“You’ve Hit Rock Bottom”

Trained more hours than ever”. “PR-ed by 30 seconds”. “Set a new record in the race”. “Felt awesome in intervals”. These are all common statements by cross-country skiers throughout their summer and fall training—whether said in-person, at practice, or on social media. These statements reflect gains in fitness, strength, and technique: steps towards fulfilling the goals athletes set to eventually achieve peak performance during the season. But what happens when your summer is filled with slower times in time trials/races, feelings of tiredness that persist even with rest, interval sets where keeping up with your teammates and training partners is impossible? These intermediate measures reflect moving further and further away from your goals, and eventually those goals seem unattainable and ridiculous to even pursue. What does a fulltime athlete do when this is their reality?

As you might have guessed, currently I fall in that second category. Whereas many athletes have tracked progress on an upward trend this summer, my trend has been increasing downward, or at least all over the place. Some training days have been awesome, but the majority and, in particular, hard efforts in intervals and races, have been brutal and well off the mark I personally hold myself to. Starting in July and continuing throughout August, I found myself unable to train with my normal training buddies, feeling tired, confused and overwhelmed at why I could not keep up. I was training similar amounts to my teammates (which I’ll admit is not a small number) and focusing on recovering as much as possible, but I just couldn’t handle it. During workouts that I count as a strength of mine (uphill threshold skating), and being far behind everyone else, started to kill my confidence. By ranking myself behind, other types of workouts that always are a bit challenging for me (speeds, short sprint-pace efforts), turned into a brutal mind game that translated into questioning my potential to be a top-level racer. All through Alaska’s rainy, cold dreary August, I fell deeper into a negative feedback loop. The topping on the cake came in the last week when first, I developed a cold, and second, likely did not take enough time to rest and get healthy. And then less than a week later I jumped into a three-day time trial series with an uphill run, skate sprint and classic hill climb. Instead of setting PRs in these races, I was more than two minutes back from my personal records. The first day, in the uphill run, I thought I was going to simultaneously pass out and have my head explode from the pressure left over from my recent cold. Things did not improve from there.

My parents’ own a coffee mug that is from Rock Bottom Brewery and its slogan, “You’ve Hit Rock Bottom” echoed in my head after that first time trial. Now of course, I didn’t lose a loved one, I didn’t contract some terrible illness and overall, my life is running pretty smoothly. But when your day-to-day lifestyle revolves around training and your performance during those hours, it really feels like the bottom when things keep heading south.

It took a major wakeup call to drive through my stubborn head that something is not going well. After finishing up the time trial series, it did not take a genius to point out that I have to change my training and on a more personal note, my approach to skiing, if I want to reach the goals I set for this coming season. Now what made this realization so hard? It seems perfectly doable to train really hard, push yourself to exhaustion and overwhelm yourself with training load, intensity, summer races, lots of work hours and school when everything is going perfectly. As my teammate Chelsea Holmes put it, “when you are having good results, you are PRing and training tons, AND working to pay for all of it, you feel like a champ. You have this little muscle man angel on your shoulder screaming in your ear “YOU GOT THIS.” But when your results start to slip, your performance, or even your perceived performance isn’t up to par, all of a sudden that basket that you put every single last egg in…just fell apart.”

I have spent most of my athletic career working hard, then working even harder to get to where I am at. However, the top racers are not necessarily the hardest workers—in the literal sense of the term. Top performers are people who listen to their bodies and work really hard when the moment is right. And sometimes what is really hard is not driving yourself into the ground, but figuring out a way to rise up from the ashes. Acknowledging that you are not in a good place is really hard; it feels like you are acknowledging that you are weak, and in turn, that challenges part of your identity as an endurance athlete. Even harder is setting aside your pride enough to do what you need individually, especially if that is much less than everyone else. This is where I am at for the month of September.

The road back includes less training, less life stress and focusing on the positive. In truth, I’m not much of a concrete goal-setter, but this month I set goals that include less tears and breakdowns, slower training or taking more time off, and most of all: no comparisons—against my teammates, my personal records, my “competitors”, whomever. This process isn’t a temporary fix; it’s a long-term perspective shift. There will always be pressure to overdo, and consequently, times where we give into that pressure. When the consequences hit we simply need to adjust and figure out how to find balance, balance in training, in work, in relationships and in life.

Maybe my September plan will not work, but once you’re at the bottom the only place to go is up, right?

