Tag Archive | "blog"

Blog Roundup w/Brooks, Stephen, The Hoff, and Kershaw

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July 04, 2013 – Catch up with Holly Brooks, who is celebrating her Fourth of July differently this year. Plus, Liz Stephen looks back on the recent Western REG Camp, Noah Hoffman reveals his secret desire to be a track runner, and Devon Kershaw checks in from Canmore.

Holly Brooks
Hard Decisions, Obvious Decisions
This upcoming July 4th will be spent entirely different than my last couple. For the past four years I’ve raced Mt. Marathon in Seward, Alaska. Mount Marathon – they claim, is the Nation’s second oldest foot race behind the Boston Marathon and this year will be the 86th running.

It’s a tradition for Alaskans on Independence Day and the small town of Seward swells from 3,000 people to 30,000 thousand overnight. While only 500 or so people actually compete in the race, the rest crowd main street eating ice cream, socializing, and watching the race unfold. For those unfamiliar with the format, the race starts on main street, runs 3,022 feet directly up a mountain, rounds a rock at the top and descends 3,022 feet.

Read more here.

Liz Stephen
REG and ELITEAM
This week was full of excitement with the Regional Elite Group (REG) camp in town. This is a group that each region of the US has, and they get together for a training camp each summer. From these camps, USSA picks some athletes to come to the National Elite Group (NEG) Camp. It was really great to have these awesome athletes in town to train with and get to know some of the up and coming athletes that will represent our next generation of US skiers. Read more here.

Noah Hoffman
Track Workout
I secretly want to be a 5,000 and 10,000 meter runner. Every year my coach allows me to do one track workout to indulge my fantasies but also probably to remind me that I am not even close to fast enough to be a runner. Today was that workout. On Thursday morning I’m running a 5 kilometer road race here in Park City, so today was a little tune-up for that race. It may be my only running race of the year. My coach allowed me to plan today’s workout based on pace instead of heart rate, the same way a runner plans his workouts. Unfortunately I am full of myself and thought I could run faster than I can. Read more here.

Devon Kershaw
Kicking Back Here in Canmore, It’s Raining, I Can Be a Bit “Hippiesh”
It’s here – “monsoon-June” has rubbed its wet, stinky glove right in Canmore’s face and the rollerski boots and wet pavement are ubiquitous reminders that the Rockies “wet season” is upon us yet again. I thought perhaps Lenny’s calming influence would have had an effect – but apparently not.

As you can probably tell, I’m reaching a little for material this week. That’s a good thing. It’s been a lot of “normal Canmore living” here these last seven days. Aside from some wet training (and only “some” – for the most part it’s been fantastic weather-wise actually since I’ve been back from Bend/Tremblant/Toronto), life is ticking along in a standard way. Read more here.

Blog Roundup w/ Diggins, The Hoff, Stephen and SMSXC + Bjornsen & Gaiazova

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June 24, 2013 – Check out the latest news from US skiers in training for the upcoming Olympic season. Jessie Diggins has bid adieu to her adventures in Park City and is headed to Stratton, VT; Noah Hoffman celebrated Summer Soltice Swedish style and contested the second annual U.S. Ski Team Sufferfest uphill road bike race at Sundance; Liz Stephen returned from Norway and now back in Utah she fills us in on her bro on Mt. Denali, Sufferfest and her favourite restaurant in Park City, Vinto; plus SMS Nordic reports on its first Eastern REG camp and Sadie Bjornsen gives us the scoop on the sun, beaches, rivers, paddling and rodeos Alaskan-style…

Jessie Diggins
Last couple days in the Wasatch
This is as close to home as I’ll get in the next month; a 2.5-hour layover in the Minneapolis airport! But that’s ok because I’m going from one awesome place to another; I’ve just left Park City and am en route to Stratton, where I’ll rejoin my club teammates that I haven’t seen in way too long!

Before I left Park City, I wanted to go on an adventure OD – a fun long workout that wasn’t directly related to roller skiing. So Cork and I hiked up Mount Timpanogos, the second highest peak in the Wasatch mountain range.
Read more here.

Noah Hoffman
Sufferfest
I went up to my teammate Liz Stephen’s house last night to celebrate Midsummer, a Swedish (European) holiday on the summer solstice. (We know we were a day late.) Liz really likes Sweden and can see herself living there someday. She made us a Swedish meal for the occasion. She recruited our coach Jason Cork to make the bulle (Swedish Pastry). Read more here.

SMS Nordic
Eastern REG Camp Update #1
Everyone arrived at SMS for our REG camp yesterday and settled in with a run, dinner and a short intro meeting. Today we started to get down to business.

USST coach Bryan Fish led the group through a V2 technique progression that started with… V2 with no poles….(6 repeats of a 15 second section)… Read more here.

Liz Stephen
Sunday Sundance Sufferfest
I’m not sure if you have noticed the super moon the last few nights, but it has been amazing.  Check it out tonight if you get a chance and haven’t seen it, as last night once the sun went down I couldn’t believe how bright my living room was with moonshine!  As I was looking at it, I was actually thinking about my brother, Andy, who for the last month has been in Alaska guiding trips for the American Alpine Institute (AAI) up Mt. Denali!  I realized last night, as I was admiring the moon from 8,200 feet, where I live, how much more amazing it must be to see it at 14,000 feet, which is where he and his team currently are on his second trip up the mountain in a month.  The last trip he led his team summited, but he was not able to, as one of the clients fell ill with altitude sickness and he stayed with her at 17,200 feet.  He is hoping to summit this time up, though he has assured me that, while summiting would of course be incredible, just being on the mountain and doing what he loves, is cool enough. Read more here.

Sadie Bjornsen
Summer is HERE!
What is summer in Alaska? I didn’t even know it existed. I can remember about 3 total sunny weeks that I have experienced in Alaska where I break out my shorts and tank tops. That’s why it’s always such a miracle when the heat makes its way up here! While we were at our camp in Bend I kept seeing pictures from Anchorage of people skiing in shorts and sports bras and I was worried I had missed my opportunity, but sure enough- when I got back, summer was still here! As amazing as the sun is in Alaska, it also has its challenges. I always get this feeling that when it is sunny, I have to be outside as much as possible. I want to do my training outside, eat my meals outside, do my homework outside, and do any form of activity outside…. but that doesn’t work so well. Read more here.

Dasha Gaiazova
Summer is HERE!
The Olympics are a scant 8 months away and I’m excited to be sharing my training and preparations progress with you as I make every workout count on the journey to Sochi. When compared to my last-minute Vancouver 2010 qualification, being already qualified for Sochi allows me to shift the focus entirely to performing on the Olympic race day and not worry about the qualification races along the way. It makes my purpose feel so simple and that’s just the way I like it… read more here.

 

Diggins Report – Pics from Park City

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June 19, 2013 (Park City, UT) – For once, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking! Here’s what we’ve been up to in Park City the past few days full of hiking, biking, swimming, pasta… and whole lot more.

Sargent Report – Kauai in Pictures

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May 10, 2013 – Growing up, the Sargent family vacations were backpacking, skiing, or camping trips, which always involved packed itineraries, cold climates, paddling around another lake, or summiting one more mountain.  I was forever envious of my friends who traveled to Florida and just sat on the beach.  This year, since I didn’t need to rush back to school as soon as the ski season finished, my big sister Elsa and I decided to go on a tropical vacation together.  We chose the Hawaiian Island of Kauai… Read more and see lots of pics HERE.

Diggins Report – Freak Snowstorms… and Car Troubles

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May 03, 2013 – Okay, what is UP with snow on May 2…? And not just a dusting of it – 6.5 inches in my backyard! A half-hour’s drive North of Afton there wasn’t any snow at all, and down by Redwing they got about a foot. This is weird.

I went out to the park today (the Afton State Park, where they don’t groom but you can break your own trail and poach the downhill slopes of Afton Alps) and had a really fun ski. It was slow going and the snow brought down more than a few trees, so there was a lot of ducking going on while cruising downhill.

I was debating whether or not to post about my “car troubles”, but since no real lasting damage was done, I decided… why not? I already write about most everything else going on in my life.

This was two spring snowstorms ago, on April 18th. It started out as icy rain, which quickly froze and started turning to snow. I wasn’t psyched about driving in it in the first place, but I needed to get my little sister from the bus stop, so I decided I’d be fine if I just drove slow. So I got my sister and headed home.

But we weren’t fine. Neither was the car.

The annoying this is, I thought I was doing everything right. I had both hands on the wheel, was going super slow, wasn’t on my phone, ect. But at the top of a hill about a mile and a half from home, I drove under some trees where the rain had frozen and must have tapped my brakes at exactly the wrong time. The car started to skid, and I panicked, and probably made it worse by overadjusting.

We went off the road and hit a tree going sideways, scraping along before coasting into a cornfield. The windshield cracked, the two left windows shattered, the side airbags deployed and the frame bent inwards. If we had gone off the road three feet later, we wouldn’t have hit anything and been fine, but if we had gone off the side three feet earlier, we would have been seriously hurt. As it was, Mackenzie’s side of the car was completely pristine and she was shaken up but fine, and although my side looked wrecked I was also untouched except for a few small cuts from the glass all over me.

I was actually able to drive the car out of the ditch, but since the airbags went off and all, it was decided that the car was totaled. Luckily, our insurance was great and we were able to get a new car. The only lasting damage is this: the song “Radioactive” was playing when we hit the tree and now everytime I’m driving and the song comes on the radio, I get a sudden wave a panic and have to change the station. Super weird and annoying, because I loved that song. But life goes on!

I guest coached the strength workout today for Loppet Nordic Racing, which was fun. They were a really motivated group and it was cool to share new ideas and have everyone try them out.

Visiting Podiumwear in the cities was a real treat – I got to see what new fabrics and designs are coming out soon! Luckily I’m writing, not talking, so I don’t accidentally spill the secrets :)

I also got to kayak in a pool as part of a relay – the YMCA challenge games in Red Wing, MN. I was part of the Red Wing Slumberland Furniture team, and it was suprisingly challenging to navigate a turn around a buoy in a narrow lane!

Kershaw Report – Spring 2013

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April 22, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – The 2012/13 racing season is now long over. The snow, clinging desperately to the mountains, rocks and trees, is in deep discussions, begging to let go, turn to water, spurring the “actual” beginning of next season – one of growth, new beginnings and if you are me – debilitating allergies: spring.

Spring is losing here in Canmore as of now. Snowstorms still blow through the valley and the ski touring is still light’s out delicious in the ranges behind the Bow Valley. But winter is waging a losing battle and while all good things come to an end – so too will the snowy peaks, cold temperatures and well, winter.

Speaking of winter – it’s no secret that I envisioned last season going better. I was coming off a career best season in 2011/12. Those feelings of winning World Cups, finishing 2nd overall and 2nd in the distance cup were definitely fresh in the mind. Throughout the training season I was feeling stronger, fitter and faster physically for months on end – even though emotionally I could have been categorized easily by any high school girl within 30 seconds of hanging out with me as “a total mess.” I can admit it. Still though – I was sure that this year I was going to be able to take that next, last little step needed after the strong foundation laid in 2011/12.

Instead, back in November I took a little step in the wrong direction – on a stronger concrete foundation in the shape of stairs – and tore a ligament in my foot. Not the best move only a week out from the season opener. I let myself get the better of myself – if you follow that – and instead of taking a step back and recovering fully I pushed on – taping it, getting therapy, icing it and wishing with all my energy that it’d heal magically.

It didn’t and for the first 8 weeks of the racing season I had plenty of reminders that sometimes no amount of wishing and hoping can combat reality. I kept it within the team and asked that the team not discuss it publically. I guess I was just so motivated and hungry to have a good season, that if people started talking about it – it would get more real. It’s hard to explain if you aren’t an athlete and maybe you don’t understand, but I felt as though if I was racing – even if it hurt – then it wasn’t a huge deal….

As the winter rolled on, the results remained disappointing. I had some glimmers of “ok” feelings – a few top tens, 12th overall at the Tour de Ski, 4th at the World Championships with Alex in the team sprint – but on the whole I just wasn’t feeling myself. Gone were the weekends of winning and on the podium. Coupled with the torn ligament, I contracted some rough food poisoning in France that reoccurred three more times from mid January to late February which wasn’t a barrel of laughs either.

These aren’t excuses – I know that I made some mistakes in my training season, we made some mistakes with regards to my race calendar, and some other smaller ones along the way, too, that seemed to have a bigger impact that we thought. I take full responsibility for that – but it wasn’t the best to having health issues on top of that. At this level, it’s a precarious place to hang out – between success and failure. Everything needs to come together and sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned or wanted them to for whatever reason.

The last month of the season continued to be tough. I had some more stomach issues early at the World Championships – which translated into one race where I felt good (the team sprint with Alex). After the World Championships – the spring World Cup was a rough period for our team too – as we just weren’t able to deliver the results and good feelings that we’d become accustomed to when the World Cup heads back to Scandinavia in the spring.

Looking back, it’s amazing that we had the success we had at the World Championships at all – which I think speaks volumes of our team as a whole (staff, athletes, techs, everyone). Alex won a historic bronze in classic sprint – traditionally one of his weakest events. Babs was 4th in the 15km skate, and Alex and I finished agonizingly close to the bronze – 4th – in the team sprint.

Now it’s time to inject some positivity – the cool and simply reality of spring is that things melt and start growing again. Those feelings of disappointment are melting away – we’ve had great discussions about what we did, what we can do better, and what we’ll do moving forward and I’m 100% confident that we still have a great team and new plan moving forward.

I was pretty tired emotionally/mentally upon arriving in Canada and I’ve spent most of my time in the mountains back country skiing – healing the mind and letting go of all the disappointment. I’ve got out 14 days of the last 20, which has been both fantastic and rejuvenating. For me, in the spring time there’s nothing better than backcountry skiing – you are way back in some mountain range with just you and your buddies, no internet, phone, nothing – it’s simplicity at it’s best and it’s amazing.

Up next in the two-pronged “get ready to rock and roll” is the “real” rest – as I’m off to Maui tomorrow to check in on Lenny’s tan – kidding! It’ll be awesome to get some vitamin D, eat some delicious fish and tropical fruit, get completely thrashed in the waves and vibe out. I know that after that I’ll be 100% ready to go for the Olympic training year. Hard to believe that this quadrennial came and went so quickly. I have some unfinished business there after finishing 4th and 5th in the last Games in Vancouver – so this year will be about simplifying things, training well, making good decisions and enjoying it.

We’ll learn, adjust and attack going forward. My good friend and Canadian sports psych’ extraordinaire likes to quote Andre Agassi’s “I can live with disappointment, but I can’t live with regret.” Damn right. I was disappointed with how the season went – no question. But I don’t regret it. I did what I thought was best at the time – it ended up being wrong. I made mistakes, I’m learning from them, and I’m fired up moving forward.

Lao Tzu wrote, “Succeeding is the coming together of all things beautiful and perseverance is the foundation of all actions.” I couldn’t agree more.

Enjoy your spring everyone and thanks for the support!

Devon

The Hoff Report – Vierumäki, World Cup Periods, Old Friends and New + Season Goals

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March 08, 2013 (Lahti, Finland) – Kris Freeman, Tad Elliott and I decided to ski on the great tourist trails here in Vierumäki this morning instead of driving the 35 minutes into Lahti. It was fun to have a low key session on some quiet trails. Here’s Tad:

When we started skiing it was nice and sunny.

Then it started dumping snow. It is a bit of a shock to be back in full winter after the temperatures in the 70s in Italy. Here’s Kris:

The bathrooms in our dorm rooms are very typical Finnish. They have no system to keep the water in the shower.

Instead they are equipped with a squeegee to dry with when you’re done.

The World Cup season is broken down into four periods. In each period a leader (one man and one woman) from each of the continental cup race series (lower level race series around the world) gets a paid World Cup start position for the entire next period. The continental cups are the Scandinavian Cup, the OPA cup, the SuperTour (USA), the NorAM Cup, the Far East Cup, the Slavic Cup, the Baltic Cup and the Australia-New Zealand Cup. (There may be others I’m missing. I’m not sure if there’s one in Russia.)

For World Cup period four (which includes the three weekends after World Championships), each continental cup gets to send three (instead of one) men and three women (only the top athlete gets funded and gets to go to World Cup Finals) to the World Cup.

The U.S. has chosen to define these three spots as the overall, sprint and distance leaders of the SuperTour. Because the overall and distance leaders are often one in the same, generally only two athletes of each gender from the U.S. come. The athletes with World Cup starts from the U.S. this period are Torin Koos (overall and distance leader), Dakota Blackhorse-von-Jess (Sprint leader), Rosie Brennan (overall and distance leader) and Sadie Bjornsen (sprint leader).

It is amazing (and a testament to her great skiing) that Sadie continues to lead the sprint standings considering that she hasn’t raced in the U.S. since U.S. Nationals in early January. She is a U.S. Ski Team athlete and has been racing World Cups since then. In addition to the SuperTour leaders and U.S. Ski Team members, Sophie Caldwell is here on invitation after her great results in previous World Cups and the World Championships. In total, there are fifteen athletes from the U.S. competing this weekend.

I am rooming with my former U.S. Ski Team teammate and World Cup veteran Torin Koos:

I have been to many Junior Olympics, camps, Junior Scandinavian Cup trips, and World Junior trips with Rosie (right) and Sophie.

I’m psyched to have some old friends around and some new faces on the team!

Lastly, I wrote an update about my season for The Aspen Times. In it I talk about where I stand with regards to my goals of qualifying for the Red Group and making World Cup Finals. You can find the article here.

Bjornsen Blog – Val di Fiemme Wrap

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March 08, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – I am just finishing up my week of Championships here in Val di Fiemme… looking back on all the great moments. At the same time, I am going through the process of reviewing my week and thinking about all the things that went very well, and the things to improve for next time. I must say, I didn’t have quite the Championships that I was hoping for, but in other ways- things were also very positive.

As a ski racer you can never look at anything as a failure. If you did, you wouldn’t make it very far beyond one year of racing on the World Cup- because this process is not very forgiving. The difference between an average day and an overly excellent day could be .15 seconds… one size larger boot. Or the difference between putting one too many layers of kick wax on your ski, or simply the difference between finding one more gear of energy for the last climb of the course. It is all so small, yet so important. So even though my two individual start races were less than my best, there were some very encouraging parts at the same time!

So in honor of moving forward in a positive manner; here are a few of the things about Val di Fiemme that I won’t be forgetting.

1. Fans! After having my first World Championships in Oslo, my standards of World Championships fans was set sort of high. To my surprise though, these Italian fans lived up to the challenge. Maybe 70% of them traveled all the way from Norway… but regardless they were out there in full force. It was also special to have so many US fans as well. World Masters took place somewhere near here, so there was an extra bunch of familiar voices and faces out there that made it special!

2. Hills- Holy hills! This venue knows how to test your fitness, test your mental strength, and test your hill climbing. I remember many of my teammates warning me of this after they raced the final stages of the tour here last year… but I didn’t experience the full feeling of it until racing. It was fun to test my hill climbing skills though.

3. Wax Crew- This week has been one of the most challenging weeks for waxing yet. With temperatures hanging around zero, and constantly changing… things get tricky and tough. The techs have been incredible at working hard and moving forward. The important thing to remember is just like an athlete, tech teams have tough days as well. Even if they are putting 100%, there will always be challenging days. So thanks techs for working your butts off and always staying positive.

4. Records- While the week started off with much less than our best, the following days were filled with records, bests, firsts and everything else. Kikkan and Jessie set the mood with winning the team sprint for US Nordics FIRST World Championship Gold. That was one of my more emotional moments of being a ski racer. As I watched the girls ski their hearts out and cross the line first, emotion struck. As tears rolled down the faces of all the US group… I may have spotted a tear rolling down the Norwegian coaches face too. Finally, US is a force to recon with. Over the years as Kikkan has set an example of believing that we can compete, the rest of our team has started following along!

5. Sunshine- It is hard to not absolutely love every second of the day when you are out ski racing hard in the sun. Black suits sometimes make that experience a little more miserable than it should… but for the most part, the sunshine always brings out the best in us! If there is one thing you can count on in Italia, that is sun!

6. Team Spirit- The team “spirit” has been great throughout the week. The success of the team just spreads through our group. I think this is one of the things that is bringing us to a higher level as a team. Because one person’s success is contagious, it helps us all believe!

7. Relay- Yesterday I got to participate in my first World Cup 4×5 relay. Since being a young girl, relay racing has always been my favorite. There is something about the different pressure, and your collective effort… it just gets me in a new level of energy… as with all the US ladies. Aside from being fun, the US Team managed to finish our best result ever in history. Although we were just off the podium, we were extremely stoked with a 4th place finish. This was a huge improvement from our last World Championship finish in 9th. With our goals set on a medal of course, we came away proud and pleased that we had reached 4th place! Everyone skied their hearts out, and our goal is certainly attainable in the near Olympic future!

All of these things have made this Championship week incredible and memorable. With two more races to go, the 30 and 50k, we will be back on World Cup soon. Next weekend we will be racing a 10k Classic and Team Sprint, so some more exciting racing in the near future!

Let’s say that the scene was the most beautiful and the American athlete of the relay this morning (yesterday, ed), shooting as he undressed. Sadie Bjørnsen has affected all of us photographers, the femininity and grace of gesture, of usual when it comes to the masculinity of athletes.

Thanks everyone for the cheers and nice emails this week. I really appreciate it!! A few more days here, and then off to Scandinavia!

Diggins Report – Checking Out Sochi

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January 28, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – At the moment, the 5th Russian fix-it-man of the day is watching Holly try to explain/pantomime that the upstairs shower leaks through the ceiling and upstairs someone else is working on the pipes. And this has been the “down-time” part of the last few days! Russia has been very exciting, like this huge adventure. I’m never quite sure what to expect, where to go and when to be there, but it’s cool as long as you go with the flow. And don’t bother asking questions – you won’t get anywhere!

So here’s how our travel to Sochi started: we drove to the Zurich Airport a full 4 hours before our flight was supposed to leave. Just in case, you know. And we had to tag and drop off all our ski bags and duffels, and then go purchase tickets inside. Then we boarded the plane. So far, this sounds like a normal travel day, right?

Because this was a charter flight full of athletes and all their skis, wax tables, benches and boxes, there were about 90 bags that didn’t make the flight. But not for lack of trying. The last 10-ish rows of the plane had the seats folded down and duffels stacked up – and the row in front of them was emptied “for safety reasons”. In case the bags started sliding, I guess. I think the plane was weighted funny because when we landed, we landed HARD and there might have been a few screams from the back row (we were in the back rows).

But the flight was fine, and then we had to get through customs. Turns out getting into Russia isn’t that easy and you need an invitation, then a visa, and then you fill out identical sides of this tiny piece of paper that they stamp. What they don’t emphasize nearly enough is that the other half of that little paper is your ticket back out, and you can’t lose it. Just don’t let it out of your sight!

