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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the Move

I currently live in a part of Minneapolis known as Uptown. It is a vibrant area just southwest of Downtown that boasts tons of small shops, coffee houses, art galleries and restaurants. It is a fun place to live with so much going on all within walking distance. The only trouble with living in Uptown is the cost of living here. Ben and I don't get to experience Uptown the way others do because we are always on a budget but it's fun to be around it all.

Last year Ben and I were lucky to get our current apartment because they needed an on-site caretaker. We had a huge reduction in rent but the work was pretty hard and sometimes really gross. When we heard, after a year of living here, that they no-longer needed us to care-take we knew immediately that we couldn't afford to live here! So it was time to move elsewhere.

Our budget is pretty tight so we ended up searching through tons of apartments and most were too much for us. I finally found the perfect spot last week! We had a list of criteria that we were looking for but most important was the price.

It is an upper unit in a duplex located in the Harrison Neighborhood of Minneapolis. We now have a big backyard, a huge basement, free laundry and the ski trails are a block and a half from my door! We will care-take at our new apartment too so we will be saving some on rent but doing some extra work too.

With Theodore Wirth Park (the site of the 2011 XC Junior Olympics) outside my back door there are countless recreational activities available. I will be contacting the local high school called Harrison Academy and will begin working with their students this fall. I will update soon about what the plans are for the upcoming weeks.

I am also happy to report that my symptoms have subsided and I am back to feeling like myself. Training has been going well and my energy has been great!

MN Fair

I have lived in Minnesota for almost 5 years now and except for the first year I have visited the fair every year.

My mother, who was also born in NYC and lived there most of her life, lives in MN now too and this was our first MN State Fair together! We laughed and joked about what was the most important part of the Fair if you are a true Minnesotan. We decided that just going was the most important part and now we had to schedule this in as a "must do" every year if we want to feel like true Minnesotans. We lived it up at the Fair and enjoyed good food, expos, games, and people from all over the state. My Mom and Me waiting for the Bus to the Fair Some nice looking Ears!

A Clean Tractor

It was awesome! We walked forever and saw almost everything the fair had to offer! The biggest disappointment of the Fair was that the Cow, Pig, and Chicken barns were not open by the time we stopped by. We remedied the need for livestock by visiting the baby barn and got our fill of newborns from the farm world! Everything from bunnies, piglets, new born calves and baby chicks. This was by far my mom's favorite part of the fair!

Pull up contest! My kind of Fair The Fair's BIGGEST PUMPKIN The Fair's Tiniest Peppers! These are so cute but HOT!!!

My mom was pretty exhausted by the time the evening was over and I was a little worried about her. When I called to check on how she was feeling the next day she said she was in the best mood she had been in for months! It's great that a simple Fair can bring so much happiness to so many people this time of year. Even Lahti was psyched to get his new chew toy octopus when we got home.

Lahti Vs. Stuffed Octopus

The Octopus was such a hit he only lasted about 5 minutes before the apartment was covered in stuffing and tentacles.


Postural Tachycardia Syndrome is what the Cardiologist told me I have.

I have been struggling with fatigue since the beginning of the summer. At first it was between my training sessions, then it was while I working with the kids, then it was on my off days and then it started to affect my training as well. I was so busy I figured that the fatigue would end when I had a little break between programs and a rest week of training. It didn't!

I couldn't figure out what was going on and, I was way too busy to see it coming, but once it did I knew I had to do something. After a few days off and a number of easy sessions I started to feel better and shrugged it off as just a period of too much going on in my life. I started the next week feeling alright but by the end I knew something was up. I entered a local 5k and was 1-1/2 minutes off my usual pace for this time of year! I immediately began to review and rethink what I had done leading up to these feelings.

I couldn't figure it out. Nothing was different from a typical summer of training for me. As I proceeded with a cautious attitude I focused on my training zones and other daily routines. I thought it was hydration so I started drinking more sports drink, I thought it was hunger so I started eating a bigger breakfast, and I stayed very low in my training zones at all times. Then one day out of the blue I was lifting at the gym and after a set of squats I felt the world begin to spin beneath me.

I quickly removed myself from the gym and put my feet above my head. I managed to avoid passing out and got a ride from my boyfriend to the ER. After a lot of tests I was sent to see a cardiologist. What! How could there be something going on with my heart?

The Cardiologist preformed a number of tests as well and determined that my heart was showing signs of Orthostatic Intolerance, which means that when I stand up my pulse jumps over 30 beats but my blood pressure also drops significantly! It is this drop in blood pressure that causes me to feel light headed and pass out!

