Friday, July 14, 2017

Methow Intensity Training!

Our US Ski Team camp plan has fallen into a predictable pattern over the past few years, returning to the same training locations at the same times of the year.  This year as a women's team, we wanted to mix it up and add a new location for renewed excitement and inspiration.  The goal was a shorter camp with a big focus quality hard training sessions together in a positive team atmosphere.  So what better way to tune out distractions than to drive a few hours into the woods of Washington, turn down a dirt driveway, and continue for a few more miles before establishing our training base camp.  That's exactly what we did as we left Seattle, WA and drove to the Methow Valley of Washington for eight days of intensity training.  The training plan had hard intervals every other day interspersed with longer distance sessions that included rollerskiing up the pass and long runs in the mountains.  It looked intense on paper but without super high volume and the with benefits of the quiet cabin life, it was easy to relax and embrace the training and the company of the team.  Soon we were rocketing through one workout after the next.  We stayed in some wonderful cabins in Mazama that were mostly free of internet and cell service (I say mostly because Jessie still had service and setup a hot spot for us all so we weren't quite offline).  Pete Dickinson, a PT who travels with the team and lives in the Methow, set up a table on our porch for an outdoor PT and massage studio.  And our coaches, Matt Whitcomb and Tim Baucom, kept the fridges full of food and the training plan full of excitement.  Besides Sadie, who grew up a few miles from where we were staying, this was the first time spending any time in the Methow for the rest of us so we had a blast exploring new trails and roads and I'm already looking forward to another visit there!  If you haven't been to the Methow Valley before, I would urge you to make a visit!  From the Dolomitesque spires of the mountain peaks to the crystal clear and freezing cold rivers and the countless miles of trails in between, it is a sunny outdoor playground!

Checking out the map the first day as we learned our way around the Methow Valley

To the mountains! 

Tree huggers

Following Jessie and Kikkan on a long rollerski up Washington Pass

Striding towards the snow!

Tim manning a feed zone in the middle of a rollerski OD.  Tim is my wax tech in the winter but he helped Matt with coaching for at the camp.  Thanks to Matt and Tim for all their working supporting the workouts, driving vans, giving technique advice, and scoping new training routes.

Interval time!  Lots of head to head workouts taking advantages of different strengths and hammering together as a team.

Pain faces and grimaces nearing the end of our mock team sprint interval

More smiles mid L4 bounding intervals courtesy to some much needed cooling efforts!

Scoping the best route into the falls?

It was hot and sunny every single day but there were lots of rivers and lakes to cool off in after or during workouts

The meadow in front of our cabins

Cabin life at its best!  Eat, sleep, train, and chill!
After an awesome week of training, I headed back to Vermont and have settled into some more cabin life, living in my little cottage in Craftsbury and training with the GRP.  I have a big block of time at home now so I'm excited for some of my favorite summertime training and fun in Vermont before the next adventure which is an on-snow camp in New Zealand at the end of August.  

Monday, February 6, 2017


We came to Pyeongchang, South Korea to test out the 2018 Olympic trails and left so excited and inspired to prepare for the Olympics next year!  Big hills and fast, technical downhills on the sprint course left me wondering if I could have imagined a more perfect course.  And a weekend of hard racing under the lights and two podiums on the World Cup stage made for an exciting experience in Pyeongchang!  Thanks for all the love and support!

Individual classic sprint bronze!

Team sprint bronze with Sophie!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Back at it!

I'm writing this post from the third hotel room which I have slept in over the course of a week. It's hard to imagine that less than a week ago I was at home sleeping in my own bed, a rare mid-winter treat for a ski racer and especially one who despite a traveling lifestyle considers herself a strong home body.  The holidays were over and it was time to get back to work!  While it was tough to leave the snowy winter wonderland in Vermont, I could feel my competitive drive firing and was ready to get back at it!  It's amazing how recharged I felt after three solid weeks of training.  The time at home with friends and family, as well as the variation in mental and physical demands from the normal racing was exactly what I needed to prepare for the next part of the season.

