Rogla, Slovenia and Toblach, Italy

Rogla, Slovenia and Toblach, Italy

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

Overlooking Celje

Rosie, Becca, Erik, Pete and I

English graffiti in Slovenia

oh yeah!

Say what? 

Erik (in the background) being a kid again

Yeah, I could use some hair tips…

Slovenian landscape

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

Beyond 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.

Toblach stadium

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…

 


Finally managed to get some race photos, taken by Caitlin Gregg:

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

 

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