Monday, January 27, 2014

Craftsbury training camp in Italy

GRP Girls skiing together in Italy!
After the last World Cups in the Czech Republic and Poland, the US Ski Team travelled to Seiser Alm, Italy for a pre-Olympic training camp.  Seiser Alm sits above 2000 meters and after a long training block at altitude over Christmas, I wanted to be at a lower altitude to get speedy and quick, peaking for the Olympics!  So I headed separate ways from the team and headed to Toblach, Italy for a Craftsbury training camp in Europe.  Pepa flew to Toblach to coach me during this time and it has been incredible to have her here for the past eight days.  She's leaving tomorrow and I will be sad to see her go but excited by the progress that I have made.  Half training camp and half vacation it has been the perfect for me both mentally and physically.  On the ski trails we put in the hard work focusing intensely on technique work, hard intervals, and fast skiing.  The afternoons and evenings have been the relaxing vacation time and the mental break as we spend the time drinking coffee, eating delicious Italian food, and soaking in the sunny mountain scenery.  Liz Guiney was here preparing for the Under 23 World Championships so it was awesome to have a GRP training buddy.  Hannah Dreissigacker and Susan Dunklee were competing in biathlon World Cups in Antholz, Italy which is about 40 minutes away and Dick and Judy came over to watch the races so the Craftsbury presence made it feel like home!

Pepa has her Ipad out at every session.  Seeing the video while I ski allows me to make changes quickly.  Here I am working on my V1 in skate speeds.  
Craftsbury reunion in Italy!  We enjoyed a perfect day of skiing and lunch in the sun together.

Mountains and the church in the center of town
GRP girls together in Italy!  So fun to spend time with Susan, Liz, and Han and just missing Clare and Caitlin!

Today's lunch!
Intervals in the sun on my birthday in my "birthday suit" courtesy of the USST ladies and Annie Pokorny.  I got some crazy looks especially when I face planted on the last interval
Very chocolaty birthday cake!  This was actually one of two cakes because our hotel wanted to make sure we had enough!  We have definitely been eating well here!
I usually don't see Pepa for the entire winter so this week has been a real treat!
This weekend I will be racing in to World Cups in Toblach and then headed to Sochi early next week!  So excited for what is to come!  Thanks for all the cheers and support!  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Czech and Poland

After a training block over Christmas I got back into the racing mode with two weekends of World Cups in the Czech Republic and Poland.  It is so fun to be racing again and with each race start, each sprint round, each hill and kilometer that I ski, I'm feeling better and better so I'm very excited with what is to come!  It was a slow start with a horrendous sprint qualifier in the Czech Republic but then everything went up from there.  Sophie and I improved our classic team sprint result moving up from 8th in Asiago in December to 6th in Nove Mesto.  Then in Poland we had five US ladies in the top 15 of the freestyle sprint!  13th was my best skate sprint this season so I'm psyched with that improvement.  Then on Sunday I had my first top 10 distance result finishing 9th in the 10km classic mass start!  The best part was that my parents were there to see it.  They made a quick trip to Poland but their hugs and cheers were exactly what I needed after a bout of homesickness had set in.  Their support is incredible and I loved spending time with them in the middle of the winter.  Here are some pictures of the weekend.

The girls team walking around Nove Mesto, Czech

A church in the town square

Thing 1 and Thing 2 ready for the Classic team sprint.

We have an awesome team of techs, coaches, and athletes working hard, cheering each other on, and having fun racing on the World Cup together

A stop on our drive from Nove Mesto to Poland.  Without a map or a GPS and we had a few wrong turns but it added to the adventure

So incredible to have my favorite cheers on the World Cup with me

Not much snow in Poland

Head down and focused before the start of the sprint

Racing with some Russians, a German, and a Swiss skier

Go Team USA!

Justyna will always be queen in Poland

Monday, January 6, 2014

Home away from home

It's laundry day which sure sounds like nothing exciting to write home about but when you live out of a duffel bag for 5 months of year as an organized migration, rambling from one ski area and hotel to the next in a caravan of rental vehicles, it's a BIG deal.  Clean clothes, which were not simply washed in a sink and hung to slowly dry in a bathroom which was likely recently flooded by an odd European shower system lacking any walls or curtains to contain the water, become a rare commodity and a comfort in this winter long road trip far from home.  Lately I have lucked out and had plenty of opportunities for clean clothes and have easily found that sense of a familiar routine while still being many miles away from what I normally call home. Davos, Switzerland has become my home away from home.

