Sunday, December 20, 2015

Crested Butte Round II

The 5k classic is one of my least favorite events. I am usually a stronger skater and a stronger distance skier.

When you are in your first years of high school racing 5k's are the main distance you do. When I was racing in Alaska most of the season we did 5k's with a couple 10k's mixed in. As you get to your later years of high school 10k's become the norm and 5k's start to feel pretty short. A 15k seems like a massive distance. We did one 15 every year, a bunch of 10s and some 5s. Once you hit college 15k becomes the standard distance, and 10k's start to feel like 5s used to. When I see 20k now I look at it the same way I looked at 15s when I first started doing them. So a 5k at this point feels almost like a sprint.

But that's what they had us doing in Crested Butte. We had some crazy weather for it too. It was dumping snow when we first arrived at the venue, but stopped pretty quick after we got there. Then about 15 minutes before the men went out it started dumping again. There was an inch of powder on the course when we started. When the girls went out it was a full blown blizzard.

I kind of botched the warm up today. I didn't even get on my skis until less than an hour before the race. I also recently ran over my watch with my car and haven't replaced it, and I didn't charge my phone overnight so it was dead this morning. This meant I had no way of telling time besides asking people so I was doing that a lot. The shorter the race, the more crucial the warm up, and warm ups generally require you to ski at various effort levels at a specific amount of time before your race. I like to have a lot more than an hour before a race this short, but I just wasn't on it this morning. I did get a warm up it just wasn't ideal.

Double Pole
I tested my race skis and needed more kick, but didn't get on them after the extra wax was applied until I was in the pen. I started in the third chevron in the far right lane, behind skiers who I thought I was probably faster than. Once again in a 5k getting stuck behind a group can be disastrous.

Because of all the fresh snow everyone knew that the tracks would be fastest, and that whoever skied in front would be essentially breaking trail and thus doing a lot more work than everyone else. When the gun went off I tried to maneuver my way to the front of the group, but not first place, as quick as possible but there was really no getting around everyone so soon. Once the pack thinned a little it strung out into a big single file line, because nobody was willing to get into the other lane and go through the fresh snow. I stayed where I was for that reason. My kick wax was slipping too so I had to be careful when I tried to make a move.

I had the advantage today of knowing the course quite well because we skied the exact same course that we did last February where I won the USCSA RMC race. When we reached a gradual slope about 1.5 km in I decided this was the time to pass some folks. Everyone in front of me began striding so I hit the unoccupied left lane and double poled my way up the climb past a bunch of guys, and made contact with the front group of about 10, who were mostly NCAA racers.

This course is not an easy one, with undulating terrain basically the entire time and one massive climb right at the halfway point. Once I'd caught the front group I immediately began struggling on the short, steep climbs because my wax was slipping. I either herringboned or double poled. Once we hit the big climb in the middle I had just barely lost contact with the front but was within a second or two. I struggled on the big climb but was able to cut the sweeping right corner by hopping out of the tracks. Around 2/3s of the way up my wax suddenly was sticking really well so I was able to keep with the group. But at the top I was super tired and really struggling sustaining my pace.

Through the rest of the race I was fighting for position with a few other guys just off the back of the leaders. At the end of the course there's a steep climb that's longer than the rest (except the really big one at the halfway point), and then it's a long downhill right to the finishing lanes. On this climb I felt strong and got past a UNM guy, and pulled right behind the day's early leader, who for some reason decided that doing the race on skate skis and double poling everything was a good idea. I drafted him on the down but then he fell so I went around him. The UNM guy was gaining on me in the finish but I beat him on the line.

Me vs. UNM at the finish
Despite the fact that I wasn't feeling super today I still had a good result and was just barely behind the NCAA guys, so I'm happy with today and the weekend. Tomorrow I'm off to Alaska to see my family for Christmas, and from there I'll be heading to Houghton, Michigan to rendezvous with the team for US Nationals.

Results from today can be found here.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Season opener

Because this blog sometimes goes weeks at a time without a post and because I really enjoyed blogging my races in Slovakia last year I have decided to take it upon myself to blog all my races this year.

