Saturday, October 30, 2010

What did you do this morning?

This is what the APU team did....

Hatcher's this morning was our first time on snow since our week of skiing on Eagle Glacier in August.  I felt awkward for approximately two minutes before the roller ski/snow ski adjustment set in.  I suppose that is one of the many benefits of summer glacier skiing...... Here Sadie and Greta pose for an early morning shot as Jack (left) skis into the picture.

The sunshine slowly but surely creeps up over the mountain top.  Hatchers in October is absolutely gorgeous if you can't tell.... 

APU teammates skiing around one of the loops

"Team skiing!" 

The trail conditions forum read "one inch of packed powder - bring your rock skis."  I'm going out with some good boards tomorrow! The trail forum report seemed to keep everyone else in town though... :)  Thank you very much to the Strabel family that makes this awesome skiing possible! 

Me and Kikkan with coach, Erik Flora

This ski more than made up for the Friday afternoon double pole on black ice that I went on. I'm excited to get some quality sessions on snow before departing for West Yellowstone. Should provide some time to test new skis and gear as well! 

See you out there, 
Holly :) 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

28 Days and Counting....

Twenty eight days until what?  Until my first race! Not that I'm counting or anything....! But really, I am ready.  Mentally at the very least.  There are skiers who mostly love training. There are skiers who mostly love racing.  I would say that I REALLY LOVE both training and racing.  That's not a cop-out but instead, completely honest.  I love the routine of pushing my body every day, usually multiple times per day, in an effort to get stronger and faster.  The training season is great but I'm ready to move onto some head to head competition.  

Girl's Team, Post-Time Trial

That said, we're putting in a final in-town dryland preparation period.  Training has consisted primarily of roller skiing, with a couple of running sessions (one interval foot with poles) and two strength sessions - each with hard core workouts, one with spenst, and one with fast classic double pole. So far, none of our training has been on snow which is slightly uncharacteristic for Alaska as many other skiers in the US have gotten their first ski before we have.  Surprisingly I'm not that anxious about it. Our dryland training has been very high in quality and I know we're going to find PLENTY of snow this winter. 

Last weekend we had two time trials. It was awesome to go as fast as you can without holding anything back. The first was a classic roller ski sprint race.  Each racer completed two prologues which is used to qualify for the heats - afterwards, we simulated two sprint finals using a "hunting start" or backwards pursuit.  The person that won the prologue started last with the idea that all skiers would theoretically arrive at the finish around the same time. The following day we had a grueling 8k uphill skate time trial.  We started at sea level near Potter's Marsh and skied to the top of Prominence Point through neighborhoods.  I will be competing in at least two hill climbs this year so it was good to experience the "pain train."  Uphill skiing is somewhat equivalent to mtn running and I love to go uphill so the time trial suited my strengths. 

Near the top of the hill climb. You can see the water below were we started 8k below

Coaches timing - they collected some great info, splits, percents back, etc

This teammate pushed it hard.... he hugged the pavement for a while.... 

And a while longer. He seemed to have a rolling-on-the-ground recovery theme

Katie Ronsse resting in her birthday spandex at the top of the hill climb

This is surely the time of year where everyone seems to get fairly serious and focused.  There is a certain amount of anticipation going into a new season.  I'm sure every skier out there, including myself is asking the same questions: What kind of fitness do I have right now? Am I stronger than last year?  Did the changes I made to my training help? Was I able to hold onto and capitalize on what worked well for me last year?  .... I hope I got some good new skis this year..... Can't wait to get the uniforms to see what spandex I'll be wearing almost everyday!...... Geez, these plane tickets are expensive, etc, etc, etc. 

After your uphill time trial we had a couple hours before we had to be back at strength to "drive wheel barrows" as we call it

Kinsey and Morgan rocking the incline partner medicine ball throw

One-legged jumps in the AK October sunshine

Twenty eight days from now I'll have some answers to these questions. Until then, stay tuned! 
Have a good one, 
Holly :) 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balance, imbalance, and everything in between....

I am sure that anyone that strives for success in anything suffers with the issue of balance..... there are always questions of how much, when, why...  Or, if you're me, the habit of taking on many different projects.  I think that many Nordic skiers, by nature, tend to be over achievers. When I was a ski coach for West High School my team consistently had one of, if not the highest GPA of all high school sports.  There is something to be said for associating endurance sports with people that like to work hard - and can push through pain. The ability to suffer says a lot about the human condition - and, the people that choose to partake in those particular sports.  Nordic skiers are generally tough mentally and physically.  

With only 5 short weeks until my first race in West Yellowstone I find myself thinking about the concept of balance more and more.  Perhaps what I struggle with most are the expectations from others.  For example, friends want to socialize till the wee hours of night, people expect your attendance at parties.  At the same time they also want you to win races.  Last year, I won a free season's pass to Alyeska Ski Resort and there were a handful of people that one day would encourage me to go tele skiing (or give me a hard time because I didn't....) and the next day supported my bid to make the Olympic team.  From personal experience I can tell you - you have to make choices. At some point, you have to prioritize and you can't do EVERYTHING in a society that wants you too. 

