February 1, 2016

A Little Training and Rest

When racing a full World Cup schedule, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right balance of rest, racing, and training. Most weeks require me to make an evaluation of my fatigue level and then decide if that week I need rest to get ready for the next race or do some training to fine tune the body for the next race. This is not a strong point of mine as I like to push until I break. It has been one of the hardest adaptations in becoming a World Cup skier, racing some 40 races a winter. Luckily after the tour, I had a solid 4 weeks with only one race allowing me time to rest, reset, and get some training in.

First stop was Seiser Alm, a resort village on top of a mountain in Italy. It was an ideal place to get in some much needed rest, enjoy some sunshine, amazing food, and catch up life. The snow was thin but we were able to ski on a scratchy 20k for some easy recovery sessions.

Next, I fired up my body a little and got ready for a 10k skate in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. With a little natural snow and a lot of snow farming, we were able to race on a solid 5km loop, a rarity these days it seems. Race day brought cold temperatures and falling snow, making for a slow feeling race, but some strong results. I finished in 28th, with 3 teammates ahead of me, including Jessie in 3rd! I was happy with the how the race went and am  looking to continue in this direction as the we move on.

Last stop, Sjusjoen, Norway. Winter found Norway over the last month and we were greeted by lots of snow and hundreds of kilometers of trails. Much of the team came to Sjusjoen to enjoy a week off from racing and prep for Period 3. With still 2 weeks until my next race, I was able to do a full week of normal training, something I haven't been able to do since I left Anchorage and a week of recovery and race prep. With so many trails and such good conditions, it has been delightful to head out from our cabins, explore the trails, get lost, and just enjoy skiing. Often, it is easy to get caught up in the details of racing and forget why you are doing this. A week like this allows you time to remember how much fun skiing is and how joyful it is to be doing what we are doing. My next race is this Sunday, the famed Holmenkollen 30km.

Sledding in Seiser Alm

Up high in the mountains

Sledding-Our favorite afternoon activity

Our hotel surrounded by mountains
Happy to be in Seiser Alm

Fireworks at the podium ceremony in Nove Mesto

Racing in Nove Mesto (Ian Harvey Photo)


Happy for winter and skiing

Enjoying long skis with APU teammates (Reese Photo)

Our cabin during sunset

Liz and I out for a long one

January 16, 2016

First Tour

I just completed my first Tour de Ski! The tour is a bit different every year, but this year we did 8 races over the course of 10 days at 4 different venues in 3 different countries. When the tour first started, 10 years ago, the U.S. didn't send anyone to compete in it and even after a few U.S. skiers started to race in the tour, I thought they were crazy and I couldn't fathom how anyone could do such a thing and that for sure this race format would not stick around. Fast forward a few years and here I am, in bed, recovering from my own first attempt at the event AND the U.S. had 2 stage victories AND 7 athletes complete the event, what a difference a few years can make!

An average day at the tour went something like this. Sleep in as late as possible, which for me is about 8:30. Go for a light jog to loosen up the body and start up the metabolism. Eat a hearty breakfast. With 3 hours until race time, have 2nd breakfast. Pack up and head to the venue. Start testing skis and warming up 1.5 hrs before race time. Race, generally around 2. Cool down, which was usually running because winter forgot to hit Europe. Eat as much as your stomach can handle. Go back to the hotel. Massage/PT and body care. Ice bath. Jog or walk. Then, if it's a departure day, throw suitcase in the van and hit the road to the next venue. Get in as much dinner as possible. Hope you can sleep!

It is imperative to put all other things aside and focus on eating enough, doing everything you can to recover from each effort, keeping stress as low as possible, and keeping the focus high.

My tour started off very slow. I had three of my worst races of the year to start the tour off, which was far from ideal. I did my best to just reset and treat each day as a new day. By stage 4, I started feeling more in my element and finding better race feelings. Each day I improved a little bit from the previous day and finally, on stage 7, I was 30th which scored me my first point of the season. While I always expect more from myself, I felt I really just needed to break the ice in order to start building back the confidence I need to ski faster so it was a huge relief. It wasn't until the last day that I woke up just exhausted and unsure of how I was going to fare. O, and don't forget, the last day involved a 4km climb up an alpine mountain...I held it together and finished the tour ranked 32nd. More importantly than my rank is that I not only finished, but did better each day I raced and was able to turn a rocky start into a promising finish. I really enjoyed the event and am really looking forward to getting another stab at it in the future. It was amazing to see two teammates top the podium as well and something that has given me hope and inspiration for the future.

