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Six Days in China

12.Mar.2019 by Liz Guiney

Oh, the places ski racing will take you! Most recently: Beijing, China, for the 2019 edition of the China City Sprint Tour. Ida, Corey, and I decided to make the journey to China for three freestyle city sprints, which are part of China’s plan to hype up winter sports in their country before the 2022 Olympics. We were part of a US contingent which included 13 athletes from all different clubs. The races also included athletes from Sweden, Norway, Italy, Russia, and Germany, and the host country, China. If you really don’t like reading and want the highlights, here they are: dumplings, extreme jet lag, racing next to the Olympic stadium, SMOG, Great Wall of China, more dumplings, ramen, right hand turns. For everyone else, here’s the day by day!

Day Zero

We were only in China for about 3 hours on this day, so it doesn’t count in the official tally. However, travel days are always fun, right? This one starts with a 3 am wake up for Corey and me, then a 6 hour layover in Toronto, a 13 hour flight to Beijing, and 9 pm arrival at our hotel, the night before the race. Oh, and that’s actually over the course of two days, but who’s counting. Ollie and Ida have slightly more civil travel days from Boston and Munich, respectively. We have a team meeting and pass out, completely exhausted from the day.

Day One!

Our first real day on the ground in Beijing, and also, race day number one. Air quality today is…. not good. The kind that hurts your lungs when you step outside, and cuts visibility to around a quarter mile. Our race course for the day is a two lap 1.7k freestyle sprint. It’s in the plaza right next to the Bird’s Nest, the Olympic stadium from the 2008 Games. Most of the race courses we’re used to from SuperTours and World Cups wind through the woods and climb and descend steep hills, so this course is something very different for us! It’s essentially a giant rectangle with one short bridge hill. Lots of right hand turns, and a lot of flat. Speaking of flat, that pretty much describes how we feel! The snow is slow and baking in the 60F sun. Racing in a literal fog from pollution, and a figurative one from jet lag, we push through anyways.

I squeak into the rounds in 29th and finish 29th in the heats. Ida is battling some food poisoning, but still races hard and finishes 16th in the qualifier and 18th in heats. City sprints are interesting because they really limit the amount of time on course for testing and warm-up. Our wax techs get about 20 minutes to test, and we get 25 for ski testing and warm-up. It’s an extra challenge, but the techs overcome it and give us great skis nevertheless. Other fun things from the day include “Chinese style” portapotties (no seat! no toilet paper! minimalism!) and our athlete lunches, which include, of all things, Subways sandwiches, Coke, and Snickers bars. I can tell I’m really tired because somehow I only manage to take two pictures for the whole day.

Arriving at the Bird’s Nest stadium. The race course is in the plaza to the left
Smog masks for the win!

Day Two

Day two on the ground in China also happens to be our second race day! Instead of racing in downtown Beijing, our race venue is in Shougang, which is about an hour drive from our hotel, in the industrial district. It’s also where they plan to put the Olympic village for the 2022 Games, so we’re all really interested to see it. Upon arrival, we can’t decide if we’ve arrived in a run down amusement park or a post apocalyptic scene. Apparently the steel factory there shut down over 15 years ago but the buildings are still intact. They plan to keep many of the original structures in place while building the village. It will be fascinating to see what it looks like in three years!

Unfortunately, we also wake up to an air quality index of over 300. For reference, most major cities in the US hover around 50, anything over 150 is unhealthy, and 300 is deemed “hazardous”, with outdoor activity strongly discouraged. Luckily, after a day on the ground, we all seem to get our bearings and feel better in the race. The course for the day is just one lap, and includes a fast, icy start, as well as a very gradual climb with rollers. Ida qualifies in 10th, and then powers through to the A Final where she places 2nd! Corey also qualifies, and then finishes 3rd in her quarterfinal, for 16th overall. I’m happy to feel good in my qualifier and finish 26th.

