Sunday, June 14, 2015

Training and Living at Altitude


I am entering my last of 5 weeks here in Park City, UT. The goal of this long stretch away from home was to gain some benefits from living and training at altitude. Brian and I have been living in a condo at 8,300 ft and after training a bit lower in Park City or even Salt Lake City. We are completely acclimated and I was able to finish an L-3 running workout up high that felt like a sea level pace. Gradually all of my efforts have gotten faster and faster due to a combination of acclimatization and fitness gains. We have been putting in a lot of running and bounding while we are out here in the mountains because we don't get the same terrain at home. That being said we are also taking advantage of the massive climb back up to our condo. We both love uphill efforts and although it's important to get in some undulating terrain similar to race trails, we have plenty of time at home in Minneapolis and before the season to get that in. For now, we are happy to challenge ourselves with new routes and different types of terrain. 

Another benefit of being out in Park City for so long has been to work with the strength coaches at the Center of Excellence. My routine is not too different from what I have done in the past but it is nice to have so many eyes watching my form and technique for every lift and exercise.

Doesn't look too intimidating yet
 The Center of Excellence also has TWO rollerski treadmills. I put in almost 10 hours on this treadmill last week and I can tell the time has been worth it. One of my big goals for the season is to improve my classic skiing and double poling. I can tell what it is supposed to look like but without much coaching or the ability to see video it's been tough to correct. With this opportunity I can have multiple video cameras set up to watch and tweak my technique instantly. I am also able to watch my heart rate and figure out how to ski as efficiently as possible. Next week I will start to include some intensity on the treadmill as well.

Working on the double pole!

 Park City is well known for it's mountain bike trails and last week I found out why! Brian and I rented some bikes from a local shop and had a blast cruising all over. 3 hours went by so fast and my heart rate was up the whole time. I look forward to entering some more bike races in the future but for now I am focused on preparing for the Tri-Loppet coming up in two weeks!!!

Mountain Biking in our Hoigaard's kits.

Liz Stephen, who lives here almost full-time (well as much as you can as an xc-skier) told us about a running race happening at Solitude Mountain. Brian and I were psyched to get in a good trail race while we are out here. The course was 8 miles and TOUGH! There was quite a bit of vertical and a lot of single track. I loved it! I didn't run too fast but it was cool to see Liz and Brian both win the 8 mile and represent Nordic Skiers! We also had Matt and Brian, two US Ski Team coaches, come out and join us for the race! There is another race on the same course in a couple of weeks when we are back out here and I look forward to trying to improve my time.

Bryan, Matt, Me, Brian and Liz.

Post race stretching!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Life in Park City



Happy 4th Anniversary Brian :)


Happy to be in the Mountains again.


My first couple of weeks on the US Ski Team have been amazing. As an athlete I am overwhelmed by the amount of support and opportunities that have been presented to me in just two weeks. My teammates have been incredible and I am constantly inspired by their hard work and talents everyday. Although I wasn't too psyched with my fitness coming into this first camp I was blown away by the performances and technical proficiency of the athletes who I now call my teammates. I am really excited about the year to come.

Testing classic skiing Max VO2 on the treadmill.
The amount of support here at the USSA Center of Excellence or the COE is phenomenal. I have had my fitness tested, my body symmetry tested, my strength tested, my weaknesses revealed, access to a fully loaded weight training facility complete with expert coaches. We have a PT department that is integrated with the strength and conditioning staff as well as the medical staff as well as our coaches. We have our blood looked at, our nutrition looked at a chef who prepares nutritious meals everyday at lunch and sometimes even dinner too! I am beyond impressed and excited to continue working with so many people who can support my training and recovery.

A small part of the weight room.
Jim Stray Gunderson also has a facility at the COE. He is an expert in the field of altitude training and I look forward to talking to him about my training and travel schedule so I can maximize my benefit of living up so high for so long combined with my time at home at almost sea level. Jim let Brian and I hang out in one of his "ice bath" nitrogen chambers. It was amazing and I felt great the next day!

Ready to freeze :)
Our first camp was a mix of testing, distance workouts, speed and a few small doses of higher intensity.
The whole crew out for a distance run.
We had social time too and got to get creative at the Adam's house while we were there for a Pizza Party! 
I made a spicy turtle.
I also made a monster themed calzone (he is on the left)
Brian and I are pretty lucky to get to spend so much time together. We had a fun couple of days once camp was over too enjoy some relaxing workouts, some time with friends and get organized for the massive year of training and racing ahead of us.
Enjoying reaching new heights (peaks)!
Brian and I made the drive down to Salt Lake City for our first lower elevation (4,000 ft) workout. We both felt great which lets us know that the living high concept is actually helping. More on the science and theories behind this in my next post. We have a massive week of training next week with great weather so we look forward to being good and tired! We have multiple sessions on the treadmill at the COE working on my classic and double pole technique. More on this next time too!
Back to work with L-3 running intervals down in Salt Lake City.
Representing Madshus! Always!!!

