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.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

August already? Mid-summer update!!

The summer is flying by and I can't believe it is already August.  Long and hot training hours on the roads and trails could become monotonous, but when you feel good both mentally and physically they can zoom by, leaving a happily tired body that feels excited for the next session.   And since I'm gone so much in the winter time, I feel very grateful for any time that I have at home, with my feet underneath me and settled into a routine.  Consistent hard work in a place where you feel comfortable, is the environment necessary to push your comfort zone and make big training gains which is exactly what I'm doing.

That said, I did leave home for Alaska and a week of skiing on the Eagle glacier with my US Ski Team teammates.  We had an amazing week of hot and sunny weather so lots of sunscreen, new tanlines, sore muscles, and slushy skiing!  Alaska Pacific University runs the XC ski operation on the Eagle Glacier.  We stayed on the edge of the glacier in a hut run by the Alaska Pacific University and had a distraction free week of eating, sleeping, and skiing, surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery and lots of hard working athletes!  There is about 7km of skiing which they groomed twice a day for us providing excellent conditions that stayed surprisingly firm considering the beautiful sunny weather.

Mountain run outside of Anchorage on my first day in Alaska

Great day for a helicopter ride! Glacier bound and thanks Alpine Air for the safe flights!

The trail from the air.  We had beautiful weather all week and thanks to Dylan and Erik from APU for hosting the team and providing awesome skiing every day!

Virginia, our guest athlete from Italy, was an awesome training partner and great addition to the camp.  She also taught us how to make gnocchi and gave us a delicious taste of Italy on the glacier!

Skiing with Sophie on the last day!  We were both pretty tired by the end of the week but good company and this amazing backdrop helped us push through for a long skate OD.
From Alaska, I made a layover in Seattle for a few days where my siblings, Eben and Elsa, live.  It was a great layover with my only regret being not having more time!  While I was there I also visited the Madshus USA headquarters to meet the staff working there and also to do some boot fitting.  Everyone was very friendly and helpful, making me grateful to be part of such a small and supportive team.  The new boots are also very comfortable so I'm looking forward to skiing with them in New Zealand next month!
Seattle! I had a busy and fun few days which was just long enough to see the city, smell the ocean air, meet the crew at Madshus/K2, and spend some much needed sibling time.

Seattle bike tour with Elsa

A spontaneous long run with Eben, Elsa, and Natalie to Snow Lake

Trying to do some artsy photography at the glass museum.  Can you spot Elsa and I and the space needle?
While my trip to Alaska and Seattle was great, the travel home was not and after spending almost seven hours on the runway in Chicago for a variety of weather and air traffic control issues, I was very ready to finally make it home.  I'm settling into a big block of summer training now in Craftsbury but loving every minute of it!  
Ahh home!  It's wonderful to be back in VT.  I absolutely love summertime here and feel solidly in my happy place every time I end a day with the sunset over Mansfield 

Muddy smiles on a mountain bike ride!  I've done a lot of mountain biking this summer following this guy
Swimming time to beat the heat and humidity!


August= harvest time with blueberries, raspberries, and veggies galore!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club Training

Being home for a significant portion of the summer this year has allowed me to be involved in coaching with the junior practices which is very fun for me and a blast from the past to return to my junior days with the club and see the enthusiasm and drive of these kids as they train hard and have fun.  It is also impressive to see how the club has grown over the years and to see the momentum which our tiny little ski club from 20 years ago has now gained!

Last weekend I was helping junior coaches Anna and Jake with a rollerski practice.  I arrived at the Center a little before practice started and the parking lot was full of cars as everyone was here for Masters training, Junior Practice, yoga, mountain biking, and all of the other summer offerings.  When I walked into the clubhouse, Anna was going a mile a minute outfitting everyone with rollerskis and poles while simultaneously throwing out reminders for sunscreen, helmets, snacks, and water.  We had two vans ready to load up, taking kids to two different locations depending on their rollerski experience level.  With over a dozen kids already there and more arriving, I made a comment about it being a big showing for practice but Anna looked kind of confused with my statement and replied that actually that a lot of people couldn't make it on that day.  This was even more shocking to me as I was already blown away by the size of the group.  Things sure had come a long way from the days when there were only a few of us at workouts and we would load up the back of Pepa's black Camaro and  race down the road towards North Craftsbury Road or East Albany with Bulgarian music blasting.  Back in those days the club consisted of a handful of families with dedicated parents and kids of similar ages and was led under the very watchful eye of Pepa who had recently arrived in the United States from Bulgaria.  We had practices at the Center a few times a week which consisted of rollerskiing on the Creek Road in East Albany and the North Craftsbury Road, lots of running intervals around Lemon's Haunt and Race Loop, rowing and swimming in the lake, sweaty circuits in the little rooms in the basement of Cedar which are now used as the TV room and Pepa's testing lab, jumps up the hill followed by pushups to exhaustion, and a variety of other weekend hikes and group family adventures.  The rest of the time Pepa gave us a training plan which we viewed as ridiculously hard and just assumed it was a joke which was impossible to actually complete.  But despite Pepa's craziness, spending time training with my CNSC teammates was often the highlight of my summer and developed friendships as well as a love for being active and outside which I still cherish today.

