Monday, December 22, 2014

Dropping Back onto Earth

It is has been some time since the last time I posted! I don't think I necessarily dropped off the face of the earth, but I definitely took a little break from the world of "inter web". So, I will take you all through a brief synopsis of Period 1 of racing, and a month of happenings. 

World Cup Openers were in Kuusamo, Finland this year with a double classic weekend. Classic Sprinting and classic 10k. With some "less than normal" weather, conditions were warm and tricky, which made for some tricky skiing and waxing conditions over the weekend. The sprint heats left me with some icing skis on the top of both hills which pulled me out of the chase. Sunday's 10k was a new try, and new conditions. JP really nailed the wax, so this time I came with a little more of a chase! 
Doing some Fischer Photo Shoots in Kuusamo with Nordic Focus
Thanksgiving looks a little different from the road.... :) :)
Soph doing some media fun
Jess taking advantage of our small oven in Kuusamo and making us some delicious banana bread!!

One week later we were back in Lillehammer, Norway, one of my favorite places to race. I have always loved racing in Norway. I just love the feeling, I love the confidence I mysteriously always find, and I just love the whole atmosphere and history behind this sport! This year we had our "mini tour" weekend here with 3 races: two distance and one sprint. The highlight from this weekend was making my first distance points in skate skiing during the 5k skate race! It was pretty darn fun!

Just having a little extra fun!
Lillehammer brought some different significance to me this year, other than just ski racing. The past 4.5 years I have been working on school at Alaska Pacific University. So, this year, Lillehammer marked as the home for my senior presentation. Because I was on the road during the time that I would normally present my "senior project" to the Anchorage Community and APU faculty; I had to instead give a "virtual presentation" over a program similar to Skype. Often the places we are staying and racing in Europe have internet…. but it is pretty iffy. It is rare you can carry a successful Skype conversation without being cut out. So, the big stress was finding a place with dependable internet in order to give the best presentation without being "cut out" to my audience back in Alaska that would be grading my project. My norwegian buddy, Celine Brun-Lie, contacted the University in Lillehammer and set me up with an incredibly friendly and helpful man, Christine, that set up a meeting room for me, and the very best internet connection. So, 7PM on Wednesday night I headed over to the University to present my project I have spent the last 8 months working on. It was so neat and special to have all my friends, family and teammates sign on from all over the world- and then also hear the audience that collected in the classroom in Anchorage!

It was so fun to spend some time with Ella Hall, my neighbor from back home in the Methow, who was over here in Norway being the most brave 17 year old ever, and going to school here!
Thank you to this awesome guy, Pete Dickinson for generously donating his PT expertise and time for three weeks! 
So, fast forward one more week, and we arrive in Davos, Switzerland for the next weekend of World Cup Racing. Again, this week is significant for another reason other than racing. This is because I signed in to my final class, turned in my final paper, and sealed the deal for being DONE WITH SCHOOL. With a little celebration, some nice gifts from my teammates, and some bricks being lifted off my shoulders, I quickly tried to focus my energy back into ski racing. With a bit of an off weekend, I missed making sprint heats by .01 seconds (too close to even imagine), and I didn't have the classic race I was capable of. I have always struggled a bit in Davos, so I wasn't dishearten; I just left the weekend looking for some more!
Marcel Hilger photo
Marcel Hilger photo

Really fun to meet some of the girls on the Russian Ski Team!!
Thanks to Liz Arky and Levi for some wonderful cheering and amazing support!!
With no snow in La Clusaz (our next stop for the World Cup), the final weekend of racing before Christmas break got relocated in Davos again- another weekend of racing on the challenging Davos courses. The final weekend would include a skate race, and a skate sprint- double skating! Determine to test out my skating again, I jumped into the 10k distance race, excited to see what I could do. I managed to "just sneak into" the points, in 29th. Still a victory for me. By the final day of racing, I was exhausted. With lots of racing in period 1, and lots of training at altitude, I was left digging for every last bit of energy in the sprint qualifier. Again, I showed up short, missing the heats by a little less than a second!! While frustrated, I finished this past weekend of racing ready for a break.

