Coach Perspective: Chris O

Norway Trip Reflections – Chris Osgood – Guest coach

[We were so lucky to have Chris & Mary Heller Osgood, Putney Ski Club, as coaches on the Norway trip!!]

This year, thirty five years after we first skied in the Birkebeiner, we had the privilege to return with the Ford Sayre Group.  We knew when we signed up for a trip with Dennis and Scottie and Tim and Margaret as team leaders that we would have a wonderful trip.  That is complete and total understatement.  The detail of planning, the diversity of activities, the care, attention, and respect modeled within the group, and the quality of the overall experience were simply extraordinary.  When Jørgen, Chelsea, and Chris joined the group in Lillehammer, the dimensions of the experience increased even more.

When our bus deposited us in the start field in Rena on the morning of this year’s Birkebeiner, my memories from standing here before came trickling back. The sky was overcast that day as well, the instructions on the loudspeaker spoken in Norwegian still didn’t make much sense, and the tracks narrowed just as quickly from many to just eight when you entered the forest.

Chris and Tim going through Sjusjøen

We first skied in the Norwegian Birkebeiner in 1982.  Our son Brayton, was not quite a year old and with lots of help from friends and family we completed our first Birkebiener experience.  We still have delightful memories from that trip and that day: the predawn ride in a school bus to Rena, navigating the start procedures, the endless skiers in the tracks and the warmth of the crowd as we headed toward Lillehammer.

But what impressed me just as much about the trip was getting to know this extraordinary group of young skiers.  They are respectful, curious, excited, funny, dedicated, and helpful.  They are purposeful young athletes and fine skiers.  A favorite part of the day was often the reflections that each skier gave at the end of the team meeting in the evening.  There was always a variety in their reflections.  I appreciated the humor, the honesty, and the attention to different aspects of the day they noticed.  I always learned something.  On the Thursday before the Birkie, one skier simply said “Tired. Bed!”.  That was followed verbatim by the next 5 skiers.  I couldn’t help but smile.

My thanks to everyone on the trip.  It was a wonderful experience and we know how lucky we are to have been part of it.  We won’t wait another 35 years to go back, that’s for sure.

With deep appreciation,

Chris Osgood

Coach Perspective: Mary

by Mary Heller Osgood

[We were so lucky to have Chris & Mary Heller Osgood, Putney Ski Club, as coaches on the Norway trip!!  Mary shares her perspective here; Chris’s reflections will be the next post]

Mary in Sjusjøen

Skiing in the Birkie on a spectacular day with perfect wax was the culmination of a wonderful week of skiing and anticipation with the Ford Sayre skiers and coaches. Before arriving in Lillehammer, I didn’t know any of the skiers and I didn’t have a clear idea of what was in store for them (or me). By the second day, I had most of their names down (though I still made plenty of mistakes!) and I was just beginning to know them as individuals. The rest of the week was rewarding on so many levels as we skied and ate and talked and laughed and got physically tired together.

When we made our way to the starting line of the Birkie, I was impressed with the confidence of all the Ford Sayre skiers. Sara and Keelan were poised and cheerful as they were interviewed just minutes before the gun went off, and that composure was maintained by all our skiers whom I saw during the first few Ks (after that, they were far enough ahead that I rarely caught any glimpses of those snowflake covered ski suits…). It was really nice to see how universally happy all the skiers and coaches were after the race – I heard no excuses or complaints from anyone – only positive, happy comments.

The final tour up to Snørvillen really pulled the entire trip together for me. Everyone was relaxed and just happy to be out on the freshly groomed trails with beautiful views. Even though I heard several comments about legs (including my own) being tired, those were followed by, “I’m not quite ready to leave Norway!” I felt the same way. Thanks.

Mary, Chris, Tim, Margaret on Snørvillen

Back Home: The Other End of the Craftsbury Relays

by Sara

Hello to all of you JNT Blog readers, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dasche. Those crazy Spencers are my well trained humans and today I will be taking over Sara’s job of writing commentary on the Vermont Republic National Nordic Championships. It seems kind of wrong to have Sara write about herself, she talks about herself enough already. Now, as we continue onto the real story, let’s all agree that the following commentary is pure “fact.”

Originally Sara was going to head up to the Spring Fling in Craftsbury for some fun relay racing, however, the Gods of March were strongly against this notion. As she drove down the road they forced the car into a 360 on the ice. Since the relays were a botch, I decided to host the VRNNC, paw selecting the racers from the two local teams present. The competitors were Stan the Man, representing team DAD (Disabled and Dying) and Sara of the Native Vermonters. The racers marched out of the house in style…the less the better.

