April 29, 2012

California Dreamin'

Spring is a skier's time to do whatever they please, but on a budget of course as skiing certainly doesn't pull in the big bucks. So since exotic beach destinations beach were a little out of the budget, Patrick and I drove west to meet up with a bunch of fellow Dartmouth friends in California. It turned into a perfect vacation; it was loads of fun and simply not long enough.

First stop: Truckee

We are lucky enough to have an incredible network through Dartmouth and were able to affordably rent a cabin on the top of Donner Summit with all our friends for the weekend. A big storm rolled through the day before we arrived so despite the "miserable" winter all the locals were complaining about, there was still a lot of snow and plenty of skiing to be had. Patrick and I skied Royal Gorge, which has seen better days, but still has some incredible terrain and spectacular views.
A great Western bluebird day!

Enjoying sunshine and lots of skiing!
After an exhausting weekend of too much sun, we headed further west to San Francisco.
Patrick still hasn't learned how incredible the Western sun is...
One of my classmates is going to UCSF for med school so Pat and I camped on his deck for the rest of the week. We only got consumed by the fog once! This was my first time to the Bay Area so we had lots to check out.

We were close to Golden Gate Park so we spent an afternoon on bikes checking out every corner of the park. There is a lot more in there then you could ever imagine from the outside.
Beautiful Gardens

That is actually a buffalo, no joke.

Casting ponds for those die hard fishermen

Model boats and marina
There were also horses, a polo field, lawn bowling, baseball diamond, soccer, dutch windmill, a couple museums, a giant cross, and probably some more things I can't remember.

We went on a great mountain bike ride at Camp Tamarancho, north of San Francisco. It was a great loop was featured everything, meadows, desert rocky sections, forested sections, and jungly sections.

Pat cruising through the big trees

Enjoying the shade

Waiting for Ben to fix his chain. 
 After riding, we drove this crazy, road full of sharp turns over to the coast to try out some surfing.

We went on a couple more bike rides and tried surfing a 2nd time. The boys started getting the hang of it, I only got a fat bloody lip. 
Checking out the Wharf and yes that is blue sky in the city!

 I also got the chance to catch up with the high schools friends who now live in the city as well!

Our last day, we ran to the top of Mt. Tam (didn't bring the camera) and then fought the incredible weekends crowds to get to Muir Woods and see some Redwoods. There were so many people in the area, it was actually impossible to get to the beach so despite suffering some heat exhaustion on our run, we were denied a dip in the Pacific. 
However, we greatly enjoyed the cool temps in the forest!
On our drive home, we took the "scenic" route on the loneliest highway in America, highway 50. There is not much out there...We camped outside of Ely, Nevada and checked out some mountain bike trails there in the morning. Not knowing the best trails, we ended up riding up something that was clearly meant as a hiking trailing, not biking trail. It was so steep, I simply could not make it up. After reaching the top, we managed to find the good bike trails and had a good ride before heading home.

I have finally made my way back to AK where I will be spending most of the summer. We start training for next year tomorrow with a week long camp. There is still some snow up here so we will be doing lots of it on snow! Check back for an update on camp.

April 5, 2012

Spring Series

As I headed out the door in Hanover, NH to go find some breakfast after a long day of travel the previous day, I was shocked to learn I only needed shorts and a t-shirt at 8AM on March 20th! How in the world were we going to be ski racing when its 80 degrees out and there is not a snowball in sight???? Needless to say, I didn't really care, it felt amazing to soak up some hot sun and I had already raced a lot this year. As I made my way north to Craftsbury, VT the sight of our last ski races of the year, I was able to find a patch or two of snow on the side of the road, but nothing skiable. However, Craftsbury is an amazing place full of some serious go-getters who put in a snowmaking system this fall, quickly learned the ins and outs of snow farming and were able to lay down a 2.5km loop that was, with the hard work of the employees there, withstanding the heat wave. Our first day skiing, we all went skiing around in shorts and sports bra watching the snow melt before our eyes. Some of my Alaskan teammates had never seen temperatures this warm in their lives!

Alaskans loving the heat
Luckily as the races drew near, the heat wave subsided and more typical New England spring weather arrived, a little rain, a little snow, a little sun. Super Tour Finals is another mini-tour format in which we had 4 races, a prologue, 10k classic mass start, classic sprint, and finally a pursuit start hill climb to duke it out for our final position in the tour. This race series is awesome because everyone in the U.S. including all the World Cup skiers come, but everyone is tired and just looking for some fun so it's a great atmosphere for racing. Not being sure how my body would hold up after my first full season of racing, I didn't have much expectations going in and I think I exceeded them a couple of times.

