Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An "Orphan Christmas" + Photos!

This was my 3rd Christmas spent in Europe and this year I was lucky enough to have Rob join me - special thanks to my Aunt Karen who helped out with miles to avoid the crazy expensive last minute ticket! (#lifesaver!)  

I titled the post "Orphan Christmas"because many of us spend the holidays without our families. We do the best we can with skype, navigating bad Internet connections and wild time differences. There are certainly novel things about spending the holidays in Europe but it doesn't make missing my family any easier. The nice thing about this year is that Rob and I had an apartment so we could cook what we wanted (Mexican!) and eat breakfast in our PJs.  Sometimes its the small, silly things that make you feel good - like doing dishes? Funny the things you miss when your life revolves around a hotel and their schedule. 

Davos isn't a bad place to spend the Holidays.... even if it's a low snow year and it rains on Christmas! 

My best Christmas Present 

Drink with Rob at the Klatsch - a Davos must if you ever come... 

 Classic L4 intervals 

 Celine (Norway), me, Jessie & Sadie 

 Watching two different winter sports LIVE in Europe! 

 Dasha with her bro Lenny and his girlfriend Sabrina showing off their Asiago cheese upon their return from the World Cup races in Asiago, Italy. 

 One of my highlights was making a God Jul (Merry Christmas in Norwegian) commercial with many of the other World Cup skiers from different countries. We filmed it up at the top of Sertig, a dead end valley in Davos. I'm in the black coat sandwiched between Therese Johaug & Marit Bjorgen!  In this photo we're actually huddled around the producer's computer watching a "draft" of the commercial! 

 95 Swiss Francs for this piece of meat at the grocery store!  While Davos is nice my bank account is glad we're leaving. Even groceries and cooking at home will break the bank! 

 Out best attempt at a Holiday Card! 

 The Grubers! (Friends & Swiss Skiers)  Bettina trained with us in AK this past summer. 

 When given access to a kitchen Jessie is a baking fiend! Here she is with a Christmas Cookie spread for gift exchange #2 in Davos. This time we invited other "Orphans" who were spending Christmas in Davos away from home. This included Canadians Deven Kershaw & Alex Harvey plus 3 Norwegians who were spending their first-ever Christmas away from home. Here is Finn Hagen Krogh with his white elephant gift - a USA shirt! 

Group Pic with our gifts: 

 Looking for a fun Christmas Breakfast? Try making Bircher Museli, a Swiss tradition! 

It's easy..... Mix together raw oats (whole oat flakes, cornflakes, barley flakes - really any cereal products) Milk, yogurt, banana, raisins. Use a large scale grater for apple (this is a traditional must) then add spices, nuts and/or sugar to taste. Mix all ingredients together the night before and let the museli sit in the fridge. Eat cold and enjoy! Merry Christmas from Davos, Switzerland!

 We were also lucky enough to be invited to Jurg Capol's house for Christmas Eve dinner. Jurg is an ex-Swiss skier and currently the head of FIS Marketing for all Nordic Sports. It was REALLY nice to have a home-cooked meal in a house. Thanks to the Capols for inviting us! 

 Kikkan, Noah, Jessie, Jeff & Ida at dinner 

They cooked Turkey (because they read online that's what Americans eat for Xmas dinner) as well as an assortment of local dishes.  For dessert they surprised us with a slew of Ben & Jerrys ice cream!  

 Not much snow here! Thank goodness for artificial snow because without it I'm not sure we would have been skiing the past two weeks! 

 Strength in the ever-so-small Davos weight room (Hoff pic) ..... me & Liz getting our balance on! 

Davos Xmas market (another Hoff picture) 

What's next? The team departs shortly after noon for Oberhof, Germany and the first two stage of the Tour de Ski - at least we think.  The races were borderline as there is NO snow in Oberhof and it's too warm to make it.  But, apparently they are going to make some modification to the course and hold the races. The OC (organizing committee) has collected snow from all over Germany and they're storing it in the indoor ski tunnel?  Stay tuned as I'm sure this will be entertaining.  I'm just glad they didn't cancel the races because my change of plans (staying in Europe for the holidays) was for the purpose of racing the first half of the Tour. Wish us luck! 

Thanks for reading & Happy (early) New Years! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A 220 lb. Christmas Present.....