Finding something new to take my energy!
Jess singing and playing me to sleep

Thanks to this wonderful French man for some fast skis and happy times!
Fun to always have someone around to make you smile! Professor Gus, making sure JP stays on top of his stuff!
So, this meant jumping in the van with the French Team and heading west for some much needed rest and recovery in Meribel. I woke up this morning and looked outside to find all the hills brown! It is crazy, you can hardly even tell it is winter here. There is no snow anywhere. This afternoon I went for a little hike behind Jo's house in the sunshine and found people hiking around with shorts, t-shirts and walking sticks…. something I would imagine in June or July! This afternoon I will adventure up a bit higher and see if I can find a place to potentially ski. But things are looking pretty grim! It has been so sad to see the lack of snow all over Europe this winter. 

Not enough snow for much.....
The cross country skiers were lucky that we were able to race four weekends! There has been a lot of World Cup Racing cancelled in Europe so far. There are very few places with enough snow to hold a race, so I feel pretty lucky to have so many venues willing to put in a lot of extra hard work to allow the races to be pulled off. Big thanks to Davos for some incredible work…. two weekends in a row!

Not much snow in Davos- but they pulled it off really well!!
Now we all cross our fingers for some snow storms in Central Europe so that we can have the Tour de Ski, and of course all the racing after that!!

For the next two weeks I will be chasing snow around France. First I will have some time with Jo, then Christmas with his family in Hauteville, and then some time in Villard de Lans with my brother's girlfriends family. And after that? Who knows…. with this lack of snow, I have learned you can't really make so many plans!

Best Christmas and wintery wishes to everyone!! Enjoy the wonderful holidays, and I will check back in soon!
Soph and I finding some Christmas Spirit

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 1 On the Road

One week has already flown by of this 2014-2015 season on the road. You know what that means?? Time to start racing!!

We spent the past week living and skiing in Munio, Finland- approximately 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. That means many things.

1) It takes 30 hours of travel to get from Anchorage, Alaska to here!

2) It doesn't get light until 9:30, and it begins to get dark at 2:30PM

3) I haven't gotten to say hello to the sunshine since I got here. It is almost like a constant sunset/sunrise all day, which is actually really neat and pretty!
One of the sunrises that goes all day (Sophie photo)

4) BRRRR, it is cold here! We are staying right on the ski trails, which means we walk to training every day, and we can escape to our cabin pretty easily if we underdressed or just need a little break to warm up!
Doing some testing with my new tech, JP. Chilly times! (Reese Hanneman photo)
5) Snow! There is snow, and plenty of it! There is a great little 5 kilometer loop groomed that has provided for some awesome training and interval sessions as we prepare for the World Cup next weekend in Kuusamo, Finland.
Enjoying some snow! (Sophie photo)
6) We are surrounded by other skiers. It has been fun to have some other teams here including the Estonian's, the Polish, the Finnish, and many younger training groups from Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Following Justyna during intervals one day.
It has made for a great week. Early on, I got to celebrate my birthday, which is always really fun on the road. My teammates are always incredible at making me feel special all day, surprising me with gifts, nice cards, and cakes! Not only that, I get a second birthday when everyone in the US wakes up 10 hours later and sends me many wishes! It is the best! Thanks everyone.

Some amazing Northern Lights (Reese Hanneman photo)
The older you get- the larger the birthday candles! 
I was so excited to have the best Norther Lights show ever the night of my birthday. It was a cold, clear night- so they were really popping! Reese caught some really awesome photos on his camera, I am not sure how, but it was pretty amazing!

We found some time to go visit the local Middle School in town to tell the kids about what we do. It was amazing how well most of them spoke English! (Caitlin photo)
Making strength a little more exciting adding the danger factor. (Sophie photo)
Today we take a 5-6 hour road trip south and towards Russia landing in Kuusamo- the venue for the opening World Cup's. Can't wait to get started!!

