Friday, January 21, 2011

Finland Pre- Camp

This years U23 and World Junior pre-camp is in Vierumaki, Finland- a "National Sports Institute" about 25 miles outside of World Cup venue, Lahti. For the past four days, we have all been trying to figure out what exactly goes on in this little "village" we are staying at in the middle of nowhere. The trails are great, rolling and flat- perfect for keeping the jets firing low before the week of Championship races next week. From what we have concluded, this seems to be a popular summer resort where people come to golf. With the trails winding in and out of the golf course, and all the surrounding condo's, golfing must be the main focus. There also seems to be many students running around that appear to be involved in various sports while also taking classes. From the looks and sounds of it, skiing, swimming, track, maybe gymnastics... body building... who knows!

Night skiing in Lahti is awesome!

This is my sixth World Junior/ U23 trip, but this is the first time we have ventured up to the northern scandinavian countries, so this is a bit of an exciting change for me. There are for sure some differences. The food is a bit different... they like their stinky fish, orange potatoes, reindeer, and their bread and butter. Even more than that, they like mixing all of that together and making a wonderfully scary looking dish. From what I can tell, Finish people are very helpful, and friendly, but they don't smile much. I have heard from some of the junior girls they are having a competition to see how many people they can get to smile back at them.

Delicious mixture of food for lunch!

Last night we had our infamous Name Game after everyone had finally arrived in Europe. There are some new faces on this trip, which makes this game all the more exciting. I learned some fun stuff- turns out Amy Caldwell has a pet that resides in a separate state from her home. David Norris seems to have had a crush on Amy Glen before ever meeting her. Ida Sargent talks about beating off dinosaurs in her sleep, and Tad Elliot has a hot younger sister.

Ida steals a bike

Today we headed up to Lahti to ski on some of the World Cup courses, as most of us had some sort of intensity workout. If you haven't seen hills before, I suggest taking a sunday stroll around that thing! It makes Yellowstone look like peaches comparatively! There were lots of different things going on out there though. Some sprint simulations, speeds, L4 intervals, drop-ins, L3 work, pursuit change practice and much more. I can tell you for sure, there was no easy skiing going on though. Aside from Fish, who was video-taping, I think everyone else got a good chance to shake the legs a bit! 

Them breakfast Wheaties didn't quite give me the confidence to fly today... another day!

Skiing out of the Stadium- check out that stadium behind me!

The Lahti stadium is like the Mecca of skiing. It is incredible. Based around the three ski jumps towering above you- you feel like you are in a movie. The stadium sits in the middle of a huge set of bleachers on either side, and climbs out in two different directions- both visible to the spectator in the stadium bleachers. I would love to do a race here- I bet the fans are incredible!

Out-lunging the queen of Lahti

We are staying in the same hotel as the Canadians for this pre-camp, so we challenged them to a bowling tournament a couple nights ago. I have two words... WOW and wow. There are some people on this team that should stick with their sport. But there are some on this team that ROCK at bowling. It was insane! After some steaming, competitive matches- I do believe the Americans came out ahead!

Bowling Tournament- Reese H. photo

We are keeping ourselves entertained though, and thats whats important! Spirits are high, and people are stoked! As the races approach quickly, everyone is dialing down their training- and getting ready to throw down. I think we have the potential for something sweet to happen this year. In the meantime everyone is training well, eating good, and staying healthy! 

Kinzey and Joanne smiling away

Sunday we make the trip over the Otepaa, Estonia- which includes a two hour boat ride over the Gulf of Finland. From there on out its race prep, and then the racing. YEHAAA!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finland, Estonia, France, Norway, OSLO!!!!

Wow, its time for the Championships!! From here on out, its the big stuff. After finishing my first block of preparation races, I am now headed into the european block of racing. Right now I am sitting in the Portland, Maine airport waiting to start my journey to Helsinki, Finland for a preparation training camp before U23 World Champs. It's a bit sad to split from my team after living in close quarters with them for the past 10 weeks- but also fun to see them all go their different directions for racing as well. Some of them I will meet up with as soon as U23's, and others I will reunite with in Oslo for World Champs

This year, U23's and World Juniors take place in Otepaa, Estonia. The fun part is there is a World Cup the weekend before, so by the time we arrive- organizers will have everything nice and dialed, and courses will be perfectly skid in! This years group of US racers is a unique bunch. This will be my sixth year going on this World Junior/U23 trip, and this is by far the strongest bunch I have headed over with. I think there are great things that could happen- which is super fun to go into the Championships feeling like! I will be meeting up with several of my teammates, Reese Hanneman, Kinzie Loan, and Becca Rorabough overseas- which is super fun!