I flew to Slovenia and only had a couple of days on the ground before racing a couple OPA cup races.  While racing a sprint qualifier soon after traveling can be a harsh wake up, especially when it starts at 9am (the equivalent of 3am in Vermont), a hard race effort is the perfect cure for jetlag, forcing your body to GO GO GO! I was also happily surprised with how it felt, and able to take a lot of confidence towards the next weeks of World Cup racing.  The first day of racing was a skate sprint and I felt very strong all day but had a very frustrating crash and subsequent somersault near the beginning of the sprint final.  I got up and hammered as hard as I could to catch back up but ended the day in 5th.  That's sprint racing though and I'll use it as motivation for the next opportunity!  The next day was a 10km skate which is perhaps my least favorite race but always a good challenge.  I had a slow start and was quickly caught by a French girl who started behind me.  I was then able to follow pace for several laps and skied faster through the race which was encouraging.  I was also pleased with myself for understanding the splits which her coaches gave to her during the race in French.  Doing the translation in my brain was the perfect distraction from the lactic acid in my legs!

From Slovenia we drove through Austria to Italy.  I'm training this week in Toblach which is a cute Italian town nestled in the Dolomites and one of my favorite stops on the World Cup tour.  Like most of Europe, there isn't any natural snow but they are very committed to snow farming here so there is an almost 40km ribbon of snow laid out through the valley that is growing by the day.  This weekend World Cup racing resumes for me with a skate sprint and skate team sprint!  Ciao!

I spy someone who is happy to be home for the holidays!

Selfie with the family!

A few weeks at home was long enough to get my feet underneath and then carve out a few turns

And enough time to relax and enjoy some holiday time

It was a winter wonderland in Craftsbury with lots of snow and great tracks

My Craftsbury GRP teammates were home preparing for US National Championships so we did quite a few hard workouts together.  These girls have been ripping it up on the SuperTour circuit so it was great to train together.  Susan was also home from Europe and the biathlon World Cup tour so we had the rare mid-winter opportunity to train together.  Jake and Ollie were also amazing friends and paced and cleared tracks for me during a snowy solo TT one day!  I'm very grateful to have such an amazing Craftsbury team!

And of course it was wonderful to spend a lot of time with Pat before we headed our separate ways for the rest of the season!

Hard to leave such a wonderful place as this but I'll cherish the time spent with friends and family and the quality training logged on the Craftsbury trails and carry that strength through the adventures ahead!
From winter wonderland back to snowless winter and short manmade loops.  

But the backdrop of the Julien Alps in Slovenia is hard to beat!

And great to be back with my USST teammates and back to racing! The sprint group was in Slovenia while the rest of the team raced their hearts out in the Tour de Ski!  It has been very inspiring to see lots of USA success including podiums by Jessie, Sadie, and Liz at the Tour and Simi and Sophie on the OPA cup!

Winter in the dolomites!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No place like home!

The beginning of the season brings a whirlwind of travel and racing.  I trained in Utah at the last US Ski Team camp and then headed home for a quick week before flying to northern Finland for some opening season FIS races.  Soon after those races, the World Cup began bring racing in Ruka, Finland, Lillehammer, Norway, and Davos, Switzerland.  Each weekend we raced and then travelled to the next venue and quickly started training to prepare for the next weekend's competition.  I hit the ground running and was on go time jumping from hotel to hotel, race to race, and training session to training session.  It's easy to get caught up in the momentum and whirlwind around you and just roll along with the current.  But while the races started strong, I'm still looking for more and decided to mix it up from the routine to find that extra edge.  I headed home to Vermont for the holidays .and couldn't be happier!  There really is no place like home! I'm skiing my favorite trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, training with the Craftsbury GRP, visiting with friends and family, dancing to the Christmas spirit, and defining my inner focus to take the next step on the race trails.

Happy holidays to all!

Classic racing up the Ruka hills to start the World Cup (Toko US/Nordic Focus photo)

Arriving in Lillehammer

Exploring the trails in Lillehammer and seeing the sun for the first time in a few weeks!

Skate racing in the Lillehammer Mini-Tour (Toko US/Nordic Focus)

While Davos lacked any natural snow, it made up for it with sunshine and mountain air!

Davos sprinting (Marcel Hilger photo)
An evening jog with the team in Davos

First day home was extra blue skiing... feeling very thankful for all the snow and well groomed trails!

Eyes forward and pain face smiling while I stride it out on Moss Run in the Craftsbury Eastern Cup 5km classic.  (John Lazenby photo)

Christmas cookies on the couch in front of the woodstove are the perfect recovery after a 3 hour classic ski in single digit temperatures. Happy to be spending time with this guy!

