Saturday, November 21, 2015

Resting up in Gallivare

The race season officially started for our team today in Gallivare, Sweden.  I had been looking forward to this date for quite some time and it was hard to mask my disappointment and frustration this morning when I woke up sick with a sore throat.  There wasn't anything I would rather have done than put on my new stars and stripes race suit with a bib on top and hammer til my lungs burned.  It didn't seem fair that I got the achy lungs without the satisfaction of a hard effort.  I longingly looked out over the fresh snow which had fallen over the last several days and settled into perfect ski conditions.  As a ski racer, everything seems to revolve around the delicate balance of staying healthy.  Colds or other bugs which would be minor to most quickly turn devastating to Nordic skiers.  My mind started to wander toward the what ifs and worries from missing races and training. So I spent the day coming up with ways to stay busy and happy in a lonely European hotel room far from home.  Here's a list of some of my top activities from the day
  • Organizing my email inbox
  • Reading Shantaram, a 946 page novel that I highly recommend
  • Coloring in a coloring book- surprisingly soothing and healing
  • Seeing how slowly I can chew raw garlic
  • Drinking cup after cup of tea
  • Researching online graduate school classes
  • Short walks
  • Yoga 
  • And of course.... blogging!
I have my fingers crossed for a fast recovery so I can be back on the ski trails soon!  Here are some pictures of Gallivare from earlier in the week and from a walk earlier today.

Skiing!  So much fun to be back on snow in winter and can't wait to get out there again!
The Hellner Stadium in Gallivare on a snowy day!  Swedish skier and Olympic Champion Marcus Hellner lives and trains in Gallivare

The stoke level is high for the start of the season.  Here are Erik Bjornsen, Tim Baucom, and Caitlin Gregg

Smiles and warm hands with my new TOKO mittens

Arctic sunrise (and sunset as my brother-in-law Linden pointed out) one morning at our hotel

Dr. Seuss looking trees

Looking down on the mining town of Gallivare from our hotel

Dundret, the alpine resort where we are staying

Alpine ski trails I found on a walk

The view from North of the Arctic Circle

Coloring book art
My room at home :) My parents put a new mattress in my bedroom at home and sent me the picture of my room which stirred up some strong feelings of homesickness.  Time to focus on the good adventures ahead!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Training training training- Long overdue update from the last month!

As I sit down to write this blog and scan through pictures, I'm realizing how much has happened since my last update.  The dryland season finished with a big altitude training camp in Park City and then some high intensity workouts at home to prepare for the race season.  There is more hard training ahead but it feels good to know that I've done a lot of quality training and I'm feeling good as I count down the days until the start of the season.  The really fun part of this job is about to begin!

But first here are some pictures from training over the last month or more.

We started the training camp with a lot of volume training to take advantage of the high altitude and lack of oxygen in Park City.  The mountains in the area are perfect for lots of adventures like this 3.5 hour run/hike we did on the Crest trail which was at almost 10,000ft. (Caitlin Patterson photo)
A stampede of over 300 sheep crossed the trail in front of us. 
Then we turned up the heat at the end of the camp and finished with a 3 day mini-tour Soldier Hollow.  It was great practice to prepare for Tour racing this winter and hammering up the big hills of the 2002 Olympic courses at SoHo is about as hard as it gets! (Tom Kelly/USSA photo)

A sunrise at our condos on the last morning in Utah.

I returned home after Park City to some chilly and grey November days.  It's not the prettiest time in VT but I love shuffling through the leaves! 
But then Indian Summer arrived and I got one last dose of the sun before travelling to northern Scandinavia.  Pat and I hiked Mt. Mansfield on a beautiful day and had the amazing summit panoramas of VT and the Adirondacks all to ourselves.

In years past, I've skied on natural snow on the Notch Road in Stowe during early November but today we were on the top of VT in shorts which was a bit of a scary reminder of the effects of climate change.
We did find a little bit of snow though and you can see Pat pointing out a few flakes.
Then after driving a few hours north we found a lot more snow!  I travelled with my Craftsbury GRP teammates to Foret Montmerency for a short training camp on the snow which was a nice break from rollerskis.  