Our team was really lucky and all our bags made it through, so we loaded them into these huge trucks and then waited in the rain for a bus. Once we were on the bus, we waited on the side of the road for 30 minutes, then drove slowly through traffic up to the venue. Then waited some more, before going through accreditation processing.

Once we got our credentials, which you also CANNOT LOSE because there are guards in fur hats everywhere that check your creds at all these checkpoints, we went through another security scanner. Then we hopped into a gondola that took us to the Olympic village and trails at the top of the mountain, at the venue called “Laura”. Turns out the venue is named after a raging river, which is named after a girl named Laura who jumped in it to kill herself instead of living with an old prince she didn’t love. Whoa. More info on the venue and 2014 Olympics in general HERE.

After getting off the gondola, we had to check in again to get our keys to the condo, and after eating dinner at 1:00am we took the bumpiest bus ride EVER to get to our lodging. It was super exciting! We all thought the bus ride was hilarious so everyone had their phones out. The picture below helps to explain some of the bumpy ride. So yep, that was our travel to Russia! But because we arrived in the dead of night, we woke up to see beautiful mountains and check out the venue.

Basically, we’re staying in brand spanking new condos that have 5 rooms each, for 10 people total, and they’re super roomy. The only problem is the aforementioned leak in the ceiling whenever Simi and Noah shower. But we’re working on that! However, most of the village is still under construction so there are cranes and construction crews all over.

And the GUARDS. They are everywhere, and there must be several hundred volunteers all in blue jackets. The volunteers are super friendly and most speak very good english, but most of the guards don’t say a word. Except when they stop the buses to check everyone’s credentials. I told you – you don’t want to lose that thing!

Once you leave the really modern new strip of housing, things get a little messy. And I do mean that literally since there is mud and water all over, and in some parts of the road all you can smell is sewage. But what I noticed most was the absolute lack of privacy. Some people say “God is always watching”…but now I know the real deal. The Russians are always watching. There are cameras everywhere, along the fences, on the course, in the entrances to buildings.

The dining hall is about an 8-minute walk away, up the side of the bunny hill where little kids in boots up to their knees are bombing around. And what starts out as a waist-high metal fence on the right slowly morphs into a 10-foot tall fence with barbed wire spiraling over the top and cameras mounted in all directions along the wall. On our side of the fence are the new buildings, glass-walled bars, chalets and chairlifts, and on the other side there is mud, construction zones, and containers stacked on containers that provide housing for the workers. And I’m not complaining about a thing because I’m on the right side of that fence!

So here are some things I’ve figured out about Sochi so far:
– The ski trails are amazing – rolling, super wide, and with seperate trials for cross country and biathalon
– There are also two seperate stadiums, and while the biathalon is a permanent structure, the cross country stadium is a temporary one. But it’s still gigantic.
– It doesn’t look like there are other lodging options up here except for the condos, but there is a hotel at the bottom of the gondola where some of the teams are staying.
– There seem to be rules and regulations about so many little things. Like checkpoints, fences, credentials, transport, meal tickets.
– And then sometimes there seem to be no rules at all. Like what time you eat and train at, or whether your wax cabin is unlocked.

The races start on Friday with a skate sprint, Saturday a 15km skiathalon, and Sunday is the classic team sprint. I’m excited to be here and will put up more pictures when I can!

Kershaw Report – Tour de Ski 2012

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January 17, 2013 – The 2012/13 Tour de Ski is over and remains in all our rearview mirrors. There were Canadian highlights abound during his year’s German and Italian odyssey – the major ones being Ivan’s career-best 7th overall, Lenny Valjas’s two podiums, Alex’s podium and 4 top 6 results and last but not least – the bulldog’s absolute annihilation of Alpe Cermis  – where he posted the 2nd fastest climb up that nasty, nasty slope.

It was a great completion for Canada, yet I must say my own Tour de Ski was a disappointment. Ok, a big disappointment. It was a good thing that Ivan, Lenny and Alex threw down because my body was no help – as it just wasn’t recovered and ready for such an arduous event. While there were a couple glimmers of “ok-ness” during the week – for the most part I was missing that top gear needed to compete atop the results page.

After a nice 9 days in Switzerland over the holidays, it was off to the Tour and first up was the fog engulfed hilltop village of Oberhof. While the weather is some of the worst I experience every year, traditionally I love the courses and race well through the grey half-light. Not wanting to disappoint, Oberhof stayed true to its reputation and was pretty warm and foggier than San Francisco’s “June Gloom” by a factor of 7. The snow barely held up for the first few races under the German grey – with some sections of the 3.75km loop showing some black pavement during the 15km classic!

The races this season in Germany though did not go well. After a great intensity workout a few days before the Tour – the first in awhile – I was hopeful that the Tour would start well. It didn’t. The prologue was more of the same – I’d start controlled and then have no gear to switch into for the last kick to the line. The 15km classic (pursuit start) the following day felt like Groundhog Day – as the feelings in the body were the same – feeling great until I didn’t – struggling home and losing oodles of time in the last lap of that 4-lap race to finish in 27th. Conditions were tough – soft and slushy snow – which are usually favorite classic conditions of mine, but this season my legs felt like they were as stiff and had more weights attached to them than a whole group of tanned geriatrics working out on a Miami Beach boardwalk.

After a small turn-around in feelings and celebrating the MAN Lenny Valjas’ 4th career World Cup podium on New Year’s Day on the tough sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland (Len was 3rd, I ended up 15th), it was off to Italy for the last 4 stages in a row in Toblach and Val di Fiemme.

If you would have told me that my best race feelings of the year to date after the Tour was over would be in the 35km loppet style skate race from Cortina-Toblach and up the fabled climb of Alpe Cermis, I would have laughed myself silly. But that’s how things ended up. The two classic races that I was most fired up for ended up being super disappointing (the 5km classic in Toblach and the 15km in Val di Fiemme), whereas in the two “special” skate races I ended up feeling “ok and ok ++” in. Especially the climb – which is usually the site of the annual “epically ugly/slow monkey skating filled with the hollow eyes and slobber beard that any golden retriever in a cheese factory would be proud of.”

I ended the Tour in 12th overall.  All things considered, I’m surprised I ended up there. Most days I felt drained and it was a difficult set of races mentally – as I was so hopeful and trying to stay in that positive “maybe today I’ll be back feeling good!” for the duration. I moved up for the first time ever on the climb – which was the personal racing highlight – from 18th to 12th.

While I was left wanting more and disappointed – the Tour was so exciting everyday for Canada. Lenny snagged two podiums – 0.1seconds away from his first ever World Cup victory in the 15km classic in Val di Fiemme, Babs was a total boss all around and blitzed the climb to move from 17th – 7th snaking the 2nd fast time on that beast in the process for his second World Cup podium – and Alex was a few centimeters behind Len in the exciting 15km to finish 3rd (we had two on the podium and Babs had a career-best classic race in 7th!!) and like I said up top – had four races in the top 6. It was a Tour for the ages again and the stoke is uber-high for us Canadian Nordies. The women are getting in on the action too and I’m psyched for Dasha’s 4th in Liberec a few days ago and for Peri’s career-best 9th in the same race. Momentum for the team is building, as the days get longer. Good news with the 2013 World Champs only 5 weeks away under the Italian sun. The “team behind the team” – our absolutely bad-ass/awesome staff are killing it this year too. The techs (Micke, Yves, Joel, Joel, Sacha, and Timo) were lights-out good during the tour (and every race so far this year!!), Anne (Osteo), Wolfman (need’s no introduction…) and Justin (the only coach on the ground at the Tour) were on their A ++ game, so huge thanks to them for their hard work and unwavering passion.

After the Tour, I fled to… Norway! I know right? Lenny went to the beaches of Egypt to recharge, Alex joined his girlfriend in Nice, France and I headed up to Scandinavia – I guess I missed the shorter days, brown cheese and waffles. There must have been a good reason right? Well there was – I really enjoyed spending time with Kristin who was coming off a boss 3rd place overall Tour de Ski finish and there was nowhere else I’d rather be. We hung out in Oslo for a couple days enjoying some great times with her crew there and then headed up to Sjusjoen for some quiet days at her cabin. It’s a beautiful spot and while the week went by far too fast – I had a great time and feel like my body did a decent job recovering from the stress and beat-down that the Tour does to a racer.

I’m now in France, in the small mountain village of Praz de Lys – which is about 45min from this weekend’s races in La Clusaz. I had never been here before, but I swear every year for the past 5 all Dasha can say when the question of “where should we go train in-between races?” comes up is an enthusiastic “Praz de Lys!” about 19 times in a row. Well Dasha, you were right. The skiing here is some of the best I’ve ever done. It’s unreal – gorgeous views of Mt. Blanc, meters of snow, and tons of perfectly groomed trails to enjoy daily with mountain views at every angle. Aside from Seisser Alm, Italy, it’s the best skiing I’ve had in Europe. I must say that seeing all the back country skiing happening leaves me with a sore neck (looking up the whole time!) but other than that – paradise.

I’m looking forward to this weekend to get some racing action in before another two weeks of World Champs prep/training “sans racing” before we head to Sochi to scope next year’s Olympic trails and scene.

Other than dreaming of ripping the surrounding powder – I’m listening to some older stuff these days – Wilco is on heavy rotation, as is the Shins, Kishi Bashi, and this band called “Say Hi.” (Formerly “Say hi to your mom”). I’ve also been spinning a lot of old school blues actually – some BB King (Live at the Regal), Muddy Waters (Hard Again/I’m Ready), and John Lee Hooker – eclectic I know. Reading-wise, I’ve been cruising through a Brent McMurty recommendation “the Leap” by Chris Turner (great book man!). The Globe and Mail’s review of it HERE.

Diggins Report – What Eurosport Doesn’t Show You

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December 24, 2012 – I finally got time to sit down and load up a bunch of pictures I’ve taken the past few days… and I realized that there’s a lot going on in a World Cup weekend that the TV doesn’t show you. So, here’s some of the World Cup scene the way I see it!

Simply put, CHEERING. IS. HARD. WORK. You have to walk up to the venue hours early to get a good spot, put on a ton of facepaint, make up incredible posters… and my family and friends were up to the challenge! (the Go Team USA poster is currently residing in our wax cabin here in Canmore). To the fans out standing on their feet for hours and losing their voices: you make a difference. You really do!

FIS usually puts out drinks and snacks for the athletes, coaches and wax techs, the latter of which put in these ridiculous long hours at the venue. Next they’ll have to put futons in the wax cabins so they can get some rest! I’m only half joking here. But in Quebec (and most everywhere) the venue had a really nice warm tent.

And then there’s a lot of goofing off and joking around that isn’t always caught on camera. But when it is, it’s awesome.

Because the wax cabins in Quebec were a little ways away from the actual race course and we didn’t want to be running around the road in our ski boots, we set up a row of spin bikes inside this iron fence next to the start access area.

Given the row of iron spikes at hip level, that fence was very hard to climb safely.

And we felt a lot like zoo animals when the media gathered on the other side of the fence to watch us warming up on the bikes… animals in our “natural habitat”!

So… traveling to Canmore! It was a nice 5-hour flight, and on the way I made friends with the flight attendants. They were super fun to talk to and learn about the work schedule and travel involved in flying for a job… theirs sounded not unlike the crazy schedules of an athlete!

Once we got to Canmore, I was so excited to see all these adorable posters that kids made and stuck in the wax cabins, athlete room, and even along the sides of the road and bike paths! This picture is just one of literally HUNDREDS of posters. AWESOME.

The coffee shops here are also pretty sweet. And by that I mean that every single afternoon we’ve gone to visit one of them.

There’s been a weird cold floating around the team, and last night I opened the hotel door to see Andy giving Sylvan a “get well soon” serenade. The song played? Acoustic version of “Lets Get It On”. He’s a wicked good guitar player and by the time he was finished singing doors all down the hallway were propped open!

I don’t know any other teams that are this much of a family on the road. Just sayin.

The trails in Canmore are:

1. Perfectly groomed. The trackes were… well… perfect!

2. Insanely wide. There were 4 classic tracks and room for a couple skaters in-between. The picture above is actually one of the side trails but the race trails are much bigger.

3. Wicked hard. The race trails have some monster climbs that would be challenging to pace correctly at any altitude, but then the air at 4,500 ft adds a whole new level. At least, when you’re coming off sea level it does!

Check out this huge stadium!

Last but not least – the USST is streaming the races LIVE on their website! Check it out, don’t miss a second of the exciting action: www.usskiteam.com

I’m not racing today because I am not feeling healthy and have to sit it out, which is a major bummer, but hopefully I’ll bounce back in time for the weekend races. In the meantime, please cheer extra loud for my teammates out there this morning!

Heidi Widmer Blog – Party in the Backyard

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December 24, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – The weekend I had been dreaming about all summer and fall has come and passed. Not an ounce of adrenaline was left unused in Canmore as we played host to the World Cup at the Nordic Centre as well as downtown. I put on a bib for the 10km mass start classic, skate sprint and 15km pursuit – meaning I’ve raced more World Cups this season than domestic!?

I can walk away from this weekend knowing I did everything in my power to lay down a good race, but yes, I am disappointed with the outcome. Outcomes or results are always hard to be completely satisfied with. As much as I focus on the process and journey of training and racing, there will always be a result at the end of the day and being able to take something positive from the experience is what I believe the result is there for. How will this result make me better? I can tell you one thing, dwelling on a number on a results page is not how to move forward but learning from the movement, actions and mindset that gave you that result will.

The 10km classic race was my first distance World Cup and being seeded at the back, I felt I had a great opportunity to make my way through the pack. First things first, I needed to be in the pack. Unfortunately, I was way too focused on staying with the pack than I was with skiing the way I needed to. My legs were blown, my lungs fried and mental mindset was just awful. The biggest blow ups seem to happen on the biggest stages and it took every fighting inch of me to finish this race. The fan support on the side of the trail didn’t seem to notice that I was taking up the rear – so I decided not to dwell on that either! Having an extremely hard race like this, however hard to swallow in the moment, was necessary preparation for me for the weekend.

Saturday was sprint day and the buzz of energy that had been brewing in me throughout the summer was about to be let loose! I felt confident, nervous (definitely nervous) and prepared. I raced that course the way I wanted to, the way I had practiced and channeled all the energy of the crowd into propelling me forward. I crossed the line in 31st position, needing a top 30 result to qualify for the sprint heats. It is so bizarre to think about a small fraction of time separating me from the top 30 having such an amplified effect. Taking a tighter line here, pushing harder there and being stronger would all have helped me get to the line a little faster which is what will keep me motivated for the future World Cups. I am getting closer. Slowly but surely. Patience is something I have never been good at but I feel like I have a good thing coming and know it will be worth the wait!

My final result of the day was 34th position but I live vicariously through my teammates today. My bro, Phil, in particular posted his personal best 15th overall on the World Cup. Jess Cockney can’t be left unmentioned either, qualifying 2nd?! So inspiring having fast people around – talent and fitness are contagious right? Or maybe it’s through osmosis that I’ll get my boost.

The last bib of 2012 for me was in the 15km Pursuit. Nervous? Yup. Tired? Definitely. I was adamant that I wouldn’t go out without a fight and was so thankful that I had that within me today. I finished today as the 50th woman across the line and over 6 minutes back from the leader but as far as a distance World Cup goes – it was amazing. I had a fight, put it to good use and gradually picked off racers in the pack. I am really happy with the end to the weekend and will be using this momentum to propel me forward in the next couple weeks of training.

An incredibly HUGE thank you to the support of the volunteers, sponsors, families, friends, community and event organizers for putting on such an amazing show. Canmore has truly made a name for itself on the world stage.

I have some time in the Bow Valley to get in some quality training as we have a break from the racing circuit until the New Year. Our next big races are in Thunder Bay, Ontario for the U23 and World Championship qualification. My performance there will determine the shape of the rest of my season and I couldn’t be more excited about dat.

In the meantime, I have some Christmas crafting to do and training to tackle.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Kershaw Report: November Scando Racing Madness

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December 06, 2012 (St. Ferreol les Neiges, QC) – It’s December. I almost had to tell myself out loud of that fact this morning when I rollerskied through the ice and grime that covered the streets of St. Ferreol les Neiges hugging the tarmac like the hair on my upper lip this past November. I guess I also had to remind myself of the month – because it’s a rarity these days that I’m back in Canada during the winter months.

November is always a busy month – lots of racing, lots of travel all coupled with very little sunlight and culinary disaster. I’ve already raced three weeks this season, two of which were the first two World Cup stops of the 2012/13 year. I’ll take a moment to fill you in on the happenings of Northern Scandinavia – with some brief race reports from the opening weekends of racing this November.

Also – big thanks to all that donated to “Movember” and “the Snow Mos” this year – together we can make a difference in men’s health. In that spirit get a load of these two beauty shots of Lenny – bringing his Mo to the next level.
Ostersund/Bruksvallarna, SWE

It may sound like I’ve written this report before – and that’s probably because I have last year. The past few years our team begins our winter campaign smack in the middle of Sweden. In a slight plot twist, I traveled to Oslo November 2nd for a fabulous week in the Norwegian capital before meeting the team in the Jämtland capital of Ostersund for our annual pre-season on snow Euro camp.

Like last year, there was no natural snow, and my first ski in Sweden was an uninspiring burn around a 2.5min loop. The dizziness subsided every couple days as the loop gradually improved thanks to a wonderful group of passionate volunteers and staff of the Ostersund Ski Club – as they spread out the saved snow from last winter (like what Canmore does now with their “Frozen Thunder” project) to prepare the trails for the World Cup of biathlon season openers that take place there. By the time we left Ostersund they had 4km of great skiing available.

On the training side of things, November is a busy month – not only with racing but also with hours. To be ready and keep consistent in the meat of the season (January, February, March) we’ve realized that I need to log a decent amount of miles – short loops or not – so I trained quite hard both in Ostersund, and afterwards.

The “actual” racing season started over in Bruksvallarna (the site of the Swedish FIS openers – a 3hr drive West of Ostersund) and conditions there were fairly decent with thin natural snow cover, longer skiing options (for training), and great snow cover on the race courses – which are twisty with no real huge climbs or working sections. Think – ghetto amusement park rollercoaster.

After some discussion, Justin and I decided to compete only in the 15km skate (what I did last year) and like last year I was brutal finishing a disappointing 10th – blowing up fiercely in the last 3km of the course, where I gave up a whopping 50 seconds. Racing is hard – super hard – but at this time of year, it appears I struggle to digest the heavy load of training I’m under, leaving me feeling flat for some weeks. I guess it was a better outing than last November – when I finished outside the top 30 – but I was both exhausted physically at the end (the last tuck down the last hill made a bit of a buzz on Swedish blogs for my unorthodox tucking technique (think: hands on knees with straight legs trying as hard as I can to not just fall over) and obviously disappointed with the result.

Gallivare, SWE – World Cup Opener
While Ostersund can be grey and windy – the town itself is great and the giant/beautiful lake (5th largest in Sweden apparently) is stunning. It’s actually a beautiful little city all around with great little cafés, nice walking streets – a cool place to hang out. Gallivare by contrast is…well… different. For starters it’s dark. I mean, hella’ dark this time of year – the sky brightens for some hours between the hours of 10:30 – 13:30, but aside from that it’s like what I’d imagine living in a freezer would feel like. Sometimes there’s some light (when someone opens the freezer drawer), but for the most part in the late autumn it’s black and cold. The town itself is of course smaller, doesn’t have a lot going on – but that’s fine seeing how we are there for the specific purpose of ski racing – and it does have a great little café downtown with stellar espresso.

One thing Gallivare does have this time of year is natural snow, great skiing, and very enthusiastic volunteers and fans that love to cheer on their local hero, World and Olympic Champ – Marcus Hellner – who has lived there for roughly 10 years.

The weekend of racing got of to a bit of a rough start. The 15km skate on the Saturday wasn’t great. While I didn’t blow up – I was never able to get going – stuck in that threshold type speed. I started controlled, but I wasn’t able to convert later in the race (when I needed to change gears and start charging for the last 5km) finishing a distant 44th. Of course, I was pretty disappointed – but the beginning of each season seems to be a lesson in patience for me. Last season I was 37th in the same race (in Sjusoen, NOR), and the season before (in Gallivare), I ended up in the 50s – 58th I think. A far cry from the podiums I expect later in the year.

The bright spots of the weekend was Babs’ 16th place finish Saturday, and Sunday’s 4×7.5km relay. I skied the 2nd (a classic leg) leg and the feelings were much better. I still felt I lacked that punch/snappy feeling but better I moved well and made up some ground for our team. When it was all said and done, our team made some history with a Canadian World Cup best finish – 5th! We were only seconds from the podium and it gave us all a lot of confidence for the World Championships later this year. If we are all in good form, I really believe that we are capable of something really special.

The Ruka-Triple (mini-tour) – Kuusamo, FIN (2nd stop on the World Cup)
After Gallivare we all crammed into vans and rolled East into Finland – driving the 6 odd hours south(kind of)east through grey skies and hordes of reindeer that seem completely indifferent to traffic – like they are props in a Santa Claus parade instead of wild animals and have been told not to move for anything or anybody.

The Ruka triple consists of 3 races in 3 days – a classic sprint first (1.4km – on the Friday), followed by a 10km skate (Saturday) and finishing it off with a pursuit start 15km classic (Sunday) – the best cumulative time takes the win (like the Tour de Ski type format).

Day 1 was awful for the Canadian men. Ooohhhhh lordy, was it rough – I liken the speed to attempting to swimming through a pool of full-fat eggnog. No Canadian men qualified for the top 30, and I ended up a dismal 62nd place. Not where I wanted to be. I felt like there was just no power whatsoever in the body – especially in double pole. The bright spot was that Peri matched her best-ever result on the World Cup with a 12th place finish and Dasha with a solid 14th in the women’s race.

The following day – the 10km skate – was very similar to Gallivare’s 15km. I felt like I was stuck in zone 3. I started conservatively and when I willed my body to turn it over – again, there was no gears to switch into. I ended up 35th – again, not where I wanted to be. I was actually really, really disappointed with that one. I didn’t even check results when I finished and finished my cool down – instead I just ate lunch quickly and crawled into bed for a nap. It was a huge effort (the race), and I knew the velocity was too slow. I was so bummed out – and broke my “no being bummed out when you get back to the hotel from the race site” rule.

After an hour of sulking at a pretty extreme level, I re-focused on getting ready for the last day – Sunday’s 15km classic. After two not-so-great races I started further back in the order – 36th – compared to what I’m used to (in Falun last year by contrast in a similar style mini-tour I started the last day sitting 3rd…) and in the race itself worked through the field slowly but surely – finishing in 22nd overall. I moved up 14 places and had the 16th fastest time on the day – which was a solid step in the right direction. Again, the body felt heavy and again I lacked the power/snap and on the climbs (Kuusamo’s courses are notoriously steep and long) I felt terrible, but I stayed present as best I could and willed everything out of my body I could muster. Finally all our men were in the points (the top 30) with me finishing 22nd, Alex 23rd and Babs’ 25th in the overall standings. It’s coming.

