Sunday, September 7, 2014

Heading to New York City and a training update!

I am currently on a train leaving Albany, NY heading to NYC. I just got a ride down from Lake Placid, NY and the amazing Olympic Training Center from my former coach Bryan Fish. I am happily exhausted and full after finishing off a great two weeks of high intensity training with some of the fastest ladies in the country and eating the rest of my "to-go" box from the all you can eat cafeteria!

The camp was a huge success and came right on the heals of a 2.5 week high altitude block in Crested Butte, CO and Truckee, CA. The end of my time in Truckee was fantastic and I finished the block off with a solid 10K run at 8,000ft. I felt strong and snappy the whole way and was very pleased with my adaptation throughout my time in the thinner air.

Just after the run I came down with either the silliest cold I have ever experienced or a terrible day and a half of severe allergies. Luckily my training had been spot on for the previous two weeks so I relaxed and let myself recover a bit before I headed out to Lake Placid. I have always felt great training and racing at altitude and I know spending time there has a positive effect on my performance but... I seem to struggle coming back down to sea level afterwards. This time was no different. I am not sure if it was the long day of travel, a lingering cold (or allergies) or the return to sea level but I was not quite myself for the first intensity session of the camp. We hit the ground running (rollerskiing) performing 6 x 4 minutes of HARD uphill skating intervals. Usually these are my favorite but on this particular day I struggled to find my rhythm. The intervals went well but just not as amazing as I had been looking forward to.

The strong group of women.
Fortunately the rest of camp kept getting better and better. Each workout was a huge learning opportunity and chance to ski with some incredible athletes with fantastic technique. I am leaving the camp with an entire sheet of technique cues to work on over the next 3 months before my first World Cups at the end of November. Another positive note was my energy throughout the camp, with the exception of the first day and the Friday before the big Climb to the Castle I felt strong as ever in all of my workouts no matter the technique or intensity! I have often felt this was one of my strong suits but it has been a while since I have been to a true two week dry-land camp like this.
Grouping up to start an adventure.

Heading out for a great long run in the mountains.
Bryan Fish and Colin Rogers.
Back in the van heading to training.
So great to catch up with friends from the past!
Recovery with the space legs was a huge benefit of staying at the OTC.
As mentioned before the final intensity workout was the Climb to the Castle. Although I skied the exact same time as last year I am happy to report that I am feeling better than ever and I know there are a lot of places I still have to make gains!

Myself, Liz and Sophie with our matching LLBean rain jackets! They were perfect for the top of Whiteface Mountain!

The amazing Barbara Beall who acts as my Mom away from home! She brought Liz and I muffins to share at the top of the Climb to the Castle.
So that brings me to my current seat on an Amtrak train heading to NYC to see my Dad who is struggling with cancer. I look forward to a few days to spend with him and getting back to where I was born. I also look forward to some interesting recovery runs and alternative training for a few days. For the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to train and visit with family while Brian has been home hanging out with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, LNR and taking care of our home! Be sure to check in on his blog too!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Training and Racing is the easy part...

I have been living the ultimate athlete life for the past two and a half weeks! A month ago I asked Brian if I could take a little road trip after our friend's wedding in Crested Butte, CO. I decided to go to Truckee, CA (one of my all-time favorite places to train) and stay with my uncle Kelly and his wife Fran. Kelly and Fran got married last year in Truckee and Brian and I came out for the wedding and got a great taste of all that Truckee had to offer. Brian helped me book a ticket and I was on my way!

The weather the past two weeks has been amazing! I have hardly seen a cloud in the sky! Perfect temperatures and perfect humidity paired with incredible mountains, perfect roads and amazing trail running have made this trip a huge success.

The past two weeks have been a huge boost to my training and I am excited about heading into the Lake Placid Camp tomorrow feeling so good. I have an early flight but look forward to maybe getting to the Olympic Training Center for dinner!!! The OTC can get old but when you are there for two weeks a year it seems amazing everyday! I am once again grateful that Brian is letting me travel for such a long time while he is home working and taking care of the dog and house.

Training is on track and I am excited to be starting on the World Cup this fall...but it is incredible to realize that these two factors are only a part of the equation for success.

In this past year I have had both parents flirting dangerously close to death. My mom had two strokes during her massive surgery to remove a cancerous growth from her abdomen last summer. I spent two and a half weeks with her in Pittsburgh while she was in the ICU. I trained every morning early, went in to be with her, then trained late every night. Two weeks ago I learned that now my father also has cancer. His is stage IV and he has been through a tremendous regime of intense Chemo and Radiation. Like last year with my mom I will be heading down to Queens to be with him and take care of him after my camp in Lake Placid.

With so much uncertainty about my parent's future I am left thinking long and hard during my workouts about what this all means and how it affects my life. I have come to the conclusion that life can be short, hard and filled with uncertainty but when someone lives with passion there is never a moment lost.

