Sunday, July 13, 2014

7 on Sunday

Week 1 of Alaska Camp is coming to a close and we have had an awesome week of training here so far in Anchorage. Fortunately the grizzlies have stayed away (or at least at a safe distance) thanks to lots of chatty girls however we did have a fun encounter with a mama black bear and two cubs last night!
They look so cute (from the safety of the house)!

We are headed to the glacier today where I've been told there is no internet or cell service so here's a short little blog with some things I've been loving lately and a quick re-cap of the the U.S. Ski Team Women's Camp Alaska Edition so far....

Seven on Sunday

1. Epic mountain runs
The running crew before heading up into the mountains (Liz Stephen photo)

Me, Holly Brooks also the latest and greatest Mt. Marathon champion, and U.S. Women's Ski Team coach Matt Whitcomb (Liz Stephen photo)

The view partway up (Liz Stephen photo)

And a second lookout point nap on on the moss (Liz Stephen photo)

Matt and me cresting the first ridge line (Liz Stephen photo)

Slightly miss-timed jumping photo. Fun running/hiking/rock scrambling adventure with all these awesome women plus Matt (lucky guy I think ;) (Liz Stephen photo)

2. Our new SMS T2 website!!! New and improved and updated on the regular. 

3. This tough cookie:
Jessie Diggins didn't even shed a tear after tearing open her knee on a rock.

This lil baby needed 6 stitches!

Still cool as a cucumber :)

3. My latest baking inspiration thanks to Annie Hart and the Earth Sky Time Farm in Manchester, VT. 

4. How to win a 100 mile trail marathon via former skier and BSF teammate Stephanie Howe

5. Flowers in salads

On Wednesday, the APU/USST physical therapist Zuzana had all of the women over to her house for an awesome dinner that included fresh Alaskan salmon and a salad with flowers from her garden! They actually taste really good and have a bit of a bite, kind of like a radish. Thanks for the beautiful and tasty meal! Huge thank you to the Schumacher family as well as Sadie for hosting some wonderful dinner parties this week! Tasty meals with friends seems like a great way to end a hard training day.

6. Working towards that Wheaties Box
The training side of things has been busy this week with two sessions a day and everything from level 4 hill bounding intervals, to threshold skate intervals, to double pole speeds and some solid level 1 distance work. The best part is having the opportunity to train with a number of new training partners including 3-time Overall World Cup Sprint Champion Kikkan Randall and Norwegian National Team member Celine Brun-Lie. She has a wikipedia page. I think that is going on my goal list right next to "getting on a box of Wheaties" (or Lucky Charms...that means you've really made it BIG TIME).
A few of my training buddies for the week! From left: Rosie Brennan (World Cup Skier), Caitlin Gregg (2010 Olympian, World Cup Skier, Birkie winner), Sophie Caldwell (USST, World Cup Skier, Olympian) and Sadie Bjornsen (USST, World Cup Skier, Olympian)

The final climb of a 2.5 hour skate roller ski 

7. Making a case for coaching
Interesting (and somewhat lengthy article) that is well worth a read. Big shoutout to Matt Whitcomb, Jason Cork, and Erik Flora for helping coach and support this Alaska camp! Speaking of coaching, I'm not sure I ever formally announced the new SMS T2 team coach: Patrick O'Brien! After two awesome years with Gus, he has decided to use his brain and skills in another way and is in the process of applying for business school. I am incredibly sad to see him go but also excited to have Patrick join our team and have really enjoyed working with him so far this summer.

Alright gotta go get ready to board a helicopter and head to the Eagle Glacier!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Guns, cowboy boots, turtles ....and other things that happened in the last 20 days

So its been a while...but the last 20 days have been packed with travel, training, biathlon shooting, a wedding, a family-moon, and finally a trip to Alaska where for the first time in the last few weeks I finally have a chance to sit down and write about it all and share some photos of the last few weeks.
Enjoying some summertime in Montana

Summit Sisters

Before leaving Stratton, the SMS T2 ladies kicked off our very first Summit Sisters event! As part of our initiative to cultivate active lifestyles and camaraderie in our community, the SMS T2 women's team created a summer hiking series for other women and girls in the area.
Top of Styles Peak overlook!

Jessie and Annie leading the way with some of the other Summit Sisters
 We were joined by some of the FloodBrook school girls, parents, and other women in the area for a fun 3.2 mile hike up to the top of Styles Peak. We plan to do at least one big hike a month and I am already really looking forward to the next one. Here is a link to an article I wrote for our new website about the event if you want to learn more.
A few of the girls refueling with some tasty cookies after the hike thanks to Jessie Diggins!

