Spring Break…

The 50k skate in Sun Valley was the final race of the season, and it wasn’t anything to write home about. Besides, of course, the crazy ice and the normal challenges that go along with a 50k National Championship race. Last year, I finished 3rd in the 50k Championship, which was a sweet way to end it all; but that was classic, and this one was skate, which I knew just wouldn’t quite give me the same chances.

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One race earlier in that week that was notable was the 15k classic. The course was 3 laps of a 5k, and the climbs on the loop were milder than a lot of the really gnarly steep courses that we race. So, I decided to do something that I have never done before… I double poled a classic distance race on skate skis. I did it because I actually thought that for me, it would be faster over the whole 15k. Yes, there was a long climb that took roughly 6 minutes to get up, but I had tested it out and thought that I would be able to muscle the double pole up it about the same speed as the guys who were striding, and then make up some time on the long downhills.

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There is something very unnerving leaving the start gate of a classic race, knowing that for the next 40 minutes you can use nothing but your arms to get yourself up every hill. At this point in the race, I had caught and passed Noah Hoffman, who had started 15 seconds ahead of me. He would subsequently pass me back later in the race, as my ability to double pole as powerfully slowly diminished:

photo - Lander Karath/Fasterskier

photo – Lander Karath/Fasterskier

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After that finale, I returned to Alaska for some much needed time off from competitive ski racing. After so many months of going from venue to venue, and race to race, testing skis and training and prepping, and packing and unpacking, over and over and over again… I just wanted to do anything but that.

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Easter weekend was just what I needed. Spending a few days deep in the Alaska Range with my family and friends, snow machining and powder skiing and even some xc touring, with absolutely beautiful weather and perfect, bottomless, powder snow.

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Team Hanneman loving being together:

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Bro Logan… Laying it down through the high backcountry:

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XC skiing on the closed, snowed-in Denali Highway with my mom:

4 a Reese Nancy Summit

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Two weeks ago, I went traveled way up north to the village of Nuiqsut, Alaska. I have been involved with the NANA Nordic program since its beginning, and it is one of the most tremendously rewarding things I get the chance to do. It started in the NANA region (Northwest Arctic), and because of the success and the incredibly positive impact on the youth of the region, has expanded significantly to include a large portion of rural Alaska, and now called SKIKU. It really is an incredible program, and you can learn more about it here.

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Nuiqsut is one of the furthest north settlements in North America, situated between Prudhoe Bay and Barrow, Alaska, and 30 miles-ish from the ocean up the Colville River.

Nuiqsut Alaska map location arctic

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Flying in:

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Having landed, the next step is unloading and finding one of the village trucks to take you to the school, which is home base:

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We spend a school week teaching the kids to ski during their scheduled PE classes, and then with multiple open sessions after school. Over the years, I have had so, so many teachers and parents tell me that they have never seen the kids get as excited about something. Slipping and sliding:

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That feeling of accomplishment, after so many times falling down:

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It also offers an amazing learning experience for us “coaches”. Not just physical and social, but cultural. On a few of the trips, I have gotten to hang out with a few of the older kid while they are training for Native Youth Olympics. This week, I got to have multiple days with them, and to have them really walk me through what they do. If you’re not familiar with NYO and the competitions, you can check it out here. There’s a pretty cool short video on the homepage of that site.

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One of the most impressive is the One Footed High Kick, which involves kicking a ball suspended in the air with one foot, and then landing only on that same foot that you used to kick it. This high-schooler boy, Phillip, was kicking 89” the day I was there, which is 7-foot-5 inches!! He told me that the world record is 113”, which is 9-foot-5 inches. Imagine jumping off the ground, kicking just shy of a full size basketball rim with your right foot, and then landing only on your right foot. Yeah; absolutely insane. Here, Phillip training:

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We had some amazing skiing. One of the coolest things is seeing the kids find incredible joy by doing something that seemed too hard when they started out. The first day is inevitably tough; they have very little feel for what it means to glide and skate, let alone stand up. I spend a lot of time helping kids get untangled on the ground, and how to stand back up. But it’s one of those lead-by-example things, where the more I zip around between groups and between healping each one, the more they watch and observe and learn how to ski. Before you know it, they are gliding down little hills and skating around the flat terrain. By the end of the week, they cannot stop smiling as they zoom around town, down big hills and bombing down the riverbanks. The progression is incredible, and the stoke is high:

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I got the chance to speak to each one of the classes in the school, from high-school seniors all the way to kindergarteners, about my journey as a ski racer and the “uphills” and “downhills” that I get to experience along the way. It’s fun to share stories of my training and racing, of success and failures, and tie it all together with some positive ways they can better their own journeys.

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The setting gives me a chance to make some really personal connections with some of them. They feel comfortable asking more questions, or even just wanting to see more pictures or videos of ski racing:

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I wish I was always as excited about ski training as these kids are about getting to go out!

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And the beautiful Arctic 11pm sunsets…

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After that trip, I just tried to recover a little bit and not worry about doing any training. It seemed like just the other day I was racing that 50k…

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Spring backcountry skiing is always good option for solid aerobic training, without thinking of it as such. The further and higher you climb, the bigger the payoff, right?? Tracks from our first run of the day, with so much potential terrain out there too:

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At the top, after a solid morning of leg-burning uphill with my buddy Etienne:

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We are right in the thick part of putting together our Spring Celebration event, which is on May 8th at 6pm. If you are in Alaska, and especially Anchorage, YOU ARE INVITED!!! There is always some incredible stuff in the silent auction for silly cheap prices, and we would LOVE to have you there!!

APU Spring Celebration (1)

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Thanks for reading!!

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