The race course on day two in Shougang
The steel factory buildings, with the race course to the left
Warming up in a hazy glow with my smog mask
My quarterfinal heat
Women’s podium with Ida in 2nd!
Finding fun things on a cool-down jog with Corey

Day Three

After two races in two days, we are very happy to have an off day on day three. We’re even more excited because we get to see the Great Wall of China! On our bus ride from Beijing to the Wall, we learn all sorts of fun facts about the wall. For example, it’s 3,000 miles long, and extends from the ocean towards the interior of the country. It was intended to protect the Chinese from attacking nomadic groups from the north, including the Huns. It also has really cool watch towers where guards would light signal fires to communicate. Most of the wall was built by the Ming dynasty, which ruled in the 1300’s to 1600’s. One thing they don’t tell you is that the Great Wall is steep!! We walked from the tour bus stop in both directions had some burning calves and quads as a result.

In the afternoon, a few of us go to the venue in Yanqing to go for a very short ski and to get our bearings. We’re very excited about this particular venue because it includes both left and right turns! They also put in rollers both out of the start and into the finish, so it doesn’t lack for interesting features.

Looking out from the Wall, which extends way past the far ridge
We had good representation of current and former GRP skiers on the trip! Three out of four of our wax techs (Ollie, Pat, and Bryan) are former GRP athletes
Course preview with Felicia, Heather, and Becca

Day Four

Day four of racing brings a new location with the most exciting course yet! (including aforementioned left hand turns and rollers). It’s nice to get out of the city to Yanqing, a future site for one of the Olympic villages, and also where they will hold the luge, bobsled, and alpine skiing events. The air is also slightly clearer for our third race day, but by that point, most athletes are hacking quite a bit as a result of the other race days.

I don’t have very many photos of the day, but it was a really impressive venue with tons of spectators. The course winds around the circular building in the first photo, which is also the athlete building. Racing goes decently- Ida makes the semi’s and finishes 12th in the heats, which puts her in 9th for the overall sprint tour. I finish 30th, and after racing, the exhaustion of the past couple days really sets in! It’s crazy to think that we raced three times in four days right after flying halfway across the world. Needless to say we are all happy to be done racing, and to enjoy the banquet, which features Chinese opera, traditional dancing, and a sweet raffle.

A bit of course prep on the day before racing in Yanqing. This was looking out from the start. The organization and infrastructure that goes into city sprints is seriously impressive.
Ida cruising to 2nd in her quarterfinal (Photo Forrest Mahlen)

Day Five

With our racing behind us, day five means that we can do some exploring. Unfortunately for us, a few days into our stay, the Chinese government called their annual meeting in Beijing, so the city is pretty much closed down. We can’t go explore the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, or any of the other famous sights. However, we’re still in a pretty cool area, and the pollution is also way down so we can venture out without masks! One group checks out some caves, others use the hotel bikes, and our group goes on a long run into the mountains to see what we can find.

Our run takes us to the backside of the mountains, where we find construction for the bullet train which will go in for the 2022 Games. It will take visitors from Beijing to the mountain venue in under an hour (usually a three hour drive). The concrete pillars are massive and jarring compared to the rugged landscape.
A solid adventure crew!

Day Six

Most of the team flies out on day six, but Corey and I don’t leave Beijing until 7 pm, so we have the whole day to explore the city! After successfully navigating the Chinese subway system, we pop out into a cool shopping district called Nanluoguxiang. It’s a narrow, twisting pedestrian-only alleyway with tons of restaurants and small shops. It’s a perfect way to see a little bit of the city but avoid the craziness of downtown. We eat ramen and rice bowls, drink matcha, and practice our calligraphy then hop on the subway back to the airport for another 13 hour flight back to the States.

We were extra happy to have clean(er) air on our day in Beijing.
Apparently we flew directly over the North Pole on our way back!