 

Some photos from the last month (including an awesome visit with my little sister; first time anyone in my family has been to Alaska!):

My sister, who lives around the world in Spain, came to visit after we hadn't seen each other in over a year!
We road tripped down to Homer
Fisher-woman extraordinaire
A rainy hike around Williwaw Lakes
Beluga Whales in Girdwood
Beautiful Anchorage sunsets above Fire Island. Photo: Anna
The only image I have of me rollerskiing from the entire summer.
Anna was a champ and hiked with me
McHugh Ridge on one of the rare sunny days with Anna
We explored the Turnagain Arm during our rainy camping trip.
Arctic Valley
Missed this girl!
dsc_0197
dsc_0174
dsc_0133

 

Risky Business

The APU Elite Team just finished our first glacier camp of the summer training season. This past week was my sixth time on the glacier and I finally feel like I understand the drill. Wake-up, drink coffee, eat breakfast, ski for 2-3 hours, eat lunch, bake (my energy supplier), read, wax skis, ski again for 2 hours, make dinner, eat, and go to bed…it all becomes a blur by the third day. While in the past I often became a little bored during each afternoon’s downtime, this year I found it a pleasant break from my day-to-day schedule of training, then work, then often biking or rollerskiing home from work to second training, then on the really crazy days, heading to a second job—whew! However, by the end of the week, while I was pretty exhausted from A LOT of training, I secretly looked forward to getting back into my busy schedule down in Anchorage.

This summer has looked a bit different than past summers in Alaska. While my first summer I found myself quite busy with schoolwork finishing my M.P.A. from NMU and ski training, and last summer I tutored and trained, this year I jumped off the “busyness” cliff and took a summer office job, continued tutoring, enrolled in APU class, and have grabbed any odd-job opportunity I can (looking for a house sitter: I’m your girl!). For a couple weeks in May, I diagnosed myself as psychotic. I felt like I was in a constant whirlwind of deadlines, places to be, logistical planning and not a moment to breathe. As a carless Anchorage-ite, I rode my Huffy (more adequately named my Huffy and Puffy as it weighs about 100lbs and only has two working gears—hard and easy), or rollerskied as my main form of transportation. I felt like a fool, as I would rollerski across busy intersections in Anchorage with my backpack full of work clothes and lunch. However, towards the middle of May things started to get easier. I got in better biking shape, I started realizing that after sitting at a desk for six hours the only thing I want to do is train and be outside, and everything became a bit more manageable. And then manageable became awesome. I remember summers in Bozeman and Marquette where I worked at hotels housekeeping or at McDonald’s, on your feet the entire time, but still quite energized to train a second time. Your off days become secret gems of anticipation and you look forward to the weekend like the rest of society. Long ODs of three hours seem quite short, and much better than deskwork for six. Everything becomes relative and instead of feeling drained, I, all of a sudden, seem to have more energy and positivity than ever.

I spoke with a teammate of mine who works a lot. She unfortunately is on her feet most of the time and deals directly with a fair amount of rude customers. Outside of the occasional horrible day, we both remarked how while work seems like a drag some days, overall the sense of purpose, and the filling of our days with activity outside of our sport, lets us bring more of ourselves to the table each training session. Now I understand everyone is different. I know athletes who need to solely focus on training and do not operate the same way as me. I know athletes who train and work full time jobs. Everyone is different. I do not see my outside obligations and pursuits as disruptive to my athletic goals and the process to achieve them.

I do not operate with 100% intense focus on skiing year round. I love to train, but training is part of my lifestyle; a run in the mountains will help me achieve my athletic goals, but it is also one of my favorite activities to do. Sometimes I struggle with finding the balance between working towards my goals and the outward futility of each baby step in the process. Will I ever get to where I want to be? My first year skiing with APU, results within racing and training took a new level of importance. Since I was “a professional”, I felt I had to act a certain way with a certain presence and level of knowledge. So although I was making technique and fitness gains beyond previous years, I fought internally with how to be the athlete I am, especially when it did not always fit into the stereotypical “Nordic Skier” mold. This also diminished my confidence and enjoyment I experienced training and racing. This past year, after spending a large chunk of the winter training alone, I started to question if I was pursuing something even achievable. Self-doubt breeds into a lack of confidence, and eventually race results show this.

Everyone analyzes their season in the spring, determines what went well and what failed. Oftentimes, the analysis discerns that an increased focus on training and a limitation on outside obligations are necessary. While true for some, I realized this is not how I operate. I am at my happiest, most productive, and therefore, “fastest”, when I am juggling with more than one ball. Of course, I am only human and so have hard days and need vacations, but overall this summer so far has been awesome—partly due to taking the risk to burden myself in addition to ski training. A wise teammate once said, “taking risks is essential to what we are as athletes, be it in a race or the big decisions of pursuing our sport full time”; while I continue to pursue skiing as my first and most important priority, sometimes the risk taken is to be authentic in your individual approach and believe in your process. My process this summer includes some outside pursuits, but pursuits that nonetheless enhance the journey to my end goal of performance on the snow. And of course, making some money can’t hurt either.

