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.