Saturday, February 27, 2010

My 5th (and final) race of the Olympics!

After thinking I was going to watch the race from the sidelines, the competitors instinct took over….and I decided to race!   I hate to admit how much I agonized about the decision, but I am happy with the outcome.  While it was not my best race of the season, it was a very solid performance.  My plan was to start slow and build into the race. Nearing the finish, I remember thinking that I wish I had 10 km to go in the race because I was gaining on a pack of skiers right ahead of me.    Here are a few pictures that Rob took of all the wonderful fans from the race today, more to come tomorrow.  Lots of work to do:  packing, logistics, and trying to find to my ski bag which has mysteriousl disappeared (which is a problem if one if trying to transport 20 pairs of skis.   Rumor has it that Petra Madjic travels with 100 pairs of skis!)  

I was almost embarrassed by all the support out there today and these past two weeks.  You guys are awesome and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.  I feel like I was the luckiest racer out there.   

Hugs to everyone,


P.S.   Because of Olympic rules, I can’t post race photos for a few more days…but count on a HUGE post of race photos once that time comes!!!!

Linda Cresup of Anchorage made this sweeet banner! Thanks Linda!

..a close up.

....on the jumbo-tron after finishing my 30 km race

SUPERFANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!     .....along the final 180 turn to the finish

Erica and Jaime!

This has got to be the coolest picture of the coolest people at Callahan Valley! 

Friends Erin and Rob Gates from Portland drove up for the weekend.  (Erin is from the US, Rob from Canada...thus the flags.)

G-A-N-G-S-T-A    style!      that's right.......

Eli is #1.  Period.  Plain and simple.  Any questions??!!!!!!!!

My family (w/ John, Steve, Emily, Katharine, Karen)

Rob's family:  Heather, R, me, Erin, Frank)

Japan's skiers totally kicked butt today and the Japanese fans loved it!!!!!  Go Japan!  whoop whoop

Kikkan & myself.   Hat's off to Kikkan on a great race today and a stellar week!

Super-lady-APU-master-skiers!!!!    bling anyone?  :)

I found this on the trail on the walk out with my family.  Norwiegian fans have business cards claiming their fan-li-ness!!!    THAT is awesome.    .....still awesome.

Peter Graves.  The voice of skiing commentary.   This is his 8th Olympics as an announcer.  wow!

Anchorage ladies!!   (and Shawn Lillifjell on the left!)   boo-yaa!

***the rest of these pics from the the race on the 25th, Relay day.....but I like the pics.....

Mr. Wild William.  The Man with a Plan.    O to the I to the A!

Gotta love the Norgweigian's outfits!  

....along the 180 turn to the finish in the stadium

Go Alaska!  (thanks to the Knapp's!)

Ron Randall being interviewed on the Jumbo-tron after Kikkan TORE IT UP in the relay first leg!!!!

I stuck around to watch history in Nordic Combined.  Billy Demong......1st place!   THAT was COOL!!!!!

Billy on the podium!  Johnny (L) second, and an Austrian in 3rd (R)

Fans and the flags (I liked the shot!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Out of Gas....

Kikkan skied a great first leg of the 4x5k relay yesterday. She tagged off in fourth place after skiing a super strong race.  I started out hard but there wasn't a whole lot I could do to maintain the pace or our team’s fourth place position.  There were some very strong second leg skiers that I was up against including Justyna K, the current World Cup leader from Poland.

Yesterday’s race was also the 14th day of the Olympics and my fourth race here.  The Olympics are starting to take their toll on me on me and as it turns out, I am very, very tired.  In the past two races I haven’t felt like I can “charge and recover” like I’m used too.  If I ski an uphill to hard, that’s it. My legs fill with lactic acid and I’m not able to ski like I know I can. Looking back at yesterday’s 5k I think there were times when I skied my warm up faster than the actual race itself.  This is obviously no good.

Most athletes here at the Olympics planned their training to “peak” during the Games meaning, they organized their training so that they would ski faster here than they have all year.  This was not a possibility for me due to my late decision to even make the team. I came into the 2009/2010 season with very few “points races” that would qualify me for the US team. Therefore, I had to ski fast from the go starting in November 2009.  I skied fast in the early season to get my name in the mix and had to hold it with good performances in January at US Nationals. In hindsight, the situation I put myself in forced me to ski fast all year. Now it’s February and in some ways, “I’m out of training.”  Erik Flora, my coach used a dart analogy to describe it, “You had to use lots of your darts for qualifying races – you used them in November, December, and January.  At some point, you just run out of darts.” 