I have decided not to dwell too long on death but rather focus on life. I am giving it my all this year and look forward to helping my parents by leading by example. I now realize that the training and the racing are the easy part of what I do. The harder part is finding the strength and will to push through difficult times and obstacles and really show how tough we are.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Altitude Camp

This season I have changed a bit of my training focus from previous years. Last year in particular I put a huge emphasis on long distance hilly skate races at altitude. Thankfully that seemed to be what I really excelled at. I am currently trying to be a more well-rounded skier with much more emphasis on sprinting, speed, power and classic skiing. So far so good!

Over the past couple of months I have been putting in a lot of time with the LNR Comp Team when I can and their progress over the summer has been incredible.

When August 6th rolled around Brian and I boarded a plane and headed out to Denver, CO to attended and be in our friend's Casey and Taz's wedding. They were married in Crested Butte and I cannot believe how awesome of a place it was! From the moment we arrived I was in awe the incredible scenery and we had a blast hanging out with skiing friends from many years and new friends we just me that weekend. Much of the wedding party was pretty endorphin driven so every morning started off with a mountain bike or awesome run. Although we were at 9,000 ft and often trained above 10,000 ft I couldn't help but feel great with such great company.

The wedding was amazing and Taz and Casey looked incredible! My only regret of the entire weekend was that I didn't get to go training with Rebecca Dussault. Rebecca has always been one of my favorite teammates! She is so generous and supportive and it was amazing to visit her and her family on the hillside between Crested Butte and Gunnison, CO. She and her husband Sharbel have done some of the most inspiring work with their faith community, their athletic community and the farming community. I am looking forward to visiting (and Training) with Rebecca in the future! All I can say is that this mother of 4! is super fit and I hope to see her crushing it somewhere on the ski trails this winter :)

I am now in Truckee, CA visiting my uncle Kelly and Fran and getting in another two weeks of solid training at high altitude. I love training here and looking forward to hanging out with the Farwest team while I am here!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A week on the edge...of Eagle Glacier, AK

Even Eagle Glacier can be beautiful on a rainy day!
The past two weeks have been some of the best of the summer so far. The second week of the USST/ APU camp in Alaska brought us all up to the Eagle Glacier where we had the opportunity to put in 27 hours of on snow training. Opportunities like this come at a premium but are worth every penny and every bit of effort! The Eagle Glacier is home to the Thomas Training Center where APU has been putting in the time with on snow camps for the past 14 years! (this was Kikkan Randall's 14th year up on the glacier!). This was my second trip to the Glacier and my first time being there with all girls!

Girl's Camp simply the best
What a great opportunity to gather a large group of focused, motivated and driven women all striving for the same goal; to be the best at what they do (XC-Skiing) in the World. With such a big group of women all sharing the same goal you would think the atmosphere would be competitive and tense after so many days skiing in circles and living in tight quarters on top of a mountain in Alaska. However, I was shocked at how the energy was completely the opposite! 

Training for the day brought to you by Rocky and Bullwinkle!
Each girl brought a different element to the dynamics of the group and everyone seemed to embrace each others talents by bonding over the moment. This camp was by far the most fun I have ever had at a training camp. 

Becca gets her art on!

Erik gets best smile award for all of her photos!

NMU Alumi - Rosie Frankoski '14 and myself '04

Sophie's master-piece

Holly Brooks, myself and Brian's mini gator!
I am usually pretty intense when it comes to my training, recovery and rest during training camps but up on the Eagle Glacier it seemed as though everyone was on such a similar page that every person enabled the entire group to train better, eat better and recover better! Wow! A "team" atmosphere in an individual sport is the best recipe for success!

Great group ready to get even faster!

A lot of the credit for this environment is obviously due to the coaches at the helm. They have worked hard to foster a cohesive group of US Athletes who seem to make history every weekend throughout the winter. A lot of credit also goes to the older athletes who have paved the way and brought up the next generation of athletes to their own level of success. Kikkan Randall has lead the way for the US since she entered the international racing circuit but she has also been instrumental in getting the next group of women, and those who will follow excited about the sport.

USOC Coach of the Year Erik Flora. After this camp I know why!

Coach Matt Whitcomb and Holly Brooks

Kikkan leading the way

While in Anchorage and on the Eagle Glacier I had the opportunity to ski with (behind) Kikkan and follow her effortless power and try to mimic her movements. Kikkan along with Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins, Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent have all been top ten in a World Cup! Even at 33 I am star-struck to be training and staying with them.

Celine Brun-Lie (our guest from Norway), Jessie Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwel

The camp featured a lot of good moments to get to know each other through cooking, story telling, endless ski clean-up and of course hours spent skiing together. Attending this camp was not only a great opportunity for my skiing but also to get to know the ladies I will be traveling with on the World Cup this fall. 

I brought Basel the basil plant up to the glacier for some gourmet appetizers

One of our fabulous Dinner spreads

Diggins always had the highest energy!

Now back in Minnesota I am riding the excitement from my trip and passing on the energy and enthusiasm to the local Loppet Nordic Racing ladies I train with. We have a tough week planned and I am looking forward to it!

