Craftsbury/Stowe EC Part II: Saturday evening & Sunday

by Perrin   (photos by Emily, Margaret Rightmire, Dave Priganc)

Until the van departed for Craftsbury last weekend, I hadn’t thought much about this being my last year on JNT. Throughout the weekend I slowly had the realization that this was the last time I was going to have a true JNT race weekend. These weekends are my favorite part of JNT – what could be better than hanging out and having fun with an awesome team while skiing for an entire weekend?! This weekend especially highlighted how our team, that started out as just a bunch of kids from different schools, has now become a close knit “family”, as Hannah so accurately put it.

After the races on Saturday, I sat with Eloise doing some math homework, and realized that I kept looking out the window in anticipation of the arrival of the other half of the team. Their van drove up and I found myself smiling: finally we had the whole entire team together under one roof! We cooked up an impressive feast, including the signature brownies, and then stuffed ourselves into the small dining room to eat. We played a game at dinner where everyone wrote something down that no one else knew about them and then we had to guess who’s was who’s. Despite having been on JNT for four years with some fellow athletes, I never knew that Johanna likes eating kiwis with their skins on, and a young Malcolm once found a cat and kept it in his basement for 3 weeks. After dinner we played ‘the tapping game” which is basically a feel-good game where everyone closes their eyes and a people tap those who they appreciate for different things. The night only got better when we had brownies and ice cream during a cozy team meeting, where it became apparent just how much the team meant to everyone.

On Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of the U16 girls leaving for their race, and then rolled back over to sleep for one more precious hour. After the classic JNT breakfast of cheesy eggs and oatmeal, the U18 girls piled into the van to head to the venue. We arrived in time to cheer the U16 boys on as they started! (it was a mass start skate day so they all started at the same time). Daniel pushed through his race with positivity despite breaking the tip of his ski out of the start (so it dragged along the whole race).

I didn’t know what to think about this race. I had felt awesome the day before in the 5k classic but 10k skates have not been my strong-suit so I was a bit nervous. At the crowded start, I smiled over at Greta who was right next to me, and then after several start gun malfunctions, we were off. I started off fast and strong, but soon my legs felt the fatigue start to set in and I felt bogged down on the uphills. I kept pushing, around the first lap and into the second. As I pushed up the first big hill of the second lap, Kennedy and Emily came cruising along behind me. They were skiing beautifully and gave me the motivation to keep going over the top of the hill. I passed coaches corner and the extra cheering gave me enough energy to fuel me to the finish line. I fell over into the finish pen and could barely stand up, so I knew that I had given it my all despite where I ended up on the results list.

After lots of tired hugs and smiles of accomplishment, the girls all met up to CHEER! With Johanna’s glitter skills (she was unable to race — ask her if you want the story of her trip to the hospital the day before — don’t worry she is okay) we were prepared for some professional cheering. Catherine even donned a sparkly mustache and many of us had gold glitter as a kind of alternative eyeshadow! We all headed out to cheer the boys on during their 15 km skate race (3 loops of the course). The men’s pack stayed very close together on the first lap and all the JNT boys looked awesome!

While all the girls wore green and blue ribbon in their hair, Malcolm was brave enough to tie a bow on the bridge of his glasses. I guess it was worth it to sacrifice some visibility for style. We skied back and forth on the course to catch the boys on different sections, and by their third lap my voice was almost gone and I was feeling light headed from shouting so much. We joked that it was basically another race for us cheerers. The boys all pushed hard to the finish, but after the race we learned that Jacob had fallen during the race, hit his head and gotten a concussion. We are all sending our healing energy to him and hope he gets better soon! Who knew XC skiing could be such an impact sport!

We packed the vans, and then 10 feet into our drive home we got too close to the edge of the road and got stuck in the snow. I guess Craftsbury just didn’t want us to leave:) Kindly, one of their groomers used a chain to pull us out while a line of cars waited, and we were finally on our way. Many chili lime chips, clementines, and m&m’s later we had sung our hearts out to Dennis’s special playlist and were home. It had been my favorite JNT weekend yet, and I am so grateful to have had all of those incredible team travel experiences. They have truthfully been the highlight of my high school years! I drove home in my car with the music on and a smile on my face, thinking about how lucky I am to have such a great group of friends/teammates, and coaches. Being on a team with people from 5 different schools is a pretty cool thing! Thank you everyone for making my last travel weekend the best! And now onto our HOME race at Oak Hill! Woo Hoo!

