Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Wheels & Ladies in Town! (Oh... and AK Fish Season!)

Hey All! Happy Mid-July! Can you believe it? The summer is just whizzing by. But first..... I received a shiny new package the other day...... a BRAND NEW sporty, useful, awesome Toyota RAV4 to drive for the next year (or at least when I'm training in town!) I have to say, it takes some getting used to driving a car with your name on the side but especially since I drove my old car for almost TWELVE years the "new car smell" is rocking my world. I totally love this thing and apparently everyone else does too because they're flying off the lot at Kendall Toyota just as fast as they can get them! 

In front of Kendall Toyota! 

Never thought I'd be cruising in something like this but I'll take it!  (Note: most frequent comment thus far: "Where is the pony tail on the skier?" Answer: "Well, I'm all about aero-dynamics so it's tucked into the back of my hat!) 

Lost Lake! 

Cruising the strip in Seward after running Lost Lake with a big group of friend. Swiss skier Bettina Gruber is in town to train for a while and it's been super fun training with her. Always fun when your worlds collide and "World Cup Friends" meet "Alaska Friends!"

They don't have Jerky in Switzerland so we stopped at this roadside stand for Bettina to buy gifts for people at home! 


....... Then, Girl's Camp Started!  A couple years ago we started NAWTA which stands for "North American Women's Training Alliance."  It used to primarily be team USA and Canada. Lately it's morphed into an International affair which is super fun. It's great to exchange ideas and make new friends. We find that having one skier from a country is a bit like a gateway drug and by means of becoming friends with them, we can more easily befriend the entire team.

Left to right... upper row: Erik Flora, Mike Matteson, Norma (massage) Astrid Jacobsen (NOR), Rosie Brennan, Heather Mooney, Emily Hannah, Kate Fitz, Matt Whitcomb Lower: Jessie Diggs, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargaent, Lauren Fritz, Annika Miller. Not pictured but also at intervals Becca Rorabaugh & Swiss Bettina Gruber! 

ADN Article about the camp

 In addition to training in Alaska the girls get a cultural experience as well - take special notice of the bumper sticker on this car!

 Last night we ran the bluff trail to the beach

Two nights ago we went over to the Knapp families house for the second annual dinner and first annual game night. The Knapps have always been incredible supporters of skiing and of course, skiers themselves. Alice and Christina cooked up a feast for us and it was a super fun evening.

We broke up into teams and did some "Alaskan Challenges"
 Here is Astrid Jacobsen balancing people on her back after their team saw how many times they could fold a blue tarp without stepping off it!

 Kikkan had to walk to the "bathroom" in the dark and then hit her teammate with water.

 Here is Jessie, Norma & myself doing the fish toss. After each successful triangle we had to take a step back and huck this semi-rotten fish at each other and catch it!

 These girls had to duck tape these skis to their feet and race across the grass!

 Christina made a gorgeous, delicious cake for our group!

Christina and Alice Knapp with Bettina Gruber and Astrid Jacobsen. Thanks for hosting us Knapps! :)
(Gunnar, so sorry to miss you!)

Post skate intervals, Kincaid

Training has been going well and it's been fun having such a big, high level group of girls to train with. Today we did skate speeds and Erik Hill, ADN Photographer came out to shoot our group. Check out his photos HERE

This weekend the camp will fly into Eagle Glacier for a week of on snow training. I'm really looking forward to it!

On a completely different note.... while training camp is going on it's simultaneously FISH season in Alaska. According to Fish and Game the past couple days over 220,000 Sockeye Salmon swam up the Kenai River. This partially explains why Rob slayed them!  But really, our family and specifically, Rob's parents eat a lot of wild, Alaskan Salmon and the time is now to catch/process & smoke them. 

Read more here:
Bettina got a kick out of this truly Alaskan time of year. I can't think of anything more authentic for her visit to AK!

Not too many fish in SWISS!

Rob filleting dinner for girl's camp!

John & Sue, Rob's parents partaking in the work!

Bettina eating a freshly smoked salmon belly, straight out of the smoker! 
Our home made smoker, hard at work! I've been a bit self conscious about how I smell at training after tending to this thing! 

That's it for now. There will certainly be more to post about girl's camp and life otherwise. Thanks a ton for following along - you guys are the best! 

Holly :) 

 Oh yeah... and don't forget to follow me on twitter @brooksha1 
Someday I'll be technologically savvy enough to put a follow button at the end of one of my posts! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hard Decisions, Obvious Decisions

  This upcoming July 4th will be spent entirely different than my last couple. For the past four years I’ve raced Mt. Marathon in Seward, Alaska. Mount Marathon – they claim, is the Nation’s second oldest foot race behind the Boston Marathon and this year will be the 86th running. 

A photo of the Mountain from 1917 which was sent to me by my Aunt Karen. 

A current, race-day photo... you can spot racers on the left, up-track. The down trail is on the far right.