The feelings I had for the first three weekends of racing are almost identical to how I felt last year – as are the results in those races. It seems the pre-Christmas races are a true lesson in patience and perspective. I know I’ve done a plethora of high quality work this year and I believe in our plan to be 100% ready to rock and roll come late February/March – but as a competitor it’s hard to unplug, be patient, stay positive and be good to yourself (ie. not beat yourself up too badly) when the results aren’t where you want them to be. Like a hockey player that grips his stick too hard – his once loose hands turning instead to concrete – it’s hard not to press and do what you know you need to do – mainly to “let go” knowing that as long as you give your full and absolute best effort race in, race out – the outcome will most definitely only get better.

I didn’t have a ton of time to dwell on November, as after the race on Sunday we flew to Helsinki to spend a (very) short night there in an airport hotel before we began the long journey back to Quebec on Monday – which is where I am right now.

It feels great to be back in Canada and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to race at home. I’m hanging out at Alex’s house (with Lenny staying here as well) in MSA, and while there is no snow on the ground, the vibe is awesome. We had such a great dinner last night when we arrived (thanks Alex’s awesome GF – Sophie!), and to be in a comfortable home instead of a hotel is a really nice change. Watching Monday Night Football last night was a pretty nice perk too I must say.

We don’t have a whole lot of time to enjoy “normal” life as this Friday the Quebec World Cups begin in the province’s capital. First up is the team sprint, which Alex and I are really looking forward to – followed by Saturday’s 1.7km individual sprint competition. While my body has been feeling sluggish and lacking power/snap which are both so necessary for sprint racing, I know that things can change fast. Regardless how the results end up – I’m so excited to race in Quebec and it’s hard to believe it’s the first time the province has held a World Cup competition. It’s going to be an amazing show and the support and passion in the province for cross country skiing is far and away the best in the country – so to race in front of so many fired up fans will be exhilarating.

That’s the long-winded news from me. As for now, I think I’ll retire to the couch with a glass of egg nog, watch a ski movie and then prepare an amazingly boss dinner of fresh halibut & scallops (Len will stick to steak) before hitting up a (hopefully) long, restful sleep.

On a completely non-ski related topic…

November I crushed three decent books – here’s what went down this month:

–       “1982” by Jian Ghomeshi. I thought the family history sections were great and entertaining. The word “David Bowie” was perhaps printed a thousand or so too many times, but enjoyable none-the-less. If you aren’t familiar with Jian’s CBC radio program “Q” – it’s worth checking out. Plus – 1982 was the best year ever. Just saying (thanks mom and dad).

–       “Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet” by Jamie Ford. A story dealing with relationships during the Japanese internment of World War Two in Seattle. Pretty moving story, ok-written. A bit far fetched, and kind of a Romeo/Juliet thing going on (if you’ve read it you’ll understand that loose link) but it’s a novel after all.

–       “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay. Another WW2 story – dealing with the Holocaust and the Vel’ D’hiv round-up in Paris in 1942. Again – I enjoyed it, I found it powerful, sad at times and again – decently written.

–       In addition to the books, I’m still on a diet of a New Yorker a week. Standard awesomely written articles – great for traveling.

Spinning in the headphones is the same tunes as normal. Back to listening to a lot of Wilco, Rural Alberta Advantage, Band of Horses, Shins, Radical Face, etc… I don’t know what it is about N. Scando – but I crush depressing music up there. As well, “This American Life” and “Planet Money” – both NPR podcasts that are always both entertaining and well done.

On the movie front – while I don’t watch many movies, shows, etc… very often on the road – preferring to scratch away very poorly on my guitar I lug around, read and listen to music – we have watched some of the latest ski movies released this autumn. We’ve gone through “Superheroes of Stoke, The Dream Factory and a Norwegian film “Being There (which I thought was really well done!)” and re-watching last year’s “All.I.Can” so far. Perhaps a little dangerous so early in the racing season – as I’m getting fired up for spring ski touring already – which probably isn’t the best seeing how December just begun, but what can you do. The powder will be there come April (at least that’s what I tell myself to fall asleep at night).

Rock and roll – if you’re in the Quebec City area come on out and watch the action Friday and Saturday (check HERE for all the info) and if you are in Canmore from December 13th – 16th (assuming the world won’t end of course the day before…) come on up to the Nordic Centre and watch. I mean, you won’t find a better World Cup venue on earth – their website for all the deets’ is HERE.

Diggins Report – The Most Exciting Race Ever!

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November 28, 2012 – Wow, that sure was an awesome way to start off the World Cup season!!! Not that I expect every weekend to be as wildly exciting with multiple historical US podium results, but geez that was cool. Our Women’s 4x5km relay placed 3rd, which was the first time ever in US History that we’ve had a podium relay finish! Here are two YouTube videos of the race:

http://youtu.be/aG8V001cMR4

I first want to say a big THANK YOU! to everyone for all the kind words, emails, tweets and more that have come flooding in, and a thanks to all those who have been supporting us US Women every step of the way. It sucks that the podium isn’t big enough to put everyone involved onto it, because there’s a whole lot more than four racers that made the day happen. The ENTIRE team includes the teammates cheering, coaches, wax techs, and friends and family and fans back home. So thanks to everyone!

Here’s the race story from the day!

I was super nervous beforehand because with the results from the previous day, it was clear that the team was in shape and ready to rock, and there are only 3 relays this year, so this was our only shot for a while at making our goal of having a team on the podium.

Then, as I was warming up, I saw the racers go by and turned to Matt, a full-blown panic attack seconds away. I’d just seen Liz in second and was like “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” I was hyperventilating. Even though I was trying to convince myself that this was going to be just another 5km skate race, I couldn’t ignore the fact that our team was higher up than we’d ever been and the extremely hard work of my teammates was about to be put into my hands.

In the tag zone, I looked over at Marit and said “No big deal… no pressure… aaaaaagh!” and she gave me a little smile that basically said “Good luck, sweetheart”.

So when Liz tagged me, I might have gone out a little hot. And by might have, I mean that I definitely did. I had so much adrenaline pumping that I didn’t feel anything till the top of the first hill, and then it hit me. I just kept trying to stay within sight of Marit, and I was so focused on keeping every second I could that I wasn’t even aware of team Sweden, Finland and Norway 2 coming in hot behind me.

When Kalla (Sweden) passed me, I tried to hang on but was going full throttle and didn’t want to hit the wall completely halfway through the race, so I had to let her go, which was tough. But when Kristoffersen (Norway 2) passed me, I did hang on, just barely, because I knew I usually have good kick at the end of a race and there was maybe a chance.

Liz and Ida and the rest of the team were screaming from the side of the course, but two things stood out to me. Ida was sprinting alongside me yelling like I’d never heard her yell before, and Liz frantically screamed “C’mon Jess, you have to believe you CAN DO THIS! BELIEVE IT!!!”

So when we got within .5km of the finish, I had this flashback to the last relay I raced, in Nove Mesto, where I waited too long to start sprinting and Kalla beat me to the line. I didn’t want to make the same mistake, and decided to make a move before the s-turn to the stadium, sliding ahead of Kristoffersen right before the first corner.

We rounded the stadium corner and started sprinting down the home stretch, and I saw Kristoffersen’s skis come into view, but the only thing I could think was No. Not. Happening. I can’t screw this up now! I think in those final hundred meters I dug deeper than I have in a long, long time.

I crossed the line only .5 seconds ahead, and made this half-yelling-half-screaming-mostely-I’m-in-so-much-pain-right-now noise, and collapsed. The next 2 minutes I was in a haze but I felt my teammates piled on top of me, and then it sunk in and we all realized what had just happened.

There were cameras going off everywhere, but we were huddled in this little circle, crying and laughing and going through this wild flood of emotions (and probably endorphins too, I’ll admit)!

The feeling we all got, standing on the podium having reached a major goal that we all set down on paper earlier this year, was incredible. For me at least, it makes me want to train hard and work even harder to keep these kinds of feelings coming – there’s two more steps on that podium to climb, after all!

I thought it was so cool that all these athletes from other teams were coming up to us and congratulating us on the day – they were psyched for us! Every one of them remembers what it felt like their first time on the podium so they knew what we were going through when we were all huddled together crying :)

That night I had such a hard time getting to sleep (gee, I wonder why?) I just kept replaying that final sprint in my mind and hearing Liz and Ida scream “BELIEVE!”. I think I’m going to be hearing that for a while.

Diggins Report – The Good, the Bad, and the Jet-lagged

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November 21, 2012 (Muonio, Finland) – Well, we made it to Muonio, Finland! And the trails here are awesome, with tons of snow and even more daylight than I thought there’d be (you can see the sun on a clear day from 11:30 – 3:00). There’s a ton of international skiers here: Finland, Russia, Japan, Spain, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, and probably a few more that I’m forgetting at the moment!

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I have a somewhat embarrassing story to report: on our flight from Washington to Munich we had a super tight connection where we ran off the plane to the next gate…and in the stress and rush, I left my laptop on the plane. Yeah, seriously. I did that.

The good news is that they found it and are holding it at the desk, but it’s been a logistical nightmare to get it back since they won’t ship it. I should hopefully have it back sometime in Gallivare, Sweden, and then I promise to update a ton of pictures! Meanwhile the girls have been so nice in letting me borrow their computers to check email everyday.

Some cool things about the trip so far: the airport where we flew in, Rovaniemi, is the official hometown (and airport) of Santa Claus. Don’t believe me? Google that thing! It’s real! Of course, I’m not sure how Cork feels about that being from North Pole, AK…

We also went to visit the local elementary school here in Munio and the kids there could speak amazing English, and some had questions about the US (are there really Polar Bears in Alaska? What’s our favorite hockey team?). They were really nice and it was cool to see a school from another country.

This week has been a pretty hard training week for me with a couple interval sets, a couple strength sessions, and 3 FIS races. So far, I’m one race in and my limbs feel a little like jelly, but I guess that’s to be expected when I’m still shaking out a whole lot of cobwebs and jetlag.

Today was the classic sprint. For me, classic skiing in general and especially sprinting is something I’ve been trying to convince myself is fun. But today felt like a total slap in the face since I fell on the steep herringbone pitch 15 feet from the finish line in the qualifier. I somehow squeaked my way into the rounds in bib #30 and then fell again…in the SAME SPOT. Geez. Wow. Ouch.

But sometimes you learn the most from the races you do the worst in. Even if what you’re learning is how to be mentally kind to yourself! And to not take racing too seriously, and remember that you’re a person, not a machine.

Saturday we have a 5km classic and Sunday is a 10km skate, and then on Monday we drive over to Gallivare, Sweden.

There’s a pretty funny story I’ve heard from 2 years ago when the team vans ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, in between Munio and Gallivare. They had to stop at a reindeer farm and wait for the farmer to unload 150 reindeer before he could get them gas. Hopefully this year we make it!

Brooks Blog – Greetings from Gallivare

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November 21, 2012 (Gallivare, Sweden) – The US Team drove 3 hours from Muonio to Gallivare yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed a long sunset… and then it was dark at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. This made for a short day – even for someone like me from Alaska! It’s cool to be here for a couple of reasons. Peter, our head wax tech is from Gallivare. It’s cool to see his home town and hopefully he’ll share some local/beta/knowledge with us. Maybe we’ll even get lucky by doing some laundry! (Yes, it’s the little things….)

Second, the ski stadium here is called “Hellner Stadium” after Swedish ski star, Marcus Hellner. Marcus grew up skiing around here and apparently he won his first World Cup here, in his own home town. Upon arrival last night I went for a short jog and the ski stadium was bustling with energy; mostly old Swedish men setting up for this weekend’s upcoming race. You could tell they were loving every minute of it! No pictures yet but I will get some soon!

If you are curious about Gallivare, the FIS Cross Country site always has a bit of info about the World Cup venues…. Check it out HERE.

“Gällivare, located 100km north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, is a small mining town where the Sámi culture and modern industry coexists.”

November on XC Ski Girl
November is up and ready on XC Ski Girl for those who are interested! Read it HERE.

Reese Hanneman Photo Shoot


Last but certainly not least, pictures from the photo shoot I did with Reese Hanneman at Lake Hood are up on his website HERE. I’m sure that many of you have already seen them on Facebook and/or Fasterskier but the complete collection, in high res (!) is up on his engine room media site. Be sure to check back on Reese’s site often because he always has something cool up his sleeve!

Good luck to Reese and the rest of my APU teammates who will be hitting up the races in West Yellowstone this weekend! I’ll be cheering for you guys from Swedish Lapland!

Brooks Blog – Lappland Here We Come!

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November 13, 2012 – I’m about to board my second of four flights taking me from home in AK to Northern Finland, “Munio.” It’s hard to see on this map but it’s to the left of “Lappi” …. you may notice this is WAY above the Arctic Circle. Don’t worry, I packed some neon to keep things bright and happy….

My favorite wax tech helping me travel wax skis. I had this pic on Facebook earlier and many people are surprised by the number of skis I have.  Reality is, everyone has this many to be competitive at the international level.  Each one is for different conditions… different cambers, stiffnesses, grinds, etc.

Fast and Female Anchorage (last weekend) is deserving of its own post. I’ll try to write an update later. Basically, it was AWESOME and we had over 200 girls. Thanks so much to everyone who pitched in and helped out!

After the main event we took the opportunity to get a bunch of Alaskan women influential in sports together for a social/pow-wow. Women shared incredible personal stories and also gave updates on the programs they are currently involved in. We had everyone from Nina Kemppal (4x XC Ski Olympian) to Deedee Jonrowe (30x Iditorod sled dog racer) to Margaret Timmerman in charge of Tuesday Night races to Joey Caterinichio – US Ski Team Nordic Program Director, Rosey Grundwaldt – 2006 Torino Bronze Medalist, etc, etc. I wish I had had a tape recorder on the conversation because it was amazing.

Rob dropped me off at the airport last night. Always hard to say goodbye. He’s my biggest supporter. (Thanks for the help babe!)

Opp! They’re calling my name to board! Next flight to Frankfurt, then to Helsinki, then to Rovanemi & finally, a drive to Munio. I have a long road ahead!

More soon!
Holly 😉

The day before my departure I got this in the mailbox. I’m excited to be writing an international column for the statewide Nordic Skier Newspaper. In case you live outside of Alaska or don’t receive the paper, I’ve included my article below….

From Alaska to Europe & Back
by Holly Brooks

Eight years ago I moved to Anchorage because I wanted to live in a ski town. After growing up in Seattle, I craved a place where roller skiers weren’t considered freaks and I could see snow outside the kitchen window. I was ecstatic to find friends who knew of Swix Extra Blue and a spider web of fabulous trails throughout the city, complete with lights for skiing at night. I made my rounds of the local ski scene working at Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, serving as the head coach for West High, spent six years as a coach for the Alaska Junior Olympic team and finally, five years as a fulltime junior and master’s coach for the APU Nordic Ski Center.

I started out racing in the local Anchorage Cup series; the Hickok, Pia’s Classic, the Sven, the Oosik, the Tour. Then, in 2009, I entered the American Birkebeiner and “lost” the race by what some called a “toenail” in a photo finish. In many ways, that race was one of the defining moments that inspired me to focus on skiing at a new level. Luckily my commitment and hard work was rewarded when this past May, I was named as an official member of the US Cross Country Ski Team.

Last winter I unexpectedly spent almost five consecutive months in Europe racing the World Cup. Needless to say, this was quite the jump from the Alaska community racing scene where I frequented the coastal trail, had a “handful of skis” thrown into the back of my Subaru or spent Tuesday nights doing intervals at Hillside with my friends. In all, I traveled to & raced in ten different countries and accumulated 26 World Cup starts. There were highlights such as my contribution to the best women’s 4x5k team relay finish in history and there were certainly low lights as well. Christmas night I was running on an icy road, fell & broke my wrist just four days before the start of the infamous “Tour de Ski” stage race. (I foolishly competed anyways!) This winter promises to be full of more tales and adventures. I’m by no means a seasoned veteran of the World Cup but I’m not a rookie either.

As you may know, three of the six US Ski Team girls reside and train in Anchorage including Kikkan Randall, Sadie Bjornsen and myself. We represent the USA, the State of Alaska and APU Nordic Ski Center on the International stage. This year World Championships will be in Val di Fiemme, Italy and in less than two years we hope to be “toeing the start line” at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

When driving up the serpentine roads to the racing venue in Slovenia or landing a chartered plane on an obscure military base in Russia to compete it’s easy to feel far from home and far from the people, specifically the Alaskans, that helped us reach the World stage. Realizing that, I’m excited to be writing a monthly column for the Nordic Skier that will attempt to bring stories from the World Cup into your hands. While I may not spend much of the winter in Alaska anymore I spend the spring crust skiing at Portage, the summer running in the Chugach and the fall roller skiing at Kincaid. While I love being on the road, my heart is always at home. I hope you’ll join me for the adventure that is the 2012-2013 World Cup season

If you would like to follow Holly’s ski adventures on a more regular basis, check out her blog @ www.hollyskis.blogspot.com

Bjornsen Blog – Doing the Snow Dance!

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November 01, 2012 (Anchorage, AK) – 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.

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!!

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.

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 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.

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 five 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.

Diggins Report – Pre-Gaming the Season

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October 29, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – Camp wrapped up today in Canmore with a classic sprint time trial and strength. My warmup for strength was somewhat more embarrassing than usual since I lost a bet in the race and had to wear my underwear over my tights. But that’s not all that crazy.

The crazy part of this time trial/pre-season race was that there were actually some of the very best sprinters in the world in attendance; an Olympic gold medalist, World Champs gold medalist, multiple World Cup race podiums scattered throughout the start list. It’s cool seeing so many North Americans kicking butt. And it’s cool training with them and learning from every session, time trial and race experience!

I’d almost forgotten some of the sensations that accompany sprinting: the lactic acid and nerves seemingly boring a hole in my stomach (maybe I’m slowly developing and ulcer and don’t know it?); trying to stay warm while not sweating too much so I don’t freeze once I finally do take my jacket off; trying to dial in kick and not knowing when to add more or go with better glide. It’s a circus, all right!

And today was the best practice ever, thanks to Cross-Country Canada for hosting! I know classic sprinting is my biggest weakness and therefore I’m super thankful for any good chance to work on it that I can get. I felt a little like I was spinning my wheels, going nowhere during the race, but I worked hard and even when I totally ran out of energy (and technique!) in the final, it was a sweet learning experience. Slowly but surely, it’ll get better!

The interesting thing about racing is that while there is one person who wins, there is also someone who pushes the hardest, someone who dials in their skis the best, someone who has the best technique, someone who hurts the most and someone who uses the smartest tactics.

Whenever I get nervous, I focus on trying to be everything but the person who wins and more on the things I can control. Then, sometimes, things pull together and result in a good race. And sometimes not…

Tomorrow I fly back to gool ‘ol Minnesota, and I’m super pumped to get in a WHOLE TWO WEEKS there! Yes, that’s right, you heard me. 2 weeks in one spot NOT for a training camp. It’s a rare, beautiful thing.

However, I will be sad to leave all my teammates, especially since I won’t see my SMS crew for a month and a half! It’s been an amazing summer and fall, and I know we’ll have even more good stories when we’re reunited in Quebec.

Several of these shots are those One Way’s Reese Hanneman took (Engine Room Media). We had a fun time taking some goofy shots (I can’t help myself) and some better ones, too. Check them all out HERE.

Park City Camp – 16 Days and Only Rained Once!

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October 17, 2012 (Park City, UT) – This is why I love going to Park City for October camp ever year – the weather is so awesome it makes for incredible training! While it’s starting to get rainy and gross outside in most of the U.S. once the leaves have changed and fallen, PC has been sunny and reasonably warm. Although I’m such a hot-blooded creature that it’s been much warmer for me than the rest of the team. :)

After allowing some time to acclimate to the high altitude, we’ve moved to putting in more speed and intensity sessions, including some harder L4 intervals.

So, this weird thing happens to me every fall. I start to worry that I’m not going fast enough in speeds, not long enough in intervals, and I lose confidence and worry that my season is going to be a disaster. But then the season goes just fine and I feel silly for stressing so much about it!

However, yesterday we did a 6×4 min L4 bounding session, and although I went as hard as I could, I was just out of it and ended up being pretty hard on myself. I figured sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield, and that day I was most definitely the bug. And it felt pretty bad.

But then my coaches and teammates reminded me…they’re not going to kick me off the team, or think any less of me, if I don’t perform 100% every single day. In fact, it’d be impossible to have a perfect training session or race every time! It’s normal to get nervous before the start of the race season…that that’s something that might never go away, just something I need to get better at dealing with.

So why am I going on about this? Because everybody has those days when, for whatever reason (bad session, injuries, sickness, bad day at work) they feel like the bug. Sometimes it just sucks! And it’s good to be able to admit when you’re feeling down and simply ask for a hug. I feel so lucky to know that I can get one anytime from such a great group of teammates and coaches. We’ve got each other’s backs!

But today was a rest day, and I think this cartoon (forwarded by Soph) pretty accurately sums up a skier’s day off: it’s never really as empty as we say it is.

Today’s day off consisted of chilling at the SMS team house and then finishing part 2 of a photo shoot for One Way Sport with Reese Hanneman (Engine Room Media – check out his site HERE! ). Reese took some good shots and was super fun to work with, and I can’t wait to post some of the photos in a couple days!

We took photos all over different parts of Park City, but my favorite spots included skiing up Main Street at night, climbing a rusty tower at an old mining site, and skiing over Guardsman Pass.

Doing the shoot on Main St was really cool because of all the lights and people but also a little sketchy; we’d wait for the street to clear and then I’d do a sprint up the middle of the street, and Reese would take some shots, then I’d scoot down the side of the street and do it again.

We got some great comments from the peanut gallery of pedestrians, too. “Ski like you MEAN IT!”…”Where can I get some of those wheels?”…”Whoa. That’s a lot of neon”…”so, uh, do those things mainly roll uphill or downhill?”. Luckily, it was dark, so although my face went red whenever people would stop and stare I don’t think anyone could tell!

Brooks Blog – October at Altitude

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October 16, 2012 – The countdown has truly begun…. in just a short 29 days I will be headed on another 30-hour travel to Europe to kick off the 2012-2013 ski season. With less than a month to go, nerves and excitement are starting to brew in my belly and the anticipation is high.

I find our sport to be qualitative to a fault. It’s usually this time of year when I start to wonder, am I fit? Have I prepared well enough? What page of the results will I be on for the first race of the season? Unlike running, biking, or baseball we have comparatively few ways to measure our progress or improvements. We don’t measure wattage, we don’t keep stats, and skiing isn’t as simple as running a repeatable track workout. We can repeat intervals on roller skis but weather and temperature change the speed of the pavement up to 20%. We can do a running test or a strength test but realistically, just because you can do more pull ups than 6 months ago doesn’t guarantee that you’re double pole is going to improve.

