Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fire and Ice

SMS T2 Snow Dance
Starting around mid-October, skiers spend an almost absurd amount of time contemplating, predicting, analyzing and checking the weather. We flip through our phones, jumping with glee anytime we see one of those little white snowflakes and dreading warmer temperatures that threaten to take away our precious snow. In the end, we really have zero control over what happens and this year we seem to be chasing limited amounts of that white stuff even more than usual.
Where'd all the snow go?
Last year in Bozeman, we battled sub-zero temperatures during the December SuperTour races. However this year, we were greeted by sunshine and balmy spring conditions. The mix of warm weather during the day and below freezing temperatures at night led to some fast and icy conditions on race day. 
Mix of frozen ground and fiery skies up at Bohart
The sprint course navigated a small pond, newly formed by the unusual weather, and included some epic wipeouts around one particularly sharp corner. I managed to survive the qualifying round on my feet but the skiing was definitely not the prettiest. Think grandma flying down an alpine mountain with arms out and feet wide and thats pretty much what I looked like. That said, I was happy to have a solid qualifier and cross the line in 7th. My day ended in the quarterfinals, just barely missing the lucky loser position but I got to watch my teammate Ben make sprinting look easy and cruise to 2nd place on the day.  


Although we were bummed to not make the semi-finals we did get to do a lot of cheering!

Ben speeding to the finish line
Annie H trying to ski like Ben....pretty close I think!
We arrived at Bohart for the distance race on Sunday to a hockey rink. The Bozeman SuperTour course is known for two steep uphill "walls" split by a fast "S"-turn downhill that constitute the last kilometer of the race loop. For safety reasons, the organizers delayed the start an extra hour in order to let the sun hit the frozen tracks and soften the icy corners. A quick start by APU's Chelsea Holmes and Rosie Brennan quickly broke apart the field and I found myself between the leaders and pack of charging skiers behind me. 
Cresting the first small hill out of the stadium. I'm in the second position in the second lane from the right.

The sea of women at the start of the classic distance race

After a disappointing start to the season, this race was all about small victories for me and a good start was one of them! I finished 10th and was happy to be a little bit better than last weekend and stay on my feet for the whole 10km. So winning all around! Also, SMS junior Katharine Ogden absolutely crushed it once again racing to 3rd place. Did I mention she is 17?! 
We may not have won the race...but we definitely had the most pep in our step with our new signature hairdo. Annie H and KO modeling the latest style.

We had AWESOME skis this weekend thanks to these guys

The whole crew from this weekend including special guest Leif helping us with some race waxing. Thanks Leif!

One day I hope to show off Bohart at it's finest with perfect, mid-winter, extra blue classic tracks. We were lucky to at least have some combination of snow and ice to slide around on and BSF did a great job pulling off the races in the midst of challenging weather. In some ways, race results are pretty similar to the weather. In the end, you really have no control over the other competitors, the conditions, or the course so you learn to do the best with what you have and like any good skier...don't give up hope for the whopping snowstorm :)
Watching the sunrise and hoping for snow!
 Meanwhile though, we've been busy sharing some of our own ski stories and dreams with some of the locals. BSF gave me a ton of opportunities as a young skier in Bozeman and I was really excited to have the chance to give back in some small way. A huge thank you to the BSF board, Sun Valley athletes Miles Havlick and Makayla Cappel, and BSF Elite Team member Jennie Bender for helping put together an awesome panel to highlight where skiing can take you after high school! We also shared some info on how to pay for it including the Women's Sports Foundation Travel and Training Grants and a new U18 grant supported by the T2 Foundation.
Our panel of "famous" athletes!
The #Annies headed up to Rosalind with Pat and Ben this weekend for some Nor-Am races but I am cheering them on from my home in Bozeman before I travel East on Monday! 
I have been spending some quality time at home with Papa Flow and doing important Christmas things like picking out and chopping down a tree!
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 5, 2014

An Exercise in Perspectives

As an athlete I always considered my ability to keep things in perspective one of my strengths. I never read too much into results and was pretty good at taking my 15 minutes after a bad race to just shake it off. That was until last weekend, when over the course of 2 days all perspective went out the door.

I suppose that should have been my first clue.. when two days of poor racing at the West Yellowstone SuperTour season opener seemed to supersede all of my other good races and life experiences up to that point. I will be the first to admit that my 15 minutes of pouting turned into a few days, something that both confused and frustrated me more. And I suppose that was my next clue..first, that I had put an unnecessary amount of stock into two rather insignificant races and second that those two races were able to break me so easily.

