Hometown: Andover, ME
Education: Colby College
Sponsors: MWSC, Cary Medical Center, Alpina, Akers Ski Inc., Exel, Madshus
Work: Black Mtn. of Maine Nordic Coach, Maine Mineral and Gem Museum archival assistant, XC Skier and Trail Designer
2012 Highlights: 23rd American Birkebeiner
Pastimes: architecture and trail design, movie marathons, hiking, teasing dogs, spending time with Justine
Favorite Food: Rhubarb pie
After a dismal Nationals in Utah, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on where I was at from a racing standpoint. Even with the cold I acquired just before the races started, I felt that my fitness was not where it needed to be nor perhaps even as good as it had been in the late fall. This is most likely the product of too much emphasis on racing in December, while sacrificing some training volume. To combat the feelings of frustration I decided to go to the Mt. Top Eastern Cup and just help coach and wax skis for a weekend and see some place new. It was fun to watch the kids and biathlete ripping it up on the trails. I also took some time to recover post nationals then just train and see what happened.
So far I’m feeling pretty good. Energy levels have come up and I’m sleeping better. I took some time to do unstructured workouts where I just went out and explored. The skiing off trail in western Maine is really good right now; just two inches of powder on top of crust. Over the past couple days I’ve noticed how much more comfortable I feel on my classic skis. It is pretty awesome to see what more time spent on snow can do for you!
Next my schedule gets busy. I will be racing in the Craftsbury and Birkie marathons in February. I figured Craftsbury would be a fun new experience even though it’s 50km of hilly classic skiing. Also I have afterschool programming starting this week and next week for kids in the Rumford, Meroby, and Dirigo Elementary schools. I spent this afternoon organizing skis and checking out terrain at Dirigo Elementary. I’m pretty excited; it should be a really fun program!
11-30-12 Greetings from Montana
After week one we moved down to West Yellowstone and skied the plateau to get used to the 7500-8000ft. of elevation that we later raced at. Snow in town was very thin or nonexistent, so we spent a lot of time on the plateau.
The races on the plateau were interesting as usual. I remember suck wind big time on those races 5 years ago. This time was much better! I only did the 8.7km Skate point-to-point race. I felt like I was actually racing and moving pretty well for about 7km, then fatigue set in hard. I lost about 18seconds in the last 1.7km to one of the guys I had been skiing with. My average time was 2:40/km, only a couple seconds per km slower than most of my intervals this fall (at sea level). I was 2min fast than I was 5 years ago and 1.5min closer to the front of the field. However there are a lot more guys in the two min window between the winner and me.
Race one of the year is done, moderately successful, now it is time to focus on the next one, a 15km Classic Mass Start at Bohart Ranch. Most of the rest of my teammates have done two other sprints races. Kat Howe made the open rounds yesterday at Bohart and Emily skied very well in the Junior rounds the same day, which was great for her first race at altitude!
First day on Snow!
I traveled from Maine to Bozeman, MT yesterday, fortunately it was pretty uneventful. I arrived into Bozeman just before dusk, allowing for nice views of the snow-covered countryside. Though snowy, Montana was not significantly colder than Maine has been for the past couple weeks. There is about 5 inches of moderately dense snow here in town. This morning we went for a nice distance ski up at the Bohart Ranch, a touring center in a canyon 40min northeast of Bozeman. There is a lot of nice rolling terrain with many twists! I didn’t have any trouble striding on the gradual terrain, but it took me a while to get my feet underneath me on the twisty downhills. I was trying not to dig into the snow with my edges making it harder to grip the snow and make all of the downhill corners, it is after all too early to be gauging up the edges of my skis. Headed out for a nice skate ski at Lindley Park, at the edge of town in Bozeman, in a few minutes. Having a great time so far and hoping for more snow!
