I've been home for less than a week after 24 straight days in Northern Maine.... I coached at JOs, hung out in the "county" for a week, and then raced in the US Nationals 30k and Super Tour Finals. The season is finally over. I say "finally" not because I'm burnt out but just because my first Super Tour race of the season seems like two life-times ago. A lot has happened between West Yellowstone in November and my return to Anchorage March 30th. I'll let the photos tell most of the stories......
After two weeks of sunshine in the county we raced the 30k in fresh, falling snow. I ended up third in a 4-way battle for the podium. After the 30k, we had one "off-day" before the start of Super Tour finals - three races in three consecutive days.
What did we do? Fast and Female Madawaska!!!!!! Fast and Female is originally Canadian and FF Maine was the only place in the US to host other than Anchorage. Reno Deprey, one of the APU Master skiers helped sponsor the event with his wife, Becky Manley. Reno grew up skiing and coaching in Madawaska so they had signs (and even ski trails) honoring him. For those that aren't familiar with Fast and Female it's an "empowerment through sport" event that brings top female skiers in the country to give all-day clinics to girls ages 9-19. Skiers are broken up into groups, spend time skiing and learning skills from top female athletes in the country, eat lunch together, story time plus Q&A, and then it's followed by a poster signing session. It's a FABULOUS program and this is my third Fast and Female event. I hope that other locales are able to host FF as I feel like it's a really effective program for communities.
Pointing to Reno who by the way just celebrated his 80th Birthday.... he just won his age group in the Birkie by MINUTES. Very cool to have a ME-AK connection!
Here is my group of girls posing with the Fast and Female logo. Left to right is Alice, Hallie, Amanda, myself, Vanessa, Shelby, Danni, Cassie, and Vicky. These girls were so much fun!!!!
Part of Maine Winter Sports Center's outreach programs includes mobile trailers with ski equipment to outfit those that don't have their own gear. These guys were efficient in getting everyone outfitted - plus the trailer were sweet. I think more places could benefit from a project like this. If kids never try skiing they don't know what they're missing right?
After skiing we had lunch in the cafeteria. The food was awesome and the event volunteers had a slide show of the ski stations already playing on the wall with a soundtrack and everything. They did a phenomenal job organizing - top rate! Taz is pictured above excited about her tray with at least eight separate compartments!!
Here is a group FF shot taken from the roof. The even actually happened on a Thursday and girls from the Madawaska schools were excused from classes to attend. (They told me the boys were super jealous!)
The following day we had our first of three super tour races. The women's race was a 7.5k classic mass start with three "preem" stations at 1k, 3k, and 6k. Rebecca Dussault and I continued our close finishes at the line with this lunge at 1k. It's funny because I'm not used to lunging for a line, then continuing to race. I had to be careful not to lunge so far that I would fall over. (That happens quite often!)
Preem winners received time off their overall time and Kikkan received 250 bucks for being the first women to 1k
Here is a picture of the men's mass start. I think there were close to 100 men starting this race on fast tracks with some fun corners. This format made for some fun spectating.
Kate Fitz's (an APU teammate) extended family made the trip to Madawaska to watch her race - they brought this sign to cheer her on!
I met two local girls that attended Fast and Female and were out at the races to watch. Coincidentally their names were "Holly" and "Brooke" so we had to get our picture taken together!
Some of my Fast and Female girls came out to the races and brought their friends - thanks for cheering girls!!!
The APU coaches worked extremely hard during our time in Maine. We had four races in five days and there were two venues approximately 1 hour apart. It made for some long hours and complicated logistics for them... plus some sticky klister conditions. (This is head coach Erik Flora's hand after the race)
Here is the sprint podium. I was third again! This time to Ida Sargent and Kikkan.
After the sprint it was time to re-fuel and get ready for the next day's hill climb. Becca choose some "poutine" which is a Canadian and Northern Maine specialty. Yes, that's french fries with cheese curds covered in gravy. I don't think there is any lack of "energy" in that plate of food!
Here is the final podium after three days of Super Tour racing following the last race - the "hill climb." I was third again!!!!
Here is a fun shot of Brian Gregg with his Super Tour cash winnings. After USSA didn't pay the series winners last season they decided to try and salvage the reputation by giving this year's winners hard, cold cash. Brian won the distance title after an entire season of racing. I think he bought a used Volvo with it.... right on Brian!
The following day I started my long trip home. Four flights and approximately 24 hours later I met Rob at the Anchorage Airport baggage claim. Coincidentally he had arrived from Colorado at a similar time. (It's sweet to carpool home from the airport with your husband - especially after you've been traveling different places!) Since it was 2am in the morning it was technically Rob's birthday. I brought him what was a beautiful, authentic Boston Cream pie which had melted on the subsequent flights. I had candles but no lighter due to TSA. It still tasted good - and for those of you that know Rob, he isn't picky!
After we arrived home at 3am, it was straight to work the next day for both of us. No rest for the weary! It's been GREAT to be home and reconnect with friends, family, and all the people that I coach that have been so supportive of me over the past couple of months.
(The kids are spelling "APU" with their bodies.... if it wasn't completely obvious!)
On Friday Charlie Renfro and I took the APU devo and junior skiers down the old "Flat Top Flyer" course. This was an old race that is completely downhill - Glen Alps to Hilltop on Nordic Skis. It only lasted three years (?) and was finally cancelled due to too many broken bones including Kikkan's back. We didn't race it but we sure had a good time.....
This year our only casualty was Ana's ski. It was a huge bummer but at least it wasn't her arm or leg :)
After our downhill ski, one of the APU juniors that I coach, Mackenzie made the special trip to deliver a gift..... apparently she painted this in art class during the Games - she got an A. I have to say, it's one of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. I'm truly honored by her efforts and will cherish the painting. Thanks so much Mac!!!
I've been home for almost a week now and it's been crazy - but fabulous. I love being in Alaska, looking out at the mountains each morning, sleeping in my own bed, talking to my husband in person rather than over the phone or texting. Life has been high-paced with work, catching up on "life" and all the additional responsibilities of an Olympian. I have tons of requests and plans for speaking engagements/appearances, classroom visits, ski clinics, non-profit auction donations, thank yous... I'm excited because this is my turn to give back to a community that has done so much for me.
Amongst all the craziness I carved out some time to spend with Rob this past weekend. We did our second annual back-to-back uphill/downhill ski races at Alyeska and Alpenglow. This shot was taken on the chair lift at Arctic Valley. This was our first time back since getting married there in August. Sweet day, blue sky, good snow, BBQ on the deck. No complaining here....
I've also taken up a new sport thanks to Greg Matyas at Speedway Cycles - Winter Biking! Yep, this is my new "FATBACK" bike complete with wide tires that float on top of the snow. I took it out for my first time this morning and had a blast. I've envisioning a sweet combined crust trip complete with winter bike and skate skis - stay tuned!
Thanks for reading - Enjoy Spring!