This weekend marks my first two races of the season as I skipped the Holiday Hurrah two weeks ago. We are in Crested Butte, CO competing in Rocky Mountain Nordic’s Junior Nationals Qualifiers (not to be confused with Rocky Mountain Conference, our USCSA division, or Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, our NCAA division). However, some of our friends in the RMISA from CU, DU, and New Mexico came down for the weekend as well, so that was exciting for us. Otherwise the field is mainly juniors in Colorado trying to qualify for Junior Nationals. The Colorado guys are pretty fast though, so we expected some good competition.

The Butte
This morning was a sprint race. Sprints kick off with everyone skiing an individual start doing one lap around the 1.3ish km loop. The top 30 fastest skiers then go into a bracket. Each heat in the bracket has six skiers, and in the first round the top two skiers in each heat move on to the semifinals, as well as two other skiers called “lucky losers.” These are determined either by fastest quarterfinal times or fastest qualifier times. In the semis the top three in each heat race the “A Final” and the next three in each heat race the “B Final.” The A Final determines 1-6 place and the B Final 7-12.

The course today was a solid sprint course but not a super difficult one. The start is about 200m of flat with a hard left pretty quick, then up a short but steep hill, a quick downhill followed by a longer and less steep hill, a long downhill, and then the last 100 or so meters is a flat finish.

I started the day with bib 18, meaning I was seeded as the 18th fastest skier in the field of 45. This gave me some confidence going into the race because I feel like my USSA points, which determine seeding, tend to lowball me in seeding. So my goal today was to make it through the quarterfinals and into the semis.

I had a good qualifier. I could tell by the time the guy in front of me hit the first climb that I was gaining on him and I pulled pretty close by the top of the second climb. By the finishing lanes I had almost caught him and I just passed him before the finish line. We start at 15 second intervals and 15 seconds is a big margin in a sprint, so I figured I was in the bracket.

For the men, Taylor ended up qualifying in 10th, me less than a second back from him in 12th, Ben in 13th just a few tenths of a second behind me, and Sindre just barely out of the bracket. It was a good showing from us, and we were right there with the NCAA guys. That’s a really good sign going into the season.

Normally in a sprint you are given new bibs after the qualifier based on where you finished. So the fastest qualifier gets bib 1, etc. Today we just hung onto our bibs, I guess for tomorrow, and were given paper bibs instead. Nobody likes paper bibs but we got by.

I was put in the fourth quarterfinal. Generally earlier heats are advantageous because you get a little more rest before the semis, so I was hoping to get into one of the early semis. But you don’t get to pick. I ended up in a heat with bib 2, a Steamboat guy, and bib 9, a New Mexico guy. 2 qualified a little ways in front of me but 9 was only about a second, so I figured I had a real good shot at getting in the top two for the guaranteed semi slot. A last second change from time determining lucky loser to bib number (based on qualifier time) meant a little change in strategy. When the gun went off I quickly moved into third. At the first climb I felt strong enough to move to the front but wasn’t able to get there because I was blocked off. I tried to make a move on the downhill but got cut off. Finally on the second climb I was able to move around the New Mexico guy into second but still couldn’t move my way to first. It was a little frustrating because I felt strong enough to take the lead but couldn’t get around. On the big downhill the UNM guy drafted me all the way down and then shot around me. Realizing second was now out of reach I coasted in to save energy. The three of us had dropped the rest of the heat. I now could only wait and pray that I got the lucky loser.

In second place on the second climb
Ben got second in his heat for the guaranteed spot, while Taylor had a mishap at his start and unfortunately didn’t make it past the quarters.

It took them a while to get the semi bracket up so I had to just continue as if I made it so I would be prepared. In sprints you usually get around an hour and a half after your qualifier but once it gets to the heats they start one every five minutes and go more or less straight from the quarters to the semis to the finals. So you get a ton of time from the qualifier to the quarters but hardly any in between heats. In between heats I just  try to stay moving and throw in a few really short pickups.

I ended up getting the second lucky loser, so I was moving on. The semi looked to be much tougher competition than the quarter was. Everyone was a college racer. When we started I quickly found myself in last. The group strung out, but I never lost contact. I got into fifth on the first climb but couldn’t get up to fourth. As soon as I realized I wasn’t getting top three I shut it off to save energy for the B Final. I got passed in the straight but didn’t fight for it because it really didn’t matter.

