Sunday, August 26, 2012

Come to First Tracks!

Calling all Alaska High School skiers! Check this out - First Tracks Ski Camp is the last weekend of October in Fairbanks! This will be the second annual camp and trust me, last year was AWESOME. Fairbanks weather in October is really nice and last year, we skied ALL the trails on just a couple inches of snow. The entire APU ski team will be training there and this is your chance to train with us, chase us around, or dare I say, beat us in intervals :) Aside from training there is lots of other fun stuff including in the camp like a dance, schwag, good lectures and yummy food! Camp is the weekend before high school skiing officially starts - this is a great way to get a jump on the season! 

 Hope to see you in Fairbanks! 
Holly :) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tunneling in Torsby + Seattle

I wrote this article for NNF, the National Nordic Foundation regarding our training camp in Sweden.  NNF funded a large aspect of the trip, therefore making it possible for me to attend. I'm super thankful to them and to everyone that has donated to the organization!  I'll leave this article text heavy and picture shy since I've already shared most of the best pics in my previous blog. Or, there are some awesome ones posted on the NNF Facebook and/or USSA Nordic. You should LIKE both of these pages if you haven't already done so. 

Looking into the "eye" of the tunnel, down my ski.....  

Two weeks of brown cheese, tunnel skiing, fish paste, and Scandinavian countryside have come to an end.  I think that all parties, Americans, Swedes (and our lone Canadian) alike would agree that our joint training camp was a great success.  When I initially heard about the trip I had decided to stay home and save my money for winter competitions. But, when NNF and other donations stepped in to fund the camp I jumped on board and boy, I am sure glad I did! 

Our trip had three distinct parts to it. The first was the “North American” acclimatization camp where we got used to the respective time change (10 hours from Alaska!) and tested skis with Salomon techs in the Torsby Tunnel. Next came the dry land portion where we met up with the Swedes and trained in Salen, the start of the Vasaloppet, and finally, a return to Torsby for more tunnel time and a bit of cross training outside of the refrigerated loop.

Joint training session number one featured pouring rain and three hours in a nearby bog.  We were initially handed a topographical map with some light arrows penciled into the tiny contour lines.   Both the fog and mud were so think that maps didn’t seem to matter but luckily, we stuck together as one big group.

In Salen my favorite workout was a skate sprint time trial where we skied a prologue, TWO quarterfinals, a semifinal, and a final. After the prologue we were ranked in brackets. With each “race” the fastest skier would move up a bracket and the slowest skier would move down a bracket.  This was a great way to perform some really tough intervals and work on race tactics. We all had a blast despite our comparatively slow skate roller skis! 

Other workouts included specific strength on classic rollers; mostly single sticking and double polling up a Swedish Pass.  We also did a threshold plus 5x10 minute workout, point to point over rolling uphill terrain. We had a great core routine, went on some distance skis, and a second bog-run hike too.  In Salen we had Fica (Swedish for night snack) and watched the Olympics in our mountain-side cottages, I took a high speed crash into a pile of gravel spread across the road, we threw away our trashed “Bog Socks” that were beyond return, and we enjoyed an American BBQ meal our last night. After four solid days of training (almost five hours per day) we had an entire day of rest that was used for travel from Salen to our next destination two hours away, Torsby. 

Once in Torsby, we hit the tunnel hard, skiing four to five hours the first day on the 1.2k loop.  Loops took between 5-6 minutes each and we would alternate directions each time, ensuring a wider variety of terrain!  That means we averaged between 40-60 loops in the tunnel that day alone!
The tunnel interestingly enough, had a different effect on everyone. Some loved it and would exit the tunnel exclaiming, “That was great! I love skiing and love the tunnel!”  Others hated it and would avoid it at all costs, even if it meant doing a group workout alone on roller skis outside of the tunnel. (Both of these examples are Swedes, FYI)  I will admit, it was tough to go into a humid, winter, recycled air environment on a beautiful sunny day.  The tunnel was mostly underground and featured barely audible music and no windows whatsoever. My personal favorite was to complete 2/3 of the workout in the tunnel and finish the last 30-60 minutes outside the tunnel, either running or roller skiing.  The Torsby Sports center was awesome for this in that they had a 3k-paved roller ski loop literally crossing OVER the ski tunnel and running trails directly adjacent. The training options were awesome and I really appreciated the opportunity to “go to winter” and then leave when it was time.  (General aside, the tunnel wax of choice for us seemed to be a klister layer of violet covered by Swix VR60)  In addition to tunnel skiing in Torsby we had a great threshold plus 45-minute pace workout on the ski trails. We ran roughly three loops of the 2,5k ski trail which featured some really hard terrain and big hills. Afterwards, we ran down to the lake to jump in and cool off!

