Sunday, March 11, 2012


So I am currently sitting in my bed in utter complete pain as my legs ache from the most painful experience I have ever taken part in.... Holmenkollen 30k!! To give you a bit of an idea of just how today went down, I think I skid a 30k at my regular 10k pace. From the minute the gun went off, we were after it. Just like last years World Champs here in Holmenkollen, the atmosphere here is amazing.

Distributed across the course are thousands and thousands of fans just decked out in face paint, flags and anything to support their home crowd. And not to forget, along with the people are big camps set up with people dressed all funny, drinking and cooking food on the campfire. I have to say, its a smell that isn't always so pleasant to smell while you are racing- but I am more than happy to put up with it in exchange for the incredible enthusiasm these people have. What a place!! There is a reason all the Norwegians are so good- the people here are in love with the sport!!

Coming through the stadium- with a huge crowd in the bleachers behind
To back up a hair bit, Wednesday was a city sprint in Drammen, Norway- just outside of Oslo (45mins). Since they don't lay the snow down until the morning of the event, we have been staying in Oslo all week, and then we just drove over for the race day. The atmosphere there was just incredible and a little different than Holmenkollen. With the event taking place centered around a massive church and racing up and down the main street- the whole scene is a bit different. Unfortunately it was raining/snowing super hard that day, but the fans were all still out their in the plastic bags and ponchos.
The large church that sort of serves as the finish line as well as the "center" of the course.
Wet and warm in rainy Drammen!!
As I was warming up I managed to keep my head down and not really take in the environment- mostly in an effort to stay dry from the rain... and maybe a bit in an effort to focus, but right before I raced- I decided I needed to take a lap where I looked around. I was in disbelief. There was an actual band playing right along the course, along with a whole lot of excited fans. Little kids were reaching into the course in an effort to touch the athletes, people were genuinely STOKED!!

It's hard to tell, but that is in fact a stage with a band... and the ski course runs between it and the people Thanks to  Will Coleman for many of these pictures! I was much to soaked to bring my camera out.
A little glimpse of the scene
Setting the whole scene out of my head, I was able to focus and put together my best race of the season, finishing 16th in the classic sprint, and scoring my first World Cup Points ever. In the quarterfinals my race came to a sudden disappointment about 45 seconds into it when I collided with the Norwegian girl leaving us a long ways off the pack by the time we finally got our skis pointed back forward. As we raced to catch back up to the group, we gained some ground... but we had been stalled for just too long. I was a hair sad that I never got the chance to really fight as I felt so good on the day- but then again, it was my first World Cup heat ever... I had to take what I could get.
Sprinting it out with the Norwegian girl I collided with right up to the finish
In between then and today, I got the chance to meet up with some of my college buddies that are now back in Norway. I have a good friend who is still in Ak, but his family took me in last year during World Champs, having me over for dinner, giving me the tour of Oslo, washing my clothes and feeding me lots of chocolate. They did the same thing this year- which was awesome since I have been washing my clothes in the sink now for nearly a month.
Walking along the ocean with Marit Ulsund, one of my good friends who was skiing at UAA last year.
Why not laugh a little?
Which bring us to the present... Holmenkol 30k!! I went into this race with little expectations as a 30k is about twice as long as I normally call "my limit". Trying to keep an open mind though, I decided I was just going to go out there, have fun and work as hard as I could. One of the cool things about 30k's on the World Cup circuit is they have "ski exchanges" where you go through a pit and you are able to switch your skis up to three times throughout the race. This enables the athletes to have fast skis all throughout the race. I have just recently gotten an entirely new fleet of classic skis as I have been trading in and out with the world cup skis, in an effort to get some speedy skis... which has been a bit of a challenge this week since I don't know them very well.
Race prep pre-race day with the ladies... the black mamba!!
Testing some skis with the ladies the day before.
With the sun shining so hard today, the tracks switched to mush pretty quickly from the start. For the first 22k, I held a consistent speed skiing right around 32-34th place. I was definitely about 10 levels above my comfort zone for a race that long, but taking every feed I could get.. coke or gatorade, I had the feeling I was going to be able to hold it in the "hurt zone" for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately on the way out for my last lap, I switched onto a pair of skis that was much too soft for the condition.. so things got about twice as hard from there. Struggling to hold myself together, I dug deeper than ever and managed to finish in 40th place.