Decorating the Christmas tree with Mom!  Good to be home!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Darkness in Lapland

The opening World Cups are just days away and as my excitement levels rise, I'm also feeling prepared and ready to go.  This year I had the opportunity to come over two weeks early with my Craftsbury GRP coach Pepa Miloucheva and my teammate Caitlin Patterson.  We flew over in advance of the rest of the US Ski Team, giving us time to recover from the long travel (almost 30 hours from door to door) adjust to the time change, get my skiing legs underneath us again, and even put in a bib and jump into a few races.

We started our trip in Muonio, Finland which is 250km north of the Arctic Circle and close to the Swedish border.  It was a big shock to arrive in cold wintery conditions and not much daylight.  That cold darkness combined with arriving on election day led to a harsh wakeup call the first day, but luckily I quickly learned to embrace any light I could find (including some fun night skis on the trails) and then wear lots of clothes!  I was happy to see that winter does still exist, even if I had to ski in a LLBean down jacket for the first few days.  Even that far north, there wasn't much natural snow on the ground but luckily in Muonio they saved massive piles of snow from last winter under the cover of wood chips and then rolled it out at the end of October for a 5km loop of skiing.  We raced in the FIS races in Muonio right after we arrived so my body was still feeling the effects of the long travel but a great opportunity to throw a bib on and try to remember how to race or at least to not leave my jacket in the start area!

From Muonio we traveled even farther north into the darkness to Saariselka, Finland, which claims to be the northernmost travel destination in the EU.  While there we were losing 12 minutes of daylight each day and on our last day sunrise was at 10:02 and sunset at 1:54!  Luckily there were kilometers and kilometers of lit ski trails!  There was more natural snow there as well which gave us an opportunity to explore off the manmade loop on distance days.  We raced in Saariselka twice and had some very tricky waxing conditions with warmer temperatures hovering around freezing, but I was happy to have my body feeling great again and pushing to the limit.  The Russian and German National teams were also racing there so it was a great confidence boost leading up to the World Cup to be skiing hard and fast alongside those ladies.  

Now I'm reunited with all my US Ski Team teammates in Ruka, Finland, the site of the first World Cups.  We are just south of the Arctic Circle now and have actually gained over an hour of daylight since leaving Saariselka!  I love the courses in Ruka with big uphills and fast downhills so I'm excited for the weekend racing here!

Happy Trails!  Thanks for reading and thanks to Craftsbury and Pepa for a dark but productive training camp!

A map of Northern Finland with dots in Muonio, Saariselka, and Ruka for a geographic view of the area.

Not one or two but five heavy tags later and all my skis, poles, boots, and stuff made it to northern Finland! Packing for a winter in Europe is challenging but thanks to United for letting me sneak (though not very secretly) a few extra pounds in each bag!

We didn't miss a beat and jumped into racing only a couple days after flying to Europe!  It was crazy to be rollerskiing at home one day and putting a bib on in mid-winter conditions several days later but it was definitely a great way to beat the jetlag! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Sprinting in Muonio! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Caitlin racing in the 10km skate in Muonio
A Finnish sauna I ran by on an afternoon jog in the dark

We stayed in a cabin in Muonio and a condo in Saariselka which was a welcomed last chance to cook our own food and choose what we wanted to eat before transitioning to meal plans for most of the winter.  Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be a bit of an adventure.  Usually everything in Europe is smaller but not the case for the sweet potatoes!!

Using Google translate to decipher cooking instructions!

We made a Finnish feast of reindeer steak, blood sausage, lingonberry sauce, brussel sprouts and roasted root vegetables....YUM!

One of the many reindeer we saw on the snowy northern roads

Happy to be skiing on natural snow and exploring new trails in Saariselka

Looks like a black and white photograph but actually the wintery and low light landscape north of the Arctic Circle.

Striding it out on the race course in Saariselka (Pepa photo)

Looking down on the stadium and the base of the alpine area in Saariselka.  Steep downhills, with narrow trails and tight turns made for some exciting sprint racing in this venue and was a good opportunity to remember some sprint tactics leading into the World Cup!
Cruising across the line in a sprint heat Saariselka