Both Ben and I raced the B Final. As soon as the gun went off Ben shot to the front, while I was in fifth. Going up the first climb the order stayed basically the same. I definitely wasn’t feeling the same explosiveness I felt earlier on the climbs, so I was just trying to hang on. But on the second climb I moved to fourth. Ben was still leading. We rounded the corner and headed down the hill, with Ben and second and third in a tight bunch, and me right behind. I gapped the two behind me. The two guys in front went around Ben in the finishing lanes, and I was catching him. I just about pulled even with him in the end and we lunged for the line, and I think he beat me by about an inch.

It was a good day for us. Ben and I got ninth and tenth in a pretty stong field. I am really happy with where my fitness is right now, and sprinting really is not my forte so it was fun to be skiing in the heats with some really fast skiers.

Ben and I in the B Final
Tomorrow we ski a 5k classic mass start. Athletes my age rarely ski 5k’s, and they are much too short for my liking. But a 5k is better for me than a sprint!

Results from today can be found here: 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Camp Round 1

No pole skiing gives a burning sensation that you previously thought you wouldn’t feel until a race, but here it is, skiing up and down in the meadow trying to mimic Sierra’s technique, with Mt. Elbert ominously staring at you.  Hours before, waking up in the middle of the night to my teammates sleeping heavily, dreaming dreams that would be discussed around the breakfast table.

This week was my first thanksgiving camp with the team. Leaving on Tuesday, I was feeling nervous yet excited. I knew that this week was not going to be easy, however, I knew I would be making memories that will truly never leave me. Here we all are, piling into Dick and Evelyn’s house. Tiny but cozy, we all grab mats and set them up to someone we know we can sleep next to for the following week. It kept occurring to me, it’s pretty amazing to have a sense of family and familiarity with the people surrounding you at this age, when you know that everyone is at a different stage in their life. It hit me how grateful I am when we were all (26 of us) sitting around the kitchen table in the small, slightly off center, dining room. Forks and knives clinking, laughs coming from every angle, compliments on the tastiness of the meal, and smiles that not only were noticeable but you could actually hear. “I’m thankful for my family back home for giving me opportunities like this”, “I’m thankful to have you all as a second family,” “I don’t need any grandchildren, because I have 20+ surrounding me right now, and you have no idea how happy you all make Dick and I”. It’s comments like that that put my happiness into perspective. It’s when Rachel, Christi, Sierra, and I glance at each other and realize that these tears coming from our eyes are not because of sadness, but rather happiness that was so apparent in the room. It’s looking across the table and seeing Bridget, Britta, Yara, Sierra, and Ava laughing because of the pumpkin tower before them; it’s seeing Kyle and Taylor laughing with smiles reaching to their ears; it’s seeing Will talking to Rachel about something that we all want to listen to, but at the same time leave them to it because the conversation seems so passionate; it’s seeing Elise and Sindre holding hands and feeling the love radiate. Yet, you don’t have to be a couple to feel the love that this team shares. It is constantly surrounding us, endlessly filling our empty spots. So, here I am, reminiscing over the memories from the talent show, thanksgiving dinner, the hour upon hour skis that brought me a level of happiness that before I thought was unattainable. Here I am thinking about how Will and I just played guitar together while the entirety of the team sang “hallelujah”, and how I can say with the utmost positivity, that in this moment I have never been happier.

Skiers Jumping!