Physiological testing at the USSA headquarters in Park City, Utah is just one of the reasons why US Ski Team members make an annual trip here to train come October. The weather is generally beautiful, we can use the facilities at the Center of Excellence & we can “test” with the sports science department. On top of all this, we can take advantage of the opportunity to live & train at altitude.

In fact, as I type this, I am sitting at our condo in Deer Valley @ almost 9,000 feet! For those unfamiliar with altitude training it is basically a natural way of increasing your red blood cells & hemoglobin – both of which are responsible for carrying & delivering oxygen throughout your body. All said and done I will have been here for a full 18 days which should be enough time to spike my hemoglobin. I took a test upon landing and will take another one just before departure to track the change.

In addition to the hemoglobin tests I was scheduled to do a series of “max effort” tests on the ski treadmill to measure my Vo2max among other things. Unfortunately, I’m suffering from a bit of an intercostal muscle pull and at this point, have been unable to test or use my left arm to it’s full capacity. Some of you may remember seeing this from a post I wrote in May:

I was hoping to repeat this test (and see improvement!) but the priority is on fully healing my muscle so that I can do on-snow intervals in Alaska before departing for my first race in Munio, Finland! One of the advantages of being near the COE is that we have in-house trainers & physical therapists. I am seeing them daily and think that I should be 100% healed in no time!

Aside from using the COE and testing, my trip to Utah has given me a much-needed change of scenery, pace, and WEATHER. While the weather at home in Alaska had been quite “challenging” the weather in Utah has been gorgeous. It’s motivating to get out the door and in fact, sometimes you have to keep an eye on your watch because it’s tempting to stay outside all day!

Last week I got to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now and that is climb Timpanogos, an 11,700 foot peak just an hours drive from Park City. Lucky for me I got to climb it with a huge group of friends as it was part of my dear friend, Katie Ronsse’s pre-wedding activities!

Another thing I’ve been able to take advantage of here in Utah is the FOOD. I love ethnic food, particularly Mexican food. There is plenty to be had here – you can see by the site of this salsa bar…. last week I also went to a farmer’s market and just about died of happiness as there were fresh local fruits and veggies for REALLY affordable prices!

Another huge highlight of the past week and a half was attending Katie and Justin’s wedding. Rob was able to join me for the wedding and a small respite from the Alaskan rain. He was “happy as a clam” biking 8 hours a day on the extensive Park City mountain bike trails!

I have another four days here in Utah and its action packed with training sessions, physical therapy appointments, meetings with our new team sports psychologist & travel agent, getting outfitted with gear for the new season & an National Nordic Foundation fundraising meet & greet. (More on that and the Drive for 25 later!)

In the meantime, for all you folks up in Alaska – we’re having a fun(d) run for Mary this upcoming Sunday! I hope to see some of you there! Please help spread the word:

That’s it for now from Utah! Smiles & thanks for reading,

– Holly :)

Fast and Female Park City and Drive for 25 Info

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October 09, 2012 – Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone! Ok, now the blog post can begin. The Fast and Female event in Park City was officially AWESOME. As per my usual, I got to lead the dancing/endurance station, where we keep moving the entire time and each girl gets to add a dance move of her own to the group dance. The dance gets longer and longer and by the last group of the day I’m always working so hard to try and remember which move comes next! But it’s so much fun. Anne Hart was my dance station partner and we had a blast although by the end we both had jelly legs and were wiped out.

For me the coolest thing is seeing each girls face light up as the entire group does the dance move SHE got to add. It’s fun to make each girl be the star for 10 seconds!

And now… the National Nordic Foundation’s Drive for 25.

I realize that there are a ton of fundraisers going on this fall. And my personal fundraiser, the Chilkoot Cafe dinner in Stillwater, is going on this fall as well, on November 10th. But, I’m putting this up because the National Nordic Foundation directly helps me as well as many other junior, senior and U23 athletes looking to take the next step in international racing. NNF lowers trip costs for World Juniors/U23′s, and help pay for World Cup expenses. NNF also helped the US Women’s team travel to Sweden to train with some of the best in the world and improve.

So!

If you cannot come to Stillwater, MN on November 10th but are a friend of mine and/or Nordic Skiing and want to help out, this fundraiser is the best way to do it. I’ve linked my fundraising page below, and my goal is to get 20 people to donate $25. All the fundraiser information is on the link – even if you do not want to donate, please check out the NNF and their mission – the stories, pictures and race blogs are well worth looking at. Thanks for your time!

Jessie’s Drive for 25 page HERE.

Noah Hoffman – Fall Training and Fun

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October 01, 2012 (Park City, UT) – The USST’s Noah Hoffman has had a busy fall after returning from a training camp in New Zealand with a quick stopover in Putney, VT. Back home in Park City, Hoffman has been enjoying the fall weather, quality time with family and friends, and hard training sessions in preparation for the upcoming competitive season.

Find out more on his blog HERE.

Diggins Report: The Fun Stuff That Happens When I Get to Come Home

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September 29, 2012 (Afton, MN) – Wow, I LOVE being home! I forget sometimes how wonderful fall is in Minnesota, and it’s so beautiful driving through Afton with the trees turning leaves and hanging over the road. Especially since there’s so many people out enjoying the good weather – I must have seen at least 30 rollerskiers and bikers out yesterday in the 10 minutes I drove through Afton.

The Beech family invited a bunch of the skiers and friends from the Stillwater High School team over to help pick apples and press them into cider, and they have this really cool cider press that takes at least three people to work at once. It tasted delicious!

Everyone’s hands got super sticky sweet, and there were little bits of apple flying all over whenever the wheel got turned really energetically.

At the Art in the Park fair going on in downtown Afton, I got the most delicious acorn squash from my favorite booth… Siri and Carl Bohacek! I had the honor of going for a roll with their mom, Kris, earlier – a good Sunday morning tradition that I look forward to every time I come home.

Then I got to plant some bright fall flowers in the garden and help my Dad wash the deck and burn buckthorn… some fall chores that I was excited to be home to help with, since I’m never around to do my share normally!

My Dad had returned home just before I did, from a hunting trip down in South Africa, just outside of Kimberly. We all piled on the couch as my Dad scrolled through the amazing pictures of wildlife he took, including lions, zebras, warthogs, giraffes, impala, wildebeest, and springbok. He also had cool stories of the culture he experienced down there, and it was so neat to hear about a place that skiing will never take me but would be really fun to visit and learn more about.

US XC Men’s Ski Team Euro Training Camp – Heading Home

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August 14, 2012 – The US XC Men’s Ski Team recently spent three weeks training in Austria and Germany with some workouts on glaciers, in the gym, and skiing at the DKB Skisport Halle in Oberhof. When the camp wrapped up, the squad travelled together to Munich, where they sought out a gym for one last workout before their flight.

The next day, after enjoying a fabulous hotel breakfast, Noah Hoffman and Tad Elliott travelled back to Aspen, CO together, but not without some adventures along the way. Since his return home, Hoffman has enjoyed lots of family and friend time, as well as quality training. Read more about the US XC Men’s Ski Team and what the Hoff has been up to on his new website HERE.

Brooks Blog – Back at it!

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May 07, 2012 – Like everyone else, I had huge intentions of writing a huge blog post (almost a month ago now) reviewing my season, talking about the highs and lows in detail – and covering everything in between.

However, in reality, I needed time to rest – both my body and my mind and that included taking a short hiatus from blogging and telling the world about my exploits :)

Now that I’ve had that time to rest, here is how it went, in a nutshell:

– A delayed departure for Europe due to no snow…. got my first taste of tunnel skiing in Torsby
– An awesome streak of World Cup performances – better than I had ever imagined… scoring WC points in 6 of 9 individual start races. I almost made the distance red group after one period alone! This was certainly a break through for me mentally, physically & emotionally. It also gave me the green light to extend my season in Europe and join the Tour de Ski USA crew! This meant spending Christmas in Europe.
– Christmas night: fell on icy road and broke my wrist four days before Tour de Ski. (Nice timing, right?)
– Proceeded to race the Tour de Ski with my wrist – didn’t find out it was broken until half way through the Tour when I got x-rays and an MRI en route to Italy.

– Stubbornly finished the Tour with the help of pain killers and tape jobs (thanks Steph!) Was ecstatic to reach the top of the Alps Cermis, even if my performance took a huge tumble.
– Proceeded to take some much needed rest in Italy at the home of Bill and Kathy Estes – thanks Guys!
– Continued onto Ramsau, Austria, SOLO for a one-pole ski camp… often in a blizzard.
– Got back into World Cup racing in time to come down with the weird stomach bug that took almost everyone out at one point or another. Dropped out of a race in Czech (Heck, I didn’t even drop out of races when I had a broken wrist!) and then the next day summoned all my courage and energy to help the USA ladies to our best 4x5k relay result ever. Certainly a HIGHLIGHT of the season!

– Just the day before I had purchased a ticket home for a 2-week recovery trip. My wrist episode combined with the stomach bug took a bigger toll on me than I’d thought. I traveled back to the States, 30 pairs of skis and all; knowing that I wanted to come back but not knowing if I could come back.
– Raced the American Birkebeiner and WON! That one had been on my list for a while ever since loosing my an inch in 2009!

– Returned to Europe for the Lahti World Cups but skied poorly. Perhaps 20,000 + miles in an airplane, a 50k and jumping 4 time zones doesn’t work….
– Skied and WON OPA cup finals in Toblach, Italy! It wasn’t WC Finals but it certainly felt good to stand on TOP of a podium. I won countless pounds of cheese and meat for my efforts.
– From Italy I continued onto Craftsbury Vermont where I met my APU teammates. It was close to 80 degrees so we had to get tanks and shorts at thrift stores…. I continued to have what I felt were mediocre races at spring series.

In all, the season was a huge breakthrough for me. Going into it, I had no idea that I would be spending almost five straight months overseas. I didn’t anticipate a 13th place in Davos, just missing the distance red group at the end of December, or even starting the Tour de Ski. Injuring myself was a huge bummer, especially with the momentum that I had created….. but on the bright side, it wasn’t an Olympic year, right? I raced in 26 different World Cup races in countries and venues all over Europe. In all, I raced 51 times last year, summer events included. I learned a lot, as you’d hope I would in that period of time. But perhaps the most important lessons when it comes to International performances are that 1 – I can do it; we can do it. We have the tools to succeed, let alone WIN against the Europeans. 2 – Next season I will need a planned break to come home to AK 3 – Diversify racing venues and level of competition – I didn’t race my first non-World Cup race until the American Birkie in February! As hard as it is to miss World Cups, standing on a podium and being in the hunt for the win is important and not to be under estimated.

All in all, I’m excited to train really hard this summer and take another stab at it next winter. I’m crossing my fingers to stay injury free and be able to pick up where I left off!

WHEW….. That wasn’t supposed to be long winded but it was, sorry. Here are some pictures of my spring to make up for it:

Following the ski season I did what so happy skiers do after 5 months of traveling on the road, chasing snow; go to the beach! This trip was actually planned as a college reunion some 8 months prior to going. There was lots to celebrate and lots to catch up on including BIG birthdays…. (and some anxiety on my part for those that know me well!) Time with my college girlfriends was awesome. We cooked amazing meals and talked for HOURS about all kinds of non-ski related things. My friends are all amazingly accomplished and it was fun to hear about mobile butchers for Sarah’s meat CSA, Al’s trips on the Grand Canyon, Jayne’s PhD in geophysics & Laura’s teaching exploits from Oahu!

It was a tight turn around to get to Hawaii. I came into Alaska on a red eye and had less than 24 hours in AK to give my husband a hug, vote, pack, un-pack, lead a clinic & attend to all kinds of business and months of mail. Then, I departed on another red eye for the islands….. arriving 10 hours later; exhausted to say the least. (I’m NOT complaining though!)

The girls also put up with my need to exercise – at least a bit. I’ve always wanted to bike on the islands and this time I was finally able too. Here I am at the 9,000 ft. lookout for Mauna Kea.

The other super fun thing I did this spring was attend my good friend, Chrissy’s bachlorette party. Instead of a night on the town we took a water taxi across K-Bay in Homer to her family cabin. We brought skis, running shoes, and blow-up paddle boards – and used them all!

The spring is also a great time to participate in some awesome community programs. ARISE is a new program co-lead by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures. It stands for Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel. Basically, it brings local runners and health advocates into Title I schools in Anchorage to run with elementary school kids at recess. The goal is to show that being active can be fun! This spring Tyson Elementary in Mountain View is the pilot program.

The grades, K-5 are having a competition to see which class can run the most. Mid-week last week, the Tyson kids had run 584 miles total! Last Thursday we had a “speed gun” where kids did a full on sprint. The school is going to take our mileage and overlay it across the state of Alaska. The goal is run from Anchorage to the North Slope – at least!

In other news, training for 2012-2013 has started and we’re hitting it hard with APU. Lucky for us, we can still ski in Anchorage so we’re mixing some on-snow training in with running, lifting, etc. Should be fun (and sometimes sore) times!

More real soon…..

Cheers!

Holly :)

Drew Goldsack Suffers a Mild Concussion in Whistler

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January 20, 2012 (Whistler, BC) – Canadian Ski Team member Drew Goldsack suffered a mild concussion on Saturday when he crashed during the NorAm freestyle sprint races in Whistler. Due to his concussion, Goldsack has announced he will skip this weekend’s Western Canadian Champs in Canmore. Read his blog for the inside scoop on his crash…

Whistler… I Hope I Didn’t Brain My Damage

Ah Whistler, I have to say I saw these NorAm races going differently in my head movies.  (If you don’t get the ‘head movies’ reference, stop reading, go watch the movie Tropic Thunder, and report back.)

With the extended holiday break over, it was back to business last week with the continuation of the Haywood NorAm race series. The weekend also doubled as selection races for the U23/World Junior Championships so it was an exciting three days of racing with lots on the line! Props to the Alberta World Cup Academy crew who dominated the podium all weekend and managed to qualify a whopping SEVEN athletes for the WJr./U23 Champs., claiming nearly half of the available spots on the World Champs team! A huge part of this success is thanks to the incredibly hard working Academy coaches and technicians who put in long hours behind the scenes every weekend, ensuring that things run smoothly come race day.

The week kicked off with the 30k Pursuit on Thursday and it was a bit of a rough start. On the best of days a 30k is a challenge for my largely fast twitch muscles and despite feeling good on the first lap, the race quickly turned into a suffer fest for me. I blew up early in the race and spent the rest of the time trying to recover, not an ideal way to race a 30k!

Saturday however brought my bread and butter, the freestyle sprint.  The qualifying round went ok for me through heavy snow and on extremely soft tracks which made the course ski way harder than usual. I was feeling a bit sluggish from the 30k, but I also knew that my body would loosen up as the day went on. As expected, I began to feel better with each round and was very confident going into the final. The soft, deep snow made it extremely hard to pass, so a good start and energy conservation were key in order to have a good final push to the line. I started well and was in a good position on the final downhill coming into the stadium but just as I was about to start my attack, another skier went down and I tangled up with them.

Before I could react, my feet whipped out from under me at full speed and I rag-dolled to a stop. Ouch. As I lay there a little dazed, still trying to process what just happened, I took an inventory of my body and in the moment didn’t feel anything too seriously injured. In this case, the insult would come before the injury, my pole had somehow managed to break off at the handle and I was horrified to look down and see my very best pair of race skis shattered just in front of the binding.

Immediately, a feeling of loss that’s nearly impossible to explain to anyone who isn’t a high level ski racer, washed over me. The same pair of skis that faithfully carried me to numerous NorAm podiums and a 5th place finish in Dusseldorf only a month before were now splintered and lying awkwardly twisted in the snow beneath me. It’ll be hard, if not impossible, to find a replacement for that pair of skis.

For a few more good shots of my crash caught by Jesse Winter, have a look here: Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3

Upon my return to the hotel that afternoon, the physical effects of the crash began to set in. I began to feel nauseous, drowsy and a headache was setting in. I knew I had hit my head but didn’t think it was anything serious. The next day I felt ok when I woke up save for some serious whiplash, a stiff shoulder and some new bruises, but as I began to move around I knew something wasn’t right. I started to feel nauseous again and my headache was getting worse… could it really be a concussion?

Am I now part of the hottest statistic in sports? I talked it over with the coaches and we decided that it was best to play it safe and sit the 15km classic as a precaution. Through the day my symptoms got worse and I utterly suffered through the twisty, stop and go van ride to the airport in Vancouver for my flight home.

After seeing our team doctor on Monday, I was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Brutal. Despite this setback, the word ‘mild’ left me optimistic that I would recover in time for the Western Canadian Champs being held at home in Canmore this weekend. However, I have been unable to train due to headaches and nausea and consequently my hopes to race this weekend have been dashed. I could insert any number of cliché’s here but the reality is plainly that luck has not been on my side so far this season. I guess as a small consolation, my many years spent as an athlete have certainly taught me how to be resilient and persevere…so persevere I will.

More great photos from Whistler NorAm weekend can be found on Angus Cockney’s Picasa album HERE.

Overheard:

“I suck at cooking” – Graham Nishikawa… good thing you’re getting married, Congrats man!

In the tape deck:

Artist: Andrew Bird, Track: Tenuousness

Artist: M83, Track: Midnight City

On the tube:

Andrew Bird performing Tenuosness live, incredible use of a looping pedal. If you don’t know what a looping pedal is, look it up, it’ll make you appreciate the video and song a whole lot more.

http://youtu.be/1sivcS6uvIg

This blog and other updates can also be found on www.drewgoldsack.ca

Dusseldorf, Car Races, Christmas and Such…

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January 18, 2012 – My return to the World Cup this season definitely didn’t start off as I had envisioned but it certainly ended on a positive note! After a slightly better but still disappointing sprint day on Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, I was encouraged by a better feeling body and regrouped for Sunday’s sprint relay.

I teamed up with the towering Lenny Valjas and together we put in a great day of sprint racing. We went into the sprint relay not really knowing what to expect as we had both had disappointing results in the individual sprint qualifier the day before. However, after the qualifying round was finished with, we knew that today would be different.

Len and I posted the third fastest qualifying time of 28 teams and after the disqualification of a German team, ended up being the second ranked qualifiers on the day. Going into the final, our attitude quickly changed.  We started the day with the goal of just making it into the final, now the podium was in our sights. We stuck to our race plan, skiing conservatively, conserving energy and staying out of trouble.

This meant that we were often at or near the back of the pack but as others burned  energy fighting for a position or two, Len and I managed to ski relaxed and then go for it on our final laps. Thanks to an impressive finishing kick from Len, we were able to pass the Austrian team down the final stretch and lock up 5th place, just 4 seconds out of the top spot!

Unfortunately it was too little too late to justify staying on the World Cup circuit so I returned to Canada to pick up the start of the NorAm series in Silver Star. As is often a result of hectic race/travel schedules I came down with a cold the day before the first races in Silver Star and consequently missed that weekend of racing and the following weekend in Rossland. A total bummer but not a whole lot you can do about it! If there was a positive to missing the pre-Christmas NorAms it was that it allowed me to get in some really good training volume over the Holidays in preparation for the second half of the season.  I had a great Christmas at home in Red Deer with family before returning to Canmore for another week of volume consisting of some great days out in Kananaskis. I even managed to sneak out into the backcountry for an awesome day of charging knee deep pow with Brent McMurtry and Phil Widmer.

It’s now a new year and with a lot of racing ahead I’m looking forward to the weeks to come. Hopefully I can get back in the mix and join the race for the NorAm spot on the World Cup this spring!

As a final thought, I’d like to comment on what I’ve seen happening with increasingly extreme weather patterns around the globe.  It’s really concerning to see what can only be explained as the early signs of climate change. It’s not news that humans are having a profound impact on our environment and climate but as I experience the increasing extremes of weather around the globe, it really drives home the fact that we need to be ever more conscious about what we’re doing to our planet.

Whether it’s seeing pouring rain just kilometers from the Artic Circle in late November, hurricane force winds in the City of Calgary or a complete lack of snow around the globe, it’s worrying to think about the impact that this will not only have on the planet but on the sport that I love. This is certainly not a new concept but I really feel like I need to reiterate how important it is to make environmentally conscious decisions every day and continually evaluate how those decisions impact the planet. For a list of the top 10 things you can do to make a difference have a look here: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-you-can-stop-climate-change/

Have a great 2012 everyone!

-Drew Goldsack

Overheard: 

“Ugh, I’m soooo tired” –Devon Kershaw, the night before an awesome race.

In the Tape Deck:

Artist: Lana del Rey, Track: Video Games

Artist: Mumford & Sons: Track: Awake My Soul (Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London)

Artist: Mumford & Sons: Track: Little Lion Man (Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London)

On the Tube:

http://youtu.be/6UeCRY1wciA

This blog and others can also be found on www.drewgoldsack.ca!

Brooks Blog: The Penultimate Race of the Tour de Ski

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January 11, 2012 (Toblach, Italy) – Oh Italy….. I am finally back in connectivity after no Internet for days. There is a theory that Internet is especially sparse in Italy due to some Mafia thing but that has yet to be confirmed. Alas, my apologies for those of you that have checked back only to find my blog without recent updates. It’s been out of my control, for sure! (This also creates a huge back log in correspondence so if I haven’t written you back yet, this is why!)

This afternoon we have our second to last race of the Tour, a 10k classic mass start race at Val di Fiemme. I will make this post brief because I need to get ready but I really want to get something up to let you all know what has been going on.

As I’m sure some of you have seen or read in other publications, I took a slip on the ice Christmas day while running in Ramsau, Austria. It’s taken a while to get a proper diagnosis…. this has included lots of fitful reading on wikipedia, Web MD, and all of those other scary Internet sources where you diagnose yourself and then continue to have nightmares…. However, I was finally able to get both an x-ray and MRI, mid-tour in Oberstdorf, Germany. We were able to deal with an Orthopedic specialist but lots of the medical lingo was lost in translation and there was a fair amount of uncertainty- plus, we were literally trying to get on the road to arrive at the next stage of the Tour. It was quite a debacle of a day but more on that later.

The conclusion from the MRI is/was that I have a non-dislocated fracture of the distal radius bone. They were initially worried about the scaphoid-lunate ligament as well but that appears to be okay which is terrific news.

The second I fell on the ice I knew that something was terribly wrong. My hand was extremely swollen and my range of motion was poor. Christmas was literally 4 days before the beginning of the Tour and it was hard to know what to do. Since then, I have been racing every day, doing my best to compete. While my results have been extremely sub-par, I feel the need to complete the Tour. I’ve worked so hard to get here – and there are so many people who have helped me out along the way. I know there are a handful of other skiers from the US who would have loved to have the start opportunity and I feel the need to represent the US. I often wonder if the decision to keep racing is tough or just plain stupid. I was concerned about the potential of permanent damage to my arm but have been told since that it’s probably just pro-longing my recovery period.

Coming into the Tour my goals included fighting for a top ten stage results and finishing in the top 20 overall. While those goals are completely out of the question now, I continue to race because each time I put a bib on, I learn something valuable. With each stage of the Tour has come another World Cup start, another experience at a new venue, and some pointers and direction towards my results here (hopefully) next year, not to mention later this season.

