Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sand, snow, and lots of pictures!

For the first time this year I didn't come home at all during the World Cup season.  I stayed in Europe from the beginning of November through World Cup Finals.  It was a long winter with lots of excitement, plenty of highs and new experiences, and some disappointments too so by the end of March I was tired both physically and mentally.  The Olympic season was incredible but the energy and focus preparing for the Games was exhausting and I needed a break.  Time for April vacation!  I was happy to leave my skis behind and Elsa and I headed south to Arizona for some desert time.  It was a classic Sargent sisters vacation which means lots of activity, nonstop action and adventuring and not much relaxing but still exactly what I needed.  The change of scenery and quality time with Elsa was refreshing and despite packing in two or three different hikes and bike rides every day, I felt more energized and recovered with each time.

Sisters trip!  Thanks Els for a a great trip!
The red rocks of Sedona were incredible!

Sedona is famous for vortexes or places where energy connects from the Earth.  I dragged Elsa out on a couple different hikes to vortex locations and was eager to feel the blast of energy but unfortunately it was a little less intense than I imagined.  
Fun to get back on the bike and my butt was pretty sore after over four hours of riding our first day
Can you spot me on the slick rock?
Our next stop was a two day backpacking trip down the Havasu canyon which is on the edge of the Grand Canyon
We hiked 10 miles into the town of Supai, a Native American village which is the most remote village in the lower 48. 
Then we continued down the trail to a series of incredible waterfalls.  Havasupai means blue green waters and that was exactly what we found
Yes!
No thanks! Hiking to the last waterfall involved a scary ladder down a rock face and my fear of heights got to me and I chickened out.
From there we continued on to the Grand Canyon and camped on the South Rim.  We wanted to camp at the bottom of the canyon but we were too late applying for a permit.  So instead we headed out for a one day hike from the Rim to the canyon floor and back up again, 16miles and over 10,000ft of the elevation change.  The Park Service strongly suggested against our plan posting warnings stating "You will persish."
It was fun to look down below and see the trail ahead.
Oooh aahhh
Amazing colors!
We quickly made it down to the Colorado River on the steep South Kaibab trail
My favorite cactus
Elsa set a fast pace hiking out and including snack and lunch breaks and countless photo opps, we were back up to the rim of the Canyon in under 6 hours.  I guess we didn't need to pack the headlamps.

From Arizona, I flew home which was travelling back to winter since there is still lots of snow on the ground in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.  At first I just enjoyed relaxing at home and had sworn I was absolutely done with skiing.  But when the first day of decent snow conditions arrived, my love of skiing shone through and I was hurriedly scraping my skis.

April 12th skiing at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center!
Look at those tracks
The field at the top of Ruthie's Run
I'm sure there will be a few more dirt spots after this recent wave of warm spring weather but there will still be skiing in Craftsbury for a long time to come!
I ditched the skinny skis for some metal edges one day and went on a backcountry tour with my parents. We had a really fun tour skiing on the crust and then through the spring corn as the spring sun warmed the snow. 
My dad has skied almost 70 days this year and he's still going.  He led the pace and charged up the hills. 

Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

End of the season racing

I've started to settle in at home now and no longer awake in the middle of the night confused and trying to remind myself where in the world I'm currently sleeping.  My feet are settling into the ground and it has been wonderful to catch up with friends and family and start to share the stories from the winter.  One question that I've received frequently is, "How do you readjust to normal life after the Olympics? How long did it take to come down from cloud nine?"  Well actually that was made quite easy because within a week after the closing ceremonies we were back on the start line with three more weeks of World Cup racing left in the season followed by Super Tour Finals and Distance National Championships in Alaska.  So even after the big show, the show must go on!

Maybe not the same level of excitement as our arrival in Sochi but we quickly regrouped for fun racing in Finland
From Sochi, the US team flew to Munich for a busy day of packing and organizing and catching up on sleep after a brutally cold departure and red eye flight out of Russia and then continued on to Lahti, Finland for the next weekend of World Cups.  After such hot weather in Sochi, even the temperatures around freezing in Lahti felt nice and wintery.

