Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Adventure Appeal

And away we go...
Springtime for skiers is often better known as "adventure season." After a few weeks at home during the month of April, Andy and I spent 10 days on the beach near Santa Cruz, CA and I could not have asked for a better way to reset before kicking off the new training year. Vacation with Andy basically means non-stop activities so we were busy surfing, hiking, sea kayaking, swimming, SUP-ing, running, drinking copious amounts of coffee and stuffing ourselves with oysters and lucky favorite!
Watching a few of the pros before jumping in the water to try out my surf skills

Exploring the redwoods at Nicene State Park 
We also found lots of cool running and hiking trails to keep us occupied when we weren't surfing
Adventuring 17 Mile Drive in Monterey

I had never been north of Los Angeles California but the Santa Cruz area might be one of my new favorite spots
Sometime between hiking (read: running/sprinting) out to find Maple Falls with Andy in California and biking to Hyalite Lake in Bozeman with my dad, I had an epiphany of sorts. What if every training session was simply an outdoor adventure? Maybe I'm a little late to the party but I realized that "adventures" don't have to be reserved for the month of April. Simply calling something an "adventure" can change a two hour training run into something completely different. An adventure creates a sense of excitement, an energy that builds on the thrill of undiscovered landscapes and endless opportunities for exploration. Although some might grumble about an afternoon distance run, you would be hard-pressed to find a skier that would turn down an afternoon adventure run. A rainy roller-ski becomes an epic battle against the elements and snowy hikes turn into arctic adventures. An adventure does not have limits.

Also pretty inspired by my little sister crushing her second marathon in Big Sur!
The epitome of an every-day-adventurer

A little Montana adventuring with friends

Searching for shooting stars

Spring adventure training with those who do it well :)
This spring I decided to switch things up a bit, have a different adventure of sorts, and head south to the land of sagebrush and Cafe Park City, UT! Although I love the East, there is a part of me that misses the dry air and open landscapes of the West. I decided to spend the month of May training in Utah to get a little altitude block and also just to keep things fresh and fun with some different trails and training partners.
So much sky! 

And maybe a little snow

Those Western sunsets though
I spent the first few weeks of May mostly training on my own and getting my feet back under me (read: remembering how to put those rolly ski things on my feet and embracing my painfully sore muscles).  Lucky for me, the U.S. Ski Team camp was moved from Bend to Park City this year so my training group has grown exponentially in the last week! I've been fortunate to jump in a few workouts with the team and, despite the daily rainstorms, the training has been awesome! Adventures are almost always made better with great adventure buddies so I am really looking forward to the next few weeks here in Park City.

With love, from the West.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A New Kind of Sweat

Sometime between my first mountain pose and my umpteenth downward dog, I started to question whether or not fainting and being removed from the room would break the "no leaving mid-class" rule. Pools (and I'm not exaggerating) of sweat soaked the towel covering my yoga mat. My reflection clouded as steam emitted from fellow yogis slowly creeped along the edges of the mirror. I glanced at my friend Kate who simply laughed at (with?) me as I tried to maintain some semblance of a "professional athlete" while struggling to survive in the 100+ degree room.
Me and my adventure buddy Kate on a more leisurely spring outing
To anyone who has ever tried hot yoga...I salute you. And to those who have not yet had the "pleasure," you may be the lucky ones. On three separate occasions throughout the 75 minute Sumit (Suffer) Hot Yoga Class I was sure I was about to pass out/black out/faint/die.

This is spring training....or some version of it anyways.

Spring in Montana
Also spring in Montana

To run or to ski?
No longer limited by the constraints of resting, the structure of a plan or the schedule of training camps and races, spring carries a different sort of freedom. During the month of April, three things take precedence over everything else:

1. New adventures
2. Buddies
3. Weather

Spring gives you the chance to try that fitness class you never have time for during the training season, the chance to catch up with friends who don't necessarily eat, live and breathe skiing, and the chance to spend all day adventuring in the sun or happily stay inside on a rainy spring day.
Exploring some new trails

