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!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Benchwarmer

Skiers take on many different roles during a season from travel agent to teacher, but last week, I was the benchwarmer. Somewhere between Switzerland and Slovenia I picked up a rather nasty cold that forced me to trade skiing for sleeping and racing for rest. And I hate rest. I am not good at doing nothing and quickly lose my patience. Once I realized that the tickle in my throat was more than a nagging tortilla chip, I moved to a single room (to avoid infecting others) and begrudgingly started the long journey back to health. I am not going to give on advice on this because I still don't really think I am good at dealing with illness on the road but being sick in Europe did offer a slightly different perspective on racing.

Six observations from the sidelines of Slovenia...

1. Slovenia is beautiful.
Small vineyards hid behind houses just waiting to turn into wine

Exploring a walking path in the hills
The race venue in Rogla sits at the top of a windy mountain road where winter seemed to be in full force last week. The blowing snow and piles of white were a stark contrast to the springlike temperatures in the valley. As the token sick person, I spent most of my time in our hotel at the base of the mountain. Rather than exploring the snowy ski trails I explored the hiking paths around the valley. Springlike temperatures and sunshine made for pleasant walking across green hillsides and between brightly colored houses. The scene reminded me of a disney fairytale.
My goat friend Sophie

Springtime sunshine looks like the setting for Beauty and the Beast

Spotting some baby sheep along my walk

2. Taking good action shots of nordic skiing is not easy

Despite my best efforts to rest during the week, my cold refused to go away and I eventually had to give up my hopes for racing and turn my energy elsewhere. I was on photographer duty for the skate sprint on Saturday and I was determined to be the best sideline photographer and cheerer out there! Turns out I have a lot to learn about photography but I had fun playing around with Annie's fancy camera and yelling as loudly as I could as my teammates whizzed by me during the sprint heats.
Probably the best and only "post-able" picture I took all day...Go Goob!

3. Everyone hurts
The U.S. Ladies hammering around a challenging 15km course
From the leader to last place, if you are trying you are hurting.  During the 15km classic race on Sunday, Paige and I helped give feeds for the other U.S. girls. We watched the leaders hammer by on the the first lap followed closely by some of our girls and others desperately chasing the leaders. I watched Caitlin and Becca fight there way to within reach of the top ten and Annie and Chelsea work to catch every person in front of them. I also watched the race leaders fight just as hard and hammer from start to finish.
Waiting for the racers to emerge through the morning fog
Annie Hart with a good fighting face
3b. Paige and I are preettyy good at giving feeds....I think we nailed every feed for every girl during the 15km
Our supplies

Paige ready to go

Dynamic duo 

4. But the staff works harder than anyone 
Pat O'Brien, Colin Rodgers, Bryan Fish, Mike Matteson and Tim Baucom are all here taking care of the details so that we can focus on racing fast
Seriously. Thank you for doing everything you can to give us the fastest boards out there.
Colin Rodgers: Can't Stop Won't Stop

5. Slovenia has really great pizza
A taste of home
Last year in Rogla, I found myself tripped up by the hotdog salad and aggressive elbowing tactics of the Slovenian-style buffet line. This year I was prepared and honestly, the food seemed a little better and the hot plates easier to navigate. A few afternoons on my own meant I got to explore the dining options and turns out Slovenian pizza is a must-try. Think Little Ceaser's style with extra toppings.

6. Resting makes you ready
Cannot WAIT to get back out there and represent the stars and stripes!!!
For the most part, I've been pretty lucky to avoid major illness or injury during the racing season so I suppose getting sick was bound to happen at some point. Although I hope to avoid it in the future, learning how to deal with it has been a valuable experience and given me a better read on my body and how to manage both energy and illness. That said, there is nothing like being stuck on the bench to make you want to get back in the game! Looking forward to an Austrian FIS race this weekend and OPA Cup Finals in less than 10 days!