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Archive for January, 2013

One last look at Liberec and U23s

31.Jan.2013 by Caitlin Patterson

I am now in Madona, Latvia, preparing to race a few Scandinavian Cups in about a week, but I have a few more pictures to share from the Czech Republic.

First of all, if any of you readers have been browsing WJ/U23 skier updates, you’ll probably have seen references about the very strange hotel we stayed in.  The Babylon Hotel.  It has a waterpark, bowling alley, club, mall and many resident animals, in addition to its 1000 hotel rooms.  I don’t think many photos have been shared of the hotel, so here are a few of mine, with focus on the animals:

 

The front entrance of the Hotel Babylon

One of two large atriums within the hotel

 

The second glass-ceilinged atrium

In the atrium with palm trees, there was a pool full of live turtles. Here, Amy Caldwell and Anika Miller admire the turtles.

There were fish of all sizes swimming in the fountain in the front lobby

 

Fish in the fountain

 

This glass animal house, on the left, housed 2 squirrels and 2 snakes, in separate cages. 

 

One of the squirrels in the animal case. I could see them from the window of my room, which looked out onto the atrium.

 

The other case, next to the squirrels, had two albino burmese pythons in it! The first few days they were hiding under things every time I walked by, so I kept walking by, and eventually they came out! Some people didn’t like the idea of snakes in the hotel very much, but I really like snakes. However, their case wasn’t all that nice or big, so I felt sorry for them to be trapped in there all the time.

 

A standard European hotel room with three small beds.

 

Breakfast at the Babylon. Breakfast was definitely the best meal of the day, and dinner was sometimes pretty decent, but lunch and the other dinners left something to be desired.

And a few buildings from the city of Liberec.

A church in Liberec in a nicer area of town

 

A red building that caught my eye while I was out on a run

 

An ornate lamp

 

Near our hotel, there were some less attractive structures, like this factory

 

However, there are fascinating cobblestone patterns everywhere

 

Finally, a few comments about the 15k pursuit race, which happened last Saturday.  I finished 19th in the race, which was solid but I had been hoping to be able to pull off a slightly better result.  It might have helped my post-race feeling if I had not narrowly lost a sprint finish for 18th place.  While winning a sprint finish can partially redeem a bad race, losing one can put a slight damper on an otherwise good race.

The start and the classic section particularly were crazy.  We started in a 5-lane chevron, which is narrower than usual, and quickly were funneled into 3 tracks to climb the first hill right out of the stadium.  I’ve been in many chaotic mass starts before, between US Nationals, NCAAs, college carnivals, and the Canmore World Cups, but the bottlenecking and accordioning in this one were quite extreme.  Certainly the course was the same for everyone, but the people at the front of the pack had a little more freedom of movement than those of us at the back.  During the first and second laps, I was near the back of the lead pack, which was quite large, and I was getting flung off the back occasionally, only to have to catch back up.  It was reassuring to be skiing in the same vicinity of the pack as Sophie at the beginning of the race, but we weren’t able to work together much, and she got caught in a tangle and fell back a little after that.  In the skate section I caught and worked together with two Estonians and a Swedish girl, and it was fun to at least have a few other people around me who kept pushing the pace.  There were a few big uphills that compressed the field, as least visually, and it was cool to be able to see the leaders as I raced… that’s not something I’ve been able to do during World Juniors or U23s before, and I really do think I’m getting closer to the leaders in these mass starts.  Lastly, but not at all least, thanks to all of the wax techs and coaches for their tireless work during WJ/U23s!

My First World Cup

28.Jan.2013 by Hannah Dreissigacker

I meant to write about my first world cup right away when I was still really overwhelmed with the excitement of it.  But then I didn’t, and now its been about a week.  But it was exciting enough that I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting re-excited about it as I write!

So I left off my last blog after I’d arrived in Antholz, and decided that I was in heaven.

For the next few days, I trained on the world cup course that was a few minutes walk from the hotel, ate lots of delicious food, and watched in amazement as tourists arrived for the races.  Even on training days, people would line parts of the course with their drinks in hand and cheer as we skied by.  They were practicing for the races too!  As we walked back to our hotel after skiing, people would stop us and ask for autographs or photos. I signed my “autograph” on lots of german flags, some guy’s jacket, picture-books of biathlon, programs from the races…you name it!  I learned that if I was in a rush to get somewhere, I should just avert my eyes and keep walking–if you stop to give one autograph, or take a picture with someone, then usually others come up too.  It was hilarious! I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t a famous biathlete, that in fact this was my first world cup ever, but I’m not sure they even would have cared.  I told a few people it was my first world cup, and that just made them get more excited for me.

Lots of distractions!

It stayed clouded in and snowy until the morning of the first race.  Then suddenly the clouds cleared, the sun shone bright on huge sparkling white mountains all around, and the place was mobbed with people.  It was seriously overwhelming!  But I did my best to stay focused–I had to get my bib and leg numbers on, get my rifle checked, zero, warm up, get my skis checked and my timing chips put on, and get to the start on time.  It was just like a normal biathlon race, right?  Except when I went up to the start pen, on one side there were hundreds and hundreds of noisy fans in the stadium seats and on the other side there was a huge jumbotron TV screen showing the live footage of the race.  I started watching the TV, and it was just like watching the race on TV anywhere in Europe…except that it was here…and I could watch in real life.  Except that I couldn’t really watch because I was racing!  I started 86th out of about 100 people, and by the time I started all of the top-ranked women had already finished.

