Monday, March 22, 2010

Crusty but restful Maine...

I'm sorry for the infrequent posts lately.... while I sometimes wish that life was as interesting as it was everyday at the Olympics, a big part of me is thankful that for the meantime, life has calmed down for a couple of days. 

"Team Alaska" in Presque Isle 

The kids wrote "Go Alaska" on their stomachs

I am currently in Northern Maine waiting.  There is really no better way to put it.  Last week, I coached Team Alaska Junior athletes ages 15-19 at Junior Olympics in Presque Isle Maine.  It took me four plane rides and a 1500 dollar plane ticket to get here so needless to say, going back to Alaska just to turn around wasn't in the cards.  Next week is the National Championship 30k Skate race followed closely by Super Tour finals.  That means four races in five days, "Tour De Ski" style. If you're interested in following the races or reading about the event the website can be found here.

Crust skiing in the potato fields

Lots of people give Northern Maine a hard time.  It's rural, it's economically depressed, and they grow lots of Potatos around here. The pace of life is slow but to be totally honest, that is exactly what I needed.  My life is anything but slow at home in Alaska and sometimes a forced break is exactly what the Doctor called for.  (Actually, my Dr literally gave me a gift of fleece Pajamas after the Olympics with a note saying, "These are intended for you to get some rest in!")

Crust skiing with some local girls - their first time!

I am currently staying in a house owned by a local ski enthusiast named Carl.  As far as I can tell, people like Carl make life more enjoyable for everyone but specifically skiers. He has done lots of really cool projects in the country including building a downhill ski hill (literally) by bulldozing a bunch of dirt into a big hill, purchasing snow making guns, and then a t-bar so kids at the local Caribou school could learn to downhill ski! His cabin (they call them "camps" in Maine) that we are currently staying in is decked out in pictures and thank yous from folks he's hosted over the seasons. Carl and family have been really generous and hospitable towards us and we are very thankful.

Nicole De Yong, Caitlin Compton, Becca Rorabaugh, me, Sarah Dominque

This morning we went to Eureka Hall, a local diner in Stockholm, Maine where you can get a great homemade breakfast for less than five dollars and homemade pastries for a dollar each!?!?! Afterwards, we took Carl's daughter, Anna and friends out crust skiing for their first time. Crust skiing is a great thing and it was very cool to take them for their first time.

From here the pace will start to increase a bit. The rest of the APU team showed up and is enroute to pick us up now. We'll move into the rented "team house" and start to officially prepare for the races.  

More to come soon. Thanks for reading! 

~Holly :) 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yeah JOS!

So..... I have raccoon eyes from Presque Isle Maine - who would have thought?  For those en route, bring your sunscreen and klister skis not to mention crust cruising skis because it's good!

It's been great putting the "coach hat" back on for the week.  It adds good balance to my life as a skier and I absolutely love working with the kids. Its funny to see the same nervousness that I experienced just two weeks ago at the Olympics (myself) in them now. It really brings the experience full circle. All in all, they did a great job and I'm really proud of each and every one of them.

Awesome J2 girls in the van pre-race :)

Today was the third of three races and APU juniors had some stellar results - both with places and learning experiences. For some of them, it's their first time at a National-level race and it was hard to come into the experience with specific goals beyond "making the team."  I can relate to this with my first world cup and Olympics. I didn't know what to expect or where I would fall in the pack. I only hope that the experience has been positive for them and that it will motivate them to train hard this summer!

Sunny day - sunny venue

J1 boys "Potato Ceremony"  (Because that's what they do here.)  Forrest Mahlen is in second and Jack Novak is in fifth.  I'm sorry that I didn't catch the other ceremonies but I was still working - this was the last of the day. 

Special note: Both Forrest and Jack made "MOM"patches for their jackets to represent their sponsor!!!

Me and Kyle 

APU boys signing autographs for the local kids :) 

We have a U-haul to carry around kid's skis and bags for transport. 

I haven't taken too many pictures here but this shot exemplifies many of the trails here.... I will get more active with the camera next week while I am here waiting for the national 30k championship and Super Tour finals - Tour de ski style. (More on that later) 

Time to move on with the night's chores. I am giving a talk at the closing ceremonies/awards presentation tomorrow and I need to organize my thoughts. 

On a completely separate note, my brother finally posted his Olympic-trip overview in case you haven't seen enough pictures. You can check it out here. He has a TON of pictures. Thanks for doing that Scott! 

More to come soon - just have to write that speech and watch the Alaskan kids kick some butt in the relay tomorrow! 

Good night, 
Holly :) 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pictures, pictures, pictures!!

At long last, here are some Olympic action shots that I promised awhile back!   I don't have pics of everyone, but here is a selection.  Better late than never!