Also, Val di Fiemme, (where we are now) is the site of the 2013 World Championships so while I’m racing today, I will literally be trying out the course for next year’s Championships. After yesterday’s “inspection ski” I was really psyched – I think the courses suit me well and it gives me a ton of direction for summer and fall training.

I promise a more complete update with tons of pictures soon. In the meantime, THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED MY JOURNEY!!!! YOU ALL MEAN THE WORLD TO ME AND I WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL! This injury has been especially difficult in that part of me feels like I’ve let some of you down but I’ve been told that I cannot think that way… and I know I can’t. Nonetheless, THANK YOU and I will continue to do my best to represent you all and get some stories and photos as soon as I possibly can!

Cheers!
Holly:)

The Theme of the Tour de Ski is Recovery

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January 05, 2012 (Oberhof, Germany) – Holly Brooks, who racing at her first Tour de Ski, injured her wrist while on a run just before the Tour started. She’s been hanging in and doing exceptionally well considering her injury and posted this blog after Day 1 [which we missed] that provides some insight into how she prepared for the biggest event on the ski calendar this season.

I figure that a short post is better than none at all…. so here it is: The Tour de Ski started today. While I had a poor result – by far, my worst “distance race” since being in Europe, I have to be happy in that I felt as if I could ski.

Yesterday, in the training day, my wrist was incredibly painful and I have to admit; I was worried to say the least. Today I had a top-notch tape job done by Steph, our massage therapist and a double dose of pain meds. The duo seemed to do the trick!

Conditions today were icy, squirrely and fast – not my favorite. But, it’s snowing outside right now which makes me happy. Klister covered conditions are some of my favorite and I have an awesome pair of skis if the waxing goes that way. I’ll have plenty of girls to chase tomorrow in the pursuit start so it should be fun to “hunt some down” and try and improve my overall placing, not to mention, aim for a solid “day of” result.

Other than that, one of the big themes of the Tour is RECOVERY. With nine races in eleven days, proactive recovery becomes imperative.

Here is the plan: after the race, reach for my Boost – yep, the “old folks drink.” I may be the only person on the US team that likes the stuff. Me and maybe my grandma :) Change clothes afterwards… get a good, short cool down, ice my hand, change into dry clothes, hustle back to the hotel for a shower, put my feet up. I’m sure we’ll start using the mobile ice bath as fatigue builds up. Also, Kikkan and Bird did a bit of personal fundraiser to bring Steph Caverhill, a massage therapist over for the team.

Most teams travel with a massage therapist everywhere. While we normally do not have one, we’re excited to have Steph here to help us out over the next week and a half. As I said above, she did an awesome job of taping my hand.

It’s cool to have a female on staff…. I can tell with the little things like the fact that she used pre-rap on my tape job so I don’t have to pull off half of my arm hair when de-taping. Thanks for that Steph!

Thanks for everyone’s encouragement! Go team USA!

The Eve of the Tour de Ski

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December 29, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) – So…. I haven’t said much on my blog yet about the Tour de Ski but here it is – starting TOMORROW!  As there is no World Champs or Olympics this year, the Tour is kind of the pinnacle of the race year. Many of the top athletes have been aiming to perform well here all year. I was a last minute addition to the US Tour roster after having performances during period one of the World Cup this fall.

I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to race this event. As a distance skier and high volume trainer, I absolutely LOVE the thought of racing day in and day out, challenging myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have no idea how I’ll do or what will happen to by body as the days of fatigue add up but this is a great time to try it and I couldn’t be more excited for the challenge.

There are a ton of friends, family, and even people I don’t know that have helped make it possible for me to be here. As many of you know, I’m responsible for providing my own funding and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the generous support and enthusiasm of many of YOU. I hesitate to name anyone personally because there are so many of you and I don’t want to leave anyone out but you know who you are.

The experience of needing support and needing it fast has really been really moving. I only hope that I can repay many of you back with the generosity someday be it in the form of a ski lesson, athletic inspiration, a smile, or perhaps one day, dollars to a cause important to you. I know that on Thursday, when I put a bib on, I will feel like I’m racing with the support of people from Washington and Alaska; Kongsberger Ski Club, Alaska Pacific University, and Snoqualmie Nordic Team. THANK YOU so much to ALL of you!

As far as challenges go, I feel the need to share something that’s been on the fore front of my mind lately…. Christmas Day I decided to go for a short run before dinner. It was dark out and icy in places. Just as I was about to turn around and head back to the Kobaldhof, I slipped on the ice, falling back, and caught myself with my left hand. I knew instantly that it was not good…. but I wasn’t sure how bad. And I still don’t know. The plan for tomorrow, and each day afterwards is to ice, tape, take some anti-immflatatory medication and go for it.

The US team doesn’t have a doctor here at the moment so this morning I went and saw the Norwegian Team’s Doctor and “Physio.” (The Euro name for PT). They were incredibly generous to see me and were encouraging in that they do not think my wrist has a scaphoid fracture – my greatest worry via a couple hours on email and web MD. (Always a bad idea and also guaranteed to give you nightmares). If Petra Madjic can win a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games with broken ribs and a punctured lung, perhaps I can race the Tour, and excel in it with whatever injury my wrist may have sustained. It’s not ideal but I’m certainly not the first athlete who has gotten a bit beat up.

Time for bed as often rest provides one with the best healing and rejuvenation powers! Thank you everyone for everything and I’ll do my best to keep you posted through this incredible journey!

Sincerely,

Holly :)

Heading Home…

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December 21, 2011 – After the ski racing scene made a stop in British Columbia’s SilverStar Mountain, I headed six hours south down the Okanogan Valley to my old stomping grounds to the Wenatchee Valley. Highway 97 might not have the most recognizable name, but traveling the two lane road takes you through some of the finest agricultural country in the west. It’s always interesting to head through mostly rural, largely geographically isolated towns, like those that trade in names such as Pentecton, Oroville, Brewster or Chelan, where signs from a different era and brick storefronts replace the Chevrons and Golden Arches. The locals have a little more presence, a little more personality and, I suspect, reflect more the life of the people who live there.

Heading home, though, has not brought an end to the mostly snowless winter. Snow is patchy at best. The first day I hit the trails I couldn’t head to my familiar haunts like the little Ski Hill in Leavenworth or trails that meander along the Wenatchee River. That first day I skied the first day in an alfalfa field, rolled with an Arctic Cat snowmobile in Plain, Washington. For the meager amount of snow, and limited terrain, the skiing wasn’t more than what one could expect. Also, it’s always interesting to skate and glide in some new locale. That the Plain ski venue in the alfalfa fields sits next to the only road I’ve ever seen the backseat of a Crown Vic on – for rollerskiing outside the fogline up Beaver Hill – brought back some remembrances.

Getting back home also gave me the chance to catch up with Mr. Peck and his 5th grade class. With Christmas Break now upon them, and the schoolwork assignments giving way to Christmas parties, the girls have told me they think I am their lucky rabbit’s foot. It’s been great to get back in the classroom – especially that I finished my own finals for the university learning – to catch up with Mr. Peck and connect with the kids. Yes, the days in Pacific Northwest are the perfect place to be, even if I wouldn’t mind for a few more snowflakes to fall any day yet.

Until the next time,

Torin

Kikkan Randall’s Race Tails: Double Podiums in Düsseldorf and Davos

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December 16, 2011 – The exciting new season continues! First off a skate sprint weekend along the Rhein river in Düsseldorf, Germany. In the individual sprint, I started off the day with a 10th in qualifying and then battled my way through the rounds on the narrow course to make the final. In the final, there was some bumping early on in the race, but I was able to stay on my feet and make a free-skating charge at the end to take the win.

In the next day’s team sprint, I lined up with my APU teammate Sadie Bjornsen and made it through to the finals.  On the first lap we had some bad luck and got stuck behind a fall, dropping us to last.  We never lost faith however, kept charging and on the last lap I was able to make up a few spots and get us into the silver medal position.  The first ever team sprint podium for a US sprint team!

The next weekend took us to Davos, Switzerland where the snow finally arrived and we got to contest a 15km skate on a 7.5km loop (a rarity on WC these days), and a skate sprint.

In the 15km, I had a good start early but then faded through the race, just managing to stay in the points at 27th place.  It proved to be a great warm-up for the sprint however, and I was able to qualify 1st and lead through the quarters and semis to make the final.

In the final I took the lead midway through and made an aggressive acceleration over the top of the hill to break up the pack. I ended up breaking away for the win.  I also got to wear the red Sprint Leaders jersey through the day, which was pretty fun!

Now we’re on to Rogla, Slovenia for the last weekend of Period 1.  There’s not much snow here but the organizers are working hard to put on some good races.  We’ve got a 10km classic mass-start and a skate sprint coming up!

Quote of the Day
“We all shared in the success and it made it so incredibly special! ”

What’s Coming Up
– Dec. 17/11 – 11 Rogla WC – 10km C Mass-start
– Dec. 18/11 – Rogla WC – Sprint F
– Dec. 29/11 – Tour de Ski – Oberhof Prologue
– Dec. 30/11 – Tour de Ski – Oberhof 10k C H
– Dec. 31/11 – Tour de Ski – Oberstdorf Sprint C
– Jan. 1/12 – Tour de Ski – Oberstdorf 10k Skiathlon

The Full Report
Hello everyone!  It’s been another couple of exciting weeks!  I have to admit that I’ve been having so much fun celebrating the good races and hanging out with my teammates that I’ve been a little delinquent in getting my Race Tails out.  Here is a quick recap of the last two weekends.

Following the mini-tour in Ruka, Finland, we headed down to Central Europe to the sun!  Winter had not arrived yet here either, and the first few days of training were confined to 1-3km loops of man-made snow on top of green grass!

Düsseldorf Sprint Weekend
Once in Düsseldorf, the scene was pretty much the same as the previous years.  Except, this time in the giant stadium attached to our hotel, the soccer field was covered with a car racing track.  We got to watch the drivers test out their cars and I have to admit it was pretty fun to see them sliding the corners and revving their engines.

On Saturday morning we awoke to pouring rain.  Luckily I had all my stuff this year and packed my bag with just about every piece of ski clothing I had brought!  The most exciting thing was that I had female teammates this year, three of them, which meant that we could actually ski in the team sprint for the first time!

Individual Skate Sprint
For the qualifying round I was given bib #1 for the 2nd week in a row, so with a fresh course before me, I set off around the 750m loop!  I came around the first corner so fast that I almost lost my balance.  Luckily, I stayed on my feet and made it around the course in less than two minutes.  It was a solid burn but over so fast!  I ended up qualifying in 10th position.

Thankfully the rain stopped in time for the heats.  In the quarters and semis, I had decent starts, worked my way up through the pack on the back stretch and used strong finishes each time to advance.

In the final, I did not get a good start and ended up bumping skis with a couple competitors down the first straight away.  After a few more bumps coming up to the first turn with fellow NA racer Chandra Crawford, I decided to settle back in the pack.  As we approached Mt. Düsseldorf I noticed a narrow opening in between Chandra and the Russian, Matveeva.  I went for it.  A few more bumps.  Over the top I managed to get myself into 2nd position.   As we came off the final turn, I worked an aggressive free skate and swung wide into the outside lane.  Skating low and without poles, I managed to sneak into the finish lanes just ahead of Matveeva and secured the win at the line.  I let out an ecstatic yell!

Düsseldorf has one of the most fun awards presentations after the race, up on a big stage next to the course.  They blasted techno music while they called up the top ten and I couldn’t help but do a little dance.  After the awards were presented, they played the US National anthem and it was incredibly special to hear it out loud. I sang every word.

Right away we had another important race to focus on, the team sprint.  It was decided that Sadie Bjornsen and I would team up on the first team, and Holly and Ida would team up for our second team.  We were all pretty excited to get in the mix!

Team Sprint
The next day we awoke to clearer skies and less wind.  While the snow was much dirtier than the day before, the course was holding up well.  We did some jogging to warm-up and then hit the course for a short window of ski testing before the race.  I found my legs to be quite tired from the full day before.

In the semis, Sadie skied our lead off leg.  Over the first few laps, we just hung contently in the pack and tried to avoid all the chaos.  The exchange zones were war fields every time but we managed to make it through unscathed and in good position going into the final lap.  I was able to pass a couple teams in the finish stretch to automatically advance us to the final.  The pace had been fast and furious and we both hoped we had more left in the tank for the finals.

Sadie and I hung out together in the wax trailer during the short break between rounds.  Sadie played it pretty calm, but disclosed to me later that she was really nervous.  The funny thing is, I was too.   Although, I did manage to drift off to sleep for a few minutes and dream about Santa Claus of all things.

For the finals Sadie again skied the lead off leg.  She got off to a fantastic start and was near the front when suddenly, just past the exchange zone, she got caught up behind a fall and dropped to the back.  Not panicking, I chased hard once I got the tag and over the next couple laps we just tried to get back in contention. Sadie skied a fantastic last leg and got us back on to the back of the lead group, we were in 9th.

Once I got the final tag, I decided to go for it.  I went wide up the first rise and around the corner and made up a couple places.  While everyone seemed to relax a bit on the back stretch, I again worked the wide lane and by the time I got over Mt. Düsseldorf, I was in 4th.  When we came off the final turn, I free skated like crazy again and headed for the far wide lane.  This time I did manage to use a couple of pole plants and somehow managed to get us into 2nd place by the time I hit the line.  Podium #2!

Sadie immediately ran over and gave me the biggest hug.  A wave of emotion surged over me.  We jumped up and down together and then our other teammates and coaches, who had been yelling like crazy for us, came over and we had a big group hug.  We all shared in the success and it made it so incredibly special!

We got to go up on stage for the awards ceremony and dance some more.  We did a special tribute dance to our teammates back in the US and took in all the atmosphere.  It was pretty fun to be watching Sadie do all this for the first time!

On Monday we packed up and headed back to Davos, Switzerland.  A little bit of natural snow had started falling and through the week, it would start to look more and more like winter.

I was pretty bagged for the first couple days and took it nice and easy to recover.  Davos is one of my favorite places in Europe.  Not only is the skiing (usually) amazing, but the town is really welcoming and cozy, and there is an incredible coffee shop called ‘Kafe Klatsch’ that is great for meeting up with our international friends.

Midweek activities included a Secret Santa poem night with our team, where we all had drawn a collegue’s name out of a hat and then wrote a poem about that person and gave them a small gift.  It was good for a plethora of laughs and team bonding!

The other highlight of the week was getting a fika (coffee date) with our Swedish friends Anna Haag and Charlotte Kalla.  We were discussing the early season success of the Norwegian women’s team and decided that if we were able to displace some of them from a podium spot during the weekend, we would spray champagne at the flower ceremony to celebrate.

15km Individual Freestyle
The first race of the weekend was the 15km skate individual start.  Earlier in the week when it looked like there wouldn’t be enough snow, the race was going to be shortened to 10km.  But the organizers did an amazing job and got the 7.5km loop ready in time for the longer distance.  Over the past few distance starts here in Davos I have really struggled.  So I was hoping a longer event on a slightly different course might help me break my Davos distance curse.

My plan was to start aggressive, which had worked well in Sjusjoen, and then try to maintain a steady but solid pace through the race.  Without really noticing, I managed to hit this strategy right on and at the first split at 2km, I was leading the race with 49 racers through.  The pace felt reasonable and I was feeling confident that I could build speed through the race.  But then, only a kilometer later, as I made my way to the high point at 4km, I began to unravel.  My body felt stiff and my focus started to waiver.

I kept fighting, reminding myself to work the gradual terrain, bend my legs and keep my tempo up, but I was really struggling to kick myself into the next gear.  Skiing totally alone, I had to keep trying to coax myself to stay on pace and dig deeper.   When I crossed the finish line, I was definitely exhausted, yet didn’t have that flop-on-the-ground, totally dead feeling I had wanted to achieve.  In the end I had to settle for 27th place.

While it was my worst race of the season so far, it was still a big improvement over my other distance results here in Davos, it was still in the points and only 13 seconds out of the top 20, and I had great results from my teammates (Holly in 13th and Liz in 21st) to celebrate.  I crossed it off as a successful day and turned my attention to the next day’s sprint.

Individual Skate Sprint
This time, I did not draw bib #1 for the qualifier.   But I did get to wear the red Sprint Leader’s jersey for the first time this season.  The sprint course would be two laps of a 600m loop and required the right pacing.

During the warm-up my legs felt pretty heavy and I was anxious about the 15km’s effects on my energy reserves.  Once I started the qualifier however, I could tell the feelings were good and I set off on an aggressive first lap.  As I came through the stadium for the lap, I could feel the burn setting in.  I dug down and pushed hard through every transition, not letting up until I slid my foot across the line.  The announcer immediately called out, “And now Randall has the new best time.”

When all the racers had finished, I had managed to stay atop the leader board by 0.11 seconds!  This was the first time that I had ever qualified first and it almost made me a little more nervous than usual.  I finished my cool down and then made my way into the athlete’s tent.  Many of the other teams had their massage tables out with therapists working on their athletes. Meanwhile, I laid on a foam stretching mat on the floor, covered myself in jackets and fought off shivers for the next 45 minutes.

Thankfully I was able to warm myself back up again pretty quickly in time for the quarterfinals.  I got off to a good start and controlled the pace from the front.  I put in a little extra push over the top of the last hill and stayed in the lead to advance to the semis.  The effort was hard however, and I wondered if I could handle such a pace for two more rounds!

In the semis I got off to a good start again and led the race.  This time I was able to relax a little bit more on the flats and then put in another good push over the top of the climb to keep my lead and advance to the final.
The sun was just setting as we lined up for the final introductions.  Just happy to be back in the final again, I gave an excited double wave to the camera and to the crowd.  Then we crouched…set…BANG!

I had a decent start and came out pretty even with the other girls.  We all spread out and I gradually worked my way up towards the front, but then let Matveeva take the lead around the first corner.  I followed her up and over the hill.  My skis were fast and I glided up next to her as we came back into the lap lane.  For a second, I thought I would try and tuck in behind her, but then I got the urge to take the lead.  I V2’d powerfully up alongside and as we approached the hairpin turn, I got into the lead.  I took one more second to relax and then accelerated coming out of the turn.  I jump skated like crazy and made sure to push over the top.

As we glided back down into the stadium, I took a quick glance over at the jumbo tron.  I saw three dark figures coming down the hill together and figured that was the other skiers right on my tail.  So I kept hammering, determined to stay in front.

When I burst onto the homestretch I opened up into a tall V2 and imagined the others shadows coming up beside me at any second.  Finally, when I got a few meters from the line I realized there was no one coming up and got to raise my arms in celebration across the line.  Another thrilling day!

I was immediately just so happy to have put together such a solid day, feeling strong through four rounds.  Once I caught my breath, I did a quick interview for the TV cameras and then got to exchange hugs and high fives with my team.  Suddenly I remembered that I had made that bet with Anna and Charlotte about champagne on the podium.  I asked Grover if he could try and find some at the last minute and he set off on a mission.

Just before the flower ceremony, Grover reappeared with a bottle of champagne.  So after they presented the flowers and the medals and our official photos were snapped, Grover snuck the bottle (slightly shaken and the cork poised) to me on the podium and I popped the cork and sprayed the champagne around.  I had always seen the alpine skiers do this on the podium and I was proud to show that the cross-country skiers can celebrate a good day too!

That evening I got to share another champagne toast with my team.  They really did a fantastic job of making sure all I had to think about was racing fast.  I’m so grateful to have such a hard working team behind me and it is the best thing to celebrate all together!  Later I got to share another toast with my Swedish friends, Anna Haag and Emil Joensson (who was also on the podium) and their families over dinner.  It was a great night.

All of the hard racing and emotion caught up with me the next couple days however and I was pretty bagged again.  So I just took it easy, enjoyed the good skiing, took long naps and did some Christmas shopping.

One little thing I decided to do, in celebration of the team’s great results so far this season, was to buy a small espresso machine for the team.  Already it’s getting a lot of use and makes us feel a little more at home in our hotel rooms!

Yesterday we said goodbye to Davos after a very delightful early morning ski and headed on to Rogla, Slovenia for the final stop of Period I.  Upon arrival, it feels like we’ve gone back to September again.  It was pouring rain here today and there was even thunder and lightning this afternoon.  The organizers are busy trying to piece together a course and we’re hoping the temperature will drop back below freezing!

We’ve got a 10km classic mass-start on Saturday and another (third in a row!!) skate sprint on Sunday.

More reports to come in a few days!!

I’m posting daily updates of my training on my SkiTrax Daily training rap which can be viewed here:  Kikkan’s Daily Training Rap

And you can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter.

Cheers,

Kikkan

Celebrating the Success of Teammates and Thoughts on a Coach

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December 07, 2011 (Davos, Switzerland) – I just returned to “home away from home” Hotel Kulm from an exciting, high-paced World Cup weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany. While the weekend’s racing format didn’t explicitly compliment my skill set it was a great experience and more importantly, I was there to witness my teammates stand on a World Cup podium.

If you’ve been living under a rock (or perhaps you aren’t a ski news junkie and that’s perfectly okay)  Kikkan and Sadie won a silver medal in the team sprint yesterday on the city streets of Dusseldorf, Germany.  Ida Sargent and I teamed up for the sprint as well and unfortunately we were 2 seconds from making it through to the finals as “lucky losers.”  Although I was disappointed, it provided us with great viewing and cheering opportunities for the other girls.  Funny thing was, amongst the crowds, Sadie and Kikkan both said they could hear us screaming for them on course!!!!

Yesterday was an incredible day for my teammates and for all of US Skiing.  Once again, we have shown the Euros that WE can be in there.  That we are competitors, and even though we live out of a suitcase for months on end to do it, they should not discount our fitness, courage or tenacity.

I have to admit, when it comes to taking pictures, I have no problem pushing to the front of crowds and getting my canon “powershot SD1300” out there amongst the 3-foot long lenses.  Also, perhaps I’m a horrible person for doing this but I may or may not have stepped in front of a small child to get some great shots! I couldn’t help it – how often do the girls you roller ski in the rain with (while everyone else is still sleeping off hangovers) stand on World Cup podiums? I mean, really?! Can you say Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center ROCKS?! I can!

While it’s easy to give all the congratulations to Kikkan and Sadie – and of course they deserve every ounce of it….. I’d like to acknowledge the coaches and particularly one person, Erik Flora for helping make this happen.  As a competitor that’s also been a coach and a wax tech, my perspective stems from all angles.  While there were only two people standing on the podium yesterday in D-dorf, Erik Flora has  gone above and beyond to make that silver medal possible, not to mention, my success over here too….

I don’t know anyone else in the world that loves skiing more than Erik does. The guy could literally inspire a rock to get up off the ground and do some burpees. (A really hard exercise that combines a push up and a jump.)  He is a student of the sport spending his night-time hours watching the latest video, corresponding with other coaches from around the world on theories, testing our skis by headlamp once everyone else has gone home….. some may say he’s crazy but isn’t there some kind of saying that says something like, “Great things happen when people break the norm” or something to that effect?

