Monday, October 13, 2014

Drive for 25

Like my teammate, Erik Bjornsen pictured above, I am one of those skiers who must fund a majority of my own World Cup racing expenses at a cost of over $20,000 per year.  The National Nordic Foundation is stepping up again to help close this gap.  Their support of XC development has helped transform our country into a skiing nation. The NNF has funded many racing and training trips which I have attended over the years, supporting my development from a junior racer to an Olympian.  They are a huge contributor to our team and our ski community.

Development doesn’t happen overnight but instead involves year after year of cumulative training and racing experience. This process is a journey that takes time and hard work.    Each race weekend and each season is a learning experience which helps me prepare for the next adventure.  Every goal that I reach launches me forward to new goals and higher aspirations.  Two weeks in Europe for World Juniors used to feel like a long trip and now I’m spending four months racing in Europe and I couldn’t imagine returning home after a couple weeks.  Toeing the starting line with powerful European racers used to be incredibly intimidating but now I am close friends with many of these ladies and have realized that they are also chasing similar goals through racing and training. This is also not a solo process.  I have had incredible teammates along my side the entire way as well as support from organizations like the NNF.  Here are a few pictures highlighting my development from a junior racer to a World Cup skier.  The NNF has funded many of these racing trips and I am grateful for their support. 

Please support the NNF through the Drive for 25.  My fundraising page can be found here. Thank you for the generosity! 

This picture was taken during my first European racing trip when I was fifteen years old.  We competed in the U18 Scandinavian Cup Championships in Otepaa, Estonia.  Simi and Liz were my teammates on the NNF (then NCCSEF) funded team as well as Hannah Dreissigacker who is an Olympian in biathlon.
Skiing in Italy with my buddies Sophie and Sadie at World Junior Championships
Sprint awards at the U23 World Championships in Hinterzarten, Germany.  I just missed the podium after racing against some of the ladies I continue to race against on the World Cup including from left to right, Denise Herrmann, Mari Laukkanen, and Katherine Harsem.

2011 World Championships in Oslo.  This was my first senior level Championships and the first time we raced together as a team! Pictured from bottom to top, Liz, me, Kikkan, Holly, Sadie, Jessie, Morgan
Training in Bend in 2011
Celebrating a 5th place World Cup relay finish in 2012 which was a breakthrough performance as a team.

Olympic rookies psyched for Sochi!
Kikkan, Sadie, Liz, and I practicing starts last week in Park City

Thank you for reading and thanks for the support!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall Colors!

I may be a ski racer but fall is my fall is my favorite season.  There is nothing that makes me happier at this time of they year than seeing the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows or shuffling through the crackling fallen leaves.  We returned from Austria to peak foliage.  After returning home after dark, it was wonderful to wake up the next morning to all the fall colors.  I sat in the Adirondack chairs for a long time that morning eating breakfast, drinking coffee, enjoying the foliage and watching the stray leaf fall from the tree.  Later that day I had a nice foliage walk with my dad and snapped a few pictures of the peak conditions.

It can't be fall without apple picking and the GRP made a trip to an orchard in Hardwick

Liz with the foliage behind her
Climbing trees was not allowed so John grew a few inches with the help of Pete to reach the perfect apples on the highest branches

It's past peak now which means there are more leaves on the ground to shuffle through listening to the crackles of the dry leaves.  

Lost Nation Road yesterday morning
And don't forget the other fall color which is PINK! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to stand strong with women everywhere.  Pink is of course the unofficial USST Women's Team color.  Our last team training camp of year starts next week in Park City, UT.  I'm looking forward to proudly wear my pink while training hard alongside my favorite ladies!  Stay tuned for updates from Team Pink!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Strength and Serenity

We have had a lot of incredible conditions on the glacier.  Sunny days with firm skiing and sleeves rolled up when I've had to pinch myself to see if it is real.   So it probably isn't fair to complain about the wrath of force that Mother Nature unleashed on us this morning.  Even on the tram ride up to the glacier, I knew it was going to be a mental toughness day as the tram car swayed in the wind and the rain pelted from all the sides.  Out on the glacier at 2800 meters the temperatures were below freezing so the raindrops had turned to ice pellets which even with my face covered with my buff and hands, they whipped at your cheeks, stinging on contact.  The wind swirled across the snow and I tried to ski compact to keep my poles from being blown to the side.  With each switchback I skied away from the tramhouse the wind and sleet accelerated and the fog lowered.  I focused on finding the feel of the ski across the snow trying, stripping skiing back to the basics of the push and glide, to enhance those sensations during the vertigo of the whiteout conditions.  When a worry of being blown off the trail arose in my mind, a bigger gust would pummel toward me, displacing any calm I had found with flashing terrors of being obliterated into a crevasse.  But every time I thought I had hit rock bottom, the clouds would lift just enough to unveil some of the other nearby switch backs and I saw my teammates and fellow World Cup competitors surrounding me and remembered that we were all in this together.  This glimpse provided me with enough strength to get up the next hill and the serenity to find the quiet flow as I skied through the storm.  Today the goal might just be finishing the workout but another day the challenge could be a lot harder.  Facing every obstacle with strength and serenity will be positive force that allows me to appreciate the tailwinds and the headwinds, the uphills and the downhills because I know there are a lot more of both of them ahead. 

