Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!!

For the past ten days I have had an entirely new cultural ski experience! Last year when I heard my final U23’s would be in Erzurum, Turkey- I was a hair disappointed. I knew it was going to be expensive to get there, I knew it was going to be a long trip to get there, and I also knew that the chance of getting food poisoning or something to the sort was about 90%. Erzurum hosted University Games last year, and rarely did I hear good stories of the experience. No snow, food poisoning, pollution, etc. Being my final U23’s I didn’t want all these outside influences to affect my last chance at doing well at these Championships.
My one gallon bottle of fresh water that I travel with.
Some of the delicious dessert options
While I was in France training, I finally came to terms with the trip- and decided that I was going to look at it as an adventure rather than a haste. I mean, how many other times in my life will I have the opportunity to travel to Turkey. Not only that, all the logistics would be taken care of for us, and chances are we were going to be relatively safe with all our event security.
Ryan stoked on all the adventures!!
As I explained in my earlier blog post the trip didn’t necessarily start on a good note- but after the travel from hell I was in Turkey safely with all my gear… I couldn’t complain too much.

The group this year was awesome! Everyone was up for an adventure. Nobody wanted to just sit in their hotel and “let the turkey cultural experience waist away”- so from the get go we were trying to go up the gondola to the top of the mountain for free, taking trips downtown, doing some exploring around the venue, talking with people from the area, and doing lots of observing. One thing we noticed from the start was the unique prayer time that would play five times a day. As we noticed this song playing, we began to notice there were Mosque’s everywhere, and many of the woman were dressed with their faces were covered… wow we really were in a different culture!!
Erik and I in front of a Mosque downtown.
Our bus rides to the venue tended to be uncomfortably warm... especially for the Alaskan boys.
Some good sketchy streets! 
One of the days we took a taxi downtown, where we bartered with the taxi man to set a price before going down and up… I guess that is the way it works there. As we walked through the streets we ventured through dark markets, addidas stores, lots of cloth stores for making your own clothing, knock-off shoe stores, endless sketchy looking kebab shops and much more. I even bought some knock off Nike shoes for about 7 dollars and some Timberlands boots for about half the price it would be in the US. It was tons of fun. Not only that, we got to do some people observing. I am quite certain all the people were observing us just as much too. Blonde, white, American… I am sure we had money written all over us in their eyes.
Eric Packer photo
Pete, Becca and I do some exploring in some dark buildings.
Some gnarly smog floating over the city. Doesn't smell good and can't be good for the lungs :(
My new boots from my shopping trip
Once the racing started, we had less time for adventuring. With a one hour bus ride each way to the venue.. race mornings were early- and afternoons were late. The time we had was mostly spent with our feet up doing homework and preparing for the next day. One of the most exciting parts about this years event was that many of the teams were staying in the same hotel. After being in Europe on the circuit for most of the winter, I have gotten a chance to meet many of the athletes from other teams. With everyone staying in the same hotel that meant that we had time to socialize with other teams and get to know even more athletes. This was great for the juniors, because normally as a junior, you are so intimidated by the thought of a Norwegian, that you would never say a thing to them. Instead, this year during our one hour bus rides to the venue, or during meals, everyone had the opportunity to get to know each other.
Bus rides with a mixed bag of teams
At least the long van rides had sweet views!
Erik and I on an off day ski
I have a race eview from the first two races that I posted on the NNF site that I will post again here. Thanks to NNF, this trip was made affordable for not only me, but all eighteen of the athletes. This trip had the potential to be insanely expensive, but throughout the summer and fall, many people have been rallying their support towards the NNF, so thanks so much for that!!
Our beautiful home away from home
“Yesterday was our second race of U23 Championships here in Erzurum, Turkey. Being a 10k classic race meant that in the middle of the summer last year, I wrote down my goals- and one of them was having "my race of the year” in this event.

Being a veteran on this trip, competing in my seventh U23/World Junior trip made me focus more attention on this event than anything else in the year. I entered this season having a goal, and that was to peak for U23's. The first event of the week was a skate sprint, one that I would also have a large focus on. Unfortunately, I made a small tactically error in my quarterfinals, and was forced to end my day early. Now in the previous six years I have attended these Championships, this sort of disappointment would have set me back. I would have questioned my fitness, been very angry and sad, and the week would have dwindled from there. But this year, after having many ups and downs already this season, I brushed it off and made myself believe the fitness was in fact there. After about an hour of frustration, it was on to the next race- the 10k classic. Being a "classic skier" makes the 10k one of my favorite races.
Skate Sprint
After talking with my coach from back home, Erik Flora, I made a plan for the race. Racing at altitude is a unique thing in that you can't go out there and red line the entire race. Instead you have to ease up a bit, remain in control, and then red line like crazy for the last 5-10 minutes. My last altitude race I did this season was at the World Cup in Davos, where I had a horrible race- but once again I brushed aside the doubt, and made myself believe that I could do it. 