By the end of the second four-day training period everyone was still in good spirits but tired and ready for some rest. Apparently the 9-day camp was much longer than a typical Swedish National Team camp and by the last couple of sessions, there were more North Americans still standing (all six of us, healthy & ready to train) than Swedes!  After our last session we packed the van and drove to Oslo where we celebrated our last night in summer Scandinavia together with a nice dinner near the Oslo Harbor, complete with fresh muscles!

Here are a couple of additional thoughts I’ve had in reflection of my trip thus far:

Gained confidence – we’re on the right track
Some of us have already addressed this in blogs but it’s worth mentioning again.  It was great to see that the Swedish National team girls weren’t that different than we are.  There is no secret to their training; in fact, it’s not that much different than ours. I believe their current success lies in their tradition of success or simply the belief that they KNOW they can succeed, as others in their country have done in the past.  In the US we are more or less paving our own road but trips like this add to our belief when we have proof that we can keep up in summer interval sessions, handle more training hours, or do more pull ups J  I think that this trip gave each and everyone of us some positive feedback and some additional motivation to finish out the training season strong as we head into the 2012-2013 World Cup season.

Keeping in touch with Euros & building relationships
Seeing that most of us spend five months a year racing World Cups in Europe, it’s good to maintain contact WITH Europe and our peers there.  It’s easy to isolate yourself in a small microcosm American training bubble but it’s valuable to see what summer training in Europe consists of.  For most of us, this was our first time doing so. We also got to practice traveling, adjusting to the time change, and eating weird foods…. All seemingly meaningless until you try to perform on the World stage continually out of your comfort zone….
The camp provided a great opportunity to become friends with the Swedish girls as we were in a (mostly) non-competitive environment. It’s tough to build relationships on the start line at Kuusamo or the dining hall in Russia.  Having more friends on the road and WC circuit will make it easier missing holidays with friends and family.

Proud of our team’s resilience
I am so proud of our team!  We are strong, resilient, and it’s amazing what we are able to accomplish, especially considering our shortage of resources compared to our larger budget competitors!  On the last day of camp all the North Americans were still standing, ready to train with smiles on our faces. Somehow, one way or another, seemingly half the Swedish team seemed to be out with sickness, injuries or general fatigue despite the fact that they were just hours away from home by car compared to our thousands of miles by plane. For comparison in Torsby they had 12 wax techs, a slew of coaches, video technicians and two “physios” (What Euros call PT/Massage Therapists.)  Sure, the camp was in their backyard but there is something to be said for staying healthy……
All said and done, I’m flying home with infused confidence, specific direction for the remainder of my training period, and more International ski experience to my name.
THANK YOU to the National Nordic Foundation and everyone who has donated to it for helping fund this trip!!!!! Happy summer everyone,

Ok, shoot. I lied. I can't help but add some other, new pictures to the post. On my way home from Sweden I stopped in Seattle for three days to see my family. It was a rare opportunity and I usually miss every holiday and every birthday. So, we took the opportunity to visit my family's cabin at Snoqualmie Pass where I learned to ski.  It was cool that I was just in Sweden because I am actually part Swedish.  Consequently, the trip got me thinking about my Swedish Grandmother, "Farmor" quite a bit.  I wanted to make Swedish coffee bread or "Bula" with her.... here are a couple pictures from my visit to Seattle..... 