From Lahti we flew to Oslo and I raced a classic city sprint in Drammen followed by a 30km classic at Holmenkollen.  Norway is the mecca of Nordic skiing so racing there is always a blast.  The fans come out regardless of the weather and cheer like crazy whether you're in first or last.  The hills are long and hard which is usually what I prefer but with some slippery skis it made the 30km even more of a challenge!

Looking down over Oslo from the trails
The famous Holmenkollen ski jump
The last weekend of racing in Europe for us was in Falun, Sweden for World Cup finals.  While that title sounds intense, World Cup Finals has probably the most relaxed atmosphere of the whole season.  Everyone stays at the same hotel and it's really fun to get to know athletes from all the other countries.  Falun is also the site of World Championships next winter so it was great to have the opportunity to preview the courses.  The trails are twisty and fast with steep climbs and technical downhills so I can't wait.

Our team cool down after the last race was our chance to celebrate being done and and take a victory lap at the end of a long season!
After over 4.5 months on the road, I was very excited to be headed home!  Unfortunately I had less than 36 hours at home before flying to Alaska for the last races but I treasured every minute of it!  I couldn't believe how much snow there was and despite being jetlagged and tired, I couldn't help but go for a long extra blue tour.  Europe was hit hard by global warming this winter so a break from short manmade slushy loops was quite the treat.  It was also the first time I wasn't skiing on klister in 2014!

Hands down the best conditions of the year.

Before I could catch my breath though I was back on a plane headed to Anchorage for SuperTour Finals.  The APU Nordic Ski Center organized a great week of racing and it was fun to race in the US for the first time of the season.  I really enjoyed spending time with my Craftsbury teammates and my brother who now lives in Anchorage.


This year was the first club relay and it was fun racing in my green suit with my Craftsbury teammates
It was an all USST sprint final and fun to hammer out the last races of the season together
One last team cheer!
The season is completely over now and spring adventuring is in full swing.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Olympic Reflections

After a whirlwind three weeks, the Olympics are over.  The finish lines have all been crossed, the medals spread out to nations around the world, the fireworks which blasted over the stadium during closing ceremonies leaving those of us inside with the feeling of being in a war zone have ended, and the Olympic flame was extinguished.  For many of us, though, the racing has continued and there has barely been a moment to catch our breath and recover from the excitement, adrenaline, emotion, and action.  Finding time to reflect on this big moment has been hard as we immediately jumped back into the World Cup season and are continuing racing in Scandinavia. This continuation of movement had reaffirmed to me that the Olympics was not a destination or an endpoint but rather an amazing stop along this incredible journey.  I left Sochi with more excitement than I brought with me and treasure the memories from these Olympic Games.

It was a rollercoaster Olympics with the full spectrum of emotions and sensations.  From the extreme heat in the 10km classic race to the bone chilling cold of the airport terminal in the middle of the night for our Sochi departure, I felt it all.  But the emotion that resonated the strongest and the one that propels me forward with new beliefs, goals, and insight, is inspiration.  Inspiration from the complete exhaustion that I felt racing over the top of the last hill after having pushed harder than I ever thought possible.  Inspiration from watching Sophie smoothly ski into the final in the sprint.  Inspiration from being so nervous that I could barely talk before the first race.  Inspiration from the pride of being apart of team USA as we walked into the opening ceremonies dressed in our over the top flag sweaters.  Inspiration from the sound of the stadium during this unforgettable march.  Inspiration for watching medals hung around the necks of fellow athletes.  Inspiration from the disappointment of standing on the sidelines in events which I believed I could do my best.  Inspiration from cheering myself hoarse for teammates as they put their all into the snow, slush, and ice.  Inspiration from the never ending smiles from the friendly, helpful, and colorfully clad volunteers who made this event possible. Inspiration from the peace which prevailed through the Games despite warnings of violence and threat.  Inspiration from the support I received from so many caring friends and family at home.  

Thank you to all who supported me along the way and made this unbelievable experience possible. 

Olympic Stadium panorama

The Endurance Village

The village under a full moon



Rings and mountains: What a backdrop

Susan, Hannah, and I in the rings

The chalets where we stayed

Team training before the sprint

Sprint heats

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Go USA! Relay cheering

Buddies


Biathlon racing



Not just sunny weather

Palm trees in the Coastal Village

The torch!

Holding up the flame

Burkies in front of the Black Sea before closing ceremonies

Closing Ceremonies


Craftsbury in the front row