I told him it was probably just over-training! Unfortunately he shook his head and told me it wasn't. He said no one knows for sure what POTS is from but it wasn't from training. I have few more tests this week, one is on a tilt table where they will try to make me pass out (or come close anyway) and a few other tests to rule out anything else more serious.

So for now I have the all clear to train as usual and just ignore my heart rate. I have taken a number of days off now and I am feeling really fresh. I went for a fun urban rollerski with Jojo Winters and Brian Gregg today and although the pace was very easy my heart rate was easily 150+. I have to learn to train by feel and leave the monitor at home for a while. I did some lactate testing with a coach and sure enough I am in the right zones just not the right heart rates. This is so strange and after years of hearing about the importance of heart rates for training it will take some time to get used to.

From what I have been told POTS often develops after an illness or trauma and will progress for months getting worse and worse before it suddenly begins to subside. The last time I was really sick was at US Nationals and if I have been through the fainting period and other symptoms I should be in the clear! Right? I am keeping my fingers crossed and spirit high. I have to admit that this would be a lot harder if I didn't have other team members and ITA members who have faced adversity and set backs and climbed right back up to keep me inspired and optomistic! So I guess now it is my turn to just stay positive and focus on the process.

The Dog Days of Summer Training

This week I have decided to talk a little bit about my dog Lahti again. Ben and I rescued him from the Animal Humane Society about 3 and a half months ago. He was scared, scarred, and very skinny.

I am happy to report that Lahti is doing Great! He has turned into an awesome dog and great addition to our apartment life. It's hard to believe that we have a Husky living in our small apartment but we make sure he gets plenty of exercise. The goal is to get his fitness high enough by this winter for him to compete in a few Skijoring races with Ben. So looks like I am not the only athlete in training at our place.

We have been working on his long slow distance, his sprints and even a few plyo's! It's awesome to see how excited he gets now when he realizes we are going out for a workout. He has been running, Rollerskiing, Skateboarding, and biking with us. I think we hit top speed last week when I brought him biking on the greenway. We usually head away from home nice and easy for a warm up and when we hit the open straightaway of the bike path he gets to go all out. The return trip is a nice and easy trot home after a a long water and sniffing break.

The weather has been much cooler than usual here in Minneapolis so he has had a lot more opportunity to join us. When the temps are more then high 70's he usually has to stay inside by the AC and keep his runs short. I know I get hot and I don't have a fur coat on! It was only in the 60's yesterday so we brought him out to Afton Park for a nice OD. Lahti is getting better and better at running off leash and during the early hours of the AM when we were running there wasn't a lot of people out yet so he had a very full morning. As Ben and I follow the trail Lahti usually heads as far down the path as he can see before he comes barrelling back to find us. Based on the number of times he did this I would say he probably doubled our mileage for the run!

One Week Left!!!

Only one week until the City of Lakes Tri-Loppet event (and urban off-road triathlon) and everyone is gearing up for a great event. Over the past two and a half months 30 kids from the Anwatin and Anderson middle schools have been meeting three days a week to train for the race.

The entire program was free for the kids and a number of local businesses and organizations donated time, products, and educational info about staying active and healthy throughout life. Many thanks to all who helped!

So after many days of running, orienteering, obstacle courses, canoing, biking (and mountain biking), swimming, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee and rollerskiing we are ready for the race.

The most challenging obstacle for the Tri-Loppet group is that it was an after school program at Anderson and Anwatin Schools which means that when school is over the buses are too! This means that two weeks ago was the last day of school and after school activities but not the Tri-Loppet group. So the goal was to try and get as many kids to continue meeting at the training times and locations as possible. The turnout has been great and the volunteer drivers have been very appreciated.The next goal is to get as many kids early on Saturday morning to and from the event with smiling faces and a sense of accomplishment. Margaret (my CSD) and I have been orchestrating an incredible schedule that will pickup all the kids who are registered, pick up all bibs and race info, assign and fit them to a bike, and bring them to the start where a canoe and paddle will be waiting. Again there has been a huge number of volunteers who have offered to paddle, bike and run with a kid to help them along!

Minneapolis Mini-Triathlon

Last Week was one of the busiest of the spring/summer for the Tri-Loppet Group. We had a bit of a mini-triathlon within our daily activity. This wasn't intentional but rather a necessity due to a lack of bus transportation. So we used our resources wisely and had a great time! The biggest accomplishment was getting everyone really tired but happy when the day was done.

