Monday, February 29, 2016

Regular season wrap up

Well, the regular season is now officially over. The final races of the season were RMISA Regionals in Minturn, Colorado. Just like the other NCAA races we’ve done this year, the men skied a 10k skate and a 20k classic. The women did a 5k skate and 15k classic. All races happened on Minturn’s 2.5k FIS homologated loop, meaning four laps for the 10k and eight for the 20k. While nobody wants to ski that many laps, it was a very good 2.5k course and good practice for nationals, where we’ll be racing a 2.5k loop out of necessity. They have no snow in Lake Placid, so we’ll be on the manmade loop.

Somehow it’s taken until the last weekend of the season to have a Friday/Saturday race weekend. Friday was the 10k interval start and Saturday was the 20k mass. I always like the Friday/Saturday weekends because you get to sleep in Sunday morning and not worry too much about school while you’re at the race.

The course exited the stadium, turned around 180 degrees and circled the outside of the stadium. It’s all flat until you reenter the stadium opposite of the start and head up a huge hill. This hill is very long and very steep. When you make it to the top it’s a fast downhill with a hard right, then it winds a little into the stadium. This corner was pretty gnarly; it was hard to get around without sliding. In the stadium it’s a 180 degree turnaround and the course headed up another climb right out of the stadium, this one beginning so steep it’s almost impossible to ski up, then it was pretty gradual to the top. From there it’s a big downhill, and then 500 yards of flat-ish terrain into the lap/finish. 
Sierra in the classic race

We only brought five athletes this weekend. It was Ben and I for the men, and Elise, Sierra, and Bridget for the women. We stayed in Leadville, which is about 40 minutes from Minturn, which isn’t too bad of a drive. It just means you have to wake up earlier. Day 1 the women raced first, so we arrived around 8:00 but I didn’t race until 11:00. I sat around the van for a while and explored my surroundings a little bit. The trails in Minturn are located at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public school in Minturn that caters its academics around ski racing. I wish we had had something like this where I grew up. The kids train in the morning and are in class in the afternoon and evening.

We got in too late to ski Thursday night so I warmed up, tested skis, previewed the course, and watched the girls’ race simultaneously. We had some crazy weather, with the temperature around 15 degrees at night but getting warm through the day. I didn’t see a thermometer but it must have been more than 50 degrees by the time I raced. For the girls this meant winter conditions in the snow despite the warm temperatures. When I raced the super hard track had softened up a bit, but it didn’t feel like spring skiing.

Ben and I were in the back, as the D seed started last. I’m real close to getting into the C seed, which will mean a lot if I can get in because each seed, consisting of 10 athletes, is randomized in interval starts, meaning if I had the worst points in the C seed I could have the top guy in the C seed right behind me, giving me a great ride if I was caught. But on a four lap course it doesn’t mean as much because everyone is out there at the same time. 

Because of my mid race collapses in previous NCAA races I started off a little carefully. Plus the intel from the girls’ race was that athletes were exploding halfway through. I passed a couple of guys who were a few laps ahead of me on the climbs, and basically skied my own pace through the end of the first lap. Oscar Ivars from Utah caught me as he finished his third lap. I got behind him and we skied the whole lap together. I was feeling pretty good skiing with him even though he was on his last lap. He’s a sure shot for a top 10 at these races and is in the A seed.

As he went to the finish I was suddenly very, very alone. I started hurting but I kept up a good pace I think. I had been getting splits from Christi every lap, and I had been skiing just outside of the goal of top 20, but I was really close. Unfortunately there were a lot of us who were really close. This race was tight. I skied the third lap alone and as I came around for the last one even the fans were leaving… I hammered up the first climb but was really in the red zone. I was definitely slowing down on the second climb until Christi told me I was less than twenty seconds out of 20. I pushed hard to the finish, but ended up in 23, twenty seconds out of 20th. I was disappointed that I didn’t get it, but it was still a good race. 

Unfortunately on Saturday our team shrank even further. For various reasons only Sierra and I made it to the line for the mass start. This time the men went first, so less sitting around for me. The weather was similar to Friday, with a hard icy track and warm air. It was a klister day, the first klister day for the skis I used. We adjusted my zones here and there before the race, and I think we got it pretty well. When I was at the start line I forgot to keep my skis moving so my wax caught hard as we went out and there was immediately a gap from me to the rest of the field. But two guys went down in the start lane and after we rounded the early corner there was a big pile up that I was able to avoid. I found myself in good position, but I think the crashes spooked the pack because they took off. I kept in contact through the first lap but couldn’t hang on.

