Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silver Star to Rossland

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and racing. We raced 5 races in 9 days and I loved every minute of it!!! I have learned that as long as I enter the season with a bit more gas in the tank and slightly below my ultimate race fitness, I can improve throughout the season and hold my peak through the bigger races of the year that are in February.

I came out West and to altitude almost 6 weeks ago. After many solid hours of training and racing I am finding my top gear again!  Last week in Silver Star I had my first glimpse of newly gained fitness. I reached the podium in the 10K Skate race. I was 2nd. Although I was a bit off my friend (and Olympic Roomie) Holly Brooks pace, I knew I was tapping back into my race legs.

This past week we (the CXC Team) have been staying with a great family just down the road from the Black Jack Nordic Ski Venue in Rossland, B.C. This week's schedule consisted of three races in a row. We started with a Skate Sprint, then a 5K Skate and finished with a 10K Classic. Time bonuses were awarded for each event culminating with a pursuit style final race. The entire weekend was a blast! I managed to move into the B-Final of the Skate Sprint and finish 9th. The next day was my favorite event the 5K Skate and I was narrowly edged by .1 of a second by my teammate Jessie Diggins for 3rd Place. Today was the 10K Skate and I was able to hold onto my 5th position in the overall! The best news was that my teammate Jessie Diggins moved up from 3rd to take the mini-tour overall victory!!!

Jessie is only 19 and training with the CXC Elite Team year-round. She is a super talent and I look forward to watching her progress throughout her career. While she is on the team, I enjoy her energy and excitement to train with the rest of us. I know my results are improving after spending 6 weeks with her!

I have managed to improve immensely since my first races in West Yellowstone, MT. I am now within a few seconds of winning and I know I still have more in the tank! Our next event is U.S. Nationals in Rumford, ME. Until then I am looking forward to going to Brian's home in the Methow Valley of Washington and enjoying the Holidays with family and friends.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yellowstone Adventure!!

Photo Toko USA
First Skate Race of the Season in West Yellowstone, MT

Photo Toko USA
First Classic Race of the Season in West Yellowstone, MT
 After the first races were over the CXC Team stayed an extra week out in West Yellowstone, MT to train. This past week has been perfect with great skiing and lots of snow! I had my best training week of the year with lots of hours and quality intensity. The week was capped off by an amazing adventure Brian and I took into Yellowstone National Park. We skied out to the Hot Springs and back which ended up being about
4-1/2 hours of skiing! It was about 50K of skiing!!!

The CXC Team is off again on another road adventure this time to Silver Star, B.C. I love racing in Silver Star and look forward to racing feeling 100%. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lots of Training, Lots of Skiing, and Lots of Happy Kids!

Before I left for West Yellowstone and the start of my ski season I had one more stop to make. I went to the Anwatin Middle School (just a few blocks from my house) and helped out with the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation's After school Ski Program. We had a great time using the running shoes, Ski Boots, and skis provided by many generous companies and individuals to help get these kids excited about Cross Country Skiing.
Anwatin Middle School Kids Rollerskiing!

The Second group out and done just before dark!
Now I am in West Yellowstone, MT preparing for the first races of the season. The snow is plentiful and the crowds are growing. I am loving the atmosphere!!! While I am spending many hours training, waxing, and preparing my other equipment for the long winter I also find that I have plenty of spare time. I had an idea about how to use this time to give back to the Community of West Yellowstone, where I have spent so much time for so many years. Brian Gregg and I have been visiting the kids at the West Yellowstone Elementary, Middle, and High School. The kids have been excited to have us and their enthusiasm make Brian and I happy about what we do. 
The after school program after our ski presentation and slide show.

Showing the kids what our skis feel like and how they work.
The West Yellowstone Girl Scout and Brownie Troop.

West Yellowstone After school Girls and our new PINK phones (we drew them!)

As the races start this week we are facing a serious blast of cold air. Stay tuned for some frigid ski stories and hopefully a race that goes off!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

30 Years and still Running Strong!!!

Today is my 30th Birthday and I have to say that I don't feel any older. Maybe wiser, but not slower! I am happy to report that on the training and racing front I am still running healthy and strong. Thirty is a big milestone in cross country skiing here in the US. Not many skiers continue to ski at an Elite level into their thirties and especially not women. So I am looking forward to this year where I will be representing a new age class as a Master Skier and continuing to improve!!!