Being ranked 24th as a distance racer here, I decided I would race with no expectations other than to race my own race, touching on my own strengths. The race ended up playing out just as I hoped.  I spent the first 5k pushing every transition, flat and gradual, and then the following 5k just hammering everything. I knew that at 5k I was in 10th place, and I heard the coaches telling me that placing was close. 5 seconds meant something- I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew five seconds was going to do me something. With that in mind I laid it all out there, crossed the line… and that’s when the waiting game began. With my poor ranking, this meant all the fastest athletes would be finishing almost fifteen minutes behind me. As I sat there listening to the splits coming in for 7k, and then the athletes coming in… I waited in desperation and excitement. I have never been anywhere close to the podium in a distance race at U23/World Juniors- so I was ecstatic inside. As the final girl crossed the line, I sat in fifth, just five seconds from 2nd place!! As always, I wished; had I know- I could have gone just a little bit harder. But I was also incredibly happy!! This was by far my best distance result ever, and I had indeed accomplished part of my goal I set last summer.
Classic racing in the freezing cold!
Later that night, the US team went downtown Erzurum for the awards ceremony, and I got to accompany two other US athletes on the podium. Noah Hoffman, and ski jumper, Sarah Hendrickson. As we stood in front of the Mosque and jumped on the podium, I was all smiles! How fun!! That’s what it feels like to stand on the top. Now it’s one more race for the week, so one more opportunity to get that same feeling.

Sporting the American Pride!
Awards Ceremony downtown Erzurum
I just want to take the time to say thanks to all of you out there supporting this momentum and exciting time for the US Ski Team. We have finally proved to the world that we are a force to recon with, and we will make it happen. Maybe it requires the endless support of all our fans from back home- but we will find a way to work our way there. For the athletes, it’s all the more special to stand on the podium and know that people believe and support us. So thanks to everyone who has put their support towards NNF. Already you have made this trip incredible for a group of young talented athletes that have many podiums in front of them.”

Ladies crew with a lot of future talent in front of them!
So that pretty much sums up my Turkey week- and this is already the world’s longest blog. I think sometimes picture really tell a thousand words, so I have tried to post many. 

I am now in Lahti, Finland- where I will be racing a 15k Pursuit race tomorrow. Then, Monday we will leave for Norway, where I will be racing my final city sprint in the streets of Drammen!!

Lots of fun time to come!!

Meribel, Frenchi-Land

For the past ten days I have been living and skiing out of Meribel, France... otherwise known as the three valleys... or the largest ski resort in the world. For two years now, I have made it a point to find a break in the middle of the season to take my mind away from the pressure and stress of racing to allow myself to relax. This year it worked out perfectly to go right before U23's, because this way I would get a short altitude block of training before the altitude racing at U23's. I also get the side effect of spending ten days with my boyfriend who is French, and spends the winters working as a ski instructor and coach out of Meribel.
Skiing in the sunshine (Greg Stafford photo)
kids biathlon race that was going on one day during my workout.

Last year I did a shorter block and didn't really get a chance to ski many trails, or get to know many people; but this year I got to know more of the trails, the bus systems, and some of the nordic instructors. Little did I know there were trails everywhere, going all the way to the next valley over!! Trying to live the most "vacation" mode I could, I would wait until later in the morning to go out for my skis so I could enjoy the sunshine as well as a bit warmer temperatures. I also took the time to do some  alpine skiing, seeing as I was living in the "alpine heaven". I actually made the decision that assuming you ski under control, and somewhat smart- nordics can learn a lot from some alpine skiing. We go down hills too- so why not become confident and comfortable with the idea!!??

One of the ski instructors I made friends with in Meribel
Sun chairs on the top of the mountain- BRILLIANT!!
As hard as it was to watch my teammates race on the TV over the weekend, and not be there with them- I have learned that a mid-season mental break is a necessity for me. Sometimes it's difficult to be in constant charge mode, with your head down, your muscles tight, and living the mental roller-coaster that accompanies it. So for ten days, I trained, enjoyed the sunshine, baked, met new people, did some schoolwork, spent time with my boyfriend, and learned some good old French talk.
The one humiliating thing about wearing a US Ski Team jacket on the hill is you don't always live up to what people would expect a "US Ski Team Alpiner would look like" :) "yep, im actually a nordy".
Valentines Day, Jo and I skinned to the top of the ski resort and watched the sun set- not too bad :)
A little toast
Watching some night events.
So much snow in Meribel!! This guy has some digging to get his car going!!
Yesterday morning, I set out early for my next adventure... TURKEY!! Starting at five in the morning, I headed down the hill in a snow storm for the train station. With Jo busy with work, I bought a train ticket and was prepared to head to the airport that way. Shortly after arriving, I realized that my pre-bought ticket was not being recognized with the system- so I started my day of travel on a train with no ticket, no french-speaking language skills, and not much of a plan. Luckily I met some nice alpine skier from the french side of Canada who helped me explain to the ticket man that I had in fact bought a ticket, it just wouldn't come out of the machine. From there on this awesome dude name "Gabriel from Canada" helped me maneuver through my three train changes with all my luggage and ski bag all the way to airport.

