Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last post of 2010!

Two thousand ten is coming to a close and I figured I'd better post about it before 2011!

At the conclusion of the Rossland mini tour, our team dispersed to our relative locales for a short, one week break before resuming the racing season for US Nationals.  Christmas snuck up on all of as usual.... We got home on the 22nd, and had one day before Christmas Eve.  Factor in a good, solid sleep, unpacking, etc and it's Christmas Eve before you have time to do anything about it. Regardless, it was awesome to sleep in my own bed, pay my bills, and be in Alaska for a couple of days.

En route home I had a great surprise in the airport.  Our layover allowed time for a short visit with my family (that lives in Seattle.)  My mom surprised me by bringing both of my Grandmas to the airport.  My Aunt showed up too!  We had a great "Christmas Party" complete with cookies and all!  (Unfortunately the pictures from this event are on a different computer, otherwise I would post them.)  Thanks mom for making it happen! While not ideal, an airport Christmas visit with my family is better than no Christmas visit at all...

In addition to some well deserved R & R in Alaska I was able to attend the APU Devo "Christmas Ski" to Kincaid.  These guys skied 25 kilometers like it was no big thang! (AWESOME!)

I also got to use my FatBack!!!  Check out more info on Fatbacks at Greg's site here!

If you've never tried winter biking it's a whole new sensation and way to enjoy the winter months! 

 Our neighborhood can be quite festive.... that is, when your car isn't being stolen or your house is being broken into (no joke!)

Neighbors hang holiday ornaments from tree branch arch

Fast forwarding to Maine..... The travel from Alaska to Maine is a bit tough.  Maine is the furthest you can get from Alaska as far as a ski venue is concerned.  We've found ourselves here a lot lately.  This past spring I spent almost a month in northern Maine coaching Junior Olympics and then competing in Distance Nationals. US Nationals is on a two year rotation so this time next year, we'll be back. 

The actual "travel" door to door took us 24 hours.  We flew all night.  This was the extent of our sleep during a short layover in Newark.  (That's me on the far right underneath the airplane blanket trying to keep the blood from pooling in my legs.)

Finally - at the venue this morning! The new lodge is super nice... and will probably keep us temporarily dry for the 40 degrees and rain that is forecasted for classic sprint race day. 

A quick self portrait overlooking the sprint course.  The snow conditions look good in this shot but there are some solid patches of rocks, dirt, and bare spots. Tomorrow our team is shoveling snow on the distance courses in hopes that we can use them. 

They have BIG trucks transporting snow. It's sweet to see how much they've stock-piled. 

The girls on the van ride home. 

After our ski we took a short self-tour of Rumford.  We've started this tradition as we like to find out a bit more about the towns we visit.  On our tour we found this building.  Upon first inspection we thought it was the Star Ship Enterprise that had collided with the White House.  The second inspection revealed that it's the local hospital. HUH? 

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading... I'll try to keep you posted as best I can! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Podium Today! .... and a RACE tomorrow!

Women's podium left to right: Caitlin Compton, Holly (me) & Jessie Diggins

It was a fast and furious 5k race today!  Perhaps the fastest 5k that I've ever raced with a final time of 12:06!  The course skied like two big intervals with lots of false flats and downhills that you had to work in between.  The small time gaps should set the stage for a huge drag race tomorrow.  We're doing a "hunting start" where the first one to cross the line wins!  Congrats to my APU teammate and fello "old guy" Lars Flora for taking the men's win today in a STACKED men's field! Here are a couple of pictures courtesy of my husband, Rob Whitney!

Racing 1k into the race

Lars Flora - Men's winner 

Me and Lars 

Men's podium - Lars on top! Hometown favorite, George Grey in second and Drew Goldsack in third

Teammates Taz Mannix followed by Sadie Bjornsen

Brent Knight

My dad made the trip up from Seattle to watch me race - thanks Dad! 

Tomorrow's the last race of this month-long tour and then it's back to Alaska for Christmas! I'm ready for some head-to-head classic skiing tomorrow! 

Holly :) 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Two races down, two more to go!

I'm laying on the couch right now with my legs elevated after just finishing the Teck Skate Sprint in Rossland.  The first day of the mini tour is over, only two more days of racing in this period before headed back to Alaska to my own bed, my cat, and some well deserved R&R.

Today was a fun race on a technical and tactical course.  The prelim only took us three minutes - too short for my liking but the margin between me and Sadie today was even smaller than last weekend in Silver Star (.05 versus .1)  How many ways can YOU think of to make up .05 seconds!?!

The scenic shot.... (thanks to my husband Rob for all the great photos!)

Reese rockin it! 

The women's A final coming off the technical "S" turn

Anyways, today's race was a big deal for the Canadians.  The Canadian winner of each skate sprint "stamped" their ticket to compete at World Championships in Oslo, Norway!  While I'm glad that we don't use the "perform or else" qualification system I'm sure it feels nice to know Championship plans now rather than having to wait until mid January like we have to in the US.