Today for my 30th Birthday I joined my favorite group of Master Skiers, the Vakava Racing Team. The team is comprised of some of the toughest and fastest Master Skiers in the Twin Cities. They train hard and race fast all while holding down full-time jobs and raising families!!! They are all incredible and have great stories to share about their own ski racing careers. I look up to them and they have been awesome training partners since I moved to the Twin Cities.

Last year when I was trying to raise money for traveling to the Olympic Qualifying races, the Vakava stepped up and opened their homes and threw an amazing Birthday Party Fundraiser for me. Over 100 people came and we were able to raise enough money so I could get out west to the first series of races.

Today I got to spend another Birthday with the Vakava Team and other friends. We went for a 4 hour rollerski in Afton, MN.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm in Love!

I'm in love with Duluth, MN.

This past week I had the opportunity to join Brian Gregg in Hayward and work with his ITA project at the LCO Boys and Girls Club. I had a wonderful time learning about how his community service project was organized and what his days looked like with the kids. We started the day off with a visit to Mrs. Johnson's 5th Grade Class. I shared my Olympic journey and experiences with the kids and Brian led a great discussion about goal setting.

After the classroom we went next door to the Boys and Girls Club. The kids LOVE Brian. It was awesome to see them light up as he entered the room! I met the kids and played some games before we headed outside for some lava tag and fort building. The weather was perfect and I was exhausted by the end of the day but had a lot of new friends who I look forward to hanging out with in the future.

Brian and I spent a few days in Hayward before we had to head to Duluth, MN for a three day clinic for the CXC team. We had a wonderful time exploring the great terrain Duluth has to offer. Both Brian and I have lived in the mountains before so living in the flatter Midwest always leaves us longing for more climbs.

Duluth did not disappoint! We were able to climb for almost half and hour on rollerskis and run uphill for almost 45 minutes! The biggest hill I can find in the Cities takes about 4 minutes! The scenery is gorgeous and being back on the shore of Lake Superior felt wonderful. We are excited to visit Duluth again soon and considering it as a possible place to live in the future.

On another note, training has been going really well lately. I have been quite busy this year with a lot of different things but it seems as though my body hasn't forgotten how to race. With less then a month before the season starts I am looking forward to getting back on snow and seeing everyone again!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Read for the Record

Yeserday I had the honor of being one of 5 women chosen to read to over 300 children at the World Cultures Magnet School and American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul, for the annual Read for the Record Event. The book was “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, and since the theme was winter 5 women athletes were chosen to read and share their favorite winter experiences. Joining me were Olympic Silver Medalist and Captain of the Women’s Hockey Team Natalie Darwitz and Whitney Pratt, Carly Facchini, and Erin Layden of the Augsburg Women’s Hockey Team.

 During the four years since it began in 2006, Jumpstart’s Read for the Record has continued to break the world record for the most children reading the same book on the same day with an adult in their life. The program is designed to draw attention to the reading crisis by pointing out nearly half of the children in low-income neighborhoods lag years behind their peers when they start first grade.

The Readers:

Nearly 3 million children have been involved in the reading day efforts so far, and an estimated 2.5 million were expected to join in Thursday. Jumpstart has raised $6.2 million for books and supplies and sponsored nearly 800,000 books for low-income children.
Breaking up into classes we had question and answer time:

The Book Read Across the Nation:

Thanks to Morgan Bray for contacting me and letting me be a part of such a great cause. Thanks to all the kids who listened to the story and shared their favorite moments from the winter. It won’t be too long until we can enjoy a snowy day ourselves!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kids Again!

This past weekend has been great! The weather is fantastic and my training has been going great. My training groups are meeting again and the intensity is rising! Winter isn't too far away and I can hardly wait to get back on snow.

Brian has been down spending time with me again and he is always great at planning large group training sessions. This past week we had seven skiers together 5 men and 2 women working on our sprinting! This was the first workout for pure speed I had done so I was a little rusty at first but picked up the pace as the workout progressed.

After the workout the "Big Kids" got together and payed on the awesome playground at French Park where we met earlier in the morning. It's hard to resist the incredible rope cages and slides.

I also had an opportunity to meet with other Minnesotan Olympians at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Minneapolis. It was awesome to meet athletes from different sports and different Olympic Games. We were gathering to start a social network in which all Olympic athletes from Minnesota could gather and share their past experiences and current life stories. Although I am not originally from Minnesota I am honored to be recognized with this group.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Adventures at Home

I am still holding down the apartment here in Minneapolis. I did get a one week mini-vacation while I dog-sat for a family a mile away. Their house had AC and it was the hottest week of the summer so I was very excited for the little break in the heat.