My only photo of the glacier, whoops!
Little O'Malley Trail
Yummy cake post-glacier camp!
Willowa Lakes

 

A Trip to the [other] Windy City

After the season ended in late March, I flew back to Alaska to 1. Get some work hours, 2. Enjoy some world-class crust skiing, and 3. Travel up to Barrow to participate in Skiku for the second year. Last year I journeyed up to the North Slope village of Wainwright, just a hop, skip and a jump (in a Cessna plane), from rural Alaskan “hub-city” Barrow. Due to some scheduling constraints with my APU M.B.A. weekend class, at the last minute I switched from my original assignment to the Barrow team. After spending three full days in a classroom, running a fake pharmaceutical company’s marketing through an online program, I was ecstatic to spend my days outdoors and not staring at a computer. Heeding forewarnings of dreadfully cold and windy weather, I borrowed Sadie’s giant parka, packed multiple pairs of ski pants, and flew to Barrow with the warmest clothing I own.

IMG_2004At our quick stop in Prudhoe Bay, I awoke to a comical scene of passengers attempting to cross the runway to the airport, only to have their hats and loose items rocketing off their bodies in the wind. As the flight attendant placed an orange construction cone on the crosswalk to guide passengers, the cone jetted off, straight-lining across the frozen tundra. I imagine there is a giant collection of orange cones somewhere in the Brooks Range, just waiting to be discovered in a thousand years by some archeologist who will attempt to explain the phenomenon with an overly academic theory. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked at the conditions and only hoped Barrow could somehow be better.

IMG_2002
A terrible quality photo but demonstrates how to dress in Barrow’s weather

Well, a bit to my dismay, Barrow’s weather mirrored the conditions in Prudhoe. After multiple people in the airport discouraged me from walking to the High School (only three blocks away), I set out to meet up with the team. Now, I have witnessed tornados, straight-line winds, even the BWCA storm of July 4th, 1999, but never in my life have I witnessed wind like in Barrow. The minute you stepped out around a wind block, you needed sure footing because the wind hit you like a semi-truck. It took about two days to just adjust to the weather conditions and manage to ski/stand upright. Barrow natives said that the long lasting windy weather was the worst they’ve seen in decades. But, of course, wind or cold, those kids were outside on skis.

Barrow is an interesting “village” because it is a regional hub for the North Slope. With a population around 5,000 people, and easy jet-plane access to Fairbanks and Anchorage, Barrow operates much more like a conventional small town/city than a rural Alaskan village. While the population is still predominantly Native Alaskan, much more diversity exists than in smaller villages. Barrow has three schools, and each school is significantly larger than the one school in many small villages. Barrow’s elementary school alone houses over 500 students. Due to the unique situation in Barrow and our large Skiku team size, we split up our days at each school. I spent one day each at the high school and elementary school, and three days at the middle school. This schedule pleased me because the middle schoolers had the most enthusiasm for skiing and with an earlier dismissal time, had the opportunity to ski after school. Similar to my Wainwright experience, you got to know the “regulars” pretty well and actually taught them some ski skills.

 In my opinion the best part of this program is to watch kids struggle, but persevere, though the skiing learning process. It is humbling to remember how difficult this sport is to learn, something that nowadays I often take for granted. Due to the wind in Barrow, even just skiing 500 meters presented quite the challenge. Nonetheless these kids put their heads down and trucked forward. At the end of our ski area’s straightaway, they held their arms up and windsurfed all the way back to the start—a reward for pushing through the conditions. At the end of the week we held a small race for anyone who wanted to participate. Most of our regular middle schooler group participated, along with some elementary school students. One of my favorite little skiers raced and then joined me to cheer on the younger kids, telling them to “send it to the finish line”. Watching the interaction of the kids and the ways they help each other try out new techniques is very rewarding (and rather comical). They convince each other to try out new skills, but also support one another when they fall or struggle. Of course, we both laugh when they topple over from a standstill and somehow get so tangled they cannot get up.

