Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hot laps on Frozen Thunder

Around and around and around the 2km loop of "Frozen Thunder," a track of white at the Canmore Nordic Center, in Canmore Alberta.  We skied lap after lap of the trail but I stayed psyched and enjoyed almost every lap, consumed with the novelty of being on skis again.  The snow had been saved from last winter, buried in a huge ditch and covered with wood chips during the warmer summer months.  In mid-October it is laid out around the loop providing some of the earliest skiing in North America.  The loop took anywhere 5-12 minutes depending on the snow conditions and intensity of skiing and we skied for three to four hours every day.  This may sound boring but when you finally get to put away the rollerskis, you're surrounded by beautiful mountains, and have nine straight days of sunny and warm bluebird skies, any complaints are few and far between.  The transition to snow is always a fun time and I always find lots to think about as I try to remember how to glide the long boards across the snow.  Even with  a couple weeks of on snow training intermixed thoughout the summer, I usually feel like Bambi on ice for the first day or two before I get my ski legs underneath me and feel my technique come together.  The familiarity comes back quickly and this time of the year always reminds me how much I love to ski.  Rollerskiing might be similar in movements but it doesn't come close to comparing with the speed, glide, variability, challenge and fun of actual snow skiing.  The Bow Valley and town of Canmore in the Canadian Rockies is also beautiful spot and an awesome location for a training camp.  After a busy time in Park City filled with meetings, testing, and other events, it was nice to "relax" during this camp.  When we weren't training we could usually be found walking to Beamers coffee shop for fast internet and hearty muffins, hanging out at chez Chandra Crawford drinking tea and practicing yoga, or enjoying the classy and cozy digs at the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge.

Here I am skiing behind my teammate Noah Hoffman.  Frozen Thunder was just a strip of white trail but great ski conditions. (USSA Nordic photo)
Sun and smiles every single day of camp!  The clouds didn't surface until the last morning when we woke to rain and snow at 4am for our drive to the airport. (Noah Hoffman photo)

Canmore has a wonderful and welcoming ski community.  As soon as we arrived in town, Chandra had the entire team over for dinner and cooked a delicious meal that ended with pancakes and maple syrup.  Yum!

Towards the end of the camp we competed in the Frozen Thunder Classic Sprint and it was lots of fun to put on a bib and go hard!  It's a great opportunity to do a low key race and get some of the kinks and nerves out of the way before going to Europe and the big show.   (Noah Hoffman photo)
The day after the sprint we had a 10km TT on Frozen Thunder for a chance to also ski a distance race on the snow.  By the end of those back to back workouts, my hip flexors were screaming with pain, another reminder of the transition back to snow.  But I was happy with the efforts and it left me very fired up for the actual start of the race season. (Fasterskier photo)

The last day of camp we had an overdistance workout on the schedule.  We started with a couple hours of skating on the snow and then Chandra, Jessie, and I switched to rollerskis and double poled on the bike path to the town of Banff for lunch. Here are Jessie and I with Cascade mountain looming large in the background.  (Chandra Crawford photo)

Monday, October 21, 2013

High Altitude Training

The final camp of the fall started as an altitude training camp in Park City, Utah!  Living at just over 1000' in Craftsbury it is always a big adjustment for me to go to Park City, Utah which is located at about 7000' and the condos where we live on top of Empire Pass are at over 8000'.  I used to really struggle at altitude but with more experience, I'm learning a lot about how my body acclimates and how to best train and race in the thin air.  I still prefer sea level of course but training camps like this have built my confidence in my ability to race at higher altitudes and last year many of my best races happened at altitude.  It is still a totally different experience though and I was quickly reminded of that when tasting blood at the end of a sprint time trial at Soldier Hollow, seeing my heart rate soar as we climbed higher into the mountains on trail runs, or feeling like I needed a little extra recovery after a couple long rollerski workouts.  It was an awesome camp though and great to have the entire team back together training hard and feeling fast even without too much oxygen.
I'm happily addicted to VT Coffee Company's Dark Roast and so I brought a big supply of beans with me to Utah.  The VT Coffee Company motto is "Coffee Roasted for Friends" and I have enjoyed sharing it with friends!  Every morning the first person awake in the condo starts the brew and we begin our days getting fired up for training over a cup of coffee.  
TEAM! So fun to be back together with my winter family!
It was not just the US Team though at this camp and we were joined by almost all the top skiers from across the United States.  Training hard with that many athletes training hard is inspiring and this shows the momentum our sport is gaining in the United States.  To join this community and continue this push, please support XC development through the National Nordic Foundation's Drive for 25 here:

Here is a group of ladies skiing intervals around the rollerski track at Soldier Hollow.  In this picture I'm skiing fourth in the line, following my USST teammates Holly, Liz, and Kikkan, and being followed by skiers from Minnesota, Alaska, and Idaho.  
I've said this before but one of my favorite parts of traveling to camps and races is exploring new trails and roads while doing what I love outside.  My favorite workout of this Park City camp was a combo rollerski and running workout where we rollerskied from Salt Lake City up Emigration Canyon and then East Canyon and then switched our rollerskis for running shoes and ran over the mountains to Parley's Summit.  The whole adventure took almost four hours and every step covered new ground for me.    
Just as important as it is to keep the mind fresh with new trails, it's important to keep the mind challenged with new drills and training techniques.  We're never too old to learn new tricks and improve in different ways!  One afternoon the coaches set up a difficult agility course for us on rollerskis which involved skiing backwards through a slalom course, skiing figure 8's, 180s, double jumps, skiing very tight circles around a cone, and "Crazy Legs" which is pictured above and involved crossing one leg over in front of the other while skiing forward. 

Since the US Ski and Snowboard Association is based in Park City there are lots of USST athletes training in town from all the skiing disciplines.  It's fun to get to know skiers of different kinds and share stories as we all train toward the winter months.  Here I am in the ice bath with Emily Cook, an Olympic aerialist.  

Allen is the new chef and dietitian for the USST and we were very lucky to have him cook us some awesome dinners and lunches during the camp.  I was super psyched to see him using VT maple syrup in his recipes including some delicious maple sweet potato fries and maple roasted brussel sprouts with bacon.  

It was also fun to hang out together as a team when we are not in training clothes.  Holly, Liz, and Jessie made this delicious dinner bursting of fall flavors with apple chicken sausage, pear salad, and tahini roasted squash.  Evenings like this excite me for the start of our winter adventures together as a team.  I think we're ready to hit the road full speed!