Sometimes you have your feet up drinking lattes in the sun.  Here's Pepa on our off day in town.

Feeling fast and invincible

The view from the trail looks like this!

And other days the same view looks like this.  The camera doesn't even show the sleet, hail, and snow

Gotta keep climbing!  I'm the little pink dot skating up the trail.

And if all else fails just make sure to look good.  Cheers to Elsa as she gathers her own strength and serenity this fall!
Thanks Nick Brown for the photos!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ramsau Life

Training camp often implies a certain factor of monotony.  Long hours of training are followed by napping, resting, and preparing for more training.  Distractions are limited to enhance recovery.  Tired bodies lead to tired minds which often don’t correlate with much intellectual involvement. This past week in Ramsau, Austria with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates has seemed much more like a very athletic vacation than a training camp.  Each day provides new excitement and adventure.  Not once has training felt like a job but instead with each session I feel incredibly lucky to be active and outside in such a beautiful location.  

The view from behind our house.  The farmer who is renting to us even brings us pitchers of fresh milk from the cows grazing outside.

Our days usually begin around 6:15 or 6:30am with a groggy breakfast.  The first few mornings were extra challenging to wake up but we stumbled into the kitchen fighting the jet lag and the time change and hungrily devoured big bowls of fruit, yogurt, and muesli with hot mugs of coffee.  We were ready to start the day.  Our commute involves driving 10km from our house in town to the tram station, switchbacking through green fields along the base of the mountain.  Town is situated at around 1,100 meters (3,700ft) and the tram station is about 500 meters higher.  The real elevation gain happens when we get into the tram and climb straight up along the cliffs to the upper station situated at 2800meters.

I have been impressed with the vibrant green of the pastures but we have had a fair share of rainy weather to nourish the grass.
The tram ascends directly to the top of the peak without any poles.  The first morning I couldn't tell if my racing heart during the tram ride was from the elevation or my excitement to ski.
From the tram station we walk a couple hundred meters down to the trails, strap on our skis, and start the morning session.  The trail switchbacks tightly across the glacier, packing in 9km of skiing in a small area.  Sometimes these types of loops on a glacier can become repetitive but so far that hasn’t happened and the training time flies by.  Being on snow in the summer is a great opportunity to work on technique, to transfer any technical changes made on rollerskis onto actual skis so I have a focus for each session, a small goal to concentrate my energy toward.  Dachstein glacier is also one of the most popular XC summer training locations in the world so we are not alone on the glacier and are instead skiing our laps with other elite skiers from Sweden, Russia, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Austria, Germany, and Kazakhstan.  

Switchbacks across the glacier
Skiing! (GRP Facebook Page photo)
I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the snow and grooming on the glacier.  Often glacier skiing can be soft and mushy but they groom almost continuously and the skiing has been excellent with a range of snow conditions.  A couple of the warmer days were slushier but one day it snowed and we had fresh packed powder!
Skiing with the other Ida (Ida Ingemarsdotter from Sweden) during a foggy whiteout powder day (Pepa photo)
Testing new skis! Zach Caldwell, who was in Austria for a trip to the Fischer factory, skied with us one morning and we tested new skis.  I have worked with Zach for a long time and he has helped build my fleet of Fischer skis and also keeps them running fast by dialing them in with new grinds and structures. This morning we had eight  new pairs of skate skis on the snow and there were a lot of fast ones!  (Caldwell Sport photo)
After a couple hours of skiing, we take the tram off the mountain and drive home for lunch and recovery.  We are renting a big house in town with wonderful views and only a short walk into the center of town.  I usually try to get off my feet for a little while after lunch but I’m horrible at napping so I have usually spent my afternoon getting sun on the deck off my bedroom or curling up with a book near the fire on the rainier days.