A few weeks ago the museum staff had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Mt. Marie, an active mine in Paris, ME. The mine is situated at the top of an open hillside with awesome views of Streaked Mountain and the area east of Paris Hill. There are several open pits at the mine where they have been look for Tourmaline and other precious gem material. In the most recently excavated pit they had discovered a series of pockets; small chambers in the ground where crystals had formed. The miners had invited us down to help them open one of these pockets. When we arrived they had already removed a couple crystals, including one long quartz crystal they named the Candlestick, which also be the original name of the pocket. They later changed it to the MMGM pocket in honor of our visit. Note: this mine is not open to the public.
This particular pocket had been partially filled with water; the miners had sprayed the excavated area with water to see where it sank into the ground, thus identifying potential pockets. The pocket was about two feet in diameter and full of loose dirt an rocks. The hole was about one foot deeper when we finished. Because of the nature of the crystals being fragile you can only dig by hand. Digging for gems is much like being a kid again, searching for Halloween candy that somebody has buried for you. It is exciting to say the least.
We each took turns reaching into the mud hoping to find something wonderful. On my turn I pulled out a lot of mud and small pieces. I was just about finished when I pulled out one thumb sized clear quartz crystal with a pointed termination on one end. Dennis Durgin (the mine owner) then said I was just about done with my turn. So I reached in one last time and pulled out another similar sized piece of quartz, also with a pointed termination and a small parallel growth about the size of four stacked quarters. Then my turn was definitely done. Dennis kindly let me keep the two pieces, as they were not particularly valuable. I think they were pretty cool. While the next person started digging I drooled over my newfound treasures and cleaned the grit off of them. I then noticed that the rough ends seemed to be very similar. After turning them a few times I found a match. They were a single crystal that had been broken! It certainly made my day, I couldn’t wipe off the huge grin I had for the rest of the day.
Dennis, thanks for the awesome experience!
In recent weeks I seem to have done quite a bit of hiking. I went on one adventure with Toast, who took a day off from campaign work to join me. I chose to take him up Old Speck, because it was a mountain I had never done before. It turned out to be a nice 4-hour hike, including a detour to Speck Pond. It was however, the first cold day of the fall.
When we arrived at the base of the mountain and I was already cold and a little underdressed, even though we planned to move quickly. There was a small lookout tower at the summit (a replacement for the old fire tower), which offered views of the Mahoosic Range, the Presidentials, and Vermont to the west, as far as Sugarloaf to the east, Sebago to the South and the Border Mountains to the north. Pretty awesome, but it felt like I was in a wind tunnel. We didn’t waste time up there. When we got to Speck Pond we could see whitecaps on the far side of the pond where the wind was strongest (the pond is only about 400yards long).
Another shorter hike I did with some local friends was Moody Mountain. This is off the South Arm Road heading west along the Appalachian Trail. It only took about an hour to get to the top. This time the weather was much warmer and less windy. Near the summit is a lookout with views to the south and west toward Andover. We could see some of the larger fields in town, plus the tree farm near the Newry Mine and the new windmill farm in Woodstock. The Satellite Station stuck out very clearly, since there was no haze, its white forms had crisp looking edges against the surrounding forest. A little further along the trail heading down to Sawyer Notch was another lookout of the Notch, with views of the Hall Mtn. cliffs and C Surplus. Where the Notch opens up by C Pond is particularly pretty, with the C Bluff cliffs hanging above the north edge of the pond.
Bumpus. This is one of Maine’s few Tunnel mines. This is a defunct Feldspar mine in Albany Township. Like many local mines it was once part of a small farm. Over the course of the mines operations the ground was stripped away, at first in a horizontal trench, following the vein of feldspar (a granular brown/orange material). Eventually the vein went deep underground, instead of continuing the open pit it was deemed more cost effective to blast and tunnel along the vein deeper into the hillside. This was done in two places. The result is two caverns, one about 100ft deep, and the other about 200ft.
I recently had my first opportunity to visit this mine, with an expert guide to boot. We had gone to look and see if there were good cross sections of mined rock that we could use in a 2-story model for the museum. Unfortunately we did not find exactly what we were looking for. However it was pretty cool to see how the younger rock had shoved it’s way into the old rock nearer to the surface along with random black strips of schist running horizontally through the whole area.
