Happy New Year!

You’d better get started on those training resolutions, because the skiers’ new year has arrived!  Actually, for APUNSC it was last Monday, a little before the traditional May 1st.  This means my training log is done for the 14-15 season, and I have a new one.  It also means that it’s time to get that nose back to the grindstone in earnest.

Over the past few weeks I took my training down a notch, but still tried to do something active every day.  My main goal was to come into May with a good pair of running legs that I could do some quality training on.  That meant an awkward progression of 30 to 40 to 45 to 50 to 60 minute runs, and lot of rolling and stretching.  I was still putting on training gear every day, I just wasn’t doing much in it.  

Since I am at school for the spring term at Dartmouth, I have also been kicking my brain into gear.  When you’re only here for a few months a year (more like two, to be exact) it’s a pretty specific progression of adaptation.  For the first few weeks of term you’re remembering how to read papers that have a little bit more nuance and vocabulary than your average mentalfloss.com article.  You’re also learning to focus on something for longer than it takes to read your average mentalfloss.com article (2 minutes and 50 seconds).  And for me, I’m a wide-eyed outsider watching the song and dance of college social scenes.

A couple of weeks in, you realize that you may have overcommitted yourself during the easy life of week 1.  Arriving on campus before school starts is the easiest way to get excited and start projects:  I had an ambitious woodshop schedule that was aimed at making awesome stuff for the APU fundraiser.  A week later when you actually have homework, you have to knuckle down and finish all the fun projects that you started!

A handmade cutting board, drink coasters, and cuff bracelet.  The wood products are laser-engraved with the APUNSC logo, so they're one-of-a-kind auction items.  Make sure to check them out on May 8th at the APU Atwood building, where they will be available to bid on!  Those cuff bracelets are also definitely unique because no oxidation pattern is ever the same, so if you like it you'd better put a bid on it... just saying.

A handmade cutting board, drink coasters, and cuff bracelet.  The wood products are laser-engraved with the APUNSC logo, so they’re one-of-a-kind auction items.  Make sure to check them out on May 8th at the APU Atwood building, where they will be available to bid on!  Those cuff bracelets are also definitely unique because no oxidation pattern is ever the same, so if you like it you’d better put a bid on it… just saying.

Midterms and the beginning of the training year happen at the same time.  This is an unfortunate coincidence that should be remembered when planning things during April!  Hearing about all the awesome and dedicated training that my Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center teammates are doing in Alaska makes this even more intense.  I know they’re skiing, I know they’re putting in lots of good quality hours, and I can only do my best to work hard here.  

Managing sleep and stress is one of the most important things I can do… and I didn’t succeed very well this week because I also managed to get into a digital arts show that was exhibited Tuesday.  It’s something I signed up for during my first week of school when I wanted to jump into things.  While I don’t regret it now, it made for an interesting few days.  I took my architectural pavilion from last spring, which represents a photosensitive building material which responds to the light environment, and motorized it.

The Giraffe pavilion, all glammed up and looking spiffy in the spotlight!

The Giraffe pavilion, all glammed up and looking spiffy in the spotlight!

One of my stepper motors, I attached them to the frame so they could pull the existing drawstring by winding it onto a spool.

One of my stepper motors, I attached them to the frame so they could pull the existing drawstring by winding it onto a spool.

It was a bit of a stretch, having never coded something, to get motors to respond appropriately to a photoresistor.  With a lot of help from Carlos from Digital Musics I was able to pull it off, and I learned a whole lot!  The black spandex would successfully pull aside after the photosensor was exposed to intense light, minimizing the black surface area.  This would work indoors as a way to minimize heat retention in the summer, or with reverse programming, outdoors as a way have more shade when the sun is more intense. Also, the lighting was very dramatic in the show and it was great to see the pavilion looking so spiffed up.

So my art life is going pretty well.  In my ski life, I am really trying to get focused and train.  The end of my racing season was a little rough: I was sick for most of the OPA trip in Europe and was only able to race one of four weekends.  It was disappointing to say the least, especially because I seemed to be getting into good form at the end of the SuperTours in Craftsbury.  After having some time to process the last few months and start looking forwards, I am fully focused on getting into the best shape of my life and killing some awesome domestic World Cup races.  I have a lot of areas where I can improve, and a great chance to prove those skills late in the season.  Don’t forget, there is a big string of World Cup races in Canada next year and it’s a huge opportunity for a Continental Cup/World Cup bubble skier like myself.