Fortunately some of the stragglers who were involved in the crashes caught me so I grabbed onto them. We skied together for awhile until there were three of us: Kyle Beling from UNM, Tucker McCrerey from Utah, and me. Beling lead a while and the two of us dropped McCrerey. I lead the third lap. On the fourth lap my skis started slipping on the first climb, the steeper of the two, and I lost contact and was on an island. I kept him in sight, and one of CU’s boys was not too far ahead. I really wanted to catch back up but I wasn’t making any ground. On the last lap McCrerey caught me and we switched off who was in front. On the last downhill I was taking one of the corners really aggressively to try to gap him and I went down. That was game over for me, so I skied in dejected. 
L-R: McCrerey, me, Beling
I was pretty disappointed at my failure at the finish, but it was a far better 20k classic than the other ones I’ve done this year. I finally skied with a group for the whole race, and I actually beat a few people so I can’t complain too much.

All that we have left is USCSA Nationals. That’s next week in Lake Placid, New York. Tuesday is the 7.5k interval skate, Wednesday the classic sprint, Friday the 15k mass start classic, and Saturday the skate relay. We’ll be heading out Friday afternoon.

I'm feeling really good right now in both classic and skate. The big question for me going into Nationals is if I'll be able to sprint. The last time I did a sprint was at US Nationals, and the last time I skied in heats was in December. The last classic sprint I made the heats for was my freshman year. We'll see how it goes, but I'm really excited for USCSAs, our team looks really strong with the men and the women, and I'm really confident in my own skiing right now. We'll do our best and hopefully defend our titles. 

Results from Minturn are here

Skier of the Week: New Mexico Invitational February 20 & 21

Ben in the 21km in Crested Butte
Our skier of the week has had a rough season. He started with great promise with a classic race that was the lowest points in 4 years. From there the wheels came off as he struggled with unknown physical problems that have not allowed him to race fast.

Despite this his indomitable spirit is very much alive!

After being so broken just 3 years ago he couldn't walk Ben has fought back, doing everything he has been asked from rolling multiple times/day to specific training designed to bring him back from disaster.

He has never wavered from his quest to repair his body and become a fast skier.

To this end he has completed races this season that would have broken a lesser man and done the even more difficult job of knowing which races should not be finished. He has trained and rested and raced the entire season without ever really feeling good.

In addition, Ben is working towards his Doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering to added to his substantial race and training schedule Ben is trying to manage extremely hard course work and research.

Somehow manage he does, with flying colors and still come to practice with a smile and a huge hug.

This last weekend, against the odds, Ben managed to pull together one race and not only placed 3rd in the USCSA field but had his best points as a UW Cowboy. He didn't feel good but managed to push through.

As an athlete you are measured not only by how fast you are and how well you place but how you face adversity. Ben has faced this season with determination, courage and a sad smile. The heart he has shown is beyond description and many of his teammates do not even know the physical struggle he's been fighting.

For the heart and soul that Ben puts into everything he does he is skier of the week.

We Love You Ben!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Skier of the Week: Cowboy Chase February 13 & 14

Taylor charging the last hill of the 21km!

This week’s skier of the week is the heart and soul of the team and the coaches. 

Not only did he had his best college race of the season but he is an amazing leader who always finds something that needs to be done and helps in every way imaginable.

Taylor is the current President of the team and as such does tons of organization, fills out tons of forms, supports the entire team and is an amazing help to the coaches. He does all this with a smile and a willing heart. Never complaining about the extra load. He simply keeps the team running in the background with little to no recognition!

This weekend is the perfect example of the thoughtfulness and dedication to skiing, racing, his teammates and the coaches.

Thursday night was the beginning of the madness we have names the Laramie Nordic Festival. It encompasses High School races on Friday. High School, College, Citizen and Junior High races on Saturday and College and Citizen on Sunday. This is a TON of work for our team in addition to the usual activities of waxing and preparing to race.

Taylor’s weekend started as he was trying to wax his skis for his own race. Always aware of all the work that needs to be done he was sure to check multiple times to see if anyone needed help with anything and assisted with multiple activities.

He then did all he could to help with the High School race, despite classes, visitors and race prep. It was a hard afternoon that left everyone tired.

