Thursday, September 17, 2015

Standing On My Two Feet

This fall has been an adjustment in a few regards. 

First, we suddenly went from the most fantastically sunny summer ever in Alaska, into a cold, chilly, and wet fall. We shifted straight from training in shorts and tank tops to full length tights and jackets… jumping over that middle ground. 
Erik preparing for a swim.. nice way to break up the rain training.
Second, as fall hits, life becomes busier than ever. With sponsor events, team functions, Fast and Female planning, and school starting up again… the day becomes full on "game mode" from 7AM until 8PM. iCalendar becomes my best friend as I try to keep track of all ten separate places I must be throughout the day. 
Saltchuk Family Day- potato sack races and all! 
Third, training becomes even more intense than normal. We shift from lots of base training throughout the summer, to lots of base training combined with lots of intervals! Sleeping and resting becomes evermore important.
Taking advantage of recovery training with buddies.
And finally, after my most successful year of "injury-free" training, I took a little turn. Mid July I had a big fall when I was rollerskiing and banged up my hand pretty bad. X-rays didn't show any major breaks, but there was a fair amount of ligament damage. I was put in a hard-brace for an eight week recovery, but the future was still plenty bright. I was forced to do some one pole skiing, avoid biking, and be extra cautious for my usual and frequent little tumbles I seem take. Six weeks into my recovery, I was flying down one of the hills on the rollerski path into a blind corner,  and as I came around it I came face to face with a mom and baby moose. My immediate reaction was "stop as quick as you can." Having seen an angry momma moose stomp one of my teammates a few years back… I wasn't interested in partaking in that sort of activity. So… I sat down on the side of the trail as quick as I could… hitting my tailbone at full force and unfortunately bending my fingers backwards around my hard cast that was protecting my hand injury. I stood up as quickly as I could, racing the opposite direction, back up the hill, and immediately felt I had done something very wrong to my bum that was screaming in pain, and my fingers that were quickly puffing up into balloons. 
Double brace syndrome
Going to the doctors office for x-rays becomes a lot less scary when this guy is guarding the room! Thanks AFOC and Greg Schumacher for taking good care of me!
And that is how I went on to break my ring finger and do some quality ligament damage in the opposite direction just as I had six weeks before! It turns out pavement is more dangerous than expected… especially with no brakes! Standing on my two feet has just not been working out so well for me this fall.

So, it was time to head home… back to my roots… maybe learn how to stand on my two feet again. Last week I got to spend an awesome week in the Methow enjoying my last bits of warm weather, my last bits of family time with my sister and granny before the winter approaches, and my last bits of parental spoiling that I really miss! I haven't been home during the month of September since I was living there, so I forgot how awesome fall is. Temperatures were a little warmer than normal, but I got to see some changing leaves, smell some familiar fall smells, and have some flash back memories from the start of school.

A little warmer than AK..!!
Surprise birthday parties with Granny!
Not too bad!!
A little change in scenery.

I also got to spend a day with the local cross country running team and ski club. We talked goals, talked dreams, talked training, and talked about the path I took. It was super fun to see some serious talent coming together back home. There are certainly champions in the making back there!

Rollerski Speeds
Ella Hall
Agility training
Nordic Team Crew
My final day I got to do a four hour run in the mountains with my mom and dad. The North Cascades are a seriously amazing place… I always forget how amazing those mountains are. They are different than anything I see in AK, so I am like a kid in a candy shop when I go back! As we were heading down the final 30 minutes with both my mom and dad… I realized how lucky I am. No wonder I learned to love this sport, and learned to love this goal of mine. I learned how to stand on my two feet chasing my parents around in the mountains with my brother and sister. To this day, I still get to do that (not often enough)! I couldn't be more thankful to my parents for teaching me this passion, and reminding me why I am doing this! It is nice to have little reminders periodically, it keeps me excited about what I am doing every day.

