Friday, May 29, 2015

Park City Training

You know it's been a successful training camp when lying on hard pavement feels this good!  We had places to be and things to do but after a hard set of double poling intervals with the sun finally out, nobody felt like moving!

I'm on my way home now to Vermont after finishing the first training camp of the year in Park City with my USST teammates.  Due to a horrible snow year in the Pacific Northwest, our annual on snow camp in Bend, Oregon was moved to Park City, Utah for dryland training at altitude.  Formal training for year starts on May 1st and the beginning period is always a tough transition with lots of sore muscles and out of shape feelings after the off-season.  And this year, after an extended recovery for a concussion, these feelings were extra strong as I returned to training.  Having a training camp with the team, though, was exactly what I need to find the motivation to get the ball rolling again, push through the sore muscles that laid dormant through April,  and build the foundation for next season.  Having teammates and coaches together made a huge difference as we finished our first four hour OD workout of the year in the rain, hung on to the back of the treadmill for a few more seconds at the end of a VO2max test, skated uphill to our condos at 8200' at the end of a long ski, fought for one more pullup in the gym, or hammered out L4 double intervals.  I am 100% healthy again and feeling more and more of my normal self and fitness return with each run, rollerski, or strength session!  I'm looking forward to returning to Craftsbury now for some sea level training with my GRP teammates, summer weather, cottage time, and of course Craftsbury Outdoor Center dining hall meals!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Knockout World Championships!

We skied for the last time this morning in Falun.  The fans were gone, the stadium was empty, the banners taken down, and us orphan Americans without a home to easily return to, were the only skiers out on the trails.  Another World Champs is finished and it was an incredible knockout week for the US Ski Team.  There were strong perfomances in almost every race and then having two American flags raised above the podium was unbelievable and a testament to all the hard work we have put down as a team! Congrats to Jessie and Caitlin for very inspiring races!

Proud of the PODIUM girls!!
A well deserved champagne toast after an incredible day!
A well deserved champagne toast after an incredible day!
I had the opportunity to literally open the World Championships, starting bib number one in the first race!  The eruption of the crowd when I tripped the wand is a moment I'll never forget!
I had the opportunity to literally open the World Championships, starting bib number one in the first race! The eruption of the crowd when I tripped the wand is a moment I'll never forget!
The race didn't go as well as I had hoped or planned but that's ski racing.  There are some things that you can't control but I gave everything I could in the tricky conditions and kept fighting all the way to the finish as my pain face shows!
The race didn't go as well as I had hoped or planned but that's ski racing. There are some things that you can't control but I gave everything I could in the tricky conditions and kept fighting all the way to the finish as my pain face shows!
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A TV screen shot before my quarterfinal heat
Sophie and I cheering with our awesome PTs Ana and Zuzana on the relay day.  A huge thanks to all the coaches, techs, and volunteers that helped the team this week!
Sophie and I cheering with our awesome PTs Ana and Zuzana on the relay day. A huge thanks to all the coaches, techs, and volunteers that helped the team this week!  Lots of hard work by a huge team was behind all of the success!
Early last week I had my own knockout experience but of a slightly different kind.  I was finishing a workout with a few short speeds.  The snow was icy and fast and at the end of one speed, I poled between my legs and faceplanted on the snow.  The crash knocked the wind out of me but I was initially most concerned whether if anyone had witnessed it or if I could pick up my broken glasses, watch, and other pieces of the yard sale fall without anyone noticing.  I finished the ski feeling a little shook up but nothing too concerning.  But as the day progressed a nagging headache refused to go away so I mentioned it to the team doctor mostly just hoping to get some Tylenol from the med kit.  I had an early flight the next morning to go to Slovenia for OPA cup races the following weekend and I didn't want a headache to keep me awake.  Our doctor immediately ran me through a concussion test (which I thought I passed with flying colors but apparently not) and the coaches and doctor decided to cancel my travel plans.  Initially I thought they were overreacting as it was just a little headache and I was very much looking forward to seeing my US friends and teammates racing on the OPA circuit as well as some fun and sunny racing in Slovenia that weekend!  But within a few hours I was very thankful that our doctor had recognized the early concussion symptoms and the next day was grateful to be curled up in my bed in a dark room rather than trying to navigate airports and travel amidst waves of nausea, dizziness, and throbbing headaches.

