Monday, November 28, 2011

Ruka Mini-Tour

This past week we have been staying in a little nordic village outside of Kuusamo, Finland. All I have ever heard of Kuusamo is bad things, considering normally it is right on the brisk of illegally cold racing. This year played out a little different than normal. Not only was it warm, but similar to the rest of Europe, there was no snow. Luckily all of these World Cup venues have snow making set up, so the guns were blowing from the day we arrived early on in the week. The first day there was snow only covering about 2km of trail. Each day, more and more trail was built. By race day, they had a full 5km of skiable trails.
Holly digging for her stuff. This is our ski van that gets filled with skis for the travel. Smart system!
The festive Ruka! So awesome
The unique thing that I am going to always classify Ruka skiing under now is hills. If you are not climbing straight up a hill, you are skiing down a curvy steep hill... sometimes even resembling an alpine resort.

The wall... somehow it looks flat.
The big hill into the stadium on the sprint course
One of the other unique things about Ruka is the small village. All the teams are staying within 1km of each other, mostly in small cabins distributed among a steep hill, with the top of the hill being the place where all the athletes eat meals. With everyone in one place, you get the opportunity to meet people during meals and just walking around the village. I have come to realize it really is this sort of competitive traveling family that moves from venue to venue each weekend. It's incredibly fun!

Headed into the waxroom
Races kicked off on friday with a classic sprint on a course I can only explain as hilly. You start in a stadium on the top of a hill, shoot down to the bottom, make a turn and race back up to the top. One of those courses, similar to most, that even the briefest mistake looses you 10 places. I finished the race in 47th, four seconds out of qualifying in the top 30 for the heats. After watching some of the girls ski the course, it became apparent to me where I was loosing most of my time in transitions between the climbs and the descents. After finishing my 3 minute race for the day, I then got to watch my teammate Kikkan show exactly how it is done. Qualifying 12th, she managed to make it through quarter, semi's and then advance on into the finals, where she placed 4th. It is so cool to watch her strengths play out in person among the field. Skiing with her year around, I see her ski every day, but its fun to see what it looks like in a race.
Thanks to Steve for the flyingpoint photo!
Saturdays skate race brought even more fun. A 5k course made of once again, walls and alpine hills... it seemed there was going to be no opportunity for recovery in this race, instead you just had to go from the gun. My first world cup weekend I had Martha Kristoffersen, one of the top norwegian skiers starting behind me, and I had this same thing this weekend. The first weekend, I held on to her as long as I could, but that only lasted for about 1km before she dropped me on the hill. Saturday, I decided I was just going to play, see how long I could hold off Martha, and see how long I could hold on to her once she caught me. Sure enough, Martha managed to catch me at about 3km, in the middle of a massive hill, but from that point until the end, I held on for dear life and skid my heart out to the line, loosing about 3 seconds to her at the final stretch. The coolest thing about this was that one week later, I got another opportunity to ski the speed that a top ten skier was skiing. I finished the day in 37th, my best world cup finish, and only 6 seconds out of scoring points. A fun day, and a good success.

Full waxroom full of Fischer :)
My final day of the tour wasn't nearly as positive as the rest. I have been struggling with finding klister skis yet this year, so sundays hilly course did not play in favor for a pair of skis with no kick. For 10km I tried to power myself up the huge hills with my arms, but it only lasted for so long.. eventually that wasn't enough.

Walking into the stadium
Being on the world cup is extremely rewarding, but I have realized it can be really hard at times as well. You can have the best day of your life, and the following day just barely be off, but place in the bottom 10% of the field. Where a bad day in the US wouldn't crush your heart, a bad day on the world cup can feel like you failed 100%. After only being on this circuit for 2 weeks now, I feel like I got my first experience last weekend on the roller coaster ride this business can take you on. The expectations are high, especially when you have teammates that are up on the top. Sometimes your short site allows you to forget that it took them about 5 years of what I am doing to get to what they are doing. What I have learned though, is you have to take control of your expectations, your goals and your head... because if you allow the pressure and the crowd to control your emotions.... this business will chew you up and spit you out! It's a process though, and you can only learn to do that by living it.

pure focus!!
Focus during racing :) Flyingpoint photo
So after a weekend full of greats and horribles, I am now excited for what's next! And that is a weekend full of skate sprinting in downtown Dusseldorf. The first day is an individual sprint, and the following day will be a team sprint. Lots of enjoyment to come.

Thanks so all for the cheers and support and love. It means so much to have so many people pushing us forward.

APU crew. Casey and Holly
The massive walk up the hill can only be worse when you are lugging bags up it. This is the walk that we made 3 times a day up to food. It appears much flatter than it is :)
For the next 4 days we will be living in Davos, Switzerland in the most adorable little hotel of all time training in the 50 degree weather... and sunshine. A little altitude block of training, before taking off for the city on friday.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My first Week in Euro-land

Last week we spent the preparation days and adjusting time skiing in an indoor ski tunnel in Torsby, Sweden. After reading all the blogs and reports from some of our boy teammates who came to Europe a week before us, I was expecting the worst.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that skiing in an indoor 1km loop is not that bad, infact it is sort of exciting. Resembling skiing in a refrigerator, the 5 minute loop quickly turns into a mindless workout up the hill, down the hill, into the natural light, past Bjorn Daehlin, by your teammates. After about 10 laps you stop saying hi to your teammates as you pass them every 4 minutes in the opposite direction, and start picturing yourself skiing along the race course. Had I been there a few more days... I may have a different report, but it was nice to live the "tunnel skiing" experience.