When we arrived at the High School dinner we suddenly decided that we needed an athlete to speak to the high school athletes about the team. We gave Taylor about 30 minutes to pull something together, no small feat since there were over 200 people in the room! He stepped up and did great. Despite obvious nervousness and having had no chance for preparation he was able to help paint a picture of the team and we hope, convinced some young athletes to join us.

The next morning he should have been nothing but an athlete but he continued to try to find ways to help up to and after his own race. Despite not focusing on his own race he had a great race, placing 6th, the 4th UW man!

The next day was another opportunity to help and ski fast and he did both. He placed 11th, just a few seconds out of the top 10 and could be seen all over the venue supporting, helping, talking and generally making everyone feel happy!

Always finding ways to help and support his teammates and coaches, skiing fast, setting an amazing example as a leader and making people happy are all reasons that Taylor Vignaroli is our skier of the week.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Skier of the Week: Western State Colorado University February 6 & 7

Mason on the first lap of the 21k, yes that is a DU skier right behind him!
It’s been a great start to the season for this young man! After joining us for 2 races at US Nationals he hasn’t had much of a chance to race but he sure made it count!

In the first race of the year Mason won the Prelim for the sprint and never looked back - winning the final with room to spare. 

He followed that performance with a solid 10km skate the next day. Skiing with the chase pack and fighting hard for a 4th place.

After just a few days between Mason came back out ready to rock! In the 21km Free he grabbed hold of the lead pack including 4 D-1 racers, Sam and Will. although he would lose the pack occasionally he kept fighting back. In the end he skied to a fantastic 7th place in the race and 3rd in the USCSA qualifier.

Despite being tired from the extreme energy output from the 21km Mason came out Sunday for one of his best events, the 5km Classic. He shot out of the gate with the will to win and never looked back. Despite a tough fight from Will, Mason skied strong and finished 9 seconds in the lead.

It’s been a fantastic start to the season for Mason Vincent and we’re looking forward to the rest of his season.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Alley Loop weekend

For weekend number two for the USCSA season we headed down to Crested Butte for two days of USCSA action. Crested Butte is an awesome town with great trails and a ski community to match. The first day of racing was the annual Alley Loop. This is a big ski marathon that attracts racers from all over the area, and we score it as one of our USCSA qualifiers. Day two was a 5k classic race, a RMC USCSA race. 

The Alley Loop is one of my favorite races, and it ranks among the best ski marathons in the country. Every year they move tons of snow into the streets of Crested Butte for the race. It begins on 2nd Street, the main drag downtown, and then heads up a big climb out of town onto the cross country trails. It descends down into the meadows, full of undulating terrain, until at the end of the loop you pass these ruins of an old mine. From there the trail heads up a long climb and descends back into town. It goes down one street, hangs a right into the alley for two blocks, and back onto the wide street for 100 yards of straight, and 90 degree turn onto 2nd Street to lap. Through the lap the way out of town is different from the first. Rather than heading up the trail heads off into a little alley and across a footpath, and out into a flat meadow which eventually meets up with the first lap. The reason for the difference in the laps is that the alleys are far too narrow for a mass start with 100 racers to go through at once without massive carnage.

For the first time since I joined the team we stayed in Crested Butte for the Crested Butte races. In the past we have always stayed in Gunnison, which is a 40 minute drive from the trails. This year we found a sweet vacation rental in Crested Butte just five minutes from the Nordic center. It’s a massive house with two living rooms, a hot tub, steam room, and a huge kitchen that accommodated the whole team at once. We were really blessed to have such an awesome place so close to the venue.

Unfortunately not everything else was so perfect. We had problems with the van on Saturday morning, forcing us to get everyone to the start in Suburban loads. I got in the first trip, but when we got to the start line we had trouble finding the bib pickup, which turned out to be several blocks from the start. When we did find it I discovered the arch strap on my right boot had broken off in transit. Furthermore, we now only had about an hour to the start. I got my boot on and covered the severed strap with masking tape, which actually worked pretty well. It doesn’t get as tight as the strap lets it get, but it’s skiable. 
My Salomon boot with masking tape on the right. This is from the start line
Because of all the delays my warm up got a little messed up, so I basically just shortened every step to compensate. At these races skiers hoping to be in the front rank at the start line have to arrive early to secure a spot. They operate on a first come first serve basis. So that meant even less time. Fortunately I got through my abbreviated warm up and nabbed a spot in the front without trouble.

