Home for the Holidays – 12 Days of Christmas!

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. πŸ™‚

1) Here comes the Sun

IMG_5200PK 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.

IMG_5198Dark but happy.

2) Fire and Ice.

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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 πŸ˜‰

IMG_5268Ice hot tub on the left, ice bar in the center, bonfire on the right.

IMG_5255Ice pillars entrance.

IMG_5269Amazing bonfire.

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.

IMG_5270Sending off my lantern and wish πŸ™‚

3) Cookies cookies cookies. It’s not Christmas without cookies! Enough said.

IMG_5178The fixings.

IMG_5382The results.

IMG_5190Almond 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.

IMG_5280Being silly with PK after finding Christmas decorations on trees on the ski trails.

FullSizeRenderGetting silly with the King crab legs for dinner.

IMG_5327Me and “my boys” at the Christmas ski. Cameron, my “big” little brother and PK.

Christmas group skiThe 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.

IMG_5220Not really sure what they’re supposed to be, but the lights are cool and bright!

IMG_5222PK 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 πŸ˜‰ We were pretty good this year so we didn’t get coal!

IMG_5289Family Stockings

IMG_5311PK’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!

FullSizeRender_1Snow falling on X-mas

FullSizeRender_2Our 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.

IMG_5318Little 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!

IMG_5337PK enjoying the complete puzzle

10) Brickify me!

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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.

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IMG_5344An odd collection of Lego sculptures

IMG_5340There was a photo of a woman actually wearing this!

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IMG_5346There were LOTS of kids around.

IMG_5348PK’s creation: Eiffel Tower turned Japanese Pagoda. Mine is the Alaska Flag on the table.

11) Puck it.

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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.

IMG_5359The bonfire barrel

 

12) Not the gumdrop buttons! (Name that movie).

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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!

IMG_5365The giant terrorizing the village

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December in Alaska

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.

IMG_5126Our very own Christmas tree, courtesy of my roommate and his girlfriend.

IMG_5138Night skiing made easy with lighted trails!

IMG_5149Sunset from my office window…at 3:30pm…

Instagram Photo

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.

Hickok Duathlon

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.

Instagram Photo

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

Besh Cups

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.

IMG_5366Racing the quarterfinal. It was about 3pm, so we were already losing light. Photo by PK

IMG_5371Racing the A-final. I am the furthest right skier with the glimmer of orange in my poles. Photo by PK

16078347032_030ddc407f_kMore sprinting. Photo by Pat Cooper

16053257286_7548eb8dd8_kLooking 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!

IMG_5397Getting 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.

IMG_5198PK and I on a morning ski, around 9:30am…still dark…

IMG_5200PK fully understanding the meaning of winter solstice πŸ™‚

Merry Christmas to everyone and have a safe, fun and joyful holiday!

Montucky Rodeo

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…

IMG_2473Because 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.

West Yellowstone

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…

IMG_5054The ladies, Flora and mini-Flora (Oskar!) in West.

IMG_5061Having fun on a sunny recovery day ski in West.

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IMG_5052The Flora clan joined us in West this year and never ceased to amaze us. Already getting after training at the gym!

IMG_5057Thanks to all my amazing equipment sponsors this year! Rossignol, Toko, Craft, Rudy Project and Skida. Photo: Ian Harvey/Toko US

Bozeman

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.

IMG_2487In a good position during my quarterfinal

IMG_2497Coming off the sketchy downhill corner. You can see the giant puddle just behind us. They rerouted the corner wider during heats to avoid it.

IMG_2552Rosie crushing the final; no one in sight as she comes into the stadium.

IMG_2536Enjoying 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.

IMG_5101My two favorite Aussies! The 3 best friends together again!

IMG_5112APU 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.

IMG_5089More team bonding with a sing-a-long night!

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Flora kids loving their 2nd Thanksgiving dinner in one week!
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Chef Packer with the tools
Sunday Thanksgiving after racing all weekend...tasted even better!

IMG_5116Pack ’em in tight!

IMG_5117Post-racing scramble-fest of waxing and packing ski bags!

IMG_5118Q: 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.

IMG_5120Tyler, 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***

IMG_5124Unfortunately 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!!

It’s November?!

November:
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.

 11013_10152753768713346_8168687607829958012_nExcited 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.

10313391_10152502511347689_9094737859198776025_nBack 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.

10700134_10204001448371281_106238567680957892_oMy 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).

2014 Recap

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.

