Midwest Meltdowns

2.Mar.2017 by Liz Guiney

5 of the GRP skiers, including myself, just got back to Craftsbury after a trip to the Midwest for SuperTours and the Birkie (or rather, trying to race the Birkie). Here’s our update from the races!

We traveled to Ishpeming in a flurry of flights, airport hotels, and one loooong drive across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The UP is a familiar place to many of the skiers, with Kait and I topping the count  for most trips to Houghton for races (at 5 a piece). Home to small industrial towns, Stormy Kromer hats, Yooper charm, and the infamous meat-filled pasties, the UP can be an interesting place to travel for a ski race, but generally treats us well.

We were lucky enough this trip to stay with the parents of one of the GRP rowers who have a lovely house in downtown Marquette. They own a chocolate shop and two restaurants in downtown Marquette, so we were completely spoiled when they gave us chocolate from their store (Doncker’s, if you’re ever in Marquette definitely check it out!) on the first day of our stay, and then invited us to eat in their restaurant. Midwestern hospitality is real, and we can’t thank them enough for hosting us!

The weekend’s SuperTour races at the Al Quaal trails in Ishpeming went well, despite a bout of warm weather. We raced a freestyle sprint on a two lap course, then two days later a 5k classic interval start. In the sprint, Caitlin, Kait, Heather and I all made the rounds of 16, and then Caitlin and Kait went on to make the four person A Final, where they took 2nd and 4th, respectively. Overall as a team we were pretty happy with the results, but knew that the next race, a 5k classic, was where we could put our striding skills to the test. However, that weekend Ishpeming was in a warming trend, so while we may have started the week on hard wax, we knew it would definitely be getting into the klister/slush/ice zone during race time. Luckily, our wax techs Nick and Ollie found some magic stuff for us to ski on, and our race skis were fantastic. It was really fun to see Kait win her first SuperTour (and probably a big compliment to how well she’s been skiing all year that we didn’t realize it was her first ever win at the time). Caitlin and I took 2nd and 3rd for our first GRP SuperTour sweep, and Mary had a very solid result in 12th.

The lighthouse in Marquette on an afternoon jog (Photo Kait Miller)


During race season we do a lot of afternoon jogs, so sometimes we try to switch it up and go interesting places, in this case a nearby lighthouse. We had to duck a rope to get out there, and had a moment of panic when we got buzzed by a drone, before realizing it was probably just taking aerial footage! (Photo Kait Miller)


Skate sprint podium on a beautiful day in Ishpeming (Photo Bryan Fish)


5k classic podium sweep!


A bit of local flavor- the prizes for the SuperTour races were Stormy Kromer hats, which as far as I can tell, are the pinnacle of UP fashion. We’re also standing in front of the pasty stand in this photo


Really lucky to have this team on the road!


Our hosts in Marquette, including dog Waiska

During our drive from Marquette to Hayward it poured rain, which was around when we started to realize that we might have a problem. Sure enough, the next day when the coaches drove out to see how the Birkie trail was surviving the melt, they found a lot of grey ice and grass sticking up. However, in hopes of a “Birkie miracle” snowstorm, the organizers held off on cancelling the race. We spent a few days in a holding pattern, waiting to see if the forecast would deliver, or if they would just go ahead and cancel. I won’t lie, cabin fever seemed to set in pretty hard during this limbo, and the skiing we did find wasn’t very inspiring! Finally on Friday we heard that the Birkie was officially off. It was such a bummer for the race in general and the Cable/Hayward area, as well as all of the racers. Luckily we were already in the Midwest, but we talked to people who came all the way from Italy and even Russia and didn’t get to race!

Good thing we practice our grass skiing during the summer, this spot would have needed a real miracle to be ski-able!


Cheering for the junior Barnebirkie- which was switched to a running race midweek. Still a lot of enthusiastic kids though!


If you can’t race, might as well spend some time in the Leinie Lounger (outside the grocery store in Hayward)


Just past the high point of the Birkie Trail. This was on Saturday, which was supposed to be our race day, so we could see where the organizers may have had a problem


A little bittersweet to stand by the new start in Telemark after not getting to race, but I’m sure we’ll be back soon


The Powerline trail was a little thin but actually nice after a dusting of new snow 

What’s next for the GRP skiers? We’re back in Craftsbury now for a few weeks, and hoping the trails survive a similar meltdown here. Ben, Kait, Caitlin, and Ida are all qualified for World Cup Finals in Quebec, I’m heading to OPA Cups in Austria, Mary and Heather will be training in Craftsbury and travelling to BKL Fest, JO’s, and NCAA’s, and then we’ll all reconvene in Fairbanks for SuperTour finals!