It’s a tradition for Alaskans on Independence Day and the small town of Seward swells from 3,000 people to 30,000 thousand overnight. While only 500 or so people actually compete in the race, the rest crowd main street eating ice cream, socializing, and watching the race unfold. For those unfamiliar with the format, the race starts on main street, runs 3,022 feet directly up a mountain, rounds a rock at the top and descends 3,022 feet. 

These stickers can be seen proudly displayed, all over town 

To put it in perspective top female racers take approximately 38 minutes to get to the top and last year Eric Strabel (Friend and APU coach) set a new downhill record by getting from the top of the mountain to the finish line on main street in a stunning ten minutes and eight seconds!

Practicing one of the potential race route UP Mt. Marathon... 

Racing down, 2011

Last year’s race had a tragic twist in that one man, Michael LeMaitre, disappeared entirely while another well-known Alaskan Mountain Runner fell down a cliff and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. (Recent front-page article on Matt Kenney in the Anchorage Daily News can be read HERE.)  Runner’s World took notice of the horrendous events and freelance journalist Christopher Salomon wrote an amazing piece titled, "The Last Man Up" which can be read HERE.  If you have time I highly recommend taking the time to read this.......

(Runner's World Photo) 

I don’t have a sparkling history with this race either.  In 2009 I was leading at the top of the mountain and midway down what Alaskan’s call “the gut” when I slowed, everything became foggy, and I passed out in the arms of Erik Flora’s mom directly in front of the Seward Emergency Room (ironically located on the race course). My eventual diagnosis was that I suffered from a rare form of exertional rhabdomyolsis.  In layman’s terms, severe muscle damage & potential kidney/renal failure. 

2009 saw near record temperatures and on the trip up the mountain I literally sweat out all the liquid in my body. The trip down features extreme eccentric loading on your body as parts of the course literally run down a waterfall…… some might describe it as a controlled fall and it’s all racers can do to descend as fast as possible without falling. Once the water from my body was dried up, the decent literally tore my muscles apart. Once in the Seward ER it took the medical staff literally an HOUR to start an IV in my arm. Funny enough, after the IV was started and my body soaked up a couple liters of fluid I checked myself out of the ER against the doctor’s orders to walk across the finish line and come back. (Because – if you don’t finish, you don’t have an automatic start the following year!)

APU Junior Tsaina Mahlen races past the Seward ER on the race course 

After reading this you might wonder, why in the heck would I even consider racing this race at all, let alone in an Olympic year? Well, the short of it is that Mount Marathon has signified some monumental moments in my life. Two days before my Mount Marathon debut in 2008 Rob and I got engaged – and then shared our happy news at the race with family and friends. 

Photo taken at the end of the 2008 race... our "Save the Date" magnet

In 2009 I suffered my accident and then proceeded to get married seven days later. A blood blister covered the diameter of my entire heel and my opposite big toe was enlarged with pussy fluid that I couldn’t fit into my high heels. Ultimately I burned a hole in my toenail with a red-hot safety pin and relieved the pressure, fitting into my bridal shoes just in the nick of time! (Sorry, that was graphic, I know.) 

Post 2011 race with Rob.... time for ice cream! 

My 2009 accident also had another side effect - an epiphany that struck me while I was laying in the Seward Emergency Room. I’ve honestly never had an idea hit me so hard… it was like something that you read about it books..... but the clarity of the idea was something that I’ll always remember. Hopped up on adrenaline and a bit loopy from the overall experience I decided then and there that I would try and make the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, literally seven months away. I temporarily kept this thought to myself until late August (2009) when I was finally healed from my "rhabdo" (as I affectionately called it) and decided to share the news with my coach (then boss), family & friends. 

This episode was almost four years ago to the day and if you're reading my blog, you probably know how much the decision to go after skiing full tilt has affected my life. Since my 2009 Mt. Marathon Injury I've raced in the Olympics, quit my job as a full time coach, and this year will be my second on the US Ski Team. While the Sochi Olympic team hasn't been named yet (and won't officially until Jan/2014) I'm putting all my energy towards racing there, peaking in February, and attempting to help make US Women's Cross Country Skiing history.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm not in a position to take any chances.... 

In Vancouver, 2010 

Last year's win! 

So, come July 4th 2013 you won't find me in Seward. As much as it seems like racing Mt. Marathon would feel like completing a circle - and my Olympic cycle, it's just too risky. I've worked too hard, made too many sacrifices, and dedicated too much of my time and energy to get injured on the Mountain and put my Sochi Olympic bid in jeopardy. This is the year for the Olympics and fortunately, every year is a year for Mount Marathon. 

The ambulance, waiting at the bottom of the cliff for those who might be injured.... 

Despite it's risks, I love the race dearly and while I won't have a bib on the fourth I'll be thinking about everyone who is participating and wishing, hoping, for a safe trip up AND down the mountain for each and every participant.  (First AND Last!)  I will most likely be off in the mountains somewhere else - only in a different direction, enjoying the raw beauty that makes Alaska home. 

Good luck to all the participants! Be safe and I'll see you next year - Mark my words! 
Holly ;) 

Happy Fourth!!! 

PS. Gumby races up and down the entire mountain..... that is impressive!