From there- the adventures started. As I was headed through the security line- just about to put my bags through, the entire airport lost power. After waiting for what seemed like forever, they managed to syphon the passengers through one "non-lit" security check zone- so luckily I made it to the other side. With all the monitors down though, I didn't know my gate number, so after going to the wrong terminal and then having to do a marathon race to the other side.. I made it to my plane just in time. As I loaded the plane and headed out, the pilot seemed to be on "french time", so running about an hour late. Part of my trip included going through customs in Istanbul, picking up my bags, rechecking them, and continuing on my journey. I knew all my connections were tight- so as we left Geneva way behind schedule, I knew I was going to be screwed for the day!! The minute the plane landed, I looked at my watch, realizing I had 40 minutes to: buy a Turkish Visa, get through passport control, round up my two bags, bring them to check in, go through security, and board my new flight. Turns out the Istanbul Airport is incredibly confusing, not many people speak english, and there is about a mile between the domestic part of the airport and the international. (the distance you carry you bags for re-check) To my luck, some incredibly friendly man from Pennsylvania, who does business in Turkey saw me franticly running and decided he was going to help me. He managed to guide me through the whole Visa process, help me round up my ski bag (which took forever to come out), ran with one of my ski bags across the airport, while I carried the other- and saw that I got to the plane.... with about 2 minutes to spare. At the last minute when I was re-checking in my bags and they were doing last minute call for my plane, I simply dropped my ski bag in the middle of the airport and ran for the security check. I figured there was no way I was going to get my bags anyways, but at least it had a tag on it, so it couldn't get too lost. (at least this is what I was trying to convince myself)

Leaving France
Entering Turkey
What a surprise, once again the plane sat on the run-way for an extra 45 minutes, the exact amount of layover I had on my next connection in Annarka. As we landed, and I knew I had 5 minutes to run to the next plane- I simply gave up. Having been on an adrenalin rush for about 4 hours now, I couldn't take it anymore. I noticed the Czech Team was on the plane with me, so at least I wouldn't be the only one missing my flight. To my surprise as I walked down the steps of the plane, one of the skiers waved me over to a van. I jumped in, and magically someone was personally delivering us to my next flight!! We jumped out of the van, walked the steps up to our new plane, and took off about five minutes later..... WHAT!!! During the flight I knew two things. I was going to make it to Erzurum today, and I was not going to get my bags!! NO WAY!

As I was sitting there, waiting for the two other Americans who were on the last connection flight I watched both my bags come out on the belt in disbelief!!! After all that chaos, and all those short connections, and all the hope I had lost with Turkish Airlines... somehow it had all worked out. All I could think was thank god for those random friendly people that decided to help me just out of pure kindness!! How incredible!! Also, thank god I didn't live that experience as a junior when I had no experience traveling. HOLY COW!!

So, I am now in Turkey- where I have seen very little. Arriving late didn't allow for us to see much around, and it has been windy, snowy, and storming since we arrived- so again I haven't seen much. What I can gather is; there is an alpine hill beside us, our hotel is very fancy, we are staying with the norwegians, there is a certain "lack of air", the courses seem fun, Turkish people drive with no rules and a strong use of the horn, I can't figure out a single word the turkish people are saying, it is a bit sketchy around here, we have a team full of new awesome juniors, and this trip is going to be one big adventure!!

Venue view- with not a whole lot going on :)
Fun fact of the day- Gus has enormous feet!!
With that, I am headed to dinner where they have been serving an impressive display of interesting mixtures of food. No bad... just interesting!!

More news soon when we get to see more!!

On another note, I got to watch the World Cup on TV today. Kikkan fell in the finals and still went on to finish 3rd, and Devon Kershaw pulled the most impressive finishing speed to win the race today!! Lots of screaming at the TV- sooo fun!!

Russia, Russia, Brrrrr

Last week, I had my first ever trip to Russia for the weekend of World Cup racing. Unfortunately the mixture of frigid cold temperatures, and the quick trip made for little exploring. What I saw of the country was either from the airplane window, the bus window, the hotel, our small jogs around the hotel, or simply the ski venue.

Finding some entertaining things on our run.
The first stop was Moscow. I have met a few Russians in Alaska, as they all seem to come to school at UAA, and one of the things I have always noticed with them was: fur and high heels. Let me tell you, Moscow lived up to the generalization... and more!! Starting with the trip from the airport to our hotel all I could see was smoke stacks, beat down buildings stacked at least 20 stories high everywhere, and lots of crazy drivers in very old cars. Things were starting with a bit of a grey tint. As we got closer to the heart of the city I began to see colorful "Aladan"buildings. (The disney show with the flying red carpet). That, and groups of markets that looked like you would only want to go shopping in if you had a body guard and possibly a weapon. I have to say, I got the shivers. I felt like if you went in alone, you may not come out. Waiting in traffic for at least an hour, going only 1km confirmed that traffic in Russia is no different than that of Seattle or New York. People still want to get places!! When we finally pulled up to our hotel, I was shocked, thinking it was a joke. I actually felt like we were pulling into Vegas. Bright lights everywhere, red carpet, finely dressed people, nice restaurants, strip clubs, ponds.... you name it, they had it!! The best part is; I seriously wonder what the Russian guests thought as they saw all the skiers role in with their sport clothing, and their lack of "heels and fur".

