Sunday, July 24, 2011

July in pictures - Fish, fun & North American Girls!

It's Sunday morning and I'm on my fourth cup on coffee waiting for the "weather's clear, let's go!" call to head to Eagle Glacier.  

We're currently half way through a two week training camp here in Anchorage where all the top ladies in North America have gathered to spend two weeks training together.  We just finished a great week of dryland training in Anchorage full of roller skiing, running, and lifting weights. Now we're waiting for the weather to clear so we can fly up to the training facility at Eagle Glacier to spend the next week on snow. Luckily the weather has cooperated the last week and Alaska's redeemed itself for many of our visitors.  (Three years ago when Nationals were here we had an extreme cold spell and the ski races were postponed/cancelled which didn't leave a good taste in anyone's mouth....)

It's great to train with all these ladies in a low-pressure environment and learn from one-another.  Our competitors in Europe have the advantage of seeing eachother frequently and if we're going to compete with them, we need to work together to get better.  I feel fortunate to constantly be surrounded by a strong women's team but it's a bonus to have the other US Ski team girls here as well as the Canadian girls including 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist, Chandra Crawford.  

Before I share pictures from the training camp so far, here are a couple of other (overdue) shots from this month: 

Yes, Mt. Marathon came and went..... my APU teammate Kikkan and I battled it out in the ladies race and I came up short once again getting passed on the same stretch of pavement a couple of blocks from the finish line. I was a bit disappointed with my performance, not having had the time to put into mountain training but I've been working on my double pole and upper body strength this summer so hopefully that will make up for my continuous second place finishes in this race! 

Rob, my husband has his rookie year in Mt. Marathon..... here he is the day before the race in the "gut" which is part of the downhill race section. 

At the finish line with my APU girls - Lydia, Ana, Alex, Hannah & Taryn. These girls are awesome athletes themselves and cheered hard in the race too! 

A special thanks to my headgear sponsor, the Rhyneer Clinic (Orthopedics) for their continual support and my teammate, Erika Klaar for hooking me up with sweet headbands  - check out her site for cool, Alaskan-made stuff HERE.

The men's race was particularly exciting seeing that any one of six men had the potential to take the win. Here is a picture of the guys at the beginning of the race - ironically in the order that they finished! 

My co-worker at APU, Eric Strabel taking the win after a blazing downhill!  This was something like Eric's 15th or 18th time racing Mt. Marathon (?)  Crazy fun to see him so excited..... 

In fact, APU SKI athletes ended up sweeping both the men's and women's podiums at Mt. Marathon which is rare - a testament to the time and energy we put into our fitness, even if it isn't running specific. 

Fatigue sets in at the end of the race..... APU skier Jack Novak finished TENTH place in the men's division in his first race to the top of the mountain. Super impressive! 

 A great highlight of July was a visit from Rob's sister, Erin, her husband Frank, and getting to meet our niece, Rienzi for the first time.  Erin and Frank came down for Mt. Marathon while Grandpa and Grandma babysat in Anchorage. (Thanks for the feeds and cheering you two!)

A now pictures from our training camp.... 

 It's always fun to take folks from out of town around our training stomping-grounds. Alaska is a great place to be a Nordic Skier and it's fun to have other people come to that realization too! (Bird to Gird trail)

Running Rabbit Lakes - Me & Chandra

Rabbit Lakes once again

 Jessie pre-belly-flop 

 Running down valley

Girls bringing it in with our neon Rudy helmets.... 

Kikkan showing the sweatshirts made for the camp - "North American Women's Training Alliance!" 

Meanwhile, the middle of July is always Kenai dip-netting season and a chance for all Alaskan's to fill their freezers for the upcoming year. I wasn't able to help fishing this year because of the camp but luckily Rob and my in-laws headed down to Kenai and returned with a full quota of Red Salmon - 70 fish! 

Taking a small break in the filleting process - TONS of work but well worth it

Gorgeous red fish steaks! 

Rob holding a red salmon

In addition to filleting and vacuuming packing, we also take the time to smoke fish for the up-coming year. Here is Rob with our home-made smoker (that yes, looks like at outhouse) 

Yesterday we had a roller ski time trial at Potter Valley with the camp girls... I've run this race many times as a coach but somehow, this was my first shot at competing in the time trial. We had a great group out on the road and three of us ended up breaking the course record! 

Camp girls left to right: Ida Sargeant, Sadie Bjornsen, Sarah Cresap, Perianne Jones, Me, Kate Fitz, Becca Rorabaugh, Jessie Diggins, Chandra Crawford, Sophie Caldwell & Liz Stephan

Jessie with her congratulatory flower for the time trial win and new course record of 22:59! Good job Jess!  (Don't let this innocent picture fool you! This girl is TOUGH out on the race course....)

Nothing like re-hydrating with post time trial watermelon! 

Today is a recovery day and weather permitting, we'll fly up to Eagle Glacier where the plan is to ski 4-5 hours per day.  We'll focus on technique, learning tricks from each other, talk about the season to come and put in a really, hard, solid block of training.  I'll update from the glacier at least once so check back soon! Thanks for reading and I hope you all are having a great summer! 

