Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No place like home!

The beginning of the season brings a whirlwind of travel and racing.  I trained in Utah at the last US Ski Team camp and then headed home for a quick week before flying to northern Finland for some opening season FIS races.  Soon after those races, the World Cup began bring racing in Ruka, Finland, Lillehammer, Norway, and Davos, Switzerland.  Each weekend we raced and then travelled to the next venue and quickly started training to prepare for the next weekend's competition.  I hit the ground running and was on go time jumping from hotel to hotel, race to race, and training session to training session.  It's easy to get caught up in the momentum and whirlwind around you and just roll along with the current.  But while the races started strong, I'm still looking for more and decided to mix it up from the routine to find that extra edge.  I headed home to Vermont for the holidays .and couldn't be happier!  There really is no place like home! I'm skiing my favorite trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, training with the Craftsbury GRP, visiting with friends and family, dancing to the Christmas spirit, and defining my inner focus to take the next step on the race trails.

Happy holidays to all!

Classic racing up the Ruka hills to start the World Cup (Toko US/Nordic Focus photo)

Arriving in Lillehammer

Exploring the trails in Lillehammer and seeing the sun for the first time in a few weeks!

Skate racing in the Lillehammer Mini-Tour (Toko US/Nordic Focus)

While Davos lacked any natural snow, it made up for it with sunshine and mountain air!

Davos sprinting (Marcel Hilger photo)
An evening jog with the team in Davos

First day home was extra blue skiing... feeling very thankful for all the snow and well groomed trails!

Eyes forward and pain face smiling while I stride it out on Moss Run in the Craftsbury Eastern Cup 5km classic.  (John Lazenby photo)

Christmas cookies on the couch in front of the woodstove are the perfect recovery after a 3 hour classic ski in single digit temperatures. Happy to be spending time with this guy!

Decorating the Christmas tree with Mom!  Good to be home!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Darkness in Lapland

The opening World Cups are just days away and as my excitement levels rise, I'm also feeling prepared and ready to go.  This year I had the opportunity to come over two weeks early with my Craftsbury GRP coach Pepa Miloucheva and my teammate Caitlin Patterson.  We flew over in advance of the rest of the US Ski Team, giving us time to recover from the long travel (almost 30 hours from door to door) adjust to the time change, get my skiing legs underneath us again, and even put in a bib and jump into a few races.

We started our trip in Muonio, Finland which is 250km north of the Arctic Circle and close to the Swedish border.  It was a big shock to arrive in cold wintery conditions and not much daylight.  That cold darkness combined with arriving on election day led to a harsh wakeup call the first day, but luckily I quickly learned to embrace any light I could find (including some fun night skis on the trails) and then wear lots of clothes!  I was happy to see that winter does still exist, even if I had to ski in a LLBean down jacket for the first few days.  Even that far north, there wasn't much natural snow on the ground but luckily in Muonio they saved massive piles of snow from last winter under the cover of wood chips and then rolled it out at the end of October for a 5km loop of skiing.  We raced in the FIS races in Muonio right after we arrived so my body was still feeling the effects of the long travel but a great opportunity to throw a bib on and try to remember how to race or at least to not leave my jacket in the start area!

From Muonio we traveled even farther north into the darkness to Saariselka, Finland, which claims to be the northernmost travel destination in the EU.  While there we were losing 12 minutes of daylight each day and on our last day sunrise was at 10:02 and sunset at 1:54!  Luckily there were kilometers and kilometers of lit ski trails!  There was more natural snow there as well which gave us an opportunity to explore off the manmade loop on distance days.  We raced in Saariselka twice and had some very tricky waxing conditions with warmer temperatures hovering around freezing, but I was happy to have my body feeling great again and pushing to the limit.  The Russian and German National teams were also racing there so it was a great confidence boost leading up to the World Cup to be skiing hard and fast alongside those ladies.  

