Thursday, December 27, 2012

Counting my blessings!

Happy Holidays & New Years from rainy Oberhof, Germany! Five of us from the team are already here in place, prepping for the Tour while the rest of the USA contingent arrives this afternoon.  This will be my second attempt at the Tour de Ski and my first try at it with a clean bill of health.  Some of you may remember last Christmas that I fell on an icy road and fractured my radius Christmas night/Four days before the Tour - although I didn't realize it was broken until x-rays and an MRI half way through the tour in Oberstdorf revealed it. But, stubborn as I am, I popped a few more pain pills, gritted my teeth and reached the top of the Alps Cermis. 

Canmore was festive and a great "home away from home" 

The World Cup racing schedule this year was tough. The last World Cups before Christmas were in Canmore, Alberta - SO CLOSE TO HOME. I'll be honest, it was difficult to be that close to home without actually going.  ("Close" is a relative term and in this scenario, means a couple thousand miles.)  Many times this summer and fall I would simply stare at the World Cup schedule, looking for answers as to what I should do for a racing schedule. Last season I learned that at some point in the five months (of racing) I need a break; for both training but mentally & emotionally as well.  One logical move would have been to go home straight from Canmore for Christmas and then travel with the APU team down to Nationals at Soldier Hollow before returning to Europe and the World Cup.  That was certainly an option. However, most of my goals lie with International results, ie Overall World Cup ranking & (hopefully) earning an elusive "red group" spot which would subsidize my exorbitant World Cup fees.  Plus, I figure that at this point in my career, I want to amass as much World Cup experience as possible.  This year the Tour de Ski is 7 races in 9 days; 6 of them being of the distance variety.  If you do the math, participating in the Tour equates to almost 1 month of World Cup race starts.  I see this as "budget World Cup" and an opportunity to race day in and day out without the long week in between waiting to race again.  If you aren't happy with your race performance one day you don't have to wait an entire week to try it again - just one sleep away is a brand new opportunity! 

Unfortunately racing the Tour means skipping Nationals and this really bums me out on a number of levels.  As an elite skier in the US I would love the opportunity to go after more National Titles.  It's fun racing to win or podium and let's be honest - on the World Cup level I'm not quite there yet.  Plus, shouldn't the "National Champion" be the Nation's best?  Unfortunately the schedule conflict with the Tour doesn't allow for participation in both.  I see the other side too... before I was on the national team I wanted the opportunity to race against the National team members.  It's a chance to prove yourself, earn good points if you race well, and make a case for yourself.  Unfortunately this year only one of six girls on the US Ski Team will be racing. Personally I think this is unfortunate but I know there are lots of variables that go into the race calendar and scheduling.  

 Rob came to visit me in Canmore!  Spending weeks and sometimes months on end away from your husband can be a bit rough but Rob is always incredibly supportive and it was awesome to see him! 

 The Norwegian Girls treated every hallway in the hotel to a St. Lucia night complete with singing and sweet bread 

 Reese Hanneman, my teammate at APU helped the women's national team create an awesome poster. All six of us hand-signed each of the 500 or so copies!

 The races in Canmore didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped..... turns out I was really tired and running on low... sometimes that's racing

 Women's 10k Mass start (Thanks to Rob by the way for taking great pictures all week!)

 With the Canmore kids who were specifically cheering for team USA!

Women's Team Race Prep 

 My parents came to Canmore to celebrate an early Christmas and see me race!  Here we are during a walk at Lake Louise

 With Rob :) 

 The best solution to transporting ski bags across town in a tiny rental car :) 

 After the races in Canmore I spent some time with my friend Dasha Gaizova of the Canadian National Team. Dash was a fabulous host and here she is having dinner at the Banff Brewing Company - shown with her favorite "Double Duck" salad! 

A bene of being in North America - Egg Nog Chai post ski... 

 What a day! We were pumped! 

This is a picture from LAST YEAR's Tour.... wrist braces, massive tapping jobs, pain meds, ice and recovery food.... this year is already better! (Hence, "counting my blessings!") 

