Sunday, October 23, 2011

Snow is here! Racing season is coming...

Two Stars!

The snow has finally fallen enough to accumulate some ski trails up at Hatchers Pass. Lots of pictures and stories have been circulating around already, so I think the word is out that the Alaskan Crew got to ski on October 20th!! Thats so early. What this means is I skied every month of the year this year, besides one! So I skied on snow 11 months of the training year... how many racers can say that???

The skiing has been great. Extra blue, packed tracks, and blue bird cold days!! The APU crew headed up last thursday for a distance ski, and by the following day I was sore. It's funny how rollerskiing never seems to train the exact same muscles, so you are sore the first ski of the season, regardless. We then skied a second time on saturday... so by the end of the three hour ski, I was cooked. I have to say, this is the main reason that I love training in Alaska. The opportunity to be on snow as much as we are I see as a huge benefit. By getting that early "snow shape" back together in October, you can sometimes jump start the engine for the early racing season.

Speaking of early racing season, I will be on a different path this fall period. For the first time, I will be racing on the World Cup Circuit for Period 1 along with a group of 4 other girls. This has been super exciting news for me, and I have to say, I have been counting down the days for the "2012" experience to begin! The greatest thing about this year is it is the year to experiment and try new things. Because there are no main Championships of the year, I can set my own expectations and goals. Having never raced much in early season, nor raced much on the World Cup Circuit, nor left my home from November 6th until the end of March...... I will be switching things up quite a bit.

Last year I had a small introduction into this top level of racing, and ever since I have been working hard to jump into that category. This fall will be a great opportunity for me to open my eyes wide, learn some new skills and tricks, and have a great time skiing along with the best skiers in the world.

My first World Cup ever, last February in Drammen, Norway. Just before Kikkan won!

My schedule starts with me Leaving November 6th for Beitostoelen, Norway and follows:
November 11-13, FIS Races in Beitostoelen
November 19-20, World Cup in Beito
November 25-27, World Cup Kuusamo, Finland
December 3-4, World Cup downtown Dusseldorf, Germany
December 10-11, World Cup Davos, Switzerland
Following that, December 12th I will fly back to Washington for a short break in Washington before Nationals, early January in Rumford Maine.

Unfortunately this opportunity has come with a price. Being named to the US SKi Team this last year has provided me with the opportunities and the steps at reaching this next level, but it has also provided me with some responsibility for completing these steps. Having major budget cuts this year resulted in the funding being cut for all B-Team level athletes for this top level of competition. What this means for me is that the spot is available for me, but I must find my own funding to get there.

I am not sure on my definite plans for the entire year, but I am going to guess the financial need will remain at the same level through Period 2 as well as Period 3. What it looks like for this first period of racing can be broken down easily between room and board as well as plane tickets to and from Europe, and between race venues. This comes to a total around $8000.

Being an athlete similar to every other nordic athlete in the country, this is not the kind of money we can ask our parents for, or we can raise on a side job. This is the kind of financial support we must find in our supporters and followers. This is also not only a problem for me, but every other talented young athlete in this country that is ready to make another step in their development. It starts at the 16 year old level skier who just made Scando Trips, and continues through the World Juniors level, affecting everyone all the way up to the top level of World Cup Racing.

The nordic community has been working hard recently to make these unrealistic financial expectations more realistic. With the new push at the National Nordic Foundation level, supporters are beginning to see the sad truth of the financial demands affecting the opportunities for a new level of talent our country is now experiencing. This is just the beginning, but it is a step forward.

Tom Kelly Photo from US Team Camp- Training at 2002 Olympic Venue this October

Which brings me to my final point. I have a long year in front of me, and it could cost me around $30,000 to race at this level throughout the season. If you would like to support either myself, or the other athletes in getting there; there are several options. As with everything, even the smallest amount makes a difference and builds towards that end goal. Just like us athletes; it wasn't the 4 hour ski we did that made us fast, but it was the culmination of all those 1 hr., 2hr. and 3hr. workouts that made us great. So please know that every effort is greatly appreciated!