Reflecting back on the trip, it was a bit of whirlwind! Usually, when we travel to races, we leave for the venue at least a few days before the first race, even more when it involves a significant time change. It was a huge challenge for me to keep up with the travel, the time change, and the jam-packed race schedule, and all of the other athletes I talked to felt the same way. With the air pollution on top of that, it was definitely one of the more interesting race experiences I’ve ever had. However, I’m really grateful that Swix China paid for all of us to fly over and covered our lodging and transportation while we were there. On the whole, it was such a cool opportunity to see a country that I normally wouldn’t while ski racing, race against some really fast people, and appreciate even more being back in Vermont to breath some clean, fresh air!

Foret Montmorency Camp! x2

16.Nov.2018 by Liz Guiney

Early November can be a really challenging time to train in New England. Often, the roads get too slick from sleet and snow to roller ski, and even when the roads are clear, the roller skiing is so slow that it doesn’t help us work on our speed. However, it’s rare to have enough snow to get in real skiing, so that leaves very few options beyond running. In the past few years, the Green Team has combated November blues by travelling to Foret Montmorency, north of Quebec City. Foret has done a great job creating the “Boreal Glide”, a 2k loop of snow saved from the previous year under a pile of woodchips. They spread out the snow and have remarkably good skiing very early in the season!

This year we did two separate camps in Foret, one the week of November 5-9, and another from November 12-15. Of course, winter decided to come early this year, so we actually cut the end of our second camp short and came back to Craftsbury to enjoy the good skiing here before we leave for race season. The Foret camps were very productive, in a short amount of time we fit in multiple interval sessions, two time trials, speed sessions, technique review, and plenty of distance skis. By the end of our second week they had almost 30k of really good skiing open!

Here are a few photos, thanks to Caitlin Patterson, from our first week.

Ida on our very first day up in Foret. We had flurries to start the camp!

 

Hallie, Akeo, and Kelsey practicing a no-pole drill and smiling about all the snow!

 

Climbing the only hill on the 2k, practicing leading and following to learn from our teammates

 

Video review is a big part of getting on snow for the first time. We want to make sure that all of our changes from rollerskiing transfer over to snow

 

The whole team outfitted in our new uniforms for the year! Thank you to Salomon for the awesome warm-up pants and jackets! Also thanks to team gear sponsors Skida and Julbo for providing the team with headwear and glasses.

 

The men’s team working together in skate intervals

 

The women’s team paired up with a few Canadian skiers for intervals and had a great time mixing it up with them

 

Happy winter!

Now, the World Cup contingent of the Green Team is in Finland prepping for the Kuusamo Opener. The rest of the skiers head to West Yellowstone soon to start their season. The World Cup biathletes also leave soon for their season, which starts in Pokljuka, Slovenia. IBU Cup biathletes will train in Craftsbury for a bit until leaving for their trip in mid December. Stay tuned for race results, always posted on www.greenracingproject.com, or on our Facebook (@CraftsburyGreenRacingProject) page!

West Yellowstone Week One

28.Nov.2017 by Liz Guiney

It’s normal for the Green Racing Project ski team to start our season in West Yellowstone, Montana, with its kilometers of pristine trails, wildlife sightings, and funky tourist town charm. We even usually stay in the same rental house, so it almost feels like home when we arrive.

However, this year the Green Team from the East had the bad luck of bringing more typical Eastern weather with us! Up until past Tuesday, the day we flew out to Bozeman, we heard reports of tons of snow and great skiing on the Rendezvous trails. The next day, it rained. Then it got warm. Then it rained again, and then it froze! Not ideal conditions for holding a festival for thousands of nordic skiers, much less the planned FIS race. However, the grooming team in West did everything they could, even closing down the race trails for several days, and amazingly, were able to pull off a race on Saturday. Dirt spots, ice patchs, and all.

At this point, I think I can speak for most of the team when I saw that we have a lot of experience dealing with bad conditions. Compared to the Birkie debacle of last season, this was practically pristine skiing. Even though the base got a little thinner every day, we were still able to get in some quality training during our first few days, and prepared ourselves to race. Weather is one of those things that is completely out of our control, and the only thing we can do is keep ourselves from being too stressed about it, and make the best of the situation.