Thanks to the great location of Anderson Elementary School and is close proximity to the Mid-Town Greenway we could walk there in less then ten minutes. The Mid-Town Greenway Coalition once again leant us bikes to use. We took the bikes West on the Greenway to Lake Calhoun where we used canoes provided by Wheel Fun Rentals. We had a number of volunteers who came out to help for the afternoon. With two kids, and one adult per canoe we headed out to Lake of the Isles. We made a loop around the perimiter of the lake, and headed back to get on our bikes. The weather was perfect and the wind calm, the highlight for me was making it off the lake without getting soaked with water. Two years ago, I ended up swimming to shore because of a tipped over canoe. We biked back to the bike rental in time for everyone to catch thier rides home.
My training camp in Bend was very successful. The US Ski Team was great with helping me find a place to stay and offering training opportunities while I was here.

After 7 beautiful and 1 cloudy/snowy days of skiing I couldn't be happier with the progress I have made and the new focus of my training for the next year. The skiing was almost perfect (especially if you like klister!) and the trails were filled with skiers from all over the country so the company was great too. The focus of the camp for me was on testing skis and getting in some early season volume. I was able to participate in a few interval and testing sessions with the Methow Valley Olympic Development Group and the US Ski Team which was great! It is always great to hear feedback from a different perspective from time to time.

Towards the end of the week an old NMU teammate, Melissa (Orem) Shwartz came to visit with her growing family. It was great to catch up with her and laugh about the "good old days." I hope to see her again this year and especially come race season!

Yesterday I took a hiatus from Mt. Bachelor and traveled north to Smith Rocks. This is a beautiful State Park that is a rock climbers paradise! I brought along some bounding poles and found the nice paths perfect for some bounding work!

I quickly realize how much of a city slicker I really am! Cruising around the city alone at night... not a problem! Running alone with Cougar and rattlesnake signs...Big Problem!

I asked a few people if there were really rattlesnakes and cougars in the park and everyone seemed to think the signs were not necessary, but as I ran along the path I couldn't help but think how perfect the dry dessert landscape would be for a backdrop to a snake!

I followed the path (headphones off! so I could hear if something was nearby) and made my way up and over the ridge! I met some great folks and saw some amazing scenery! The skiing was probably great again but I had the best time cruising through the volcanic cliffs and river valley.

Just when I was happily cruising along the trail near the river, a man ahead held his hand up to stop me. "Rattler he said!" Of course as frightened as I was to encounter one unexpectedly this was a great opportunity to see one up close. So I carefully walked over and stood next to him as we watched the beautiful snake slither away. It was AWESOME. I tried to snap a few photos but they do not capture how cool the snake was. The man told me it was coiled on the side of the trail just moments before.

So now I am leaving Bend, which has become my new favorite training place, for the concrete jungle of Minneapolis!

Hitting the Road Again

After a few weeks of training it's time to start hitting the road.

I had some of my first Rollerskiing intervals this week along with a VO2 Max test and strength test. Training is back in full swing again. The weather has been great here in Minnesota. Lots of sunshine and around 60 degrees. I will admit I am jealous of the many skiers who got to take a little spring break either in the mountains or at the beach!

I took the opportunity this spring to catch up with a lot of CXC and personal sponsor obligations. I felt like I had a fulltime job, as most days I couldn't even get out to do other activities! I also caretake at my apartment building, which helps reduce the the rent, so my spring was filled with a lot of post winter raking and cleanup around the grounds. Not the most glamorous spring but it's what I have to do to afford to race all winter.

Now in less then a week my training camp season will start as well in Bend, OR. I have never been to Bend before so I am excited to see and ski somewhere new! My coach will not be there, so I will be training with the Methow Valley Ski Team and Scott Johnston thanks to the help of fellow ITA athlete Brian Gregg.

I hope to post some videos from the workout this weeked when I get my camera working again.

Biking and Rollerskiing

The City of Lakes Tri-Loppet is only two months away and there is a lot of training to get in before then. During the past two weeks the kids at Anderson and Anwatin Middle school have been working very hard.

On Monday the Anderson group which is almost 20 strong ventured on foot to the nearby Midtown Greenway Coalition (MGC). The Midtown Greenway is a great asset here in South Minneapolis because it bisects the Grand Rounds route, which circumnavigates Minneapolis, in half allowing for quicker commuting across town.

The Coalition Vision:

We envision a green urban pathway that provides the anchor for a regional, sustainable transportation network; and encourages healthy diverse communities to prosper, participate, and connect to the region.

The path is built along the old railroad grade and thus is recessed below street level with many unique bridges along the straight path.

