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Posts Tagged ‘Finland’

Race Pace, Cold Face

9.Nov.2010 by Chelsea Little
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Ida leading her quarterfinal heat up the second hill. In the next shot, she turns around to check on the size of her lead...

Did you hear? We had our first race on Sunday, a classic sprint here in Muonio! It was a pretty interesting experience. We’re used to having bizarre sprints to start the season off after last year’s 6-minute, point-to-point extravaganza in West Yellowstone, but Muonio took things in the opposite direction. The races were only 780 meters long for women and 1110 meters for men, and indeed started and ended in different places. They also included some sharp corners (in the men’s race, I think they skied around a branch in the snow at the far point on the course) and a sharp downhill turn leading into the finishing stretch.

Personally, I think I forgot how to race, because I really didn’t go fast in the sprint! I also put my pole between my skis going around one of the sharp corners and struggled not to fall down… always a good feeling when the course is lined with European coaches watching you. I didn’t make a good name for America, I’m afraid.

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Ollie cheering for Ida.

Luckily, not everyone was as silly or clumsy as me. Ida killed it in the qualifier, finishing second, and Hannah and Pat would have been in the heats too if they had run a full schedule. But because of the cold and the narrowness of the course, the organizers opted to do 4 heats of 4 instead of 5 heats of 6, so Hannah and Pat got to sit the afternoon out after all.

Which meant we all got to cheer for Ida as she cruised through the heats. Yay Ida!

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Ida outsprinting a Kazakh girl in her semifinal heat.

It was fun to watch all the heats – there were some really good skiers, and the women’s final came down to a toe-slide. But it was cold. Really cold. I decided to take portraits of my teammates defending themselves against the cold. Here’s the series.









Big Dilly

Big Dilly

Story from the Range

6.Nov.2010 by Lauren Jacobs

Since we arrived in Finland, Hans and I have been able to shoot a few times at the range here in Muonio. Shooting in the cold and on skis was definitely an adjustment for me. I had a lot of trouble zeroing and settling down the first couple of times we did easy combos. Another factor that contributed to my unease was the fact that we are sharing the range with the entire Swedish national biathlon team. That’s just a little intimidating! They have probably six coaches doing everything from pulling ropes and sweeping mats to timing intervals and watching the shots. Which means they also see us shooting. I think it makes me really concentrate on what I’m doing, which has to be a good thing.

Anyways, the story I want to share is from my fourth time shooting. We were doing max classic intervals, four times about 3 minutes long, and perfect for a shooting session. Hans and I definitely didn’t have room to pack a scope in our luggage, so we have been using a sort of public scope that lives in the range house here. This means we share it with other teams that didn’t bring a scope and the morning of our intervals we were sharing with some Belarusians. As I went back to look at my shots through the scope the coach said, “If you trust me, I will help you zero.” Sounded like a great offer to me and I said sure.

“Take ten clicks to the left and five to the right.” My first reaction was to say “ok!” because that’s just what you say when a coach tells you what to do. But on second thought I became very confused. Ten to the left and five to the right? Why wouldn’t I just take five to the left? Maybe he messed up his English and said right but meant up or down. I paused. And then asked him what I had to do, again.

“Ten to the left and five to the right.”

I started to question him, “Umm…but isn’t that just…”

“Yes, yes, just do as I say. Your sight isn’t moving.”

So I did what he told me to do and, of course, it worked! I had no idea that sights could kind of get stuck and not move, so if you over compensate the clicks a little it can get them back on track. I shot a few more clips to confirm and the friendly Belarusian coach told me a few times, “This is great shooting! Very good groups.” That bolstered my confidence a bit and I went on to do the intervals feeling very good about my shooting.

Basically that little story sums up one of the big reasons I love skiing. In general, everyone is super friendly and willing to help others out. Okay, I know that’s wicked cheesy but it’s true.

I still don’t have any photos from the range, so I will leave you instead with a few of the giant swans that live in the river by our cabins.

Appropriately named, these are Tundra Swans.

Appropriately named, these are Tundra Swans.

Hannah and I ran around to get some photos of these guys but they hopped in the current and really took off.

Hannah and I ran around to get some photos of these guys but they hopped in the current and really took off.

Stay tuned! I’m sure we’ll have some good stories from the race tomorrow!

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.

Snowy Trails and Snowgym

29.Oct.2010 by Chelsea Little


Our first few days in Muonio have been pretty interesting. The skiing is great so far – it snowed a bunch in the last 24 hours and today there were many more trails open, which gave us all the opportunity to go on some adventures. I got sick of skiing around the short, well-groomed loop with a hundred other people, so I struck out up the hill and ended up skiing along the top of the ridge below some windmills. I had a beautiful view of the countryside, which is comprised entirely of wooded hills and a few lakes. No mountains, just hills. Even at noon, the sun hangs in the corner of the sky, casting everything in a pinkish yellowish glow. I was psyched to be up on the hill with no other skiers around, enjoying the view, even if it meant skiing in some ungroomed powder.



Yesterday Pepa had us do a strength workout. Since we didn’t have access to a gym (that will come later), we did what we now call “Snow-gym.” The first thing we had to do was a bunch of jumps up the hill in the snow. Kind of an adventure. I think all of us fell down at least once. The owners of the cabin complex were watching us out their kitchen window wondering what on earth the crazy Americans were up to now.


After that it was pretty much the usual – push-ups with someone pushing down on our shoulders, dips, supermans with Pepa pushing down on our ankles, one-legged squats on a picnic table with a backpack full of chains to weigh us down. We finished by doing plank with Pepa putting all of her weight on us and seeing how long we could last before we collapsed.


So: wrap up: Finland is great and we’re enjoying it! Hooray for skiing in October and beautiful trails! Yay!

Pepa made a snowman while we were doing strength!

Pepa made a snowman while we were doing strength!