Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mentally Strong People... Professional Athletes Included.

I wanted to talk about this article in my "Wednesday" post but I think it's deserving of it's own, stand alone post because it is so DANG important - no matter what you do.

My mom actually sent me & my siblings the link to the article. So often I skim this stuff over quickly, not giving it a second thought but this one in particular resonated with me. It hit home as an elite athlete about to start the race season - about to get measured... waiting to slide into my one-piece spandex suit, pull a number over my head & pour my heart out on the trail getting a time, and hence a ranking. This ranking will show how I stack up against the rest of the female elite cross country ski racers in the World. It will also show how I "rank" on my own team, the US Women's Cross Country Ski Team.  This is extremely relevant because we are a result driven sport.  Results are how you make teams, get sponsors & earn funding. In all reality, results determine (some) of your future.

Seeing that this is an Olympic year there is theoretically more on the line than most years.... think goals of making the team, being granted one of the four coveted race starts per race, being chosen for relay teams that stand the chance of making history......

I know that many of my goals this year are result-oriented, quantitative, and high reaching. That is what makes the 13 points in this article so important. General themes that I deciphered from my read of it are resilience, the ability to look towards opportunity rather than resent past actions - the ability to think independently and constructively - and to not beat yourself up.  I expanded on the 4 points (of 13 total) that I thought were particularly relevant to my life as a ski racer but I urge you to read the full article and apply the advice to your life as a teacher, a husband, a manager, a friend.

USST Women's Team hands coming together for a moment last season 

Just a reminder, these are thing successful people DON'T do... 

1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

There is nothing helpful or constructive about being upset about a bad race. On our team we have a rule that you get 5-10 minutes to be disappointed and then you must blow it off and move on. Negative energy does nothing to improve performance in the future and honestly, it sucks to be around. Energy is contagious and it stinks being around people who are upset and negative.  Part of being on a team is the ability to enjoy other people's successes in addition to your own. Maybe you didn't have the day you wanted but chances are a teammate had a killer race. Go give & get some of that energy - it's much more productive that mopping in our room. 

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

This next point is particularly relevant to elite sports. Cross Country skiing is primarily an individual sport and I think part of our team's improvement is the fact that we've thought about how to approach it as if it was a team sport. We do pre-race workouts together, share tips. We are each other's family, friends and teammates on the road. That said, we are competitors too.  For example, there are seven girls on the National team and only two in a sprint relay - only 4 in the 4x5k relay. That means that during these races there are anywhere from 3-5 people sitting out, cheering on the sidelines. while cheering is fun, skiing with a bib on is more fun. The process of being chosen to represent the US for these teams involves beating your teammates and this can be hard. Because we're on the road for months on end we see our teammates at every meal and as European Hotel rooms go, we probably sleep two feet away from them at night.  If you resent them or are overcome with jealousy it is bound to eat you alive; it IS unsustainable.  It's better to train yourself to share their "glory" and think of their success a "Feather in the Cap" for the team as my Grandmother would say. 

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

Anyone who has been at this will tell you that success doesn't come overnight. While Kikkan often makes winning look easy now it took her ten years to get there and lots of last-page results to end up on the podium. The other night Liz was issued her first FIS Athlete Training bib and I watched as Randy Gibbs reminisced about Liz's first World Cup in Davos years ago.... he said, "After those races did you ever think you'd get that?" (Referring to the bib) As an athlete you must find a way to turn "failure" into motivation. Besides experiencing hardship makes success that much sweeter when it does come. 

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? 

Not everything will always go your way and turning in results takes time. It's funny because I do think that some people think that I made Vancouver out of the blue. It's true that I was working as a full time coach and hadn't actively been competing with my eyes set on Vancouver. Yet, I had worked as a full time ski coach for APU for six years. I often spent four hours on snow everyday. After coaching my sessions I would meet with my friends for intervals at night and ski on the weekends with my husband. Without knowing it I was training for the Olympics. 

Today, on the National team we are asked to reflect and evaluate each performance. Even if we turned in a disastrous performance was there a shimmer of positive? Did you do something well - even if it was simply ski selection or the timing of your breakfast? Results take time whether it's on the World Cup Ski Tracks or getting an A in Chemistry Lab.... 

The start list for the season's first World Cup is coming out any minute now and by the time you (!) are reading this article there is a good chance that I've already raced.  I sincerely hope that I am able to follow my own advice as it's one thing to write it but it's another to practice it. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support! 

Oh - and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home back in the US! 
Holly :) 

Read the Full Forbes article here: 

Last but not least a song for you all! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ruka RUka RUKA! The Triple Opener!

