Friday, May 30, 2014


Phew.. I'm tired!  It's Friday night and I have my feet up with a cup of tea, enjoying a relaxing evening after a relaxing day where morning yoga was the main event of the day.  We just finished our first training camp of the new season and the heaviness of my tired legs has settled in inspiring new motivations and excitement through fatigue and sore muscles.  It's funny how that irony plays out in the body and mind of an endurance athlete.  As in years past, the first training camp for myself and my teammates on the US Ski Team took place in Bend, Oregon.  The variety of workouts in such a cool location make this camp one of my favorites.  We took advantage of the late season snow on Mt. Bachelor with long skiing sessions in the morning and then enjoyed the warm weather in town in the afternoon for running, mountain biking, rollerskiing, and strength training.  Mother Nature spoiled us with incredible ski conditions and sunny summery weather.  And after a break for the spring, it was great to get the band back together.  We hit the ground running, fired up and training hard for another season.

A typical day at Bend camp starts early as we race the warming temperatures for fast firm conditions on the mountain before the snow turns to slush.  All of the ladies shared a house and the alarms started ringing around 6:30am.  The first ones up started the coffee and a big pot of oatmeal.  Then a flurry of scraping skis, applying klister, drinking coffee, checking the webcam to see how to dress as the conditions on Mt Bachelor can vary significantly from our houses in town, eating breakfast, and more coffee drinking ensued before we loaded the cars and headed up the mountain.  About 30 minutes later we met in the ski lodge to discuss the workout for the day as well as look at video footage from World Cup races, cuing in on technique visions for the session.  Every morning we skied for two or three hours and thanks to Mt. Bachelor for awesome grooming and trail preparation for us.  After the ski we headed back to town for lunch and had a few hours off to put our feet up before the afternoon session which was usually also a couple hours long.  Then we took turns cooking dinners and each year the bar seems to be raised and from homemade pizza to gourmet burgers to delicious pesto chicken everyone did a great job cooking.  After dinner we had team meetings to discuss goals and the winter schedule among other things and then its off to bed and ready for another day.  Usually we have an off day during camp but this year we powered through ten full days of training in a row, maximizing our time on snow.  So I'm rightfully tired and while my body is ready for some well deserved recovery time my mind is excited about technique changes I made, goals we made as a team, and fun times exploring the trails around Bend.  Here are some pictures from the week

I traveled to Bend a few days before the camp started to visit with my aunt Laurie and uncle Bruce who live in town.  They were incredible hosts who spoiled me with a fun weekend filled with hiking, biking, kayaking, yoga, dancing, and great food.
Exploring the headwaters of the McKenzie River on a lava rock filled bike ride.  

The biathlon team was in town and Hannah and I went for a ride with Bruce.  The mountain biking is phenomenal in Bend with fast and smooth flowing trails and a nice change from eastern roots and mud.

The Oregon edition of Hosmer Lake
There was a lot more snow than last year and the conditions were great for the entire camp.  We even got a few inches of fresh snow on the second to last day of camp.
The focus of this camp was technique and quality time spent on snow.  We switched up the normal routine with lots of drills like skipping on snow and one leg slalom.  We put an added emphasis on downhills, corners and transitions as these are areas to easily gain seconds with smooth skiing.  I definitely crashed more often than I normally do as I challenged myself to glide longer and fully commit onto a ski but when it's warm and sunny, taking a face full of snow isn't the worst thing.
But what goes down must go up and here I am working on my V1 technique
Big smiles after training one day
Frozen yogurt after a team meeting one night.  This is one happy family!
And I got to see my actual family too!  Elsa and Linden drove down from Seattle for Memorial Day weekemd and stayed with Laurie and Bruce.  They spent their days mountain biking and alpine skiing but we met up in the evenings.
This was my fourth trip to Bend and every year I hear stories of incredible crust skiing.  But every year the the conditions or our training schedule has not coordinated and I haven't ventured off the groomed Nordic trails.  It was looking like this year would be more of the same but then on our last day of camp we woke to cooler temperatures.  We excitedly watched as the car thermometer dropped as we drove up to the mountain, calling out each time the numbers dipped.  It was 30 degrees and sunny as we pulled into the parking lot so we hurriedly grabbed our skis and checked out the snow.  YES!  There was a little snow on a thick crust!  It wasn't the fastest cruising conditions but there was a crust so we set off from the Nordic Center, past Todd Lake and up to the bowl of Broken Top.  It was hard work and slow going at times but we found some endless meadows of crust and a panorama of phenomenal view, putting the cherry on top of a great camp.

