Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping Eagle in Perspective

I step onto the snow my third day of training on Eagle Glacier, and suddenly, I am slammed with a gust of wind, somewhere between 50-60 mph. Closing my eyes, I pull my hood over my head, hold on tight to my skis and poles to make sure they don't get sent flying down glacier, and wait for it to calm. I am just thankful I am not Liz Stephen right now, otherwise I may have just gotten picked up and flown down glacier! As it momentarily calms, I quickly bend down, snap on my skis and poles, pull my sleeves down, my buff up, and secure my glasses. Although it is a complete white out, and I can hardly see my skis below me because of the dense fog… it is still bright as can be. This gives me hope the sun must be somewhere up there. 
Zip up, here we go!
As I start sliding down the hill, I proceed cautiously, searching for the wands every 10 feet that mark the trail. The fog is so thick, I can't find the wands, so instead I start doing an awkward half tuck, half snow plow, searching the ground, looking for some corduroy. The wind is blowing so hard that the snow drifts are hiding the majority of the fresh corduroy… so I am going down the 1 km access trail from our little warm house slower than ever. If someone is behind me, and can actually see me, they must be laughing their heads off. I literally look like I just learned how to ski, turning hard right… realizing I am wrong, strongly overcorrecting right… realizing I am still wrong… goodness gracious, the darn trail is straight! Why do I keep expecting a turn?

Finally, I reach the "intersection", the place where our 7.5km loop meets the steep downhill access trail. I drop my water belt full of sport drink and goodies, and set out on the loop. It is interval morning, so I make sure I start my warm-up slow. As I move around the course, I wonder where am I? I know I am on the first part of the loop… but which way is up, which way is down, which was is north… more importantly which way is the cliff that drops the 5,600 feet down to the ocean? (Thank god there are wands on the course, so I know to stop if I haven't seen one for 10 feet). All I can think is thank god I don't often get lost in the mountains. My sense of direction is terrible! It is so foggy and windy I don't even know if I am going uphill or downhill. I am convinced I am going downhill, so I crouch down into a tuck… again searching the corduroy on the ground to find my way. As the wind takes a good slam, I realize I must not actually be going downhill, because my skis aren't moving. In fact, I am on an uphill, and after being blown by this gust of wind, I am going backwards. Now I am straight up laughing, this is almost comical how crazy the weather is! I have forgotten how wild it can get up here, somehow I only have memories in my brain from those sports bra and shorts laps we were doing last year!

Corey and I, pretty stoked we made it back up to the building! (We started calling this 1 km. access trail back up to the building, Alpe Cermis... because it somewhat resembles a very shortened version of the final climb of the Tour de Ski)
But, it is interval day, so I must rally myself! Finding motivation on a day like today requires a little bit of a deeper dig, but somehow it is so much more rewarding at the end of training! While it is frustrating, I keep my mind in a light mood, and stay positive. Seriously, Swedish Olympic Gold Medalist, Anna Haag is out here training with us. It is still a great day to watch her, and try to improve!

This is just a glimpse into the first half of our glacier camp that was hit by a series of stormy days. I believe this is my 14th camp on Eagle Glacier in the past five years, so 14 weeks I have spent living in the little house on the rocks, training around the belly of this enormous and incredibly accessible glacier. In all those years, I have never seen the weather quite as wild as it was the first half of the week. Huge gusts of wind that kept your poles flying sideways, your head tucked down, your hoods and buffs up… and your mind incredibly exhausted from a full blown white out. Searching for the wands every 10 feet was often the hardest part of the 4-5 hours a day of training. 

Skiing with teammates often made these training sessions hilarious. If you were the one leading, you were the one looking out into this complete white out searching for the trail. If you were the one following, you were truly entertained, as the person in front of you, and your point of reference went wandering all over the place trying to find the trail. Even more challenging and frustrating was the grooming. All week, Erik Flora kept his patience together and experienced this same feeling, only 10 times worse as he sat in the cab of a Pisten Bully attempting to go straight as he searched his way through the whiteout to create a trail. In many cases, the wind was blowing the snow drifts so much, he would spend the whole training session driving around course, keeping a trail for us to follow… talk about a brain fry!!
Morning scenes inside the house. Erik preparing to head outside with the schedule posted above.
But it was awesome! It was a week of perspective. It was a week to remember how to find your motivation, how to find the positives in a less than ideal situation, and most importantly, how to be tough! Getting out in these often frustrating conditions, being constantly blasted by the wind that sometimes left hail flying at your face… it all felt like you were fighting against something. That fight throughout the season of training is what keeps me motivated. Those days when it is super tough for whatever reason, you feel like you are fighting against expectations, and you finish feeling accomplished! So, although many of my past glacier camps have been those incredible and sunny days where you feel like you can be out there forever skiing… this one kept me on my toes. It make me think a bit more about "if" I wanted to be out there training, and "why". It was a great way to start the summer of training!