After US Nationals I got the word that I qualified for the World Champ team in Oslo, which is SUPER exciting. It has been a goal sitting in the back side of my head all summer and fall, but with the new program switch I wasn't sure how it was all going to work out. I couldn't be happier though, and I am super fired up to get into my first big race! All my norwegian buddies keep telling me that is is going to be the race I remember for the rest of my life. Oslo is the center for nordic skiing, so having the World Champs there sounds like it is going to be quite the celebration! I can't wait!! I will also be accompanied by my teammates Kikkan Randall (who just won a world cup yesterday), Lars Flora, and Holly Brooks as well as my coach, Erik! Wahoooo!

Wrapping up my US Tour and moving onto my European Tour- here we go!! Time to board the plane!!

Living it up in the Olympic Training Center

Womans Team departs Maine

One last minute good luck kiss from Olympic Medalist, Billy Demong

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Week to Remember

Last week was a week to remember for more then one reason! By the end of the week I had more "first times" then I think I ever have experienced in one week!

First Times-

1. Traveling to Senior Nationals with the APU Group- This pretty much sets the mood for all my first times, and is the most important key! This group of skiers and coaches are incredible. The way that everyone works together, and pushes each other throughout the week is hard to put your finger on and even describe. I think the chemistry among the group is the unique part to allows this to happen. There is not a single person on this team that is bringing down the energy. Every person gets out there race day and throws down- whether that means racing, or cheering for their teammates. One of the most rewarding things about this, is when you have the opportunity to stand on the top of the podium on any given day- you have 30 other people standing there with you, giving you the high five. The next day your teammate will be standing in that same place, experiencing the same feeling. It makes all the hours you put in training alongside all these people worth it!

2. New Years Celebration- for the past 6 years, I have been traveling to Senior Nationals right before New Years, so I have never once had the opportunity to celebrate. Normally my night consists of sitting and watching "America's Next Top Model" on Tv- or reading my text books. This year, the girls house decided to throw a dress up New Years Party. We got all dressed up and sent out invitations. It turned out being tons of fun, even if we didn't stay up until the "New Year", but it was still the most excitement I have had on New Years in my life!

3. Arriving at a Venue with No Snow- well maybe we can call it a couple inches... lets just say I was disappointed to not bring rock skis! Regardless, it was incredible what race organizers pulled together for every race! It added some fun to the mix of racing, and in no way affected any of the racers opportunity for success! Thanks to the Black Mountain Crew!

top of the course day before the race

4. My first Podium- In my first Senior Nationals race of the year, the classic sprint, I finished 3rd American- allowing me to stand on the podium at National Champs... I couldn't have been happier, let alone, my roommate, and teammate, Morgan Smyth was standing in second, and the great H. Brooks stood on top! Katie Ronsse also took fourth, so APU swept top four Americans!

5. Sweeping the Podium as a Team- I already said this, but it is a true first! Standing on the starting line of the A-Finals, with three of my teammates was a unique feeling. I knew that 300 days of the year, I train endless hours with these same girls, and it was all worth it!! Thanks to the coaches and tech's for making this possible!!

6. First National Championship Title- Honestly, this still hasn't quite sunk in- but it was one of my favorite firsts! With the 10k Classic consisting of four laps of a 2.7k course- I went into the race with a plan. A plan to race it like I would a mile on the track. First lap for rhythm, second lap pick it up, third lap push the pace, and fourth lap race from the heart. My plan kinda fell a bit to pieces when I took out the first lap at a faster pace than I expected with all the excitement. So I would say more of a pattern made of push the pace on the first lap, push the pace harder on the second lap, and race from the heart for the following two laps. Going into this week I would have never guessed I could win a distance race, I had my money more on the sprints- but this was the best part!! Once again, one of my teammates accompanied me on the podium, congrats to Morgan for second!! Wahooo

7. First Time I Have Seen Such an Incredible Performance- Saturday's race was amazing for a bazillion reasons. First, I raced my heart out every heat of the skate sprint and after cresting the last hill in first during the A-Finals, I was passed by two girls right before the end. This is one of the things I need to work on, race tactics! Even though it is most comforting to lead a race, and control your competitors, tactically it is stupid. The same thing happened in the classic sprint. Drafting is way better in second or third coming down the last hill than in first! Third times a charm with this lesson though, next year I will come prepared to race it smarter. But beside that point, one of the girls I have been racing with for years, Jessie Diggins, had one of the most unbelievable performances. For one, she is not a sprinter, and she won the race. And for two, she fell on the top of the hill and somehow still managed to win the race! Congrats to Jessie!!