They seem to fancy the "stacking" method.
mmm, beautiful!
The front entrance to our hotel
sticking out a bit.....
Breathing masks were essential with the cold weather!!
With the frigid temperatures outside, down below -4F most the day, our venturing outside including wrapping ourselves up with clothing and going for short jogs or heading to the venue. We were instructed to not venture too far, and never go alone, as the actual "safety level" was right on the edge.
Shopping Center
Night time view from our room
The actual venue for the Moscow City Sprints was amazing. Not only was there a nordic venue, but they were also working on putting in a slalom hill for the Alpine World Cup the following weekend. Made of thousands and thousands of pieces of scafeltine, the slope towered above our little 1km nordic track. Not only that, we were racing right at the famous or maybe "infamous" Luzhinky Stadium. It was neat, we were just surrounded by so much history. I was really hoping we were going to get a chance to walk to the Red Square, but our Moscow trip was only a short two days... which came down to all preparation and then racing.
Center of the ski venue... doesn't that air just look cold!!?
The slalom hill in the process of being built. Our races started almost right at the base of it.
The ladies testing skis and trying to stay warm!!
The actual race didn't go so well for me. The mixture of the cold temperatures, a long flat course, and my grandfathers passing away the night before didn't really put me in the right place. It was super exciting on another hand though because my teammates had some of the  most amazing racing ever. As I watched the three of them tactically control the semi-finals, I just got goosebumps and big smiles. The exciting thing is, I know we can all ski like that, it's just a matter of throwing down your best at the right time. I think there are so many more exciting times to come for our team in the near future. Cool stuff!!!

RIP Grandpa- I love you dearly.
Jessie, BIB 1!!!!
Here is a little shout-out video we made in review of our Moscow Race. Just a little fun :)

About three hours after completing our race, we hopped on a bus with team Norway, and drove eight hours through the night to our next venue. With such a short turnover, just one day between the races- it was important to move on... even through the night. That bus ride was an experience in its own. As I drifted in and out of sleep, I woke up to a variety of sketchy and beautiful things visible out the window... ohhh Russia!!
This is what many of the buses looked like, minus the skier on the side.
Once again, as we arrived in Rybinsk for the racing, temperatures were hovering down below legal limits. The difference in Rybinsk was that there was strong wind that accompanied the frigidness. Once again I froze myself in the race, and finished the 10k skate somewhere below where I would have liked to be.
Jessie and I, with the stadium in the background.
Cold, but still smiling :)
The most incredible thing about Rybinsk was the atmosphere, regardless of the cold temps. There was a true celebration going on. People were out there just loving it. This is where I learned why the Russians wear so much fur... because its FREEZING out. They are just smart enough to figure out how to survive in the climate. I almost bought myself a fur hat by the end... but I am not sure it would have a whole lot of use in the normal "tropical" conditions we have been experiencing so far this year.
Holly and I trying out the fur hats (Holly photo)
Lots of spectators.
Kikkan and Liz getting some skiing together.
The ladies squad- Notice all the clothes I have on for cheering.... brrrr! Props to the wax techs and coaches for standing out there in the cold all day- that is impressive!!
It was a fun weekend and a fun new experience. I can't say I would ever want to live in Russia, but I like visiting just for the racing part.... although I wouldn't mind if things warmed up a bit next time.

I am now in France for a short altitude block before U23's in Turkey. (Turkey will be high altitude racing). I am also getting to spend these ten days with my french boyfriend, who I haven't seen in three months, so it's super nice! A mixture between the alpine skiing, sunshine, great nordic skiing, and a little time with my mind away from racing will hopefully be the perfect set up to have some of my best races of the year in Turkey! I hope!!!
Blue skis and good tracks- YES!!!
Jo and I doing some of that alpine stuff.
I also started school this week, so I am back at the books, learning my accounting. It is exciting, I am actually in a class with my brother, Fitness for Life, where we will learning about setting goals, and spreading holistic health throughout the community. It sounds like a bit of a joke, but I think the teacher is pretty stoked on challenging us. I am excited!! But, I am back at having a solid past-time energy consumer for the rest of the winter. 

Hope you all are happy and healthy!!

A little FUN

Here is a video of the most epic sledding I have done. Thanks Newell for putting it together!!


I am trying to just write a quick blog with photos as we are waiting to take off for Russia. This past week has been a week of training, powder skiing, smiling, and good times here in Ramsau, Austria. It has been nice to break the racing up and put in some good hard training efforts.

Welcome to the American Ladies condo!!
Beautiful white mountains surrounding all the awesome ski trails distributed throughout the Ramsau valley.
North American ladies post interval session... wishing we were going for a little heli-ski trip.
enjoying the powder on my nordi-gear
An awesome post-training snack with some great bread and coffee.
Waffle time, after the good long OD
North American ladies headed out to dinner in town.
Ramsau was home to World Championships several years back, so here I am by the official logo of the Championships.
Thats all for now. Today we will make our way to the airport, and then fly to Russia tomorrow. Thursday is the city sprint in Moscow, which should be amazing! I have never been to Russia, so I am looking forward to it. Following that, Saturday and Sunday will be the distance races in Rybinsk.

Take care all!

Otepaa double-classic

Last weekend, we departed from beautiful sunny Italia to the double classic weekend of World Cup racing in Otepaa, Estonia. Last year we had Junior World/U23 Championships there, so it was sweet to return to a venue I finally recognize. Unfortunately we skid an "easier version" of the world cup course last year, so little did I know how hard the Otepaa classic course was. Everyone always talks about how it's the hardest course on the World Cup... and now I understand why.

Otepaa Stadium Scene
Saturday was a classic sprint, with lots of double pole, and few hills. Many of the boys opted to go on skate gear, and double pole everything. Luckily girls never got to that level of hard core, so we got to do a few strides in the middle of the course with some kick wax. Once again I "just missed the heats" by a slight half of second, finishing 32nd... darn! One of these times I am going to remember to do an extra pole on the corner, take a shorter line, or lunge a little larger.... and make those darn heats!!! Last weekend was nice though, because with a much deeper field than the weekend before, I was still almost there.
Newell and Harvey during the heats. Newell had a sweet race, advancing onto the semi's, only to be stopped by a russian collision that managed to put a hole through his ski :(
The following day we had a 10k classic distance race on an exceptionally hard course. With three solid herring-bone hills, it sure kept your muscles working the whole time! To make things crazier, every downhill recovery seemed to be an alpine style, catching air type of downhill. Good fun!! I haven't gotten to do a distance race since nearly a month now, so I was looking forward to simply feeling the actual "pain" of racing again.

