Yin and Yang

June 10th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Hunter Post

I am a Multi-Sport athlete and High School student.  I compete in alpine ski racing, and cycling. Alpine ski racing consists of Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G.  I have raced gravel and mountain bike, and plan to add road racing this season. People find it hard to believe that a fall and winter sport can take up an entire year. My ski season starts in November, and continues until April. I start cycling in April and ride until November with about 2 weeks off in between the seasons. These two very different sports take up most of my  time and energy, I am so grateful for where they’ve brought me.

The social aspect of each sport is important to me. I have met so many new friends that have similar interests and have fun both training and racing with them. In skiing, my coaches emphasize a balance between having fun on the hill and training; the same applies in cycling, too. Having friends to ski or bike with for fun helps me to do that. Some of my closest friends that I train with are also my competitors which pushes us to work harder and gives us the opportunity to learn from each other. In each sport I am part of multiple teams, from my high school ski and mountain bike teams to competitive teams outside of school. I look forward to these practices because of the team atmosphere and to see my friends.

On the teams I belong to, there are athletes with varying skill levels and passion for racing. Belonging to these teams gives me a chance to practice more, work with more rigorous coaches and gain experience. I hope to pursue both of my sports at the collegiate level in two years and hope that this will help my chances. In ski racing, we train for the different disciplines separately. For example, setting a slalom course only helps the athletes get ready for a slalom race. There are a few fundamentals including staying on your feet, finding good balance and knowing when to initiate a turn, but the course is set for only slalom or giant slalom, never for both. In cycling there is more crossover on the training. Mountain bike training helps in gravel races. Handling skills for the trail translate into easier passing in sketchier portions. Training for endurance on my road bike correlates into mountain bike races by helping me to manage my breathing and know how to pace myself.



For me, skiing and cycling are like Yin and Yang because my life would not be complete without either.



It helps me to stay focused on one sport at a time, always looking forward to the next season and a chance to start over. Each season has triumphs and defeats that I learn from. It is a cause for celebration when races go well, but honestly I learn more when they don’t go as I hoped. A ski race allows very little room for error. The smallest mistake can change an entire run and two runs are needed to complete a race. Results are often determined by hundredths of a second, so everything has to go right to achieve the results you are looking for. In a mountain bike race, you have more room for error, including falling or mechanical issues. You can overcome the problems you might face in a bike race since you have at least an hour if you face a setback.

By the time one season is coming to an end, I am more than ready for the next to start. I logged 5000 cycling miles in 2020 and couldn’t wait to get on snow.  When my last ski race ended on March 21 of this year, I eagerly packed up my winter gear and waited not very patiently to get on my bike. People always ask me which I like better, and I tell them that I can’t answer that yet and don’t have to choose. Each have different workouts, muscle groups, and race atmosphere. I have found, however, that I am not alone. There are a few of us that both ski and bike race. They go together well, just like yin and yang. I am grateful that I found each of my sports. I hope to continue skiing and biking for the rest of my life.


Making It Work

January 20th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Alex Vanias, Nordic Skier and Cyclist

I moved to Ann Arbor around the beginning of August. It isn’t the most optimal place to be a cross country skier, but I’m making it work. It took me about a month to find some convenient roads and trails to roller ski, but unfortunately after the time change in the fall I would get kicked out of said parks at sunset. Apparently downstaters are scared of the dark… Ok, I’ll go play with the cars. So much safer! It took me a few more weeks in November to find new roads with minimal traffic. I ended up finding some great suburbs with minimal traffic and nice pavement. The only annoying part about suburbs is that between 5-8pm after work, everywhere I go smells like dinner and it absolutely kills me when I’m starving a couple hours into a workout.

A quick side story; When I was searching for roller ski training spots, I came across the short track speed skating club in Ann Arbor and absolutely needed to try it out! I actually competed in a short speed skatingtrack race in Midland before ski season. In the image below, I’m the guy in fluorescent green. I’m actually very bad at short track. It is very much a technique sport, and my VO2 helped me very minimally. It may or may not have made my skate skiing more efficient, though!

I knew ski training would be a struggle, so in October I was lucky to find a used Ski Erg. This device has transformed my training and is currently saving my season. It allows me to work my weakness even when the trails are bare, and the roads are icy. It also allows me to train with power. I have done a couple 20min power tests so far with lots of improvement. The picture below is worth a thousand words.

ski erg

In December we got dumped on with snow and all the local trails were groomed and amazing. The Michigan Cup racing kicked off and I won a couple of the season openers. It was great to get that early season lung burn over with! That great snow only lasted 2-3 weeks before a series of unfortunate warmups.

Where did all the snow go?

Where did all the snow go?

speed max

Classic boot with full carbon sole offers superb control of the skis while remaining lightweight!

I was on the fence about going up to SISU Ski Fest the first weekend in January, but not having been on great snow in a couple weeks lead me to sign up for the race a few days before it started. The forecast for the race was a frigid -5F to 0F. It’s tough to go from 50F training all the way down to that, but I have awesome cold skis so I couldn’t turn it down. The drive to Ironwood is about 10hrs in one directions, and of course there were blizzards to drive through. On the way up I stopped my Northbound Outfitters for some wax and Fischer’s new Speedmax Classic boots (These boots are really worth the upgrade!).