I'm in Maine right now...more on JO's in a bit.  -Holly  :)

James finishing on stadium curve.

Skate race

Pack of skiers.  Notice the cameras on the snowmachines.


Kikkan in relay.

Relay (thanks for Seth for photo!)

Training day.

Pre-race game face.


Kikkan finishing sprint relay, eventually beating out Sara Renner (CAN).

Pursuit day.

Liz Stephan

Morgan Arritola

Caitlin Compton

Channel 2 KTUU live news feed from Restaurant in Squamish.

Thanks for the lovely banner Alex Okeson and family!

This gentleman is from Peru.  He's a member of the Kongsberger club outside Seattle

Caitlin Compton

Torin in sprint qualifiers.

Garrot in sprint qualifing.

Petter Northug....the world's fastest 100m sprinter...this guy is incredible.  You gotta see it to believe it.

James in on finish stretch.

Freeman finishing.

The gang going to opening ceremonies (well, most of the gang.... a few missing...)

Pursuit race. Perianne Jones on the left, me on the right.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Jet-Settin" to Presque Isle...

(I apologize for my lack of pictures in this blog - I didn't even have a chance to unpack my camera while I was home.) 

My stint back in Alaska was short.  I wish I could say that I had time to properly recover from the races, catch up on much-needed sleep, and relax but that wasn’t the case at all.   While at home I had just enough time to coach a couple of sessions, give some presentations about my experience at the Olympics, conduct some pre-Tour of Anchorage wax clinics (good luck today everyone!) see my cat, and buy my next plane ticket.  I didn’t have time to pay my bills (they are currently stuffed in my carry on waiting to be paid) fill out my training log (next on the agenda) or spend any quality time with my husband. L  I didn’t even unpack my bags from the Olympics – I just “re-packed.”  

My departure yesterday wasn’t supposed to be quite as hectic as it turned out.  It begun with a HEAVY knock on the front door at 6:45am Saturday morning.  My body or my mind must have been anticipating it because I jumped out of bed and peered out the window to see who was at the door. Sure enough, they flashed their badges – it was USADA – United States Anti-Doping Association.  I had been tested on three separate occasions at the Olympics but it was only a matter of time before they found me at home.

For those that are unfamiliar with the process, as Olympic-level athletes (even when I was a “hopeful”) we have to fill out “where-about forms” that include information of where we are going to be EVERY DAY of the year.  Each day, we have to provide a 60-minute “time window” and guarantee that we will be and STAY there so that anti-doping officials can show up unannounced and take blood and/or urine to ensure that we are “clean athletes.”  You can imagine that this is a time intensive process, especially for people that travel a lot.

Their arrival was bad news because I had a big agenda for the day and I had gotten up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Nonetheless, I invited them in and we exchanged pleasantries while I drank 4 pints of water in hopes of providing the necessary sample they were there to collect.  Between waiting to pee and all the paperwork, the process took two hours that I had not planned into my day.
After they left, I had to hurry out the door to try and fit in my training before a 12-noon meeting. I no longer had time to drive to Hillside or Kincaid so I skied from my house on the Tour of Anchorage trail.  This usually isn’t a problem but Saturday also coincided with the start of the Iditarod and my ski home was largely interrupted by giving the dog teams right-of-way on the trail……. This was truly an “OIA” (Only in Alaska) problem to have. As frustrated as I was, I had to laugh at my situation.

I ate a power bar for lunch during my meeting and hustled home to “re-pack” with only an hour and a half before we needed to leave the house.  Packing was stressful because my mind was clouded and it was difficult to anticipate what I would need for the next three-week trip.

Rob hustled me to the airport and I checked in for my trip to Presque Isle, Maine. If anyone is wondering, I don’t think there is a place in the United States FURTHER away from Alaska. I am currently on my FOURTH flight of the two-day (no sleep) trip but will be arriving in time to help coach for the first race, the classic sprint, will be well worth the trip.

Now I just have to hope that my luggage made the four-flight and multiple carriers jump to meet me in the “County.”  I packed my still-sweaty classic boots into my carry on just in case it didn’t arrive in time to test wax. If it comes down to it, I will test wax for them in my sweatpants, hoodie, and reading glasses JThis past month there has been a lot of cheering for me…… I am excited to reciprocate the efforts and share my experiences across the pond.

Here is the view when you step out of the airplane in Presque Isle: 

The town may not be impressive but I have reason to believe that the event and the organization around it will be awesome. 

More to come/thanks for checking in, 
Holly :) 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

30,000 feet up and headed North!

(Just a warning – this is a long post – I hope that I don’t put too many of you to sleep….. sorry!)

