Back on the World Cup

After spending the first period in North America, I am back on the European side of the World Cup scene. My first stop was in Liberec, Czech Republic- home of World Championships 4 years ago. Things were pretty hectic for the first couple days back on this side of the pond. After finishing a big week of racing at Nationals- I hopped on a plane the day after the skate sprint and traveled over. Then, only a day and a half after arriving, I was back on my skis racing.
The town hall right behind our hotel in the heart of the City of Liberec.
The only way I can describe the feeling of skiing around after that sort of a time adjustment and exhausting week is.... drunk. I felt like I was looking through a pair of goggles where everything was almost delayed by two seconds. It was a wild feeling!! So, after blowing some of those poor feelings out of my system during the individual sprint the first day- I was ready to get back to some good feelings the second day. Since the second day was a team sprint, Ida and I got to combine efforts and put our skills to the test. Even after breaking her pole during the final exchange of the semi-finals, which included her skiing half way up the hill without a pole- we still managed to squeak our way into the finals. After practicing our exchanges a couple more times, and pumping each other up, we headed into the finals. To our surprise, each lap we moved further and further up the group. For the final three laps we were sitting in 3rd position, a place we would have never expected to be. Our our final exchange, again we sort of botched the tag. As Ida took off in the exchange zone full of excitement, it ended with her having to snow plow right before the end of the zone so I could jump out and tag her. With this small little set back, Ida took off in a fury, ready to catch back up to our position. After racing full speed around the loop now her sixth time- her legs struggled to flush out the instant excitement. Coming into the final climb, we slipped back a flew places... but only a few seconds. We ended up finishing in sixth- by far the best result the two of us have ever put together as a team. Even more encouraging, we skied the entire race in medal contention until 200 meters to go- so we are making huge progress! The last time we teamed up for a team sprint we finished 14th, not even advancing on to the finals! So it was a great way to start the year back in Europe!
A view over the city on the low part of the sprint course- FIS Photo
Ida holding a strong position during the team sprint- FIS photo
Following that we headed over to the land of the mountains- La Clusaz, France. When I arrived, I was reminded how much I love Europe and skiing here. We arrived early Monday- so we had a week to do some training in the beautiful Alps. The sunshine managed to bring out all the excitement and joy in all of us as we geared up for a weekend of racing.

Skiing in the Alps
Skiing with buddies in the sunshine! Liz Stephen photo
Saturday was a mass start classic race, and after spending the whole week skiing in clear, beautiful, cold weather- we woke up to a combination of rain and snow. When this happens... things generally get a bit tricky with the waxing. So, saturday brought a stressful day for the wax techs, and a day of racing that tested your patience and determination. As I walked up the hills with stilts, and braced myself for the grabbing on the downhills- I kept reminding myself that the one with the determination on this day is the one that will do well. At that time, I had the feeling I was the only one in this boat, but as I listened in the finish line- we must have looked like a bunch of beginners out there. Scraping our skis sideways and poles and butts out.. waiting for the grabbing snow. Even through all this mess, I was able to score my first European World Cup Distance Points, as I finished 28th- just in the points. So even through all the frustrations, it was a day of success for me.
Spectators lining the fences on the high turn in La Clusaz Mass Start- FIS photo
It was also a special day, because my boyfriend, who is from France, got to finally come watch me race in person. He has been following on TV, but it was nice he finally got to stand on the course and watch!
Alaskan and US cheers from Jo and his roommates
Some of the skiers from Jo's home town who have become my favorite French Fans!!
Sunday was a relay, but I hadn't skied fast enough the day before to make it on to the team- so Ida and I put on our cheering game faces, wrapped ourselves in American flags, and put our lungs to use!
Womans US Team
From there I took a short training break for five days in Meribel where my boyfriend lives and works in the winter. I have been visiting him here or the past three years, so I have started to really learn my way around. I always love this time, because it is a period for me to relax my mind, and enjoy skiing alone. For five days it was just me and the snow and the wild animals. Meribel is the largest alpine ski resort in the world... so you can imagine nordic skiing isn't very popular. With that said, the trails and grooming are great!! I swear, its like the little secret land. But this is the greatest way for me to recharge my battery and get a little personal time before jumping back into a good period of racing.
Running into a few of my ski instructor buddies who have become good fans over the years.
Good skiing and beautiful views!!
Taking advantage of gravity and hitting the slopes... making my legs burn in a new way.
I have also been breaking up my mornings by attending class at 5:30, three mornings a week. This means that most of my free time at the moment is filled with school work, and taking naps trying to catch up on my missed sleep. Fortunately, all my classes are super fun and the professors are so passionate that they do a really good job of keeping me awake and not letting me fall asleep at that hour of the morning.