The weather for SISU was looking straight forward all week- frigid cold. I planned on using my coldest, softest ski with TB1x grind no matter what. My TG1-1 grind on a stiff ski just happened to be testing the same as my TB1x at the start area. I knew using the TG1-1 was a liability, especially since it was starting to snow, but 10min before the race start I grabbed the risky ski hoping that the snow was packed and the snow would stop. The forecast didn’t call for snow until the afternoon so it was worth a shot.

ski testing

ski testing at -5F

All was going fantastic and I was calm and relaxed following in the draft while I watched Matt Liebsch start opening a gap. I thought “no problem, I’ll let him do some work and then bridge up to him.” I finally got around and opened up a gap on the hills. I felt great- possibly better than last year. Then the snow started getting deep, up to 2-3” in spots. My skis suddenly felt terrible. I know everybody’s skis slowed waaay down, and I’m sure others made a mistake picking skis as well, it’s just that some skis are less slow than others in this situation.  Turns out the skis I planned on using all week would have been the way to go. Lesson learned.

Matt got out of sight, and Joel bridged up and eventually dropped me. I couldn’t drink because my face was frozen. I was on the struggle bus, big time! I was actually doing V1 technique on the flats. V1 is a  technique usually reserved for going uphill but that’s how slow the conditions became. In the last few kilometers I saw Cory coming up behind me. At this point the wind and snow was so bad I couldn’t see the trail in front of me. My eyeballs were so cold and I would try to ski short distances with my eyes closed to warm them up. My left eyelid wasn’t even closing all the way! In the end, I held off Cory for 3rd place. It was a good, tough race. That’s what I drove 20hrs for. There is so much to learn with ski racing which is why you don’t see many young guys at the top of races. Experience and equipment tends to trump everything in difficult snow conditions.


sisu ski

Limiting my losses at SISU

Unfortunately the weather is still not cooperating in Ann Arbor to do much on-snow skiing so I’ll have to continue my mix of using the Ski Erg, riding the trainer and running. Training for ski season this year has made me feel more like a fitness enthusiast than a skier!   I’m looking forward to getting some more racing in and my next big test is the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in Marquette the last weekend in January!




Birkie 2016- A Physical, Technical Test

February 22nd, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson and Alex Vanias, OAM NOW Nordic skiers and cyclists

birkie bibs

Each American Birkebeiner has its own personality and this year’s race definitely had a volatile and unpredictable flair. Taking place every February in northern Wisconsin, the race usually occurs under ideal ski conditions- plenty of snow and temperatures in the 20s. However, this El Nino year was going to throw some curveballs.

The Birkie is the biggest cross country ski event in North America, drawing 10,000 skiers from around the country and the world. It is a bizarre and awesome phenomenon that this quirky population gathers en masse every year to race 50 kilometers between the tiny towns of Cable and Hayward. Birkie is a date circled in red on countless cross country skiers’ calendars whether they are shooting for the win and huge prize purse, an age group award, a better wave placement, or surviving  the endless hills of the Birkie trail. Everyone wants fast skis for this iconic event and when the weather creates tricky waxing conditions, it causes something close to mass hysteria. Which is exactly what happened this year.

This is not what skiers want to see 36 hours before race time!

This is not what skiers want to see 36 hours before race time!

Early in the week leading to the race, the temperatures were very cold in Hayward- down to -15 F with 2-5 inches of fresh snow. However, the weather was predicted to warm up to the upper 30s and low 40s starting on Thursday, rain on Thursday evening and Friday, and remaining above freezing for race time on Saturday. In order to protect the snow base, the fresh snow on the course was not groomed and  was closed to all skiers on Thursday and Friday. The course was not groomed until overnight on Friday before the race.

Usually at Birkie, several ski shops and wax services perform wax and ski tests all week and have a very good idea as to what is going to be fastest on race day. However, with the rapidly changing conditions and closed course, testing was of relative little value in the days before the race.  Because of the wide range of possible snow temperature and structure, the professional skiers with wax service teams prepared many possible race skis in the days leading up to the race. Eventual women’s race winner Caitlin Gregg “narrowed” her ski choices down to 13 pairs the day before the race!


Since Alex and I don’t have a service team and have six skis between us (only one pair is mine but the varying flexes means I can often benefit from his fleet) meant that we had quite the task of preparing skis that could put us in the mix of the fastest skiers in the race. In addition, we have very little experience preparing skis for warm, wet conditions as it is quite uncommon during ski season in the Midwest.

We arrived in Cable on Wednesday night and went on a quick ski to check out the snow. We were met with fast, ideal conditions and a beautiful moon. Although we were wishing the race could be held before the weather became temperamental, we had no choice but to try to make the best of what we had. On Thursday, the research began in earnest and we headed to the expo in pursuit of bibs and a couple more tricks for optimal ski prep. We did not have any liquid fluoros and determined that it would be especially beneficial to add speed early in the race and help us make the initial separations. It also could be applied immediately before the start after our warm-up was completed (“fluoro” refers to fluorine which is a negatively charged atom that repels both water and dirt which are generally negatively charged. Fluro content is especially important in wet and dirty snow- which this year’s Birkie was both. For anyone interested in the physics, check out this article). After visiting the Swix tent at the expo and several ski shops, we finally found the swix HVC liquid flouro we were looking for. It was the last in stock at our last stop and likely the only one left within a several hundred mile radius.

