After a brief drop-in back home after the Birkie, I hopped on a plane once again and flew halfway across the globe to Northern Italy. I spent two weeks in the Italian Dolomites ski racing in European continental cups (OPA). The first stop was Campo Carlo Magno/Madonna di Campiglio, which was way up a very narrow twisty road in the mountains, and the second week was in Toblach/Dobbiaco for OPA Finals, which was the same place I went to last year for OPA Finals. It was really cool to be able to go back to the same place because I knew the trails and the town.
I’ve raced a lot this year, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of my results. My only goal was to improve on my results from last year. Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen. Regardless, I did have fun and it was great to go over there and get more international experience. Euros race differently than Americans, and it’s important to see that and be a part of that race scene in order to have success at the higher levels. Thank you NNF for your support in making such a great trip possible!!
So, I’ll just post up a bunch of photos of the trip, as that is much more interesting than me spouting off nonsense.
Lake Toblach (Eric Packer photo)
Eric Packer also compiled some great shots from the trip into this video:
On my flight back across the Atlantic from London to San Fran, I got to see one of the most incredible views I have ever seen (and that is saying a lot for me!) as we flew across the southern tip of Greenland. I have seen mountains, and I have seen ice fields and glaciers, but nothing in comparison to this.
Ice sheet turning to fjords.
I flew straight from Europe to southern California for a brief respite from skiing and to see my granddad, two aunts, my mom and my brother. I hadn’t visited since 2008 so it was great to see my granddad, who is 92 and sharp as a tack. The warm weather running and beach time before hitting the boards again was a nice change of scene as well.
Breakfast outside in the sun and 60s?! Yes please!
After family time, I bounced up to Truckee, CA in preparation for Spring Series/SuperTour Finals. I arrived a week ahead of the rest of APU so I weaseled my way into crashing with the Aussie boys for a week. We had some glorious weather and epic skis and fun adventures at Lake Tahoe. A huge thank you to the Syben family for letting me stay at their house with the boys. You were amazing hosts and very tolerant!
Before racing started, we had a Fast and Female event that was tons of fun in the sun!
Group shot! (Photo by Mark Nadell)
Also check out this amazing video put together from our F&F day by local junior Skyler Mullings.
As this post is long enough, I will leave Super Tour Finals race photos as well as my other post-season April adventures for the next post.
I had limited internet two weeks ago up in the North Woods of Wisconsin, so I’m just now posting pictures from the American Birkebeiner, a 50km marathon race from Cable to Hayward. I arrived on a Sunday night and had aaalllll week to really get the “Birkie Fever” stoked hot. Warning: this post is photo heavy…
Sitting in the giant beer chair outside the grocery store.
Birkie takes over this town this week. Birkie key racks alongside major sports team racks. It’s a BIG deal.
Welcome to Hayward!
Main Street on Wednesday
Fitz showing off her Skhoop skirt at the finish area.
Giant ski practice!
Checking out the Birkie Trail. Birkie Fever is HOT!
Fitz and me taking the new snow in stride.
Earlier in the week on a run. The landscape makes me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, “Little House in the Big Woods” which was about her growing up in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
Stayed in a cabin on a lake for the first few days. Thank you so much to Scott and Kay Wilson at Crest Hill Resort for letting me stay there.
The sun shone all week until the day before the race. Woke up to extreme silence in the falling snow.
Just some nature photos I took at the cabin.
Race day was brutal. With the fresh snow the day before, the trail was significantly softer and slower than it had been training all week. The elite women started at 8am, which is possibly the earliest ski race I’ve ever done. I didn’t warm up enough, so my calves cramped a bit out of the start but relaxed after a few km and I was able to pick up the pace and ski with a good pack of 4-5 girls. Unfortunately, I took an ill-timed feed around halfway, got dropped from my pack and was never able to tag back on. So I ended up skiing the whole second half of the race alone, which is just a recipe for disaster. In a race that long, it’s crucial to ski in a pack; it’s much easier to push yourself, as well as trading off leads and drafting, so that was a bummer. Then I started bonking around 35-36km, got passed by several women over the next torturous 15km and finished way down in 23rd place. I tried to stick with them, but my body just would not respond. I was determined to finish though, no matter what, and so now I can say that I have completed the American Birkebeiner. It wasn’t the top-ten finish I was looking for, but I did finish second in my age group, which got me a nice workout shirt and mug!
After the Birkie, I headed home for a few days. I thought it was going to be relaxing week at home, but I ended up doing a lot of errands and promotional stuff for APUNSC:
Friday night was APU night at the Alaska Ace’s hockey game, sponsored by another one of our biggest team sponsors Carlile Transportation. Reese and I got to drop the puck! We felt pretty famous… (photo courtesy Alaska Aces)
I also helped out with an up-and-coming event called Ski4Lunch, where people can come ski on the Park Strip downtown during their lunch-hour, with demo skis sponsored by NANANordic. But I haven’t gotten those photos from Reese yet… Being home was nice though, I got to unload a lot of stuff from my duffel that I didn’t need for the rest of the season and pick up stuff that I would need. It was also spectacular weather, with sun and warm temperatures. Now I am off to Italy for two weeks of OPA racing!
After a few weeks in the sun-filled West, I flew back to Midwest, this time to Madison, Wisconsin for some city sprints. This weekend consisted of two sprints, classic on Saturday, skate on Sunday, around the Wisconsin State Capitol building as part of the Madison Winter Fest. After seeing how cool city sprints can be in Quebec City, I was pretty excited to race in the middle of a city again. While the crowd didn’t quite live up to Quebec City World Cups (that would be a feat) it was pretty cool that they are able to pull off these races. Snow is laid out around the Capitol Square on Friday night and, boom, a race course is open on Saturday morning!
The course was only ONE lap around the square, which is just under one kilometer, so the races were fast and furious with essentially no time to settle in. You had to be on your game from the get-go and never let up. After a lot of longer sprints this year, and many of them at altitude, it was deceivingly difficult. Saturday’s classic sprint was just a double-pole derby with NO striding whatsoever, thus everyone went on skate skis. The girls took just over two minutes to get around the course, and the guys just under two. I qualified in third, but ended the day in fourth. Because there weren’t enough girls to have quarterfinals, we only had to run semis and finals. In the final, Jennie and Rosie took off from the start and about halfway around the block, I just didn’t have the gas to hang on. I thought I would be able to hang on to third, but another girl passed me right before the last corner and I just didn’t have enough to go for the podium.
Start of the girls A-final on Saturday (Renee Callaway/MadCross Photography)
On Sunday I woke up with a crazy sore neck and back from so much double-poling. Same course, same skis, only this time we were actually able to skate on our skate skis It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining but the air was still crisp. The track was firm and fast. Really fast. With such a short course (skating the course was less than two minutes) and fast conditions, I felt like my skis were too fast for my body to keep up! On the flatter sections, my arms were just flailing trying to keep up with my ski speed. Doesn’t sound like a problem, but it really throws off your tempo!
There were enough girls to justify quarterfinals (we were bummed about that…it’s nice only having to do semis and finals!) and while I easily won my quarterfinal, I just play my tactics quite right or have enough oomph left to make the A-final. I finished third in my semi and got sent to the B-final. I was bummed but I still had to go out and do my best, but once again I got passed just before the last corner and finished second in the heat for sixth place overall. I didn’t meet my goal of being on the podium in both sprints, but what can I do. More speed! Here are some pictures from Sunday, also from Renee Callaway/MadCross Photography.
Leading the B-final
Leading Jennie in the semifinal in front of the Capitol!
College roommate/teammate Claire, who goes to grad school in Madison, racing her first sprint since college!
Apart from racing, it was fun to be in Madison. Claire, my freshman roommate/teammate from Middlebury, is going to grad school in Madison, so I got to spend the weekend with her. She lives with four other Middlebury classmates, all of whom I haven’t seen since graduation, so it was fun to hang out with them as well. Claire has been helping coach the local high school ski team, so the first night I arrived in Madison, she took me to team practice as a “celebrity guest coach.” It was fun to be a role model for the kids, and we worked on sprint starts and tactics. They had a lot of questions and were genuinely excited and motivated to listen to what I had to say about racing at the elite level.
It’s amazing what an effect the opportunity to talk to and get advice from a top-level skier can have on the next generation of racers. It is easy for us to fall into the thought that very few people out there really care what we’re doing because cross-country skiing is such an insignificant sport in the U.S. But it is important to remember that the more we (high-level skiers) get out and promote skiing as a fun, healthy, globally competitive sport, the more skiing will grow in popularity and we will continue to produce amazing skiers that can compete on the World Cup and the Olympics.
Anyways, digressing to my time with Claire, we also skied at a place called Blue Mounds, about thirty-five minutes away from Madison, on Thursday. The trails reminded me a lot of New England: super narrow and winding through the woods; Beech leaves all over the place and getting stuck in your kick wax; undulating terrain. Incredibly (I did not think it was possible in the Midwest) we skied through a meadow on a slight hill where you could see out into the distance!
I also want to thank Igor Badamshin and Andy Keller, the CXC coach and wax tech, for taking on two rival APU skiers (myself and Reese) and waxing our skis for the races in Madison. It’s always hard to go to races without your own wax tech, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find some great techs the past few weeks while I’ve been traveling sans APU coaches.
To finish out this post, just a couple funny things I want to share. First, this hilarious photo of my dog that my mom just sent me. She got into a box of cereal while Mom was out.
Secondly, these are four really funny music videos made by various ski teams as part of a recent FIS video challenge. Enjoy.
This was the first video to come out, the US Ski Team takes on Taylor Swift’s new song “Trouble”:
Then the Aussie team came back with this one to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” although, ironically, there are no girls and no kissing in the video…
The boys at Scando Cup came up with this winner:
THEN, the girls team at Scando produced this surprising parody:
I think I’ve spent more time in a car driving around the West in the past two weeks than I have actually training time. Six hours from Sun Valley to Park City + seven hours from Park City to Aspen + five hours from Aspen to Fort Collins = Eighteen hours in a car. Since I left Sun Valley, I have trained a measly eleven hours.
I spent just three days in Park City at Rosie’s house, and had a cold for most of that time, so I didn’t do much skiing. Wednesday we headed out to Aspen, and the drive was much less interesting than I anticipated. Most of the way was scrubby trees and mesa-tops, and lots of oil fields. Western Colorado…
Only when we got close to Aspen did the mountains start to look like what I expected. The races in Aspen were HARD. Freaking hard. The race courses were around 8000 ft elevation or higher, which meant that you had to be really careful about going out too hard. Three-quarters of my races this year have been at altitude, but in the 4-6000 ft elevation range, so there was still a significantly different feeling at 8000′. The first day in Aspen we previewed the Owl Creek Chase course. It was a beautiful day and a fantastic ski, but made me dread what was coming for me on Sunday just a little bit. Unlike the BMT, which is a constant slight downhill, the Owl Creek Chase starts in Snowmass Village at 8000′, climbs up and over two mini-passes before descending down part of Buttermilk Alpine area into Aspen, and then to really stick it to you, you then have to ski past the finish and continue on the 5k race loop at the high school before finishing. I found these two course profiles of the BMT and the OCC, so you can see the difference in difficulty!
Owl Creek Chase Course Profile
Some photos from our ski:
Taking a fuel break among the aspen trees.
Crossing the gorge into Aspen
Saturday was a brutal day, with a sprint qualifier at 9am followed by a 5k at 11am. It was snowing lightly as we tested skis and warmed up, and then all of a sudden it started just dumping snow about 30 minutes before the start. The snow was so dense and coming down so fast that you could hardly see the tracks in front of you; they quickly got obliterated. By 9:45am, there were about four inches of freshy-fresh snow, and then the clouds parted and the sun came out. Fortunately, they took the groomer out and regroomed the 5k loop for the next race, and the tracks packed out quite nicely with a teeny bit of moisture in the snow. Only five women completed the sprint qualifier, so the podium was Rosie, myself and Erika.