Summer training is over and the Park is closed so I have been enjoying the past two weeks of sleeping in past 6AM and having the afternoons to go check out new things. I still don't have a car so I been rollerskiing and biking most places and I have really enjoy the cheaper mode of transit! Minneapolis was named the best bike city in the country so I am in a good place!

Brian came down to visit me from Hayward this week which was Awesome! He has been training really well and I think he is going to have a great season. It's been fun to introduce him to the life I live here in the Twin Cities. His week was smaller so we had the opportunity to train together a bit.

We had a great time together without needing to spend a dime. Brian is extremely resourceful and creative when it comes time to plan new things to do. He leaves tomorrow for Hayward and I am back at Harrison Park as well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Coaching Girls!!!

I have often realized that I always seem to have a male coach. Their styles are usually pretty straight forward and recently have focused on mostly strength, power, and intensity. After last season I used a different approach in my training and technique work. I focused less on grunting through my races and tried to think about dancing through them. The result...occasionally I could be spotted doing a jig along the course but mostly I began to relax and ski with more grace and fluidity.

This past week I spent four days coaching the CXC Jr. Birkie Camp at Lakewoods Resort just outside of Cable, WI. The days were long often starting way before 7AM and ending way past 9PM. My first group of athletes were 5 girls from all over the mid-west. None of them knew each other but by the end of camp they were great friends and teammates.

The camp was filled with drills and technique concepts. The information sounded boring and technical so I decided to "spice" up the girl's experience. We began thinking of skiing as more of a dance. Each technique was a new dance move and instead of forcing the correct positions and movements we would simply find them through the groove.

The girls began talking about songs to go with the movements and soon the "technique dance" was born! Check it out!!!


The Harrsion Park Track Team finished up their season last week with the end of the year banquet at the Old Country Buffet in Crystal, MN.

I had quite the adventure getting there as my car is no longer working and I was up in Hayward just a few hours before! Thanks to everyone who helped me get to the CXC Jr. Birkie Camp and back in time for the banquet!

After lots and lots of food and even more soda the kids were very energetic and could barely sit down and contain their energy for the city awards and a few messages from the coaches.
Look at the Harrison RECORDS!!!


This past couple of weeks have been really busy. I had the opportunity to visit the new Twin's Stadium here in Minneapolis with 15 kids from the Harrison Community Center. We can see the stadium from the park and the walk over was pretty easy. The new stadium is beautiful and the opportunity just to see the inside made me happy. Everyone had a great time even if the Twins lost by quite a margin to the Cleavland Indians.
The View from our seats!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Harrison Track Team

This spring and fall I worked with the Harrison Track Team. The Harrison Track team is a local neighborhood program that is affliated with Harrison Park and Community Center.

I met with the kids twice a week (Tues and Thurs) for 2 hours. We didn't have a track so we used  the two baseball fields and figured out how many laps were 400m. I am not really sure how accurate the measurements were but it really doesn't matter. The kids were a lot of fun and even though none of them had ever Cross Country Skied before, they still loved to get my posters and hear about the Olympics. We also had a week in the neighborhood when there was a lot of violence and gunshots. We heard the pop pop noise while we were cooling down and we had to evacuate to the far end of the fields. The kids stayed calm and collected as we gathered close together and stretched. I was very impressed with their maturity.

The head Track coach is Joe. Joe is the Pastor at a local church here in North Minneapolis. He has one of those deep soothing voices that commands attention but also inspires. I loved listening to him coach and speak to the kids and I know the kids all loved listening too. He has been coaching track for a number of years despite illness and injuries. His passion for the sport and the kids he works with is admirable. He suffered a heart attack and a kidney infection and after days in the hospital showed up for the next track meet and took this photo with me. He had to sit and watch from the sidelines during the meet, but he still knew everything that was going on!

The team did amazing this year, setting several city records and everyone had numerous personal bests! Our track banquet is next week and a number of athletes will be going onto the UAA Nationals this year :) I will update with their results.

The next Chapter...