Here’s a quick summary of my ideal warmup for a 21k.

T minus 1:30 – Arrive at the venue
T minus 1:00 – Get on skis, ski the course (dependent on the course length), super easy
T minus :30 – Two minutes of level 2
T minus :28 – Easy ski
T minus ~:22 – Two minutes of level 3
T minus :20 – Easy ski
T minus :15 – 10-15 seconds level 4, on skis or on foot, repeats
T minus :05 – Shed clothes, get to the pen

For other race lengths I do variations of this. The shorter the race the longer the level 2 and 3. In between the level 2 and level 3 speeds I do a full moving recovery. I find two minutes is about as short as you can do and still get fully in the target zone. Two minutes is pretty short but it works for a long race. The level 4 at the end is as hard as possible. Doing it on foot gets your heart rate up faster than on skis, and if you incorporate poles then you still get your arms warm. In a 21k I usually reason that I will do some warming up in the first couple k. It’s a long enough race where you can get away with that. Also, arriving at the pen with only five minutes to go is often not possible, for instance, the Alley Loop. This is my ideal warm up, I rarely actually get it right. This can be adjusted to personal taste, race distance, and other extraordinary circumstances. The important thing is that you hit every gear in order before the start. 

Back to the Alley Loop. A lot of people wanted to be in that front row so we were packed in like sardines. This dictated my tactics early on. Basically I wanted to cover the 120m double pole faster than everybody and hammer up the opening climb. This would hopefully break the field enough by the top that everyone would have some freedom of maneuver. I was pretty nervous about breaking a pole in the double pole because we were so close together.
Us at the start. Mason is on the far left, the three of us on the right are Sam, myself, and Ben
When the gun went off I executed my plan. I hit the end of the double pole in second, and had already created some space so I could move around. Free from the risk of broken equipment. I hit the hill and took the lead. I pushed the pace all the way up the hill, then slowed down a little on the rolling section after the climb. After that there’s a fast downhill with two switchbacks to make things interesting. When I rounded the switchbacks I looked back and was pleased to see that the field was already really strung out and that UW had places 1,2,3, and 4. I slowed down a little more because I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace for another 19k. Sam and Mason pulled in behind me and we had a little train going. In the meadows we began to pass the back part of the 42k race, which had started 15 minutes before us. We were cruising at a reasonable pace but we also had to dodge 42k skiers. Sam and I switched who was leading a couple times.

As we hit the turnaround point on the lap we were joined by the four NCAA skiers in our race and a couple other guys. On the big climb back towards town one of the CU skiers moved to the front and lifted the pace significantly. By the top of the climb there were seven of us in the lead group: Ian Boucher, Max Scrimgeour, and Jackson Hill from CU, Lars Hannah from DU, and Mason, Sam, and myself. We shuffled back in forth for placement in the group down the hill into town and through the alleys. When we took off down the narrowest of the alleys past the lap marker we were forced to double pole due to the narrowness and the sugariness of the hauled snow. 

Once we got out of the alley it’s a lot of flat. Lars Hannah moved from 7th in the line around all of us to the front and lifted the pace. This put me way out of my comfort zone. We were zipping by masters really fast and I was working to hold on.  
Sam, me, and Mason on the second lap
On some of the little climbs in the meadows whoever was dictating the pace at the front would slow way down, almost to a walk on the bottom and then accelerate over the top to try and drop us. At this point Mason was a little ways back and I was losing connection. Every time I clawed my way back but the changes in pace were really affecting me. The group slowly pulled away from me but I didn’t lose sight.
When we hit the big climb I was really suffering. I could see the group pulling away from Sam up ahead. I pushed up the steep part to where it was a little more gradual. Sam had somewhere around 15 seconds on me at this point. I realized it was still possible for me to catch him so I lifted my pace here and could quickly tell I was closing the gap.

I hit the downhill and caught Sam at the bottom. We hung the right into the alley and there really wasn’t room to pass so I was content to sit behind him. When we swung left onto the road I went around on his left. I then had the inside on the 90 degree left hander to the finish. I sprinted hard and just beat him in. My last effort had really destroyed me and I basically collapsed on the ground and vomited out all the Gatorade I had taken as feed. This is how I want to feel after every race.  

Sam and I ended up just under a minute behind the NCAA guys who won. They came in more or less together.

