The End of a Season, and A Lot to Look Forward To!

by karalapoint April 8, 2010

Well, it looks like my ski season is pretty much all wrapped up… despite the fact that it looks to be full-on winter outside my window right now! But, things closed up on a really good note, and I am really grateful for that!! Also, I am stoked because I have a LOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO, and I am already super excited about it!

The last race of the season was this past weekend, the California Gold Rush series. I chose to do the Silver Rush (30-km distance) instead of the Gold (45-km) which I have done the past few years, because I wanted to win the Fischer Cup Series (local race series that is a culmination of total race points from five races throughout the season). In the women’s field, the Silver Rush, not the Gold Rush, was the race that garnered Fischer Cup points, and the final race of the series. I couldn’t win the series without completing the race, and since I DESPERATELY need the money, I went with the Silver! But, no regrets here!

After completing those two 15-km laps I was more than happy to ski through the finish line, rather than have to go around yet again. Actually, I don’t think I could have made it at that point! Of course, I hope I would have paced the beginning a little easier if I had been doing the full marathon, but regardless, I was EXHAUSTED after 30 k. And when I say exhausted, I mean it, in every sense of the word. This is a GREATTT thing! As I have emphasized again and again in this blog, one of the toughest things for me in racing in years past has been really pushing to that point where you go beyond what you thought you could — exceeding your limits and just getting everything out of your body that it could possibly give. As I have been so happy to finally start doing consistently this year, I succeeded at reaching this point yet again in this last race. And I am stoked!

My exertion level alone was enough to make this a really good last race of the season, but fortunately for me, it also happened to be a day when I was feeling good as well, and things just really came together. Between not having too much trouble from my body, pushing so hard and also really feeling “there” mentally — maybe from knowing it was my last race and wanting to prove to myself that I could really have a good one after the Great Ski Race — the race turned out awesome. Even though it was extremely tough and I was so damn tired at the end that I didn’t know if I would make it up the last hill, I never took my foot off the accelerator. I just kept telling myself that I didn’t know where anyone else was on the course or how much they were turning it on at the end, so I managed to really keep the sense of urgency there and never get too comfortable. In the end, this paid off despite the pain, as I felt like I skied great, and ended up with a result that I was super happy with.

I took second for the women, behind the ever-speedy Joanne Reid (daughter of the all-amazing Beth Reid), and placed sixth overall. The Far West boys took all the top spots, so that was cool as well. After I crossed the line, it took me a while to get my body back to a normal state and eventually muster up the energy to stand back up. I was supposed to bring a water bottle out to Maria on her last lap, and I was really doubting my abilities to make it out there. I tried, and ended up skiing pretty far despite feeling like I could barely stand on my legs the whole time, only to find out they had long passed the point I made it out to on the course. They were flying! So, I slowly made my way back into the stadium just in time to see the next few skiers AFTER Maria come in to the finish. And at that point, I cannot emphasize how fortunate I felt that I had just settled for the Silver Rush. Man did it look hard coming up that hill for the THIRD time!

The racers kicked some butt though, and of course I was super happy with the winners: Matt Gelso with yet another victory and Maria pulling out the win in the last 600m of the women’s race. Awesome job guys! Maria and Beth pretty much kicked my booty time-wise, despite going 15km longer than me. Had I done another lap at the same pace (which I don’t think I would have managed to do!!), I would have been a ways back there. But, seeing as they were in the top-10 overall, I don’t feel so bad! We will see how I fare next year if I am able to jump in the Gold Rush again. All in all, it was a great day: sunshine, plenty of snow and a lot of great people celebrating the end of another awesome season in the Sierras. It was one of those days when I remembered how lucky I am to live here and be part of this ski community!

I did end up winning the Fischer Cup, as my second place on the day was good enough to earn the top spot overall, so I was happy about that. I should add, though, that Beth went for the win in the Gold Rush, as she is a phenomenal distance racer, and in all likelihood would have won the Fischer Cup otherwise, as she has won most all of the races in front of me this year. But, without the Silver Rush points, she was unable to win the event, but I still think she deserves credit for everything she has done this year and just the overall amazing ability she has consistently shown. She is truly the best skier out there in this region, alongside Joanne — like mother like daughter, I guess! Anyhow, awesome job to Beth and all the ladies who came out there and raced so hard in all these races! It was a lot of fun!

Now, I am in a transition phase, as I get ready for another long but FUN season of competition! And I really can’t wait for this one! I have been working hard in hopes that it will be great, and am really heading into this run/tri/bike season with a lot of heart, hope and high expectations. I have some pretty big goals, but I am more than ready to put in the time and energy that I need to in order to achieve them. My schedule is still in the works, but there are a few things I know will be happening for sure, and I am already getting so stoked for them!! The biggest is my IRONMAN, July 31st! This is a big goal of mine and I am expecting a lot from myself, and I am already so stoked for the race! Counting down the days!

In addition to the Ironman, I will be doing one or two other half-ironman distance triathlons, a handful of olympic distance tris, two marathons, a handful of half marathons, and some other shorter bike and running races mixed in. It’s going to be awesome!! Right now I am taking a bit of a break, with a couple of pretty low-volume, zero intensity weeks, focusing on the job search and moving out of my house. Needless to say, I have still been plenty busy. But, starting next week, I will pick things up and really get into gear training for these competitions. For a while there it was looking like spring had fully sprung, and I even got out on my rode bike a couple times down in Reno, and got in a number of good runs. It was awesome! But, old man winter has decided to come BACK! We have gotten multiple FEET of new snow this past week, and the temperatures are below freezing! It looks like we are back in full-on winter mode for now. This is throwing me for a loop a little bit, but I did have the opportunity to get out for an incredible classic ski today in what looked like the most snow of the whole winter up at Auburn Ski Club. I guess I will just try to take advantage of this last chance for a few more great ski days, and stick with riding the rollers for now, and getting in some more runs down in Reno on work days. More to come soon!

Check out karasdreams.blogspot.com for more info!

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SuperTour Finals / Season Wrap-Up / Next Year / Thoughts about Senior Team

by skiin-ian April 5, 2010

A little over a week ago (Gold Rush weekend, wished I could have done the Gold Rush too) I raced the final 3 races of the US SuperTour in Fort Kent, Maine, along with a very solid representation of the country’s best skiers and a bunch of top Canadians as well. There were really only a handful of elite US skiers missing from the field, it was possibly the most “stacked” field I’ve ever seen at a spring series / long-distance nationals / supertour finals (they keep changing the name but it’s always the last block of races of the season, in late march.) 