And that brings me to now! I am currently living and training in the Olympic Athlete Village in Sochi, Russia. We have World Cup races here this weekend, so it has been incredibly interesting getting to know the way of the land, the culture, and the trails of Sochi! I tell you, it is a different scene way up here in the mountains of Russia! I look forward to trying out some racing this weekend!
Loading up baggage for our charter flight to Sochi
This is our form of transportation up here in the athlete village. We are literally perched on the top of an alpine hill, so vehicles are only limited to construction vehicles... and I have yet to figure out how those got up here!
The Gondola Ride up from the Black Sea to the mountains- Hoff photo
My ski tech, Randy Gibbs and I. Randy has been working hard getting to know the unique snow up here!!
skiing up one of the big hills into the stadium... I think we will get to ski this beast 6 times on Saturday...YES!!
Holly and I above the Biathlon Stadium.. it is huge!! Like a huge football stadium. The Nordic Stadium is temporary, so nothing set up yet.
Finding some time to ski in a skirt!! Thanks Skhoop for all the support!
One last exciting note from the past couple of weeks is that my brother and I both just recently got named to the World Championship Team in Val de Fiemme, Italy!! This has been a goal of mine all summer, but I started loosing site of it while I hit bump after bump throughout the summer and fall. After racing into form throughout the beginning part of the season- I was able to accomplish my original goal- so I really look forward to teaming up with 12 others for one of the strongest World Championship Teams ever!! These races will take action the last weeks of February, so we have two weekends of World Cup races between now and then.

Pure Excitement... what will Russia bring next? Liz photo

US National Championships

This past week has been one of the best weeks I have had to this day- for so many different reasons. National Championships are always a great experience and caries so much honor to take part in. I went into this week with expectations, but nothing specific. After spending most of my Christmas break trying to get the tendinitis in my foot back under control, again I was simply happy to be able to race!
(All Fasterskier photos)
Soph and I handing out hugs on the podium! :)
When I think back on this week though, there is two things that made it super special: Family and Team!

For two years, my family hasn’t been able to watch me race for various reasons. I was sick over Nationals last year, and frankly, I just haven’t done much racing near home! This year though, my parents have gotten to watch quite a bit. Every weekend my moms screaming voice and my dads soft encouragement has allowed me to dig a bit deeper. Since I was a very young child, my parents have been nothing but supportive and encouraging of our athletic dreams. They are the number one believers, and somehow they will do anything to help make it happen. This is something that I have learned to appreciate over the past few years, so to be able to walk up to my parents and give them a huge hug after winning a National Title, and see the excitement in their eyes…. It means the world! Not only that, my brother is doing the same. I have been training alongside Erik since a young child; lived with him, talked goals with him, encouraged him, beat him to the line a couple times, and just shared this joy of our sport. To see him start to truly shine this year is so exciting! To hear “And Erik Bjornsen takes the win” stirs up all the emotions inside. In a way, my family’s success is my own, shared success. On the other hand, it is still a constant competition between the two of us. Every day he has a better day than me.. it’s time to out-do him next time! So between our 7 medals we won at National Championships this year- you can imagine the Bjornsen Family went to bed with big smiles at nighttime! Not only the Bjornsen Family, but also all my relatives that have now started watching results, following live timing, and getting online in the crack of dawn to watch the European races on the internet. Thanks you guys for all the notes of encouragement and cheering into the computer!

My mom nothing but smiles after my classic win! (All photos Fasterskier photos)
Erik B and Erik Flora after Erik's first National Title... tears of joy!
The other thing that made this week really special was my team. Both teams, my US Ski Team and my APU Team. During the beginning of the week, the US Ski Team was over in Europe racing in the Tour de Ski; the most challenging ski race in the world. With seven races in nine days… it’s a test of fitness, heart, and determination! Those girls were truly inspirational and kept me challenging myself this week. Each one of them had more than a dozen PR’s or great moments. Not only that, day after day, when the exhaustion set in, they continued to charge! So, every time I felt the pain in my own races; all I had to think about was those girls over there and an entirely different universe of pain!