Still getting my butt kicked by mom.
Cutthroat Pass.
Beauty Places!
So now I am back in AK for the next three weeks, back on the pavement, and crossing my fingers that I stay on those two feet of mine!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

10 Signs You Have Fallen In Love With Your Job.

1. It brings you to amazing places.

Lex watching a great sunset up on Eagle
Rosie and I all bundled in our llbean rain gear- prepared for a wet descent.

2. It makes you work harder than you could ever imagine for it, but the rewards are high.

Saved by a coke after a long week, and a long final workout!
3. You are happy to make sacrifices for it on a year-around basis. 

4. When it challenges you, you are willing to take on adversity and be resourceful.

Blurry hike on the treadmill after a rollerski crash left my knee and hand pretty banged up.
Best part about wearing your bones on the outside of your gloves... you can check up on any broken ones easily!
5. It brings together with an amazing group of people to collaborate with and improve from each other.
The Women's Team after a sunny and incredibly intense team sprint workout. (Eric Packer photo)
Thanks to these amazing men for keeping the Glacier going! Erik Flora, Don Haering and Andre  Lovett. (Eric Packer Photo)
APU Team celebrating the end of a sweet summer! (Eric Packer photo)
Thanks to our amazing coach, Erik Flora, for managing 100 tasks, always staying positive, and believing 110%!
6. It takes you outdoors in all varieties of conditions, but never lets you focus too much on the weather.
Sunny, or.... (Eric Packer photo)
Not so pleasant....
7. It leaves you feeling fit, happy, and challenged.

Enjoying every second! (Eric Packer photo)
Tyler vs. Rosie. How to get two sets of skis up the long 1km climb from the stadium?
A perfect day on Eagle (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
8. It teaches you about a variety of things, including the changes in climate and glaciers and how to observe your surroundings.

A glacier melting down to blue ice in new places.
Many varieties of snow crystals throughout the day on Eagle. (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
9. You love every second of it, including the brutally long and challenging training hours, races, intervals, and more.

The boys pushing hard, working on uphill DP (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
Team Sprinting with Thomas-Finding the race mindset. (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
Giving it all (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
10. It constantly reminds you to be thankful for the opportunity you are given. 

Racing around the world representing your country!
Skiing on a Glacier in the middle of summer...!! (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
Last week was APU's third and final week of training on Eagle Glacier for the summer. It was a successful camp despite some little hurdles thrown my way just before. (I took a big crash on roller skis that left me with a fairly banged up knee and a hand with some sort of ligament/bone damage).  But, sunshine cures all frustrations, and that last kilometer skied for the summer on Eagle was my happiest. Over the course of the summer, I had some great time to work on technique goals, I got to ski hundreds of kilometers, and I got to focus my heart on ski racing 100%. 

I have been to fourteen camps now on Eagle Glacier, and it still hasn't gotten old. I am just as excited, motivated, and incredibly thankful as I was my first camp on Eagle. It is so hard to believe that I train in town, jump on a helicopter, and am engulfed in winter for a full week… only to return back to town for three weeks of training, and repeat three times throughout the summer! That is a true dream world!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Engine

Since arriving up on Eagle Glacier in a very tired state from three previous weeks of hard training, I had to make a theme for myself in order to make it through the coming six days of challenging training. This month I have made a big step up, and with a healthy body, I have been able to participate in all the training, resulting in a much higher load than normal. With the weather being a bit foggy and warm all week, this meant for a tough week of pushing through some deeper slush and practicing training in the now very common conditions we race in Europe. Global warming often means slushy, man-made, dirty snow conditions throughout the winter. So when the going gets tough on Eagle with some deep slushy glacier snow, I know I am truly practicing my trade!

So, back to my original problem. I arrived on Eagle Glacier far more tired than I ever have, but I wanted to have a successful six days of training, so I made a theme for myself. "My body is an engine". In endurance sports, we often talk about how we want to build a Ferrari engine inside our bodies, so this was my my Eagle Glacier Plan.  Granted, I don't know a whole lot about cars and engines, but I knew enough to work on what I thought a great racing engine would require:Fueling, Maintenance, Efficiency, Speed, and Power. 

