Saturday, December 30, 2017

Early Season Update

I’m not a motivational quote person. I don’t search them out, or write them in my journal, or repeat them to my friends. Those cheesy maxims we see all the time rarely resonate with me. “Live, laugh, love”? “Seize the moment”? Come on. How many different ways can someone say the exact same thing?  However, I couldn’t ignore the following two quotes. The fact that I found both of them within a half an hour of each other made me stop and think. I usually don’t take much stock in this sort of thing, but when the universe is trying to tell you something, it’s pretty pointless to ignore it. Yep, I know, bring on the cheese!

First there was this gem, in the United Airlines Magazine, from the great Winston Churchill, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
The source of this next one is a little bit embarrassing, but I’m being honest here. Ok, so it’s from this week’s calendar page in my very girly planner. Annnnyways, it’s still a good one, a Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, get up eight.”

Of course, there is a reason that these quotes resonated with me. After a frustrating start to my race season, I’m left looking for answers. It’s difficult to train hard all spring, summer, and fall, feel real improvements in technique, fitness, and lifestyle, and then fail to see them manifest in my results. But, despite a slow start to the season, I’m hoping with the right mindset (Winston Churchill’s, to be exact), I can find just the nudge I need to get up and move on.

The truth is, that when things are going well, it’s easy. It’s easy to answer when people ask how your race went. It’s easy to write a blog summing up your successes when it’s full of happy, shiny pictures. It’s also much, much easier to continue to race well. Confidence breeds more confidence, and good results tend to snowball into more good results. However, the flip side isn’t so easy. It’s tough to admit to others that things really kind of suck. It’s tough to write a report from a bad result without rattling off excuse after excuse. So here I am, writing about bad results. I hope that it will help me understand the process of failure and learning from failure, and also in the hope that others will relate to what I’m saying (after all, we’ve all been there!)

I last updated from West Yellowstone, where we had just competed in a FIS race on nearly pure ice after an untimely thaw. The following weekend, still in West Yellowstone, the organizers got a little help from Mother Nature and were able to pull off a skate sprint and 10k mass start classic on the planned courses. After West, we packed up and moved to Silver Star, British Columbia, where we raced a classic sprint and 10k freestyle. In the broad scheme of things, both of the sprints were decent for me. On a flat, short course in West where I’ve struggled in the past, I finished 10th. In the classic sprint in Silver Star I was able to bring things around after a fairly disastrous qualifier (21st) and made the A Final, where I finished 5th. The distance races were more frustrating. I felt sluggish and unable to access my top race gear. By finishing 15th in the skate race in Silver Star, and 19th in West, I fell far short of my goals for opening SuperTours. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow, especially in an Olympic year, when so much is on the line.

Luckily I’ve had a little time to reset, both back in Craftsbury, and then at home in Park City. With some perspective (and a peek at the upcoming SuperTour calendar), I realized that we’re only one fifth of the way through just the SuperTour race season. There is so much racing ahead of me! While mentally going through my races thus far this season, I’ve had to really examine what I can take away from each one. There are two types of bad races. There are those that contain lessons to carry on to the next race: about fitness, race sharpness, pacing, tactics, fueling, picking skis, etc. Then there are races so bad that they have no silver lining whatsoever, and are best forgotten immediately. The key is teasing out which type of race is which. However, in the end, extensive dwelling on any type of bad race isn’t really worth it! Find the lesson, if there is one, then move on.

Another thing I’ve thought about a lot is the fact that, even when my results aren’t where I’d like them to be, I still love the feeling of racing and pushing myself. I still enjoy training and spending time outside with teammates, friends, and family. I even love going to the gym completely solo and challenging myself to get stronger. I love this sport and everything it represents.

So I’m looking towards the rest of the season with hopeful optimism. I’m headed to Anchorage, Alaska now for US Nationals, starting on January 3rd. I want to turn my early season frustrations into successes, but I’m approaching the rest of the season with patience. I know it won’t happen overnight. However, I certainly don’t lack enthusiasm, nor the ability to pick myself up over and over.