This Friday/Saturday/Sunday is the Ruka Triple Mini Tour and the kick off to the 2013-2014 Olympic World Cup season.  Kuusamo is traditionally the second World Cup of the season but FIS opted to make one, unified "Nordic Opener" including Cross Country, Nordic Combined & Ski Jumping all in one location. It's still early in the week but with each day, athletes from all the countries are going to start flowing in at a quick rate. (I'm just crossing my fingers that it doesn't bring an Internet crash along with the influx of athletes!

Team Carlile

We raced last weekend in Beito so athletes, myself included have some idea "where their shape is."  (Euro/English as a second language terminology....)  I wasn't ecstatic about my results but I also couldn't be too disappointed either.  Ben Husaby had a great comment when he said, "Holly, that's exactly where you want to be - I know from experience.  You don't necessarily want to have great races and you don't want to tank it either - you want race into fitness, have somewhere to go."  That's exactly how I felt about it.. Sunday, in particular I had a goal of getting top ten & if I was skiing really well, top 6. (Cheese Slicer Material) But, I felt as if I had a governor and I just couldn't press.  If you want to watch some of the race you can do so below.  It shows Therese Johaug, the eventual race winner passing me with a crazy high tempo.

 When in Norway... 

 Super fun seeing Frode in Beito, still rocking his APU hat... was it because he knew he was going to see us or does he wear it all the time? 

It's fun to think about switching gears & changing seasons.  Training/Preparation season is now over and it's time to race.  I love racing - but the one thing I HATE about this time of year is the fact that we can't ski or train much if we hope to have any speed when we put a bib on.  This time of year my hour go from an average of 18-24/week to 9-15 depending on racing load.  Unless you're super human or doing something illegal it's hard to hold volume while racing fast.

 Photo credit Jeff Ellis 

Right now I'm in Kuusamo and the conditions are the best they've been in the 3 years that I've been here.  They have a great network on trails that I want to explore but I can't. I need to do short, specific workouts in preparation for this weekend's classic sprint, classic 5k and skate 10k pursuit start.

On the way to Finland I somehow got upgraded to Business Class, seat 1A. For someone who seems to always be sitting in the nose bleed section this came as a surprise. Perhaps the desk lady saw that my middle name is "Syrjala" which hints at my 1/4 Finnish heritage. Anyhow, I tend to really really enjoy Finland. Yes, it is dark and yes, it is typically cold which is why perhaps I feel right at home. But, the living here in Kuusamo is great. We have little apartments where I could literally spit on the race trail (not like I would ever do such a thing) we have a fireplace which makes it feel homey and everything is within walking distance.  I find that here in Kuusamo I can be as independent as the World Cup ever allows me to be.  Additionally the people are friendly & modest.  The food is edible & I have a tradition of turning in some decent results here in the past. 
 The economy of Rovaniemi is directly tied to it being the "home of Santa Claus" although I'd hedge a bet that people in North Pole might fight for that honor :) 

 Our arrival in Finland

Changing gears, if you haven't read the article in the New York Times Magazine about the ski jumping girls I HIGHLY recommend it. It sheds some light on what they've been through and what they're up against before the Women's Ski Jumping debut in Sochi. Beware, it's long but well worth your time:

Noah's blog which he updates EVERYDAY is great to see exactly what we're up too. He has tons of pictures from Today, in Kuusamo.

Thanks to Christa for this great pic! It's the current background on my computer screen right now :) 
Picture credit Christa Case Bryant!

Is your team making a poster yet? If not, get to work!!!!! :) 

Thanks for following! T-2 days until we race World Cup Style! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Back to the slow life, Beitostolen - Norway.

From the moment I stepped on the plane it felt as if life took a 180 degree turn - for the better in many ways.  It is an understatement to say that the last couple of weeks at home were busy and I can't believe that I didn't get sick. Between packing, saying my goodbyes, co-hosting a baby shower, cooking early Thanksgiving and all the little odds and ends one must do to leave home for 4.5 months - not to mention TRAIN, it was crazy.  At night my head would hit the pillow exhausted but my mind refused to stop. Instead, I had TO-DO lists and thoughts constantly spinning through my brain like a carousel.  Some days I was busy and stressed to the point of feeling nauseous.

 "Early Thanksgiving" feauturing a Costco rotissere chicken because I was way to busy to actually cook at turkey! 
 Sharing eggnog with friends! 

Rob dropped me off at the airport in my car.... which I won't see until the spring :( 

Life on the road has quite the opposite effect.  Part of this is the fact that sometimes I'm too jet-lagged to truly get anything done but there is no doubt that life is a bit slower. I don't have a cell phone, training volumes are smaller with races on the horizon, and it's a ten-hour time difference to home which makes it difficult to correspond anyways.  Thus, welcome to the "World Cup Bubble."

