Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gallivare LOVE

What a crazy, memorable, historic weekend. Gallivare is perhaps my new favorite place on the face of the earth :)

I’m not even sure what to say. The reality of it all is just sinking in and I’m still not exactly sure what to think or say… or how to express all the emotions of the weekend.  

Giving "Sadie" a kiss!

 Fish paste for breakfast! 

We've been staying in cabins which is always preferable to hotel rooms! 

 "Hellner Stadium" in Gallivare - Swedish ski star who lives in the town... 

The optimist in me is purely PSYCHED.  The act of making a goal & meeting it – or in this scenario, exceeding it has got to be the most rewarding feelings in the world. Two days alone made all the Friday nights spent alone in the APU weight room worth it… the missed Alaskan adventures, family trips… everything that I have sacrificed in the last couple of years pursuing the life and goals of a professional athlete.
It’s crazy to start the season on such a high note. In the span of two days, the first two days of the season, I blew some of my (entire) season’s goals out of the water.  On Saturday I was 5th place, just 2.9 seconds from the podium and in the company of World Champions and Olympic Gold medalists. In fact, I had to take multiple pictures of the results such that when I woke up the next morning I could ensure myself that the day – and the result – was more than just a vivid dream! 

Sitting in the reindeer leader’s chair was an experience in and of itself.  Going into the day it was one of my goals to be the race leader when I passed across the finish line. Being bib #6, this didn’t initially mean a whole lot seeing that there was 72 girls that started after me with the opportunity to seize the furry chair from under my behind!  I remember Liz being in the same scenario last year the season opener in Sjujsoen when she was the early race leader. It looked like fun and I wanted the experience!  Little did I know that I would occupy that seat for the next 25 minutes until I “passed it off” to Kikkan!  The weather was less than ideal and the FIS people kept telling me that I was free to change my clothes and come back but I insisted on staying.  I had never been in this position in my entire life and I wasn’t about to throw a single second of it away.  It was by far the best seat in the house and I wanted to watch the race from the line.  Over and over, I kept expecting to get bumped down.  Great skaters like, Anouk from France, Anna Haag from Sweden, Martha and Stiera from Norway……somehow, my name remained at the top of the list through all these fast girls.  It was an unreal feeling and looking back, I was ten-feet tall, floating in mid-air despite the lactic acid surging through my entire body. 

Pure joy & excitement... pumped to share the moment with teammates! 


Raw emotion 

A historic day with the coaches! Chris Grover (left) Head Coach USST and Matt Whitcomb (right) Head USST women's coach 

Not to forget this guy!  Kikkan and my personal coach, Erik Flora at APU!!!! 

 Autographs with the kids 

 The results.... REALLY? 

Our TEAM! 

With our Swedish Friends Charlotte Kalla and Lisa Larsen pre-awards ceremony 

Saturday night downtown awards ceremony... super FUN!

Like I said, Swedes, especially those in Gallivare love a home town boy! 

Then, on Sunday it just got even better. Our women’s 4x5k relay took the first-ever relay medal for USA Skiing!  

I'm in the front, black suit! 

The start  

Ides was an AMAZING cheer leader and an important member of the relay team 

I was lucky enough to be selected to ski the “scramble, lead off” leg for the team. I love the scramble leg and just like it’s namesake, it is a TOTAL scramble. Each team has their “bulldog” out on course. There are lots of big girls that will do anything they can to push you around or ski a line on course that will stop you in your tracks. Unlike the men (!) it’s pure aggression and vying for position.  I started bib#3 which is historic in and of itself. I was on the second line at the start gun, even with Sweden and just one stride behind Norway #1.

I had a great start and was skiing with the top girls until part way through the race I got tripped up on a transition and a small gap started to form. It was a high-speed downhill with a transition into a herringbone and either I tripped or someone skied over my ski just as I was trying to lift it. I had an “uphill fall” but it was enough to let some of the girls behind me pass and I wasn’t able to fully recover.  That said, I’m proud of the leg I skied and feel like I kept our team in contention for the remainder of the girls to do their jobs!  (While I am historically a better skater, I am able and open to doing any leg of the relay – it’s whatever our team needs on any given day!)

The anticipation was palpable during the next three legs of the relay. I quickly changed and then spent the next 35 minutes PACING back and forth from the TV screen, to the track, to my teammates that finished one by one. The excitement was also too much – I don’t think my heart rate dropped out of zone 4 for at least 20 minutes PAST the end of the race.  Jessie’s sprint to the line was incredible and after she collapsed on the ground, we all pig-piled on top of her, sobbing in happiness, disbelief, and elation.  I think we can all agree it was one of the more emotional moments of our entire careers.  I am certain that everyone thought we were absolutely crazy and we made quite a scene of the finish pin.  To say we were happy is a HUGE understatement! 

 The socks! 

Per tradition photo, via our last season's best in Nove Mesto!  

 The aftermath

Things have finally settled down now and we get to race again tomorrow!  We’re currently in Ruka, Finland outside of Kuusamo.  Friday the 3-day mini-tour kicks off with a classic sprint. Saturday is a 5k skate and Sunday is a 10k pursuit start classic race. Kuusamo was the site of my breakthrough race last year so it’s sweet to be back. Each race weekend and the style of race suits different skiers…. Last weekend suited my strengths so it’s going to be hard to compare but all in all, I’m going into the race with a new level of confidence and an elevated level of enthusiasm. Go TEAM USA! I’m lucky number 13 tomorrow!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the kind emails, messages & facebook posts we’ve received. The Internet here in Kuusamo is a bit rough so I apologize that I haven’t gotten back to everyone but your words mean the world to me – THANK YOU!!!!!
Cheers & thanks for reading!
Holly :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

November on XC Ski Girl

November is up and ready on XC Ski Girl for those who are interested! 

