Monday, February 21, 2011

Pumped for Teammates + Personal Reflections

Sometimes, when things aren't going your way, it's best to focus on the positive notes, on the bright spots.  While I have been having a rough start to my European Tour, some of my teammates have been turning in some awesome results.  While I would have loved to be racing in the sprint heats yesterday, it was AWESOME watching Kikkan kick butt - LIVE outsprinting all the other World Cup girls including the "Queen of Vancouver," none other than Norway's national hero, Marit Bjorgen.  It was extra fun watching the race from the side of the trail with my APU teammate, Sadie, who had an awesome first weekend of World Cup racing and Jessie, who had had her first World Cup that very day.  Jessie's direct comment from the day was, "I wish the race would have been longer because it was so much fun out there!"  

Sadie, Jessie, Holly acting goofy :)

Sunday was Kikkan's third World Cup win of her career and first in Norway which is an added bonus.  Her result definitely puts her at the top for the list of favorites going into Thursday's World Championship sprint.  Someone on Facebook asked if anyone can beat Kikkan in a skate sprint right now and the answer was, "Maybe Shani Davis!"  After watching her final kick in the long straight finnish stretch I think I'd have to agree.  Here are some pictures of her victory: 

Kikkan at the start of the finals

Marit Bjorgen, the "Queen" of Vancouver.... 

Shadows on course near start, looking across the stadium at the finish

Sprint start - ladies followed closely by camera on snow machine

The downhill on the dimond screen

Instant replay of the finish, Kikkan in Black

Final results: USA #1!

Her interview after crossing the finish line - and of course, a huge smile!

As for my own racing, this past weekend wasn't my best.  And, when you're on the World Cup and have an off weekend or are disapointed by results, it's compounded because your racing against people who are the best in the World, literally.  This weekend also served as my first hard race efforts in over a month.  It's hard to fathom that I used a pair of World Cup races to "wake the body up"..... especially when it wasn't that long ago that the Anchorage Cup was my regular race series. (Hard to believe, right?)

This morning I was looking on Twitter and stumbled upon Devon Kershaw's blog, a Canadian skier. I could really identify with his most recent post so I decided to include some excerpts in this post.  Here is what Devon had to say about racing in Drammen after a long period of training:

"After not racing in so long, the main objective was obtained – feeling that hurt and racing with a bib on again. The reality is no matter how many interval sessions you do, or time trials – real competition can’t be faked and can only come through real racing – with a bib on, and the xc community watching." (Kershaw, 2.21.11)

Furthermore, everyone in the World Cup field wants the same thing.  The thing we have in common is that we all want to win.  Unfortunately, there can only be one winner - leaving second through last place for everyone else.  While it's unrealistic for many of us to hope to win, everyone in the field is hoping to better their best result.  Everyone is searching for a PR or the "race of their life."  When you think about it, one enters a race in an attempt to do something similar to everyone else - I suppose that is the essence of competition.  Sometimes goals are met, and other times, the athlete is left looking for another chance.  

Devon also talked about an unsatisfying race on Sunday..... complete with Rolling Stones lyrics. It's great, check it out: 

While there’s nothing I loathe more than watching sprint rounds on tv after not qualifying and I was really disappointed with today’s sprint – I was straight up pumped for the crew.  For me, I’ll try to keep telling myself life goes on. It’s just racing. I wanted to have a personal best today when I woke up – and it didn’t happen. Every time I slip a bib over my shoulders I hope for a personal best – and it rarely happens. There are always other chances and luckily my next one is coming up quickly. I hope to make a quick turn around and be ready to go on Thursday for the maiden race of this year’s World Champs. I’m confident in the training Justin laid out, and I know that it will come around at some point (I just hope sooner rather than later!). All I can do is continue to try my best – which I did this weekend. Sometimes it goes – like it did during the Tour – other times racing tests you – like it did in Drammen. That’s the game.

Maybe The Stones were right all along. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find – you get what you need.”