Foret Montmerency saved snow from last winter, insulating large piles with sawdust over the summer which they then spread out over 2.5km of trail at the beginning of November.  It was surprisingly good skiing and well worth the trip!

The focus on the camp was intensity on snow so over four days we packed in two interval workouts, a time trial and some speeds!  I was pretty tired by the time we got home but with each day I felt more comfortable on my skis. (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Green Mountain Creamery will be my headgear sponsor again this winter.  If you haven't tried their yogurt yet, DO IT!  The maple is my favorite but all of flavors are really good!

Packing disaster!  I will be in Europe for almost four months continuously this year so packing is quite the ordeal!  I somehow managed to fit it all into one ski bag and a duffel bag and neither of them were overweight!
On the road and back to winter!  We are starting the season this year in Gallivare, Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle!  There is not much daylight here at this time of the year but lots of snow and great skiing.

Check back next week for stories and pictures of skiing, training, and RACING!  I made a goal to update this blog on a more frequent and regular basis so look for another post soon.

The race season starts this weekend with some FIS races in Gallivare which will be great warm-up races before the World Cup begins the following weekend in Ruka, Finland.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Leaf peepin'

Once again I have fallen behind with updating my blog of recent adventures.  Summer seemed wonderfully endless and then almost overnight the foliage popped and the leaves changed from green with a few rusty earth tones mixed in to vibrant red, yellow, and orange.  This is perhaps my favorite time of the year when the nights get colder, leaves swirl down in the breeze, post workout swimming becomes a chillier challenge and overall the anticipation of the upcoming season heightens.  It's also the time of year when the training intensity rises with more hard intervals on the schedule.  Morning workouts included hard bounding intervals and rollerski time trials.  With races closer on the horizon, we become familiar with the pain cave as the colder air burns through lungs and energizes the screaming and lactate filled muscles.  I was happy to spend over three weeks after our Ramsau training camp in Vermont, enjoying the hard work at home surrounded by beautiful fall foliage.

I don't have many training photos of the past few weeks but here are some leaf peeping foliage shots thanks to my mom!

Beldon Pond where my family has a hunting camp

Maple leaves!

Green, yellow and red.  A stoplight of foliage

The pond behind my parents house

Jay Peak in the fall
While I was pretty busy with training, I also had time to visit a few of my old school stomping grounds.  I returned to Burke Mountain Academy for a day to help coach at a Fall Nordic Camp that BMA coach, Kate Barton organized.  We did some agility on rollerskis in a school parking lot and I was very impressed with how well everyone was skiing.  I didn't have the confidence to attempt a 180 on rollerskis as a high schooler, much less a 7th or 8th grader!  After rollerskiing we returned to campus in time for brunch which brought back great memories of my time as a Burkie!

Burke Mountain Academy and the Willoughby Gap

October 7th was International Walk to School Day so I returned to my old elementary school with the Safe Routes to School program.  I read Clifford Takes a Walk to kindergarten and first grade students and discussed rules for walking to school safely.  My mom was a school librarian so I tried to channel her nurturing voice as I read to the kids but mostly I was amazed by their energy!

Barton Academy and Graded School students going out for a walk to celebrate the International Walk to School Day

A huge and very exciting change for me this fall is a switch to Madshus skis and boots.  I started testing Madshus product this summer on rollerskis and then skiing in Austria and I was blown away by the feel of the skis and boots.  The skis were fast and responsive and very fun to ski on and the control of the boots is great.  I'm looking forward to being part of an extremely welcoming Team Madshus and it makes me even more excited for the winter! For more information, check out this article

Rollerskiing in my Madshus Super Nano boots in Austria
Finally, fall also brings the Drive for 25, a fundraiser for the National Nordic Foundation, a grassroots organization that funds XC skiing development.  The money raised in this drive supports the Nordic pipeline in our country funding World Juniors, U23 World Champs, OPA Cup trips, and B-team World Cup skiers.  Please donate on my fundraising page and support our future skiers! Check out this link for more information