Skate Sprint Podium

And second my APU Team. These past three years with the APU team have been incredible. Each year, the team steps up, and new girls start knocking on the door. Right now we have our two strongest girls in Europe, yet we have a true presence on the National Circuit! Racing sprint races and mass starts, we often line up alongside each other with the knowledge of each and every one of these girls strengths. Instead of taking advantage of this though, we work together and challenge each other to a higher level. We race as competitors but work as teammates! I have to say, my favorite moment of this week was sweeping the podium in the skate distance race. Rosie Brennan, one of my best friends and housemates won her first National Title- and Kate Fitz and I were on the other two steps. The three of us all got each other there though! We challenged the heck out of each other every day in training throughout the off-season, and we encouraged each other the weeks leading into the races that we could do it! Team means the world in an individual sport; because they are your encouragement, your partners, and your greatest competitors.
APU Sweep
APU ladies going to the point of exhaustion at the finish line! 
And the final piece of this team, yet the most important is the support staff- the coaches and the techs. This year APU brought 28 people, so you can imagine the work that had to be done! You can imagine these guys busted their butts testing all day, all evening, and all morning! Every single race I started I had great skis- along with the rest of the 23 APU athletes. Meanwhile Erik Flora is splitting his time between testing, racing around the course with Mikey Matteson for “world championships of the world”, and spending time making every person on our team believe they can be great! Erik has a unique skill in this; he knows how to encourage a group, but he also knows how to get them to truly believe it. He doesn’t just do this during racing though, he does it year around, every single day of training. So thanks to Erik Flora- this was a huge week for him as a coach and he deserves all the credit in the world!

So with two new National Titles in my pocket, and two “runner-up” titles, I am leaving my most successful Nationals week for the next adventure; my World Cup Season. I am actually sitting on the airplane right now flying to Liberic, Czech Rebuplic for a Classic Sprint and Team Sprint this weekend. As you can imagine, this is quite a quick turn around, so we will see how it goes over. With 15 out of the 28 athletes staying in our house last week getting sick… I am also putting my immune system to the true test! Lots of Cold-Eeze mixed with lots of hydration- I sure hope that is the magic to keep the bug away!
Joy across the line!
Racing for the finish!
Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement and cheers this week. I can’t say thank you enough, but it means the world!

On to the next adventures!!

Home, Home on the Range

For the past ten days, I got to go home to the Methow Valley and spend some time with my family for the holidays. Skiing is challenging, because once you get to a certain level... you no longer have the time to be able to go home for the holidays... but instead you spend Christmas in some hotel in Europe waiting for the approaching Tour de Ski.

So with the Tour de Ski in my future, I am truly cherishing every Christmas I get to go home and spend some time with my family. This year, my sister was able to come home as well, so we had a full Bjornsen Family Holiday. With it snowing nearly a foot every day- Christmas was truly in the air.
My Mom and I enjoying the powder and beautiful day!
Family Time
My sister brought home her boyfriend to join the holidays too!
These ten days were also a time to squeeze a few "home activities" into the schedule. First was some meetings with the local media. Cross country skiing is a challenging circuit to follow, and between all the different races in a new country with a new technique every weekend.. then all the points, etc., it becomes challenging to follow. Some of the local media has been good at trying to follow, but we wanted to take time to sit down with a few of them to explain what exactly we are doing and how. Both the Methow Grist and the Omak Chronicle put together great articles about what we are doing, and the goals we are chasing.

Methow Grist
Thanks Karen West for putting in all the effort over the past years.

Omak Chronicle Article- I can't find it online, but this is an idea. Thanks Al for taking time as well!
The other thing we got to do was put on our annual Cascade Challenge Camp. This year was exciting with nearly 50 kids who were fired up to go skiing and learn about some of the important steps of becoming a ski racer. I was impressed with how kids were even more receptive this year than last. We tried to switch things up with new activities from the previous years. Starting out with a ski, some drills and a few games; we then came inside and learned a few key lessons. Erik started with talking about post workout nutrition, and the importance of fueling your body with good stuff. He then went on to give a wax demonstration and teach the young skiers how important it is to take care of you skis. Then I went on to explain the importance of setting goals and writing them down. Each kid got to set a personal goal, write down the steps in reaching those goals, and of course the challenges and obstacles. It was fun to see these kids come up with goals like keeping their room clean, or try not to read during class, etc. These are all important goals to have as a young child.
The majority of our group
Erik letting one of the young boys try.
Some good old Power Bars!
We finished with a little trivia about the US Team and its recent success. Erik and I have been collecting extra small items for this very purpose, so a couple kids got to leave with new racing suits, jackets, and pants from the National Team. And finally we had autograph and poster time at the end.
The Dietz girls rocking the World Cup Bibs!
I just recently got this picture in my email. Jules has been rockin this bib all day every day... even on the slopes. I love it!!!
Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it an enjoyable day. I still remember the days that Heidi Rhinehart used to ski with me for just 10 minutes, and how much it inspired me and meant to me. And now, her kids were participating in my camp... so I love how what comes around goes around. It is truly rewarding and special for Erik and I to share with the young skiers what we do, and how we got there! Soon enough, they will be doing the same thing for the next generation!!