Today’s start was Lemans style with both contestants running to a random pile of skis and poles; don’t worry FIS, they were both complying the 126% rule. It was a rough start for both as they ran to their skis and poles attempting to put on the equipment while avoiding the competitive scrum. Soon the race was underway and Stan the Man made his way up the first hill of the sprint course, leaving Sara to pick ice chunks from her eyes after an inglorious fall into a snowbank. The Man was doing perfect technique up the first climb, getting the most out of his extra green with a bit of spittle kick wax. Soon he realized he really was an old man as his heart rate monitor (drool measuring device) began going into overdrive, and the young and spry Sara was able to close the formidable distance. Reaching the Morderbachen the two racers went up and over the hill wheezing. Soon hitting the epic slopes where Stanley promptly fell off the trail and Sara said Adios!

This continued for another 5 laps, beating back and forth as some highly illegal moves were made, but quickly overlooked as a doggy treat was thrown my way. Clearly the race would be decided by which racer gave me the most treats and pats while enduring the horrific pain of racing their number one nemesis. As they came back around the stadium for the finish, another competitor of team MOM (Mature and Obviously Magnificent) arrived. Stepping out of the car in a highly dignified and powerful way she ended the race abruptly, calling all hands on deck or face risk of disqualification. The racers quickly forfeited the race to the dominant MOMs and I herded them inside, doing my day’s chores.

This has been a wonderful winter full of great races and maturing skiers. Hope to see you next year at the annual VRNNC’s!! And now a quick public service message to the Gods of March: Get moving!!! It’s high time I’ve moved from my perch on Sara’s bed to the front porch so I can chase deer around right off the bat rather than having to order my humans to open the door for me! Come on! I should be dreaming of biting the mail man’s ankles.

Bribery works very well.

Day 12: Snørvillen Ski

by Erik              [this is the final athlete post of the Norway trip… stay tuned for some coach posts!]

Sunday morning was the toughest of all the other mornings to get out of bed. I opened my eyes to sunlight pouring through the window of the small bunk room. John and I slowly rolled out of bed. John literally rolled out of his bed, which did not end well since he was on the top bunk. The rest of the morning was a blur. My body was still in shock from the amount of skiing I had done on Saturday. I quickly threw on some ski clothes, as well as the last pair of clean socks that were left in my duffle. We packed up the vans with the skis of our desired technique and headed out.

The day was beautiful. The sky was bright blue and the snow sparkled as if to invite everyone in Norway to come out and ski on such an amazing morning. That was not far off from what actually happened. We hit the trails, and saw so many people out there just enjoying the day. The famous Zachary Caldwell and his family were out there as well, looking very pro. His son Gunnar was striding alongside us as we skated, and he had absolutely no trouble keeping up. The ski continued, and I could feel that my body was exhausted. I managed to double pole the rest of our 25 km recovery ski since my knee was feeling sore. I started to understand how Adam must have felt in the Birkie as I struggled up the last mountain thing that we had to get over in order to get back to the vans. Yes, Adam double poled 54 km on Saturday, and he survived.

top of Snørvillen

After climbing for a few kilometers, we reached the top and were treated with a wonderful view of the mountains and endless snowy hills. We took some quality team pictures, and then headed back to the vans. It was such an amazing last ski in Norway, and I don’t think the weather could have been any better. I was still tired though, so when we got back I passed out on the couch for an hour or so before attempting to neatly pack all my clothes in preparation for Monday’s departure. So anyways, it was a fun way to end our ski adventures in Norway. Maybe we will fit some more spring skiing back home, but if not, that was the best final ski of any winter that I can remember! 



Day 11: Birkebeiner (JNT athlete perspective)

by all JNT athlete Birkebeiner skiers!

Malcolm: It was great to race against people of all different ages, both men and women, and still get my butt kicked. It was an incredibly exciting race, even without getting hit by any snowmobiles. The views were incredible, and easily made the pain worth it.

Teammates preparing for a long ski!

Sara: The 2017 Birkebeiner was one of the best skis of my life. Waking up early with my team and heading to the venue, we dabbed sparkles and face paint on our cheeks and got hyped together before the race, and then we all came together at the end of the race to help each other recover. In the middle was a time of sunny skies with seas of people stretching forward and backward into infinity as I skied along with the other 8000 participants (16,000 participated across all the events that comprise the “Birken Skifestival”). It was amazing to see skiing as such a large event and to be a part of it. Loud cheering crowds along the trail, aid stations, some planned and some just random people holding out bananas or chocolate, and perfect conditions and wax made this day one I will never forget.

Jacob: I did as the coaches said and found an old man with a bunch of old Birken tags on his skis to follow.  This gentleman had very fast skis, so I would pull ahead on the climbs, and then he would catch me on the downhills.  We made it to a particularly long and fast downhill, and part of the way down, I watched him fly by me.  Unfortunately, there was a large group of slow skiers ahead of us taking up all of the tracks.  My pace setter was unable to get out of their way, and he smashed right into one of the slow skiers ahead of us, hitting the ground, breaking a ski, and spinning off of the trail into the snow.  Ouch.

The skies cleared as we were waiting to start!

Andy: This race was one of the most fun and exciting races I have ever taken part in. It was a beautiful bluebird day with the temperature hovering around 35. Our team had some of the best skis with amazing glide and even better kick. Later as I felt myself beginning to slow down and I used the beautiful day and the hundreds of spectators lining the trail as motivation to keep skiing hard. One day I would love to go back and ski it again, but I doubt it will be a day much better than this one was.

