Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts from Lahti

I’m well over-due for a blog update so I suppose that I will pull myself away from the live skiing on TV and attempt to use the caterpiller-speed internet! 

The famous jumps of Lahti, Finland

I’m currently in Lahti, Finland on the eve of the “Lahti Winter Sports Games.”  Lahti is a regular, annual stop on the World Cup and this is my first World Cup experience that is not right before a Championship series.  Tomorrow’s 10k pursuit will be my 5th World Cup and Sunday’s classic sprint will be my 6th. 
I’m psyched for this opportunity to experience what I feel is more representative of the “real” World Cup (if that’s fair to say.)  I’m here with a small group from the US, namely the World Cup “A team.”  Lars Flora, my APU teammate and I both have the opportunity to be here as “Continental Cup, Super Tour” leaders.  Basically, each continent has a “cup series” where the leaders gets start rights to participate in the World Cup beyond a country’s regular start right quota.  I recently learned that as CC leader I also have the opportunity to attend and participate in World Cup finals in Sweden following the race in Lahti.

One of the things that has struck me while being in Europe (or simply high level ski racing in general) is how tired one can become from competing at a high level.  My experience on the road is a complete, 180 difference from my life at home. In Alaska I’m a multi-tasker, I thrive on being busy.  I often train twice per day, coach at least once, complete some school work, spend time with friends and family, take care of my house, etc, etc.  In comparison, over here is feels as if it takes triple the energy to complete daily tasks, even if it’s a short one hour ski and eating lunch that is prepared for you buffet style!  I really think there is an incredible amount of subconscious energy that’s expended by being so far away from home.  Sometimes my lack of ambition and energy frustrates me but then again, rest & recovery is a really important part of this business.  

Nonetheless, I have been taking some mental notes on things that help – both comfort wise, and perhaps making it feel a bit more like home. Or, just ways to embrace being on the road.  Some of those things are even as simple as buying some cheap flowers for your hotel room or traveling with a jar of peanut butter (not popular over here) that I bring to breakfast with me.

Flowers, coffee, hand sanitizer and LIVE skiing on the Tube! 

Finnish PB is actually quite good

The other thing that I always find a bit shocking is how fragile my body starts to feel at this time of year. It’s good at one thing and one thing only.  For example, I woke up this morning and found that my hamstrings are a bit sore.  Now, is this because I ran for 30 minutes rather than 20 yesterday or because I took 6 flights of stairs because our huge hotel has one closet-sized elevator?  During the training season I pride myself as someone who can mow the lawn and complete an awesome interval set afterwards, or even someone that can train three times per day.  Sometimes, being in “race shape” towards the end of the season when the racing density is high because you physically cannot do much other than race and rest.  Personally, I love racing but I also love training and I always wish I could ski MORE during this period of the year.  However, I know that it would only be detrimental and make me more tired than I already am! It’s just funny to think that I train incredibly hard year round for this time of year and if you asked me to do a dozen pull-ups right now, I might struggle with it whereas other times of the year, it's no problem.

The race venue is just a short walk from our hotel... the "Grand"

I certainly don’t want to give the wrong impression. I am stoked to be here and stoked to have the racing opportunities that I have in the next month.  

I’m excited for this weekend in respect to my own racing and also excited for the APU junior competing at JOs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This is the first time in five years that I haven’t coached at Junior Olympics but I got a chance to Skype with a bunch of the APU junior athletes last night.  They’re having an awesome time at JOs and skiing really well! (I am one proud coach!)

APU kids at JOs!  (Thanks for being patient with the horrible internet guys!)

The start list is out for tomorrow’s pursuit and the filed looks tough and deep.  The competition at any Scandinavian World Cup is fierce and I know that tomorrow is going to be tough. There are seventy-two female starters and I am #46. I’ll give it everything I’ve got!
Thanks for reading,

Ski jumpers are also staying at our hotel. I have to say, I'm certainly glad that I don't have to travel with one of those bags!