We stayed in a hotel with this sweet spa attached to the side. Hot tubs, pools, sauna's, steam rooms... everything. Unfortunately, I never got to try them out, but I can only imagine. Here is a hot tub, a medium heat tub, and then a pool that connects to outside... so a cold tub!!
Sunday was funny in that we didn't start our race until 3:30 in the evening for TV purposes. Being in Scandinavia means that daylight starts disappearing right about that time. By the end of the race I was skiing my warm down in the dark. It was new and hilarious in a way. The race set up similar to my last distance race in Davos- in that I had Kikkan starting 30 seconds behind me. Last time Kikkan must have passed me within 5 minutes of the start, so I went from the gun this time running from the big bad wolf. I was also trying to pace myself for the difficult course, but each new kilometer I covered without the sound of her breathing behind me turned into a bit of a game. I ended up having so much fun, and just enjoying the fact that I was back to healthy and able to race. Its funny how much you crave the actual pain of racing when you are sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else race!

At the end of the day I was stoked and excited! Finishing 34th was my best distance race of the year, and for the first time in a while, I got a real positive feeling in the race. As I told Fasterskier, sometimes it's hard to find the little positive achievements in your own races when your teammates are kicking butt, finishing in the top twenty. Thats when you have to step back, take a look at the big picture and remember that it's one step at a time, even though I would rather be skipping. We had three US ladies in the top 20, and then all of us in the top 40... so a solid day for US ladies for sure!! It's amazing how high the bar continues to be raised as each new race, someone new pops something great. What an exciting time!

Lucky for me, we now have a week off of racing where we will have the opportunity to get some good training in. Missing a month of training in the middle of the season is hard to come back from. You never get that good feeling when you are out there skiing. So, this means I am going to soak in every training moment and get the body ready again!!

Erik Flora has been over here with us since last weekend and will be until after Russia, which has been soo nice. It's always so much more meaningful to have your coach watch you and see where you are, rather than trying to tell them. Not to mention, when you feel like dirt the day before the race, he is there to convince you, "ah, you will feel great tomorrow, don't you worry". What a cool deal.

Erik getting his time to shine in the coaches race!!
Currently we are spending the week in Ramsau, Austria doing some powder training. The snow just keeps coming down!! We are staying in cute little apartments, cooking some of our own meals, having so much fun relaxing for a bit. Last night we took a trip down the hill a few kilometer to watch the Schladling world cup night slalom races along with 40,000 drunken austrian fans. The scene was incredible, it was sooo much fun!!

The view of the run as we drove down the hill from Ramsau. Check out all the people on the side... SOOO many!
THE SCENE!! It's so fun to be on the other side of an event like this, being the spectator. We are always on the athlete side, in our own zone, trying to avoid the chaos of spectators. When you stand on the other side, you gain so much more respect for the spectators with so much enthusiasm!! It's just incredible!
Yeah buddy!! Showing some American pride.
Today is Ida's birthday, so we dressed her up in a crown and pink suspenders and went for a ladies distance ski. It was sweet. We have Canadian superstar Chandra Crawford staying with us this week, so the seven of us ladies went out and had a sweet ski filled with perfect powder, lots of smiles and laughing, tons of tourists, and bit of sunshine. Life is real good here in Europe with a team of wonderful ladies!

Seven speedy ladies and one birthday girl!!
Next up will be Moscow city sprints not this weekend, but next, followed by some distance races in Rybinsk. In the meantime its some solid training mixed with a little fun and hopefully some sunshine soon!!

Back to the World Cup

After spending a couple days in Craftsbury, Vermont- I jetted over to Milan, Italy to join back on the World Cup circuit for the next couple of months.

Last weekend was a bit of a mixed bag for several reasons. First, we arrived a day and a half before our first race- so I spent my weekend of racing jet legged out of my mind. Fortunately, my first night I slept, but spent the following three nights getting four hours of sleep if I was lucky. The cool thing about this is I learned in situations like this your body just goes into survival mode and you don't even notice you don't sleep, until you have a huge delayed crash (which I had yesterday). The second part of the weekend was that having just gotten healthy the day before flying, I hadn't done any intensity since the last race a month ago in Davos. Instead of looking at this as a disadvantage though, I managed to convince myself it was good, as I would be very rested for the races. The third part of this weekend was that we were in the massive Italian city of Milan, ski racing!!

