Thursday, January 29, 2009

U23 WC 10K Women

A quick congratulations to Barbara Jezeršek of Slovenia who placed 6th today in the 10K skate at U23 World Championships. Barbara was the youngster on the SLO team that travelled to Canada for the races at Whistler Olympic Park.

The pic is Barb in the wax trailer, where she often entertained the service crew with a good laugh.

The World Championships for Jr & U23 skiers kicked off today (Jan 29th) in France. Info can be found here. And results can be found here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sol Woras Scoots to Rendezvous Win

Sol Woras cruised to a handy victory in the MVSTA Rendezvous on Sat 24 Jan CLICK for RESULTS. This was a follow-up to his overall win at the MV Pursuit two weeks ago.

Woras raced in bib #1 and started with fast company in the first wave. According to Randy Beckner, the 5th place finisher on the day, the first wave skiers stayed together for the first several km's but Woras hit the gas as the racers started the Cow Creek climb. (pic of Sol is by Kristen Smith of the MVSTA)

Solomon was less than 30 seconds ahead as the leaders entered the final few kilometers, but 2nd place finisher Kent Murdoch reports that the gap extended in the final minutes of the race. "He had some fast skis!", according to Kent.

Sol Woras was skiing on Madshus Hypersonic HP's with an Ultratune 615b grind. He waxed with Solda F40 violet covered with old Toko Helx Cold.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hard work, hard luck...

I'm writing this on Friday night...

Today was a very long day with a lot of hard work, a bit of hard luck, and a measure of disappointment. We spent a couple days preparing for the sprint qualifiers - which is ultimately a matter of spending two days working to get 3 pairs of skis ready for a 3 minute event. Then BAM it's over and I'm back in the wax box for another session of work, preparing for the quarterfinals.

I handled the testing of powders (fluoro powders for glide) this morning, while others were preparing athlete warm-up skis and test skis for grip. With a short classic race, the glide is a little bit secondary, since grip waxing is typically the make/break issue. After the testing, I did the gliders for all the race skis (2 pr per athlete, just in case), then helped with final work on grip wax.

In the end, Katja Visnar qualified for the heats (25th in qual), and then crashed in the quarterfinals and finished too far back to advance. Once the race is over for the racers, there's still a warm-down to be done, a bit of lunch, then a 45 minute ride back to the hotel.

For the service guys (me and Miha), it was a long afternoon. Cleaning skis, waxing skis, scraping, brushing, polishing, testing. Chop wood, carry water. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was after 6 p.m. A hot shower, then dinner, then the daily team meeting, and voila it's 9 o'clock.

Did I mention that it was a beautiful day for skiing here? Very nice.

Notes from Whistler

Thursday Miha and I got breakfast at 6 o’clock then I drove the car with service equipment up to the race venue. We had a very full day of work. Starting with setting up the wax trailer, getting accreditation credentials, and sorting through all the skis. And that’s just the stuff that needed to be done before an apron was put on and wax irons warmed up. We had a full day of work to do up there.

I digress to clarify… Our lead serviceman this year is Miha (pronounced like Mika, but not exactly like Mika because the "k" isn't quite perfect but close enough for a non-Slovenian speaker). Miha is a very fit 30 year old skier-turned-serviceman. The coaches are Marko Gracer and Vladimir (also called Volodja, which I think is a nick-name for Vladimir ????). Vladimir is an older guy and very nice but speaks no english (understands it, I guarantee, but doesn’t speak it). He used to be the nat'l coach for biathlon 20+ years ago, and is now the coach (trainer, technique) for the 3 women who are here. So there are the 2 coaches, serviceman and me the final service guy. Everyone seems to get along better than “okay” – everyone gets along really well. ….End of clarifying digression.

The primary concern today (Thursday) was making sure we got the grip wax right for Friday’s classic sprints, and getting several pairs of skis ready for each athlete to pick the A + B pairs of race skis. The afternoon was spent on glide tests. A huge bulk of work was accomplished, and it was done with relatively little stress.

