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Green Racing Project Blog

7 Lessons from NANA Nordic

10.May.2015 by Liz Guiney

The GRP skiers are coming off a bit of a break- following our last races of the year in Sun Valley, Idaho, we had almost a month with no scheduled training and therefore some time to ourselves to rest, see friends and family, and reset before the next training season begins.

I had an awesome opportunity during this break to be a coach for NANA Nordic. For those who are unfamiliar with the program, NANA Nordic brings ski coaches to remote native villages in Alaska where they spend a week teaching the kids there how to cross country ski. The goal is to spread the love of skiing far and wide, and also provide transportation and recreation in an area of the country where there’s snow for a good portion of the year, and almost endless snowmachine trails. My NANA program was based in Shungnak, AK, a small inland village, pop. ~ 300, on the Kobuk River. The nearest town is 10 miles away, but there are no roads in that region of Alaska. You either fly or snowmachine in, or you don’t go.

I had an absolute blast during my 5 days in Shungnak and while I was there to teach, I ended up learning a lot too! I left with a sense of happiness that can only be gained by sharing something you love with enthusiastic students.

 

1. If you’re not wearing the biggest grin every day you “get” to ski, you may be doing it wrong

Training for skiing day in and day out, it’s easy to get lost in the tedium. But once you start thinking of training as something you “have to do” rather than something you get to do, it becomes a lot less fun. Skiing with the kids in Shungnak was a great reminder that skiing is a gift. There’s nothing like experiencing gliding on snow for the very first time, and the excitement that the kids brought every day was infectious.

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Susana, one of our kindergartners, stoked on the day

 

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1st graders are THIS EXCITED to ski!

 

2. Don’t be afraid to make the leap.

Jump practice was one of the favorite parts of the day. Once the kids got over their initial nerves, they couldn’t stop making laps. Jumping can be scary, and a little dangerous, but the feeling in the air makes it all worth it.

Ashton goes big

Ashton goes big

 

3. Falling- and getting back up- are all part of learning

Some of the groups we skied with had a ratio of about 3:1 time spent on the ground to time spent standing on skis. On the first day, there were tears and looks of utter confusion. By the last day, the falls were still happening but they were followed by kids popping right up with with grins. We told the kids that you have to fall about 10,000 times to become a really good skier, and for some reason they believed us.

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Exercising patience- mine and theirs

 

4. Confidence is key

When we arrived in Shungnak, the kids had made signs to post all around the school. This one was my favorite-

"Welcome NANA Nordic. Your (sic) awesome! However, we are the best! - Shungnak"

“Welcome NANA Nordic. Your (sic) awesome! However, we are the best! – Shungnak”

Gotta love it! Shungnak actually has a pretty cool story. A few years ago, the school was not doing very well and attendance was very low. The school brought in a new principal, Roger Franklin, who had a whole new attitude for the school that emphasized community. In other words, everybody in the town needed to contribute to their kid’s schooling. Every morning at assembly Roger asks the kids, “What comes first?” and they all yell out, “EDUCATION!”. Attendance is now at record highs, and they’re hoping that the tests scores will continue to climb as well. I checked out their attendance board, and while 90%  and higher was very common, one day they had 100%!

 

5. Fast friendships are the best ones

I was amazed by a few things in Shungak, the first being how the kids remembered the NANA leaders from last year so well and told us stories about them every day. They must have done a great job, and we had a lot to live up to! The other thing was how quickly we bonded with the kids (and each other). Nothing brings people together like skiing together everyday, all day long.

Giving hugs before ski practice, after ski practice, and about a million more on the day we left

Giving hugs before ski practice, after ski practice, and about a million more on the day we left

 

The "quatro amigos" as the principal called us, going for a ski after school

The “quatro amigos” as the principal called us, going for a ski after school

 

6. Winning is important, but sportsmanship trumps all

The second to last day we were in Shungnak we held a race for all the kids on Main Street. The younger kids did just a short out and back, while the older kids did a pretty challenging loop around the town. Everyone did awesome and I loved how all of the parents and teachers came out to support the racers. The teachers were really happy to see that the kids who won the races weren’t necessarily the top students, but they got to be recognized in front of the school for winning.

The 1st-3rd graders off the line. Like most mass starts, this one was a little messy

The 1st-3rd graders off the line. Like most mass starts, this one was a little messy

 

I loved this- all smiles even going back to retrieve a lost pole! Then she skied as hard as she could and passed all the girls for the win.

I loved this- all smiles even going back to retrieve a lost pole! Then she skied as hard as she could and passed all the girls for the win.

 

7. Skiing is the same everywhere!

Whether coaching the Catamounts back in Craftsbury, competing overseas, or doing something totally out of the ordinary like NANA, it’s still the same stuff, just getting outside every day to do something you enjoy. Thanks to NANA, the town of Shungnak, and the other coaches and teachers for a great week.

Middle schoolers out on a long ski

Middle schoolers out on a long ski

 

Alaskan sunsets at 10:30 pm

Alaskan sunsets at 10:30 pm

 

Snowmachining as the transport of choice

Snowmachining as the transport of choice

Experiencing Khanty-Mansiysk

6.Apr.2015 by Susan Dunklee

I know, I know, the race season ended two weeks ago. But I have these really cool pictures from Khanty-Mansiysk that I want to share. Khanty is a fascinating city in western Siberia and it was the site of our last races. Hannah and I made it a point to get out and see as many sights as possible. Every day we found something new.