Homestretch w/ Jessie on the left coming in hot!- Stephan Mitman Photography

8. First Time Making the Alaska Daily News- Not only did we make the daily news, but APU skiers made the front page every single day of races! Thats fun!!! 

Stephan Mitman Photography

After all these firsts, I came away from the week feeling very happy with everything. Not only had I made my first podium, but I podiumed in every race. Thats a huge jump for me, and I couldn't be happier! Buttt, the year is early, and I have lots more ahead of me to set my eyes on! On sunday I take of for U23 Championships in Estonia, where I hope to do just as well if not better. The races are a Classic Sprint, Skate Distance, and Pursuit Distance. This years US team is going to be amazing. I think it is stronger than ever!

Kris Dobie Photography getting artistic

Thanks to the coaches and wax tech's for doing an amazing job last week! It is unbelievable to see how hard these guys work!

I am now in Lake Placid, New York hanging out for a couple more days until heading to Estonia. FUN, FUN!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nationals Day 2- First National Title!

photo by Kris Dobie
Today was the second day of Nationals here in Rumford Maine- a 10 kilometer classic race. After walking around the dirt covered courses yesterday afternoon, I was incredibly surprised to see how much snow race organizers managed to get on those trails! Even with the limited snow, the 2.5 kilometer loops were lacking no challenge. What seemed like a course with one hill and lots of rest turned into a tough course that required you to stay on your toes and push every transition. 

I knew that in order to stand on that podium today I needed to be in a world of hurt, so I went from the gun and went like-a-hell, crossing the line in first place, 30 seconds ahead of my closest competitor, teammate, and roommate, Morgan Smyth. This is by far my best distance result, and to have that at Nationals is so fun! As a team we managed to take top two places in both the mens and womans field.. YEAAAHHHH! We also had many girls stacked in the top ten, throwing down a good showing.

It is incredibly fun to be part of this APU team. Any one of us could pop a good race and stand on the top for the day. I think that is what I enjoy best about it. When one person does well, it pushes the group to strive and reach to that same level. I have never been part of a team that functions so well together and gets along so well- I couldn't be more thankful I am part of it!

Thanks to the coaches for some bomb track skis and keeping us going!

Tomorrow is the 20k skate race, which I will sit out. Following that is the last race, a skate sprint on Saturday.. fun, fun!

Getting one of my first interviews :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nationals- Day One photo- during the heats

Yesterday marked the first day of 2011 U.S. Nationals here in Rumford Maine. I must say I have never raced on so little snow in my life, but race managers managed to throw together a super impressive race out there!

The day started with a 1.4km qualifier where APU woman had an impressive showing with six skiers qualifying in the top ten. I ended up qualifying second, behind Holly Brooks, and then close behind were Morgan, Katie, Fitz, Becca and Ky! The mens qualifier was stacked with APUers as well. Lars Flora won the heats, with Reese Hanneman close behind. Results posted at:

At 12:45 when the heats began, the snow was turning into puddles, tracks were disappearing, and the dirt was showing through. Regardless everyone threw down pretty damn hard and had tons of fun. Because the only snow that Black Hill has right now is placed on the sprint course, there wasn't many options for warming up on besides going up and down the short alpine run. This made things a bit tough- but everyone seemed to remain positive and have fun.

I went through the heats with the plan of attacking from the start and going from there. All my heats were pretty fun as I had between 2 and 4 of my teammates in each heat- which made me feel right at home :) By the A-Final heat when I lined up with 3 other APU girls, I was starting to feel the effort catching up to me. I was able to get out of the start quick and keep my eyes on Holly Brooks throwing down every last bit of energy. As I pushed over the top of the last hill I headed down the hill in second place. From there things switched around a bit with varying ski speeds before we put out every last bit of energy down the double pole finish. I crossed the line 4th, 3rd american.... which meant APU swept the podium!!! My first Nationals podium ever :)

Top 4 Americans!

Big thanks to the wax techs and coaches for bombs skis! And congrats to the boys squad for rockin as well!

Mike Matteson getting after it!

Races are postponed until wednesday because of the lack of snow... but good news is its supposed to cool down and they are going to start making snow. 

Here is a link to the front page of Alaska Daily News today!

APU Ladies Team