 Wasa Bread and Lingon Berry Jam!  (Also, check out my grandma's hat! (I traded for it at the Olympic s and gave it to her!)

 I went on an awesome hike/run with my parents on the Pacific Crest Trail. Here I am running on the Kendall Catwalk 

 With my parents, Don & Chris 

 With Farmor getting ready to put the Bula in the oven 

In Seattle I also took the opportunity to pick blackberries which grow like weeds in Seattle. We don't have them in Alaska and I wanted to bring some home for Rob! 

What's next? Five weeks in Alaska, at home! I'm really pumped for a solid block of training & time with my husband, friends, and cat!  In October I'll go to Park City for another round of testing at the COE and an altitude block! 
Until then! 
Cheers & thanks for reading, 
Holly :) 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Goodbye Salen, Hello Torsby!

The first day of Swedish training camp we woke up to pouring rain. We were handed a topo map with a couple of arrows, and told that we would be going on a three-hour bog run. 

Luckily, everything worked out great; they didn’t ditch us in the Swedish marsh, they translated the important points, and we got an awesome training session in. 

Perhaps what I love most about the joint USST/SWE National camp is the unexpected.  I’m running places that I’ve never run before, completing new workouts, following different training partners and buying snacks at the ICA rather than the Fred Myers. Everyday we wake up to a new adventure. 

Part of me was expecting some kind of epiphany; that I would learn something revolutionary. Instead, this trip seems to reinforce what I already know, how I train, and that I seem to be on the right course.  While I haven’t exactly had an “ah-ha!” moment, perhaps my take home – that the way Swedes do it isn’t really that different - is even more valuable.

 Here are a couple of pictures from the first half of the training camp in Salen: 

 Thanks a ton to Ahvo @ Finn Sisu for hooking us up with some faster classic roller skis. It would have been a bummer to have come all the way across the pond only to find that we couldn't keep up! 

 Swedes have beautiful breakfast spreads..... 

 The small "Stugas" where we stayed, mountain side. 

 Of course, xc skiers on the food at the grocery store! 

By now you may have heard about bowling night or workout #3 for the day.  Kid you not, Matt is sore from the exertion. 
 Chandra bowled up a storm! 

 Liz getting serious

 Me, trying desperately to keep it out of the gutter

 North Americans and Swedes - Ida, Chandra, Hanna Falk & Charlotte Kalla 

 Coaches and physios played too

 Girls with the maps for bog run #2 - only this time, in better weather

 We ran on a small part of trail.... 

 But it mostly looked like this 

 Or this... 

 Mid bog run #2: Kikkan, Mia, Magda & Chandra

 Our training schedule for the camp ..... in Swedish

 Peter, our head wax tech is Swedish. He joined us for lunch and coffee. He came down to Salen to compete in the Cyclevasa - a 90k mountain bike race on the 90k Vasaloppet ski trail. 

 With Diggs, post classic intervals 

Gravel on what's now deemed "Holly's corner."  I came flying into this intersection going full speed and landed on my face in front of the whole Swedish National team, our team, and tons of tourists. I've been told it was quite the spectacle. I'm super pumped that I didn't break myself OR my equipment! 

More from the Torsby Tunnel coming up shortly! 
Holly :) 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August on XC Ski Girl...

Check it out if you're interested! 

Post from Sweden coming shortly. I'm almost half way through the camp and it's been a great experience. Tomorrow 5x10 minutes classic roller ski intervals, threshold. PM strength and then we're headed to Torsby for some more tunnel skiing! 

In the meantime, here is a small selection of photos taken from facebook - thanks friends! 

 Team Sweden & USA on the first training session - 3 hour bog run!  Thanks to Kikkan for the pic! 

Roller ski skate sprint race..... what a fun way to do intervals!  Went FIVE times.. prelim, 2 quarterfinals, a semi & final. Each heat had four skiers. Winner of each heat moved up a bracket, last place moved down. Kept the workout super fluid and really fun. Got to work on top speed, race tactics, skiing in a pack. Compliments to Chandra for capturing the pic! 