Catching up with my favorite mountain babes
Eventually I emerged from the hot yoga studio, somewhat delirious and probably a few pounds of water weight lighter. I looked around at my classmates expecting similar expressions of exasperation and disbelief only to observe 30 extremely fit, sweaty, and smiling individuals. Kate continued to laugh at me but also reassured me that I would feel better and "didn't I enjoy the workout?" To be honest, I did. In the same way skiers thrive on punishing themselves during training and races, a small part of me enjoyed the sweaty hot yoga sufferfest. I felt lighter, more flexible and in a weird way, refreshed (after chugging at least 2-3 liters of water).
Yes! Did it! Now lets go run in the new snow to cool down
Later that week Kate convinced me to try PureBarre, another fitness craze completely different from hot yoga but challenging nonetheless. I chased my dad on a mountain bike in Yellowstone National Park, hiked some of my favorite trails with friends, and spent a few extra mornings sleeping in and enjoying an extra cup of coffee. I also made sure to take time to rest and spent the last 10 days in California for a little surf vacation (more about that later). A pretty sweat sweet way to enjoy spring adventure season!

Backyard barbecue with the neighbors

Biking with the big pappy! Note to self: if your dad is on a road bike and you are on a mountain bike be prepared to chase

Some of the dangers of biking in Yellowstone National Park

And some of the views

Friendly fans

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Series and Out

The end of my race season caught me by surprise this year, ending a few days too soon and with a few more snot rockets than usual. After traveling from France to Montana to Idaho, the cold I had been fighting in Europe decided to move in for the long haul and join me for a sunny and otherwise spectacular week at Spring Series. After sitting out the first two races, I decided to jump in the club team relay to ski the cold out of my system.
Breathing hard at 8000'!
Unsurprisingly, my cold actually preferred my toasty nose over the wintry blizzard conditions outside and decided to hang out for a few more days. And so my season ended...marked by a mix of glitter, sweat and tears caked to the race glasses I finally unpacked a few days ago.
Thanks to Katharine Ogden and Jessie I think our team had some of the best race day glitter out there
Apart from the whole being sick thing, Sun Valley was a beautiful end to the year. Like most of the SuperTour field, nearly our entire team was fighting some sort of illness but that didn't stop some great racing all week.

Best teamies around

SMS T2 relay team skiing to 3rd place in the team relay

When we are too tired to ski....we take a break to build snow people 
Sun Valley has its name for a reason
Post ski season quickly blends into "business season" for skiers. After a quick google search of proper attire for "mountain casual wear" I joined Andy and the U.S. Ski Team for a fun and successful fundraiser hosted by Steve and Diana Stranberg in Sun Valley after the races. Thank you so much for your hospitality and support!
I also snuck in a few springtime adventures before leaving the West....spring projects include muscle building!

View down Sun Valley 
Jessie and Ida and I did some trail exploring on our last day in SV. High fives all around!

Summit Sisters on the way to the top

Requisite jumping photo

Loving the weather and a little post-season break
Soon after the Sun Valley fundraiser, we jumped on a plane to Boston for another event for our SMS T2 team. The T2 Foundation partners with YES (Youth Enrichment Services), a Boston-based group that aims to get local youth out skiing and snowboarding all winter long. A few of the SMS T2 athletes helped host a panel for the kids at their end of season awards ceremony and attended an incredible fundraiser event for the YES foundation.
Great group of kids participating in the YES winter ski and snowboard programs
During the event, our team was also presented with the T2 Community Service Award, a nice surprise  recognizing the work we do with the SMS juniors, Girls on the Run, Summit Sisters, Fast and Female, Speed Camp, and various other clinics during the summer.
We even went to see the penguins at the Boston aquarium!

Cannolis from Boston's North Side...a MUST

Big City Skyline

After spending an extra day in the big city to see my sister Natalie, Andy and I drove up to Vermont along with Kari, a visiting skier from Luxembourg who might join us for some training in Stratton this summer.
Nor-pining on Stratton and working on my tele turns

Kari our new ski friend from Luxembourg modeling Luxembourg-ian ski style on the mountain
Another highlight of the week was visiting the FloodBrook School Girls on the Run crew!! These girls make my day and bring so much incredibly positive energy to our after school practices that I can't help but smile the whole time. Can't wait to see them again soon!
Some quick planning meetings with coaches, re-packing, and a few mini-adventures later I am finally back in Montana and enjoying some fresh (albeit a little thin) mountain air. And also finally updating the blog :) Now back to adventure season!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You're Up Then You're Down

Just one of those days (AP photo)
Someone once told me that the difference between ski racing and "retirement" was the high of the highs and the low of the lows. Both the "athlete life" and "real life"have their share of ups and downs but the highs and lows of racing seem to tend towards the extreme...or at least feel that way. The last few weeks in Europe seemed to hint at this reality...combining the thrill of racing against top athletes in spectacular venues with the frustration of unmet expectations.

