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Archive for May, 2012

What do skiing, mountain biking, sunburns, snowstorms, rainbows and lots of roundabouts all have in common? They can all be found in Bend, Oregon in the month of May.
For the first time in recent memory, the US Biathlon team sent a group of athletes to Bend for an early summer on-snow training camp. We left our rifles at home and focused on volume training. We skied an exhausting number of hours every morning, sharing the trails with the US Ski Team, Canadian Ski Team, Canadian Biathlon Team, and numerous club teams. Although we rarely completed the same workouts as the other groups (we are on different training plans) it was motivating to spend time around other elite North American athletes. I’d never seen so much representation of the different programs in one place. Nor could I predict which athletes I would end up skiing with when I started out in the morning.

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One of many rainbow sightings.

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Members of the US biathlon team, Russell, Lowell, Tim, Sara, Annelies and myself.

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The first several days we had perfect corduroy and sunny blue skies.

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Emil’s Clearing was the gathering point for all the different teams, and a great place to socialize during water breaks and wax touch ups.

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Mixing it up during classic speeds with US Ski Teamer and fellow Craftsbury GRPer, Ida Sargent.

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Hanging out with the local girls at Fast and Female. We danced, talked about goals and dreams, and worked on strength and agility among other things. I got to work with and get to know US Ski Teamer Holly Brooks, who I had only met once before this camp.

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We watched but didn’t participate in Bend’s famous Pole Peddle Paddle race. I’d love to take part in it some day, but the logistics look challenging.

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I spent most of my afternoon workouts mountain biking. There were tons of awesome single track trails, plus this gorgeous path along the Deschutes River.

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The far side of the river looked like a rocky wasteland, filled with rugged volcanic rock. I spent an afternoon on my off day exploring “lava island.”. A few lone pine trees managed to grow in the rocks, and some pretty ferns sprouted up through deep cracks in the rock.

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A tired crew enjoying our one off day. I had forgotten how comfy recliners are.

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Normally we could enjoy winter up at Mt. Bachelor and then drive down to summer weather at our condo in Bend 25 minutes away, but the last morning we woke up to some wintry weather down low…

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…which translated into a foot of new snow up on the ski trails.

I can’t think of a better place for ski training this time of year. I’m leaving feeling extremely tired, but happy. Bye bye Bend! …’till next time

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Although the new training year is well underway, I’d like to take little time to look back on the month of April. For a professional ski racer, it is our vacation month, the one time of year when we can stop thinking about training or racing for more than a couple days at a time. Most athletes will travel somewhere exciting or find a part time job. After four months in Europe this winter, I wanted to stay close to home.

April in Craftsbury was extremely quiet. With the ski trails melting and the lake not yet ready for rowing camps, the Outdoor Center shut down for a month. The parking lots emptied, the dinning hall closed up, and the residents of our team house at Elinor’s dispersed. I felt like the entire trail network, the lake, the dirt roads, and all of the local plants and animals were my own private world.

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My favorite part of living at the Outdoor Center in the spring off-season is seeing lots of wildlife. For example, every morning at breakfast, I would hear the unearthly gobble of a big old tom turkey from the bottom of our field. (He conveniently vacated the neighborhood, of course, just days before hunting season opened on May 1st). Wondering what other wildlife might be out and about, I began taking early morning and late evening “wildlife” walks around the trails. I startled deer who took off bounding with white tails blazing high. From the Black River swamp, I flushed prehistoric-looking great blue herons. I heard barred owls hooting from the cedar trees, the courtship drumming of ruffed grouse, and coyotes yipping far away. On warmer days, a mighty chorus of spring peepers cried out from wooded vernal pools, where they left globs of gelatinous egg masses. On my excursions, I sometimes stopped by patches of edible wild ramps and fiddleheads and picked a few for dinner.

My biggest fear walking around the woods at night is not bear or moose, but that I’ll literally run into a porcupine. They can’t see, hear or smell, at least not very well. One evening, I stood 15 feet away watching one obliviously gnawing on some sticks at the forest edge. He slowly foraged towards me, not sensing a human in the vicinity. He would have bumped into me I think, had I not backed away from the threat of his quills.

Following the last Spring Series races, I continued to ski the 1.5 km loop and only gave up when the trail’s mud sections outnumbered the skiable slush sections. I stopped to take a picture of the melting ski trails and inadvertently captured a rare creature on camera, one I never had a good glimpse of before:

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By the time I realized that the bobcat was there, he was disappearing into the woods.

One day Eric Hanson, a ski trail groomer at Craftsbury and the Vermont state loon biologist, invited me to help install nesting platforms on a couple of local lakes. These platforms can facilitate higher rates of loon reproductive success, especially in lakes that have little natural hummocky habitat or in lakes with high water level fluctuations. The platforms are basically floating log rafts tethered to cinder block anchors. Decomposing cattails, muck, and low shrubs are added on top to provide nest building materials and protective shelter. Transporting the rafts to their chosen site was a challenge; it involved balancing them over a canoe’s gunwales or towing them though the water at a snail’s pace.
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After installing one nesting platform, we encountered a trio of loons. We watched them for awhile and saw some wing beating, an aggressive territorial behavior. Loons will fight other loons of the same gender for the right to breed on a lake.
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As I write this, I am once again far away from Craftsbury in pursuit of my ski dreams. This time I am in Bend, Oregon, another beautiful and wild place, where there is still plenty of snow for skiing. The US and Canadian national ski and biathlon teams are all here, as are many other athletes, including some Craftsbury GRPers. We are putting in lots of on-snow hours which will serve as foundation for the rest of the year’s training. Stay tuned for future updates and pictures.

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