Anxiety levels became much lower once Alex was confident we had enough tools to prepare competitive skis. Since we arrived in Cable early, we had all day on Friday to test and prepare skis. Friday morning offered comparable temperatures to race morning and although we didn’t have access to the course, we tested on a groomed section of trail that we hoped was similar to the race course.

Where the magic happens!

Where the magic happens!

We prepared all our skis with the same molybdenum high flouro baselayer to get an idea of which skis were running best. Despite the rain on Thursday and temperatures above freezing for a full 24 hours, the trail remained firm and surprisingly fast. It was pretty clear for both of us which skis were running best- my universal flex ski with a warm grind and Alex’s universal flex with an LS1 cold grind. Although Alex has invested in his ski fleet this year including a pair of Speedmax skis meant to be optimal for Birkie, the unusual conditions unfortunately made them irrelevant.

After setting our race skis aside, we then tested waxes and topcoats on the slower skis. Alex prepared one pair with Toko high-fluoro yellow paraffin and FC10 topcoat and the other Swix HF 8 with FC8X (red) topcoat. The yellow wax is meant for wetter and warmer conditions and was running a bit faster than the red which is a bit harder wax meant for slightly cooler conditions.  However, a complicating factor was the course would be tilled before the race- possibly bringing up colder snow that was insulated underneath. But we had no idea the snow temperature or how transformed the snow would be. Despite the warm and wet conditions, we decided the added durability and potential of colder snow made the slightly harder red waxes our choice for paraffin (Swix HF8) and topcoat (FC8X). This thinking was backed up by testing and wax recommendations from other teams.

The HVC liquid flouro was the final layer and we tested it on our pre-race workout- each of us applying it to just one ski. It was noticeably faster and we were happy to see it lasted over 10-k as one drawback of many liquid fluoros is the limited durability.

However, after the testing and decision had been made, the rain began in earnest. A combination of rain and wintery mix fell much of the evening, creating a sheet of ice by the time we went to bed. With all the factors in play, Alex and I got up at 4am to check out the snow in case we had to make some last minute changes.

The course begins in a wide open field and we arrived in the pre-dawn darkness to find wet and soft conditions as the temperature remained about 38 degrees overnight. Although it was in contrast to the firm trail we had been testing on, our skis were moving well and hoped it would be enough.

The Birkie starts in waves with the elite women’s wave going off first and followed 20 minutes later by the elite men. Some years the leaders of the men’s race catch the female leaders and some years they don’t so that is almost a race in itself. The women’s elite field is very small- only about 60 racers and I was able to start on the front row of the huge start line with some of the best skiers in the world. This was probably one of the cooler moments of my ski career.

Start of the elite women's field  (Photo credit- American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation©2016)

Start of the elite women’s field
(Photo credit- American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation©2016)

Despite a front row start, I fell back in the field a bit because the opening section was quite variable with sections of soft powder and icy patches. It took me a while to find a rhythm and by that time, the lead group was off the front. However, I was able to find a good group of five women to ski with and we took turns pulling. After the starting field, the course changed to be hard packed and fast- much different than anything we had tested on but my skis were great. Because of the high speeds, drafting was crucial and it felt very much like a bike race.

Meanwhile, Alex was fighting to stay with the lead pack- dangling off the back and having to make up the gaps once guys were dropped. Since the conditions were fast, drafting became so important to the race dynamics that many guys were skipping feeds instead of risking losing the draft. Although Alex’s skis were among the fastest in the soft snow, they were too soft to be optimal for the unexpected hard-packed trail. Eventually, Alex lost the pack and joined a chase group that had formed just behind. Although the pace was comfortable in the group, a fall at about 24k caused him to lose the group. Despite chasing hard to reestablish contact, the group acted like a peloton that is essentially impossible to catch. This left Alex to race the second half alone, stuck in no-man’s land and missing the benefit of any draft.

birkie hr

TrainingPeaks tells the story better than anything else


With about 18k to go I heard the sound of the lead snowmobile and I moved over as the lead pack of about 15 guys sped by followed several minutes later by a chase pack of 10. I was bummed to not see Alex but soon after he caught me solo. I was able to match him just for a few strides but is helped me to get enough of a gap on my group that they lost my draft and I took advantage of the next several steep climbs to shake them for good.

In the final 3 kilometers racers cross Lake Hayward before finishing on Main Street in Hayward. The recent rain made for a slushy crossing with some ankle deep standing water which made for an especially challenging final push to the finish.