Park City Bound Part One

This spring was the busiest I have ever had. I have a hard time spending 11 months of the year focused solely on my training and racing and not feel like I want to cram all 11 months into the one month when I am home. I have to say that despite this impossible undertaking, I did it this year! My day planner was crammed to the max with appearances, celebrations, presentations, talks, dinners, fundraisers, guest coaching, friends, family, girl's camp and even time to play with my Husky Lahti and take care of our house and yard after a long winter away! I LOVED IT ALL!!! Everyday I woke up with tons of stuff to do and tons of energy to do it (thank you fitness!). I got out for some runs, rollerskis, bike rides and even to the gym a few times but what I soon realized was how bad of an athlete I was being... I would run from one place to another with little rest, recovery or thought about my next workout or how I would feel. It was a refreshing look into the life of most of my friends, supporters and training partners who have full-time jobs, families and other priorities but still manage to be amazing athletes. I am lucky to be able to spend 11 months of the year as a full-time athlete and this past spring was a great way to check in with my enthusiasm for training and racing for the next couple of years!

Working with the Fast Kids and Anwatin ski team on outdoor circuit strength.

Training time with my favorite training partners! Alice Flanders will be entering the professional skier ranks this year after graduating from Michigan Tech this spring!

Ripping through North Minneapolis with the Husky!
Many months ago Nichole Porath contacted Brian and I about receiving a Stunt Puppy leash for Lahti! When I got home from the season it was waiting at our door step. The Stunt Puppy leash has been perfect for my injured hamstring and provided a great way to run with a "pulling" dog on a leash! Huge Thanks to Nichole for the awesome connection!

I had the opportunity to join the LNR Girlz Camp in Afton, MN for 3 days of BIG HOURS and of course BIG FUN! Kris Hansen, head coach of the Stillwater girls high school team and Jessie Diggins were awesome for letting us stay in Afton and coming out for the workouts!  The camp was a huge success and everyone was tired and even more inspired for the training season ahead!
On Snow Camp? 
Jessie telling us about the running route in Afton State Park.
Big Crew out for a run. 
Fun to have representation from LNR, NNF and USSA!
We biked over 60 miles on Saturday morning! This was the farthest most of these girls have ever gone. 
The Road Crew
Biking up the Afton River Road hill!
The last day featured a 2-3 hour classic ski on the incredible Afton roads.
My Thank You note :)
 With all of the happenings throughout the spring nothing made me as happy as the presentation day at Run Club. All spring over 85 kids came out and ran at least 3 miles. The club as a whole ran almost 700 miles. Our top runner this year was Gregory Wheeler. He ran 47 miles to edge out Lavonne who ran 46 miles. The award was the MN Timberwolves signed basketball that Brian won in the Crunch's 5K almost a month earlier.
Gregory and his new trophy!
Kim Jones has been coming out 3 days a week to participate in run club with her daughter Destanee. We are so grateful for Kim's support and very impressed with her new healthy lifestyle. Kim has ran over 12 miles herself!
After a solid month of working and community involvement Brian and I packed our bags the morning we flew out for Salt Lake City. We left a few days early so that Brian could attend the USSA congress that is held in the spring every year. We left about 40 minutes apart because I was on a direct Delta flight because my ticket was purchased by USSA for my Rookie Camp dates and Brian was on Southwest because it was cheaper. I arrived 3 hours before Brian and was upgraded to comfort plus thanks to a generous gift of Silver Status from a new sponsor (more on this soon!). Brian went through Pheonix and had to stay on the plane during his layover. I felt a little guilty while I ate my free snacks, enjoyed the front of the plane and watched my free entertainment knowing Brian had none of the same. By the time I got to Salt Lake City the rush and non-stop lifestyle that accompanied my spring this year caught up to me. I snuggled up to my ski bag and fell asleep in the middle of baggage claim only to be awaken by Brian kicking me and making fun of how "rough" my flight must have been :) The "crash" hit me hard and I took the next 3 days off and 5 of the 7 I was in Park City that week. Brian was fighting off a cold that he picked up at the end of our epic spring so the two of us sort of felt like lumps all week.

Passed out in the middle of baggage claim on the floor. It was a very busy spring.
Our first grocery bill in Park City!


Monday, May 4, 2015

What a weekend!!!