Kait and I striding up the South Plateau Rd the day they closed down the race trails. Up a bit higher, the skiing was actually really nice!

 

After stuffing ourselves with stuffing, delicious roast turkey a la Pepa (boiled neck, giblets, and all), and Nick’s pumpkin pie at team Thanksgiving, we were ready to race. On Saturday, the women raced a 5k freestyle individual start, while the men did 10k. Because we planned to race just 5 days after we arrived, which can be the worst feeling day at altitude, our goals for the race were more process oriented. We planned to practice our warm-up, testing, and wax routine, and to get in a good hard workout. I think we accomplished that goal, although most of the team didn’t have great feeling races. That’s ok, we’ll be refocusing on the races this coming weekend, which are SuperTours and therefore count much more in the scheme of the overall race season. Hopefully by then we’ll be a bit more adjusted to the altitude. However, Caitlin still had a solid result this weekend, taking 2nd by just 0.9 seconds in the 5k, and Ben was also in the top ten, taking 8th in the 10k.

 

Sunrise on race morning

 

Kait cranking a hard effort in the 5k (photo Ian Harvey/Toko US)

 

Caitlin skiing to 2nd place, proving she is a fearless ice queen on a day with fast, luge-like downhills (Photo Ian Harvey, Toko US)

 

Ben and Adam working together towards the finish in the men’s 10k (Photo Ian Harvey/Toko US)

 

Unfortunately, after the races, the bad weather just continued, and the rain pummeled the trails even more on Saturday night and Sunday. We were still able to get in a good distance workout up high on the Plateau Rd the day after the race, but now the SuperTour is a little bit in flux. A storm today delivered a thin layer of wet, sloppy snow, but they’ll need several more inches to pull off the planned skate sprint and classic races. So, we’re in a bit of a holding pattern waiting to see if they can go ahead with the races as planned, or whether another venue will step in. In the meantime, West has lots of coffee shops, and we have a cozy living room with a fireplace and the movie channel, so it’s time to rest up for races, no matter what form they may take.

 

Reunited with Heather! She’s racing for the Bozeman team this year, but it’s always great to catch up with her and do some skiing. Once a greenie, always a greenie 🙂

 

Happy to find some good skiing and mountain views higher up on the plateau. Thanks to Skida and Julbo for keeping up outfitted in headwear and sunglasses

 

Ummm…. not sure how this will go! The plateau road farther down. Amazing what a small loss in elevation can do to the snowpack

Thanks to Nick and Pepa as always for their coaching and wax support. Also, big thanks to our team sponsors Craft, Skida, Julbo, and Polar for providing clothes and equipment for the team as we train and race! Stay tuned for more reports from out West, and make sure to follow the team on Instagram (@greenracingproject) and Facebook (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) for more frequent updates.

New Zealand On-Snow Camp!

8.Sep.2017 by Liz Guiney

The past three summers, the GRP skiers have headed to Europe in September to get on snow, where we’ve had awesome camps in Ramsau, Austria, training on the Dachstein Glacier. However, every year the snow pack in the Alps seems to get less dependable, and with a lighter snow year and warm spring and summer, going to Ramsau wasn’t an option this year. Instead, we ventured even farther afield, all the way to the Southern Hemisphere, where we planned to spend 3 weeks training at the Snow Farm on the South Island of New Zealand.

Only Nick and Ida had ever been to New Zealand before, so we weren’t really sure what to expect from the 30+ hour travel day to get there, or from the time change. It’s a 16 hour difference from the East Coast, which is really actually more like 8 hours in the opposite direction (don’t think about it too hard, it might make your head hurt). We also get pretty spoiled from the Craftsbury dining hall, so what if the food was weird, or the toilets flushed backwards, or we crashed our car driving on the wrong side of the road, or we couldn’t understand all the New Zealand-isms? What does “sweet as” mean anyways??