Its exhilarating to race along a course lined with people like this!

For the first lap of the 3-lap sprint race, I was so exhilarated I couldn’t really tell if I was going slow or fast.  I was trying to go out slow–I didn’t want to start too fast, especially at altitude.  I came in the the range feeling pretty good, and before I knew it, I had hit all of my prone targets!  I flew around the next lap feeling pretty pumped–I’d cleaned a stage in my first-ever world cup!  I told myself that I was going to take my time on the standing shooting, not rush, and try to hit the targets.  But once again the standing shooting happened before I really had time to think, but this time the results were not good–I missed 4 out of 5, which is pretty miserable shooting.  I had to ski 4 penalty loops, and then motivate for the final lap.  On this lap I tried to just enjoy being out there in front of so many people, in such a beautiful place.  I got a split that I was in 72nd–well out of qualifying for the pursuit–but at least I could try to have fun.

I ended up 81st on the day–not a great result.  I’d been in 30th after prone, and then the 4 misses in standing had really been a setback.  And I hadn’t skied as fast as I knew I could either.  I wanted to do better next time, and I wished I could have re-done the standing stage.  But on the whole, I was just pumped!

Craftsbury biathletes in Europe!  Susan and I in the stadium after the relay.

I didn’t get to race the pursuit, but I did get to race in the relay a few days later, and I was anchor.  Despite some not-so-great shooting, we ended up 10th, which was the best US women’s relay result in a few years.  I had fun skiing with girls from the other teams, and shooting with them head-to-head, and I was very relieved to not get any penalty loops, though I did use 5 spare bullets to hit all my targets.  But once again, it left me wanting to do better!

After our relay we got to relax and cheer on the men and really take in the scene.   I wish I had pictures of all of the spectators in crazy outfits, but there were just too many of them and I got overwhelmed.  But here are a few more photos!

There were fans everywhere watching the races–including on any roof they could get on!

 

As athletes, we had credentials that let us go on the course to cheer. This was a popular place to watch the races, since there was a jumbotron nearby, and as we walked up the edge of the course to cheer on the men, fans would shove beers at us, or pens and things they wanted us to sign.

 

Annelies and I out cheering with some some of the Canadian women during the men’s relay.

 

After the relay, I poked my head in the party “tent” (more like a temporary building) to check out the scene–lots of people and lots of beer!

 

A view on the way up Staller Pass. The ski trail also doubles as a sledding trail, and lots of tourists hike up and sled all the way back down.

 

Its a beautiful 360 degree view from the top of the pass, which is also the border between Italy and Austria. And there are ski trails up there that are groomed to perfection! One day I skied up as the sun was setting, and then skied around on top of the world as the light faded, and then skied down in the dusk.

Now we’re training here in Antholz for a few weeks, before we head to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for the World Championships!   I’m feeling very spoiled and lucky to be able to spend time in such a nice place, and I’m excited to try to improve upon my performances at World Champs!

Liberec U23s

25.Jan.2013 by Caitlin Patterson

Pepa and I travelled from Craftsbury to the Czech Republic last Wednesday and Thursday, the 16th and 17th.  I am racing this week in the U23 World Championships and Pepa is one of the coaches for the event this year, which is being held in Liberec.

On Tuesday I raced in the U23 classic sprint, yesterday was the 10k skate, and tomorrow will be a 15k pursuit for the U23 women.

The sprint was a good way to start out the week.  We had plenty of time in the days preceding the race to check out the course and get to know each aspect.   The course featured three solid climbs, two quick descents, and  a long double-pole finishing stretch.  Since there’s been more time to manufacture snow, and more natural snow too, the loop was about 500m longer than the one used for the World Cup several weeks ago.  While a few inches of new snow had fallen the previous day and night, the race day was overcast with no new snow, and the classic tracks were relatively firm and held up well during the qualifier.

While I didn’t quite qualify for the heats, with a 38th place performance, I was actually very happy with my race.  My warm up may have been a little less than perfect, so I started out a bit too slowly (which is a reoccurring problem for me).  It didn’t necessarily feel like I was going slow on the first uphill during the race, but in retrospect I can see that I was not quite ready to go.  I think I got off balance and slipped a few times on the first two hills also, even though the skis were great (they were so good that I tested during my warm up and didn’t need any touch-ups at all).  However, by the third and final uphill of the course, I felt great and I believe I was skiing with as much “snappy-ness” and intensity as I ever have.

Here are a few pictures of the sprint course, on a pre-race day.

