Monday, July 27, 2015

More New Zealand photos

I'm back in Vermont now adjusting to the 16 hour time change, remembering what it feels like to sweat in humid weather, eating delicious veggies and berries from the garden, and swimming several times a day.  But before I get fully settled into summer, here are a few more photos from winter training camp in the Southern hemisphere.

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Sophie, Matt, and Jessie on the edge of the Hanging Valley trail
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On an off day we drove to Queenstown but a snowy morning made for a long drive and with many a few stops to chain up along the way.
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The view from the beach in Queenstown.
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Classic striding from afar (Bernie Gardner photo)
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Anouk and I working on classic technique with some no pole striding. (Bernie Gardner photo)
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The snowy white landscape! (Bernie Gardner photo)
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An ominous cloud bank rolls in over the lodge. The exposed landscape at the Snow Farm made the sunny days incredible and the stormy days as intensely extraordinary. We were lucky and timed both of our off days with the storms, escaping skiing through the extreme whiteouts and howling winds. (Bernie Gardner photo)
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Sophie leads the train in a classic distance time trial with myself, Anouk, and Jessie in hot pursuit. (Bernie Gardner photo)
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Clear skies and fresh corduroy for a late afternoon ski. We couldn't have been any luckier with the snow conditions an finished the camp with more powdery fresh snow. (Jessie Diggins photo)
Skiing into the sunset
Skiing into the sunset
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The clouds outside the lodge on the last evening made it hard to leave!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Winter down south!

There's an old saying the XC skiers are made in the summer.  But sometimes, it's best to find winter in summer.  Rollerskiing is great but it's not skiing and the time spent on snow, working on technique and logging quality kilometers is invaluable.  Every time I start skiing after a few months break, I'm amazed by how awkward, long, and slippery my skis feel.  Little stabilizing muscles immediately scream out after being dormant and unused on the stable and firm pavement.  The classic rollerski ratchets are gone and it's time to remember how to make wax work again.  And of course there is always the pure enjoyment and love of skiing, the blissful feeling of a ski gliding along the snow.  For the past few years the US Ski Team has traveled to Alaska in July for some glacier skiing.  This year we decided to go to actual winter and so we made the longer southern journey down under to find it.  I quickly lost track of the hours spent traveling, especially when we crossed the international date line and jumped into tomorrow.  But many many hours later we arrived on New Zealand's South island and all the hours on the plane were immediately worth it.   I'm also a competent plane sleeper and was in snooze mode for over eight hours of the twelve hour flight from San Francisco to Aukland, so I arrived relatively fresh and was ready to ski!

We flew into Queenstown, New Zealand and then drove up into the mountains to the Snow Farm, New Zealand's only Nordic ski area.  The lodge, where we are living for the camp, is 14 kilometers up a road that serves as a rally race course in the summer time.  The switchbacks can be treacherous, especially for those susceptible to car sickness but at the top the landscape opens into an unreal panorama of white rolling hills backed by views of the larger Southern Alps.  Apparently it is the best snow year in over a decade so the skiing has been incredible with over 30 kilometers of trails open.  The first week was cold and clear and we had a long string of extra blue conditions.  Then a front came in with some warmer temps bringing klister conditions for a couple days but the warmer weather was followed by more snow so we should finish the camp off with more hardwax skiing.  We live directly on the trails which creates the perfect training environment conducive to large amounts of skiing, eating, and sleeping and not much else.  Most days we spend over four hours skiing and logging lots of easy distance.  The altitude here is only 5000' which isn't too high compared to many summer skiing destinations so we have a couple time trials and interval sessions built into the training plan each week. There is a small gym up here too but we usually drive into Wanaka, the nearest town, a couple times a week to go for a run and hit up a larger gym.  On our off days we've had time to get off the mountain and explore the local area but with this much training it isn't possible unfortunately to head off on any bigger adventures or sightseeing trips.  We have four more days of training left here before debarking on the big journey back in time and north to summer.  How's that for confusing?

Here's some pictures from the week so far.
New Zealand from the air!  After so many hours of travel, these views were an energizing start to the trip.
New Zealand from the air! After so many hours of travel, these views were an energizing start to the trip.
SKIING!  The morning fog burns off on the Hanging Valley trail.  (Sophie Caldwell photo)
SKIING! The morning fog burns off on the Hanging Valley trail. (Sophie Caldwell photo)
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The girls enjoying a sunset ski at the Bob Lee hut. Anouk Favre-PIcon from the French National team (far left) joined our team for the camp which has been awesome! Her English has made huge improvements and I've tried to speak a little French as well. (Chris Grover photo)
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Jessie puts her feet up to take in the view
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Here is the view from my bedroom room. We're lucky to have such great training just out the door. It's just like Craftsbury in the winter time with great skiing, eating, and living, except with a few less trees.
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Down in town in Wanaka, it feels like fall. Sometimes we will run in shorts and tshirts and other times it's a little colder and even the teapot needs a sweater.  (Anouk photo)
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The floating tree in Lake Wanaka (Jason Cork photo)
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The floating tree without us in the way.  We heard it was the most photographed tree in the world from some locals but further research has showed that it might have some competition.
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Feeding the ducks in Wanaka
We didn't see a single cloud for the first five days and then the next morning we awoke to this incredible sunrise!
We didn't see a single cloud for the first five days and then the next morning we awoke to this incredible sunrise!
It was a shock to go from lots of summer daylight to midwinter darkness.  Now instead of waking up with the sun streaming through the windows, it's still dark when I get up but the bonus is lots of incredible breakfast sunrises like this one here.
It was a shock to go from lots of summer daylight to midwinter darkness. Now instead of waking up with the sun streaming through the windows, it's still dark when I get up but the bonus is lots of incredible breakfast sunrises like this one here.

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!

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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!