This is Rob:
He has severe jet lag. You may be wondering why? When I sat down this spring & summer I thought it would be great to spend Christmas in the US. I'd get a training break, an altitude block (in PC) and eat Mexican food at Cafe Rio everyday. I had it all planned out. Until everything changed of course. Such is the life of a skier. 

Racing the 15k this past Saturday in Davos (pic Bryan Fish/Andrew Morehouse) 

One of the disadvantages of living so far away from the World Cup is that we're made to forecast our plans way in advance. We buy plane tickets without knowing what kind of race shape we'll be in. We try to guess how the season will unfold and plan accordingly.  Had the first couple weekends of the World Cup gone spectacularly I would have been happy as a clam to climb onto a plane and jump time zones.  But, at this point I feel that my body needs more time to come around and more opportunities to race. Had I gone "home" to Utah that would leave with me with just three race weekends before the Olympics and only a few guaranteed starts.  When it came time to make a decision I decided that I work too hard in the off season to not give myself the best opportunity possible to bring home some good results. Hence, the last minute scramble of my ticket change, Rob's ticket change, last minute accommodations over Christmas in Switzerland, etc, etc. 

It wouldn't be Switzerland without the long Alps Horns

The Tour de Ski has always been a fickle event for me. Two years ago I simply didn't get on the plane home from Slovenia back to Alaska.... I changed my plans last minute because I was racing well and the USST (which I was not yet a member of) invited me to start the Tour.  All of this only for me to fall on the ice Christmas Eve & break my wrist. While I didn't know it was officially broken until halfway through the Tour I finished all 9 stages/11 days much to my demise.

Last year I completed the Tour for a second time, bones fully intact. But rather than give me a boost in fitness which is what we hoped for I felt as if it tanked me for the entire middle part of the season, World Champs included. 

So, I'm crossing my fingers that the Third time will be a charm!  I'm hoping that my slower start will lead to a strong mid-season. I've also cut out all travel (No trips to Canada or the US). I'm taking this upcoming race weekend in Asiago, Italy off to use it for rest & a training block. My initial plan is to complete only the first FOUR stages of the Tour which covers two stops first in Oberhof, Germany followed by Lenzerheide, Switzerland. 

What about the races this past weekend? Well, the distance race was so so. I was 25th which isn't too shabby but considering it's one of my favorite races I was hoping for more. But, it's a move in the right direction.  On Sunday I was bummed to miss the heats by .4 seconds - I finished in 33rd place just over 4 seconds behind Denise Hermann, the winner of qualification.  I'm not entirely sure but I think that this might go down in the books as one of the tightest women's sprint qualifications ever!  Two years ago when we raced the same course in similar conditions the spread was 9 seconds! (Come up with your favorite theory for this one....) 

There's plenty more to say and tons more pictures to post but in the meantime I'll leave you with just a few as it's time to go to bed! 

 Not a huge fan of some of the facilities here.... this "outhouse" featured two literal "troughs" for going to the bathroom. I think it could accommodate 6 people at one time. 

 When in Switzerland eat a pate mountain!

 Rob riding the rail car to the top of Parseen for a view 

 Chandra & Dasha for a quick afternoon excursion

 Watching the sprint heats with Dash

 Last but not least a special thanks to Erik Flora for making the trip over to Davos to see us. It's really really nice to have your personal coach around. Getting to ski & having him be able to watch actual energy levels rather than just talking on skype was awesome.

More soon! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Patience, Opportunities & my favorite place in Europe

The Gnomes of Lillehammer 

So far this season has not been what I expected whatsoever. It's been a slow start for me and poor results, or lack of results can do weird things to the mindset of a professional ski racer.  In the past I have always started the season strong, admittedly (sometimes) too strong. While my goal has always been to race the fastest come February during the Olympics, I'd certainly like to be turning in some confidence boosting results early on.  Person after person keeps telling me to be patient, and that maybe my slow start is a good thing. An anonymous athlete told me that their motto was a crescendo..... (Italian translation is "gradually becoming louder) to start slow and then build more and more momentum as the season progresses. 

Patience was never my strong suit and as an athlete it's tough to wait after you've worked so hard. It's easy to allow doubt to creep into your mind: did I do too much this summer, have I under-rested, should I have done more intervals in October, maybe less? 