Out learning how to skate
Champ and I
One of our middle school classes

Barrow’s size offered us volunteers the chance to participate in more activities than usually found in rural Alaska. Along with some new friends, I attended a yoga class, rollerskated on the indoor roller rink attached to our intirent housing, and took a water zumba class! However, the highlight of my week (both in coolness-factor and tired-ness) came when a local whaling crew took us out on the sea ice to help build the road for their seal skin boats. Whaling season was just beginning during our week and all of Barrow’s whaling crews were scrambling to get their ice roads finished and sail out to the migration. Around 8pm on our last evening, our posse snow-machined out to the edge of the sea ice with our pick axes and sleds. We paved our way by sledgehammering giant ice chunks—the size of cars—into mini chunks that we used to fill in cracks to make a level path. Since the spring whaling vessels are made of seal skin, they tear easily and it would be devastating to pull your crew’s boat all the way to the ice’s edge only to have a tear. With armed watchmen guarding against any hungry polar bears, I kept myself entertained by pretending I was one of the dwarfs in Snow White and progressively became loopy after hours of pickaxing. I decided that last summer’s glacier project of building a Piston Bully road was nothing compared to the work a whaling crew did each spring. And the futility of the project! All the ice would soon melt away, along with our creation, a thought that increasingly became funnier as the night progressed. We worked for a number of hours and finished right as the sun set over the ocean.

Sunset around 10:30pm
The Arctic Ocean!
The sea ice we were chopping to make a road
Cole checking out the whaling harpoon

Watching the warm sunset colors dance across the cold sea ice and reflect over the surprising smooth Arctic Ocean was magical. This golden hour brought the end of our work and signaled it was time to return to Barrow for a small demonstration of the harpoons and guns a whaling crew uses. The hospitality of the whaling captain and his family displayed the unique community atmosphere I’ve experienced in each Alaskan village. It was the perfect way to cap off our week in Barrow.

Since returning from the Arctic, I found another summer part-time job working for a printer supply company in Anchorage. Along with Thomas O’Harra, I coached Denali Elementary’s Run Club, a fun way to hang out with some speedy youngsters. I logged quite a few crust skiing adventures and discovered some new cool spots up towards Hatcher’s Pass Road. Unfortunately, I am battling a bit of a heel/Achilles injury, but am looking forward to jumping into some Alaskan mountain running races coming up and our first glacier camp in early June. Until then I will be starting up another summer semester (two classes to go until my M.B.A. is finished), clocking some work hours, continuing to build up the training, and hopefully successfully hunting mushrooms.

Crust Cruising in Hatchers
#simba #africa
Getting some early season hiking in with Thomas and Sadie

VOTED AMERICA'S #1 LAUNDRY MAT! A MUST SEE IN GIRDWOOD
Bird Ridge shenanigans
IMG_1955

Jess and I are ready for summer BBQing!
Denali Elementary Running Club
Last Roommate Picture. And yes, I am strangely wearing a helmet.

Midwest Marathoning

This winter I followed a slightly different schedule than last year. I continued to race the Supertour through its Eastern tour, but soon after found myself back in the good, ol’ Midwest. I jumped into the Mayor’s Challenge races on my old stomping ground at Theodore Wirth, helped out at the Ski with the Stars Minnesota Youth Ski League relays, and made my way up to the largest ski race in the United States: the American Birkenbeiner. A week before the event went off, the Birkie was put on the FIS World Loppet race schedule, meaning a posse of fast Europeans jumped the pond to line up with us in Telemark. I had quite the experience-building race, working in the aggressive lead pack until the last 10 kilometers (even leading quite a few times, which you can check out here in the Birkie re-cap video: http://www.birkie.com/2016-birkie/). With 10 kilometers to go, I “hit the wall”, and V-1ed my way into the finish, perfectly planning my final “sprint” to align with David Norris’s (my APU teammate) victorious glory sprint to his first Birkie win! Of course, having a front row seat to the show was my plan all along…perfectly executed race plan!

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 1.19.29 PM
Taking a bit of a tumble in the Mayor’s Challenge 10k Classic Mass Start

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 4.47.51 AM

Birkie cakes in Hayward!
We convinced my dad the giant muskie actually was miniature.
I wanted to join the Giant Ski Race. Directly after this photo I fell on my face trying to step out of the bindings.

IMG_1617
Soren, my little buddy for the MYSL relays

After the Birkie, I returned back to Minneapolis for the best part of my month: Asian Week. Asian Week is the taste sensation celebration that involves taking advantage of Minneapolis’ diverse grocery stores, some Internet recipe research, and a dose of creativity, to create a homemade Asian dish every evening. From Monday’s spring rolls, Tuesday’s pad thai, Wednesday’s North Korean rice, Thursday’s sushi, Friday’s curry and Saturday’s Great Wall (my favorite Chinese restaurant in the world) end-of-week festapalooza, we went on a taste tour of all Americanized Asian culinary delights. After a weekend off, the next week I traveled up to Houghton, MI, to race Calumet’s Great Bear Chase. The Bear Chase is unique because it is a skiathlon on a 25-kilometer loop. You race one loop classic, and then transition to one loop skate. Because of low snow in virtually every venue we have raced at this season, we usually are forced to do short laps of a manmade loop. However, the Bear Chase was the exception, which made the race much more fun and entertaining. I skied with quite a few Midwest Masters—go number 66!, and won the women’s race, placing 10th in the men’s. Shout out to Bruce Manske and CXC for helping me with waxing!