Here's a quick video I made for our annual Thanksgiving talent show. The footage was taken this last spring with a small group of skiers during a crust-skis after nationals. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Camp

Bridget and Sam discuss geology of Iceland to my right.  In the corner Victoria delves into her latest project. No one knows what Will does on his cell phone...likely looking up the time trial results or obscure knowledge that I will never understand. Some like Yara, Kyle, Ben, Heather have gone to the coffee shop to focus on their homework. This morning was a time trial with 5k classic and 3k skate. We were required to transition from classic boots, skis, poles to skate gear. The first section of the course was flat and curving. The double poling felt natural, the breathing did not. Meghan stood on the first corner and her voice was the only reason I looked up to realize it was time to turn off onto the trail up the hill. Floundering in soft patches of snow and imperfections in the trail, I fought with my body to perform as I expected it to. When it did not feel like I expected, I had to remind myself to not judge too harshly. It takes time for the body to relearn all that it must do during races. For some, the end of the race meant puking up the morning's crepes. For others, it meant laying in the cold snow, spent like that World Cup racers we watched the night before. Thanksgiving Camp for the UW team is a very important part of the season. We become a team at this camp. Nicknames fully engaged, ski prowess measured and proved, the pecking order of the summer restructured for the coming race season. It is when we begin to rely on one another to make food, to clean up, to mold into specific roles on the team: freshman, novice, coach, glamorous older sister, elite racer who we all look up to. It is impossible to describe what all happens at this camp because a lot of the team building is in the little moments between the organized events. It happens in the cuddle pile at night watching World Cup sprints, screaming at the television for certain skiers to push a little harder or tuck a little deeper. It happens on the ski trails when you realize you have never skied with this person before; they step a little differently or take the corner more aggressively and you learn from them. It happens when we push back into child's pose and breathe out in unison, feeling the same ski muscles tense then relax with the movement. It is in hearing someone's snore, someone's laugh, and someone's extreme exertion each day. Motivation for the entire season is built at this camp, when we realize again the difficulty of ski racing and the happiness that it brings.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Why Nordic Skiers are so smart!!!

Why Walking Helps Us Think

I find it so incredible that researchers and journalists still talk about the link between getting outside and brain function like it is an amazing and new discovery.

I have watched generations of Nordic skiers go through my life and they are the most thoughtful, intelligent and successful individuals I have had the pleasure to meet. I believe this to be no coincidence, they not only spend hours/week outside, mostly in the wilderness, but they do so in motion. Always in motion.

In his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, John Medina states, "The brain appears to be designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable, outdoor environment, and to do so in almost constant motion."

This would describe Nordic Ski training and racing precisely and I believe the athletes with which I have had the pleasure to work exemplify this perfectly.

We'll start with the 10-15 hours/week they spend training and then add the 5-10 hours of fundraising in addition to their school work. In an environment where time is at a premium these young student/athletes spend a large amount of their disposable time training. With this training comes a necessity for more rest and recovery. All told they spend the equivalent of a part time job focused on skiing.

So now you are asking yourself: Are they taking less demanding degrees? Are they barely passing courses?

The resounding answer is NO!

These amazing young people are in some of the most challenging/time consuming degrees offered on campus: Earth Systems Science, Engineering, Math, Economics, Art, Microbiology, Marketing, and Geology. In addition many of them have multiple majors and as well as large contingent with a concurrent major in Environment and Natural Resources.

And not only are they engaged in extremely difficult and time consuming scholarship they rock it in traditional assessments! It is tough to imagine how they find the time to to be such top notch students but they do and they do it day in and day out.

I often say that the ski team is producing a brand of super heroes who are not only in the top 1% of the fittest athletes in this nation but also some of the top academics and if you truly want to be amazed have a conversation with one of them some day. Their grasp of a wide array of conversational topics will make your head spin.

So if our brains are truly meant to solve problems, outside, in constant motion Nordic Ski Team Athletes must be among the best problem solvers in the world!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Women's Team Hat Part 1: Leadville Crust Skiing

