Superstitious Snow

I think that my last post and the announcement of the Great Race being cancelled finally coaxed Ullr into showing his wrath. Snow dances and ski sacrifices are just another part of the superstitions we carry with us as skiers. With the snow that came down today I was reminded of the superstitions from my other athletic passion, baseball. Here’s a passage from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (I’d recommend it to anybody who likes baseball and novels). The quote comes from Henry during a very important game in the novel, and goes like this:

“Deep down, he thought, we all believe we’re God. We secretly believe that the outcome of the game depends on us, even when we’re only watching– on the way we breathe in, the way we breathe out, the t-shirt we wear, whether we close our eyes as the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand.”

I definitely subscribed to this belief when I was a kid watching sports. I still do a little. I’d want my team to win so bad that I’d make up little actions I could do to jinx the other team, and will the ball in the basket or across the corner of the plate. Am I deluded enough to claim responsibility for today’s snowstorm with my disbelief of the previous night? maybe.


check out this mandolin playin.

It’s not spring and it’s not fall

I know this is the most overplayed theme of the year, but all this sunny weather has got me down recently. I’m not ready to do track intervals again, but that is exactly what I’ll have to do until it snows again. I’ve been pleased with how good the skiing has been on my lunch breaks at Northstar (and I have to give props to all the race organizers for pulling off high quality races), but last weekend we got the words from the higher ups that we are no longer allowed to groom at Northstar XC until more snow falls. We’re keeping a consolation 2k for people who show up, but I can’t force myself to do workouts on it. I wish I could go back to December and try this whole winter thing all over again.

I just also found out that the Great Race is going to be cancelled. My family was going to come out from Utah to do it. bummer.

For music, I’ve been really into Taylor Swift recently. I finally get America’s fascination with her. She really is America’s Sweetheart. I also recently read the Hunger Games, which will be coming out on film soon. Here’s a Taylor Swift song that’ll be on the soundtrack to the movie. It’s called Safe and Sound




Birkie Fever is Alive in Minneapolis

Wyatt and I just arrived in the Minneapolis home of Aaron Blazar’s parents. I skied with Aaron during my first (slightly embarassing) year of ski racing with Colby College. The next year Aaron was my assistant coach under Tracey Cote.

The Blazars make an annual tradition of hosting Colby skiers on their way to the American Birkebeiner running from Cable to Hayward in Wisconsin. The cast of characters from Nordic past is deep and wide, including everyone from the class of 2004 (Colin Reuters) to class of 2012 (Jeremy Blazar). Altogether we have about six mules staying with the Blazars and another few who are coming to the race and might be seen at the finish line, or maybe in the bar next to the finish line. It’s a fine distinction. Needless to say this is the finest college reunion I could hope for.

As for the race, there is snow falling tonight and maybe some more tomorrow. The start temps are slated to start around 10 F which is a relief since last started at -3 F or thereabouts. I could maybe do that when I trained in New England but since adapting to California that kind of race start doesn’t sound too inspiring. I don’t think there will be enough snow to make things really punchy which is also a help. Of course, racers in the last few waves will have very difficult snow conditions regardless. 9,000 skiers snowplowing across Wisconsin farm country does not make for a level trail. The trail at the back of the 54km race has been described as a narrow bowling lane with piles of sugar on each side. A challenge for anyone but not something to relish. I am fortunate to have the support of Swix for my early starting berth and Wyatt was offered his berth by Fischer.

I am thrilled to be here representing Far West Nordic at the Birkie. We will keep FW in the loop with some results, photos, and stories of victory and triumph. I am not sure sure how the stories will turn out, but there will be stories.

Finally Racing!