NOTE: Scottie and Evan are official MVPs for staying up past midnight to put klister binder on our classic skis. All I can say is best wax job ever. Thank you.

Enjoy the slideshow below!

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Craftsbury/Stowe EC Part I: Friday & Saturday

by Hannah   (photos by Emily)

Friday, the Real Nordic Ski Team in Centerra parking lot was much smaller than usual because half of our team was going to the New Hampshire series qualifier on Saturday, instead of the Eastern cup. We set off towards Craftsbury at around 1, with the thermometer reading 19 degrees, and stopped in Thetford to pick up our northern family members (Keelan, Malcolm, and Eloise), before settling into a longer than anticipated drive. Van activities mostly included sleeping (at one point 5/11 people in the van were asleep), and some music video making, including great shots of an unsuspecting sleeping Malcolm. The closer to Craftsbury we came, the further the thermometer dropped, passing zero, and heading down into the negatives.

We arrived in the late afternoon, as the sun was beginning to lower in the sky, and quickly skied a very cold course preview. I tried to visualize how I would ski each part of the course, what I would focus on, and the best line for the amazingly fun downhill sections.

Back at the house in Stowe we hastily made dinner, did homework, and ate a lot of delicious food while having some very interesting conversations, including Keelan telling stories about his great-great-maybe some more greats- grandfather who fought in the civil war and “was a pioneer in the undertaking business” (direct quote) among other hard to believe but true legends. If you ever have a chance, ask Keelan.

After some hanger-throwing (try to get the hanger to land hooked on the bar in the closet) which was shut down (I don’t blame him) by Evan – “What is all this hullaballoo in here?”- we all went to bed, U16s especially resting for the early start tomorrow.

I was super excited for this eastern cup, especially for the 5k classic I was going to race on Saturday.  Have done a 28k classic (White Mountain Classic in Jackson, NH) and a 16 k classic (Craftsbury Marathon) in the past two weekends, my idea of pacing had been totally changed. I realized that for a distance person like me, I really didn’t need to worry about getting tired in a 5k, I basically just needed to ski as fast as I could the whole time, since I am very bad at going too fast 😜

It was about -13 when we arrived at Craftsbury Saturday morning, so we holed up in the lodge to work on glitter and face tape application, in addition to decorating hair, and Malcolm’s sunglasses, with ribbons – all thanks to Greta, our amazing team spirit cheerleader! 👏❤

Scottie and Evan

Meanwhile, Scottie and Evan slowly froze outside as they valiantly waxed our skis- which had amazing kick!

After warming up on the course and doing some speeds on my race skis, I hopped around in the start with Eloise and Emily, before starting 15 seconds after Eloise. It was awesome having a teammate that I could see on the course. During my race, I mostly tried to stay focused just in the moment, going as fast as I could, and trying to use the best technique possible. The downhills were incredibly fast, and I hammered on the uphills, which are my favorite part of a classic race. However, it might have been helpful to put a little more energy into the flats- next time… Climbing Screaming Mimi 😭and the hills after it, I heard familiar voices cheering that made me super happy, and I strided up the final hill and double poled madly (or to the outside observer, slowly and laboriously) to the finish – probably my best Eastern Cup yet!

After cool down, we went home, where I lay on the sofa and stared at the ceiling for about an hour before starting my homework. Needless to say, I was very tired and very very happy😁🙃

(Because we shuttled athletes home after their races, we don’t seem to have photographic evidence of the boys’ presence or their great races!)

Race photos below by Dave Priganc

Eloise and Hannah

Rikert EC Weekend Part IV: Sunday

Racing by Emily

On the bitter cold Sunday morning we were up early once again for a filling breakfast, once more warding off illness with fire cider. As we began to pack up, it was bittersweet to leave behind our lovely house (in particular the 4-person room that I shared with Eloise, Kennedy, and Greta in the basement with an adjacent cave at quick access through a swinging door). It was comforting knowing we would soon be back.

We loaded into two vans: a “loud” van for those of us who enjoy belting songs of questionable quality at the top of our lungs, and a “quiet” van for those of us who don’t want to their pre-race focus interrupted by such shenanigans. We pulled up to the venue accompanied by the sounds of the “loud” van singing “The Hall of Fame”.

Bluebird day!

