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The Nationals Saga As Told Through Movie Titles

19.Jan.2015 by Andrew Dougherty

This year, US Nationals was a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but in honor of all the movies I watched while in Houghton I will report on that week using as many movie titles as possible. This was a period of high movie watching levels due to 3 things: we had lots of time on our hands because we were resting up for the races rather than training, we were away from Craftsbury so we couldn’t stay busy with our usual work projects, and we didn’t have wifi.

Andrew across the line

Let’s start with my series of unfortunate events along my journey to nationals.


I took the red eye out of Alaska to Chicago.

downloadI then waited in the terminal for a couple hours more than I expected as the flight to Houghton kept getting delayed. Finally we boarded.

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However, just as I dozed off, the intercom came on with a message from the Captain Phillips apologizing that the flight was cancelled due to the perfect storm on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

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I can’t be 100% certain that this was the captain’s name



He didn’t say “perfect” but it was implied



So then began my unexpected journey to Houghton which involved a 13 hour layover in Chicago during which I was trying to find a ski team that was driving from another city to Houghton since all the flights to Houghton were full until the races.

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At this point I was starting to wonder if this nationals would be like my nationals from 2012.

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I didn’t attend nationals in this year

I ended up buying a new plane ticket to Minneapolis where I spent the night (New Year’s Eve) in an airport hotel.


The next morning I thankfully got a ride with my Alma Mater University of Denver ski team to Houghton.


My bags and skis were not at the baggage claim so that made it all the easier to fit into the DU van.

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Who knew there was a movie called baggage claim?


After all the planes, trains, and automobiles I finally met up with the GRP in Houghton a day and a half later than I expected with my bags gone without at trace.

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Well not trains per se…



Finally in Houghton I could concentrate on the competition ahead. Without my skis and clothes I had to borrow from my very generous teammates. They graciously let me stink up their clothes. I did a time trial on the skate course using gear from 6 different teammates including myself.

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As luck would have it, the conditions were cold, windy, and snowy so I had to borrow a lot more stuff due to needing more to avoid getting frozen.

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We put tape over our faces and hot packets in our boots as feeling in our hands and toes were gone with the wind. My windproof base layers that I usually count on were still missing so I taped plastic bags to my long underwear to wear under my racing suit, which worked really well.

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Luckily my skis came 2 days before my race, but my duffel with my ski boots and ski clothes didn’t arrive until after the first race. Once I had my red Alpina ski boots again I had happy feet that could ski to my full potential.

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To put it lightly, I had a rocky start to Nationals. I felt fine but had embarrassingly bad results back in the seventies and even out of the top-100. For some reason I just couldn’t push out of Level 3, which is exacerbated the shorter the race is.

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I wouldn’t die hard in the middle of the races, I would simply push hard the entire race but not be able to keep up with anyone. I tried not to let it affect my mindset of believing in myself and my training but I was very shaken.

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However, rather than wallow in past disappointments I put my focus back to the future which at that point was the 30k classic mass start.


When the start list had fewer people starting than my finishing place the day before, I knew there was nowhere to go but up.

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But even though it would be a true underdog story, and even if I might have been the only one who believed it possible, I knew I had a top-20 in me as long as I maintained a proper salt intake during the race to keep cramping at bay.


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Additionally, while some like it hot, the cold weather is my specialty in classic skiing because with the resulting awesome kick, I can use a technique for striding that I simply can’t when the kick is hard to come by; a technique that I needed to use if I was going to have the great race that I was looking for.

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Meanwhile, the GRP girls were having breakthrough results that were exciting to see. Liz had an amazing classic sprint getting on the podium. That really is impressive when you look at the other fast five in her A-Final. Caitlin also didn’t disappoint getting a personal best 2nd in the classic mass start (which happened after my 30k).

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But back to my 30k. I went in with no expectations but determined to give it my all, and see how it played out once we skied into the woods.


I wasn’t ever going to take the lead but wanted to ski with the front pack as long as possible.

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I made sure to be close to the front by the time it went from 4 tracks to 2, even if that did mean getting a little tangled up with some other skiers in the process. I expected a 700 hour training year to result in a much better nationals, but though the training doesn’t seem to be paying off yet I think my base contributed to avoiding the major cramps that usually plague me in long races.

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Small cramps and just general tiredness is all I had to fight through in the last few kilometers. It took true grit to stay ahead of most of the people in the chase group and I am very happy with my 17th place result. Though I had much higher aspirations coming into this season, that 17th came as a relief after months of disappointment and it took everything I had.

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A couple of days later the skate sprint was again not the race that I wanted.

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Though the sting of another unimpressive nationals is still fresh in my mind, there is still plenty of season left to get out what I’ve put into this sport over the last year.


