November 03, 2010 (Muonio, Finland) – The Craftsbury Green Racing Program athletes were the first of over 20 U.S. athletes heading to Europe including U.S. Ski Team members and nine athletes subsidized by the NCCSEF. The Craftsbury Green contingent arrived in Muonio, Finland for the season start FIS races this weekend. The American racers will test their fitness and speed against some of the strongest athletes in the world with five FIS races in Muonio (November 12-14) and Rovaniemi, Finland (November 20-21), as well as ample on-snow training. This will be the largest group of North American racers ever in attendance at the venues.
Lauren Jacobs of the Craftsbury Green Racing Program is among the first eight skiers to land in Finland. Read her blog report about the trip to Europe and her first impressions about Muonio.
After a long couple days of travel we are now settled in our home for the next three weeks: Muonio, Finland. The flights over were pretty uneventful, except that our plane to Paris was remarkably empty so we were all able to stretch out and sleep a bit during the flight. As our final flight descended into Rovaniemi we caught glimpses of a dusting of snow below and an excellent view of a brilliant pink sunset. That may have been our last flight of the journey to Finland but it was not the end of our travels, as we still had a 3 hour drive to Muonio.
The drive from Rovaniemi to Muonio really deserves its own paragraph. Try to picture this: eight skiers plus one Pepa and all of the accompanying ski bags and luggage attempting to squeeze into a nine-seater van. We wanted to strap the ski bags to the top of the van but it only opened on one side (and there was no rack) so there was no way to string the straps through the doors. Instead we piled the ski bags down the center aisle of the van and the duffel bags on top and around – basically wherever they could fit. Chelsea and Hannah had to assume their seats in the back before the van was totally packed because we had to stuff the bags around them. (They definitely drew the short end of the stick on that one.) Three of the seats were facing backwards and the ski bags ran right up to the middle seat in that row. I was sitting there which meant that I had to either straddle the ski bags or stand on the seat while leaning over to avoid hitting the ceiling of the van. For the next three hours I alternated between these two positions, which understandably probably drove Pat and Ollie nuts, but it was the only way I could figure out to prevent my legs from going numb. All in all it was a pretty interesting drive. However uncomfortable we may have been it was exciting to be driving north and seeing snow. And it felt so good to finally get to our cabins beside the river in Muonio!
Our first time on snow was during a skate ski on Wednesday morning. There is some natural snow but what we are skiing on right now is mostly snow saved from last year (mounded into a big pile and preserved under sawdust) and man-made snow. The skiing is great! About 4 km of trails are open at the moment but they hope to double that by this weekend. A big biathlon range with 41 points is located right in the middle of it all and I’m looking forward to getting some shooting in. Though I have to admit that seeing the entire Swedish National Biathlon Team training this morning was really intimidating. This morning we had the pleasant surprise of waking up to a few inches of new snow for our classic ski. Technique has been the big focus so far, making sure we start off the season with good, efficient skiing. This is the time to make changes and today Pepa was out with her video camera, watching carefully as always. The trails are packed with athletes from all over: Sweden, Norway, Russia, Belarus, Switzerland, Estonia, and Ukraine. It’s awesome to see so many great skiers in one place, although I think if I tried to ski behind one of the Russian women going “easy” I would be somewhere north of my threshold pace. They. Are. Fast.
Hans, Chelsea and I had a chance to explore the town during our afternoon run yesterday. We successfully located the library and the thrift store, so we’re hoping to go back and visit them again soon!