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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Season Confusion

Yesterday was the first day of fall but in the past month I've gone from summer to winter to summer and finally to fall.  I'm ramping up the training intensity and getting excited for the changing seasons.  I returned to Craftsbury last week from an training camp in New Zealand where it was the tail end of winter in the southern hemisphere.   After almost 30 hours of travel crossing 16 time zones we were treated to two and a half weeks of incredible skiing with a variety of conditions from fresh powder to hard track crust to soft slushy klister skiing.  Since it is actually winter, the snow is usually faster and much more representative to what we race on, making the long travel down under well worth it.  We had almost 35km of skiing at the Snow Farm, New Zealand's only Nordic ski area.  The camp focus was volume with four or five hours of training most days but we jumped in some FIS races to keep in touch with some summertime racing and found a few times to get off the snowy mountain for some running and strength training.  It was a great but hard camp so I left feeling quite tired and ready to chill in my airplane seat for another long travel day home.  Now I'm back in Vermont for the next month before the last US Ski Team camp of the year in Park City.   After a taste of skiing and racing in New Zealand and now a few leaves changing colors and a frost on the forecast for the weekend, I'm excited for fall training and the last prep period before the season!  Here are some pictures from New Zealand and more.  Thanks for reading! 

The sunrises and sunsets in New Zealand are phenomenal.  Here's the end of our first day in New Zealand at the highpoint of the Snow Farm trails.
And sunrise the next morning!
Switchbacks on the Merino Glen trail, the loop that is closest to the lodge.  We had amazing wintery conditions for the entire camp and thanks to the Snow Farm for great lodging and tracks!

The sunny side of the valley has less snow but still a nice white ribbon of trail for us.

Liz and I chasing Grover on a powder ski around the Top Beat Loop.

An afternoon group ski logging some kms!

An early morning crust cruise 

Skate threshold intervals with Liz and Jessie.  Training together as a team is one of the biggest benefits of these on-snow training camps.  Learning from each others strengths helps us all get faster.

Simi and Noah rocking the hardware after the 42km Merino Muster World Loppet race
10km Classic distance race with a lot of pack skiing

Tucking it out

Jessie leads the train into the pain cave on the last lap

10km Classic podium sweep

And classic sprint!

Sweater weather down in town off the mountain.  

Spending some beach time down in town on Lake Wanaka.  You know you're in a great spot when a 30 minute drive takes you from ski trails to the beach.

Yes!  Made it out to the Kirsty Burn hut!

Fresh snow halfway through camp!

And back to summer! I beat the jetlag ripping some hot laps on the new Craftsbury singletrack with Pat.

A day with the family at camp!  My parents are replacing the roof on our family camp so I helped carry the tin but it was a beautiful day to be out in the woods.