USST Slogs Through Soggy Sprint TT

Nathaniel HerzOctober 15, 20105
L-R, Newell, Reynolds, Freeman, and Hamilton. All photos by Topher Sabot.

Three long sleeve shirts, a short sleeve shirt, two warm-up shells, a hat, extra socks, and two pairs of gloves. And a puffy jacket.

“I pretty much put everything in my bag,” Simi Hamilton said.

When it’s 38 degrees and raining, and you have a four-heat sprint time trial ahead of you, you’re going to need a lot of clothes. Not to say that the dry stuff would remain that way for long, though: by the end of the morning, athletes were racing in whatever they had left: wind pants, raincoats, cycling  caps—you name it.

Coach Grover

After a week of sun and warmth at the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST’s) final dryland camp in Lake Placid, athletes and coaches finally got stuck with a day of typical New England fall misery. And the nor’easter that blew in just happened to coincide with one of the camp’s toughest and longest workouts: a sprint time trial with a qualification round and full heats, held on a loop at the Olympic Jumping Complex.

There was no fanfare when the Andy Newell stood at the gate as the first starter in the qualification round—just a line of athletes behind him waiting their turn, and a handful of coaches in raincoats and jeans trying to stay warm.

Days like this are tough on everyone, and the cold and wet weather doesn’t do much for athletes who are already walking a fine line between building fitness and fending off illness. But there’s still value to be found in the workout—while the athletes will spend the morning drenched and cold, they need practice at racing while drenched and cold.

“It could be pouring like this in Oslo, for sure,” said USST Coach Pete Vordenberg, referring to the site of this year’s World Championships.

Between the men and the women, roughly 30 athletes slog their way through a qualification round. Then, there’s a break before the rounds go off. Skiers don their soaking-wet warm-ups, jog around the parking lot, climb into vans—anything to preserve a little warmth.

“This officially sucks now,” says the USST’s Kris Freeman as he rolls by.

The heats finally start up half an hour later. With 20 men, the USST staff is forced to send out five heats of four at a time. Heats normally have six athletes, but with some tight corners and slippery conditions , the course can’t support that many on Friday. To make matters worse, there’s a straightaway that gets used in both directions, which means that coaches can only send out one round at a time, rather than running all five in brief succession. Nobody gets eliminated either—everyone here will race a quarterfinal, semifinal, and final.

Heather Mooney

The wet weather makes the dicey course even dicier. Tips and rollerskis are broken, athletes slip as they take their first steps off the line, and a body of water verging on a small pond nearly envelops some of the smaller athletes at the bottom of the course.

The "pond"

But despite the weather, the workout rolls on, inexorably. After two-and-a-half hours out in the rain, Freeman skis away from Newell and Hamilton in the final of the men’s heats. He collects his sopping pile of clothes and is gone from the scene in fifteen minutes.

Within an hour, the weather has turned to snow. Back at the Olympic Training Center, where the athletes are living for the camp, there is a lot of laundry to be done. And there is also at least a small level of satisfaction among everyone involved for having completed the workout—weather be damned.

The top women...
Scott Patterson navigates the channel

More water skiing

Second is not a good place to be here...
And more water skiing
Wet and wild
Coach Whitcomb
Tim Reynolds leads Freeman and Hamilton up the first climb. Newell broke a tip at the start of this one, and joined the next heat.
Katie Bono - skiing fast
Jesse Diggins
Patrick O'Brien striding it out
Newell trailing Mike Sinnott early
Becca Rorabaugh out of the big corner, ahead of Katie Bono
The faces say it all - enjoying an "officially sucky day..." and getting it done regardless

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • Martin Hall

    October 16, 2010 at 7:14 am

    No question in my mind—you guys are the toughest!!!!!

    Love the water spray shots—never seen pics like these.

    Pete is right—I have spent some shitty ass days on the 50km course in Oslo—in March—cold—and pouring—how I skied back in—I’ll never know.

  • mandlim

    October 16, 2010 at 11:38 am

    “This is the training nobody ever sees.” Thanks for the awesome photo log. Those athletes rock.

  • patrickkidd

    October 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Nice deal, thanks.

  • Andy_Hardy

    October 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Does Freeman have a couple of small dogs attached to his calves? I liked seeing a Bates suit in there splashing through the puddles. Looks like fun.

  • bigski

    November 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Well its about time for an article on how tough it can be to become the best. I was starting to think it was a mambypamby sport where we all just went out and had FUN everyday. Yes, training in a cold rain is no FUN at all. What is required is a certain amount of sufferage and 38 and rain certainly fills the boots on that!

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