The American Birkebeiner finishes in downtown Hayward to a extremely supportive crowd

The American Birkebeiner finishes in downtown Hayward to a extremely supportive crowd

Alex stopped the clock at 2:14:09 averaging over 14 mph for 31 miles, claiming 25th place and 13th American in a very competitive international field. I finished in 2:40:24, taking 18th in the women’s race as the 12th American. We were the first male and female finishers from Michigan including both upper and lower peninsulas. It was also an improvement over last year’s Birkie finish for both of us.

Both men’s and women’s overall titles were won by Americans as Caitlin Gregg won her fourth Birkie title and David Norris overtook six Europeans in the final kilometer for an upset win.

Although we had both been hoping to crack the top ten, the course conditions did not play to our strengths and we were somewhat limited by a small fleet of skis. Considering the challenges of the weekend, it was a very solid showing from both of us.

Jon Morgan also represented Team OAM Now, skiing out of wave 1 and finished his 24th! Birkie in 2:53:26. Jon was content with his race considering the unrelenting hills of the course and the rebuilding he has had to do this year after his hamstring injury last year at Noque.

Team OAM Now taking advantage of the trails to ski and test before the race!

Team OAM Now taking advantage of the trails to ski and test before the race!


The ski season is almost done for the nordic team with only two more race weekends. This weekend is Black Mountain in Cheboygan followed by Great Bear Chase in Calumet the first weekend in March.


The complete searchable Birkie results can be found here and an article about the winners by FasterSkier.

Six Reasons Nordic is Hard, but Also Awesome

February 12th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM Now skier and cyclist

Cross country skiing is a unique sport and as you get more immersed in the sport, the more quirks arise.  For a bit of skiing enlightenment for curious onlookers, I made a list of some of the quirky parts of nordic skiing that make it an intriguing sport.

Kaitlyn en route to winning the White Pine Stampede this season

Kaitlyn en route to winning the White Pine Stampede this season

The challenge of mastering not just one, but two different techniques
Actually, master is a strong word. Most skiers are naturally better at one and often set up their priority races around that strength (at least mortals who are not professional skiers). Key workouts reflect the demands of important races so it can be easy to neglect improving the weaker technique. Some aspects transfer across techniques (strong double poling, weight transfer, cornering) but they are definitely each unique beasts.

Classic-(also known as striding, or kicking and gliding this is often more well-known in the general population)- Although classic skiing might be the easiest to learn, it is probably the hardest to master as there are a lot of technique subtleties that make it far from running on skis. Since there is a lot of double poling in classic races, athletes with strong upper bodies can have great potential, paddlers are an excellent example of this.

Freestyle: (also known as skating, it is similiar to a rollerblading or ice skating motion)- Skating is the faster technique but requires a wide, groomed trail. The technique definitely has a learning curve and is exhausting without technique. But when it is done well, it’s a beautiful thing.

Alex Vanias skating at U.S. Nationals earlier this season

Skiers need an engine, guns, and finesse
If an athlete have at least one these attributes in a sport, they can often be decent. But similiar to swimming, it is harder to get away faking any of them in skiing. Even if a skier has the highest VO2 max on the start line, if he flails around for a couple hours he won’t win. Or even come close. He will likely be mortified that there are people who look much older, bigger, less fit, have two X chromosomes, etc, who are beating him. By a lot.

On the other hand, good technique goes a long way but also takes time, patience and a good coach. Besides a strong aerobic system and technique, you also need to be strong. Skiing places huge demands on muscle groups that are often neglected like the core, shoulders, back and hips.

It helps to be part Eskimo and part physicist
Snow is never just snow. Eskimos have 50 words for snow and skiers essentially do the same thing, just likely not as eloquently. Differences in the snow will influence which glide wax to use to make skis faster or which kick wax to use on classic skis to allow for adequate kick up the hills.

Differences in air temperature, humidity, and how long the snow has been around are all factors in the structure of the snow and therefore how it interacts with the base of your ski. At recreational levels, using the temperature to pick which wax is just fine, but at the highest level (and budget) all these factors will come into play to select the fastest skis and wax.

To compete on the highest level, an arsenal of skis is necessary to be prepared for any conditions.

To compete on the highest level, an arsenal of skis is necessary to be prepared for any conditions. 

As much as some people (like me) hate to admit that equipment matters, wax and skis are a huge factor in skiing and can make the difference between the race of your life and a terrible race, even with the same output from the athlete.


Unpredictable weather is a significant source of anxiety
Because of the importance of ski and wax selection in racing, the weather plays a huge factor. Weather forecasts are not necessarily known for their impeccable accuracy and when a race is riding on it, this can be a stressful state of affairs. Similar anxiety strikes with especially weird weather or drastic temperature changes over the course of the race.

For example, a conversation en route to a race watching the thermometer on the car might sound like this. “It’s too cold, it wasn’t supposed to be this cold. Think we will have time to rewax when we get there? Why can’t they ever get it right?!”

Marathons require ninja fueling skills.
Ever try handling a cylindrical object with 5 foot sticks strapped to your hands while traveling at 10+ miles per hour at 80-90% max HR? Enough said.  Fueling requires practice and attention to logistical challenges. Bottles freeze, camelbak hoses freeze and cold gels change from semisolids to solids. Solutions include insulated bottles, awesome friends or family willing to do bottle handoffs, and practice with a drink belt and gels that remain accessible.

