January 30, 2013

Tour de Twin Cities

After spending many days resting and getting healthy again, I hit the road. This time to the Twin Cities for a "mini-tour" which means over the course of 5 races, our times were added up from each day and an overall Tour Winner was crowned for having the fastest cumulative time. Unfortunately for us, Minneapolis was hit with a serious cold wave and on top of that had little to no snow. So we raced all five races on a man made 3.3km loop in frigid temps. The name of the game for the week was to keep your spirits up and to master the many transitions on the relatively flat loop.

The first weekend was made up of a 5km skate and a 15km mass start classic race. The first weekend was also combined with a college race, junior race, and high school race so there were over 1000 people racing! As one of the only places to ski in the Twin Cities, the trails were busy all day everyday. I started the tour out with a bang wining the first race by 14 seconds. I was ecstatic to have continued skating strong and to put so much time on my competitors the first day.

Thanks David Owen for making some of your beautiful photos available on Facebook! I greatly appreciate it!
Podium day 1 L-R Caitlin Gregg, Rosie Brennan, Erika Flowers
Our boys also had a great day coming in 1st and 3rd!
 The morning of the 15km Mass Start, I arrived at the venue and went to the course to see how the boys were doing, only to see many boys yelling for new poles as they had broken one and many others falling on the icy patches around the corners. Panic set in as I struggle with ice and being confident around corners. Boys will boys and girls will be girls however, so our race didn't involve any bad crashes or pole breaking despite the icy fast tracks. The challenging part was to figure out how to put a move on your competitors when it was that fast and flat. I thought my best chance would be to wear people out so I attempted to keep the pace high through the 5 lap race and on the last lap went for it, seeing if I could get away. I did manage to get a gap on my chasers over the more hilly first half of the loop, but by the time we hit the flat I was loosing time. Jennie passed me in a fury over the last 300m of the race and I couldn't respond leaving me to fight for second. I managed to hold onto 2nd, but was disappointed in my technical skills over the last kilometer of racing, something to work on for sure.
Jennie and I leading

The front pack making its way up one of the steep climbs
Jennie bringing it in for the win and me in the background holding on to 2nd
Did I mention it was really cold that day and after succumbing to frost bite while I was home, I had to wear tape on my cheeks to protect them. 
Masked bandit
Originally, we were supposed to have a sprint race on Monday but with a high around -5, the organizers decided to postpone that race until Friday. I am very thankful for this and enjoyed exploring downtown without going outside via the many skybridges.

Sprint day came and I felt I was struggling with morale. I was getting pretty sick of skiing around that same loop in the cold, I was way too concerned about "having" to win, and I wasn't a fan of the course. This left me stressed and concerned about things I couldn't control. This is often the hardest part of racing, especially in the middle of a big series with nothing else to think about. My skiing showed this and I skied poorly the whole day. I managed to squeak by in 4th place at the end of the day, but still lost quite a bit of time on my lead of the tour. Fortunately, I recognized all my silly worries and did my best to put myself in a different place for the final two races. I don't even have pictures from the sprint...

Saturday brought a 5km classic race and my goal was to simply go out hard and to really focus on those sections that I lost time in on the 15km classic day. I came  out on top, but by only .6 seconds....so things turned around for me and I felt I had even started to improve on my weaknesses.
Hammering into the finish

 The last day was a nerve racking one. It's called a pursuit start so everyone's time from the previous 4 days is added up and each person starts based on their time back from the winner so the person that crosses the line first wins the overall tour (although may not have the fast individual time of the day). I was the leader meaning I went out first and the whole field followed at various intervals, all hunting me down looking for that big win. I had a 17 sec lead on second, 30 sec on third, and about a minute on 4th. My only hope was to go out hard and not look back. Being the 3rd day of racing in a row, my legs were exhausted and it was really a trying effort, not to mention that due to the twisty nature of the course, I could see my pursuers all the time. Trying to judge time and distance while racing is challenging, but I could tell the girl who started in 4th was flying and I couldn't stop pushing. I managed to hold everyone off and cross the line first about 30 seconds ahead of second place. However, Caitlin, the 4th place starter and 2nd place finisher, was just flying around the course and had the fastest time of the day. I have always admired her ability to skate so I was very satisfied with 2nd place on the day and 1st for the overall tour.

Time of the Day podium L-R: Me, Caitlin Gregg, Kate Fitz
Out front trying to hold everyone off

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Men's Overall Podium. Patrick was actually 6th, but failed to show up for the prize ceremony....

