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Archive for February, 2013

Madison City Sprints

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

After returning to the States from racing in Europe, I spent a few days in the Twin Cities before driving to Madison for the SuperTour Sprints there. Besides being totally wacked out on Euro time, I was pretty stoked for the weekend of city sprinting in Wisconsin’s capitol city.

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Driving into the city and seeing the capitol building that we would be racing one block around made me realize how sweet this was going to be. The race course is between here and that incredible dome:

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They trucked in a ton of snow that had been purposely made for this event, and laid it down the night before the first race. The course was a perfect square, meaning that we would make four 90 degree right turns, keeping the massive stone capitol building, completed in 1917, always on our right during the race.

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Saturday was a classic sprint, which was perhaps a bit optimistic given the extreme flatness of the course. In truth, it was a double-pole sprint; I don’t think anyone used classic skis, choosing instead to just go on skate skis. There was one very slight uphill, but it was far from necessitating striding.

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Double poling the qualifier:

photo – Renee Callaway

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One of the tricks with a double pole sprint is resisting the urge to skate. It’s inevitable that there will be a lot of very aggressive, shall we say, turning technique, out there. Here, leading my quarterfinal:

photo – Renee Callaway

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In the end, I had a pretty good day, ending up third overall. I was impressed with how well the course actually skied, and how fair it really was. The tracks themselves were about as fast as out of them, so people were able to make passes and change order without being totally blocked by whoever was in front. The Russian guy that won was very strong, and I was happy to be able to keep it pretty close and get on the podium:

photo – Renee Callaway

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There are a lot cool things about racing in a city. One of them is that you get to have some unconventional experiences that you don’t normally associate with ski racing. For example, because there is no place to ski besides the race course, you do a lot of running for warming up and cooling down. This means that that in a trendy, active town like Madison, you are running down little streets packed with cafes and restaurants and shops between races. It means you can duck into some little hole-in-the-wall and grab a hot pasty for $4 within 5 minutes of crossing the finish line:

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There was a lot of cool stuff going on in that town. There were a lot of cool things to do, places to go, and culture to experience. But I had a hard time believing there was that much culture… Pizza drivers with health insurance and 401ks? What!!??

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Sunday was a skate sprint… I think I can say that it was the shortest sprint I have ever done. We did the qualifier in 1:40, and the top 8 were within 1 second. In the rounds, I was feeling really snappy, and made it through my quarter just fine. Disaster struck in my semi, when Karl Nygren and I went into one of the corners together and made some serious contact, and he just leveled me. I had both poles and a binding shattered in a single instant, and I slid to a stop near the cement street.

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Ripping the gradual climb, just before the big wipeout:

photo – Renee Callaway

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So, I didn’t make the A final, but I was a weird mix of bummed and fired up, so went for some revenge and won the B final. I was pretty bummed not to get to show my stuff in the A final, but hey, what can you do… In all, it was a pretty good weekend. It was an awesome event, and I was content with my 3rd and 5th places. I want to say thank you to CXC for being great hosts, and especially Igor and Andy for waxing my skis. I have huge respect for coaches who help out athletes from other teams.

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Driving back to the Twin Cities, getting yet another “Midwestern cultural experience” at a Culvers… fried cheese curds as fast food! What!?

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In other news… if you are in Alaska and you like skiing, you should come to this sweet thing we are having on Thursday at APU. We are going to hang out and watch the World Champs, eat a ton of good pizza, and just have fun! So come!

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Thanks for reading! I am now heading back to Alaska for the first time (besides 4 days) since November 10th. It will be nice to be home and not be living out of this tiny suitcase.

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Baltic Mission

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

After flying into Riga, Latvia and then driving to the small town of Madona, I had about a week to try to adjust to the time zone and eating schedule changes before we started racing. It’s amazing how the nuances of completely flipping your bodies cycle on its head can linger, all of it affecting your athletic performance in some way. The daily cycle of training can be a strong catalyst for helping your body to adapt though, so I tried to keep the workouts regular.

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That means skiing in the morning, and running in the evening, often exploring the nooks and crannies of these very Soviet, communist feeling places on foot in the dark.

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The local, apparently sod-burning powerplant at night:

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Compensating for all of the cold cement and brick structures, is the bright hardwood of some of the newer buildings. And the gravy; the Latvians are the kings of gravy. Potatoes, rice, macaroni… fish, schnitzel, pork, beef… all doused with a heavy dose of gravy, every meal:

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While that may almost classify as comfort food, there are still some strange flavors out there. Forest mushroom potato chips:

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The races are part of the Scando Cup series, which is the Continental Cup for the Scandic area. The start lists are full of Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Estonians, and Latvians vying for spots on the World Cup, and the competition is intense.