Here's a look at a few of the highs and lows of the last few weeks...

Ramsau, Austria: 
One of the best skis of the year with Annie Pokorny
Of the many places skiing has taken me, Austria might top the list. The country combines the order of Germany with the color and beauty of Italy. A break in the OPA Cup schedule after the races in Rogla gave us a few extra days of recovery and training before OPA Cup Finals in Chamonix. We packed up the ski vans (always a small adventure in and of itself) and headed straight for Ramsau, Austria...a skier's paradise that boasts endless kilometers of skiing backed by jagged peaks and Austrian hospitality.
Lex offering some "Titanic"-style serenades while we (aka Pat and the coaches) chain up the vans for a snowy drive down the mountain
Welcome to Austria....also the best place to heal from a cold
The sunshine and skiing helped heal my cold and by the time we left I was feeling back to 100%!
Awesome group of ladies to train and ski with while at OPA Cups from clubs all over

Don't mind if I do

Pretty pretty

Eisenerz, Austria:
Morning commute to the venue
After a few easy days in Ramsau we headed to Eisenerz for a 7.5km Austrian FIS race. Eisenerz was one of the more fascinating places I have ever raced with a rich and dark history. The mining town was the former site for one of the largest Nazi work camps during WWII and also the home of Joseph Goebels, the head of propaganda for the Nazi party during the war.
Exploring castle with Annie P.

Annie H. wrote a great blog about Eisenerz that is definitely worth a read. Exploring Eisenerz was like walking through a ghost town...beautiful and abandoned building and castles surrounded by the terraced mountainsides, scared by years of mining and memories of those lost during the war.
While exploring an old castle we found an old dungeon filled floor to ceiling with human bones
Valley of Eisenerz
Annie and Annie both had awesome races here along with Chelsea Holmes of APU to sweep the podium for team USA! I struggled to find my form during the race but worked my way back into racing and reinforced my need to work on double poling during the off season. Although my result was less than stellar, I loved seeing the red white and blue at the top of the results list.
Podium shots boom!

Chamonix, France...or as we fondly call it...Cham.
How could you not love this place? (AP photo)
Cham played host to OPA Cup finals this year and upon entering the valley I instantly fell in love. Between fresh baked chocolate croissants and pots of cheese fondue we ripped around ski trails in the shadow of the French Alps and the famous Mont Blanc. Over the weekend, we raced a classic prologue, skate 10km and classic 10km pursuit as part of the finals mini-tour. I was psyched to lead the Americans in the prologue with a 16th place finish!
Stars and stripes in France! Enjoying some sunshine with Goob

Cham Center
Unfortunately round two of sickness started to sweep through the OPA Cup crew and my next two races suffered while my body tried to fight off the impending cold. After a mediocre skate race, I started the classic pursuit in the mid-20s with a big group of skiers including the #Annies and Rosie Frankowski. Sometime around 8km while my face hit snow for the second time I found my low. I finished the day about where I started and a far cry from the podium I had set my sights on last year.
Cham still has some good things going for it!

French macarons...noms

Breakfast crepes with Chelsea and Paige
The reality is that no matter how great I feel after a good race or how frustrated I feel after a bad race I'm still out there ski racing and thats pretty sweet :) The lows may feel low but they make the highs that much better and I prefer the excitement of the roller coaster ride to the safety of the spinning teacups any day. Also a HUGE thank you to the NNF for making the OPA Cup Trip possible. Here is a link to their site and a blog I wrote about the trip and what it means to wear the tights.
Pretty lucky to share this whole trip with my teammates :) (Reese Hanneman Photo)

Next up Spring Series in Sun Valley with the whole SMS T2 crew reunited!