Now, I am doing my best to recover and get ready for the second half of the season on top of a beautiful mountain in Italy. Life is good.
Stage 5 racing (Photo Marcel Hilger)

The team at the top of the climb! Thanks to all the waxers, massage therapist, physical therapist who took excellent care of us both on and off the snow.

2 American Victories, Jessie Diggins and Sophie Caldwell

Sophie and I classic racing (Photo: Marcel Hilger)

not much snow in Europe, also we had to do a little mischief to get the American racer to be winning the race!

Cheering for the boys up the climb

Happy we all made it to the end

green but pretty Germany

Erik climbing his way up the alpine mountain

And our little piece of paradise in Italy for recovery

December 31, 2015

Happy Holidays

For the first time in my life, I did not spend Christmas in Park City. I feel lucky to have been able to spend 26 Christmases in the town I love best, however this year has brought about a new adventure, one I am also fortunate to have. With only 10 days away from racing, it is difficult to travel home and travel back to Europe without completely messing yourself up so I elected to stay in Europe and take 10 days to rest, recover, and rejuvenate for the Tour de Ski, 8 grueling days of racing. Lucky for me, my Christmas present was the presence of my Mom and brother in Europe so I could still spend Christmas with family. We stayed in Toblach, Italy and while Europe is encountering an epically bad winter, the snow farming capabilities in Europe are exceptional and we were able to ski everyday while enjoying the crystal clear blue skies and abundant sunshine.

Mom and Char Arrive

The stadium in Toblach, the course goes over the building!

Finishing out racing in 2015

The grim situation here in Europe

Christmas ski on our little white ribbon
The views aren't bad though

In case you missed it, Simi was 2nd in the skate sprint!

Our little Christmas Tree

Christmas Decorations

Christmas Ski

The Dolomites

Good views everywhere

Checking out the skiing in Austria

Watching Megan McJames rip the World Cup Giant Slalom in Austria. Fun to see Park City girls all over the World Cup!

The Cross Country World Cup doesn't miss a beat and we will be back in Action on January 1 for the first stage of the Tour de Ski. The tour moves fast so I will not be able to blog until the end of it, but I will do my best to post updates on my Athlete Page.  Wish me luck! Happy New Year!

December 14, 2015

Mountain Time

I have now finished three weekends of World Cup racing. The excitement and nerves have settled down, everything feels quite routine, living out of a suitcase is getting as comfortable as possible, and hints of homesickness have started to creep in.

Luckily, week three brought us a little further south to the Swiss Alps where the mountains are big and the sun shines strong. I never realize how much I miss the mountains until I arrive back in them and then I get such strong feelings of wanting to be up in the mountains adventuring. With the low snow that we have here, I have been able to go running on the single track trails around the pass we are staying at which has been a real treat for me! Unfortunately, the manmade loop that makes up the race course goes up a narrow valley that is situated in a way that it never gets the sun so our sun time comes from the deck of our hotel in between training sessions.

This weekend was a double skate weekend with a 15k skate on Saturday and  skate sprint on Sunday. Classic is my preferred technique, but I raced both days to work on my skating and one never knows when everything will click. I ended the weekend with a distance race that was close to being where I want to be, but still just short and a sprint with some very tired legs that ended up being another fairly close race. As I keep falling just short of where I would like to be, I have had to step back and focus on the things that did go well and the improvements that have been made in order to not get too down on myself. In the end, a place is just a place and not very representative of what happened during the race unless of course you win. In the distance race, I felt I was doing some of the best skate technique I have ever managed and I also was in the same place at the top of the course that I was at the bottom indicating that I was skiing the downhills much harder than I typically do which has been a big focus for me this year. Those are two very big accomplishments for me despite an average result. I hope to continue to accomplish those things in the coming races while of course, working to increase my speed bit by bit.

The team continued to turn in some strong results as well with 2 top 10, 3 top 20s, and 3 top 30s over the weekend!
Distance racing (Photo: TokoUS)

Sprint Racing (Photo: tokoUS)

Running adventures

The view from the deck

Not much snow, but good running
Our time in the mountains continues for the next month so I am looking forward to enjoying many more days of mountains and sun!

December 8, 2015

Norway, Birthdays, Podiums, O MY!