Girls Overall Podium!
More exciting than my win at the Tour, is that I have accrued enough points to take over the SuperTour leader position. The SuperTour is the professional domestic circuit in the U.S. that I have been racing all year. The leader at certain points in the year is granted start rights for the World Cup. So, this means I have start rights for Period 4 World Cups which begin in March. I am beyond excited about this. I had set out this season with a goal of qualifying for World Championships, but even though I am having a spectacular season, so are a lot of other girls and I ended up being the first person they chose not to name to the team. This was disappointing, but there are always more opportunities around every corner so being able to race World Cups in Scandinavia is hardly consolation.

From here I will continue to race in SuperTour races from the month of February and then I will head over to Europe for a full month of racing in March!

Thanks for cheering, supporting, and following! 'til next time

January 15, 2013

Skiing with PCNSC

Yesterday I went to practice with Park City Nordic Ski Club, the club I begin skiing with many years ago. I love going to there practices as the memories of all the good times I had flood in and I get to see who the latest talents are in the area. It is great to talk to the kids and serve as a role model for them. Joining the nordic team really changed my life and I hope all these kids have the opportunity to get as much joy out of skiing as I do. They were doing a 5k Time Trial so I helped time them and work a little bit on technique with them. Afterwards, I did a little talk about being an Elite racer and all the things that come with it. One of the things I specifically addressed was the things outside of actual training that are so important: nutrition, rest, recovery. I enlightened them to the ever important 20 min window post training in which one must eat carbs and a little protein in order to start the muscles in recovery mode as quickly as possible. I shared all the different type of PowerBars I like to use for different purposes and the sports drink I like to use during activity. The kids then got to sample all the different types. The gummies were the biggest hit for sure, no surprise there, even the big kids like those!

Me with all the kiddies! Thanks Powerbar!

January 12, 2013

Women's Sports Foundation

I am thrilled to have received a grant from the Women's Sports Foundation this season to offset some of the costs of training and racing. It is an incredible organization that has done and is still doing amazing things to help women of all ages and abilities find sport and the joys it brings. They did a write up about nationals here:


And I suggest everyone look at some of their programs and projects and see what they are all about, its pretty neat stuff!

January 9, 2013

The Perils of being an Endurance Athlete

After the first sprint, I felt as though I had been run over. I was exhausted and sore and not feeling my best, but I was so determined to win the Skate race, I don't think any virus could have taken over my mind, however, after the skate race, I continued to feel poor. I had that swollen throat that I attempted to convince myself was anything but a cold. Maybe I had suddenly developed allergies, maybe it was from racing in the really cold, dry air, maybe it was from cheering so much, anything but a virus. Knowing in the back of my mind that these were silly thoughts, I was a mess inside knowing I really can't afford to miss any races this week if I am to accomplish my goals and also knowing that racing while sick can ruin your entire season.

Being the stubborn person I am, I put that bib on and give it my best in the 20k classic as that was probably my best event. I felt fine and I hung in the pack easily. There were 6 of us that sepparated ourselves from the others within the first of 4 laps so it was simply a race of six. Feeling comfortable in the pack, I thought maybe I had more in me than I thought. I pushed the pace at times and was able to respond to any move made by others in the pack, that is until the last kilometer came. My friend and teammate Sadie, put in a killer move destroying all those behind her and leaving us to fight for the rest of the podium spots. As we started up the last, but giant hill, I tried to muster everything I could but had no fight left me, that last gear missing so I had to settle for fourth. It was not the podium place I was looking for, but all considering it was an effort I had to be proud of. Skiing 20km also gives any racer a lot of time to learn and experience so it was a valuable experience for me, emphasizing my weaknesses and giving me more time to learn how to ski relaxed in a pack, something I really struggle with. I could lie to myself after that race though, I was suffering some evil virus's attack on my body.

