Sunday, January 21, 2018

Making Memories

Our last morning out on the ski trails in Montana:




Friday, January 19, 2018

A Smashing Good Time

The racing, and the "official team training" happens in the mornings around here.  But in the afternoons is when the fun really begins. Unencumbered by heart rate monitors or authority figures, the coaches charge around the trails for an hour or two, racing the sunset and trying to make each other suffer. We each have our own weaknesses to deal with:  I with my pneumonia / emphysema / black lung issues; Andrew with his sickness for Strava, and Marine with.... I'm not sure Marine has any weaknesses at the moment, but there's gotta be something.

Marine has been leading me around the Rendezvous Trails in the afternoons. It's really fun to go out skiing with Marine because she's always ready with a smile and likes to ski the downhills, turns and transitions fast, just like I do. She is determined to get a little exercise so that she'll be ready for a ski marathon in Colorado in a couple weeks.  And I am determined to keep up with Marine on our afternoon tempo sessions here in Montana. It's not easy. I usually need to be suited up in full spandex to even have a chance. Every once in a while I'll feign an untied shoe or a loose pole strap so we can stop for a moment to catch my breath and take another cough drop (to keep my pulmonary edema under control).  It was during the stop pictured below that Marine told me about a ski session the previous day with someone else: "...It was a great ski. My skis were faster than his and I was just able to smash him!"

Andrew, for his part, has been struggling with his own sickness - for Strava.  I never really heard about this Strava phenomenon before, but apparently you can turn every solitary, peaceful, invigorating interaction with nature into a testosterone-fueled race against anybody else who ever came down the trail ahead of you with a Garmin GPS watch.  So early every afternoon, Andrew plots out all the weakest Strava trail segments around the general vicinity, he makes a plan, and he walks over to the trail system with a pair of freshly waxed skis and a zoot suit made of spandex. And late every afternoon he strides back off the ski trails and through the hotel lobby, looking hopeful, and he plugs his tell-all wristwatch into his computer to see who he was able to relegate down the almighty Strava scoreboard. There have been triumphs as well as a few tragedies, but I know for sure that you can now find Andrew's name on more than one "leader board" pertaining to the Rendezvous Ski Trail System.

You may remember that Sara, our former Seawolf assistant coach, used to hide out in closets and whatnot whenever she could. We all miss her a lot, of course, but Andrew's attempt to emulate her by hiding behind the wax bench this morning showed that he never truly learned how hiding works.

The view from the starting grid at today's women's race

Aljaz Praznik, first year assistant coach at University of New Mexico, ready for action in his feed zone debut.

And Marine. A bit dramatic with the snowsuit perhaps.

Jenna. Today's fastest Seawolf.

Sadie Fox

The weather started raging this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to do the thing I like to do best in a snowstorm - I went out for a nice afternoon ski tour.
Seawolf Central for the week.

The stormy streets of West Yellowstone

Ski racing is a lot of fun, it's pretty challenging, and I think it's a good way to spend time. But ski racing doesn't really give me the peace and tranquility that I seem to need in large daily doses. As much as I enjoy going out and racing around with others, the best moments are always alone, when you can decide for yourself which direction to go, which way to turn, or when to pull a peanut butter sandwich out of the backpack for lunch. When you can stop and take a look around without feeling the need to make a statement or crack a joke, and without anyone else messing up your silence... These are important moments in the day of any reflective person.

Tomorrow morning will be my last chance to get smashed by Marine out on the ski trails, and then we drive to Salt Lake City.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Well, we're still here.  Still in Montana...

Us coaches were taken to the race start area in this 1953 Quebequois rig. Here's Marine. Showroom girl. A natural.

Coaches riding in style.  1953 style.

Andrew likes to start each day with a brief prayer and blessing of the skis. Marine and I usually just wait for him to finish his thing.

Here's the tail end of the lead pack. That's Marcus along for the ride. He skied with the group until it broke up about two kilometers from the finish. His best RMISA result to date. But I think this is only a preview of what's to come.

Here's Tracen. His first RMISA weekend in the books.

Brandon. (And a drama queen.)

Here's Hailey at kilometer six. Leading the lead pack of six.

The lead group whittled down to five. At kilometer eight (of ten). This is the eventual finish order: Jordheim (Utah), Hyncicova (Colorado), and Swirbul.  But not before Hailey charged ahead (at the very moment that this photo was taken) and made her attempt to put the race away with two kilometers to go.  She managed to get a ten meter gap on Hyncicova and Jordheim, but it wasn't enough and they both regained contact and outsprinted her at the finish. Sometimes it takes a few pushes to tip a thing over. You've got to get it rocking farther and farther before you can finally get it to go.  This was Hailey's first serious attempt at winning a college race. I think, with a few more pushes, she can get it done.

The podium:  Hyncicova, Jordheim, Swirbul.

No racing today.  Why not ski into Yellowstone National Park?
These national park signs have to be pretty tough to put up with this kind of abuse day in and day out.

Skiing on the park road.  Tracen, Brandon, and Master Guide Marcus Deuling.

As we skied through the park, Master Guide Marcus Deuling directed our attention to various flora and fauna along the way. This elk, for example.

And this bison (or, as Master Guide Marcus Deuling calls them, "beizen". This particular beizen was forced to stand here in the middle of the Madison River by a couple of wolves who, as Master Guide Marcus Deuling describes it, "were chewing on her earlier", and were sitting patiently on the hillside above the river, waiting for her to make her next move. She didn't give the impression that she felt like she had a lot of options.

Here's Tracen

I still have no idea why Master Guide Marcus Deuling was doing this strange dance, but he'd shown us so many interesting sights and so many fun animals that we wouldn't have seen without him, there was no way I was going to question his methods. (If I recall correctly, he was using this dance to call in swans.)

Here's Skippy. Out for a little ski touring beside the Madison River in the afternoon.

Cross country skiing the way it was meant to be.

The Madison River. Our day centered around this waterway.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Big Sky Country

First RMISA road trip of the year - here we go!

Freshmen.  Ski tuning in the Super 8 parking lot in Belgrade.

There's plenty of snow here.

We saw these locals having wheelchair races on the baggage carousel at the Bozeman Airport.

Squeezing all our gear into two cars and a pickup truck was a tricky problem to solve.

Here in West Yellowstone, we walk from our hotel to the ski trails.

Marine and I made it out for a post-training afternoon ski.  It was heaven.

Here's Michaela in this morning's race.

Hailey. She was fourth today.


Natalie. She goes off to World Juniors next week, representing Canada.



Von Grunenbaum

Tracen.  His first RMISA race. Many more to come in the future. Getting familiar with soft snow and thin air.



Zacke in full Seawolf regalia.

Jenna. (Actually, this isn't Jenna.  But I wasn't able to get a photo of Jenna today so you get this guy instead. You'll notice that he has his racing bib on backwards. Big mistake.)

We race again tomorrow...