Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stratton Summer Camp

Adult cabins are just a little bit nicer than the cabins of my youth summer camps
In middle school and high school, the months of June, July and August meant summer camp season. My sister and I would pack up our duffles and make the rounds, heading first to Camp Sweyolakan a classic Parent Trap-style camp complete with innocent late-night pranks, dips in Lake Coeur D'Alene, camp songs and a giant mess hall. From there we would travel to theatre camp (for most of my childhood I had big plans for a star acting career...I guess priorities quickly changed when I discovered ski racing) where the days were filled with play practice, the songs involved more dancing and divas, and the evening campfire was like hanging out at a really good karaoke bar. By August we were headed to soccer and ski camp where we ran, jumped and played until we dropped from exhaustion only to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
The s'mores have also gotten a little more gourmet since my days at camp
The last few weeks brought me back to my busy days as a camper between helping host a Fast and Female event, working as a counselor with the Junior and Bill Koch league skiers at the Stratton Mountain School summer ski training camps, and still trying to fit in double training sessions and enough rest to finish out a big two week block of volume training.
Here is the "camp" breakdown for the past few weeks

1. Fast and Female Champ Chat: The Stratton Edition 

Last Sunday the SMS T2 girls hosted a Fast and Female event at Stratton with women of the Craftsbury Green Team. Jessie organized an awesome morning of tuna captivities for the girls including yoga, games, team-building, tasty snacks from J.J. Hapgood (sooo good!), and inspirational stories.
The Fast and Female event started with some partner yoga courtesy of Tracy Black from Wild Wings Yoga. Tracy was incredible adept at keeping the attention of almost 50 young girls. Thanks for your help Tracy!

Lots of fun and games followed yoga including kick-ball slip'n'slide

Makin' a splash

A few of the girls-all smiles after tearing up the slip n' slide

Thumbs up for Fast and Female!
Many more pictures can be viewed on the SMS T2 website blog!

2. Sprint Training with the men's Canadian National Team

The men's Canadian National Team have been in town for the last two weeks so we have had a mini training camp and jumped into a few of their workouts with them. One of my favorites (and one of the hardest workouts we have had this summer) was a pace line sprint finish workout. After warming up with a sprint pre-lim, we completed 5-6 X 2 minute intervals. We skied in a tight pack with the leader hammering as fast as possible and everyone else following and trying to utilize the draft and conserve energy.
The boys showing us how its done...ab muscles: 24 and counting...
After 1:40, the leader would peel off the line and everyone behind would sprint the last 20 seconds to the finish.
Sophie and Jessie putting the hurt on during the last 20 seconds

The workout was a great chance to practice skiing in a tight pack, finishing speed and also racing alongside some of the best sprinters in the world. Between the SMS T2 team and the Canadian Team we had 7 Olympians, 3 World Champions, and multiple World Cup medalists going all-out head to head. The junior campers watched the workout and then followed with similar set of intervals trying to mimic the pace and technique of the top dogs.
Trying to hold on to Jessie during the final sprint
Kris Freeman, Simi Hamilton, Devon Kershaw, Ben Saxton, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov and Lenny Valjas getting after it

3. Coaching with the SMS Summer Camps

I also had the chance to be a counselor for the SMS Junior Camps this year and was really lucky to have an awesome group of 8 girls on "Team Erika." I was impressed by the girl's enthusiasm and energy at practices, focused training, and thoughtful questions. They made "coaching" easy and also really fun!
The entire junior camp crew

"Team Erika" doing some specific arm strength with single-sticking

Easy distance skiing with some of the girlies
I loved having the opportunity to work with them and share some of the things I've learned as an athlete both at the junior and elite level. I also found that "coaching" forced me to really think about my own technique and break it into the most basic building blocks. It is easy enough to look at someone else and say they aren't doing it right but its much harder to actually figure out what needs to change and how to make those changes. 
Working on double pole with Hannah

