Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Team Victories, Kilts & Stinky Cheese

First of all, Happy Birthday yet again to my awesome husband Rob (March 30th) and a special thanks/shout out to my incredible sponsor, Salomon & Josh Korn for helping me get a pretty kick-butt birthday present for him. I hate missing special occasions while on the road but these skis certainly help soften the blow..... 

We haven't seen each other since the American Birkie in February and while we've gone this long before, I'm pretty "home & husband sick!"

Following the Norwegian Birkebeiner I spent an awesome week with Anders Haugen (from Alaska) and his girlfriend, Christine.  The week that I crashed on their couch was literally the week that Anders relocated to Trondheim, Norway and I'm so grateful & thankful that they let me stay. The three of us had a blast together and the joke was that we were a little family considering the fact that their apartment was tiny. We were in close, close quarters and had to get used to it quite quickly! Every night I would turn the couch into a bed with sheets and every morning, we would convert it back to the group living space. It's funny how Europeans have different standards for living and space - everything is functional over here and it works. It made my desire for a bigger house seem a little bit frivolous in my head but hey, part of that is cultural right? 

The skiing in Trondheim was pretty minimal but I'm happy that we got out for a couple of quick skis. Anders (who also used to race for APU!) skied with me and it was fun to have a training partner! I was nervous as I only had my best race skis and the coverage was super minimal. Somehow I made it through the week without any huge assaults to my skis. 

Time spent in Scandinavia isn't complete without a trip to IKEA! While I saw stuff I wanted, I didn't dare buy anything as I don't have ANY space to carry anything. Alaska has no IKEA and they don't ship to AK either so Alaskans are usually starved for affordable furnishings. I did take a free catalog for ideas though. 

This was my frist trip to Trondheim and I'm really glad I got to see a bit of the city. As a World Cup racer I've been to Olso and Lillehammer quite a few times but it's fun to break the mold and see a new place - and better yet, with local guides! 

This night we went to a beach bonfire to celebrate Max Olex's birthday. 

The next day Anders and I returned from skiing in the Trondheim World Cup stadium and Christine had made waffle batter because, DUH, it was "National Waffle Day."  I had a waffle with brown cheese and jam (my fav) and one with jam and sour cream/cream fresh which is also very traditional. Also, did you know that many Norwegians eat tacos every Friday night? That explains the "taco kits" that are plastered all over every grocery store.

And.... I continue to do school work while on the road. This time I was doing a case study for my abnormal psychology class. Lugging around the DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders) has been a bit of chore as it's a huge book but I'm happy to say that I'm chipping away at grad school.... 

We went out to Thai food ..... 

And Anna Barnwell of Alaska joined us! So fun to have a small group of Alaskans living in Trondheim. Thanks for treating me to dinner Anna! 

"The Family!" 

Next stop, Valadalen Sweden for the Arefjellsloppet & Swix Ski Classic final with Team Santander. We came into the race weekend with a measly 61 point lead over Team United Bakeries and there was a lot at stake in the race.  The course which was originally planned to be 75 kilometers point to point was changed due to low snow. It snowed hard two days and the day before the race which essentially made the race possible. 

Valadalen Reception and dining hall. We were spread out in little "stugas" or cabins throughout the property. Needless to say, it was "cozy."  

 A traditional Scandinavian fire with hot coffee and tea...

Santander Team Leader, Nils Marius getting pumped for the 30k citizen race the day before.... 

With Johan Olson, the Swedish World Champion & the newest member of team Santander AND NNF!!!

Tord Asle AKA "Aviator Man" had an awesome race and finished the day in second overall, scoring valuable points for the team. 

If you want to watch the race check out the LIVE CENTER HERE.  It's pretty sweet that Swix Ski Classics is able to have each race, in entirely LIVE online and on TV in much of Scandinavia! You don't even have to visit an illegal site like you do for LIVE World Cup - BONUS! 

