Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spring Fever

Once again, I'm looking back at my blog and noticing that it's been over two months since I last posted! This always seems to happen this time of year, and honestly I'm ok with letting my blog lapse in the springtime. In general it means I'm spending a lot of time doing other activities, and not very much time thinking about skiing. April is the best time of year for me to recover mentally and physically from the long season, catch up with family and friends that I've been missing all year, and pack in all my favorite activities that aren't necessarily the best for "training" during the rest of the year. It's also a good time of year to figure out what worked last season, and what changes I can make for the upcoming year to make things even better. I made a few changes on that front, which I'll get to in a bit. But first, a quick skim of what happened this spring!

Since I last wrote, I raced at Spring Series in Fairbanks. There isn't much to say about those races- I got sick on the travel day there and ended up with a stubborn sinus infection, so I sat out both the skiathlon and the relay. I had a lackluster skate sprint, and then convinced myself to race the 30k skate, which wasn't a great idea. It's wasn't that I had a bad race, but my energy was not in a good place for a race that long at the end of the season, and my sinuses flared up again a few days later. So, anyways, it wasn't awesome and I was pretty excited to be done with racing after that week.

I flew straight from Fairbanks to Ambler, AK to do NANA Nordic for a week. I wrote a blog about that experience for the Craftsbury website, so if you're curious, click on the link below. Here's a few photos from the trip that didn't make that blog:

Gorgeous snowy landscapes in Ambler, waiting for the kids
to find me in a scavenger hunt

After school skiers- two cuties skiing on the lake

What's more exhausting- racing a 30k, or pulling kids around
for 10 hours a day? I'm still not sure

Hung my Martenitsa bracelet (it's a Bulgarian tradition) on a 
tree outside of Anchorage, so hopefully I'll have good luck all
year long.
From Anchorage, I flew down to Utah to spend the rest of my break at my parent's house in Park City. I love Park City this time of year because the alpine skiing is still awesome, but most of the lower trails dry out enough to mountain bike. You can also easily escape to Southern Utah, and the weather is generally perfect down there. When I got home from NANA, I was maybe the most tired I've ever been in my life. It felt a lot like coming home after finals in college, and I spent some quality time on the couch, enough that I think my parents started to worry about me. However, with enough fun activities to do, my energy started bouncing back.

View from Gooseberry Mesa, outside of Hurricane Utah

Sunsets on the mesa with an awesome crew after a day of
mountain biking (and right before the best fire roasted
sweet potato burritos ever made)

I got to play doggy aunt for a bit with my brother's border collie
mix Marty. He's super energetic and bouncy, and loved frolicking
around in this late season snow
My mom and I also had a four day trip to Florida planned to get in some sun and beach time. The first few days were rainy, but on the last day we had absolutely perfect weather to do some kayaking, snorkeling, and power shopping.

Kayaking from St. Andrew's State Park

Seaside, FL, a little gem of a resort town on the Florida panhandle

Back to Utah, and Heather came through PC on her way to
Truckee, so we of course had to bust out the skinny skis and get up

Mountain biking with two of my favs :)
I've been back in Craftsbury for the past few weeks, since we kicked off the official start of training on May 1st. Last season I was really happy with how things went skiing wise, and I had good, solid training year-round for maybe the first time ever. However, I knew I wanted to make a change in my living situation, because after spending four years in the ski house at Craftsbury (usually with 10+ other athletes), I was craving my own space. My teammate Susan, who is a rock-star biathlete, just bought her own place in Craftsbury last summer and was looking to rent out the spare bedroom. She was nice enough to let me be her roommate, and I moved in just a few days after getting to Vermont. She has an awesome lawn and garden with gorgeous views, and I'm absolutely loving the new place.

Other than that, we had a testing week to kick off summer training, which reaffirmed that there is ample work to do this summer. I've been keeping busy between training and work projects, as well as getting in some fun stuff too. The weather theme of the spring so far has been cold and rainy, and I'm eagerly awaiting the start of real summer, so I can pack away my down comforter and get back to running in tank tops. I don't have any training photos, but hopefully I'll get some into my next blog, and in the meantime here's a smattering of life shots from the past few weeks.

The kitchen in my new place, successfully used
so far to bake ample bread and granola. Next up-
I'll be trying my hand at brewing my own

Our view from the backyard- Mt. Mansfield looming in the

Our window "greenhouse" as of two weeks ago.
So far- tomatoes, cukes, winter squash, onions, basil, and marigolds.
 I'll have to post an updated photo in my next blog as things are
sprouting like crazy

Terrible photo quality, but an awesome time at the barn dance/
library fundraiser in Craftsbury

My trusty Subaru officially became a Vermonter this year,
which may have been a bit overdue, but better late than never!

