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Mid-marathon update

29.Jan.2011 by Ollie Burruss

Just popped out the door to snap a few pictures of the men’s lead pack in the marathon.  Through Elinor’s field (which I’d guess is around 18-19k?) Justin Freeman (Kris’s brother) and Pat O’Brien (GRP) are skiing side by side in the lead.  Dylan McGuffin (GRP) is a few seconds behind, with Ryan Kerrigan (VTXC), Ben Koons (MWSC), and Eli Enman (VTXC/Rossignol) less than 15 seconds behind him.  Tim Whiton (PortNordic) is skiing solo behind the top 6, chasing hard.  Middlebury’s Noah Brautigam is leading the 25k, some 30 seconds behind Whiton.  It appears that Kris Freeman opted not to start, leaving the race for first wide open.

In the last picture, Gilb’s head is turned because he’s just telling me (in response to my subdued, quiet cheering), “C’mon, Ollie, I’m trying to be serious here.”

Tough decisions

5.Jan.2011 by Ollie Burruss

My time at US Nationals has come to a rather unexpected close. It was a tough call, but after today’s debacle of a 15k I decided that further racing would just set me back.  The smarter choice was to head back to Craftsbury for some rest and recovery.

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Headed into Nationals was the fittest I’ve seen the GRP men this season. Both intensity sessions were good and everyone was healthy. Things were looking solid. But after traveling to Rumford, illness hit and I woke up the first morning with a sore throat.  I was not alone – Pat too was fighting something off.

Thinking I could get in front of the bug and salvage the week, I sat out the sprint in favor of rest. By yesterday my sore throat was gone and things were looking up. But, as Pepa was quick to tell me, fighting off illness takes its toll on the body.  The immune system engages and saps far more energy than one might expect.  I had high hopes for the 15k, but it was obvious soon after starting that I was not operating at full capacity. Each time I “went to the well” or tried to push up a hill I fell further and further back. By the end I was resigned to skiing at threshold pace just to make it to the finish.

I have mixed feelings on finishing the race. On the one hand, I’ve only dropped out of one race in my career and it still bothers me to this day. On the other, it’s not smart to thrash yourself by completing a race that has taken too much out of you. No doubt, it’s a fine line.   Had I dropped out, I probably would have stayed in Rumford and raced tomorrow’s 30k.  Not a smart move given that I have nearly 3 months of racing left.  At some point during the race I must have made the semi-conscious decision that I was done racing for the week, so finishing was the least I could do.

Now that I’m home, I feel a bit better. I’ve been looking forward to the 30k skate all season, but as Will O’Brien (Pat’s dad) told me on the ride home, it’s a long season and there’s no use getting bent out of shape about one race.  I just have to wait until the Lake Placid SuperTour to race again.

Good luck to everyone tomorrow and Saturday. I wish I were there alongside you.

Early on in the 15k

Early on in the 15k

Fun things to do and see in Europe

31.Oct.2010 by Ollie Burruss

I love to people watch.  Absolutely love it.  One of my favorite pastimes, without a doubt.  Europe, as you can probably imagine, has proved to be an ever expanding collection of awesomeness for someone with my affinity for checking people out.  During our layover in Paris, I spent the entire time posted up in front of one of the security lines with Matt, just watching the people come out.  I don’t know exactly, but I’d say we spent at least two hours cracking jokes about everyone we saw.  I loved every minute of it.

Here in Muonio I get to combine people watching with one of my other favorite activities: skiing.  So far I’ve seen an Estonian who is a dead-ringer for Glenn Randall and a Swedish biathlon coach who strongly reminds me of my dear friend and former coach, Peter Graves.  Every time I see Estonian Glenn Randall I wonder what will happen when American Glenn Randall gets here and they ski past each other.  I imagine meeting your European doppelganger would be somewhat jarring.

Skiing laps on a 3.8k loop with dozens of other skiers has also given me time to come up with a few conclusions about Europe, which I will now share with you:

Finns love Finnish-made equipment.  I’m talking stuff that has never been seen in the US outside of Minnesota.  Rex poles (notable because they are Robin Hood green), Peltonen skis, and the little-known Karhu racing ski (complete with a neon orange base and an awesome name: Volcans.  I can only imagine they meant to call them Volcanos?  Or maybe Vulcans?) are all represented in force here.  I’ve got half a mind to try to trade for the Karhu drink belt I saw this morning.

Russians train really hard, all the time. There are tons of Russians here right now.  Pepa said there were clubs from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, in addition to the national team, whose van says “Russian National Ski Team” in German on it (thumbs up for usage of the word “mannschaft,” always a crowd pleaser).  The women in particular seem to be skiing wicked hard all the time.  There’s a great clip of Matt being rolled up by a tiny Russian girl just hammering her brains out.  Ask him about it.  One girl I saw was wearing full warm-ups that she had sweat all the way through.  She did not smell great.  But, they are fast, so maybe there’s something to their methodology.

Eastern European coaches hate skiing. Not the sport, but the actual physical act of skiing.  So far I’ve seen national team coaches from Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and I think Latvia (in addition to numerous club coaches from Russia).  None of these men ski.  They stand around, often together, in big jackets, watching.  Always watching.  Sometimes they’ll whip out a video camera (the Estonian guy especially likes his camera).  Often they’ll shout something at a passing athlete.  But seldom do they move and even more seldom do they ski.  Groups of them will congregate at trail intersections to chat, smoke cigarettes, and drink from thermoses.  I like to think that it is a hold over from the days when the Soviets used to post up guys in the woods to keep athletes from defecting.  Poor guys probably don’t know what to do with themselves anymore.  Since they are so often in the same places, I’ve taken to nodding to them as I pass, hoping for a nod back.  Most give it to me, but the Belorussians have been resisting.  I’ll break them, though.

Pepa is the most popular person on the trails. This should not surprise you.  She’s a babe and the only female coach out there (I think the Swedish biathlon team has a few female staff members, but I can’t figure out exactly what they do).  All the coaches like to chat with Pepa.  It’s been especially great for Chelsea, because she’s scored a few choice interviews through Pepa’s connections.  All I know is Pepa better watch out or she’s going to find herself beating off suitors like Odysseus’s wife Penelope.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Gotta get back to my tiny cabin to eat some duo spread (think cake frosting mixed with Nutella) and put my feet up.

Note: I’m just making a joke about the post-communist coaches.  I’m sure those guys actually know a lot about skiing and are doing a good job.  The difference between the way they conduct themselves on the trails and the ways American coaches act just begs the comparison.  No offense meant to Eastern Europeans.

Four outta five ain’t bad

8.Oct.2010 by Ollie Burruss

Quick congrats to Little TR (also known as Tim Reynolds) for being the only GRP man not to leave his breakfast on the Whiteface Toll Road this morning.  Climb to the Castle 2010 was a suffer-fest.

Timmy was 11th, Matt 19th, Patty 23rd, yours truly 28th, and Big Dilly powered through a tough day for 41st.

On the ladies’ side, Ida was 5th, Hannah 8th, Chelsea 9th, and Lauren 11th.

Full results here: men and women.