The 5k did not go so well for me. My body felt flat and tired, especially after the sprint. I think the cumulative effect of being sick earlier in the week, a marathon last weekend, and being at 8-9000′ took more of a toll on me than I expected. I got beat by a few local juniors. Bummer.
I was nervous going into Sunday’s race, the 21k Owl Creek Chase, but also looking forward to it. However, my body did not want to cooperate, and pretty much from the start I was struggling to feel a race effort. I got dropped from the lead pack pretty early, and just decided to settle in and try to at least make it a good L3 workout. As Rosie liked to say, no matter what, you come away from this race fitter and everything else seems easy comparatively. It’s true, it was possibly the hardest race I’ve ever done, but I know I got more out of it by finishing than if I had decided not to race or not finish.
The lead pack shortly after I got dropped. (all photos by Thomas Wells)
After the races, we spent some much needed time in the hot tub. Thank you so much to Rosie’s aunt, who generously let us stay in her vacation house in Snowmass for the weekend. Also thank you to Nick Brown for waxing our skis.
The secret theater room behind the bookcase!
After Aspen, I drove back to Denver area with my friend Thomas, who was nice enough to let me borrow his car to drive an hour north to Fort Collins to visit my brother at CSU. I had never been to CSU, so it was fun to check out campus and meet my brother’s friends. His roommate treated us to some delicious wine from his family’s winery in Denver.
What a week!
I’ve been in Sun Valley, Idaho since Monday night recovering from the Midwest with some fantastic skiing, and enjoying warm temps and plentiful Vitamin D!
Perfect cord and sunshine…what more could you want?
I came to Sun Valley for the Boulder Mountain Tour, a 32k point-to-point skate marathon that is a net downhill. It’s a pretty cool and unique race. I’d heard a lot about it over the past few years, but never had the chance to work it into my schedule until now. I’m glad I did!
The racing started off Thursday night with a co-ed sprint relay. I teamed up with Mark Iverson, my APU teammate and fellow Rossi skier, for a convincing win. We each did two legs each of two laps around a 400m loop in a downtown park. The course was really winding but there was a good crowd and it was a fun night. Plus, we each won $150.
As for the BMT today, I had no idea what to expect, other than a lot of V2-alternate skiing and drafting. I didn’t get the opportunity to ski the whole race course, just a few parts of it this week, so I was pretty much skiing blind. Nonetheless, the pace was pretty comfortable the whole time, the snow was fast and firm, and I just tried to stay relaxed. It was tricky though. When you’re in a big pack and drafting one another, sometimes you can get a little too close and you nick the poles or ski tails of the person in front of you. Usually, it’s no big deal, but twice today–TWICE–I managed to take myself down. Luckily, I had some pretty damn fast skis (THANK YOU ROSSIGNOL and Paul Clark for waxing, and Evelyn Dong for loaning me a pair that she has won the BMT on twice before) so I was able to catch back up to the three other girls I had been skiing with. I was worried that I was going to waste too much energy trying to catch back up, and then have nothing left for the last few kilometers, but that wasn’t the case. I fell around 15k and around 26k, but somehow was able to fight my way back up to the pack. It came down to a downright drag-race between four of us in the last 200m, and fortunately I still had some zing left in the tank to hammer it home for the win by 0.11 seconds!
I couldn’t believe that I had actually pulled off the win, especially after falling twice. It was a pretty incredible feeling, and brought the week to a great close. My teammates in the men’s field also crushed it, with Mark Iverson taking second, Peter Kling third, and Brent Knight seventh, all within two seconds.
We hit up the hot springs outside of town this afternoon for some relaxation, and hope to hit some alpine runs tomorrow morning. I head down to Park City, Utah tomorrow to meet up with Rosie before we head to another weekend of Super Tour racing in Aspen next weekend.
Five races in nine days is hard. I don’t know how the World Cup skiers make it through the Tour de Ski, which is seven races in nine days or something like that.
I spent the past two weeks in Minneapolis, Minnestoa for the Tour de Twin Cities (TdTC), a five-race mini tour over two weekends. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I was at these races. The races were supposed to take place at two different venues, one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the week before we arrived they got some warm rainy weather that erased nearly all the snow in the area. Wirth Park in Minneapolis is lucky enough to have snow-making capabilities and was able to keep a short loop of man-made snow open for skiing and racing. All five of our races took place there. Despite only skiing around a 3.3km loop for ten days, the terrain is actually quite variable (especially considering it is a golf course) and I didn’t get sufficiently bored to not want to ski anymore.
This is the second year I’ve gone to the TdTC and being able to ski and race right in the middle of a big city is super fun. You can see downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers from the trails, and I could run right into downtown in fifteen minutes from our hosts’ house. I also like the way every neighborhood in the city is it’s own little unit, with a center of business with a few restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, etc. It is something that I always have disliked about the setup of Anchorage neighborhoods. This is the geography dork in me coming out right now… It is nice to be able to walk a few blocks from your house to the store or to pick up a pizza or get a cup of coffee. Urban planning is a good thing!
Ok, so more about the skiing thing… The first weekend we race a 5k individual start skate and a mass start 15k classic. I was a bit apprehensive going into a lot of distance racing because I hadn’t actually raced more than a sprint since the Bozeman Super Tour! I just went out hard and finished harder in the 5k, and I came away pretty satisfied with 7th place. Being at low elevation again was also fun because I could actually go really hard and keep pushing when I started to red-line. Sunday’s mass start was a bit more frustrating. I didn’t really get a chance to test my kick before the race, so my skis ended up being a bit too slick and I struggled up the hills, losing precious time and places with every lap, ending up pretty far off the pace. Oh well, bad races happen. Luckily there were three more to go.
5k skate race (David Owen photo)
Monday dawned a chilling -10F, causing a postponement of the classic sprint until Friday. We took the day off and tried to go shopping/exploring in downtown, but we ended up getting incredibly lost and bored wandering around the skyways. The skyways in Minneapolis connect nearly all the downtown buildings with bridges, and there are stores and restaurants throughout. However, it’s not as much to try and shop because the stores are widely scattered, and we were there during lunch-hour so there were business people crowding the halls. It’s a great idea for a downtown business district like Minneapolis in the winter because you don’t have to go outside to go to lunch and whatnot. I imagine if you park your car in a garage at home, work in a tower that connects to the skyways and park in an indoor parking garage for work, you don’t even have to go outside all day! Crazy. Totally redesigns the flow of people downtown. It was interesting to walk a few blocks outside (which was admittedly quite unpleasant in -10F and windchill) at noon and see no one hurrying around the sidewalks like you usually do in big cities, and then go into a building and see hundreds of people in the skyways. Sorry, the geography nerd sneaks out agai
Ok, so after a few pretty chilly days, racing began again on Friday with the classic sprint. Thanks to the help of Matt Liebsch and Gear West (ski/run store outside Minneapolis) I had some great racing on a new pair of Rossi skis. Came out of the qualifier in 3rd place and breezed through the semifinal in first, then came from behind to nap the 3rd podium spot in the final. Fasterskier wrote a more elaborate article here.
Racing the sprint prelim (skinnyski photo)
Podium pic! (BK photo)
Saturday’s 6k classic race went off pretty well. My new skis were kick-ass and the kick was awesome. I finished sixth, only 23 seconds off Rosie’s win, which is closer than I have been in race in a long time. So that was fun. By Sunday, I was pretty tired from a lot of racing and skiing in the cold, and never felt like I got into a good groove. It was a pursuit start based on the entire mini-tour, so I started pretty far back because of my one bad classic race, about 3:30 after the leader. So I was in no-man’s land for the whole race, too far back to catch anyone, and I felt flat and tired, so all-in-all it was not the greatest race. But it was a pretty fun week with some great racing.
Although not nearly and exciting as watching Nordic ski racing, Saturday night there was a Red Bull Crashed Ice event in downtown St. Paul. The weather had warmed up, so Fitz, Sarah and I decided to go check it out. It was pretty cool. I mean, just some guys racing each other down an ice track on hockey skates. There were a few people there watching…
St. Catherine’s Cathedral in downtown St. Paul all lit up as a backdrop for the event
Fitz and I excited to watch!
The start ramp
Thanks so much to Rick and Jeanne Carter for graciously letting us stay in their house during our stay in Minneapolis, as well as my friend Claire’s parents for letting Fitz and I stay with them when we first arrived in Minnesota. Also to Evan Pengelly and the rest of the Gear West guys who did a fantastic job giving us pretty awesome skis all week.
I’ll leave you with this photo of adorable Clem, now 2 1/2 years old and quite a smart, talkative little girl now.
Well, US Nationals was pretty much the opposite of what I was hoping for. I got sick mid-week, didn’t start the 10k skate, and started but dropped out of the 20k classic. I felt pretty good and healthy for the skate sprint the last day, and had a good day. I qualified 10th, led my quarterfinal and made it to the semifinal. However, I didn’t play my tactics well in the semi and subsequently didn’t make the A-final for the first time in three years at Nationals. Bummer in the end, but glad I got to race at all. My goal going into the season and the week was to podium at Nationals. I knew my chance to achieve that would be in either of the sprints, especially given my recent achievements in sprinting. So, it was frustrating and disappointing to leave the week not having completed that goal, but again, I have to take those losses and move forward. Sure, I sulked for a bit after bad races and being sick. Grieving is part of the process to move forward. I think that’s what shows that it’s important to me, but I’m trying to not dwell too much on the week. This is hard because despite some awesome successes this season, I feel like I’ve been plagued with various things that have hindered my training and racing. I strained my rib muscles in December from coughing too hard for too long, I’ve dealt with a lot of fatigue from not getting enough rest and recovery at home, I got sick at the beginning of what was supposed to be my best US Nationals, and last week I hurt my hand (explained below) and have had to modify my training because of it. But part of being an athlete is dealing with these things and making the most of them.
Before I get too far into this post, I do have to thank my mom for making an extra trip out to Utah for the last two races. Mom, I still appreciate you being there even though I was grumpy and sick and not racing well. Especially since I was grumpy and sick and not racing well. Despite my grumbling and eye-rolling, thanks for making me take my vitamins and taking me shopping. I know you get more stressed out than I do when I race, and it’s hard for you to see me disappointed but I can’t thank you and Dad enough for supporting and encouraging me through every success and discouragement, even if I may not always show it. I love you both.
After Nationals, I spent a week resting and training in Park City before heading north to Minnesota for the Tour de Twin Cities this weekend and next. It was nice to have a few days to literally do nothing and a weekend off from racing to hang out, recharge and reset in the Utah sun. I was looking forward to getting some good distance training in for a few days. However, my restful training week actually did not get off to a great start.
Thursday started off well enough—day off, just hanging out catching up on other things, staying out of the blizzard that had descended on Park City—but ended with a two-hour trip to the ER to get stitches in my left hand. Whoops. I was removing an avocado pit and the knife slipped and went straight into my hand. Nothing like a stab wound to really make for effective ski training. So, I have been skiing without poles. I can use a pole in my right hand just fine, but it’s actually just much easier to go without any poles. Needless to say, my hips and glutes have been working overtime. But a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do, so…. I just took it as an opportunity to really work on using my legs and making them stronger. It actually was kind of fun, and it helped me work on certain technique things more effectively.