The twin tunnels were pretty cool; water was constantly dripping from the ceiling, filling small pools on the cavern floor. We were able to access the back of the tunnels on gravel mounds that are left over from the blasting process. We saw a couple bats suspended from the ceiling in their daytime slumber. There are still signs of the boreholes from the last blast at the back of the cave. These are the holes that were drilled then filled with dynamite. The biggest find at the Bumpus was a set of giant Beryl crystals; the biggest was around 25ft. long and weighted 25 tons! Most crystals are only a few inches long and weight at most a few pounds. Unfortunately any evidence of their original location has long since vanished due to further mining and revegetation.
A couple weeks ago I had a fantastic training camp at sugarloaf with the rest of the MWSC crew and Maine Team juniors. Welly and I spent most of our workout time chasing Kris Freeman on the roads and trails. It was a good learning experience and definitely showed areas that I needed to work on, such as appropriate distance pace. Kris’s average for rollerskiing is about 4km an hour faster than mine, something to change and improve over time. Thanks to all the CVA staff who help make the camp a success every year and the Pratico’s for hosting us!
Since the Sugarloaf camp, the Black Mtn. summer Nordic program finished. We capped it off with an awesome flatwater kayak trip on the Androscoggin from Hanover to Rumford. We saw an old VW Beetle that had been swallowed by the riverbank and three bald eagles. There was also a small set of rapids that we were able to surf our boats on.
This week I am in training camp again. This time the MWSC crowd has teamed up with the new Stratton Mountain School T2 program, another group of professional skiers that includes Andy Newell and Jessie Diggins. The group is already proving to be quite fun. It will be good to mix it up in our speed session over the next few days.
Mollyocket Day was a blast, it was the most fun I've had at a running race in a very long time. Before the race I was unusually nervous, so much so that I had major butter fingers, dropping my water bottle and snack multiple times. After warm up, I was unsure if my body would hold up to the effort I wanted to put out, however the brain was ready. I had planned to run 5:10-5:05 for the first mile; I accidentally ran a 4:59 (it is slightly downhill). I found myself with five other guys, the first time I've ever had a large group to run with in this race. We held together until the mile long climb up to mile 4. I kept it in check on the lower portion, letting the leader go, only to see him pull up with a cramp after the herringbone pitch. Finding myself at the front again, I tried to surge over the top of the hill. One guy was able to hang on, he and I sling-shotted around each other multiple times until he finally got away with 1/3mile to go. Rounding the final turn I dug deeper for a sprint finish, closing to within a few meters, only 3seconds behind. I just snuck in under 28 minutes, I very solid time on that course and I think a 40 plus second personal best for me. It was great to be in a race where I had guys to push me and I was able to respond to their moves.
Yesterday I had a really cool experience. I went hiking along the Appalachian Trail north of Andover. It was already going to be a cool trip because I was determined to see some of the high alpine plateau beyond the first peak, an area I had never explored before. It happened to be a slightly overcast day, meaning I probably wouldn't have much of a view from the high point. However when I got to the peak I was surprised to find myself in a cloud. It was really neat. It feels like standing in fast moving fog. It's refreshing and eerie, with wisps of dense gray moistures whipping by.
Thursday I head to Sugarloaf for training camp with the rest of my MWSC teammates. This should by lots of fun. It will be nice to take a few days to only focus on training (and watch the last few days of the Olympics). Among the American medal performances so far at the Games, I think my favorite has to be Galen Rupp's silver from the men's 10,000m run, one of only a handful of distance running medals the US has ever won!
It's been quite a while, though I will not try to recount everything that has happen. I have moved back to Western Maine, where I started running a junior ski program for Black Mtn. of Maine. The program is now in it's fourth week and the group is definitely making progress in balance, strength, general endurance and seem to be having fun doing it. I have also started working for a the new Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel, which plans to open a new building on Main Street next summer. I spend most of my time entering data about each specimen into the computer, but the reward is a feeling of a complishment when it's done and I get to look at really cool rocks!