The group was given bicycles and helmets to use for the afternoon from the MGC. They also provided a guide who lead us in safety and etiquette along the trail. We biked to Lake Calhoun and back and despite the rainy weather had a great experience.

On Wednesday the Anderson Elementary kids had the opportunity to Rollerski. This was awesome! The Rollerskis are a part of the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation and are used for kids groups in the community.

We had just enough boots and skis for all 10 kids to participate at once. For most of the kids this was their first time on Rollerskis and they were incredible! We focused on balance, turning and accelerations in our relay races.

After the Rollerskiing we progressed to the woods where we held a mini time trial to get baseline times for everyone. Everyone left at 15 second intervals and their times will serve as a benchmark as we continue training through the summer!

Kid's Tri-Loppet Training Group

Tomorrow is the first day of my new program for the summer with In-The-Arena and the City Of Lakes Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation. The Tri-Loppet is an off-road urban triathlon here in Minneapolis consisting of canoeing Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake, running the hilly trails at Theodore Wirth Park and then Navigating the single track Mountian Bike trails at Theodore Wirth Park.

My first day begins with Anderson Middle School in South Minneapolis. We will be working towards the goal of completing the triathlon at the end of June. Last year I coached a similar program, but this year there will be a higher focus of getting all of the kids to participate in the triathlon either as a team or solo. The program will also incorporate nutrition and other healthy lifestyle advice. Wednesday will be the first day of the program at Anwatin Middle School which is adjacent to Theodore Wirth Park and allows us to train on the race trails when we meet. The kids at Anwatin are really lucky to be so close to such a great park!

During the two and a half months of the program I will be working with both Anderson and Antwatin schools on a weekly basis, rotating between Canoeing, biking, and running! We will be supported by many local Minneapolis companies who will be providing the canoes, bikes and even donating running shoes.

I am so excited to finally get this program started and to meet the kids (hopefully a few returning faces from last year).

President's Fitness awards at Bryn Mawr Elementary School

On Sunday after almost 70K of racing in one week for the woman and over 100K for the men at the Birch Hill Cross Country Ski Trails in Fairbanks, AK the 2008/2009 competitive ski season came to an end. A lull in Mt. Redoubt’s volcanic activity on Monday gave my flight from Anchorage the opportunity to take off, just before the volcano spurted another ash cloud. This was the first flight to Minneapolis since the volcano began erupting a week earlier. I was so relieved when we finally got off the runway.

On Wednesday morning I joined the second through fifth graders at the Bryn Mawr Elementary School to hand out medals and certificates to every kid who completed The President’s Fitness Challenge. Each student was required to partake in healthy activities and eating habits while keeping track of their choices for the previous 6 weeks.
The best part about Anita Chavez’s P.E. class is that she has almost all of them XC skiing during the winter! The Theodore Wirth and City of Lakes Loppet Trails run right through the school playground and the trails behind the school are where I train the most when I am home during the spring, summer, fall and winter. Almost 80% of the 180 kids in the assembly had skied in the City of Lakes Mini-Loppet. AWESOME!!!
I spoke to the kids about my XC skiing training regime leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics and how much I love training in the Minneapolis parks all year. We talked about many of the different parks in the area and all of the different types of activities we can do in the parks and on the bike paths, like running, biking, rollerblading, soccer, baseball and tag. The kids had lots of questions about Skiing, Alaska, Big Mountains and my new training partner Lahti the Husky!
General Mills was also an integral part of the presentation offering prizes and info about good healthy food choices. The kids did a great job answering the trivia questions about the food groups and serving sizes!

I look forward to working more with Anita Chavez and the kids at Bryn Mawr this summer during their summer school programs and with the support of General Mills for the Tri-Loppet program that is being offered to the Anwatin and Anderson Elementary Schools.

New Addition to the Family!

We have a new member of the household here in Minneapolis. His name is...well he doesn't have an official name yet! We have been calling him anything from "dog" to "sable" to "Kate Moss."
He is a 3 year old Alaskan Husky that Ben, my boyfriend, and I rescued from the Minneapolis Animal Humane Society. He was a transfer from another agency and arrived with a few other Huskies that were all rescued together. He is going to make a great running and skiing companion someday. Right now though he is very skinny and extremely shy. The goal will be to start him with a few walks a day and gradually increase to short runs once he starts to gain weight and get adjusted to being on a leash. Hopefully we can get him out in the woods, although still on a leash, by early summer!

We are excited to give him a second chance and hope he enjoys living with us.

When does Exercise become Training?