While getting to the airport (with 5 bags to check) was stressful, now that I’m mid-flight, I have some time to reflect on the past two weeks before hitting the ground (running) in Anchorage.
I am one of the few athletes returning home after the Games.  Most of my teammates are en route to Europe to compete at either the spring World Cups or The “OPA Cups.”.  While I would have liked to continue racing, I know the limit of my body.  I need some rest, plus I am going to coach Junior Olympics in Presque Isle Maine as part of Team Alaska’s coaching staff!  I made the commitment to coach in October and I want to keep my word.  Plus, I’ve been missing all of the people back at home that I work with on a daily basis.   There has been plenty of cheering and encouragement for me the past month.  Now I look forward to reciprocating!

(With my sister, Robin at the airport...) 

The past month that I’ve been away, (including the 17 days spent at the Olympics) feel like they’ve gone by fast…. Yet, it also seems like an eternity.  A LOT has happened since I stepped on the plane January 27th…… notably less than 24 hours after I was named to the 2010 USA Team. 

Here are some things I loved and learned:

1)   1)   High level skiing and International racers are no longer a “black  box” for me.  While I wasn’t at the top of the Vancouver results sheet, I feel like I have a much greater understanding of what it takes to get there. This will benefit not just my future skiing career but hopefully everyone that I coach as well.

2)   2)  I LOVE the fact that every four years, the World seems to be become united over one thing – athletics and the pursuit of excellence. What other event has the power to bring so many people together?  I can’t tell you how neat it was my sport on TVs everywhere.  The morning of the 28th (the last day of the Games) I was running around the village trying to pack up.  Everywhere I looked, the men’s 50-kilometer mass start event was on TV.  Security guards were watching skiing, athletes from all sports were gathered around the television in the dining hall, the race was playing in the polyclinic.  It was everywhere and people were loving it!  There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing folks being introduced to the sport that I love.
      3) Don’t be afraid to share your goals with others.  I think that telling people that I wanted to go the Olympics helped me get there.  If you have a “secret goal” consider verbalizing it.  Sometimes the help and encouragement that you receive from friends and family around you is the greatest gift you can receive.

(Here are some of the great master's women that I coach that made the trip to Vancouver to cheer me on!) 

4)   4)  I have meet and re-connected with so many people by means of my Olympic experience. Whether it’s getting a “congratulations” facebook post from my high school tolo date or seeing Amy and Lib Rust, the set of twins that I “coached” with when I was 10 years old on the sidelines after my 30k race, it was wonderful.  My "39-year-old" Great Aunt even bought and learned how to use a computer so that she would be able to follow my blog (and my sister’s too – check out Robin’s blog here.  She’s on a long solo bike trip around North America!) 

Things that I won’t miss:

1)   1) Our first morning in Vancouver we had a welcome/inspirational speech from Olympic Speed Skating medalist Bonnie Blair.  (For those that don’t know, Bonnie is the most decorated female Olympian of all time) Over coffee and bagels, she told us that during her last Olympics she locked herself in her room and only came out for training, eating, and competitions.  She never even spoke to her family – she only saw a “bird’s eye” view of them at the speed-skating oval after races.  At the time I thought she was absolutely crazy.  While I still think her method was a bit extreme, I understand the stress of the Games and felt first-hand, how much energy it takes to conduct the most simple tasks. I have always been a quick-moving, multi-tasker and I look forward to being able to be on my own schedule and spend time with family and friends without the burden of two buses and multiple security check points.  It frustrated me that I couldn’t spend more time with people that had come so far to see me.

2)   2) My near-future races probably won’t require that I wear a cell phone sized remote GPS attached to my bib!

3)   3)  Cafeteria food.  The combination of tapering (fewer on-snow training hours) and eating in a dining hall make you feel sluggish to say the least. I look forward to eating my own food.


4) 4) The necessity of carrying a clunky credential everywhere I go

I     It's been a busy six months for me.  Between my exertional rhabdomyoloysis injury in July, getting married one week later, deciding that I wanted to make the Olympic team, racing the early season, competing in US Nationals at home in Anchorage, starting my first world cup, and then going the Olympics (all while having a job) it’s been busy.  While it would be fun to sit on a tropical beach for a week to recover, there is no time for that right now.  As my good friend Bill Pearson said in our wedding ceremony, “Holly, you are your best when you are juggling a million things at once.”  Well, I suppose that the past 6 month and the next two will be no exception.  

A happy reunited family at the house on Alder Street!

Bill sent me this picture... the irony is great - a coach/athlete in the "no coach zone" racing at the Olympics! 

That's it for tonight. I have a busy few days ahead before I take off again - thanks for following and yet again, thanks for the all the support!  I had a great crew meet me at the Anchorage Airport today when I got in... they welcomed me home and helped carry my bags. If only travel was always that easy! 

Good night/Sincerely, 
Holly :)