This season has definitely been a lot of new experiences, trials and tribulations. This is my third year trying to be a “professional” skier and I’m still figuring out what that means. As this season has progressed, I have tried to change my mental attitude about being a professional athlete. Key word: professional. I can’t just consider this a sport anymore. Even though I don’t really make any money as a skier and I have a part-time job at home, skiing really is my job and I have to treat it that way and make it my first priority, especially if I want to continue with it and hopefully make the next level and have success.
It’s a lot more than just training and racing. It’s what I do with the time I’m not training and racing, like rest! Over the past few years I have really tried to make an effort to make my rest and recovery just as important as the actual training. Recovery things like stretching, using foam rollers and other body care tools, getting body work from a professional, even napping; all these things often take a backseat to training and work for me, yet they are crucial to preventing injury and illness. Injury can be incredibly frustrating and hampers training. So why wouldn’t I make sure I’m doing everything I can to prevent it? Taking measures to ensure that I’m staying healthy so that I can keep up the training and race schedule that I have include proper nutrition and hydration, and yes Mom, taking my vitamins (I know you are doing an “I told you so” victory dance). There are just some things that I have to figure out on my own through trial and error, successes and failures, no matter how many times my mom tells me how much it will help. And yes, it also means that you have to have help from people.
I can take care of myself well enough mostly, but I don’t know everything. I can’t thank my coaches enough for helping me make the hard decisions to not race if I’m unhealthy and also to encourage me when I have doubts about my abilities. I already thanked my parents above, but again, thanks for being there when I need you Mom and Dad.
I also have to thank the people that have worked with me and helped me with current injuries, and to hopefully prevent more injuries: Mack at Alpenglow Acupuncture in Anchorage for helping me over the past few years with all sorts of aches and pains, as well as being a supporting sponsor; everyone at the Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Center of Alaska, for making sure my asthma is controlled so I can race and also a sponsor; Sean at Chiropractic Works in Park City; and Adam at the US Ski Team training center who was generous with his time while I was in Park City this week helping me with my rib injury and how to go forward with stretches and exercises to increase my overall muscle mobility, despite laughing at how tight my muscles are… I appreciate everything everyone has done to help become a better skier and I hope my future results reflect that. Onto the Midwest!
I was home for 9 days after Canmore, working a few days at Skinny Raven (two weeks on the WC is NOT cheap…), racing Besh Cups and spending Christmas with the family. I raced the classic sprint BC at Kincaid last Saturday, winning the qualifier by over two seconds. My quarterfinal and semifinal went smoothly and I won both easily. Unfortunately, my skis were too slick and I was tired and cold by the time the final came around, and I finished 3rd. Oh well. I ended up scratching from the 5k skate race at Chugiak the next day because the temperatures were really cold (just barely legal above -4F) and I just couldn’t keep my core temperature warm enough to race well.
The temps warmed up considerably over the next few days so I was able to do a long hard workout on Christmas day and stay warm. Christmastime was fun, making cookies with my mom and skiing with friends on Christmas, it even snowed Christmas Eve and throughout the day. My dad cooked a German meal that his grandmother used to cook, Sauerbraten, with a moose roast, potato balls and red cabbage. It was quite vinegary. It was nice to be home even for a such a short and hectic few days, because if all goes according to plan, I will be on the road for the rest of the season.
So, after all that, I am now in Utah for US Nationals at Soldier Hollow, about 30 min from Park City. It is an immense relief that there is well over a foot of natural snow at SoHo, not to mention the mountains of snow coming out of the snow guns all over the trails. Looks like we will get to ski on more than a 2k loop this year! I haven’t been to SoHo since Nationals were here in 2006.
Snow guns working hard at SoHo
The house we are staying is ridiculous. It is a mansion, literally a mansion. It has a pool. The room is also a greenhouse, with a steam room and a hot tub.
And a pool table. And a racquetball court. A thousand-square-foot garage. A theatre room. And a “Knights-of-the-Round-Table” dinner table with seating for at least twenty.
Eight-million bedrooms, but yet very little privacy given that the bedrooms are mostly connected and have balconies with beds. Did I mention there is a pool? Yet, once again, we have little to no cell phone service and it’s also missing crucial things, like mugs and a tea kettle.
Racing started on the 2nd with a classic sprint. I was really looking forward to it and felt good during the race, but unfortunately I didn’t dial my skis in correctly and I didn’t even make the top-30 to move on into the heats. Needless to say, it was incredibly upsetting and disappointing, and it took me a while to get over. What went from potentially being one of my best races suddenly became hopefully my worst. Then, to really rub salt on the wound, I woke up yesterday with a scratchy throat, which today has become the potential for a nasty cold. I’m sitting out the 10k skate, which I was really looking forward to in order to hopefully kick it and race the 20k classic and the skate sprint coming up. Not how I wanted to start out US Nationals, especially coming off some good fall races, but I do still have two more chances and it’s no use dwelling too much on these two. Nothing like personal redemption for motivation right? On the plus side, I did just watch my teammates dominate the women’s 10k skate (thank you live timing!) by sweeping the podium and having four in the top six: Rosie 1st, Sadie 2nd, Fitz 3rd, and Becca 6th. Damn. Motivation.
Canmore was just so awesome that it took me two weeks to get around to writing about it. I really enjoyed Canmore. The landscape is incredible: lots of rocky jagged peaks surrounding a valley; nice sunshine; wide trails with firm tracks and some massive hills that could really wear you out; and a cool Main Street with fun shops and cafes. Plus it is the homebase for a lot of the Canadian skiers, so it just seemed more homey. Chandra invited the APU’ers over for dinner one night and we played some really funny games of charades. And I can’t complain about another week hanging out with the US skiers and Norwegians, Swedes, Germans and others.
Maple lattes at Communitea; Fun candy pills at the candy shop
Just some old school style
Thursday was a mass start classic race, but I only got to watch and cheer. My teammates skied amazingly, with Kikkan again showing she has become a kick-ass distance skier, Sadie and Holly getting top-30 points, and Rosie just out of the World Cup points in 35th.
My race came Saturday, another skate sprint. Quite different from the sprint in Quebec. About 50m out of the start, the course pitched up for a while, had a sharp left turn over the top, a slight downhill that wasn’t really recovery, then a steep cornering pitch that was just really hard to ski well and then continued going up before reaching a slightly flat section then a ripping downhill corner and a loooong downhill in the longest finishing stretch. By the time you reach the top of the course, your legs are so blown out that it’s a chore to just keep your legs under you through the finish stretch. I didn’t ski the uphill corners well at all, so probably lost a lot of time there. I finished 64th on the day…not what I wanted, but then again, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. On the plus side, I raced on a pair of skis borrowed from the French Rossi rep, Simon, and they were wicked fast awesome skis. I really appreciate Rossi letting me use those skis, they have been great about making sure I am in a good place with my equipment. I spent the rest of the day watching the heats and again, many of my teammates represented well. Full results can be found here.
Sunday was a skiathlon, 15km for women and 30km for men. I didn’t get to race this distance race either, so I once again got my cheering on. And yes, once again, the US team crushed it. Kikkan took another top-10 in 8th, Ida had her best distance race in 14th, Holly had some bad luck in the transition area when she had to backtrack for a pole but still pulled out a good effort in 28th, Rosie again just missed the points in 38th, and Becca skied well to 53rd considering she got the go ahead to race the morning of when Liz Stephen scratched with sickness. The men also showed some awesome skiing with Noah Hoffman and Kris Freeman both duking it out for top-10.
EBJ in the classic portion of the pursuit
Awesome poster made by a local gradeschool class. Each nation’s wax trailer was decorated with them.
Just being on the World Cup scene for two weeks was an incredible learning experience. Maybe I didn’t ski as well as I wanted to or thought I could, but watching and skiing with all those athletes just instills a sort of confidence and you get a boost of motivation to work harder to be competitive at that level. Not to mention that being part of such a big US contingent and watching so many of your teammates show that the US is becoming a ski powerhouse!
WOW. What an amazing experience Quebec City was.
Not only was it incredible to race in my first World Cup race, but I could not have picked a better race to start with. City sprints are just packed with people, some who know what’s going on, some who just wander by and watch. But regardless, the atmosphere was just wild. Around the entire course, the crowd was at least three or four deep, more in certain places. The noise and energy was deafening, it was like being next to a sub-woofer–just reverb all around. Warming up around the course I had to make sure I kept it easy for the first 30 minutes because it was easy to get excited with everyone around.
I was one of the last starters, with the fastest people going out first and newbies relegated to the end. Because the course was only an 850-meter loop that you had to ski twice, starts were organized in groups of six starting every ten seconds with a two minute break between groups. It’s a good strategy because otherwise it would be too many people on such a narrow course with multiple laps. I was the last person in my group, with Becca and Fitz starting just ahead of me. Becca had such an incredible race that I never saw her in front of me, so I was basically out there by myself.
photo Stella Holt
I felt like I skied a good race. I felt strong and I pushed harder than I have probably ever have. However, the snow had deteriorated over the past two days to the consistency of mashed potatoes, so I still felt a bit unsteady and unable to really get the best push off an even ski. I finished in 55th place, one back from my bib number 54.
The US ladies crushed it, with FIVE girls moving on in the top-30: Kikkan, Sadie, Jessie, Sophie and Becca. Watching the heats was so fun and inspiring. Kikkan dominated to win, for the second day in a row! Sadie, Jessie and Becca each had some bad luck getting tangled but looked awesome regardless. And Sophie skied like she belonged on the World Cup to just miss the semifinals and end up 14th! Andy Newell also had a season-best to finish 5th in the men’s A-final.
Sophie and Sadie mixing it up in the quarterfinals
Kikkan (3) dominating her heats
My dad made the loooong trip out to Quebec to watch me race, and we wandered the Old City and had dinner in a creperie
There were also tons of people from all over New England that made the trip up to watch the races, so we had the best cheering by far! It was really cool to have so many people that I know so well cheering me on and just getting so psyched. It definitely made me smile a ton and increased the fun factor exponentially. There may have been more American fans than Canadian. Or, at least they were louder!
I haven’t uploaded my pictures from Canmore yet, but the snow here is fantastic–cold, firm and dry and it feels like winter More on Canmore tomorrow.
My high school coach, Ja, once told me “Fritzy, if you want to ski with the big dogs, you can’t train with the puppies.”
Well, today I got to train with the biggest dogs in Nordic skiing. The city sprint course here in Quebec City opened for official training today for a few hours. It is a really cool course, twisting and looping 860 meters in the park in front of the Quebec Parliament Building. The race with be two laps around the course. The course skis really fast and should be really exciting, with one little hill, a 30 cm “step-down” that is literally a 90-degree drop-off jump in the middle of the course, and a long gradual uphill finish stretch.
Tomorrow is a team sprint–two-person relays where teammates alternate skiing the course for a total of three legs each. Unfortunately, Team USA only gets four teams, so only eight girls get to compete, and I am number 11 in line. So I will only be training and cheering tomorrow. Saturday will be my big day. I’m really excited. I like the course, I feel really good and fast, and I’ll have fresher legs than most.
The past few days have been fun. All the teams are staying in the same hotel right across the street from the course. I look out my sixth-floor window onto the course and the Parliament building.
It’s funny being on the World Cup and seeing all these hot-shot skiers that I’ve only ever seen on TV or in photographs. They seem like such celebrities in the media, but seeing them at meals and hanging out during the day, walking around town, training and jogging, of course you realize that they are just like me. Sure, they are the world’s best skiers, but they’re just people who love to ski just like me. I still have to ask the other US girls who certain people are, but it’s easy to get over being starstruck pretty quick. I mean, I’m here too aren’t I? I’ve been introduced to some of the other national skiers and they are super friendly and cool to talk to and they aren’t scary or intimidating. It will still be awesome to watch them ski in person though.
If you would like to watch any of the races live, here are some links to check out:
www.usskiteam.com I believe they will show only the team sprint finals and individual sprint heats.