Having not had a stellar prologue last weekend, I was ready to learn from my experience and make this one a good one. It was a two lap race on a 1.5k course which made it interesting because I got to ski with someone lapping through my first lap and then someone starting my second lap. I lucked out because both people were really good skiers and I was able to try to hang with them. I felt I did a good job pacing myself and I ended the day in 9th place which I was satisfied with.
Skiing with Liz
Mass Start Action
Skiing with Ida

Next up was the 10k Classic Mass Start which is one of my favorite races. We woke up to some lovely dark skies and cold drizzle. The boys went before us and after doing 6 laps in the rain, the tracks were pretty much destroyed so we would be skiing through some real slop. In order to preserve what little snow we had, we were only allowed on the course for 10 minutes to test to our skis. This was a little nerve wracking as I was using a pair of skis I dont' know well and have struggled with a lot in the past. We have a very talented and hard working waxing crew at APU and they did a remarkable job adjusting our skis to perfection despite only having 10 minutes to feel out our boards. I had a perfect start position behind Sadie, but somehow found myself unable to keep up out of the start and was passed my many more people then I would have liked. As we started climbing up out of the bottom of the loop, I put my head down and started to just pick people off one by one. I found that I was strong in the flat sections and could really pass people through those rolling parts of the loop. I was having just a great time because I had so many friends out there so every time I would catch up to a friend and was able to ski with them for  a little before deciding to push some more. On the 3rd lap, I was feeling like a rock star and really started to push and I found myself passing some big names. As we went through the stadium for the last time, I caught my teammate Holly and realized our other teammate Sadie was the only one ahead of us.  I told her we had an APU sweep going and we should keep pushing. I think realizing we could sweep gave me a little extra something and I continued to push hard. At the bottom of the biggest hill, I caught Sadie. I was just ecstatic. Sadie is one of my best friends, teammates, housemate, and incredible skier and for me and her to be leading the charge with less than 2k to go was almost a dream. I told Sadie it was just me and her and we had to keep going hard. At that point I took the lead and just went as hard as I could up the hill hoping to defeat anyone behind us hoping to catch us. With about 500 meters left Sadie took back over and used some incredible toughness to dust me up the last rise to take the win. This was most certainly my best race of the season and gave me the confidence that I still have it in me despite not meeting all my goals this season.
Leading Sadie up the big hill
APU Sweeeeeeep!

Next, we had a classic sprint. I had a good quarterfinal, skiing behind Olympic Gold Medalist Chandra Crawford and making it to the semi-finals. I have yet to master the time between the quarters and the semis and seem to get off my rhythm in that time. So once again, I didn't have the semi I was looking for and wound up in the B-final. I was able to compose myself for the B-final and race my way to 8th place on the day!
Following Chandra

Lastly, we did something most people in this world find absurd. We raced about 2km up an alpine mountain with sections so steep all you could do was basically hike with skis on putting one foot in front of the other. I like going uphill, but this was a whole new uphill experience for me. We also didn't preview the course so I had no idea where the top was. We started in a pursuit format based on the last three days of racing. I started in 4th place with an exceptional climber right behind me. I skied my own race, knowing it would be more costly to blow up than to be more conservative. But it was steep enough that it didn't really matter, I was in pain the whole way. The boys went before us so they were lining the course yelling at us trying to tell us where the top was, but when you are screaming in pain 400m sounds like a long ways. I think I was a little to conservative up the 2nd half, but was only passed by one person who happens to one of the best in the world at hill climbing. I ended up in 5th place overall in the tour. I am very happy about this and am exciting to build upon this next season.

Now if that wasn't enough racing for the week, we had 1 rest day before embarking on a 30km race on a 1.5km loop. Yes, we did a 20 lap race. 30km skate is probably my weakest race, but since I knew I was skiing well I had some high hopes. I was unable to hang with the group I wanted to though and was quickly dropped. I skied with another group with many of my former teammate for most of the  race before they dropped me too and I had to hobble my way around alone for the last couple of laps. It was really soft snow and in places I was sinking up to my ankles trying to push through. This made doing 20 laps very challenging as each lap it became even softer and my muscles grew increasingly tired. Finishing 30km, despite not being happy with my race, gives a sense of accomplishment and did mark the end of the season.
Team APU

The best part of the season to me was not feeling completely burnt out at the end. I still have a little race fever in me. This assures me that I am truly doing something I love and made a good choice in pursuing racing post-college. I am extremely thankful for my parents unwavering support of this decision and feel lucky to have this opportunity. I completed 37 races this season, each one being a learning experience and trained much more than I ever have before giving me high hopes for next season! Thank you all for following me and supporting me in the many ways you all do. Keep following for some spring adventures!