Monday, March 28, 2016

End of Winter

And just like that, our season is over! The last month has been a whirlwind between the Ski Tour of Canada, a short break at home, and Spring Series. Even though the races themselves weren't everything I hoped for, there have been a lot of positive takeaways from the last month. The World Cup races in Canada were some of the coolest events I've ever been to. We experienced mid-winter conditions for the first time this year, tons of friends and family members were lining the courses cheering for us, and we had a handful of U.S. skiers having their personal best results, racing their first World Cups, and scoring their first World Cup points. It was an exciting couple of weeks to be an American ski racer. I had a bit of bad luck getting tripped up in the first sprint race and then coming down with a persistent cold on the third day of racing. I raced through it for a few days before dropping out of the tour a couple days early. It wasn't the tour I wanted to have, but sometimes sh#@ happens, and hey, life goes on anyway (I'm beginning to sound like my dad)! We raced four times in three different cities in eastern Canada (Gatineau, Montreal, and Quebec City) before heading out west for the final four races in Canmore. I'll let the pictures do the talking!
Opening ceremonies for the Canadian Ski Tour (John Lazenby photo)

Fun to have my little brother, Austin, on the road with us as a wax tech for a couple weeks

Simi and Jessie with a pair of 3rd places in the Gatineau sprint. This is the first time a U.S. man and woman have ever been on the podium on the same day! (John Lazenby photo)

Jess, Annie, and me. These were Annie's first World Cups and she skied like a champ. It was fun to have some new energy on the World Cup circuit and even more fun that it was one of my best buds!
My 88 year old grandmother, Twinkle, came to all five races in eastern Canada. What a trooper!

US flags lining the trail everywhere

Spending time with best friends between races in Quebec City

Mom in Quebec!

Hugs from teammates after the good and the bad (flying point photo)

Quebec City sprint Qualifier (Reese Brown/SIA Nordic photo)

Classic 10k in Montreal (Reese Brown/SIA Nordic photo)
Getting some last minute words of wisdom and love from my dad in Quebec City (Kate Boobar photo)

Cheesing with Uncle Tim in Quebec (Kate Boobar photo)
My cousin, Anya, surprised me in Canmore and came with lots of hugs and kisses

After dropping out of the Tour, I tried to get out to enjoy the beautiful Canmore scenery

Mountains in Canmore

Cousins going for a ski

Enjoying some american burgers and fries with Anya, Dakota, and Liz
After coming home from Canmore, I had about a week at home before Spring Series in Craftsbury, Vermont. I was still coughing quite a bit, so I mostly rested and tried to get healthy for the final races of the season. The races at Spring Series were a 10k skate, classic sprint, club relay, and 30k classic. It's always fun reuniting with my club team, SMS T2, and it was nice to finish the season in Vermont. Craftsbury did an incredible job of providing us with world class courses despite the lack of snow and mud season that the East is currently experiencing. Spring Series can be a funny week of racing. Almost everyone is tired and some people can still dig up the last bit of energy they have to pull out some great races while others are running on fumes. Unfortunately, I mostly experienced the latter, but it was still a great opportunity to be reunited with so many U.S. skiers for a fun week of racing. We finished the week off with a 30k classic which was twice as long as any race I've done in the last two years. It's always satisfying to end the season with a long race like that and now I'm ready for a nice break!
Hike with my sister, Isabel

Dash for Cash sprints in Craftsbury

Hanging with Jessie and Annie

Birthday serenade on the sprint podium (Reese Brown photo)

SMS T2 relay teams! (Reese Brown photo)

Getting tagged off by Sim in the relay (Reese Brown photo)

Soaking up the sun with teammates
Grandpa and his girls doing some trailside cheering for the 50k

Happy to be finished with a long race and a long season! (Reese Brown photo)

And made it back in time for Easter dinner with Twink!
Thank you so much for following my season. This year was more than I ever imagined it could be and I'm already looking forward to next year. But first, it's time to say goodbye to the skinny skis and roller skis for the month of April. Happy spring!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gearing up for Canada

Wow, where did I leave off? The last few weeks have flown by and I'm currently back home gearing up for the final period of World Cup races...the Ski Tour of Canada! It's such a treat to be home in February for the first time in a few years. Even though Vermont is lacking snow at the moment, I've loved being home, training with SMS, and being with my family.
Skiing around Stratton with some of the SMS gals this morning