I came hoping to improve my USSA points and see if I could pop some good ones and get in there with the best skiers in the country and hold my own and learn as much as I could too. It was a super tough trip getting up there, having to pull an all-nighter (after 2 weeks of tons of hard training and tons of late-night gigs to earn money) in order to pack up everything I owned and move it into storage again for the next several months, take care of everything I needed to do in Truckee before being gone for at least a couple months, and then get on the plane, fly to Boston, arrive at 1am, then drive to the tippy top of northern Maine the next day which takes about 9 hours. 

Despite all that, I think I would have been ok in my first race on Friday (an 11k classic mass-start) if I had had more kick wax…we didn’t manage to nail it that day which is a bummer. Even though the course didn’t feature any real steep climbs, there was plenty of striding on long, long gradual grades. I did my best with slick skis and still manage to come in ahead of some really good skiers like Glenn Randall (10th at nationals in the 30k classic) and Mike Sinnott (one of the top skiers in the country, fresh off a 4th place on the OPA cup in Europe which is a series just under the World Cup level.) I ended up 39th or so, only about 1:45 out of 1st, but probably about 1 minute behind where I should have been and could have been if we’d managed to get the kick wax / skis figured out better.

The next day was a classic sprint at the same venue, and this time Janice (the NENSA waxer who provides wax support for anyone without their own wax support or team…pretty awesome that New England has that support for ANYONE at every major race in New England!) and I were able to learn from yesterday and went with a much thicker layer of klister on my skis. I was also a bit more rested. I cranked it out of the start and was surprised to find myself NOT feeling the utter death-burn you normally get from sprinting, even at the top of the course after the long sustained climb. I guess I had a little too much respect for the long climb, but it worked out ok, as I was able to crank it over the top and across the flat and into the finish. I was psyched to end up with the 17th fastest time for the prelim! Despite a couple mistakes I still managed to ski faster than a ton of top guys including Dave Chamberlain, Garrott Kuzzy (who went to the Olympics this year for the US), Brian Gregg (overall distance supertour winner this year), Bryan Cook (CXC - 3rd at Nationals, a great classic sprinter, top American in the Madison SuperTour classic sprint), and a whole bunch of others including a bunch of good Canadians like Ivan Babikov (5th in the Olympics pursuit, though he’s definitely not a sprinter.) This was more like it!

In my quarterfinal heat I was matched up against Mark Iverson (APU), Mike Sinnott, (Sun Valley), David Norris (Fairbanks - 4th at Nationals), a Dartmouth skier, and Bryan Cook. I got a good start and tucked into the ideal 2nd-place position right behind Mark Iverson, a big strong guy who I knew would ski the opening downhill and flat section fast. That he did, and he continued to totally crank it the whole way. I managed to stay in second most of the way up the long climb, but with pressure from behind and on all sides. I slipped back just a tad up the last part of the climb, but was able to make up a bit of ground into a virtual tie for 2nd coming into the final downhill corner. Mike Sinnott, Bryan Cook, and David Norris were all behind me, while Iverson had gotten a second or two lead on me and the Dartmouth skier. The Dartmouth skier managed to cut me off heading into the turn and I actually had to brake a bit to avoid completely crashing into him and skiing over his skis and probably taking us both out. Meanwhile Sinnott used this to his advantage and drafted up on us and slingshotted through on the inside of the turn and was in 2nd ahead of both of us by the end of the turn! 

We hit the straightaway and I got to work on the double pole and was REALLY, really close to pulling ahead of both Sinnott and the Dartmouth skier, but couldn’t quite do it. I ended up 4th in the heat, still ahead of 2 of the country’s best classic skiers, and only 0.4sec. from third in the heat and I think only 1.4sec. from 2nd in the heat which would have put me into the semifinals for the first time in my career. So it came down to a bad tactical decision on my part heading into that final corner…I had tried to pull up next to the Dartmouth skier to try and pass him, but in hindsight I would have been much better off to stay behind and draft him and then slingshot past him after the turn, thereby carrying my momentum into the turn rather than having to lose it all when he cut me off. 

Anyway, despite being a little dissapointed to miss making the semi’s, I was pretty psyched to feel so strong and be right in there with some of the very best in the country, and even more psyched that my time in that heat was one of the fastest in the quarterfinals, and would have been good enough to win the B-final by about 2 seconds (which would have been 7th place overall.) Mark Iverson, the winner of my heat, went on to win the B-final with a time that was about 3 seconds slower than what he skied in the quarterfinal, and conditions were definitely not getting any slower. My time was the 12th fastest of anyone in the quarterfinals, tying with Lars Flora. I ended up ranked 16th for the day.

So it showed me that I am right in there and while I do need to figure out how to go 12 seconds faster in order to WIN and be on pace with Andy Newell (often the fastest or 2nd-fastest qualifier in World Cup sprints), I am in the hunt and able to hold my own with the best in the country. I know there are still lots of things I can do to improve.

One of the biggest things for me is technique. I was fortunate to have my fiancee there videotaping so I could directly compare my technique to the top skiers, and wow, I think I have the WORST technique of any of the guys in the top 20, hands down!!!! Which is actually quite encouraging in a way because it means that I already have the fitness and mental toughness to be right in there in the top 5 if I can just get my technique to a similar level as those guys (or even get it in the ballpark.) So that is very exciting!! I just have to get on snow as much as possible this spring and summer and do as much video as possible every week all year long and continually compare what I’m doing to what the best skiers in the world are doing and make adjustments, video the results, and analyze again, etc. 4 times a week is my goal for a minimum. 

Anyway, heading into the third and final event the following day, I woke up feeling quite tired. In hindsight I probably should not have gone for such a long “cool-down” run/walk for an hour and a half in the afternoon after the sprint…but I was really enjoying being out there! I felt pretty beat and my legs were pretty stiff heading into the race, which was a 7.5k murderous hill-climb, sort of like Billy Dutton but with a shorter, much steeper 1.5k climb up a downhill ski area. That main climb came about 2/3rds of the way through the race, after the course did about 4k of rolling stuff at the base of the mountain. Then when you reached the top you still had another 1.5k of rolling/gradual uphill to get to the finish. 

The race started in an old-style pursuit format, based on how you did in the first 2 races (bonus seconds were awarded according to your final ranking in the sprint race. I think I got 15 bonus seconds for finishing 16th overall.) I was starting in 34th position due to my not-so-good race in the first race. So I was hoping to really move up a good 10 spots or as much as I could manage, and go for the best time on the day that I could (USSA points were being awarded based on your isolated absolute time for the hill climb only, so for example someone could conceivably start 40th, ski really fast, be the 15th person across the line, but have the 3rd fastest time of the day and get really good points for that.)

I started right with Noah Hoffman (US Ski Team) who ended up having the 2nd fastest time of the day. He took off at a pace that I thought was pretty stupid (and he is known for not being the smartest sometimes in terms of pacing and technique) so I didn’t go all-out in the first 1k trying to hold onto him. I did manage to pass a few skiers in the first 4k of rolling terrain, and then 1 more at the beginning of the big-a** monster climb. I was able to drop the pack of skiers behind me in the middle of the climb, and then my legs were pretty much blocks of wood and totally done, but I kept doing everything I could do, and managed to hold them all off except one: Glenn Randall.