Skiing easy demands skiing verrry sloooowly

Since it is such a full-body, demanding activity, it can be hard to ski easy enough to be considered recovery. It can be done, but is easier alone and if necessary not uploaded to Strava (check out Elaine’s blog post on that topic!)


Although it might sound like an overly technical and intimidating sport, cross country skiing can be an accessible and enjoyable form of cross training, recreation or competition. The quirky technicalities of the sport at higher levels are fun to some but are not a barrier to enjoying the woods at any speed.

Team OAM NOW XC Ski Clinic- It Really Did Snow This Year!

February 4th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

For cyclists, this winter in southeast Michigan has been great for riding with the warmer temps and low (No!) snowfall.  However, for cross country skiers like those members of the Team OAM NOW Nordic Ski Team, the fall period of roller skiing, wet runs, increasing cold and darker nights on roads is all in anticipation of SNOW and the fabulous sport of cross country skiing.  Needless to say, we all thought the season was off to a great start when we had 16” of snow followed by a week of cold weather at Thanksgiving.  We had planned a “dry-land XC clinic” and had more than 20 kids and adults from the Boys Trail Life Group show up to get fitted, learn some basics and get introduced to  Huron Meadows Metropark near Brighton, Michigan.  

huron meadows crew

Jon Morgan of Team OAM Now, Lee Ries, and Adam Haberkorn of Huron Meadows hosted an overview of XC skiing for the Boys Trail Life Group

Comically, on a day when we thought we would run and speed hike with the Boys Trail Life Group on grass, it started to snow and didn’t stop.  We ran the Buck’s run loop in the maelstrom and assumed we would be back on snow for the next clinic.  The picture below is the group heading out into the storm that left us with 16” and five days glorious days of early season base training.

The crew heading into the storm...

The crew heading into the storm…

And coming back in (still smiling!)

And coming back in (still smiling!)




Unfortunately the winter has been the lowest snowfall on record recently for the southeastern Michigan area, but the Huron Meadows staff and miraculous snowmaking has saved the season for many and the Buck’s Run 2.5k loop has been skiable nearly every day in 2016.

  The base is perfect and we will host another clinic this Sunday, February 7 from 3:30-5:00 for the Trial Life Group and others who have expressed interest.  Despite the CRAZY warm weather, the course is being rebuilt on Thursday from the mountain of snow stock and the clinic will go on as scheduled.  ANYONE is welcome, Huron Meadows rents very good skis at the clubhouse, and the Bucks Run course is fun, easy, sheltered and fun.  All Team OAM Now members are welcome, come out and join us!  This is the last weekend clinic until March due to racing…wish us luck!

January Michigan Cup Racing Highlights

February 1st, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

January is already over and cross country ski season is in full swing! The ski season in Michigan is very condensed and the late start to due to minimal December snowfall makes it even shorter.  However, the Nordic team has been busy racing across the state from Brighton to Marquette with four race weekends in the books.  Each race is part of the Michigan Cup circuit which connects the cross country ski races across the state into an overall series competition for both teams and individuals.

Team OAM Now skiers represent our Cross Country Ski Shop partner by competing on the Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop Michigan Cup Team. The small but talented Team OAM Now contingent helped Cross Country Ski Shop to win the Brumbaugh Cup the past two seasons. Team OAM Now skiers have taken the overall Michigan Cup individual title for both men and women the past two years. Kaitlyn Patterson won the women’s title in both 2014 and 2015, Alex Vanias won the men’s title in 2014 and Dan Yankus in 2015.

Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop team won the Brumbaugh Cup in 2014 and Kaitlyn and Alex won the Individual Michigan Cup titles.

Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop team won the Brumbaugh Cup in 2014 and Kaitlyn and Alex won the Individual Michigan Cup titles (photo credit: NordicSki Racer)

In the month of January, Team OAM Now skiers competed in five Michigan Cup races- Frosty Freestyle, Krazy Klassic, Cote Dame Marie, Noquemanon, and Forbush Freestyle.  The Nordic team is missing leader Dan Yankus who is not competing in nordic this season to focus his limited time on cyclocross and road racing.

Frosty Freestyle- Frosty Triumphs Over Dire Snow Conditions
-By Jon Morgan, Team OAM Now skier and cyclist

Falling the second weekend in January in southeast Michigan, the Frosty Freestyle historically deals with challenging weather conditions and this year was no different. However, the staff at Huron Meadows and the race organizers do an amazing job with snowmaking and grooming and manage to put on a high quality race even with no natural snow whatsoever.

Jon Morgan competes in the Frosty Freestyle held completely on man-made snow

Jon Morgan races the Frosty Freestyle held completely on man-made snow

The 2016 Frosty Freestyle race was very tentative with five days of above freezing temps and rain leading up to the race. The organizers pulled it off yet again and created a very good 2.5kilometer course appearing as a strip of snow across the grass.

