Friday, January 30, 2009

On Snow Together at The Club

After two months of traveling on the road and some cold days when the schools were closed I finally got to meet up with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. It is great to see them again. The kids have a big map on the wall and have been following my travels. I was excited to check out the new ice rink that Bob built this fall. I didn't have a chance to grab my skates though the kids were super excited to glide some laps on the trail behind the club.

Some of the crew, excited to test out the new headlamps from
ActivEdge and a grant from Nike.

Shaylena and Keshawna skiing over to check out the Ice Rink

Hailey, coloring Valentines and reading "Frog and Toad Together,"
before we went out to ski

Don Adams groomed a nice loop behind the club for us to practice on during the week. The club has some classic equipment and we have been able to take 6-8 kids depending on foot size. Last monday, Kaynen went out swimming around in a pair of 46 boots, and 180 classic skis. I didn't think it was going to work, but he was determined to try it. At one point his foot fell out of his boot but he was skiing great. Temperatures were near zero but we stayed warm as long as we got up quickly when we fell. Jathan and Bob had hot chocolate and marshmallows waiting for us back at The Club too.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CXC Strong in Mt. Itasca SuperTour

It was a good weekend for the CXC Team at the first stop in the Midwest Grand Prix. Bryan Cook and Caitlin Compton led the team with a second place finish and Caitlin Compton 3rd in the first day of competition. I had one of my better classic distance results finishing in a tight group of times for 4th place. Sunday was an even better day for the team with Caitlin winning by a minute and the CXC Men sweeping the podium.

Mathew Liebsch led the sweep in the 10km Freestyle ahead of myself and Bryan Cook. Splits had Liebsch and me tied at 4km but Liebsch built an 18 second lead on the second lap to win his first SuperTour. Cook who is known to be a strong finisher closed to just 3 seconds behind me at the finish. We had a good lead over the rest of the field, finishing 40 seconds ahead of fourth place, Canadian Luke Vilakinen (NTDC/Big Thunder Nordic). Santiago Ocariz of University of Wisconsin Green Bay continues his strong season posting the top collegiate time.

Caitlin Compton of CXC led from the wand to win the Women’s race by a minute. Although the race was interval start Compton crossed the line in an exciting sprint finish ahead of CXC teammates Kristina Owen (8th) and Maria Stuber (5th). Kristina Strandberg (Saab/Salomon) finished second with a 50 second gap on third place Lindsey Dehlin (USST). Kelly Chaudoin of Gustavus Adolphus won her first collegiate race, nearly a minute ahead of the next college skier.

Classic Results

Skate Results

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeley Hills Classic

It was nice to race a local event this weekend. The 17th Annual Seeley Hills Classic was dedicated to the memory of Seeley entrepreneur and arguably it's founder Gary Penman. The CXC crew in Hayward enjoyed some warmer temperatures (10F feels pretty warm relative to what the temp has been)and fresh snow for the 22k and 42km events. Kristina won the 22km and I won the 42km.

Click Here to Play Video

New this year, CXC filmed the first half of the 42k on a snowmobile in preparation for filming the 2009 American Birkebeiner. Snow fell most of the morning and the Piston Bullys were out working the trail all the way up until the start. Still, the lead racers were breaking through 1-2 inches of fresh snow. The 42k lead group took advantage of the film snowmobile’s tracks searching for a faster line through the slow new snow.

The front pack was nearly 10 skiers strong at the halfway point. Once the racers reached the tracks skied in by the 22km skiers the lead group narrowed to four skiers. These four racers skied together before spreading out with 3km to go. I broke away for the win with Bjorn Batdorf of Rossignol just 20 seconds behind. University of Minnesota’s Dave Anderson finished 3rd ahead of Colby graduate John Swain.

The video only shows the first half of the race, because the second half of the course has two way traffic.

Complete Results

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good Races in Alaska

My business in Alaska was not finished. Cold temperatures meant that only 2 of 4 races planned for US Nationals were held. Hungry for more racing and another chance to prove myself on the trails at Kincaid Park I decided to change my ticket and stay in Alaska for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Invite.

A number of the skiers with top results earlier in the week would be racing and the competition would be pretty strong. Next year's National Championships will be held in the same place and I wanted a chance to race the different courses.

I was able to stay with my friend and fellow In The Arena athlete Laura Valaas which worked out really well. Laura lives with the Burkholder family in an apartment attached to their house. Sally and Burky were great company and made me feel very at home. They live within walking distance to the ski trails which was great. I forgot my balaclava on Sunday so I simply skied back to the house for my warm up and grabbed it.

