Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Taking on the FIS World Loppet Marathon Series - ALONE!

Taking on the FIS World Loppet Marathon Series - ALONE

Typing the title of this blog solicits two very different responses from me. The first excitement, the second terror.  

Many would say that I had a good thing going with the US Ski Team and I did. Being on the World Cup is awesome.  The races and competition are top notch. Coaches take care of ALL the logistics spanning pre-race meetings to driving the van - even thinking ahead to where the athletes will eat their next meal. I had a full time ski tech whose sole job it was to wax my skis and full access to the tech team. I had the best teammates anyone could ever ask for. We shared in the triumph and the turmoil. They are training partners, friends, and while on the road, family. The only thing I really had to worry about and plan for was my skiing. 

2 yr old USST photo (pre-Soph) photo credit, Reese Hanneman

So if you didn't think I was crazy before, perhaps you think I am now for leaving all this and more behind. But, as I've explained in previous posts, I'm ready for a new challenge and the upcoming winter will be just that. My ski marathon goals call upon me to schedule and book all my own travel arrangements, accommodations & meals. I have to figure out who will wax my skis and how to realistically schlep an entire race fleet of skis around Europe alone. (In the past my race fleet has consisted of 30 pairs, all different.)  The other day someone well meaning asked if it was an option to wax my own skis. I paused and threw out the comparison of a NASCAR driver being their own pit crew - literally getting out of their race car and switching all four tires themselves while other fully supported racers speed off leaving the unsupported racer in the dust. At this level, it simply isn't possible. 

Photo credit: Rob Whitney 

On top of all the organizational obstacles is the financial burden of funding this endeavor. Life at home is expensive enough as it is let alone jet-setting around the world from Alaska to Italy to Alaska to Austria, to Italy to France, to Wisconsin (USA) to Poland to Switzerland to Norway, and finally back to the states for a season finale in Sun Valley, Idaho before returning home at the beginning of April. (WHEW!)  An average plane ticket to Europe alone from Alaska is $2200 if you make reservations well in advance.  That is just the start.

The goal and the dollars to make it happen are enough to make anyone's stomach churn however I am an optimist at heart and while I haven't figured out the details of how I plan to do this, I have a certain amount of faith that somehow, someway it will work out. I am excited about the prospects of taking on the Marathon scene full time and hope/think/hope again that people can get behind this special project. I plan to race 7 of the 9 scored races and hope to finish in the overall top 3.  Perhaps it's my Alaskan pioneering spirit that propels me to this uncharted territory or my upbringing where my parents told me that "anything is possible" and that, "If you don't ask or try the answer is NO." 

I look forward to the challenge and I look forward to sharing the journey with anyone who is interested in hearing about it. The races and countries that I plan to travel to are fabulous destinations and I hope that through my racing experiences I will help open the door for other Americans to travel abroad as well! I know that I may be preaching to the choir on my blog here but I will stand by my statement that cross country skiing is the single best cardiovascular exercise on the planet. Racing goals be it competitive or otherwise are a great reason to get out of bed in the morning and to the trails or gym. In the depth of the dark winter, particularly in Alaska these small moments, workouts and goals become lifesavers; literally and figuratively. My passion is to inspire dreams and healthy lifestyles for others and this project is my means to do it!  

If you or anyone you know are interested in helping this dream goal become a reality please do not hesitate to contact me at brooksha@gmail.com 

*A special "Thank you" to all of my current and previous sponsors - without you, none of this journey would have been possible! 

