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