In the USCSA, the UW men got the first podium sweep of the season, with Sam, Mason, and me. It was fun mixing it up with the NCAA boys and racing together with teammates.
Ben was 10th and Taylor was 13th.

On Sunday we raced a 5k classic, on the same course that we did in December and before that last February. Everything went smoothly that morning, and we had beautiful conditions with warm temperatures and cold snow. This made waxing really easy.

I definitely woke up on Sunday still feeling tired from the race the day before.  Though I had done my best to recover, it can take more than 24 hours to get back to 100% after an effort like mine the day before.
I was the third starter. Because it’s a 5k I went out really hard. Essentially the first half of the course is all double pole, while the second half is very difficult, starting with a massive climb right in the middle. I wanted to make some time on the double pole where I am usually stronger. I caught the guy in front of me pretty quickly and set my sights on the next guy. It was Nate Maddox, a fast skier from CMU. I had gotten close to him by the top of the big climb, but didn’t gain much over the latter half of the course. I was in a lot of pain, feeling the previous day’s effort. I struggled throughout the rest of the course and never got around Nate. Not my best race.
The podium. L-R: Mason, me, Nate, Elise, Bob from WSCU, Meghan
Still, when the results came in I was second, eight seconds behind Mason. Nate was third. Trevor came in 9th, Ben 11th, and Taylor 12th. Sam took the day off.

Results are here

This weekend is our home race! The Cowboy Chase is always a great weekend. This year we have a 5k classic team start on Saturday and then another 21k on Sunday. It’s going to be fun. Both days have citizen races as well so everyone can come out for it!

Cowboy Chase info here.  

Monday, February 08, 2016

Skier of the Week University of Colorado Invitational - January 23-24

Elise skiing through the pack in the Mass Start Classic

We feel that it’s a little dangerous to choose this young lady for Skier of the Week since we seriously suspect that the best is truly yet to come but when an athlete has a start to a season like this one it needs to be recognized.

If you asked Elise how this season was going she would shrug and say, “OK, this is the first time I haven’t made a step in my skiing.” While this can be seen as true from a certain angle this angle would completely dismiss the incredible consistency that she has achieved.

It started with a solid performance in the classic race at US nationals, where she skied to 150 USSA points, the lowest USSA points she has ever achieved.

The next race of note was the 20km freestyle. She simply skied with poise and power. She skied with a pack of skiers who, on paper, were in a different league with points well under 130. She lead, fought, followed, pushed, and showed her true strength right through to the finish!

This fantastic start to the season was followed by a long two day drive home which then turned around to another long drive to Bozeman for MSU. Once again having what she felt was a lack-luster weekend she still had what would have been considered a fantastic Division I race for most anyone else. She finished the 5km skate in 21st, missing the top 20 by less than 10 seconds.

She then skied to an incredibly strong finish in the 15km, fighting with some seriously strong women to a 15th place with

As most of the rest of the team went down to exhaustion and illness for CU, leaving just 3 women standing. 

Despite feeling fatigue from two weeks with the top racers in the nation Elise still managed to ski to a strong 22, 3 seconds out of the top 20, in the 5km free.

Finally, on a brutal 15km course Elise skied the first race she had been working for the entire year. 

Due to her high FIS points, the earlier races hadn’t been recorded yet, Elise started in the back row of the mass start, well out of contention for any stellar race. She didn’t even think twice and charged through the field until she found a great group of women skiing 12-20. They changed leads, charged hills, lost people off the back of the pack until there were only 4 strong women left in the last 3km. The final sprint was tough with incredible racers and Elise held on for 15th. While not her best ever place it was an incredible race and she proved she truly belongs with these , mostly European, recruited, scholarship athletes. She beat the 3rd woman of every team except one and every team out there would love to have her.

Because of her amazing results and consistency, with three races below 151 USSA points. We expect much more to come and an incredible season already under her belt Elise Susler is our Skier of the Week!


Postscript: Elise has since crushed the USCSA field in the first four races and at the Alley Loop and skied to her best points of the season beating all but 2 of the Division-1 women the race. The two who beat her have traded the wins at the D-1 races. She is really starting to show some form!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

USCSA number 1

Wow! We’re at the halfway point for the season. We’ve done a lot of racing so far this year but we still have a lot more left. 

I realize this post is a little late. With school I don't have quite as much time to write these up. I try to make them good and worth the read so it takes me a little bit. 