The view just down the street from our race. City Center.
Ida Sargent and I arrived in the afternoon thursday, so we took the time to take the train down to the city and check out "the city of fashion", keeping us from falling asleep back at the hotel. As we walked out of the station, we were greeted with huge buildings, thousands and thousands of people dressed in fashionable black attire, and endless stores filled with shoes, fur jackets, skinny jeans, and underwear! Following the direction of travel, we found ourselves walking through a castle into a park where they were spreading down snow for our race. I couldn't believe it... we were literally sprinting right in the middle of this incredible city!! It was soo neat. Not to mention it was so warm, people were walking around in shorts and t-shirts. What a new experience.
Machines laying down the courses the day before.
Ida and I standing out among the fashionable people surrounding us.
Warming up on the course with the castle visible in the background.
The following two days started with first the individual sprint, and then a day of team sprinting. The first day, I managed to qualify 31st, just missing the heats by .1 seconds. It was frustrating because it was so close to making heats... like I am convinced that if I would have worn a size larger boot, I would have made it. Regardless, it was my best individual start so far this year, so it was also motivating. The second day was a team sprint, which I teamed up with Ida sargent, while Kikkan and Jessie teamed up as well. Ida and I got to ski some good rounds with the girls, going on to finish 7th in our heat, so not moving on to the finals unfortunately. In the meantime, Kikkan and Jessie were throwing down, qualifying on to the finals, and eventually placing 2nd!!! Another team sprint podium for the US ladies, it was so awesome and exciting!! Also, the canadians girls got to join them on the podium, finishing 3rd. It was a sweet day for the American crew!!! It's always a great feeling to see we can in fact compete with the Europeans.

Sprinting. Fasterskier photo. Good article of the weekend at:
North American beauties with their flowers! Congrats to some impressive racing!!
Ida and I getting our cheer on for our teammates
Aside from the excitement of the big city as well as the racing, the crowd was incredible. There were Italians out there dressed in crazy outfits, revving skill saws and blowing horns. Anything they could do to make noise and push on the skiers. It was just so incredible!! The italian men managed to finish third, which made the home crowd just go nuts!! As the Italians skid a victory lap, I watched how much it meant to the crowd to see their home team succeed, it gave me goosebumps. I just love the enthusiasm people bring to our sport over here!

After the last race, we headed for the road eventually ending high up in the mountains of Seiser Alm, Italy. Driving in the dark and jumping in a snow cat to get to our hotel made waking up the next morning the most incredible thing! There was white mountains all around me, the sun was shining and it was gorgeous!! Just so beautiful. After putting on my skis and racing down the hill, the jet leg and lack of sleep finally hit. I became so tired I had to slow to a stop. If it wasn't so beautiful out, and I wasn't doing the best classic skiing I had all year- I believe I would have sat down and started to cry. I had finally hit the wall. As I walked up the hill in exhaustion, I started to think about how lucky I am. I get to ski in the most incredible places during the year of racing! Many people from the US dream about spending time in places like this, as it seriously feels like heaven!

US ladies crew (minus Holly who is healing up her hand at the moment, but back soon)
Great views!!!
Ida and I getting snuggly in our mini European pullout bed.
Aside from getting in some good training, we have found some new sources of entertainment like sledding down the alpine hill, soaking in the sun, and checking out the spa. I am in love with Italy!!

Newell getting his sled on!!
The sledding crew after the speediest, most enjoyable sled ride ever!
Today we will head to Munich for the night and then fly to Estonia tomorrow for this weekends world cup races in Otepaa. The races will be a classic sprint the first day, and then a 10k classic race on sunday. I competed at this venue for U23's last year, so I am looking forward to going to a place I know, it should be fun.

Lets just hope they have snow, and it is a little warmer this time than last :)

Cheers all!!

A week to remember

I wish I could be writing this blog about what a great week of racing I had last week at National Champs, and how wonderful it was to break up my european racing with a little racing in the US... but sometimes things just don't work out as planned. Sometimes, you fall during your warm-up at the Olympics and break a bunch of ribs. Sometimes you fall running on Christmas, break your wrist, and are forced to race the Tour de Ski with a broken hand. And sometimes, you travel home to the US for Nationals, and you spend the week standing on the sidelines, cheering on your competitors, only wishing you could join them at the line. This is what happened to me last week in Rumford, Maine.

Christmas was a tough time for me. A long travel home from Europe, then shortly after, a trip to Seattle and back, and then soon after a travel to Maine that turned into two nights of no sleep due to some unfortunate plane cancellation. With so much travel, mixed with the excitement of being around my family, and taking care of a lot of stuff during the short two weeks a year I am home in the Methow- my health was what suffered. I managed to catch a cold about halfway through the break, but never gave myself enough of a rest to really fight it. With a rough travel to Maine, the cold that "just kept giving" managed to strike again shortly after arriving. Spending the first part of the week resting, somewhere along the way my sinus's took the brunt. I used to suffer from a lot of sinus infection problems a few years ago, but I haven't had one since, so at the first sign of sinus issues, I knew it was time to get serious. This was not just some cold that I could ski through. Sinus's are a funny thing, where if you ignore the infection, chances are it's going to come back and get you real bad in the near future. Having made that mistake a few too many times in the past, I made the hard decision to sit out the race, and hope I would wake up feeling better the following day.

Going into the week, as I realized my health was not in the right place, I decided to take one day at a time. I wasn't going to write the whole week off from the beginning, rather I was going to make decisions daily. In the back of my mind though, I was convinced I would be skiing with a bib by the end.
APU ladies with our new Swix uniforms and E'KLAAR hats
Lucky for me, I have a coach that understands and monitors sickness very well. Having lived mistakes before during his career, Erik has made it a goal of his to keep athletes from doing similar mistakes. Right from the start, Erik listened and watched quietly, allowing me to call the decision- but overriding when it was necessary. As the wise old lady said, "patience is a virtue", and thats what I had to go by this week. Near the end of the week, I was so frustrated, I couldn't take it anymore, and told Erik I would race the final race. While doing race prep the day before, the little voice inside my head silently shouted, "what are you doing!!". By the end of my workout, after a few silent tears, I knew what the right thing to do was, even though I didn't really want to accept it. Leaving for Europe shortly after this race meant that it was even more important to be 100% when I get on the plane.

