen around, both on the race circuit and back in Wenatchee. It's like having a little bit of Wenatchee around with me when we're traveling to ski races and a little bit of the ski circuit with me when I'm at home training in Wenatchee. It's nice to have a little bit of continuity between different areas of my life.
What I think about between the time that I arrive at the venue to the time I start. I wish I could say it was all focused and positive, but it's not. The Classic Sprints at SoHo Dec 15th.
8:10- arrive. why in the world am i at the race venue so early?
8:15- check in with the coaches, grab my bag and walk up to the race headquarter building (an elementary school on weekdays) with ronsse since i'm not testing skis this morning. glad they have this school here where we can hang out before racing, beats sitting in a van or a flouro-filled wax trailer.
8:20- head up to the second floor and select the library as the room of choice in which to chill. thought about skiing fast today but quickly got distracted by all of the book titles from my childhood. then i read half of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story to Katie until it was time to go warm up.
9:00- back to the wax trailer to pick up my bib and skis. as has been happening lately, i had to wear the yellow leader's bib. but we also had the blue sprinter's bib in the pile. what!? who gets to wear the blue bib? i asked. ronsse. this i do not like, i still think of that as my bib. i feel petulant and sulky for a good two minutes.
9:05- i completely forget anything about bib colors and start warming up. i time the walk from the door of the wax trailer to the start gate-- two minutes. the track is lifted in five spots on the course. for the qualifiers i note that i'll want to cut the corner instead of going straight into a track and for the heats i decide i like the track third from the right best. for the first section of track (slight up out of the stadium) i like the right changing to middle track for the qualifiers and the left track for the heats. for the second section, which includes the hill, i decide on the middle track, the far right being second choice and the left being my least favorite because it hits a slightly steeper pitch on uphill that the other two tracks avoid. for the third section down the hill i like the middle track, for the corner coming into the stadium i like the left track and for the finishing straight i think that either of the two middle tracks will be best depending on where the corner flings me.
9:30- i get my race skis from erik, frode, & dylan in the wax trailer and take them for a L3 lap. they're perfect.
9:35- i give my race skis back to Erik through the window of the wax trailer and jog up to the race headquarters to go to the bathroom. then return to wax trailer to put race spandex & bib. check: suit, bib, gloves, hat, glasses.
9:40- take warm-up skis on another two laps, feeling very pumped to race and confident i know the course well. note the transitions and where speed can be maintained through the corners and over the crests of the hills.
9:50- back at wax trailer, grab the race skis and jog back to the start.
9:55- check with the starter to make sure we both think i'm starting at 10:00:15. we do. hear the announcer and think, oh, taylor's announcing again this year, i should go say hi.
9:57- remove warm-ups and do some leg swings.
9:59- clip into my skis and strap on my poles and stand in the start track, shuffling my feet.
Some of the local skiers were doing intervals today so KO and I helped out. The Ski Hill wasn't groomed so we had to pack out our own tracks. Owen and I picked wax and helped wax skis. We picked the wrong wax so we spent the interval session at the bottom of the hill rewaxing skis. Then we skied up to the top to take pictures during the last couple intervals. I got cold. I do not think that I am cut out for coaching. After intervals Owen and I convinced all the kids to race up the bunny hill-- poles not allowed, full body contact allowed. Then we threw snowballs. Then we raced down the hill where we continued our snowball fight. We're definitely not cut out to lead ski practice.
So my mom and I are sitting in our kitchen both on our laptops and she pulls up some of Ian's race photos on the internet. This prompts her to exclaim, "you look like you're in pain!" or some such comment and run over to give me a hug. As if suffering in a ski race was a bad thing.
I always forget how much ski racing wipes me out. I had high hopes to write up a race recap well before now but I think I must have been napping or something instead. Anyway, I rolled into Wenatchee and only have two things that I can think to say: 1) Kikkan rocks! 2) it's nice to be back where the yogurt doesn't spit at you when you open the container.
When I was doing a little bit of L4 work this morning around tomorrow's sprint course Pat Casey suddenly stepped into my vision waving a hat at me. Pat Casey's a hard dude to not notice, even when you're doing some focused, very serious pace work and to top it off the hat he was waving at me was Glenn Randall Orange. (Don't worry, I already told Glenn I was naming a color after him.) Casey ran up alongside of me and said, "it's good practice for feeds." So I grabbed the hat, without missing a stride, thank-you-very-much, and skied a few strides holding it before putting it on. I figured at some point in my career I might need to put on a hat while skiing at race pace so it was good to practice a hat feed.
The eerie part of this was that I hadn't seen Pat since the Bozeman race and I never saw him the remaining two hours I was at the venue. He just showed up for one lap brandishing a neon orange hat and then disappeared.
Everything at SoHo is groomed. Except for the trails close to the stadium which had the snow makers set up on them. You can see the trails on the other side of the valley behind Jeff. Jeff flew in last night from Canada to rejoin us for the SoHo SuperTour races. We are glad to have our token Canadian back with us.
Best Uphill: Whiskey Gulch. I loved it. Mostly because it's right after a steep downhill so it's the only hill on the course that I climbed in a tuck.
Best Jacket Valet: Kirsten Valaas. I could take my down jacket off right before the start and put it back on right after finishing. Ah, that's what little sisters are for.
