Monday, February 9, 2015

Transjursienne Bonk & Birkie Bound!

…… 30,000 feet enroute to Copenhagen for the first time! Flight one of three to get from Zurich to Minneapolis St. Paul. I must admit, I’m excited to touch down in the states and enjoy a solid two weeks in the “home country.” 

Getting there, however, is never without a little bit of stress as experienced this am. The string of events when like this:
1)   Almost forget my phone (2nd phone!) I used as a wake up alarm. Chelsea had to come running down the street chasing me with it.
2)   Morning workout #1 heavy ski bag, giant duffel, and backpack 1/5 mile “hike” to the train station.
3)   Train tix machine won’t accept any of my cards & I am able to “buy” Swiss Francs off a stranger 1 minute before train departure
4)   Proceed to get a deluge of “delayed flight” & “cancelled flight” emails from via my phone…. the stress grows
5)   Morning workout #2 navigating Zurich airport with 150# of luggage, finding the different places to check in, drop skis, pay for sporting equipment, etc. Fear of missing flight (or is it cancelled?) remains high
6)   Make it to the gate and buy a $8 tall Starbucks latte to celebrate the small accomplishment
7)   And fly, fly, and fly again.
8)   Remind myself I am “living the dream” :) 

.... X number of hours later, stuck in Chicago for the night! This was the good news on the International flight though - NAP TIME! 

But enough about travel and the adventures that accompany it. The last 1.5 weeks have included a fun tour of Germany for the Konig Ludwig Lauf with Team Santander and France, ala Team Salomon, (AKA Holly & Max road trip #2) for the Transjursienne.

Following my struggle at the Marcialonga I knew that my body needed a bit of time to recover before the next big marathon push. With the knowledge that the Konig Ludwig Lauf Swix Ski Classic was a “flat” course and girls would most likely go on “blank” skis (classic skis with no kick wax, waxed tip to tail) I opted to race the 23k skate on Saturday for training, and help with service for Team Santander for Sunday’s main event. Saturday’s event was a great “interval with a bib” and I was roughly a minute behind the overall men’s winning time.  It was dumping snow at the start and streaming sunshine by the end of the race…. Just beautiful!


Post race, pre podium :) 

Per Germany, BEER was offered at the completion of the race - 10:30am!

On Saturday, Tord Asle, my Team Santander teammate, arrived super late at night after racing in Norwegian Nationals and chartering a plane to catch a flight into Munich in order to race in the Swix Ski Classic on Sunday.  Saturday night I set out to help test Tord’s skis – at midnight, by headlamp (or as they would call it, a “torch” here) On Sunday I was happy to give drinks at the far end of the course for my teammates at the Linderhof Castle. I was joined by 12-year old Leo for the job and we had a great time cheering and chasing the racers from the far end of the course to the finish line (by car) in time to see the sprint. While it wasn’t the stand out team performance that we had in the Marcialonga we collected enough points to take over the Team LEAD and Santander is at the top of the charts going into the biggest marathon of the season, the Vasaloppet. 

A baller move if you ask me....!

While I’ve always known the VASA is a big deal I fully grasped the grandeur of and importance the event. Some people have likened it to a Gold at World Championships. While this is of course up to dispute, it is by far the most prestigious marathon race in Cross Country Skiing and a huge event.  During “VASA Week” I have been told that 80 thousand, yes, you read that right, EIGHTY THOUSAND skiers will participate in Vasaloppet events with the premiere event, the 90k at the end of the week.

Feeding the team at Linderhof Castle with Leo

Following the KLL, I had one week to kill before the Transjursienne in France.  Lucky for me I was able to crash with Max at his family’s flat in Garmisch.  In Garmisch I found a winter paradise and went on some awesome skis with Max including my first trip to Seefeld, good food, and the sun! 
One night (yes, night!) I even got to go “back country” skiing at the resort right in town.  Every Tuesday evening is K2 rondenee night where literally hundreds of skiers come to skin UP the alpine resort.  Once on the mountain you can choose between 4 different hut destinations, complete with schnitzel, beer, or my personal fav, a mug of Gluhwein. We skinned for two hours under a full moon and I had a blast. I WISH that this kind of thing was allowed at US resorts but the fear of liability and accidents is probably too high. While it was dark I was amazed by the number of people that came to this event. At 7pm the parking lot was packed and little bright dots lined the mountain cat track like a massive pilgrimage. This outing was a perfect respite from the normal cross country training  - special thanks to Max, Ben & Anders for helping me with gear, waiting for me, and skiing behind me to provide light for the downhill!

Seefeld whitewash! 

After some home-cooked meals Max and I departed Thursday for the 7-hour drive to France. Max crushed it on the autobahn in his little Skoda. Even so, we arrived super late to our accommodations for the weekend, the National Nordic Training Center in Premanon. (Think the Lake Placid OTC) Luckily, through a string of contacts, we were able to convey our lateness and they saved some “salty cheesecake” (or quiche) for us for dinner. We were starving and happy to see it!