And here is the Oberhof crew post Christmas Dinner. 

The Tour is only two days away... stay tuned & thanks for all the kind word and support. Happy New Years everyone! 
Holly :) 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The American Revolution... + photos

Seeing Rob for the first time in a month is great! 

As I write this, I'm sitting in my hotel room in Canmore, waiting for morning training. It feels GREAT to be planted here, in North America and I can't wait for this weekend's upcoming races. Although I'm still thousands of miles away from home (AK) I feel relaxed & settled. This might be the closest I get to my bed, my kitty, my friends for the entire winter but it's great to be here. People speak English, I don't have to use converters to charge my electronics, I can "star-fish" sleep in my big bed, I can read labels in the grocery stores, the coffee isn't bitter. Most importantly, my husband is here to visit and my parents are arriving tomorrow!!!! World Cups in North America are the best. 

Last weekend we raced in Quebec City. I teamed up with Ida for the team sprint and we made it to the finals. Unfortunately we faced a bit of bad luck with some crashes but it was an awesome experience and I've never seen so many American flags or heard my first name so much while racing. Peter Graves, "the Voice" was the announcer and it was awesome to understand ENTIRELY what was going on.  I hate to think about how much is missed in translation between stadium announcers, local newspapers and the television. Anyhow, here are a couple of recent photos (in no particular order) with captions followed by an article I wrote a while back for the NNF website. Enjoy! 


 The start arch for the sprints - picturesque, right? 
 APU Crew - Becca had an awesome day

 A fun place to spectate! 

 Kikkan on the "victory lap" with the American flag after dominating the individual sprint 

 Erik & Kikkan - fun for Erik to see the success after working tirelessly, year after year.  Too bad coaches can't stand on podiums too. 

 The American flag and the Star Spangled Banner 

 This semi drove 48 hours, non-stop with all the World Cups skis - Quebec City to Canmore! 

 Canada - home of the Inukshuk & 2010 Winter Olympic Games 

 Reunited with my teammate Sadie - and sharing Starbucks Lattes! 

 The poster for the QC event 

 At night, overlooking the sprint course in front of the Parliament Building. The venue was obviously, beautiful! 
 The Canadians got a lot of ink in the locals papers and on TV. 

 The APU crew prior to Saturday's race. We get to have a "Nations Group" for any World Cups in North America meaning that we get extra start rights. It's fun to have a big group here - many from my home club! 
 Fitz & Fritz are pumped for their first World Cup! 

Apparently Reese has been training too hard seeing that his muscles are too big for the WC race bib! 

USST Girls on the travel day from QC to Canmore. Going to Tim Hortons, per Canadian tradition! 

(This is an article that I wrote previously for the NNF website, re-posted here, on my blog) 

The first four weeks of the 2012-2013 World Cup season are in the bag - and they (FIS, the rest of the World) are calling our start to the winter the "American Revolution."  No, they are not referring to the historical event where the Colonies joined together to break free from the British Empire. Instead, they are talking about the American women's ability to turn heads and turn heads we are.....  So far this season we have five medals including the first 4x5 relay performance, the first (and second) US women's distance skiing podium, the first team sprint win and many "best ever" moments. While the lack of daylight in Lapland may have been tough for some of my teammates that can come sunnier locales it sure didn't stop us from skiing fast!  So far we’ve raced in Muonio Finland, Gallivare Sweden, Kuusamo Finland & most recently in downtown Quebec City. I am currently on cloud nine sitting 8th overall in the distance World Cup standings. In the first race alone I accomplished one of my most ambitious goals that I thought would take an entire season to tackle. In a 10k skate race I finished 5th overall, less than three seconds from the podium and in the company of World and Olympic Champions. I suppose it’s time to revisit the drawing board.