After that onslaught of words and feelings, hopefully you’re still with me, and made it to the good part, pictures! A smattering from West, Silver Star, and a few from my holiday break back in Park City. Enjoy.

Looking for that extra race gear in the West Yellowstone
sprints (Photo Gary Solow)

Finding good snow up high on the plateau in West

We were oh so happy to find perfect conditions in Silver
Star. Kait and Audrey on an evening stroll

Another gorgeous Silver Star sunset

Women's podium from the classic sprint

My teammates are crushing it this year! Caitlin
and Kait finished Period 1 of the SuperTour ranked
1st and 2nd, which means Caitlin is headed to the
World Cup in January. It's been fun to see them ski
so well

Happy skiers after putting three in the A Final

It was awesome to have so many family members
cheering in West and Silver Star. Hanging with my
dad post race

Most of the GRP crew happy to be in sunny Silver Star. BIG thanks
to our coaches and wax techs, they are 100% professional every day
and work incredibly hard. We're lucky ducks to have them!

Best part of doing a long ski in Silver Star is taking the ski lift back
up at the end. We got out to explore off the race trails
during our last day

Mandatory food pic. Always good to come home to Park City for
amazing breakfasts like this french toast and antelope sausage,
courtesy of my stepdad the hunter/chef

Back to my roots, skiing in Round Valley with my brother.
This guy just got engaged over the holidays!! I couldn't be more happy
and excited for him.

I’ll be updating after the races in Anchorage. In the meantime, I hope you all had wonderful holidays spent with family and snow, and I wish you all the best for the New Year!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Falling off the Blog Train

I do believe it's been quite a while since I last updated. Somehow an entire season has passed without a (leaf) peep from me. Sorry about that! 
This fall was a busy time of hopping about to different locations for short periods of time, and I never quite had time to settle in anywhere. That, combined with the increase in intensity and anticipation I always feel when the weather turns colder, made the past few months seemingly go by in a flash.

Here it is in a nutshell: after New Zealand I spent two weeks in Craftsbury recovering and putting in some speed work, then two and half weeks at home in Park City for the USST camp. Then I had two weeks back in Craftsbury, where I came down with a sinus infection then recovered from it, two weeks traveling back and forth to Foret Mont-Morency for on-snow camps, then a week and a half training and prepping in Craftsbury, and then to West Yellowstone! Yes, I know, a whirlwhind, but don't worry, I do have photos from it all. Aside from the short sickness, fall training was mostly consistent and encouraging, and now the race season is officially underway, so my favorite time of year is here.

A moody fall day for a hike on Mt. Belvidere with Caitlin
back in September

We finished off the bike season with a few school group sessions.
Fearless Asa took on the wave (with friends on the side to spot)

Out in Park City, I was happy to be in fall colors
and running with my favorite pooch Marty

Pretty flowers for the Mama, thanks to
the lovely Liz Stephen!

A nice recovery hike in Emigration Canyon with friends

Fast and Female in Park City- running the SkiErg station with Rosie
and encouraging the girls to go for max watts. So fun to see them
challenge themselves

Back to Craftsbury and backyard sunsets over Mt. Mansfield.
A literal "bright spot" in my week of being sick

Halloween ski costumes have to be creative if you want to ski in
them. L to R: me dressed as Ben, Kait as a Craftsbury junior circa
2008, Hallie in an awesome onesie, Caitlin as an oil slick/psychedelic

With Ben, the inspiration for my costume! Happy to be back on
snow in the Foret

Pain face at the NENSA rollerski invitational.
Thanks NENSA for putting on an awesome

And back to Foret! You know you have an awesome coach when
she dances on the side of the course before intervals (Photo Caitlin 


Putting in the k's with Kait (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

Hamster wheeling on the 2k loop, but we were so happy to be
on snow! (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

The whole Foret crew! Thanks Craft, Skida, and Julbo for
outfitting the team

Enjoying one of my last evenings in Craftsbury.
Puppies and wood stoves and warm drinks=

And now I'm in West Yellowstone
with another favorite puppy and my

Race morning sunrise in West

It makes my heart so happy to be reunited with former teamie
Heather, who's skiing in Bozeman now. 