Frequent flyer miles, European contacts, and lunch money are all appreciated :) 

My proposed racing schedule for the winter of 2014-2015: 
(Includes 7 of the 9 scored World Loppet races) 

                FIS World Loppet La Sgambeda, 42k Free, Livigno, Italy (Dec 12)
                FIS World Loppet Dolomitenlauf, 60k Free, Austria (Jan 18) 
                FIS World Loppet & Swix Ski Classic Marcialonga 70k C, Italy (Jan 25) 
                FIS World Loppet La Transjurassienne 68k Free, France (Feb 8) 
                American Birkiebeiner! (FIS World Loppet) 50k Free (Feb 21) 
                FIS World Loppet Bieg Piastow 50k Classic, Poland (Mar 1) 
                FIS World Loppet Engadin Ski Marathon 42k skate, Switzerland (Mar 8) 
                FIS World Cup 30k Holmenkollen??? Oslo, Norway (Mar 15)
                Swix Ski Classic Birkiebeiner 54k Classic, Norway (Mar 21) 
                US Spring Nationals, Sun Valley ID (Mar 20-26)

If you're curious to learn more about the FIS World Loppet Scene check out their website HERE. 

In the meantime, I've been busy with my community involvement initiatives working as a healthy here for the Healthy Futures program. I've also been neck-deep in organizing the 6th annual Fast and Female event here in Anchorage. Check back in soon for a full report on that!

 Wearing my cape at the North Anchorage Elementary School Running Jamboree! 

 My neighbor representing :) 

 Just one of the SEVEN races at the North Elementary School Running Jamboree! Great to start healthy habits early on! 

 LIVE on KTVA Channel 11Air, 6am to promote the Anchorage Edition of Fast and Female!

Plenty of company in Chugach State Park

What blog post is complete without a picture of Buggz? 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fast & Female 6th Annual Anchorage!!!!

Fast and Female 2014 CHAMP CHAT Anchorage Edition 
presented by Anchorage Women's Clinic
Fast & Female is Proud to Present an Afternoon of Athletic Inspiration and Fun Hosted by the Olympians Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks, and Sadie Bjornsen for Girls 9-19!
WHEN: Sunday, September 28th from 12-3pm **Check In begins at 11:45**
WHERE: East Anchorage High School (Pool Entrance)
SCHEDULE: Welcome Activities, Exploration Stations, Ambassador Intros, Inspirational Stories, Dance, Poster Signing and a Farewell Hug!
NEW THIS YEAR for the High School girls there will be Breakout sessions to include injury prevention, nutrition, athlete panel & killer core session! The athlete panel will have professional athletes, college athletes and other athletes. Bring your questions and get them answered! 

Champ (ages 9-13)
11:45 Registration opens
12:00 - 1:30 Experience stations
1:30 - 1:45 Welcome & Ambassador Intros
1:45 - 2:15 Fitness & Dance
2:15 - 2:45 Healthy snacks & Inspirational Chats
2:45 - 3:00 Autographs & Farewell 
Teen Champ (ages 14-19)
11:45 Registration opens
12:00 - 12:45 Experience stations
12:45 - 2:15 Breakout sessions
2:15 - 2:45 Healthy snacks & Inspirational Chats
2:45 - 3:00 Autographs & Farewell 
Coach and Parent Seminar
12:45 - 2:15 Coach and Parent Seminar (guest speakers on injury prevention, nutrition and sports psychology)
2:15 - 2:45 Healthy snacks & Inspirational Chats
2:45 - 3:00 Autographs & Farewell 

WHO: Girls 9-19 who love sports! All abilities welcome, invite your friends too!
HOSTS: World Champion Kikkan Randall, Olympians Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen, and the Amazing Ambassadors from APU Ski Team and UAA Collegiate Team!
RSVP: Register here on Eventbrite to let us know you'll be coming. All pre-registered participants will take home a special F&F keepsake. Online registration ends September 27th at noon. You can register the day of the event for $30. 
New this year! COACH and PARENT SEMINAR from 12:30-2.This seminar to open to both male and female coaches and parents. Guest speakers on injury prevention, nutrition for young athletes and sports psychology.  Parents will be able to join in for the snacks and inspirational talks portion of the main event as well. Please register online! 

**SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE** No questions asked! Please email Abby Weissman (aweissman@fastandfemale.com) for more information.