In 2006, the APU program was in transition.  Erik saw the opportunity to create a World-class ski team in a setting where the time was right.  He seized the opportunity.  Since then, everyday for the last five years he’s been working 12-23 hours a day to make us fast.  To make us competitive. To give us every advantage he possibly can.

Erik turns any hardship into an opportunity (it may be white-out fog and blowing wind but THIS could be CHAMPIONSHIP conditions one day!) and exudes the excitement of a 6-year old on Christmas morning on a DAILY basis.  His work ethic and his dedication to the betterment of the sport and to the athletes he coaches is impressive and admirable. When times are tough and confidence is low he has a special ability to find the bright side of any situation. He never underestimates anyone or tells them they can’t or they won’t or they shouldn’t.

Yesterday, when I was standing in the crowd looking up at my teammates on the podium I was envisioning three people up there: leg one and two of the team sprint relay along with their coach who had the biggest grin from ear to ear that you’ve ever seen.

Thanks to Erik Flora for his dedication and to all the coaches and support stuff out there that help athletes realize their dreams and inspire others to do so as well.

Oh – and here are a couple of other shots from D-Dorf…. the Germany Christmas bazaar was amazing! I wish I had more than 1/2 hour to check it out.

Thanks for reading and thanks again for the words of support and encouragement!

Holly :)

Sjusjoen World Cup Opener Photos by Holly Brooks

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November 23, 2011 (Sjusjoen, Norway) – Check out the gallery of photos below from this past weekend’s World Cup opening races in Sjusjoen, Norway, courtesy of  the USST’s Holly Brooks. The women of the USST had a historic weekend, with personal best results in individual distances races by Kikkan Randall (8th) and Liz Stephen (18th), and a historic ninth place in the women’s 4x5km relay (anchored by Brooks), equaling their performance in the World Championships in Oslo last year. While the US men couldn’t match the success of the women’s team, they put in some good hard efforts, including finishing 11th in the men’s 4x10km relay, and will be looking to move up the results in Kuusamo, Finland this weekend.

For Women’s Relay coverage, click HERE.
For Women’s 10km Free coverage, click HERE.

Snow is Here – The Racing Season is Coming…

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October 27, 2011 – The snow has finally fallen enough to accumulate some ski trails up at Hatchers Pass. Lots of pictures and stories have been circulating around already, so I think the word is out that the Alaskan Crew got to ski on October 20th!! Thats so early. What this means is I skied every month of the year this year, besides one! So I skied on snow 11 months of the training year… how many racers can say that???

The skiing has been great. Extra blue, packed tracks, and blue bird cold days!! The APU crew headed up last thursday for a distance ski, and by the following day I was sore. It’s funny how rollerskiing never seems to train the exact same muscles, so you are sore the first ski of the season, regardless. We then skied a second time on saturday… so by the end of the three hour ski, I was cooked. I have to say, this is the main reason that I love training in Alaska. The opportunity to be on snow as much as we are I see as a huge benefit. By getting that early “snow shape” back together in October, you can sometimes jump start the engine for the early racing season.

Speaking of early racing season, I will be on a different path this fall period. For the first time, I will be racing on the World Cup Circuit for Period 1 along with a group of 4 other girls. This has been super exciting news for me, and I have to say, I have been counting down the days for the “2012” experience to begin! The greatest thing about this year is it is the year to experiment and try new things. Because there are no main Championships of the year, I can set my own expectations and goals. Having never raced much in early season, nor raced much on the World Cup Circuit, nor left my home from November 6th until the end of March…… I will be switching things up quite a bit.

Last year I had a small introduction into this top level of racing, and ever since I have been working hard to jump into that category. This fall will be a great opportunity for me to open my eyes wide, learn some new skills and tricks, and have a great time skiing along with the best skiers in the world.

My schedule starts with me Leaving November 6th for Beitostoelen, Norway and follows:
– November 11-13, FIS Races in Beitostoelen
– November 19-20, World Cup in Beito
– November 25-27, World Cup Kuusamo, Finland
– December 3-4, World Cup downtown Dusseldorf, Germany
– December 10-11, World Cup Davos, Switzerland

Following that, December 12th I will fly back to Washington for a short break in Washington before Nationals, early January in Rumford Maine.

Unfortunately this opportunity has come with a price. Being named to the US SKi Team this last year has provided me with the opportunities and the steps at reaching this next level, but it has also provided me with some responsibility for completing these steps. Having major budget cuts this year resulted in the funding being cut for all B-Team level athletes for this top level of competition. What this means for me is that the spot is available for me, but I must find my own funding to get there.

I am not sure on my definite plans for the entire year, but I am going to guess the financial need will remain at the same level through Period 2 as well as Period 3. What it looks like for this first period of racing can be broken down easily between room and board as well as plane tickets to and from Europe, and between race venues. This comes to a total around $8000.

Being an athlete similar to every other nordic athlete in the country, this is not the kind of money we can ask our parents for, or we can raise on a side job. This is the kind of financial support we must find in our supporters and followers. This is also not only a problem for me, but every other talented young athlete in this country that is ready to make another step in their development. It starts at the 16 year old level skier who just made Scando Trips, and continues through the World Juniors level, affecting everyone all the way up to the top level of World Cup Racing.

The Nordic community has been working hard recently to make these unrealistic financial expectations more realistic. With the new push at the National Nordic Foundation level, supporters are beginning to see the sad truth of the financial demands affecting the opportunities for a new level of talent our country is now experiencing. This is just the beginning, but it is a step forward.

Which brings me to my final point. I have a long year in front of me, and it could cost me around $30,000 to race at this level throughout the season. If you would like to support either myself, or the other athletes in getting there; there are several options. As with everything, even the smallest amount makes a difference and builds towards that end goal. Just like us athletes; it wasn’t the 4-hour ski we did that made us fast, but it was the culmination of all those 1 hr., 2hr. and 3hr. workouts that made us great. So please know that every effort is greatly appreciated!

Your options for supporting our skiing goals for the year are:

1) Methow Valley Ski Education Foundation- The community in the Methow has been extremely helpful and supportive towards trying to help make this next step available. The team has created an Elite Opportunity Fund with 501(c)(3) status. Money can be donated to help support the athletes of the Methow participating in international level competition. If you would like to send a tax-deductible donation towards me, or the athletes of the Methow Valley, send to:
MVNSEF Elite Opportunity Fund
PO Box 1063
Winthrop, WA 98862

2) Donations directly towards me. Email me at sbjornsen@alaskapacific.edu if you have questions.

3) Donations towards the National Nordic Foundation, which is a non-profit organization aimed at supporting the nordic athletes of the US. They are recently doing The Drive for 25, which will include a small support of a large spectrum of supporters. Check out this site to get an idea of what we do and learn how to help HERE.

4) Support through the APU Ski Club

There are many ways to help out and support including you standing on the side of the trail cheering and screaming. It all counts, and it all keeps us going. So keep it up, and get ready…. race season is coming!!! Thanks to everyone that has helped so far, and that may help in the future! You guys are truly making it possible!

The Best Place on Earth you Could Ask to Live

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October 24, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – It’s been a busy fall season – as they all seem to be. The days are getting noticeably shorter, and the leaves are evacuating the trees faster than a herd of Elk leaving a meadow when surprised by a pack of dogs. Not that I’m complaining, after a great altitude training camp down under the Utah sun it was back home to Canada where I’ll get almost a month in the “true North strong and free” to finish off my “off season” preparations.

Whister Intensity Camp
A scant six days after returning from the thin Utah air it was time to pack the bags again and head to the lower elevations of the Whistler Valley for a quick and dirty intensity camp. Since it rained almost everyday – we did get pretty dirty – and most of the training we banged out was of the “quick” variety – as we accomplished 4 tough intensity sessions during the 6 day camp.

Whistler is one of the great places to train in Canada and I’m always so impressed with how many great trails there are coupled with the varied terrain of quiet paths and roads to rollerski make it a winner in my book. It was a wet week – but that’s what you get for training so close to the Pacific Ocean in early October and one can’t complain too much after we had 14 days in a row down in Utah with a two week “cold day high” of about 22 Celsius.

The idea for the camp was two-pronged. It was a great opportunity to have everyone together training – the World Cup team and the Senior Development Team – and also to make use of the lower elevation to really rev’ the engines high. While the workouts were tough – it was a great environment and the staff (Mike, Stef, Eric, Adam, Justin, Scott, and Hutchy) deserves a ton of credit for running a smooth and effective camp – not an easy task when there are roughly 20 athletes to look after.

Canmore, AB
I know people hear this too much – but damn Canmore’s sweet. After such a “camp heavy” autumn I’ve really appreciated being home in the Rockies the last couple weeks. I count myself pretty lucky to call this little mountain gem home.

It probably helps that this autumn has been a spectacular one. The weather really has outdone itself – most days are sunny or at least precipitation-free which makes the heavy load of training I’m doing so easy to accomplish.

I had a great Thanksgiving too – since I miss Christmas every year – I was pretty excited that my mom made the journey out West from Ontario to enjoy Thanksgiving with Chandra and I. She spoiled us – whipping up no less than 8 pies during her 6 day trip, an amazing Thanksgiving dinner – and no less than two dozen of the world’s best cinnamon buns. Thank god the training load is high – or else it could have been messy… It was great to catch up with her though – and I feel very thankful that I am able to see my family throughout the “off season” even though my schedule is so busy and they live 3000km away.

“Spray Drag” and Frozen Thunder
Kuhner (my good friend and AWCA coach) organized an uphill grind-fest running race this year to raise money for the AWCA – and he put my ugly mug on the poster (of me rocking a stash’). I just wanted to take an opportunity to say that they did a great job with the race – and it was a leg and lung buster. Hopefully they make it a tradition! Thanks guys – glad I could deliver too – Babs gave me a bit of a scare at the end!

The day of the 7.5km uphill running race coincided with a Canmore nouveau tradition of it’s own – Frozen Thunder. Yes, the name makes no real sense – but we can all agree that it sounds cool.

Two years ago we were fired up when the Canmore Nordic Centre announced it would provide a whopping 400m of snow for the plethora of Nordic enthusiasts to enjoy in mid-October. The excitement to ski in October for a Nordic racer is like the excitement of a “gizmoto” reader getting their paws on Apple’s latest creation – pure unabashed jubilation.

Thanks to the Canmore Nordic Centre who have kept the project growing – last fall it was a 1km loop and this year they doubled down to provide us with a great loop of 1.95km.

Check out the video link from the Globe and Mail HERE.

To be able to ski on good terrain, on good quality snow, starting mid-October is such a huge asset. I’m so thankful for the crew up there at the Canmore Nordic Centre – they are leaders in North America – and how cool is it that Canmore is the only place in North America that does this?! Awesome! Thanks guys!

Yes – Canmore has been sweet. I think I’m a bit nostalgic right now because in only 12 days I will embark on a 5.5 month odyssey overseas as another World Cup race season is upon us. I’m sure I’ll miss home – but I’m really enjoying the days here in Canada before we get things rolling.

I’m so excited to get over there and make it happen. We have a great team and most are feeling great heading into the season. I can’t wait to see what “Team Canada” can do this winter in all categories.

I mean hell, I wouldn’t mind playing a few more ditties’ on the ol’ air guitar – or seeing my teammates melt imaginary faces on their imaginary axes this winter – if you know what I mean.

Heidi Widmer’s September to Remember

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October 05, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – Looking back on the spring and summer of training, I seem to only ever remember the blue skies and sunny days. Then I think a little harder and remember just how cold and miserable at times the spring weather was and how long it took for summer to finally arrive.

Fall, however, has more than made up for the slow start to summer. This September we were able to train in bluebird, bug-free and sunny skies until we forgot what a cloud or raindrop looked like. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good run in the rain and appreciate the humid air, but it was something else to have this long stretch of ‘Indian Summer’.

September was also a time to remember because it marked one year since I won the jackpot of a two-nights stay at the Foothills Hospital after crashing on my roller skis. Hooray for staying on my feet this year!

September also included…
– Plenty of long distance roller skiing in the Bow Valley (Highwood Parkway, Bow Valley Parkway, Banff Legacy Trail and Minniwanka Loop)
– The second annual presentation of Fast and Female Sports Day in Canada. Zumba, dancing, tag, running, yoga, snack time, drawing and glitter. Check, check and check.
– 5km Ambulance Chaser running race. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to chase down any ambulances, but all the money raised is put towards the EMS Foundation.
– I won the 5km Women’s race through Princess Island Park in downtown Calgary
– Canoeing with friends on Vermillion Lakes!

The Academy has been in the Bow Valley for all of September to take advantage of the training facilities and terrain close to home. Looking ahead to October, I’m excited to see the snow magically appear as the pile of sawdust covered snow is spread out into a 3km loop at the Nordic Centre.

The predicted debut date of “Frozen Thunder” is October 15th and I can’t wait to strap on a pair of real skis sometime soon! Other than that, I’m keeping busy training and brainstorming Halloween costume ideas.

August Off-Season Rambles: New Zealand Wrap, Fishing Trip, Share the Road…

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September 12, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – I’d advise you not to scroll down. Ok, well now that you did – don’t be daunted by the sheer length of this “New Yorkeresque” post. Other than amount of words – it’s about as far away from an actual “New Yorker” column as a post can get – think more “Tashkenter” in terms of literary notoriety, style, organization and prose (if the capital of Uzbekistan even has a “reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry” magazine) – and of course that may be over stepping.

CHRIS JEFFRIES TO ME VIA TWITTER: “@DEVONKERSHAW – GO HOME AND CHILL OUT! I AM GETTING TIRED JUST FOLLOWING YOU ON TWITTER!”

Life as a Canadian Nordic skier is one of many travels and experiences and this August has disappointed – it’s been one heck of a busy month. I feel like Geoff Mack did back in 62’ – “I’ve been everywhere man…” As you’ve probably understood from the title of this post (which was generously donated by none other than the Big Guy), I’ve been gone awhile and I’ve gone to many different places.

How did New Zealand finish up? Great – thanks for asking. New Zealand this season was something out of a fairytale – until it wasn’t. The weather held up incredibly well for an obscene amount of days in a row – something you don’t expect when you stare long enough at the South Island on a map and realize “wow, there’s a ton of ocean around this thing.”

The training went as planned and we pushed it down there this year, which was good and planned. The collateral damage was our racing performances. Aside from Lenny, the rest of us struggled pretty hard in the 15km classic race down there. A tired body wouldn’t allow me to do much of anything but hang on as best I could, which was about all I could do. In the end both Alex and I were no match for the explosive final punch leveled on us by Freeman and Newell – who went 1-2. It was never in the cards to do the sprint – and stormzilla had other plans the Tuesday morning of the scheduled 10km skate race (it was cancelled. Apparently ski racing in 90+km/h winds and driving snow wasn’t in the cards).

Our final two days on the South Island reminded us why it’s the only island of any consequence that close to Antarctica. All I remember now of the last 48 hours was this: oodles of snow fell, wind battered the building creating noise strangely resembling that of a bad drum solo from some Scando metal band. We kept training of course, but down in the valley bottom on foot – and then we left. There were some tense moments at the Queenstown airport the day we left because of the terrible weather – but somehow our flight got in the air (and stayed there) and just like that I was on my way home.

Because of a B2ten training camp in Montreal a mere 6 days after our New Zealand camp I decided to just fly straight East and deal with jetlag there instead of coming back to Canmore for only a few days only to pack up and fly 4+ hours again to Montreal.

First up was some time in my hometown of Sudbury. Albeit a short trip, it was productive. The main reason for the return trip was to host and execute the 3rd annual “Share the Road” ride to raise bicycle awareness in a city that is notoriously bad for cycling/cyclists. Along with the STR ride, I got out with a few of the local ski clubs to lead a training session with them, caught up with some old friends, and got out for some great training of my own. A short – but fruitful trip home!

Even got out fishing with my dad. He’s one lucky dude – didn’t like fishing my whole life growing up, but seems to be slowly getting into it – here he is in a full Tilly outfit (except the hat?! WHAT?) with a 9.5 lb/72cm Pickerel he caught a few days ago.

Being the third year of the Share the Road event in Sudbury, we worked out a lot of kinks and over-planned for this year’s event. My dad and family friend Chris (Gore), along with countless others did a fantastic job and worked tirelessly to ensure this year’s event was both safe and a resounding success. I can happily report that thanks to the 30 volunteers (thanks to Blair Franklin for donating bike jerseys for the event!), the over 200 riders with us had a fun and safe time riding together. Eight police officers joined us as well to ensure it was safe – and deepest thanks to Enzo and his men/women. I really appreciated it.

Like every year, I was deeply moved again this year by the turnout, the stories I heard and the people I met. Sudbury has a long way to go – but to see and hear just how important safe cycling and cycling options (like bike paths/bike lanes) is to their citizens I hope they continue to make it a priority. Thanks as well to Natalie and Eleanor from “Share the Road” – it was great to catch up – as both our schedules don’t overlap often.

It was a quick trip to the Nickel City, and still nursing some jetlag next thing I knew I was packing up my duffel bag yet again and heading south – to Lenny’s cottage. I’ll keep this part short. This is what you need to know about it:

– It was awesome
– The Valjas family is so wonderful, caring and generous – and his mom is a top chef
– Living out west, I really do miss summers in Ontario – especially water sports
– I love Lenny’s dogs – Misty’s (one of the 2 dogs) doppelganger is Jose Bautista. Seriously – it’s messed.
– I am a terrible motorcyclist – and even after a great lesson from Lenny, I can’t see my tush on the Ducati anytime soon
– Seeing my dad attempt to wake surf will arouse titters for years upon recalling the memory
– Days spent on/in Georgian Bay, training in the area, hitting the sauna, eating great food are what makes cottage life like nothing else.
– I wish the fishing in Georgian Bay was what it was like back in 1988. Even when it’s beautiful, getting skunked a bummer.
– Thanks to the Valjas fam – you guys rule.

Travel weary but well fed, it was time for my final stop. At this point I should mention friends from Canmore had begun lobbing “get the H home” messages at me – and believe me I was ready to stop lugging around my equipment all over the world’s airports too and return to my Canadian Rocky Mountain home. BUT – the last stop was important – a mini-camp with the CNEPH (the Quebec Training Centre) and supported by B2ten (a group I am involved with – check them out at www.b2ten.ca) in the beautiful city of Montreal.

Since last year JD and the gang had been itching to get me to Montreal to go through the ringer at Paulo’s (B2ten’s physiologist) computrainer lab -“PowerWatts.” (www.powerwatts.com)

I tried to explain that I am a bum on the bike – but they wouldn’t have it. Jokes aside, I was excited to try it (The CNEPH guys had done it a couple times and told me all about it) and it was great to get some face time with the B2ten staff – who are great supporters not only of myself but of our National Ski Team.

The CNEPH boys, two National Biathlon Team members (JP and Marco) and myself sweated like we’ve never sweated before. We did a ton of cycling on the computrainers – doing everything from fun little exercises to all out painful time trial/races.

I’ll be honest – at first I thought it would be hellishly boring – being stuck inside on a bike didn’t sound like a good time to me, but I soon realized that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was so fun! The hours went by so fast, as Paulo put us through the barrage of workouts both on the bike and on other machines in the B2ten gym/lab zone. We did a lot of hammering – and I did my fair share of smack talk to McMurr – so I’d say it exceeded expectations.

We had fun, we worked hard and we all got completely owned by Lenny – but the workouts, the chats and the time I spent with B2ten, the CNEPH boys, JP and Marco were great. Even though we weren’t in Montreal long, we did get some time to check out the city – which was great – and I even got to see my brother who goes to school at Concordia, so my mom won’t be mad at me (just kidding Sean – it was/is always great to see you!).

Big thanks to Dom (Gautier) and Jenn (Heil) for hosting/taking care of me. They are both just such stand up/awesome people. I really enjoy spending time with you two and thanks so much for your hospitality!

What should you take away from this update? Yes, the length and lack of editing is an astute point, and if you’ve read this blog before you will know that the critisism will be noted and discarded in favor of continuing lengthy drivel – but seriously, it was busy but all the travel was purposeful. Along with the rest of the NST crew – we’ve had a very productive and good summer of training, and it always feels so good to give back in some way. Thanks to the Valjas family, the STR volunteers, B2ten, Jenn and Dom, Scot at Blair Franklin, and my dad. Take the time to thank those around you, that’s always something you can take away. We never get anywhere on our own and it’s important to thank those that help you out.

I’ve been home now for about 10 days and it’s been glorious. The weather has been perfect (sunny, hot and beautiful), I’ve been enjoying the Canmore/area trails and time with friends. Got out to see “Ray Lamontagne” which was rad and oh yeah, and it’s been nice to unpack and do laundry 😉

Traveling is nice, but lately the only place I would want to be is here in the Canadian Rockies.

Not for long though – next Monday it’s off to Park City for our “fall classic” altitude camp. Looking forward to that of course!

Thanks for reading.

Ski and Tea at Telemark!

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September 10, 2011 (Telemark, WI) – The Ski and Tea ladies, a year round training group based out of the Birkie Trail area and founded by Linda Cook and Juli Lynch, came to Telemark today! With a motto of “No Woman Left Behind” and focus on feeling successful and proud to be a Nordic Skier, and over 102 women on the mailing list, this training group is a force to be reckoned with!

The event was coached by myself, Caitlin Gregg, Carolyn Ocariz, Sara Hewitt and Jennie Bender. We started out with some introductions and organization, led by Caitlin.

Then Sara took us through a light jog and mobility warm up that was fun yet challenging.

I worked over some technique highlights before Carolyn explained the workout: 6×4-8 min ski walking up Telemark hill.

But I’m afraid we may have underestimated some of these ladies, because I’m quite positive that many of them went back for more and by the end of the workout had done up to 8 intervals! Impressive.

Then Jennie took everyone through some stretching and yoga, before we had tea in the Telemark Lodge.

It was inspiring and motivating for me to be able to work with ladies who are committed to improving technique and training during the summer. It was fun to meet new people and get to know the Hayward/Cable area better. I’m looking forward to being involved with more Ski and Tea clinics in the future!

Eternal Lovin’

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September 09, 2011 (Boulder, CO) – What does it mean, to train? Does it mean that every day you go out and pound your muscles until you cannot stand? That you go and charge up the biggest, steepest, hottest hill there is? Or do you go and seek something else? Do you choose an easier path so that you can push harder tomorrow? The hardest sacrifice we can make is to fight a little less hard so we can die another day.

Training your body is much easier, I think, than training your mind to accept that it cannot always fight. Sometimes you have to turn around and walk away, and embrace the fact that you cannot always push your limits. College is not for making yourself the best you can be at every minute- college is for showing you what doesn’t work, so you can figure it out in the middle of the night when you have a research paper due the next day.