The race schedule is as follows (times are Eastern Standard Time):
12:00 Team Sprint Semifinals
14:00 Team Sprint Finals
Saturday Dec. 8
11:15 Sprint Qualification
13:15 Sprint Finals
Here are a few photos that I took a couple days ago. Fasterskier also has some good pictures from today.
Kikkan and Sylvan took some video preview of the course today too, here are the links to their videos:
Kikkan’s course preview (see if you can guess who the skier she come up on is?…)
This was my goal for this fall, but I was having a lot of doubts the past month or two, especially after the races in West Yellowstone last week. Goes to show that you can’t give up on your goals, even when you don’t get off to a good start. I found my form in Bozeman this week, just in time, and actually qualified to race the next two weekends of World Cups. Goal accomplished.
I can’t even contain my excitement, I don’t know what else to say. This is the real deal. WORLD CUP.
I guess I’ll start with what vaulted me into a qualifying spot. I already wrote about the skate sprint on Thursday. Friday was an “off” day, and by off day I mean we didn’t race but we still did race prep to get our bodies fired up for another sprint on Saturday. Friday was nerve-wracking. Not because I was nervous to race but rather because I was nervous we were NOT going to race. The course was moved from the skate sprint course to an upper meadow that had more snow, as the lower course was melting fast with warm temperatures. Race prep and ski testing in the morning was smooth. Then, after lunch, it started raining. I’m talking a heavy downpour for several hours. I don’t think there is anything that makes a skier more nervous that rain. The little snow we had in our driveway was complete slush, and since the trails were only a few hundred meters from our house, we were a little concerned. The race course held up well though, thanks to a huge effort by volunteers shoveling extra snow onto the course the days prior. There was only one muddy section going up the first hill.
I was a little bummed when they changed the course because it went from having three substantial hills to having one small hill and pretty much all slightly-downhill double pole. I think I am a stronger sprinter when there are hills, but I was determined to double pole the hell out of it. Turns out, all the double pole intervals and speed we did this summer helped! I finished 8th in the prelim, although I was well off Sadie’s blistering winning pace, about fifteen seconds faster! The great thing about sprints is that you get another chance (or potentially three more) to throw down. So guess what I did? I threw down. I knew I needed a really great race to qualify for the World Cup.
My quarterfinal and semifinal went fantastic. My new Rossignol skis were money and the wax techs nailed the wax. I had great kick to stride up the first hill strongly, and amazingly fast skis on the double pole section and ended up winning both heats. As the quarterfinals progressed, I watched Sadie, Rosie, Becca and Fitz all qualify for the semifinals. My semifinal was stacked. Becca and Rosie were both in my heat, as was Sophie Caldwell, who won both skate sprints. To our excitement, Becca, Rosie and I finished as the top three to go on to the A-final along with Sadie and Fitz from the other semifinal. The A-final contains six skiers and FIVE of us were from APU. The sixth was Corey Stock, a Dartmouth freshman who trained with us this summer! As we waited for the final to start, we were all laughing about how awesome it was. It was basically just like an interval session at home! Erik Flora even joked, “Uh, well…who do I talk strategy to?!”
It was by far the most fun, yet scrappiest heat of the day. We may be teammates and friends and training buddies, but ultimately we all want to win. When the gun goes off, it’s a race, not a training session, but it becomes a lot more interesting and exciting when you know so much about how all your competitors ski. The start was fast and furious, and fighting for lanes up the first hill brought a lot of pole clanging and near crashes. Rosie took out a hot pace up the hill, I tucked in behind her, and Sadie behind me heading into the downhill. Sadie and I probably knocked poles, stepped on each others skis and almost took each other out at least three or four times. Coming into the last 300 meters or so, the course had a hairpin turn and then 75 meters of slightly uphill double-poling, went through a stand of trees into the finishing stretch of slightly downhill double pole. We were all still really tight coming around the hairpin. Rosie and I were leading side by side, when all of sudden Sadie pulls even with us in the far track, and then starts to pull ahead with Corey on her heels. I thought I was going as hard as I could but somehow I was able to dig deeper. My tempo and power output increased dramatically and I was double poling better than I thought possible and was staying even with Sadie. I took a few quick strong strides in the woods to pick the tempo and as we came into the home stretch, I was still even with Sadie.
A bunch of our male teammates were screaming at all of us as we wnter the final fifty meters “Whoever wants it most, go get it! Who wants it?!?! Come on push it!” Then there was the moment when I realized that I was going for the win! I gave it my best effort and it came down to a photo finish lunge with Sadie. I came out just a toe-length short and Sadie got the win, but I still got SECOND for my first SuperTour podium. Corey was a foot behind us in third, and Rosie, Fitz and Becca were four-five-six.
This may make me sound super dorky and fresh-faced, but it was pretty awesome to stand on the podium knowing I had turned in a result that was enough to clinch a coveted spot on the World Cup team. It was also special to be surrounded by five of my teammates. I don’t think I would be nearly as successful without my team. I feel so lucky to have such amazing teammates who inspire me every day at training to be better and work harder. Then when we line up together on the start line, whether it’s the sprint final, or a mass start, you know there are people out there that you ski with every day and it makes you push yourself that much more.
Sunday was an 11km classic mass start. The conditions hadn’t improved any, but the racing was still quality. Because of the marginal snow, we skied three laps of a 3.8km loop. There was one monster of a hill in the middle of the loop, a lot of working downhills and a couple moderate striding hills. The mass start was crazy hectic, as usual, and I ended up getting stuck in the middle of the pack, had at least three or four people fall in front of me, but I just stayed calm and made moves where I could. I actually had a great second lap and caught a ton of people and was sitting around 8th place. Unfortunately, my skis slowed considerably on the last lap and I lost three places to the finish, coming in 11th.
Regardless, I was really happy with my race. I had a solid distance race, something that has evaded me for quite some time. Sure, I was still three minutes behind Sadie’s winning time, but I felt like I was actually racing well. Next time I just need to get to the front of the pack before the chaos ensues. I also found out that I had made the World Cup sprint team about twenty minutes before the start. It took a lot of pressure off the race, and I was so elated and relaxed that I was able to ski a smooth and relaxed race.
Now I am en route to Quebec City for the World Cup this weekend. AHHH!!! (still excited!!) Friday is a team sprint, Saturday is individual sprint, both skate. Then Sunday we will travel to Canmore for another weekend of World Cup racing. There are three races in Canmore, a 10km classic mass start, a skate sprint and a pursuit. I only get to race the skate sprint, so it will be fun to be able to watch and cheer during the other races. I’ll fly home for Christmas and some Besh Cup racing at home, and then head off to US Nationals the first week of January. Exciting times!!
A successful athlete is one who can have a bad day (or two, or seven) but turns around doesn’t let it discourage them from having a good race the next go around. Sometimes it is really hard to get over a bad race, or a bad season, but so far I’m doing pretty good. West Yellowstone was disappointing, certainly, but I got another chance today in Bozeman to get my sprint on, and it went well. I still get a bit winded just skiing easy because we are still at altitude, but I have been feeling waayyyy better this week. Today was the rescheduled skate sprint from West. It was a fast course with a couple short and steep pitches in the first half and a long, but winding downhill that offered no recovery into a final pitch up to the finish. I thought it was a really awesome course.
Sprinting is really fun because it can be a lot more tactical and aggressive, but still uses your fitness because to make it to the end you have to have the endurance to sprint up to four times. I qualified 9th in the prelim, with my teammates also qualifying in 2nd, 7th, 10th, 11th and 13th. I went up against my teammate Sadie Bjornsen (#2) in the quarterfinal, and it started off poorly. I was kinda slow off the line and went into the first hill in fifth, stuck behind other skiers that I couldn’t around even though I knew I could go faster. Going into the big hill at the top of the course I saw that there was a whole skier’s width open on the inside track, so I took it and just powered up the hill to put myself into third, a much better position. Like I said, sprinting can often be won or lost in tactics, and it’s also important not to let yourself get frustrated if you aren’t exactly where you want to be. I didn’t want to be in fifth at that point, but I saw my opportunity, took it and put myself in a better spot to qualify on to the semifinals. Finishing third in a quarterfinal is risky because only the two lowest bib numbers that finish third move on to semis, so it’s important to finish well in the prelim. Fortunately, today that worked in my favor and I got one of the “Lucky Loser” spots.
I had another less than optimal start and once again was in fourth or fifth. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite close the gap on the same hill and came into the stadium hill in fourth, out of qualifying for the A-final, my legs just shut down and my teammate Kate Fitz went blazing by me. So I finished fifth in that heat, which I think put me in 9th or 10th at the end of the day. Sadie finished second, as did her brother Erik in the men’s race, and I believe we had four women in the top 10. Not bad. I was hoping to be top-4 or 5 but at least it’s a giant step forward over last weekend, and hopefully I can carry the momentum into Saturday’s classic sprint.
I got BK to snap some photos during the heats.
The season has begun.
West Yellowstone presented all sorts of challenges this year. Mother Nature has not been kind to West Yellowstone so far this winter, at least in the eyes of a skier. Temperatures sat in the mid-30s and even low 40s all week, and while precipitation was plentiful, it was mostly in the liquid form.
Driving past the trails up to the Plateau…not promising (below)
The trails in town did not have enough snow to ski on all week so training and racing were moved up onto some U.S. Forest Service roads/trails on the South Plateau above town, at about 7-7,500 ft elevation or so. Since there was limited access and all sorts of road restrictions to get up to the Plateau, there was all sorts of waiting around down in town. Some days we waited in a line of cars for almost an hour before we could even drive up the USFS road. We were restricted to two trails/roads for skiing, the races barely managed to go off and they were heavily modified.
Road Block: Waiting to go skiing. Some days the line of cars would be 50 cars long or more.
Whole lotta mud, not a whole lotta snow.
The distance race became a point-to-point net uphill 9k. It was HARD. Going from sea level to racing above 7,000 ft in one week is painful. Because the trail is not wide enough to hold sprint heats, Saturday’s sprint race was modified into a point-to-point 1.6k prologue only and did not count in the Super Tour standings or as a World Cup qualifer. My races did not go well at all. Ever since I got back from Fairbanks, I have been really tired and my muscles have felt really flat. Speedwork, intervals and a couple time trials felt like I was moving in slow motion. Halfway through an interval or time trial my energy would suddenly just disappear, and despite my best efforts to keep my tempo up, keep my technique in good form and use my strength I would just feel like I was moving through sand. The feeling continued through the training week in West Yellowstone leading up to the races, and come race day, my body still wouldn’t cooperate and I just couldn’t find that next gear. I finished a demoralizing 59th place in the 9k skate race and a still slightly embarrassing 32nd place in the 1.6k skate sprint prologue.
I was frustrated after the races because I had really high hopes and have a lot riding on these two weekends, trying to qualify for the World Cups in Canada in December. It’s hard to not get down on myself when I’ve put in so much training and hard work all year and the first races are a complete and utter blowout. On the other hand, I have to remind myself that I have trained more this year than I ever have before, and combined with trying to work 25-30 hours per week at home and other life stressors, I probably haven’t been getting enough rest and recovery from my training that I should have or should be. Fortunately on the road, I get to sleep a LOT more and rest a lot more after training, so I’ve been feeling considerably better and my body has a bit more snap. I also spent a lot of time with my two best friends from college, Em and Claire, who were both in West helping coach their respective high school club teams. It was the first time the three of us had been together since graduation two-and-a-half years ago! It was so great to see them and hang out, catch up and just talk about everything, which is another way to relieve a lot of stress. They both made me feel so much better and helped me relax a lot. There was a lot of laughing going on. And laughter really can be the best medicine.
