December 15, 2011


Isn't is fitting that December racing always brings us to this:

"The Knoll"
Courtesy of
Silver Star, British Columbia is a small resort village with only a handful of year round residents that is distinguished by its brightly color houses, hence the nickname "Whoville." Silver Star is every nordic skiers favorite place to ski. The trails wind all over the knoll making all the houses ski in/out and extend out in all directions making for about 60 km of perfectly groomed trails over incredible terrain with pristine mountain views. It is hard to remember we are there to race and can't spend all day skiing. There is also an alpine resort and unlike any other resort I have been too, the nordic and alpine trails are largely incorporated with the nordic trails often traversing the alpine trails and the lifts being open to us "nordies" as well.
Another view of "The Knoll" where all the Easter egg colored houses sit.
Courtesy of 

My personal favorite "Twin Peaks" is for sale, only $600,000, quick someone buy it!
Skiing down Main Street, yes, that is Main Street, another reason why this place is so awesome!
After a couple day of hard training, our coach gave us the day to ski on our own and have some fun. I plotted out an extensive route that involved many fast downhills and uphills aided by lift transportation. With the help of the lifts, we covered some serious ground.
Up the mountain we go!

Enjoying the beautiful morning from the lift!

The view from the top

Check out all those mountains!

We skied out to Alder Point, another scenic spot on the mountain.

It appears there is some good alpine terrain around as well.

Fitz ripping it down the alpine hill

This is the nordic trail map. Click on it to enlarge it and check out just how many trails there are and how much terrain they cover. Alder point is the trail that goes way up to the top center of the map and our house were we started is on top of the knoll, marked by the pink streets.
At the end of the week, it was race time again. For the first time this season, a full sprint was on the schedule. This means we start our morning with a qualification round, run in an individual start format in which the top 30 finishers move on to the rounds. There are 3 rounds, quarter finals, semifinals, and finals, each with 6 people. The top 2 finishers from each heat move on to the next round. While a sprint is only 1.4 km and takes 3-4 minutes, doing is 4 times over in one day makes for a very hard and often long day. We were pleasantly surprised when the snow squalls predicted turned into beautiful sunshine making for an enjoyable day racing. Finding top sprint speed early season is always difficult for me so I was looking forward to getting some practice in before Nationals. I qualified 16th allowing me to move on to the quarterfinals. 

In years past, I have dreaded sprint racing due to the couple of hours we must wait between the qualification round and heats in which my nerves would grow by the minute making it an excruciating wait. For the first time since in a number of years, I found myself wanting more, looking forward to the head-to-head competition. 

Excited and ready to go, I lined up for my quarterfinal. Still lacking pure speed, I was a little slow of the line and playing catch up the whole way. Fortunately there were a couple of decent climbs at the end in which I clawed by way back into the pack and did my best to move into the top two. I didn't have the speed I was looking for and ended 3rd in my heat. A little disappointed that I was not an automatic into the semis, I prayed that my qualification time was fast enough to get me through as a "lucky loser." With 5 heats of 6 people and the top 2 moving on, that leaves 2 more spots in the semifinals to make 2 heats of 6. Those last 2 spots are determined off time in the qualification round. 

Indeed, I was the "lucky loser" so off to the semifinals I went. Once again, my speed was utterly lacking and I was duking it out in the back with 2 of my teammates. Unable to move to the finals, we were relegated to the B-final to determine places 7-12. Having done only 1 sprint since my knee surgery, I was struggling to keep the momentum going through the rounds and suffered some bad tactics in the B-final. I finished the day in 12th. But, more important than my place, all my injuries held up great, I wasn't experiencing pain and I really got some competitive spirit back. I want more.
Lining up for the B-Final. I am in the middle with Fitz to my left and Becca on my far left.
Courtesy of Lauren Fritz
Anxiously awaiting the gun
Boom! We're off
Apparently I need to learn to start like the girl in lane one, she's already a stride ahead of us!
Down the first hill. 

Coming down off a bridge into the stadium

Around, around, around

Finally, into the stadium for the double pole finish. 
Thanks Lauren Fritz for all the race photos. I have been working on my cornering and downhill abilities, which are rather lacking. This course provided lots of opportunities to not only test them, but to follow others and learn some tricks. (Sadie, please note that my skis are straight and pointed downhill in all these pictures.)

The following day was a 10k classic, one of my favorite races. The courses here have been used for World Cups making them quality and challenging courses and much to my liking. After finding some competitive drive in the sprints, I started out hard and found a rhythm that I thought I could hold up every hill on the course. Rhythm is something we work on a lot in training and something that can really help to maintain speed in a race. I was able to find a good working rhythm and started picking off those that stared ahead of me. In individual start races, you never know exactly how you are doing, but there are often coaches out on course calculating splits to give you an idea of how you doing. We start according to points, generally in reverse order, slowest to fastest. I started towards the end of the field but before all the really fast people so my splits were more or less useless, but I felt good and kept pushing. I faded some towards the end, but was able to hold composure and not fall apart finishing the day in 5th place and getting my first trip of the year to the podium and some prize money. It felt great to get that positive race feeling back and to feel in the game, something I had yet to feel. I can only hope all this practice paid off and I will be in top race shape come Nationals.