The men!

Today's course featured a huge hill at the beginning of the race.  We bottle-necked early and I was basically in third place the entire race.  Each attempt to pass proved unsuccessful.  We navigated a gnarly turn which saw some pretty good wipe outs earlier in the day and headed in for the final stretch.  I had good cornering and decent finishing speed. I came from behind to lunge for second place with Perianne Jones!  After mulling around for a while I found the jury hovering over the finish camera debating the timing picture inside and out.  No one could really tell who was second, and who was third.  The final call was TIE!

With teammate (& roommate!) Katie Ronsse who rocked the B final!

Perhaps the best quote of the day goes to Perianne when she said that she looked over at my suit color after we crossed the line was relieved to see that was an American rather than a Canadian.  Imagine the debacle that would create if two Canadians tied, the "prize" being a trip to World Champs?!  We were disappointed to find out that there wasn't a "2" bib for the podium.... the plan to both squish into it was foiled!
Sharing the podium with Peri (I'm in green)

The women's podium today: Sadie, Peri & me!

Rewinding to the distance race last weekend at Soveregin Lakes....... I had a great day!  The course suited my strengths well - slow snow and lots of climbing.  The suffering factor was high and I love it when it hurts!  Erik described racing at altitude according to Bill Koch: "It's like reaching for that branch that is just SLIGHTLY out of reach and trying to hold on."  That's basically what it felt like and I was happy to come out of it with a NorAm victory!

Top of the podium at Sovereign!

Rocket skis and poles!

We've been on the road for 28 days now and this is the final stretch!  Tomorrow's race is a 5k skate and Sunday's is a 10k classic "hunting" start.  Basically, all of the race times over the three days will be added up. Additional bonuses will be given for sprint performances.  Sunday's start will be rolling pursuit style and then it's the first person to cross the line wins!

Last but certainly NOT least, my teammate, Reese Hanneman (who also had an awesome day today finishing 10th overall amongst a stacked men's field) made another great "Engine Room" productions video.  Check it out here:

Stay tuned for progress and details!
Thanks for reading,

ps. Special "thanks" to my husband Rob for taking hundreds of awesome pictures the last couple races. Sometimes I think he's getting as good of a sprint workout as we are - making it to all parts of the course.  It's great to have him out there cheering and hooking up everyone with FABULOUS photos.  Thanks Rob!

With my homemade Black Jack coffee receptical!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sovereign Classic Sprint Update

This is going to be a pretty short post because I have a race tomorrow and I am TIRED. It's easy to forget how much a full sprint, complete with heats can be fatiguing.  Thanks to my husband Rob Whitney for coming down to the races to cheer me on and take pictures of our team!  He got some great shots and I will post more tomorrow.....

Girl's start, quarterfinals (I am in blue with white boots) 

Today I finished second in the prelim (by .1 second to my teammate Sadie Bjornsen!) and fourth overall at the end of the day.  I was skiing well in the final, leading in the middle of the race. Then, on the last downhill I slipped once (despite good skis) and a couple of us had a bit of a hangup allowing Perianne Jones to ski away from us.  After that, I tanked on the double pole finish.  Oh well, that's sprint racing and I went for it.

Coming around a sharp turn in my quarterfinal

Boys coming down the long downhill stretch

Lars making the final turn into the finish

Kasandra skiing up over the tunnel

Also, I found this really sweet vimeo video tour of the course in case you're interested in seeing what we skied today.  Hats off to Sovereign, the race committee, and the trail designer.  Everyone loved the course. Thanks to Geoffrey Richards for making and posting this video.

Sovereign lake classic sprint 1.5k from Geoffrey Richards on Vimeo.

Also, here is a video my teammate Brent Knight made.... for some reason I can't find the code to embede it but go to his blog to see it anyways! It's sweet:

That's it for now. I'm going to BED!
Holly :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A shout out to my teammates

Yesterday we had a team photo session. Seeing that I was in the full team and girls team shots, I didn't get those on my camera.  But, I did get my own copy of the boys team - or at least those who are here in Silver Star right now.....

 Left to right are Lars, James, Pete, Bart, Reese, Brent, and Patrick.  This picture came out well so I am excited to see the other pictures from the photo shoot!

