Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back to back mini-tours is a LOT of racing!

It's the eve of the "off day" in Sun Valley and I am half way through my second straight mini-tour.  What is a mini-tour? It's basically a series of races packed into a small amount of time.  The results from each day are cumulative and time bonuses are awarded for performances in different formats.  

A fun, fast girl's team in Sun Valley!

This is the end of my two-month stint away from home and at the end of this mini tour, I will be headed back to Alaska. My European tour ended with a mini-tour in Sweden which also doubled as World Cup Finals.  The Sweden Mini-Tour featured a classic sprint around the King's Palace in downtown Stockholm followed by three consecutive hard days of racing in a smaller town up North called Falun.  
With Thomas Wassberg, the official "groomer" for the city palace sprint.... Wassberg is also a multiple time Swedish Olympic and World Champion.  Nice to have someone that knows what's up setting the tracks!

Trucked in snow around the King's Palace

A special thanks to my Swedish cousin Lars Arvidsson and his company, VP Diagnose for being my European "headgear" during my five week racing stint in Scandinavia. 

I earned my right to race in Falun by being the "Continental Cup Leader" based on my early season Super Tour performance. I felt lucky to be there as many World Cup regulars ended their seasons with the Lahti (Finland) World Cups as they didn't qualify for Falun.  

Signature Lahti, Finland ski jumps.... funny fact - Rob raced in Lahti in 2001 for World Champs!

Basically, this meant that I had to race with the "elite of the elite."  While I wasn't ecstatic about my results, I had to remind myself that it was an accomplishment to beat ANYONE there, let alone have a good day.  

Men's race, Falun

Me and Kikkan at the finish line on the last day of the mini-tour

It was sweet to have APU wax tech, Casey Fagerquist join us for World Cup Finals!

World Cup Finals also features the end of the season awards, ie - overall World Cup, Distance World Cup, Sprint World Cup, etc.  It was sweet to see these huge crystal globes in person!

Congrats to Kikkan on her third place, podium finish in the overall World Cup sprint.  Crazy enough, the women in first and second are both retiring after this season so Kikkan is probabaly a favorite for the highest spot on the sprint podium next year!
After the last race the German women's team invited us to their wax trailer for brats - brought all the way from Germany!  (Swedish sausages apparently aren't acceptable!) 

At the end of the World Cup season there is always a really fun dance party.  Not only can these athletes ski fast but they can get down on the dance floor as well.  This photos is of Lars, myself and Lucas Bauer - Czech Olympic and World Champion

I plan to do a more inclusive recap of my European racing experience, World Champs included after I get home and allow some time for introspection...... in the meantime, It's amazing how tired racing can make you - even if it's just short races such as 2.8k prologues! 

Directly after the mini-tour in Falun I traveled two and a half days back to the US to meet my APU teammates in Sun Valley.  The first couple of days here were spent trying to track down my ski bag which was missing for five days.  This included 2-3 hours on the phone with United, getting different answers from everyone I spoke with.  Not having your skis for a ski race is like a race car driver without a steering wheel, a chef without a frying pan or Sue Sylvester, the Cheer leading coach from Glee without a track suit.  (Kikkan successfully got the whole women's team hooked on Glee!)  Needless to say, it was a super stressful experience and one that I didn't need considered how tired and jet-lagged I was from the high density racing and International travel. 

I LOVE my skis.... 

Alas, I got my skis and everything is good here in Sun Valley.  We're had three races including the National Championship 30k, a 2.8k skate prologue, and a 10k Classic Mass start race.  We have two races left including a classic sprint and an uphill race up the local downhill area, Dollar Mountain.  I'm looking forward to the last races and at the same time, looking forward to going home for some rest.  

My sister Robin is here to watch, ski & hang out!

At altitiude hydration is even more important.  Yesterday we had a sport's drink tasting which included a "NUUN" sampling.  If you haven't tried this stuff, it ROCKS. No sugar, electrolyte replacement, and it tastes GOOD. 