It’s been a BUSY winter for me this year, with many coaching duties, numerous other supplemental jobs, and continuing to work in my own training. But in these past three weeks I have finally been able to get in some racing! In fact, I’ve been on a roll: 3 races in 3 weeks. The first race I was able to jump into (thanks to having lots of coaching help on the day and getting the waxing out of the way relatively early) was the Allan Bard Classic down in Mammoth. This was a 20-km classic race, which is pretty much perfectly suited to my strengths. I had a really great race, and was able to come away with the win, posting a strong time. This was an awesome feeling, and I enjoyed the race and really pushing myself again, but was reminded how much it HURTS! Not knowing where anyone else was in the field, I was not willing to let my foot off the gas, and put myself in the hurt locker big time by pushing full-throttle pretty much the whole time. But hey, that’s racing, right?! It’s not really supposed to feel good — until it’s over anyway! But generally, I was actually really encouraged by my ability to push so hard in this race, and just the fact that I felt pretty strong, despite everything I’ve been trying to balance this winter. I guess you could say I got the racing bug back, along with some confidence!, so I went ahead and jumped on the opportunity to race a few more times.
The next race was the Paco’s Valentine’s race up at Tahoe Donner XC. They did an awesome job of making this race happen despite really thin snow pack. This was a fast, fun race. But again, it was tough! I was able to get another win, but I really had to work hard for it, and once again crossed the line with no shortage of race pain. I decided to take a fairly early lead in order to take advantage of the gradual descents and flats that are my strengths, so I couldn’t let myself slow down at all, knowing there were some fast women chasing hard behind me. All in all, I felt this was another strong race, and I was really encouraged by my performance.
I raced again this past weekend at Monday’s President’s Cup race at Auburn Ski Club. The conditions were fantastic! This race was especially tough for me, however, given that it was one of my biggest coaching weekends of the season, and followed a few pretty long days of coaching and waxing. I felt pretty tired from the get-go, and really just felt like I was working exceptionally hard but unable to go all that fast. My body just didn’t have enough “juice,” so to speak. But, I gave it my all, making sure to honor the real purpose of racing — to go absolutely as hard as you can all the way to the line! — and still came away with a decent result, placing fifth in a very strong women’s field. Congrats to the juniors on a seriously awesome performance — they are looking STRONG! It feels good to be back into the groove, so to speak, with racing. It’s always nice to really challenge yourself and see what you can do when you’re put to the test. And there’s really just no way to mimic a race scenario other than to get in on the real thing.

USCSA National Championships

After racing Pacos Valentine’s Race a week ago and the President’s Cup last weekend, I feel like getting more and more into race shape. The two local races were a great preparation for the upcoming competitions. Racing in a strong Junior and Senior field at the President’s Cup was a great experience and will certainly help me for the races at the USCSA National Championships in two weeks. Patrick and Jordan as our strongest Juniors were a real challenge on Monday and I had to use all extra gears to keep up =). Actually, all the juniors did an excellent job during that race and I’m confident that they will do great at JOs. They all made huge progress this season and it is always great to race and train with them.
On march 3rd I will travel to Sunday River, ME for the 2012 USCSA Championships with the UNR Winter Sports Club. I expect to have 4 races during a period of 5 days (Classic Sprint, 8.5k Freestyle, 15k Classic, and a team relay). I’m super excited for this trip and I’m glad August is coming with us as coach (great skis guaranteed =).

Now let’s go out there and ski!

Prez Day Skate

Wow. That was a fun race. It was great to mix it up today with juniors and masters alike for a little under 10k at Auburn Ski Club this morning. We actually had the entire Farm Team racing today. I’m glad I did it, even though I’m still getting over a cold. I figure either I can flush out the remaining sickness, or just get sick and then recover by the Birkie. Probably not the smartest Idea, but hey, I’ve gotta get all the racing I can in. The Birkie is in less than a week for Smokey (Michael) and me, and that’s a fever I’ve got for sure. Thanks to all the volunteers and race organizers; as usual, they did awesome job and were totally cheerful and friendly. Congrats to all the juniors on crushing the last qualifier and good luck to those off to SOHO for junior olympics.

Boulder Mountain Tour

Just got back from possibly one of the best ski marathons you can do anywhere: the Boulder Mountain Tour. Amazing scenery beneath the towering Boulders; consistently perfect snow; a competitive, national-caliber field; great cheering sections in one of the most active nordic ski communities in the country; hot Big Wood Bread and soup at the finish. Not to mention the race is a 32 K that skis more like a 22 K because it drops 1100 feet from start to finish. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Boulder because it was one of the first long races I did as a J4 way back in the day. Plus, I’m still an Idaho boy. Of course, I haven’t raced the Birkie yet – that’s coming up for me in three weeks. Maybe my perspective will change after that.

Gus, Me, and Elias at the finish