I’ll be a more consistent blogger in the summer, when I get out off the school-crazy schedule and into some semblance of a training routine.  I’m looking forward to making a big jump in hours, and taking this show to the next level!

Onwards to summer training!! (throwback image from Wolverine peak in 2010... I can't wait to do some awesome Anchorage mountain running!)

Onwards to summer training!! (throwback image from Wolverine peak in 2010… I can’t wait to do some awesome Anchorage mountain running!)

On the Road Again: Nor’easter Edition

We’re all settled into a comfy cozy house in Greensboro, Vermont.

Actually, that was a short-lived statement.  We WERE all settled into our cozy abode, when suddenly the fire alarm went off.  After a brief search of the house, it was apparent that the problem was in a 2nd floor private corridor.  We’d not been using that part of the house, but now there was water just gushing from under the door.  After ascertaining a lack of fire or smoke anywhere else, I decided that going into the water was the logical next step, to make sure there wasn’t fire hiding back there somewhere.  I had a big clear Bliz shield on, my soft shell jacket, and shorts (because obviously I didn’t want to get my jeans wet!).  Just when I was about to take my fire extinguisher into the hallway, a bunch of volunteer fire fighters showed up and essentially the entire town of Greensboro funneled through the house and fixed the problem.  It was a fantastic community effort and I was very impressed by their teamwork, even though I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to dramatically charge through the gushing icy water and put out a hidden fire.

 But why are we fighting rogue (frozen) sprinklers in Vermont?  The SuperTour of course!  We came in two groups, both barely outrunning winter storm Juno.  The news channel hype about the coming snow was impressive.  I understand that people in big cities like New York just aren’t as ready for snow as we are in Anchorage, but all the warnings were starting to make me nervous too.

The PINK PART is spreading!! Run for your lives!  I am not sure what the bottles are about though.

The PINK PART is spreading!! Run for your lives!  I am not sure what the bottles are about though.

The East has been impressively wintery since we’ve been here.  Two nights ago, when the temperature was forecast to be below -15ºF, our inn caretaker and I went on a little late-night adventure to find fuel additive so that I would be able to start my Grampa’s diesel truck in the morning.  It worked though!  -17ºF and all we needed was a heat lamp, some additive, and a little chair cushion blanket for the hood.

The races so far have gone decently well.  Our first SuperTour weekend was all classic races, so I was very excited.  I had a good 20km last Friday (finished 2nd place) so I was very happy.  Sunday’s sprint should have been more my race, since it’s shorter, and it turned out not to be.  I was kind of disappointed with my 7th place finish because I had gotten too tactical in my semifinal and I knew it.  I should have just hammered from the gun, but I didn’t and I paid for it.

In yesterday’s skate sprint I hammered every round, and at least I know I couldn’t have gone any faster.  In fact, my lap times were within a second in every heat and the prelim, meaning that I literally went as fast as I could every time around.  I’d like to have finished on the podium, but at least I put it all out there.  After that 4th place, I think I’ve been in the top 10 in every single SuperTour.  I did get 11th in a disappointing 10km skate at US Nationals, but otherwise I haven’t been outside the top 10 in a national level race this year.  This must be a good sign!  It’s frustrating not to have won a race, but it’s encouraging to be improving steadily each year.  With next-year’s North American World Cup races in mind, it’s good to be steadily working my way up right now.

Today we have a 10km skate race, followed by a 10km classic race Sunday.  After that it’s time to hit the road!  We’re headed to Europe, and we’re trying to fundraise to pay for it.  There is an athlete-made crowd funding site that you can contribute to, and we’ll send you updates from our trip if you contribute!  It’s seriously all done by us, we’re trying to communicate with the APUNSC mothership so we don’t step on their toes, but it’s all been initiated and executed by the  athletes.  Please go to http://org.grouprev.com/apunsc2015 and check it out!

Thank you!!

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Valdez: Qaniq Challenge and Looking Forward

Yesterday we finished up a fast, furious, and fun Qaniq Challenge in Valdez.  Despite an abysmal snow year (they may have more snow than Anchorage, but this little snow is apocalyptically bad for Snowtown) the whole town seems to have worked together to chip some awesome races out of the ice.  There is ice because they had 4 inches of rain last week here, then we arrived in time for it to freeze.  Before it froze, it washed out the early versions of the pallet bridges as the water came up 6 inches overnight. 