GREAT WALL!
PAD THAI NIGHT (with frosty joining us!)
Spring Roll creations

 I was able to sneak in a few gorgeous sunny skis on the Michigan Tech trails, which still have feet of snow, and I jumped into a Ski Tigers practice, helping coach with my host for the weekend, Alice Flanders. From Houghton I headed back down to Cable, to watch and cheer at Junior Nationals, along with logging some kilometers on the Wisconsin ski super highway (the Birkie trail). After a sunny 60 degree day the first day, the racecourse closed, and so I joined some of the JN skiers for some skis on the Birkie trail. While the trail is probably on its last days, it was fun to share a quintessential Midwest icon with the Alaska team. Now, I am back in Minneapolis (hoping to ski, but mostly tanning in the 60+ degree weather) until the last races of my season at Spring Series in Craftsbury, Vermont next week.

Ski Tigers at the biggest downhill on the Tech Trails
I guess we tired them out?
Watching the junior race after our Thursday practice, fast skiers!

Lots of snow in Houghton!
Florida??!!
IMG_1742

The 1k race, with 2 massive hills!
Warming up for their race.
Women's "podium" with the World's creepiest bear

2016 Qaniq Challenge, Valdez, Alaska

            When planning my racing season earlier this year, I had an open space to fill between US Nationals and the Eastern Supertours in late January. Outside of local Midwestern races, a faraway race in Valdez, Alaska caught my eye. In its inaugural year in 2015, Valdez’s Qaniq Challenge brought in skiers from across Alaska, all vying for a $10,000 prize purse ($3000 for first, $1500 for second and $500 for third place respectively). Many of my APU teammates claimed these enormous sums (at least quite large for domestic professional ski racing), and I saw a chance to make some cash to help fund my season. Coupled with my luck to have housing in Alaska, I weighed out the cost of a one-way ticket to Anchorage and bought in.

            I competed in the American Birkebeiner in 2012 while racing collegiately for Northern Michigan University. To this day the Birkie remains one of my most memorable ski races—a feeling I know many skiers share. As the contagious Birkie fever begins to spread after the holiday season, many skiers start their calculated training regimens. Skiers focus on goals ranging from maintaining an elite wave start, to surviving the Hayward Lake crossing with a couple beer feeds in the belly. Come mid-February, the entire American ski community descends on the town of Hayward for an epic weekend of ski racing, reunions with faraway friends and celebration. The Qaniq Challenge in Valdez reminded me of my Birkebeiner experience. While many of the traditions of the Wisconsin festival have not yet been implemented in Valdez, that same atmosphere of fun, challenge and community surround the race weekend.

            Famous for world-renowned heli-skiing, Thompson Pass marks the end of the five-hour drive from Anchorage to Valdez. The pass crossing welcomes racers to the immense beauty of the Valdez harbor and surrounding peaks. While daylight is short during Alaskan winters, the low light of long sunrises and sunsets mark each day with streaks of pink and purple against a mountainous blue-white backdrop. The Qaniq is a two-day race series, with an emphasis on “challenge” and surprise as snow conditions and avalanche danger dictate the courses each year. This year the first day consisted of a 19-kilometer classic interval start, with a gender mixed starting order. The course winded around challenging uphills and a spiraling downhill, before finishing along the coast of the Valdez Harbor—featuring views to distract even the most focused racer. I finished first, which set me up well for the second day: a 15-kilometer skate mass start. Finishing times from both days combine to determine a racer’s overall placing, and in turn, the tantalizing prize money. The second day I skied in a pack with two-time Olympian Holly Brooks, fresh off her first Tour de China, and two male citizen racers. Flat as a pancake, the skate course did not lend itself well to breakaway moves or even a simple pass. After a drag race of leading and drafting, I was outsprinted by all members of my group in the end. Luckily for me, my lead from the first day allowed me to confidently claim the overall and head back to Anchorage with some bill-paying cash money!