Holly skiing through the tunnel
Loving the refrigerator 
Thursday we headed over to Lillehammer, where we are staying for the opening World Cup weekend. With the races being held up at the top of the hill (30min drive) in Sjujsoen, we get to enjoy the 91' Olympic town while skiing up high. For the past week I have been struggling with some back issues as I unfortunately lifted some heavy bags wrong the day before I left. As the races started approaching I started to wonder if I would even be able to start them, while the pain became worse. The day before the first race, I couldn't take it anymore, so I walked up to the Canadian coaches and asked for help.

Unfortunately the US Team doesn't have enough money to employ a PT for our trips, so I was left looking otherwise. The Canadians were more than happy to help, and their PT, Magic Man Shayne has been doing some work to try to loosen it up and work out the problems. I couldn't be more thankful! Unfortunately after one day of racing, I decided it would be better to rest up and give it time to heal, rather than push through the second day of racing.
First leg of the relay today

So back to race report. It has been so exciting to start the season over here in Europe with so much enthusiasm. The only thing about racing over here at the beginning of the season, is there is not much wiggle room. Every girl entering that race course is speedy! Along those same lines, with the World Cup taking place in Norway, the home team gets to enter 19 girls!! So with the intimidation aside, I started my 10k skate ready to feel the burn. Normally I spend the fall period working into race speed, as I have never been able to start my first race, and race good. Each weekend builds on the next, and by January I am finally revving up. This year I have decided to try to change that a bit... get my speed earlier.

Flying Point photo
I was lucky enough to be starting among the red group, so I got to ski a few minutes with some of the fastest skiers of the day. I even got to ski with my teammate, Kikkan, as she passed me on her final lap while I headed out for my second lap.

Some of our ladies had an extremely impressive opener. Kikkan finished 8th, one of two people finishing in the top ten that was not norwegian! Norwegians managed to dominate top 20! Liz finished 18th, and Holly 36th, just 8 seconds out of the points!!
For results go to:

Finally got to watch the magic winning monkey skate in person today!
As many of you know, there is a lack of snow in Europe at the moment... in fact the ground is bare everywhere! I have been super impressed with Sjujsoen, the little white path throughout the woods is amazing. Not even dirty, just this little magic white path along the 3.3km of snow. On TV it actually looks like there is snow, but you walk between the trails and it is full on dirt and grass, not a lick of white!! I have to say, I have never skid on man made snow like that, it's a different game.
The magic white path
the ladies getting our cheer on
Tomorrow we will stick around and ski one more day before taking off for Kuusamo Finland, where we will be competing in a min-tour weekend of classic sprint, 5k skate, and 10k classic.

Thanks to Casey for some speedy skis this weekend!
More great fun to come! Super excited to be on the circuit for a bit.
my birthday buddy, Mr. Leni
Just for some entertainment: Me and my little kiddies :)
PS- I don't know how I look so tall by these girls, but regardless it's hilarious!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anchorage to Sweden

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. The past two weeks has been filled with lots of powder, and lots of tying up business in AK for the winter.

Due to the lack of snow in Europe, the first FIS races were cancelled in Beito, so the APU skiers opted into staying in Anchorage for another week to get some more training in. Lucky for us, nearly 2 feet of snow fell during that time allowing us to get in some great skiing as well as a couple practices races before we headed over seas.
APU Woman's Team after our Sprint Race
Ladies Starting the A-finals

Lucky for me, I got to get some of the early season cob-webs out of the system before my first World Cup. It is always an adjustment during the fall time for me going from hard interval pace to pushing myself beyond pain racing pace.

My plan is to be on the road racing all winter until the end of March for Distance Nationals, so it takes a little thought while I am packing. I have to think about things like where to put my car for the winter, cancel my car insurance, who is going to check my mail.... etc. I found myself making lists about a month out because I knew that as I got ready to leave I would just be thinking about racing and too excited to remember anything important. I managed to get a lot my ducks in a row, but of course managed to forget some things.

Early sunday morning I took off for Norway. For the past week it has been snowing every day, so sunday was no different in Anchorage. After our plane was stuck to the jetway for an extra hour in Anchorage, I luckily still managed to make my flight in Seattle, and then on to Amsterdam and Oslo.

We arrived in the dark last night to Torsby, Sweden where we will be training in an underground tunnel for the next three days. There is no snow anywhere in Scandinavia, nor Europe.. so we are left with few options. Opting out of the 45$ a day ski on the 1k track in the tunnel, Holly and I decided to take a tour of town on our rollerskis today. Since we have been skiing for the past month, we figured we could handle some roller ski training. It was super awesome, we found ourselves skiing right down main street and exploring on the roads surrounding the town. I took a few pictures along the way. One of us skiing through the cemetery, where the bike path went straight through.

Holly skiing up the streets in Torsby
The ski tunnel facilities are super awesome. We are staying right here at the tunnel, in fact I am sitting in a study room at the moment looking out at the tunnel. Not too bad.

Thursday evening we will take off for Sjusjoen where the first World Cup will take place, just outside of Lillehamer. Good fun to come soon!! Can't wait.