The River Crossing on Friday

The River Crossing on Friday

The River Crossing on Saturday, they really cleaned it up!

The River Crossing on Saturday, they really cleaned it up!

This is what we saw driving into Valdez, and it was pretty disconcerting...

This is what we saw driving into Valdez, and it was pretty disconcerting…


Really it’s incredible that these races turned out so well, and I think that town-wide teamwork had a lot to do with it.  The snowmachine club helped Parks and Recreation and the Valdez Nordic Ski Club to get volunteers out on the course yesterday for example.  As they said at the banquet: this is how we know that cats and dogs can be friends!

Awesome race volunteers on Saturday

Awesome race volunteers on Saturday

(Photo courtesy of Valdez Parks and Rec, Facebook)

This is how organized they were, everyone got their bib and shirt in a personalized packet!

This is how organized they were, everyone got their bib and shirt in a personalized packet!


Saturday’s race was a much-shortened ~12km course in town, on the same trails that I had skied on in high school.  Since it was icy out and and the hills were minimal, my Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center teammates and I decided to double pole on skate skis.  I hadn’t ever even thought about doing that before, I dearly love to stride, but it seemed like a good time to give it a shot.  I can tell you it’s not as fun as it looks; even on a short fast course it just drags on at the end!  It worked well though and I felt like it was actually faster.  If nothing else it was one heckuva workout!  I ended the day 26s ahead of Lauren, and the overall winner is determined by the combined time of two days, so it took a little pressure off Sunday’s skate mass start.  Not to say that I was unconcerned, mass starts on narrow trails have the potential for catastrophe!  My main goal was to avoid disaster… which is ironic because I broke my pole right off the start line.  Luckily Lauren had had the idea of stashing poles a little ways down the trail, just in case, so I knew I was going to be able to get a pole.  I just had to ski 300m with one pole, get the new pole,  and catch back up!  After catching up I was tired and content to ski behind Lauren for a little bit.  The draft effect was very strong on a fast flat course like that I so following was good recovery.  After a while she pulled over for me to lead and I decided to make a move.  Sprinting downhill and trying to escape the draft effect, I face planted two minutes later.  This meant that I had to get up and make my move all over again, but luckily there was a little uphill where I could do it.  In the end I pulled off the win, despite two hilarious and disastrous mishaps, and running scared for the second half of the race.  

Lauren and I were pretty happy with the weekend!  ... even if our faces are a little too frozen for a big grin :)

Lauren and I were pretty happy with the weekend! … even if our faces are a little too frozen for a big grin πŸ™‚

Darryl Verafaillie, the race organizer, and I at the awards banquet.  This guy is seriously committed, and just crazy enough to make it all work.

Darryl Verafaillie, the race organizer, and I at the awards banquet. This guy is seriously committed, and just crazy enough to make it all work.


It was a great adventure, a super sweet weekend trip, and some really fun skiing!  At the banquet there were some great door prizes, so not only am I coming home with the winners purse, but I also got myself a little pond-skimming kayak.  Peter Kling won a GoPro, Scott Patterson got a sweet headlamp, and Dylan Watts got a water bottle and a GoPro selfie stick.  Overall, I think the consensus on our haul was that this is the “best race ever” (said at least 3 times), and we all want to come back next year.  If you’re looking for a little January adventure next year, make sure you check into the Qaniq Challenge!

Part 3 of the Qaniq Challenge, walking the kayak home from the banquet!

Part 3 of the Qaniq Challenge, walking the kayak home from the banquet!

What is next, you ask?  Craftsbury, VT SuperTours are, Jan. 30th, Feb 1st, and 6th, 7th, 8th.  If you’re on the east coast and want to do or see some speedy racing, that’s where to be!  It’s also Dartmouth Carnival and an Eastern Cup all wrapped up together, so there will be a ton of folks and it will be awesome.

After that?  There is a big APUNSC plan in the works, but you’ll just have to wait and see… Check back in a few days to see how you can be involved!

Frostnip and Nationals: Houghton Recap

Now that I have sufficiently thawed out after Nationals, I can post a little blog update!  APUNSC had an excellent run; we were especially dominant in the long classic race and the skate sprint at the end of the week.  Rosie Brennan won three races, and both our women’s team and men’s team represented at least half of the top 8 finishers in the classic mass start.  Most importantly, no one had to go to the clinic for frostbite, and I may have had the only peeling cheeks on the team (much to my chagrin as a Fairbanksan).

