Home for the Holidays – 12 Days of Christmas!

Happy New Year! As I watch the trees flash by on our 6.5 hour drive from Minneapolis to Houghton today, I have time to reflect on 2014 and how great the last two weeks of the year have been. December in Alaska is dark and often cold (not this year) but there are always lots of fun activities and events to keep your S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at bay. So, in the continuing spirit of the holidays, here are my 12 days of Christmas/winter activities with accompanying photos. :)

1) Here comes the Sun

IMG_5200PK skiing under the lights on the trails as the sun rises over the Chugach.

Sunrise skis. The cool thing about late sunrises in Alaska is that you get to see them every morning during training. It makes you appreciate the beauty of every day, of the landscape around us, and the gift we have to be healthy and fit. There is always light if you know where to look.

IMG_5198Dark but happy.

2) Fire and Ice.

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Celebrating with friends. Every year some friends have a solstice/holiday party that is the most epic party in town. The boys go to great lengths and effort to create something in their yard. Last year they built an ice bar. This year, they one-upped themselves and built an ice bar AND an ice HOT TUB. It was lined with plastic and had a hot water pump going. Pretty cool and ingenious. Add in a bonfire and how can a scene like this not be fun and festive! It’s a really fun time to see everyone and relax with some mulled wine or cider. Or a cocktail from the ice bar ;)

IMG_5268Ice hot tub on the left, ice bar in the center, bonfire on the right.

IMG_5255Ice pillars entrance.

IMG_5269Amazing bonfire.

2.1) Make a wish.

It’s becoming a tradition at the boys party to set off Chinese lanterns into the sky. It’s like a mini hot air balloon. The idea is that you light it up, make a wish and let go. The lantern carries your wish into the sky and puts a smile on your face.

IMG_5270Sending off my lantern and wish :)

3) Cookies cookies cookies. It’s not Christmas without cookies! Enough said.

IMG_5178The fixings.

IMG_5382The results.

IMG_5190Almond bon bons!

4) Laughter is the best medicine. Find something to make you laugh with the ones you love. Taking selfies with frozen faces on a ski is a good one. Skiing with old friends and family is another.

IMG_5280Being silly with PK after finding Christmas decorations on trees on the ski trails.

FullSizeRenderGetting silly with the King crab legs for dinner.

IMG_5327Me and “my boys” at the Christmas ski. Cameron, my “big” little brother and PK.

Christmas group skiThe group for Christmas ski in the falling snow!

5) Light it up up up! A park in downtown Anchorage set up this cool light exhibit. It’s a great way to get people outside and brighten the darkness.

IMG_5220Not really sure what they’re supposed to be, but the lights are cool and bright!

IMG_5222PK racing Santa to see who can light up the display out front. Pedal Power!

6) The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Stockings are maybe one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I love upending my stocking on Christmas morning and finding all sorts of goodies. This was PK and my’s first Christmas together and he said he’d never really had a stocking before so I had to explain what kind of little things Santa filled our stockings with ;) We were pretty good this year so we didn’t get coal!

IMG_5289Family Stockings

IMG_5311PK’s first stocking!

7) I’m dreaming of a white moosey Christmas. Nothing is more exciting than waking up to falling snow on Christmas morning. But what makes it better? A bull moose wandering through your yard during breakfast!

FullSizeRender_1Snow falling on X-mas

FullSizeRender_2Our Christmas visitor!

8) When you pull three bottles of syrup out your stocking, there is nothing to do but make use of them! Pancake breakfast is a bit of a tradition for Christmas morning and I don’t anticipate that dying out anytime soon.

IMG_5318Little to big: Alaska berry syrups, Alaska Birch syrup, and Vermont Maple syrup

9) Jiggity-jig. When you spend a few hours a day training outside, sometimes you just want something fun to occupy your time inside for awhile. Nothing better than a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle! Especially when it’s a Christmas present. Next thing you know, it’s three days later and the puzzle is done!

IMG_5337PK enjoying the complete puzzle

10) Brickify me!