Claire, Em and I in West Yellowstone in 2006, our freshman year of college!
Another thing that helped brighten the mood this weekend was watching the American women on the World Cup KICK ASS and make history. In the opening weekend in Gaellivare, Sweden, Kikkan finished 3rd and Holly placed 5th in the 10k skate!!! Jessie and Liz were both having top-10 races too until they each fell on course. No American woman has ever been on the podium in a World Cup distance race. Then, to push the bar even higher, the following day they teamed up to place 3rd in the 4x5k relay. Holly hung strong in the scramble leg, Kikkan actually caught Therese Johaug, one of the fastest Norwegian skiers, on the second leg and tagged off to Liz in SECOND place, Liz turned on the burners and put the US within 4 seconds of Norway, tagging off to Jessie RIGHT behind Marit Bjørgen, who is almost certainly THE best female skier in history. Jessie lost one place after being passed by Charlotte Kalla, the 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 10k skate, but she skied her heart out to hold off the second Norwegian team to put the USA on the podium for the first time in history, again. These girls are on FIRE, and it’s incredible to watch and think that we train with them on a regular basis, so it’s a huge motivator to know that we can be there too. A few years ago, there weren’t even enough American women on the World Cup to start a relay team, and now they are on the podium. Crazy exciting. I can’t wait to see what they do next!
We are now in Bozeman, MT for three races this weekend. Thursday will be the skate sprint that couldn’t be held in West, Saturday is a classic sprint and Sunday is a mass start classic distance race. Sprinting is my forte and so I have set my expectations higher again. Also, the courses in Bozeman will have some killer hills, which I think is to my benefit as opposed to a flat V2 course like in West. Oh, and the sun has been shining and it is wonderful.
Some more photos from the week in West Yellyrock…
Fairbanks, Alaska gets a lot a bad rap for a lot of reasons. It’s almost always frigid whenever they hold ski races (many of them are inevitably cancelled) and the snow is likely the slowest I’ve ever skied on; It’s far away from everywhere in the United States (including Anchorage); The city is anything but special—a couple good restaurants, but it’s not high on most destination lists; It’s as dark as all get-out—high noon, which is around 1 or 2pm, is generally still kind of dusky—and that’s saying a lot from someone from Anchorage. But, I have to say, despite the cold, the distance and the darkness, Fairbanks is a really awesome place to ski. Birch Hill is definitely one of my top-five favorite ski venues. I haven’t skied there much since I finished high school—only twice in fact, and only once to race. Every time I do ski there, I have a great time, and I have pretty much always had good races in Fairbanks.
Last Wednesday, most of the APU team headed north to get some good training time on snow. Anchorage has been cold and clear of late, but no snow in a couple weeks. Fairbanks only got about four inches, but it was enough to have pretty decent skiing on the entirety of the Birch Hill trail system. While our focus for the weekend was to get in some good volume on snow, we also helped out with the Second Annual First Tracks Camp for Alaskan junior skiers. The camp is put on by Mike Hajdukovich of Challenge Life Youth Foundation and had about seventy-five junior skiers from Fairbanks and Anchorage participate. They had some coaching by various club coaches, as well as the opportunity to jump in some ski sessions with us and see how we train.
I skied about four hours per day, but not all of it was easy! Here is basically what our mini-camp consisted of:
am: easy Level 1 distance classic ski to get used to being on snow again—2 hours
pm: easy L1 distance skate ski w/20-25 minutes of one-pole skiing for balance work—1.5 hours
am: 55 min warm-up L1 classic followed by 45 min double-pole specific strength on variable terrain, 20 min easy cool-down—2 hours
pm: warm-up 30 min L1-2 skate, 10km Level 3/Lactate Threshold (~34min), 55 min easy L1-2 distance warm-down—2 hours
am: warm-up 30 min L1-2 classic, 10x50m double-pole overspeeds, 6x20m starts, cool-down 35 min easy distance—2:10
pm: sprint race workout: warm-up 45 min w/(1×1.2km L3 and 1×1.2km L4), mock sprint race consisting of 4×1.2km sprint race w/8-10min recovery between laps, cool-down 20 min easy—1:50
am: 3-hour L1 over-distance ski “Tour of Birch Hill” split classic and skate
pm: help out with Fast and Female event in Fairbanks with some fun ski stations outside for 45 min (I was in charge of the sprint starts staion!) and 20 minutes of ZUMBA!!
As I write this, I am in the van driving home to Anchorage, exhausted but feeling like I had a really productive weekend, remembering how the snow feels and getting some good intensity on skis. Unfortunately, we might have to keep the rollerskis out for a little bit longer in Anchorage, so please do a little snow dance for us. We’ll have a couple time trials in the next couple weeks (hopefully on snow!) and it’s hard to believe that I only have THREE weeks until I leave for the first races of the season. Happy Halloween!
Here are some pictures from the weekend.
First Tracks Camp group picture (Holly Brooks photo)
We consumed A LOT of Subway sandwiches this weekend. Thanks Kikkan!
In September, the APU women’s team cooked two dinners that had been purchased at our each of our fundraisers this spring. It was a nice change from just focusing on training and working, thinking about how much sleep I still didn’t seem to be getting, and gave us the opportunity to wear something other than spandex and helmets! We clean up nicely.
The first one was formal, for a group that included a few APU Board members. We went all out, testing out menu items during the week leading up to the dinner, making sure we knew exactly how to cook each dish, with the right seasoning and/or dressing, and even the presentation of each dish was pre-meditated. They were impressed, to say the least, and said that everything tasted wonderful. If global warming takes away winter, we can forgo skiing and open a restaurant.
The second dinner was much more informal, with a hilarious bunch of ladies that included Kikkan’s mom and aunts, Fitz’s mom, a girl I skied with in high school and her mom along with the moms of a couple other skiers we knew. They just loved hanging out with us, and were also impressed that we can cook. But we also loved hanging out with them because they were awesome entertainment in and of themselves! Here are some pictures of both nights. Duck was on the menu for the first dinner, while steak and chicken ruled the second.
DUCK! before (left) after (right)
Riced (before being mashed) purple potatoes from Sarah’s mom’s garden.
It’s that time of year again. Between Oct. 1st and Nov. 15th, the National Nordic Foundation is having the “Drive for 25″ fundraising effort. The NNF has been fundamental in funding developmental race trips to Europe, making it more affordable for young aspiring skiers to race at higher and higher levels, with the goal of reaching the World Cup and Olympic level, and performing well at that level. Please do your part, donate $5, $10, $25, $100, $500 or whatever you can. It all adds up and makes a difference! Follow this link: Drive for 25- Cross Country to visit the page I have set up with NNF to donate through. If $500 in contribution is attained through my page, a matching $500 will be contributed by an anonymous donor. Happy Winter!
…Because we’re too hot!
Chris Hodel photo
I spent two separate weeks at the APU Thomas Training Center on Eagle Glacier in July and August for some on-snow training with the team. I hadn’t been up there since 2007, but not a lot has changed other than a new Piston Bully groomer that makes the coaches lives substantially better. Life on the glacier is very simple: wake, eat, ski, eat, nap, ski, eat, sleep. Some may think that skiing 4.5 hours per day is impressive. Yes, it is a lot and I was very tired every day. But the amount of food consumed by twenty athletes skiing many hours everyday is possible the most amazing feat on the glacier. Breakfast alone consisted of FORTY eggs being cooked, two gallons of milk, 1-2 loaves of bread, four pots of coffee, and a huge pot of oatmeal. And that’s before we even work out yet! It was great training though, and being on snow makes a significant difference in a) my mental state during summer training because it’s a break from rollerskiing; and b) technique adjustments, which are much easier to work on on snow than on rollerskis. The weather was variable, from fog so thick I couldn’t see more than just past the tips of my skis, to driving rain and wind that really makes me think twice about why I do this, to bluebird days that call for skiing in shorts and sports bras. While the down time up there can be tediously boring, it can be spectacularly beautiful too. I feel pretty lucky to be able to just look out the windows on a clear evening and see endless mountain peaks and think about how I get to ski on a freaking glacier.
Enjoying a nice evening on the cliff
And my go-to yoga pose wherever I go.
Rosie, myself and Sadie
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy (name that song)
Charlie Renfro (an APU devos coach) and Chris Hodel (APU board of trustees) flew up one day during camp and spent the day taking some amazing photos of us. Thanks for the photos guys!
Afternoon classic session
Rosie, myself and Greta
Charlie also put together a sweet video from the glacier. Check it out.
More soon about the fall.
Spring and summer are so full of activities other than ski racing that it’s hard to keep track. Time has flown by since the end of the season in Vermont, and I’ve clearly been too busy having fun to keep up a blog. Summer training is in full swing with rollerskiing, running, hiking, bounding, biking and some weight room time. Nonetheless, we had some amazing adventures this spring before the record snowpack melted away. You’d think after 6 months of racing everyone would be eager to hang up the boards and take it easy for a few weeks, but April was full of sunshine and many many hours of crust skiing. Pictures are way more interesting than blabbing about training, so see for yourself.
Snow still buries this picnic table in the park near my house in early April
Luckily it’s not too far of a drop with five feet of snow on the ground
Crust skiing up Burns Glacier and Portage Lake with the boys. Turnagain Arm in the background.
First we had to ski across Portage Lake
Then past the toe of Portage Glacier
Snow creates amazing formations. Beautiful, but not so much fun to ski down when crusted over.
Flat Stanley skiing in Hatcher Pass and thoroughly enjoying early May in Alaska. Yes, still skiing in early MAY.
More crust skiing in Hatcher Pass.
Taking some jumps…I still need to work on my skills… Am I having fun yet?
Took a long weekend in April to crust ski into my cabin up north. Denali in the background, about 40 miles away.
Hiking is one of my favorite summer activities, and I try to get into the mountains at least once a week or more. Being in the mountains and looking out into the distance from a ridgeline and seeing nothing but more mountains gives me an incredible feeling of smallness but greatness. I’m much more comfortable hiking in the wilderness than in a big city. You can take the girl out of nature, but you can’t take the nature out of the girl….
First hike of the spring/summer with Sam (m) and Chris (r) up Rainbow Peak along Turnagain Arm.
Sam coming down in the birch trees.
Mom and I hiking Bird Ridge.
Mom glissading down the snow field.
Sunny afternoon run on the Turnagain Arm Trail with some visiting Canadian skiers. Photo by Alysson Marshall.
Self-taken camera snap on one of my favorite ridge runs. Sorry, I’m not telling where. It’s my special secret ridge. Best place to run out any emotions.
The APU girls team also branched out from our regular schedule of being awesome skiers to whip up an amazing home-cooked dinner for a group of folks who won a dinner with us at last year’s APU Gala Auction-Fundraiser. We each were in charge of a dish, and I must say, if we decided not to continue our ski careers we could do a pretty great job as cooks.
Don’t get between Kikkan and a knife!
Grilling up some zucchini
Salmon cake appetizer
Entree of steak and baked polenta with grilled zucchini
Rosie made amazing creme bruleé with fruit
“Leave No Trace” kitchen clean-up
Chefs with the guests
The men wanted to compare guns!
Kikkan and I showed up in the same dress…luckily our aprons were different!
But I mean, I can’t really complain about having the same taste as the best sprinter in the world.
Summer also bring summer running races. I love running as much as I love skiing, and try to do several local races throughout the summer. The first one this year was actually a triathlon. The Gold Nugget is a women-only triathlon that is incredibly popular in Anchorage, with 1500 participants from ages 8-80+. The thing with triathlons though…SWIMMING! I dislike swimming as much as I love running and skiing. I’m about as good as a dog paddling with his head above water to retrieve a stick, and probably not as coordinated. I was so fortunate to start in the first wave of 32 in the pool, and I’ll just say that I started hearing cheers for the first ladies out of the pool when I was choking to finish my 6th of 10 laps. Swimming is not my forte. But after paying my dues in the pool and on the twelve-mile road bike, I put my head down and ran the fastest run split of the race by a minute to finish fifteenth overall.
