Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eagle Glacier in photos

Our team recently finished an on-snow camp at the Thomas Training Center on Eagle Glacier outside of Girdwood, AK.  Here are a couple of pictures and a quick review of the week: 

Lift off in the helicopter.... 

 Keith Essex of Alpine Air is one of the best pilots around. He gets us to the glacier quickly but more importantly, SAFELY. I highly recommend Alpine for anyone visiting AK who is looking for a cool sight-seeing opportunity..... 

 Lifting up above the clouds..... 

 Home sweet home

 Touch down on Eagle 

Unloading and waving goodbye to Keith

 Erik's excited to be on the glacier for the first trip of the summer! 

Technique advice from an "AK style onesie" 

APU Girls: Holly, Fitz, Tax, Sadie, GA, Wrecka

Most of the pictures are the glorious days but the majority of our sessions looked exactly like THIS. Glamorous huh? 

Then these are the days we live for.... and enjoy even more

 Becca and Fitz putting in their time

Skiing into a glacier cloud

Me :) 

Casey Fagerquist - our ski tech/glacier manager/all around good guy

Our ever-enthusiastic leader, Erik Flora

Our old teammate and new glacier assistant, Mikey Matteson!

The staff :) 

Me putting in the Ks!

One of the beautiful snow features on the glacier..... a really big hole you DON'T want to ski into.

OMG. Is that a FOOT massage?

Planks and core work up on the glacier

A shameless plug for Swix - the best wax/ski pole brand!

Fitz squatting it up!


One of our new teammates, Erik Bjornsen

Alpine flowers found at the beginning of the hike down

Slightly picturesque

Literally sliding back into reality and life off the glacier. 

Until next time! 
Thanks for reading, 
Holly :) 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

As much or more, As good or better.....

Funny title to a blog post, I know. It's amazing what weird stuff enters your mind when you're skiing circles on a glacier in whiteout conditions.  But, the title is simple, and it refers to my job as a ski racer.  In a competitive sport where you're literally trying to beat the competition, you must be prepared to do so. If my competitors are training 1 hour per day (to make a simple example) and I train 30 minutes per day can I realistically expect to beat them? Probably not.  Of course winning isn't all about training volume.... there are so many factors. Upper body endurance, the capacity of your heart, the strength of your trunk.... your mental fortitude.... your ability to hold it together and excel in tough conditions.  There are many aspects and traits that must come together to make a World-class athlete.  

APU girls post interval session - training 3-5 hours per day on Eagle Glacier, June 2011

I have been thinking a lot about my ski racing goals for the next season and many of them involve beating a large chunk of the World Cup field.  My preliminary plans have me starting off the season with FIVE consecutive World Cup weekends and preparation for that is now, today, tomorrow, and the next.  In order to be competitive in the World Cup field - (and hopefully to beat many of them!) I NEED to work as hard or harder than they are. My training needs to be of similar quality or better yet, HIGHER quality than theirs.  Now, that's no easy feat!  Consider the fact that the World Cup is a special collection of athletes that all probably harbor the same goal. That is, to be the best. I guarantee that there isn't a single athlete out there that hasn't dreamed about standing on top of a World Cup, World Championship, or Olympic podium. That said, the WC is comprised of athletes doing anything and everything in their power to achieve those goals. Some of those things include spending half their "off-season" away from home in training camps, making social and monetary sacrifices in their lives, walking out the door to train when the weather is horrible, harboring injuries, aches, and pains that come with pushing your body to it's limits.  When you’re trying to be really, really good at something, often other things take a hit.

That said, it’s time to go out training again.  I’m trying to hit 4-5 hours per day of training on the glacier. Sounds like a lot, I know. But how will I know if I can do it or not if I don’t try?  Here are a few pictures from the week so far: 

Sadie fired up in the helicopter

View from the Helicopter, approaching the training facility

Alpine Air gets us here safely... 

Welcome to camp! Goodbye heli... 

The first session was sunny... 

Boys team leaning on their poles after a hard interval set in the clouds

Most of the pictures published are of the gorgeous days.... many days look exactly like this. Where is the track? Or if it's a downhill - "WHERE IS THE NEXT WAND!?"

Forty loafs of bread for carbo loading athletes! 