For the first time in a long time I have time to read and am getting lots of sleep thanks to sleeping drugs (!)  Our days are spent adjusting to our new lifestyles, catching up with teammates and friends from other teams, working with our ski technicians, and here in Beito, cooking our own meals.

Basically the entire team has been reading "Boys in the Boat" A story about the rowing in the 1936 Olympics.... I'm half way through and it's a great read! 

It certainly takes me a while to adjust to the new lifestyle. I, for one, feel like I'm flourishing when I'm productive. I'm a list maker and there is nothing more satisfying that getting in two great workouts, writing 20 emails, running 5 errands, cooking healthy meals, writing an article, and taking care of the house - all in one day.  Suddenly here in Europe what might take an hour at home all of a sudden takes all day in Europe. Perhaps it's walking to the store with a list that's been google-translated (is that baking power, baking soda, salt, or powdered sugar?) and trying to figure out how to pay for groceries with your VISA that doesn't have a "chip."  Or, it's hiking to the one spot that has Internet only to wait for five minutes for your inbox to BEGIN to load because everyone is trying to use the same bandwidth.  Or, it's trying to cook dinner for a crew of 18 in a mini kitchen with a mini sink, and small dishes, collecting baking sheets from all the other rooms in order to make a satisfying meal. Things just take longer, period.

What else? Some random thoughts and thank yous.....
The fall is full of new gear - new skis to test, new boots to perfect, etc, etc. I am pumped to get my second pair of Salomon Carbon boots. They are truly amazing! 

Last night we had Bolle (sweet bread, usually with cardamon) with the Norwegian Women's team! This summer we hosted Astrid Jacobsen in Alaska and she's been a great "portal" to the entire team. Having friends on the World Cup makes all the difference when you're half way across the World and I think we're going to have a fun winter being more social across "team lines!"

Some of you may be relieved to know that the "Drive for 25" is now over. It was a long fundraising campaign but a successful one! The Cross Country side met it's goal by raising over 150,000 dollars via more than 1500 different people for the development of the sport. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated and I'd like to especially thank those of you who helped me exceed my goal of over 25 different donors - I made it to 37! A huge, specific thank you to:

Leslie Cornick
Annie Lowery
Merritt Olson and Steve Baer
Brad Benter Family
Alice and Gunnar Knapp
Go Holly! Have a fantastic season.
alison holland
Mike and Michele
Bill Pearson
Go Holly!
Eric Wieman
Chris Seaman
Heather Whitney
Owen Hanley
Paul Gissing and Family
Go Holly! Go Team!!!
Chrissy May & Ray Pohl
Thanks for paving the way Brooks!
Mackie and Laurie Derrick
Greer Gehler
Rebecca McKee
John Christopherson
Karen Syrjala John Llewellyn
Whatever it takes, Go Holly!
Mike Miller
Deborah and MArtin Hansen
Steve Syrjala
Go your Holly-ness
Mandy and Willie 
Erin & Frank Witmer
Justin Libby
Thanks for allowing us to share in fun!!
Laurel Renkert
HOORAY!!!! We'll be cheering you from AK!
Reno Deprey and Becky Manley

Chris Syrjala
Carissa Klarich
Happy to support the sport and amazing athletes and ambassadors of the sport like Holly!
John-Sue Whitney
Holly Brooks 
Because we ARE the Nordic Community.... dedicated to the future!
Harry & Elisabeth Kachline
One more step
Tom Livingstone
Rob Whitney
doing it!

Additionally, ALASKA won the race in most donors per state! Of course dollars are what reaches the 150k mark but I was especially interested in participation and ownership.  Nordic enthusiasts around the country all chipping in and taking some personal financial accountability for the future of our sport.  When I was writing to people to ask for D25 donations I felt funny at first because many of my contacts are people affiliated with the sport. My first thought was, why should this person donate money because they donate time as a coach or why should this skier donate because they might be a potential NNF recipient!  But then I realized that the Nordic community needs to support the Nordic community.
If the racers, coaches, industry people, racer parents, and ski shop owners don't contribute, who will?  So, thank you to those of you that chipped in. And if you didn't get a chance to contribute, there is still time!

What's up next? The RACE season! Tomorrow I'll be doing classic race prep for Friday's 10k race. My plan is to race the 10k individual skate on Saturday too. Most of my teammates are planning to race Fri/Sun, Sunday being a skate sprint. I really want to race Sunday too but having just gotten over here and looking towards the World Cup Ruka Triple next weekend in Finland (3 race mini-tour) it's smart to limit it! 