After getting settled in the barn, we immediately set off to preview the race course. Kennedy, Greta, Johanna and I would be skating 10 kilometers for the first time, and we were all anticipating the longer race with a mixture of excitement and dread. The course was beautiful if a bit icy on the corners already, though the hundreds of racers that were about to go off had not hit it yet. As we went around the loop that we would complete three times, we envisioned the race: What technique will I use here? How should I maximize my speed around this dicy corner? How should I pace this?!? The coaches gave us advice, and warned us not to be too conservative though the race was longer than we were used to. As Evan put it, it’s better to push yourself so hard that you completely burn out so that you know your limits.

During our warmup on the course, the U16 girls sped by at a lightning pace on their 5K, and we cheered for Lucy, Hannah, Catherine, and Eloise!

After taking my lightning fast race skis for a spin, I began to ramp up the effort for a warm up, arriving at the start toasty warm to find Johanna and Elissa ready to begin their 10K right in front of me! In no time I was at the start of the line having shed my parka, and was out on the course!

I skied up the first hill, and rounded the corner to turn down, skidding on the ice that was uncovered from the racers before me. Then it was up through the stadium where parents, siblings, and other racers cheered me on, and a roller coaster through the woods. I felt great on the first loop, tired on the second, and just holding on through the third! However, it was extremely gratifying to cross the finish line with a sense of accomplishment for racing 10 whole kilometers!

Afterwards, we bundled up to cheer for the boys and watched them all have fantastic races!

The Trip Home  by Eloise

As we slowly loaded the skis on the van, athletes eager to rest their fatigued bodies, our positive team stood patiently in the brisk weather. We loaded the vans placing Johanna in a suitable place for her to extend her leg in the “aisle.” After jamming out to the playlist for a good amount of time, a few of us fell asleep, others conversed with a buddy, one knitted, and others peacefully watched the beautiful Vermont scenery go by through the window. On top of that variety of things, four athletes played the game of the weekend, Wise and Otherwise. While approaching the parking lot at Centerra, we attempted perhaps one of the most challenging feats that exists in the world today––hitting the high note in Kesha’s “Praying.” (No one could) After getting back to the parking lot with our voices strained, we slowly dribbled out of the vans afraid of the whiplash that comes with returning to the reality of our busy lives. A task that can be quite surprising after one of these dreamy, unforgettable opportunities that make all of us better people. We loaded our individual cars with our gear and reluctantly (or maybe not) left our teammates to sleep until the next day for practice.

(Slideshow photos below are, once again, courtesy of Dave Priganc)

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Rikert EC Weekend Part III: Sat Heats & House Time

by Kennedy

After an incredible morning of racing, we had more athletes make the heats than I can ever remember. Lucy represented Ford Sayre in the U16 heats while Perrin, Greta, Johanna, and I (Kennedy) qualified to compete in the open heats. For the boys, John was the only one to qualify for the heats, but the rest were not far behind him in the qualifier. Because there wasn’t enough time between our qualifier races and the heats to go back to our house and rest, most of us tried to find a warm spot to sit down and conserve energy. For me, this meant squeezing onto the couch closest to the fireplace in the downstairs nordic center. However, the time, as it always does on race day, seemed to fly by, so after about an hour of resting, it was time for me and the other U18 girls to head outside and commence our second warm ups. I finally left my cozy seat about an hour before my start and wandered upstairs to the barn in search of my warm up clothes and new bib number. Unfortunately, the bibs and start list were not ready yet, so we had to go start our warmup without knowing which heat we were in and what our specific start time was. This was not a problem because when I approached the table mid-warm up, I was able to efficiently collect my bib and head back over towards the start.

For warmup, I started by testing my race skis, which is especially important on a classic day because having your kick tailored to your goals for the race is extremely helpful. I was looking to have enough wax on my skis to kick up the hills, while I also have teammates who wanted very little kick and planned to double pole most of the course. After skiing the course once on my race skis, which had amazing kick and glide, I exchanged them for my training skis so that the topcoats and wax would not wear off before my race. After some L3 and some shorter speeds, I skied back to the team area to drop some of my warmups and collect my race skis. I ran with my skis over towards the start, fitting in a few last minute speeds. Once we chose lanes and lined up, it was only seconds before we put our toes to the line and the starter yelled “GO.”