Now I'm reunited with all my US Ski Team teammates in Ruka, Finland, the site of the first World Cups.  We are just south of the Arctic Circle now and have actually gained over an hour of daylight since leaving Saariselka!  I love the courses in Ruka with big uphills and fast downhills so I'm excited for the weekend racing here!

Happy Trails!  Thanks for reading and thanks to Craftsbury and Pepa for a dark but productive training camp!

A map of Northern Finland with dots in Muonio, Saariselka, and Ruka for a geographic view of the area.

Not one or two but five heavy tags later and all my skis, poles, boots, and stuff made it to northern Finland! Packing for a winter in Europe is challenging but thanks to United for letting me sneak (though not very secretly) a few extra pounds in each bag!

We didn't miss a beat and jumped into racing only a couple days after flying to Europe!  It was crazy to be rollerskiing at home one day and putting a bib on in mid-winter conditions several days later but it was definitely a great way to beat the jetlag! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Sprinting in Muonio! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Caitlin racing in the 10km skate in Muonio
A Finnish sauna I ran by on an afternoon jog in the dark

We stayed in a cabin in Muonio and a condo in Saariselka which was a welcomed last chance to cook our own food and choose what we wanted to eat before transitioning to meal plans for most of the winter.  Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be a bit of an adventure.  Usually everything in Europe is smaller but not the case for the sweet potatoes!!

Using Google translate to decipher cooking instructions!

We made a Finnish feast of reindeer steak, blood sausage, lingonberry sauce, brussel sprouts and roasted root vegetables....YUM!

One of the many reindeer we saw on the snowy northern roads

Happy to be skiing on natural snow and exploring new trails in Saariselka

Looks like a black and white photograph but actually the wintery and low light landscape north of the Arctic Circle.

Striding it out on the race course in Saariselka (Pepa photo)

Looking down on the stadium and the base of the alpine area in Saariselka.  Steep downhills, with narrow trails and tight turns made for some exciting sprint racing in this venue and was a good opportunity to remember some sprint tactics leading into the World Cup!
Cruising across the line in a sprint heat Saariselka

Friday, September 23, 2016

Season Confusion

Yesterday was the first day of fall but in the past month I've gone from summer to winter to summer and finally to fall.  I'm ramping up the training intensity and getting excited for the changing seasons.  I returned to Craftsbury last week from an training camp in New Zealand where it was the tail end of winter in the southern hemisphere.   After almost 30 hours of travel crossing 16 time zones we were treated to two and a half weeks of incredible skiing with a variety of conditions from fresh powder to hard track crust to soft slushy klister skiing.  Since it is actually winter, the snow is usually faster and much more representative to what we race on, making the long travel down under well worth it.  We had almost 35km of skiing at the Snow Farm, New Zealand's only Nordic ski area.  The camp focus was volume with four or five hours of training most days but we jumped in some FIS races to keep in touch with some summertime racing and found a few times to get off the snowy mountain for some running and strength training.  It was a great but hard camp so I left feeling quite tired and ready to chill in my airplane seat for another long travel day home.  Now I'm back in Vermont for the next month before the last US Ski Team camp of the year in Park City.   After a taste of skiing and racing in New Zealand and now a few leaves changing colors and a frost on the forecast for the weekend, I'm excited for fall training and the last prep period before the season!  Here are some pictures from New Zealand and more.  Thanks for reading! 

The sunrises and sunsets in New Zealand are phenomenal.  Here's the end of our first day in New Zealand at the highpoint of the Snow Farm trails.
And sunrise the next morning!
Switchbacks on the Merino Glen trail, the loop that is closest to the lodge.  We had amazing wintery conditions for the entire camp and thanks to the Snow Farm for great lodging and tracks!

The sunny side of the valley has less snow but still a nice white ribbon of trail for us.

Liz and I chasing Grover on a powder ski around the Top Beat Loop.

An afternoon group ski logging some kms!

