Sunday, October 14, 2012

October at Altitude!

The countdown has truly begun.... in just a short 29 days I will be headed on another 30-hour travel to Europe to kick off the 2012-2013 ski season. With less than a month to go, nerves and excitement are starting to brew in my belly and the anticipation is high.  

I find our sport to be qualitative to a fault.  It's usually this time of year when I start to wonder, am I fit? Have I prepared well enough? What page of the results will I be on for the first race of the season?  Unlike running, biking, or baseball we have comparatively few ways to measure our progress or improvements.  We don't measure wattage, we don't keep stats, and skiing isn't as simple as running a repeatable track workout. We can repeat intervals on roller skis but weather and temperature change the speed of the pavement up to 20%.  We can do a running test or a strength test but realistically, just because you can do more pull ups than 6 months ago doesn't guarantee that you're double pole is going to improve.  

Physiological testing at the USSA headquarters in Park City, Utah is just one of the reasons why US Ski Team members make an annual trip here to train come October.  The weather is generally beautiful, we can use the facilities at the Center of Excellence & we can "test" with the sports science department. On top of all this, we can take advantage of the opportunity to live & train at altitude.  In fact, as I type this, I am sitting at our condo in Deer Valley @ almost 9,000 feet! For those unfamiliar with altitude training it is basically a natural way of increasing your red blood cells & hemoglobin - both of which are responsible for carrying & delivering oxygen throughout your body.  All said and done I will have been here for a full 18 days which should be enough time to spike my hemoglobin. I took a test upon landing and will take another one just before departure to track the change. 

In addition to the hemoglobin tests I was scheduled to do a series of "max effort" tests on the ski treadmill to measure my Vo2max among other things.  Unfortunately, I'm suffering from a bit of an intercostal muscle pull and at this point, have been unable to test or use my left arm to it's full capacity.  Some of you may remember seeing this from a post I wrote in May: 

I was hoping to repeat this test (and see improvement!) but the priority is on fully healing my muscle so that I can do on-snow intervals in Alaska before departing for my first race in Munio, Finland!  One of the advantages of being near the COE is that we have in-house trainers & physical therapists.  I am seeing them daily and think that I should be 100% healed in no time! 

Aside from using the COE and testing, my trip to Utah has given me a much-needed change of scenery, pace, and WEATHER.  While the weather at home in Alaska had been quite "challenging" the weather in Utah has been gorgeous. It's motivating to get out the door and in fact, sometimes you have to keep an eye on your watch because it's tempting to stay outside all day! 

Last week I got to do something I've been wanting to do for a while now and that is climb Timpanogos, an 11,700 foot peak just an hours drive from Park City.  Lucky for me I got to climb it with a huge group of friends as it was part of my dear friend, Katie Ronsse's pre-wedding activities! 

The bride on the way to the summit! 

Our entire crew - all with either AK or skiing connections! Left to right: Katie, Me, Paige, Corky, Justin, Mandy, Julia & Shannon 

With my old training partner, Katie, at the summit!  (This is true Holly & Katie style - both with huge smiles and Katie doing the splits!) 

Another thing I've been able to take advantage of here in Utah is the FOOD.  I love ethnic food, particularly Mexican food.  There is plenty to be had here - you can see by the site of this salsa bar.... last week I also went to a farmer's market and just about died of happiness as there were fresh local fruits and veggies for REALLY affordable prices!

Post-training tamales! 

Skiing from Salt Lake City up Emigration.  We gained a couple thousand feet!

My coaches - Erik w/APU & Matt with USST

The boys train headed up the pass

Gorgeous Utah fall colors. 
(Special thanks to my husband, Rob Whitney for taking some awesome pictures!) 

Another huge highlight of the past week and a half was attending Katie and Justin's wedding.  Rob was able to join me for the wedding and a small respite from the Alaskan rain.  He was "happy as a clam" biking 8 hours a day on the extensive Park City mountain bike trails!

Katie with her father, Dennis - also the wedding officiant

The day after the wedding we were able to do one of the nicest road rides in Utah up highway 92 towards American Fork. The aspens were incredible and we had fun hanging out with Morgan and Chris! 

Biking with my hubby! 

Biking with Sadie! 

I have another four days here in Utah and its action packed with training sessions, physical therapy appointments, meetings with our new team sports psychologist & travel agent, getting outfitted with gear for the new season & an National Nordic Foundation fundraising meet & greet. (More on that and the Drive for 25 later!) 

In the meantime, for all you folks up in Alaska - we're having a fun(d) run for Mary this upcoming Sunday!  I hope to see some of you there! Please help spread the word: 

That's it for now from Utah! Smiles & thanks for reading, 
Holly :)