Utah Training Camp: The View from Quarantine

It has become apparent to me that I must be reaching some well-ripened athlete status.  I can train more, I am less nervous for intervals, and I am nominated to drive the van more often than not.  I also get sick less.  Last year was my healthiest ski season since I can remember, perhaps my Junior High School days.  Younger skiers get sick more often in general; partially they’re not as ready for the training load.  They’re also inexperienced and have fewer antibodies.  Us seasoned veterans have a little advantage in this arena; we’ve seen sniffles before and can stare them down without flinching.

But I still get sick.

Unfortunately, I managed to choose two very inauspicious weeks to be ill this summer.  In July I was sick during the first week of Women’s Camp in Alaska, after coming down with a cold on my way to a family reunion on the east coast.  I get especially frustrated when I am sick around US ski team functions because I worry that they won’t ever choose me for the team since I am sick too often.  This train of thought is illogical; if it came down to that kind of discretion, I probably wouldn’t deserve to be on the team anyways.  Nonetheless, that little fear-gremlin lurks in my head come camp-time.  I think this self-applied pressure affects the timing of my illnesses, as my second cold of the year started on the first day of camp in Utah.  Matt Whitcomb, if you’re reading this, I won’t hold it against you but I detest how often your mere presence gives me the sniffles.

The trick to staying healthy is to relax.  The minute you start stressing about getting sick, you’re done.  Better to scratch all the training off  next week and go to Hawaii, because this ship is sunk.  Unless you can stop stressing, come to terms with the possibility that you might get sick, and sleep a little extra, you’ll be spending a few days reading Outlander and watching Arrow.  Words of wisdom for the youth out there.  It seems simple enough, right?

Relaxing is harder than it should be.  Even as wizened as I am, even knowing exactly what sinks me, it can sometimes be impossible to let the panic go.  When you’re going into your favorite altitude camp of all time (that you had been waiting all summer for so that you could get in epic aerobic shape at), the fact that you may be getting sick seems like a miniature apocalypse in your microcosm of athlete focus. 

In retrospect, I needed a little more perspective.  The camp was my one chance at dryland altitude training this year, but the majority of the work had already been done in Alaska.  We aren’t even racing at altitude this year except the first two weekends of SuperTour, so it isn’t even key preparation for Nationals or World Championships since they’re at sea level.  Self-flagellation for messing up this one camp (that I had pinned all my aerobic and pre-season fitness goals on) is unproductive.  In reality, I can’t pinpoint anything that I did poorly.  I didn’t do a redeye after drinking from a sick person’s water bottle, I didn’t even pack that late before flying.  Worrying about those things is what gives me colds first place.  If I can’t find a specific mistake to learn from, it’s time to move on.  When it seems like you’re not where you want to be, whether it’s injured, immuno-compromised, or just out of shape… the best thing to do is realize that you can only do what you can do.  It sounds complicated, but it’s the simplest thing ever.  Don’t expect the world, just keep plugging away at it and eventually the world may show up.

I still got to do a good hard rollerski up mirror lake, I only had three days when I couldn’t do anything at all, and I managed to quarantine myself so well that not a single one of my Alaska Pacific University teammates got sick.  I mean really, that’s not so bad for two weeks in Utah.

My current motto: keep perspective, relax, and it’s not over ‘till it’s over.

Here are a few shots from my time in quarantine- hiking a little and drawing in the sunshine, as well as chicken noodle soup on a cold snowy day and happy girls done with our last rollerski of camp!

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Winter in Brief: National Title, Olympics, and the Near Future

This winter was a bit wild. It had some serious highs, winning the 10k classic race at nationals was the big one, but there were also some pretty visceral lows.  Hearing the Olympic team named, even though I knew I had no reason to expect a spot, was a tough day.  I didn’t expect to feel it so strongly, I thought I had already come to terms with the impossibility of my making it, but I guess I had never really stopped hoping.  I suppose that’s what comes from six years of throwing everything at my sport, since I moved to Anchorage and began focused training with APUNSC.  Nonetheless this winter was a definite improvement on last season, with my nationals performance and my super consistent health.  It was my first winter that illness didn’t substantially disrupt my season.  I did have a small cold that knocked me off my groove a little bit in late January, but I think this winter my challenge was to learn how to train and improve throughout the racing season.  It’s a different game to try and hold a consistent level of fitness than to survive through each cold in time to race the next weekend.  

One thing has been true all along though:  I want to go to the Olympics.  I want it so bad it hurts, as I definitely learned this winter.  All the inevitable questioning that can go on in an athlete’s mind is a pretty big hurdle; committing so many years of your life to one uncertain goal seems like a big risk, but this winter’s Olympics were more of a confirmation of my mission than a reason to doubt it.  I will continue skiing at least until I make that team, so don’t worry about me going anywhere.  Currently I am in that purgatory of bubble-riding, not quite a world cup skier, but pretty close.  This summer I am going to train with more focus than I ever have, and I am going to get off that stinking bubble!  At least that’s the short term goal; get onto the world cup and stay there.  In the long term, I hope you get to see me on TV at the next Olympics.  Thanks to everyone that has believed in me this far, I hope to make you proud in the next four years.