A little R & R in the rocks (Zuzana photo)
Fueling- While on Eagle Glacier, fueling is important, and also entirely up to your own choice. We cook group meals in the evening; but in the morning, afternoon, and snack hours, fueling  is open to interpretation. Now that I have started training higher volumes, I have enjoyed experimenting with different types of foods to see how they carry me through the next training, or even the next day. For example, the later in the week of training; the more glycogen I can eat, the stronger my engine can run for the next training session, or even the next day. It is a common occurrence to be woken up in the middle of the night while training up on the glacier by hunger, so I am forced to head downstairs to eat a little snack because I can't get back to sleep. It is also common to make it through 1.5 hours of training during the second session… and find myself bonking so badly at the top of the course that I literally have to waddle back to the start of the course and find a snack in my drink belt. Avoiding these little crashes has become my goal. So, this camp, while I arrived with a high load of training, I worked really hard to keep my body fueled correctly. By avoiding useless fuel, and taking in more efficient fuel, I managed to have a very successful week of training. My favorite fueling moment came on Wednesday, during our afternoon session following morning threshold intervals. I was feeling really good in the afternoon following intervals, so I took off with a hot pace. Things felt amazing until about 1.5 hours on the top of the big climb at the far end of the course… and I began to start weaving. I could tell I couldn't really keep my technique together, and I was dragging myself around the course, not even working on the important parts of skiing. As I came into the intersection of the access road back up to the building, and the start to another loop, I pulled over and ate the fresh baked cookie in my drink belt. As I headed out for another loop, about three minutes in, I suddenly had the "invincible energy" back. Again, I felt light, quick, and strong. This is when I discovered the "cookie comeback". While you wouldn't commonly feed your Ferrari a cookie, my racing Ferrari thrived on this extremely sugary and easy to access fuel!

Some Powerbar Coke Gummies on OD day saving the day! 
Maintenance- As with your nice racing car, sometimes the maintenance and care can take just as long as the actual training/racing. Many people, when they hear that as athletes, we are training 4 hours a day, they wonder what we spend our time doing the remainder of the day…. And the answer is, maintenance. As we come in from our training sessions, each athlete has their own maintenance routine. For me, this looks like: change into dry clothes, get a snack, do a stretching routine, foam rolling, massage, eat a larger meal, get my feet up and rest a little in order to recovery for second training, take care of skis (waxing and cleaning)…. and then, out for another training session, and repeat. It is literally a full days work to maintain my body and keep it healthy. A lot of times, it becomes easy to cut out large portions of this maintenance process, because it becomes easy to fill your day up with other activities. But, while on Eagle Glacier, there are no distractions. For one full week, I am living to train. I am giving 110% of my energy towards maintaining and training the very best Ferrari engine possible! Lucky for us, the APU team is sponsored by an amazing clinic, Advanced Physical Therapy. Last week we had Zuzana Rodgers, the worlds best PT up on the glacier to help us stay healthy and ready to train. For many of us, her manual labor on our stressed and tired muscles is the magic!

Big thanks to Zuzana Rodgers!
Efficiency- Finding the most efficient way get an engine going fast is key. For a cross country skier, technique is a huge factor in efficiency, and it is also an ever changing process. With new efficiency, new movements, new techniques… the sport stays exciting. Becoming a master of the trade means being innovative, aware, and dedicated to focus. With our 20-30 hours per week spent skiing kilometers around our Eagle Glacier track, we have hundreds of thousands of repetitions to work on perfecting our technique. We often watch World Cup videos, technique examples, and videos from our previous training sessions to find cues and things to work on. My personal goal on Eagle Glacier is to focus every minute of effort on skiing the most technically well I can. Because I have skied so many kilometers with my old habits. I know that I have to spend hours and hours of work on the "better technique habits" I am working on, before I will resort to them in a race. So efficiency is an ever-going goal of mine while up on Eagle Glacier. 