Monday, November 17, 2014


For one month now, I have been preparing. Preparing for racing, preparing to leaving, preparing for my graduation, and preparing to spend another five months away from home.

Sad to say goodbye to my favorite little buddies!
Preparing for racing is the fun part! This is the time of year that snow starts falling and training starts feeling fresh after letting our bodies rest from a hard summer of training. This is the time of year that I start waking up in the night with racing dreams….. "I am running for the start, only five minutes until I take off, and I have grabbed one skate and one classic pole. I spin around and run back for the cabins in fear, counting down the seconds until I start". These dreams occasionally come in the middle of the summer, but most the time they are a sign that the racing season is coming. Preparing for racing also means changing up the training. It means shorter and easier training sessions matched with some good quality shorter intervals and time trials. 

Doing some sprinting when the snow was still around
Back to roller skiing

Preparing for leaving is the "less fun" part. Preparing for leaving entails trying to find time for all my friends to say goodbye, finding a storage unit to park my car in, sending early christmas presents, organizing my room so that if I need someone to bring something I forgot, I know exactly where to find it. Most importantly though, it entails packing. I decided this year that I need to make a master packing list…. because each year I spend the month leading into my departure writing little notes in my phone, reminding myself things to bring. This is what one of my checklist notes would look like:
Parking the beauty blue.
-Hand Sanitizer (this is how we attempt to stay healthy eating at buffet's for all of our meals)
-Shampoo and Conditioner (I really don't like the Euro stuff, I much prefer US Herbal Essence)
- Peanut Butter (A staple of race morning breakfast)
- American Coffee
- American Gum
- Powerbars
- Hot mug
- Water bottle holder
- Wax for Meribel (when I go visit Jo, I am waxing on my own, so I have slowly gathered enough wax there to take care of myself)
- Head Lamp (for our first month in the dark north, north lands)
- Nook
- Triple A batteries
- Flecter patches (in case my bone spurs flare up again)
- Bjorn Daehlie shorts and T-shirt for working out in the gym
- Christmas Pajama pants- this helps when I am getting super home sick and dreaming of being home with my family
- Harddrive
- Something for the Fischer boot maker that made me four custom boots before I was totally satisfied. This guy is awesome!
- Cold Medication (if I buy it in the US, then I know it passes the US anti-doping regulations. Better safe than sorry!!)
- Earplugs (Having a roommate for five months means you have to find your own ways to take care of your sleeping needs)
- L.L. Bean rain suit (for those days that Global Warming strikes and for some reason it rains rather than snows)

Packing party with the girls team
So that is just a list of the few things that came to my mind as I was traveling, or away from home, and felt like if I didn't jot them down I was going to forget. As I said, it seems it should be time to simply create a master list. Some of these staple items like peanut butter, and gum and coffee…. you can find them all in Europe, but I have just found it makes me happier to enjoy the US products for as long as possible. The importance of this whole "spend the winter racing in Europe" is to find what makes me happy. For me, Christmas means a lot to me! So I have to take a few things that will make me feel at home and festive. Being happy means enjoying the experience, enjoying the racing, and enjoying my job!

Preparing for graduating means meeting with all of my professors, making sure they are satisfied, making sure they understand where I will be the next month, just keeping them in the loop. Next, it means checking in at the registers office, auditing my transcript and files, making sure I have all my credits to be done. Part of this preparation means setting up my senior project presentation. For all that would like to listen, I will post a link on my blog to the online portal where you can log on and listen to me give my thesis presentation. It is scheduled for December 2nd, my first day in Norway, where I will be preparing for the Lillehammer World Cup's. 

Preparing for spending another five months away from home is the final preparation. This means making my bed for when I arrive back home, this means making calls to all my closest family and friends telling them goodbye, and this means reflecting on what a fun and successful training season I have had. Now it is time to get this party started! I am really looking forward to this coming season. I will be racing the full World Cup Season for the second time now, hopefully spending more time racing this year, and less time sitting on the sidelines getting over sickness. I will also be starting the Tour de Ski for the first time after Christmas!!