And of course, there is the legendary Mt. Marathon Race in Seward on the 4th of July. After finishing fifth last year with a time under one hour, my goal was to finish in the top three and improve my time. Well, I guess ski training is good for mountain racing too. I set a personal best by almost five minutes over last year, finishing just under 55 minutes. I crossed the line in second place, three minutes behind my APU teammate Holly Brooks, who finally won after several years of close second-place finishes. As always, mud and blood abounded at the finish line, but it’s pretty much tradition that if you aren’t bloody and/or muddy, you didn’t go hard enough. On a sadder note, there were some very bad accidents on the mountain, with a well-known and experienced male runner suffering a horrific fall that left him with a traumatic brain injury, another woman in the hospital with less severe injuries after a fall, and a man missing after last being seen near the top well after the race time limit. It’s a reminder that no matter how hard you train and prepare, this race can leave you for better or for worse. It’s a risk we all take when we line up at the start line, looking up the mountain to the 3,022 foot peak, hauling ourselves up the slick and rocky slopes only to willingly hurtle ourselves down as fast as we can. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe unless you’ve endured the race yourself, but the elation of finishing such a unique race always outweighs the nervousness and chills I get leading up to the race. Here are some pictures from this year’s race.
Heading up, only about 15 min into the race. Still smiling. Photo by Rob Whitney.
Over halfway up. Smile is gone, full-on suffering. Photo by Charlie Renfro.
Somewhere on the upper half of the mountain, with Ressurection Bay in the background. Photo by Laura Gardner.
Approaching halfway on the descent. Photo by Laura Gardner.
Coming off the cliffs at the base of the mountain, about to hit the road to the finish. Photo by Cameron Fritz.
I was pumped to come down in second place, and the crowd loves it when you show it! Photo by TSS Photography.
Off the mountain and just starting down the road… three-quarters of a mile left to the finish! Photo by Ira Edwards.
Crossing the finish line!!! Photo by TSS Photography.
I may not look it, but I was very happy to be done. Next year, bib number 2!
If you made it this far, congratulations. I will be adding a post very soon about our on-snow glacier camp last week, with some awesome photos.
The past two weeks flew by. After Switzerland, we had a long but beautiful drive across Italy to Rogla, Slovenia.
Passing vineyards across Italy
Talk about a mini-van
Rogla was quite an experience. It’s not a town, but rather a ski resort on the top of a mountain. There is a large resort-y hotel, plus a few outlying small hotel buildings and several bungalow/condos. The trails were directly across the street from our rooms. The skiing was pretty good, and on a clear-ish day you could see lots of mountains in the distance. I never really realized how mountainous Slovenia is and how many good skiers there are. Slovenian skiers were on the podium quite often. Petra Majdic—the recently-retired Slovenian skier who won several World Cup races and titles, as well as an 2010 Olympic bronze medal in the sprint after falling and breaking a rib and puncturing a lung during her warmup, plus the stadium is named after her—even made an appearance at the races. She cheered for me as I suffered my way around the course in last place. It was cool to say she cheered for me, but it was also embarrassing because I was so far back! Oh well.
Stadium at Rogla
It must have been a vacation week in Slovenia because the hotel was FULL of people, especially grade-school children. It made for quite a maddening experience during meals because you had to weave your way through tons of people and there were kids screaming and running around everywhere. I did make friends with a group of 8 to 10-year-old girls one evening, and after much difficulty in trying to communicate they taught me a bunch of Slovenian words. Please is “prosim”, thank you is “hvala”, flower is “rož”, light is “luč”. It was awesome because they were fascinated with me and that I didn’t speak Slovenian, and I was fascinated by them because they would chatter away and I couldn’t understand a lick of what they were saying.
My new friends Petya, Klara, Hana, Nuča, and Pia. They kept calling me “angleška” which means “English girl”
Since there wasn’t much to do in Rogla, we watched more ski racing on TV than I have ever watched in my life. I wish we had Eurosport channel in the US, but it’s probably a good thing that we don’t. That week in particular there were cross-country, Nordic combined and alpine World Cups to watch, Biathlon World Championships, plus NCAA Championships live video coverage and Junior Nationals live-timing online. Talk about living, breathing, and eating skiing. It was really exciting.
One day we left the top of the mountain and went down to the city of Celje, about 45 minutes away. We visited a castle on a hill overlooking the city. It was really cool. I’ve never been to a castle before, and I felt a little like I was really being initiated to Europe with my first castle visit.
Castle in Celje
Rosie, Becca, Erik, Pete and I
English graffiti in Slovenia
Erik (in the background) being a kid again
Yeah, I could use some hair tips…
Slovenian transit knows how to get your attention
Rogla brought disappointing races for me again, unfortunately. I finished 24th of 25 in the 5k skate and 20th of 21 in the 15k classic mass start. Not where I wanted to be, but these were also highly competitive races. Skiers from eight different European countries filled the field and several of them have raced and done well in several World Cups this year. I felt like I couldn’t find that next race gear above just going kind of hard. My legs felt heavy all week, tired and didn’t want to make that next jump to race level. In the skate race I actually did feel quite good as far as being able to keep good technique and skiing strong. The problem was that I just couldn’t go very fast. The classic race left me off the back of the pack in the first kilometer, and with slow skis in warm soft snow conditions and a body that wouldn’t go race-pace, I just had to soldier on for 15k by myself. Nonetheless, again, it was good experience to race against the fastest skiers in Europe that aren’t on the World Cup.
Doing speeds in Rogla
I felt like my body was simply incredibly tired the past couple of weeks, so when we got to Toblach, Italy I decided to just take a lot of rest before the OPA Cup Finals began on Friday. This year has brought more training—both volume and intensity—and more racing than I have ever done before, so it’s not much of a surprise that my body is tired! At this point at the end of the season, I felt like I would gain a lot more by actually resting more. So I skied a lot less, took walks around town in the afternoons instead of running, and enjoyed my last week in Europe!
The drive from Slovenia to Italy was also gorgeous and only four hours long. We stopped in Bled, Slovenia to visit another castle there. Our taxi driver in Celje, told us that Bled—where he was from—was the coolest place in Slovenia. He said Celje was the most boring place in Slovenia, and that we were the most interesting thing in Celje since we were from Alaska. I haven’t seen much of Slovenia, but Bled was gorgeous. The castle looks out over a lake and the town below, and it was a clear day free of haze. Moral of story: castles are really cool. We drove by a lot of them during our drives across countries. This may be incredibly cliché but castles are definitely a defining feature of Europe. I think they hold an especially fascinating mystique for Americans because we don’t have a history going back as far as Europe and virtually no places that stand as reminders or indications of society centuries ago.
At the castle in Bled
Inner chapel in the castle at Bled
Toblach was incredible. It is in northern Italy, so German is actually the predominant language. Fortunately, most signs and labels were in both German and Italian, so I could use my Spanish skills to read Italian and I could get the gist of most things. The town was beautiful. It was fairly small, just a few main streets with shops, cafes and cute houses. It sits in a valley, and one side of the valley is lower, more rolling hills, while the other side was the heart of the Dolomites, with huge towering jagged rocky peaks and narrow valleys. The ski trails were in a narrow valley so there was still a little bit of snow left for the races. It was incredibly wet and dirty snow, with so much moisture in some places that it would nearly bring your skis to a stop in the middle of downhills. But they still had a sweet 5k loop to race on. It’s also a World Cup venue and part of the stadium goes up and over the lodge. It was still pretty warm and sunny, so we were able to work on our tan some more! The food was also absolutely superb. It also seems cliché to say that Italian food is the best, but it is so true. The morning coffee was probably the best I’ve ever drank, every dish of pasta was a different kind and they were all deliciously cooked to al dente perfection, the sauces mouth-wateringly seasoned, and the meat was moist, fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. Not to mention that lunch and dinner were fully-waited three course meals that lasted at least an hour. It was not a hard week…
In the Dolomites
Church in the town of Cortina, a 20 min drive through the mountains from Toblach. I watched a funeral procession from the church an hour later.
Pretty doorway in Cortina
The architecture and decoration is always so beautiful
Cappuccino in Italy!
They say Italy has the best fashion….but I wonder sometimes.
Cool rock/gem shop in Toblach. Dad, I was going to get you a piece of amethyst…but it was too expensive…
The races in Toblach were even more competitive than Rogla because several more World Cup skiers joined the field. Three races were on the schedule: a 2.5k skate prologue, 5k classic and a 10k skate pursuit. Again, I was second-to-last or last in all the races. On the plus side, I felt much better racing than I did the past two weeks. I actually felt like I was able to go hard and push myself. The resting helped. The thing I lacked was the combination of strength, power and tempo to have really good races. But again, I’ve done a lot of racing and training this year and the field was incredibly deep, so I’m not too disappointed in the Toblach races. The whole experience was incredible and eye-opening, and really motivating to go home and do better. My APU teammate Holly Brooks, who has been skiing World Cups all season, came to OPA Finals and won for the weekend combined. Her podium prizes: a flat of apples each day, a 3.3kg block of cheese, a 5+kg hunk of Italian regional bacon called speck, and a 5.5kg block of cheese. Europe knows how to give prizes! Some big names showed up at Finals, most notably Pietro Pillar Cottrer, an Italian who has been on the World Cup circuit for a long time, has several Olympic medals, is mid-30s and still fast and attractive. We managed to snag him one afternoon and get a picture. He was very nice and fun to talk to. He also had a fan club following him around with large loud bells one day. I did not want to leave Italy.
Me, Caitlin and Holly with Killer Pillar!
APU in Italy!
…and the girls: Becca, Holly, me, Rosie and Sadie.
Sadie, Pete and Erik decided they need to take a dip…
Toblach skate prologue
In the 5k classic
and the 10k skate pursuit.