My friend and teammate Jojo Winters and I were driving to the YWCA to teach a Nordic Walking Clinic earlier today, and we were discussing ways to get the group excited about getting out and doing Nordic Walking within a continuous exercise plan. As we were talking to the group I accidentally slipped the word “training” into the conversation, and realized that not everyone who exercises is necessarily “training” for something. Or are they?

When does “Exercise” become “Training”?

Whenever I go out for a ski, run, or to the gym I call it training, regardless of duration or intensity, it’s all training. I call it training because I have a goal in mind, and every session gets me closer to that goal. Jojo and I came to the realization that many people go for skis and runs, and to the gym with a much different goal. They simply want to live healthier lives, and enjoy their daily workouts, or escape from the stresses of life. Would you call that training, or simply exercising? Do more people say, “I’m heading out for exercise.”, or “I’m heading out to train.” Exercise and training are not really any different. They are different in scope of what they might hope to accomplish, heading to the Olympics, or completing a 5km run/walk, or simply losing a few pounds of weight.

When we were speaking to the group, we thought that using the word training might be somewhat intimidating to the group, but as we walked around the indoor track with the group, I realized that although this isn’t a part of training specifically for anything, this is still exercising, and everyone at the clinic who was talking part, was exercising, and just as focused and determined as I am training.

I also realized how much fun I was having, and although I would not log this time specifically in my training log, I hope to bring the “fun” into my other tough workouts I might have, and remember that it is all exercise.


Despite the warm weather and rain last week that melted all of the natural snow here in Minneapolis, I was extremely excited to Rollerski! Rollerskiing is the form of training that most Nordic Skiers use during the months when there isn't any snow to ski on (usually spring, summer and early fall, but sometimes February as well!). Rollerskis are made of a wooden or metal shaft and two polyurethane wheels. They are designed to be used on paved roads and paths but I have had to use them on some hard packed dirt roads in Vermont.

So when all of the lakes melted and the trails near my house began to resemble the lakes, I had to migrate Northwest to Elm Creek Park Reserve for some loops on their man made loop. The skiing at Elm Creek is incredible. The man made loop is almost 5 feet deep and the trail is 2.5K of varying terrain.

I sometimes enjoy skiing through the woods or across the lakes and not seeing anyone else but I also love gathering at Elm Creek with all of the other Twin Cities' skiers who are preparing in the final days before the American Birkebeiner!!! Elm Creek provides the opportunity to catch up with over 20 people in one 2 hour workout and get the opportunity to ski with each of them!

After many loops, boredom began to sink in and more importantly my schedule began to fill. I could no longer drive the 30 min each way to ski and I had to make some decisions about what to do for my specific training two weeks from the World Championships. I realized that Minneapolis has one of the largest bike commuting population in the country and this is incredible considering the weather we can have. I checked out the bike paths and sure enough they had all been plowed and were mostly free of ice.

Some people say they wait until June to start rollerskiing but I have to admit that I really like rollerskiing. With so many bike paths and fun neighborhoods to explore I could ski a different route everyday for weeks! I love exploring different areas of the city and I love that I can live two blocks from downtown and rollerski from my door!

The rollerskiing was pretty good a few days ago but I realized that there is still not quite enough daylight, especially when there is still a few slick spots on the trail. I did have the chance to enjoy some of the most beautiful views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. I'll be heading out to the Czech Republic Monday for World Championships, but I won't be bringing my rollerskis with me. I hope you have enough snow where you are or where you are going to keep the ski season going!

A few Questions From Matt Chisam

1. What is the athletic background of your parents and family? My parents and family were very athletic and active when I was young. My parents met at a bike/ski shop in Manhattan and ran the shop’s weekend ski trips to Vermont together. I grew up downhill skiing in the winter and windsurfing and hiking in the Green Mountains in the summer.

2. When did you begin participating in your sport? I began participating in my sport in High School. I was 16 years old when I started cross country skiing.

3. What was your early experiences with sport like? My early experience with sports was very positive. I can remember looking forward to recess and PE everyday!

4. How instrumental were parents and coaches in the early part of your development as an athlete? My parents were very instrumental in the early part of my development as an athlete. I learned how to ice skate, swim, and I did gymnastics early on in the city and was skiing from age two up in Vermont. As I grew older my coaches became amazing role models who definitely encouraged and inspired me to pursue an athletic path.

5. How were you introduced to your sport and how many other sports did you seriously participate in? During high school friends were a very important role in sports and fortunately some of my closest friends were as active as I was. My best friend, who I met alpine skiing in 5th grade switched to Nordic and she had so much fun she encouraged me to try it.