I had pushed super hard in what I thought was the 2nd half of the climb, but as we crested the steepest part of the hill, I realized that that had only been the middle 3rd of the climb, and there was still a lot more to go. Even though the top section was more gradual (more like Rough Rider at Tahoe Donner or something like that), I couldn’t muster a very successful V2 as my legs were so utterly drenched in lactate from the first seven hundred feet of elevation gain or whatever it was! I kept hammering though and it wasn’t until the very, very top that Glenn Randall got by me and put about 2 or 3 seconds on me. I kept charging as best I could in the very twisty rolling section that followed, knowing the finish line must be close. I wasn’t quite able to close the little gap down though and as we came up one last gradual uphill I realized that this was it - only about 2 or 300m to the finish line. I could hear people closing behind me and I put in a bigger burst over the top of the little rise than I thought I was going to be able to get myself to do, and then hammered the V2 into the finish as hard as I could, not wanting to leave anything to chance.

It was good that I gave it everything as I ended up just barely holding off a couple skiers by something like 1 second or so. One of the skiers was Russell Currier, who had just won Biathlon Nationals and is especially good at climbing. He started a ways behind me in the handicap start but not that far, so it felt like a little bit of an accomplishment to hold him off. I also passed and/or held off some other good US and Canadian skiers like Tim Reynolds (Craftsbury Green Team) and Karl Nygren (CXC).

Overall though it wasn’t the day I’d hoped for, and I guess I only finished 32nd and had the 34th fastest time that day. In thinking about that race and the prior 24 hours and things I could have done better and looking at the results a little more, it REALLY became apparent to me just how crucial it is at this level to do EVERYTHING right and really take care of every detail and take everything seriously. I estimated that if I had:

-gone for a 20min. shakeout walk instead of a 1:30 run/walk in the cold the previous afternoon
-done a bit more stretching
-taken a nap right after the classic sprint the day before
-gone to bed a little bit earlier the night before
-figured out a way to really know the entire course including exactly how long the hill was
-paced the race better based on knowing the course better (I went out too easy for the first time ever, and in hindsight I would have been way better off if I’d skied less conservatively in the first 4k, and then not quite so all-out in the first half of the climb, and then been able to hold it together better in the top half of the climb and the last 1.5k as a result),

…then I think I could have easily been 30 to 40 seconds faster. 40 seconds would have put me right around 12th or 13th as far as times for that day, only 50 seconds behind Babikov who had the fastest time and is generally considered one of the top 3 if not THE top hill climb skier in the world. It would have been my best skate race of the year both in terms of the result and in terms of points. When I think about that, it seems like that could have been very achievable if I’d just been more on top of those important details. So it was dissapointing but an important lesson for all my races next year - and actually even for my training season, which started about 3 days after the hill climb.

This year was my best ever by a long shot. My bad races were as good as my best races in previous years, and my best races this year were almost twice as good as my good races in previous years in terms of points (which are based on percent back from the average of the top 5 finishers, and how highly ranked those top 5 finishers are in the country). I went from being about 100th on the USSA list to a year-end ranking of 50th. And this was despite several unfortunate equipment failures and no-kick on some important days, without which I would be ranked about 30th in the country (of course, everyone else could say the same I’m sure, though I’m not sure everyone else had QUITE as bad luck as I did this year and had their pole basket come off AND their pole handle come off in 2 of their best races of the season, along with having a binding malfunction and losing a ski in what would have been their best skate race of the season in terms of points, etc.)

Regardless of that it was absolutely a huge breakthrough year for me and I feel very “un-stuck” after several years of seeminly plateau-ing. And I have some very specific, concrete, clear things I need to improve in order to take a big step up next year (upper body strength, technique, getting some better-flexed classic skis, and a lot more 1-minute and 2-minute top-speed intervals at sea level.)

I was very, very fortunate this year to be able to really focus on training and reach a new level thanks to some generous financial support from my parents, Salomon’s financial and wax support, Far West’s financial support and coaching support including the amazing collaborative help of Ben Grasseschi, Glenn Jobe, and Jeff Schloss who worked with me several times a week all summer and fall and continued to guide my training throughout the winter, and finally the general, less-quantifiable but equally-important moral support of the entire Far West ski community which I have felt so grateful to be a part of.

This coming year I will be living a little outside of Boston with my soon-to-be-wife and plan to train harder than ever and use what I learned this year to try and catapult to a higher level. I want to get in there with the very very best in the country, and win. I’ve seen that I can do it. I had 2 SuperTour weekends this year where I believe I was in winning shape but had unfortunate equipment issues that put me down several spots. I am determined to not allow equipment to get in the way next year. But the important thing is that I know it is achievable now, and I know what I can work on. 

Thankyou SO MUCH to everyone who has helped me this year and every year / any year. It has been amazing to have the opportunity to continue to progress and go farther and farther. It has been great training and racing in Far West and I’ve tried to do what I can to help others with their skiing, as much as I can while training full-time and trying to make ends meet. I hope it’s been helpful for some people. It has certainly made my pursuit of skiing excellence much more meaningful, being able to share the joy of this sport and share whatever I’ve been able to learn so far, with others so that it can hopefully add to their success and enjoyment, whatever level they are at.

I hope that the Far West Senior Team can continue to exist so that these kind of benefits can continue both for Seniors (having some much-needed coaching and financial support to be able to train and race at a national level and progress to the level where they can reach the Olympics, Worlds, make it onto a pro team, be at a level where they can earn enough prize money and sponsorships to make ends just about meet, etc.)  and for the rest of the ski community (Juniors and Masters, being able to hopefully benefit from training with / skiing with / racing with / doing clinics with skiers who are at a higher level, whether the goal is to make the JO team, win a medal at JO’s, win States, learn from the general experience of working hard at a sport and learning how to make progress when you put your mind to it, reach a level where scholarships are possible and pay for some or all of college that way, improve your Great Race time, increase your skiing ability just for the sake of your own enjoyment, etc.)

It will probably take an increased level of support and investment in order to fully realize that kind of program and situation in Far West. I was able to make it work this year because of a one-time extremely generous gift from my parents out of the blue, and because I made it onto the Salomon team, and because after years of racing on the circuit I know a lot of people around the country and am able to not be in an expensive hotel every night or renting an expensive rental car every day.