Perrin: The entire trip we had talked about the Birke, how excited we were, how long it was going to be, how we were going to go about racing it. But when the day of the race came, no amount of talking could have prepared me for how much fun I was going to have. The weather was perfect, and I strided a large amount of the 54 km which is my favorite kind of skiing. Greta kept me going and we chatted and followed each other the whole way. It was amazing to have someone to ski with and it made the time go by so fast! I don’t even remember skiing for 4.5 hours, all I remember is the blue skies, beautiful views, and thousands of skiers ahead and behind us. The feeling of accomplishment afterwards was incredible and I hope to come back and do it again someday!

Erik at the finish

Erik: I didn’t know what to expect from my first Birkebeiner, but I wasn’t disappointed at all. Thousands of people showed up on Sunday for the same reason. To cross country ski for 33 miles on one of the nicest days I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed it so much that a couple times I forgot I was actually racing. Even though I had to set my own pace for the whole time, I was not alone. I passed thousands of people, and admired everyone just enjoying themselves and doing what they love to do. The race went really well for me, not just because of my time, but also because it was an amazing experience overall. I’m so happy we were able to ski the Birkebeiner and share so many amazing moments together throughout the whole trip.

Kennedy and Greta before the start

Kennedy: The Birkie was a very exciting race for me. I started by skiing the first kilometer around the familiar faces of my teammates and coaches, but was quickly separated after deciding to stop and take off my jacket. I skied the rest of the race more or less alone, but still had so much fun! I was able to meet people from all over the world. For example, I talked to a man from Granada, Spain, who ended up singing to me (he was very nice!) and another native Norwegian. I also had to stop at the top of the first big climb to marvel at the beautiful views. Seeing Liz waving her American flag and Dennis cheering me on in Sjusjoen was definitely one of the highlights for me! I hope that I will be able to do the race again because it was an amazing experience!

(Sportograf photo)

Adam: The Birkebeiner was an amazing experience.  We were lucky enough to have perfect weather.  I started in wave 15 and had to pass a ton of people, but it was really cool to see how many people were out there enjoying themselves and the sport I love so much.  I double poled the entire race on blank classic skis just like the fastest skiers in the elite wave and although I didn’t go as fast as they did, I got to feel what it was like to double pole a ski marathon just like the pros.

Keelan: This race was by far the most amazing race of my life. The perfect weather made for absolutly breath taking views which I will never forget. Something else that will stick with me for the rest of my life was looking behind me to see the hundreds of people that I had passed and then looking in front of me to see hundreds more. This was an equally amazing experience to all the cool things we did on this trip and I really hope I get the opportunity to race it again.

(Sportograf photo)

Tim: When it comes to ski racing I tend to lean more towards skating; skiing the Birkie made me love classic skiing just as much. Something about the amazing wax, the gorgeous weather, and going hard for 54K just made me really happy to be in that moment. There is a great possibility of me never living a day like that – under those circumstances- ever again; there is also no possibility of me ever forgetting that day or the people as long as I live.  Thank you to all.

John: I will never be able to replicate the feeling of being on the course that day. It was inexplicable with the weather and the people. During the whole race I was empowered with the feeling that I could not only race that day in that event but with the people I love to ski with and be around. It made feel part of something bigger, and I will always smile at the thought of a little voice calling my name during the whole race. That voice was Grant, I would not have rathered skied the race with any other person.

Grant: It was amazing! There wasn’t very many steep hills, so I was surprised when–about halfway through–I looked to my left and saw the clouds appeared to be touching the ground. Definitely would like to go back.

Greta and Perrin approach the finish line (Sportograf photo)

Greta: I loved this ski and want to ski it again someday! I woke up sooo excited, and I bounced around my apartment until it was time to leave. Hundreds of people streamed onto buses in the dark, and it felt like a celebration of skiing, snow, and Norway’s independence. Once on the race course, the thousands of people resembled a swarm of ants sweeping over a mountain range covered in blindingly white snow and rays of the burning sun. I skied with Perrin, and after every kilometer marker, we marveled at how many kilometers we’d already skied and enjoyed! The food stations were yummy, and it was amazing to ski with someone; among the hordes of mostly silent skiers around us, our voices and conversations were the magic that kept us going. After a series of downhills that Perrin helped me ski down with me attached to her pole so that we could go the same pace, we crossed the finish line. It felt so satisfactory to know that we are capable of transporting ourselves from town to town on skis! 

Justin: I was really amazed by the amazing weather and beautiful conditions out on the course. I was happy and surprised by all the people cheering for us on the side of the trail despite starting in wave fifteen. Contrary to what I was expecting the race was so interesting and enjoyable that despite some pain it didn’t seem too long. I was glad to ski with all different types of people who were enjoying the experience just as much as me. I will definitely do the Birkebeinerrennet again with far more knowledge and hopefully faster than I did it this time.