Thursday, March 31, 2016

Craftsbury Racing!

After a long winter on the road, I count down the days until I can spend time at home.  This year that time came a little earlier as Craftsbury was hosting SuperTour Finals and Distance Nationals.  Rather than having an additional week of travel, I was excited to be able to share my home with the top skiers from around the country.  On top of the extra nights spent in my own bed, I felt a huge boost from the home course advantage.  The familiarity of the courses as well as the special feeling of having my family and friends there makes a big difference.  

Here's a recap and pictures of the final races of the season but first it's important to recognize the amazing work of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.  On a year when winter didn't ever arrive, they put together a world class 3.5km loop.  The grooming and course condition was better than I saw at many World Cups this winter.  The groomers and volunteers all worked tirelessly through the week to put on a very high quality week of racing.  Thank you!

The week started with the GRP girls leading a Fast and Female event.  We had a great turnout and I was impressed with the high energy that all of those girls brought.  We shared stories, had some ski stations on the snow, danced a little and signed autographs.

We had over 80 girls and 20 ambassadors and sunshine for the event! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

Ski stations (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

Sharing inspiring and embarrassing stories. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
The races started right after the Fast and Female with an informal Dash for Cash, a 250 meter elimination sprint on a fast icy course with a downhill, icy turn, uphill and then sprint finish to the snow pile.  It was a fun way to wake my body up after an easy recovery week after Canada and it's always a bonus to leave with a little extra cash in the pocket.

Pat showing he's still got it with some fast sprinting! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Finishing through the snow pole hole prevented any photo finishes (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Dash for Cash podium and thanks for tall podiums when you have tall teammates :) 
The official racing started with a 10km individual start skate race.  I was very tired the day before this race but surprised myself with a 6th place finish and less than two seconds from fourth which gave me some new found confidence in distance skating.

I actually had fun racing the 10km skate which doesn't usually happen in that race.  But it was really fun skiing with Chelsea and Sadie and others. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
First time ever being on a distance skate podium for me! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Team Madshus- I've been so happy with my new skis this year and of course a huge thank you to our awesome Craftsbury wax staff this week of Nick Brown, Anna Schulz, Ruth McGovern, Jake Barton, and Pepa.  (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
The next race was a classic sprint on my favorite fast and firm tracks.  Jessie proved her strength once again with fast heat times all day but I was very satisfied with a close second place finish, striding and double poling on hills that I know so well.

Striding up Moss Run in the semifnal.  Racing at home is great because I know all the hills so well and after countless times running, bounding, skiwalking, and of course skiing up them, one more race isn't too hard.  (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Podium jump shot after the sprint final (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
So nice to have big cheers from Mom and Dad and all the other hard working Craftsbury volunteers
Next up was a team 4x5km team relay with two women and two men on each team.  Unfortunately all the GRP guys were racing at Biathlon National Championships so Caitlin and I teamed up with Tad Elliott and Noah Hoffman from Vail for team Vailbury Green.  We finished second but were unofficial so we didn't get to win the delicious Clothbound Cheddar cheese from Jasper Hill.  Each race featured wonderful local sponsors donating local food which was greatly appreciated during the week of racing!

The final race of year was the 30km US National Championship.  There is no better way to end the season and empty the tank than with a long hard race!  After not doing much distance racing this past winter, I was seeded 35th and a little nervous about starting so far back.  Luckily it was very easy to move up in the pack and I found myself near the front not too far into the race.  Jessie had already gapped the field but I settled into the chase pack with many of my GRP and USST teammates. Having not raced a 30km in two years and also having some spectacular blow ups in distance races this year, I was not sure what to expect.  But I knew every turn, rise and descent on the course so well that I was surprised with how easy it felt and how quickly the kilometers flew by.  Even as it got harder as the race progressed, I reminded myself of the number of times in my life I had skied and ran each section of trail and found an extra boost.  With each lap I felt better and better and had enough energy to make a move on the final lap to finish second.
Skiing with the pack early in the race. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Craftsbury green! Our women's team is so strong right now and it will be a fun to carry the momentum into the summer and fall training together.  (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

Leading Caitlin, Liz, and Kait in our chase group pack (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
Post 30km carnage.  It feels good to sit down in the snow after 30km of racing! (John Lazenby photo)
Big post race hugs with my USST and former Burke Mountain Academy teammate Liz who is one of my favorite people to ski with so it was a blast to race 30km with her. (Reese Brown/SIA photo) 

Three GRP girls in the top 5! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
30km National Championship podium with Jessie and Caitlin (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
We were lucky and raced first with the fast conditions.  By the time the men raced their 50km, the sun was blasting full strength and the snow had turned to thick, slow slush.  They had a long hard endurance test and I was glad to be cheering and not racing.  Here is Tad Elliott racing to an impressive 2nd place finish in the 50km Classic National Championship. (Reese Brown photo)
Finishing the season at home and on a high note was the perfect ending to a long winter.  I swore I wouldn't ski another lap after the race on Saturday but the sun was out on Sunday so Pat and I took out our skis to appreciate the snow for one last time this winter.  But now springtime relaxing and adventuring is on!

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