Friday, March 2, 2012

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!!


For the past ten days I have had an entirely new cultural ski experience! Last year when I heard my final U23’s would be in Erzurum, Turkey- I was a hair disappointed. I knew it was going to be expensive to get there, I knew it was going to be a long trip to get there, and I also knew that the chance of getting food poisoning or something to the sort was about 90%. Erzurum hosted University Games last year, and rarely did I hear good stories of the experience. No snow, food poisoning, pollution, etc. Being my final U23’s I didn’t want all these outside influences to affect my last chance at doing well at these Championships.
My one gallon bottle of fresh water that I travel with.
Some of the delicious dessert options
While I was in France training, I finally came to terms with the trip- and decided that I was going to look at it as an adventure rather than a haste. I mean, how many other times in my life will I have the opportunity to travel to Turkey. Not only that, all the logistics would be taken care of for us, and chances are we were going to be relatively safe with all our event security.
Ryan stoked on all the adventures!!
As I explained in my earlier blog post the trip didn’t necessarily start on a good note- but after the travel from hell I was in Turkey safely with all my gear… I couldn’t complain too much.

The group this year was awesome! Everyone was up for an adventure. Nobody wanted to just sit in their hotel and “let the turkey cultural experience waist away”- so from the get go we were trying to go up the gondola to the top of the mountain for free, taking trips downtown, doing some exploring around the venue, talking with people from the area, and doing lots of observing. One thing we noticed from the start was the unique prayer time that would play five times a day. As we noticed this song playing, we began to notice there were Mosque’s everywhere, and many of the woman were dressed with their faces were covered… wow we really were in a different culture!!
Erik and I in front of a Mosque downtown.
Our bus rides to the venue tended to be uncomfortably warm... especially for the Alaskan boys.
Some good sketchy streets! 
One of the days we took a taxi downtown, where we bartered with the taxi man to set a price before going down and up… I guess that is the way it works there. As we walked through the streets we ventured through dark markets, addidas stores, lots of cloth stores for making your own clothing, knock-off shoe stores, endless sketchy looking kebab shops and much more. I even bought some knock off Nike shoes for about 7 dollars and some Timberlands boots for about half the price it would be in the US. It was tons of fun. Not only that, we got to do some people observing. I am quite certain all the people were observing us just as much too. Blonde, white, American… I am sure we had money written all over us in their eyes.
Eric Packer photo
Pete, Becca and I do some exploring in some dark buildings.
Some gnarly smog floating over the city. Doesn't smell good and can't be good for the lungs :(
My new boots from my shopping trip
Once the racing started, we had less time for adventuring. With a one hour bus ride each way to the venue.. race mornings were early- and afternoons were late. The time we had was mostly spent with our feet up doing homework and preparing for the next day. One of the most exciting parts about this years event was that many of the teams were staying in the same hotel. After being in Europe on the circuit for most of the winter, I have gotten a chance to meet many of the athletes from other teams. With everyone staying in the same hotel that meant that we had time to socialize with other teams and get to know even more athletes. This was great for the juniors, because normally as a junior, you are so intimidated by the thought of a Norwegian, that you would never say a thing to them. Instead, this year during our one hour bus rides to the venue, or during meals, everyone had the opportunity to get to know each other.
Bus rides with a mixed bag of teams
At least the long van rides had sweet views!
Erik and I on an off day ski
I have a race eview from the first two races that I posted on the NNF site that I will post again here. Thanks to NNF, this trip was made affordable for not only me, but all eighteen of the athletes. This trip had the potential to be insanely expensive, but throughout the summer and fall, many people have been rallying their support towards the NNF, so thanks so much for that!!
Our beautiful home away from home
“Yesterday was our second race of U23 Championships here in Erzurum, Turkey. Being a 10k classic race meant that in the middle of the summer last year, I wrote down my goals- and one of them was having "my race of the year” in this event.

Being a veteran on this trip, competing in my seventh U23/World Junior trip made me focus more attention on this event than anything else in the year. I entered this season having a goal, and that was to peak for U23's. The first event of the week was a skate sprint, one that I would also have a large focus on. Unfortunately, I made a small tactically error in my quarterfinals, and was forced to end my day early. Now in the previous six years I have attended these Championships, this sort of disappointment would have set me back. I would have questioned my fitness, been very angry and sad, and the week would have dwindled from there. But this year, after having many ups and downs already this season, I brushed it off and made myself believe the fitness was in fact there. After about an hour of frustration, it was on to the next race- the 10k classic. Being a "classic skier" makes the 10k one of my favorite races.
Skate Sprint
After talking with my coach from back home, Erik Flora, I made a plan for the race. Racing at altitude is a unique thing in that you can't go out there and red line the entire race. Instead you have to ease up a bit, remain in control, and then red line like crazy for the last 5-10 minutes. My last altitude race I did this season was at the World Cup in Davos, where I had a horrible race- but once again I brushed aside the doubt, and made myself believe that I could do it. 

Being ranked 24th as a distance racer here, I decided I would race with no expectations other than to race my own race, touching on my own strengths. The race ended up playing out just as I hoped.  I spent the first 5k pushing every transition, flat and gradual, and then the following 5k just hammering everything. I knew that at 5k I was in 10th place, and I heard the coaches telling me that placing was close. 5 seconds meant something- I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew five seconds was going to do me something. With that in mind I laid it all out there, crossed the line… and that’s when the waiting game began. With my poor ranking, this meant all the fastest athletes would be finishing almost fifteen minutes behind me. As I sat there listening to the splits coming in for 7k, and then the athletes coming in… I waited in desperation and excitement. I have never been anywhere close to the podium in a distance race at U23/World Juniors- so I was ecstatic inside. As the final girl crossed the line, I sat in fifth, just five seconds from 2nd place!! As always, I wished; had I know- I could have gone just a little bit harder. But I was also incredibly happy!! This was by far my best distance result ever, and I had indeed accomplished part of my goal I set last summer.
Classic racing in the freezing cold!
Later that night, the US team went downtown Erzurum for the awards ceremony, and I got to accompany two other US athletes on the podium. Noah Hoffman, and ski jumper, Sarah Hendrickson. As we stood in front of the Mosque and jumped on the podium, I was all smiles! How fun!! That’s what it feels like to stand on the top. Now it’s one more race for the week, so one more opportunity to get that same feeling.

Sporting the American Pride!
Awards Ceremony downtown Erzurum
I just want to take the time to say thanks to all of you out there supporting this momentum and exciting time for the US Ski Team. We have finally proved to the world that we are a force to recon with, and we will make it happen. Maybe it requires the endless support of all our fans from back home- but we will find a way to work our way there. For the athletes, it’s all the more special to stand on the podium and know that people believe and support us. So thanks to everyone who has put their support towards NNF. Already you have made this trip incredible for a group of young talented athletes that have many podiums in front of them.”

Ladies crew with a lot of future talent in front of them!
So that pretty much sums up my Turkey week- and this is already the world’s longest blog. I think sometimes picture really tell a thousand words, so I have tried to post many. 

I am now in Lahti, Finland- where I will be racing a 15k Pursuit race tomorrow. Then, Monday we will leave for Norway, where I will be racing my final city sprint in the streets of Drammen!!


Lots of fun time to come!!

2 comments:

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I mean, how many other times in my life will I have the opportunity to travel to Turkey. Not only that, all the logistics would be taken care of for us, and chances are we were going to be relatively safe with all our event security.