Technique work 
Speed- On day four of training camp, we often get to rip out some speed training. With the majority of our week so far being distance training, our distance muscles become extremely tired. In fact, we just feel exhausted. I am always blown away by the fact that when it comes to speed, I find this extra storage of energy I had no idea existed. I am magically able to rip out some speed when I thought I had nothing left. Then, day five we have a "practice race", where we throw down some laps around the sprint course at top speed. Again, we are feeling so exhausted, we can't even imagine we can make four laps of 1.5 kilometers. This is the speed that is fun to practice. Like World Cup racing, when it comes time to go top speed… you are rarely rested, or full of energy. Instead, it is at the end of a 1 or 5 or 30 kilometer race, and you feel you have already topped out. Instead, you have to turn that Ferrari engine up, and find one more gear of speed. The best way to train that speed, is to train it in a similarly exhausted state, on day four and five of Eagle Glacier.

Power- I think of power as your endurance. To me this is all the aerobic training I do on a yearly basis, and over my lifetime. This includes the first weeks of training in Park City with my US Teammates, the many hours of hiking and running, and the huge amounts of distance skiing that is so important in endurance sports. This is what creates my power. Eagle Glacier is all about fine-tuning my engine's power. For 25 hours, I push my already exhausted body, and tell myself I can keep going. When the weather is bad, or I am having an epic energy crash, or I am pushing over the top of the hill on the last lap of our practice race on day five ;power is that little voice in my head that says "must keep going". It is the same voice that chirps in during my racing! 
Rosie, Becca and I
VoilĂ , that is "my engine".  Now you know all the funny and hilarious things that run through my head during a week of training that feels harder than ever! It is now back to building the strongest engine in the world right here in Anchorage for three weeks of dryland before heading back up for our final week of skiing on Eagle in August. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Home, Home on the Range

Last week was one of the best weeks ever! My older sister got married in the Methow Valley, on a cute little ranch up above our home town. All of my family from both my mom and dad's side was able to attend, so I got to have five full days of catching up and family time. It has been years since everyone has been together, so we all felt pretty blessed to be able to make it work! As a young girl, my summer job was catering weddings, but I haven't participated in many myself. So, I got to learn all about what a wedding entails. I realized the most wonderful part about a wedding is how all your closest friends and family all gather together in one place to celebrate love; like a huge love birthday party!

Our newest member of the family!

Bridesmaid Additions
Ask a french man to dress cowboy for a wedding.... and this is what you get ;) Jo, arriving to the Methow in style!
Maid of Honor and Best Man, speed walking down the aisle!
As the maid of honor, I also got to learn about what that role entails on a day full of chaos, excitement, and happiness. As my beautiful sister pulled on her stunning dress, got her hair and make-up done; and started walking down the aisle alongside my father, I found tears sliding down my face. I had never seen her so beautiful and happy ever! It was really neat! Not only that, we got one new member in our family, a new brother-in-law! I am pretty stoked to have Tyler join the clan, he is a wonderful guy!

Speech time!
Jessica and Kelly, our friends from high school doing our make-up in the sunshine.
A bunch of bridesmaids and a bride headed for the big wedding!
Our beautiful little flower girl cousin. 
Jo and Granny
With five short days at home, we didn't have a whole lot of time, but we made the most of every minute of it. My cousins girlfriend caught the bouquet, so we are all hoping we get to do this all again soon!

The Kaley sisters and all the cousins.
A happy bunch of Bjornsen ladies.
Spending time with two of my favorite people out there! My sister, and my god sister!

This weekend I am headed down to Seward to watch the famous 4th of July race up Mount Marathon. Some runners from out of state/out of country will be there this year including Kilian Jornet, and Forsberg, so it should be nothing short of exciting! I have never actually been to the "top" of the mountain, so I am finally headed there this year to watch from above. Shortly after, we will head back up for another week of training on Eagle Glacier.

Happy July!