Ahhh yes, feeling the burn baby!!
So I can now say "I skid a world cup 30k". I would have never guessed I was going to have the opportunity to do that this year, along with many other things. Today was the completion of my world cup season, as I will head to Italy tomorrow for continental cup races. The whole journey throughout the world cup season has been awesome. The goal going into this year was to "get some experience". Experience I did, weather it was coming in nearly last place, standing on my first world cup podium, skiing the last two kilometers of a race with Martha Kristofersson, doing a sprint in the streets of Moscow, getting my first world cup point, or finishing the hardest race of my life. It all has been tough, rewarding, and sometimes beyond frustrating... but experience, I DID! Thanks to the many people that donated their support in making it possible!! You guys rock- and I have to say, I am certain I got enough motivation this year to train even harder and come back for some more!!

So, as I said- its now onto Italy where I will be racing in the OPA Cup Finals. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will also be meeting up with a huge group of other American athletes, one being my brother- so I am really looking forward to it. Sad to leave the amazing atmosphere of Oslo, but happy to see what will come next.

Now its on to taking an ice tub to try to numb some of the "race ache"!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lahti, Finland

This past week I have been training and racing in Lahti, Finland- home to lots of skiing history. World Champs, World Cups, infamous doping scandals, famously tough courses, etc.

Last year before U23's and World Juniors, we spent a day training on the courses in Lahti, so I sort of had an idea of the venue. As I skid the courses throughout the beginning of the week, I was pleasantly surprised how much more manageable they felt than last year. Maybe it was the fact that I had been at altitude for the past three weeks, so Lahti had an overly excessive amount of oxygen... or maybe it's my newly non-naive knowledge of "world cup race courses". Regardless, it was a nice feeling!!

Big spectator scene in Lahti, with the finish in a large stadium.

Since Noah, Jessie and I arrived Monday evening, we had some time to burn between then and the races on Saturday. Living in downtown Lahti meant that we could walk all around the city exploring. Somehow the mall managed to pull me in pretty quickly. To make matters worse, it didn't help that our internet access was only available through a coffee shop placed right in the middle of the mall. I sort of have a weak spot for shopping anyway... so I had to cave a bit. Especially since I have been wearing the same two outfits for about four months now!! Jessie and I had a day of walking about and trying on some of the most ridiculous outfits- the outfits we would wear if our lives maybe allowed a bit more time for social events.

As the remainder of the group started arriving thursday we started focusing more on skiing and racing, preparing for the coming races. Unfortunately, because of our shortage in start rights, I only got to race once- but it was still super fun. Saturday was a 15k pursuit, the exact race I had just done a week ago in Turkey. The pursuit in Turkey didn't go so well for me, so I made it a goal to change things around in Lahti. The race ended up going really well for me, as I had my best distance result of the year... but unfortunately once again, just 11 seconds shy from the points. Starting bib 66 in a mass start is sort of an obstacle from the start. From the minute the gun goes off, its like driving in city traffic. Floor it, slam into the girl in front of you... floor it, slam into the girl in front of you. Looking for a place to make up places and move forward is like a game- you really have to be quick and on top of it. It's actually pretty enjoyable if you don't stress out about it too much.

After about 3k I had managed to move up pretty far, skiing right along with Holly and Jessie somewhere in the twenties. Just as I made the decision in my head "this is going to be a great race", I came down the bottom of a gnarly downhill corner into an uphill and sprawled across the trail. Letting out a little yelp, I watched as about 30 girls nearly slammed right into me from behind. I quickly jumped up in frustration- and put down the hammer. Going in what seemed like an all out sprint, I made it a mission to catch back up with Jessie to the place I had been. Finally, about 3k later, I managed to gain the ground back.. and then try to relax. After switching into my skate gear, for the rest of the race- I put my head down and hammered on. The skate course was pretty difficult with three laps of a course with two massive climbs. Keeping my eyes on the russian girl that had just recently placed 2nd at U23's... I hammered on to finish 33rd... darn close to those points, but still not there. Luckily, I raced well enough to get the spot to race in the 30k Holmenkollen this weekend. So, one more chance!!

Doing some cheering for Kikkan on sprint day.. kicking butt as usual!
I am now back in Norway, enjoying the delicious norwegian bread and brown cheese. Tomorrow is the Drammen city sprint where we race around the streets on the man-made snow. From what I hear, its quite the scene. Can't wait!!

Two more World Cup races for the season, 3 more OPA cup races, 5 more domestic races.. and then back to AK. It's crazy how fast it has all seemed to go!

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!!