Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Skiing in circles, milking cows & getting ready to RACE!

I've been in Switzerland for four days and when I arrived in Davos, I felt as if I never left.  I've spent a lot of time here over the past couple of years and if I ever had a "home" in Europe, this would be it.  However, it's fun to experience Davos in a different way this year.  It's fun that my first marathon coincides with the World Cup here.  Consequently, I get to see many of International friends right before kicking off my new marathon season. It makes for a great, gradual introduction into my new world. 

Per usual, I love taking pictures so here are just a few from the last four days to tell the story...... 
Thanks for checking in! 

First things first - I had a RIDE waiting for me when I arrived in Zurich. A ride, from a stranger nonetheless is an amazing thing when you're traveling with a duffel, a backpack, 17 pairs of skis, 4 pairs of poles and three pairs of boots. Thank you SO MUCH Kat! 

 My first day in Europe I didn't waste anytime. I learned that Kat and another friend, Bettina were taking a day trip 1.5 hours & a mountain pass away to Livigno (site of the La Sgambeda) and I wanted to check it out.  To get there you drive over Fluela Pass which has crazy switchbacks up and down both sides and then through this expensive tunnel: 

Let's just say nothing is cheap in Switzerland! 


Meet Markus or "Speedy" as everyone here calls him.  Markus has been a friend of the US team for a long while. He works at Hofmanner Sports here in Davos and is one of the friendliest, caring people imaginable. He's hosting me here in Davos and his hospitality has been four star. 

In addition to performance goals this year one of my other goals revolves around getting to know local people and getting a taste of local culture.  

Markus gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that when two nights ago he was Santa Claus and I was Schmutzli. Schmutzli is Santa's dark side but also his side kick. Markus has arranged to be Santa for some of his friend's kids and I was to accompany. Every December 6th, all throughout Switzerland kids are greeted by Santa and Schmutzli. It's the traditional, "what did you do well, and what can you improve on" theme... however the kids each have poems and in return, they get bags of chocolate, nuts and oranges from my burlap sack. It was a real show - we met the families in the woods by candle light. The entire thing was in German so Markus started off by saying that Schmutzli was sick and needed Ricola (another Swiss reference). Eventhough I didn't understand what was said it was a really fun experience. Plus, the kids never discovered that 1) I didn't speak German and 2) that I was a girl! 

Schmutzli in a Swiss commercial - drinking Rivella (a Swiss only soda) of course! 

It's been really fun getting to know Markus and his family. Yesterday we had his mom AnnaBelle over for dinner. She's a lovely person!  (Today was also "Anna" day, a holiday for everyone named Anna in Sweden.)  AnnaBelle is Swedish so today was her special day. 

Now back to skiing and the snow situation. Davos, like much of central Europe is having one of the driest early winters on record.  You can see how thin the snow is in this picture.  You can also see the dump truck dumping snow directly in front of the Pisten Bully groomer to spread it across the World Cup course. The organizing committee in Davos is blowing snow at a mountain pass above (where it is cold enough) and trucking it down to cover a 5k loop for this weekend's upcoming world cup! The effort and $ going into this project is incredible. I feel very lucky that just over the mountains in Livigno, site of my marathon, there is enough snow to hold the races on a larger, 35k loop. 

Today it was finally cold enough to blow snow at the race site. 

 I had a great interval session on the 1.5k man-made course that has been set here since early October.  Many other World Cup skiers were skiing around the same loop and it was jam packed. Luckily I was able to get a good session in and see some wonderful friends. 
 Left to right: Me, my Swiss friend Bettina who retired this spring and is now in medical school, and Celine, a Norwegian who trained with us in Alaska this summer. Celine was 2nd in the Lillehammer sprint just last weekend! 

Training has been great. I don't feel overly jet-lagged and I'm being careful with the pacing at altitude.  And... the culture has been great as well.  In addition to Schmutzli, what's more Swiss than Dairy Cows? Bettina, who I met for the Livigno ski day lives on a Dairy Farm. When I found this out I asked if I might stop by....... and I may have asked if I could milk a cow too :) 

I have to say, I was extremely impressed with the whole operation & it's really cool to see where food comes from.  She was surprised to learn that "raw" or unpasteurized milk is basically illegal in the US. Here, in Switzerland it's fairly normal. Bettina's family has 26 cows and they get milked twice a day, everyday. It was super fun to learn about the process. 

 Getting PSYCHED! 

 Here is Bettina feeding a cow that's only 4 days old.  This cow was BORN the day I arrived in Switzerland. I got to feed it too!  It's amazing how much you had to hold it down to feed it. I felt like I was on a bit of a bucking bronco! 

A Bettina sandwhich - Bettina, me, Bettina! 

Last but not least, a picture that was taken of me skiing at home the day I took off.  A special thanks to BP - my new headgear sponsor! (photo credit, Rob!) 

Batteries at 4% and it's time to get to bed! 
Cheers - more soon, 
Holly :)