Getting in lots of puppy time this spring too! Here's Ellie,
Ethan's new pointer/lab mix, hanging out on the porch at the
Outdoor Center

Susan's parents just got a new golden
retriever puppy, Paddington. He decided
he liked using my shirt as a chew toy,
so I'm holding him where he can't bite me!

And of course, I've been back getting my hands dirty
in the Center's gardens, planting kale, swiss chard,
cabbage, and tomatoes so far, more to come soon!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quebec City World Cup Finals!

It was an unexpected, but nice surprise when I found out three weeks ago that I had clinched the last Nation’s Group spot for the US for World Cup finals, and would be able to race the three day mini-tour in Quebec to close out the WC season. Enter a flurry of rearranging travel plans, since I would no longer be traveling to OPA Cup Finals in Europe, adjusting my mindset, and of course, last-minute race sharpening, and I was feeling (mostly) ready to go. From what I’ve experienced on the World Cup so far, you’re never really ready. The pace is always furious, the races can be blurs of surges and counter-attacks, tactics, and blow-ups, and of course, there’s the nerve factor of competing on the World’s biggest stage. However, if I waited around for years until I was truly “ready”, I would never make it, so there’s something to be said for getting my feet wet, and I was psyched to have another opportunity to dive in.

Even though I’ve lived in the East for nearly eight years now, before last week I had never been to Quebec City, and only been to the province of Quebec for training camps in Foret and to fly out of the Montreal airport. Being in the city and racing on the Plains of Abraham right next to the Quebec Parliament building was an awesome experience. All of the World Cup teams stayed in the Hilton, a five minute walk from the venue, and also five minutes from the Old Town, the historic center of Quebec City. From a little research I did, I discovered that the Plains of Abraham were the site of a battle during the French and Indian war, but the battle itself lasted less than 30 minutes. This seemed fairly appropriate considering we were slated to race a sprint and two 10k’s, the longest of which would take a little less than half an hour! Let the battle begin.

For these races, the GRP qualified five athletes, a new record for the team! We were very lucky to also have Pepa to coach and Nick to make fast skis for us. Being on the World Cup on your own can be overwhelming, and having familiar faces around really helps (Photo John Lazenby).

Bon apetit! Matcha almond milk lattes in the old city= weird but surprisingly delicious. Thanks to my friend Meghan for letting me photograph your plate, and for being an awesome fan and coffee date last weekend.

Ida modeling proper Skida attire for an afternoon jog- if you don’t have at least 
three flower patterns on, you’re doing it wrong.

You can take the girls out of Craftsbury… #muckbootsinthecity?

Alright, back to the races! In three days we raced a freestyle sprint, a 10k classic mass start, and a 10 freestyle pursuit, with the start order determined by the total time back from the two previous days. The freestyle sprint was a bit of a struggle for me as I remembered how to wake up and race hard. However, I felt really good the next day and was happy to finish 45th in the 10k classic, which is probably my best result in a full (ish) World Cup field. Starting in bib 50 for the pursuit, I battled it out with a group of Americans, Canadians, and some of the World Cup sprinters who started ahead of me, and finished the overall tour in 53rd. My overall feelings from the races were happiness mixed with extreme fatigue, but it’s funny how sometimes you can still find an extra gear, or get into a rhythm even when your body is riding the edge of tiredness.
I think the best part of the whole weekend was competing as part of a huge US group (27 skiers, well 27 who qualified, 25 raced) on North American soil, with so many North American fans! It’s not often that the World Cup comes to the US and people cheer for you by name all around the course, even during your warm-up. I also loved catching up with friends from the circuit and skiing together with Nation’s group skiers from other clubs in the races.

Freestyle sprint qualifier. You can't see the Parliament building, but you can definitely tell that the venue is right in the city! (Photo Gretchen Powers)

Mayhem in the 10k mass start classic. Right about when this photo was taken, there was a massive pile-up in the back of the pack, and I found my ski tips smashing into the boots of the skier in front of me! Luckily I stayed on my feet, and was able to move up, but I never really even saw the front group break away (Photo Gretchen Powers)

Working together with Annika Taylor, who skis for Great Britain. We were college teammates at UNH and it’s so awesome to race with her now on the World Cup (Photo Deb Miller)

Two exciting things about this photo- 1. We were all really happy to have survived a fast and furious 10k classic. 2. Photo-bombed by Marit Bjorgen!! (Photo Gretchen Powers)