***COMPLETE POST-EVENT ONLINE SURVEY FOR CHANCE TO WIN PRIZES*** After the event we will send out a post-event survey. Everyone who completes it within 48 hours will be entered to win a Lululemon Hoodie and other prizes! Look for this email after the event!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Awesome and more Awesome.

So.... I will let you, the reader choose which part of this blog is "awesome" and "more awesome."  

First and foremost, it's only THREE weeks until our annual Anchorage Fast and Female event!  We've been putting together quite the afternoon for the girls of Alaska and we'd love help spreading the word. There is nothing worse than running into people after the event who would have loved to come but just didn't hear about it. 

We're looking for participants, volunteers and ambassadors - please sign up for the fun-filled, totally awesome day!  The registration link can be found HERE. This year (by popular demand) we're bringing back the parent/coaches clinic. New this year will be a separate break out session for high school aged girls with speakers on nutrition, injury prevention, a killer core workout and a panel of successful female athletes spanning NCAA to Professional Sports. Girls will get a chance to interact and get their questions answered. 

This is a MULTI SPORT event and every girl ages 9-19 is encouraged to attend!  If you'd like to volunteer we're always looking for help. 
Second.... this past weekend was awesome and I'm happy to report, I accomplished my goal of not racing!  There is a huge part of me that knows how much I'd like ultra racing but for now, it will have to wait. I certainly wonder how fast I could have run the 30 miles / 50k but I will have plenty of time later in life to test myself at this distance on feet rather than skis.  Skis are the focus right now and although my race "time" was a long 5:55 I kept a reasonable training pace (with the exception of the last 3 miles when I decided I wanted to get a sub-6 hour time) which should allow me to bounce back quickly and resume normal training right away.  For preventative purposes I will focus on roller skiing, ski erg, biking and lifting weights for the first two days post Kesugi. 

The following are a couple of photos for the weekend. Thanks so much to Andrea and Dave who put a lot of time and soul into making this event happen. Everyone had an AWESOME time! 

All smiles pre-race. Woke up to sunshine after zero-viz, ultimate faith drive North Friday..... 
Harlow, Holly, Matias, Chris, Ben & Jim

 The official race map! Yep.... lots of good info. 

 Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures Executive Director Harlow Robinson! 



 Around mile 12 or so? 

 This wonderful crew hosted an incredible feed station at the half way point! They had Gatorade, salt tablets, cookies, fruit snacks, oranges and more. Also included, killer cheering. Thanks all! :) 

 Looking back at Skinny Lake 

 Much of the ridge trail is marked by cairns. Little tarns are interspersed along the way.  We saw the Summit of Denali during the drive but for the race, it was hidden. Honestly it was probably better that way because the trail is incredibly technical. If you're rubber necking too much you'd trip and fall on your face! 

 Byer's lake had amazing high bush cranberries everywhere. I've never seen them so plentiful. These went directly in the freezer with the plan to make some Alaskan cranberry sauce at a later time... 

 Warm enough to jump in post race! 

The mountain made an appearance in all it's glory Sunday!  Iphone cameras don't even begin to do McKinley justice. It was incredible in person. I suppose you had to be there :) 

Special thanks to my husband Rob for taking all these photos, shuttling the car for racers, and carrying an extra bottle & some food for me. 

More soon. In the meantime have a great week! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

A glutton for punishment!

A quick post as I'm about to head out of town for the weekend. I believe that the infamous "Climb to the Castle" Roller ski race is tomorrow.... although I've heard rumors that it might not be re-paved in time? (I also hear many people may secretly be celebrating!)  One of these days I'd love to head to Placid and race the hill climb and I suppose that means I'm a true Glutton for punishment. However, tomorrow I have my own painful plans. Months ago I decided that I'd sign up for the second annual Kesugi Ridge Race. Kesugi is a gorgeous ridge paralleling the Alaska Highway. In good weather and clear visibility Denali and the entire Alaska Range is in full view. It's downright gorgeous. It's also 30 miles of undulating, difficult mountain terrain.  