Getting some posters!
Max and his new uniform.!! He knew the location of Erik's first World Cup race, so won this prize!
Erik giving a talk after the ski
So after a quick, packed ten days of family time- I am now at the next venue, here in Park City, Utah for the National Championships. Races start in two days, so we are starting to gear up for race time! Last year I was on the sidelines due to a Christmas bug I caught... so I am pretty stoked to feel healthy and ready to start racing!

Happy New Years to Everyone! I hope the new year brings lots of health and happiness.

World Cup #1- Quebec City

I just finished my first weekend of World Cup racing this season in Quebec City. After coming off the Supertour for the first couple weekends, it was quite the warm welcoming back! The City Sprinting atmosphere is pretty darn exciting... and having that atmosphere in the US made for one of of my favorite weekends of racing ever.
A view of the course from the top of our hotel building
Me in third, headed over the top of one of the little hills in the course. (fasterskier photo)
Talking skis with one of our techs, Mikey Matteson. So fun to have him join us for the WC's!! (Flyingpoint photo)
With all the athletes staying in one hotel, right across from the venue, things were exciting from the start. It was nice to see many of my friends that I hadn't seen since last season, and more exciting, they were in North America! Many of these skiers had never even been to North America, so I was loving watching their reaction. To be honest though, Quebec City is much different than anywhere I have been. We were racing right in front of the Parliament Building, so every day we would walk around the old city and explore the area.
The race literally started in the gate into the old city- This is me at the start of the quarterfinals. (Eric Packer photo)
I came away from the weekend very pleased with the racing. Friday was a team sprint, so I teamed up with one of my best friends on the circuit and my long time competitor, Sophie Caldwell. Sophie and I have been racing each other since we were 14 years old, and all along people can't keep our names straight. I always get called Sophie and she always gets called Sadie. So the skiing world has simply referred to us as SODIE for the past couple of years when we are together. When I heard I would be sprinting with Sophie, I was stoked for our SODIE debut. We raced very well in the Semi-finals- sat in the pack with six other teams (3 of them US teams) for the entire race, but unfortunately I got tied up with one of my other teammates in the exchange zone, causing me to fall to the ground, and loose a fair amount of time. With it being the last exchange, we didn't have enough time to try to catch up unfortunately, so we just missed advancing.  I was super pleased though, and really impressed with Sophie's first World Cup race. The day went on to becoming history though as my other teammates, Kikkan and Jessie went on to win the first ever team gold medal.
Trying to find the best path in a large group of people. (Fasterskier photo)
Lots of spectators and lots of tight skiing. This is me in the back following some Norwegians and Sophie. (Fasterskier photo)
Day two was the individual sprint around the same course. After practicing it three times in the race the day before, I was excited for the individual race. I ended up finishing 15th, my best result ever. The heats didn't go as well as planned, but I was still very excited with the day. The course was really tight, with little room to pass- so I got good practice following the girls trying to squeeze my way in every chance. Unfortunately I got a little tangled in the final straight away and finished sixth in my heat.
Racing for the finish line. As you can see, everyone fighting for the same spot. (fasterskier photo)
Just off the line- Norway vs. USA. I am number 15. (fasterskier photo) 
Look at all those awesome fans in the background!! Thanks everyone. (Flyingpoint photo)

The one thing that really stood out this past weekend was the incredible atmosphere. There were so many US fans, and so many US flags flying. As I raced around the course all I could hear was screaming and my name. In every city sprint I have ever done, there are always tons of fans- but never once have I gotten to hear my name screaming across the course. Thanks to all the college teams and fans from the east coast that came up. You guys really made it one of the best racers I have ever been part of.
Even with all the chaos surrounding you... with five minutes to go, you have to relax your mind and find your confidence. (flyingpoint photo)

I was also having a really fun time watching the enthusiasm on all the faces of my teammates that had their first World Cup races this weekend. I am just so excited for them all. A city sprint is pretty much the most motivating way to start a season. It really makes you hungry for more. Here is a quote that one of my teammates, Lauren Fritz had on her facebook that really made me smile:

"In high school my coach told me "If you want to race with the big dogs, you can't train with the puppies." 
Today I trained on the World Cup sprint course surrounded by the world's best Nordic skiers.
Wicked fun course in the city, can't wait to put on a bib Saturday."