6. Is your success a product of nature or nurture? I think my success is a combination of both. I am the only sibling in my family who has pursued sports throughout school. I know that my little brothers and sister in California will never be cross country skiers because they simply don’t have access to snow. When I was born my parents were younger and were active themselves which was very influential for me. My parents no longer have the staminia to do the type of activities they used to and so my younger siblings are being raised much differently. I will say that I was extremely impressed when my little sister ran a 5k running race with me though.

7. Are you an expert in your field? (by your own definition)NO. I think that is what intrigues me so much about pursuing a sport. There are so many components to “master” and there will always be new and unexpected obstacles to overcome. I hope to gain enough knowledge and experience in the sport of cross country so that I could one day pass on what I have learned.

First World Cup

Whistler Pre-Olympic World Cup

Yesterday was my first Cross Country World Cup! The race was a 15K Pursuit at the Whistler Olympic Park where next years 2010 Winter Olympics will be held. Suprisingly very few countries were present to race at the Olympic Venue. With the conclusion of the Tour de Ski, an event modeled after cycling tours like the Tour de France, many athletes were not up to the grueling travel required to compete in the three races here in Canada. Today I raced in the Team Sprint with a former NMU skier Morgan Smyth. Morgan skied great in both of her competitions this week and I had an awesome time skiing with her.

The races were also exciting to watch! There were a few extremely successful finishes by the large North American contingent competing. The highlight of my week was watching and cheering for Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephens who finished 4th in the Team Sprint this morning! A truly inspiring race to watch. There were a lot of other notable finishes from athletes from Sun Valley, APU, and the US Ski Team. I was really excited for fellow ITA member Nicole De Yong who scored her first World Cup points!!!

My races did not go as well as I had hoped. I finished 32 in the 15K and 16th in the Team Sprint. I am feeling a bit drained after many days of travel and a very unpredictable US Nationals in Anchorage, AK. My races were not bad, I was just a little "off" from my usual self, and nowhere is that more obvious then at a World Cup.

I am looking forward to getting back to Minneapolis and catching up with the Youthline Kids. My next adventure is coming up in a few weeks when I head to Liberec, Czech Republic for the 2009 World Championships! I am really excited about qualifying and I am looking forward to another opportunity to test my skills with the best Nordic Skiers in the World.


Today was the coldest day I have skied in for a long time. When I woke up the temperature was -12F but the windchill was -35F. I decided to wait a few hours before I ventured outside, especially since I only had one workout to do.

Ever since I was little I have had some trouble with the cold. I tend to get frostbite on my fingers toes and cheeks much quicker then those around me. I think I stayed out a little too long, with too little clothing, during cold weather when I was a kid! So today I made sure that I would not get frostbite and I decided to have fun putting on my layers.

Here is a list of the many layers I wore:

Layer 1)Warm Skin (this is a cream that Ann Bancroft used during her Arctic Expeditions) Popular here in the midwest! I put it on my toes fingers and face.
Layer 2)Smart Wool Long Underware Top + Bottom.
Layer 3)Smart Wool Socks
Layer 4)Toko Arctic Training Tights
Craft Windstopper Long Underware Top
Layer 5)Salomon Jacket
Layer 6)Craft Ski Pants
Toko Training Jacket
Layer 7)Toko Training Vest
Layer 8)Balaclava
Layer 9)Buff
Layer 10)Toko Hat
Salomon Classic Boots
Layer 12)Boot Covers
Layer 13)Rudy Project Sunglasses
Layer 14)Nathan Water Bottle Carrier

I also bought some little heat packs for my wrists and in my ski boots.

After I had everything on I quickly went outside to my car, which barely started, and drove to Theodore Wirth Park before I began to overheat.

I was tentatively going to try and ski as long as I stayed warm and felt good! I looked like a marshmallow with a water belt on, but I was warm and happy for my entire 3.5+ hour ski!

Silver Star

Hello Everyone!

We are currently in Silver Star racing on the Canadian Nor Am circuit. We put in another solid week of training (a bit easier though) after West Yellowstone and we raced yesterday and today on the World Cup courses from 2005. I must admit that I instantly felt like the more challenging terrain was a very welcomed change after West Yellowstone's races.

Yesterday was not my best sprint day. I had a little trouble feeling comfortable on my own skis in the qualifier and then couldn't quite make the Lucky Loser spot. Actually the photo finish tape was still being reviewed as they started the semi final without me. Bryan Fish and I were a little shocked. Oh Well. Laura Valaas a former CXC Team teammate and ITA teammate Dominated!