December has started off well! Norway greeted us to an abundance of salmon, brown cheese, waffles, and most importantly SUNSHINE! The hotel buffet is no joke. Every meal has a full spread of everything you can imagine and then some. Many different choices of meat and seafood, any carb you can imagine, tasty vegetables, and an extensive dessert bar! While the snow was a little sparse, we were able to drive to higher elevations to ski on some natural snow and enjoy the sun and scenery.

I also celebrated my birthday midweek! My teammates threw me a painting party and all of us followed watercolor instruction by Caitlin to create some really nice landscape paintings. I love painting, but oil paint is my favorite medium and those are a bit cumbersome to travel with so I unable to do any art over the course of the winter. This was a wonderful surprise and a ton of fun!

The organizers were able to get together a 3.75km loop for the races with manmade snow. The day before the races we got a big storm that left a fresh blanket of nice, natural snow everywhere. It packed down well overnight and made for some really nice racing conditions on Saturday. Day 1 was a skiathlon, an event we only do once or twice a season. It starts with 7.5km of classic skiing then we switch to skate gear midrace and finish with 7.5km of skating. It is a gear intensive race, making logistics all that more important for the day. The only flat on the course in Lillehammer is the stadium, the rest is up or down. It is very nice skiing, but challenging nonetheless. Skiathlon races are a bit of a mental hurdle for me because I am generally better at classic skiing and am therefore never quite sure what is going to happen when I switch to skate skis. My general plan is always to make up as much time in the classic portion and try to hang on in the skating. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to make up as much time classic skiing as I had hoped. On the flip side, I didn’t feel all that bad skating and managed to only loose a few places during that portion of the race. Retrospectively, I think I was skiing a little timidly both in the classic and skate portion with a subconscious fear of anticipating skating to feel bad. I was skiing technically well and finished in 37th, not a disaster and not quite what I wanted. Lesson learned: always send it.

Saturday temperatures reached well above freezing melting that nice layer of snow that had fallen and then dropped to below freezing Saturday night making for an ice rink of a ski course on Sunday morning. Ice is my least favorite condition, especially when I have a nice layer of sticky klister on the bottom on my skis. Sunday was also relay day so my race was not just my race, but an important part of the Team USA’s race. The downhills on the course are very fast to begin with and got a lot faster when the tracks where solid ice. I did my best to stay calm and maybe on the surface I appeared calm, but inside I was holding back a flood of tears. I pulled myself together as best I could and the race was off. I found I was climbing really well and feeling quite good on the climbs. I moved up to the front on the longest climb of the course, a grueling 700m climb. But what goes up must come down….I tried hard to take a deep breath and ski fast and controlled down the hill, but just couldn’t get the panic out myself and scrubbed much more speed than I would have liked. Now in the chase group, I set out to just ski the climbs as best as I could and survive the downs. I tagged off to Sadie in 7th place with a number of teams in sight. I was disappointed that I couldn’t overcome all my fears, but hopeful that my teammates could pick off a few teams. Sadie skied an aggressive leg, leap frogging with three teams in front of her before tagging off to our skating machines. Liz, a strong climber, made the most of the climbs dropping 2 of those teams before tagging off to Jessie. Jessie quickly latched onto 4th place, Sweden, and just as quickly passing and dropping them. She was quickly putting time into the 3rd place team and the three of us who had already skied our legs were nervously watching the big screen in the finish as we suddenly realized the podium was in reach. Jessie caught 3rd place on the big climb and then skied over the top of hill very hard, skied an incredibly daring downhill and just flew into the finish to three overwhelmed and screaming teammates! Team USA on the podium!

Two years ago, I watched, from the sidelines, a USA girls relay team win bronze in Lillehammer. It was very inspiring and I knew I wanted to be a part of that someday. To get on the podium in the same place two years later is a great feeling of accomplishment. Watching my teammates ski unbelievable legs full of heart, determination, and belief will keep my inspiration and motivation high for the next two years I’m sure. Having a strong team is an amazing asset as each member has their own wealth of strengths to learn from. I’m a lucky girl to have a strong team in AK and a strong team the rest of the season with USST.

Check out this video highlight if you missed the race: https://www.facebook.com/USSA.nordic/videos/1029175260457054/?theater
or watch the full race here: http://crosscountryski.us/
 Very festive on the streets of Lillehammer

Finding Sun and Snow up high

Sadie, Sophie, Jessie, and me enjoying our ski

Sadie at the painting birthday party

Boys hard at work

My finished product

Lots of neat paintings

The big snowfall before it all melted...

Wax tech JP meeting with his athletes about the race the next day

Greeting Jessie at the finish line

Some very happy girls!