Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard

After four weeks of working really hard at finishing summer school, and training my butt off- I got to have the little "play hard" break at home with my family last week. I was in the Methow for only five days earlier this summer, so it was great to be able to sneak another one week break down to the valley. It never seems like enough, but it sure does keep me going!

Love seeing these guys!!
Home, sweet home!
Playing hard in the Methow is always a little different each time. This past week I spent a lot more time in the mountains than I have in a while- and quickly fell back in love with the valley. My parents and I headed up to the North Cascades one day to a familiar childhood mountain pass trail. I found it amazing how even just the smells in the mountains remind me of my childhood and so many good memories! I really am convinced the small valley that I grew up in offers some of the best training in the world for a Cross Country Skier!
Running with Dad
I'm on top of the world, hey!
Mom and Dad, looking over Glacier Peak
The thing I appreciate most about my dad- he always has a smile on his face!! He works harder than anyone I know, and at the end of the day, he will always be smiling!!
There are some awesome trails in these mountains!
Spending summers in Alaska for the past four years means that I have lost a great deal of heat tolerance. I used to make fun of the Alaskans who came down to the lower 48 for camps and were affected by heat exhaustion when it was only mid 80's…. had they never been in the heat before? Well…. to my surprise, I have developed this problem myself. As I headed out on the roads for roller skiing in this last week  - I found myself drowning in heat, always needing to finish my workout at some body of cold water. A few sun bumps later… I managed to survive, and hopefully worked on getting my tolerance back.
Diving into a snow melted lake after a long run.
Warm times on the road with the best training partner!! (MVSTA photo)
Looking out over the valley.

This summer has been a unique and devastating one for the Methow Valley. It all started with a small fire started by lighting, and developed into a massive fire, taking down 300 houses, putting the power out for nearly two weeks, and devastating many of the wonderful families of the Methow Valley. The "poor luck" continued as new fires started with new storms, ten more houses burned down, more storms, mud slides, more storms, more small fires, more storms, houses washing down the river…. one thing after another. Suddenly a town that thrives on the business that summer tourists bring is put in a state of need. Wonderful families are left with no homes, no belongings, and even houses covered in mud. It was heartbreaking to drive into the valley and see the miles and miles of burnt property, sometimes, just chimneys standing on the property. What I have concluded is that someone from above is testing this small valley. While it is a time of challenge, it was nice to see how the valley has come together and helped each other! As I told some of my family friends who lost their home; someone from above is throwing lemons down at you, testing how many you can stuff in your bra and keep running. Hopefully they will catch a break, and they will be able to recover from such a tough one!

One of my close friends from growing up, Hillary Ketchum, had the cutest little baby boy. Kaley and I dressed him up in pink undies just so he can hate us when he gets older and looks at the pics :)
Spending some time with Rita Kenny, the owner of Winthrop Mountain Sports, the local sports star. This woman has been wonderful to our family since the very first time I bought a pair of skis. It is safe to say she has taught me nearly everything I know about cross country skis! We love her!

I am headed back to Alaska now for one more training chunk before our final National Team camp in Park City before the season starts. As I start making Christmas plans, thinking about racing schedules; I can't believe the summer has already flown by. It has been an amazing one- but I can't say I am ready for the chilly mornings to start coming! I guess that is part of it though- time will always fly!
Playing dress up with my Grandma! Wish I could see all my family more, but any amount is amazing!! 
(Reese Hanneman photo)
On another note, I am really excited to announce I will be racing on Fischer Boots, so the Fischer Complete Package next year!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer on!