On race day, skiers were met with a firm fast course of artificial snow with heavy (real!) snow falling during the race. Jon Morgan kicked off his ski season by winning his age group and taking 11th overall despite breaking a pole in lap 3 of the race. Jon is returning strong after a hamstring injury ended his 2015 ski season prematurely. Jon also raced in the classic style event on Sunday- the Krazy Klassic.  Due to the short race on a flat course, most racers chose to go without kick wax and double pole the whole race.  Jon won his age group yet again and took 9th overall.

Kaitlyn and Alex represented Team OAM Now at the SISU Ski Fest instead, missing the lower peninsula races.


Cote Dame Marie- Two Wins in Ideal Racing Conditions

The following weekend at the Cote Dame Marie, racers reconvened  in Grayling, 175 miles north of Brighton to find ideal mid-winter racing conditions. The men raced 26k in the freestyle technique over two laps of a gently rolling course at Hanson Hills Ski Trails.  The women raced only one lap for 13k.

Kaitlyn leads out the women's race. She won the 13k race in 44: , (Photo credit: Curt Peterson)

Kaitlyn leads out the women’s race. She won the 13k race in 44:06 (Photo credit: Curt Peterson)

Alex dropped the field within a kilometer to win over Milan Baic by over two minutes.  Jon Morgan took 14th overall in a strong field.


Kaitlyn also dropped the women’s field within a kilometer, finishing over a minute ahead of former Northern Michigan University skier Jordyn Ross who took second. Kaitlyn continued on to finish the second lap for 26k of racing.  Her 26k time stood as 11th overall in the men’s field.



Noquemanon Ski Marathon- A Technical and Physical Challenge

Alex competes in the 2016 Noquemanon Marathon. He finished eighth in the 50k classic event.

Alex competes in the 2016 Noquemanon Marathon. He finished eighth in the 50k classic event.

The Noquemanon is a popular point to point race that starts in Ishpeming and ends in front of the Superior Dome in Marquette. It follows much of the same course as the popular Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic.  Although the course features a net descent of 1,000 feet, it is deceptively difficult with steep climbing, frozen lake crossings, and technical descents.  The Noque also can be especially difficult to wax for due to the significant temperature fluctuations across the course.

The epic course of the Noquemanon Ski Marathon. It is almost a shame to race past all the beautiful lookouts

The epic course of the Noquemanon Ski Marathon. It is almost a shame to race past all the beautiful lookouts

The Noquemanon is unique in that the classic race is the premier race drawing the most competitive fields and offering a significant prize purse.  Alex, Kaitlyn and Jon all competed in the 50k classic event.

Although the night before the race was balmy and hovered around 30 degrees, clear skies overnight led to a significant temperature drop to 16 degrees race morning. Alex skied with the lead pack of guys for ten miles but unfortunately one icy lake crossing sheared much of his kick wax off.  Despite double poling most of the second half, he didn’t concede much time and finished eighth overall in 2:39:37 for his best Noque placing yet.  Although the second half features a “net” descent, there is still plenty of climbing and not being able to use your legs much is hard, especially for a cyclist.

Kaitlyn also struggled after losing kick wax and having to rely on upper body strength.  Jon caught Kaitlyn in the double poling sections the second half and the pair skied the remainder of the race together.  Jon took 44th overall finishing in 3:16:52.  Kaitlyn finished as the fifth female overall in 3:17:31.


Forbush Freestyle- Windy, Slushy Success

–By Alex Vanias, Team OAM Now skier and cyclist

The Forbush Freestyle course. The trails are deceptively challenging and fun!

The Forbush Freestyle course. The trails are deceptively challenging and fun

Alex was the lone Team OAM Now skier to race at Forbush Corner near Grayling the last weekend in January.  The trails at Forbush corner are twisty, hilly and fun. They fit an impressive amount of trail in a condensed area and you would never know how close the freeway is!

Alex pulled away in the first several kilometers to win by two minutes yet again on his new Speedmax skis.

“It was right around 32 degrees at the start and warmed to mid 30’s during the race. The snow was acting a bit colder than air temp, so I opted for my cold grind Speedmax with extra hand structure added in. I did two passes of the Swix 0.5mm broken-V roller and one pass of the 1.0mm Linear roller to deal with the moisture as the snow warmed up, without adding much drag at the start. My glide was as good or better than the competition. The second lap had churned up snow on the climbs and was a bit soft for my stiffest ski, but I found the tracks were solid on the descents and made up for the climbing struggles.”


Kaitlyn and Jon will compete in the White Pine Stampede the first weekend in February while Alex will travel to Minneapolis to test himself against some of the best skiers in the Midwest at the City of the Lakes Loppet.

Nordic Immersion- Watching, Writing, and Racing

January 13th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, OAM NOW Nordic Skier and Cyclist

To kick off 2016 I made the trek to Houghton, Michigan to attend U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships (also known as U.S. Nationals) held the first week in January. But instead of lining up as a competitor, my job was to be a professional observer for the week.  Since November I have been writing for FasterSkier, one of the primary sources of North American cross country ski news. I mostly cover World Cup events remotely but since U.S. Nationals were held in the Midwest, I got my first shot at on-site reporting.