Period 1 racing schedule:
November 29: Kuusamo, Finland Claassic Sprint
November 30: Kuusamo, Finland 10k Skate
December 5: Lillehammer, Norway Skate Sprint
December 6: Lillehammer, Norway 10k Skate
December 7: Lillehammer, Norway 10k Pursuit
December 13: Davos, Switzerland 15k Classic
December 14: Davos. Switzerland Skate Sprint
December 20: La Clusaz, France Skiathlon
December 21: La Clusaz, France 4x5km Relay

Huge thanks to Salthcuk for signing on with me this year and partnering with me to support my ski racing this winter! Another huge thanks to Alaska Pacific University for making an awesome training season. I am going to miss you guys! Can't wait to see how well everyone does on the domestic circuit!! I am sure I will have some more APU teammates joining me mid season!
Judy Patrick photo
APU girls enjoying some training
Becca getting some serious air time in jumps.

Now, it's off to Finland we go!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Park City Camp

Last winter, I made a goal for myself, when I was loading onto the airplane for the 5 month World Cup Season in November. As I was taking off, I had this feeling of sadness. I wasn't ready to leave home and spend my life as a traveling suitcase. As I tried to find some solutions to this problem, I decided the following summer (the one that we have just completed) I was going to spend as much time as possible at home, at Alaska Pacific University. This way, I would be excited to leave, and it wouldn't just mean packing up and living the suitcase life again.

A train of teammates and buddies to train with.. makes this so much fun!
So… I accomplished this goal and spent maybe even enough time in Alaska this summer/fall to receive my PFD next year. From the time that I returned from World Cup last year, I have made my very best effort to spend as many days as possible tucking into my own bed, driving my own car, and regularly checking my mail. Alaska had the most amazing summer, so my goal of "being ready to leave" wasn't accomplished during any periods of the summer. By early October though…. after one straight month of 30-45 degree rain every single day… I was pretty darn well close. As I packed up my bags for Park City Camp for the final 3 week National Team Camp before the season, I was "excited to leave". I was even thrilled as I packed my bags, the "trial run" before the real 5 month packing job in mid November. 

One snowy, cold day in PC!
Starting off in one of our time trials. (Noah Hoffman photo)
As I arrived in Park City, I was taken from Alaskan weather that left me wearing multiple layers under rain jackets, to sunny Utah, where there were multiple days of shorts and sports bras! From winter back to summer- yehooo!

Sun, Smiles and Friends! (Matt Whitcomb photo)
Back to the shorts. (Matt Whitcomb photo)
Thanks to the incredible Zuzana Rodgers and Advanced Physical Therapy for taking care of us so well!
Zuzana taking care of Liz after a hard Time Trial!
The beginning of the camp consisted of lots of testing, measuring, and analyzing. I always struggle with this part, as every year I come into Park City with a different load of training, and a different feeling of rested. This year, I came into testing more tired, and more trained than I ever have been. Fighting off a virus a few weeks before getting to PC, I still wasn't feeling up to "strong par" when it came time to jump onto the rollerski treadmill. As I fought mentally to not give up, and keep pushing through some serious exhaustion, I eventually couldn't anymore, and allowed myself to go flying off the back, caught by the safety harness. 
Focus, Focus!!
The end!
Strength testing.
Nothing about that rollerskiing  treadmill test is ever pretty! In fact, I found myself choking up as I watched and cheered on my teammate, Liz Stephen complete it, pushing and digging as deep as physically possible.. Watching a race is very different then watching a treadmill test. A race requires a perfectly perfected performance of energy exertion, never to the maximum, because lying on the top of the hill having given maximum effort wouldn't be too effective. Instead, an athlete is executing different levels of effort depending on the course, the type of race, and the length. You often can see the pain in their bodies as they cross the finish line, having given every last bit of effort, just enough to get across the line. But here, for this treadmill test, you are hooked up to a breathing tube, you are balancing on your skis on a treadmill whizzing by underneath you, and you are digging as absolutely deep as possible. You are in a fight with this treadmill, trying to win against a machine! You are mentally screaming inside your head "I can do 10 more seconds. NO, I can do 15 more seconds ". It is an endless battle of how mentally tough you can be. As I watched Liz fight this treadmill, and fight this effort, I suddenly found tears coming to my eyes. It is pretty emotional to watch someone put so much effort down, they are eventually flung off the back gasping for oxygen and strength. We like to ask each other afterwards "Who won? The treadmill or you?" And to no surprise… somehow the treadmill always wins!

