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Sailors Nordic team heats up at home event

Steamboat Springs High School Nordic skier Connor Frithsen was the first Sailor to cross the finish line during a home event Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Every competitor knows warming up is crucial ahead of an athletic endeavor. Warming up means getting your heart beating and your blood pumping through your muscles — and sometimes even breaking a sweat. However, when it’s 15 degrees outside, breaking a sweat isn’t the best idea.

The Steamboat Springs High School Nordic team had to find a happy medium when it came to getting warm before its home race against Middle Park and Poudre Valley on Saturday afternoon.

The key to getting ready for a race in the cold is getting warm but not hot, according to junior Katie Castor.



“If it’s cold enough, you put on enough layers, and if you get too hot and start sweating, you just deal with it,” said sophomore Aspen Bennett-Manke.

Sailors junior Grady Piva takes a slightly different approach. He just wears his race suit, which is breathable but not stifling, engineered to keep racers from overheating, even when working hard.



“We usually start warming up about 20 minutes before the race starts, and the trick is just to not stop moving until you’ve got to get in line for the race,” Piva said. “You don’t want to lower your heart rate and then bring it back up again.”

Sophomore Connor Frithsen explained the typical warm-up, which begins with some casual laps at what the team calls level two — a pace at which they can hold a conversation. Then, as the race start nears, the athletes perform some pickups — short intervals in which they pick up the pace.

The beginning of Saturday’s race was zippy, starting with a long downhill stretch that skiers could glide through. Being familiar with the course helped the Steamboat skiers.

“(The key is) knowing the speeds you should go into the hills and when you should recover a little bit on the downhills,” Frithsen said.

At the bottom of the course, before heading back uphill to complete the first of two laps, is a sharp turn. That’s what the team worked on all week: nailing “the corner.”

“Jesse always says, ‘shin angle, shin angle,’” Castor said referring to the advice of Steamboat coach Jesse Wilkins.

When skiing around the corner, athletes remember their coach’s words and bend their knees so their ankles form a 45-degree angle, and their shins are pointing toward the ground.

“When you have more shin angle, it’s easier to move your feet faster so you can get around the corner faster,” Bennett-Manke said.

After the race, athletes embark on a small cool-down and hydrate. On Saturday, they were treated to 25-degree weather, so they stayed warm after finishing the race.

“The sun is pretty warm today, but usually, you get pretty cold,” Frithsen said. “You sit next to the heater on the bus with two jackets on, and you’re still shivering.”


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