The team hopped in a 5k freestyle race this past Saturday. In contrast with my usual memories of perfect snow and cold temperatures in West, we've had challenging conditions since we arrived a week ago. First some rain, then freezing, and then more rain, then warm temps have taken out most of the base on the Rendezvous trails. Needless to say, it was an icy 5k out there, but it's impressive they were able to hold a race at all. I placed 15th, but very much consider it a warm-up race after just four days at altitude. I'll be chasing good race feelings and continuing to adjust to the altitude, and can't wait for the SuperTours this coming weekend! Plus, it's snowing in West right now on our off day, so we're hoping the trails will be in much better condition come Saturday.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

To Middle Earth and Back Again- NZ Trip!

I’m writing this on the Megabus between Boston and Montpelier, VT, the very last leg of my journey back from the Southern Hemisphere to my home in Craftsbury. It seems a little unreal to me that just a few days ago I was skiing on real snow, in full-on winter, and now I’m watching the leaves change on the side of Highway 89! Not only is my internal clock completely messed up from the 16 hour time change and the travel, but my sense of temperature is thrown off as well- yesterday I was in a full body sweat walking around Boston on a nice fall day. Welcome back to humidity, thanks a lot, East Coast.

Looking back on the trip, I can say without a doubt that it was one of my favorite ski trips ever. I think I’m a little in love with New Zealand as a country. I expected the Lord of the Rings-esque scenery, and the pastures of sheep. After all, there are 6 sheep for every 1 person in the country! What I didn’t expect was the friendliness and openness of the people and their laid-back yet adventurous attitude. Overall, New Zealanders were some of the nicest people I’d ever met. I’d seen pictures of the Snow Farm before, but little did I know that it was surrounded by stunning, panoramic mountain scenery, and that every morning and night, the sky would put on a sunrise or sunset show for us. With 30 kilometers of groomed trails out the door, skiing twice a day was a treat. On top of that, we had great food, I drank way too many flat whites (the New Zealand version of a latte, but better), and I was in absolute skier heaven.

Good morning Snow Farm trails! Jet lag meant waking up 
early, but it also meant I got to say hello to the sun in the 
morning from the breakfast room.

One of our first days on snow, remembering
how to stride and glide with Caitlin

 A moody day to venture out to some of the farther 
trails (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

I love the snake-like profile of the trails here. A disclaimer- Kait 
was sick the first week and I skied a ton with Caitlin. She takes 
lovely photographs, but that's why so many of these are 
solo shots of me (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

Nearby Wanaka, a town 40 minutes away, has one of the most
photographed trees in the world, and it's for good reason!

The terraced Merino Glen, where the most sheltered trails are.
This is useful on a high wind day (Photo Caitlin Patterson)

Part of the reason we traveled down to New Zealand was to compete in the New Zealand Winter Games, a three race series held at the Snow Farm. Racing on snow at the end of the summer was a new experience for me, and while the races went fairly well, I can’t say they were spectacular. It was more about reacquainting myself with the feelings of racing, and at the same time recognizing that race sharpness is still a few months away. I was actually most satisfied with my distance skate race. After a slow start, I was caught by my teammate Caitlin, and I had the opportunity to ski with her for the rest of the race. I always learn the most by following others, and I was happy to hang with her, because I consider her an awesome distance skater. I’ve been working so hard on my skate technique this summer and a few things are finally starting to click, which has been rewarding overall. We also raced a classic sprint, and I was happy to make the semifinal and finish 5th overall, and a 10k classic, where I experienced the “tireds” in a real way, but still pushed through in 7th place.

Thanks to Brian Gregg for the snap from my 5k skate race!