Running with Kalla, day one - thanks to Kik for the pic

More soon! 
Holly :) 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Update.... in Pictures

As always, the last couple of weeks have been busy..... I spent an awesome week on Eagle Glacier with my APU teammates. This was my second camp on the summer and after a 9-hour weather delay in Girdwood due to bad weather, it turned out to be an AWESOME camp. I logged another big-hour week and feel that I make some technical improvements.  Following the glacier camp, Rob and I along with other Anchorage-area Olympians were invited out to GCI's Agulowok Retreat in Northwest Alaska.  We flew to Dillingham and took a Grumin Goose out to the lodge.  We had one gorgeous day but otherwise, it rained buckets.  We got to see the bears in Katmai National Park at Brooks Camp (!) I caught my first Rainbow, and we went skeet shooting. (I hit nothing with affirms that I should remain a cross country skier rather than switch to biathlon!)  Now, as I write this, we are in Sweden, ready to start a joint camp with the Swedish National team girls. I'm super pumped to have some new training partners and work really hard over the next week, plus. It was a difficult 30+ hours of travel to get here from Alaska but I'm sure it will be well worth it!  Thanks a ton to NNF, the National Nordic Foundation for helping fund this training camp! Read on...... 

While being grounded on the runway in Girdwood, we checked out this sky crane. This thing cost $50/second to run!!! WOW! 

It's July in Alaska! I brought a freshly smoked salmon fillet to share with my APU teammates. Thanks so much to my husband, Rob for slaying it dip-netting, as usual :)  I didn't get to go fishing but I helped with the filleting... 

After a day and a half of rain on Eagle we were treated to some awesome AK sunshine - it DOES happen up here! This is my teammate, Reese Hanneman

APU girl's team, L4 skate intervals

Post intervals pancake lunch tradition! 

My plate :) 

Salomon on Eagle

Good buddies Charlie Renfro and Chris Hodel were able to fly up for an APU team photo shoot.  They got some amazing stuff and it was a blast having them up there! Thanks guys! 

After the hard glacier effort Rob and I caught some rare quality time together..... 
Here is the Goose that we flew out to the lodge in.  This plane is from 1942 and it lands in the water, on it's belly.  Water splashes up, almost beyond the windows and you momentarily think you're going to sink.... 

It's Bear season in AK!  Apparently this bear was fishing and eating only the Salmon eyes - must be a delicacy! 

Thanks so much GCI, David Morris, Dave & Mary, and the entire staff at the Agulowok - you guys are awesome! 

Buddies Rachel (biathlete) and Alex (freestyle) on the skeet range....

The beach at Brooks immediately has human & bear foot prints leading to the entrance of the park! 

Our group at Brooks Falls 

Parking lot at Brooks and AK fireweed

With my first Rainbow! 

After the lodge trip and a weather delay getting out of Dillingham I flew 30 hours and met up with my USST teammates in Sweden!  Some of you may remember that I skied in the Torsby Tunnel last November, getting ready for the opening World Cups in Norway.  Well, I'm back here again to gerbil it around the 1.3k loop.  Also, Salomon France is here and I've spent some time testing skis with them...... 

I also got to test the new Salomon skate boot. It's almost entirely carbon and it's SO LIGHT. It feel like you have a sock on and I am ecstatic to race in it this upcoming winter!  Trust me, these things are amazing! 

As you can imagine, we're also spending a fair amount of time watching and following the Olympics while over here. The Swedish commentary isn't quite the same but we're having a blast following the races nonetheless.  Bar none, my favorite OLYMPIC moment so far has been the 10k!  This past May the US team got to meet the Nike Team project.... here we are pictures with Mo Farah and Galen Rupp - the Gold and Silver Medalists from the London 2012 race! 

And....we're momentarily getting the car to meet up with these ladies! 

If you haven't seen this yet, check it out! 

A sunny day on Eagle Glacier with the APU Ski Team 
By Charlie Renfro

Okay, racing to pack & depart! More later,