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Eric Packer and I with our favorite gloves! You can see more cool image of Toko athletes and operations around the world HERE:

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I raced a 10k classic first, and that actually went surprisingly well. I think I ended up 24th, which was the first time I had made a top-30 at one of these Scando Cups. The course was very difficult, and so I was really happy with that result. I was only about 20 seconds out of the top-10, which is encouraging because with small improvements, I think can be competitive with some of the best.

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The mens leaders, including multiple World Junior Champions, World Cup skiers, and Tour de Ski athletes, charging into the final few kilometers of the 20k skate.

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There was this sweet van that would come on race days… At first glance it looks like an ambulance, but then, why the rooster? Mobile high-viz timing unit?

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Next it was on to Estonia, for a weekend of sprints. The ski venue was kind of out in the middle of nowhere, with its own hotel, so we had to stock up on some extraneous goodies before we got there, which including the famous European stroopwaffle, which a good portion of our crew can consume by the handful daily:

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These sprint races didn’t really go as I was hoping they would. I have been close to making the heats in these races before, and so I was really hoping to do it this time. However, with fields this deep and this competitive (hands down the best field I have ever raced in besides World Cups), it takes everything going 100% right to be in there, and I just couldn’t quite get it all together. For example, in the skate sprint I was 7 seconds off the leader, in like 44th place. However, it is always good (in the long run at least) to have these kinds of experiences, the ones that are not rewarding but do offer small glimmers of hope.

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One person who’s glimmer of hope is insanely bright right now is Sophie Caldwell. She is on a roll, and is heading into the Davos World Cups and World Champs skiing very well right now. She had an awesome day in the skate sprint, making it through to the final and getting 2nd place!

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One last, but very important thing… we made a video. A music video. Basically, when youre kind of out in the middle of nowhere in the Baltic countries, you can get bored. So, we tried to be un-bored. Ridiculous:

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Thanks for reading!

All Over the Place… and Cats!

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

So, I have been all over the place since posting last. After nationals in Utah, I spent about a week and a half in Steamboat Springs, CO. It was actually my first time there, and I was impressed; although it was pretty cold, the skiing was great and the setup that the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has there is awesome. I have been racing multiple times a week since November, and so it was really nice to just take a little block to train and not have to get fired up for racing. One of the goals was to regroup after my lackluster Nationals and get ready for the Tour de Twin Cities that was coming up.

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Driving to Denver to fly east:

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My next destination was also a first, sort of. I headed out to Minneapolis to race there for the first time, in the 5 race series of Supertours called the Tour de Twin Cities. Skiing in the middle of such a huge city is certainly a very different feel than normal. Not exactly Rumford:

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Being a series of races held over two weekends, it gave us a little time to check out the city and to get some of that culture!

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Like a Timberwolves game… Nothing like watching guys make tens of millions of dollars doing something that is about as demanding as testing a few a few pairs of skis before your race:

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We were staying really close to the trails at Wirth Park, which was nice. It’s pretty sweet when you are in a 3 minute circle that contains the ski trails, the grocery store, and a nice house to live in. Our hosts has an awesome cat that was obsessed with milk, and would jump over some sizeable gaps to get it. I took some pics of him mid flight, which you can see HERE.

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There were five races, but they were also all part of a mini-tour, which means that the times from each race are added up, and places awarded that overall cumulative time as well as each individual SuperTour race (or stage). There were 4 distance races and 1 sprint, and I was hoping to do really well in the sprint. I did end up having a pretty good day, getting 3rd overall, but it was even more surprising when I won the 10k the next day!

photo – Mark Iverson

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That was my first distance SuperTour win, and only my second win ever, so it was pretty fun to do something that felt new. You can read more about the race HERE.

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That week of racing was really fun because a lot of my teammates were doing so well. Mark Iverson put together an impressive string of races to finish 2nd overall in the whole Tour, and Rosie Brennan won the women’s tour.

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After all of those races, I got my stuff together and did the long travel over to Europe. I am over here for some Scando Cup races, which are basically one step below the World Cup. It will be a pretty short trip, just about two weeks, and the travel and jet lag are pretty intense, but hopefully it will be worth it.

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Hundreds and hundreds of millions of people wanting to go places, to do things, every day… requires a lot of infrastructure. Machinery at work in Amsterdam, building some more of it:

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I arrived in Riga, Latvia a few days ago and have been training in the small town of Madona since. And petting the local stray cats:

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I realize this post is very cat-heavy. Newell, you reading this?

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There’s a group of Americans over here getting prepped for these upcoming races, which should have pretty competitive fields. We have some distance races mid-week and then two sprints on the weekends. I will be posting more from here shortly.

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Thanks for reading!

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