Best Finish: Matt Liebsch (CXC). In his quarterfinal he had a full on body slide across the line in a attempt to lunge into second place.
Best Volunteer: Cliff. Because our lovely teammates drove away without us, Ronsse and I hitched a ride from Cliff to our hotel. Now that is above and beyond the call of duty for volunteering at a ski race.
Best Fall: Becca Rorabaugh. For stabbing her foot in the semifinal and falling on her face.
Best Teammate: Katie Ronsse. For letting me into the track during the A-Final when I was boxed out on the first uphill skiing among the V-boards.
Best Parents. Mine. (Thanks for coming out to watch!)
Best Pre-Heat Scheme: The BSF girls. Because they had sleeping bags in the not-so-warm waxing cabin where we were waiting.
Best Toques: Shayla On Skis. Headwear by Shayla Swanson. But where was Shayla today?
Best Word of the Day: Supercilious. Courtesy of M-W.com. Actually it's their only word of the day for today. But it's still the best.
Best Clothing Boutique: Erik Flora. Because it was cold and he donated a lot of clothes to his under-prepared athletes today.
Best Part of Today: Getting to race AND getting to race tomorrow!
I am so grateful that we're racing at Bohart tomorrow. I know the race organizers probably had a stressful week leading up to today with changing course venues and changing race courses. In fact, there were lots of places on the course where you could see evidence of shoveling. Like here where Katie's skiing. So Thank You to all the volunteers for making this race happen. I know it seems like we're just focused on skiing and racing but we do notice and appreciate the work that goes into putting on a ski race!
Is what I should be doing now so this'll be short. Alaska is cold. Alaska is dark. I am flying to Montana on Thursday and on Monday I am going to get me some of that Utah sun. It's time to start the long winter's journey!
Flitting around the lake at the base of that last steep face up to powerline pass this morning I was looking down trying not to get tripped up by the very small and not so very small sastugi and observing the small rocks scattered across the surface of the snow in windswept lines and caught in the snow contours. One rock caught my attention as being particularly round amidst the angular debris. I noticed several more unnaturally rotund rocks. Blueberries! I picked one up and discovered that it was not a blueberry but in fact was a bearberry. And I ate it. I also got a rock that had been frozen to the berry but I spat that out instead of eating it.
A little higher up a came upon a bluff that had been windswept down to the ground and whole clusters of bearberries were waiting to be harvested still frozen to the plant. I didn't stop to snack although I would have had they been blueberries, blueberries being universally agreed to be more delectable than bearberries. I wish they had been blueberries! Although it's probably better they weren't since at 11°F it's generally a bad idea to sit down and eat frozen blueberries at the top of a long descent.
*Photo courtesy of Tim Kelley. It is a good photo, isn't it? Aside from that ridiculous Fischer ski, bah!
This is the time of year for scheming. It's a little too late to be training super hard but a little early to be racing super fast. So we sit and scheme. In case you're a schemer too and you're dreaming about qualifying to race in the Canmore World Cup races this January, I'll share my research with you.
If you're not interested in points and quotas, LEAVE NOW!
When I mention FIS points requirements that means that you have to have a race where you scored that many FIS points or less withing 365 days prior to the World Cup race.
Men's Distance Starts 3 athletes on international quota (60 FIS points) and 5 on national quota (120 FIS points). Plus Overall SuperTour leader. 9 possible starters.
Men's Sprint Starts 4 athletes on international quota (120 FIS points) and 5 on national quota (120 FIS points). Plus Overall SuperTour leader. 10 possible starters.
Women's Distance Starts 2 athletes on international quota (90 FIS points) and 5 on national quota (120 FIS points). Plus Overall SuperTour leader. 8 possible starters
Women's Sprint Starts 3 athletes on international quota (120 FIS points) and 5 on national quota (120 FIS points). Plus Overall SuperTour leader. 9 possible starters.
In the distance events there's enough men and women with low enough points to fill the international quotas.
The point I'm trying to make here is that this is probably the most feasible chance to get a World Cup start for most of us this year. So scheme and dream!
The official USSA press release can be found HERE.
We had an APU/UAA time trial this morning at Hillside. Some of the juniors in town were time trialing a little later this morning also (different course), mostly Winter Stars athletes with some APU juniors and High School skiers, so there was plenty of fast skiing going on at Hillside.
I must admit I was a bit of a reluctant time trialist this morning and was a little lazy about getting in a good warmup. It's hard to get psyched for a time trial now that I've had a taste of real racing. We started at the top of Jr. Nordic and skied a lap of the lighted loop, then continued on the first half of the loop to the Hilltop parking lot, then down to the end of gasline and up Spencer, finishing at the high point on Spencer. If that sounds like gibberish to you, you're not alone, it was gibberish to me too this morning. I managed to mostly stay on the course though. There was one intersection where I wasn't entirely sure which way I should go. Luckily, Bart caught and passed me before I had to think too long and I followed him off to the left. Thanks, Bart! I returned the favor by tripping him with my pole when he came by me.
After the first lap Taz made up her 1 minute on me and I decided to ski with her and see if I could pick up any tips... Taz being notably good at those distance skate things and myself being not so good at them. It is amazing how much easier it is to ski when you're following someone. Normally I would say drafting but Taz doesn't offer much in the form of a draft for someone like me. Anyway, I definitely started skiing more smoothly once Taz passed me and I stayed with her to the finish at the top of Spencer.