Nationals consists of four days of racing including an interval start race (racers go off one by one and race the clock, just like a time trial), two days of head to head sprint racing, and a mass start distance race. The event is held early in the season because it allows athletes a chance to qualify to represent the U.S. in international competition the remainder of the season. Since it is held so early, I didn’t plan on racing to give me more time to transition to ski season after an intense fall of cycling. However, teammate Alex Vanias prioritized roller skiing all summer and fall and would compete in the 30-kilometer mass start freestyle event despite having only one week of on-snow training prior to the race.

Michigan Tech did an amazing job hosting the event with limited snow and skiers from all over the U.S. and Canada converged in Houghton. I enjoy watching races almost as much as I enjoy competing and I got to see some great battles. I also had a chance to meet some really impressive, down to earth athletes and coaches including another Caitlin Patterson of the nordic ski world who had a great weekend and won both distance races (together we confuse a lot of people).  Our hotel was filled with skiers making for a fun and quirky place to hang out. Basically the week could be best described as doing quirky things in a quirky place with quirky people.  And it was great.

My FasterSkier partner Gabby and I even had official "media" bibs allowing us access to any part of the course.

My FasterSkier partner Gabby and I even had official “media” bibs allowing us on any part of the course

On my “days off” from race reporting I got to enjoy some of the best skiing in the Midwest at the Michigan Tech trails. We also had amazing weather with temps between 15 and 30 degrees and a couple days of sunshine!


Ski trails the width of a highway!

Ski trails the width of a highway!

Enjoying the Houghton sunshine!

Enjoying the Houghton sunshine!


Finally the day of the mass start freestyle event arrived.  It was a great field and I was excited to watch the race up front and see what Alex could do. The day didn’t disappoint with an impressive win by Tad Elliott who came back from a rough couple years battling mono and Epstein-Barr virus.  Alex moved up from starting position 76 to finish 43rd against a talented field of collegiate and professional athletes.

Alex competing in the 30k freestyle at U.S. Nationals

Alex competing in the 30k freestyle at U.S. Nationals

After watching races all week and feeling great skiing, I was itching to race. Alex planned on racing the 42k event at the SISU Ski Fest in Ironwood two days after his 30k. After working out some logistics, I decided I could join him and return to Houghton to wrap up U.S. Nats reporting.

Ironwood is a small, old mining town on the border of Wisconsin with strong Finnish history. Everyone is incredibly friendly and the town rolls out the red carpet for racers including traditional stew and pasties at the “Finnish” line. Hundreds of snow-deprived skiers from across the Midwest arrived excited for the new snow and great racing conditions.

Sisu is a Finnish word meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. 

Sisu is a Finnish word meaning determination, bravery, and resilience.

The course wound through the ABR trail system before heading north to finish in downtown Ironwood.  Both Alex and I started in the elite wave and after narrowly avoiding a pileup in the first 100 meters, we were off!

I settled in a train of guys along with the one other female. It was great to be racing again but I noticed pretty early in the race that I had underestimated the stress of skiing and working all week. I attempted to ski relaxed but the spent too much time accelerating and trying to pass other racers on the narrow trail. At about 30k, the first female took off and by the time I passed the racer in between us and began chasing, she was out of sight. I had also fallen behind in my fuel intake and sat in the back of the train to regroup.  I was able to rally but it was a bit too little, too late and I finished second- just over a minute off the lead.  The winner was Jan Guenther, an accomplished skier and triathlete who also owns Gear West- the biggest nordic ski shop in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Alex was fighting a much tighter battle for the win against Matt Leibsch. Matt is one of the top cross country racers in the country with a previous Birkie win and a two top-10 results at U.S. Nationals this week.  Alex and Matt dropped the field early and despite Matt’s efforts to drop him, Alex was skiing strong and it became apparent it would come down to the finishing kick.  Matt overtook Alex the last kilometer to win by just 18 seconds.

SISU 42k freestyle men's podium. The quick lumberjack is Matt Liebsch, followed by Alex Vanias, and Nicholas Power. (Photo: Vic Calore)

SISU 42k freestyle men’s podium. The quick lumberjack is Matt Liebsch, followed by Alex Vanias, and Nicholas Power. (Photo: Vic Calore)

It was a great two races for Alex and a testament to his off-season training and potential for the season. It was an epic week for both of us and I’m excited that winter has finally arrived in Traverse City so we can train and race!

The OAM Nordic Team will be back in action this Saturday, January 16 for the Cote Dame Marie in Grayling, right in the backyard of our ski shop sponsor- Cross Country Ski Shop!

Results for U.S. Nationals 30k freestyle

Results for SISU Ski Fest

Who Is A “Professional” Athlete?

March 24th, 2014 by Team AM OAM

You might be a professional athlete without realizing it.  One definition offered by the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word professional as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Further, it defines a profession as “a principal calling, vocation, or employment”, another way of saying a profession is a job. Seriousness of conduct is at a higher level then what one would approach with a hobby. Though we don’t race for a living, everyone on a team benefits from professionalism. Here are a few ways to be “professional” and how it positively impacts yourself and the team.

Full Team

Athletic Mentors teams — now known as Team OAMNow subsequent to the co-title sponsorship by OAMNow — pride themselves on professional appearance and conduct.