Well, it turns out that we had absolutely nothing to worry about! Sure, the trip over (Craftsbury to Boston to San Fran to Auckland to Queenstown to Snow Farm) turned us all into temporary zombies. But once we arrived at the Snow Farm and settled into a training routine, everything was truly “sweet as” (according to Urban Dictionary, it means “cool” in NZ speak). The skiing has been awesome, with over 30 km of groomed trails, the views are stunning, the food has been great, and Kiwis are some of the friendliest people around. Staying at the Snow Farm is really convenient since everything we need is right here- gym, dining hall, dorm style rooms, and skiing right out the back door. The first week we did a bit of technique focus, working hard to transfer over rollerski technique to snow. Then we put in a few intensity sessions, and raced the NZ Winter Games this weekend. Finally, we’ll spend our last week here ramping up the training hours, and then travel all the way back to Vermont, where we hear that fall is nearly underway.

A spectacular sunrise over the Snow Farm’s trail system. Because it’s winter here, we get to catch both sunrise and sunset, and they haven’t disappointed yet.

 

Good morning Snow Farm!

 

The infamous “Wanaka Tree”, from our off-day venture down to Wanaka, about 40 min away by car, down a winding mountain pass

 

Exploring some of the trails farther out, this one goes out to the Bob Lee Hut. The winter hut system in New Zealand is really cool, the Bob Lee one in particular is stocked with firewood and has a wood stove, cooking utensils, and a gas stove. (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

 

The warm temps during the day and freezing at night also lent itself to some great crust cruising earlier in the camp. (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

 

We also get to see former GRPers Hannah Dreissigacker and Nils Koons, who are living in nearby Wanaka. Hannah is teaching lessons and coaching at the Snow Farm this winter.

 

Boys heading out on the outer trails, Mt. Pisa in the background (Photo Caitlin Patterson).

 

Most of the GRP group here on a beautiful day. Kait picked up a bout of strep throat during the travel, but she’s doing better now and was able to hop in one of the races this weekend. Big thanks to Craft Sportswear, Skida, and Julbo Eyewear for keeping us warm and outfitted for our training and racing.

 

Adam and Ben working on classic technique (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

 

We love our new Skida patterns and Julbo glasses! (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

As part of the New Zealand Winter Games, we raced three days over the weekend (Thursday, Friday, Saturday). The first day was a 5/10k interval start, then a classic sprint, and finally 10/15k classic mass starts today. Overall, the team did really well in the races, hitting the podium in every race. Ben won the 10k interval start and the 15k classic, and placed 2nd in the classic sprint. Ida was 2nd in the classic sprint and 3rd in the 10k classic, while Caitlin took 3rd in the sprint and 2nd in the 10k. Adam also hit the podium in the 15k classic, battling to finish 2nd. My best result was 5th in the classic sprint, and Kait took 5th in the 10k after being sick for most of our week here. So overall, it was a good start to the season, although we can’t put too much stock into races in September, and we’ll still be training hard through the rest of the fall in order to be ready for the real start of the season in November. Big thanks to Pepa and Nick for braving total whiteouts and 40 kph wind to test and wax skis for us, they crushed it, as per usual!

Pepa cheering for Caitlin and I on one of the steepest pitches during the 5k (Photo Brian Gregg)

 

Ben on top of the podium in the 10k skate!

 

Caitlin, Ida and I all ended up in the same semifinal in the classic sprint. (Photo Kaitlynn Miller)

 

The start of the men’s final, Ben is to the left (behind the Japanese skier). He skied a smart tactical race to take 2nd (Photo Kaitlynn Miller)

 

Ida powering to 2nd place behind her USST teammate Sophie Caldwell in the classic sprint final (Photo Kaitlynn Miller)

I’m sure we’ll have another photo update from our last week here. Thanks for reading! If you’d like to check out the complete results from the races, they should be available on www.wintergamesnz.kiwi.