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ramsau Training Camp

At the beginning of September I travelled with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates to Ramsau, Austria for a training camp on the Dachstein glacier.  Last year we had a camp there at the same time and had incredible skiing conditions with everything from extra blue midwinter hardwax skiings to the more common sunny summer glacier skiing in t-shirts.  There was a 8-9km loop groomed on the glacier every morning and it couldn't have been more perfect!  This year as we packed to leave VT, we heard rumors of a melting glacier and questionable ski conditions.  With plane tickets, rental tickets and lodging already booked so we set out for the airport with fingers crossed for colder temps and new snow.  And the weather gods came through and our timing and we lucked out with a big snowstorm hitting the glacier just as we arrived in Austria.  We waited out the storm with dryland training in town for the first couple days and then the next morning we set out early for the first tram up to the glacier.  It's about a 5 minute tram ride that rises about 1000meters up into the mountains.  We were surprised with very fast and firm conditions.  The loop was shorter than last year with only 3-4km of switchbacks but the skiing was excellent!  Each switchback also ended with a very fast 180degree turn so it was an incredible opportunity to practice corning!

We had a little over a week of excellent ski conditions but each day the weather was a little warmer and a little sunnier.  Since there wasn't that much snow to begin with, the skiing didn't ever turn to sloppy slush as is common with glacier skiing but each day the snow looked a little dirtier and the glacier ice underneath the snow seemed closer and closer.  The last day we went up it was very warm and as we skied puddles started forming on the trails and by the end it started to resemble water skiing in parts.  The temperature was hot for the rest of the day and the rest of the snow melted that afternoon.  When we looked at the webcam the next morning we saw blue ice where we had skied the day before.  The Russian team went up just to check it out but didn't even finish a lap before they decided it was unskiable.  A low snow year and a warm winter created an obviously horrible combination and the difference between this year and last year was incredibly scary.  The Dachstein glacier is a very famous and popular summer ski location for Nordic skiers but it was terrifying to see it in that state.

We didn't ski again for the last four or five days of the camp.  The weather remained hot and sunny which was perfect for dryland training but not for reforming the snow pack.  Despite our original intentions of skiing, all of the training in Ramsau is amazing.  We went for many long runs and hikes in the mountains.  There are hiking trails all over town including through our front yard and the trails quickly ascend into beautiful mountain landscapes.  There is also an awesome rollerski track in town with huge uphills and fast curvy downhills.  Front the top of the hills the descent looks terrifying.  Trees even fifteen feet off the trail are covered in pads!  But the track is very well designed and the corners are banked perfectly so just letting your skis go its easy to carve through the turns.  We also rollerskied up the mountain passes for some serious elevation training.  One day I climbed over 3000ft in less than an hour and a half and another day I think I had close to 3000' of elevation gain in a double pole workout!

It was hard to leave such an incredible place but luckily the start of fall in Vermont is really nice too!

This picture is taken from the lower tramhouse looking up at the top of the tram on the triangular peak.  The glacier was on the backside of these mountains.
Looking down on the Ramsau valley from the top of the tram.
Heather, Em, and Alex watching the clouds clear off the glacier.  There was a huge downhill down from the tram house to the trails which then became a tiring ascent back up at the end of the workout.

A beautiful setting for a ski!

Crevasses on the glacier above where the ski trails were groomed

Emily and I skiing some laps on one of the less sunny days.

Incredible sunny afternoon klister skiing.  I could have kept skiing for a very long time but I didn't want to sleep up on the glacier so I had to stop in time to catch the last tram of the day. (Pepa photo)

Picturesque Hallstat, Austria

The town square in Hallstat with lots of open air cafes, flower boxes, and tourists like ourselves

A pair tree growing on the side of a house that was lush with delicious looking pears but unfortunately all of the low hanging fruit had been picked so I couldn't sample.

Little rollerskiers, BIG mountains! (Nick Brown photo)

Girls at the base of the tram after an afternoon rollerski uphill climb (Pepa photo)

The trails have benches everywhere for taking a break and enjoying the views.

Mike and Liz at the beach of an alpine lake we found deep within the mountains.

Lots of Austrian flags clearly mark the trails.  
This picture almost looks fake but I swear it wasn't staged at all!  Liz is running along the top of Sinabell Mountain at 2350 meters.

Sheep crossing

YES!! (Liz Guiney photo)