The other seniors on the team are not quite making it work (as far as being able to fully focus on training and have the means to get around to many races around the country where they can race with the best skiers) which might be fine with them, everyone has different goals, and Kara, Chelsea and Phil all had some awesome results this year despite that but it would be cool to see skiers who want to reach a higher level, have the means to do that, somehow, and for them to be not having to work full-time and therefore have more time to give back to the community, do more clinics, or just more hours training alongside the juniors and/or Masters and offering what help they can, either by way of example, pure inspiration, practical ski-career / college-career guidance, tactical advice, training tips, or helpful technique suggestions/observations etc. 

In any case, I’m really grateful for what we’ve had and bottom line is that I hope for the maximum of good for everyone in the ski community, one way or another. 

I will definitely be visiting the Truckee/Tahoe area as often as possible! (Might even make it out to Billy Dutton at the last minute here, if I can). I still haven’t won the Great Race or the Gold Rush…and I still haven’t had enough of getting to ski with, bike with, and talk with all the great people there, or explore and enjoy all the amazing terrain and roads and trails there. 

Hope you all have a really wonderful spring, crust skiing, biking, sun tanning, working, or whatever you end up doing!!!! Thanks for reading and sending best wishes your way ; ) 

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Live Music: Support Your Local Ski Racer ; )

by skiin-ian March 10, 2010

If you feel like coming out this weekend to hear/see some live music, it would be awesome to see you! It really helps when people show up since it means I can get booked again and continue to earn money and not starve ; )  Plus I really, really like playing for people I know, and playing for anyone that shows up to listen!!!

Here are my gigs while I’m in Truckee (I’ll be leaving for awhile March 23rd to do some more races in other parts of the world, so hope to see you before then!)

Friday March 12: Kimba Madsen Trio @ Cottonwood (7-10pm) with Jeff Wright on bass. Some fun acoustic / acoustic-electric renditions of a bunch of songs you may know, with more guitar solos thrown in than I deserve probably…

Saturday March 13: “Ian Case Trio” @ Baxter’s (in the village at Northstar…a really sweet venue if you’ve never been!) (8-11pm) with the insanely good Caleb Dolister on drums, and equally incredible Tristan on keys. I’m really psyched about this one, this will be some rippin’ jazz / instrumental stuff with some of the very, very best musicians in Tahoe. And me ; )

Thursday March 18: “Ian Case Trio” @ Moody’s (8-11pm, downtown Truckee)…this will be similar to the gig at Baxter’s but with my friend Todd Hollway tearin’ it up on keys! I’m equally excited for this one.

Friday March 19: solo Double-Neck Guitar concert at For Goodness Sake (downtown Truckee, sorta near the train station) 6:30pm. Some solo acoustic instrumental stuff on the double neck, several pieces on the african kalimba, and some new stuff using a live looper to layer a bunch of melodies and harmonies together. Low-key but listening-oriented environment in a fun little space. No charge, donations accepted.

Saturday March 20: playing the Double-Neck down in Grass Valley at the Grass Valley Performing Arts Center, as part of the Guitar Extravaganza XI. I’ll be getting to do a rare thing and perform one of my songs with a full band (the way the song was meant to be heard!) featuring some really, really pro musicians. Also will do a couple solo pieces. Also performing are a bunch of classical / flamenco guitar virtuosos from all over California and beyond. Two shows: 2pm Matinee, 8pm evening show. More info on my double-neck site: www.IanEthan.com

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An Almost-Great Race

by skiin-ian March 7, 2010

It is awesome to be back in Cali where there is sun and fast granular snow…and a whole lot of people I haven’t seen since December when I went on the road to race on the national circuit and do other races around the country in search of tougher competition which always teaches you more than you would learn in a less competitive race where the overall level of skiing is not as high.

However as we all know, the Great Race features some of the best competition of the year within Far West’s borders, other than maybe the college races at ASC. One of my big goals for this year was to try and win on what feels in a way like my “home course” even though today was only the second time I’ve ever gotten to ski it…but it’s the cheer-ers and fellow skiers that make it feel like home, along with the awesome CA conditions!

I had a rough 3 days of travel from Vermont to Truckee and whole bunch of unexpected things to deal with leading up to the race today, which tried to throw a wrench in my race preparations, but I did the best I could with it all and was fortunate to have some help from some generous people in the community. Running on 7 hours sleep and what felt like 70 hours of travel and hassle, I was glad to wake up actually feeling somewhat ready to go.

Adam Swank and I skied off the front of the group starting a few km into the race, and put a pretty big gap on everyone. Over the top of the course he pulled away by 15 or 20 seconds but then by the summit I was able to power back up to within 10 or 15 seconds of him or so.

Then I put my tuck-skate to work in a big way. I’ve been working on tuck-skate specifically all summer and fall and winter and have found that it’s a strength of mine and a place where I can usually drop people or reel people in (or maybe I’m just the only one dumb enough to blow up my legs on a downhill? Who knows…). I think tuck-skating isn’t generally focused on or taken very seriously but certainly in a race like this one, it can play a crucial part. I was able to close the gap on Adam over the first 2 or 3km of downhill, and in hindsight, probably should have kept it up and just dropped him right there and never looked back.

However, I was concerned about skiing all the way to the finish by myself with no one to take turns leading with, especially with what I imagined was a hard-charging chase pack trying to work together to close down the gap to Adam and I. It is always a big advantage on a long downhill or flat to be in a pack…the pack will always move faster than an individual skier or two skiers, just like in cycling. As it turned out, it was a non-issue since things had split apart back there, but I didn’t know that at the time.

So I did what probably turned out to be the worst possible choice, and purposely let Adam have time to accelerate and get in my draft, so that he would come along with me, when I passed him, and I didn’t try to drop him, but at the same time didn’t relax completely by any means. I skied a fast pace for the next 10 or 15k or more, in order to keep ahead of the chasers, but purposely avoided making an all-out break. Adam told me later that he was going at an all-out sprint pace just barely hanging onto me during that whole section. I sensed that he was barely hanging on but wasn’t quite confident enough to make a break for it, thinking maybe I’d be best off working together with him and having his help until the final couple kilometers where I could try to put my sprint skills to work, since Adam is not a sprinter (although he can be very tough to hang with at the end of a long skate race, which is his specialty!!)

This may have even worked if it were not for what happened at the final soup/feed station. For the second year in a row, there were about 10 people standing at the feed station, completely out to lunch. Last year I had not been able to get a feed there as I came by because nobody was paying any attention, so this time I started yelling loud from 300 yards away, and continued yelling for energy drink over and over, and reaching my hands out in case everyone was deaf. Not a single person had a cup in their hand despite the fact that they saw us both coming from 150 yards away or more. Instead they chose to ring their cowbells and/or stare aimlessly around.

