Thursday, August 8, 2013

Alaskan Adventures

Any trip to Alaska is sure to provide lots of stories and adventures and the NAWTA (North American Women's Training Alliance) camp was not an exception.  We were treated to amazing weather, lots of delicious seafood, a few mosquitoes, tons of moose sightings (I think the final tally got too high to count), and awesome training both in Anchorage and on the Eagle Glacier.  It was the perfect mid summer break to mix up the routine and prevent any staleness in the mind or body with the day to day scene.  I feel lucky to live such a special lifestyle but its still necessary to add some pizzazz every day to keep even remarkable from feeling too familiar.  This trip was the perfect way to rediscover that passion at this point in the summer.

The first week we spent in Anchorage staying on the Alaska Pacific University (APU) campus and getting a tour of lots of Anchorage's training opportunities.  

One of my favorite parts of this camp is being part of the huge women's training group working together every day.  Here is a finishing sprint during our skate speed workout which was great practice for skiing in a group.
Astrid Jacobsen from the Norwegian National Team came to the camp to mix up her training and add some new adventures to the yearly grind of ski training.  It was an awesome experience to ski with her and learn from the incredibly successful Norwegian ski program.  Astrid is a former World Champion and World Jr Champion in the sprint and has a very professional but also open and fun attitude towards her training.  Here we are following her in an L3 interval.
And while following fast skiers is great experience, it's also fun to be the rabbit and get chased yourself.  Here are Kikkan and I during a speed.  
Our adventures were not just training related either.  We had a very delicious dinner at the home of the Knapp family and played Alaskan survival games which involved folding tarps, finding the toilet, using duct tape, killing mosquitoes and handling fish.  Here are Jessie, Holly, and Norma, our wonderful massage therapist for the week, who were the champions in the fish toss.  
Kikkan is sponsored by the Alaskan Seafood Company and Holly's husband Rob had just returned from a successful dip netting trip on the Kenai Peninsula and they spoiled us with copious amounts of wild salmon.  We feasted on grilled salmon, smoked salmon, salmon eggs, halibut, and king crab.   
Astrid manning a grill full of King Crab
We ended our dryland week with an OD at Hatcher's Pass with the Alaskan REG group.  A lot of our group went on a really cool OD run/hike up to the Bomber Glacier.  Unfortunately with my Achilles still bothering a bit I had to opt out of that adventure but luckily we had a gimp group who were all nursing some different sore tendons and ligaments and we went on a run/roll combo instead.  This workout also turned out to be exciting especially when my rollerski unexpectedly fell off on a downhill.  Luckily I was able to run it out on one ski and avoid the pavement but it sure got my heart racing.  After the OD we had lunch and did a short Q&A with the REG campers which was more just us talking since the juniors only came up with one question.  The next day was a rest day but we drove 40 minutes to Girdwood and loaded up the helicopters for the short 2 minute flight up to the Eagle Glacier.  It's really amazing how close the glacier skiing is to the city of Anchorage.

A helicopter taking off from Alpine Air with daredevil Jessie underneath.  
Welcome home for the week!  This is the hut on the side of the cliff where we eat and sleep and hang out.  It's powered by a generator which is higher up on the rocks. Usually there is a pond in the rocks which is filtered for our water source but with a very warm summer in AK this year the pond had dried up forcing them to find another source farther from the hut and reminding us to conserve water!  
The view from the hut... mountains upon mountains!  My brother Eben is moving to AK and I had fun envisioning all the adventures he will be taking in this wilderness.  
And the view to the other side looking out over the Eagle Glacier, our training grounds for the week.  Erik Flora and his APU staff of Mikey Matteson and Don Haering worked incredibly hard all week maintaining the facility and grooming fantastic tracks for us.  They have probed a safe 6.6km loop on the glacier which they designed to match some of the Sochi courses so it included a lot of climbing.  It was inspiring to ski in July envisioning the Olympic trails of next winter.
The trail was groomed twice a day for us.  We skated in the morning and it usually froze up enough for a couple fast laps.  Then it was usually pretty soft and slow for the rest of the workout but those conditions are a weakness of mine in skating so I was excited for the opportunity to train in them.  Then before we skied in the afternoon, Erik and Mikey laid down classic tracks for some awesome klister skiing.  The weather could not have been more perfect and all but one day was sunny so we were skiing in shorts and sports bras all the time and hammering through a ton of sunscreen.  
We skied a lot of laps together in this beautiful scenery.  Most people skied four or more hours a day for six days straight as part of the volume camp.  

We also did a few intensity sessions including a L3 skate intervals, L4 classic intervals and a really fun team sprint relay with a jump in the middle of the course.  Doing some hard and fast workouts amid lots of easy distance training keeps the body alert.  
We had classic intervals on our non-sunny day but it still wasn't anywhere near as miserable as it can get on the glacier and I kind of liked the change of pace.  You couldn't see the top of the hills so you just had to put your head down and hammer and it made a lot of the hills feel shorter.  Here are Liz, Holly, Sadie and I skiing together during an interval.
Here is Astrid manning the grill again this time on the glacier.  We split up into teams and took turns cooking and baking but it was fun to get a Norwegian twist with the bread, waffles, and bulle buns Astrid baked for the group even though she is gluten intolerant and couldn't even eat them.
Supporting the Red White and Blue in the foot bath.  Contrast baths of hot and cold after workouts is a great way to increase blood flow to the Achilles for a faster recovery and having a buddy in the buckets made it that much more enjoyable.  We were very lucky to have amazing PT support on the glacier which allowed us to train a lot while still recovering.  Zuzana Rogers took vacation time to come to the glacier for the entire week and was incredibly helpful.  Michael, a massage therapist that works with the APU team and also came to a few World Cups last year, flew up for a few days as well towards the end of camp which was the perfect time to get some deep tissue massage on sore muscles.  Thanks Zuzana and Michael! 
The whole NAWTA crew on the glacier this year.  Thanks to all the coaches, support staff, PTs, and all the girls for making it a wonderful camp!
On the last evening, a pilot friend of Don Haering's tried to fly ice cream and wine up to us on the glacier.  They knew exactly what girls camp wanted!  Unfortunately a thick cloud bank settled in just as he was taking off and landing became too dangerous.  He circled for quite awhile hoping to find an opening and eventually had to settle for dropping the wine and ice cream from high above the glacier.  The wine exploded into a big red spot on the glacier and the ice cream disappeared into this crack near the edge of the rock, away from our hungry bellies.  The gesture was still so nice and the next day we flew off the glacier and went to a great ice cream shop in Girdwood.
After the glacier camp everyone settled into a recovery mode.  Holly and her husband Rob are building a cabin in Hope, AK which is about 1.5 hours from Anchorage across Turnagain Arm so all the USST women along with Astrid went there for an overnight and some non-training related Alaskan adventuring.

Cooking caribou sausages and corn over the campfire, swimming in the brook with the salmon, and sleeping together in the cozy bunk room loft was the perfect way to end the hard training camp.  Thanks Holly for sharing your wonderful spot!
I'm home now in Craftsbury and feeling re-energized and ready to hit the training hard for the rest of the summer.  The new experiences and training partners have inspired me for this next block of hard work with different ideas to keep the training exciting, productive, and fun.  Thanks for reading!

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