Wandering around the City

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(photo credit for this one: wikipedia, because my camera battery died)

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Locally crafted boots for sale at a vendor

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Birch park in the middle of town

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Our hotel

A visit to Archeopark

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Biathlon

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Elaborate Opening Ceremonies

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(Photo: NordicFocus/USBA)

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Reindeer waiting to bring winners to flower ceremony

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Eager Russian fans lingering by the athlete exit

Alberta to Idaho

23.Mar.2015 by Alex Howe

 

On March 9th, Emily, Mike, Miro, and I traveled to Hinton, Alberta for the Canadian Biathlon Nationals.  Ethan met us there after competing in the IBU Cup races in Canmore, Alberta the week before.  Hinton is on the eastern front of the Canadian Rockies.

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Here is Mike, looking stoked about the upcoming races. In the background you can see the pulp mill which was built in the 1950’s.

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Running through one of the many industrial drives in Hinton.

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Cleaning our shoes off on the last patch of snow in town. We had to drive about 20 minutes to the venue which had great snow considering the weather.

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With all the warm weather haircuts were a life saver. We also found that the roof of the hotel was the best place because we didn’t have to clean anything up after.

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Hinton’s population seemed to be extremely proud of their over-sized and muddy trucks! (I won’t put all the photos I took of them on here)

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I have seen a boat on top of a truck, but never one on a trailer on top of a truck!

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This is the pulp mill in Hinton, which made the whole town smell pretty foul. Luckily the venue was far enough away that we didn’t need to smell it while racing.

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Looks like they could make some pretty awesome ski trails pretty easily!

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We found a hunting store in Hinton called High Calibre Sports. It was an awesome store that we could have spent a long time in!

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On our day off we drove up to Jasper which is located right in the middle of the Rockies.

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In Jasper we went for a run, but were warned by signs about the bears in the area!

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Running on the trails outside Jasper. Even Miro decided to come for the adventure!

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Our run took us through a couple different lakes.

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Heading back down into Jasper from the lakes.

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Found a spot looking out over the town of Jasper.

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After our run we got burgers in town. The restaurant had balcony seating overlooking the town.

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On our way home we ran into these guys right next to the road.

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We also stopped at this lake on the way back to Hinton. The lake drains during the winter and fills up during the summer.

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This is the monster sled that they did all the grooming with for the race. The racing went well but I need to do a lot more shooting this summer!

After the racing was over in Hinton, Emily and I traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho to meet up with the rest of the team for Super Tour Finals.  Mike split off and headed to US Biathlon Nationals in Truckee, and Ethan and Miro headed back home to Craftsbury.

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Our view from the plane. You can see Mt. Baker which is just north of Seattle.

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Looking out over the town of Ketchum, Idaho. Its been sunny and in the 50’s and 60’s almost every day!

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Pepa is a big fan of the owner of our rental house. Here she is planning out her relay team, which will be racing tomorrow!!

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A look at the stadium at Galena Lodge. Pretty amazing considering there is no snow down in town!

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Here is some of the team sitting on the tailgate of our rental truck! Some pretty good sun burns happening so far!

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Galena Lodge, which has awesome snow even when Ketchum has very little!

 

Manual Spring

19.Mar.2015 by Steve Whelpley

For the third year, we GRP Rowers have disappeared from Craftsbury. It’s not that we’re afraid of the two more months of winter we still might face in our homeland. Rather, it’s dictated by the fact that we’re a liquid based sport that really starts up in April. In order for us to be ready to go at the first National selection regattas of the year, we need to head south in search of unfrozen waters. We’ll try to write off our lack of posting on how confused our biological clocks are by manually switching seasons.

Our team is a little different looking this year. We have 2 open weight women, 3 lightweight men, and now 8 heavyweight men. I would say this shift was both partly coincidental and purposeful. Various people moved on to the wide, fruitful, green pastures of life, while others found new locations for their pursuit of rowing. At the same time, as the Olympics near, we’ve specialized a bit more in heavyweight men as it may be where we can have a greater impact. Only mention this because we have new faces and a new approach.

The new team coupled with a change to selection procedures this year has turned our time in Clemson from being predominantly in singles to more of a team boat selection process. I’ll curb my personal opinions on all this for now, but will at least say that I think last year was very productive for our boat moving skills.

Clemson like any home away from home has its pros and cons (or deltas if you’ve recently gone to business school).  Here’s a perk:

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The weight room at Clemson is unbelievable. Each year, it has been updated and upgraded. What was once a simple Gatorade buffet has expanded to smoothies, Pro Bars, Stinger Waffles, and much more.

Anyways, the pros are things like: 2 buoyed race courses, gracious access to the weight room, enough to do to not go totally crazy but not enough to be too entertained or distracted, a VERY hospitable host team, plenty of vacation rentals, and a nearby Smoothie King. The cons from my point of view are few but important. While there’s a lot of available water here, it is water that is frequently not that conducive to rowing. You face these issues most places. If you want miles and miles to row on, they typically won’t be reserved for rowers. However, compared to other places I have trained I think there are more pleasure boaters, bass fishers, and unprotected winds on this body of water.

I’m not going to lie though, we’ve had a couple 80 degree days already. Don’t worry though, today was not one of them. 40s and rainy. We’re broken down into the 2 houses we had rented last year. Most of us are paired with people we don’t live with back home, so we get to cook with some fresh faces around us. There’s a group of lightweight athletes from Boston training here as well that include our alumnus Josh Ka-nez-knee (or rather Konieczny). Unfortunately, we haven’t intermingled with them that much as our schedules seem a bit different in focus and emphasis. Some of our lightweights have tangoed with them from time to time though. For the next four days, we have former Danish lightweight rower and coach Thomas Poulsen, staying with us. Hope to pick his brain, but he is spread across a pretty large group here with us and the lightweight camp. Additionally, we should have a surprise visit from the one and only Troy Howell tonight as he drops off a new double for us on his way to spring training with Middlebury College, where he is coaching this spring.

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