A week has now past and I'm slowly emerging from the concussion haze and returning to some very easy training.  It has been extremely challenging to go from the feelings of peak fitness to feeling worn out or dizzy after only a short walk.  Hours and hours spent hanging out in a hotel room in the middle of World Championships and at first not even being able to read, watch tv, or surf the web have been equally painful.  My mom always says, "everything happens for a reason" and I repeat this to myself as I knit, color, or partake in other mindless activities to pass the time.  Each day I feel a little more like my normal self and am excited to return to racing.  Tomorrow our team is travelling to Lahti, Finland for World Cups on Saturday and Sunday!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sun's out in Falun!

After lots of snow over the course of our first week in Falun, the sun finally came out for a few beautiful days in Falun, Sweden.  It was a nice end to the training camp and the perfect energy boost for the last few hard sessions.  Tomorrow I travel to Ostersund, Sweden where I will meet up with my USST teammates and race in a World Cup there on Saturday.  As they say in Vermont, "the hay is in the barn."  It's time to rest, taper, and get even more psyched for the World Champs (if that is even possible)!  Can't wait to see what the next few weeks will bring!
Sunrise on my morning jog
Sunrise on my morning jog
Morning rays
Morning rays
Looking down the stadium
Looking down the stadium
A Swedish ski cafe
A Swedish ski cafe on the trails
Looking out over Falun from halfway up the Mordarbacken
Looking out over Falun from halfway up the Mordarbacken
Our cabin with the ski jumps behind
Our cabin with the ski jumps behind
Hanging over my poles after a hard interval.
Hanging over my poles after the "final" in my sprint time trial.  The training has been great but I'm excited for the races and ready to go!

Falun training camp

Greetings from training camp in Falun, Sweden!  I have two full weeks off from World Cup racing before a weekend of World Cup racing in Ostersund, Sweden followed by the 2015 World Championships here in Falun. This is the longest break since the season started back in November.  Most of the US team is in Davos, Switzerland but I needed to stay at sea level to prepare for speedy sprint racing so Pepa traveled to Falun to help me train and peak for the World Championships.  I am very grateful that she is able to be here during these important last few weeks of preparations!
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Hello from Falun!
I wouldn't trade my travel and race schedule for anything but I must admit that the pictures of the skiing at home in Craftsbury this winter have made me a tad jealous.  There's nothing quite like a tour around Ruthie's and Sam's!  The trails here remind me a lot of home and so I'm enjoying the opportunity to just go out and ski through the woods!  The snow conditions are excellent and the sun is even forecasted to appear for our last few days here.
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A bridge design that could possibly enhance the Craftsbury race trails?
This camp is a great opportunity to train on the race courses, familiarizing myself with all the big uphills and fast twisty downhills.  These courses are some of the most challenging that we race on.  One hill is infamously named "Mordarbacken" which translates to the Murder hill and climbs steeply from the stadium all the way to the top of the K120 ski jump.  Today Pepa skied up it twice and without poles either time so she could get video on her Ipad!  So I am not the only one who is in training camp right now.  Pepa skis every morning, runs on the treadmill whenever I am lifting in the gym, and walked several miles to town and back one afternoon when it was too snowy for our rental car tires to make the trip.
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Stopping halfway up the "Mordarbacken" to watch the piston bully groom the ski jump.
Lots of Concept 2 skiergs to choose from while warming up for strength at the local gym
Lots of Concept 2 skiergs to choose from while warming up for strength at the local gym
We're staying in cabins that are just a few hundred feet from the ski trails making it easy to roll out of bed and get ready to train!  The cabins were advertised as two bedroom but turned out to be just two rooms with one room room being the bathroom.  Each cabin is one room with a couple bunk beds and a kitchen and living area.  We're spending a lot of time together but Pepa wasn't keen on being bunk mates.   Quick Bulgarian negotiations later and we now have two separate cabins and haven't gotten sick of each other yet.
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Big snowflakes falling on the Swedish cabins
Along with Pepa's heavy training she has been paying closer attention than normal to nutrition and I've been impressed with her culinary skills.  She still doesn't trust anything I cook, preferring to eat salami and Swedish meatballs on those evenings but she has cooked a couple delicious and nutritious dinners of roasted potatoes, sauteed veggies, chicken, salad, and more!  I even witnessed her snacking on carrot sticks yesterday afternoon!  But don't worry, our freezer is still full of ice cream, our chocolate supply is no short supply, and she unsuccessfully searches for chicken wings every time we visit the grocery.
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Pepa in the kitchen!
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A Bulgarian salad that is topped with lots of delicious feta.  We might not be quite up to Craftsbury Outdoor Center dining hall standards but we are eating well.
The town of Falun is only a few minutes away from the ski area so we've had a couple shopping trips to ward off cabin fever.  While I can easily stay ahead of Pepa on the ski trails I have trouble keeping up when we start shopping!
A new jacket for World Champs?
A new jacket for World Champs?
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A view from the square in the center of Falun
And the banners in the city center provide inspiration for tomorrow's training!  It's easy to be motivated for the upcoming World Champs when you're surrounded by these images which decorate just about every corner of town!  I will be doing solo intervals on the sprint course but "staying ahead" of this pack of Swedes!
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Can't wait for World Champs to begin!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

7 Countries in January

February is quickly approaching and I have not written a blog yet this month even though it has been an action filled January!  After a quick count I realized that I have skied in seven different countries this month!  Here's a quick update from the start of 2015.