Thanks for reading and thanks for the cheers! It means a lot to us, 
Holly :) 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cholula, Eggnog & 24 hours!

I'll make this quick because my beloved bed is calling..... my last night in almost five months!  I'm savoring every last minute of being home but at the same time, I'm ready to leave.  I love training and I love racing and it's time to put all this hard work to WORK! Astrid Jacobsen sent us pictures from Beito this AM (or first race stop in Norway) and things look great.  I have one sleep and 24 hours until I board the plane .... or FOUR planes to get to Norway. I have so many loose ends to deal with.  I owe many of you visits, Thank yous and all kinds of things but perhaps they'll have to wait until I am overseas - and perhaps via skype? It's always a balancing match trying to get every last thing done, prioritize training, and making sure that you don't get sick before you hit the road.  

One also has to figure out how to fit Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day & Rob's birthday into a duffel bag because that is exactly how long it will be until I return to AK! 

Speaking of that, here is a bit of my life right now: 

It's literally in PILES and lots of it must go.  Luckily I'm getting a packing/wardrobe coffee consult tomorrow from my good friend Najeeby. When you have to pick 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of pants for a winter they should ideally be the right ones! My apologies to Rob who has been dealing with my house-disaster zone for quite some time now. Soon enough he'll have his bachelor pad back! 

Here are a couple of my World Cup edible essentials:

And a quick shot from my night tonight... drinking Eggnog with some of my best friends. (After a moose curry dinner). What a fabulous send off! 

Tomorrow will be restful & chaotic. I'm looking forward to some time with Rob & Buggz as well as a "phone date" with my parents.  

Thanks so much to everyone who's been SO supportive. I look forward to keeping ya'll in the loop more than once a week too! I have lots of writing to do on the plane including blogs, emails, my next ADN column, my next International column for the Nordic Skier.... 

It's been great seeing a white Anchorage before taking off! More soon - flannel is calling! 
Holly :) 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Power of 25 & Sochi Send Off!

Heyo! Happy Wednesday ya'll!  Just T-8 days until I pack my bags until spring time! Time is flying by and needless to say, it's busy with training, life & everything nearly a 5-month "deployment" entails :) 

My "leaving on a jet plane" time is quickly approaching but that's not the only thing..... The "Drive for 25" campaign is also 9 days from the end. Check out a note about the campaign that I sent to a bunch of folks this past weekend (below my first screen shot here) 

Dear Ski Friends, 

I'm writing with a quick favor to ask.  By now, I'm sure that many of you have heard of the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) and the "Drive for 25."  Basically, it's a grassroots engagement campaign to bring the US Ski Community & friends closer together - and draw support for the future of US Skiing. (Take note that I'm not calling it a "fundraiser" even though it is technically a fundraiser.)  

Instead, it's a chance to take ownership and contribute to the future of the sport.  SO.... when we have success in Sochi, you can say that YOU were a contributing factor!  Money raised goes to offset expenses for development trips and unfunded positions on the World Cup. 

It's funny sending this note to many of you because you ARE the Nordic community.  But, if we don't call on the Nordic community & friends to pitch in, who will?  As such, Rob and I also contributed $25 dollars each to signify that we support the future as well.   

So, I'm asking you to please consider pitching into the campaign.  My goal is to get 25 different donors at $25 dollars each.  I don't care much about the dollar amount but more about the participation.  If you'd like to donate more of course that is your decision.  My goal is to get at least 25 different people to pitch in!!!!!  

Also, to be clear - this is not a fundraiser for me. It's a fundraiser for the future of the sport.  Please consider joining me by donating, as I have done here: 

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone on my page who stepped up thus far - you guys ROCK! 

I took screen shots of the 21 folks who have donated to the NNF via my page thus far (as of last Tuesday night.)  Thanks so much to these people for becoming STAKEHOLDERS!  It's funny in that I feel like a lot of people aren't donating because they are a coach, a groomer, an administrator, have kids or a family member that skis. It's so easy to feel like others will do it but please, take the bull by it's horns and help out this great cause! NNF has helped me fund trips in the past that I would have otherwise been unable to afford. Had it not been for those trips I might not be vying for my second Olympics! I'm not asking anyone to donate a lot (but of course you are welcome!)  The most important part of this campaign to me is ownership - as I stated above. So please, if the Nordic Ski Community means anything to you, please consider joining us!

Speaking of Nordic Skiing...... the skiing at Hatchers continues to be magnficent. The historic Independance Mine is so picturesque, I just love skiing there although it is incredibly challenging skiing. While the drive is a big time suck I am so thankful to have snow to kick & glide on.  My plan is to roller ski this afternoon but after that I might be hanging them up for the season.