The APU Team the night before many of their first races... plus Michael Henrich who joined us for massage this week. 
I just now arrived in Canmore, Alberta- where I will be racing thursday, saturday, and sunday for another World Cup weekend. I can't wait because my parents are finally going to watch their first world cup, which will be so exciting for them.

More news to come soon!

A great video from the team sprint day when the girls made some history.

Period 1 Racing

For the past three weeks I have been on the road with the APU team competing in my first period of racing. At the end of last season, I had a plan of racing the entire World Cup Season, but after a summer and fall plagued with injuries, I was forced to step back and find the best way to approach the season. This meant racing domestically for the first couple weeks of the season in West Yellowstone and Bozeman.

Doing nothing but aqua jogging and hiking uphill for the majority of the training season, I went into my first races having no expectations. My goal was simply to be able to race. I wanted to stand on the start line with a bib on, and have nothing but positive vibes, knowing two months ago, I was still struggling to be on my rollerskis for 30 minutes of training.

As my US Ski Team teammates left for Europe early this month, I got the same feeling I did over the summer when they took off for their Sweden Camp. I felt this pit in my stomach, “why can’t I be there”. But again, I had to convince myself I was doing what was best for the long term.
Cheering on my teammates for Relay day from afar!
Joining up with my APU teammates these past two weekends has been great. Waking up in the morning and seeing the results that my other teammates were producing on the World Cup was incredible. The buzz among our team, and the newfound determination was incredibly apparent. It’s as if this light popped on in all us, convincing us, “yes, we can do this”. We all felt the vibe, and we all challenged ourselves to step up our game one step further.

The racing for this first period got a little funny. First, there was no snow, which forced us to race up on the Plateau, around 7,500 feet… where the air is thin and the trails only seem to go uphill. Then as the races moved to Bozeman, each new race was forced to be moved further up the resort as the snow melted away much too fast. In the end, all the races were still able to happen, thanks to a huge amount of shoveling and extra effort that went into the events.
leading out a pack during the mass start- faster skier photo
I went into the first race, a 9k skate uphill with not an expectation in the world. My goal was simply to keep my head in a positive place the whole race. I knew the challenges I had this summer were not setting me up to feel like my normal self racing, so I simply had the goal of keeping the positive self talk. Somehow with the lack of air, and the “racing in the woods” atmosphere, I was able to finish in a decent place.

As one of our teammates yelled in the race, "Who really wants it"- fasterskier photo

After finishing that first race, the confidence and natural feelings came back. The thing that came trickling in was belief. Believing in myself was easily looked over as I faced all the challenges coming my way. Through this entire summer, I got countless emails and calls from my coaches and teammates reminding me that I had to believe that I could come out of this challenge, but its easier said than done. As I talked with my teammates on Skype after their historic podium in the relay, they told me about the one thing they kept reminding each other of during that race. “You have to believe you can do it”, so that’s what I have tried to focus on during this beginning part of the season. Even with the highs and lows that every season brings- it’s important to start the season remembering that I must first believe in myself, and then the door opens up.
Leading off one of the skate sprint heats- Lauren Fritz photo
Skate Sprinting- Erin Phillips photo
Leading off the start- Erin Phillips photo
And Sophie sneaks by with her special moves at the finish AGAIN!

So, back to the racing, here are a few highlights from the past few weeks.

1.     EBJ- my brother has been racing on fire! For the first couple races, somehow we kept getting the same place. We used to do this when we were younger too. Every running race we ever entered, somehow we always came out in the same place. I guess in this case its good news, since we are now both sitting as Supertour leaders, which means we both will be traveling to period 2 World Cups. I am supe excited for his World Cup Debut, it’s a whole new world for him now!

Erik dropping the pack- Fasterskier Photo
2.     My races somehow all seemed to build from the start. 4th place, 2nd place, 1st, and 1st.

A tired finish by the end of the race- Fasterskier photo
3.     Kikkan and I have somehow convinced the world that aqua jogging is the new training method. I can’t wait to see everyone try it!
4.     The APU team had a breakthrough as a whole. There will be 9 athletes attending the World Cups. Almost everyone on the team had a personal best in the past two weeks of racing!