So this week became an exercise in finding some, in placing events within a bigger picture, and in simply getting over it. Fortunately there are lots of people in the ski world with experience in this sort of thing... which coincidentally was my first lesson in perspectives.

1. Everyone fails

At some point or another, anyone who has ever achieved anything fails. Everyone, from the best in the World to those just learning to ski, has had a bad day, or a bad race, or even a string of bad races. If I'm not failing then I'm not really trying so really any failure can also be considered a success in truly trying.

2. Even if one thing isn't going your way, there are probably at least 10 other things that are

I was reminded of a lot of other things that were going great in my life even if the racing wasn't. For example...

I don't have any broken bones!
Like a nose, or elbow, or leg! Don't worry... Goob didn't break her nose either but she did take a med ball to the face which led to a lot of blood, laughter, tears, and a few stares from some big macho men at the gym.
I still have a team!
Awesome teammates and warm hugs
I have some awesome friends!
Skiing the home trails with my homie 
 I get to ski in beautiful places!
Montana mountains
 And we have snow to ski on!
Fresh snow and perfect corduroy
3.  Finding some fun can be the best medicine for failure

In the end I still really love skiing and really love racing...and even though I didn't meet my goals or expectations for the weekend, the only thing I really felt like doing afterwards was going out for a ski. For me this meant cruising around in my backyard and carving out my own trails!
Fork in the trail

Skiing down the stairs and over piles of hay helped create the obstacle portion of my backyard trail system

Sunset skiing
At some point you just have to put on your big girl pants and get out there and try again. This weekend we have two more SuperTour races in Bozeman which means I get to race on some of my favorite home courses. Sometimes you have to taste the bitterness of failure to really know the sweetness of the good news is that I have a lot of sugar coming my way!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Birthday Blog

West Yellowstone sunset over the Rendezvous ski trails
From the time I was 12, I have spent nearly every Thanksgiving and, consequently, every birthday, in the beautiful West Yellowstone, Montana. Today I turn 25, a quarter of a century, and although some might miss being at home with friends and family, a ski festival birthday has it's perks.

1. More birthday wishes!

West Yellowstone offers some of the best early season skiing in North America and attracts hundreds (maybe even thousands) of skiers to the trails. First-timers, old veterans, racers, coaches, the young and the old(er) flock to West Yellowstone making for a huge crew of birthday well-wishers (in addition to providing ideal conditions for agility practice).
The Rendezvous ski trails are the literal rendezvous point for hundreds of skiers this time of year. Skiing and social hour!
The trails buzz with excitement as skiers take their first snowy strides of the winter, and, thanks in part to Facebook, nearly everyone on the trail wishes you Happy Birthday! Nothing like the constant hum of birthday hugs and wishes to make you feel special:)

2. Lots of snow!

Goob playing around in some fresh POW! 
Snow happens to be one of my favorite parts of winter and West Yellowstone (usually) has a lot of it. This means that I can ski, build snowmen, make snow angels and throw snowballs to my heart's delight and finish the day with hot chocolate and mini marshmallows.
About a 1:1 ratio of hot chocolate to marshmallows
Some might consider November to be a little grey and dreary, but in West Yellowstone, a November birthday means playing in that fluffy white stuff all day.

3. Presents galore!

Fresh poles, gloves, boots and skis galore! Many of the major ski companies send representatives to West Yellowstone for the annual ski expo which means stickers for days and also new equipment for the season. A West Yellowstone birthday means I get to try out my new Fischer skis and Swix poles, test my Toko gloves and Swix long underwear against the frigid temps, cruise the trails in some new Salomon boots, and show off our sweet PodiumWear suits. So many presents!

Annie showing off a bouquet of new Swix Triac Poles 2.0 and some fancy new Toko gloves! Thanks to Swix, Toko, Salomon, and Fischer for the presents !
Being in West Yellowstone for my birthday also means I get to spend the day with some of my favorite people and do that thing I love!
The #Annies on Annie street in Bozeman...maybe one of the best birthday "presence" around :)

We have a few more training days here before the SuperTour and first races of the season begin on Friday. The competition looks solid with some Canadians traveling down to compete and many other strong American skiers. We kick off the weekend with a skate sprint followed by a skate 10km (15km for men) individual start race on Saturday. First though, some birthday cake and a few more powder-filled adventures under sunny skies.