I have spent the last few weeks living at the Hotel Kulm in Davos, taking a winter training block before the next period of World Cup races.  I opted to skip the Tour de Ski which was a difficult decision especially after low snow conditions in Oberhof, Germany led to the addition of a second sprint into the race program.  My love of this lifestyle stems from the excitement found in the travels to each new race venue and the opportunity to lay it all out on the snow and race as hard as I can each and every time I step up to the start line.  Each race and each day are a new challenge.  It's the reason we train hard, setting goals and chasing crazy dreams.  So it's really hard to sit on the sidelines but sometimes that is the best choice.  We have a LONG season starting in November and continuing through March so it's impossible to race week in and week out without taking a break.  In order to prevent a plateau or an early peak, you have to create some variation in the training plan allowing your body to recover and then rebuild for racing at an even higher level.  We all love to race or else we wouldn't be doing this but it takes patience to plan for the long run and look forward to top performances not just in this moment but later in the season when the stakes are raised.

The Hotel Kulm! The US Ski Team has been staying here for year and Heinz Kessler and the rest of the staff are some of the most wonderful people.  They have taken such good care of me during my stay!
After great races in Asiago, I was confident in my fitness so it was hard to not continue racing.  But with beautiful sunny weather and perfect ski conditions in Davos, it was also easy to transition into training mode and set my sights on races at the end of January and February.  Most of our team was starting the Tour so I had over a wekk ofalone time in Davos, which was a huge change from normal life on the road where our lives are so closely intertwined that we happily share everything from the smallest European beds to hugs to a rainbow of emotions to stuffed animals to clothes to hand sanitizer to training plans and every insignificant or monumental daily occurrence in between.  As an intorvert, the first 24 hours were refreshing and relaxing but then I quickly began to miss my winter family.  With a solo week ahead, I challenged myself to make each and every day exciting, to make this time energizing and different from the normal race routine, and to take full advantage of being in such a wonderful place.

I soon found the time actually flying by and it felt great to train a lot, ski kilometer after kilometer while also relaxing in one place and taking a break from the long van rides and plane flights which litter a normal week in Europe.
So much snow and sun! The valleys were groomed with perfect tracks day in and day out.
The ski conditions couldn’t have been better.  I was a little worried to be responsible for all my waxing as I am usually spoiled by a hard working group of wax techs taking great care of all my skis.  But luckily every day was extra blue skiing and Swix LF6 so I could easily handle that.  When we race a lot there isn’t always a chance to ski very much, focusing instead on intensity and recovering to race fast.   I loved being able to go out on long cruises and explore the valleys and trails of Davos.

Without a vehicle, I memorized the public transportation system and even with very very minimal German skills felt like a champ choosing which trains would stop at my hotel and which ones would continue on toward Zurich, or timing my afternoon ski perfectly to catch the last bus.  At home in rural VT having a car is a necessity so it was really nice to easily get around in a more sustainable way.

I powered through my book list and enjoyed the time to read uninterrupted.  Some of my teammates had given me the book A House in the Sky for Christmas.  I think they simply thought it was the memoir of a Canadian woman in her mid-twenties who loved to travel solo which would have been the perfect book for this time.  The meat of the story, though, was actually recounting the true story of her abduction while travelling in Somalia and the year she spent in captivity being raped, tortured, and abused.  Her inner strength and will to survive created an incredible and fast paced story but I continually had to think of a happy place and remind myself that Switzerland was very far from Somalia and that there are lots of kind people in the world.  I can laugh at the irony now that my teammates accidentally gave me this boo to read while I was alone in a foreign country.

In Europe skiing and other snow sports are a big deal and broadcasted live on television so I had lots of races to watch on tv and enjoyed yelling at the screen for my teammates and other friends, being inspired by their impressive performances.  Simi won his first World Cup and the Americans had a slew of top ten finishes in the Tour de Ski!

Kikkan was staying in an apartment in town so I can’t actually say I was alone in Davos.  We met up almost daily for training sessions or to hang out.  She celebrated her golden birthday turning 31 on the 31st and I set up a birthday scavenger hunt for her which would lead her around the ski trails and eventually to CafĂ© Klatsch in town where I would be waiting for her for a lunch date.  The hunt turned into an epic fail though when she couldn’t find the last couple clues.  Her two hour workout almost doubled in length while I waited at the Klatsch trying to guard her seat during the lunch rush on the busiest day of the year, feeling more and more stood up as each minute passed.  We both gave up at about the same time and returned to her apartment to compare stories and laugh.

Kikkan getting her pump on at the beginning of the scavenger hunt
I have really appreciated the extra time for the chance to catch up with friends and family at home.  I’ve connected via phone, Skype, and email with so many people back at in the US and it is great to hear all the stories so keep them coming!  All of the support and encouragement makes a huge difference for me and the rest of our team.  We love to be connected to our communities and the cheers from the ski world back home keep us going! 

A wonderful card from my Friends at Vermont Coffee Company
And the best part of this training block is that my excitement level for the next races is now through the roof!  My stoke level is super high so watch out!  On Wednesday I will drive to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for the next World Cups with a freestyle sprint and a classic team sprint this weekend.  Can’t wait!

Inner fire burning strong (Lynn Jennings photo)