So here we are, in college now. Some important lessons have been learned, like coffee really is the most important food in college. All nighters? Let’s have ‘em EVERY DAY!! Workouts at midnight and 2am? Let’s do it. That’s really the stuff that keeps the collegiate athlete going. You didn’t finish your paper until 10pm? That’s okay, just cram in a few interval sessions in the dark, run around your living room for a while and crash on your couch with your head shoved in-between the cushions. If you forget to set an alarm you can be woken by the hysterical screams of your roommate informing you that you are late for the workout this morning, only four hours after you finished your last one in the dark and rain and storms of the ever changing and indecisive weather of Boulder.

That European roommate is flapping her arms and jumping around the living room trying to wake you up, the same one that two nights ago made tin foil hats for you both and raced around on a flat field in a thunderstorm in the pouring rain. But someone told us we were dumb jocks, we were really just living up to their expectations.

A fireball of energy from the Czech Republic, she is as ferocious on the ski trails as any hulking male Russian sprinter, but at home she is bouncy, laughing, opinionated, and ginger-loving. Perhaps a side effect of the bright red hair that adorns her head- gingers love ginger? You need not go to the Czech Republic to know everything about it, you need simply to live in the same apartment for a while and you will learn all there is to know about everything from the washing machines to the food to the training.

She is too flustered now to speak English, she is chattering away in a flood of language you don’t understand but you imagine means something like “move your butt, workout in ten minutes!!!” You whirl around, grabbing your roller skis, boots, helmet, gloves, dropping things everywhere and running out the door, sparing a last glance at your other teammate and roommate.

Your engineering roommate hasn’t gone to bed in the last three weeks, her fingers are fusing with the keyboard of the laptop computer that is her major and her life and her love. Yelling her name in her ear only spurs her to even more impressive words per minute, stopping only to tap on the TI-89 Titanium Plus Edition graphing calculator beside her. She mutters something about torsion, gesticulating furiously at a screen full of Mathematica code. “See? See?” You don’t see. Her external monitor is bigger than you are, but so full of files of Java, C++, and random math equations that nothing can be deciphered. She doesn’t go to the team workouts, she doesn’t ever stop her eternal march of death grinding away at the pile of homework that is always in attendance next to her, interwoven with a stack of math and computer science textbooks as high as your ceiling.

You know she trains, her roller ski boots are always sweaty, her shoes always spattered in mud from workouts in the rain. But when she goes, you have no idea, because evidently it’s true- engineers do not sleep and the engineering jocks must clone themselves in order to get their training in – something they must teach in the intro level engineering courses.

She is a walking encyclopedia, any math or science question you ask will be answered if not by her, by one of the nerd friends eternally glued to the other end of her phone. But rarely will the answer be understand any more than the t-shirt she is wearing that reads “304 Not Modified.”

It is no wonder the US Ski Team discourages their athletes from attending full time school. The lessons you learn while living at college are the lessons that last a lifetime, that teach you about the other world, the world of academia. If our skiers stepped into this world, their view would be tainted, and they would realize there is more to life than just sports. And sports are really about doing as your job something that is, in the grand scope of the world, completely irrelevant.

It is much better to struggle through years of books, and spend a lifetime developing your mind so that you are not satisfied with living in simplicity. To fight a bitter battle in school and come out on the other side facing a lifetime of work that has no joy, is simply work. Or perhaps, as my roommate likes to put it, work where the distance is perpendicular to the force.

Be careful if you choose to live the dream, because if you fall too far, burn too many bridges, walk the wrong path, your life will shift more suddenly than a Czech sprinter can down a beer, and the dream will disappear into the vast collection of the BFG.

Every side of the world lives in this apartment, the ex world cup skier from the Czech Republic, who declined the Olympic team to come here to America. The Californian surfer, whose bloodlines are so full of athleticism she might as well have been bred to compete, who instead chose the most difficult major at the most difficult school she could. And then there is me, I am the broken skier. No one wants a broken model, they return it to the store and get a new one. If the warranty is past, they simply buy another. But sometimes, you find someone who loves you because you are different, and keeps you and embraces all that is you. Sometimes, people take the time to fix that which is broken, and it comes back stronger than before.

Who isn’t broken, really? That is, if you take the time and effort to look. But in all our shattered glory, in a time of need, we found each other. And it is this school, this team, that brought us together to rebuild ourselves again, which is really what college is all about.

Jessie Diggins – Cool Runnings!

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May 16, 2011 – Every year my family runs in the Apple Blossom races at the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings. It’s a super fun race because it’s beautiful and ends with a run along the blooming apple trees. There is a half marathon, a 10km, a 5km and a kid’s run. The half takes you through a surprising amount of hills…or maybe not, since the Afton area is the rollerskiing mecca of the Twin Cities. Either way, my knees feel like jelly afterward! Still, I’m not complaining because LAST year, I ran the half marathon the morning after prom (unfortunate timing, I know) and I looked like a zombie running on maybe an hour of sleep!

Our vet, Carolyn, is a really good runner and comes to the Apple Blossom every year as well. Last year, she completed her first ever Birkie and plans to come back for more!

This Mom was running the half as well and it was so darn cute because her three boys were fidgiting and jumping up and down waiting just so they could sprint down the finishing stretch with her.

If you’re looking for a early spring running race, this one’s pretty much perfect!

Bjornsen Blog – Springtime!

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May 16, 2011 – SkiTrax would like to welcome new blogger Sadie Bjoernsen. Check out her latest blog, including lots of photos, and stay tuned for more updates from Sadie.

Springtime!
Mmmm, springtime in Alaska!!!! It’s just too good. Not many places can you Nordic ski all the way into middle of May. This spring I decided I was going to live a little more of a “true Alaskan winter” and spend some more time doing the kind of skiing where gravity is doing most the work. I am super lucky though, many of my friends are really into backcountry skiing, so I was having to hold myself back from going and playing every single day. Trying to stay caught up in school, and fit in some work here and there…. I got a bit behind playing that much. The good news is, for the first time I had a pretty active spring, which means I am not nearly as out of shape as I normally am May 1st. That was my first goal for this year. In staying in shape through the resting period, I don’t loose the first two months just trying to build my fitness back up.

A lot has unfolded and happened in the last month since I have started phasing into my new season. For one, it has now been exactly a year since I joined the “Big Blue APU”. I couldn’t be happier that I joined this squad, and now I managed to convince my brother to jump onto the wagon and ski for APU as well.- so its going to be fun! For the past week we have been training hard in our annual “start up camp” Start up camp normally consists of two-a-days with lots of intervals, lots of skiing hard, and lots of soreness and stiffness.

Last year I was nearly in a wheel chair by the end of the week of training with the new team, so this year I knew what to expect going into it… which is why I tried to bridge my seasons together more by keeping my fitness up during my rest period. But, of course, I still managed to put myself in a world of hurt all week. You know you are doing the right thing when showing up to training is more than just another day of work. It’s amazing, every day, regardless of how wrecked everyone is, everyone is always smiling and ready to throw down when they show up for training. I think thats what makes this training group so successful. The energy within it is always positive, so it’s hard not love it.

Read a nice article Beth wrote in the Alaska Daily News HERE.

The second big thing of my spring is being named to the National Team. I am super pumped about it. I think the National team has something great going on now. With lots of focus on young development, I think they are determine to build from the ground up and make something really happen in the future. It’s also awesome because we have our little rabbit, Kikkan Randall to watch and aim for. Being named to this team means joining in with some of the fastest girls in the country periodically throughout the summer and fall and getting in some good training.

This year, the woman’s National Team, the Canadian woman’s National Team, and some of the top APU ladies are all going to join up for a week of training up at Eagle Glacier. I don’t think those girls know what they are getting in to. I have this feeling they are going to fall in love, and before we know it, everyone is going to want to be moving to Alaska. Anyways, I am super stoked and honored to be representing not only APU now, but also the US. Unfortunately, as always in this sport, there is not much funding out there, so being on the B-Team means covering most of our own costs. So I am still always looking for support.

Which brings me to my last point. For the past month we have been working our butts off planning and putting together an awesome fundraiser for the APU team to cover racing costs for the season. We will be putting on an auction with lots of sweet items including trips to hawaii as well as bikes, skis, artwork and much more.

If you are in the Anchorage area, come out and check out what we are about! More than just a fundraiser, this is also a celebration of all the great successes we have had this year including USSA club of the year, coach of the year and athlete of the year. We are always looking for people to join the family of support and help us reach great levels. So, if you are around Anchorage, the event is May 10th starting at 6:30.

From here until May 20th, I will be training in town and starting up summer school before I take off for Bend, Oregon for my first US Ski Team Camp for 10 days. I think this year I am going to see if I can ski every month of the year. September might get a little tricky, but I am determine to make it happen.

www.sadiebjornsen.blogspot.com

Ivan Babikov on What Doesn’t Kill You…

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March 29, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – Hello to all ski lovers out there, it’s my first blog and I’ll try not to bore you too much with it….so enjoy it… 2010/2011 season is over now and I guess I’ll like to talk about all ups and downs and all the bad and (not so many) good decisions I’ve made in past few month, about “good living”, and rolling big of Canadian National Ski Team at the Tour de Ski, excitement and experience of World Champs in Oslo, Norway – keep reading and check out Babikov’s blog here.

FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON….slow…

Let’s start with beginning of the World Cup season in Gallivare, Sweden and (very depressing for me) Kuusamo, Finland. I’m one of those all dogs that need a good, and I mean very good amount of hours on snow, before I can ski fast. That’s why I usually skip these couple of early World Cups races of the season. I guess looking at youngsters such Devon and Alex, I’ve decided to give it a chance…turned out as an “Epic Fail”. Not only I didn’t race well but also screwed up my shape for the next races, just because there were not enough time for good training.

Than was “pretty good” 17th place (considering that “Epic Fail” from above) result for me in La Clusaz, France World Cup. I always like racing there, first of all, there some very serious climbing involved and a lot of it, and secondly it’s pretty high altitude, about 1600 meters above the sea level.

From there team moved to Davos, SUI for pre-Tour de Ski training camp. Svetlana and Sergey (my wife and son) visited me there for Christmas. Some great training + family time = I’m happy :)

THE TOUR DE SKI…. WORLD CHAMPS….WORLD CUP FINALS….faster, but still slow….

Can’t say that I expected better result than 9th place overall at the last year’s Tour de Ski, but this time it didn’t go my way at all. With some bad sprinting at the beginning and losing a ski during 20km Pursuit, but holding strong at the end, I finished it with 21st place in overall. Amazing job by Devon, winning a stage and medalling on couple more, as well as Alex by finishing pretty much all the stages in top 10. Well at least I had a chance to live a week like a Rock Star, riding a very nice tour bus between the stages. Yea Buddy…

Very tired and not satisfied with my season so far, I got back to Canmore, and put the pedal to the floor with training for the 2011 World Championship in Oslo. It’s very hard to describe that atmosphere we had there, just going to say that was The Best skiing time in my life. I’ve never seen people so fired up about ski racing. Just imagine about 200 000 people, camping for two weeks out on the trails, and cheering us every day, that’s a spirit of skiing in Norway. It’s made it even more special when Alex and Devon became World Champions in Team Sprint relay. I personally, had my best (World Championship) 15th place in 30km Pursuit and 17th at 50km skate. Again not the best but I’ll take it.

I found my shape in the end of the season, with 8th place at 20km Pursuit in Lahti, Finland, and having a couple solid “top 15” races at World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden.

So it wasn’t my best season, but also not the worst one. It will just make me train way harder in upcoming summer. What doesn’t kill you, that makes you stronger, at least that what “they” say.

Also I’ll say “Big Respect” to my friend George Grey, and thank you for all those days we spent at the many camps and races. You had an awesome career. We’ll miss you teammate.

Now I’ll have couple is week to rest and recover, and then back to the battle. Very excited about two things for now, first – it’s a start of another soccer season, and second – my Wipeout Canada episode on TV on April 14th. But about that in my next blog.

P.S. Huge THANKS to my friend Sergey Yermolayev for this website….

Diggins Report: My Last Junior National Race Ever!

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March 15, 2011 (Midway, UT) – On Saturday, I started my last Junior National race. And it was my favorite – a relay! Five years ago, in Soldier’s Hollow, I raced my first Junior National relay ever, on a team with Libby Ellis and Lynn Duijndam. Libby scrambled, Lynn went second and I anchored. We started a lot of traditions that year, including racing in facepaint and glitter for the relay.

Every year since then, we’ve continued “bedazzling” ourselves come race day. Now I had an opportunity to close out JO’s with Libby scrambling again, and Elizabeth Simak skiing 2nd leg. And you know what? I still got nervous, just like the first time!

The conditions were quite tricky on Saturday, as the tracks were slower yet still glazed, and the outside of the track was icy and fast. We went on klister, and we had just enough kick for 3km but still had to work hard to close the wax pocket down. Because it was so icy, we stayed out of the track as much as possible and did a TON of double-poling.

Libby and Elizabeth did a fantastic job keeping us in the top 3, and staying within contact of the leaders. Because we started right alongside the J1 teams, it was sometimes hard to figure out which place you were in while racing. So we just hammered.

When I got the tag off from Simak, we were within sight of the leader – just far enough to have a fun chase. I started a little frantically, pretty much abandoning technique as I scrambled around the icy corners. How embarrassing. But once I got going, I calmed down (slightly) and got into a rhythm. The hometown crowd cheering was fantastic, and it helped enormously on the long grinding climb.

I was super excited to have such a great team; one that really topped off a great JO experience. And I don’t just mean my relay team – all the athletes, coaches, wax techs, family and friends that made this possible. Thanks guys!

The awards banquet was really well done (thanks to all the volunteers and organizers) but the best part was sharing it with my family and grandparents who came to cheer.

Health First

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February 04, 2011 – The first three weeks of college were a whirlwind of adventure. I quickly learned how to navigate a large university campus, met many wonderful people, saw a glimpse of Boulder, and remembered how to write academic papers and do homework. However, unfortunately, I also explored the local hospitals multiple times, and not as a student, rather as an emergency room outpatient.

I began the semester enrolled in four courses, Writing and Rhetoric, German, Music Appreciation, and Science of Human Communication. German was definitely my favorite! Unfortunately my constant vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain worsened dramatically over the course of the month. After spending two nights in the ER, I decided to drop two courses to allow for more rest. I was hoping this change would be enough to get me through the semester, but my health kept spiraling downward quickly. I withdrew from all my classes and came home to find a better solution. I’m bummed that I can’t complete the semester for many reasons, including that that I won’t be living with friends and getting to know the ski team. As frustrating as it is, health always must come first.

Now I am back at home in the care of my parents and doctors, and we are in the midst of researching our next step. In the meantime I am trying different medications to stabilize my stomach pain and weight loss. I’ve also enrolled in a couple online courses to keep myself entertained and distracted when I feel well enough to focus.

It’s been snowing like crazy since I returned home, and we have at least 3 feet of powder on the ground. It’s happened twice now that I’ve been rushed to the ER during a major snowstorm (bad timing, huh?), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my stomach stays happy when we get hit with another six inches on Saturday. I can’t wait to get healthy so I can enjoy the cross-country trails! But for now I’m learning how to be a really good couch potato and a gluten-free chef! I am avoiding a number of foods that have been proven to irritate my digestive system, like gluten, wheat, dairy, casein, eggs, soy, corn and vinegars. I’ve concocted a bunch of inedible dishes experimenting with alternative flours, milks, and egg substitutes, but the other day I made my first tasty loaf of bread, as well as a few other dishes! There seems to be a high demand for gluten-free, dairy-free foods these days, so when I discover a recipe that tastes good I’ll post it!

Berry Coconut Ice Cream (dairy, soy, gluten free)

Ingredients:
2 cups frozen berries
2 cups cold coconut milk (So Delicious works well)
¾ cups sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp xanthan gum

Pour coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and xanthan gum in blender. Blend on high until sugar is dissolved and mixture is frothy. Add one cup of the frozen berries and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and start churning. After 10 minutes add the remaining berries to the ice cream mixture. These berries give the ice cream texture. Continue churning until mixture becomes the same texture as custard or soft serve ice cream. Either serve immediately, or freeze for later use. It’s best when a little softer than ice cream, so if you serve it after freezing it, first take it out of the freezer and let it soften for a few minutes before serving.

Quinoa with Vegetables (gluten free)

Ingredients:
Quinoa, cooked
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
½ sweet potato, peeled and chopped
½ to 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow carrot, sliced
Sea salt
Pepper
Dried herbs to taste
Fresh herbs for decoration

Follow instructions on quinoa for cooking. In separate frying pan, sauté onions in olive oil. Once onions are translucent add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add all remaining chopped veggies except the tomatoes and stir-fry until tender. Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. If you like slightly cooked tomatoes add them to the veggies and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the tomatoes skins wilt. Then combine the veggies with the cooked quinoa. If you prefer raw tomatoes, add them to the quinoa after stirring in the sautéed veggies. Sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving. This salad is good warm or cold, but I prefer it cold.

Onion and Tomato Flat Bread Focaccia (gluten and egg free)

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup Sorghum flour
1 cup Potato starch
½ cup gluten-free all purpose flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 ½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried herb mixture

Yeast:
1 Tbsp Active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups warm water (110º F)
1 tsp raw sugar

Wet Ingredients:
4 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice

1 egg, or Ener-G egg replacer for 1 egg (1 ½ tsp Ener-G plus 2 Tbsp warm water whisked together)

Toppings:
Sliced tomatoes (I used cherry, but anything will work)
Sliced yellow onion
Herbs and salt

Combine yeast with the warm water (110ºF) and sugar in a large glass measuring cup. Set aside to proof.

In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients. Once yeast has proofed add it to the dry ingredients along with all the wet ingredients. Stir to combine. The dough will be wet and won’t hold together like a wheat bread typically would. Grease two 9 inch round pans and lightly flour with gluten-free corn meal, or gluten-free flour if you can’t eat corn. Pour dough into pans and shape into rounded, flat loaf with wet hands. Place sliced tomatoes and onions on top of the loaves and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Let rise in warm place for 1 hr (75-80ºF), or place in warmed oven for 30 minutes. Preheat Oven to 375º F and cook for 25 minutes. Remover from oven and transfer to wire cooling wracks immediately. If you are a garlic lover you can sprinkle chopped garlic to the top of the loaves before cooking.

A Change of Scenes

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January 14, 2011 (Boulder, CO) – After two years of traveling across the country to compete at The US Nationals in Alaska, the races finally were held on my home turf: Rumford, Maine. Ironically, I was unable to compete. I’m on the long road to recovery, after suffering from a severe digestive disorder for the past eight months. Lucky for me, these races will be back in Rumford at this time next year!

For now my job is to rest, recover, and enjoy college life. This week I started classes at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO as a freshman. Being a student again is an adjustment after being out of school for a year and a half, but I think I’m going to like it!

Summary of my illness
The human body has one goal: to live. Left alone, it’s pretty good at it. However, when outside stress amounts to more than the body can “handle”, occasionally, the body’s natural coping methods become detrimental to this goal of simply living. Apparently, the body starts to shut down the less necessary systems, like the digestive and the immune systems, and focuses all of its energy on the heart, lungs, and brain, when it reaches a state of chronic fatigue.

Just as technique is one movement, the complex internal network that gives us life is one, unified collaboration. So it makes sense that a slight imbalance can trigger a domino effect. There is a tremendous amount of research and scientific findings in the medical field for the typical sedentary human, but there seems to be much less information about the athlete’s body and how it copes. I hope that by sharing my medical experiences, other athletes will be able to avoid getting lost in medical mysteries.

According to my latest medical diagnosis, two stress fractures, a long standing infection, two invasive surgeries, plus daily training and racing demands, all occurring in just one year’s time – on top of long standing asthma and extreme food intolerances – fatigued my body beyond it’s ability to function normally.

In order to cope, my body began shutting down systems, one of which was the digestive system. I’ve seen a wide range of doctors, all of who contributed a piece of the puzzle, and continue to add to my growing quiver of medical knowledge and recovery process. I do not have one clear diagnosis, but rather a collection of theories. The recovery process is going to be long, occasionally with small set backs, but I have faith that my health is improving slowly.

I would never have imagined that I would experience this medical nightmare, but it has opened my mind to whole new fields of knowledge that I might not have explored otherwise. I have become fascinated by both traditional and alternative medicine (now understanding why it is called the “practice” of medicine). I have explored my artistic passions (spending hours designing and decorating elaborate gingerbread castles, creating my own crochet stitches and patterns, making brochures); and have learned what it means to hold out hope. It’s not always easy to have faith in a better tomorrow when there is no foreseeable solution in sight. I learned how to live day by day, and remain in the present moment; relishing in the limited pleasures, fighting to overcome the seemingly surmountable obstacles, and always believing that I could, and would, overcome this illness.

I am not alone on this journey. I’m forever grateful to the dedicated team of family, friends, coaches and doctors who have stood by my side, advocated, listened, fought, laughed and shared stories with me. (My parents are probably qualified for medical degrees after these past eight months of accompanying me to all of my various doctor’s appointments!)

Now I am at the University of Colorado in Boulder starting my college experience. I won’t be racing for the team this year as I recover, but will hopefully be on the roster in the fall. Bruce Cranmer, the CU Nordic coach, has been extremely flexible through my set backs and I’m looking forward to have him as a coach.

Good luck to everyone for the 2011 season ahead!

Kershaw Report – Tour de Ski Wrap

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January 13, 2011 (Canmore. AB) – The fifth ever edition of the Tour de Ski is over and done with. I am comfortably sitting in a “Nighbor driving” laid back position up in B-Class flying home after over two months of European racing and am still in disbelief… first how fast this first half of the season has blazed by, and second how great our team performed over the last 10 days in Germany and Italy.

The Tour de Ski is the most grueling race that we do all year. We race eight distinct competitions in only 10 days at four different venues. It’s a fast-paced, high-stakes week and a half and considering how I feel at the end of it, I cannot even imagine how it is for our staff who work so hard indefatigably all day, everyday to give us every opportunity to perform.

I’ll break ‘er down race by race since I didn’t update as I went along this year.

Day One: 3.75km Skate Prologue – Oberhof (Ger) – December 31st/2010
I was psyched to get my 5th Tour under way. Ivan, Alex and I did our finishing  touches on our Tour-prep enjoying Davos’ great skiing and stellar café over the holidays. Everything went quite well for all of us in the pre-Tour period and with the added bonus of Hutchdogg tirelessly working on us over Christmas we were all feeling strong and confident – and for the most part I had great workouts and life was grand.

When December 31st finally came, I felt ready but not 100%. One aspect still lingered – some heavy legs that settled in after my last long distance ski earlier in the week. My legs were stubbornly holding on to fatigue like a dog that just won’t release that tennis ball. Justin and I had planned to push for that optimal training load before backing off but as the race day came and I was still feeling slightly sub-par – oops.

The good news was that the first race is short. The prologue is under 8 minutes and the Tour is never won or lost on the first stage. I hammered the one lap course willing my body to empty the tank. It didn’t take long before I knew things weren’t going my way. Early in the race I knew my legs hadn’t came back in time. While I was happy that my energy was back to 100%, and my legs no longer felt heavy while pushing hard, I lacked punch/power and in such a short race that’s not good.