You can also think of training like money in the bank.  In the summer and fall months, you put in hours and they mature like a good investment.  In the winter, you are forced to take them out to perform.  If you have to withdraw too much too early, you are left with a zero balance at the end.  This summer, after I decided that I wanted to make the Olympic team I was forced to take two months away from training due to my Mt. Marathon Exertional Rhabdomyolsis injury.  Unfortunately that was two months were I wasn’t putting much-needed “money in the bank.”  In many ways, that (“my lack of base”) is hurting me now when I want or need it most.

In many ways I have fewer responsibilities here than I do at home. I am not coaching sessions, I have someone that makes my bed and takes out the garbage (!) but there are so many other components of the games that take time, energy, and focus.  Coming into the Games I waffled back and forth about how many races to attempt. Basically, when it comes down to it, I thought I could do more than it turns out I can.  I had been looking forward to the 30k race more than any other race here at the Games and now my participation in that is questionable.

Sometimes I've been known to be loyal to a fault.  Part of me was/is tempted to ski the 30k mass start just because I know that tons of friends and family came here to watch me ski it.  But, I know that is the wrong reason to start a race.... I can't make something out of nothing, especially an Olympic 30k.  It's not a matter of “just trying harder” or “digging deeper.”  It’s not something that can be fixed with a 15-hour night of sleep like a sore throat. I’m out of energy and the tank is empty. I feel horrible because I know that people have put a lot into their plans to watch and support me….. to everyone that made sacrifices and plans to be here to watch me ski I’m am VERY VERY SORRY.  I wish there was something that I could say or do - I just didn’t know.

So - chances are I will be watching the 30k from the sidelines. I hope that friends and family will accept this and if so, I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow.

(This is only a fraction of the people that were out there cheering me on yesterday - thanks you guys!)


ps. APU juniors: Kick butt and have fun at the second day of State today - I'm proud of you guys! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alaska Girls are here in force!

They drove throughout the night and showed up just in time to watch Petter Northug (the Norwegian Anchor with the ego the size of a beach ball) throw down in the men's 4x10k this morning...... 

They came complete with blue homemade Alaska Tu-tus (even the non-Alaskan, Jayne, was wearing one!)  and x-tra tuffs - just in case the weather gets sloppy. 

Although the weather has changed from blue to grey, the level of spirit amongst family and friends seems to be rising - it should make up for any lack of sunshine for sure.  Last night I got a text from one of the masters athletes that I coach. A group of them are coming down to watch the relay and the 30k.  She informed me that they "bought out the USA section of Party World."  I can't wait for this one because these ladies know how to dress up in style! 

(Spectators watching the diamond screen while the racers are out of site)

It seems like the back-end of the Games are loaded with friends and family coming to watch the races. It's funny because I feel like I've been here a long time and even though we still have two races left, the reality of life and logistics after the Games are already starting to pile up.  How will I get all my stuff from Whistler to Vancouver? Transport to and from the Closing Ceremonies, getting from Vancouver to my flight in Seattle, a packed schedule for a couple days in Alaska, a plane ticket that still needs to be purchased to coach Junior Olympics in Northern Maine, etc, etc, etc.  The list goes on and on. Honestly, it's a bit overwhelming and I'm doing my best to focus on the task at hand - the OLYMPIC races yet to come. 

What else? 

We have a team meeting at seven to talk relay details

I'm watching the Russia/Canada hockey game via the live room feed in the background - Canada is leading 4-1 and the home crowd is going WILD

Rob put my "moose hat," (from opening ceremonies) on Ebay. It's already sitting at 300 plus dollars. While it's a nice momento from the Games it's also 1/2 of a plane ticket to the next race that I need to go to. 

I am keeping this one which I think it much sweeter. I'm sure my grand kids will someday be stoked to get this if I can keep track of it that long.... 

Last but not least, thanks again to all of the friends, family, and strangers that have either wished me well or help made this Olympic experience possible. Everyday after a race, men's or women's I run into folks from Alaska or Washington that are out here cheering their heads off - thank you!  

(Another) special thanks to my husband Rob who has helped me with EVERY aspect of skiing and life. This has been a long, exciting road for him too and he deserves a big vacation when racing season is over!  (Perhaps the two of us together!) 

Go APU in Whistler, at home in Anchorage, at JO's and Arctic Winter Games in a few weeks, masters, Wednesday nite ladies, OIA'rs at Marathons (chris, chris, Mr. WorldLoppet Champion, bill, rw).

And, here is my new friend I met today!

I'll report back tomorrow with some interesting stories from the relay for sure.