Shooting and Skiing

The craziness began with a trip to Lake Placid, NY for a U.S. Biathlon (USBA)Talent ID and Recruiting Camp. We started the camp off with a lot of different tests including an uphill run test, a 30m sprint test, strength testing, a 5-min sit-up test (basically try and do as many sit-ups as you can for 5 min...this left me extremely sore!), and functional mobility, or in some cases "dysfunctional" mobility screening.
Nearing the top of the uphill run test (FasterSkier photo)

Post test tired legs (FasterSkier photo)
The camp was a chance to try shooting a biathlon rifle for the first time and to get a feel for the USBA program, coaches, and athletes to see if its something I might be interested in pursuing in the future. I joined 11 other athletes for a few days of testing, training and shooting practice. 
The tryout camp crew from all over the U.S. (FasterSkier photo)

I had never shot a biathlon rifle before but was psyched to learn alongside some of the best in the world including World Champion silver medalist Andrea Henkel. Although I don't see biathlon in my immediate future, I was psyched to have the opportunity to give it a try. Here is a link to a video about the camp and some of the athletes who participated.

Blessing-Flowers Western Wedding

From Lake Placid I headed to Montana for my Dad's wedding! Andy joined me for a few days of Montana adventuring and wedding preparations before the big day. 
Andy and I joined Anya and her dad Howie (Sophie's cousin and Uncle) for a hike up to the top of Blackmore Peak. It was my first time summiting the mountain and although we ran into a little snow the view were well worth it!

Crossing one of the snow fields. We were actually able to glissade much of the way down.

Anya and me nearing the summit

Made it!
We even had the chance to jump into one of my favorite Bozeman races, the Jim Bridger Run, a 10 mile trail run up Sypes Canyon that includes many creek crossings, single track, hard hiking and a fast downhill descent. The weather on Saturday morning was pretty nasty with wind, rain, thunderstorms and lots of mud but we both managed to come out with a win which was a pretty sweet way to kick of the wedding day. Thanks to the Bridger Ski Foundation for organizing the event!
Muddy legs after the race
Women's podium pic: Mindy, me, and Emily Allison. In the background some ominous storm clouds about to drop more heavy rain, hail and lightning
Fortunately the weather cleared for the wedding and we had an incredible evening of dancing and celebrating.
Hanging with old friends at the Flowers Blessing wedding

The ceremony about to get under way (Emma Stein photo)

The bridesmaids...Natalie, Rachel Blessing, me and Sara Blessing

Congrats Pat Flowers and Melissa Blessing! (and a special thank you for allowing us to run the race that morning :)
Pre-wedding visit to the neighbor's farm to visit some cows and a new calf

We also had to say hello to the pigs

Natalie getting ready for a fun evening. The sun finally started peaking through the clouds!

Waves for Dayzzz

Once the wedding festivities ended we were ready for the highly anticipated family moon. When Melissa and my dad announced their wedding, the four kids suggested a family moon in place of a honey moon (aka a sweet family vacation to celebrate the joining of our two families). Fortunately the parents liked the idea too, so post-wedding we all hopped on a place to Kauai for a few days of sun and surf!

This lil (big!) guy welcomed us to the island our first evening

Ready for some serious snorkeling

We arrived to temps in the high 70s, blue skies, white sand beaches, and plenty of clear blue salt water. Although we were technically on vacation, I still had to get in some good training. I am typically pretty terrible at "vacationing" so the trip was a good chance for me to practice. I had to find ways to balance island adventures with quality training and sufficient relaxing, or as some say "specific sitting." Fortunately, Natalie was my action buddy for the week and the rest of the family helped me learn to sit still and smell the flowers, see the fish, and practice doing a little bit of nothing.
On Wednesday, Natalie and I found a cool trail for some bounding intervals called the NouNou or Sleeping Giant trail.
Running down the NouNou trail to start another interval

Final view of the ocean from the top of the "giant"

The ski bounding quickly turned into extreme hiking with poles as we clamored over a few steep rocky sections and exposed ridges. I received plenty of bizarre looks from many of the other hikers but no one seemed to mind me doing hot laps up the mountain.
Trailside view of the Napali Coast
I also had the chance to meet up with one of my ski friends from high school, Casey Seibert, for a hike up the Napali coast to a beautiful waterfall! The trail was hands-down one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Natalie and I taking on the Napali Coast trail

Bright tropical colors

Casey flying over some forest streams

The waterfall!

It was basically impossible to capture the entire thing in one photo

We even got to do some swimming in the pool below the falls

Unfortunately I had to leave the family moon a few days early but not before some quality snorkeling, surfing, zip-lining and swimming! 