Skiing around with some of the younger BKL campers
BKL Camp crew
Thankfully, the girls were patient when I needed a few extra minutes to watch them ski or to think about how to communicate different technique ideas. They were also excited to try anything I threw at them, even when it didn't work.
Pippin cruising during some skate speed intervals
Junior campers ski-walking up the mountain 
Poppit and Sverre, some of the fearless coaches who lead both the Junior and BKL camps
Nice day for summiting Stratton
End of camp photo op
Autograph time! 
Now for a nice easy week before heading to Lake Placid for our own official training camp with the USST!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Sometimes things are just a little harder than they look...I think Ida almost saved this one
As a full-time athlete I spend a lot of time perfecting something that I already know how to do pretty Yes, we are always working on improving the little things, such as pushing off more with the left foot or widening the arms a few inches, but at the most basic level, I know how to strap on a pair of skis or roller-skis and move around with relative confidence and efficiency.
Working on skiing faster with some classic speeds
We spend so much time practicing something we know how to do that I had almost forgotten that uncomfortable feeling that accompanies trying something I don't know how to do. I had also started to forget what it feels like to try something and fail miserably and completely.  That was until a few weeks ago, when I found myself face to face with hip flexion pull-ups.
Leading the SMS juniors in some mobility and stretching exercises before heading into the gym 
Pull-ups have never been my strong suit but, after some heavy lifting this spring, I had been feeling pretty good about pull-ups and the ease with which I now perform them. And then came the "hip flexion pull-ups". They look fairly simple. Raise your legs straight out in front of you while hanging from the pull-up bar, in a sort of "L" shape, then proceed to lift your body, as if doing a normal pull-up, while keeping the legs extended. My first set was an utter disaster. I could barely move myself a few centimeters toward the bar much less do an entire pull-up. We improvised with some help from coach Pat and a handy stretchy band but I still struggled. To add insult to injury, I was supposed to follow a set of 6 pull-ups with explosive push-ups onto a medicine ball. Really?! Who thinks of these things!?
Jessie with a good pain face
Annie H and I were on the same page with this workout.
I wasn't sure how to react at first. I was some combination of frustrated, intimidated, embarrassed and annoyed at having to perform a task that seemed truly impossible. The session may or may not have included a few tears and I was not looking forward to three more weeks of this strength plan.

I just wanted to get back to something I actually could do! Following Jessie for some level 3 ski-walking up the mountain
Fast forward to a few days ago in the Stratton gym.  Jessie, Annie, Annie and I all partnered up to tackle week three (aka biggest/hardest week) of the "death" pull-up/push-up superset. The plan called for 3X10 pull-ups followed by 3X12 medicine ball push-ups. This time however, the tears were replaced by sweat and I almost couldn't believe that we were actually sort of doing these crazy "L" pull-ups. Annie H whipped out five pull-ups with nearly perfect form and legs completely extended like it was no big thing. Annie P hopped on and off the medicine ball like a bunny rabbit. My legs were still somewhat bent but at least I was doing something that resembled an L pull-up without a bungee cord holding my feet. And just like that we had learned something new. That whole practice makes perfect thing held true once again and the impossible was somehow made possible. Although I still don't love feeling like I "can't" do something, the pull-ups were a good reminder that most of the time you really "can" do anything you set your mind to, you just have to be brave enough to fail a few times first.
Also, teammates help a lot! Sophie, Annie H, Annie P and I with Haylen, one of the Summit Sisters, on top of Bromley.
Apart from crazy strength training we have busy around Stratton lately. We all enjoyed a mellow week following the glacier that included trips home for many and a nice rest week here in Stratton for me. This week training is back in full swing and we have had a few awesome sessions with some special guests! The girls of the Green Racing Project team (based out of Craftsbury, VT) are here visiting for a few days of group training and the men's Canadian National Team also made the trip to Stratton for a two week summer training camp. Here a few pics from the week!
Andy and I took advantage of the recovery week and headed up to Burlington for an Old Crow Medicine Show Concert at Shelburne Farms

One of the prettiest places to catch a concert and sunset 
We also tried our luck at fishing but the mosquitoes chased us away before we caught anything

I met my sister, Natalie for a nice adventure hike up Smarts Mountain near Hanover last Sunday

We found another hiking buddy named freckles
The weather was a bit cloudy but the view from the Fire Tower was still beautiful

Pretty pretty
Blueberries season is in full swing so I went picking twice last week!

My old road bike finally decided to call it quits so I took the plunge and invested in a new bike! I'm excited to learn to enjoy road biking more since we ride a lot for training during the summer and spring. I think I will call him Oreo 

I have also been trying to get my skis all organized before the craziness of fall/winter travel begins.. I made a trip to Putney where Zach with Caldwell Sports helped me go over skis, figure out grinds, and get everything set to go fast once the snow flies! Thanks Zach!
We have had a ton of fun with the training with the Craftsbury Green Team ladies and showing them our favorite spots around Stratton. Here Sophie leads the train followed by Ida Sargent, me, and Caitlin Patterson

One of the best views around 
The girls crew! From left: Annie P, Sophie, Ida Sargent, me, Liz Guiney, Anne H, Caitlin Patterson.

Finally, we had our second Summit Sisters hike up Bromley Mountain and I wrote an article about the event for the T2 Foundation Blog.

Tacking our second Summit of the Summer!