The podium, teammate Sadie in 1st, teammate Kate in 2nd and good friend Sophie in 3rd (Fasterskier Photo)

pure exhaustion at the finish line. (Fasterskier Photo)

And then there were 6... (Fasterskier Photo)

Struggling to find my gear up the last hill (Fasterskier Photo)

A view from the back of field right out of the start (Fasterskier Photo)

Leading out of the stadium (Fasterskier Photo)

The 6 of us headed out on another lap (Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)

Sophie and I in sync (Ian Harvey/ Toko Photo)

After some nice rest at home, I was surprised to feel much more energetic and like myself the next day. I thought for sure I had kicked that virus and was ready to give it my all the next day. My body was simply fooling me however, as I went to bed that night my head began to get heavy and those winter cold feelings came back. I woke up feeling that much more terrible, but got in the car and headed to the race anyhow. I really needed to race in order to score points for the overall lead, something that is a big goal of mine. I threw my bib on and went for it, feeling like I couldn't get the air I needed and that my muscles were going to quit at any moment. I ened up qualifying for the sprint in 5th, which was not bad by any standard so it was game time, I was going to race those heats with every last once of energy I could find. I won my quaterfinal and actually started feeling a little better. I lacked the confidence in my strength however, knowing I wasn't 100% and got caught playing cat and mouse games in my semi. It came down to inches and I did my best but ended up 4th in that heat, needing a 3rd place to move forward. That marked the end of my day, putting me in 7th place overall. Again, it was not what I was looking for, but I did all I could do and learned a lot from the day.

To put this all in perspective, last year, 7th place was the best I finished in any race at US Nationals so despite my groans about the last two races, I have had an incredible week and am very happy with how most of it went. Getting sick to an endurance athlete feels like you are on your death bed and your life might end, but in reality its just a simple part of life we all must deal with. It's just a bad turn of luck when those illnesses strick during some of the more important days. It was incredible racing here in Utah and having so  many friends and family members out there cheering. I am thrilled to have shown all my supporters what it is I am out there training for everyday and what I spend all in winter doing.

The best part? For once, I can crawl into my own and get a good night sleep without worrying about packing up all my skis and clothes and jumping on a plane to head to the next destination. I get a nice week to recover at home before hitting the road again!

Once again, thanks for all the cheers and support!

Results from the week:

Coverage of all the races:

The Park Record (www.parkrecord.com)  and the Salt Lake Tribune (www.sltrib.com) did articles on the races as well, but I felt the best one was in the Deseret News, which I know most of my fans don't read so here is that link:

January 4, 2013

Half-way Report

Today was a day I have been dreaming about since my first US National Championships in 2005, ironically enough, at the same venue, Soldier Hollow, UT. I won my first US National Championship today! It took me longer to get there than I dreamed back then, but that's life, the important part is that it happened and all my hard work paid off. I have struggled with skating always, but particularly after my injuries. It was really hard for me to find form in skating last year so I made it my mission to learn to skate this summer. Fortunately I have some incredible teammates who dragged me around kilometer after kilometer and a great coach who spent countless hours trying to get me there. While I still have a long ways to go, I never would have imagined winning my first National Championship in the skating technique.

Let's back up though. Wednesday kicked off the Championships with a classic sprint. I skied much better than I had hoped, qualifying in 3rd and holding my own all the way to final, taking 3rd in that as well. Not having excelled in sprints recently, I was very happy with this result! Unfortunately, the doping control also showed up to the race so I spent many hours trying to produce enough pee to be tested for prohibited substances. Not the most fun part of racing, but part of the deal...
Qualifier (Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)

(Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)

Sprint Finish (Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)
 The sprint beat me up far worse than I expected. Despite only racing a little over 4 km, sprints make for a long and tough day. It requires warming up multiple times, staying focused, and pushing really hard over and over again. Luckily, we had a day away from racing afterward so I was able to shake out the bad feelings and refocus for the distance races.

Today brought the 10km skate. It was an individual start races with people starting every 15 seconds. I went out really hard with the intention that I must give it my all to be in the running. It may have been a little too hard as I came around for my second lap feeling a little beat and unsure of what I had left. I was able to stay really strong in my mind and convince myself that V2ing up the hill was going to be the difference between the winner and 2nd place. And that it was, I think that was where I gained my final seconds on second place to take the lead. It was very close though between me and my teammate and best friend Sadie Bjornsen. I bested her by just 10 seconds. It was a remarkable day and I couldn't be more excited. It was made that much better by racing in Utah and having all my parents and former coaches there watching and cheering.

The day was made even better by the fact that my team APU swept the girls podium !!!
And my housemate and teammate Erik Bjornsen won the Mens Race!

Sadie and I hugging it out at the finish

Going for it (Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)

Victory Photo (Ian Harvey/Toko Photo)
Thanks to everyone who has supported me and helped me get here. I hope there are more good things to come this week and of course the rest of the season! Hope to see you all out at Soldier Hollow on Sunday for the Mass Start Classic race.