It’s 3 am and raining. I slowly come to this conclusion as I feel plops falling on the crown of my forehead, the only part of me sticking out of my sleeping bag. After waking up to frost everywhere the morning before, I made sure to keep myself well covered tonight.
            “It’s too early for this…” I think to myself and slink down to the very foot of my sleeping bag, curl into a fetal position, and fall back asleep. It can rain all it wants, I’m not going into the house. Ben, Elise and Victoria seem to share my disposition as they lie asleep next to me.  We had made a beautiful bed on Dick and Evelyn’s deck, despite coaches’ warnings about the temperature. We may have come to Leadville for a half marathon, but staying with the Boggs’ had definitely been a motivating factor.
            Hours later, I wake up not to frost or rain but to the absence of Ben and Victoria. Trying not to wake Elise, I ease out of bed and go into the house. Ben is on the ground rolling. He and Victoria have already gone downtown to the coffee shop (addiction may be a terrible thing, but it gets a man out of bed). Downstairs, Evelyn is making biscuits and gravy. Everyone is in a good mood- sore, but with high spirits. We ready ourselves, and head up the hill to crust ski. There had been a lot of talk the night before about what road to take (5th? 7th? Ben and I were too tired to comprehend and our visual representation was not helpful), so I don’t know where we drove to but we find ourselves at the end of a plowed road in a mining area and leave Clifford for the snow.
            The snow is beautiful, but the day is warming up and it is already softer than I would like. Rain at 3 am means it didn’t freeze last night, so the crust is not ideal. Heading up the slope, every plant of my pole breaks through the crust and leaves me thoroughly frustrated. Thankfully, the crust seems to get harder the higher we climb. Ben has already taken off out of sight- he has a mission to summit Bald Mountain. Perhaps it is because he is the sole man on the trip, but no one seems eager to chase him. The rest of us continue onward, into a flat section, and take in the view. I follow Becca onto what I guess must have been the top of a mining shaft, and Rachel warns everyone to be very careful around mining shafts. As Rachel gives us her warning, Becca breaks through the crust, and most of the rest of us soon follow suit. Skiing down the shaft, Rachel breaks through and falls on her face next to a tree. Weary of the snow, I watch my skis as I move and notice how fast my feet seem to be going over the snow.
            Still following Becca, I find myself going sideways across Bald Mountain. Ben has made it to the top- I wave, and he waves back. I am reminded of the backpacking trip with him last year, when he would take off and be up the side of a canyon before anyone had really noticed he was gone. I am impressed by his courage- even just standing on the side of this steep slope, I feel a bit shaky. Ben comes crashing down from the top, and we ski down into another flat-ish section. As I ski down the hill, the bill of my hat falls into my face and I am blinded. I shake the hat off my head, letting it fall by its strings to the back of my neck, and follow Elise but quickly divert when I see her heading for some privacy in a tree. Finding my own path down, I anticipate a turn but instead find myself face first in the snow, having hit a soft spot and broken through the crust. My skis have dove into the snow at an extreme angle, and I’m not sure I can get them out. After much struggle, I resign myself to the fact that I will never make it back to the rest of the group and will be stuck in this snow for the rest of the day. Little do I know, most of the group is stuck in similar positions. Eventually I wedge my skis out of the snow, and scoot myself to the shade of a tree where the snow is harder and I can stand. I find my way to Victoria, Becca, Christi and Rachel. Elise joins us as we make our way carefully back to Clifford, fully anticipating to break through the crust and be again stuck in the snow. A successful ski in the books, we make our way off the hill and into Nancy’s house for scones and coffee.
 Next up with the hat: Elise!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Skiing and Climate Change: Environmental Assessment of an International Athletic Event

Team USA, AKA UW Nordic Team, in Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia at the 2015 Universiade

Final Project Report

Written by Rachel Watson

In the spring of 2014, the University of Wyoming Men’s and Women’s Nordic ski teams were invited to be the sole representatives of the United States of America at the World University Games to be held January 24th through February 1st, 2015 in Štrbké Pleso, Slovakia. This was the third time that this honor had been bestowed upon our team and, as with our first trips to Erzurum, Turkey and Trentino, Italy, this opportunity was hard won. A partially-funded club sport, the team adds constant fundraising to year-round training. However, through this synergy, over the past decade and a half, the team has integrated social and environmental justice into a unique quilt of volunteerism. Perhaps the newly formulated team mission statement most clearly communicates this integration, “UW Nordic team aims to create a community upon which a foundation of funding and volunteer coaching allows each athlete to reach his or her full potential in both skiing and leadership while making a positive environmental, social and community impact.”