Leading a train in the 10k pursuit (Photo Gretchen Powers)

Most of the US women after the tour. Happy to have finished 3 hard days of racing!
With no rest for the weary, I’m now in Fairbanks, Alaska, for SuperTour finals, which start up next week. After that, and a quick trip to NANA nordic, I’m really truly done with the season, and I can’t wait!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ishpeming and Hayward

I'm won't write too much about my recent trip to the Midwest for SuperTours (and an attempted Birkie), because I've been trying to do a little more cross-posting to the GRP blog. So if you're interested in what that trip was like for the team, make sure to click over to the GRP site and you can read about it and see a few more pictures! Link HERE.

Personally, I was really happy with my races in Ishpeming at the SuperTour. After traveling halfway across the world from Korea I wasn't really sure how my body would react, so it was nice to have good race feelings. With a small SuperTour field, the sprint ended up being a throwback to old school format, with 16 skiers qualifying to race 4 person heats, and the top two from each heat advancing. My qualifier was ok, perhaps a bit sluggish, but I felt good in my quarterfinal, made the semis, and then just missed making the 4 person final when I finished 3rd in my heat. Overall, a decent skate sprint day (6th place) for me!

Womens' sprint podium (Bryan Fish photo)

The race two days later was the one I was really targeting, a 5k classic. I love short classic races, and luckily we've gotten to race a bunch this year. Right off the start I could tell my skis were really fast and then was happy to find that they had great kick as well. I started second, so I didn't have a lot of people around me to judge how the race was going, but I was happy to cross the line in first, and then wait around to find out that it was my two teammates, Kait and Caitlin, who bumped me into third. It was our first podium sweep at a SuperTour, and a fun day for the team overall. A good day is never just about the individual skiers, but instead a result of all the factors (skis, fitness, coaching, attitude, race execution) coming together at once, and this result had a lot to do with Nick, Ollie, and Pepa working like crazy to make awesome skis for us, and then Pepa running like crazy to cheer for us.

Our new Stormy Kromer hats!
Sweet prizes for the podium

After such a fun weekend in Ishpeming it was a bummer to travel to Hayward and have the Birkie get cancelled, but now we're back in Craftsbury and moving forward with training and race prep. I'll be flying over to Europe in less than a week to race OPA Cup Finals, and I'm excited to experience some sunshine and spring skiing!

Here are a few random photos from the Midwest and Craftsbury. A true grab bag. Enjoy!

Start of the UP 200 dogsled race in downtown

The amazing cake that Emily made for
mine and Caitlin's birthday- still in awe

Singletrack exploration with the Catamounts

Sometimes you just gotta stick your
head in the snow

Finally got to set the giant burn pile on fire once we
got a good layer of snow on the ground

Snowmen for scale. We may have
a sadistic streak

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pyeongchang Experience

When I found out that I would be traveling to South Korea for my final World Cup races of Period 2, I have to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Everything I knew about Asia I’d either read about in books or seen in the news, and the farthest east I had ever traveled previously was, I think, Slovenia. That’s one of the things that I love about this lifestyle, the opportunity it gives me to see new places and experience countries and cultures that I probably would never get the chance to see on my own.

After a somewhat frustrating week of racing in Falun, I was excited for something new, and after a marathon two days of travel, we finally made it to our hotel in Pyeongchang. After one meal I was already a fan of the Korean food- think lots of rice, noodles, kimchi, fresh veggies, mushrooms, and only the occasional weird dish like skate (that’s a type of sting ray) or sweet and sour fish (no thank you). The next day we arrived at the venue and I was already psyched- the sun was shining, the tracks were hard and fast, and although there wasn’t a ton of snow on the ground, it already felt more like winter than it did in foggy, damp Scandinavia (a side note, I love Sweden, but I also think sunshine is really important for happiness!)
Loving the Pyeonchang trail system on a ski with the Pattersons

Middle of the trail system, with the Olympic ski jumps in the
background. If you look closely you can see the lights on the
sprint course- they look just like football stadium lights

In my happy place skiing around with Liz and Noah

The Olympic biathlon range is looking good!

Sink laundry goes to a whole new level...