It takes a lot to get 14 kids to the start line but it's all worth it :)
Wow, last weekend was a blast. Brian and I are always trying to increase the level of our fitness but we are also trying to increase the impact of our community service work and leave an even bigger impression on the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. Our Run Club has grown to over 80 kids now and the total mileage is over 500 for the just the month of April!!! Our goal with the program is to introduce the kids to a way of life. We want them to enjoy the process of setting goals, achieving them and then make even bigger goals. Saturday was the Go Spring! Trail run hosted by Endurance United at Battle Creek Park in St. Paul. Endurance United generously let all of the kids (and Brian and I) join the event for free!

Only kids who have been a regular part of Run Club were allowed to sign up for the event and there were a lot of kids who were had to be turned away because we had reached capacity. We use the Boys and Girls Club van and a parent volunteer's car so we were limited in seats. In the end 14 kids came out to event and everyone FINISHED :)

One of the best ways to ensure everyone is ready to go at 7AM with food in their bellies and dressed for running is to have the kids spend the night at the Boys and Girls Club the night before! THAT was something else!!! Brian, our awesome parent volunteer Kim and I took on the task of a night at the Club! We all slept on the floor and perhaps the word "slept" is a bit of an exaggeration. The kids were soooo excited to have a sleep over that it was hard to get them to actually sleep :)

Starting off the weekend!
 We worked hard to make sure that all the kids were fed well before during and after the event! A hungry kid is a grumpy kid and thankfully we nailed the food! Noodles and Company graciously donated a pre-race pasta feed for everyone and the kids began their weekend of healthy eating and team building.

Thank You to Noodles and Company!
We wanted to emphasize the idea of Team so everyone sat down together and enjoyed a pre-race meal. 
Brian serving the pasta!
Angel, hungry and happy!
Jacqui loving her meatball!
The girls sharing the moment.
 After dinner we cleaned up and headed to the TV room to watch Cool Running (the story about the Jamaican Bobsled team) and make T-Shirts for the event. I have a degree in Fine Arts and this is one of my favorite projects to do with the kids before an event. Everyone gets a shirt and has their name and some fun designs to show their excitement for the upcoming race.

Jacqui's Shirt!
The "scene" during the T-shirt making!
Elycia's shirt captured her essence she said :)
Lavon proudly displaying how many miles he had completed before the race. It says 28! He is 5 and has the most miles of anyone in Run Club. He is not the fastest but he comes everyday and works very hard.

The morning of the race we woke up at 6:30 and gathered all of our stuff and headed over to St. Paul. We stopped at Bruegger's Bagels because the donated two dozen bagels for breakfast!!! The kids were starving after a long night and the bagels were the perfect pre-race fuel.

After breakfast watching the other racers arrive from up on the hill!
Brian handing out race numbers!
Warm-up time!
Pre-race stretching.
 Brian and I focus a lot on creating a sense of pride for our North Minneapolis community. We want to show that you can achieve great things and love where you live in North Minneapolis. We created a cheer to spread the message and get the kids fired up for their race!

We had a number of volunteers come out and pair up with a kid for the event! Thank you to the St. Kate's school of Public Health, the Endurance United Juniors and of course to Kim, our parent volunteer, for coming out and running the 5K with the kids.

Brian and I got to race the 10K and we loved being able to see the kids out on course during their event and cheer them on. We also think it is important for them to see Brian and I in action. Brian and I were both able to win the 10K events and the kids were impressed to know us. It's hard for the kids to totally understand what we do when we are traveling around the world racing (and even winning medals) but they are inspired when the get to WATCH us race in person!

Lapping through for my second 5K
Everyone finished the 5K and although some thought it was the hardest thing they had ever done they still lined back up for the kids 1K event :)

Ready to go and Focused!
Still psyched to run more!
Cheering our teammates into the finish!
The Boys and Girls Club kids have seen my medal already but it was fun for some of the other kids at the event to see it for the first time. Boobo also made an appearance and was a big hit!
Relaxing and waiting for the awards.
Checking out the podium.
Brian still smiling :)
After the race we all had plenty of fruit from Fruitshare our amazing Run Club snack sponsor but we were also ready for another meal. By the end of the event most of the kids had ran over 5 miles and they were starving again! Thankfully Davanni's Pizza donated a Pizza party for the kids!

Pizza Time!
Refueling and enjoying the cool indoors.
Lavon takes his Pizza seriously!
Kamaria, not so much!
More fun!
Still smilling!
Rocking the Bliz glasses!
Thank you to Davanni's! That was an epic feast!
Riding back to the Boys and Girls Club!
One minute later!
By the end of the event we had spent the last 21 hours together and mostly on the go! The kids were  great and I am sure their parents were thankful when they got home and fell right asleep happy, full and tired! Brian and I got home cleaned up and then fell asleep for a couple of hours ourselves.

I am sad that we are entering the last week of Run Club before we head to my first camp of the year in Park City, Utah. Amazingly we have been working hard to make sure that Run Club will continue while Brian and I are away!!! More to come...