30 women and girls on a perfect day! Sweet success!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

24 Hours on Eagle Glacier

So here it is, 6 days of skiing, living, sleeping and eating on top of a giant block of ice brought to you via a typical 24 hours on Eagle Glacier with lots of photos.

9 PM: Riding the A6
Women's crew getting ready to board the helicopter
Eagle Glacier sits at about 5,000 feet, high in the mountains above Girdwood, Alaska. Although hiking to the glacier is possible, the route is steep and requires good weather and a reliable guide to help navigate hidden cracks in the ice. The best way to access the glacier is actually via helicopter (especially when trying to transport a bag full of skis and training equipment). I eagerly boarded the first shuttle up to the ice and within 10 minutes was sitting in the middle of a big snow field wearing only a tank top and capris with nothing in sight but the disappearing blades of the helicopter. 
Heading towards the mountains

Green grass to fields of white...My first view of the glacier

So psyched to be in a helicopter/heading to a glacier/I'm not nervous at all ;)
  As it turns out, our arrival was less than typical. Usually the helicopter drops athletes and gear at the training facility but dense fog had forced us to land a few kilometers down the frozen ice field. Our instructions: don't move around too much (aka don't fall in a crevasse or hole) and stay warm until further notice.
And then it was just us and the snow

9:30 PM: The traverse
We arrived! Well, almost...(Zuzana Rogers photo)
  I quickly realized that I was slightly underdressed for hanging out on a snow field and proceeded to dig through various bags in search of jackets, gloves, hats and pants.

Rosie Frankowski, an experienced glacier traveler, was slightly more prepared than I was (Zuzana Rogers photo)

We spent the next 30-40 minutes dancing around (in place of course) and trying to stay warm before jumping into the back of the groomer for a ride up to the actual Eagle Glacier nordic training facility. 

Flora to the rescue with Mike emerging from the fog

Riding the groomer up to the lodging facility

10:30 PM: 

After our arrival and a  brief meeting it was time for bed, although the summer sun in Alaska seemed to disagree. They call it land of the midnight sun for a reason and a sleep mask and earplugs were key.
Our accommodations for the week

12:30-3:00 AM: The midnight men

Sometime during the night as I stumbled down the stairs in search of a glass of water I ran into (almost literally) Erik Flora, Don Haering and Andre Lovett. Erik was busy taking out trash after having just come in from the evening grooming session and Don and Andre were headed out the door to set a fixed line for us across a particularly crevasse-heavy section of trail. What you often don't see is the incredible amount of work this Super Human crew does to make sure we have perfect skiing, a safe training environment, and comfortable living while on the glacier.  They groom every day twice a day, make sure we have hot showers, food to eat and safe skiing. 
Fresh tracks twice a day

Don and Andre working the fixed line
These guys make the magic happen and we were so lucky to have them there all week! The camp would not be possible without all their hard work so thank you!!!

7 AM: Four pots of coffee, one giant bowl of oatmeal and two dozen boiled eggs

Breakfast on the glacier starts around 7 am with skiers anxious to get out early before the snow softens too much in the daytime sun. Every day a different group of skiers prepared the breakfast spread which also included a gourmet fruit salad and lots of peanut butter.

8 AM: Harness Up!
Lauren Fritz and Sadie Bjornsen cruising the fixed line

This year we had to cross a section of the glacier that had an unusually large number of crevasses. To ensure our safety, we strapped into harnesses and hooked onto a fixed line for the first part of our ski each day. The crevasse crossing was actually pretty sweet and you could see the glacier changing and moving throughout the week.
You could almost start to see down this one by mid-week

Safety line selfie with Sophie!

8:30 AM-12 PM: Ski Time
Celine Brun-lie getting ready to head down the trail

Got to try a few new skis while on the glacier and practiced a LOT of slush skiing
 The first ski of the day usually lasted anywhere from 2-3 hours with a variety of workouts including skate speeds, agility courses and drills, classic intervals, skate sprint practice and easy over-distance sessions with specific technique focuses.
Girls train, lots of following, leading, and learning 
Jessie making sure she doesn't get lost out on the trail sporting her new T2 tank!
 This was the first opportunity I have ever had to get on snow in the summer time and the training was invaluable. I had the chance to ski behind some of the best skiers in the world, try and mimic their technique and practice keeping pace. I also LOVED getting to know each of the girls and there was rarely a quiet moment on the trails.
Pink Sodie Sandwich (Sophie + Sadie)

Crazy fog layers and views on the glacier

12:30 PM: Kitchen Chaos

Lots of skiing+hungry athletes=mad rush for food in the kitchen (in order to avoid the dreaded "Hanger")
Celine shared some Norwegian brown cheese with us on the glacier to help beat the post ski stomach grumbles and I introduced her to my famous "walking salad." Hard to beat an apple covered in peanut butter and chocolate chips!