Liz striding and gliding!
After getting all the testing and measuring done- the fun stuff began; the training part! There were a few unfortunate events that took place at the beginning of the camp that threw a few people for a loop including Sophie tripping and falling on pavement, resulting in another broken elbow. She has been incredible, seeing it as yet another hurdle, and finding a way to keep training! That girl is going to move mountains this winter- you can see it in her eyes (and her fitness). 

Matt taking care of Soph, and getting her shoes tied before training.
Soph running up Hermodes during the time trial cheering me on!

Training in these past 2.5 weeks has been awesome. We have hammered out some great speed and interval training down in Soldier Hollow, home of the 2002 Olympics. We have had some beautiful skis up canyons with amazing fall leaves. We did some sweet recovery runs straight from the front door up in Deer Valley at 8000 feet (where the air is thin). It has been an awesome few weeks of training, and I am now leaving, feeling good and ready for a fun season ahead!

Sophie and I are doing a Training Rap for SkiTrax, where we will be alternating two weeks at a time of updating on our daily training regimes. Bookmark this site if you are interested to get a scope into our yearly training routines on and off the racing circuit. Click on the link below to check it out. My goal for this is to show all the young athletes that training doesn't have to be beautiful. Everyone trains different, everyone trains different amounts, and everyone is unique!

Some speed training. (SMS photo)
Intervals up some beauty canyons. (Matt Whitcomb photo)
(SMS photo). 
One of our first days in Park City we had a Fast and Female event, one that includes all the different US Ski Team, Freeskiing and Snowboard sports, and a few more. I had an extra amount of fun because my young cousin from Jackson Hole came and joined in. She is 14 now and just getting into competitive alpine skiing. It was so neat to see her confidence and strength, something that I found was best learned through sport! I can't even wait to have another Bjornsen join into the top level of skiing! I can see, she is going to be a little star!

Cork, and our strength coaches baby... Kikk a little jealous that Cork gets to hold the baby!
Working hard on the 2002 Olympic Courses.
Joining Soph for her first run since breaking her elbow- SODIE SMILES!
Hiking Bald Mountains with some buddies.
I am currently on the airplane from Salt Lake to Chicago for a brief trip to the city for a US Ski Team Fundraiser Ski Ball. Being a member of the A Team requires that we attend one of the fall fundraisers where we get to meet some of our team sponsors and donors. This entails getting dressed up all fancy and visiting Chicago, a city I have never been to! I am looking forward to being a tourist for a few days and walking around getting to know a new area of the US. I only wish it was a little closer so I could visit some of my midwestern family!!

From Chicago I will be heading back to Alaska for three more weeks of training and preparation before jumping on the plane for my 5 month trip back onto the World Cup Circuit. I have been seeing lots of pictures of skiing in Anchorage, so I am hoping the snow sticks around for a bit so I get to join in on the fun in a few days!

LAST, but NOT least!!

It is Drive for 25 season. What that means is that the National Nordic Foundation, a huge supporter of the Nordic Community is hosting its annual fundraiser. These funds go towards supporting young juniors on their first trips to Europe, supporting camps, supporting project for the US Ski Team that we don't have funding for, and making sure everyone is charging forward and provided with opportunities. The National Nordic Foundation has been a huge support in my career as I was growing up and attending my first National and International competitions. They recognize the importance in development, and they are there to help! The goal of Drive for 25 is to have as many people as possible to donate $25, resulting in huge involvement, and large support. Below is a link to my fundraising page.

I encourage everyone to get involved and join in on this incredible excitement and movement the US is having! Thanks to everyone in advance!