In March, PK and I flew out to Aniak and Sleetmute, rural villages along the Kuskokwim River in Western Alaska to ski with village kids for a week as part of NANANordic/Skiku.
Thanks to PenAir for flying us out there!
Getting the 4-seater bush plane ready for our trip from Aniak to Sleetmute.
Flying over Sleetmute, pop. 75
Skiing on the Kuskokwim River!
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Showing the pre-K kiddies how to put on/take off their skis
Teamwork
...sometimes you just gotta get them to where you're going
The middle/high schoolers in Sleetmute
Sleetmute Elementary kids/teachers
Bush traveling Alaska-style
In April, I returned to the village of Selawik for another NANANordic trip. I visited Selawik last year and it was really cool to return and recognize a lot of the kids. Selawik is just above the Arctic Circle, about 500 miles northwest of Anchorage, pop. 830, and is quite a different lifestyle than Anchorage.
NANANordic coaches heading back to the school after walking around town
We had an awesome group of coaches this year in Selawik: Alice Knapp, Greta Anderson, Zach Hall, myself and Dana Tower.
Alice, Dana and I all went to MIddlebury, so we brought a banner because what a sweet setting for a mini-Midd reunion. It was a great day to be a panther!
Setting up the equipment room to get ready for the onslaught of kids!
Trying to keep them orderly as we head out.
Greta and I with an elementary group. We had hundreds of kids come out to ski with us over the week!
Having fun sliding on the hill.
We also went on some crust cruises outside the village to see the landscape, and we chased down the caribou herd passing through the area; just like traditional hunters on skis long ago!
Arctic landscape.
We watched a family butcher a caribou.
And often skied past locals ice-fishing for sheefish, the fish after which the village is named. Selawik comes from "siilvik" which means "place of sheefish" in Inupiaq.
Salmon drying.
More spring adventures in the Anchorage area: hiking with PK
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Crust skiing at Portage Lake and Glacier
We also did some backcountry skiing near Portage. Overlooking an ice field in Prince William Sound
Backcountry turns.
More Nordic crust cruising at Hatcher Pass
Into Summer: "Hurry up and wait" is the standard motto for glacier camp travel.
Eagle Glacier time!
June Camp brought a week of blinding blizzard conditions. This is our window at the beginning of camp.
Our window about 4 days later...at least it blocked the summer midnight sun!
Snowy snowy June.
The PB was constantly grooming laps trying to keep the snow drifts in check. Some of the best glacier conditions I've ever skied in though! It was like mid-winter skiing.
Snow drifts outside the wax conex
Poles inside the conex got iced up
Preparing to go outside.
Conditions outside didn't stop us from icing our weary feet.
Alpine Air Alaska is amazing at getting us and our gear in and out of the glacier safely.
Some great views flying out.
In July, the first heli load got dropped literally in the middle of the glacier. We had to wait for an hour for the coaches to get the PB down from the facility on the ridge to pick us up. It was an experience.
APU/USST Women's Camp + Norwegian National Team skier Celine Brun-Lie. Great fun group!
Women's train
Another Mt. Marathon on July 4th. Came 7th this year, not my best, but it was a hot hot day and there were some fantastic women on the mountain.
Back to some fun hiking adventures
Rosie and I overlooking Williwaw Lakes.
Summer fun at the beach in Anchorage.
GCI took Holly and I to Valdez (via private jet!) for a community outreach day.
Hanging out in Seward with my roomie, Heather.
August again found me making the trek down to Australia to visit PK.
Overlooking the Rocky Valley at Falls Creek.
Lots of sun this year in Oz.
Evening ski in beautiful light.
Second in the Aus Nationals skate sprint.
PK came 3rd in the Kangaroo Hoppet! I finished 4th, off the podium, behind 3 Olympians.
Kangaritos: fusion cuisine.
Post racing: BEACH TRIP! PK and I went to northern Queensland.
View from Port Douglas.
We spent a day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Pretty amazing.
Snorkel selfie.
Great Barrier Reef!
Building sand castles, staying young!
Back to Melbourne before I flew home.
Mike, a good friend of PK's, took us to the Melbourne Cricket Ground Member's Reserve section for a game of Aussie Rules Football (aka footy).
Finally got to see Koalas at a local sanctuary. Very cute!
Back to Alaska for fall.
More mountain adventures.
Ran into some baby bears!
Momma bear and 3 cubs at Kincaid.
Last mountain adventure with Heather. Ptarmigan Peak behind us.
APU women's team had some dinners to prepare. We can ski fast and cook delicously.
One of the dishes we prepared.
One of the hosts had a plethera of animals in his house, including this brown bear!
Had some pretty fall training with the ladies.
This is how we roll.
Autumn light is spectacular for photos.
I headed down to Park City for a two week training camp plus a day of Fast and Female!
learning about speed skating.
Playing in the foam pit at the USSA Center of Excellence.
My girls got strength and skillz.
Franki and I enjoying Utah.
Fall colors at Guardsman Pass.
Post-wicked hard bounding intervals: smiles!
THANK YOU to Zuzana and Advanced Physical Therapy Alaska for keeping us in working order so we can train our best.
Sadie and I enjoying the sun during our last day in Utah.
Came home to SNOW in Anchorage and skiing.
Halloween intervals in costume.
Mom's new puppy, Summit!
The snow unfortunately didn't stick around town too long and it was back to dryland, but at least we got some nice running and good weather.

Adios 2013 in Photos!!

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!!!!!

January

582296_10151425825458417_323017770_nThe new year started off with US National in Soldier Hollow, UT. Pictured here in the skate sprint.

DSCN0550After Nationals I stabbed myself de-pitting an avocado and ended up with stitches in my hand for a few weeks.