            The impetus for the Qaniq came from current race organizer, Darryl Verfaillie, director of Valdez Recreation and Cultural Services. Upon meeting visiting APU Nordic Ski Center skiers two summers ago, he worked to design a race series that brought in elite level skiers and citizen racers, while showcasing Valdez’s beauty and unique ski community. Though the Qaniq Challenge still continues to evolve and grow, the enthusiasm and energy of the organizers and participants creates a memorable experience for all. After the racing finished, our APU group led a community ski clinic, attracting skiers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. The informality of the race series, and Darryl’s generous facilitation of our needs, let us become a part of the Valdez ski community for the weekend. Into the future I can see the Qaniq growing into one of the great American ski marathons, attracting racers from all over the country; in fact, as a native Midwesterner, I would highly encourage any racers with a desire to travel, witness the beautiful mountain and sea landscape and challenge themselves in a supportive race, to head to Valdez. Coupled with a great awards ceremony and post race pizza dinner, the Qaniq Challenge offers a unique way to visit beautiful Alaska during the winter months—and even head home with some extra cash.

My group finishing the 15k Skate Mass Start. I am number 5.
Our group coming into the finishing stretch of the skate race.

Casper Fenley showing off his Toko USA gloves
Lauren Fritz and I at the turnaround point of the 19k Classic Race

If you are interested in learning more about the 2017 Qaniq Challenge, please visit http://www.qaniqchallenge.com. For a more general write-up on this year’s race, check out http://skitrax.com/frankowski-treinen-win-2nd-annual-qaniq-challenge-in-valdez-with-10000-us-prize-purse/.

 

 

Rallying Support!

It is that time of year again…the end of summer and the beginning of planning for the approaching winter. Here in Alaska early fall translates to excessive berry picking, hunting for winter meat and winterizing the car, house, and more. This also means it’s time to start fundraising for this season’s cross country ski racing expenses.

After a very successful summer of training, I am excited to work towards even higher racing goals. Unfortunately, with higher goals comes higher expenses. The success of last year’s rally prompted me to conduct another Rallyme crowd fundraiser this year, hoping to gather support from near and far.  Please consider supporting my expenses: my rally can be found at https://ussa.rallyme.com/rallies/2089/rosie2015-16.

Similar to last year, your donation will support my travel, lodging and competition costs for the 2015-16 season of ski racing. Last winter your support sent me around the globe, racing to multiple top 10s at U.S. Nationals as well as finishing as one of the top American finishers at OPA (Central Europe) Cup Finals.

My rally will last for 45 days during which I hope to raise $5,000 for the upcoming season. This year I have added some exciting “swag” for various support amounts. You can also help me by spreading the word about my campaign through email, Facebook, and Twitter. In addition to financial support for the season, I greatly appreciate airline miles. If you wish to donate miles, please contact me through rosiefrankowski@gmail.com.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to contact me at any time with questions. If you are interested in corporate sponsorships, please contact me individually.

North Shore Livin’

What an incredible month it has been! I finished my APU summer course with a term paper on The Lumineers, one of my favorite bands. We completed our third glacier camp with the best weather I have ever experienced on Eagle. I traveled home to Minnesota for nine days and kayaked, fished, hiked and visited many old friends. Now upon returning to Anchorage we still start our transition into fall training, complete with more intensity and some hard time trials in preparation for the racing season. It is exciting to know that in a few months we will be on snow and back racing. However for now, I can’t wait for one of my favorite times of the year: the Alaskan fall. It only lasts about a week or two, but the colors in the mountains, the cooler weather and darkness (sunset and sunrise, what?!) contribute to marking fall as my favorite Alaskan season.

IMG_0178
Lydia and I at the August Glacier camp enjoying the sun!
IMG_0174
Beautiful, beautiful weather
IMG_0185
Fast group of ladies after our last sprint races of “glacier season”

This past training period we focused a lot on double pole, not exactly my favorite part of classic skiing, but vital nonetheless. Speaking for the women’s team, I know a lot of us felt like we made a lot of progress in
strengthening this technique. Unfortunately, due to a calf/shin injury, I haven’t been able to run much so have been finding alternative methods to train. While biking will never be my first choice in training, I have challenged myself with some spinning and a form of mountain biking on Lutsen, MN’s gravel roads. I can proudly say that I might be able to bike up the APU campus hill without getting off my bike when I return. And at least transporting myself around Anchorage will be much easier with some biking miles in my legs.