In the other hours of the day it is training as usual. I've spent a lot of time reaquinting myself with the trails and roads in the area. Since I'm spending more time in Rumford, Bryant Pond, and Bethel, I've done more exploring including this morning when I checked out the snowmobile trails from Black Mtn. to the Mountain Valley High School and back. I've also spent a lot of time on the S. Arm road, one of my favorite roads to ski.
I'm looking forward to Mollyocket Day this weekend, a festival in Bethel with a 5mile road race that I haven't done in years. Stay tuned.
Mid-Winter Lull - 2/22/12
In the wake of Nationals, it is normal for ski racers to have a period of distress and reflection, especially for those who started race 1.5months earlier. This year has been no exception for me; in fact it may be worse than most years, amplified by my lack of good distance races. To take my mind off this, I decided to focus the remainder of January and all of February training for the American Birkie ski marathon. During these weeks I have taken comfort in knowing that Americans are getting faster; it has been really exciting to see the US Women's XC team putting multiple skiers in the top 15 frequently all season and Russell Currier earning his first top 10 finishes in the Biathlon WC with clean shooting!
I've haven't stayed away from Racing, but it has been a little more low key. I jumped into the Farmington and Stowe Eastern Cups, which both went pretty well. This year's trip to Stowe is the best I've ever felt racing at that venue! I've also had great fun skiing some of the Aroostook Cups and it was especially nice to feel very powerful and snappy at the end of the Frostbite 40km. As usual the Karen Sprague Memorial race was a great hit, with big crowds, bright costumes, loads of fun, and of course the sweetheart relays.
I've also spent some time skiing with local school teammates and afterschool programs. Most recently I went on a hilarious ski with the Ashland team. It was a costume affair, with many bright skirts, followed by an evening hot dog and marshmallow roast.
Now I'm headed to Rumford to TD the state meet for Classes A and C. Then I head to the Wisconsin for the Birkie!
West Yellowstone and Bozeman, MT - 12-20-2011
The XC team spent three weeks in Montana over the second half of November and the first part of December. We had excellent skiing conditions in West; the best I have ever experienced! There was over a foot of snow on the ground and nearly three feet when we left. This was my first trip to the West Yellowstone Ski Festival where I have not had to ski on the plateau. New trails and a revised race loop gave me plenty of entertainment. I also got to ski the Windy Ridge loop for the first time at the Rendezvous trails.
Training was definitely the main priority for the trip, but seven races gave us the opportunity to get our legs back under us and comfortable with the feel our skis gliding over snow. It felt great to move fast too, this was definitely the fastest I have ever moved at altitude. The Skate sprint and 10km Classic races went very well, I executed my race plan and was pretty happy with the way my body responded. I came away with a few tactical and mental elements to help me with the second weekend of races.
Unfortunately during my recovery state I picked up a cold and was out for nearly a week, missing the races in Bozeman. I was pretty excited for these, since they were on very squirrly and technical courses. I did manage to get out of bed to watch one of the races with my aunt and uncle. It was the first ski race my uncle had seen, it was very interesting to hear his comments on it as a non-racer observing the sport. I also got to learn a little about what the guys at the front of the field are doing better than the rest of us.
All in all it was a wonderful trip, including my stay in Bozeman with the Kirk's. Thank you for sharing your wonderful house with us! It was great to be on snow and feel very comfortable so early in the season. Up next is some racing in New England including nationals in Rumford!
Training, excavators, elections... oh my! - 11-15-2011
Since Halloween life has been pretty jam-packed with activity. Training has been going reasonably well, especially strength testing, where I saw a couple personal bests. In other testing last week I nearly tied my PR on Mars Hill. Going hard and recovery seems to be the name of the game lately, especially with the work schedule I've had in the last two weeks.
Once we finally had a dry spell, which this year was November, I was able to see some real progress on the trail project at NHC. I had an excavator crew there for about a week and a half. During that time, they've installed six new poles and buried wire for additional night skiing, corrected some areas that were hard to maintain and didn't flow well, and created five new sections of trail (all cutoffs that will give more options for a wider spectrum of abilities). For my part, I've been out on the trails most days, watching them work, answer questions, and making sure that the trail adjustments were built correctly. I was fortunate to have two good operators that made quick work of my long list of improvements. Thanks Matt and Steve!