Now, I feel conflicted about complaining about this too much since I fully realize these people are, bless their hearts, out there as unpaid volunteers, and we should be grateful that they and others like them are willing to put this race on at all. However, it is beyond my imagination why the decision was made to go to all the trouble to set up a feed station and then have it all be pointless because not a single person has been apparently clued in to the fact that, at least for the top 30 racers or so, it is not an option for us to pull over, stop, pick up a cup, have a little tea party, and then continue on our way. The standard practice, at ALL other feed stations I have ever gone through in ALL other races I’ve done all around the country including other ski and running races in California, is for anyone working a feed station to at LEAST have a cup in hand so that a passing athlete has some chance of grabbing it as they cruise by at 20mph or whatever. I would have even been happy with the novice-style “stand-there-motionless-and-wait-for-the-skier-to-smack-into-the-cup-at-20mph-and-necessarily-spill-80%-of-it-on-impact” feed (it’s much much much better when the person runs slightly as the skier comes by)…but why on earth not a single person had a cup in their hands EVEN after they all saw that we were coming and had PLENTY of time to react and MUST have heard me yelling or seen me motioning…is a little beyond me and a little frustrating for me knowing that getting a feed there could very well have made it possible for me to win today which could have put in a better position to get more support from my sponsors next year and not starve quite as much etc.

However, in the end, I am the racer and it was my responsibility to do whatever I needed to do in order to have a successful race and that was one area that I still didn’t get quite right I guess. It would just be cool if someone helped those people at that feed station next year so that they weren’t completely oblivious.

I did try to snag a drink off the table at the last second, however at 20mph it was pretty much impossible to not splash all the contents out immediately on impact, so I got less than a teaspoon down my throat. I think Adam may have actually managed to get one from a guy on the left who must have gotten a drink in his hands at the last second, so I guess I’m not completely accurate saying not a single person was on the ball.

In any case, immediately after that feed station, I started to run out of gas a little bit as Adam went to work on gapping me on the uphill. I managed to control the damage to 20sec. or so, and then was even able to close it down to about 6 or 8 seconds after the road crossing with 1k to go, but just couldn’t quite find that extra-special gear that you have to dig really, really deep for. I need to practice that more…hitting absolute max-speed at the end of a long hard effort, when you really do not feel like digging deep. I’ve done it many times before but every time takes a massive mental and physical effort.

So I had to settle for second place, 16 seconds out of first. I was still very happy though and had a great time out there. And even if the people at that feed station may have been utterly useless as feeders, it was still cool that they were out there and supporting the event. Hopefully they got some feeds to some of the subsequent racers.

It was fun to see my Far West Senior Team-mate Phil Violett come through a clear third ahead of Tav and Marcus and a couple Utah college racers and xc oregon skiers. And it was super fun to get to talk to people after the race who I hadn’t seen in awhile. I love the post-race hangout time when everyone can just share in the comradery of the sport and the shared race experience that we all just had, spectators/cheerers included. I love racing in CA and I’m really glad that the Great Race exists. It is awesome to see so many people enjoying the sport who may not get out on xc skis very often during the winter, but it seems like EVERYONE comes out for the Great Race.

If I have the opportunity to ski another year again next year, I am determined to make the leap to a whole other level so that it is not even a battle for first. I want to train hard enough that I can have bad skis, miss both feeds, crash in the final turns, break a pole, and still win without having to sprint for the line. I have to aim higher or I will always be kind of in that “pretty decent, almost great” kind of zone. I’m grateful to be able to finish 2nd but always want to keep making progress and giving it 100%. So I have that to shoot for next time, if I get to do a next-time.

For now I’m psyched to get some really good training in for the final SuperTour races of the year, which will be March 25, 26, and 27 in Fort Kent, Maine, an hour northwest of where the Junior Nationals are being held this week. Most of the top Americans and Canadians should be there so it will be the last chance to get some really good points. What better place to train than in CA in March!!!

Hope you all can get out there a lot and enjoy the awesome conditions. Thanks for being such an awesome ski community ; )

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by karalapoint March 6, 2010
Me with the girls at state — JV state champs! I am one proud mama! ;)

Me with the girls at state — JV state champs! I am one proud mama! ;)

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One Really Great Weekend

by karalapoint March 6, 2010

One Really Great Weekend….

So it’s probably self-explanatory from the title of this blog post, but hey I’ll say it again because I like it: I just had one really great weekend!

It was one of those weekends that was gratifying on multiple levels: an overwhelming reiteration of why I love coaching so much and why it can be so rewarding, pride in the job I have done in that regard, the unexplainable feeling of achieving nearly the “perfect race day” and the high that comes with it, and yet another reminder of just why I love skiing so much. Let me tell you why…

The weekend started off with a bang, as the CNISSF State Championships were being held Friday and Saturday up at Auburn Ski Club. If you haven’t been up there to watch one of these season culminations, let me tell you, you should! It is such an amazing event. It is so cool to see a. how many young racers there are out there – it’s really a positive sign for the expansion of the sport, b. how much drive and desire and passion they have for the sport already – it’s so evident, and c. how hard they are working! These kids are awesome! They are all competitors, but they come together so well here at the final event, each sharing in the effort they have put in all year long to get to this moment and the desire to reap the benefits of that effort.

It’s especially neat for me to come back and be a part of the State Championships now, from a different perspective. I remember so well all of the years I competed in the event and how much it meant to me to do well there. To now see that same thing in my racers, and know that I am helping them to make it happen, is really special. I feel like I am totally able to understand what they are feeling, and I think that helps them – or at least I hope!

We spent the last two and a half weeks (well, the whole season really, but the last two and a half weeks were on a specific peaking plan), preparing for just these very two days. The kids put in so much work, probably hating me for about a week and a half as I made them do interval after interval in between races trying to get into top form. I wanted so badly for them to be rewarded. It is kind of an amazing feeling, realizing just how much you can want something for someone else because you are so invested in them, despite wanting the same thing for yourself simultaneously. I had confidence, though, that the kids were ready, and even more confidence that they had the motivation and desire to totally throw down. They were fired up! And let me just say… they killed it! There was not one athlete who didn’t totally rise to the occasion and surpass anything they had done all season in at least one of the two races.

I felt like a proud mother of all of these five kids, emotionally stressed out on the racecourse as I watched them go by and in preparation, and then so totally psyched when they finished and turned in awesome results! Despite stormy, just plain nasty weather, the kids brought their A-game, determination in full-force. The classic day was tough waxing with wet snow and continual storming despite the warm air, but I gotta say, we nailed it (or so the kids tell me… maybe they are just trying to make me feel better ☺). And let me tell you… there are few things more gratifying than really nailing the wax on a challenging day with varying conditions. Feels awesome! Or maybe it’s just right now because I’m such a rookie… Nonetheless, it was a relief at the least, to know my wax job was not hindering the kids’ performance and hopefully helping it on the contrary.