The US Team drove 3 hours from Muonio to Gallivare yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed a long sunset... and then it was dark at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  This made for a short day - even for someone like me from Alaska! It's cool to be here for a couple of reasons.  Peter, our head wax tech is from Gallivare. It's cool to see his home town and hopefully he'll share some local/beta/knowledge with us. Maybe we'll even get lucky by doing some laundry! (Yes, its the little things....)  

Second, the ski stadium here is called "Hellner Stadium" after Swedish ski star, Marcus Hellner. Marcus grew up skiing around here and apparently he won his first World Cup here, in his own home town.  Upon arrival last night I went for a short jog and the ski stadium was bustling with energy; mostly old Swedish men setting up for this weekend's upcoming race. You could tell they were loving every minute of it!  No pictures yet but I will get some soon! 

If you are curious about Gallivare, the FIS Cross Country site always has a bit of info about the World Cup venues.... 

"Gällivare, located 100km north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, is a small mining town where the Sámi culture and modern industry coexists.

Last but certainly not least, pictures from the photo shoot I did with Reese Hanneman at Lake Hood are up on his website.  I'm sure that many of you have already seen them on Facebook and/or Fasterskier but the complete collection, in high res (!) is up on his engine room media site.  Be sure to check back on Reese's site often because he always has something cool up his sleeve! 

Good luck to Reese and the rest of my APU teammates who will be hitting up the races in West Yellowstone this weekend! I'll be cheering for you guys from Swedish Lapland! 

Holly :) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LAHTO! (Finnish for "Start?")

Our week in Muonio is coming to a close. We hit the road for a "Lappish road trip" at noon.  We're headed three hours west (by van) to Gallivare, Sweden, the location of the next weekend's World Cup opener.  Now that we've gotten the first races out of the way some of the questions have been answered. Some of the anxiety put to rest.  Our sport is so funny.... we train so much, all the time. But, you never really know what kind of shape you're in until you put a bib on. It's especially nice to put a bib on in Europe where the competition is deep to say the least. 

This week I've had a bit of everything - feeling like crap to feeling decent and everything in between. I'm still waking up at odd hours and my stomach never feels "good" but that is part of living on the road and dealing with an 11-hour time change. I've only been here a week so far so it's good to be patient. However, by the time we finally full adjust it will be time to travel to Quebec and then Canmore. We'll be hoping around all kinds of different time zones! 

Here are a couple of pictures from the week, with captions: 

Traveling with my Tupperware of Brussel sprouts.... one of my favorite foods! 

40 hours of travel got me here - to LAPLAND! 

Living on the road it's really nice to get out of the hotel room and off my skis.  In Muonio we got the opportunity to visit the local middle school and hang out with some Finnish kids.  We told them about the US, where we're from, life as professional athletes & answered their questions.  They were incredibly shy when it came to asking their questions in English but afterwards they ALL wanted our autographs and pictures.  It was fun seeing many of the same kids out volunteering for the race during the weekend! 

 Headed to the school...... 

 With some of the Finnish girls

 We also took the time to visit Juhani and the local Muonio ski shop. Juhani is a friend of Dave Knoop's . Dave travels to Northern Finland each spring for the "Lapponia" a three day stage race across Lapland which features back to back marathon-length races. That might be fun someday! 

 Overlooking the river, presumably by the Swedish border? 

 One thing I love about staying in the Northern regions is that we're often in cabins.  I prefer this style of living to hotel rooms any day. It's amazing what a sink and stove top, let alone a fireplace can do for your soul!  I made a fire this day and accidentally cooked us out of our cabin which had a lack of windows that opened.... whoops! It was worth it though: ) 

 This backpack belongs to a grown man.... the coach of a very, very famous World Cup skier. Eastern Europeans love their animal key chains..... ?!

 This snow man is the signature of Muonio

 Proud of Liz for her second place finish behind Justyna K! AWESOME! 

 Hot Dog ball soup..... but to give Olos (the ski resort here) credit the food has been really good. 

 Here I am during my 10k skate race!  (Thanks to Kikkan for taking the photo and some video as well) 

 US Girls after Sunday's skate race! 2nd, 7th, and 9th!  We're excited and ready for next weekend's kickoff World Cup races! 

 USST girls before our first Muonio ski... in our cabin 

 We even saw the sun here! It does exist.... although the week got darker and darker as we're losing 9 minutes of daylight per day.  That's almost an hour in one week alone! 

 Thanks to Bryan Fish for helping me out with my skis this weekend. I got some great new boards from Salomon.... I'm excited to get them all dialed in! 

In our wax room with the American flag which we hang on the wall in each country :) 

These green bracelets that we're wearing are for Mary, the devo skier in the APU program that was hit by a car earlier this fall.  They read "GO SUPER MARY!"  Mary...... know that each and every one of us is pulling for you!  Word on the street is that you're kicking butt with your recovery!  (Pretty fun that even Aino Kaisa Saarinen - Finnish World Champion and Olympic medalist) is cheering for you too! 

Kikkan showing off the Finnish salad bar

 Bird after this awesome 4th place classic finish. In his own words... the best race he's had in a year! 

 Noah Hoffman (red hat) racing the 15k skate yesterday. 

 Women's skate results.... I'll take it! 

More soon - from Sweden! 
Have a great day & as always, thanks for reading, 
Holly :)