Opening ceremonies at the Tour de Ski.  We surprised the crowd by performing a quick line dance on the stage!  This was my first time starting the Tour de Ski and it was a blast!  Kikkan's face exhibits our excitement!
Once the racing starts it's a whirlwind of racing, recovery, and travel.  Here I am racing the 3km Prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany.  
The first two races were in Germany and then as soon as we finished the second race, we hopped in the van and drove to Switzerland for the third stage.  This picture was taken at a pee stop along the way which also served as a sightseeing opportunity.
The sun came out for the third stage, a sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland. 
Swiss cheerleaders
After the sprint in Switzerland, we drove to Toblach, Italy and raced a 5km classic the next day.  Along with most of my USST teammates, I ended the Tour after that race, but Liz Stephen continued and finished an impressive 5th place at the end of Tour!  Here she is racing the 15km pursuit in Toblach.
My parents traveled to Europe to watch the races and spend some family time together after the races.  I was pretty exhausted after all the races but a few relaxing days with my parents was the perfect recovery and a very nice change of pace.
We spent a few days in Ramsau, Austria after the Tour and I enjoyed my first extra blue days of the winter!  I trained in Ramsau with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates this fall so it was fun to return in the winter and explore new trails in a familiar place!  
It was a short break and then quickly back to racing in Otepaa, Estonia.  I first went to Otepaa when I was 15 for the J1 Scandinavian Championships so it was fun to return 11 years later for World Cups
I raced a classic sprint and a skate team sprint but the biggest event of the weekend was the tech sprints.  Our team's goal was top 12 and we finished 11th which also happened to be first place on reverse podium.  It was a blast to cheer for these guys who work hard day in and day out all winter long!  
Next we traveled to Rybinsk, Russia and our first real taste of winter. We were welcomed by temperatures of -25C so here are my blue faced roommates preparing for a day of skiing. 
The highlight of the weekend was Liz's first podium.  Hard work pays off so congrats Liz!
There are two weekends off from World Cup racing so I am currently in Sweden for a training camp with Pepa.  Thanks to my GRP girls teammates for the birthday card and American goodies!  Good luck in the SuperTour races this weekend in Craftsbury!
Happy trails and thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 12 Days of Davos

Davos, Switzerland often feels like our home away from home in Europe.  It's the first World Cup venue we go to after starting the season in dark Scandinavia.  The mountains, sunshine and snow is something we dream about through November.  This year I was planning to be here for 12 days but after a poor snow year in Europe plans were changed and I'm spending 24 days in Davos, first for races and then for the holiday break before the Tour de Ski.  But since there isn't a Christmas song with lyrics for 24 days, I'll stick to the 12 days of Davos.  

On the first day of Davos, Switzerland gave to me....

1 leaning gingerbread house- Even on the road and away from home we've had no problem being festive and finding Christmas spirit.  We've made cookies, opened stockings, decorated with lights and candles, and yesterday afternoon we had a blast building and decorating a gingerbread house.  It's not quite straight and has LOTS of sugary frosting holding it together but we built it totally from scratch and it's still standing!

I think we are all expecting it to topple at any moment but it's still standing!

The finished product!

2 Skate Sprints: After the World Cups in La Clusaz, France were canceled, Davos took on the challenge for a second weekend of racing.  This meant we had back to back skate sprints on the exact same course!  A uncommon opportunity to try something one weekend and then improve on it the next weekend.The first weekend, I qualified in 19th which was one of my strongest skate qualifiers ever.  I finished third in my quarterfinal just missing out on a lucky loser spot into the semifinals to finish 16th on the day.  The following weekend, I almost crashed on an icy corner in the qualifier and in such a tight field I figured my day was over.  But luckily I just sneaked into the heats with a 29th place finish.  In the heats I actually crashed, face planting a couple hundred meters from the finish when Norwegian Heidi Weng and I clicked skis.  So I didn't find the improvement I was looking for on the second try but each sprint heat is such a learning opportunity and the experience of aggressive head to head racing gave me some new things to focus on in my next sprint.