IMG_0332
My parents and I at the Grand Marais harbor on Lake Superior
IMG_2565
Lake Agnes on the Superior Hiking Trail
IMG_0254
One of the best parts of the North Shore
DSC_0929_2
Photo Credit: Anna Frankowski
DSC_0845_2
Little fisher sister
IMG_0309
Lake Caribou from White Sky Rock Overlook
IMG_0787
Sunset up on the Gunflint Trail. Photo Credit: Anna Frankowski

I owe a big thank you to Finn Sisu in St. Paul, MN, for helping me out with getting new classic rollerski wheels. With all the rollerskiing I have been doing new wheels have been a godsend in making the miles much smoother. If you are looking for Marwes, they are the store to head to! Now it’s off to prepare for three days of time trials. Enjoy the last few days of summer!

Summer Flying By

I can’t believe it is already July 16th. In my family July is “Birthday Month” as my sister and I both have birthdays two weeks apart. When I was younger, my birthday always marked the beginning of the end. Soon school would start, cabin and lake time would decline and before you knew it the Packers were once again dominating the NFC (raised by a Wisconsinite…).

These days not much changes between the spring, summer and fall seasons. I am still in Alaska, still training hard with my teammates and still balancing work, school and life. However that doesn’t mean the excitement is gone. My schedule revolves around our training blocks, 3 weeks on, one week off, allowing us three weeks to make fitness and technique gains and then a week to clear our heads and focus on the other parts of life (school, work, family time, etc.). This summer each block has two dry land training weeks and then a big week on the glacier.  Highlights of last week’s glacier camp include lots of soft snow skating, hard classic sprinting, an awesome last-day 50 kilometer OD ski and my first time hiking off the glacier down to the van 5000 ft below in Girdwood (talk about some sore quads the next day). The weeks leading up to the camp were filled with a big focus on double-pole classic skiing, some good-ol’ fashioned bounding intervals and a long run on my favorite trail in the world: Lost Lake out of Seward. I also watched Killian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg (and Alaskan Allie Ostrander) break the records at the infamous Seward Mount Marathon 4th of July race, and finished my three day APU Business of Entertainment and Telecommunications class intensive (class 8am-5pm for a three day weekend is loooong).

Looking forward I am heading to Aniak, an Alaskan Native village, to help lead a running camp and am hoping to finish lots of school work before organized training picks up again. Then it’s one more final push in summer training before we head into “the beginning of the end” and finish up our last summer glacier camp!

Zuzana Rogers-6585
Doesn’t get any better! Sports bra cool down lap
Zuzana Rogers-6604
TEAM APU
Zuzana Rogers-6558
RJ Jr. always working on those downhills…
Zuzana Rogers-6599
The name of the game this week…Swix Rossa and Uni mixin’
Zuzana Rogers-6532
The tagzone is always a bit hectic in our team relays…Becca and I actually had a hand-to-hand high five tag off this time. Not exactly the most efficient but it worked.
This angle does not do justice to how large this hill is. But it does conveniently highlight how short I am...
This angle does not do justice to how large this hill is. But it does conveniently highlight how short I am…
Zuzana Rogers-6578
The Snowball Award ceremony post-interval/race

All photos are from Reese Hanneman and Zuzana Rogers. A special thanks to Zuzana and Advanced Physical Therapy for keeping our bodies healthy up on the glacier!

Photojournalism: new career path?

When you have delayed-procrastinated-writing a post as long as I have this month, the simple task of updating supporters and friends on your skiing turns into a monumental task. Since inspiration has yet to find me while the clock continues to tick, I decided to “photo journal”. Here’s my spring, scrapbook style:

Molly Burger came to visit me for a week and I put her through fitness camp (and had a hard time keeping up with her!)
Molly and I on the Turnagain Arm
Finally a healed ankle and back to running!
Lots of Hatchers Adventuring
RJ Jr. Crust Cruisin'
Jess, Sadie and I on #anotherbestday. Photo Credit: Jess Yeaton
Symphony Lakes with Taryn and Lydia
Eagle Lake still frozen up high
Rocking some new Brooks Cascadias thanks to GearWest!
Marine Dusser and I on top of Wolverine
Rabbit Lakes with Jess and Marine
On top of Little O'Malley during an Anchorage evening
Mackenzie Kanady and I on top of Bird Ridge
Finally, up to the Glacier for the first of three summer on-snow camps
A 5am view of the glacier once the first few days of clouds lifted
AND WE DID IT! 3 hrs of skiing later. Becca wins Best Outfit. Photo Credit: Becca Rorabaugh
Glacier Camp #1 Team
Amazing conditions on our last day!
Thanks for the rides (and garden snacks) Alpine Air!
IS THIS ALASKA?!
APU Ladies after auctioning off our Seafood Dinner at the APU Gala
Corey Stock from Dartmouth is living with me for the summer and we are having a blast, although not all our dinners are this classy...
TEAM ROSIE on top of Wolverine. Photo Credit: Becca Rorabaugh
Hikes with visiting friends...near the top of McHugh
Bird Ridge Time Trialling
This lady crushed it while lookin' good

Skiing on Alaska’s North Slope

May is the time of the year when all Nordic skiers gear up for the new training season, and blog posts about their spring adventures start rolling in. Of course, as I spent my April in Alaska I had the opportunity to travel near and far for some great experiences. One major experience stuck out: my participation as a coach for Skiku, an Alaskan nonprofit that brings elite skiers into Alaska Native villages to teach children how to cross country ski.