 

Houghton’s weather did not disappoint.  Those of us in need of some real winter after an oddly warm early season certainly got our wish.  We were all treated to a giant dose of wind, snow, and cold temps; meat and potato pasties with extra buttery crusts started to look fantastic.  They’re good forty below food, as my dad would call it, and they’re incredibly popular in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

 

I started out with a non-spectacular 11th in the 10k skate race; incidentally I also nipped my cheeks that day and did a whole downhill holding my nose because I was concerned about frostbite.  My Fairbanksan roots are cringing thinking about it, not least because I used to thrive on slow snow.  At least the classic sprint was a good redemption.  It was the longest sprint race I have ever done, which was great for someone who prefers longer classic races anyways.  I definitely felt like I was doing a 5km in the prelim, like I was stuck in a slow rhythm and had no spark. In the rounds my patience served me well.  People were running out of steam at the end of each heat so I was able to outlast them, and I managed to pull off a 2nd  place overall.

Rosie and I in our classic sprint final, photo: Christopher Schmidt

Rosie and I in our classic sprint final, photo: Christopher Schmidt

 

The 20k Classic race was my best ever mass-start at nationals, but I would have liked to be able to hang with the pack longer.  I had fast skis, but not quite the stamina to scamper up the hills like Chelsea and Rosie did.  I ended up in 5th and I am very proud because I never gave up when the gap formed.  My persistence took its toll though; that evening all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and have someone feed me ice cream.  Instead we went to the banquet to hear Thomas O’Harra named to the Junior Worlds team.  We also celebrated Lex Treinen’s 2nd place in the 30km!  Lex’s podium also happened to occur on his birthday, so we had to get him some cake and celebrate.

For a while my speedy boards and I were leading the race... also I really enjoy downhills.  Yes that's a smile.  Photo: Christopher Schmidt

For a while my speedy boards and I were leading the race… also I really enjoy downhills.  Yes that’s a smile.  Photo: Christopher Schmidt

 

I am so happy to be on such a fun and tight-knit team right now.  This is such a fantastic and positive environment to train and race in, and it makes a huge difference in how well we can perform.    On the skate sprint day our boys took 2nd and 3rd, Rosie won again, and Chelsea and I got 4th and 5th.  Our whole team was out cheering for us and I could hear them every time we got to the finishing stretch.  It means a lot to hear people yelling for you like that, it gives just the boost of energy and confidence that you need at the end of a long week.  We’ll all be cheering this morning for Rosie Brennan… Not only did she win 3 national titles this year, but she is racing in tomorrow’s World Cup in Otepaa, Estonia.  It will be exciting to wake up and see how she did!

Fun times with teammate Andre Lovett, also a fellow Alpina athlete.  We were watching the junior girls rounds at the end of the last day, and it was really awesome to see Lydia and Taryn tear it up! Photo: Karen Smith

Fun times with teammate Andre Lovett, also a fellow Alpina athlete.  We were watching the junior girls rounds at the end of the last day, and it was really awesome to see Lydia and Taryn tear it up! Photo: Karen Smith

 

This weekend there are two really fun things going on in Alaska; there are Besh Cup races in Fairbanks and an adventure race in Valdez.  I am down south getting ready for a two-day race series complete with river crossings, very little snow, and $3,000 on the line.  The classic course may be flat enough to double pole, it’s also supposed to be snowing and raining out, so it’s definitely going to be an interesting race tomorrow!  

A little water there, luckily they've got some pallets on it!

A little water there, luckily they’ve got some pallets on it!

In Fairbanks the skiing is perfect, the races are shorter, and people are picking up their Besh cup t-shirts right now.  The shirts were designed by yours truly, so make sure and stop by Trax Outdoor Center to pick one up!

Hot off the press this evening, this year's Besh Cup shirts are soft and comfy with a really sweet design... you don't want to miss this! (more shameless self promotion, but this time it's for my design so that makes it okay)

Hot off the press this evening, this year’s Besh Cup shirts are soft and comfy with a really sweet design… you don’t want to miss this! (more shameless self promotion, but this time it’s for my design so that makes it okay)

To hear how Valdez racing turned out, and for a fun APUNSC update, it might be a good idea check my blog again on Monday… have a great weekend!