Racing the qualifier with an American flag in the background.  USSA CEO Tiger Shaw, board member Liz Arky, and team supporter Levi Hensel came for the weekend and it was great to have their cheers on course! (Marcel Hilger photo)

3 Meters of Snow! Just kidding it's more like 3 inches or maybe 3 centimeters but it is enough to cover the ground so we can count it as a white Christmas. 

4 Skis for Waxing- I spend most of the winter traveling with over 30 pairs of Fischer skis, ready for every snow condition and race course.  It takes a full time wax tech to prepare the skis and keep the fleet in good shape and I feel extremely lucky to have an awesome staff of waxers on our team.  They work extremely hard to provide us with fast skis and I must say it was really fun to tuck by a Norwegian in last week's sprint.  For this break we are on our own for waxing so I'm keeping it simple with just a pair of skate skis and a pair of classic skis. We've nailed the classic wax so far, even on an icy klister cover day and a day of heavy falling snow.  But that said, I will be happily awaiting the return of our coaches and techs!

5 Kilometers of Skiing- There is a 5km manmade loop of skiing in Davos right now which was prepared for the World Cups and is in great condition.  We spend most of our time training on this loop but last week we took out our rock skis for a crust cruise up Dischma vallley or "Sunny valley" as we like to call it.  The coverage was thin in spots but it was a blast!
Sophie, Liz, and I took a selfie while Simi prepared the timer shot

Crust cruising up the valley

6 Americans in Davos- Liz and I are renting Anna Haag and Emil Joenssen's apartment together that is sitting on the ski trails so it couldn't be a nicer spot for the holidays.  Simi and Sophie have an apartment just a few minutes of skiing away.  Jessie's family is here also staying close by and Kikkan and her husband Jeff are staying in the hotel where our team stayed for the races.  It's great to have so many teammates around to spend Christmas with!

7 Hockey Goals- Jeff and Kikkan had connections in the Davos WC organizing committee and got the team tickets to a Davos professional hockey game.  We were in the second row directly behind the goal!  The play was very fast paced and exciting and Davos ended up losing 4-3 in a shoot out after regular and overtime play!
Liz, Kikkan, and Jeff watching the game

8 Pancakes for Breakfast- It has been a very nice change to have a kitchen and to cook for ourselves.  While we can't ever complain about having meals prepared for us, cooking is fun too and it's always nice to choose what you want to eat.  We immediately prepared spicy food with dinners of chicken curry and mexican.  We also had an incredible pancake breakfast our first morning here with stacks of pancakes topped with yogurt, maple syrup, fruit salad, and brown cheese from Norway.  And of course the delicious breakfast was accompanied by steaming mugs of Vermont Coffee Company coffee.

9 Days to Change the Race Venue- There is a new FIS rule this year that venues have to make the call nine days prior to the first competition for whether there will be enough snow to hold the races.  And with very limited snow across Europe, this rule has been called into use.  It was uncertain whether Davos would be able to hold any races here but slightly cooler temperatures arrived and the race organizers were able to make snow on top of a pass and truck it down to the race course!  A huge thanks needs to go out for all the work that they put into making these races happen.  And then nine days before the La Clusaz, France weekend, those races were cancelled and Davos stepped up to host a second weekend in a row!  There were rumors that the Tour de Ski was also in jeopardy but now since we are less than nine days away, we've received official word that the Tour is on as planned!

A huge thanks to Davos Nordic for hosting back to back World Cup weekends in this stadium (FIS Cross Country Photo)

10 Tree Branches- Here's our Charlie Brown Christmas tree that actually reminds me of a smaller version of Christmas trees I've had at home.

11 Extended Family Members: I miss being home with my actual family for the holidays but as Christmas orphans we have been taken in for quite a few wonderful meals and the recipients of incredible Swiss hospitality.  We had homemade pizza for lunch with Esther Bottomley and Valerio Leccardi after a long ski one morning.  For the second year in a row we had Christmas eve dinner with the Capol family who live 45 minutes from Davos.  And on the 25th the Diggins family invited us over for a delicious Christmas dinner.  Thank you to all for such wonderful hospitality and making us feel at home here in Switzerland.
Christmas Eve with the Capol family where they cooked a turkey for us so we would feel at home!

And a very merry Christmas with the Diggins family

12 Days of Training: There are exactly 12 days off between the last World Cup in Davos and the start of the Tour de Ski.  This is a pretty long break from racing for us so it's nice to have an opportunity to train a bit and prepare for the rest of the season.  In normal race weeks we are focused on the weekend races so it's nice to have the opportunity to do what we all love and just go out and ski!  Happy trails!