The LNR ladies chilling after a hard workout and a pancake feast!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alaska Camp with the Ladies

Last Sunday I left Minneapolis for the first time in over a month! It's crazy to think about how much time on the road Brian and I spend, how much we want to just stay in one place for a while after the season is over and than how excited we are to get back on the road and do it all over again!

Camp Time!
Back into the clouds!
This time my travels brought me to Anchorage, AK to attend the USST/ APU and invited guests Training Camp. This camp has been held for the past 4 years but this is the first time I have been able to make all of the details work out so I could join. Last year Brian and I went up to the glacier in August with the Sun Valley crew and I had a blast. I knew this was opportunity I couldn't let pass me by.

So far we have completed the first week of dry-land training here in Anchorage. The sessions were extremely high quality and everywhere you look there were girls who have been in the top-ten on the World Cup, the World Championships and even the Olympics!!! As awe-struck as I am to be skiing along side them, or mostly behind, everyone of the super-stars here are extremely humble and down to earth.

A super fit group of ladies ready for bounding intervals.
World Champion, World Cup Winner and 3 X Overall Sprint World Cup Winner Kikkan Randall sporting her LLBean tote with me on the way to strength! 
Besides the great training partners I have also been exposed to a true "Alaskan Experience" this camp! My first encounter with any wildlife on this trip was actually a Grizzly Bear, this also happened to be the first time I have ever seen a Grizzly Bear in the wild. We were on a group distance run Thursday afternoon, not very far from town, when Matt Whitcomb yelled out "Bear". We all stopped and looked up the hillside to see a huge Brown Bear looking back at us. He moved slow and stuck his nose in the air but seemed like he would rather be on his way than bother with any of us. Thank Goodness! If that bear wanted to, he certainly could be down next to us in a heartbeat!

I was a bit intimidated about running I stayed Very close to the group!
The past couple of days have been filled with various other animal sightings including a mama Black Bear and her cubs and a mama Moose and her calves...all right from our dorm windows on the APU campus!!! Our 4 hour O.D. hike yesterday also allowed us to see some Dahl Sheep off in the distance scurrying along some steep rock outcroppings!

Mama Moose and baby

Mama Moose had a huge nose!
Today is our first off day and the day we fly into Eagle Glacier! This will be my second time in helicopter and I am a little nervous but also really excited. Today I am spending some time with the Moon Family. Stacey and Cheryl have been extremely generous and opened up their home to Brian and I for this trip and I am watching the Soccer World Cup from their comfy living room waiting for the call to head down to Girdwood! Lots of skiing to be done next week and I am looking forward to relaxing back here at the Moon's house when I get back into town :)

Off Day Waffle Party with the Girls!
Our Norwegian guest Celine Brun-Lie brought brown cheese from Norway to share!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summertime fun at Adventure Camp

The past two weeks have continued to be a whirlwind for Brian and I! We started off the first week by bringing the Boys and Girls Club Kids to the City of Lakes Loppet Foundation's Adventure Camp.
The Camp is an awesome opportunity for the kids to be outside all day long while introducing them to all kinds of activities that help keep them healthy. The week was a blast and all the kids were tired in the best of ways come Friday. We hope to bring another crew from the Boys and Girls Club to adventure camp next month as well. A huge Thank You goes out to the Loppet Foundation for providing scholarships for these kids to attend camp. There were lots of donors who made this opportunity possible.

Picking the Kids up at the Boys and Girls Club

The Fruitshare Organic apples ready for camp

The apples are always an instant success!

A good way to start a day at camp.

Brian teaching the kids a few juggling skills.

Orienteering. The first group of the day gets to "hide" the markers for the rest of the campers.

Rollerskiing friends

Ultimate Frisbee.

Our Boys and Girls Club crew was the Green Group for the week of camp.

More rollerskiing practice.

Everyone got their own water bottle to stay hydrated through a long day of camp.

Having fun with the kids on the way to and from Theodore Wirth Park.

Getting the plan for the day.

Making lunches for 11 hungry kids! I have never made so many sandwiches.

Ready to spend the day outside.

Mountain Biking is always a huge hit at Adventure Camp.

Even rainy days turn into fun times.

Learning from the local Olympian!

Lots and lots of biking at camp.

Last day celebration snack brought in the LLBean ITA tote bag :)
Brian and I competed in an off-road triathlon this weekend, also hosted by the City of Lakes Loppet. The triathlon was paddling, running and then mountain biking. I felt great and finished higher and was faster than last year (always a good sign that training is on track!). Brian wasn't so lucky in the paddle and ended up tipping his canoe in the middle of the lake (the wind was very high and the waves huge!) so he had to swin back to shore and start all over! He still managed to catch me with a mile before the finish!

After a few rain showers rolled through the Twin Cities that afternoon (and after a long nap!) Brian and I got to work on our afternoon session of training. We finished the day with a beautiful jog around Wirth Lake with our husky Lahti.

My favorite running partner!

Amazing Minnesota sunset.