Lars Flora 

APU Girls team pyramid!

Podium girls and flower girls!

Dylan's Birthday!

Skate prologue podium

Me and Kikkan with Erik (our coach!)

One of the sacrifices skiers make is missing out on quality time with our families and friends.  Today is Rob's 32nd Birthday and the third or fourth year in a row where I haven't been able to spend it with him doing something fun.  Happy Birthday to Rob!!! 

More later/thanks for reading, 
Holly :) 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fired up!

Our crew arrived in Stockholm today in preparation for Wednesday's city sprint.  While Lahti was a fun experience, it's great to be in Stockholm were the sun is shining and the coffee is excellent!  This will be my first city sprint and what better place than the World Cup Finals around the royal palace.  It certainly doesn't feel like a ski venue - and that's because it's not!

Here is a video of the women's final last year:

Also, Casey Fagerquist, APU wax tech has joined our small crew straight from working OPA cup finals. I'm really looking forward to the next couple of days!

Until then, have a good one, 
Holly :) 

PB at the top of the hill pushing snow around in the front of the palace!

The narrow, cobblestone streets of Stockholm are awesome!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts from Lahti

I’m well over-due for a blog update so I suppose that I will pull myself away from the live skiing on TV and attempt to use the caterpiller-speed internet! 

The famous jumps of Lahti, Finland

I’m currently in Lahti, Finland on the eve of the “Lahti Winter Sports Games.”  Lahti is a regular, annual stop on the World Cup and this is my first World Cup experience that is not right before a Championship series.  Tomorrow’s 10k pursuit will be my 5th World Cup and Sunday’s classic sprint will be my 6th. 
I’m psyched for this opportunity to experience what I feel is more representative of the “real” World Cup (if that’s fair to say.)  I’m here with a small group from the US, namely the World Cup “A team.”  Lars Flora, my APU teammate and I both have the opportunity to be here as “Continental Cup, Super Tour” leaders.  Basically, each continent has a “cup series” where the leaders gets start rights to participate in the World Cup beyond a country’s regular start right quota.  I recently learned that as CC leader I also have the opportunity to attend and participate in World Cup finals in Sweden following the race in Lahti.

One of the things that has struck me while being in Europe (or simply high level ski racing in general) is how tired one can become from competing at a high level.  My experience on the road is a complete, 180 difference from my life at home. In Alaska I’m a multi-tasker, I thrive on being busy.  I often train twice per day, coach at least once, complete some school work, spend time with friends and family, take care of my house, etc, etc.  In comparison, over here is feels as if it takes triple the energy to complete daily tasks, even if it’s a short one hour ski and eating lunch that is prepared for you buffet style!  I really think there is an incredible amount of subconscious energy that’s expended by being so far away from home.  Sometimes my lack of ambition and energy frustrates me but then again, rest & recovery is a really important part of this business.  

Nonetheless, I have been taking some mental notes on things that help – both comfort wise, and perhaps making it feel a bit more like home. Or, just ways to embrace being on the road.  Some of those things are even as simple as buying some cheap flowers for your hotel room or traveling with a jar of peanut butter (not popular over here) that I bring to breakfast with me.

Flowers, coffee, hand sanitizer and LIVE skiing on the Tube! 

Finnish PB is actually quite good

The other thing that I always find a bit shocking is how fragile my body starts to feel at this time of year. It’s good at one thing and one thing only.  For example, I woke up this morning and found that my hamstrings are a bit sore.  Now, is this because I ran for 30 minutes rather than 20 yesterday or because I took 6 flights of stairs because our huge hotel has one closet-sized elevator?  During the training season I pride myself as someone who can mow the lawn and complete an awesome interval set afterwards, or even someone that can train three times per day.  Sometimes, being in “race shape” towards the end of the season when the racing density is high because you physically cannot do much other than race and rest.  Personally, I love racing but I also love training and I always wish I could ski MORE during this period of the year.  However, I know that it would only be detrimental and make me more tired than I already am! It’s just funny to think that I train incredibly hard year round for this time of year and if you asked me to do a dozen pull-ups right now, I might struggle with it whereas other times of the year, it's no problem.