Have a great evening! 
Holly :) 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Congrats Nordic Combined! .... US Girl's Relay Announced

Congratulations to Bret, Todd, Johnny, and Billy on their Nordic Combined Silver Medal!!!! Caitlin and I were watching the live feed from our room and literally sitting on the EDGE of our bed.  Those guys had a great race and showed that their team work has paid off. They are setting a great example for the country and US Skiing.  It's really inspiring. Here is a picture of the TV:

It must be an awesome feeling...... It was fun to watch the boys compete in a 4x5 event.  They raced the same course that we will be using for the women's 4x5, only our race includes two classic legs on a different course. Relays are often some of my favorite events in skiing. Most people consider cross country an individual sport (and it largely is) except for events like the 4x5.  I'm excited to have a competitive team and think that we have a chance of turning in a good result. Here is our women's team in order of appearance!!!! 

Our classic "Scrambler" Kikkan: 

I'm classic skiing second - it should be fun because I think that Kikkan will keep us in the mix and I'll get a hand off which should put me in a big group of girls..... 

Mo has turned in some solid skating results lately so I'm excited to be tagging off to her for our third leg (and first skate leg) 

Last but not least, our skating maniac, my roommate Caitlin will be our anchor! 

 We'll do a "race prep" workout tomorrow, practice some tags, watch the boys race, and then it's our turn! We'll have one day of rest and then it's moving onto the 30k classic mass start. It's been nice to have a couple of "down days" here at the Games and I see it picking up fast and getting really, really busy. 

Also - this is off subject but if any Alaska and/or APU folks are in the Whistler/Squamish area we are having a get-together TONIGHT at Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish from 5:30-8pm.  KTUU, Channel 2 news is going to be there.  The address is 37801 Cleveland Ave. Hope to see some of you there! 

Have a wonderful day, 
Holly :) 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top Skiers are Human too......

Sorry for the absence of a Sunday blog. I guess I needed a day off!

I just got back from the venue after watching the team sprint. I was able to watch the finals from the grandstand which was a new, fun experience. Congrats to Germany and Norway that both skied gutsy races and took home gold medals. Also congrats to both the men's and women's USA teams who skied solid races in the finals after moving on from the semis. I had a great classic ski through the "rec" trails this morning after going back for a "second round" of klister.

(Check out this AK fan!)

Perhaps my greatest realization from my Olympic experience is the realization that the best skiers in the world (Olympic Champions, World Champions) are real people; they have good day, they have bad days.  Sometimes they make mistakes, and other times, they pull off miracles.  Here is a list of things that I've seen that have brought me to this realization:

(waving at the camera before my start the other day) 

*The gold medal favorite today, the Swedish men, fell on a fairly straight-forward hill in the semi-finals and didn't even make it to the final.

*Bjorgen may seem unstoppable but she needs a day off too - and sits this race to rest up for the rest of the games.

*Someone watched Tobias Angerer eat THREE Big Macs before winning a silver medal in the men's 30k pursuit.  (Virpi has been seen eating them too)

*Astrid Jacobsen of Norway was still crying after the men's final because of her sub-par (for Norway) performance in the team sprint.

*Team Belarus was having an awesome race in the semi-finals, neared the finish in second place and accidentally took the LAP lane instead of the finish lane - that happens EVEN at the Olympics - opps.

*The strong Finnish women's team has yet to bring home a single medal from any cross country event.

*I saw Charlotte Kalla struggle to get in a fifth pull-up in the weight room!?!

*Olympic Champions snow plow too!

*Even super-star Northug finishes races outside the top 40.....

*Ola Vigen Hattestad, one of the best sprinters in the world didn't start today for Norway due to a sore throat.

I'm not suggesting that we all start eating Big Macs or snow plow rather than step turn but it's great to realize that these guys are human, they aren't untouchable, and that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later we will be winning medals too.

Here are a couple more pictures to end the post with:

In the Whistler Village....

Check out this BELL!

Norwegian Spirit

My family at the venue..... 

I thought I would end with a blue-sky post as the weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse here in a couple of days...... Thanks so much for all the wonderful cheering and kind words of encouragement. You are all great. 

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Perspective on a rough day

Everyone has their rough days.... In yesterday's race, the silver medalist from the 10k skate dropped out. Petra Madjic didn't start because she's out for the season with 3-4 broken ribs and a pneumothorax (punctured lung), one of the top Norwegians dropped her pole, was having a tough time, and then didn't finish..... Others had great days. Marit Bjoergen won her second gold medal and third medal of the 2010 Olympic Games. It's fun to see her come back so strong after a couple years of struggling. I had a rough race. I was tired, my legs filled with lactic acid the second loop of the classic portion and it was near impossible to hold the race pace I know I am capable of. It's hard to swallow having a tough race here of all places - the Olympic Games were you want to preform your best. My family is here, the race is on TV, I've received so much support from friends, family and people that I don't even know. 

