Monday, July 30, 2012

Glacier Camp 1

Last week I had my first glacier camp of the summer up on Eagle Glacier. I had a bit of a delayed start this year because of injuries, but I finally got to make the trip up.

It all started a little different than usual. Weather was really crummy sunday morning, so after hanging out all afternoon down in Girdwood, Keith from Alpine Air decided to take us up the ridge as far as possible. With the facility "socked in" and windy, we planned to hike the last section that was not flyable.
Getting snowmobiled across the last section of the trek.
So after taking six trips of four athletes ten minutes up into the clouds, we were all dropped on a ridge line only about 30 minutes hike below the glacier. I have never made the hike up or down from the glacier, so it was exciting to switch things up a bit. I can't wait until the day that I have absolutely no injuries and can do that full hike!!
This picture was at 11PM on one of the nicest days... so hard to go to sleep when it's that beautiful out.
The first couple days shaped up to be a usual glacier summer camp. Cloudy, a bit rainy, and "lukewarm". It made doing my homework inside the house more appealing than usual. But day three, the sun came out. For the first time, I skid around the glacier twice a day in a pair of shorts and a sports bra. It was unreal! Made the tough training even more enjoyable than usual!

Thanks to Mike, Dylan and Erik for sweet tracks every workout!!
This camp was a bit different than usual. Nursing a back injury that is on its way out, I had to be careful to not do too much too quick. When the weather is as nice as it is, sometimes its extremely tough to say no to one more lap, and turn in. Regardless, I was able to get in some great training and bring the snow ski muscles back to life. One afternoon I decided I wanted to do something other than ski, so I found myself a "250 step" loop up the little hill behind the facility, down the snow field, and around the house. We don't have much room to move around up there off of the snow, so I was forced to make a little baby loop. After about 15 loops I started counting my steps... 251 steps! A lot more exciting than running in the pool, ill tell you that!

Now its back to two more weeks of dry land training, and then one more week on the Glacier.

Charlie Renfro and Chris Hodel came up one of the sunny afternoons and took a whole bunch of photos and video. They are working on putting together some media stuff for the APU team and managed to catch the best day of weather on the Glacier. I look forward to seeing what they put together! Thanks for many of these team photos!
Erik Flora giving us some technique advice (Chris Hodel photo)
APU Womans Elite Team (minus Kikkan. Charlie Renfro photo)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Time

Hi All- Sorry for the MIA from the blogging world. The beginning of the summer has thrown me a couple challenges and speed bumps, forcing for me to test my patience and creativity. This past year I have been working with a functional back injury that first appeared when I left for World Cup last fall, then disappeared for five months, before making another appearance my first week of training this spring.

After spending the first month of the training year doing nothing but skating and running (classic was hurting my back), I ended up with an overuse injury on one of the tendons on my foot. This is when I had to pull the plug, sit down and really think about what was going wrong. This is also when I started going to Physical Therapy and understanding more of what was going wrong with my back.

Unfortunately, an injury like I have, has lots of ups and downs. Fixing it means changing my technique, changing the way I carry myself, changing the ways I pick things up.. basically learning to move in a different way that is not constantly pinching my facet joint. As every athlete in the world, and every normal human being in the world wants to know... how do I get better? Unfortunately, I have been testing the boundaries and learning those limitations through the course of the summer. Not being able to train at full capacity is the hardest part of training. Training hard when I am healthy is the easy part!

The two weeks in between our first National Team Camp in Bend, Oregon and the scheduled North American Womans Team Camp (NAWTA) I raced to get back in working order. I knew Aino Kaisa Saarinen (Auku) would be coming, and since I first started watching her ski, I have dreamt about classic skiing behind her, and learning to ski like her. As I raced to quickly be better in time, I over-jumped my limitations, skiing a two hour skate through the hills chasing Auku and Kikkan. Again, I was back at the bottom with my heart hanging low. At that point I had to make the dfficult decision to leave the National Team Camp in my own town and get away from the excitement and motivated girls to truly get my body back to order.
Still getting in a couple training days with the camp ladies

This is when I headed back to the Methow to spend some time with my parents and forget about the frustrations and expectations. For ten days, I enjoyed being with my family, enjoyed the sunshine, let my mind relax, and did some PT work. But again, I was faced with a difficult decision. What next? Things are not completely better, so what next? When your heart only knows one thing- and that is working hard and being motivated... its difficult to not go searching in every direction for the magic answer.
Getting in some time with my two best friends from back home
Luckily I have a coach full of experience with injuries, and a team of extremely motivating friends. I haven't gone a day without someone reminding me that injuries happen to all the best. I even came across a quote from an Olympic Hurdler, Lolo Jones, on my flight back to AK. During the 2008 Olympic Games, she was the favorite to win a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles, but clipped the second to last hurdle, sending her from first to seventh place. She also went through her fair share of injuries and challenges. Her response to these adversities were:

"Any time a bad thing happens, when I haven't made a team or I've been injured, I think. There's got to be a reason for this. Adversities make you mad, they make you sad, they literally break you down, but if you fight through them, they make you stronger, sharper and more motivated". 

Spending time on the beach with great teammates!
So with that, I headed back to AK, and have been working on creating a consistent plan of progression, and learning to change my movements in order to learn to avoid back pain. After seeing a specialist, getting an MRI, and working with many PT's, the answers all remain the same. Learn to move a way that doesn't pinch that facet joint, and gradually increase back into activity. And finally, I have started making true progress. 
Corey Stock came to train with APU for a couple months this summer and we have been spending some quality time training together. She too has had some leg injuries so we have been doing lots of ski striding and hiking working on leg strength and searching for the bears.
I have been combining lots of aqua jogging, ski striding up the mountains, skate roller skiing and very controlled classic roller skiing. Last week I finally trained a true full week, and my positive spirit is coming back. Even though I know its not all going to be smiles and giggles from here, I have finally started believing. From the words of a good friend and one of the best skiers in the world, Chandra Crawford,

"The key to it all is the difference between hoping and believing. Hoping is better than nothing, but it's still laced with fear, apprehension, and doubt, and that will effect your circulation, physiology and healing. When you become a believer- through experience, evidence from other athletes who've been through this- you can change from hope to belief. When you do that, you find a new level of responsiveness."

Thank god I have a coach that truly understands and can relate to the mental swings of injuries. Especially when you feel like you have no answers. Erik has been great about continuously reminding me that the year is still young, it is the time to work on my weaknesses, and the answer is consistency. When looking for a magic solution becomes tempting, I am constantly reminded that the solution comes with consistency. 
This is not me aqua jogging- but this is what it looks like. If you haven't ever tried if before- you should. It may be the worlds most boring workout, but it has saved many professional runners leading into huge events that they have been successful at. 
Unfortunately this will mean sitting out on the joint Swedish and US National Team Camp in two weeks, but I know this is going to only make me more motivated, and more determine. Like Lolo Jones says, its these adversities that make us stronger, sharper and more motivated!!
Nothing says motivation like having to skip out on something like this!
One more week of training in town and then up to the Eagle Glacier to try some snow skiing!! No more bears to run from, no more driving and biking... just the snow, and what I know best!!

Eagle Glacier at its finest!
Thanks to everyone that has been so incredibly supportive this summer. You guys are all wonderful angels and I truly appreciate it!