WILMINGTON, New York — Ahh, September in the Adirondacks. Even when it rains, nothing quite beats a camp featuring long runs in the High Peaks, cliff jumping at the Flume and, most importantly, a five-mile suffer-fest up Whiteface Mountain.
In case you somehow missed what happened in the Climb to the Castle, Liz Stephen (U.S. Ski Team) demolished the women’s field by over five minutes on the five-mile climb, setting a significant personal record for the course. In the men’s race Tad Elliott (SSCV/USST) played a more tactical game, biding his time in the lead pack until making a break in the second half of the race to win by 10 seconds over Craftsbury’s Pat O’Brien.
As usual, there were some bits and pieces from our post-race interviews that didn’t make the initial race reports. For your entertainment, we’ve compiled them below.
On pre-race jitters:
This is one of those races every year that I get pretty nervous for. Uphill races in general are ones I can do well in and they really hurt — so the combination of all that makes for some stress. The goal today was not to stress about the end but think about all the things I can control and I think I did that pretty well. Joking around at the start was kind of a good thing for me to be doing. I just relaxed because I always have fun when I’m enjoying it.
I think one of the main things I’m working on is to relax more before races. I tend to get pretty stressed and amped and I think it takes away from a good performance. I’ve thought back to the races where I’ve had my best performances and there’s always been — like at Spring Series — when I’m joking around and enjoying it, enjoying the people around me, enjoying the atmosphere… That’s why I’m doing it, and if I can cannel it on race day, whether the body shows up or not it’s good to have the mind in the right spot.
— Liz Stephen (1st place)
On Stephen’s winning margin:
Liz just took off from the start and was V2ing pretty steep sections. We just couldn’t hold that pace; it was too soon to even think about going that fast for me. I was pretty impressed with her. It’s really awesome to see her skiing so fast at this time of year.
— Ida Sargent (CGRP/USST, 3rd place)
On skiing with the group:
I’ve done this race a couple times and I can’t remember a group of guys staying together that long. It’s pretty nice to see that everyone’s skiing well.
Most of the guys were [taking turns pulling]; I was not… With two miles to go [Andy] Newell put in a really hard pull. Everyone was kind of looking around and I knew it would be a good place to make an attack.
— Tad Elliott (1st place)
It was hard, as usual. I felt like it started pretty fast…personally I was doing more V1 than I typically do.
We got a group of six to eight out front hammering, taking turns leading. I had a big pull at the front for a while and as soon as I pulled off Tad put on a big attack. And then I pretty much blew up with a mile to go. Pretty similar to what I did last year.
— Andy Newell (SMS T2/USST, 5th place)
We were pretty much at Lake Placid corner before I knew it, and I knew it was going to be windy and I didn’t want to be in a group if it was, pushing wind for other people.
— Pat O’Brien (CGRP, 2nd place)
The plan was to not lead at all and I ended up leading for two miles, probably… [When] Tad made a move a couple of other guys went with them. It was a bit too quick for me; I dropped off a little bit.
— Sylvan Ellefson (SSCV, 4th place)
On the weather:
The conditions were surprisingly good. I thought we’d get a lot of rain and people’s skis would be popping out. But the wind wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Of course, you come through the notch and you’re just fighting with your head down. There’s that brutal headwind and you’re doing a slow V1 into the finish.
— Pat O’Brien
It was a little wet, but I don’t think it really hurt us any. It wasn’t too cold so it wasn’t too bad. It definitely wasn’t last year’s weather, I think the times were probably a little slower because of the water.
— Sylvan Ellefson
On skate vs. classic skis:
Last year I did it classic, but it’s a whole difference race [on skate skis]. And being on skate skis passing people you don’t get quite the looks you do on classic skis.
— Sylvan Ellefson
On technique goals:
I was really trying to think about skiing light and quick. It’s easy to get bogged down in this race since there’s no recovery. You want to keep it light and not build up a lot of lactic acid, keep it controlled and — yeah, just get it over with.
— Ida Sargent
On the finishing stretch:
I always think that this stretch is shorter than it is. I was like, “Sweet, I’ve got 200 meters!” And then I started hammering and I was like, “Oh, not sweet.”
— Jessie Diggins (SMS T2, 2nd place)
On the Climb, and camp in general:
The hill climb, for me, has always just been a full-on fitness test. I never play around too much with how I warm up, I don’t do anything fancy. It’s just a hill climb, we don’t do too many of those.
This is a good time for us to shove each other around a little bit and get ready for the season. All these intensity sessions this week have given us a chance to do that.
— Sylvan Ellefson
View our full Climb to the Castle photo album here.