Sharp Dressed (Wo)man

Nothing says “conforming to the technical” like a group that looks the same. More than matching jerseys and bibs, a truly professional look synchs socks, helmets, accessory equipment (glasses, gloves, shoe covers, bikes, etc.) and even cool weather wear. It’s imperative riders maintain a clean bike and kit. Team Athletic Mentors’ management puts a lot of attention and effort towards projecting a brand and we all have a role in that. 

(The picture above is from the Priority Health sponsorship era. This year stay tuned for our BRAND NEW Team OAMNow kit, certain to be spotted at events throughout the state in coming months!)

Take Pride in Your Team 

A professionally run team establishes a vision and follows it. TAM has looked to develop riders. Some have gone on to higher ranks, even the ProTour. As a member of the team, you are part of that legacy. When other riders see you they see a team with high standards and a history of success. You have been chosen to continue an image, so take pride. This pride is not just racing or riding in your kit, but wearing the team casual wear during cycling and promotional events. 

Team Mates and Sponsors First 

Being professional means holding up your end of a bargain. Part of this is supporting the sponsors that provide resources to the team. Take every opportunity to promote sponsors’ products, keeping negative assessments within the team. Following through on your contractual agreements maintains the team’s ability to keep and hold sponsors. Think of your actions as reflecting those on your jersey and in your jersey. 

Be an Ambassador 

True professionals take responsibility to foster their livelihood. At our level, that means promoting the sport we love. Be approachable by strangers. Look to help more novice racers. Get in front of the camera. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks destine for greatness in cycling, but, rather, people passionate about a sport. Project that passion by supporting it any positive way so people see it means something to someone.

Make a Good First Impression IMG_0674

A professional conducts themselves at a high character level consistently. Sharp looking, organized teams get noticed, which makes the need to act your best even more important. Maintain an even keel during the heat of racing. Communicate with others through social media, in person, or other means, as if the spot light was always on. This includes when giving our opinion with race officials and promoters. Don’t forget having your attire leave no doubt who you race for while on the podium. 

Add Value to Your Team 

A well run team has a lot of moving pieces. Those pieces working in concert are what make an organization better than the sum of its parts. Try to look for ways to help, even if it’s just to offer your assistance. Most athletes have an expertise in some area(s), even if it’s just time, that can benefit everyone. Few good things happen by chance, but through effort by someone that cared. 

Support Your Team Mates 

One quality of a good team is people want to be a part of it. This usually isn’t the clothes they get, bikes they ride or deals offered. It comes down to feeling part of something where they are supported. Giving assistance, passing on knowledge, watching a fellow team mate and cheering them on are part of this support. It’s always best to feel we can share our triumphs and tragedies.

Forbrush 17k Freestyle Race Report

March 24th, 2014 by Team AM OAM


Kaitlyn Patterson crossing the finish line (photo courtesy of www.nordicskiracer.com)

Nordic skiers Kaitlyn Patterson and Ryan Harris represented Athletic Mentors well at the Forbrush Corner 17k Freestyle on February 15. With temperatures above zero, sunny skies and minimal wind, the participants received a great day for competition success. The Forbrush Corner track is filled with hills, creating a tough, always climbing or descending course. Kaitlyn dominated the race with a first place finish while Harris had an intense battle that landed him third place.

The men’s start was a little rough out of the gate given a few crashes before the first turn and during the wide climb. Skiers were ultra aggressive in getting to the front. Ryan Harris, alongside two other racers, broke away from the pack and had a clear lead, already minutes ahead of any other competitors. At the finish, Ryan was just barely beat by the two competitors; only two seconds separated first thru third place. He finished third with a time of 50:12.

The women’s top three was fairly tight as well, given the 40-second separation of the three places. Kaitlyn led the pack and performed at a fast pace, finishing first for the women and only ten minutes behind the men’s winner with a time of 60:10.

Kaitlyn credits part of her fast performance to the new, RCS Carbonlite hole skis she invested in during the middle of the season. Her new skis are ultra-light, responsive and overall give a faster feel.

“As much as I wanted to think that a strong engine can overcome sub-par equipment, I finally admitted that skis matter a lot in Nordic skiing,” she said. “Even with a warm base structure on cold races, they made a huge difference.”

Kaitlyn felt that she finally put everything together — the powerhouse she’s been creating in training felt good and coupled with her new skis, she raced very well.

Although 5 degree weather doesn’t seem warm, competitors were relieved that the conditions were far less brutal than the VASA race the previous weekend, where the temperatures reached several degrees below zero. It was enjoyed enough that according to Kaitlyn, the sun gave ample warmth for post-race food and drinks on the patio.

“Overall, another great day of racing in Northern Michigan,” Kaitlyn said.

Nordic Ski

March 24th, 2014 by Team AM OAM

Team Athletic Mentors Nordic Ski:

Our Nordic ski team has taken the Michigan Cup racing circuit by storm. Athletic Mentors skiers compete in Michigan’s biggest ski races including the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, North American VASA, and White Pine Stampede as well as the biggest ski race in North America- the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Posted in:


Team Athletic Mentors
© 2024 - Team Athletic Mentors