For me, this season represents an entirely different world. I have one full season of World Cup racing under my belt and another season of quality Alaska dry land training in my bones. I'm familiar with the scene, the travel, I know other people on the circuit….  I'm racing World Cup venues having "been there before." The heightened level of confidence is palpable on our team. When we walk into the dining room we do so with our head's held high.... we look people square in the eyes, we’re having fun! Media from other countries are requesting interviews and photos.  Everyone wants to know what our “secret” is, what we did over the summer to improve so much.  Funny enough, there is no secret - just hard work, dedication and a little bit of belief.

Personally, I believe that success is like the flu; it’s contagious. Once you get a small dose of it, it's much easier to believe in yourself, your abilities and your performance. When you see one of your teammates doing well you think, "Hey, I can keep up with them in double pole roller ski intervals" or I can do "just as many pull ups as them" therefore, if they can pull a top ten result in the World Cup, maybe I can too?!?!  This is where American skiing stands right now - this is the essence of the Revolution. As a ski nation, we are starting to believe in our talents and our abilities.  We see our competitors as friends, rather than superior, European athletes. 

The rest of the world is noticing that we're on a roll.  As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the way to slow us down. Go Alaska! Go Team USA!!!! 

 Thanks for reading and thanks so much for the continued support - CHEERS! 
Holly :) 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A bit of International Media....

So, historically our sport has been, and continues to be a bigger deal overseas. Case in point, yesterday I was looking over someone's shoulder on the Finn Air flight and there were huge pictures of the Finnish skiers in the newspaper. I was dying to know what the article said.... we certainly miss out on a lot not being able to speak German, Swedish or Norwegian. But, we are starting to turn a couple heads and have done a handful of Interviews with the International Media.  The women's team strong start to the season has gotten a lot of attention and everyone is trying to figure out what our secret is! 

Take this cartoon - on the FIS website this morning! 

We also had an interview in the Swedish media.... 

It's hard to see on the Fasterskier site but here in the hilarious "google translated" version with some PRICELESS quotes!  Now.... about that "Obese Sponsorship!" 