With our invitation to compete in Štrbké Pleso, Slovakia came a new vision fitting to our holistic objectives: we decided to introduce action-based, experiential integrated academic curriculum into an international competition experience. Additionally, with the dual objective of providing monetary support and creating an authentic grant writing and research experience, student athletes collaboratively wrote a Student Research and Creative Activities Grant entitled "The Footprint of an International Competition Venue: Carbon Emission, Community Perspective, Economics and Ski Wax Accumulation". This proposal was submitted to the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. This competitive, merit-based grant was committee assessed and successfully funded.

In order to provide the framework to properly support students in their pursuit of original research and with the concomitant goal of providing immersive learning about environmental and health (biological – fitness affecting) impacts of climate change, we -  the coaches of Team USA also professors and co-instructors of the class – designed and developed an innovative course entitled Environmental Assessment of an International Athletic Event. Course design was guided by pedagogical knowledge of the value of active (Freeman et al., 2014), inclusive ((Cancian, 1992; Chiapetta & Kobella, 2010; Harding, 1998; Roy, 2004 and Watson, 2009), authentic learning environments (Wolf, 1993; Savery and Duffy, 1995; Nelson, 1999) in which students work to address a problem (Merill, 2002; Pepper, 2009). Additionally, course design was guided by the work of Tarrant et al. (2014) who show that combining abroad travel with academic study allows for increased achievement of global citizenship learning outcomes. These outcomes encompass behaviors associated with environmentalism, social justice and civic responsibility (Winn, 2006). Inspired to knit together an experience that would richly integrate the aforementioned pedagogy with international competition, twelve specific learning outcomes were formulated and assignments and rubrics to assess these outcomes were developed.

Upon successfully completing the course, in addition to writing an externally reviewed and funded grant proposal, we wanted our student athletes to be able to collect on-site data and observations to address the objectives of the funded proposal. Further, successful learners were expected to write an active, reflective journal that integrated competition experience, contextual community engagement and natural environment with self-introspection / intercultural development. We asked learners to write four or more blog posts that clearly communicated the competition experience as it interfaced with course reading material and the Slovakian community and natural environment. At the same time that one of our specific learning outcomes was to gain the necessary poise to handle the stress of an internationally competitive environment, another outcome was to summarize the tangible evidence supporting climate change and the impacts of climate change on human health, fitness (athletic performance) and the environment – particularly as it pertains to the sustainability of international nordic skiing events such as World University Games.

Upon returning from the competition, the student athletes engaged in sample preparation, data analysis and interpretation. Discussions with mini lectures facilitated the process. Students were asked to assess pertinent literature (e.g. Vegetation state and extreme drought as factors determining differentiation and succession of Carabidae communities in forests damaged by a windstorm in the High Tatra Mts, by Šustek and Vido (2013)) when considering how to communicate their results and methods, synthesize a discussion and use proper funneling to guide the reader / listener in the Introduction sections of oral and written presentations. The student athletes prepared a full oral presentation that was presented in short-form at the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice and in full-form at an independent session that was fully recorded and accessible on Youtube.

The individual original research projects conceptualized, proposed, performed and communicated by the student athletes were diverse in nature. However, in many cases, the students paired with one or two other teammates with whom they either shared academic interest or whose interests complemented their own. Elise Sulser, on the same days that she skied to the top American finishes at World University Games, used photo documentation to record activities at the event that contributed to CO2 emissions. Sam Wiswell and Britta Schroeter calculated / quantified the carbon footprint of our teams’ abroad experience in Štrbké Pleso. Their findings estimate total team CO2 emissions of 27.95 metric tons with air travel accounting for 87% of the emissions. Using EPA estimates, Britta and Sam put this impact into perspective and relate that it is equivalent to burning over thirty thousand pounds of coal and would take 22.9 acres of US forests an entire year to sequester our team’s emissions! Our economics students, Sindre Solvang and Will Timmons calculated the offsets needed to defray the team’s emissions and further analyzed the possible effects of buying these offsets on our team’s demand for travel. Additionally, Will and Sindre surveyed local Slovakians to determine their awareness of climate change and carbon offsets. Their data convince us that purchasing carbon offsets for our team’s travel would be affordable and desirable and in doing so, show us how we might sustain international sporting events in an economically feasible way.