The race started with a frantic double pole zone with athletes competing to be the first around the first corner. After that, Johanna and I cruised along outside of the tracks, where the snow was faster, watching ourselves easily gain on our other competitors. The first hill commenced with a short steep section and proceeded to become long and gradual. Stepping into the tracks where it was easier to kick, I tried desperately to maintain contact with Anna Lehmann, the winner of the qualifier from the morning. Once we reached the top of the hill and passed through the striding zone, we turned a sharp corner and plummeted down back towards the stadium. The large final hill became the only thing between us and the finish. I saw the two SMS girls in front of me and I felt like I was slowly gaining on the second one, but the finish line was too close for me to catch her. After crossing the finish line and bending over in pain, I looked back and watched Johanna lunging to a photo finish with a competitor from CSU.

Johanna and I took off our bibs at the finish and then stumbled back towards the start. We were just in time to watch the next heat go off and we proceeded to walk over in search of our coaches. Because of my third place finish in the heat, I was unsure how my time would compare to the other heats and whether or not I would be a contender for the lucky loser position (two fastest times of those who were not the top two in their heat). I was not a lucky loser, so after a short warm down, I meandered into the barn to change my layers and put on warm clothes.

After the boys heats, most of the team started to pack up and pack into the vans at the venue. We were all extremely sad not to be able to cheer for Lucy, but going back to the house made sense so we could start dinner, shower, and rest.

On the van ride back to the house, loud music blasted from the van speakers while we all recounted our various racing experiences from the day. Upon arrival, the vans were unpacked and we started taking turns in the showers. There were snacks out in the kitchen and Emily, Eloise, and Catherine showed off their amazingly choreographed dance to the song, Havana.  The afternoon was mostly spent lazily eating snacks in the kitchen and hanging out until the boys arrived from their house and the coaches arrived home with Lucy. After a yummy dinner of pasta and salad, the team gathered in the living room to wait for team meeting and the brownies. A group of us played Wise and Otherwise, a game very similar to pictionary, but where the players must finish the proverb and then vote on the option in which they think is the correct answer. The coaches kindly rearranged the skis to put the U16 skis in the early morning car so that Evan could test/apply top coats before the late departing van with the ski bags arrived at the venue.

The team meeting, as always, started with personal reflections from the day by going around the circle and explaining one thing each athlete would like to improve on and some things that went well for them. After the coaches outlined the plans, coach roles, start times, etc… for the following day, the boys left in their van and we slowly started making our way to bed.

(All slideshow photos below courtesy of Dave Priganc, a Mansfield parent – more can be seen on his Flickr stream)

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Rikert EC Weekend Part II: Sat AM & Qualifier

by Johanna

The girls awoke at 7am to the arrival of the boys from their house down the road. After a few grumbles from the boys concerning the girls’ later wake up time, we met around the breakfast table for none other than the beloved JNT oatmeal and eggs. A brave few began the meal with a dose of fire cider – a delicious concoction with enough frightening ingredients (including apple cider vinegar, onions, horseradish, garlic, tumeric, and habanero pepper) to thwart even the most aggressive illnesses.

At 8:15 – right on schedule (although behind the schedule we’d anticipated the week before due to a 2 hour delay in start times) – we piled into the two vans. Dennis and Jennie navigated safely despite the One Direction at max volume (courtesy of the fabulous JNT playlist) and a chorus of tone-deaf skiers (who luckily have chosen to pursue athletics and not singing).

With ears ringing from the uplifting hit-song “What Makes You Beautiful,” we pulled into the Rikert parking lot and unloaded the vans.

It was not long before we set out to preview the course, taking note of the fresh snow. After a double pole start, the sprint loop curved sharply to the left and then set off down a brief descent. “Work the transitions!” the coaches reminded us as we began a steep climb from the bottom of the downhill. The course soon leveled off to a more gradual incline then curved back down the hill to end with one last ascent before the finish.

The girls moved right from the course preview into their warm up while the boys returned to the barn to get another hour or two off their feet before their races.

After testing my race skis, I transitioned to running in order to fit enough intensity into my warm up. Soon, however, it was time to race, and the girls all found themselves approaching the start line for the sprint qualifier. Perrin started first of the Ford Sayre girls, and I began my race a few minutes later. After crossing the finish line, I turned around to see both Kennedy and Greta double poling the last stretch.

We all returned our skis to the ski rack, and then Kennedy and I grabbed our sneakers to cool down and cheer for Emily, Catherine, Hannah, Lucy, and Eloise in their qualifiers.

After the girls had finished, we wished the boys – who were at that point mid-warm up –  good luck in their races, then headed inside to rest before the heats.