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If a puzzle is not creative enough for you, turn back the clock to your childhood and bust out the Legos! The Anchorage Museum has a Lego exhibit, so of course we went to channel our inner child. It was pretty cool, with some background history about Lego, information about the benefits of creativity and learning as crucial developmental skills, cool funny photos of a Lego Stormtrooper (yes, from Star Wars) doing everyday things, giant Lego sculptures, and of course, a Lego play center where you could play and build to your heart’s delight. We partook.

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IMG_5344An odd collection of Lego sculptures

IMG_5340There was a photo of a woman actually wearing this!

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IMG_5346There were LOTS of kids around.

IMG_5348PK’s creation: Eiffel Tower turned Japanese Pagoda. Mine is the Alaska Flag on the table.

11) Puck it.

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When Mother Nature gives you ice, go ice skating! We took to the lagoon in town and laced up for some pond hockey with some teammates and friends. In the dark. But we had a light-up puck. Fortunately the city provides bonfire barrels to keep your tushy warm. Don’t worry, they don’t go through the ice. Yet. It was a fun evening to get outside and change pace from skiing.

IMG_5359The bonfire barrel

 

12) Not the gumdrop buttons! (Name that movie).

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As our Christmas holiday came to an end, PK and I went out for a dinner date and then took a stroll through the massive Gingerbread Village built in the lobby of a downtown hotel. It was quite impressive. Though not as impressive as the gingerbread houses I used to make at home with my friends…of course. you couldn’t even eat the fences or window panes off this one!

IMG_5365The giant terrorizing the village

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So now we’re into 2015 and U.S. nationals start in a few days. I’ve arrived in Houghton to a ton of snow and the classic tracks are prime. Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December in Alaska

Today is Christmas Eve! Where did December go? I’ve been home for two weeks already! Unfortunately, Alaska is in a snow drought right now, just like much of central Europe it seems. There has not even been a single day below 10°F this season so far, and there is not even enough snow to set classic tracks. Nevertheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed being home earlier in December to do some Christmas preparations and enjoy a few weeks of just training.

IMG_5126Our very own Christmas tree, courtesy of my roommate and his girlfriend. (more…)

Montucky Rodeo

I don’t know why people always jokingly refer to Montana as Montucky. Is it really that similar to Kentucky? Is it simply because Kentucky is generally stereotyped as being highly conservative and rural and full of hicks? Because I don’t really thing Kentucky is like that. I mean, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most high-profile and classed-up events in the country, and they even make a Barbie! Who knew?! Pretty sure Montana’s rodeo attire is a lot more casual…

And of course, Montana Nordic skiing attire is the most attractive of all…

IMG_2473Because who doesn’t want to just lounge around in skiwear all the time?? ###teambonding###
Big shoutout to Craft Sportswear USA for the super awesome new uniforms. Comfort, class and superior function all around.

West Yellowstone

The skiing in West Yellowstone was pretty great. The snow was near perfect, with several small snowfalls throughout the 10 days we were there, comfortable temperatures and just great training. Racing was hard. I was super psyched and feeling energized to start this season, but somehow I just didn’t perform the way I wanted to in West and was much much further back in the results than I anticipated. I didn’t even make it into the heats of top-30 in the skate sprint, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while. That was pretty disappointing. In the distance race, I just didn’t have the speed that I needed and had some trouble with my lower legs, a chronic problem. Nonetheless, I did have some improvements in other arenas. In our training log, Erik has us write something that went well, no matter what our result said. I felt like I skied smoother than I had last year, especially skating. Just the ability to push the body harder, especially at altitude, seemed to be lacking. BUT, I reminded myself that it was the FIRST races of the season, and do I really want to be at my best at the beginning? No…but it would be nice to be skiing a little faster…

IMG_5054The ladies, Flora and mini-Flora (Oskar!) in West.

IMG_5061Having fun on a sunny recovery day ski in West.

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IMG_5052The Flora clan joined us in West this year and never ceased to amaze us. Already getting after training at the gym!

IMG_5057Thanks to all my amazing equipment sponsors this year! Rossignol, Toko, Craft, Rudy Project and Skida. Photo: Ian Harvey/Toko US

Bozeman

The Bozeman races went off a bit better. After underperforming in West, I was really looking forward to some good classic racing in Bozeman.