Melanie Swick (soph.) came in first place for the JV girls, in front of several varsity girls at 13th place overall, continuing the dominance she has progressed toward all season. Close behind her in second place for JV was our freshman, Maddy Kwasny, with her best race of the season… up until that point at least! Ashley Vomund (soph.) came in eighth place on the day (JV), another strong effort, and sophomore Julie Falke finished 25th. Our lone male for the weekend, Ryan Collin, was the eighth JV boy on the day. All in all, it was an awesome day. Everyone felt like they raced well and gave it everything they had, which is the most important thing. A couple were slightly disappointed with their results, but remained hopeful and determined that they could turn things around on Saturday.

And Saturday came, bringing the pursuit start Freestyle race. For those who are not familiar with this format, the racers start based on their order and times from the day before, so someone who finished third and 35 seconds back from the leader, that is the way that they start on day 2. The finish order is the final order, regardless of starting time differences. Needless to say, it allows for an intense and exciting race, but it’s a lot of fun, both as a racer and a spectator. The JV athletes were dispersed in with the varsity athletes (based on their overall place), which I thought was great because it provided them the chance to try to push themselves to reach the level of these athletes around them. I encouraged my kids to push hard and try to catch varsity athletes in front of them, or stay with any who may pass them from behind. Especially for my girls who were 1-2 in the JV race, I told them to pretend like everyone around them was their competitor and they needed to try to beat them. The team had another really great day. In fact, almost all of them had an even better race than the day before, showing true grit as they pushed themselves to the absolute limit trying to knock off those around them and move up in the ranks. Maddy actually threw down an even better race than Friday, now truly her best race of the season. She went above and beyond anything I had ever seen her do, and you could see in her face how much of it was just purely mental and driven by sheer determination. It was so fun to watch! She turned in the fastest time of the day for JV in the skate leg, 13th fastest overall, also holding off the third-place girl who started just 20 seconds behind her. She was truly on fire!

But despite her valiant effort, Maddy was unable to move into first as Melanie held her off with the help of the big lead she earned for herself on Friday, earning the title of JV Girls State Champion – so well-deserved, I must say. Hard work and a great attitude lye behind that title. Ashley also stepped up big time, coming out with a vengeance and ready to capitalize on her opportunity to skate (her favored technique) her way to a better place more deserving of her capabilities than that of Friday. She pushed so, so hard! And she skied great, passing several girls on the course and moving up to sixth place in the JV category, also earning the 3rd fastest skate time!! (Behind only her teammtes!!!) Awesome effort! Julie and Ryan both also moved up on the day with strong performances and confidence in their skating, from 25th to 23rd, and 8th to 7th, respectively. Overall, another great day, very worthy of celebration.

In the end, the girls’ team finished the meet as JV STATE CHAMPIONS!!!! Yay!!! Small little Incline High School, only in its second year with a Nordic team and multiple first and second-year skiers, emerged as the state champions! Sure, it may not seem like much to those on the outside, but to these girls, and to me… it was amazing! What an honor and an accomplishment. The best thing about it is that it was truly a team effort, and the result of a whole season long of dedication and effort on everyone’s part – myself, Kathy and Peter on the coaching staff, and each of these kids coming out and giving 100 percent everyday, and most of all, skiing with heart. They set the bar high, and they achieved their goal. They really do inspire me, and I am so proud to be one of their coaches and say that I helped them get there!

While the state champs were awesome to be a part of, I cannot deny that the experience was also exhausting. Two days of scrambling, stressing and running around frantically to keep everyone organized and see everyone’s effort on the course did have me feeling wiped out by Saturday afternoon. I opted out of my usual pre-race L3 1-minute intervals because I felt like I had already done them and more with sprinting around the course trying to catch all my girls at different points.

So, needless to say, when I arrived at the Royal Gorge Mid-Season Freestyle Race on Sunday, I was feeling less than tip-top. Warming up, my legs were tired and I just felt sluggish. I was preparing for a painful race, but focused on telling myself to just start out relaxed and ski into the race and see what happened. And to my surprise, it turned out really well!! In fact, this was undoubtedly one of my best races of the year – if not the best! And it was an AWESOME feeling!

The course was extremely flat and fast, a 10k loop in the Van Norden Trail System with long, power-based flat sections and only rolling hills that you can still rely on power to get up. I think the course was really tailored to my strengths, as a power skier, so that probably helped me to have a good day. Nonetheless, I am proud of the way that I raced smart and really pushed myself through the end. I got out to a good start for once, probably because I was really trying to emphasize the importance of that in my head and prioritize it. It was nice starting with the men, but in a separate corridor, so that we could get on a train with them but also get out in the front – ideal. I got out fast and got on the back of the front train, pushing myself to stay up there and close to the top female competitors, Beth Reid and Ekaterina Vinagradova, so that I was not racing a different race from the start and could give myself the chance to rise to the challenge of keeping up. Even though the pace was fast and I was breathing hard, I felt relaxed the first few kilometers out on the flats because I tucked in well on the back of the train, taking advantage of times to rest by no-pole skating.  The only disappointing thing about this first section was that while I was getting off to a good start, Beth got taken down just in front of me and lost a ski! I had to ski by, leaving her stranded in the middle of the trail, so as not to fall off the back! I felt so bad, but knew she could probably ski her way back up!

After the first and only big hill, things started to spread out. Hitting the hill was so tough after the long section of flat, throwing down big, powerful strokes. As soon as we hit that transition, my heart rate seemed to go through the roof! I told myself just to push over the top (even though it was steep, the hill was short), so that I could stay with the racers in front of me. I dropped back a bit, but was not out of reach, and pushed myself through the next rollers to gradually work my way back up. As I skied along, I did start to work my way back up, and noticed I was starting to feel really strong! I was pushing hard but still felt like I had good energy. I felt like I was skiing well, with good technique and doing a good job of utilizing the terrain to my advantage. I realized that I must be almost halfway, as the turn-around point was nearing. As my body started feeling stronger and I was able to push harder and faster, Beth came up behind me and blazing by! I was psyched that she had made her way back up, but also forced myself to focus on trying to stay with her as long as possible. While I dropped off fairly quickly, I was still able to stay close and focused on watching her skiing and doing the same thing. Beth is someone who skis the transitions so well (one of my weaknesses) and is just so efficient, so having the chance to just keep her in sight and mimic exactly what she was doing was not only great for the race, but also just really eye-opening. If I can remember some of the changes I was making, I think the experience could benefit me in the long-run as well. (Usually Beth is too far in front of me by just a few k’s in that I don’t get the chance to try to hang on for long!!)