I pushed as hard as my flat-feeling body would go crossing the line out of the points in 37th – same finish as last year. I was pissed off. No denying. I’ve been very hot and cold with prologues in the last and while I was happy that the body felt better I wasn’t expecting to be so bad on day one. Being a Tour though I had very little time to feel sorry for myself as the next day the 15km classic pursuit was quickly approaching. I did wallow of course being the drama-queen that I am blasting some Band of Horses during a cold bath, and afterwards for about an hour before putting the race in the rear view mirror and refocusing.

Day Two: 15km Classic Pursuit Start – Oberhof (Ger) – January 1st/2011

I was fired up for this race. I always am. I love classic skiing, I love the course in Oberhof and I love pursuit starts where you’re chasing the leaders. It’s exciting, fast from the start and suits my strengths. It helps that the previous two years I had finished 3rd and 10th in the same race. It was a classic Oberhof day, foggy with slightly soft tracks. Warming up I felt great far better than just one day earlier and our skis were top shelf. I was nervous, but pumped.

Still, I had a lot of work and dudes to go through to catch back up to the front. I played it patiently, slowly working through the pack for the first six or so kilometers before making sure I was hanging out in the top 10-15 out of trouble and close enough to react if an attack went.

It was a tactical affair, some surging and some half-hearted attacks but none that stuck. Then, on the last lap Cologna went to the front to assert himself. I followed; just focusing on skiing as well I could technically. Next thing I knew I was in the front with about 2km remaining. I made a snap-decision that it was time to punch it and starting a long drive to the line in the lead. Coming around the last corner and into the windy finishing stretch I was still leading. I was double poling as hard as I could, but Dario came around me with 50m to go and passed me. I slipped right in behind him and crossed the line in 2nd place.

Needless to say, I was pumped. It was only my second-ever distance podium, and after not hitting the podium at all last year it felt so good to be back. It was a great race for me, best of the year and I posted the fastest time of the day, moving from 37th to 2nd. It also confirmed that Justin and I had in fact got the training right. It would have been awesome to win but Dario was just too strong for me and to finish only 0.5 seconds from my first win wasn’t bad.

Alex was 9th putting two Canadians in the top 10 for the first time this season which was sweet!

Day Three: 1.2km Classic Sprint- Obertsdorf (Ger) – January 2nd/2011
After packing up and showering it was onto our badass bus that Justin had organized (you’ve all seen the photos and read about it. The thing ruled for recovery!) as we rolled Southwest to the site of the 2005 World Champs Obertsdorf.

I love the sprint course in Obertsdorf. It was the first time I was ever top 15 internationally back in 2005 as a 22year-old, and I watched Sara Renner make history sprinting her way to a bronze medal there. I knew the course well, and was cautiously optimistic that I could get through the quarter-finals.

Well, it went far better than I could have ever imagined. Again our skis were fantastic and Alex and I qualified 6th and 7th. I felt amazing in all my heats and moved through to the final for the first time in my life in a classic sprint on the World Cup. I was stoked!

In the final I made a desperate attack up the last climb and came over the top with a gap. The meters were flying by and I was still in the lead down the finishing stretch.

I may have even thought about what my victory salute would be but Joensson had other ideas. With meters to go, he pulled even with me and it came down to an epic lunge for the line for the victory. After some tense moments, it was announced that no, for the second day in a row I had been beat at the line. I lost the race my 1cm or something ridiculous. Joensson described it as his tightest victory ever.

After hitting the podium the day before I was shocked to snag back to back silver medals. I was choked to lose such a tight race, especially after a gutsy move over the top that I believed was enough to stick, but Joensson is the best sprinter in the world, and to even be competitive with him was more than I ever expected. Alex finished an impressive 7th so back to back great days for Canada all around!

Day Four: 20km duathlon pursuit Obertsdorf, GER January 3rd/2011
The fourth race in a row was the also the longest. The course in Obertsdorf was the same 2.5km that they used for some races back in 2005 as well, whith consisted of flatter terrain and one huge hill per lap. The only difference is that they used the same course for classic and skate (just groomed in tracks on the side) and that made for a narrow/sketchy experience.

People were attacking all over the place going for early bonus sprints and launching for the finish line. It was very messy, lots of crashes, and just pandemonium in the pack to be honest. The course was silly.

I felt great but ended the day in 7th getting caught behind traffic up the final climb  but I was still happy with how the race played out. Alex and I both thought it felt more like a zone 3 workout because of all the bodies around. That was the one positive it didn’t take as much out of me as I would have thought.

Day Six: 1.3km skate sprint Toblach, ITA January 5th/2011
After another sizable trip, but on our sweet bus from Obertsdorf to Toblach, we had a rest day which we used to test skis and train on the long 35km stage. This was the best day to date in my ski career – I finally won a world cup! I felt so good today. I qualified in 14th, then moved easily through my final. Once again that was the main goal get through the quarters, so I was pretty relaxed for the remaining rounds.

In the final, I got off to my normal snail’s paced start, and was content to hang in the back part of the pack. Then, with two uphills remaining I just went crazy and launched an attack with everything I had. I kept the pressure all the way to the line, and while I had a big lead at one point Cologna almost came right back to me, but he ran out of real estate. At the time I could not and still cannot believe it.

It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to lift your arms in victory on the World Cup after working and dreaming about it for over 10 years. Haha, it’s almost embarrassing when I put it that way, but it finally happened. Our staff did such a great job, and everything just came together perfectly. I will never forget that race!

Day Seven: 35km skate pursuit CortinaToblach ITAJanuary 6th/2011
From an amazing race, to an extremely frustrating race was the transition between the two Toblach events.

In the long race, I started in 2nd place but alone to tackle the long/fairly flat stage over the Italian Dolomites. Cologna had amassed a big lead so I wouldn’t come back on him, but my goal was to stay away from the chase packs that were sure to form.

The course is 18km of gradual climbing, before descending gradually back to Toblach, and then a final show lap of 3.3km to finish off the spectacle. I felt good, started at a good/manageable pace. Still, at 13km Hellner who had started 30-odd seconds behind me swallowed me up. I tried in vain to stay with him, but he was on another planet. I just got popped right away, and had to settle to ski my own pace keeping him in my sights to make sure I still had a good pace.

I made it over the top of the hill, but even though I was going all out down the other side in 2km the large 11-dude chase pack caught me. I was so frustrated – like in cycling it is so much harder on easy terrain to stay away. Guys that started over 2.5 minutes behind me were safely in the draft of the pack and with them working together they made quick work of me.

What’s worse, is when they caught me nobody was willing to work together. We were chewing into Hellner who would have been caught for sure but then all of a sudden everyone was thinking of the bronze medal and things got tactical in a hurry.

I ended up finishing in the first chase pack good enough for 10th. All that hard work for the overall that I did early in the Tour was erased. I was (and still am) bummed about it. It’s a tough race, and without question the most important race of the entire Tour as far as the overall goes.

Day Nine: 20km Mass Start Classic Val di Fiemme, ITA January 8th/2011
After another travel day, and another rest day training and scouting the Val di Fiemme classic course we had finally arrived at the last venue.

I love Val di Fiemme, and I was really excited about this race seeing how I had been feeling so strong in classic this year. I knew it could be good.

Conditions were pretty standard klister skiing with warm temperatures greeting us in the Northern Italian venue. Here’s a strange fact about Val di Fiemme – it was the first time this year that we saw races above zero degrees which is extremely odd for Europe. It felt like Hawaii out there!

I tried going for some of the plethora of bonus seconds up for grabs early but soon realized that it was going to cost too much energy, and that Northug and Cologna had both amazing skis and were gunning for all of them. I changed my strategy mid-race and focused on attempting to win the competition.

I sat near the front and stayed out of trouble keen with being patient and hyper-aware with what was going on around me in the pack. There were some pace changes, but for whatever reason this year no one was able to really inflict big damage. On the last lap the Swede Rickardsson launched a move with 2 km to go that could have stuck but we all caught him on a big descent. Then I launched up the final climb (600m from the line) and over the top I was in the lead going for broke.

Still, it was too early and on the flats of the stadium I was caught and passed by Northug and Cologna. Again. I finished 3rd which was my 4th podium of the week. Unbelievable. It’s been just such a great week of racing!

Alex ended up in 5th meaning with one stage remaining we were 4th and 7th overall. It was going to be a dog fight as not much time separated 3rd to 10th and both Alex and I aren’t exactly gazelles up Alpe Cermis but we were excited to see how things went.

Day Ten: 9km Skate Uphill Pursuit Val di Fiemme/Alpe Cermis, ITA January 9th/2011
The last stage. Always tough, the 9km skate consists of 6km of gradual descending before meeting the walls of Alpe Cermis, an Alpine run close to the ski trails in Val di Fiemme.

As expected, it was a large group heading down to the climb. We worked well together, exchanging leads often but it wasn’t enough to keep a hard charging Lucas Bauer at bay who caught our group (3rd-9th) on the bottom slopes of the Alpe.

Things splintered early on the climb especially when Bauer caught us, and I settled into the best rhythm I could. I am no specialist at this unique uphill event and tried in vain to stay with Perl, Clara, and Gaillardall who are far better at this event than me. Gaillard and I were dropped by Perl and Clara and in a battle with my friend from the French Team, Jean-Marc beat me to the line after I tried to attack and blew up with only 300m remaining in the race.

The Tour was over, and I ended up 7th overall. Alex had a tough climb as well, slipping to 10th, but both of us were excited to have completed a solid Tour and to have two Canadians in the top 10 was a great achievement. Babs had the 6th fastest time up proving once again that the bulldog IS climbing boom.

What now?
After traveling and racing for over 2 months, and I am now at home. It’s so good to be back in Canmore and I am already looking forward to training with friends and sipping cappos in the afternoons as I recharge and begin to get ready for the World Champs in Oslo. I can confirm that nothing is as comfortable as your own bed and I slept like a log last night.

I was able to catch up briefly with Chandra in Munich for one night as our trips overlapped (Chandra heading to the sprint World Cups in the Czech and Estonia, while I head home to recover/train for Worlds). It was great to see her – however brief – after weeks away from one another but I am already missing her here in Canmore!

After an easy week this week to catch my breath it’s back on baby. We have work to do if we want to keep this party going. Oslo and the World Cups after it are the next objective. I cannot wait!

I want to extend heart felt thanks to everyone who supported me and our team: Mostly importantly is Chandra and my family!

Thanks to Justin who has proven to be such an amazing coach, and has shown stellar leadership all year. Our technical staff is some of the best in the business. All the boys – Sasha, Joel J, Joel K, Yves and Micke – you all rule. Micke thanks for sticking with me for the past few years and putting up with my sketchy self every weekend (and during the week, haha), you’ve made a HUGE difference!

Most importantly thanks to my teammates. I am so lucky to be a member of such a bad ass/awesome Canadian Team. We respect each other, push each other and celebrate each other’s victories. It’s a lot of hours together but damn it’s fun! It’s been a trip – one that will continue for years to come!

We couldn’t do it without our loyal team sponsors (the crew at Haywood, AltaGas, Statoil and Teck) and B2ten for the mad hook ups all year most recently being instrumental behind our big black rock and roll Tour de Ski bus. Your continued support means that our entire team can push the limits all year.

Lastly, my personal sponsors, guys like Jamie Coatsworth who makes such a difference and who believes not only 100% in me but all of Canadian skiing, Stephen Dent and the whole Birch Hill crew in T.O., Chris out in Vancouver with Teck and Allison and the Stoneridge crew, thanks to all of you. Support matters, from all levels. Family, friends, team, sponsors, it all helps make

Happy Hoho Holidays from Heidi

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December 27, 2010 (Banff, AB) – How I love the holidays. This year, the Christmas festivities started December 7th, the night before leaving for Rossland. Good friends and fellow racers, Michaela and Graeme, joined Joey and I for a gingerbread house making extravaganza! Making the dough from scratch, baking, decorating, having dinner and watching Jim Carrey star in ‘a Christmas Carol’ took up over 5 hours of our evening, but I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend it! This is Joey and I’s log cabin and got me right pumped about Christmas being just around the corner.

I am lucky to have my family close by, so the Christmas travel from the Condo for Phil and I was no more than a twenty minute drive. My brother Matt, made it home safely from Tofino as well as my sister, Ange, who’s home from going to University at Mount Royal. Simon, my sisters boyfriend from New Zealand, also joined us at Chez Widmer for some Swiss Zopf and turkey dinner. Mmm Goood! Is all I gotta say bout dat!

Mirror, mirror – Phil drew my name for the ‘Widmer Homemade Secret Santa’ and created this oak frame for the mirror from scratch, what a guy!

For my secret santa project this year, I had the vision of a lamp. The crew at Canmore Wood Crafters made a beautiful maple bed for my parents this year and I thought a bed side lamp for my dad would fit the bill. I called up, or rather Facebook messaged, Phil Tarchuk to help me out with this vision. After some brainstorming together, he generously crafted the lamp base from maple and walnut and I finished it off by creating the lamp shade with some copper piping and handmade paper then wiring the lamp. Check out Phil Tarchuk’s awesome website HERE.

After a leisurely morning, the Widmer bro’s went out to scope out the best ice around… they delivered! The most recent cold snap froze the remaining parts of Minniwanka, meaning that there was no snow on it and easily takes the title for the best ice in the BV at the moment.


Being his first time on skates since he was about 10, Simon, my sister’s Kiwi, was a trooper skating out to the good ice

My mom and dad teamed up in the kitchen for an awesome turkey dinner, it’s always more effort to pull off than you would think. And for dessert? We handed it off to Matt for some fruit flambé. The look on my mom’s face was priceless, no worries though, Matt had this dessert under control.

Christmas doubles as another Thanksgiving for me, in that it reminds me of how thankful I am for the family and backyard I have, plus we eat turkey again. After filling up on my fair share of turkey n’ taters in Banff, it was back to work today at the Canmore Nordic Center for some Zone 3 intensity with some of the Academy girls. Our next event will be a local Bow Corridor Regional Race Sprint Relay on December 29th.

‘Till next time!

Check out Heidi’s blog HERE.

Race Tails: Up and Down in Davos

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December 16, 2010 (Davos, Switzerland) – My first few days here in Switzerland were pretty sweet. The sun came out, there were perfect tracks and settling in at the Hotel Kulm felt a little like home. It was nice to relax for a couple days, absorbing the excitement from my podium in Dusseldorf and getting ready for another big weekend of World Cup racing with a 10km classic and a skate sprint. Quote of the Day “It was pretty cool to be back on the podium for the 2nd time in a week, and a nice redemption after the rough classic race!” What’s Coming Up 12.25.10 MERRY CHRISTMAS! 12.31-1.9 Tour de Ski – GER/ITA For more news and photos check out the new: www.kikkanrandall.com The Cliff Notes: It’s been a week full of the highs and the lows here in Davos! In similar fashion to last year’s races in Davos, we raced distance on Saturday and a skate sprint Sunday. While I had hoped and expected to put in a strong performance in Saturday’s 10km classic race, I was again disappointed with a lackluster result of 47th place. I struggled in the snowy conditions and ended backing off in the final kilometers to reserve some energy for the sprint. Thankfully, day two provided some redemption. I started off the day with 8th position in qualifying. I used fast finishes in both my quarterfinal and semi-final to advance to the final. In the final, after sitting in fourth for most of the race, I was in position to challenge for second place on the homestretch when Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk suddenly changed her trajectory and blocked my momentum. I ended up finishing 4th. A few minutes later however, Kowalczyk’s move was ruled as obstruction and she was relegated to sixth, moving me into third position. So I got to stand on the podium for the second week in a row! I had planned to race in France this coming weekend but due to some sickness this week I have decided to stay in Davos to get healthy, enjoy Christmas, and prepare for the Tour. I’ll be back in action on New Year’s Eve for the start of the Tour de Ski. Until then, Merry Christmas everyone! The Full Story: It’s been quite a week! Here is the update from Davos… 10km Classic Going into the classic race, I had confidence and optimistic expectations. Even with heavy snow falling the morning of the race, I felt I would be able to conquer the course and race to a solid result. I even got a little pre-race advice from Bjorn Daehlie. My plan was to attack the flats, ski with a light and quick tempo, and approach the climbs with a little reserve to be able to come on strong on the 2nd lap. By the middle of the first lap however, I was struggling with the glazed track and the effort was already feeling hard and heavy. Midway through the 2nd lap I was fighting myself physically and mentally. I knew I had already lost too much time for a good result, and with the sprint the next day, I opted to ease off a little and save that extra “dig” for the sprint. It’s never an easy decision to let up and it haunted me for the rest of the day. In the end I was 47th place and a whopping four minutes off the lead. Doh! While I didn’t have the distance performance I had wanted of myself, I knew from experience to just put the disappointment behind me and focus on the next opportunity, Sunday’s skate sprint. To help keep myself in a positive mood, I watched a couple episodes of Glee. 1.4km Skate Sprint The sprint day was going to be a long one. Qualifying didn’t begin until 12pm and the heats wouldn’t go off until 3pm, so the morning was a long, anxious wait. I definitely had some butterflies in my stomach this time. The sprint course here in Davos has changed every year and this time we would be racing two laps around a 700m loop. As I warmed up on the course, doing a couple laps at level 3, I felt heavy and labored. This was going to be a tough one! Since each racer had to complete two laps, that meant the starters were sent out in blocks of 5 racers at 10-second intervals, with 2 minute holds in between. I was able to watch several racers complete their qualifiers before I started and noticed that many went out aggressive on the first lap and then seemed to fade on the 2nd lap. So when I got on course, I thought about being quick and relaxed and worked on building speed through the two laps. Coming through the lap lane, I was feeling strong and picked up the tempo. I hammered up the big climb and had good energy over the top. I came out of the final turn and really built speed over the last 100m. When I crossed, I was in sixth position. After all had finished, I was 8th fastest. A good sign! Walking out of the finish area, I marveled at how good I had felt compared to my feelings from the warm-up. The day was off to a better start than I thought! I got a quick laugh when the coaches told me they had been a little concerned watching my first lap only to be relieved with I turned it on for the 2nd lap. There was a long 2.5hr wait until the heats started. Fredericka, our PT, gave me another good rub-down and I waited out the rest of the time bundled in my parka, listening to my iPod, and going over strategy in my head. Eighth position in qualifying put me in quarterfinal heat #5 for the second week in a row. I watched a few of the other heats go and noticed that some of the early leaders faded at the end. There was a pretty stiff headwind blowing through the stadium, so I decided I would try to draft. In my quarterfinal I got off to a good start and right away Kowalczyk bolted to the front. Perfect! I tucked in right behind her and skied the wide line up the steep climb to hold my position. I followed her around the 2nd lap as well and when we came off the final turn I shot wide and turned on the jets. I was able to overtake Kowalczyk before the finish line and win my heat. To my surprise, the semi-finals played out exactly the same as the quarters, I was able to draft Kowalczyk, and come off the final turn with a lot of speed to take the lead. I was feeling stronger every round and was psyched to move on to the final! There was just 15 minutes in-between the semi and the final, and it was quickly turning to dusk. The final was stacked with an accomplished field: Bjoergen-multiple Olympic medalist, Follis-World Champion, Me-World Championship silver medalist, Majdic-Olympic medalist, Kowalczyk-multiple Olympic medalist, and Jacobsen-World Champion. Unlike the final in Dusseldorf, this time I got off to a good start and came out of the double-pole lanes even with the others. With a couple of strong skates I was in good position. But I didn’t want to take the lead, so I backed off and Follis and Majdic squeezed me into fourth. Going up the steep climb I took the outside lane and came over the top side-by-side with Bjoergen. She had faster skis though and pulled in front of me on the downhill, and so I remained in fourth as we came through the stadium. I was able to match the pace of the others just fine but was tentative to go around. Majdic was leading across the flat, but then Kowalczyk made a big move, coming from fifth to go around Majdic on the right. At the same time Bjoergen and Follis made a move to the left. I followed Follis and as we came into the tight turn I was able to just sneak ahead of Majdic. I again went to the outside lane on the uphill, following Follis, while Bjoergen and Kowalczyk broke right. At this point I was hoping to make a move with my V1 climbing speed, but then, “oh no!” I was trapped by Follis!! Still stuck in fourth over the top, I was barely able to sneak back in front of Majdic going into the tuck. In a tight pack we all sailed through the s-turn and I crouched for the final turn. Bursting onto the homestretch, Bjoergen had gotten away but Kowalczyk, Follis and I were in a battle. Follis went left, Kowalczyk appeared to be going toward the middle and so I went for the open lane on the far right. I built speed quickly and was gaining on the others when all of the sudden Kowalczyk changed her trajectory and came right into my path. I tried to fight her off but she forced me towards the fence. I tried to double-pole for a second but realized I would never get past and had to slow up and switch directions to the left. I made a few quick strides in an attempt to get past, but having lost all my momentum, I came across the line in fourth. My first reaction was disbelief and instant remorse for having just missed the podium. I had seen my open lane and had the speed to challenge for 2nd before being suddenly blocked. Unbelievable! Darn!! Oh well, that’s the unpredictability of sprinting! “Next time I’ll just have to put myself in a better position coming into the finish,” I told myself. I shook hands with everyone, offering my congratulations and walked over to where the coaches were standing with a can-you-believe-that-just-happened look on my face. So close, ahhh! It wasn’t until Grover asked me what had happened with Kowalczyk that I realized that something potentially unjust had possibly occurred. A few minutes later, a FIS official came up to me announcing that Kowalczyk had been disqualified for obstruction and I was being upgraded to 3rd position. OMG! Another unbelievable turn of events!!

While being accompanied by a doping control chaperone, I quickly changed clothes and prepared for the flower ceremony. It was pretty cool to be back on the podium for the 2nd time in a week, and a nice redemption after the rough classic race! The rest of the evening went by pretty fast. I had to report to doping control shortly after the flower ceremony for blood testing. Then we got the word that the Polish team would be appealing the disqualification and there was a chance I would be dropped back to fourth. That decision however wouldn’t come for a week, so I decided to just enjoy the podium for now since I felt I deserved it. Part of the team was leaving for the airport, so we got to enjoy a quick champagne toast and then said goodbye. I didn’t get out of my ski clothes until 10pm after catching up with everyone on the phone. It was a whirlwind day! My intention had been to race the 15km mass start skate this upcoming weekend in France to close out Period I. However, I’ve been fighting some sickness over the last few days post sprint, and yesterday I decided to stay in Davos to get healthy and rest up for the Tour de Ski. My husband will be here in a few days and with a successful few weeks of racing under my belt, I can now take a little break and enjoy the Christmas holiday. Thanks to everyone for the notes and encouragement, and for all the support that helped me kick off this season with a bang! I wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and I’ll be back to you in the New Year with some more action! Cheers, PS I just received word that Poland’s appeal was denied and therefore my third place stands. Whew!