Still smiling!
And after all that hard work plowing through several feet of snow that fell, and huge gusts of wind; we got rewarded on the last day with one of those perfect Eagle Glacier beautiful days! The sun shone all day, and we enjoyed 3 hours of amazing skiing in packed powder. Funny enough, I bet that is the day I will remember when I think back on the first camp of this summer! Those perfect days somehow erase the challenging days pretty darn quickly!

Sunshine and Smiles, and some interesting styles! (BR photo)
Seems to me the sun has come out! (KR photo)
So, now I am back to Anchorage, 5,600 feet lower, and it is full on summer. Straight from winter, back to green summer! Crazy! Up next; my sister's wedding, a few more weeks of training in town, and then another trip up to Eagle Glacier for "Take 2". 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Team, New Year

Training Camp number 1, complete and done. The US Ski Team would normally go to Bend, Oregon to ski on snow at Mt. Bachelor for the first camp of the year… but this year with the lack of winter in most areas of the Pacific Northwest, we were forced to switch to a dry land camp. With the US Ski Team "home base" being in Park City, it seemed right to shift our spring camp there. This way we could do our testing on the treadmill, and then finish up our 12 days of training right in Park City.

Camp began with the familiar spring set of tests: classic max, double pole max, BMI tests, strength tests, mobility tests, physicals, body screening, hemoglobin tests, blood tests… the whole fun series of it all. This amounts to two days of constant going.. but once it's done, it becomes time to train!
Got to love going to max and flying off the back of the treadmill.... even if the treadmill always wins!
With the weather being infinitely rainy and cold, Park City felt a little different than our normal warm, summer-like fall camp. Regardless, we embraced the rainy situation and managed a great 12 days of training. 

Running through the woods on a search for some Sun Flowers!
We have some new members on the US Team this year, four new women. Two young women, Katherine Ogden and Julia Kern. And then two more women named to the B Team, Rosie Brennan and Caitlin Gregg. This means we have a women's team of 10 people now. It is really exciting to be able to add to our six girls; with new goals, and a new dynamic. I have always loved the value of "team", so it has been fun to add these women into the mix of training and team goals, and see what we can do! We have a long summer of training in front of us, but it is fun to have 10 girls on the same page as far as "where are we going".

A team full of bright enthusiasm! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Ski Walking Intervals... the best type of classic training at altitude! 
Most of our training consisted of lots of roller skiing, running, bounding, biking, swimming, and gym work. With the shift from soft snow to the hard pavement pounding, my elbows have been causing me a little trouble. So, for me, this camp meant a little more running and swimming, and a bit less roller skiing. My elbows are really looking forward to heading up to the Glacier next week…. dreaming of a soft fluffy snowy surface.

(USSA Nordic Photo). Starting with the core.
Somehow "triple time" becomes normal at Camp.
Working on my focus in the gym this year.
This year we have a new partnership for our summer training clothes as well as our winter racing suits with Craft, and L.L. Bean. It has been fun to start working with these companies and share some enthusiasm. Both companies seem so excited to start designing clothes, race suits and, warm up's. We spent a portion of our down time last week doing lots of video's, photos, and promotions for this fun new partnership. I am excited to see what sort of stars and stripes they will put together for our winter attire!

Getting back in the rhythm of rollerskiing. (USSA Nordic Photo)
A bunch of crazy's.... thanks Finnsisu for setting us all up with rollerskis! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Find a challenge... and chase that challenge! This year my goal is to finish my first tour. There are two of them this season, both 7-8 stages long. That means a lot of durability, strength, and mental stamina! (USSA Nordic Photo)
It seems everyone had a great break after the season with lots of adventuring, vacationing, and catch up with family, friends and sponsors. After spending all winter with many of these teammates now for four years, it was nice to get back together and catch up on the fun happenings of the spring. Everyone seems finally recovered, and motivated to get going again!

Lounging in the sunshine on our final day... the sun decided to visit us just in time!
After our hard 12 days of training, everyone shared hugs and departed back to our home club team's for the "June 1st" start to hard training. After missing a long two week sunny stretch of Alaskan weather… Alaska has decided to go back to its wonderful rainy state. I managed to squeak two perfect days in though before it changed, just after arriving back from Park City. This made for a weekend of hiking and biking, soaking in some serious rays of Vitamin D. These will keep me happy and going for a few more weeks before heading down to Washington for my sister's wedding!

Enjoying some awesome road biking in my secret neighborhoods of Anchorage
Hiking up to Exit Glacier with my brother, Marine and Jo.
Next up, a week of training in town before I head up to my first glacier camp of the summer. Who will be the guest of the summer? It's a surprise… but a new country this year.!