Even though this week was emotionally very hard for me, there were some great things that came out of it. First, in order to not infect my teammates with my "cold that just kept giving", I moved in with my parents. This meant that I got to spend an extra week with them, which was super awesome! Even though they didn't get to watch me race after traveling across the country, at least we got some time together. The second thing was, in order to keep my mind off of the frustration of being sick, I spent my spare time doing French lessons on Rosetta Stone. I have a short break in school at the moment, so I took the opportunity to start learning the language that my boyfriend speaks. I have always been frustrated with my inability to speak any other language well, so now I have a good reason to actually change that. Third, I got to spend some time with my home team. APU has such an awesome team filled with lots of excitement! I always love coming back to spending time with them. With lots of new faces on the team it was fun to see the new dynamics and the new energy in the group!
Doing some cheering with an Alaskan group of ladies
I also got to watch some really impressive racing. When you are in the race, you never get to see what it looks like, and how your closest competitors are skiing. But standing on the sideline, I got a great view. It was fun to cheer them on, but at the same time emotionally hard. Luckily I was getting constant blasts of positive emails from my teammates over racing in Europe as well as good support from the APU crew. With so much positive energy, its hard to be down very long. So thanks everyone, I really appreciated it!

I got to watch one of my close friends, and teammate win her first US Nationals medal. The coolest part is Kate Fitzgerald would have never dreamt of winning a silver medal in a sprint race a year ago. So stoked for you Fitz!! Big Congrats!
I also got to break up my week with an annual Fast and Female event in Bethal, Maine. This time was a bit different than usual in that Jessie Diggins and I actually ran the event. Having always been an ambassador in the past, it was fun to take a bit more responsibility and take on a larger task. There was a good turnout, with around 80 girls- so there was lots of smiles, stories and inspiration.

The group of Fast and Female ladies
I am now training in Craftsbury, Vermont before taking off for Milan, Italy tomorrow. This place is like the skiing mecca of the east. Great skiing, good food, great living conditions and awesome people. Lars Flora and I just got back from coaching a junior group. Craftsbury has a great system where you work off your living costs by volunteering for various things. What better way to make your trip affordable than to coach little kids!! They all came from Liz Stephans town, so I got to teach them all of Liz's best tricks so that they can beat her when she comes back. Thanks Craftsbury for the hospitality!!

Next up: We will race a city sprint on Saturday, and then a team sprint on Sunday, both skate in Milan, Italy. Hopefully the short turnover for time adjustment and travel will not get to the best of us. The sinus's are feeling better daily, so think it will be time to pull the bib on this weekend finally!

More updates to come from the "city of fashion" this weekend.

Happy New Year!

The past year has been a whirlwind of greatness, excitement, firsts, disappointment, learning and much, much more. When I think back to everything that has happened in one year's time, I realize how lucky I am to do what I get to do. Six months of the year, I pack up all my belongings in a 50 pound bag and I travel from place to place and country to country. Not only do I get to see the world, but I get to meet many amazing people along the way. Aside from racing my heart out, seeing the world, and traveling all around, I also get to go to school. APU has such an incredible set up with their distance education program. This will be my second year now that I am training full time, racing full time, and also going to school full time! So most importantly, thanks to APU for providing an awesome ski program, and an awesome education program!!

So a little review of the past year and some of its highlights.

January- I won my first National Championships in Rumford Maine, and podium in two other events, making my best National Champs ever, and also qualifying me for my first World Championship team.

February- Aside from other races this month, I raced at U23 World Championships in Estonia, where I will be competing in a World Cup almost exactly a year later (coming up here in a couple weeks). Here I am, blowing kisses to the crowd on TV.

March- I join 100,000 screaming norwegian fans for the World Championships in Oslo, Norway. By far the most exciting races I have ever taken part of. This will probably be my motivation for the following 10 years! Here I am giving out some of my first autographs to some of my first fans.

April- I join back with the APU crew to attend distance nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho. Here I finish the season nice and tired, going to the point of collapsing on the final day of racing up the alpine hill. Fitz took the award for the day pushing herself so hard she passed out at the finish line.

May- I discover the backcountry spring skiing in Alaska. On nordic skis and on the fat skis. My boyfriend, Jo, finally gets me on what he calls "the real" skis, and I discover a whole new world!!!

June- Glacier Camp number one of the summer. Eat, sleep, train... and repeat for seven days. Put in my largest week of my life with 23hrs... all on snow!

July- North American Woman's Training Camp. Top Canadian and US ladies gather together for a week of dryland training in Anchorage, and then a week of skiing on the glacier. Lots of good girl energy, and lots of great training!

August- Fourth glacier camp of the summer followed by a little five day break in Washington.

September- Season starts changing in Anchorage. September is also the only month of the year that I am not skiing on snow at all. Makes for a good time for lots of hiking and lots of hard training!

October- Final US Ski Team Camp down in Park City. Here we have a huge Fast and Female Event where a variety of winter athletes, and olympic medalists gather to inspire the younglins. Here I am talking about nordic skiing to the kids, sporting my pink pride!