I'll briefly say that the race site is gorgeous. Very nicely done. You should see it. It's great.

We drove back to the hotel after the coaches’ meeting and the car seemed to be running on empty. We stopped at the Petro-Can about a half-mile from the hotel and gassed up the Subaru.
While the gas was pumping, Barbara and Vesna came jogging up (out for their late afternoon jog). The Subaru was quickly commandeered by a team of Slovenes who wanted to go to Starbucks, so I drove the crew in search of “grande no-whip mochas”, which seem to be a coveted bit of Americana (or canadiana, in this case). Everyone happy with that treat, we scooted the over-packed Subaru back to the hotel.

The rest of the day consisted of quick showers, dinner, and meetings. Here I am, now at nearly 10 p.m. Thursday night, just getting the first rest minutes of the day.

Friday morning will be another very early start. Sprint qualification starts at 9:30, which means we’ll be in the wax room very early again. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday, skis, and sunshine

I arrived at Nat Brown's ranch, north of Princeton BC, on Monday night. The Slovenian team is being hosted by the Princeton nordic community, and are staying in residences near the ski trails on Nat's ranch. The ranch is in a small river valley situated at 3100 feet, with open fields and wooded hillsides. The meadows are dotted with heritage log buildings, and it's rustic and beautiful.

The Slovenian team arrived very late on Saturday night and their skis and baggage just started arriving at 10 p.m. Monday night. The athletes were taking it in stride, getting some training as best they could - in the local gym and on ice skates. The coaches and service people were carrying the stress, and were busily trying to locate and gather the assortment of bags and skis that seem to have been scattered across two continents.

This morning (Tues) I helped get skis ready for the a.m. training, an intensity session on classic skis. The three Slovenian skiers, Vesna Fabjan (world U23 sprint champ for '08), Barbara Jezeršek, and Katja Višnar (see pic, they're shown in that order, left to right) all seemed happy to get back on the snow after a couple of unplanned rest days.

After getting the team's skis ready and the skiers out the door, I took an opportunity to hop on skis to check out the trail network in the bright sunshine. There's always some excitement and adventure when I ski on trails for the first time. The trails here are well groomed, and have a nice mix of easy terrain and some race-quality climbs. The trails are "old school" - winding and narrower than "FIS trails", so the descents are just a blast to ski down, with curves and rollercoaster hills. I did a couple laps of the trails and returned feeling refreshed.

Nat's trails are really pretty darn good. The trails remind me of Nickel Plate Nordic (near Penticton). Groomed with a YTS, and in good shape. Some great downhills with turns and rollercoasters. Fun - maybe even exciting the first couple times down, since i didn't have a feel for the trails and didn't know exactly what was coming up around the corner... I skied for about an hour.

The cabin I'm in (sharing with Marko Gracer, the head coach) has no running water. It's the wax cabin, primarily. Heat is from two woodstoves. There is electricity, though. I think the cabin is 18 x 21 ft, with an attic with two very firm beds. It was a surprise when I went to bed and started reading --- Marko's over in the other bed and he pops open his computer and starts up the internet... I'm immediately thinking, "WHAT? Wireless internet??!" yep; go figure.

I'm sneaking in a short session on the computer (wireless internet out here in the middle of nowhere!), some lunch, then I'll clean the klister off of the morning's skis...

Skiers Without Skis...

I left the shop late Monday afternoon and arrived, north of Princeton, BC, after about 200 miles of driving. After some peck-and-hunt navigation, I pulled in around 8:30 p.m. and joined the fray. The Slovenian team is staying as guests of the Princeton nordic community, and Nat Brown, and resting and preparing for the pre-Olympic World Cup races that are scheduled for this weekend.