I know that I have the ability to turn it around before the Craftsbury SuperTours so that I can have the “catch me if you can” feeling again.


However, it may sound like I am depressed but that wouldn’t give you an accurate picture at all. In fact, I am overjoyed because I am recently engaged to the amazing Anne Elizabeth Ritter! Since we still don’t have a date set, some people are starting to wonder if this will turn into a five year engagement, but that won’t be the case surely.


However we still live over 1000 miles apart, so the gravity of the decisions we are making right now will impact how skiing fits into my life next year.

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But for the next couple months at least, I need to just step up and enjoy my life as a semi-pro skier.

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It isn’t hard to enjoy it either when the ski conditions are so incredible.

The trails right now are in better condition and more fun to ski than I've ever experienced here at Craftsbury

The trails right now are in better condition and more fun to ski than I’ve ever experienced here at Craftsbury


Montana Race Trip As Told Through Memes

13.Dec.2014 by Andrew Dougherty




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The 3 Stages

27.Nov.2013 by Andrew Dougherty

After a week of sickness in Vermont, I heard that my team had gone skiing for the first time of the season without me.  The next day I was miraculously all better and we skied up there every day for the next 5 days.  Early to mid-November skiing is apparently a treat for the East so I was pretty psyched to be able to take advantage of it before it melted.


Ski trail at the notch near Stowe, VT

I went through all three stages of the first ski pretty quickly:

Stage 1: Initial elation. This is jumping out of the van and seeing a skiable trail for the first time in months, clipping into your skis and powering through the first few minutes of the ski.

Stage 2: Creeping disappointment. This is when your ears, toes, and fingertips start to freeze from the wintery temps and you are breathing much heavier than you expected. All summer you’ve felt a little awkward on rollerskis but you smugly reminded yourself that it all comes together on real skis. But here you are in your element feeling so awkward with your extremities numbing and core overheating and your hips that you’ve worked so hard to get forward are right back where they started. ‘I remembered this being way more fun,’ you think. In severe cases this can even lead to rethinking your big decision to ski for a living. This stage can last up to an hour.

Stage 3: Ultimate nirvana. You’ve shed an appropriate amount of layers and combined with the blood flow of exercise you’re finally maintaining a consistently comfortable body temperature. You are getting used to the longness of skis and finally find that rhythm.  Your body has adapted already and you get a giddy feeling usually followed by borderline delusional thoughts of the possibilities this race season has in store. The second-guessing, the doubts, the questions you asked yourself about your current life path on all those sweaty scorching rollerski sessions are all put to rest a hundred times over.  Your Olympic dream, after steadily dimming in fits and starts over the summer and fall is all at once rekindled.


Ski trail at Craftsbury, VT

A week before traveling westward we were back to rollerskiing and running in the mud.  But the staff at the COC have been hard at work making snow so we were able to enjoy a 600 meter loop/lollipop the last day in the East.


All stocked up for the week

At last, we are in West Yellowstone for our first week of races.


Perfect ski conditions in West Yellowstone

It is easy to start each workout in Stage 3 now with absolutely perfect ski conditions here.  Hundreds of skiers are in paradise with the biggest concern being to not get too excited and train too much before the races this weekend.  IMG_0996

We are staying in a house in West Yellowstone, nearly within sight of the trailhead.  We almost have a home court advantage with the Craftsbury sprinter and wax trailer here with us thanks to our assistant coach Nick making the long drive.  With the big races only 2 days away we are all trying to stay calm and collected despite everyone wondering to themselves ‘How fast am I?”



11.Nov.2013 by Andrew Dougherty



After a solid camp in Utah, most of us came straight to Craftsbury but I made a stop to visit my alma mater in Denver.  There I reconnected with my old ski team, met the new members, and spent a lot of quality time with my lady friend.

Unfortunately when I returned to Vermont, I caught a mild cold. Living in close quarters with the GRP team, we have a strictly enforced policy of moving into “quarantine” as soon as we sense the slightest feeling of a sore throat.  This ensures that we don’t have a bug going around the team all winter.  So despite taking an easy week the previous week, I took another 4 days off in this little room in one of the dormitories at the COC.


The upside of this distressing situation (West Yellowstone is less than 3 weeks away, I need to train!) Is the room was nice and warm with fast wifi.  I took advantage of this wifi by getting some good FaceTime chats in with my family and crushing the first three seasons of the TV show “Breaking Bad.”



I was distraught to hear that the team went skiing while I was holed up, but now I’m back to full health and ready to attack training.

As my mustache starts to curl over my upper lip, I know that the end of November and with it race season is approaching fast.  Tomorrow I am finally going to ski for the first time this season near Stowe, so it’s time for the final push!