Today was my first Nor Am victory! I was really excited when they changed the technique to skate from classic earlier in the week. I had an early start early in the race but I started 15 seconds behind Milaine Theriault. She is an Olympian, Canadian National Team member and best of all a 35 year old mother! As soon as I caught her we battled it out the remaining 6 Kilometers of the race. She is tough!

Looks looks like the races will be moved here from Whistler next week. I will send more updates as the week progresses as well as update my blog!
Finally I am in the home stretch to the beginning of my race season. The truth is our training season never really ends but skiing and racing on snow is always a fun new beginning. The CXC Team and I arrived last week here in West Yellowstone, MT. West Yellowstone is a sleepy little western town this time of year, which lies directly at the western access road to Yellowstone National Park. When we first arrived there was a little snow on the sidewalks, but our hopes were a little diminished when we saw the mud pit at the entrance to the ski trails. Amazingly, once we moved to a different trail head, there was enough snow for us to actually ski! There were bits of grass sticking through but the skiing was great!

As the week progressed the snow became thinner and thinner but our spirits and drive remained high. The entire CXC Team put in some huge training hours with lots of intervals and strength sessions! We made what little snow or un-groomed snow we found work, and we even took the opportunity to rollerski into Yellowstone National Park. The park was absolutely incredible but I will admit I was more than a little afraid of the Bison and Elk.
The Yellowstone Ski Festival is held every year during the Thanksgiving week. Not only does this festival serve as the opener for the Super Tour, but it also brings people from all over the country who are in search of early season snow. The Nordic Ski Industry uses this event to have a ton of demos and expos to keep people entertained and excited about the sport of Cross Country Skiing. I am always excited to see familiar faces again and catch up with people I haven’t seen since last March.
The first races start the day after Thanksgiving with a 10K Classic on Friday and a 5K Skate race on Saturday. I am really looking forward to seeing how the entire CXC Team does. We have all been working hard and I know it will pay off. I will send another update after the first races are over.

Afternoon at Sibley Park

I spent last Monday afternoon with multiple groups at the Sibley Recreation Center. The fun began with the younger kids who belong to the Rec Plus crew! We took a lot of video where they showed me their new personal cell phones. Since the girls didn't have their own cell phones they decided to make some out of construction paper. Unfortunately I could not get the video to upload. I will keep trying though! After the Rec Plus kids left the Youthline group arrived.

Everybody was pretty happy about the beginning of winter being just around the corner, which is great considering can get pretty cold here in Minnesota, and the temperatures have been dropping fast! Some kids who are a part of the Antwadin School and the City Of Lake Loppet new Skier Development Group had the opportunity to try Ski Walking on the trails at Theodore Wirth. Ski Walking is a little like Cross Country Skiing but without skis and snow. Hopefully the Sibley Crew will be able to get out and join the Antwadin group this week to try Ski Walking themselves before the snow falls. I am working really hard on getting some skis for Sibley Park so that everyone can enjoy snow skiing this winter at Theodore Wirth.

We concluded the evening with personal ice cream makers. Using cream, sugar, flavorings, and coloring, we placed the ingredients in one plastic bag and then dropped it into another bag filled with rock ice. Rock is insanely cold, which is why it works so well for quick ice cream. You shake the bags and the cream mixture begins to freeze into Ice Cream!

I even had the opportunity to brush up on my math facts and lend a hand in some decimal multiplication. Despite everyone else starting their ice cream, Juan was incredible diligent and finished all his work which made the ice cream even better!


At Last...

It’s amazing how much of my life I have spent obsessed with the hope that those little droplets of rain falling from the sky would freeze and explode into an array of crystallized wonder beneath my feet!

“As I waited for the train to stop moving, breaks squealing louder than normal from the rain outside, I can remember thinking how much warmer it was underground. I always just assumed it was from all of the people close together, breathing a lot. It was warmth you could see escape, spewing from the metal -grates on the sidewalks or manholes in the street, almost eerily from below with no visible source.

Leaving the station, and climbing the stairs up to daylight and the hustle and bustle of the City, I saw it! A snowflake! My first snowflake of the season! I ran up the remaining stairs and stood face to the sky waiting for more. They fell slowly, drifting softly and peacefully onto the noisy and dirty street below. I knew it was here, Winter! I had been waiting all year for winter to return and it was finally here. As I walked the few blocks to my Grandmother’s apartment, I grinned and stirred with anticipation. Snow falling in New York City meant snow on the ground in Vermont. Snow in Vermont meant that I could once again ski.

