In The Summertime

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.

My little cousin from Long Island, New York sent me “Flat Stanley” to take on adventures and send photos back for his first grade show-and-tell. Above Ship Lake Pass in the Chugach Mtns. 

Flat Stanley skiing in Hatcher Pass and thoroughly enjoying early May in Alaska. Yes, still skiing in early MAY.

Crust skiing up the Alyeska cat-track. Photo by Erin Phillips. 

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.

Cooking underway!

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

The chefs!

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!

Last but not least, Allison Ross (l), myself and Claire Connelly (r) representing Team Skinny Raven!

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.



2 thoughts on “In The Summertime

  1. Lauren, you have had an amazing summer. I loved your photos, especially the one of you crust skiing and the sun behind you looking like a star. It is beautiful. Congratulations on such a successful summer–GNT, Bird Ridge, time with your Mom, Mount Marathon, cooking, crust skiing….you have fit a lot in.

    To be young again! Way to go.

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