Sweeping the podium with my teammates for the classic sprint! Erin Phillips photo
Lining up for the finals with Lauren Fritz who had a breakthrough race in the classic sprint! Yeah Lauren.
5.     APU got some new wax techs this year. The new young boys lived up to the challenge, and rocked! They were up until 1PM every evening and up at 4AM every morning. The hard work paid off though because we had rockin’ skis every race!
6.     My parents got to come watch the Bozeman races. They haven’t gotten to see me race in two years after being sick for Nationals last year, so that was pretty exciting!
7.     My injuries were able to stay in a good place for these first races, which gives me hope for full recovery! Yehoo
8.     I am currently sitting on the plane traveling to Quebec City for my first World Cups of the season. There will be a city sprint this weekend in Quebec City around the Parliament Building, team sprint and individual sprint. City sprints are by far the most exciting World Cup Racing gets. For a day you get to feel like a celebrity skiing along the man made snow laid down along the streets. As people are screaming and trying to reach out to touch you behind the fences; you somehow find one new level of motivation and determination to be the best. I couldn’t be more excited all my APU teammates get to experience this, I can only imagine this is going to lift the bar for our training group one step higher!

And... this is what we will be sprinting around!
So with that- its back to joining up with the US Ski Team, and the rest of the speedy Europeans. Lots of exciting times coming soon!

2nd Annual Cascade Challenge Camp

Erik and I will be home again this Christmas- so we are calling all J3, J4, and J5 skiers that will be in the Methow Valley on Sunday, December 23 to come and join us for some skiing. Last year we had tons of fun getting to know some of the young stars from around the region, so we have been looking forward to the Challenge Camp all year again!

We will be doing lots of fun activities including drills, skiing, a little education, and more. It is free, but we are putting a limit at 50 people this year- so be the first ones to sign up!

Click the link below, and you will be able to find the sign up sheet.
Sign Up Link

There will be waivers to sign day of, so please bring a guardian into the Mazama Community Center to quickly take care of that.

What to bring: skate skis, a lunch, warm clothes, water, and a big smile!

This year Erik and I will be doing a special trivia at the end of the day on US Skiing. There will be lots of fun prizes, so remember to study up on what has been happening in US Skiing in the past couple of years.

See the poster below for more information.

We can't wait!

The Kikkan Effect

Fasterskier wrote a great article about the the direction of sport in our country. It is motivated by the Kikkan Effect. A great article to check out.

The Kikkan Effect


Since getting back from Park City Camp, Anchorage has yet to get any snow. Of course, when every skier is looking for moisture, the sun finally decides to show in AK. With no snow, the temperatures haven't hesitated to resemble the typical Alaskan weather at this time of year. As temps dropped down into the single digits, rollerskiing gets less fun! Pounding freezing cold pavement isn't exactly the nicest thing for your joints. But, with a little extra clothes, and a longer than usual warm up- we made it happen.

One day we were rollerskiing at a local park, where all the ducks have decided to reside around a half frozen pond. They also have chosen to poop all over the trail. So, aside from the trail being half frozen, our skis were also being stopped and tripped up by frozen pooo. It provided for some laughing, a little swearing, and fortunately only one fall that didn't end up too bad.

frozen poo and lots of ducks!
Last weekend was also the annual APU ski swap, where all the elite athletes pass down our great equipment to the younger generation of skiers. This is one of the neatest qualities about this elite/junior/devo team. A great pair of skis never leaves the team as someone grows out of them, it just keeps living down the chain. The ski swap is also a time that Kikkan takes the opportunity to clear out her closet and raffle off all her stuff to the young kids. This is one of the most exciting things I have ever watched. Kikkan manages to accumulate some pretty awesome gear, so the kids get called out by number, have 10 seconds to pick something on the table, and then the next person goes. It's a pretty awesome thing Kikkan does- and I am sure that 90% of those kids mark the day on the calendar, it's that exciting!!
Kikkan and the surrounding group!
Marit Flora with her awesome new hat made by one of the skiers on the Swedish Team.
Oscar Flora with psyched on his new get-up!
On that same day we had one of the young devo team boys and Rob Whitney put on a fundraiser run for Mary Robicheaux, a young devo on our team that got hit by a car while she was biking. Mary has been in the hospitals for the past two months as she is learning to walk again. She suffered a fractured skull, many broken bones in both legs, a broken spine, and a tough road to recovery. She has been amazing though as she has continued to improve from day to day with a whole lot of heart. Anyways, one of her friends, Luke Jager headed up a running race for the community. He set up a little 5k course that weaved over logs, through trees, around in circles... you name it. It was pretty fun. It was amazing to see the community come together, with around 300 participants, who managed to raise $14,000 for Mary's recovery.
Some boys with some awesome outfits and great spirit! 
Some of the APU skiers at the race.
The Skhoop Goddess, and some of my greatest supporters. Osa and John Lapkass
So, this leads to last weekend. On Wednesday last week, I headed up to Fairbanks for a little on-snow time. Since Fairbanks has about 3 inches of snow, our team was off to find it. This weekend is also the First Tracks Camp, where all the skiers of Alaska group together for the first "on-snow" camp of the season. It is pretty awesome, they all get to chase all the elite skiers around during training, and then there are a bunch of talks set up from Nutritionists, Health Specialists, NCAA skiers and coaches, and the World Cup Team. With everyone in the same place, everyone gets to take advantage of the others around them. This is the first time I have attended one of these First Tracks Camp, but it is pretty amazing. Thanks Matt  Hajdukavich and Challenge Life Alaska for an awesome time!
The First Tracks Crew with the bright colored instructors in front. Holly Brooks photo.
Dozens of 3 foot long Subway Sandwiches each day. Thanks Subway for donating them! Best after skiing lunch.
Thanks Dave Edic for letting us crash at your house!
Happy Halloween Cake!
The final day, we celebrated Halloween and dressed up in costumes for our ski. I was doing intervals this day, so it meant throwing down pretty hard in a pink onesie suit with a white cotton t-shirt on top. It provided for some entertainment though for sure. Kikkan and Holly also organized a "world-cup field" for the final day where they brought all their race suits from other countries they have accumulated, and then raffled off who got to wear them the final day. The kids also got to wear world cup bibs on top, so it was pretty hilarious to watch the "foreigners" skiing around.
Kikkan, Holly and I feeling the spirit.
Ripping out some intervals in the silly get-up.
The World Cup Field! Holly Brooks photo.
We also managed to squeeze in a Fast and Female event the final day. Thanks Becca for organizing. Here, a Fast and Female cheer!