Here are some photos to sum up this winter, thanks for visiting my blog!


Early Season skiing with Reese at Hatcher Pass

Early Season skiing with Reese at Hatcher Pass


Preliminary design drawing for the Besh Cup T-shirts

Preliminary design drawing for the Besh Cup T-shirts


APU ladies ready to rock West Yellowstone

APU ladies ready to rock West Yellowstone


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This is how chilly it was in Bozeman- ice crystals in the air make sun dogs

This is how chilly it was in Bozeman- ice crystals in the air make sun dogs


Lauren Fritz and I were stoked on the new course in Rossland BC

Lauren Fritz and I were stoked on the new course in Rossland BC


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Fitz and I met Tatyana McFadden at Nationals, she is so inspiring!

Fitz and I met Tatyana McFadden at Nationals, she is so inspiring!


On my way to my first national title!

On my way to my first national title!


My parents and I on our afternoon jog after I won the classic race at Nationals!

My parents and I on our afternoon jog after I won the classic race at Nationals!


Reese and I- both 1st time national champs!

Reese and I- both 1st time national champs!


Denali from the plane on my way to Fairbanks

Denali from the plane on my way to Fairbanks


Beautiful Fairbanks light during my brief trip home

Beautiful Fairbanks light during my brief trip home


Fancy toes for the Olympics!

Fancy toes for the Olympics!


Reese and I spent a day in Hanover at my grandparents before we went to craftsbury

Reese and I spent a day in Hanover at my grandparents before we went to craftsbury


Craftsbury podium

Craftsbury podium


Beautiful spring-like run in Zurich, on my first day in Europe

Beautiful spring-like run in Zurich, on my first day in Europe


The swiss really know how to live the life!

The swiss really know how to live the life!


This was happening next to our hotel in Davos; sunshine, alps, and of course some alphorns!

This was happening next to our hotel in Davos; sunshine, alps, and of course some alphorns!


Enjoying my first time skating in Davos

Enjoying my first time skating in Davos


Bettina on our way up Sertig Valley in Davos

Bettina on our way up Sertig Valley in Davos


Skiing in Davos with Bettina Gruber

Skiing in Davos with Bettina Gruber


Just a bit of tourist business; scaling mountains and drinking Rivella, just like the swiss do.

Just a bit of tourist business; scaling mountains and drinking Rivella, just like the swiss do.


Absolutely the best chocolate I have ever eaten. No wonder it costs so much!

Absolutely the best chocolate I have ever eaten. No wonder it costs so much!


Exploring Zurich- this park was such a nice place for locals to hang out!

Exploring Zurich- this park was such a nice place for locals to hang out!


Exquisite dining in Switzerland with Bryan Fish and the OPA crew

Exquisite dining in Switzerland with Bryan Fish and the OPA crew


The dessert buffet- irresistible.

The dessert buffet- irresistible.


I was going to do pull ups on a playground- but the snow was too high to hang off anything

I was going to do pull ups on a playground- but the snow was too high to hang off anything


Engadine race trail- such a beautiful place

Engadine race trail- such a beautiful place


Silvaplana had plenty of snow!

Silvaplana had plenty of snow!


Tyler Kornfield rocking his distance skiing in Silvaplana

Tyler Kornfield rocking his distance skiing in Silvaplana


Erika Flowers won the Swiss Cup in Silvaplana!

Erika Flowers won the Swiss Cup in Silvaplana!


Beautiful light in Rogla, Slovenia.  Even though I have been there 4 years, I still find cool new places on my runs.

Beautiful light in Rogla, Slovenia. Even though I have been there 4 years, I still find cool new places on my runs.


Enjoying the Slovenian sun!

Enjoying the Slovenian sun!


The view from castle Bled

The view from castle Bled


Jenny Bender enjoying the sunshine!

Jenny Bender enjoying the sunshine!


OPA Finals venue in Valdidentro, Italy

OPA Finals venue in Valdidentro, Italy


I LOVE Italian pasta.  I just could not get enough.

I LOVE Italian pasta. I just could not get enough.


Beautiful mountain pass as we left Valdidentro

Beautiful mountain pass as we left Valdidentro


My last run in Europe; Munich Airport Hotel

My last run in Europe; Munich Airport Hotel


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Beautiful hardwax skiing in Anchorage for spring series!

Beautiful hardwax skiing in Anchorage for spring series!


Kikkan!

Kikkan!


Reese's somewhat contentious podium at Spring series.

Reese’s somewhat contentious podium at Spring series.


My parents and I enjoying an awesome afternoon at Glen Alps in the sun!

My parents and I enjoying an awesome afternoon at Glen Alps in the sun!


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  Check back for updates this spring and summer, I’ll be sharing training adventures and more!

NNF- It’s time to give some support!

I don’t mean to restart my blog with some nordic panhandling, but I do want to give you a chance to support nordic skiing in the United States before the fundraiser ends tomorrow.  This is an Olympic year and while the games are funded by the US Olympic Committee, European races that prepare you (World Cups, OPA cups, etc) are not.  If you’re curious about what I have been up to, I have been training my butt off, working through my first significant overuse injuries in my career, and the Olympics are my biggest goal of the year.  In order to be in the position where they are even a possibility I have gone on many trips to races in Europe, and those experiences were key for learning about international racing.  Those trips to Junior/U23 World Championships, Europa (OPA) Cups, and Scando Cups were pretty expensive.  However, NNF was there to help subsidize the trips and keep them from being overwhelmingly costly. There is no need for cost to be prohibitive for young developing skiers in the US, they should not need to miss out on key learning experiences because of lack of funding, and NNF is doing a great job of stopping that.  They have stepped up their support in the last year, and while in 2012 13 athletes declined to go to World Juniors, only one declined in 2013.  NNF is simply a grassroots fundraising organization, so our online gifts actually determine how much support they will be able to give over the next year of racing.  The ‘Drive for 25’ is based on the idea that if everyone who supports skiing gave $25 on November 15th, we would easily set NNF up for the year in one day.  Today is the last day to donate!! This graphic below describes NNF’s niche better than I can:

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Please check out my fundraising page here!  Donations of any size are very welcome, as you can see I am also coming to this fundraising game a little late.  Thank you!!

 

P.S. This post DOES constitute the restart of my career as a blogger.  I have taken a brief sabbatical, but will be posting updates throughout the the thick and thin of this exciting Olympic season.  Stay tuned to hear the ups and the downs of one skier who is riding the very edge of the Olympic bubble:  don’t write me off, but there is not an objective selection criteria outside of World Cup results.  Without an opportunity to chase those results, and with so many fast girls on the US ski team, my selection would come down to making an impression at domestic races and crossing all my fingers and toes… and raising some money for NNF.  Well not that last bit, but it wouldn’t hurt.  Thanks for reading!  

Adventures in Euro-land Part 1: Mapped Out

The last time I was in Alaska was November 13, 2012.  The last time I was in the United States of America was January 31, 2013.  The last time I blogged was… too long ago.  As I wrap up my tour of Europe I thought it might be fun to share a little map of where I have been so far… and elaborate a little about each place.

The first two stops, as shown in my last blog, were in the Baltics.  I raced in Madona, Latvia on Wednesday and Thursday, and in Joulumae, Estonia we raced on Saturday and Sunday.  The races didn’t really go that well for me, but I thought they were a step in the right direction after being sick for so long.  I felt insipid and weak in the distance races and just oddly slow in the sprint races, which I attributed to the seven or eight days I spent watching movies in Minneapolis as I tried to cough all the evil germs out of my throat and lungs.  One goal for the Scando races was to get back in shape and I had planned a training camp afterwards, so I didn’t get too worked up over my unimpressive results.  Sophie Caldwell was really killing it in the skate sprint though, in Joulumae she placed 2nd!

Sophie's second place podium!

Sophie’s second place podium!

If you follow the driving routes on the map, starting in Riga and going through Madona and Joulumae, you’ll get an idea of where we went during the Scando races.  This is part one of my Euro-adventure tri-blog-y, and it’s really just an introduction. If you follow the straight line from Riga to Munich it will lead you to part two: Mom and Becca hit Ramsau!  Stay tuned…

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Photos: Minneapolis to Latvia

I am in Madona, Latvia and I race a 10k skate mass start in an hour and 45 minutes.  Since my last blog I have raced in Minneapolis, spent another week in a basement room recovering from a whole ‘nother cold, and subsequently traveled to Latvia.  Here’s the lowdown: picture format.

The Minneapolis Tour de Twin kicked off slowly for me: I got 8th place in the 5k skate and felt pretty lethargic.  Rosie had a great one though... blowing us all away by V2ing all but one uphill.

The Minneapolis Tour de Twin kicked off slowly for me: I got 8th place in the 5k skate and felt pretty lethargic.  Rosie had a great one though… blowing us all away by V2ing all but one uphill.

I wasn't ready to fly to Latvia on time because I was still sick.  This resulted in three days at an airport hotel near the MOA (Mall of America).  My second morning run took me through the deserted amusement park in the mall... it wasn't open at 9am.

I wasn’t ready to fly to Latvia on time because I was still sick.  This resulted in three days at an airport hotel near the MOA (Mall of America).  My second morning run took me through the deserted amusement park in the mall… it wasn’t open at 9am.

 Loving it!
 My favorite ride!  Paul Bunyan's log chute.
 There were a couple of new roller coasters that I really enjoyed... my last visit had been as a 12 year-old.  Luckily they still had the log chute!

Don’t worry, I came back when it was open.

My gate number was so auspicious that I had to get a photo (albeit an unfocused one).  Unfortunately the flight that I switched to out of Minneapolis was entirely full.  Trying to sleep on a 9hr flight in an aisle seat without letting by-passers bump your head? Yikes.

My gate number was so auspicious that I had to get a photo (albeit an unfocused one).  Unfortunately the flight that I switched to out of Minneapolis was entirely full.  Trying to sleep on a 9hr flight in an aisle seat without letting by-passers bump your head? Yikes.

The Amsterdam airport is bustling and full of life- even at 6AM when I got there.  I spotted this glowing purple face on the wall and it really reminded me of someone... I think it's the actor in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  What do you think?

The Amsterdam airport is bustling and full of life- even at 6AM when I got there.  I spotted this glowing purple face on the wall and it really reminded me of someone… I think it’s the actor in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  What do you think?

Stroopwaffle temptation!  I didn't load up on them because I already had so many things, but if you haven't tried these yet you need to do so ASAP.

Stroopwaffle temptation!  I didn’t load up on them because I already had so many things, but if you haven’t tried these yet you need to do so ASAP.

I hate it when the seats have arm-rests at my gate.  6AM after 4 hours of sleep and it's still 12AM in MN?  I found a tricky way to sleep with them, involving cuddling with one and putting my leg through another, but later found some reclining chairs that did the job much better.

I hate it when the seats have arm-rests at my gate.  6AM after 4 hours of sleep and it’s still 12AM in MN?  I found a tricky way to sleep with them, involving cuddling with one and putting my leg through another, but later found some reclining chairs that did the job much better.

The Riga airport is surprisingly polished.  The terminal is all dark granite and light wood... but once you get out of customs it looks like this.  I don't know what the point of this commercial is, but it certainly caught my eye!

The Riga airport is surprisingly polished.  The terminal is all dark granite and light wood… but once you get out of customs it looks like this.  I don’t know what the point of this commercial is, but it certainly caught my eye!

Jennie and I invented the quad-pod... a skier-specific selfie-taking device. Behold the unholy swix-oneway union!

Jennie and I invented the quad-pod… a skier-specific selfie-taking device. Behold the unholy swix-oneway union!

One fruit of the unholy union... it looks like it worked out pretty well! From left it's Anika Miller, Sophie Caldwell, Jennie Bender, Caitlin Patterson, and me.

One fruit of the unholy union… it looks like it worked out pretty well! From left it’s Anika Miller, Sophie Caldwell, Jennie Bender, Caitlin Patterson, and me.

Jennie's torture-rolling device. I suppose those knobby bits are good for your muscles, but...

Jennie’s torture-rolling device. I suppose those knobby bits are good for your muscles, but…

This was the kind of snow we dealt with in the classic race yesterday- zeroes for sure!  The part where it rolled itself up into cinnamon buns if you pushed it downhill was pretty cool.  It also liked to stick to your skis... but that's another story.

This was the kind of snow we dealt with in the classic race yesterday- zeroes for sure!  The part where it rolled itself up into cinnamon buns if you pushed it downhill was pretty cool.  It also liked to stick to your skis… but that’s another story.

P.S. I just finished racing.  I didn’t feel very fit, but if anything will make me fitter it’s racing on hilly courses with fast people!  Now we’re driving to Joulumae, Estonia where the trails are quirky, the food is Estonian, and the internet is patchy. Two sprints in a row though, it’s going to be fun!

From the race today...  D-Norris kicking some butt

From the race today…  D-Norris kicking some butt

Eric Packer hanging onto the pack as they come through the stadium... (photo taken from our front porch, how convenient!)

Eric Packer hanging onto the pack as they come through the stadium… (photo taken from our front porch, how convenient!)

Anika and Caitlin watching from the porch

Anika and Caitlin watching from the porch

I just wanted to illustrate how awesome these cute little cabins are: this is the staircase inside.  Both Latvian places that I have stayed boasted beautiful wood interiors and creative stairways.  Love it!

I just wanted to illustrate how awesome these cute little cabins are: this is the staircase inside.  Both Latvian places that I have stayed boasted beautiful wood interiors and creative stairways.  Love it!

P.P.S Reese kicked some serious butt yesterday!  I knew he was a distance racer, but it’s really exciting to see all the same!

Thanks for reading!

Nationals: Immunodramatics and a Small Epiphany

When it comes to Nationals I seem to have a bit of a pattern.  I often get sick on the morning of December 25th, so, as I am opening presents with my family I feel a little postnasal drip that flourishes into a full-blown sore throat by the next day.  I spend the next 7 days or so getting over that cold, although a few times I have had to fly to Maine on a redeye which has certainly impeded my immune function.  At the start of Nationals I have a lingering cold that refuses to go entirely away, but I race anyways because I need to in order to make World Juniors or U23s.  The purpose of ski racing is to qualify for the next race, so that decision is a no-brainer.  By midweek I am doing alright, but as fatigue grows and my immune system withers, I get another illness towards the end of the races.  When I get home, I am very sick and take at least a week to recover.  Last year I even managed to come down with pinkeye in conjunction with my gnarly cold. 

Luckily it was really fun to take horror-movie photobooth shots, so I didn't get bored as I recovered.  Isn't this just fabulously frightening?

Luckily it was really fun to take horror-movie photobooth shots, so I didn’t get bored as I recovered.  Isn’t this just fabulously frightening?

My goal this year was to completely throw out that trend.  No more colds, no more pinkeye, and unfortunately no more Fairbanks Christmas.  I still managed to get sick after the World Cup in Canmore, but I was done with that in 5 days and had time to train some before Nationals.  Everything was running according to plan, and I even scored a great Christmas dinner at the Crawford family abode.  After a very easy travel to Utah (it’s just amazing how much more enjoyable a two-hour 10am flight is compared to a redeye) I settled with the team into the APU mansion.  By mansion, I basically mean castle.  Quirks like a lack of egress or ventilation aside, it was a sweet house.  Who can complain about a little stuffiness or fire-safety when the place sleeps 30 people and has a pool, racquet ball court, and 6-car garage? I was even ready for the altitude: after spending almost two weeks in Canmore at 4,500ft, the transition to 6,000ft was smooth.

The races started off well: my 4th
place qualification in the classic sprint blew my previous best right out of the
water and I subsequently made my first A final. I also emerged from my first
USADA antidoping test unscathed and somewhat matter-of-fact about peeing in a
cup in front of strangers. The skate race repeated Wednesday’s personal best (6th
again), and I made peace with Hermode’s hill.  I was already having my best Nationals ever! However, the
morning of the 20k I knew I was in trouble.  My whole team had been fending off a sneaky little cold and
I felt it coming on. Imagine a guerilla of malevolent pathogenic cold-gremlins
that was rejoicing at our lack of ventilation and our close living quarters, and I
had been fighting them off for a couple of days.  I decided to race anyways, but thought I would probably sink
my chances of racing the following skate sprint.  After the 20k my body felt abnormally wrung-out and I knew
that I had given the patho-gremlins a gaping opportunity.

Sadie leading my first A final in the classic sprint. Photo: Sarah Cresap

Sadie leading my first A final in the classic sprint. Photo: Sarah Cresap

January 8th dawned warm
and clear.  I woke up in my
Homestead immune-refuge (a last-ditch retreat from the vicious little
cold-critters in the APU palace) feeling officially ill.  I had just begun coughing and was stuffier
than ever, symptoms that usually designate any XC athlete as both a contagious
liability and ineligible for hard training.  However, when I arrived at the venue and talked to my coach
he didn’t make any attempt to stop my racing.  I was pretty sure I oughtn’t race but felt that I couldn’t
decide to sit it out without feeling like a pansy.  Not when my coach thought I was ready to race.

I did the qualification round,
feeling like I was skiing through cotton balls and couldn’t breathe
properly.  I qualified 17th,
6% back from the leader.  I was
also 6% back at the Quebec World Cup in December, so 17th was not a
very solid start to the day.  The
debate began again: I felt that I could not drop out without my coach’s urging,
and it seemed that he wanted me to keep racing. Previously I assumed his job
was the brake-pedal and I was the gas; I kept pushing for more and he kept me
from running myself into the ground. 
Now I was looking frantically for a runaway truck ramp because my brakes
seemed totally gone.

One of the questions that I asked
Erik as I tried to sort through the situation, was “what’s the point?”. This
was the first year that I didn’t have U23’s to make, I didn’t seem to be in
position to make World Champs, and I wasn’t on the verge of leading the Super
Tour.  There was no team to qualify
for.  What then, was the purpose of
racing when it probably wouldn’t go well and I was sick anyways?  Besides this fundamental question, I
was so mixed up with trying not to be a pansy and speculating about exactly how
sick racing would make me, that I couldn’t see straight.

*Cue Fanfare*

Reese to the rescue! Photo: USSA

Reese to the rescue! Photo: USSA

Reese to the rescue!  He’s the one who helped
me cut through all the confusion.  He
asked me what I, as a person, wanted to do.  Regardless of whether anyone would think I was a pansy or
what might happen afterwards, what did I really want to do.  This is a
toughie because racing is scary, and I almost never want to race beforehand. But on this particular January the 8th,
2013, I realized that I really wanted to. 
Racing is fun. I didn’t want
to do it for the valuable experience, for the results, to make my coach happy,
or even to show off.  In all my
confusion I honed in on one millisecond of imagination that made it all
worthwhile: I had a mental image of skiing mid-pack in a heat,
comfortable with the pace, planning an attack at the finish, and having the time
of my life.

That kernel of moving color and
intention sat in my mind, keeping me inspired throughout the heats.  I blew by the runaway truck ramp, waved, and kept right on rolling! Moving from 17th to 4th, my first top 5 finish, I set a new personal best at Nationals and had some of the most enjoyable racing of my life.

Living it up in my Semi Final! (I have a red hat, Fitz has a black one) Photo: Alex Matthews at FasterSkier

Living it up in my Semi Final! (I have a red hat, Fitz has a black one) Photo: Alex Matthews at FasterSkier

It may be ironic that my best
racing happened when I stepped outside the pressure of Nationals, but it also
makes a lot of sense.  I made a
decision for myself, I knew what I wanted, and I skied because it’s fun.  I just hope that I can remember that
next time all the details and pressures of racing threaten to overwhelm
me. 

Epilogue:

It has taken me a few days to get
this blog written because I felt like my miniature epiphany needed to be shared
in a decently-written (albeit a little too long) blog post.  I have been recuperating at the Homestead,
preparing to head to the Minneapolis Tour de Twin SuperTour.  I am definitely not healthy yet, but am
practicing patience and the beautiful scenery is definitely relaxing.  Thank you for reading, and stay tuned
for Tour de Twin updates!

A relaxing breakfast view at the Homestead

A relaxing breakfast view at the Homestead

Walking with Mom in the sunshine!

Walking with Mom in the sunshine!

Canmore Christmas

It looks like a clear, gorgeous, cold, white Christmas tomorrow.  I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising; Fairbanks is always like that, right?  This year it’s beautifully, incandescently, and predictably frigid at home– and I am not there.  A few weeks ago I decided to try an altitude camp before Nationals in Soldier Hollow.  I thought that it would be good to get really used to and ready for altitude before racing up high.  I thought it would be convenient if I was leaving the Canmore world cup to just stay south; I would just have to turn around in a few days if I went to Alaska.  I didn’t really think about Christmas.

Now it’s Christmas eve and I am seriously going to miss reading ‘the night before Christmas’ with my family at midnight or so tonight (although I may try to skype in).  I guess they went on a tree-hunting expedition and came back with a beauty of a scarecrow yesterday, and today they probably put up ornaments.  It’s weird to be missing all of my usual holiday madness- but I guess that’s part of growing up.  I am here now, I get to hang out with some of my Canadian friends, and get in some good altitude training. Tomorrow Dasha and I are going to do some Christmas intensity work, she is going to work her classic-sprinting magic and I am going to hang on for dear life!

I decided to stay here after I realized that Park City didn’t have any snow and I still didn’t have any accommodations worked out.  It seemed like a good place to train, it’s at some altitude, and Chandra Crawford’s parents were extremely generous and let me stay at their house for a few days after the world cups finished up.  I got sick the day after the pursuit, so I spent four days hiding out in their basement like a pathogenic gremlin as I tried to keep my contagion confined.  I felt terrible not helping out in the kitchen at all, but I knew that Rosanna (the younger Crawford sister- an extremely good biathlete who is currently tearing up a breakthrough season on the world cup) was coming around often and I really didn’t want to get her sick.  I moved out when I got a little apartment to stay in, I got better pretty fast for me, and now I am back to skiing normally!  There is nothing like sitting on your butt for four days (I think I almost calcified my gluteus medius by sitting on it for so long) to help you appreciate a good ski.  Today was an excellent ski if you like awesome new trails, good green-blue hardwax classic skiing, and a little bit of natural threshold.  I have a new favorite ski trail at the Canmore Nordic Center, so if you come here and ski make sure you check out ‘Rundle’.

Not too shabby...

Not too shabby…

My Canmore World Cup weekend was pretty anticlimactic, although I guess it was probably hard for any performance to follow my Quebec races.  I had an average sprint race, finishing 44th, and an interesting pursuit that felt better than it turned out.  I think I was 53rd, but I felt like I was holding my form together better than the place suggests.  I did get sick the next day so perhaps I was missing a little bit of the necessary pop and agression. I had a lot of fun watching Jesse Cockney kick butt on the sprint day, Kikkan was consistently fantastic, and I learned a lot about tactics for that long finish.  I even learned when to slingshot in the finish for best results, after watching the swedes do it all day on Saturday, so I used that trick win my little sprint finish in the pursuit.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I hope you all have a good day tomorrow! Here is a little extra christmas cheer for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkTd4pJlT-E

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World Cup Whirlwind

This weekend was the largest and most overwhelming immersion in awesomeness that I have ever experienced.  Things seem pretty normal now: am now sitting placidly in the Calgary airport, I just finished re-reading The Hunger Games (which I still can’t put down, even when I know what happens next), and am sorting through my thoughts as I try to write a blog.  Oh and yesterday I placed 24th on the World Cup.  

Nope, that wasn’t a typo.

Starting my quarterfinal!  (I am the bumble bee on the left, getting out of the blocks pretty well) Photo: Marisa Rorabaugh

Starting my quarterfinal!  (I am the bumble bee on the left, getting out of the blocks pretty well) Photo: Marisa Rorabaugh

I think I may have a new favorite place in the entire world.   Quebec City is a great mixture of old european-style architecture and high-rise buildings.  The French-speaking natives and signage create significant exotic appeal, but you don’t have to endure a 10 hour time change to get there.  When we checked into our hotel and I finally flopped onto my bed after a long day of travel, I knew the week was going to be fabulous.  When beds are that comfortable, there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong!

It helped that the food was fantastic too: the crepes at breakfast were so steeped in caramelized buttery goodness that they practically melted in my mouth.  If you’re wondering what I ate for breakfast on the morning of the sprint, I did have a couple of those aside my oatmeal and eggs.  Perhaps they were the magic touch!  But I digress… 

delicious!

delicious!

When I arrived, I was still waiting for my racing to come
around.  I know I wrote that last blog about how things were starting to
show promise, but in reality I was still questioning my fitness and my ‘fight’
as a competitor.  I barely skimmed my way onto the team, right?  But
once I settled into Quebec City that started to matter less.  I slowly
started to feel like I belonged at the World Cup.  I was definitely still a little shy at meals, but when
Oystein Petterson is scooping up weisswurst next to you, accidentally dropping
the serving spoon is a legitimate concern. 

As I adjusted to the scene, I was somewhat less nervous. When
I was named to race with Caitlin Gregg in Friday’s team sprint I felt nothing
but stoke.  I was so excited about the course, about the people watching,
getting to race head-to head with World Cup regulars, and about getting to do
more than one lap of the course that I didn’t have room in my head for fear. While
I warmed up for that race I was just thinking about getting out of the gates
like a cat out of a box, and mixing it up with some really fast ladies!

That first race went just fine, I felt like I got stuck in
the back off the line and was clinging to the tail of the pack throughout the
first leg.  Chasing that particular
pack was certainly an honor, so when we ended up a bit behind we still skied
our hearts out and had a blast.  As
it turns out, huge crowds are my thing: thousands of people yelling for you is
the greatest and most positive kind of motivation in the world in my opinion.  Also, having my family drop everything
to come watch me race was an amazing boost.  My parents booked last minute mileage tickets to Boston,
drove around New England stealing my sisters from their colleges, and woke up
at 4am Friday to make it to the team sprint from Burlington.  It was incredibly special to have them
there. Without Eliza wearing my new lucky sunglasses, I don’t know what would
have happened!

Three sisters... I think I am trying my hardest not to be the shortest.

Three sisters… I think I am trying my hardest not to be the shortest.

The next day was the individual skate sprint.  My goal for the prelim, as it always
is, was to make the rounds. 
However, qualifying at the World Cup is no cakewalk.  As I stuffed clothes in my bag in the
morning I threw in enough shirts and food to last through the heats, but it
almost felt like jinxing myself to pack it.  When you bring sunscreen, it always rains!  I didn’t worry too much about it though.  I knew it was going to be a fantastic
day; win, lose, or draw.  I knew
that I love that kind of course, I love the energy from the crowd, the
atmosphere of the venue, and I love ski racing.  Even if I only got to go around once, it was going to be
awesome.

And it was way beyond awesome.  I stumbled a little on the first corner, and hesitated to
track Fitz at the very end, but otherwise I just skied.  There was a crystal moment in the
second half, as I realized that I was gaining ground, in which I found that
‘other’ gear.  Muscles can’t hurt,
your body has no limits, and you’re totally unafraid.  When I crossed and I heard I was 22nd, I was so
euphoric I didn’t know what to do.

Prelimming as hard as I can.  Photo Credit: Marisa Rorabaugh

Prelimming as hard as I can.  Photo Credit: Marisa Rorabaugh

I was buzzing and babbling with caffeine and excited nerves
as I waited for my quarterfinal. I didn’t really have a plan, other than to get
out off of the line like a dog from a kennel: exuberant, happy, and fast. 

I got off the line alright, I was in third going into the
first corner.  Unfortunately after
that I wasn’t in third anymore:

This is a picture of a computer screen that Noah took as he was watching the race.  As you can see I got a little hung up.

This is a picture of a computer screen that Noah took as he was watching the race.  As you can see I got a little hung up.

Well, stuff happens. 
Especially in sprint races. 
I ended up with my ankle locked on Bettina Gruber’s, and we took a
second to untangle.  For a while we
gained on the group, but never caught them.  I never stopped trying though.

Photo Credit: FlyingPoint Road

Photo Credit: FlyingPoint Road

In a way I am
pretty sad about it because the chances of another such day, with such a
course, with such a crowd, are very slim. 
My body, mind, circumstances, and family were all in the right place at
the right time.  On the other hand
it leaves a huge door of opportunity wide open.  Now I know that I can do it, I know that I could have done
much better in my quarterfinal, and I feel that I have only glimpsed a small
ray of the bright possibilities out there.  It’s like I am saving a dessert coupon for later; I hate when
I can’t instantly enjoy it, but I know it’s out there and I can only imagine
how amazing it will be when I can.

In the end I am
grateful that I was able to participate in most amazing racing event that I
have ever been to.  Kikkan was a
vision as she powered her way to two gold medals, and having 5 of us qualify
for the rounds is a huge step for the USA.  Our women have really lit it up this year, and it’s a wave
that I am incredibly proud to be a part of.

I for one am
going to try and cash in that coupon this weekend, so stay tuned for updates
from the Canmore world cup!  Thank
you for reading, and I am so inspired by all of your support.  I could not have had such an amazing
day without everyone who encourages me: my coaches, my family who traveled all
the way to Quebec, my friends, my ‘hood, my teammates.  You’re the best!

Family came to see me!

Family came to see me!


 Kikkan's victory lap!

Kikkan’s victory lap!


 "my gloves are crunchy from all the champagne" -Kikkan #winner'sproblems

“my gloves are crunchy from all the champagne” -Kikkan #winner’sproblems


 Governor's Promenade with Alysson Marshall

Governor’s Promenade with Alysson Marshall


 Another picture from the live broadcast online

Another picture from the live broadcast online


 Governor's Promenade in Quebec City

Governor’s Promenade in Quebec City


 Some friends in Anchorage watching the race live!  Shannon send me this pic, and I am so psyched that they go to see the races.

Some friends in Anchorage watching the race live!  Shannon send me this pic, and I am so psyched that they go to see the races.


 Kikkan dominating her final heat up the finish stretch

Kikkan dominating her final heat up the finish stretch

Heading to the World Cup

And just like I was hoping, I made it to the world cup in
Canada by the skin of my teeth. 
Any more bubble-riding like that and I’ll have no skin left on my teeth
(whatever that means).  In Bozeman
I was sickeningly consistent, with 7th, 6th, and 7th
places.  Other than Sadie, I
may have been the most consistent girl in the top 10.  I felt like the race aggression was starting to percolate
into my performances, but I think that there is room for improvement; the mass
start classic race felt like a very steady workout by myself.  I couldn’t quite gather enough chutzpah
to chase Fitz and Caitlin down, even though I could see them the whole
time.  With gaps of 30 seconds in
front of me and 1 minute behind me, it wasn’t really a hair-raising battle.  I still wish I had somehow busted a move,
sacked up, and caught both those
girls.  I am hoping that my
calculations are correct and the World Cup will be the perfect fire under my
bum to get me really peppy this season.

Now we’re getting ready for Quebec!  I am excited to do a city
sprint, I am excited that the field will be slightly weaker than the full World
Cup field because then I may be able to get into the rounds, and I am excited
that I get another chance to have a really aggressive race.  I need to work on my prelim speed, so
this will be a perfect chance- nothing like thousands of people (and thousands
of nerves) to get things firing faster.

Here are a few photos from our classic races in Bozeman:

 Refugee-style sprint racing-- sit and rest on anything that'll keep your butt dry!  Ski bags are an excellent option...

Refugee-style sprint racing– sit and rest on anything that’ll keep your butt dry!  Ski bags are an excellent option…

Reese won his first SuperTour!  It was all double pole-- go figure. It was really awesome to watch though!

Reese won his first SuperTour! It was all double pole– go figure. It was really awesome to watch though!

Reese won his first SuperTour!  It was all double pole– go figure. It was really awesome to watch though!

 Crazy mass start in the men's race-- note the pole in the middle of the trail, indicated by the large grey pad wrapped around it.

Crazy mass start in the men’s race– note the pole in the middle of the trail, indicated by the large grey pad wrapped around it.

Captions:

1. it was really fun to do a sprint race refugee-style… no ski hut no problem!  Ski bags make the perfect butt-padding for resting before the heats.

2. Reese won!!! I don’t know if you know this, but I have known him since we were in 2nd grade… so yeah.  We’re tight.  Anyways I was really excited that he won his first SuperTour and is in Quebec with me!

3. Check out the mass-start-madness in the classic race.  See the padded pole in the middle of the scramble zone?  Nothing like a little added obstacle to spice things up.

And here is the race course in Quebec City… it’s going to be epic:

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Thanks for reading!  More on the world cup soon…

Hoping for a Crescendo

Patience is not my forté as far as virtues go.  I still mentally squirm like a border collie puppy if anyone makes me wait for ice cream, movies, or the next book in a series.  Anticipation is supposed to sweeten the anticipated, but usually it sours my disposition so badly that I devour the event without savoring any of that purported sweetness.  Waiting for ski results is even worse than waiting for any delicious or recreational thing.  When you put so much of yourself into one pursuit, having success coyly elude you is absolutely enraging.  I don’t mean waiting for published results after an individual start race, although that can also be excruciating, the issue at hand is patience with one’s own performance.  

This is the first year that I have felt as though I am skiing into race form.  Usually I get so excited when termination dust hits the mountains around anchorage that I practically start peaking during bounding intervals in October.  I then proceed to time trial extremely well in early November, and race best at the beginning of the season.  I see the downfalls of that method (weak performance during US Nationals in January for example), but at least it provides instant gratification!  I can’t really think of anything that I did differently this summer of training, but this fall I have been extremely slow to spark up.  My pop and race form just hasn’t been there, and while I can light it up in a 30 second speed, I just haven’t had success with race-pace yet.

Apparently this is normal.

Most people don’t develop an adrenal amp when a bit of snow dusts the mountains, and they don’t start to peak in October. Skiing into a season can allow for more consistent results and improvement.  It means that your body was stressed in the summer and is taking a little while to recover from it.  Hypothetically this means that you will come out stronger than ever.  At least that’s what I am telling myself.

My first two races of this year’s SuperTour were unremarkable.  ‘Stagnating in a purgatory of mediocrity’ is the phrase that I dramatically coined to describe my uninspired performance in West Yellowstone.  I understood that the races were not suited to my strengths, but it sure seemed to me that I ought to be in the top 10 anyways. It didn’t help that I had written that incredible self-inspiring blog beforehand.  I believed that I was going to rock it, so why didn’t it go well!?

After a mildly grumpy week of recovery, I raced again today. 

… and it was better! I still am not satisfied, I am focused on qualifying for the Canadian world cups and today wasn’t quite at that level, but it certainly felt more like a real ski race.  I felt it for a second in my quarter final- I was actually skiing strong, using my legs well, and holding people off.  I was truly in the race, rather than wondering if I was in the race.  I still don’t know what place I finished, but I think I was probably 7th.  In all reality, that’s not so far off what I need to qualify for Canada.  Hopefully my performance will continue to crescendo, preferably not too gradually, and I’ll make it to the world cup by the skin of my teeth.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to cross fingers, toes, eyes, or any available appendage in support of my WC qualification… the ski gods may hear you.

Coming in hot in my semi final (I am the third skier... look at that cornering technique, erik flora!) Photo: Sarah Cresap

Coming in hot in my semi final (I am the third skier… look at that cornering technique, erik flora!) Photo: Sarah Cresap