DSCN0551But then I got some good no-pole sessions that got my legs nice and strong πŸ™‚

tdtc-sprint-podiumI got my second SuperTour podium in the Tour de Twin Cities!

February

BMT-finishWinning the Boulder Mountain Tour in Sun Valley, ID by an inch.

IMG_8139Tagging off to Mark in the team sprint in Sun Valley for the win

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.

DSCN0602I finally got to visit my brother at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

March

Aces-puck-dropReese and I got to drop the puck at an Alaska Aces pro hockey game in Anchorage

Not a bad race backdrop! The US girls contingent post-raceI raced in Italy. Not a bad race backdrop! The US girls contingent post-race in Italy.

IMG_9021Flying back to the US my plane flew over Greenland, which was an incredible sight! The ice field went on forever.

Overlooking Donner Lake in TruckeeI had a great time training in the sun in Truckee/Lake Tahoe, CA in late March gearing up for Spring Series.

April

It's a miracle we didn't fall backwards and split our heads open.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. πŸ™‚

It was a long, physically and mentally tough race. But I made it. Spring Series in Truckee was a warm slushy sufferfest, racing later into April than ever before, but I survived.

IMG_0162PK joined me for a week in Alaska where he saw his first moose!

IMG_9488I 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.

Sunset the last nightSunset in the Arctic, around 11:30pm

May

Hatcher-skiMay brought CRUST SKIING galore!! pictured here at Hatcher Pass in late May.

may-blizzard-skiIt also brought another snowstorm, enough to ski up and down my road.

GNT-finishThe snowstorm was followed THE NEXT DAY by the annual women’s triathlon, where I crushed the run split by 1:40 despite racing in sub-40F temps. It was quite miserable, I assure you.

June

AKRFW-tongueoutRunning season started up with the Alaska Run for WomenAKRFW-ravenettesMy awesome coworkers, Emma, Reidun and winner Susan (L-R)

RabbitCrk-bailoutSki 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…

20130617-222112.jpgJune also brought a heat wave with several weeks of 80-degree temps that led to many a creek visit, even at 9pm!!

IMG_1183A solid week of Eagle Glacier training with splendid weather brought June to a nice close

July

Lauren Fritz 24th on the 4th–coming off the mountain in Mt. Marathon Race in Seward. Love that race!

IMG_1397Salmon season!! Alaskan specialty

DSCN0756A quick kayak trip to Prince William Sound with my dad and brother was a nice break from training.

IMG_6719Then it was back to the glacier for another badass camp with the US Ski Team girls and Norwegian Astrid Jacobsen

August

One word: AUSTRALIA.

IMG_9838It was my turn to visit PK in Australia!!

IMG_9805Hanging with the local mob

IMG_1549Of course, I hit two birds with one stone and put in 3 weeks of on-snow WINTER training!

IMG_1594Skiing the Bogong High Plains

Kangaroo-Hoppet13Racing my way to 2nd in the Kangaroo Hoppet, a 42km marathon race at the end of August.

IMG_0375Pretty amazing experience!

IMG_0947Making more friends.

IMGP0116And yes, I went surfing!

September

fall-rollerskiingBack home for some good rollerskiing with the team.

IMG_1912And some good long run/hikes in the mountains before the snow comes

IMG_1108And of course, beautiful fall colors and sunsets. Not sure if the leaves reflect the orange of the sun or vice-versa…

IMG_9264I 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.

October

IMG_2055Off for two weeks training hard in Park City, UT

IMG_2122Deer Valley after a light snow

PC-ODrunOverlooking Park City on our last long run

IMG_2241Then back to Anchorage where we held a fun Fast and Female event and hundreds of girls turned out!

November

IMG_2386The beginning of winter brought PK back to Alaska for a few weeks before the season started

IMG_2393And more gorgeous sunsets.

IMG_2434Fantastic early-season skiing at Hatcher Pass with Rosie

IMG_2518Aussie boy’s first snow angel!

IMG_2566Winter also means COLD

West-Yellowstone-TokoThanksgiving meant it was back on the road for racing in West Yellowstone, MT that left more to be desired.

IMG_2597Australian reunion in Bozeman, MT

20131210-101916.jpgCollege roommates reunited in West Yellowstone, MT

December

imageDecember took us to B.C. for more races. Becca and I were psyched about the cool trails.

dec-sunriseThen it was home for Christmas and late-morning sunrises.

IMG_2785Was a beautiful white Merry Christmas!

IMG_2801Happy gathering of friends and making wishes!

xmas-cookiesAnd Christmas cookies with the little brother πŸ™‚

besh2I jumped in a snowy Besh Cup in Anchorage (Charlie Renfro photo)

IMG_1211New 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.

IMG_1220Jack and Pete take advantage of the offerings of our rental house, including the canoe to explore the pond.

photo (13)Making snow at SOHO, stay tuned for more news πŸ™‚

So here’s a virtual cheers to everyone! May 2014 bring you happiness, love and fun. Happy New Year!!!!!