The whole trip seemed to fly by, and since we only had two days of skiing before the first race, we kept it pretty chill skiing-wise. We only skied in the afternoon and spent the mornings sleeping in and going for short jogs, so that we could minimize jet lag and stay on a good schedule for afternoon/evening races. One morning Liz (Stephen) had the great idea to borrow the tech’s van and go check out a Buddhist temple a few k’s up the road. The temple was apparently established in 643 AD, and the grounds contained around 15-20 buildings, as well as stone pagodas, statues of Buddha, doors with intricate patterned wood paneling, and hundreds of paper lanterns. Most of the tourists there seemed to know exactly where to bow, and how to navigate the different temples. We might have stuck out like sore thumbs as tall Americans (all dressed the same in team gear), but I’m so glad we had to chance to see a bit of Korean culture outside the venue and the hotel.

Temple entrance- Scott is stoked!

One of many gorgeous and intricate buildings

I loved the colors and pattern on this door

The 9 tiered stone pagoda in the center of the
temple grounds

More doors, and really cool dragons

The first race, on Friday, was a classic sprint, and looking at the start list, I knew there was a really good chance for me to qualify with only 36 women entered. Most of the top European racers didn’t make the trip to South Korea with World Champs only a few weeks away, so the field was significantly weaker than it was in Scandinavia. Therefore, it was a perfect opportunity for me to score World Cup points and gain experience racing heats on this level. My qualifier wasn’t perfect, I struggled with tempo, skied the downhills a bit cautiously after my fall in Falun the previous weekend, but after crossing the line I saw I was holding 25th place. After a nerve-wracking heat selection process, two hours later I found myself standing on the line of my quarterfinal with some very fast ladies. After a somewhat slow start, I was at the back of my heat but not getting dropped. On the second hill, I maneuvered around a Finnish girl who was starting to slow, and on the final turn and finish stretch I double poled with the highest tempo I could muster and almost caught fourth place. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop smiling, I had skied my first World Cup heat under the lights in Korea and only finished 2 seconds back from the leader, and I scored World Cu points! We didn’t get back to our hotel until almost 10 pm and had to eat dinner then somehow wind down enough to sleep and get ready for a 2:30 pm race start the next day. Back at the hotel, we watched the finals of the sprint on TV and got to see Ida take third in the A Final, her first career World Cup podium. She’s worked hard for a long time to get there, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of her season ends up!

Racing under the lights was such an awesome
experience (Photo Nordic Focus/TokoUS)

Women's podium from the classic sprint- go Ida!!

Ida's new friend/podium prize

I wasn’t specifically targeting the skiathlon the next day, as I’ve only skied two other skiathlon races before in my life, and since they end with skating, I wouldn’t consider the event a strength of mine. However, after the mass start in Falun, I decided to try to ski my own race this time, and work on relaxing into a tempo that I could sustain for the whole race, instead of burning all my matches at the start. I was happy to find that I could hold onto the chase pack in the classic portion, and my skis were really fast which helped me catch people on the downhills. I transitioned to skate around 12th place, and prepared to lose a lot of time, but was pleasantly surprised that I was able to more or less hold position even though skating felt like a lot of work. Once again, I had really fast skis, and when I crossed the line in 13th, I couldn’t believe it. Then I immediately found out that Caitlin had finished 4th, which is an amazing result for her and a reflection of a lot of hard work this summer and fall. Combined with Liz’s 2nd place (which is not a surprise, she’s an amazing distance skier and well suited to the hilly skate course in Korea), it was a good day for the US women.

Start of the second classic lap (Photo Nordic Focus/TokoUS)

Pushing through the skate portion (Nordic Focus/TokoUS)

Screenshot from Eurosport, when I found out how Caitlin did!

Although I wasn’t chosen to race the team sprint the next day, I had a great time being on pole duty, cheering as loudly as I could, and ultimately watching the two USA women’s teams take 3rd and 4th in the final. We say this a lot, but while skiing may be an individual sport, it takes a team. I’m really grateful to the US wax techs and coaches for supporting me and giving me great skis while I was over in Europe and Korea, and to some of the more experienced ski team athletes who helped me navigate my first World Cups and keep things in perspective (and keep it fun!) I’m leaving Period 2 with a good idea of what it takes to ski on the World Cup and a few ideas on how I can improve, and mostly I’m just grateful for the opportunity to experience this level of skiing and learn as much as possible.

Stadium sunset on the team sprint day in Pyeonchang 

As I write this, I’m on my second day of travel back to Vermont from Korea. I’ll only have 5 days in Craftsbury before I fly again, this time to the Midwest for the next SuperTour stop in Ishpeming, Michigan. The goal for the rest of the season is to ski well enough to qualify for World Cup finals in Quebec later this season, but either way, I’m feeling really motivated and excited for the remainder of the season! Thanks for reading and for the cheers and support from back home!