I obviously needed to blow out the carbon, put a bib on and race my guts out. I did that. It wasn’t what I wanted – but hell if I didn’t need it.

World Championships start Thursday. No matter what, I’ll be busy during the 10 days doing what I always do – getting after it and gunning for personal bests. (Kershaw, 2.21.11)

I know this was a particularly long excerpt but if you want to read Devon's full post you can find it on his website by clicking here.   (Devon, I hope you don't mind!) 

Finally, some pictures to leave you with: 

Me and Sadie in Drammen 

Thanks for reading everyone, 
Holly :) 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picking up the pace!

Hello from Drammen everyone! 

I’ve just arrived in this new city to prepare for the upcoming weekend’s World Cup races.  This is the first time that the whole Cross Country World Championships team has been together and we are quite the Crew

The past week in Sjujsoen absolutely flew by and I have to say, it was a wonderful introduction to the country and a very, very restful place to become accustomed to the 10-hour time difference. I’m happy to report that I only had one fitful night of “sleep” that involved waking up at 3am and staying up through the entire next day.  I continue to be impressed with Kikkan’s ability to sleep anywhere – and to sleep long hours.  (She’s good at this!)

Skiing in Sjujsoen at sunset

As far as a training camp environment goes, you basically couldn’t beat the hotel we were staying at. Every day we walked out the door to over 200 kilometers of perfectly groomed trails that were great for easy and/or recovery training.  The downside of being an athlete in training (preparing for upcoming races) is that you must be careful to not “over do it” with training too many hours or skiing to hard.  I miss that about being a coach when there was absolutely no downside to skiing 6 hours per day if I felt like it and not caring if I was so tired at the end of the day to even put my head on the pillow. (However, life as an athlete has many, many benefits – for example, I wouldn’t be here otherwise!)

For our hard interval sessions we would drive 15 minutes down the hill to the Birkebeiner Stadium that was used in the 1994 Winter Olympic games in Lillehammer. Last night Kikkan and I even watched a documentary about the men’s 4x10k relay about the most famous ski race in history between Norway and Italy for the Gold medal… Norway expected to win the race by minutes with plenty of time to carry the country’s flag down the finish stretch but Italy, the underdog, hung with each skier, each lap of the race and Silvio Fauner beat Bjorn Daehlie in a sprint to the line in front of 100,000 Norwegians.  (In the interview he described how the crowd literally went silent when he lost.)  It was sweet to recognize the trails  - the hills, bridges, and terrain that we had done our intervals on the day before. It was SWEET!  The whole Olympic venue is still alive and thriving – bustling with energy and people skiing everywhere. 

Fauner and Daehlie in the final stretch '94

Me in the Olympic Stadium.... 

Now that I’m in Drammen it’s time to switch gears and the pace of life is fast forwarding quickly!  I haven’t raced in over a month which makes me a bit anxious about this weekend’s competitions but it will be good to get some starts before Worlds the following week.  It’s funny to think that I’m using World Cups as my “warm up races” for Worlds but I really value the hard training camp I had at home – which will hopefully set me up for a peak here soon.  I theoretically have fifteen races in the next month and a half and I can’t wait for the wild ride to come!

I'll leave you all with a few pictures from the last couple of days.  A special thanks to Deb, Kikkan's Mom, who supplied us with AMPLE Valentine's Day card making supplies. We had a busy afternoon celebrating eventhough our husbands were thousands of miles away! 

Our beds, AKA "craft tables"

13 Valentines in all!

This is the Valentine that I received from Rob. For those of you that know him, this is one of the best compliments I can receive! :) 

We made Valentines for all the guys in our group.  I think that Kikkan and I enjoyed making them slightly more than the guys appreciated receiving them! (A look of pure excitement from Erik Flora)

Holding up our creations in the country side, complete with Fast and Female Valentine's Day ware! 

We also skied to the store... just because we could. It's sweet to leave your skis lined up against the side of the store with the other skier-patrons! 