Somehow this Alaskan summer just keeps summering on!! Normally when I think about summer in Alaska I think of missing the warmth, I think of training hard, and I think of avoiding the rain. Not this summer!!! The amazing weather, the fun training, and the fresh atmosphere just keeps coming!! I have had another "best ever month" here in Alaska. Best month of training, best month of fun, and best month of just living the life!

who knew you could sun bath in Alaska?
Don teaching Celine a geography lesson.
Enjoying the midnight sun with my fine new teammates!
Backtrack to getting off my first glacier camp of the summer a few weeks back, and jumping into the full swing of July 4th in Seward. With temperatures up in the 80's, Mount Marathon was going to be more challenging than ever. Having never made it more than 100 meters up the Mount Marathon track... I didn't really appreciate what this "hot weather threat" really meant. So, this year I finally made my way up the mountain for the first time. I was in disbelief!! Suddenly I had 100 times the respect for those racers than ever! Not only was it incredibly technical and crazy going both up and down- but the strength of the sun on the side of this bare mountain was unmeasurable! As I lay there between the mens and woman's race constantly re-applying as much sun screen as possible and saving my water to poor on the racers, I thought I was going to turn into a raisin! Holy, heat!! Congrats to awesome races by my teammates Lauren and Holly, and of course the amazing Erik Strabel!!

Saved by the cool water! (Sarah Cresap Photo)
Happy Birthday America
Land of the midnight sun, and the midnight swimming! (Lauren Fritz photo)
Exploring Lost Lake with the ladies
Enjoying time with the greatest two people! Greta and Corey
One great camping spot right there!
Headed up the roots at the bottom of the mountain.
Jessie leading the Frenchi's and Norwegians up the way.

roasting and toasting on the side of the mountain.
Beauty from above!
Racers cover the whole span of this picture in approximately 3 seconds..... controlled fall I call it.

With one week to rest and rejuvenate from our first glacier camp, we were back at it for the annual North American Womans Training Alliance Camp. This year our mystery international guest was Celine Brun-Lie from the Norwegian National Team. Celine has been a good friend of the American Team for the past couple of years after she took in Liz Stephen last summer when Liz went to join the Norwegians for a camp. Ever since, we have been encouraging her to come join us. So, a few months back, she jumped on board the ship and booked her ticket. She has been staying with me for the past three weeks of camp, so it has been fun and awesome getting to know her. We learned that we have more than a few things in common- with our similar training approach and 'need to keep this fun'. I think we both learned a lot from each other. Many of our afternoons of training we spent talking about the team atmosphere, the personalities of different Norwegian stars, our academic goals, and our life outside of ski racing. Meanwhile I also had a French Biathlon National Team guest visiting at the same time, Marine Bolliet. Between Marine, Celine and I... it was an international mixing pot of ideas and laughter!
Spending some time with the biathletes
Celine Brun-Lie! (Chris Hodel photo)
So our NAWTA Camp began with the usual first week of dryland camp in town. We were blessed by the weather gods as usual... with lots of amazing days of skiing in our tank tops and soaking in sunshine. We had one amazing day of rollerskiing up Hatchers Pass, a few days of running in the mountains, and one hard day of intervals around backwards Spencer (our 30k race course from nationals).
A beautiful day to make a trek up Hatcher Pass!
When your watch tells you this at the end of your workout... you know you have had a good day of training!
Introducing Celine to the world of aqua training! She busted out 1 kilometer like it was nothing!
It's great to follow Celine and watch how she moves so effortlessly! (Matt Whitcomb photo)
Smiles post skate threshold training! (Matt Whitcomb photo)
From there, we headed to Girdwood, waiting for the helicopter hop up to Eagle Glacier for the second week of training. As usual, the day of flying to Eagle quickly clouded over. Weather moved in, and we were forced to wait for an opening. As Deb Essex of Alpine Air kept us finely entertained, around 9PM an opening appeared. I jumped on the first trip up, and we made our usual trek up the valley, up over the ridge, and then suddenly, it was clouded over! So, the pilot ,Andy, did the next best thing, dropping us in a clump at the bottom of the glacier. Erik Flora came racing down glacier on his snowmobile, probing a little circle for us to stand on, and left us there to wait. by 10PM, the weather cleared out, and we could see the building about two miles above us. The remaining three helicopter loads were dropped at the building as we waited for a jump back up. Trying to keep warm, the six of us turned on some music, and had ourselves a little Eagle Glacier dance party. It was hilarious! By 10:30PM, Erik headed back down glacier in the Pistenbully to pick us up. Not the normal entrance into Eagle Glacier, but a good one to remember!

hanging out in the Alpine Air hanger for the weather to clear.