…. As much or more, as good or better! Think about it! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sometimes taking a step forward means taking a step back

My new-found athletic career started off as being a coach for Alaska Pacific University's Nordic Ski Center.  I was offered the job after a successful interaction working with Erik Flora (now Program Director) at Junior Olympics in Houghton, Michigan.  At the time I was working as a part time coach for an Anchorage High School program and part time at an Environmental Consulting Agency in downtown Anchorage. When I was offered the job to be a full time ski coach I jumped at the opportunity.  Although it had it's inherent risks (would I like it? Did I want to take a pay cut?) I left the company I worked for on good terms and was assured that if my life on skis didn't work out I would be welcomed back to the office anytime. Five years later here I am still at APU. However, my capacity has changed.  As I've explained it before I went from a full time coach to a full time coach, part time athlete, to a full time athlete, part time coach to where I am today... A full time athlete and a part, part, part time coach.  

The year that I made the Olympics (2009-2010 season) I didn't even have a full training log to show. Last year was my first full year chasing the ski dream and I was able to improve upon my International results from the Olympics at World Championships in Oslo.  

I plan to begin racing the 2011-2012 season in Europe rather than West Yellowstone taking advantage of my Period 1 World Cup start rights earned from last season's overall Super Tour win.  My travels will start off in Beitestolen, Norway and continue onto racing weekends in Kuusamo Finland, Dusseldorf Germany, Davos Switzerland, and Rogla Slovenia.  My goal, naturally, is to improve upon my International results thus far; in order to do so, I've taken a look at my training and had made some personal evaluations as to what I can do better - what I can do more of, how I can improve and consequently, accomplish my goals. Last year I attended two glacier camps, this year, the plan is to attend four.  The obvious goal is more time on snow but the supplemental goal is to improve my efficiency in soft and tricky snow conditions. 

In addition to ski racing goals, I have slowly and quietly been chasing another goal - that is, a master's degree.  Yes, even ski racers need outside stimulus :)  I, for one, have never been someone who has too much of a narrow focus.  If anything I am the opposite - I like to do too many things.  I am an expert multi-tasker.  That said, I realize this and have fully come to terms with the fact that it could take me 6 years to get a 1.75 year degree. Right now I am in the beginning of an accelerated summer semester where I am taking two courses. The classes end July 11th but that is not without attending two weeks of online class from Eagle Glacier! I may need to hide out in the waxing connex to get some piece and quiet but I will make it happen!  Needless to say, my goals for the next six weeks are training and school.  I don't expect to have much time for anything else. 

You may ask, "What gives?"  I am not a dumb person. I know that I can't do it all. While I am taking a step forward in my ski training and in my education, I must take a step back in some other aspects of life.  For the time being, I have decided that the cut has to come in the form of coaching.  It's painful to say and even more painful to do but I know that I can't do it all, even if I'd like to believe that I can. In some ways, I often wonder if coaching is my calling beyond that of being a professional ski racer.  I love interacting with kids and adults on a daily basis, teaching something I am passionate about. In Fast and Female terms we would call this, "Spreading the Love!"  My coaching style has always been to lead by example and I've had a great time leading the charge up the sand dunes at Kincaid, teaching someone how to V2 and having it "click" for them, and most of all, getting to know people athletically but also emotionally.  I can attest to the fact that coaching is a labor of love and it takes a lot of energy. I can also vouch for the fact that the energy I expended was returned to me - coaching invigorates me.  When I wasn't having a good day I would lead a session and go home in a better mood than what I started with. 

So how did I make my decision? I love ski racing too.  As I've said before, my job's my passion and my passion is my job. If there is one thing that my parents have taught me, it's that; to pursue your passions. Many (wiser) people have told me and I believe them - the opportunity to pursue World Cup ski racing and another Olympic cycle is now. I will not get a second chance.  Despite what some people would like to believe, I will not have a second chance when I'm fifty :)  Will I be able to coach when I'm fifty? Heck yes!  As much as it pains me to not physically be there for the kids now I know that my heart will always be in it and that I will return to coaching sooner rather than later.  In some form or another, I expect to be coaching, or teaching, for the rest of my life. Thus, my roles at APU have changed from that as "Holly the head Junior coach and Noon Masters coach" to "Holly the ski racer who helps out with APU events drops in on APU groups for surprise visits when she can."  

I know I've been long winded with this description of my new role.... what does this really mean?  In order to take steps forward in my ski performance and in personal development, ie my education, I must take a step back with my coaching responsibilities at APU.  No, I will not be at practice everyday, or even every week. I will drop by to say hello when I can and encourage from afar. I already miss coaching and those that I've worked with dearly but life is full of adventures and for now, they are calling me.