September is often known to cross country skiers, and certainly to myself, as the most challenging month of the year. As Kikkan would say, "it feels like trying to keep frogs in a wheel barrow". Every time you get all your froggies collected, a new one jumps out! It is the month that we are both training lots, and training a lot of hard intensity. It is the month that I often find myself doing many sponsor engagements and community engagements. It is the month that school starts back up for me, so I have to find some extra energy for my brain power. And finally, it is the month that the cold, dark and sometimes snow arrives in Alaska.
Every year I put on my armor, and brace myself for September, because it is the same every year. I try to direct as much attention as possible towards my ski racing, and minimize the others. The transition from doing tons of distance training, to doing some form of intensity every day is an adjustment! I get used to knowing how much to eat, how much to rest, and how much it takes to recover from training 20 hours during the summer months. As the cold arrives, and I start turning up the guns for September, I find it requires twice the amount of rest to recover and show up the next day ready to rally. Despite the wild world of events, September happens to be one of my favorite months. The rush always gets me excited for the winter, and the racing season to come. Distance training can sometimes feel monotonous and boring, so when it comes time to go fast, I start getting addicted to those endorphin rushes following training, and the wonderful feeling of fatigue, where you know you did a good job at work today!
As an athlete, we become addicted to challenging ourselves one more step than recommended. The plan says five times eight minutes of intervals… but six sounds so good! I'm supposed to be in Level 3, should I go a little harder and take advantage of following my teammate that is an expert at uphill skate? Three days of races at the end of a hard training week, how deep can I dig that last day when I feel utterly exhausted? Sunday is rest day.. why not throw in one more workout! The best athletes are addicted to pushing that line, otherwise we wouldn't get this far. The line becomes blurry at some point.. how much is too much? Am I doing damage always finding the extra challenge? Will I be too tired next week if I do one more interval in this set? Or, is this extra interval the mental challenge I need to be confident to make that A-final this winter? When I look from the outside in, to me it feels like an art! Training is such a meticulous and perfect project of action.
Every athlete paints their picture differently. Some go into overdrive, and let their minds take over. Others look to the people around them to try to get the best direction. Some are experts of "sending it", but become very good at turning their actions into beauty at the end. Every year, I learn one more lesson as an artist! I have always been an artist with a little bit of a conservative nature. This is a result of having struggled with injury a lot. I am learning though that there are the right times to challenge my brain, challenge my ability to dig deep, and challenge my ability to think "that's all I have". During September though, it is always the most challenging month to paint. I call it the art of keeping up!
So what are some of the pieces of this September artwork?
Fast and Female Season- Months of planning for this event, but always such an amazing piece to be a part of. This year we were in the Alaska Airlines Center, which was a fun new twist to our usual event.
School Season- I am working on my Masters in Business at APU. Class starts with three ten hour days of class, and then meeting online the next eight weeks.
Time-Trial Season- We practice our racing and get to challenge ourselves to get ready for the real deal.
Injury Management- I have been managing a knee imbalance injury the past two months, so jumping back into the activities I have missed is a slow, but oh so exciting process.
Hunting Season- Time to live off the land a little. Moose, Fish and Grouse filling the freezer.
Rainy, Snowy, Dark Season- Staying warm is sometimes the largest challenge.
October time! I am now headed to Park City, Utah for our final season preparation at altitude. I can't wait to meet up with my teammates and do some final training together before we hit the road! I am also looking forward to hopefully getting a little bit of PC's special sunshine to warm me up a bit!