The race venue is just a short walk from our hotel... the "Grand"

I certainly don’t want to give the wrong impression. I am stoked to be here and stoked to have the racing opportunities that I have in the next month.  

I’m excited for this weekend in respect to my own racing and also excited for the APU junior competing at JOs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This is the first time in five years that I haven’t coached at Junior Olympics but I got a chance to Skype with a bunch of the APU junior athletes last night.  They’re having an awesome time at JOs and skiing really well! (I am one proud coach!)

APU kids at JOs!  (Thanks for being patient with the horrible internet guys!)

The start list is out for tomorrow’s pursuit and the filed looks tough and deep.  The competition at any Scandinavian World Cup is fierce and I know that tomorrow is going to be tough. There are seventy-two female starters and I am #46. I’ll give it everything I’ve got!
Thanks for reading,

Ski jumpers are also staying at our hotel. I have to say, I'm certainly glad that I don't have to travel with one of those bags! 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet Kollen Pics!

I'll write more later in a complete post World Champs update but for now, I wanted to share some pictures from the last three days.  The weather finally cleared in Oslo and the venue, racing, and the experiece is ten times better in the sun!!  Over 100,000 spectators were estimated at EACH race over the past two days. There is tons of tradition behind the 30/50k plus it was the weekend. Check this out: 

Reindeer skins sold at Intersport (think Norwegian REI) for watching races! 

Chainsaw carvings of skiers downtown... so sweet!

Therese after smashing the competition, including Bjorgen yesterday

Just another scene at the venue

Me and my mom! Thanks for coming to cheer me on! During the 30k she got all the spectators around her to chant my name as I passed by! 

A typical Norwegian parent at the races.... 

A homemade "Sausage" hat..... (A popular Norwegian skier) I'll just leave it at that.... 

A great reunion with Frode and Sean Lillefjell - Frode was an APU coach for years - they now live in Norway with their three boys

Frode and Erik 

We started off the great day with a trip to the top of the JUMP!  Apparently people have been jumping on this site since 1892?!

Looking down the jump.... can you imagine?  I can't.... 

Me and Rob at the top! 

Farra, Noah & Liz

"Fan Art" on the side of the trail..... 

More fan art... same artist

My "recovery ski" this morning was perhaps one of the most amazing things I've ever done. This scene is at the 5k turnaround - as FAR AS YOU CAN GET FROM THE STADIUM!  Thousands of people cheered me on as I tried to keep it level one. It was INCREDIBLE. 

Amongst the crowd I even found my AK friends. See the person in the hamock in the upper left hand corner? People were hanging out in the tops of trees with trumpets, the course was filled in smoke from campfires.... Reese - someone was even rocking the techno "Barbara Streisand" song in the middle of the race yesterday!

Sweet view from the course... 

Oslo written on the jump in traditional tree branches

Oh yeah

Watching the 50k with my freshman year of college coach, Eli Brown!

Waxing facilities/athlete lounge with roof-top deck

Feed zone craziness

The pack heading out on the blue loop

Watching the race

Pete & Kikkan

Eli getting a feed to last minute 50k addition Billy D!

NRK Blimp (for cool aerial footage)

That's a wrap for now!  It's hard to believe the Championships are over but I'm pretty excited to have the opportunity to continue my European racing experience by way of being the Super Tour leader.  Tomorrow morning we head to Lahti, Finland for the last regular season World Cups. After that, it's to Sweden for World Cup Finals. A Stockholm downtown sprint and a mini-tour in Falun are on the schedule. After Sweden, it's straight to Sun Valley for Spring Nationals/Super Tour finals. I feel pretty darn lucky!  

Thanks so much to everyone who has sent nice emails and comments! I miss you all!  Good luck to those racing the Tour of Anchorage (right now!!) and all the Alaskans getting ready to compete at JOs this upcoming week!  

Wishing everyone all the best,