IMG_2603

Photo Credit: Zach Bassett

With my Skiku group, I traveled to Wainwright, Alaska, smack dab in the middle of the North Slop. Wainwright is the furthest North I have ever been, sitting at the 70.6° N latitude. Our travel to Wainwright consisted of three flights: Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay, Prudhoe Bay to Barrow and Barrow to Wainwright. Wainwright felt like culture shock equal or greater to international travel. The villagers spoke English (mixed with words from their native language: Inupiat), their school system operated like any American school, and the town companies and industries were American; however, the environment the town exists in can only be described as bizarre and unique. I felt as if a plane dropped me off in the middle of frozen Lake Superior, complete with sandy snowdrifts, headwinds in every direction, and white as far as the eye could see, void of anything to break the horizon. As the only way to travel in and out of the village is by air or snowmobile, it was the most isolated I have ever felt in my life.

My group members and I immediately started to reach out to villagers and children to get them excited to ski. We participated in the town’s Spring Festival, a yearly event to send off whaling crews for their annual hunt. We attended an intense Baptist Church service, and we made friends with some of the village elders. Skiku schedules the North Slope village trips late in April to allow for warmer weather conditions, but the cold (around 0 degree in the morning to as high as upper 20s in the afternoon) still felt bitterly cold with a strong Arctic wind howling down on us. The kids complained about the “heat”, often shedding their jackets and hats to ski around in only a T-shirt, quite different from my usual five to six layers of bundling. As I expected from hearing stories of other village experiences, the kids’ excitement about skiing could not be matched. Due to the geographical isolation of many Alaska Native villages, new activities or town guests cause quite the uproar (in the most positive way). Our 70 pairs of boots and skis were all checked out after-school and often times we had about 40 kids skiing during all hours of school. Not only does Skiku get kids outside and excited about exercise, but it also teaches them lessons of hard work, diligence and how to have fun in their environment. It is loads of fun for coaches too. I spent many of the days laughing (both at and with the kids), and learning some new tricks myself.

IMG_2723 copy 2

Photo Credit: Zach Bassett

On the last day, the sun came out and almost the entire school came out skiing or to join in the excitement. I convinced a few kids to do some laps of the school area with me, a track of about 300 meters. One of the kids, Jono, worked with me a few times that week and struggled a bit getting frustrated when he would fall. However that day Jono set out to race me, he was to complete five laps while I did ten. Jono gave me a run for my money during our race, as I narrowly managed to complete my laps before him. Then, right after catching his breath at the end, he started up again.

“We’re done Jono, you finished the race”, I yelled after him.

“I want to keep going. Come with me”, he called back. And with that we started up again. Jono huffed and puffed along, flinging off his jacket and hat. While sweat poured down his face I told him about long races I had done, including a rather infamous Spring Series 30k on a 1.5k loop. After about an hour of laps (reaching near twenty for both of us now), I told him he might want to take a break. He had started to trip and fall frequently and other kids had begun to pack up and head home for the night. Jono kept trucking.

“I want to do twenty-two.”

“I want to do twenty-five.

“Pleeeeaaaase, let me do one more.”

Once we reached twenty-six and the clock ticked to six in the evening, I told Jono we would do one more and call it a day. Jono decided we would race this lap and took off as fast as he could. While he fell about five times during the lap, when he finished, he wore a look that many cross country skiers know well: the satisfaction of pushing yourself to a new level.

“I did twenty-seven laps Rosie!”

I was amazed at what Jono achieved. With only four days on skis under his belt he skied over eight kilometers and did so motivated completely by himself. This moment was the defining moment of my first Skiku experience. The kids’ excitement and passion to get outside and try something very difficult blew me away, and reminded me of the simple joys of “sliding” down a hill or “flying” off a jump.

And the best part: Skiku was only one week of my spring adventures. More updates on incredible experiences, including crust skiing at Hatcher’s Pass, peak bagging around Anchorage and an amazing visit with Molly Burger, are soon to come. ‘Til then, happy start of training to all you skiers out there!

Dead Bug

Photo Credit: Zach Bassett