The view from the deck 
Our afternoon session is dryland training and usually involves a hike or run in the mountains.  The trail system here is endless and all very well marked which makes it easy to explore.  Some trails climb high into the mountains while others meander through the pastures and even driveways and backyards.  We haven’t seen any private property signs here and instead everyone is out sharing the land and getting their exercise.  We have had a lot of cloudy and rainy weather this past week so we’ve missed many of the beautiful views in the valley but the forecast for the upcoming week looks very promising for some sunny days of training.

A misty OD hike
Climbing over a pass

Descending out of the fog
Skiwalking above town with Caitlin (Andrew Dougherty photo)
We are taking turns cooking dinners for the team and have been surprising even ourselves with the incredible amounts of food that we consume with every meal.  At first we shopping at the local market but since it sold only small European sized portions, we branched out and found a bulk grocery store for the rest of our shopping.  Containers are measured in kilograms and we still have to shop every few days.  Yogurt is of course the training fuel of choice and we easily polished off a 10kg bucket of it in less than two days!

Ethan sized pan of mac and cheese
And if the daily training days haven’t been exciting enough, we have turned into tourists on our recovery days, visiting the nearby town of Schladming on our afternoon off and the city of Salzburg on our "off" day. 

Exploring Schladming on a rainy afternoon.  The last time I had been in town was for an Alpine World Cup night slalom so it was a little quieter in town this time.

Fresh pretzels are my favorite Austrian treat.  The markets in Salzburg sold so many different flavors of sweet and salty pretzels!

Rooftop views
Life is good and I’m feeling very grateful to have the opportunity to train in such a beautiful place.  I have my fingers crossed and my sunscreen and shades ready for some sunny weather for the next week of camp. 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lake Placid US Ski Team Camp

We just finished up our annual USST training camp in Lake Placid, NY.  This camp usually takes place in the beginning of fall and as the leaves change and fall colors burst, we ramp up the intensity with lots of intervals and hard workouts in the beautiful Adirondack mountains.  This year the camp was a little earlier so we will still surrounded by green leaves and hot humid weather but we hit the intensity just as hard with a tough two weeks of training.  After spending most of the summer at home, it was nice for some new training grounds and partners.  We had a big group of ladies there including teammates from the US Ski Team, Craftsbury GRP, and US Biathlon as well as good friends from Stratton Mountain School, Team Gregg, and Sun Valley.  Highlights of the week for me included fast striding in a classic sprint time trial, reaching a new max heart rate in bounding intervals and summitting Mt. Marcy on an OD run with the group.  We stayed at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and the dorm feel can be boring, it's great for recovery.  Rather than running around in the middle of the day working in the garden or on other projects like I often do, I was forced to stay off my feet and hang out in either my room or the cafeteria which to no big surprise is great for resting up between workouts.  But in order to maintain some level of mental sanity during a longer training block, I needed some non-training adventures and outings.  Fun OTC escapes were easy to find and included HoboFest in Saranac Lake , ice cream and coffee dates in town, playing Catch Phrase with my USST teammates, a joint XC and biathlon team dinner at Annelies Cook's house, grilling on the deck of Hannah Dreissigacker's apartment, and hanging out at nearby Mirror Lake.

A cool shot of the road one of our coaches took before a speed session!  There was a lot of new pavement on the roads around Lake Placid which made for some great rollerskiing

My lovely and matching roommate.  Without even trying, we ended up matching almost everyday.  Great minds think alike or maybe I'm just trying to copy Sophie's great style.
Ready, set, GO! The start of one of the heats in our sprint time trial.  You can spot me at the far end of the picture with my yellow Rudy Project helmet and red Alpina boots.  

For one of the first times ever, the ladies group was much larger than the guys group.  Here's the neon train double poling up a 1km steep hill that the coaches snuck into an easy double pole workout.  Girls getting STRONG!

Jessie and I skiing together during a continuous L3 workout on the rollerski loop.  We took turns leading every lap and learned from each others strengths.

The group at Avalanche Lake
Airborne! Sophie and I bounding up the hill during a speed workout! Taking turns following and leading while skiing with teammates, mimicking technique and tempo, pushes the borders of your comfort zone and is the easiest way to learn new tricks.

The summit of Mt. Marcy- the views were not spectacular but our stoke level was still high!

HoboFest was an awesome outdoor bluegrass festival in Saranac Lake.  Can you spot the tiny bassist?  He couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old but stole the show!

As always lots of FUN and laughs!