I have learned that if you don't make a conscious decision to tame your mind that it will and can get out of control.  Instead, I am doing everything in my power to keep faith, know that I have done the hard work, and wait for it to come, hence exhibit patience.  In the meantime, I'm taking charge of things I can control - my rest, my nutrition, my ski selection and what I choose to do with my time when I'm not skiing.  

Lucky for me this week we are in Davos, my favorite stop on the World Cup.  The race venue has historically treated me well. In the skate distance races I've been 13th and 20th and I've qualified in both skate and classic sprints.  The sun is out, the sky is blue, the snow is cold and the USST is at our "home away from home," the Kulm where the team has been staying for going on 20 years.  Each year when we walk in the front door we are welcomed by Heinz, the enthusiastic host who remembers each of us by name and greets us with a big hug. 

So, despite a slower than usual start I feel like I'm still in the game and something good is yet to come. Thanks to those of you who've sent notes of encouragement when things are less than perfect. You know who you are and I am really thankful to have you in my life! 

I hope that things are great with you and yours and thanks for reading. 

Here are a couple of other pictures from the last week for good measure: 

 KR 20 Klister tubes being filled by a machine at the Swix headquarters in Lillehammer. It was really fun to get a tour of the facility and cool that wax is still made IN Norway! 

 USST Swix Female athletes with Morton, one of the Swix World Cup technicians

 Norway is all about their fish. The buffet in Lillehammer was a bit out of control with almost 20 different kinds of fish and ways to eat fish at lunch & dinner. (Many at breakfast too!) 

 Sunday post-race strength sesh at Haakon's Hall in Lillehammer. 

 One of my favorite things - skyping with my boys! 

This final shot is from tonight... this is 2/3 of the weight room in Davos. If you can't tell by the picture it is TINY. It is not very fancy either.  This afternoon we had athletes from SIX different nations crammed into one tiny spot to train.  The coolest part about it was that everyone was getting it done - helping each other out, being patient and waiting their turn. No one got hit in the head or smashed with a medicine ball. It was certainly organized chaos but the camaraderie, not to mention motivation was palpable. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

When in Lillehammer....

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday - the Internet crashed ENTIRELY at our hotel and anyone without 3G access has no way of communicating with the outside world!  I'm currently staked out at the Lillehammer race venue using the Internet briefly before lunch. It's a full on snow storm outside and so far, it's showing no sign of stopping!

This weekend we have a classic 10k individual start race and a team relay. I personally had a pour opening World Cup weekend in Kuusamo which as a huge disappointment but I'm really happy to say that the US will be starting not one but TWO female relay teams on Sunday here in Norway. (Yes, Norway may have four but we'll have TWO!)  I'm looking forward to another chance to put my hard work to the test and the new tracks in the Lillehammer Stadium ('94 Olympic site!) will be a challenge! 

While I'm not ecstatic about my results thus far I do have to say that this comment on my facebook page lightened my day.  Don Haering was one of my athletes when I coached at West High School and today he is an APU employee. Don't worked on Eagle Glacier, as a coach, and as a wax technician for APU. (After he graduated from the University and the team)  I'm really proud to say that lots of the athletes I coached are still in the sport and one of them is my current teammate at APU! (Funny how things change?)  Nonetheless, thanks DON for the note and I really appreciate your appreciation! 

Here are a couple of photos from the past few days: 
 Leaving Finland.... 

 Each meal in Norway features approximately 20 different ways and types to eat fish - smoked, cooked, baked, caviar, locks, etc, etc. It's wild. 

Yesterday we took advantage of being in Lillehammer and went for a tour of the SWIX factory. I've been a Swix athlete for quite some time now and it's really, really fun to see how wax is made. 

 This machine filled the tubes with klister (KR20?) and then clamped the tubes shut, put them in boxes, etc, etc.... it was really fun to see! 

Here is a panorama of the factory.  Swix will be moving into a new building in approximately two years because they've outgrown their current one. I'm glad to hear that business is good and they are very proud that they've managed to keep a big part of their production here in Norway (one of the most expensive countries in the world) as opposed to taking it all overseas. 

Time for lunch but I hope that the Internet gets back to business so I can write more! Best to all of you - have a great weekend and I'll try to do the same! 

Holly :)