First hill on the courses, photo from the stadium

 

The second hill on the sprint course, also on the skate courses

A long distance view of people climbing the last hill into the stadium

 

While 3.5 seconds out of 30th place isn’t close enough for a better last 50 meters or a better lunge to have made the difference, I still consider it tantalizingly close enough that I can reflect on where I could have made up those seconds.  My sprinting is much better than it used to be, but qualifying is still a challenge, and I know I can continue to improve.  I’m staying over here in Europe for about two more weeks beyond U23s, and in Estonia I’ll be racing two more sprints, so I’ll soon have an opportunity to test my qualifier speed again.

Yesterday, the 10k, was quite a nice race also.  We woke up to it snowing, which wasn’t exactly expected.  I crammed a Rudy Project visor into my bag for the day in case it kept snowing, and I ended up racing in the silly combination of visor AND yellow-lens glasses underneath.  Silly, but effective.  The visibility was so-so during the race even with appropriate eyewear, less from the falling snow than from the flat light that hinders depth perception.   Luckily I didn’t have any major issues with not being able to see the course, as I knew it pretty well from previewing the day before.

As for the race itself… as it started out, I was worried, because I felt funny – weak, a little bit shaky even, and not very energetic while climbing the first few hills.  Still, it wasn’t as if I could stop the race and ask to start it over or anything, so I put the funny feeling out of my mind and focused on skiing smoothly and using my naturally-long glide.  A few hills in, I started to wake up and find more energy, and to be able to push myself into a faster pace.

Several of the coaches were out on two key spots of the course giving splits and cheering.  It can be hard to process the numbers sometimes when you’re racing, but I was encouraged to find that they were giving me lower place-numbers each time I passed.  When I look back at the results, I see that after a 20th place first lap, I moved to 16th by the end of the 2nd lap, then 14th by the end of the race.  A good progression!

That’s it for now, but I have quite a few more interesting pictures of Liberec, beyond the ones below, that I’ll share in a future post.  The 15k pursuit is coming up in not-very-many hours, and I’m very excited to race again!

US in the athlete tent

Waxing and testing

Outside the wax cabins

Sam Tarling in the 15k skate

David Norris, 15k skate

Eric Packer, 15k skate

Sam and Erik B skiing together during the 15k

La vie en France!

22.Jan.2013 by Ida Sargent

Bonjour!  The XC World Cup moved to France last week so we spent the past week in La Clusaz a small resort town in the French alps.  France was a new country for me to race in.  I also studied abroad in southern France so I was excited to return and parlez francais encore and race in a new location.

Lots of snow!

Our first morning we were greeted with a snowstorm and powdery, fluffy tracks! Most of the trails were out in the open and at times it was near white out conditions with very tricky visibility.

C’est parfait! The next day the sun came out and….WOW!

The view from our wax cabin

We were all a little jealous of the alpine skiers. There were lifts everywhere and fresh tracks hitting the new snow

Holly, Matt, and Liz during a team ski

 

The race course was a 3.3km clover shape loop which ran up and down through this field. When we showed up it was just a field but they quickly turned it into a World Cup venue. This really shows that it is possible to host a World Cup anywhere!

Going for a walk around town

La Clusaz is a little resort town but like every other French town there was a church in the center of town and lots of boulangeries (bakeries with great French bread), patisseries (pastry shops), and charcuteries (delis selling local cheese and sausage).

Here is one of the main streets in town on a sunny day (Noah Hoffman photo)

Lots of delicious chocolates and other treats including meringue pigs and ducks (Andy Newell photo)

We went out for coffee and crepes one afternoon and Hoff was very excited with his caramel crepe with whipped cream!

The French are very proud of their food and we were served some of the best meals yet this past week. Dinners were a long affair starting with bread and soup, then a salad or some other starter, then a main course with meat or fish, and finally this cheese platter. The last night the hotel staff wanted to serve us a special French meal so we had pate and foie gras to start which was not my favorite but the steak and sauteed mushrooms were incredible. (Liz Stephen photo)

It wasn’t just our hotel serving lots of great food. In the athlete tent, you could find these giant cauldrons filled with different french specialties and lots of pitchers of wine (Jason Cork photo)

 

While the week of great skiing, delicious food, and speaking French was great, I was excited to race. Saturday was a 10km classic race.   I once again started towards the back of the mass start but had moved up to the back of this big pack by about 2km.  All the other US ladies were in the pack and it was exactly where I wanted to be.  Unfortunately as we crested this hill, my skis iced up and I found myself running on stilts as the rest of the pack glided down the gradual downhill in a tuck. I lost contact and spent the rest of the race trying to move up when I could while scraping my skis off at the top of every hill.  It was great practice in regaining focus and not giving up when the race doesn’t play out as planned.  I managed to sneak into the points with a 29th place finish.

This picture is taken early on in the race and I’m in black at the back of this pack.  This was the fun part of the race when I was still skiing with lots of people.  The unexpected challenges in every race though are what keeps it interesting and makes you stronger!

Sunday was relay day and Sadie and I were ready to go with star knee socks, glitter, and flag capes since we weren’t racing. We were very enthusiastic cheerers and a course official I think mistook me for a drunk spectator who had climbed the fence and tried to kick me off the course but I showed him my athlete bib and got to stay.

It was a tough day for our team but everyone pushed hard, didn’t give up, and was still smiling after the race. The hard days make you appreciate how special the good days are!