Holly :) 

Here is a quick video of the APU girl's team training to leave you with..... 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On the Eve of the Big Day!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I hope that everyone is reading this post in hind sight after having a fabulous July 4th holiday weekend!

Well.... this is it, the Eve of the "Big Day."  The "Big Day" meaning, July 4th, or better yet, known in Alaska as "Mt. Marathon Day."  Every year up to 40,000 people converge on the small town of Seward, Alaska to partake in Independence Day activities, the center spectacle being a foot race, Mt. Marathon.  This year will be the 84th running of the race and organizers claim it to be the second oldest foot race in the nation behind the Boston Marathon.

The top 1/2 of Mt. Marathon

For those of you living outside of Alaska and not familiar with the race, this event is CRAZY.  For some reason, this race, beyond all others transcends fans interested in sports, or running for that matter.  Maybe it's because of the Seward party atmosphere or maybe it's because you have to race down cliffs and waterfalls but this race is notorious and in my mind, represents Alaska and it's rugged ideals to a "T."

This guy, Fred Moore, has completed the race 40 times to hold the all-time record.  Here he is with the jacket and patches to prove it!

The race begins on Main Street in downtown Seward and runs approximately four minutes to the base of the "Mountain."  Once there, the climb starts with a class five-esque scramble up some tree roots before settling into a consistent, steep grade.  Racers climb a total of 3022 feet to the summit before beginning a perilous RUN back down the entire 3,022 feet.  The top women climb up in 38 minutes and descend in less than 12, count them, TWELVE minutes.  People run onto main street for the finishing home stretch covered in blood and mud - usually with huge smiles on their faces.  The icing on the cake is that the night before, the organizing committee holds an auction for entrance into the crazy race and participants have been known to drop close to $2,000 dollars just to run uphill and downhill in the mud!

Friend and co-worked Eric Strabel is a beast on the downhill.  Check him out here, sliding down a waterfall!

Beyond the crazy nature of the race, this event has special meaning to me.  I've run the race three times now and each time I had a memorable experience to associated with the race.

2008 was my rookie year and I somehow busted out a second place performance.  I had gotten engaged two days before the race and our "Save the Date" magnet was from the finish line in Seward. This was my first experience at Mt. Marathon and I was hooked.

Me (Holly) following Cedar with the town of Seward in the background

Then, in 2009 I had grand ambitions and extra incentive because my entire immediate family was in Seward to watch my race because my WEDDING was the following weekend.  The conditions this year turned out to be extremely hot and I entered the race slightly dehydrated.  I led until 4/5 of the race was complete and then collapsed of extreme dehydration and was taken directly into the Emergency Room that is appropriately placed at the bottom of the "Cliff."  I know it sounds cliche but laying in the ER was where I had my epiphany that I needed and WANTED to try and make the 2010 Winter Olympics.  After taking nearly two months off to recover from my Mt. Marathon injury, somehow the following winter I landed on the start line in Vancouver.

Racing downhill, moments before collapse

In the ER.... 

Much to the disgruntle of the Seward ER Drs I checked myself out of the ER to cross the finish line before checking myself back in (I promised them!) until my blood work had stabilized. Here I am walking down Main Street with my husband, Rob, long after the majority of the races had finished. 

Only one week until our wedding! 

Success! Officially checked out of the ER at 8pm after an 11am race start..... 

Last year, in 2010, I set a great pace to the top and had a two minute lead over race veteran, Seward hometown hero and six-time Mt. Marathon Champion, Cedar B only to blow it by getting passed on Main Street in front of 10,000 screaming fans.  Our ten second gap was one of the, if not THE closest race in Mt. Marathon history.  Last year's loss had a particular sting when Cedar announced her retirement and I was bummed about the fact that I wouldn't be able to race against the Mt. Marathon legend ever again.  Alas, her times will have to do! :)

On the way down, still in the lead... 

Here I am being passed by Cedar literally 1.5 blocks from the finish line

That brings me to this year, 2011 and TOMORROW. Every year I have grand intentions of training specifically for this race and specifically HARD for this race. However, each spring and early summer it becomes impossible to train specifically for Mt. Running while maintaining and prioritizing ski racing goals.  So much of my training consists of ski specific stuff such as roller skiing, glacier skiing, and strength training.  Sure, there is a huge amount of carry-over fitness. That's what's propelled me to two runner up finishes and the pain tolerance and ability to push myself into the ER.  Alas, ski training is not Mt. running training and I find myself going into this year's race feeling under prepared.  Do I wish I had done anything differently? No, not really.  Skiing is my main focus and I am preparing to hit five consecutive World Cup weekends in five different countries in November and December.  I need to be in ski shape from the get-go!

That said, bring on Seward and bring on the race!  See you'll down there!
Thanks for reading and thanks for your moral support. Have a great, safe weekend!
Holly :)

If you're interested......

The local Seward, Alaska paper posted this article titled, "Is this the year for Brooks?"  This article also has a run down of other female contenders.

After all this, if you're interested in watching the race on the "Live Feed" (I don't promise anything!) check out this link to the local news station, KTUU, Channel 2.

The Anchorage Daily News always has nice coverage of the race as well... check HERE for info.