Being part of the club today constantly reminds me of my time as a Craftsbury junior and BKL athlete and also amazes me with how much the club has grown and flourished!  The kids are still out training hard and doing many of the same workouts that we used to do.  They unfortunately cannot buy Biggy Iggy ice cream sandwiches and Doritos in the Touring Center after practice but now they have a whole clubhouse to themselves after the addition of the new Touring Center.  The ski trails all have same names but now there is access to homologated loops with snow-making in the winter time and so many more kilometers of singletrack to escape onto in the summer.  In addition to Pepa's coaching there are a three junior coaches, a masters coach, and GRP athletes helping out.  Every week there are 10-12 separate training sessions going on as well as two BKL day camps, and several overnight junior camps.  It makes me incredibly proud to see the success of CNSC skiers in the winter as well as the energy and excitement which buzzes around the Outdoor Center throughout the year!

Here are a bunch of photos from CNSC from the past and the present.

CNSC Juniors rollerskiing for summer training!

Before the days of neon rollerskiing shirts but we were still looking pretty flashy!

But maybe still using the same skis?  I found my old Ski Skett Fire rollerskis with the ripping fast green wheels in the pile of club rollerskis.
Junior practice earlier this summer

Jumps up the hill are still a staple of junior training

But closer look shows that Anna and Jake are leading the way and most likely are still masters of this workout after the time that we did jumped, hopped, and bounded up the hill 90 times in one of Pepa's crazy workouts 

CNSC training on the hill before the wood chips were laid down and it was named Chip Hill

A big group before the start of summer training with Pepa (from L-R Alex Schulz, Sten Kaeding, Ethan Dreissigacker, Isaac Noyes, Emily Dreissigacker, Hannah Dreissigacker, Anna Schulz, Ida Sargent, Elsa Sargent, Kit Wright, Pepa, John Brodhead)

BKL Devo practice in the gym with Audrey last week
Good friends on a summer training camp in Italy (Ida, Elsa, Hannah, Emily)

And happy junior girls skipping down the dirt roads (Callie, Avery, Phoebe, Ani)

A new addition is Mountain Bike Club which Ollie started this summer and over 30 kids can be found riding bikes on the Center trails every Monday afternoon.  

Pepa was always convinced we would get injured biking and we were thus not encouraged to ride so it's great to see these kids ripping the trails and learning skills.
Video review in Pepa's house.  Pepa used to live above the old Touring Center which is now the coaches office in the clubhouse so once again training and club activities have come full circle.

Taking our Nordic skis up to Tuckerman Ravine in 1998 (and also proof that I was once taller than Ethan)
The snow-making system at Craftsbury has made skiing at home possible so the juniors don't have to travel for early skiing but that unfortunately makes the Silver Star training camp non-existent now.

We had training camps a couple times a year where we would spend a few days at the Center eating lots of dining hall food,  raising terror in Cedar, and training more than we thought was imaginable, Here's a photo from a Christmas training camp.
The end of the season CNSC potluck this year which took place in the new AC was a lot bigger and more elaborate than this one from many years past taking place in the dining hall but it was fun to be able to attend this spring and connect with so many community members that are excited about Nordic Skiing!

Craftsbury Nordic trading cards featuring Elsa, Kit, Isaac, Emily, Hannah, and I rollerskiing in East Albany.   It's great that they finally repaved sections of that road that were previously paved when we started rollerskiing there circa 1998 or so
The gang after running a 3000 meter TT on the Peoples Academy track.  

The current stars of the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club!  It's very exciting to have another fast group of juniors, racing fast at Junior Nationals, highlighting the podium at the Eastern REG camp time trials, and just generally having fun and training hard.