Your options for supporting our skiing goals for the year are:

1) Methow Valley Ski Education Foundation- The community in the Methow has been extremely helpful and supportive towards trying to help make this next step available. The team has created an Elite Opportunity Fund with 501(c)(3) status. Money can be donated to help support the athletes of the Methow participating in international level competition. If you would like to send a tax-deductible donation towards me, or the athletes of the Methow Valley, send to:
MVNSEF Elite Opportunity Fund
PO Box 1063
Winthrop, WA 98862

2) Donations directly towards me. Email me at if you have questions.

3) Donations towards the National Nordic Foundation, which is a non-profit organization aimed at supporting the nordic athletes of the US. They are recently doing The Drive for 25, which will include a small support of a large spectrum of supporters. Check out this site to get an idea of what we do and learn how to help:

4) Support through the APU Ski Club

There are many ways to help out and support including you standing on the side of the trail cheering and screaming. It all counts, and it all keeps us going. So keep it up, and get ready.... race season is coming!!! Thanks to everyone that has helped so far, and that may help in the future! You guys are truly making it possible!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Park City Dryland Camp

So after my explanation of the Fast and Female portion of the US Ski Team Camp in Park City, I will tell you a bit more about what I did for the rest of the 10 days in town.

US ladies... in the pink. Tom Kelly photo

I am actually taking full time school at the moment, so due to some finals and schoolwork, I had to arrive to the camp a week late, which means I missed the "testing" portion of the camp unfortunately. I am taking four classes during the fall term, two of which were condensed 7 week classes that ended the day before I left for Park City Camp. This works awesome for me, because now I will only be taking two classes until middle of December for my "racing" portion of the fall. So, my camp was only ten days, but it was surely 10 days of greatness!!

APU ladies enjoying the sunshine of the West!

When I first arrived in Park City, I was a bit bummed because it was snowing and raining... and appeared the same as it was in Alaska. After watching all these videos, and hearing stories of all the skiers in the 80 degree weather the few days before I arrived... I was expecting summer in PC.!! The good news is we only had about 3 days of cold before summer again arrived. By the end of the camp I was skiing around in a tank top and getting a sun burn! I have to admit though, I was ready to come back to the reality of October in Alaska, seeing as ski season is less than a month away!

Pete photo

My ten day camp consisted of a mixture of races, bounding up the resorts, roller-skiing out to the nearby passes, some hammer-fest in the workout gym, running, and some speedy rollerskiing on the 2002 Olympic courses at Soldier Hollow. It was a great time, and there was a HUGE group of racers, so I had some good company during my workouts.

Breakfast with Matt Whitcomb, who just had back surgery. Coming back stronger than ever :)

I love this time of year, because the racing season is just around the corner, and I just can't keep myself from constantly getting excited every time I go out to train. Likewise, this is also the time of year I keep analyzing in my head if I am fast enough, or trained well enough. The way I find a balance between this storm of feelings and emotions is through bringing my mind back into racing mode, as I try to relax and build confidence. It was great to surround myself with energy and excitement at this camp, because the motivation and enthusiasm is viral in a group of so many fired up girls!

A large train of ladies during the distance workout.

Every day there was a group of at least 25 girls starting the workout together, building towards a time trial, or some intervals, or just some good, focused distance skiing. It was sweet, because everyone is out there, working together, and making it happen. It's an exciting time for US Skiing I think. At least for me!

Ready... GO!

The second to last day of the camp we had the opportunity to do a sprint time trial on the Olympic Course at Soldier Hollow. It was sweet to go out there, work the heart a bit, and feel some speed. It was also fun to play around with tactics and tricks when it doesn't count. Practice races have such a benefit, especially when you are surrounded by the girls you are competing with all winter!

Sprint Racing- Thanks to Elizabeth Simak for many of these race photos!

Jessie and I sprinting for the finish

It was fun, because I also got the opportunity to meet up with some of my old teammates who have moved on to new things. It's crazy, it feels as if they were just on the team yesterday. Somehow this summer has sneaked away so fast!!

APU Group in Utah

After a ten day camp at altitude, I went for a ski up in the hills this afternoon and felt like I could hop skate up everything. It's amazing what 10 days of little air can do for you when you return back to the sea!! It is the greatest feeling, I love it!

Found a zebra, a donkey, and a buffalo, all in the same cage in a coral on the side of the highway while I was rollerskiing.... interesting!