Other recent activities have included Election Day, which turned out to be very entertaining. Toast and I happened to be in Caribou working out that day, so we decided for our cool down, we would ski over to the polls and do our civic duty, of course fully garbed in rollerski gear. The other people that were at the polls at the same time as us, got quite a kick out of our attire. I also made my first trip ever to Washington County. Lauren Jacobs and I went to Danforth to meet some of the people in the community and discuss how to go about developing a trail network in behind the school. Although it was too hazy to see Katahdin from there, it was a beautiful fall day. The East Grand region has many nice lakes and hills that make it one of Maine's most beautiful, but least visited regions.
Now it's time to gear up for another trip. Tomorrow we fly out to West Yellowstone for the first on snow races of the year. It should be really fun, I feel like I'm ready to go fast, a feeling I haven't had at the beginning of the season in a long time.
Fall Training Camp in Utah - 10-18-2011
I just got back from a very productive trip to Park City, where I was training with US Ski team members and other professional skiers from around the country. All the trips I've made to altitude in the past four years seem to finally be paying off. I appear to adapt fairly quickly to lower air-pressure and can do race pace efforts without absolutely blowing up. We had a couple time trials out there went pretty well, the race plans were well executed and I was able to gain a good idea (after factoring ski speeds) where I stacked up at the national level. It's been a few years since I've been to one of these camps; in the past I would get very frustrated and disheartened, but now I'm excited by knowing that I can stay with these guys, meaning I'm near to reaching some of my long term goals!
Of course the camp wasn't all work; we did get to see some pretty cool places. The amount of development in Park City was almost overwhelming, everywhere you look there are house that appear to be scaling the mountainside. Ski slope condos have an entirely different meaning out there, instead of skiing from your back door to the base of the lift, you take the lift at the end of the day to get back to your house at the top of the mountain. Outside the sprawling mass of Park City there are still some nice rural areas with scenic diving options or biking and rollerskiing if you're so inclined.
The East Canyon road (20min north of Park City) and the Mirror Lake road from Kamas (10miles east of Park City) where two of the nicest locations. Here small A-frames and ranch houses gave way to mixed fir and aspen forests. The aspens were in full color during our visit as well.
The most exciting days though brought two inches of SNOW! Our lawn was well covered for a couple days with more snow up around 10,000ft, some of which lasted for over a week. It was really just thrilling to jog through the fresh snow and breathe in the cold crisp air. It was a wonderful reminder of the months to come and why I love winter so much.
Last Days of Summer - 9-19-2011
Since Sugarloaf Camp, I have been very busy between trail projects and my highest volume period of the year. I kicked it all off with a short stay on Cape Cod to visit Justine. This turned into quite the adventure, as Hurricane Irene hit New England while I was there. The next day I drove north, along the way I discovered that the major rivers in western Maine were already at flood stage and in danger of flooding roads as well.
Shortly after my return to the County, Welly and I began reroofing the addition on the Sweetser/Dominick household in Stockholm. This was a welcome distraction, it felt good to do some tangible work again. This was quickly followed a trail work day at Nordic Heritage, where about a dozen volunteers did most of the cutting (on the Ft. Fairfield side) necessary for this year's trail improvements. In Ft. Kent some of the athletes gathered for another workday to make some progress on the new bike trails at 10th Mtn. We plan to do more work over the course of the fall, including two days (pick one or the other) at NHC this weekend. Please come out and join us!
On the training front things are going pretty well. We are weathering the highest training volume of the year , which will be closely followed by altitude camp in Utah. We kicked off the current block with a week of testing, 3000m/400m on the track, Canadian strength program, and the Mars Hill Climb. The tests largely said I was still adapting to my training load from Sugarloaf. Fortunately, a couple days later my body signals returned to normal, and my interval times started to look pretty solid again. For now, there's more training to be done and changing leaves to enjoy.