Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Holmenkollen with friends!

Despite awesome home stays, chasing new opportunities and doing my best to hold onto the red bib traveling is exhausting, there is no doubt. While a life “ski racing in Europe” sounds glamorous  (and it’s sure, in some ways, it is) it can be quite tiresome. Now is perhaps one of those times. Daffodils line the sidewalks outside of grocery stores, Easter’s right around the corner according to the calendar, and skier conversation has turned to spring destination plans.

This past week I was in Oslo to apply for my Russian VISA, cheer on teammates at Holmenkollen, and stage for this weekend’s Norwegian Birkebeiner. 

Let me just say that the VISA process has been pain staking and that is perhaps, an understatement.  I've sent no less than 150 emails, made countless phone calls, and people made personal visits to the VISA center on my behalf before I even arrived.  It turns out that applying for a VISA outside of your own country (and) when you cannot give up your passport for weeks or months at a time is complicated. Phone calls (if you can get through) and emails (when they are returned) create more confusion as answers aren't always the same and "conclusions" are confusing. That said, the VISA center has my completed application and my passport, along with the Russian VISA is supposed to be available later this week for pick up. I'll believe it when I see it - however I'll have to stop by literally on my way to the airport (with 150# of gear in tow) so I really, really hope it works out. If not, I'll have to throw away the plane ticket and start again! 

A huge thank you to Andrey, Alexei & Yacopo (pictured below on my left) for their help in the VISA process. If I make it there these three are largely to thank! 

Minus the VISA work, the rest of the week was great seeing my former US Ski Teammates...... but I couldn’t help but feel a bit abandoned as conversation focused on travel itineraries and how excited they were to go home. This is most definitely the time of year that a bit of homesickness begins to creep into your skin and it’s important to stay focused and live in the moment rather than wishing you were somewhere you are not. When and if I ever start to feel sorry for myself I remind myself that I have what a friend calls, "first world problems" and that my life is insanely awesome. I am SO lucky. 

Here are a couple more pictures from the week: 

 Warm conditions called for salting the course. Check out this sweet adaptation to the Piston Bully!

Pete was in town after racing the VASA. 

When in Norway, the cheese slicer is a staple...... & not just one

 A typical scene in Oslo - people getting on public transport with their skis

Friends enjoying the sun 

Mexican night at Astrid's! Me, Liz, Astrid, Emil 

 Pano from the top of the Holmenkollen ski stadium athlete room and waxing facilities.  This past week the Holmenkollen ski stadium was at it's best - nothing like the zero-viz fog of World Championships 2011!

30k Feed zone during the women's race 

 Dash Hoff & EBJ "commuting" to the 50k....

Trailside snacks, served with coffee

A great aspect of Holmenkollen is how accessible the course is. Outside of the grand stands it's free to attend and many Norwegians make a weekend out of it. Many World Cups, World Champs, and Olympic races you sometimes feel like you're out there alone. That is NEVER the case at Holmenkollen! 

A tired Brian Gregg gives a thumbs up! 

Now THIS is a cool app. I think it exists all over Norway. You can look at any ski area and see where the groomers are in real time. The colors represent how long it's been since the trails were groomed last!  You can chase fresh tracks and corduroy to your hearts content! No wonder they're good classic skiers here.... 

Super fun training ski out on the course pre-50 & 30k days... 

 In the finish pen with Sadie & Diggs!

 Liz and Matt post 30k. Liz signing some autographs

Me & Kikkan spent the 30k doing support. I was a cheer leader running from spot to spot and Kikkan worked at a feeding and spare pole station. When you aren't racing it's still fun to be intimately involved :) 

Everyone always looks forward to the Holmenkollen heart shaped waffles!

Thanks so much to Astrid Jacobsen for opening up her awesome home to me for a week in Oslo. While it was a busy stint for her with Drammen and Holmenkollen it was fun to get a small peak into her life in Norway. We got to know each other two summers ago when Astrid came to Alaska to join the annual women's training camp. She spent a week + doing dryland (hence, the Bomber Glacier picture below), a week on Eagle Glacier, and then some time visiting my cabin in Hope and a fishing trip on the Kasilof River. 

International friendships are most certainly a highlight and one of the best things about being an International ski racer. This year, spending time away from the World Cup I've actually gotten to spend some quality time with friends I've made over the years. 

Not only is Astrid an incredible skier - she skied to an amazing THIRD PLACE in the Holmenkollen 30k - but she's insanely well rounded too. She's currently enrolled in medical school (yes, you heard me right... ) and does a lot of work for her local community.  Two years ago she co-hosted the first ever Norwegian Fast and Female event. One of the nights I was there she went to a 3 or 4 hour board meeting for her ski club, Heming, two days before her race. 

Johug, Bjorgen & ASTRID! 

If you haven't been following FIS Cross Country on Facebook be sure to check them out. This year Jeff Ellis and crew have been doing an awesome job with their "Inside the Fence" videos.  Here is the last one of the year called the Magic of Holmenkollen: 

After a busy week where I didn't even race (!) I moved from one household to another. I am currently staying in Lillehammer with Erik Stange and his awesome family. Erik and his wife Emily are American and moved to Lillehammer four years ago. They have to kids and a great part of each day is reading Greta a book before bed. Last night we read Madeline which I absolutely love. 

Erik was an elite ski racer back in the day so he knows what it's like to chase the dream and live out of a duffel bag. He said that letting me stay here is like repaying a "karmic debt."  I had never met Erik before coming to stay in his home but we have one degree of separation and know a lot of the same people. Needless to say, there is no lack of conversation. 

The next report will be from the Norwegian Birkebeiner.  Can't wait to check it off the "skier's bucket list!" 

Thanks for checking in. More soon, 
Holly :)