Bozeman seems to operate in extremes…at least from what I have seen over the past 4 years racing there in early December. Either it’s wicked cold to the point that you wonder if you have enough clothing (a la 2013 when I raced in my warmup clothes because there was no way I was only going to wear spandex) or it’s crazy warm and the snow is quickly disappearing. This year we hit the high end of the spectrum with temps in the mid-30s and a lot of rain hitting Bozeman leading up to the races. Ironically, the first day we showed up for training at Bohart Ranch, the course was bulletproof ice and Erik wouldn’t let us train until two hours later after the (amazing) Western sun had softened the snow a bit.

On both race days, the situation was the same. Courses so frozen it was scary and relatively unsafe. Many a skier wiped out on a sketchy downhill corner from the top of the sprint course in the qualifier, a corner that later in the day during heats became a just-as-sketchy lake that would grab your skis and almost make you wipe out again. Like I said, extremes. Funny enough, I actually tripped myself herring-boning an uphill and fell on my hands and knees…but stayed on my feet on the downhills! I made it into the heats, moving from quarters into the semis by way of a “lucky loser” time (fastest time not in top-2 of each heat), but the conditions changed dramatically between quarters and semis, and in the end my skis didn’t run as well in the sloppier snow and I didn’t move on to the finals. But I cheered hard for my teammates Becca and Rosie as they raced for the win, with Rosie crushing the field start to finish. At least it was a nice warm sunny day.

IMG_2487In a good position during my quarterfinal

IMG_2497Coming off the sketchy downhill corner. You can see the giant puddle just behind us. They rerouted the corner wider during heats to avoid it.

IMG_2552Rosie crushing the final; no one in sight as she comes into the stadium.

IMG_2536Enjoying the sun in Bozeman with PK!

Again on Sunday we arrived to a trail of ice ice baby. With a lot more steep downhills and corners on the distance course, officials deemed it quite unsafe and delayed the start an hour to let things soften. It didn’t make too much of a difference and it was still a crazy course. I’ve never skidded and snow-plowed so much in a race as I did that day, and I’m usually pretty confident and competent on downhills. It was mass-start and it was difficult to get towards the front of the pack from my start position, so I skied a bit further back than where I wanted to be. I ended up skiing with my teammate Jess for most of the race, as we slinky’d back and forth with each other; she had faster glide but I had better kick. It’s always fun to ski with teammates. My favorite moment was probably at the top of the very last massive hill that was minutes long and all herringbone when a Canadian girl in front of me started walk-herringbone instead of run-bonin’ it, and I couldn’t get around her, so I started yelling at her “C’MON! LET’S GO! HUP HUP Let’s GO!!” as we crested the hill. I felt sorta bitchy doing it, but she was going slow and I didn’t want the people behind to catch us and besides, it was all downhill to the finish!! Thankfully, I beat her. I apologized after the race for yelling, and she was a good sport and said she actually appreciated it because it made her find that extra gear and get moving even though she was exhausted.

IMG_5101My two favorite Aussies! The 3 best friends together again!

IMG_5112APU ladies enjoying some good weather and good racing! Love these girls!

APUNSC had a pretty good couple of weeks, some incredibly results from some people and some things to be desired for others. But I have to say, this is one of the best teams I think APU has ever had in terms of a group of people who really have fun together, respect each other, and really encourage and motivate each other. I’ve never had more fun.

IMG_5089More team bonding with a sing-a-long night!

IMG_5116Pack ‘em in tight!

IMG_5117Post-racing scramble-fest of waxing and packing ski bags!

IMG_5118Q: How many skis can you fit in a bag and still make it under 50lbs? A: More than you think, but you better be prepared to carry 12lbs worth of bindings in your carry-on.

IMG_5120Tyler, Thomas and Eric sporting our new travel threads from Craft and simultaneously moonlighting as techies with snacks.