Hometime: the Hickock and Holiday Hectics

Well, it’s not that funny, but I really like alliteration.  Before we get to the Hickock, a quick recap:

We spent a couple of says in Bozeman Dec. 6th and 7th, doing the final SuperTours before we came home.  In Bozeman we stayed at some pretty fun houses, one of which had a stuffed mountain lion all ready to pounce from the trusses onto the couch:

Lions and Logs and Couches, Oh My! (Photo: Thomas O'Harra)

Lions and Logs and Couches, Oh My! (Photo: Thomas O’Harra)

… as well as some really gorgeous log work on the outside too.

Giant logs used as railings, oh the opulence!  (Photo: Thomas O'Harra)

Giant logs used as railings, oh the opulence!  (Photo: Thomas O’Harra)

My races in Bozeman went well, partly because the conditions for the distance race were some of my very favorite ones.  It was so icy out that everyone had to skid everything, the downhills were just screaming fast, it was fantastic.  I don’t know what our Alaska Pacific Univerisity ski techs did but my wax didn’t wear off anywhere, so I came in super hot and skidded the tarnation out of the start of every corner.  That way I was able to step the second half of every corner to carry speed out, as well as pass people on the way down the hill beforehand!  My basket came off early in the race, so I got to play catch up for a while, and the downhills provided an excellent opportunity to pass.  It was just a blast.  Caitlin Patterson and I both lost baskets and worked our way up again, and we finished 4th and 5th!

In the sprint race the day before, I was able to make up time on the downhills as well.  My strength for the day was working the downhill corners to catch back up, so I was pushing that hard.  Unfortunately I also pushed one uphill corner a little too hard as well, and ended up pushing the technical boundaries.  This resulted in my relegation from 4th to 6th, which is a pretty minor change in position considering the options.  Ironically, I shouldn’t have even been double poling there: it wasn’t even advantageous and I would have had a much better uphill if I’d started striding earlier.  In any case, now I really know how to do that transition!

I left the weekend with some good confidence in my shape and technical skills, and excitement to race at sea level soon.

Goodbye to our Home, Home on the Range! (Photo: Thomas O'Harra)

Goodbye to our Home, Home on the Range! (Photo: Thomas O’Harra)

Our first race at sea level was the Hickock Pursuit, on Sunday.  It was a smashing good time, with pretty fast conditions just like Bozeman.  The race was also held in honor of our local ski association leader Lars Spurkland, who died suddenly last week.  The ski community here is reeling a little bit; it’s scary to think about 40 somethings dying with so much life left ahead of them.  The amazing thing about Lars is that every Anchorageite that I have talked to knows him, he touched a phenomenal number of lives here, and everyone loved him.  He left quite a legacy, and is sorely missed.

Here is a short Hickock race video by Robert Arnold, who highlights Lars’s family racing in his memory.

Hickok Duathlon 2014 from Robert W Arnold on Vimeo.

Now that Hickock is done, it’s time for Holiday Hectics!  I’m happy to announce that I put up christmas lights for the first time in years, and less happy to announce that I succumbed to the LED craze.  My opinion has always been that LEDs are just not as warm and cozy.  However, they are okay if they’re pink:

My pièce de résistance (actually my only piece of holiday lighting) 

My pièce de résistance (actually my only piece of holiday lighting) 

I think they’re kind of cute, but only if paired with a nice warm lamp post.  This week my family is arriving for Besh Cup, then we’re all headed up to Fairbanks in one big posse.  It’s going to be hectic and hilarious, just because that’s what we’re like.  I’m excited to see everyone and my pooches, and to make christmas cookies! 

Happy Holidays everyone!

I LOVE NORDIC (.com)

That’s our new website for the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, it’s ilovenordic.com.  I am so stoked that it’s up because it means that the world can finally see our swanky new promo video that I managed to squeak into a few times… complete with epic dubstep soundtrack.  It’s awesome, so I just wanted to make sure to share it here!  Check it out!

[If you can’t tell, here at APU we really love nordic.  Even in the summer time.]

Hitting the Road: West Yellowstone in All Its Glory (Photos)

I’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks so far, and it’s time for a little update!  My mom and I headed to Bozeman in late November, early enough that I would have a good amount of time to acclimate before our Thanksgiving races.  We did a quick dash through the delicious (and kind of expensive) Bozeman Coop, and then did the beautiful drive to West Yellowstone through the Gallatin mountains.  After a rough week of training (the regression from skiing to roller skiing and bounding is never going to feel good in November), it was fantastic to get on some soft snow in West Yellowstone!!  Here is the first part of the week in photos:

 We got into Bozeman and did a quick run in the morning before driving to West Yellowstone.  It was pretty obvious that we had reached the West!