Taylor Vignaroli, Kyle Bochanski and Yara Thomas gathered local community perspectives using a critical ethnographic approach. Their findings indicate a positive local community response to the World University Games both with respect to personal impact and local economy. This, they convince us, bodes well for sustainability of future events.

Finally, Ben Noren and Sierra Jech quantified ski wax accumulation in snow at the Nordic venue throughout the seven days of racing. Using toluene liquid-liquid wax extraction and rotavap concentration, wax was resuspended in toluene and analyzed using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). With the invaluable assistance of Joe Rovani at Western Research Institute (WRI), hydrocarbon relative abundance and fluorocarbon absolute abundance at three points along the 1.4 kilometer race course were determined. Ben and Sierra’s findings show us that hydrocarbons accumulate in the start area and on the flat section of the racecourse. Fluorocarbons are more uniformly stripped throughout the course thus lending credence to the advertised durability of these waxes. These data challenge us to consider the environmental wax contamination of an international event, the possibility of bioaccumualation of these waxes in air or water and also to revisit racecourse design as it relates to areas of maximum wax accumulation. Many race venues place start areas in sensitive environmental areas such as water bodies and wetlands. Our data indicate that this placement should be reconsidered.

When considered collectively, the individual projects holistically address the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resource’s Mission Statement to “advance the understanding and resolution of complex environmental and natural resource challenges.” Sam Wiswell and Britta Schroeter express this eloquently in their project summary, “In order for the UW Nordic Ski Team to advance our understanding and resolve complex environmental issues related our world travel and competition, it is crucial to have a tangible grasp on our CO2 emissions, the primary driver of anthropogenic climate change. It is important to realize that this project, in combination with the other studies put forth on the team’s trip to Slovakia are useless without application. With the valuable knowledge of how much CO2 the team has emitted during our trip we can start moving toward potential next steps to taking responsibility for our carbon footprint. As we progress forward, the knowledge of the impacts we have from international travel can inform and inspire people to take action towards sustainable alternatives.”

The formal integration of science and sustainability curriculum into the travels of Team USA to a major international competition is, to our knowledge, unprecedented. The fact that the coaches of that team were also professors of this integrated course makes this immersive, experiential learning process even more of a rarity. Perhaps our athletes most clearly express the impact of this learning in their final reflections when asked how integrating curriculum into their skiing has impacted their expectations, dreams, goals and life:

I thought this class did a wonderful job of making me apply my knowledge to sustainability/skiing/and travel such that it greatly enhanced my WUG experience. I now know that it is possible to have integrated curriculum that goes beyond the traditional "study abroad". It is possible to make every single experience as investigative and meaningful as possible (but requires a lot of planning by those in charge to make it happen). Integrated curriculum is incredibly inspiring to me. My favorite part of this class was being able to read others' posts and see how as a team we are not only contributing different athletic talents/goals, but also academic talents/goals. It greatly enhanced my understanding of my teammates to be able to see them as whole people (athlete and scholar), and not just the idea of that.

The integration of curriculum into my skiing has shown me the beauty of the merger of a sexy mind and body. I love seeing how things I am intensely passionate about in the classroom can be applied to athletics I am equally passionate about. The integration of this has certainly impacted my dreams and goals, as it has led me down a path of furthering my education and my athletic pursuits. I feel that this merger of a sexy mind and body transcends any particular classroom pursuit or structured course material. The integration of curriculum and athletics is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a synergy of people with curious minds. It is going on early morning runs and reveling in the sweat of our bodies as we revel in the stimulation of our minds. It is an earnest, forthright curiosity about the world we experience together. It is an integration of mind, body, and spirit of people who share common passions. I believe that it is this atmosphere that truly impacted, my life, my goals, and my dreams. It is as unique and beautiful as the people who comprise it, and this is no coincidence. 



Individual Donors:
  • Maggi & Nick Murdock
  • Ava Bell
  • Melissa Gangl
  • Ferne Watson
  • Evelyn & Dick Boggs

Bill Gern and Bryan Shader for inspiration!

Cancian, F. M. (1992). Feminist science: Methodologies that challenge inequality. Gender and Society, 6(4), 623-642.

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