My view from the passenger seat... 

The Transjursienne is the fourth event of the FIS Marathon cup following the Sgambeda, the Dolomitenlauf & the Marcialonga. This year the 56k classic was the scored event despite Sunday’s 68k skate race being the main World Loppet event.  The “Transju” traverses through the “Jura” mountains and much of the course is on an exposed ridge thereby making it extremely susceptible to high winds.  On Friday, our typical ski testing, course inspection, race prep day the winds and drifts were so high that we literally had a hard time finding the race track. Add the fact that many French don’t speak a lick of English the experience was a bit like a scavenger hunt. Unsatisfied with my race preparation and knowledge I had to pick skis blindly and study the race map and course profile as best I could.
The next morning I was relieved to find the weather relatively calm as compared to the pre-race nerves boiling in my stomach.  My confidence following the Marcialonga disaster was a bit low and I’ve never gone into an important race this “uneducated” before. Turns out the nerves were appropriate as I made a rookie move in my first 3+ hour race of the season. Despite the fact that I had been properly warned I failed to bring enough sugar with me for the race and the last 20 kilometers (especially) were a constant struggle of will and determination.

On Friday baguettes were much easier to find than the course in the white out! 

The race was quick from the gun and I quickly found my two primary female competitors, Aurelie Dabyduk of France and Tatjana Mannima of Estonia. The three of us skied HARD together for the entire race, switching off leads and positions. Approximately one k into the race I knew I was in for a long day when my elbow pain returned with avengence. In hindsight, the Marcialonga was a horrible race given my previous healthy history and thus, the Tranju turned out to be 55k of shooting pain in my elbows.  During a three hour race you have a lot of time to think and I just kept reminding myself of the year that I finished the 9-stage Tour de ski with a broken wrist. I told myself that I’ve done it before and I could do it again. However, as the kilometers stacked up my vision grew blurrier and blurrier. While I had one small feed the last 18k of the race my competitors had coaches and serviceman driving alongside the course with cars offering drinks, words of encouragement, and tactical advice what seemed like every 2k.

Leading the way to winning the first sprint (at 30k nonetheless) .... a snow machine and camera filmed us the entire race! There is a video HERE but I haven't been able to view it in the last 4 countries I've been in in the past two days! 

In the end, Mannima was strong enough to double pole away from me and I struggled, virtually blind, to a second place finish 4 seconds behind her. While winning and collecting 100 FIS Marathon Cup points is always a goal, I was really happy to pull off second considering the chain of events.  Without dragging the story on anymore than I already have, I was mad at myself for not being prepared, more self sufficient, etc, etc, etc.  However I would counter that argument with the fact that I’m learning some tough lessons regarding what it takes to be a marathon racer with patched together knowledge, waxing & drink support. It is certainly a transition going from the USST where the support staff is awesome to branching out on my own. On the World Cup an athlete’s main objective is to ski fast. While I have the same primary goal of skiing fast I don’t have anyone doing the thinking and planning for me. It’s an adjustment for sure!

The end result wasn't so bad although that bell is SO cool I might just have to go back and fight for it again! 

It took almost half a liter of Coke, some CLIF blocks & Gels, and the French pre-race meal to start feeling better. As if this wasn’t enough, I had to ask a French race volunteer for help undressing because I couldn’t get my race top up over my head!

Despite the mishaps it was awesome to explore a new place and I’m happy to report that I still have the red bib!  Unfortunately I’m skipping next weekend’s race, the Tartu Marathon in Estonia but I knew if I was flying over the pond I wanted to spend enough time to be adjusted for the big race! So, Birkie bound it is! 

Before signing off for the night I'd love to put up a few links: 

1) My good friend Gretchen Weiman writes a fantastic blog called Gretchen Loves Anchorage. She's always posting about cool Alaskana type stuff but the other day I had a chance to talk to her via skype from Italy. She's speaking at the March 28 TEDX talk in Anchorage about "Dreamer-Doers" and I was incredibly honored to be featured on her blog.  Check back often as she's talking to a slew of cool people! 

Also, I'm auctioning myself off for the future of American skiing - that's right!  The National Nordic Foundation has provided amazing support for aspiring cross countries through a variety of Pillar Projects. Most recently they helped offset the costs for World Juniors and U23s in Almaty, Kazakhstan. There were some awesome results! 

Thus, I'm helping NNF with future projects by auctioning myself off!  Bid on ME and I can come to your school or workplace and give a talk... or I can lead a clinic, workout with you (!) or have dinner and share stories from ski racing around the world. Don't make my husband win this auction :) 

Last not certainly not least a huge SHOUT out to all my sponsors and folks that make this journey possible. It's a true "cross country" marathon with up and downs, peaks and valleys.  Thanks so much to all these companies and all of the additional folks whose logos appear on the right column of my blog. Check them out! 

WHEW! More soon. Thanks so much for checking in!