1-3 PM: Recovery 
Jessie taking advantage of some rest time...unclear if she is reading or sleeping considering the magazine is upside-down...
 This was maybe one of the most important parts of camp and arguably just as important as the skiing part. Recovery in a nutshell included nap time (or at least getting off the feet for a few hours), hydrating, foam rolling, stretching and sports massage/PT.
Even coaches get tired sometimes. Thanks Matt and Jason for all your hard work this week!
We were incredibly lucky to have Zuzana of Advanced Physical Therapy on the glacier with us all week. Every day she managed to see each of the 14 athletes to work on everything from mobility and injury management to helping fix my cranked neck and sore back. Thanks Zuzana!

3:30 PM: Wax on, wax off
Rosie Frankowski taking care of business in the wax trailer
 I have never used klister this much in my life. Fun fact: butter works wonders for getting this sticky business off of your hands.

Ski and poles for the week

Not a bad spot to be doing some ski prep

4 PM-6 PM: Afternoon distance
Rainbow for an afternoon distance ski
The afternoon training session typically involved some easy distance skis and the chance to once again dial in technique and practice our slush skiing. Although shorter than the morning workout, we had a few days that doubled as ski and strength sessions making for big afternoons on top of big mornings of training.

Chelsea doing some core strength in the PM

Balance and stretching

7 PM: Chez Eagle French Bistro

The dinners on the glacier were beyond gourmet. The girls decided to do a secret ingredient exchange at the beginning of the week so everyone brought up a random spice or condiment (one that typically can't be found at Costo) to add some flavor to our week. 
The fruits of our ingredient exchange
That, combined with a bunch of ambitious and creative cooks led to some amazing meals that were quickly devoured after a long day on the snow.
Flanks steak for 20 anyone?

Dinner time

Jason and Zuzana cheffin' up some tasty bread and soup

8 PM: The Details

After dinner rituals included video review of the day's workouts, ski prep for the next morning's session, and if you were lucky some extra time for relaxation!

The evenings were also a nice time to go for a little walk outside, relax and take in the view, especially on a clear night

Fog rolling in

The golden hour
Lauren Fritz and Kikkan Randall enjoying a clear evening

Jessie Diggins always playing it cool

Zuzana and Kikkan hanging out on the rocks
 By 9 PM people would start to drift to bed and by 10 PM nearly everyone was tucked in tight, getting precious zzzzs before another big day of training. After 6 days on the glacier everyone logged somewhere between 24-30 hours of on-snow training!

Leaving the glacier: 
The final ski
Saturday morning began with a long over distance ski in the pouring rain. We had been lucky with weather all week but unfortunately our last ski was a bit on the damp side. 
Caitlin getting ready to face the elements in her fancy L.L. Bean rain jacket 

Within hours of finishing the workout everyone was busy packing up, cleaning, shoving tasty norwegian boule in our mouths and getting ready to fly off the field of snow that had been our home for the past week. Due to weather conditions we actually left almost the same way I arrived! The facility was completely fogged in so we rode the piston bully down the glacier to a hole in the clouds where the helicopter picked us up and took us on a wild ride back over the mountains to Girdwood. 
And we are headed down!

Boarding the helicopter out

Sky view of the glacier

And finally back to Girdwood

We owe a huge thank you to Alpine Air for transporting us to and from the glacier and giving us a wild roller coaster ride on the way down!
The entire women's NAWTA crew (Norwegian/ North American Women's Training Alliance)
Those 6 days were probably some of the most valuable training days I have had, maybe ever, and I felt incredibly lucky to take part. Thank you to the U.S. Ski Team and coaches as well as the APU team and staff for an amazing two weeks. And a huge thank you to the friends, supporters, and sponsors of the Ski-A-Thon as well as the T2 Foundation for making this opportunity a reality! Makes me psyched for this winter!!!

A few other photos of the last few days in Alaska:
Post-girls camp included a visit to Holly' Cabin in Hope Alaska

After a couple big weeks it was so nice to relax for a few days out in the woods with some of the girls. From left: Liz Stephen, Katie Ronse (Former standout APU skier). Holly Brooks, Sophie Caldwell and Rosie Brennan. It must be a good sign if we still wanted to spend time together after two weeks of living and training together.

Jessie enjoying some sunshine on Holly and Rob's deck

Celine made jiffy pop for the first time and nailed it!

Campfires and s'more go together like peanut butter and jelly

Last hike up Hope mountain with the ladies of SMS T2: East, West, Midwest in the mountains of Alaska