Its back to 2.5 more weeks of Anchorage life before the racing season starts. This is always a busy time filled with wrapping up everything in town before the travel begins, as well as keeping caught up with homework. This is also the time of year that we start pulling out the rock skis for some skiing. Word has it that there is grooming on Hatchers Pass, so day after tomorrow we will be hitting the snow, yehooo! Thanks to the Strabels for the grooming and getting it ready for us!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Park City Fast and Female

Last week, shortly after arriving, we had a Fast and Female celebration in Park City with about 80 little kids and 30 parents. In the last three years, I have participated in six separate Fast and Female events around the US. My second event was in Anchorage, where nearly 200 kids showed up, so we have had quite the variation in activities among these six events. This Fast and Female event was a first in its nature though. Seeing as Park City is the base for the US Ski Team, we took advantage of the variation in talents and sports represented here; inviting ambassadors from different sports such as speed skating, alpine skiing, moguls, snow boarding, aerials, biathlon and cross country skiing. Likewise, we also invited young girls from all variations in sports. This made it both different and exciting for the actual event.

Applying the PINK!

The event was based out of the Center of Excellence (the base for the US Ski Team), which is full of lots of fun toys; such as the foam pits, skateboard parks, trampolines, speed skating boards, a track, a massive gym, and a dancing area. The day started with an introduction to the ambassadors, a team cheer for each of the age groups, and then the event circuits. The circuits consisted of seven separate stations, represented by the seven different sports. I was working with the nine year olds, so I got to practice all the different activities with the young girls as I went around. Kikkan and Jessie were running the cross-country skiing station, so instead of making the girls run around they picked active dancing. Mixed with a fun dance routine each group made up, Kikkan and Jessie would lead the girls through a series of exercises such as; running and dancing, push ups to the beat of the music, crazy jumps and crawls, and any dance move you could think of to go with the beat of the music. It was awesome!!!


Decorating with some of the girls in my group.

The morning of the event we had a 3 hr ski up to one of the nearby passes, so all of us Nordic athletes were pooped. With so much young excitement though, our excitement levels stayed high until we crashed about five minutes after the event finished. That was a true day of training!

The x-country ladies.

Following the circuits we had inspirational talks from some of the ambassadors who had won Olympic medals. It was a true inspiration to hear these ladies talk, even for the younger ambassadors like myself. Shannon Bahrke and Emily Cook started out by telling stories about their careers, their ups and downs, and the feeling of joy and pride as they stood on the podium at the Olympic Games. Emily explained a really great lesson for the young girls as she related the closing ceremonies, where everyone walks out together, to the friendships and sportsmanship’s you share in sport. It was even giving me goosebumps!! Then a speed skating Olympic medalist as well as Kikkan both gave talks about their careers and how important it is to love all the activities as a young child.

The ladies giving their inspirational talks.

Shannon Bahrke, Olympic Medalist, and now running a rockin coffee business called SilverBean.

Following the inspirational talks, we went on to signing posters for all the little kids. I even got a poster that I am going to hang on my wall at home, as many of those girls I was working with that day have already proven they are the best athletes in the world. How cool to share that experience with them, and see them get all dressed in pink and have a ball with the younger kids.

The Nordic Ambassadors and the TUNA team out of Park City.

Fast and Female is a really special thing, and I have loved taking part in it; as I see so many younger kids come away with enthusiasm, and a motivated effort to lead a healthy and fun lifestyle. It is truly a rewarding thing, and sometimes, like this event in Park City, even I come away with a new motivation!

The whole crew!

Another really cool thing about this event is, in conjunction with the kids portion, we also ran a parents seminar, where all the US Ski Team resources were used to educate the parents on what sports is all about. Our Nutritionist, Sports Psychologist, and Physical Therapist educated parents on what they can do to help their children lead a healthy lifestyle, as well as participate in competitive sports. I think that too was really successful! This is something we haven’t done in the US yet, but it has been a part of the Canadian Fast and Female events for a while, so it was great to finally start incorporating that into our process.

Signing Posters.

Our next Fast and Female event will be in Rumford Maine in January, and then in Craftsbury, Vermont at the end of March. Look for those events if you are a young girl, or you have a young daughter!!

An update on the Park City training camp soon to come!