The crew heading out with Bachelor behind us

Heading up

Sparks Lake in the distance

Todd Lake

Taking some turns on the way down

Saturday, May 3, 2014


It's May and I'm switching gears from recovery mode to training mode but I'm excited to have a couple more weeks at home before hitting the road again for the first training camp of the year.  I just returned from a long dirt road cruise on my bike, riding through Craftsbury, Albany, Glover, and Barton.  Yesterday we took a different tour of Craftsbury, Greensboro, and Hardwick and I'm having fun getting my legs back into shape riding up many of the hills in the Northeast Kingdom!  We found some leg burners, explored some new Class IV roads, and came home spotted with dirt after hitting mud season head on.   It's pretty amazing to live in a place where one can do quite a few different 2-3 hour bike loops leaving from home, without retracing our steps, hitting pavement, or seeing more than a handful of cars.  A couple days ago I got my feet dirty slogging through some new sections of the VAST trail on a muddy run. Its a nice reminder of the rugid rural beauty of the Vermont.  

And when I haven't been exploring the natural landscape of the area, I've been busy sharing stories of ski racing and Sochi with many different members of the community.  The support that I received this winter was unbelievable.  I received encouragement from close friends and family as well distant acquaintances and people I didn't know.  I couldn't be thankful enough for the outpouring of excitement I received from home which came in the form of letters, emails, cards, Facebook messages, artwork from kids, banners around town, and much more.  It was very inspiring and so I have been very grateful to be able to connect with this community this spring and share some stories and experiences. 

The Vermont House of Representatives took a break from their work to honor the VT Winter Olympians on the House floor.  With 19 athletes in Sochi, Vermont had the most Winter Olympians per capita.  Only five of us were able to make it to the state house including Hannah Kearney (Moguls), Susan Dunklee (Biathlon) and myself, Sophie Caldwell and Liz Stephen from the Nordic team.

Governor Shumlin welcomed us in his office and gave each of us the opportunity to say something about Vermont and our time in Sochi.  We weren't expecting to speak but all of us felt very proud to be there and it was easy to find a few words to say about our home state.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council and the National Wildlife Council organized an event allowing the local Olympians discuss how climate change affects us as Vermonters and winter athletes.  We shared experiences of skiing on manmade snow around the world, related how the warmer winters are affecting our winters and spoke for change and action.  To read more about our thoughts, check out this article covering the event:

Hannah Dreissigacker describing the benefits of a carbon tax.
The Olympic spirit is strong in the local communities and I gave a couple slideshow presentations with Susan and Hannah, sharing pictures and stories from Sochi.  First we talked in the Barton Memorial Building and then at North Country Union High School to the Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation.  It has been fun to see so much enthusiasm for XC skiing and winter sports.  Thanks to everyone who came out!

Susan and I both grew up in Barton, VT.  It's very exciting for the two of us from a little town in the NEK to compete together in the Olympics and this community has been very supportive of both of us.
My good friends from growing up CJ and Andrew came to the presentation in Barton.  I used to ski with them after school and they were both way better than me at going off the jumps on Nordic skis.  I developed my competitive drive chasing after them on bikes, the soccer and baseball fields, the playground, and the sledding hills.

For me one of the most rewarding parts of the last couple weeks has been visiting schools and joining kids athletic programs, connecting with young students and athletes in the area.  I grew up here and had role models of my own who mentored me and hopefully I can share my love of skiing, the outdoors, and an active lifestyle with some of the next generation.  I visited quite a few schools in the area, ran with the local Girls on the Run program, and have been coaching this spring at Kids on the Move in Hardwick, VT.  The captive audiences and excited kids inspired and fueled me with all their energy!

Burke Mountain Academy winter Olympians, Nolan Kasper, Liz, Trace Smith, and myself who all attended school together.  BMA has one of the strongest communities which I have ever been apart and so it was fun to meet the current students and share some more Sochi stories.

Goal setting with Girls on the Run in Newport.  Last year I was very involved in the program so it was great to run with the girls again, share some more stories, and work through a goal setting activity with them.  These girls were motivated and excited to be active and run!

West Hill Shop Thunderbolts in Putney, Vermont.  The mountain bike trails were a lot drier in southern VT so it was fun to ride some singletrack with these kids

And finally, Happy Green Up Day everyone!  I got a out with a few Craftsbury Outdoor Center athletes this morning to clean up the roads and keep our community looking good.  Hopefully one day there will not be enough littler to need this day but until then it was great to see everyone filling up green bags.