We’re back in Anchorage now training and doing some local races before heading to US Nationals in January. The snow cover is thin, but the skiing is remarkably good. Even so, ***Think SNOW***

IMG_5124Unfortunately I was traveling alone by this point or else I would have taken FULL advantage. If you’re traveling through Seattle N terminal, please take a picture and show me!!

It’s November?!

November:
The eleventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and one of four months with the length of 30 days. Also a time when:

  • Silly America changes clocks by one hour and suddenly it’s DARK at 4pm.

  • Intervals get shorter and faster and the race feeling starts revving

  • Race skis start getting waxed and prepped for the season

  • New gear starts arriving—skis, boots, uniforms, you name it, it’s a skier’s Christmastime

  • Winter starts to show—snowflakes start falling, rock skis come out and so do smiles

  • And a million photos start popping up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the first snow/skiing of the year from around the country in an anxious battle to show the world “we’ve got it best right now”.

  • ….until Mother Nature sends a typhoon across the Pacific and suddenly our early start to winter vanishes in the blink of an eye. Saturday we’re skiing 3 hours covering every trail in the park, Monday we’re running on bare ground.

  • It’s also been 10.5 months since I last posted. Sorry about that. Life happens.

 11013_10152753768713346_8168687607829958012_nExcited to be on snow in Girdwood in late October. Thanks to the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club for grooming the trails! It was great skiing while the snow lasted!

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Adios 2013 in Photos!!

Wow, in just a few hours it will be 2014. How can that be? Where did the year go?! I must say, it’s been a pretty good year. Some ups and downs, both in skiing and in life, but for the most part I have had an amazing year. So I thought I would recap the year with some highlights and photos from each month. Happy New Year and cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!!!!! (more…)

Period One SuperTours

The first two weeks of the season are over and to be completely honest, they were far from satisfactory. There are lots of factors that may or may not have contributed to sub-par races but the bottom line is that I just didn’t race well. During a few time trials back home in November I felt less than stellar, unable to tap into that race feeling and fitness. In the first Super Tours in West Yellowstone I had the same feeling. (more…)

Fall Training Update!

A lot of training happened this fall. After I came home from Australia, I pretty much jumped right back into the swing of things with the team, putting in a lot of quality hours and the time really flew by. September and October were some of my biggest months in terms of training hours, about 140 hours combined. It rained a lot in September, and one day I actually did a 2-hour workout on a bike trainer in my living room because it was pretty much a hurricane outside. I watched almost the entire Hobbit movie. (more…)

2013 Drive for 25 – Cross Country

“A Goal is a Dream with a Finish Line”

If you are a fan of American cross country skiing, please consider being a supporter too! There is just ONE WEEK left in the National Nordic Foundation’s “Drive for 25″, a fundraising campaign that supports nearly every American skier in some way or another. The NNF helps fund skiers from the World Cup all the way down to U-16 training camps. I personally have gone on several NNF-funded racing trips and camps, and it makes a huge difference. My goal for the last week of the drive is to garner AT LEAST one donation per day. Whether it’s $10 or $100, your support helps! See below to learn more about the NNF and click on the image to go to my fundraising page for NNF. Thanks for being a part of American Skiing! #skiingnation (more…)

Ski Racing in Australia!

As promised, the next Australian catch-up installment. After I’d been in AUS for about two weeks, we took a little drive north to Jindabyne, New South Wales for a weekend of racing in Perisher Valley. The drive was around five hours and took us out of the lush green landscape of the valleys around Bright into a more arid and high-desert landscape. (more…)

Australian Winter Fun

Australian Winter Fun

While I was in Australia, the two internet cables that run under the ocean from America and feed the whole island continent’s internet needs got attacked by too many bottom-feeding sea creatures and thus there was no way to access the “World Wide Web” while I was away. JUST KIDDING. The rest of my trip was just as fun as the first few days I posted about earlier. In order to save you from reading a freaking book here, I am going to divide the trip into a couple of posts and photos. This post is about my first couple weeks, training and having fun. The subsequent post will be race recaps of Australian Nationals and the Kangaroo Hoppet, as well as some photos from my mini beach/farm vacation post-races. I will also add a photo gallery with a lot more photos than what I put in the posts if you want to see more of my trip.  (more…)

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