Rosie and I managed to get a couple hours of sightseeing in Munich before we flew back to the US on Monday. I arrived back in my college stomping grounds in Vermont Monday night, spent a day in Burlington with a cousin and then drove up to Craftsbury, Vermont with the APU team yesterday. We have Super Tour Finals starting this week. However, it is currently 80, yes EIGHTY, degrees here in Vermont, and a 2.5k ribbon of wet wet snow surrounded by mud to serve as the race course. Should be interesting. Spring indeed…it’s more like summer for us fair-weathered northerners as it is warmer than the average summer day in Anchorage. My teammates can complain all they want about how the snow in Alaska is perfect right now but that’s not going to change the conditions here. At least I have been racing on wet, dirty, marginal snow for a few weeks now, so it’s nothing new, plus I just love being in Vermont. I also got sick on the place with a sore throat and now a cold, so I’ve just been enjoying the warm weather. I guess we’ll just see what happens… I also
City hall (I think) in Munich’s Marienplatz Square
Street full of butcher shops in Munich
Another cool doorway to Munich Cathedral Church of Our Lady
Inside the Church of Our Lady
Well, the races this weekend did not go quite how I had envisioned or hoped. Extremely warm weather made for quite slushy conditions for the skate race, and that combined with travelling overseas and being at altitude for the first time in several months made for quite a less than desirable race. In the skate race my legs felt like dead weights and I just couldn’t get a good tempo going. People were passing me like I was standing still and I had no response. I finished 9th out of ten senior women. Nonetheless I shook it off and put my head in the game for today’s mass start classic race. I was looking forward to today because I love mass starts, I like classic much more than skate this year, and I thought some klister skiing would be fun. Boy was I disappointed thirty minutes later… While Saturday’s skate race started at 12:30pm in full-on sun and slush, Sunday’s race started at 9:30am and the track was bullet-proof ice. With klister, it was super sketchy. If you got out of the tracks, your skis would catch on the ice and you would fall. But it was also dangerous if you stayed in the tracks because they went around corners and it was just all-around a terrifying experience. And that is rare for me to say because I’m pretty aggressive on downhills. The other part was that I had absolutely no kick. I don’t have true klister skis, and the skis I did use did not work well today. From the get-go, I couldn’t even get up the first hill out of the start. No matter what I did to modify my technique to try and get kick, or whether the tracks were icy in the shade or slushy in the sun, my skis didn’t work. I tried to make it work the first lap, but then I kind of gave up. In the end, it wasn’t really like a race. I was almost laughing to myself at how horrible it was. I finally gave up trying to stride completely and just started double-poling up hills that I would normally not even consider double-poling up. I finished and was not even tired because I just couldn’t even go hard enough. Every stride forward felt like a stride backwards because I would slip so much. Anyways…. Becca had a great race to bring home the win, and Erik made a hard charge to take 2nd in the men’s race. But again, it was a sunny day and I have to hope that this weekend’s results helped blow out some fatigue and heaviness and I’ll be ready to rock next weekend. I have to keep reminding myself that racing in Europe is a big change from racing in the U.S. This trip is more for experience and exposure for me, being my first Euro racing trip. This week has been some pretty sweet skiing and weather, so at least I have that to be happy about. Tomorrow morning we are driving to Rogla, Slovenia for the next set of races. It’s a ten-hour drive, but it should be pretty sweet all the way across Italy. So, here are some more pictures from Switzerland. Wish we could stay a few more days….
Soaking up the sun!
There are lots of road crossings around here…luckily I brought rock skis!
On our first day skiing we found a bench and a coffee pit stop! The Swiss know how to enjoy a ski!
Rosie, me and Becca skiing around the valley.
The boys decided to jump some of the crossings.
My attempt was a bit on the low side….
But I did make it!! (Jumping photos from Reese)
Post- classic race today. Pretty beautiful place.
Our hotel host/cook decided to play for us one night…he was also slightly inebriated. All the more entertaining…
We got packages of local sausage with our race entry.
So here I sit on the porch of our little hotel in Gsteig, Switzerland in the Gstaad alpine regions of southwestern Switzerland with the sun shining. It’s rough.
Sunset the first night.
First impressions so far:
The trip over was long, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Leaving on a red-eye from Anchorage is always tough because you lose a night of sleep. I was upgraded to first class for the flight from Anchorage to Seattle, so I at least got to be more comfortable in my fitful plane-sleep. Then from D.C. to Munich (8-hour flight) I had my own row so I was able to lay down and sleep a bit. I got all my bags accounted for (which can’t be said for a couple people) and then we were in the vans for the 6-hour drive to our place in Switzerland. I managed not to nap, then slept hard all night. It is still a bit bizarre because my body clock is off but the adjustment is easier than I thought.
It’s been a balmy 4-8º…CELSIUS (40-45ºF). We are about 3km up-valley from the race venue, but there is a ski trail across the street from our hotel that runs down the valley to the venue and beyond. It is a pretty sweet ski, super relaxed, and we just enjoyed ourselves. I’ll let the pictures speak more.
BIG news! In ONE week, I will be landing in Munich, Germany, embarking on a three-week race trip in Europe! This will be my first ever trip to Europe and I am beyond excited. The trip is organized by the US Ski Team Development coach and we will be competing in races called OPA Continental Cups. OPA Cup is basically the equivalent of the US Super Tour race circuit. But the OPA races are significantly more competitive than the Super Tour because they draw some of the best skiers from all over Europe and are pretty much the most competitive races below the World Cup level. Sometimes World Cup regulars even jump into races, raising the bar up even higher. They will be really good experience to race against really fast skiers and see where I stack up. Results will be listed here: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/disciplines/cross-country/results.html and you just look for the location.
We will be racing in three different countries over three weekends! From Munich, we will drive to Feutersoey, Switzerland for the first weekend of races March 3rd and 4th, then drive nearly 1,000km to Rogla, Slovenia for races on March 10th and 11th. From there we’ll drive another 350km or so to Toblach, Italy for OPA Cup Finals March 16th-18th. After the last races, we’ll drive back to Munich to fly back to the US. I will be flying straight to Vermont for twelve days to race Super Tour Finals and the US Distance National Championship. Come next Sunday night, I will say goodbye to Alaska for five weeks! I still can hardly believe that I’m actually going. I never gave much thought to actually going to OPA when we first got the trip information, but eventually I decided that there isn’t a better time for me to go race in Europe. I’m skiing well, I’m healthy, I am still job searching for the time being so I wouldn’t be missing anything, so there is nothing for me to lose. Yes, the trip is not cheap, but why pass up the opportunity to get experience racing in Europe. You never know what might happen next year. Not to mention the locations of the races are all in really cool places. (Don’t worry if you don’t know where these places are…I didn’t either. See map below)
Did I mention that I am extremely psyched for this trip?! If you’d like to help me out on my trip, see my “About Me” page for support info!
Closer to home, I have done a couple local races in the last few weeks. On Super Bowl Sunday I did the Alaska Ski for Women at Kincaid Park. I was really excited this year that I was going to be home for it because I haven’t been able to participate since I was a freshman or sophomore in high school because I was always gone for other races. The SFW is first and foremost a wonderful fundraiser for several non-profit organizations the help women and children that have been victims of domestic violence and abuse. Beyond that, it is apparently the largest women-only ski event in the country (which is pretty cool) and has evolved into not only a fun dual-event race if you desire but also a giant costume party. I’m terrible at costumes (for any occasion) and so I am always completely blown away at the amazing, complex, beautiful costumes that people come up with. This year brought out a herd of giraffes and a multi-tentacled octopus as the best in show.
The costume winners!
The Kraken! Photos by Jan Hazen.
The other cool thing about the SFW is that you can pair up and get a team time/ranking. I entered the mother/daughter division with my mom and we skied the classic race. Since it was the day between the first two UAA races, I used it more as a ten-minute race prep workout. I started pretty casually, not exerting myself beyond a medium L3 pace and 1k in I already had a substantial lead. I won by over a minute, which gave me time to ski back and finish with my mom too. I wish I’d had a better costume, but I did get to wear a cool pink sparkly sequined cape on the podium in front of the entire costume/party wave at the start line! To my disappointment I didn’ t get to keep it.
The start. Me in pink and polka dots!
Podium glamour shot. Photos by Jan Hazen.
Mothers and daughters! (left to right) Erin, her mom Barb, me, my mom Cindy, Annie’s mom Barb, and Annie.
I also did an Anchorage Cup race yesterday called the Sven Johansson (named after a prominent local skier who became an Olympian in the 50’s) aka the “Tour of Kincaid”. It was a 30k skate race. I was worried about how my calves would hold up in such a long skate race, but I had no problems! Must be all that deep-tissue wonder work J The conditions were pretty much PERFECT skating conditions: firm but just slightly giving snow and wonderfully groomed. It was pretty fast too. It was also one of the hardest races I’ve done. Not because of the length necessarily but because of the terrain. Kincaid has a lot of hills. And we skied pretty much all the hard ones. And they pretty much all came in the second half of the race! Brutal.
At the start of the Sven 30k. Sarah is bib 99 right behind me. Photo from Jim Singleton.
I ended up skiing the entire race with my teammate Sarah Cresap, who had way faster skis than mine, but also had a great race. It was nice to have someone to trade pacing with and make me push harder. I was hoping to drop her in the last 10k because I was stronger on the climbing sections, but her fast skis kept up with me and it came down to a sprint finish. Because I knew her skis were faster I just tucked behind her on most downhills and into the stadium for the finish, and then came around and outsprinted her for a one-second win. Strategy helps! But the pain (fun?) wasn’t over yet… About 30 minutes after I finished I had a major post-race bonk. I carried a water bottle with sports drink during the race, but it was a formula without sugar. While I was fine during the race, afterwards my blood sugar crashed so low that I started getting dizzy, tunnel vision and shaking. Fortunately I didn’t pass out, but I have never had such a horrible post-race bonk. 30 minutes, 2 Cokes, 4 chocolate cookies and 2 slices of pizza later, I was feeling significantly better. I did feel slightly nauseous and had a headache later that evening, but I cured that by following my coach’s advice to drink dark beer (I had a porter) and eat ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked). Seriously! It was a super fun race though, and was good prep for the 30k skate at Distance Nationals at the end of March in Vermont.
So, some rest and training this week and then off for a Euro adventure!! I’m not sure what the internet situation will be like across the pond, but keep checking back for update on my trips/races!! Thanks!
Also, a couple more pictures from the UAA mass start classic race, from Laura Gardner.
Racing at Kincaid is incredibly fun. It never gets old. There are so many different trails and loop combinations. You can find pretty much every kind of terrain from long steep uphills that are followed by ripping fast downhills with turns, short steep rolling hills or long gradual restful descents. If you are on a long easy ski, there are many viewpoints that you can’t help but stop for. Virtually any race held at Kincaid is bound to be hard.
My brother and I on a sunrise ski at Kincaid on Christmas morning at one of my favorite viewpoints
This week’s four UAA Invitational races were no exception. Every race followed the same 5k course, with a 2.5k loop added for the last race to create a 7.5k loop. As you can see on the course profile map below, there was a substantial amount of climbing. One of the most dreaded climbs at Kincaid, Hairpin, was halfway through the course, with still more than half a kilometer of continuous climbing after that. Hairpin in gnarly because it is a climb that starts off fairly gradual right out of a screaming downhill (with a mini-jump in it), then pitches up so steeply as it makes a nearly-180 switchback turn that you have to herringbone, then continues at a lesser-but-still-strenuous uphill grade before making another switchback and plateauing just enough to almost catch your breath before you climb another half-kilometer to the next downhill recovery section. And then there are still two more long gradual climbs to go. The course is a leg-burner. With that said, it a course that brings out true fitness and the best skier wins.
5k course map
The first race was a 5K classic race last Saturday. Along with sporting some swanky new APU race suits that finally arrived after several months delay, the conditions were PERFECT, with the new slightly moist snow setting up really firm fast tracks. Dylan Watts and Bart Dengel gave us wicked fast skis with perfect kick, for which I am incredibly thankful. Those were the best classic skis I’ve had in a while. I finished 8th on the day, ten seconds out of fifth. I was pretty happy with that, after really starting to fade around 3.5-4.5km. My legs were feeling a lot more energetic than they did in the Midwest races. I was the lone APU representative in the women’s race both days, after learning that morning that my teammate Kate Fitzgerald had unfortunately come down with mono. The men’s race was well represented though, with Brent winning by two seconds the first day and ten seconds in the skate, Mark in 6th and 4th, and Dylan in 9th.
Monday was the next race, a 10K skate, two laps around the course. I finished 13th that day. As I mentioned in a previous post, my calves have been giving lots of problems in skating. Last week, I got some deep-tissue massage work done on my legs. It was painful, but it made a difference! My calves didn’t hurt at all in the 10k skate. The problem that I did run into though was that I didn’t know how to go hard in a skate race! Since I have been unable to skate effectively and push myself when my calves hurt so bad, when they didn’t hurt, I didn’t know how to push myself. Hmm… I think I was also somewhat holding myself back because I was always thinking ‘ok, when are they going to start cramping? This hill? The next hill?’ and I didn’t want that to happen so I didn’t go as hard as I probably could have. Now I know. I would have another chance in the 5k skate race on Thursday.
