April 29, 2015

Spring Epic

Towards the end of the race season all I can think about it sitting around in the sunshine without obligations. However, in all reality, it seems that spring is often more busy than the rest of the year. I still have not been in one place for more than a week. While the mental break of not thinking about training and racing has been good, I am feeling the fatigue from bouncing around all month. Despite fatigue, I had a really great month that was highlighted by time with some of the best friends a girl could ask for.

Stop 1: After Sun Valley, I went off the grid. Leaving the phone and computer behind and heading to the desert is truly the best thing in the world. I went with some of my closest friends to Moab and then further south to raft the San Juan river. It was a great time all around.

We stumbled upon a great camping spot in a busy Moab

Nothing beats desert views

One of the coolest desert features I have seen, the Tunnel, a 5 ft wide 60ft long tunnel through rock

Another fabulous camping spot near Canyonlands

Canyonlands hiking

Nils and I enjoying Jeep Arch

Camping on the river

Nils and I exploring

Checking out Anasazi ruins

Beautiful evening on the San Juan

Mexican Hat just poking out over the canyon wall

John soaking in the last rays on sun for the day

Paddle boarding down the river

John getting powered up

John showing off his paddling skills

Giving my shot at rowing

Taking the red rocket on a little jeeping excursion

Hannah and Nils emerging from the Tunnel

Lounging in the Tunnel

Stop 2: I then reorganized all my stuff and headed back to Alaska. My friend John came to visit so we quickly got up to some day adventures, enjoying what snow was left and some decent weather.
Skiing Adventures with Rosie squared

Hiking adventures on the arm

more skiing!

Stop 3: We then headed to the far north, actually the furthest north point in the U.S., to the town of Barrow to volunteer with Skiku, the nonprofit I worked with last year to teach skiing in rural Alaskan communities. Once again, the experience was fabulous. It was cold, but the sun came out everyday and the kids were very enthusiastic about skiing. John and I ran the middle school all week. Starting at 7:40AM we taught skiing in all the P.E. classes for the day before leading after school skiing until we were too cold or tired to be out any longer. It was really neat to be at the same school all week as we could watch the rapid progression of many of the young skiers. The end of April marks the beginning of whaling season for Barrow. One night, we offered our muscles and a whaling crew took us 10 or miles out on the sea ice to help "break trail." The whaling boats need to be taken out to the edge of the sea ice, but sea ice is very rough and jagged so chopping ice to fill in holes, widen paths, and take down hills is needed in order to get all the equipment in the ocean. We spent some hours chopping up ice. As mundane as it sounds, being out on the sea ice is almost surreal and quite beautiful. Afterwards, the captain took us to his home to show us exactly the equipment they use and how they go about getting a whale. It is quite a remarkable process!
Breaking trail adventure

These kids learned to jump quite well on skinny skis

Practicing downhills

Sea ice
Chopping sea ice to make a better path

The chopping crew

Our group with the captain 

John looking like an arctic explorer

Afternoon ski on the ice

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Snowmaching selfie

Playing games with the kiddies


We even had a little race!

The Barrow Beach
Muktuk or whale blubber that we tried along with seal jerky
Stop 4: Finally back to Anchorage for 4 whole weeks! Anchorage time has been busy, filled up by fundraiser planning, meetings, planning for the training year, and school work. I made my final presentation for my Masters of Arts degree yesterday and have now completed all the school work for the degree. All that's left is my internship!
Beach running

Some more hiking adventures

Enjoying fresh snow on the mountains
And with that, spring is over and we are back training. We started with a bang, treadmill testing on the first day.
Getting my blood lactate tested in between stages of the test. 

April 8, 2015

Season Done!