Speaking of the APU team, many of my teammates also keep awesome blogs.  Since I'm not posting everyday, I figured that I would include links to other athlete's blogs on the APU team.  It's fun to read about similar things from a slightly different perspective.  If you're interested, here are some links (Sorry, you might have to copy and paste them into your browser)

Women’s Team:

Sadie Bjornsen
Taz Mannix
Katie Ronsse
Kikkan Randall
Morgan Smyth
Becca Rorabaugh
Erika Klaar
Holly Brooks

Men’s Team:

Brent Knight
Mark Iverson
Eric Strabel
Don Haering
Bart Dengel
Reese Hanneman
James Southam

Reese Hanneman, one of our new APU teammates (from Fairbanks!) keeps an awesome blog on Fasterskier.  He also has started making YouTube videos that show what we've been up to on the road.  This particular video shows the amount of snow we encountered in West Yellowstone and some of the boys team racing.  (Boys were warming up for their race during the girls race - Taz took the footage of the men)

Speaking of teammates, here I am with new APU team member, Morgan Smyth sporting our new E'Klarr (another teammate who makes awesome hats, headbands and buffs!) team ware.   Morgan moved up to Alaska from Utah this spring and has been training with us ever since.  I don't want to put words in her mouth but I think she's an APU convert and here to stay.  After a season of injuries (compartmental syndrome and mono) I think she's pretty happy to be a member of APU!

....... Let me just say that the APU women's team is awesome. We have a great group of girls that are smart, fast, and competent.  Intensity workouts with this group are really productive and fun.  For example, today we did an "over and under" workout where we did some L3 on the 10k skate race course and finished with some speed work on Saturday's sprint course.  We had a group of five girls going for the finish sprint, complete with lunge practice.  The crazy thing is that there is a distinct chance that the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals for Saturday's sprint will feature a lot of APU girls.... not completely different than a regular day at practice. It's great to train with such high quality teammates each and every day.  My feeling is that it can only make each and every one of us better!

 Afternoon running buddies, GA, Fitz, and Ronsse

 Morning sunbeams at the start of Sunday's training session 

 Typical, everyday grooming quality at Sovereign Lakes.... 

FYI, Sovereign Lakes, our race venue for the upcoming weekend is also hosting 2011 World Masters in March.  If you are a master skier (over 30) and are looking for a sweet trip, I highly recommend coming here!

Found on the side of the ski trail.... 

Thanks for reading! More soon, 
Holly :) 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Danger of SS + West in Review....

I know that everyone's been saying it but this place is SWEET! Silver Star has been called heaven, paradise, the best place to ski in North America, etc, etc.  It's probably all of those things that therein lies the problem.  When you have races coming up in the future, how do you keep yourself from hammering out a hard 50k everyday?  The point is to get in shape but blow yourself out for the races - when you have to ski fast.  It's hard because all I really want to do is ski hard until I drop :) Here are a couple of pictures from our first days in Silver Star... 

Extra Blue... if I could only have one wax for the rest of my life, this would be it!

Me lovin the trails!

I did some classic ski testing with Erik and Casey this morning. It's important to organize your skis and get to know which ski works in which conditions.... It was great to be able to blaze around, switch skis, discuss our thoughts, and come to some conclusions. 

Silver Star and Sovereign look like THIS - all 100+ Kilometers of trails. The grooming is done everyday and night and skiers wake up to deep, firm tracks and corduroy EVERY DAY.  This is what creates paradise!

Note the iconic Silver Star trees.  For some reason, they always kind of look like this.... 

In many ways, Silver Star is somewhat of a homecoming for me.  Having grown up in Seattle, my family would come here to celebrate Thanksgiving every year.  Here is a pic of my Grandparents Christmas card in nineteen ninety five! 

Moving onto the race report from West..... 

I had a solid beginning to the race season.  It was fun to pile four races in three days. Going into the races I didn't know where my fitness was or where I stood.  Now I have a decent idea of where I am and where I need to go.  I have a much different approach then last year.... Last season I had to come out at the West Yellowstone races firing on all cylinders.  I had virtually no points coming into the season and to make the Olympic team, I needed to be skiing fast right off the bat to get my name into the mix.  This year is different.  I have decent points and I hope to be skiing my fastest towards the end of the season rather than the beginning. I was especially happy with the sprint races - I didn't really feel like I preformed better in them than the distance races but for some reason, the result was way better. Here is an article from fasterskier on the sprint races: 

And, here are a couple of pictures from last week and the races:

Sweet shot of teammate Sadie Bjornsen and myself in the skate sprint

My family came to the races in WEST!  My sister was coaching and my family ended up volunteering because the races were switched to Thanksgiving Day (and they lacked volunteers.)  It was sweet having my mom work course control and hear her cheering and to have my dad in the finish shoot taking my skis off after I crossed the line! 

My sister Robin is working her first winter as the head coach for Glacier Nordic out of White Fish, Montana.  Her team was a great cheering contingent in the distance races! ..... Also a special thanks to USKH, my headgear sponsor for the season. 

A shot from the classic distance race compliments of Andy Canniff of Swix

Post APU team meeting... Fitz wearing the distance bib, Erik holding Lars' Super Tour leader bib, and me wearing the leader bib :)  Go APU!!!!

APU Girls team, left to right: Holly, Kalysta, Fitz, Sadie, Morgan, Tax, Greta and Ronsse.... missing Kasandra :(

Sweet shot of Pickle Pete in the boys race before my camera battery died.

Awards ceremony... 

And last but not least, my huge ski-sickle.. 

Thanks for reading - more to come soon! 
~Holly ;)