November- I have my first period one of World Cup racing. Lots of good and lots of learning from weekend to weekend. I come six seconds from scoring points in Kuusamo, in a distance skate race.
Flyingpoint photo

December- Kikkan and I get second in the team sprint at the Dusseldorf World Cup, making me the second american to ever win a world cup medal!!!!! I do a lot of smiling, a lot of screaming, and a we both do a little dance on the podium in honor of all our teammates back home!

The final week of the year- I get some family time back home in the Methow. Between putting on a kids camp and visiting my grandparents in Seattle, there is little time to just sit and relax. But lets face it... thats rarely possible!!

So after reviewing a year of lots of joy and excitement, I just want to say thanks to all the people that have helped me throughout the 2011 year, and the many more to come. Happy New Year, and here is to a new year filled with resolutions, goals, good health, and lots of speedy skiing!

I am currently laying in bed in Rumford Maine, trying to get healthy. I have been plastered with a series of cold's for the past three weeks. With the tough travel back from Europe, and then the travel to see family, followed by the travel all the way back to Maine (cancelled flight means 48 hours with about 2hrs of sleep), I can't get rid of the cold that just keeps giving. Sometimes its hard to admit you are sick, but I have learned that having a long successful season means keeping your body healthy!

The weather here in Maine has been crazy as usual, so after a night filled with warm rain, the races have been postponed until they can doctor the snow up enough to ski on. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, as I may have more time than expected to get healthy. If not, hopefully I will be back by the end of the week!

For now it's rest and good, positive vibes.

On a side note, the Tour de Ski is going on right now over on the World Cup circuit, and it has been amazing to follow. The North Americans have been showing a strong force. With the time change only 7 hours from the east coast to Europe, we get to wake up to live ski racing every morning. And since it is 10 days of racing, that literally means every morning!! Kikkan has been proving that she is going to be in position for the podium!!! The others have all been impressive as well, especially since its a first tour for many of these guys!!! So keep on keepin' on guys!!!

Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you all have a happy and safe holiday!

Cascade Challenge Camp

Yesterday Erik and I hosted the first Cascade Challenge Camp in the Methow for all the young kids of the valley. For a while Erik and I have been talking about how many talented young kids come from this valley, so we were wanted to fuel that fire a little bit by giving back some inspiration and direction to these young children. At that age, I can remember how much it meant to me to ski just five minutes with some of the older successful members of the team; so we were hoping to give a little bit of this "fire" to the younger generation.
the younger girls teaching me a thing or two :)
It was incredible, there was nearly 50 kids that showed up for a our camp, ranging from Canada to the US. Thanks to some to the older elite athletes of the valley, Brian Gregg, Kelsey Dickinson, Casey Kutz, Casey Smith, Erik and I were able to lead such a large group.

The camp included kids ages 7-13, so we had quite the range in ability level, interest, and knowledge. Luckily every kid that showed up yesterday was fired up to ski and have fun, so we had no problem keeping the energy rolling. We started the day out talking about US skiing, and some of the best athletes that are competing for our country. We then moved on to teaching them the different levels of racing, and what each level means. With so many different races, and different types of races, we educated the kids on the various disciplines that all of us older athletes are participating in. I was surprised to learn that many of these children following ski racing, whether it be through the Olympics, through their parents, or even sometimes on TV.

The older athletes giving a talk at the beginning
The goal of the day was to teach these kids some of the necessary skills to become a good ski racer; but to also teach them that it was an enjoyable process. With a range of skiers from Canada and all the way in between, it was fun to see that all the kids were also making new friends and getting to know some of the skiers they would maybe race against some day. The ski began with a warm-up, then three stations. Biathlon station, drills and technique station, and then a start/finish station. I think the big hit seemed to be the start finish station, where Erik and I set up lanes, finish lines, and start lines similar to that you would see on the racing circuit. As we taught the kids that lunging is extremely important in racing; many times it can even win you a race, the kids were instantly entertained. Once they learned to start on command and race to the finish, they all had no hesitation as they put in a massive lunge/fall to the finish.

Me demonstrating to the kids what a lunge looks like
Following the ski we headed in for a few more lessons on taking care of your body and you skis- the two most important parts of skiing success. Brian gave a basic talk about the functions of basic food, and good recovery tools. With a young crew, we didn't want to go into too much detail, other than to teach them "there are good sugars vs. bad sugars", and "what does your body need immediately before and after workout". Following our nutrition talk, Erik went on to give a wax clinic where he allowed some of the kids to even try out the different steps. Hopefully they will start taking extra good care of their skis throughout the winter, waxing them more than once or twice in a year.

leading a group of younglins
The final part of our camp was giving out posters and signing autographs. In all honestly, I think this may have been many kids favorite part. There is something about a posters and autographs that have "greatness" written all over them for a kid!
mesmerized by the posters!!

It was a great day, and hopefully we were able to inspire these kids to follow in the same direction that some of the elite athletes of the Methow have achieved. They all seemed to have a great time, so hopefully they will continue to follow racing, keep developing in their training, and one day be teaching their "younger generation" to love the process.
skiing with Cooper Klein

Erik and I were hoping to make this an annual thing, so look for it to be coming again next year!

Thanks to Mazama Community Center for letting us host, and Methow Nordic Team for helping us organize!
Casey and I demonstrating sprinting.

Thanks to Pat Leigh for all the great photos from the day!!!