Natalie and I... aka Jack and Rose

The Nepali coastline by boat

Fun to have my adventure buddy with me!

Alaska Camp

Aloha Kauai

On Saturday night I jumped on a red-eye flight from Kauai to Anchorage, Alaska for a two-week girls-only training camp with the U.S Ski Team women and other top athletes from around the U.S. and even Norway! I have never had the opportunity to attend this camp before so I am really excited to be here (even if I exchanged the beaches of Kauai for some rain and more mosquitoes than I can count). The plan includes one week of dry land training followed by a week of on-snow skiing up on the Eagle Glacier. Now that the travel schedule has calmed down a bit I am hoping to post much more regularly and I know the next few weeks should be filled with lots of fun training and adventuring! Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Learning to Run in 6 Steps

Ready to run

Last week we had the opportunity to learn a few things about the sport of running from Ben True, a former Dartmouth skier and now professional runner who currently holds the 8th fastest American time on record for the 5,000 meter track race, a casual 13:02.72. Compared to skiing, running always seemed pretty simple...basically just a slightly faster version of walking with a little extra bounce and a more aggressive elbow swing.
A lot of our time was spent running back and forth between the goal and 15 yard line. Who knew you could practice all you need to know for running in less than 50 feet.
Within the first few minutes of our SMS T2 running clinic with Ben, I learned that I was completely wrong. Running is complicated and achieving proper technique takes some work. We started with the basics and things just got harder from there. In place of the usual day-dreaming and focused concentration on the drops of sweat and bugs attacking my back, I now have about a million things to think about during my 3 hour running ODs. A few tips worth sharing...
Feeling pretty confident at the beginning of the session...we thought we knew it all...and we were wrong

1. Nipples, pockets, nipples, pockets, nipples, get the idea

Arms drive you forward and should swing between your nipples and your pockets. If you are really struggling and can't focus on anything else this is an easy one to remember. It will also make your forearms very tense and tired. Now that I think about it maybe Ben also mentioned keeping them relaxed? So yes, relaxed arms nipples to pockets nipples to pockets.
Sophie demonstrating good front swing (aka nipples) and maybe bit too much back swing (aka) pockets

2. Use your butt

Ben kindly reminded us that it is our biggest muscle and even had us run while cupping our rear-hand to see if we were engaging it while running. Annie H. suggested we all buy the spandex that changes colors when you flex so we can see exactly when our is, or is not, being used. The point being that running should engage your butt and hamstrings more than your quads and one way to do this by focusing on dorsiflexion.
 Annie H with a nice cameo appearance while Jessie does some strength work in the gym. We spend a lot of time strengthening our butt in the gym so we might as well use it!  

3. Dorsi-flex

If we took away one thing from Ben's clinic it was this..dorsiflex... the basis of good running form. Dorsiflex basically means that throughout a running cycle your toes and ankles should be flexed, forming a right angle with your shin. Dorsiflexion helps you engage your butt and hamstrings and keep your hips above your ankle. Which brings me to my next point...
Wikipedia photo

4. Heel under your butt

Regardless of whether you strike with your heel, toes, or mid-foot, your hips should always be over your foot when you land. Ben had us practice standing next to a wall, lifting one leg straight up but keeping out heel under our butt rather than bringing it forward or back. Straight up and down just like a jackhammer. From there we added in a slight "push." The cycle went something like this...heel straight up under butt, heel straight down onto a locked leg, slide back with ankle flexed and leg straight, finally bring it straight back under the butt, ankle still flexed. This is called "pawing" the ground and if you do it correctly it kind of look like something a horse might do.
Annie P and Andy are doing a good job with this (far right).

5. Speed 

Speed is a combination of three things: number of foot strikes, speed of foot strikes, power in each foot strike. Most people over-stride so messing around with a faster, shorter, more powerful foot strike can help improve your speed.

Ben showing Gus some drills 

6. A "stride" in running is NOT the same thing as a stride in skiing. 

A stride is a speed and is not just a single step forward. You know, just in case someone ever asks you to do a running stride and you end up looking really dumb when everyone else ends up halfway down the field and you are only a yard from the start line.
Showing off our new running form!

So these were the basics, like the absolute rock bottom basics which basically made me realize I know absolutely nothing about running. We are all SO grateful to Ben for taking the time to teach us a few things and hopefully we at least gave him a good laugh at our lack of running skills and knowledge. Turns out those tips must have helped because the very next day, everyone on the SMS T2 team posted personal best times in our uphill run test!

Look at that form! 

Thanks Ben!