Arriving to the venue with the moon still the brightest thing in the sky.
Race starts at 1oam, It starts getting light around

15km Mass Start Classic
One of my better classic races to date. I tend to ski smoother and more relaxed in mass start races. I fell off the main pack at about 5km and skied with three other guys. We worked together and caught a few skiers falling off the lead group's pace. I skied a consistent race and almost caught a few other skiers near the finish. I ended the day in 8th place with just 4 college skiers ahead of me.
Classic Results

15km Mass Start Freestyle
I wish I felt this good on Monday for the US National Championship Skate Race. I felt strong theentire race. I made a few short surges to separate things out a bit and group of 5 of us skied about 30 seconds ahead of the main group. Vegard Kjoelhamar, Simon Reissmann, Tyson Flaharty and Marshall Greene and I made up the lead pack. Vegard and myself led most of the race. With 2.5km to go Simon Reissmann made a move but it was challenging to break away. With 1km to go I got a small gap and held it to the line. Simon and Vegard had a big sprint to the line with Simon winning the photo finish. This is the first race with a strong field that I have won in a long time and I was very happy. Ever since I was in highschool I dreamed of winning a college ski race. Too bad it had to happen after I graduated. It felt particularly good to win in Anchorage. While studying and skiing at UAA we held our home invitational in Wyoming due to the travel cost of teams having to fly to alaska.
Skate Results

Leaving Alaska on a good note I am excited to return to Hayward and the midwest.

Bad Races in Alaska

The US National Championships in Alaska did not go well. I have had some great races this season and felt fit, healthy and excited to race on the trails I trained on throughout college.

In my first race, the 10km Freestyle I finished 39th, well behind my potential and my goal of finishing in the top 10. I did not ski relaxed and as a result did not ski fast. The race was painful and I was exhausted at the end.

My disappointment in my own performance didn't last long when I looked at the scoreboard and saw my CXC teammate Matt Liebsch finished 3rd. This was a great result for Matt and probably the best race of his life so far.
Garrott and Matt Celebrating Matt's great race while on an evening recovery jog

It is important to get over a bad race quickly so that you can prepare for a good race. In Alaska this meant getting ready for the Classic Sprint the next day.

Alaska was unusually cold when I was there and unfortunately it was too cold to race many of the days. Each day I would wake up, prepare to race and watch the thermometer. There is a rule that it must be -4 Fahrenheit or warmer in order for a race to be legal. This is a good rule because there are a number of risks to racing in the extreme cold. After two days of the races being canceled it was finally warm enough. The temperature was -2 F but the wind started blowing and it still felt really cold.

The tracks were firm and I decided that it would be fastest for me to use my skate skis and double pole the 1.4km course. I felt strong, but not strong enough, finishing nearly 20 seconds off of the pace set by the USST's Chris Cook. I finished 42nd, a disappointing US Nationals for me. Chris Cook dominated the qualifier winning by over 6 seconds.

Garrott Kuzzy's Quarterfinal

Kuzzy represented CXC well by double poling to second place in the qualifier. Kuz's quarter final did not go as well, he chose to use kick wax, yet still double poled nearly the entire course and finished 4th in a close finish.

Bryan Cook decided to stride after watching his older brother post the time to beat and qualified 25th. He skied a solid quarterfinal moving up to 18th on the results list.

The CXC women had a heartbreaking day finishing 31, 32, 33 (Stuber, Winters, Compton) with the top 30 moving on to the quarterfinals. Compton decided to double pole the relatively flat women's course.

Sometime you have to just go for it in ski racing. Kuzzy proved that double poling was still a fast option. Still for the majority of those who chose to double pole (myself, Matt Liebsch, Mark Iverson, Kevin Hochtl) we entered the race as home run hitters and unfortunately struck out.

Full Results (Click Here)

Congratulations to CXC's Garrott Kuzzy, Matt Liebsch and Caitlin Compton on making the Pre-Olympic World Cup Team. I will be cheering for you.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Back in Alaska

Happy New Year from Anchorage.

I flew up to the land of long winter nights on December 26th. It is great to be back in Alaska. It is very cold out, but it has been clear and beautiful. I really have missed these mountains. Unfortunately most of the team and I caught a stomach bug and threw up for 12 hours on Monday. I am feeling great now though and excited for the racing to begin on Saturday.

Polar Bears greet travelers at the airport.

Kuzzy and Stuber with Cook Inlet in the background


The Stadium at Kincaid Park with the big three in the background.
Foraker, Denali and Hunter.