This day was made exceedingly better by the success of the APU Women's Team. We had 3 in the top 5 (Fitz 2nd, Becca 4th) and across the pond in Europe Kikkan Randall won her 2nd World Cup sprint of the season and handily defeated the "unbeatable" Marit Bjoergen while Holly Brooks qualified for her first World Cup sprint heats. I can only hope that training with these incredible women will someday make me as fast as them!
Kikkan on top of the podium!!!
Courtesy of

Cheering on the junior racers, enjoying the sunshine.

December 4, 2011

Big Sky Livin'

While snow is scarce everywhere, Bozeman had enough to pull off some decent races. Saturday featured 2 back to back races. 9AM marked the start of a 1.4km sprint qualifier with 2 massive hills and a sketchy, steep downhill with a 180 degree turn at the bottom. After that we got a short hour break before turning around and heading out on a 5k loop that featured doing the above obstacles twice. By my last time around, the downhill was scrapped down to pure ice with a few rocks scattered around making it so easy feat with some burning, tired legs. Needless to say both races went off without a hitch. I finished the day with a 9th place in the sprint and a 10th place in the 5k.

Overnight the course workers were able to shovel some more snow on course and put in a classic track. It was quite impressive! Originally, we were slated to do a mass start, but with the less than ideal actions of mother nature, the race was switched to an individual start.

I awoke this morning to find out that one of my best friends, housemates, and teammates, Sadie Bjornsen, had won a silver medal in the World Cup team sprint with another teammates and superstar skier, Kikkan Randall. I had to get her on skype immediately and she gave us the play by play of what she describes as "the best day she has ever had." It was absolutely inspiring and I couldn't be more happy for her.

My day was far from that and while I was psyched to be doing a classic race, it was a brutal race with 3 loops around the grueling course. I finished in 8th place, but was hoping for a little more.

Crawling my way up one of the walls
Courtesy of

After only racing a handful of races last year due to an injury filled summer and fall and adjusting to a new program this summer, I have had a slow start to the season and while nothing has been a total let down, I am hoping these 3 weeks of racing will spark my body into remembering what it is capable of.

Tomorrow morning we hit the road again for a long haul to Silver Star Resort, BC. This is a nordic skiers haven with streets made of groomed trails and 100s of kilometers of skiing.

December 1, 2011


Shoot, school got the best of me, or rather my free time this past month. With the term ending December 5th, but my last day in Alaska being Thanksgiving Day, I had my work cut out for me. Finish school early or on the road is nothing new for me, but packing up and leaving for 5 months is! In the last month, I have come up with a preliminary race schedule that involves spending time in between race series at home in Park City both because I love the western sunshine and because travel in and out of SLC is much more affordable than Anchorage. Check out my race schedule page to get the low down on all my race appearances this winter.

Our race season was scheduled to start November 18th in Fairbanks, but in true Fairbanks fashion, the highs for the week were around -30F, no joke. That place is COLD! So we quickly bagged that plan and invited University of Alaska Fairbanks down south to have an informal race between UAF, University of Alaska Anchorage and APU. It was a balmy -4 in Anchorage, the legal cutoff for racing so we knocked heads a little and got our feet wet racing. The cold is always interesting to race in because it is very hard to get a read on how the body feels, as it just feels, well, COLD! Either way, you get some good lung burn and some sore muscles making it good practice.

Next, I frantically finished my classes, got everything squared away in Anchorage and headed south to West Yellowstone. This place has been my Thanksgiving home since I started Nordic skiing. Nordic skiers from around the country flock to this small town, otherwise flooded with snowmobiles, in south western Montana to get some early season snow and racing. It is always fun to catch up with friends and see all those skiers you haven’t seen since March! I was lucky enough to have my family and college roommate drive up to join me for Thanksgiving! Mom cooked a great feast as usual and we had a wonderful time!

West Yellowstone marked my first real weekend of racing with points and money on the line. I did something I have never done before and flew in the night before the race. Anchorage sits at sea level and West Yellowstone is about 6600’ combined with the many hours on a plane and stress of traveling, this is not something usually recommended, but with school getting in my way, it was my only option so I gave it a shot. Let’s just say, I have gained a new sympathy for all those low landers who continually complain about altitude in the West… I was feeling the thin air, but was able to wrap my head around racing and push myself as best I could. It was great to get the first race jitters out and ski on some new boards. I finished the weekend with 2 top 10s, not a bad start to the season. 

Enjoying that incredibly western sun in West Yellowstone, MT
Courtesy of Becca Rorabaugh

Our very nice house in West Yellowstone
Courtesy of Becca Rorabaugh
My new me! I have traded in my green snowflakes for some blue.
Courtesy of Matt Whitcomb
  Our team headed to Bozeman, MT on Monday to meet up with the rest of our team and prepare for another set of races there this weekend. As we drove north, the snow vanished and we were greeted by spring time temperatures in Bozeman. Unsure if the races were going to happen, we hesitated to unpack and settle in anxiously awaiting the official decision. On Wednesday, with a few inches of snow overnight, it was decided that the races would happen in some fashion. We were lucky enough to be able to ski on a north facing canyon early in the week until we got a little storm.
We have been very fortunate with our living situations. We are staying right across from the ski trails in Bozeman in some incredibly nice houses out-fitted with hot tubs, surround sound, a million channels, and beautiful views! We are out of cell service which is tough for some, but after spending some time in New England, I have learned to do just fine without. 

Skiing up Bozeman Creek, making due with what little snow there is!
The races will go on! Saturday and Sunday, we will be racing in some form or another before packing up and hitting the road for the VERY long trip to Silver Star, BC! Check back for a race report on Bozeman! Thanks for following!