As I focused on continuing to keep Beth in my sight and match her pace as closely as possible, I saw that she was catching Ekaterina quickly. Meanwhile, we were now heading back toward the finish, the terrain flying by so quickly on the fast course. I knew we were getting close to the homestretch, and challenged myself to keep pushing and capitalize on my body still feeling strong. I was stoked just to be as close as I was to both Ekaternia and Beth (despite the fall! – I was hanging in there!). They are both SUCH good skiers. Even though I was psyched about this and knew I was having a great race, I forced myself to override these thoughts and remember that this still was  a race, and I had to be competitive and go for it! I saw myself getting closer and closer to Ekaternia, and suddenly something kicked in and I told myself to make the push to close the gap. I told myself I could do it, and almost felt a sense of excitement, as though I had reached an agreement with my body, a final decision of sorts, that despite my satisfaction with the current position, I was going to do everything in my power to go for 2nd place. I mean, I might never have another chance for that!

I was determined. I had set my sights, and was not going to give in and settle like I have other times. I stepped on the gas just a bit more – now fully floored – just as I rounded the corner on to the long flat stretch for the finish. Even though the terrain was easy, in the last couple k’s of the race it felt hard as I tried to output as much power as possible and ski with maximum efficiency. But I still felt strong! I saw myself getting closer and closer. With about a k to go, I was just a few yards back, but really wasn’t sure if I could close the gap! We were both full-throttle, and my body was maxed out. I told myself that if I didn’t close the gap NOW, it wouldn’t happen, and I would end up just a few feet short. I dug deep and found the energy for one big push and sprinted right up to Ekaterina’s heels. I skied in her wake for several strokes, feeling out the pace and trying to get a bit of energy, preparing to make a move. I told myself to wait back there and continue conserving energy, letting her pull me to the finish when I could make a move. But my gut instincts kicked in and took over. The pace was comfortable, and I knew I had more and could give it right then. I got up next to her, and could hear that her breathing was harder than mine. I decided to go for it, also keeping in mind that I am a TERRIBLE sprinter, and made the pass. I knew that if I did this I had to push hard and accelerate away right then so that I did not leave the opportunity to become the puller and then get schooled into the finish, as is usually the story for me!! I did just that, intently, pushing hard when I got around, determined to ski away.

The bit of rest I had gotten seemed to be ample, probably aided by the strength I was still feeling despite being about 800m from the finish, and I was able to ski away. Even though I knew I had a gap, I kept the intensity high in my mind and sprinted in as hard and frantically as I could, envisioning someone right on my heels in the final chute. I managed to cross the line as 2nd woman, within 30 seconds of Beth for the first time all year (though she had a tough day!), and just about 5 seconds in front of Ekaterina. I couldn’t believe it! For once, I had done the right thing; made my move at the right time; gone for it, beyond the limit, and succeeded. I was stoked! I think I still lost some time in that final sprint, as she pushed her way back up a bit, but it wasn’t enough to cause me to lose the coveted spot I had set my sets on. Because I had made this a goal for myself in the race, at a time when I knew it would be a huge push, I was so happy to have accomplished it. I knew that I had given it everything I had and really challenged myself to go further than I had originally expected. I was overcome with happiness and satisfaction after crossing the finish. Ekaterina skied right over to me to say a genuine “good job,” showing that she is not only an amazing skier but also has great character, which meant a lot. Even though it was only a small race where there wasn’t much stake in the results, I couldn’t have been happier to have this great day when I did. It boosted my confidence a ton, and I know that will carry with me, hopefully to the Great Ski Race! I will make it my goal to remember just how great it feels when you really do set your sights and go for it and push the extra mile. Hopefully knowing that feeling will motivate me to do it again and not back down!

One other thing I will take from this race is to remember that any day can result in a good race. Even though I went into the day feeling bad, it turned out good. It is important to put it out of your mind if your body is not feeling great and not throw out the possibility of turning it around. Sometimes you can surprise yourself!

***For more fun stuff, please visit: http://karasdreams.blogspot.com***

Thanks for tuning in guys!

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Changing Roles

by karalapoint March 1, 2010

Changing Roles

(as taken from karasdreams.blogspot.com — check for year-round updates and other fun information!)

Another big change for me this season has been a major role reversal. After more than a decade of being coached almost daily by a whole heep of amazing coaches, each with their own plethora of valuable advice, the tables have turned. I, taking what I have learned from them, am now coaching, and reciprocating that advice back to other young skiers. The team I am coaching for is the Incline High School Highlanders. They are an absolutely amazing group. Let me fill in a little bit on just why I love coaching so much, and how it has changed things for me this ski season — for the better.

As a coach, you are many things. You are both a teacher and a learner, a leader and a follower, a preacher and a listener… I can see, in so many ways, how much I am doing for these kids everday. And let me tell you, that feels amazing. Coaching is not always an easy job — often times it is much more difficult than people anticipate — but, at least for me, it is beyond rewarding. I think one of the greatest benefits of coaching kids without a ton of experience (some of my kids are in only their first year of skiing) is that you see SUCH big improvements, and the kids get SO excited about the gains they are making. This is such an incredible thing to be a part of. I instantly felt so connected to the kids, the job I was doing and the progress they were making. I found myself hoping and wishing for them to do well in the races as though it was my own race. I go to sleep anxious, replaying over and over in my head whether I have everything packed up for the race and whether I have done everything right to prepare the team during the week. I get to the course and feel excited for the gun to go off. And when it does, I find myself frantically running around the course trying to catch every second of the action. And when I see the kids turning in amazing results and making huge strides each week, I feel like I am boiling over with genuine excitement and pride. I really am so, so proud of the kids, and truly proud of myself for the hard work and effort I have put in to getting them to this next level that they are reaching.

I think that one of the biggest reasons I/ my teaching have been so well-received by my team is simply because I can relate to them well. Because I have been taught SO much in my life, and am still being taught and still learning in so many ways all the time, I believe it is easier for me to put myself in their own shoes and understand their role as the receivers of the information. Throuhgout my ski career, I have struggled with many concepts in technique — which I am still working on — and I truly feel like this has benefited my abilities to coach. Because I have struggled with so many things and had to work so hard, and be taught so much and try so hard to process that teaching, I feel like I have a really good sense of how to convey something more easily and how to enable the kids to understand it. Likewise, I have a very real understanding in the event that they do NOT quite get what I am saying the first, or even the fifth time. Because I am still a skier myself, and still learning from others everyday, I feel like teaching is coming very naturally. Simply put, I try to explain things in the way that I have worked through them in order to understand them myself. So far, it seems to be working well.

Likewise, the kids themselves are a major part of my relative “success” as a coach. Meaning, really, that they have created and pushed to attain their own success. And in turn, this has made me better, and enabled me to make them better. As I mentioned, when you are coaching you are both a teacher and a learner, a leader and a follower. Coaching has been beneficial for me personally in so many ways. Definitely one of the biggest things is that we learn by teaching. Working on technique every single afternoon, even if it’s going back to the very basics, has been a constant reminder to me of what I need to be thinking about and exactly what I should be seeking to achieve everyday. Too often, we get caught up in our training plans, interval sessions, distance workout, etc. and forget to take a step back and simply think about what we are doing, and what we should be doing. Runing through drills daily with my kids and likewise explaining fundamentals, principles and theories of skiing to them totally reinfornces these things within my own mind, and hopefully in a way that they can be applied to my own skiing.