We got into Bozeman and did a quick run in the morning before driving to West Yellowstone.  It was pretty obvious that we had reached the West!

 It was so fantastic to get onto soft, pliable snow in West Yellowstone after skiing on ice in Anchorage and subsequently regressing to November rollerskiing.

It was so fantastic to get onto soft, pliable snow in West Yellowstone after skiing on ice in Anchorage and subsequently regressing to November rollerskiing.

 Just a fun old-timer that we saw while walking around West.  I suppose that qualifies as an OIM... Only In Montana?

Just a fun old-timer that we saw while walking around West.  I suppose that qualifies as an OIM… Only In Montana?

 Have you ever heard of boxed water?

Have you ever heard of boxed water?

 Trying out different layering techniques in our new Craft uniforms- the pants are so comfortable you don't have to wear anything under them!

Trying out different layering techniques in our new Craft uniforms- the pants are so comfortable you don’t have to wear anything under them!

 Happy to have some good snow!!

Happy to have some good snow!!

 I was signing cards at the expo when my family showed up. Naturally they all had to have personalized ones, and they had to have better personalizations than each other too.

I was signing cards at the expo when my family showed up. Naturally they all had to have personalized ones, and they had to have better personalizations than each other too.


After a few days of Mom and I holding down the fort in a very quiet West Yellowstone, my Alaska Pacific University teammates arrived.  The Faulkner family also arrived, all of my mom’s immediate family and their kids, which made for perhaps the best thanksgiving dinner of my entire life.  I’ve never had a big loud family Thanksgiving shebang before, and let me tell you it was LOUD.  And so incredibly much fun that I still can’t believe it’s over.  I got to ski with my cousin Gavin for the first time, and it was fun to share a little bit of what I’ve picked up in the ski world.  We bombed some really awesome downhills on Dead Dog, didn’t fall, and had a great time!

 Beautiful trails on my ski with Gavin

Beautiful trails on my ski with Gavin

 Cousins cruising!

Cousins cruising!

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 The APUNSC ski testing machine, in action, in a snowstorm!  In the week leading up to West Yellowstone it's always a push to learn this year's new skis and figure out what you may want to be racing on after Thanksgiving.

The APUNSC ski testing machine, in action, in a snowstorm!  In the week leading up to West Yellowstone it’s always a push to learn this year’s new skis and figure out what you may want to be racing on after Thanksgiving.

 This is the best part of West Yellowstone, everyone skiing in the streets when there's a snow storm!

This is the best part of West Yellowstone, everyone skiing in the streets when there’s a snow storm!

 This is my APUNSC ski family, we're stoked on our new Craft race suits!

This is my APUNSC ski family, we’re stoked on our new Craft race suits!

 Andre and I are APUNSC's resident Alpina people.  It's great to have boots that stick to the basics and always fit!

Andre and I are APUNSC’s resident Alpina people.  It’s great to have boots that stick to the basics and always fit!


The actual races were pretty fun.  I wouldn’t say that I was rip roarin’ ready to rumble, but I put down some good efforts and ended up a respectable 7th in the skate sprint and 6th in the skate distance race.  Rosie B, my APUNSC teammate, started out strong with a win (the BIG “W”) on the 10k day, and new- and old-time Junior Nationals- teammate Chelsea Homes whipped out a skate sprint the likes of which we’ve never seen from the erstwhile distance specialist.  It was a solid weekend of racing, and I was so happy to have my giant Faulkner cheering squad out in force!

 Faulkner-Rorabaugh cheering squad, out in force and making a lot of noise!  This was by far the best Thanksgiving I have ever had, thanks to these awesome folks

Faulkner-Rorabaugh cheering squad, out in force and making a lot of noise!  This was by far the best Thanksgiving I have ever had, thanks to these awesome folks

 Sorry Andre, I had to put this in.  Andre held down the bottom of the sprint loop, ready to hand out poles if needed.  He sent me this snap chat of Rosie and I leading our semifinal.  Thanks Andre!!

Sorry Andre, I had to put this in.  Andre held down the bottom of the sprint loop, ready to hand out poles if needed.  He sent me this snap chat of Rosie and I leading our semifinal.  Thanks Andre!!

 I was also very happy that Noah got to join the giant family Thanksgiving this year! I'm not sure how he felt about all of us and our rambunctious noisiness though...