 Katie on Kesugi - Panoramic! 

The race was limited to the first 60 registrants and this year it sold in the blink of an eye.  At the time I thought this would be a great goal - a good push to really get my running legs underneath me and a great transition to long distance training and racing; the theme of the upcoming winter. However, life happens and I have not gotten the mountain running miles that I need to tackle an obstacle like this. While I'd love to just put my head down and charge the race anyways I've learned my lesson a couple of times this spring/summer about racing. That is, if you're not properly prepared and race anyways you'll pay consequences by means of needing long periods of recovery. Or worse, you'll injury yourself and be paying the consequences (yet again) for months to come. 

Fresh off the plane from Europe and my Olympic racing season I decided it would be fun to race the 50k Oosik classic in Talkeetna. Even though I didn't "race" I skied it fast with Rob and friends. My elbows started bugging me 15k into the race but sometimes when I put a bib on my brain fails to think intelligently. I kept going. At the end of the race I couldn't undress myself as I couldn't lift my arms without searing pain. This injury did stem from a chronic injury but even so, it was dumb. 

The second example is Mt. Marathon. I had a hamstring injury going into the race and was unable to run flats 6 weeks ahead of time. Thus, I suffered big-time on the road and pushed myself deep, deep into the pain cave. Due to the lack of specific training and the heat it took me over a month to fully recover from that race effort. I'd like to think it was worth it since I was narrowly able to hold onto the win but even so - costly as far as ski training in concerned. 

I say all of this because here it is - a public statement for everyone to see. Help hold me accountable!  Even though I will be wearing a bib tomorrow I REFUSE TO RACE!  Yep, this is going to be a great Over Distance workout, nothing more, nothing less. It helps that many of my friends that I convinced to do the race are in the same boat. So, I'm hoping there will be some good training partners out there. 

As if I needed further proof to not push myself into race pace here are a few words from the race website regarding the effort needed and the potential conditions: 

"This is not a course for beginning trail runners. There are significant climbs and difficult terrain. If you have never traveled the course before, we strongly encourage you to do so BEFORE considering signing up. If you are signing up because you just want to see the trail, please go do it on your own time.  The trail will not be marked, so familiarity with it will be very important. Please do not over-estimate your abilities! The most common, recurring theme regarding weather descriptions reads "lousy weather, cold winds and poor visibility are common". The effort level for running this race is equivalent to running two marathons. If you have only run road marathons, but never tackled trail running, please do not sign up.  If you cannot run for 9 hours without stopping, you probably shouldn't sign up for this race. This course is not meant to be jog/walked. Power hiking the hills is probably the only walking you will be doing in order to make the time cut-offs. The time cut-offs are very strict and difficult to achieve. Running the Crow Pass Crossing in under the time limit or 50mile/50k trail race would be  good personal pre-requisites."

Earlier this summer Katie Ronsse Libby and I went to Kesugi and ran the second half of the course. Our first adventure included a hunter shooting a black bear a couple hundred feet from the trail. When we encountered him on the trail he was waiting for the bear to "bleed out" before going into the alder to retrieve his kill. That did NOT make me feel safe because if he had injured rather than killed the bear it could have come straight at us! (Yikes!) Alaska problems.... 

Here are a few photos from our trip: 

 In between Ermine Hill and Byer's Lake. 

 Bridge approaching Byer's Lake 

Running through the "Toadstools" 

RED red salmon. Can't believe how far from the ocean these guys are to spawn. Downright amazing creatures! 

So, hold me to it. I have big race goals for this upcoming winter and can't afford a super long recovery from this one. That said, tomorrow should be fun!  Have fun on your own adventures for the weekend, whatever they may be :) 

Race website with more photos: