Beautiful, Lauren, love your blog.
Happy New Year! As I watch the trees flash by on our 6.5 hour drive from Minneapolis to Houghton today, I have time to reflect on 2014 and how great the last two weeks of the year have been. December in Alaska is dark and often cold (not this year) but there are always lots of fun activities and events to keep your S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at bay. So, in the continuing spirit of the holidays, here are my 12 days of Christmas/winter activities with accompanying photos. 🙂
1) Here comes the Sun
PK skiing under the lights on the trails as the sun rises over the Chugach.
Sunrise skis. The cool thing about late sunrises in Alaska is that you get to see them every morning during training. It makes you appreciate the beauty of every day, of the landscape around us, and the gift we have to be healthy and fit. There is always light if you know where to look.
Dark but happy.
2) Fire and Ice.
Celebrating with friends. Every year some friends have a solstice/holiday party that is the most epic party in town. The boys go to great lengths and effort to create something in their yard. Last year they built an ice bar. This year, they one-upped themselves and built an ice bar AND an ice HOT TUB. It was lined with plastic and had a hot water pump going. Pretty cool and ingenious. Add in a bonfire and how can a scene like this not be fun and festive! It’s a really fun time to see everyone and relax with some mulled wine or cider. Or a cocktail from the ice bar 😉
Ice hot tub on the left, ice bar in the center, bonfire on the right.
Ice pillars entrance.
2.1) Make a wish.
It’s becoming a tradition at the boys party to set off Chinese lanterns into the sky. It’s like a mini hot air balloon. The idea is that you light it up, make a wish and let go. The lantern carries your wish into the sky and puts a smile on your face.
Sending off my lantern and wish 🙂
3) Cookies cookies cookies. It’s not Christmas without cookies! Enough said.
Almond bon bons!
4) Laughter is the best medicine. Find something to make you laugh with the ones you love. Taking selfies with frozen faces on a ski is a good one. Skiing with old friends and family is another.
Being silly with PK after finding Christmas decorations on trees on the ski trails.
Getting silly with the King crab legs for dinner.
Me and “my boys” at the Christmas ski. Cameron, my “big” little brother and PK.
The group for Christmas ski in the falling snow!
5) Light it up up up! A park in downtown Anchorage set up this cool light exhibit. It’s a great way to get people outside and brighten the darkness.
Not really sure what they’re supposed to be, but the lights are cool and bright!
PK racing Santa to see who can light up the display out front. Pedal Power!
6) The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Stockings are maybe one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I love upending my stocking on Christmas morning and finding all sorts of goodies. This was PK and my’s first Christmas together and he said he’d never really had a stocking before so I had to explain what kind of little things Santa filled our stockings with 😉 We were pretty good this year so we didn’t get coal!
PK’s first stocking!
7) I’m dreaming of a white moosey Christmas. Nothing is more exciting than waking up to falling snow on Christmas morning. But what makes it better? A bull moose wandering through your yard during breakfast!
Snow falling on X-mas
Our Christmas visitor!
8) When you pull three bottles of syrup out your stocking, there is nothing to do but make use of them! Pancake breakfast is a bit of a tradition for Christmas morning and I don’t anticipate that dying out anytime soon.
Little to big: Alaska berry syrups, Alaska Birch syrup, and Vermont Maple syrup
9) Jiggity-jig. When you spend a few hours a day training outside, sometimes you just want something fun to occupy your time inside for awhile. Nothing better than a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle! Especially when it’s a Christmas present. Next thing you know, it’s three days later and the puzzle is done!
PK enjoying the complete puzzle
10) Brickify me!
If a puzzle is not creative enough for you, turn back the clock to your childhood and bust out the Legos! The Anchorage Museum has a Lego exhibit, so of course we went to channel our inner child. It was pretty cool, with some background history about Lego, information about the benefits of creativity and learning as crucial developmental skills, cool funny photos of a Lego Stormtrooper (yes, from Star Wars) doing everyday things, giant Lego sculptures, and of course, a Lego play center where you could play and build to your heart’s delight. We partook.
An odd collection of Lego sculptures
There was a photo of a woman actually wearing this!
There were LOTS of kids around.
PK’s creation: Eiffel Tower turned Japanese Pagoda. Mine is the Alaska Flag on the table.
11) Puck it.
When Mother Nature gives you ice, go ice skating! We took to the lagoon in town and laced up for some pond hockey with some teammates and friends. In the dark. But we had a light-up puck. Fortunately the city provides bonfire barrels to keep your tushy warm. Don’t worry, they don’t go through the ice. Yet. It was a fun evening to get outside and change pace from skiing.
The bonfire barrel
12) Not the gumdrop buttons! (Name that movie).
As our Christmas holiday came to an end, PK and I went out for a dinner date and then took a stroll through the massive Gingerbread Village built in the lobby of a downtown hotel. It was quite impressive. Though not as impressive as the gingerbread houses I used to make at home with my friends…of course. you couldn’t even eat the fences or window panes off this one!
The giant terrorizing the village
So now we’re into 2015 and U.S. nationals start in a few days. I’ve arrived in Houghton to a ton of snow and the classic tracks are prime. Happy new year!
Today is Christmas Eve! Where did December go? I’ve been home for two weeks already! Unfortunately, Alaska is in a snow drought right now, just like much of central Europe it seems. There has not even been a single day below 10°F this season so far, and there is not even enough snow to set classic tracks. Nevertheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed being home earlier in December to do some Christmas preparations and enjoy a few weeks of just training.
Our very own Christmas tree, courtesy of my roommate and his girlfriend.
Night skiing made easy with lighted trails!
Sunset from my office window…at 3:30pm…
Instead of continuing on the race circuit, we focused on having a good 3-week training block before US Nationals and that included two weekends of local racing. While the racing atmosphere was super low-key, the competition was top-notch! Alaska and APUNSC has some of the best racers in the country and many of the top names on the results here were also at the top of Super Tour results earlier this month. Yet, there was almost no stress associated with racing because we were at home, operating on our own schedules, sleeping in our own beds, we didn’t have to spend any money to be at the races, and best of all there was nothing on the line. Being back at sea-level seemed to agree with my body too, and I had some great races. It was a nice feeling to be able to say I really had given it my best and nothing held me back. That isn’t to say I won the races, but it was a big step in the right direction.
The first weekend was the Hickok Duathlon, a 15k classic-skate, part of the Anchorage Cup Citizen Race series. Honestly, I was really nervous because I hadn’t done a skiathlon since high school! We don’t do them on the NCAA or Super Tour circuit, they only do them on the World Cup, so I’m relatively inexperienced at them. But I had a blast. It was mass start classic, there were no tracks, the snow was super glazed and ripping fast, I had guessed at the kick wax, and I was wearing skate boots. I managed to stay within a few meters of Chelsea and Becca for half the lap before I lost contact, and I felt like I was going as hard as I could the whole time. Coming into the stadium and transition to skate I started getting super anxious wondering how my legs were going to feel, but I was pleasantly surprised and I didn’t feel as wobbly as I expected. If you’ve ever done a triathlon and experienced the unpleasantness of jumping off your bike and starting to run and your legs are jello and you nearly fall on your face, I was expecting that. With fast conditions, the skate leg flew by and I was done. Given the fact that I had finished only 1:40 behind Becca and Chelsea over 15k, I was really happy with the improvement of getting beat by 3-4 minutes over 10k in West Yellowstone and Bozeman.
There was also a selection of 28 soups available post-race for refueling and warming up! APUNSC is the host of the Hickok and it’s tradition for everyone to bring a pot of soup!
So much soup! Photo by APUNSC
When I was a junior, Besh Cups were the end all be all of ski racing in Alaska. If you did well at Besh Cups, you were a good skier and people knew your name. They are also Junior National qualifiers, so they were stressful! Now, they are just fun races before Christmas that have an incredibly high level of competition and one of the few times I get to race for a home crowd.
Due to the meager snow conditions, but with some last minute snow-making at Kincaid the race was able to be held on an 875m loop of man made snow for the skate sprint on Saturday. It was a true sprinter’s course, with a slight uphill out of the start, a long downhill up into a long uphill and slight downhill into the stadium. My strategy was just to hammer as hard as I could the whole time. Worked out pretty well. Came 6th in qualification, hammered through the rounds and just barely missed out on 3rd in the final. It was a loooooooong day though. Remember how Alaska gets dark in the winter for long hours during the day? Well, December 20th is a terrible day to hold a sprint race in Alaska because we literally were warming up for prelims in the dusky pre-sunrise and racing the final and cooling down in the post-sunset dusk.
Racing the quarterfinal. It was about 3pm, so we were already losing light. Photo by PK
Racing the A-final. I am the furthest right skier with the glimmer of orange in my poles. Photo by PK
More sprinting. Photo by Pat Cooper
Looking nice and dynamic. Photo by Pat Cooper
Sunday’s 10/15k skate went off without a hitch at Hillside and it was even snowing the whole day!! It was a nice way to end the weekend. Like the Hickok, I felt like I could hammer the whole race and felt good about my results. For both Besh Cups, the podiums could have been podiums at US Nationals, with APU sweeping the men’s and women’s distance races and having half of the podium steps in the sprint. Being home for a while has really helped my training and also my mental state and with some good racing improvements and good feelings in the body at sea level, I’m really looking forward to racing Nationals at sea level in Houghton!
Getting splits from Sam in the 10k. Photo by PK
PK was able to come to Alaska for Christmas holidays this year, which is really fun and exciting, and the next week before we head to Michigan should be filled with fun pre- and post-Christmas activities.
PK and I on a morning ski, around 9:30am…still dark…
PK fully understanding the meaning of winter solstice 🙂
Merry Christmas to everyone and have a safe, fun and joyful holiday!
I don’t know why people always jokingly refer to Montana as Montucky. Is it really that similar to Kentucky? Is it simply because Kentucky is generally stereotyped as being highly conservative and rural and full of hicks? Because I don’t really thing Kentucky is like that. I mean, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most high-profile and classed-up events in the country, and they even make a Barbie! Who knew?! Pretty sure Montana’s rodeo attire is a lot more casual…
And of course, Montana Nordic skiing attire is the most attractive of all…
Because who doesn’t want to just lounge around in skiwear all the time?? ###teambonding###
Big shoutout to Craft Sportswear USA for the super awesome new uniforms. Comfort, class and superior function all around.
The skiing in West Yellowstone was pretty great. The snow was near perfect, with several small snowfalls throughout the 10 days we were there, comfortable temperatures and just great training. Racing was hard. I was super psyched and feeling energized to start this season, but somehow I just didn’t perform the way I wanted to in West and was much much further back in the results than I anticipated. I didn’t even make it into the heats of top-30 in the skate sprint, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while. That was pretty disappointing. In the distance race, I just didn’t have the speed that I needed and had some trouble with my lower legs, a chronic problem. Nonetheless, I did have some improvements in other arenas. In our training log, Erik has us write something that went well, no matter what our result said. I felt like I skied smoother than I had last year, especially skating. Just the ability to push the body harder, especially at altitude, seemed to be lacking. BUT, I reminded myself that it was the FIRST races of the season, and do I really want to be at my best at the beginning? No…but it would be nice to be skiing a little faster…
The ladies, Flora and mini-Flora (Oskar!) in West.
Having fun on a sunny recovery day ski in West.
The Flora clan joined us in West this year and never ceased to amaze us. Already getting after training at the gym!
Thanks to all my amazing equipment sponsors this year! Rossignol, Toko, Craft, Rudy Project and Skida. Photo: Ian Harvey/Toko US
The Bozeman races went off a bit better. After underperforming in West, I was really looking forward to some good classic racing in Bozeman.
Bozeman seems to operate in extremes…at least from what I have seen over the past 4 years racing there in early December. Either it’s wicked cold to the point that you wonder if you have enough clothing (a la 2013 when I raced in my warmup clothes because there was no way I was only going to wear spandex) or it’s crazy warm and the snow is quickly disappearing. This year we hit the high end of the spectrum with temps in the mid-30s and a lot of rain hitting Bozeman leading up to the races. Ironically, the first day we showed up for training at Bohart Ranch, the course was bulletproof ice and Erik wouldn’t let us train until two hours later after the (amazing) Western sun had softened the snow a bit.
On both race days, the situation was the same. Courses so frozen it was scary and relatively unsafe. Many a skier wiped out on a sketchy downhill corner from the top of the sprint course in the qualifier, a corner that later in the day during heats became a just-as-sketchy lake that would grab your skis and almost make you wipe out again. Like I said, extremes. Funny enough, I actually tripped myself herring-boning an uphill and fell on my hands and knees…but stayed on my feet on the downhills! I made it into the heats, moving from quarters into the semis by way of a “lucky loser” time (fastest time not in top-2 of each heat), but the conditions changed dramatically between quarters and semis, and in the end my skis didn’t run as well in the sloppier snow and I didn’t move on to the finals. But I cheered hard for my teammates Becca and Rosie as they raced for the win, with Rosie crushing the field start to finish. At least it was a nice warm sunny day.
In a good position during my quarterfinal
Coming off the sketchy downhill corner. You can see the giant puddle just behind us. They rerouted the corner wider during heats to avoid it.
Rosie crushing the final; no one in sight as she comes into the stadium.
Enjoying the sun in Bozeman with PK!
Again on Sunday we arrived to a trail of ice ice baby. With a lot more steep downhills and corners on the distance course, officials deemed it quite unsafe and delayed the start an hour to let things soften. It didn’t make too much of a difference and it was still a crazy course. I’ve never skidded and snow-plowed so much in a race as I did that day, and I’m usually pretty confident and competent on downhills. It was mass-start and it was difficult to get towards the front of the pack from my start position, so I skied a bit further back than where I wanted to be. I ended up skiing with my teammate Jess for most of the race, as we slinky’d back and forth with each other; she had faster glide but I had better kick. It’s always fun to ski with teammates. My favorite moment was probably at the top of the very last massive hill that was minutes long and all herringbone when a Canadian girl in front of me started walk-herringbone instead of run-bonin’ it, and I couldn’t get around her, so I started yelling at her “C’MON! LET’S GO! HUP HUP Let’s GO!!” as we crested the hill. I felt sorta bitchy doing it, but she was going slow and I didn’t want the people behind to catch us and besides, it was all downhill to the finish!! Thankfully, I beat her. I apologized after the race for yelling, and she was a good sport and said she actually appreciated it because it made her find that extra gear and get moving even though she was exhausted.
My two favorite Aussies! The 3 best friends together again!
APU ladies enjoying some good weather and good racing! Love these girls!
APUNSC had a pretty good couple of weeks, some incredibly results from some people and some things to be desired for others. But I have to say, this is one of the best teams I think APU has ever had in terms of a group of people who really have fun together, respect each other, and really encourage and motivate each other. I’ve never had more fun.
More team bonding with a sing-a-long night!
Pack ’em in tight!
Post-racing scramble-fest of waxing and packing ski bags!
Q: How many skis can you fit in a bag and still make it under 50lbs? A: More than you think, but you better be prepared to carry 12lbs worth of bindings in your carry-on.
Tyler, Thomas and Eric sporting our new travel threads from Craft and simultaneously moonlighting as techies with snacks.
We’re back in Anchorage now training and doing some local races before heading to US Nationals in January. The snow cover is thin, but the skiing is remarkably good. Even so, ***Think SNOW***
Unfortunately I was traveling alone by this point or else I would have taken FULL advantage. If you’re traveling through Seattle N terminal, please take a picture and show me!!
The eleventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and one of four months with the length of 30 days. Also a time when:
Silly America changes clocks by one hour and suddenly it’s DARK at 4pm.
Intervals get shorter and faster and the race feeling starts revving
Race skis start getting waxed and prepped for the season
New gear starts arriving—skis, boots, uniforms, you name it, it’s a skier’s Christmastime
Winter starts to show—snowflakes start falling, rock skis come out and so do smiles
And a million photos start popping up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the first snow/skiing of the year from around the country in an anxious battle to show the world “we’ve got it best right now”.
….until Mother Nature sends a typhoon across the Pacific and suddenly our early start to winter vanishes in the blink of an eye. Saturday we’re skiing 3 hours covering every trail in the park, Monday we’re running on bare ground.
It’s also been 10.5 months since I last posted. Sorry about that. Life happens.
Excited to be on snow in Girdwood in late October. Thanks to the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club for grooming the trails! It was great skiing while the snow lasted!
In Alaska we like to brag about how we get the best early skiing and the most time on snow, yadda yadda, Alaska is best. But sometimes, we stick our feet in our mouths. We had almost 3 weeks of skiing—albeit rock skiing—and then it was just gone. In less than 48 hours we were back to virtually bare dry ground and running. And then even rollerskiing. In November. An Alaskan’s worst nightmare. But even when there is snow, it’s a big adjustment getting used to the quickly decreasing amount of daylight, and more often than not, November is freakin’ cold.
Back to dryland training after the snow melted…it helps when you have crazy fun teammates to enjoy it with.
There are some good things to look forward to in November though, as a skier. Training volumes decrease, energy levels start peaking, and the excitement (and anxiety) of racing soon starts to mount. It’s RACE SEASON.
As I write this, I am bound for Montana for two weeks for the first Super Tour races in West Yellowstone and Bozeman. I’m excited. I’m ready to race. For the first time in quite a few years, I truly feel ready and excited to race. My body has been energetic and “jumpy”, training feels easy and sometimes I have to really ease back because I just want to go harder. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long time going into the season. The past few years, I’ve looked forward to the race season, but almost more as a break from my roller coaster ride of a life in Alaska. I’m usually looking forward to being on the road because I get to sleep more, recover and relax more, I have more down time and I don’t have to rush around to training, work, errands, etc and just get to focus on training and racing. But that often means I’ve been stressed and tired beforehand and I haven’t raced well. Since this spring, my life has been much more stable and I’ve really focused on doing quality training over quantity. I had some really great weeks and months of training and I think (and hope) it has paid off finally. The next two weeks will tell.
The importance of TEAM
One of the most important things I believe has also contributed to my happiness and increased feeling of fitness is my amazing Alaska Pacific University teammates. We gained a few new girls this summer, and we have had an incredible summer and fall of training, adventures, and fun. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable and supportive group of girls to be with. Every single person has something to offer to the team, whether its in training, racing or everyday life, and it’s a heartwarming feeling to know that they are behind me through every trial, tribulation, celebration and success. I would not be able to get up every day and go to practice if it wasn’t for them. I know our team is going to have a great season because we have pushed each other through every interval set, every rainy rollerski and every bonk-worthy over-distance workout. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we know how to motivate one another when someone is lacking or struggling. I can’t wait to see what the season brings for us.
My amazing team (L-R): Rosie Brennan, myself, Sadie Bjornsen, Kinsey Loan, Jade Hajdukavich, Chelsea Holmes, Jess Yeaton, Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks, (missing Becca Rorabaugh and Rosie Frankowski).
My last blog was January 1, 2014. Today is November 21, 2014. Whoops. I’ve gotten many questions about when I was going to update and start posting again, and I just got too busy this summer and it got harder to motivate when so much time had passed. Nonetheless, I am back at it and will do my best to post more regularly. It’s too much work to try and recall everything I’ve done since January, so I will just post some photos (as per my usual method of having a photo-heavy blog) showing what I got up to.
[…] One word: AUSTRALIA. […]
[…] I spent an incredible week in Selawik, Alaska, a Native village above the Arctic Circle with the NANANordic program bringing skiing to villages across the Arctic region. […]
[…] Spring Series in Truckee was a warm slushy sufferfest, racing later into April than ever before, but I survived. […]
Wow, in just a few hours it will be 2014. How can that be? Where did the year go?! I must say, it’s been a pretty good year. Some ups and downs, both in skiing and in life, but for the most part I have had an amazing year. So I thought I would recap the year with some highlights and photos from each month. Happy New Year and cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!!!!!
I also raced in Aspen, CO and in the American Birkebeiner in Wisconsin, both of which I’m in no rush to race again. They were hard.
I raced in Italy. Not a bad race backdrop! The US girls contingent post-race in Italy.
I don’t usually delve into my personal life away from skiing too much, but in Truckee I met someone amazing who has made me so happy and changed the course of my year for much the better. Cheers PK, I love you. 🙂
Spring Series in Truckee was a warm slushy sufferfest, racing later into April than ever before, but I survived.
Running season started up with the Alaska Run for WomenMy awesome coworkers, Emma, Reidun and winner Susan (L-R)
Ski training was back in full force, with some minor pitfalls, mainly a river overflowing our rollerski route causing some last-minute bailing…the less glamorous side of skiing…
A solid week of Eagle Glacier training with splendid weather brought June to a nice close
One word: AUSTRALIA.
Skiing the Bogong High Plains
Racing my way to 2nd in the Kangaroo Hoppet, a 42km marathon race at the end of August.
Pretty amazing experience!
Making more friends.
Back home for some good rollerskiing with the team.
And some good long run/hikes in the mountains before the snow comes
I had to say goodbye to a beloved member of the family. Star may have been 13 years old, but she was always a puppy at heart. She was a true running partner until the end, pictured here in May on a hike. I’ll miss you pup.
Off for two weeks training hard in Park City, UT
Deer Valley after a light snow
Overlooking Park City on our last long run
And more gorgeous sunsets.
Fantastic early-season skiing at Hatcher Pass with Rosie
Winter also means COLD
Australian reunion in Bozeman, MT
Was a beautiful white Merry Christmas!
Happy gathering of friends and making wishes!
And Christmas cookies with the little brother 🙂
New Year’s Eve 2014 brings me full circle back to Soldier Hollow, UT getting ready for Nationals and yet another beautiful sunset across the swan pond our rental house sits on with a full view of Mt. Timpanogos.
Jack and Pete take advantage of the offerings of our rental house, including the canoe to explore the pond.
So here’s a virtual cheers to everyone! May 2014 bring you happiness, love and fun. Happy New Year!!!!!