After some fun Zumba dancing, stretching it out!

So after four days of sweet skiing, we had to head home for some good "home time" before leaving for the winter. This is also the hardest part. Trying to get your life truly organized before being gone from your home for potentially 5 months!! Yikes. In the mean time, if you see me on the side of the road dancing... I am just doing the snow dance!! C'mon snow.

Park City Camp Week 2

The second week of Park City Camp got more exciting as we started adding in some more intensity, and speeding things up. The weather started to cool down, so things began resembling winter a bit more.
The group doing some DP intervals- Matt Whitcomb photo
Good training on the 2002 Olympic Course and this years Nationals course.
Matt Whitcomb photo.
Erik and Tad going neck and neck on some classic speeds- Matt Whitcomb photo.

As always the week was busy with fitting in lots of things. I was lucky enough to be able to use Tad Elliots bikes for some of the recovery workouts (who double's as a professional biker as well as professional nordic skier). It made for some entertaining off day adventures. I haven't gotten to do much biking in the past few years, so it was pretty exciting to rip around on some trails as well as the road.
Holly and I headed out... Holly with her wardrobe in tow. Many times we were so busy we packed for the whole day of activities when we left the house in the morning... which meant several sets of workout clothes and more.
Biking on one of the new paths that was put in near the Center of Excellence
Deer Valley
I also got in some good times doing aqua jogging intervals in the tide pool with Kikkan. I have been splitting my intervals between skis and in the pool. This way I can do more intensity while still slowly introducing it back on land. One afternoon we did 30 mins of 30-30's... which turned into one challenging 30 minutes. By turning on the current, and tying ourselves to the wall, we were able to ramp the intensity up high. Without a real ability to gauge our effort... at 15 minutes I felt like a sick goldfish that starts floating sideways in the fish bowl... I was cooked! Turns out you have to pace yourself even in aqua jogging. It has provided some good entertainment as well as some good motivation having Kikkan jogging along beside me though.

Kikkan was multi-tasking and working on her shooting skills at the same time.
During the busy week of training we also managed to fit in a fun little fundraiser at Mike Engels house. It was super fun to meet the many supporters of the US Ski Team around Park City. It was also neat to see how much they had followed the whole nordic squad over the past year, and how much excitement they had!
Some of the many supporters, Kikkan, and the Crystal Globe
By the end of the week I ended up parting my way with the US Team. The Alaskans headed home for some local snow, while the remainder of the National Team headed up to Canmore for some skiing. Unfortunately Anchorage is cold and clear in the forecast (which means no snow)... but fortunately Fairbanks has been getting some moisture. The whole APU team is planning on heading up there Wednesday and doing a little four day camp for "First Tracks". Last year First Tracks was started where all the skiers from around Alaska gather and train together for the first tracks of the season. This year, we will also be incorporating a Fast and Female event for all the young girls. I hear there is a few inches of snow, and it is good enough to ski, so hopefully it is still there for us next week!!
I also got a chance to see one of our old teammates and a good friend Morgan Smyth... here is her adorable new dog that Holly may have brought home with her to keep.
Some sweet sunrises in the morning from our hotel room up in Empire.
On another note, if you are in the Anchorage area, tomorrow morning starting at 10AM, there will be a running race in support of Mary Robicheaux, a young junior on our team who got hit by a car while she was biking this spring. She has been in the hospital going through many surgeries and recovery for the past two months, so the APU crew is putting on a race to raise some funds for her recovery. The race will be held around University Lake on the APU trails, so head out if you are in Anchorage.