The first tracks of the year aren't far away

Anyone that's been around skiing long enough has heard of the three "S's"..... School, Skiing, and Social.  Many coaches have told many athletes, "you can attempt to do all three and be mediocre at all three. Or, you can choose two and do them well."  Now that I am a college graduate (and have been since 2004) there are even more aspects of life to juggle.  I struggle with my own balances between being a professional athlete, working part time as a coach, reaching out to my community, taking a graduate level class, being a good wife, a responsible home owner AND attempting to maintain social contacts and friends.  It's a lot.  In addition to that is the requirement to get the rest your body needs when you're training hard - and the rest your body needs to fight off sickness.

My coach, (and also my boss!) Erik Flora sent an incredibly wise and telling email to our team this weekend.  Race season is right around the corner and it's time to buckle down!  See what he had to say.  It's TRUE.
"Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it" George Halas

It is time to prep for race season. This period helps to set up the body for the specific demands of racing. It is an important  period to move at race speeds. To do this well, the body needs to be ready for each interval and speed session. There is a time of year for everything as a ski racer. The spring is for laying back, partying, staying up late, being busy, and cross training. October-November is time to ready for racing by being smart about life and training. The focus is race speed. Make sure to organize your life to get a minimum of 8 hrs of sleep and a nap at mid-day, be mindful of good sports nutrition,  extra clothes at training, and train to have success. Now is the time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ski training in Kona?!

So.... I booked tickets to Hawaii during Alaska's 35 day-long summer rain spell.  While "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger" has some truth to it, the weather was a bit brutal. When I saw sale tickets to Hawaii plus a chance to use my companion fare ticket, I jumped at the opportunity.  We've done some hard training blocks and this week is a perfect week to mix everything up... my training, my location, the weather, the food, the roads for roller skiing, the trails for running, not to mention the clothes I wear for training!  This is my week to basically disappear and do my own thing before the season hits.  

 In 100% Kona Coffee Land... not bad!

The funny thing is, when I made reservations to come to the island I had NO IDEA that our trip would correspond with a super famous athletic event.  I should have known something was going on when I couldn't find a rental car online. After finally getting through to a person on the phone they told me, it's IRONMAN week!  Sweet!  This little fact has changed our vacation quite a bit. Rather than doodling around amongst a bunch of average tourists I've found myself amongst the fittest group of people I've potentially ever seen.  If you think Birkie Fever is serious then you obviously haven't been exposed to Ironman. If you want to argue the point ask yourself this, does ever other Birkie skier have a Birkie Tattoo proudly displayed on their body? I don't think so!  

Really? Yes, REALLY... everyone has them.

While roller skiing I met up with a French Bike team. It's sweet to be around Euro endurance athletes who are used to xc skiing being a legit sport! 

Since our immersion, Rob and I have been borderline obsessed over everything triathlon and ironman. I can't say that I want to do it myself (you'd understand if you saw me swim) but I can't help but become seriously inspired by another big athletic event like this.  Considering Ironman is relatively new (think 34 years) it has a huge following and from what I can tell, it's only getting bigger.  Anyways, at night we're studying up, being total tourists at the gear expo, learning the big names, making references to past results, Rob's neck probably needs chiropractic work after rubber-necking at bike after bike worth more than your standard car. Every other person walks around with one of those aerodynamic helmets that makes them look space age... it's really no big deal.  

It's fun to be an outsider to Ironman but in other ways, an insider to professional athletics.  Last night I was reading an interview with Great Brittain's Chrissie Wellington and she said that with all the pressure surround Kona, you just have to pretend that it's another race.  That is EXACTLY the tactic I took into the Olympics and it's really fun when you see parallels between what I do and what they do, or think!  The athletes have lots of sponsor engagements and I'm sure the requests and the pressure is building everyday leading up to the race.  After all, someone told me that if you win Kona Ironman, which is the World Championships, you win a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS. (The payday sounds a big heftier than ski racing huh?)

How has this effected my training? Well, it's been awesome. Yesterday I went roller skiing on the "Queen Ka" road which is the bike course for the race.  I skied on the smoothest road with the BIGGEST shoulder I have ever seen.  (For those who don't roller ski, Hawaiian Pavement is the equivalent of Utah Powder...) Bikers everywhere and signs labeled, "Caution, Athletes Training" line the road. PERFECT.  This morning during my run on the run course, there were product stations offered drinks, gels, chews, anything, every two miles. GU, Power Bar, Cliff, Muscle Milk, etc. etc.  This was perfect for an Alaskan trying to stay hydrated.  (I already have a horrible sunburn of course.)  Alii drive was full of bikers, runners, and convertibles with 10,000 bikes thrown in the back seat like a beauty queen in a small town parade.  I think I was the only one seeking out the rocky shoulder of the road in my trail runners, surrounded by pavement pounders!!!

Pull out on the Queen K... 

Luckily Rob and I are staying through Saturday morning so we'll get to see the first half of the race and the big names duking it out.  From a training and season preparation standpoint, this short week in the tropics is just what I needed. I'm focused, getting in good training, resting well, eating healthy, and am 100% confident that I will return to Alaska ready to put the final touches on my training for the upcoming 2010-2011 season. 

Thanks for reading and Mahalo! 
Holly :)