Rather than moping around and feeling sorry for myself I am trying to learn from the experience. This will be my first whole season of racing in nearly 6 years - how does my body handle the load? Today was my third race in 5 days - in hindsight, perhaps that was too much. This was now my 5th International racing experience.... I have learned a ton in the past couple of weeks, not to mention the past couple of months. I am learning what works and doesn't work physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am looking forward to future weeks, future months, and future seasons where I can improve upon my approach.  

I would be surprised if you found someone at the Olympic Games that wouldn't like to win a gold medal. We are a select group of individuals that are here because we are highly motivated, goal oriented, and (hopefully) because we love what we do. But, there is only one gold medal per event at the end of the day and most athletes here won't win a medal at all. While gold, silver, and bronze are certainly hyped up, the Olympics are more than winning medals...... the Olympics are about perseverance, pursuit of excellence, and being the best that you can be. I had a very hard day yesterday but I plan on doing everything in my power to rest, recover, and come out strong for the remaining races of the Games. 

Perhaps the highlight of my day yesterday was getting a surprise cool down partner after the race. Oeystein Petterson, (fondly known as the "Sausage" from a famous streaking event) one of the top Norwegian sprinters was skiing next to me and asked how my race went. I told him it was a "tough day" and he put everything in perspective. He said, "You're only allowed to be upset for one hour, then you have to move on. This is the Olympic Games and it's sunny out. Skiing is FUN!" Now, remember that this guy comes from a country with more ski pressure than anywhere on earth and here he is lecturing ME about how skiing should be fun. We skied the whole 3.75k loop together. We talked about this sprint race where he made the A final but was taken out on the big corner, we talked about my races, upcoming races, the courses, spectators, etc, etc.  

So, maybe I didn't win the race, but the GO HOLLY banner than my mother in law sewed was the biggest banner in the entire stadium! A media representative actually asked me about it in the mixed zone!  

Also, Christa Case wrote some really nice articles in the Christian Science Monitor. The first article talks about my quest to make the team. Click here if you're interested in reading it. The second article is titled, "The teams behind every Olympic athlete: parents, friends, and fans. Click here if you're interested in reading that one.

The plan for today is a recovery jog - I'm also going to watch and cheer on James and Bird in the men's pursuit. I get to watch with my family and Rob - SWEET. Good luck and have fun to all the APUers skiing the second day of Region Championships today!

More soon/thanks for reading, Holly :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today is pursuit day!

This is going to be a quick one because we have a race today.... the start is at 1pm.  I've heard different rumors about the weather but it's supposed to be anywhere from 6 to 9 above, (Celsius)  A couple of us were actually joking about taking one of our race tops and turning it into a short sleeve. It was hot yesterday during pre-race training and it's supposed to be even hotter today for the race. We plan on taking feeds every loop to avoid any dehydration problems.

Here are a couple of pictures from yesterday. Sorry for the late post:

Today is a four-lap race, two of classic, then two of skate. This is a "transition area" where we switch both our poles and skis.  The race wax is definitely going to be klister and skiing up on this plastic mat with sticky skis could prove to be challenging for some..... we saw a few wipe outs during practice.  The goal is to switch your gear as quickly and efficiently as possible. As a junior coach, I've seen all kinds of funny things happen in transitions including kids skiing off with one skate pole and one classic pole.  I'm going to take an extra two seconds this afternoon to make sure I don't make any dumb mistakes! 

Some of the race volunteers made some statues in the stadium... Erik (my coach and APU Program Director) and I took a quick break to get a shot with them!

There was a biathlon race yesterday at the venue just adjacent to the cross country stadium. There are TVs in the athlete lodge and we get live feeds from the race. It's fun to watch other events with athletes, coaches, and techs from all the other ski countries. 

Here is a pretty sweet picture of the athlete lodge

While I was waiting for the bus ride back to the athlete village I ran into my buddy, Brad Marden who is randomly the "wax tech" for the Bermuda ski team!!!!  Brad was offered the "position" just a couple of days before the Olympics started! 

Today is the first day where there is only one cross country race at the venue - the men's pursuit happens tomorrow. Our starters for today are myself, Caitlin, Mo, and Liz. I'm number #51... wish us luck!  Go Team USA! 

Thanks for reading and thanks so much for the continued kind words, 
Holly :)