A quick glance at how many layers I was wearing on the side of the freezing glacier... maybe 10?
Rosie and I trying to stay warm! (Lauren Fritz photo)
From there, it was another great week of training. Weather wasn't great, but I always think that is a blessing! It keeps us from getting soft. Life isn't allowed to be too plush on Eagle Glacier.... I mean we are training on a Glacier only 45 minutes from Anchorage, in July!! It can't get too good to be true! The final couple days it warmed up, and we were able to do a few afternoon workouts in our shorts and sports bras! The warmer conditions all week and 'lack of clearing overnight' left the snow softer than ever. I think it is safe to say we got some good practice in what our coach likes to call "Championship Day", otherwise known as the most challenging conditions in the world to ski in. I often just refer to it as mashed potatoes. The kind of skiing where you feel like you are sinking and working harder than ever just to keep moving! But the true story is- it is actually great practice!

Things can get a little bit messy up there..... sticky! (Lauren Fritz photo)
SODIE special
Thanks to these two awesome people! Zuzana Rodgers, the best physio in the world, and Erik Flora, the best coach in the world! (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
Pushing hard on an interval day at the end of the camp. (Matt Whitcomb photo)
Matt fueling up on an odd Sandwich full of pasta and anything else you can think of! Coaching, training, chasing people around on the snowmobile- that is hard work!!!
Mid-week media day with one excited photographer!
The one place in the world a salad like this is acceptable.... Eagle Glacier when you are training all day, every day!
And some days will be less glorious than others...!! (Matt Whitcomb photos)
A team full of many strengths! (Matt Whitcomb)
Our flashy new summer training gear! Wa-BAM! (Matt Whitcomb)
Working on speed (Matt Whitcomb)
Practicing our downhill skills. (Matt Whitcomb)
July? (Matt Whitcomb)
Interval day- pushing with every last bit. This picture shows what it takes to make this happen. A group of athletes that want to work hard, and a group of support that also loves to work hard. Thanks to all the glacier crew and the coaches for being amazing people! Here is Don driving Andre, who is filming the interval session. (Matt Whitcomb photo)
Trying to follow one of the best sprinters in the world! (Matt Whitcomb)
OUCH! (Matt Whitcomb)
PAIN TRAIN! (Matt Whitcomb) 
Sodie (Matt Whitcomb)
The final day decided to test our true patience and strength. As we headed out for our last day of training, often a 3-4 hour workout, temperatures hit 38 degrees and there was a torrential downpour! The kind of raining that will literally soak you to the bone in 3 minutes. Not having been in that for at least a year on Eagle Glacier... I forgot how you dress appropriately for the weather. You always need at least three layers on your legs and you need a true rain jacket. Aside from that, you need at least one change of gloves and hat for mid-training! Un-prepared, I headed up to the building after 1 hour, stripped every layer off my soaking wet body, and started over. This time I layered on the long underwear, put on my gore-tex rain jacket, dumped out two loaves of bread on the counter in order to cover my hands and gloves in a bread bag jacket.... and headed back out. I managed to finish my three hour workout in a much better place than those first 45 minutes!

Colorful combination of rain jackets (Matt Whitcomb)
NAWTA Camp 2014 (Matt Whitcomb)
NAWTA crew minus Erik Flora, Don Haering, and Andre Lovett. (Matt Whitcomb)
And that was a wrap! Another amazing NAWTA women's camp! We had tons of fun, we had great weather for the most part, we had more productive training than ever- and it was a blast! So thanks ladies and coaches for one heck of a great two weeks!

See you next year. (Matt Whitcomb)
I am now in my much-needed week of recover where I get ready for another four week training block of training.
GCI is a sponsor of our team, so Tuesday I took a trip to Cordova to help lead a customer appreciation day.
Signing posters for the little kids (GCI photo)
leading a train of Cordova girls around an obstacle course. Thanks GCI for an adventurous and fun trip! (GCI photo)
On another note, to everyone back in the Methow dealing with this terrible fire, I have you in my thoughts! It has been hard to watch from afar. I hope that is it for the summer fires, and everyone is able to recover from such a disaster!

Summer on!