This weekend was our first race in the USCSA season, hosted by Colorado Mesa University. I elected not to race this weekend due to lingering fatigue from the long season I’ve had this year. I’ve put in 137km of racing this year by my count, and I would like to save a little bit for the end, so it was an off weekend for me. That being said I accompanied the team to Mesa for the races and served as team photographer/cheerleader.

We traveled with 17 athletes plus myself, a huge increase over the meager five that we had in Steamboat. We stayed at a sweet ranch close to the venue. Unfortunately finding our lodging was quite difficult in the dark, and involved backing Clifford plus the trailer down narrow icy roads several times. The road to the place was treacherous, but we did make it eventually.

The view from our place
On race day, the size of the field impressed everyone. In previous years the USCSA RMC has consisted of four schools: Wyoming, CMU, Western State, and the Air Force Academy. This year, in addition to these schools we are joined by Colorado College, and OSU Cascades, a USCSA team from another conference, who competed here and will also be at the Cowboy Chase. 

Not only are there more teams this year, but the number of athletes in the races has doubled, and the level of competition is much higher. We won’t sweep every podium at every race this year, which might sound like a regression, but we all much prefer having strong competition to race against. Previously we have done 20 man sprint brackets, but this year we did the full size 30 because of the large fields. Each heat was much more competitive this year and there were battles to move on almost every time.

Saturday was a classic sprint, a preview for the second race at Nationals. If you aren't sure how sprint racing works, I've gone over the basics in a previous post. The question of the day, especially for the men, was whether or not to double pole. The course is very flat, with one tiny but steep rise early, a little bit of a gradual up, a quick downhill and then somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 meters of flat into a headwind, which was variable in its strength throughout the day. In the qualifiers, Kyle and Mason chose to double pole while everyone else chose to use kick wax. A few guys from other teams also chose to double pole. When you double pole a classic race you wear skate equipment. The advantage is that your skis will glide much faster than if you were on classic skis with kick wax, but the tradeoff is that it takes more energy to climb and you may be slower going up too.

The team performed well in the qualifier, with Mason taking bib 1, Kyle in third, and the rest of the team taking 5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th. The girls were equally as strong, with Elise in first, Sierra in second, and the team taking 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, and 18th. 

Taylor and Mason in their quarterfinal
The heats began and I had a blast watching. On the men’s side, the boys showed up in force, with the entire team advancing to the semifinals. Mason and Taylor went 1-2 in the first heat, Trevor easily won his, Ben was an easy second, and Kyle took the last heat while Sam came in third for the lucky loser. 

 For the girls, Elise was dominant throughout, winning her quarterfinal and followed by Britta in second to secure a spot in the semi. The girls continued to shine as Sierra and Leann went 1-2 in their heat, and Bridget took her quarterfinal ahead of Meghan, who secured a lucky loser spot with a fast third place. Unfortunately Kristy and Victoria didn’t get past the quarterfinals, but they still put up a strong showing for UW. 

Sierra, Leann, and Kristy in theirs
The semis were even more fun than the quarters. For the men both semis had large groups swinging around the wide left, everyone competing for a coveted top two and the guaranteed spots in the A final. Those who don’t make the top two or get the two lucky losers compete in the B final to determine 7th-12th place. The first semi had four of our boys in it: Mason, Taylor, Trevor, and Sam. At this point Taylor had switched to his skaters, and Trevor double poled on his classic skis. The group stayed together up the hill and into the woods, and emerged on the other side with five skiers. Sam had fallen off early with dragging skis, and opted to save it for the next round. The five in the group continued together through the flat, with Mason pulling a little ahead. At the end Mason slowed down and finished second, Taylor was third, Trevor 5th and Sam 6th. Taylor now had to wait with anticipation to see if he would make it to the A final. That would depend on the speed of the second heat.

Kyle and Ben raced that one. The group stayed fairly tight through the entire heat, with all six athletes hitting the flat together. The long straight into the headwind began to separate the group, and Kyle looked to be in trouble in 5th place. But he had another gear and managed to go around everyone to take first, while Ben lunged for third place right behind. 

After the semis, Ben emerged as a lucky loser while Taylor missed out. 

(UW, L-R) Trevor, Mason, Taylor, and Sam in the semi
The girls’ semis was next. The first one had Elise, Bridget, Yara, and Britta. Elise quickly moved to the front and the heat turned into a battle for second place. The group strung out on the flat and Yara came in second, Bridget 4th and Britta 6th. This meant that Bridget had a small chance at the lucky loser. The second semi had Sierra, Leann, and Meghan racing. The group stayed together up the hill but splintered on the flat. Sierra emerged in front and lead the group in, with a significant gap. Meghan came out in third and Leann was 5th. 