But even more than that, I feel like I learn from my kids themselves. They come out everyday with a smile on their face, excited and ready to start practice. Even on days when they know it will be ALL technique review and ALL the same drills they have already done time and time again, they show up ready and willing. They are focused and determined, and most of all excited to learn. Even on the interval days when I push them beyond limits they have ever reached, they keep their heads up and they push themselves even harder. But most of all, even heading into the races, when they started out the season knowing they were the underdogs and had very little experience, they went out with determination, pride and a competitive spirit that brought them to new heights. By this point in the season, they are far from the underdogs — becoming frontrunners even — yet the task never changes. They still head into the races with the same determined attitude and focus. They still go out there with their goal to leave it all on the course every time. Whether their goal be to win the JV race, as one of my girls has now achieved, or to place above last just once this season, as another girl told me she hoped for and achieved in only the first race, the sense of pride when it has been achieved is just as great. When these kids finish a race, and you can see that they have given 120 percent by the pain on their faces, they are absolutely beaming when they cross the line. And this is something that not only makes me proud as a coach, but which I find admirable as an athlete. The attitudes they have developed truly, in my mind, embody the spirit of skiing. In this way, I can certainly learn from them, and am doing so everyday.

Coaching is tough sometimes too, of course. It is not always fun. It is a whole lot of hard work, beyond what is conceived of or recognized. Sometimes I feel like I am working on coaching, in some way, almost all day long and into the night. Whether it is responding to email questions, having meetings, writing training plans, analyzing videos or preparing a waxing lesson, I am busy. Very, very busy. There are those times when I do think my skiing would benefit from having more time for myself this season: such as big training weeks when putzing around in the snow doing drills and easy skiing seems like it is just draining more of your energy when you know you have another training session later, or the times when you are up late preparing for the race when you know you should be maximizing sleep because it is two nights before YOUR race. But, all in all, it is well worth it. As I said before, there are many benefits that the job brings to my own skiing. And these, in combination with the personal rewards in terms of seeing the results of your efforts and the affect that those results have on the kids, far outweigh any possible disadvantages. I just have to remember this on the tough days ;)

One last thing I would like to say about coaching is that being a coach is something I truly believe every serious skier, or athlete of any kind for that matter, should take on at some point in their lives. For one, it really enables you to conceptualize and appreciate ALL the efforts that your own coaches put in for you over the years, and just how hard they worked and how much they invested to get you to the level that you are at today. There is so much more work beyond what any of us realize, or at least beyond what I ever really thought about growing up. And until you have stepped into that role yourself, I think it is difficult to truly appreciate that. I now see, for example, just how freaking STRESSFUL it is to be a coach at a classic race! I mean, for one just packing for one of these things and making sure you have EVERYTHING you could possibly need in terms of waxing is stressful enough. But then you get there and have to SCRAMBLE around all over the place, testing out wax, testing out more wax, then actually rounding up all of your kids, getting the wax on their skis while they are simultaneously freaking out because it is “only twenty minutes until I start!!! HURRY!!”, corking furiously as you, meanwhile, simultanesouly pray they will like it the first time so that you don’t have to do the same thing all over again amidst the panic of only FIVE minutes until race start. Then, frantically trying to run out on to the course and cheer on your girls at least once around the lap while you scramble to get the boys waxed up because they start only minutes after the girls finish. WHEW, is it a relief when it is all over. Now THAT is something I truly, TRULY appreciate of my coaches. THANK YOU, so much, for working so hard all these years to give me bomber kick wax for all my classic races. Not quite sure how you did it, frankly. Likewise, thank you for all of your efforts both in and outside of practice, because I know there were many. For all the late nights working on my training plan, all the extra meetings outside of practice when I had a question that seemed impossible to answer or was freaking out about who knows what, for the pep talks and preparation and the encouragement and constructive criticism. Thank you so much Jeff, Glenn, Ben, August and ALL the other coaches who have come into my life and enabled me to prgoress so much as a skier, athlete and person. I truly appreciate you. Finally, being a coach is an awesome way to give back to the sport. So, if you were ever a ski racer or serious athlete, get out there and do some coaching! Believe me, it will feel really great, you will learn a lot, and you will gain a new sense of pride and appreciation for your sport, yourself and those who have supported you.

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by skiin-ian February 18, 2010

First-hand report on / preview of the 1.2k sprint loop in Presque Isle, brought to you by the Far West Senior Team ; ) 

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by skiin-ian February 18, 2010

First-hand report on / preview of the 5k loop in Presque Isle, brought to you by the Far West Senior Team ; ) 

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update

by skiin-ian February 18, 2010

Since my last post I’ve done the following races and gotten the following results:

Telemark SuperTour 10k Classic: 11th
Telemark SuperTour 15k Skate Mass Start: 18th

EISA Eastern Cup 10k Classic: 13th (20sec. out of third)

Mora Vasaloppet Eldris Sprints (Skate): 2nd
Mora Vasaloppet 58k Skate: 6th

Overall not results that I’m super excited about although I did feel strong in the Mora sprint and was really close to beating Birkie champ and recent top-30 world cup finisher Matt Liebsch. And it was nice to get $200 prize money for that, although I’d really like to get to where I can win so I can get the $1,000 paycheck for the 58k!! I managed to ski in 1st or 2nd place for the first 30k of that one, and then it got pretty tough. I was happy to make it to the finish line in Mora at all. 

After doing so much traveling and racing it’s been tough to keep the momentum going but I’ve been lucky to have such a good home base here in VT to try and rest up.

Next up are the Madison SuperTour events. I leave for Madison tomorrow and will be racing on half a kilometer of manmade, trucked in snow on the downtown streets of Madison, WI, on capitol square. The events are a 9k skate criterium which is sure to be a cluster given the fact that the course is barely wide enough to roll a wheelbarrow down let alone hold a mass-start race (oh and by the way you have to do a 180 on a dime 4 times per kilometer!) followed by a Classic Sprint on Sunday, which I am looking forward to as it usually ends up being a double-pole-on-skate-skis type of classic sprint, and double poling is my favorite!  

Still trying to decide whether to race the Birkie classic 54k next weekend, or just rest up in VT and get ready to take my best shot at winning the Great Race. I am definitely looking forward to being back in CA and enjoying some of that awesome sunny warm CA skiing!! Pictures from the President’s Cup made me want to get on a plane within the hour. Hope you are all enjoying it out there. 

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