I was also very happy that Noah got to join the giant family Thanksgiving this year! I’m not sure how he felt about all of us and our rambunctious noisiness though…


Needless to say it was a bit of a letdown after all that excitement, but it’s been a good couple of quiet days in West Yellowstone with my APUNSC buddies.  We’ve made a delicious thanksgiving dinner (Sunday, after the races and stress were over), we’ve had some extremely high quality singing sessions with Lex Treinen on the guitar, Rosie Brennan had a birthday, Sadie Bjornsen finished college with a 20 minute online presentation, and everyone seems excited for Bozeman SuperTour racing this weekend!

 Rime ice on my glasses after a 0ºF ski, it was the oddest weather...

Rime ice on my glasses after a 0ºF ski, it was the oddest weather…

 Lex Treinen's awesome crust on our joint pie effort for APUNSC thanksgiving.  The pies were delish, if I do say so myself!

Lex Treinen’s awesome crust on our joint pie effort for APUNSC thanksgiving.  The pies were delish, if I do say so myself!

 Hanging out in Morning Glory Coffee on Rosie's birthday (hence the balloon), watching Sadie wrap up her final project at Alaska Pacific University!

Hanging out in Morning Glory Coffee on Rosie’s birthday (hence the balloon), watching Sadie wrap up her final project at Alaska Pacific University!


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Fast and Female Fairbanks: Sweet Success

About two weeks ago I was in Fairbanks, enjoying some snow, chilling with my parents and pooches, and getting ready to put on our fourth annual Fast and Female event.  As usual, I somehow left all the event promotion until the last few weeks, so there was a lot to do!  It was actually really amazing how Fairbanksans would just help me get the word out: Andy Blossy at KUAC helped me put a public service announcement on air, the folks putting on a showing of Pretty Faces, the first all girl ski movie, let me say a few words to the audience beforehand, and when I called Sports Editor Danny Martin at 7pm on Friday, he put a blurb in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer the next day.  So things were busy, not to mention with poster design and printing, T-shirt printing, and generally getting my act together beforehand.  In the back of my mind however, as I bustled around getting ready, my main goal was to have something specific to say.

It’s easy to think of Fast and Female as one big happy mishmash of good feelings, fun things, girls, and pink.  Usually it’s predominantly a whole bunch of fun activities that I would, to this day, want to have as highlights at my ultimate birthday party.  Slacklines, Basketball, and Biathlon?  Yes please!  Having been a part of numerous events over the past few years, I have some unspoken expectation of what will happen and assume it will all be just awesome for the girls that arrive.  When asked to explain what’s good about it, what exactly we do and what’s the purpose, it’s hard to come up with a concise answer.  

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That particular mental block stems partially from all the different levels and angles of benefit.  Each girl needs a different kind of encouragement, and each will learn different things from a particular facet of the event.  While they’re doing sports with friends, meeting awesome local role models, trying out new sports, hearing when the Nanook ladies’ games are, eating healthy snacks, and hearing that it’s okay to love pink feather boas and still be a badass athlete, each girl is learning a disparate lesson.  Part of what makes these events so magical is how ambassadors have such a varied range of ways to connect with girls and show how much we love and need sports in our life.  Just watching a swimmer have a blast trying out a ski erg for the first time can be all it takes to get one girl stoked on sports, while some girls really want to get a chance to dance and shoot laser rifles in the same hour.  How can you sum up that intrinsic benefit and reach them all in a few words?  When you only have five or ten minutes to leave an impression on forty girls, or thirty seconds to come up with an explanation for a potential sponsor, what do you say?  

What I learned on the 26th of October, was to trust the girls to tell you what they need.  I wasn’t sure how to approach the speaking portion of the event.  I wanted to make a difference, to say something that they could all relate to, but I couldn’t choose a theme.  Did I want to talk about how awesome it was that athlete’s bodies prove their worth based on what they do, rather than how they look?  Did I want to mention how dedication and work in sports gains you respect from your peers, maybe more than having the latest particular model of iPad?  How about the favorite: all of the ambassadors like to dress up and look pretty sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not tough athletes.  In the end I just had them all brainstorm instead, and it turned out to be the best and most productive thing that could have happened.