I could hardly wait for that Friday evening when my parents would load our ski gear into the car and we would leave the bright lights and tall buildings of New York for the snow-covered mountains of Vermont. As we approached the George Washington Bridge my eyelids would get heavy with sleep as my mind dreamed of more snow. Leaving the City behind, we entered the black night of the country. I mostly slept during the drive, being rocked by the rolling and twisting roads that lead to the silent country. I could hardly wait until morning when I could once again ski!

Today was the first snow of the season for me here in Minnesota. It came with the same excitement as when I was six years old and the visions of skiing are at the forefront of my mind. We have a little over a month before the season begins and I am looking forward to life gliding around on snow once again!


Spoon Bridge and Cherry (Minneapolis, MN)

I have to say that as excited as I get about leaving for training camp, I get even more excited about traveling home once the camp is over. I really look forward to completing a hard training camp and the relaxation and rebuilding phase that follows when I get home. This past training camp was one of the hardest I have ever done. We had almost 10 intensity sessions in the two weeks we spent at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.
                 Lake Placid from the Air (Bobsled run is the white line on the left)
Lake Placid is a great place to train. The environment is filled with the site and landmarks from the two Olympic Games (1932 + 1980) that have been held there. When entering the tiny upstate New York town you are greeted by beautiful rolling hills and the omniscient structures of the ski jumps. Downtown Olympic venues line the narrow streets and bobsleds are placed throughout Main Street much to the affection of the tourists, or even the CXC Team girls!

The Olympic Training Center, where we all stayed, is a bit off the beaten path but it is the perfect training venue. Plenty of good running and even rollerskiing from the doorstep, plenty of good quality ready to eat food, plenty of strength and conditioning equipment, plenty of recovery and rehabilitation access, and comfortable rooms. We basically have all the luxuries of a training Mecca! Despite all of these luxuries I still look forward to getting home returning to Minneapolis.

Minneapolis requires me to make a lot of sacrifices such as not getting as much recovery between workouts, paying for rent, food and gym memberships, dodging traffic on my workouts, and sometimes less than ideal terrain, but it is well worth it. I have a great group of extremely motivated friends who, despite having full-time jobs, attending medical school, or taking care of their young kids, can push me in my workouts and motivate me to continue training and living a very active lifestyle after I retire from full-time competition.

Day -1 Cooking at Sibley Park

This past week I had the opportunity to work with the Youthline Group at the Sibley Recreation Center. We have been having great weather here in the Twin Cities lately and the park was incredibly busy with kids from all over. Everything from soccer to football to baseball to biking and tag were ongoing from the end of the school day past 7:30pm.
At around 5:30pm, the Youthline group headed inside for a cooking day. The kids were required to participate in every part of the cooking process. They figured out the directions, set up the cooking utensils, prepared and cooked the food, and then ate the food…yum, and of course helped with cleanup. I was extremely impressed with the great teamwork that the whole group showed throughout the whole process. We made beef enchiladas, which were tasty and pretty spicy, but everyone loved them and we all had a great time sharing stories and getting to know each other over dinner. They even taught me how to play bumper pool while things were cooking.
We started talking about Cross Country Skiing and I was really excited to see how interested the kids were in giving it a try this winter! Sibley Park has a number of great hills in it. I know that I was always excited to climb up the hills with the fun of going down them afterwards. So I look forward to working with this great group of kids over the year and get them excited about spending as much time as possible outside and staying active!

First Post


I am very excited to begin my Community Service Project here in Minneapolis, MN as a part of the In The Arena Roster! September is just around the corner and fall is by far my favorite time of year. When the air smells so crisp and clean and the temperatures start to drop I feel a huge increase in energy. Probably because I realize that winter isn't too far off. However, there is still plenty of time between now and the first snowfall for both training and enjoying the extended hours of sunshine.

My community Service project brings me to the numerous City Parks that are spread throughout the Minneapolis metro area. I will be working with a group called Youthline that is based in South Minneapolis and is geared towards kids aged 11-17 years. One of the objectives of Youthline is to plan healthy, active and creative projects that utilize the many different features of each park we visit throughout the entire year!

One of my favorite parks, Theodore Wirth, offers countless trails to run on for hours during the spring, summer and fall, but thanks to a huge effort by the local ski community we now have a snow making system and lights for the winter! The best part is reaching the top of hill while training in Wirth Park is having an amazing view of the downtown skyline as you look east. I look forward to using Theodore Wirth Park to help me achieve one of my goals while working with the Youthline kids, to try and introduce them to Cross Country Skiing while staying close to home. It is going to be a lot of work but I am extremely motivated after watching the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and I hope to use the recent excitement and enthusiasm towards Olympic Sports to motivate and inspire the group to try new things!