Immediately upon arrival I was greeted by the Slovenian team. I had a nice visit - and a big piece of cake - with returning athletes Vesna Fabjan (world U23 sprint champ for '08), Katja Višnar, and Barbara Jezeršek. I spent about a half-hour catching up with the Vesna and Katja before joining the service/coaching staff in Nat Brown's cabin.
The ski trails are on Nat's ranch, situated in a valley at elevation 3100 ft. It's a mix of open fields and treed hillsides, with heritage buildings. Rustic and beautiful. See the pic of the wax cabin, and my accomodations for the stay here at the ranch.

Baggage hasn't all arrived. The athletes are making the best of it; they seemed calm and in good humor, considering the situation. Monday they ice skated and did a gym workout. The coaches and service crew seemed somewhat more agitated, and are working to get the goods delivered. Near 10 p.m. most of the skis arrived and a few bags of personal clothing. Hopefully the rest will arrive during the day on Tuesday.

I brought a lot of the service gear - test skis, wax tables, irons, etc, - so that part of the show isn't missing at all.

It was good to spend Monday evening catching up with the team, and meeting the new faces in the service and coaching crew. I think things will really get rolling Tuesday morning. The trails look well groomed and inviting, but I think I'll be spending much of the time preparing skis rather than skiing.

More on Tuesday night, maybe a couple more pictures...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Packin' Up...

This afternoon I'll be driving to Princeton B.C. for the first part of the World Cup week. The Slovenian team arrived Sunday and will spend a couple days recovering from travel and doing some very light training in the Princeton area as guests of the town. I'll be helping out there with waxing, organizing, etc.

After a couple days, we'll move the show to the World Cup venue for final preparations for the weekend's races. The racing will take place at Whistler Olympic Park.

Event info can be found here. Admission to all the races is free, so it might be worth a trip to see the top skiers racing on the 2010 Olympic courses.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Preparing Test Skis for the World Cup

I'll be heading for the World Cup on Monday. Getting ready for the trip takes a little planning, and time for organizing tools and equipment.

Part of the job for me is preparing test skis. Ultratune has a set of eight factory matched Madshus Nanosonic skate skis. When they're used for wax testing, these all have the same base grind, prepared in the same way, in the same batch, on the same day. Then they're waxed and prepped identically.

The skis got a fresh grind yesterday, and wax. Today a 2nd waxing, then all the skis went to the Liberty Bell race course for testing with a speed trap. Today's test was a basic "zero test". The zero test provides a baseline so that test skis can be used to objectively compare wax preparations. The goal is to demonstrate uniformity, or document differences. These skis are well matched, and variance pair-to-pair is only a couple 1/100ths of a second.

Thorough testing with a big bunch of skis is time consuming. I started working on the skis at 6 a.m. in the shop, and finished on the snow at around 2 p.m. with no breaks. Quitting time was determined by Mother Nature today... ...a snowstorm started and got heavy in a hurry. Once the tracks change, the data is too variable.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Begins

The upcoming weeks will be exciting. First, I'll be following the US Sr Nationals which start Saturday (Jan 3) in Anchorage. Lots of skiers are on Ultratune grinds and hoping for great results. Good luck to everyone there - it sounds like it'll be a tough week in cold conditions.

Jan 10-11th will be the Methow Valley Pursuit, and Ultratune will be providing wax tips and more.

Mid-January will be the World Cup at Whistler. The Callaghan Valley venue was a bit late getting snow this season, but they've gotten a lot recently and should be in good shape for the races. I'll be updating the blog daily during the World Cup.

The big marathons in the USA will get moving toward the end of the month, and continue through March. There's plenty of time to get some new skis, or get old skis re-ground and tuned up for the big races. Send them soon, and get them back soon. Turn-around on skis is always less than a week.

Happy New Year. Wherever you are, if you're near snow then get out there and enjoy some skiing!

Here's another picture from the Mazama Ski Rodeo. This one is of the 1st place and 2nd place finishers, Torin Koos and Sam Naney, recovering at the finish. Photo by Kristen Smith of MVSTA.