We had a relatively small group, 40 girls and 20 ambassadors, so there was a lot of one-on-one attention throughout all the activities.  I think this really opened everyone up, we weren’t nearly as nervous, and girls were unafraid to speak up and ask questions.  I asked them why they thought girls dropped out of sports, and they gave me a whole lot of answers.  The most common had to do with people judging them, with athletes not seeming ‘cool’ or with teammates being cliquey.  This is where our Nanook ambassadors knocked it out of the park; reminding girls that the people who judge are often the people who aren’t doing as much with their lives as you are.  All of the ambassadors had dealt with cliques on teams, but we were still skiing, shooting, swimming, and ‘ballin.  I think that the girls needed a reminder that it’s okay to do your sport because you love it.  If it impresses people, that’s a bonus, but there will always be plenty of ‘haters’.  The trick is to shake them off, just like we have to in any other aspect of our lives.

I am happy I never figured out the perfect speech for that sunny Sunday, it turned out to be even better to let the girls and ambassadors have one of the most important conversations that a female athlete can have; the one in which your hero tells you it’s okay to be your awesome self.

Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible: to NSCF and Pete Leonard for all the logistical help with the building, insurance and some awesome photography, to my Mom for helping so much with everything, to Bettisworth North and SBS Retirement consultants for being such constant and fabulous title sponsors, to Lulu’s Bread and Bagels and Spinach Creek Farm for our fantastic local snacks (best bagels and carrots in the world, respectively), to Heartstream Yoga for the inspirational 15 minutes of yoga instruction, and to Beaver Sports and In My Element for goodies!  Most of all though, thank you to the Alaska Nanook, APU, Alaska Biathlon, and Fairbanksan ambassadors that came and gave a long afternoon of energy to such a great cause.  I hope you had fun, and I’ll see you next year!

NNF: Nun-chuck Ninja Federation

Well, judging by how much of my blog traffic comes from FasterSkier, you all know that NNF doesn’t stand for Nun-chuck Ninja Federation.  But when you think about it, the two organizational concepts seem to have a lot in common.  Ninjas are sneaky, right?  You never know when they’ll pop up.  If they’re involved in an ambush, their poor adversaries’ll never know what hit them.  If they’re on your side, you may never know what exactly they did but you know they’re out there, fighting in the background.  They’ve got your back, but it’s hard to give them credit for any specific thing because no one knows exactly what they did.  The National Nordic Foundation is kind of invisible too, and they’re definitely on our side.  They subsidize a lot of trips to Europe for developing athletes, and because we never know how much things really cost in the first place, it’s easy to take it for granted.  Sometimes you don’t know when they’ll show up and save the day, or give you a performance based travel subsidy.  They’re like batman; they have our back, they’re not trying to get any credit for their financial heroics, and they’re doing their darndest to help us reach our goals.  If you want to join the Nun-chuck Ninja Federation and ambush the financial barriers that limit developing skiers across the country, visit my fundraising page and make a donation.  Don’t worry Bruce Wayne, you can even do it anonymously.

Sophie shows her Ninja attack face... it looks like she means business!

Sophie shows her Ninja attack face… it looks like she means business!

Exciting Happenings in Fairbanks

If you’re in Fairbanks this weekend, and you’re female (or like females, or have female friends, or have/know female children), it’s going to be a fun few days!  For one I am organizing another annual Fast and Female event, featuring some Alaska Lady Nanooks, and at least one of my Alaska Pacific University teammates .  It’s from 1-4PM on Sunday at Birch Hill, and thanks to our sponsors the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, Bettisworth North Architects and Planners, and SBS Retirement Consultants, it’s going to be a total blast.  

But also, SheJumps founder Lynsey Dyer’s movie Pretty Faces is coming to Fairbanks on Friday!  She says that her inspiration for making the all-women ski movie was that she “wanted to give young girls something positive to look up to… [she] wanted to give them their Blizzard of Ahhs, Ski Movie or High Life, but done in a way that also shows the elegance, grace, community and style that is unique to women in the mountains.”  Music to my ears!  Since SheJumps is essentially an adult organization with the same goals as Fast and Female, it makes sense that Dyer sounds like my kind of lady.  PLUS:  there is sure to be some really awesome shredding, AND my Bettisworth North coworker’s daughter is IN the trailer!  Anna is riding her sit ski down Alyeska, like the hardcore chick she is. The movie showing also sounds like a great way to get pumped up before Fast and Female, and I hope to see lots of girls out there!  

For more information about Fairbanks’ Fast and Female event, or to register, visit www.fastandfemale.com.  To learn about Pretty Faces, visit the event page Here.