Hanging onto Caitlin while coach Pepa shouts encouragement

My semifinal with Caitlin and Ida. I learned from this race and 
the 10k the next day that herringbone is one of my weaknesses,
 and I’ve added it to the list of things I need to work on!

It was really great to have a huge group of Americans at the Snow Farm, including skiers from Stratton T2, Sun Valley, the US Ski Team, and Team Gregg. While training in a big group is fun, by the last week everyone packed up, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was a good time to put our heads down, ramp up the volume, and truly focus on technique. We got to head down to town on our off day, and then again two days later to explore a really cool river valley on a run. In terms of the skiing, it was a total mixed bag. One day, it was 40 mph winds, driving rain/sleet/hail, and ungroomed trails. The next day, it was perfectly sunny, everything was groomed, and the crust skiing was unbelievably good. Luckily that was our final day of skiing, so the team left on a high note. Then we headed down the Queenstown, where we got to explore the town, hike Queenstown Hill, and eat some of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. It was the perfect way to cap off a pretty spectacular camp.

Gorgeous Lake Wanaka on our off day in town. Not pictured- the
thigh-width freshwater eels swimming just a few feet below me

Sunrise was great, but sunset over the Southern New Zealand Alps was
truly spectacular. 

Exploring the Fern Burn trail on a “tramping” excursion
(that’s what they call it in New Zealand, no joke). 

Sheeeeepies!! Why are ewe running away? Come baaaaaack! 

Fern Burn hut down below. One day, I’m planning to come back to New
Zealand and hike hut to hut. This place is amazing in its scope and scenery

Danger! Interval day! 

Thanks Nick for lying on your belly in the snow to take cool
photos of us interval-ling

Following speedster Ben for a few seconds before settling back
into L3 pace

Happily crust-cruising above the Kurtle Burn hut up to Mt. Pisa

Glad that the Caitlin/Kaitlynn crew is always up for an adventure

Even when they’re freezing their butts off on top of
a windy ridgeline! 

GRP women's squad! It was a pleasure training with these
two during our last week 

Snapped by Ben, a sneaky corner shot of an absolutely perfect day

Look Mom! We caught a hobbit!

A Pepa specialty- the whole team selfie

A low quality photo of a high quality activity- watching the All Blacks
(New Zealand’s national team) play rugby against South Africa. Every
time the All Blacks are on, the Snow Farm pulls out the projector screen
and everyone in the lodge gathers to watch. Anyone who knows me knows
that I have hardly any interest in American football, but rugby is seriously
bad ass. The All Blacks are also one of the winningest sports teams around,
so they’re really fun to see in action. Before every game they do the Haka, a
traditional Maori dance, while the other team watches and it’s freaking
intimidating. Count me among their fans.

One last sunset over the Snow Farm

Queenstown Hill hike in the fog and mist 

Magnolias blooming down in Queenstown

A perfect encapsulation of the NZ attitude

After spending a few days in Boston recouping from the travel and catching up with one of my best college friends, I’m headed to Craftsbury for a short while. I’ll be recovering then finding my speed (hopefully!) before heading out West to join the US Ski Team for a camp in Park City. I love fall in Vermont, and I hear the apples are amazing this year, so I have ten days to soak up all the autumn vibes, and then I’m out West, where I can’t wait to see my family and train in the mountains.

Big thanks to our coaches/techs Pepa and Nick for coming with us to New Zealand to support us, wax our skis, and make sure that everything went as smoothly as possible. Also huge thanks to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center for funding the trip to New Zealand. Getting on snow in the summer is a huge advantage for our training, and this camp was the most productive summer camp I’ve ever attended. Finally, thanks to my sponsors Fischer, Swix, Salomon, and Toko, for keeping me in ski gear while I train and race, and to team sponsors Craft, Julbo, Skida, and Polar for outfitting the team!

I’ll update next from Utah, thanks for reading!!

*if you survived that onslaught of photos and want more, I also posted a recap from the first two weeks of our trip on the Green Racing Project blog, and you can find that HERE.