Meghan got a lucky loser spot to advance to the A final. 

(UW L-R) Elise, Yara, Britta, Bridget in their semi
Up next were the men’s finals. The B final always runs first, and it is followed by the A final. Three of the six athletes in the B final were UW, which is a very strong showing. Sam threw his skate skis on for this one, and he later mused that he probably could have skied a stronger semi if he had been on skaters for it. The fatigue was beginning to show, and the group fell apart earlier than in the previous heats. However, Sam skied the entire heat in front and Taylor followed him. The two of them had a gap on the rest of the heat coming in, and Sam had a gap on Taylor. Sam took the B final to get 7th place overall, and Taylor was behind him in 8th. Trevor came back after falling behind early to grab the 5th spot in the B final for 11th overall. 

Mason took the lead early in the A final but he was followed closely by Ben and Kyle. UW’s three skiers in the A final immediately took over, but the other three were right behind. The group separated in the woods, and Mason emerged in front with a short lead over Kyle who was being ridden by another skier. Mason maintained his gap and took the win, and Kyle beat out his competition to get second. A bit further back Ben fought and finished in 5th.

In the girls’ race we once again had three in the B final and now four in the A final. 

The girls’ B final had roommates Britta, Bridget, and Leann skiing together. The skiers headed up the hill in a group and emerged from the woods in a line. As they continued up the flat the pack strung out a little more. Bridget was in a battle to take the B final, and Britta, Leann, and another skier were fighting for the next places. Bridget was narrowly defeated at the end, so she finished 8th. Britta also was beaten on the line, and came in 10th with Leann right behind for 11th overall. 

Elise, who had been the clear favorite all day, continued her show of force and quickly took the lead in the A final, with Sierra skiing right behind her. Yara and Meghan were in back but there was no gap to the rest on the hill. When they hit the flat Elise had a clear gap to everyone else. Sierra was in second with a further gap to third and 4th. Meghan was a bit further back in 5th and Yara was in 6th. The gaps stayed about the same, and that was the final finish order.

Elise seeing how much she's winning by
UW had convincing wins in the team race for both races. I had a lot of fun sprinting back and fourth between the finish line and the first hill, and I think I got some good shots. 

That night it dumped snow, and in the morning it continued to snow. After (only) a little trouble we got everyone down the hill and to the venue. When we arrived we were horrified. The parking lot had been plowed, which was great, except they had burmed in the trailer and our tents. Assistant coach Ava and the honorary assistant coach, me, got to work digging a path so Clifford could get the trailer. It took a lot less time than I expected, so I had plenty of time after we finished to do a ski of my own.

Day 2 was a 10k mass start. 
Unfortunately I failed as a cameraman on Sunday and missed the start. It was just a bad day for pictures and cheering in general because the course goes off into the woods for most of the race. I found one spot towards the end of the course, where I hoped I would be able to see everyone and still make it back to the finish. Unfortunately this didn’t work out, as I didn’t get everyone there and still didn’t make it back in time for the finish.

So I don’t have a lot to write about for this one because I didn’t really see much. When Sam passed me he was around 20 seconds up on the next guys which was a group of three. One of them was Mason. Kyle was next, all alone. Gradually our guys came through. Elise came by with a massive lead on second place, Meghan, third place, Sierra, and fourth place, Bridget. After that I figured I needed to get down to the finish, so I moved quickly. But not nearly quickly enough. I got to the finish and Sam had already finished. He won by a big gap. Mason came in 4th, not far behind 2nd and 3rd. The nasty conditions, snowing with lots of powder on the ground, made for a long race with lots of separation. At the end the results stood Sam first; Mason 4th; Kyle 7th; Trevor 11th; Ben 14th; and Taylor 16th, in a field of 26. For the girls, it was Elise 1st; Meghan 2nd; Sierra 3rd; Bridget 4th; Kristy 7th; Yara 11th; Leann 14th; Britta 16th; and Victoria 18th, in a field of 24.  
Sam on his way to victory in the 10k
Results from the races are here

This weekend we travel to Crested Butte for our second USCSA race. I’ll be back for this one. We’re doing the 21km Alley Loop, a super cool race where they groom up the streets, and a 5km classic.