I did not have such a good race, in fact, I dropped out of maybe only my second race ever. I started the 47k classic with the field of elite girls and low energy right off the bat. I had been exhausted in Trondheim the week before so perhaps the signs were all over the wall but..... I decided to drop and save my energy for Russia, the race where my points would really, really count. Normally I would be torn up about a DNF but in all actuality, I'm proud of myself for making a smart, calculated decision. In the past I've gone so far as to check myself out of the ER to finish a race and in reality, being that stubborn isn't always the right answer.  I skied about 10k of the course and then skied up to Nils Marius to get drink bottles to help out the team. 


While I didn't have a banner day personally, the team DID! We eeked out the victory over United Bakeries by TWENTY SIX POINTS. When the team scores 3556 points in a season 26 is NOTHING. It came down to the last placing, the last sprint.... it was crazy. I'm trying to think of the North American equivalent in sport - maybe making one last free throw in the last. .25 seconds of an NBA final? Needless to say it was crazy, crazy awesome and I'm so happy that our team came out ahead on the right side of that tiny margin!  The picture above is the team at the venue after we confirmed the victory. The picture below is our team after going up on the stage to receive the top team of the year award.

And yes, I know that I'm holding up a dorky #1 finger in both of the pictures. I was just so psyched!

The final Swix Ski Classics banquet is a formal affair and many people wear black dresses, coats, and ties.  Every year Santander wears something fun and festive. This year it was matching kilts - a tribute to Team and Nils Marius's year spent "studying" abroad in Scotland. I felt a bit like Brittney Spears circa 1996 (Opps I did it again!) but it was really fun and I think in mass, we were a hit!

No party is complete without speeches and toasts from the hotel bed!  Here is Team Chief Magnar Dalen delivering some words from the pulpit!

During the banquet they called up "Swix Ski Classics Legends" which were people who had won over 5 SSC races. Lots of kilts up there including Anders Auckland leading the charge with 12 victories. Jorgen and Jerry Arhlin where representing as well! Needless to say it was an awesome night and fun to spend it with lots of new friends. The only regret is that we didn't have a set of bagpipes for Magnar because that really would have established our look! 

Afterwards we drove from Are to Trondheim, and then flew "home" to Oslo. Being a Norwegian team many of my teammates were home but my adventure, of course, continues..... That night I met up with Knut-Eric Joslin, a former Dartmouth skier working on his PhD in Economics in Oslo. He hosted me for the night and let me crash on his couch. (Thanks Knut-Eric!) The next morning I got up and booked it straight to the Russian VISA center in Oslo to pick up my passport and Russian VISA. I'm SO SO happy to say that it came through, finally. In all I most definitely sent over 150 emails, made countless phone calls and even shed a few tears to get it. The directions are confusing as all heck (!) and getting a VISA outside of your own country when you cannot give up your passport for weeks at a time because you need it can be difficult. I owe a huge thank you to Andrey Kascha, Alexei Sotskov, and Yacopo Cararra for helping me obtain it. Thanks guys! 

Thanks goodness! 

Where in the world am I now? Good question. After a crazy Monday travel day which included 2 buses, 2 airplanes, 1 train, 1 tram, and 1 shuttle bus I'm Chamonix, France with my friend Anouk from the French National Team. Anouk has been awesome offering me a place to stay for years and I'm finally taking her up on it. 

It's a funny time of year though because she's done with her season and essentially home so she has tons of business to take care of while I'm still living out of my roller bag and trying to prepare for one last 50k.  Yesterday we made a small attempt at going Alpine skiing. It's warm here and raining in Chamonix. Of course this meant snow at higher altitudes but the avalanche conditions are horribly dangerous right now. Ironically we skied a super short run on one chair lift (after taking a gondola) in freezing rain yesterday. We didn't last long and I'm left with the impression that I have to return to Chamonix when a) I have more energy and b) during better conditions. 

Otherwise, I'm sleeping as much as possible, strolling through stinky cheese shops, and trying to get some school work done and catch up on email. Next stop, SIBERIA! Happy Early Easter to all of you and check back soon. The Marathon of Marathons is almost over :) 

Sausages, cheeses and wines through a store front window.