Here I am excited about an El Paso enchilada dinner kit 

And here's Kikkan biting into a huge chunk of the famous brown cheese!

More soon/thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 13, 2011

An ideal place for a skier...

The last time I was in Norway was in 1998, I was 16 years old. After a family visit to the Holmenkollen ski jumps I remember being flabbergasted when I saw a slew of roller skiers riding the tram (public transport) from the ski area back down into the city of Oslo.  Compare the siting to growing up in Seattle where the only other people that roller ski are related to you and that's a big deal! Eleven years later, here I am in Norway once again and the ski culture and appreciation is truly everything that everyone talks about. Folks - the hype is real. Before I continue, a couple photos of my travels so far: 

Oslo; the destination!  Our flights were incredibly smooth.  It took us three planes and approximately 24 hours to get here - the same time that it took us to get to distance nationals last year in Fort Kent, Maine or senior nationals this year in Rumford, Maine.  On two of my three flights I had an entire ROW of seats to myself which is unheard of these days. It made the 10 hour time change a bit more bearable. 

I have been really excited for this entire trip for a while but most recently, I've been pretty psyched about our pre world champs training camp in Sjujsoen, Norway.  I was told that we were staying at a lodge that Bjorn Daehlie (God of Nordic Skiing) is a part owner of. So.... when we arrived to find our accommodations we were a bit surprised by the initial appearance of the place: 

Luxury? No..... Actually, our first impression was, "What is this?" A mental institution?  A prison?  A dilapidated building from the Soviet era?  Are we in Norway? Although we had our initial doubts, this place has turned out to be awesome. Yes, the exterior of the building leaves something to be desired and the rooms are minimal but the food is excellent and the hotel staff is first class.  This building apparently went bankrupt a couple years ago and Bjorn + crew decided to invest in it.  As far as I can tell, Sjujsoen is like the Norwegian version of Canadian Silver Star - or a Nordic Ski mecca that attracts those from out of town as well as people from throughout the country itself. There are over 200 kilometers skiing right out our front door that is continuously groomed and the famous Birkie trail cuts right through the middle of the area. 

It seems as if they continuously groom the trails - there are always fresh tracks to be had.... (free!) provided by no other than the Norwegian Government! 

Kikkan, Holly & Erik on our ski the first day here.... One can ski from Sjujsoen to Lillehammer, the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics! 

Signs of skiers everywhere

I mean, everywhere.  

And....everywhere.  This is a picture of the biathlon races live from Fort Kent of all places, streamed into our hotel room.  Additionally, it seems like every third commercial is either about cross country skiing or stars xc skiing athletes in the commercials.  Earlier today we went to go lift in Lillehammer and more races from Fort Kent were shown in the weight room. After the race, they had a sports center set-up, similar to what you would see after an NFL game - but the discussion was about the ski race, not the game. 

The clouds have finally rolled into Sjujsoen and tomorrow we may have grey skies but I am sure that the skiing will still be first rate.  Until my next post, I will leave you with a couple more photos from the last couple of days. (And yes, sorry for the delay in posting - the first three days of being here, none of the North Americans could connect to the Internet - only Euros could get online!  Luckily, the problem is now fixed!)

Me and Kikkan on the Birkie trail

Pure perfection - the Birkie trail again. It's crazy how many people were out skiing this this past weekend.  The Birkie is only a couple weeks away and it was literally swarming with families and skiers of all ages.  It was cool to see many people skiing with backpacks - surely taking lunch with them and skiing for a couple of hours! Ski culture at it's best - not to mention, a very healthy nation! (photo from Kikkan)

Can't get enough of this! (photo from Kikkan)

The crew from Anchorage this morning in the Lillehammer '94 Olympic stadium: Holly, Erik, Kikkan &  Greg Schumacher - our trip Doc! 
(photo from Kikkan)

Until later/Happy Valentine's Day! 
~Holly :)