I am a Western girl at heart. I love the sun, the dry air, the altitude, all of it. Anytime I get a chance to race in the West, I am a happy camper. As I hit the open road to Sun Valley, I was ecstatic to meet up with my APU teammates who I hadn't seen since the beginning of January, my coach,  and other friends. I also had some high expectations as I hoped to win the Overall SuperTour in order to get start rights for the fall World Cups. Everything was perfect, the sun was strong, the temperatures warm, the altitude high, I was feeling strong skiing and then BAM, I woke up in the middle of the night before the first race with a sore throat and a fever. How could I have possibly gotten sick again? Knowing I had to race to win the Overall, I threw my things in my bag and headed to the race venue anyhow. As I skied around warming up, I felt absolutely horrible. I tried to tell myself I was fine, but it just wasn't working, the fever was winning. I tucked my tail between my legs and went home without racing. At that point, the future looked really bleak. I thought my season was over, I would loose the Overall and feel thoroughly unfulfilled despite an otherwise exceptional season. After I spent a good number of hours in bed watching TV and feeling sorry for myself, I had a sudden change of heart. It was time to sack up, get tough, and race. It turns out I wasn't the only one fighting something. Sickness was rampant throughout the entire field. I guess that's a sign of a long hard season, and some really tired skiers...

Take 2. I packed up the next day, headed to the venue ready to race. I felt terrible, but somehow skied a very good qualifying round for the sprint. Ok, maybe things are going to turn out alright after all. I warmed up for the rounds, still feeling miserable. I lined up for the heats and do what I always do, charge from the start. However, I didn't have any pop, no top speed, and could barely breath with a stuffed up head and the tail ends of a fever. I got destroyed in the finish, limping across the line 3rd in my heat and missing the lucky loser position. Well, the mind is powerful, but it's not possible to tough everything out. I should have considered the situation, made a better plan, and race like a seasoned racer, not a first timer. bummer.

I set myself backwards in the process of trying to race. I felt absolutely miserable the day after the race. I started questioning myself, wondering if it was going to be possible to race again. I sat out the team relay, which was not my idea of fun. I LOVE the relay and I have a lot of APU pride. Luckily, our team is so amazing, we managed to place 1st and 2nd and  I was able to be out there cheering and skiing the tracks in as a freak snow storm hit, a small consolation.

I read an article about Lindsey Vonn winning the SuperG World Cup Overall that day.  She was the last to start and the one girl she had to beat to win the globe had just put down a fast time and had taken the lead so as she was standing in the start gate, she knew she had to win to get the Super G Overall.

“I love these situations. You know, it honestly makes the choice very easy. When I knew that Anna was in the lead I said ‘OK, I either win or I go home’ and so I tried my best and I really risked a lot. Of course these titles mean everything to me but at the same time I just love racing. I love being in the position that I was in today, under high pressure and having to come through,” said Vonn. “I love that stuff. It’s what makes ski racing exciting, and it’s what makes me motivated to keep pushing myself and keep coming back for more."

I realized then that I had strayed from what had made the rest of the season so successful. I was terribly focused on winning the overall and not focused on the racing itself. I, too, love racing and I love racing under pressure. I always have and that is what has kept me going, the love of racing, the love of putting yourself out there and testing yourself. So, I pulled myself together, reminded myself why I was doing this and lined up for that 30k with focus I even surprised myself with.  It was the most brutal race I have ever done. We raced at noon, it was really hot and the snow was the slowest snow I have ever encountered. We were at 7500 feet and we had to do 6 laps of a 5km course. The snow was so slow, we couldn't tuck any parts of the course so we literally had to ski all 30km. Luckily, I have some great teammates and we skied together all 30km, Sadie, Chelsea, and I, working together and getting things done. We had been dropped by two girls, but were holding tough as a chase pack. I cramped up worse than I ever had, but I just kept my eyes on my teammates and pushed on. We had a "sprint" into the finish, a very slow motion sprint and Sadie sped away taking the bronze, I nabbed 4th, and Chelsea came in 5th. 

It was enough to win the SuperTour Overall! Despite feeling beyond bad, it was truly a perfect way to end the season. 

It is never easy trying to sum up 5 months of ski racing, but I think that 30k did it perfectly. There are a lot of uncontrollable things that come your way and I learned the way to be successful despite any misfortune is to keep a strong head, keep your friends close by, and act with heart. 

Thanks Steve Fuller at Flying Point Road Photography for these exceptional shots. Check out flyingpointroad.com for more shots from Spring Series and World Championships!
Nothing beats a friend at the finish! Feeling dead after the 30km

APU goes 1, 2 in the Relay!!!!!!

APU also won the APU cup, again, meaning we are the best club in the country!!!!

Start of the 30k