An early morning crust cruise 

Skate threshold intervals with Liz and Jessie.  Training together as a team is one of the biggest benefits of these on-snow training camps.  Learning from each others strengths helps us all get faster.

Simi and Noah rocking the hardware after the 42km Merino Muster World Loppet race
10km Classic distance race with a lot of pack skiing

Tucking it out

Jessie leads the train into the pain cave on the last lap

10km Classic podium sweep

And classic sprint!

Sweater weather down in town off the mountain.  

Spending some beach time down in town on Lake Wanaka.  You know you're in a great spot when a 30 minute drive takes you from ski trails to the beach.

Yes!  Made it out to the Kirsty Burn hut!

Fresh snow halfway through camp!

And back to summer! I beat the jetlag ripping some hot laps on the new Craftsbury singletrack with Pat.

A day with the family at camp!  My parents are replacing the roof on our family camp so I helped carry the tin but it was a beautiful day to be out in the woods.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

August already? Mid-summer update!!

The summer is flying by and I can't believe it is already August.  Long and hot training hours on the roads and trails could become monotonous, but when you feel good both mentally and physically they can zoom by, leaving a happily tired body that feels excited for the next session.   And since I'm gone so much in the winter time, I feel very grateful for any time that I have at home, with my feet underneath me and settled into a routine.  Consistent hard work in a place where you feel comfortable, is the environment necessary to push your comfort zone and make big training gains which is exactly what I'm doing.

That said, I did leave home for Alaska and a week of skiing on the Eagle glacier with my US Ski Team teammates.  We had an amazing week of hot and sunny weather so lots of sunscreen, new tanlines, sore muscles, and slushy skiing!  Alaska Pacific University runs the XC ski operation on the Eagle Glacier.  We stayed on the edge of the glacier in a hut run by the Alaska Pacific University and had a distraction free week of eating, sleeping, and skiing, surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery and lots of hard working athletes!  There is about 7km of skiing which they groomed twice a day for us providing excellent conditions that stayed surprisingly firm considering the beautiful sunny weather.

Mountain run outside of Anchorage on my first day in Alaska

Great day for a helicopter ride! Glacier bound and thanks Alpine Air for the safe flights!

The trail from the air.  We had beautiful weather all week and thanks to Dylan and Erik from APU for hosting the team and providing awesome skiing every day!

Virginia, our guest athlete from Italy, was an awesome training partner and great addition to the camp.  She also taught us how to make gnocchi and gave us a delicious taste of Italy on the glacier!

Skiing with Sophie on the last day!  We were both pretty tired by the end of the week but good company and this amazing backdrop helped us push through for a long skate OD.
From Alaska, I made a layover in Seattle for a few days where my siblings, Eben and Elsa, live.  It was a great layover with my only regret being not having more time!  While I was there I also visited the Madshus USA headquarters to meet the staff working there and also to do some boot fitting.  Everyone was very friendly and helpful, making me grateful to be part of such a small and supportive team.  The new boots are also very comfortable so I'm looking forward to skiing with them in New Zealand next month!
Seattle! I had a busy and fun few days which was just long enough to see the city, smell the ocean air, meet the crew at Madshus/K2, and spend some much needed sibling time.

Seattle bike tour with Elsa

A spontaneous long run with Eben, Elsa, and Natalie to Snow Lake

Trying to do some artsy photography at the glass museum.  Can you spot Elsa and I and the space needle?
While my trip to Alaska and Seattle was great, the travel home was not and after spending almost seven hours on the runway in Chicago for a variety of weather and air traffic control issues, I was very ready to finally make it home.  I'm settling into a big block of summer training now in Craftsbury but loving every minute of it!  
Ahh home!  It's wonderful to be back in VT.  I absolutely love summertime here and feel solidly in my happy place every time I end a day with the sunset over Mansfield 

Muddy smiles on a mountain bike ride!  I've done a lot of mountain biking this summer following this guy
Swimming time to beat the heat and humidity!


August= harvest time with blueberries, raspberries, and veggies galore!