Tucking in the skate race in our spiffy new suits
As luck would have it, I didn’t get another chance to test my legs in a skate race. Tuesday dawned a beautiful sunny clear day and I got to spend all day in bed with the stomach flu. Wednesday I felt significantly better and was able to ski, but still felt pretty tired. I warmed up for the race on Thursday, but just didn’t have any spark. I decided to take another day before sinking my body’s energies. I was really looking forward to the 15k classic mass start race scheduled for Friday and I wanted to do well so I needed as much energy in store as possible. So I spent Wednesday and Thursday trying to eat as much as possible (I need that extra weight for the downhills too…)
I love mass start races because they are tactical, make you pace yourself differently than on your own, work with and off other skiers, and they are downright fun to ski. But I was super nervous for yesterday’s race. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fare for 15k after being sick, so while I had visions of how I wanted to ski or where I wanted to place, I really had no expectations. I decided I was just going to race how I felt and be satisfied with that. As with all mass starts, there was a fair amount of yelling, skis overlapping, tripping and pole breaking in the first couple of kilometers. I managed to get caught in a tangle when some people (including me) jumped out of the tracks to avoid a fallen skier ahead of us only to find ourselves ankle-deep in powder on the side of the trail, skis crossed.
Our coach Erik Flora is always telling us that the best way to deal with chaos in mass starts, sprint races or just crowded trails is to just make yourself as small/narrow as possible, keep your poles close to your body, stay calm and don’t make any sudden movements. So when I found myself in this situation, I just stood there while the other girls got their skis out of my way. After the mess cleared, I was literally in last place going into the first big climb. The pack was still all together though, so I just found myself a clear track and calmly skied my way further up in the pack over the next kilometer or two. Not having high expectations for myself allowed me to just ski very relaxed and smoothly, which usually translates to skiing more strongly and efficiently. 2k later, after watching some competitors’s poles break in front of me, I found myself on the back of the lead pack of ten or so girls climbing up Hairpin. And then I fell. Go figure. On an uphill, in the tracks. Or rather, the tracks were just ending before a corner and as I started to make the turn, my ski tips crossed and down I went. I felt rather foolish. I lost contact with the leaders, and from there to the finish, I was skiing mainly with one other girl from U. of Denver. We worked together to push ourselves and chase the leaders, and managed to catch one girl at about 12k and came within 3 seconds of catching another who had fallen off the pace. We had a sprint to the finish with me just barely edging her out, and then I faceplanted. But I was finished so it didn’t matter and I could just lay there as long as I wanted. So in the end I finished 7th, which I was more than happy with. It was a solid week of racing, with tough competition, the best courses I’ve skied all year, beautiful weather, and fast skis. My body is tired now. But it is a good tired, like I’ve worked hard and come away a better skier, rather than tired in a way that I want to lay down and never move again (which I felt like with the stomach bug). With 13 races in the past 5 weeks, the next few weeks will be some good training time to rest and recover. I’ll leave you with some cool photos of Anchorage lately.
An avalanche in the mountains. Photo by Brad Dickerson
Nearly full moon over the Chugach Mountains on a beautiful February day. Photo by Brad Dickerson
Ridiculous amounts of snow are choking neighborhood roads as the plows create gigantic berms. Photo by Brad Dickerson
A moose using the car buried under a million feet of snow to reach very high branches. Photo from ADN
After a month on the road, I returned home to Alaska this past Sunday. Travelling is fun, but it is wonderful to be home, sleeping in my own bed, driving my own car, not wearing the same clothes day after day. The past few weeks were brutally cold in Anchorage, barely getting above 0F. Thankfully, I missed all that and the day after I got home the temperatures starting rising and snow started falling. I’m not complaining. It has also been sublime to ski on a loop longer than 3km! Since I left for Nationals December 28th, I have only skied on short loops of manmade snow (with the exception of one day at Bread Loaf in Middlebury where I got to ski all the trails after a 6-inch dump of snow). During my hour-and-a-half ski at Kincaid on my first day home I did not ski a single trail twice. Not to mention that the snow in Alaska is beyond good right now, with a record snow year that will undoubtedly extend the spring skiing well into May. Needless to say, I’m happy to be home now.
For the past ten days, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a mini-tour called the Tour de Twin Cities (TdTC) featuring five races in nine days. The first two races were January 21-22, with a 5km classic and 10km skate at Theodore Wirth Park. The classic day started early and chilly—testing skis and warming up at 7:45am with the temperature hovering around 0F was not ideal. My skis were a bit on the slow side and my legs weren’t as snappy as I was hoping they would be, but I had a fairly decent race in 8th place. The following day, however, was a struggle. My calf muscles have been bothering me quite a bit recently in skating, and the race was no exception. Not only did I start out with my legs feeling heavy, after only a few km my calves began to cramp and I had a really hard time just keeping my legs moving. It was especially noticeable when Caitlin Gregg passed me before the first lap was over, having started 30 seconds behind me—even though she won the race. When the girl who started 15 seconds behind me passed me on the second lap, I tried to stay with her, but my legs just could not keep up a good tempo. I finished 18th or so, barely able to walk for several minutes after the finish until my calves relaxed. It was disappointing.
5km classic at Wirth Park. Photo from Skinnyski.com
10km skate at Wirth Park. Photo from Skinnyski.com
10km skate. Photo by BK
Post-skate in pain. Had to hang on my poles because my legs wouldn’t support me.
Mark skiing to 6th place.
Lars, 10th place.
BK skiing to 13th.
The TdTC had an overall standing that determined the prize money payout. For each race you received a certain number of points based on your result. At the end of all five races, the top six overall were awarded prize money: $3,000–$2,000–$1,000–$800–$600–$400 for 1st through 6th place. So after my sub-par skate race, I was a long shot from any money. The next race was a sprint, though, and I knew I could get some redemption and pick up some points. The sprint was strange. It was held at 6:30pm (6pm for the men), and although we had skied the course many times throughout the week, it was still daunting to be sent out full blast on a less-than-well-lit course. I almost skied off the trail at one point. It was a great course though, with some good hills you had to work for, and also areas to gain a lot of speed. The snow was fast and my skis were rockets. I had a good start position, fifth girl out, right behind my teammate Rosie Brennan, who I could gage myself on. At the top of the last big climb, someone in the dark shouted that I was even with Jennie Bender. That really motivated me because I figured that meant she was leading, and I pressed harder. I lost a bit of momentum up the last little hill into the stadium but pushed into the finish best I could. When results were posted 15 minutes later, I was excited to see that I had indeed improved on my points total by taking 2nd place (and receiving 25 points) but I was also disappointed to see that I only missed winning (and a $250 bonus) by ONE second. It was hard not to berate myself for the next day or so for not pushing harder in one spot or another in the race where I might have gained that second, but I had also moved into sixth place overall, so I had a chance at some money. Rosie finished 4th, and my teammates Mark Iverson, Lars Flora and Brent Knight finished 3rd, 8th and 12th in the men’s race. (See previous post for sprint photo).
The second weekend of the TdTC moved from Wirth out to a suburb of Saint Paul, a place called Green Acres Recreation Area. To put it bluntly, and accurately, we were skiing in a cornfield. The course went up a short gradual way around some trees, then up a steep herringbone hill about 30m long, down a 180-degree turn, up another 15-20m herringbone hill to an upper cornfield that we skirted the perimeter of (see crude drawing below).
It then cruised down a fairly long steep hill, did a sharp 180 again, then went back up the same steep hill that was actually quite long and hard. It was just steep enough that you couldn’t quite stride up it, thus most people reverted to a narrow herringbone run. A short flat stretch on the cornfield again, then a long gradual downhill led to the finish. Saturday’s race was a 5km mass start classic race for the women, which ended up being virtually a double-pole/herringbone sprint. Mass starts can be pretty dangerous, with falls and broken poles, and the men’s 10km start did not disappoint. This video shows the men’s start. The guy who falls in the beginning is the guy who had won all the distance races so far that week, and just barely missed out on the win that day.
There was also an intermediate sprint bonus at 2km at the top of the long hill worth 15-10-5 points for the first three people to pass through. Jennie Bender took off like a bat out of hell and was well ahead from the start, with Rosie a few seconds back. I stuck with Caitlin Gregg from the start, trailing Rosie. Sitting in 4th coming into the big climb I started kicking it in to get one of the sprint bonuses. I knew I could get 3rd for the bonus after passing Caitlin, and as I got further up the hill, herringbone-running as fast as I could I saw Rosie struggling up the hill so I really went for it and managed to grab the 2nd place bonus for 10 extra points. Ultimately, I finished 7th on the day after fading a little after my charge and my skis were also pretty slow. Sunday’s 15km skate race started pursuit-style based on the finishes from the classic race, so I started 7th, 30 seconds behind the winner and was chasing the whole time. Unfortunately, I experienced the same calf problems as last week, to an even more severe degree and lost 3 places over the course of the race, finished 10th. Luckily my points for the overall were solid enough that I only had to have a decent race to keep my 5th place standing. Five laps around the 3k loop was painful, and my legs felt like they were going to tear right down the back, but I just kept telling myself I had to finish and I would win $600. Finishing was a relief and at the end of five races, I did bring home those six Benjamin’s. Rosie finished 3rd overall for one-thousand bucks.
My check! Wish I could have taken it to the bank like that…
The men’s 20km race was the finale, and it was exciting! Our guys hadn’t had a great classic day, struggling with poorly waxed skis, so they were starting pretty far out from the leaders. Brent was 36 seconds back, Mark over a minute-and-a-half. There had been a lot of turnover within the men’s overall standings all week, so it was really anyone’s game. Brent had a fantastic race to catch the lead pack and then drop everyone except the eventual winner. He finished 2nd in the pursuit, but because he started so far back, he ended up having the fastest split time of the day, winning his first career Super Tour race. He also was awarded 30 points for the win and vaulted from 12th in the overall standings to 4th for $800! Mark had a solid race moving up from 15th to 11th. Lars started well in 7th place but ultimately faded a bit to finish 10th.
BK can’t believe he went from no money to $800.
All told, the week was pretty successful, despite a few unsatisfactory races here and then by everyone. It was also greatly improved by the generosity of our hosts, Vanessa and Zach Handler, friends of Brian and Caitlin Gregg, who let us stay with them all week, a stone’s throw from the venue. Their 15-month-old daughter Clementine provided endless entertainment, especially at mealtimes, they had a wax room in the basement, and were fun to cook for/with. Staying with people greatly reduces our trip cost and provides more comfort than paying for a hotel room for ten days, so I cannot thank them enough. Minneapolis was a cool place to be for ten days. It’s not often we get to race in a city (besides Anchorage). I also got to see my college roommate/teammate/friend from Saint Paul, Claire Luby, who came up from grad school in Madison, WI to race one day and see me. I have only seen her once since graduation in May 2010, so it was really fun to hang out with her for a couple days and catch up. Caitlin and Brian were also awesome to have around and made us feel welcome in the Midwest.
Jogging in Wirth Park with downtown Minneapolis in the background!
Me and Luby!!
Beautiful warm sunny day for a ski with city views!
This was not the only sunny day in the Midwest.
The snowmaking gun was pointed at this tree. Probably will kill the tree but it sure looked cool.
Pretty good skiing at Wirth for only a few inches of manmade snow.
Tall buildings! What a novelty…
Cruising downtown Minneapolis
We actually had champagne the night before the last race. Celebrate the night before and you will have a good race!?
So now I’m back in Alaska, and as I finish writing this on Friday, it has been snowing all day, and snowing HARD. After every lap we did this morning, there was an inch or more of fresh snow already covering our tracks. Next up are races at Kincaid with the western college teams, hosted by UAA, starting tomorrow and going through next Friday. Should be good skiing!!