It is now Mid-July and the weather is hot and humid here in Minneapolis. Last night we had some incredible storms that set the Tornado Sirens blaring!!! Kinda fun when you don't have to be out training in it :)

So after accomplishing my goals last season I decided that my new focus would be to spread my knowledge (both good and bad experiences) with the next up and coming generation of skiers. I have so much energy and enthusiasm for the sport that I could not let that go to waste. So I now spend most of my time trying to be the support, resource, and best friend I can for the younger girls around me.

This summer my new roomie moved into my apartment with Lahti and I. Her name is Jennie Bender and I encouraged her to move to the Twin Cities from Vermont and join CXC. I must say that there is something about us both being from Vermont (well at least I was from there for 12 years) that creates a fun bond between us. I remember what is was like when I made the decision to forgo more education or a career after college and blindly pursue my athletic endeavors. It was scary, risky and there was just so much unknown! So my goal is to help make this year a huge success for her.

I have been volunteer coaching with Piotr (my local club coach) 4 days a week this summer. My group is comprised of the older high school and college age girls. They are AWESOME!!! I have never been so proud of a group that I have worked with. They ask so many questions and work so hard everyday. I can't wait to see them succeed this winter :) I have also been working with a lot of other local club programs this summer. I have been a guest coach and speaker at not only ski practices but also basketball, soccer, softball and running camps or tournaments. The ability to help instill and foster hard work, goal setting and dedication in these younger athletes is an amazing feeling.

I have decide to race on the CXC Marathon Team this winter. After a lot of thought and budgeting, I can no longer attend camps two weeks out of every month. Instead I have taken advantage of the opportunity to work more with these local programs and begin the next chapter of my life. I have decided after many years of fundraising that I will now let the next generation of athletes benefit from the fantastic support in this ski community. I will no longer ask for help to travel to World Championships or World Cups when I qualify for them. Instead I will be working more and traveling less. I have been working like crazy so far this spring and summer. When I am not training I am working, when I should be training I am working.

I realized that after so many years of training and racing I do not have any resources saved up to start a family. The Olympics were a huge goal of mine for many years but I have always wanted a family even more. So at 29 I am now working towards my next goal :) Just like Jennie and the other young girls who are putting everything into their dreams I too have a goal and I will put everything into it.

The Greatest Gathering of my Life!

Earlier this winter, in Mid-February, I had one of the greatest opportunities I could ever think of. I had the privilege of representing the United States of America at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. This had been a goal of mine since I was a little girl. I remember watching every Olympic Games, both summer and winter, and admiring the dedication and perseverance all of the athletes showed in order to make it there. I loved watching people at the height of their careers fulfilling their dreams and allowing others like myself to believe anything is possible and dream big about our own futures.

The feeling of walking into a stadium filled with thousands and thousands of people and knowing that you represent a vision and a goal and that you too can inspire those who are sitting in the stands or at home or across the world that anything is possible is a great and incomparable feeling.

I loved being at an event where so many people from so many countries and with so many backgrounds could come together and peacefully engage in one of the most beautiful display of human performances and breakthroughs was truly amazing. I met so many and was inspired by even more. I know I share these feelings with so many of the other athletes who competed at those games and I am happy to be a part of the Olympic History.

Although competing in the Olympic Games was the most obvious goal of mine last season, there were many other achievements and moments were realized as well. I had an amazingly rough year filled with big mistakes, bad decisions, and poor judgment. I cannot blame anyone but myself for these choices and I know I will be revisiting the consequences of these for a long time and constantly trying to make things better in the future.

The Olympic Games were more then just a sporting event for me. They were an opportunity for one of the best gatherings that I can ever remember. Thanks to the generous support of my uncle Kelly and all of the people in the ski world and twin cities community, my parents, brother and I were able to be together for the first time in 21 years. I had not seen my father or brother for 3 years. My mom's ovarian cancer came back last fall and we were not sure how long she would have. All of my resources have gone towards skiing and my family could never afford to get together before this. Having us all together brought the best tears of joy I could ever think of. I am so grateful that the Olympics were in North America. I am so grateful that my uncle could help us with a condo in Squamish. I am so grateful my grandmother could buy train tickets for my mom from Minnesota. I am so thankful that my dad's girlfriend could buy him a plane ticket from California, and I am so grateful that my brother spent the last of his hard earned money so that my dreams could come true.

My parents have not seen me ski very much so for them it was a wonderful opportunity to see what I have been spending so much time doing and understand how much passion and love I have for the sport of Cross Country Skiing.

Thanks to everyone along my journey who have made this gathering possible and so special. I will never forget.