The US Womans Team and coaches- US Team photo
Thank you Carlile for Sponsoring for signing for another year!

And finally, 25 more days for the National Nordic Foundation fundraiser. The coolest part about this fundraiser is that some anonymous donor has agreed to match $5 every dollar raised. This means that every $25 donations goes a long ways.
NNF Campaign

In the meantime hopefully it begins to snow! This morning I did DP intervals in the 17 degree weather... slamming my arms into the pavement pretty hard... yikes!!

One more thing. Check out this hilarious video the US Swimming Team made on their way to the Olympics. Those guys know how to go fast and have fun!

Park City US Team Camp, Week 1

I have just finished my first week of meeting up with the National Team, testing and training for the week. I still have one more week down here in PC, but a lot has already happened.
Doing some training along the APU Ladies. Thanks to Rob Whitney for all the photos!
First, I did some testing, which we complete every spring and fall.  Testing includes treadmill tests, strength tests, body composition tests, agility tests, checking in with the Physical Therapist, blood work, etc. Basically we assess our bodies, our strengths, our improvements, and our weaknesses. This year, I added dental into my regime, so I had one more appointment to add to the busy week. (Thanks to Funk Dental for donating your time!) Because I have been injured so much this summer, and haven't done a whole lot of max effort training, I opted out of doing the treadmill tests this fall. Otherwise, I was still able to assess all other areas for improvements etc. I saw some improvements, some weaknesses that I still have time to work on, but overall it went well.

(I am the one in the pink helmet in all these photos)

The large group on top of East Canyon.
Second, I was finishing one of my classes, taking finals this week, so I was working a lot on that as well. I took two condensed courses this year. One 4 week course, one 7 week course, and two semester classes. This means that the seven week course had the perfect landing on this busy week. Luckily I managed to get my final paper written, about "are there too many nonprofits in this day and age?". After a great deal of research and analysis, I made a decision on this question, but since it takes such a huge explanation, I will leave that up to the imagination.

Third, I had to head down to SLC for an MRI on my wrist. About five weeks ago, I fell on my bike on the wet ground and really hurt my wrist. I went into the doctor, got some x-rays and left with a cast for ten days. The doctors were really concerned I had broken my scafoid, but x-rays don't show enough, so  I waited it out for ten days to see if there was any evidence in bone growth showing explaining a break. They decided that everything looked good, so they sent me off and asked me back for a check-up right before coming to PC. Because there are so many doctors that work with US Team athletes for free down here, I waited to check up until I got here. Unfortunately an MRI showed that I do have a fracture in one of the bones in my wrist, just on the opposite side of my wrist as my Scafoid. I am going to see the specialist on Monday to find out what the deal is. I don't know what this means.... but I do know what thing for sure, it's not going to stop me!

On a positive note, training is going super well, and it has been great to mix back in with all the speedsters of the US. The SMS T2 team, Sun Valley, APU, and a few other athletes are joining the US Team, so it has made for some great workouts. The weather has been amazing, with exception to today... our first day of rain.
Some Beautiful Training!
Some great coaching here in PC. APU, US Ski Team, US Development Team... good stuff!
It also happens to be the time of year that National Nordic Foundation runs their annual Drive for 25 Fundraiser. It is a fundraiser where all the athletes of the US work together at one common goal of raising money for all the incoming athletes as well as the top athletes. By donating $25, you join the rest of the supportive community in getting one step closer to our goals. I am an ambassador this year with a goal of raising $250, so check out my page for more information. Please consider joining the force and helping the youngsters have their first races overseas as well as our world cup athletes win medals.
Sadie NNF Campaign

I also wrote up a little article about what NNF has done for me over the past years, and how US Skiing wouldn't be where it was if it weren't for the support of National Nordic Foundation and the many supporters.
Exciting Times

From here I have one more week of training here in Park City. Aside from training and testing, we have also gotten to have some team meetings. Our USSA director, Joey Caterinichio, just recently returned from Sochi, Russia, the venue for the 2014 Olympics. She gave an update on courses, the pre-olympic year World Cup- which we will attend this winter, and the transportation, etc. Exciting times for sure!!

Thanks to Rob Whitney for all the great photos!!

More soon!