They belong to one of the world's best
national team.
But at home in the U.S., they are totally
Now working Kikkan Randall, Liz
Stephen and the other American women
very hard to spread
skiing in North America.
At the same suit that
Norrbotten thanks for all the help on
- Charlotte Kalla is absolutely wonderful,
She is so incredibly helpful,
they say to NSD.
Sunday 25 november. Women's relay
in Gällivare VC premiere is on
way to get a resolution.
Marit Bjørgen takes little unexpected Norway
Case first. Then Charlotte
Call in second spot for Sweden.
But behind it is a hard
battle for third place. Jessica Diggins
against Marthe Kristoffersen, USA
against Norway 2.
Diggins know several times how
dryer disappears and the legs fold
itself. But the 21-year-old from Minnesota
refuses to give up. She knows she can
write history. And she does.
This is the first time a U.S.
women's team stands on the podium in the relay race
a World Cup.
And lyckotårarna runs.
"Love Kalles caviar"
Sunday, December 2. Kikkan
Randall and Liz Stephen has just
come home to her cottage situated
a few hundred meters from the ski stadium
Ruka in Kuusamo outside. They are worn
after a tough weekend and planning a quiet
evening. Maybe a nice dinner and some
good TV series. Modern Family and
Grey's Anatomy belong to the favorites.
- And so it will be some spicy food.
We have a strong season from home,
that's probably what they miss most
Here in Europe, says Kikkan Randall.
- But there are very good here. I
love Kalles caviar. I can eat
much anywhere and I do not
have no bread, says Liz Stephen
and laughs.
U.S. women have had a dream start
the ski season.
Kikkan Randall, which is the seasoned
"Big sister" of the team, was third
ten-kilometer charge in Gällivare last
weekend. In Kuusamo, she came second in the
five kilometers freely and fifth overall
on the mini tour.
Holly Brooks was fifth in Gällivare
Liz Stephen finished second in rehearsal in Muonio,
Jessica Diggins twelfth of five kilometers
freely in Kuusamo ...
But what strikes maximum - for them
all - is this the third spot on the relay
in Gällivare.
- It was absolutely fantastic, it beats everything
other things I've done as a skier, says
Kikkan Randall inter alia
has a World Championship silver in the sprint from Liberec
- But this was better, just getting
do it together with the other
Living in suitcase
At home in the U.S. is not cross-country
any major sport. And the U.S.
riders far from some celebrities.
- Could we win a race on the World Cup
we will be happy if it comes
a notice in the newspaper. For a OSguld
maybe we could get a picture as well,
says Randall.
- But now the races on any
kind of website online anyway. My
parents sat in front of the computer at half
three in the night, says Liz Stephen.
American Ornamental live their lives in
portmanteau. The majority of the year, they are on
traveling in Europe, Asia and North America.
They'll rarely home between
races. Nor do they have any
high wages or obese sponsorship agreement that
- It's part of the job to be out and
pick up different sponsors. But we are lucky
Nevertheless, the girls in the B team may pay all
their trips themselves. Imagine having to sit
and worrying about whether you can afford to
stay in Europe for another week, says
- And we have great fun together
the team. Otherwise, it would probably
been harder to travel so much. Now
we have each other and we are like a big
Family says Randall.
The American
girls are working very hard
to launch
the sport at home.
They go around
in schools, lecture
and preaches skiing.
The hope
is that little girls
across the U.S.
to open their eyes
for skiing.
- I got an email
from a man to a
while ago who told me he dragged
up her four-year daughter in the middle of
night to watch a ski race
on the internet, when I was happy, says
Randall and laughs.
What are the secrets behind
the U.S. ski revolution?
There are many factors that play
in. One is cooperation with Sweden
in general - and Norrbotten
in particular.
The American girls have
been to Sweden several times and
trained with Charlotte Kalla and
the other Swedish national team.
They have a wax head from Koskullskulle
and is tight with Sweden
coach Lars Oberg
from Kalix.
- To get to train with Swedes
has been fantastic. Charlotte
is absolutely wonderful. A little shy
at first, but once you learn
know her, she is really funny,
says Liz Stephen and continues.
- And she is incredibly helpful.
There are no secrets
where not, we have learned a lot.
No confusion
Kikkan Randall also salute
herd manager Peter Johansson.
- He is amazing, I have
always good skiing when I compete.
We have had many great robbers before,
but as soon as they have done
progress with us as they leave
U.S. to any other country. It
's great that Peter believes in us
and want to be left behind.
Randall also had Lars Oberg
the wax head of U.S. 2002nd
- It's fun to see him out here
among paths. It appears
that it goes well for him
captain of Sweden.
Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen
to, via NSD
send a thank you
throughout Norrbotten.
- We s s t units
the "thank you
much, "said
Kikkan Randall
and start writing.
One need
not just write

We've touched down in Quebec City after four flights and nearly 24 hours of travel. There's no snow here in QC but I'm excited for this morning's exploratory run! More soon. Thanks for reading! 
Holly :) 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ruka Ruka Ruka

Two races down, one to go - hence, the Ruka Triple title. This will be short because I need to get some zzzz's for tomorrow's crazy race.  Basically, we have the ENTIRE women's team starting in the first 24 starters!  (There were 90 girls at the beginning of the Tour!)  The first two day's results are compiled and then we have a staggered start - first one across the line wins, and wins big. (Something like 50k?) 

Anyways, I've been slacking on my picture taking because it's been pretty darn cold but here are a couple of recent shots: 

 Ida in the inflatable ice-tub after her awesome classic sprint race 

Noah with the foam roller after his career-best in the Ruka 10k skate! 

 They love their reindeer here in Finland! I think I ate his brother for lunch.... they had incredible reindeer soup in the FIS Family tent! 

 The cool thing about Ruka is that it's a ski-festival atmosphere with cross country, nordic combined, special jumping - and lots of fun things for spectators and fans to do and see! The fireworks show during my evening run was a nice surprise! 

 The essence of the "World Cup."  Lots of Nation's competing.... 

 Santa, Mrs. Claus, the Sleigh & Rudolph

 Why, Hello! 

Skate race today, compliments of Nordic Focus & Salomon :) 

Good nite! 
h :)