For those still searching for the perfect gift, check out the Women's Sports Foundation Face-Off Challenge! The WSF is helping cover some of my travel and training expenses this year and looking to grow the fund for future female champions. Annie and I did our own face off in the gym today in honor of the event...

Preeeetty intimidating!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Nordic Skier's Guide to Bozeman

From Vermont to the Mountain West :)
My last week in Vermont was a blur of packing tape, scribbled lists, suitcases, frozen snot, ski bags, birthday cards, name cards and bittersweet goodbyes.
Last run up the mountain looking across at Bromley Mountain
We started the week with bounding intervals on the SunBowl trails and a trip to Putney to gather skis from Zach at Caldwell Sport.
Goob checking out skis at Zach's shop. This was only a fraction of the total number of skis in their home right now.
I owe a huge thank you to Zach and Amy for helping me get my skis dialed in before heading West and can't wait to try the boards out on some fresh snow. We dedicated the end of the week to some last-minute prep for our SMS T2 send-off auction event on Saturday evening and the chaotic process of packing up and moving out for the winter. The entire SMS T2 team convened in Stratton one last time before heading out for the season and the event gave us a chance to raise a little money and also to thank the many community members who support our team.
Sophie and Jessie give Greg Marston a thank you hug. He was one of many who helped make the event a huge success! 
We were thrilled by the number of people who showed up for the event and, despite allegations that I was being used for my hand-writing, I have never been so excited to hand-write 100+ name place cards!
Boys for sale :)
The event was a huge success and I am really excited to announce that we met our matching grant goal of $25,000! Thank You!!!
Thanks You from SMS T2! (And to Hubert Schreibl for the team photos!)
On Sunday we said goodbye to Simi, Sophie, Jessie and Andy and wished them luck as they headed to the far north of Finland for the first World Cup races of the season.
Saying goodbye for the winter is always a little bittersweet but fortunately I get to see this one in less than a month!

Goodbyes are never that fun but the day was made better by celebrating Annie Pokorny's day of birth! She turned the big 22 in full western fashion complete with cowboy cupcakes that were the perfect send off for the trip to Montana.
Gourmet Cowboy Cupcakes..Yeehaw!
I am now happily settled at home for a few days before the rest of the SMS T2 domestic crew arrives for the first SuperTour races of the season in West Yellowstone, MT.
Home on the range
I grew up in Bozeman (not to be confused with Belgrade) so I decided to put together a list of my favorite hotspots in Bozeman for the nordic skier adventurer foodie on their way out West for the season openers.

The Nordic Skier's Guide to Bozeman*

1. Best lunch spot: Bozeman Co-Op

Any nordic skier knows that the best post-ski food meets 3 basic criteria: fast, filling, and, ideally, pretty healthy. The Bozeman Co-Op is a hometown favorite for just that and offers some of the tastiest lunch and snack options in town. I also highly recommend ordering "Cold Comfort" from the upstairs juice bar for those needing an immune boost after a long travel day.

2. Trail not to miss: Logger's Loop
Be sure to bring some extra food so you don't bonk..the trail has also been known as "Longest" Loop

Hard to beat Bohart on a beautiful  day
Loggers Loop. Although Bohart Ranch is known for its brutal race course, the rest of the trail system offers some real gems and Loggers is one of my favorites. A close runner-up is the forest service road that winds up Bozeman Creek on the south side of town that offers perfect terrain for a long distance ski.

3. Best coffee stop on the way to West Yellowstone: The Coffee Pot

The Coffee Pot Bakery and Cafe. Load up on caffeine and the biggest cinnamon roll you have ever set eyes on, this tiny place is right on the way to West Yellowstone and oh so tasty!

4. Best place to warm-up after the races: Norris Hot Springs
Take the long way around
Take the scenic route back from West Yellowstone after the last races and stop by Norris Hot Springs,  a naturally occurring hot springs in the Madison River Valley that offers live music a few days a week!

5. Best chai in town: Wild Joe's
So good and artsy and hipster

I'm partial to Wild Joe's which offers something like 6 different types of chai. Also a great spot to hole up and do some work for those of us who don't just ski all day. And if you are hankering for a cinnamon roll to go with your chai, check out Wild Crumb Bakery!

6. Best place to get some PT work done: Excel

Excel! This place is great and has a focus on athletic injury and physical therapy. They also work a lot with Nordic skiers so they know how to help you return to peak condition.

7. Best place to unwind after a big day on the trails: Ale Works

Don't forget to try a Moscow Mule, Bozeman's signature drink (Ale Works, Bacchus Pub, and Copper all offer good ones!)
Founded by Olympic silver medalist in GS, Christin Cooper-Tache and her husband and former World Cup skier Mark Tache, Ale Works is a Bozeman favorite offering local brews, tasty food (the fish tacos are my personal favorite), and a laid-back, skier-friendly atmosphere pretty much any day the week.

8. Best breakfast: Nova
Pancakes galore
Skiers gotta eat and this place will start your day right.

9. Best place to pick up some Toko gloves, wax, ski bindings, that iron you forgot or some hand warmers when the polar vortex hits the mountain west...Northern Lights or Bangtail Bike and Ski

Northern Lights has got you covered for a last minute hot box for you skis and pretty much all things outdoors. Bangtail Bike and Ski also offers a wide range of waxes and ski apparel in case the temps drop and you need to double up on layers!

10.  Best West Yellowstone ski experience. Moonlight Ski

Enjoy a Montana ski under the stars!

* These are purely based on my own opinion and merely offer some ideas for those new or visiting the Bozeman area for the Bozeman and West Yellowstone SuperTour races and ski festival.

See you out West!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Surviving Black Tuesday

Sunsets in November are hard to beat
I have a love-hate relationship with November. The month boasts the start of the ski season, jumping in piles of leaves, enough turkey and apple pie to satisfy me for a year, my birthday (!), and the early snowfall signals the approach of winter.
Annie Hart enjoying a nice November run in the woods.
However, November has a darker side. A confusing mix of snow, rain, colder temperatures and grey skies replaces the sunshine of the summer and picturesque fall foliage. The seasonal frustration combined with shorter, darker days, leftover fatigue from the last 6 months of training, and the anxious anticipation of the upcoming races typically comes to an ugly head during the first few weeks of the month, specifically, Black Tuesday. Often confused with Black Friday, Black Tuesday involves fewer red tags and more red eyes.
From snow...

To dirt...

To grass...

To leaves...just make up your mind November!
I experienced my first Black Tuesday last year when I had a full-on meltdown after my coach said I was not allowed to do intervals that day because he thought I needed more rest. The tears and temper tantrum that followed was not my proudest moment but it did offer some valuable insight. My coach was spot-on. If NOT doing intervals was making me cry, something was seriously wrong and I really did need bit of a break.

This year, I nearly forgot about Black Tuesday. On the heels of our fall camp out West and a trip to NYC for the Ski Ball, the SMS T2 team joined the SMS Juniors for a classic sprint simulation in Stratton last week.
Lining up for our sprint qualifier
Black Tuesday returned painfully and without warning. I don't think of myself as someone who cries a lot, but I'll be the first to admit that I had to borrow Annie's sunglasses after our second interval to mask the droplets on my cheeks. An hour later, we finished the workout and a little dried salt near the creases of my eyes was the only sign of my earlier meltdown.
Good thing I have these weirdos to keep me smiling :)
Maybe everyone has their own version of Black Tuesday, but the good news is that Black Tuesday is almost always followed by Waffle Wednesday.
And what goes better with waffles than BACON!?
After surviving the dark hole that was Tuesday everything else seemed suddenly easier and better. I also learned some things:

1. Crying at practice usually means I need a nap... or food... or both.
2. Black Tuesday is only one day. That means 364 out of 365 days in a calendar year are NOT Black Tuesday. That's a lot of really good days!
3. Black Friday is actually a great cure for Black Tuesday. Who ever said retail therapy doesn't work? If all else fails, a good cider donut can usually get the job done.

We also have a lot to look forward to for the rest of the month. First up is our SMS T2 send-off event  at Stratton. The entire SMS T2 team will be at the event this Saturday, which includes tasty food and cocktails and some awesome auction items including a gourmet 4-course dinner prepared and served by your very own SMS T2 women! Contact Sverre at for more info and hope to see you there!
A few of the SMS T2 women demo-ing the latest version of roller-skate drive-in dining... but this time with roller-skis and cocktail dresses!

Maybe not...but you will have to come to the fundraiser to find out!