Taking our kitten/borderline cat, Bernie, for a walk in my parents' backyard 
After the races in Norway, we flew to Stockholm, Sweden for another classic city sprint. The only other time I had been to Stockholm was as a junior on the J1 trip. We had a day off during our J1 trip and walked around the city of Stockholm and it was really neat to see the same city this year with a ski track running down the middle of it. The sprint was right in front of the royal palace, so we played kings and queens for the day racing up the palace steps. My sprint qualifier went really well. I qualified 9th and was just over 1.5 seconds out of 1st - arguably my best classic sprint qualifier ever! My quarter final also went well and I finished first in my heat and moved onto the semi finals. In my semi final I was starting to feel pretty tired and I think I also prioritized the kick on my skis a little too much and was kicking up all the hills, but struggling to keep up on the flats and downs. I ended up 11th on the day, but was satisfied with my result. As I've said before, flatter classic sprints have historically been a struggle for me, and I think this race was a big step in the right direction.
Cresting the hill into the finish is my 1/4 final (Matthew Tipple photo)

Finish stretch (Matthew Tipple photo)

Finish lanes up to the Royal Palace

Starting gates (Caitlin Patterson photo)
After Stockholm, we went to Falun for a weekend of distance races. On Saturday there was a 5k classic and on Sunday there was a 10k skate. I raced the 5k classic and had a mediocre race. I took it out a little hot and paid for it later on, but it was awesome to see some of my teammates have great weekends with a lot of personal bests!
Training day in Falun with Sadie
After Falun, we flew to Lahti for our last European World Cup weekend of the season. As racers, many of us have a love/hate relationship with Lahti. It's an awesome venue with amazing trails, but the Lahti weekend often comes right after the Championships of the season, so sometimes we're feeling the "championship blues" and begin to get a little homesick. There were no championships this year and with the Tour of Canada finishing of the season, Lahti came a few weeks earlier than usual. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't getting a little homesick, but I knew that was only because I got to go home in a week. My history of racing in Lahti is pretty hit or miss. Before this year, I had been to Lahti three times. Two of the years I didn't qualify in the sprint and one of the years I qualified and had my first World Cup podium. I made it my goal to focus on qualifying and everything else was going to be icing on the cake. It wasn't just one more race until I got to go home, it was one more race until I got to go home, so I should give it my all. The course in Lahti this year was a new course that was a lot hillier and longer than previous years. This hasn't always been my strength in skate sprints, but I knew I was stronger, fitter, and faster than years past, so I approached it with confidence. I was thrilled to qualify in 6th, see Jess qualify in 2nd, and have four women and Simi all qualify for the heats. In my quarter final, I tucked in behind Ingvild and followed her for as long as I could until getting a little tired on the last uphill and letting a gap form. There was also a small gap between me and third place, but I got sucked up in the finish stretch, placing third in my heat and missing the semi finals. I was bummed to miss the semis, but my day was made a lot better watching Sadie get a top ten and Jessie placing 2nd on the day!
Lahti sunset

Easy training day with the girls in Lahti (Jess photo)

Race prep with Sades (hansi photo)

My wax tech, Oleg :) (Hansi photo)
Racing in my quarter final (Hansi photo)

Jess on the podium! (hansi photo)
 I flew back to the U.S. on Sunday morning after the Lahti sprint. It was a long travel day, but I couldn't have been happier to be in my own bed after over three months on the road. Federico Pelligrino joined us in Vermont a couple days later to have a little extra time in North America before the Canadian Tour. We've been doing some training with the SMS crew and have mostly been enjoying being at home, sitting by the fire, and cooking up some delicious food. I will head up to Canada on Sunday to prepare for the races beginning on Tuesday. It's so cool to see how excited people around here are to come cheer us on in Canada. I can't wait for the final period of racing, and I really can't wait to do it in front of our home crowd. Thanks for following!
Simi, Federico, Bill Koch, and me. As the best skate sprinter in the world, Federico was excited to thank Bill for inventing skate skiing!

Going for an easy ski with Lo and Alex at Mt Tabor

Classic speeds in the rain with the SMS crew

Intervals are a lot easier with buddies!

Gabe catching a ride with Federico this morning

Last intervals before Canada





Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Scandinavia

After our week in Czech, we headed north for our final month in Europe. There was a weekend off from World Cup races and the majority of World Cup athletes either went home or to their respective national championships. We did our best to make a home away from home and rented some cabins in Sjusjoen, Norway for the week. It was the perfect break from living out of hotel rooms with buffet meals. Our cabins had living rooms, kitchens, saunas, AND washing machines! As nice as it was to be living in homes, the best part of Sjusjoen was the 300 kilometers of skiing it had to offer. My week consisted of a combination of distance training, some intervals, and some recovery. Emily Nishikawa of team Canada joined us for the week and on the windiest and foggiest day, we set out for a three hour ski adventure. We wanted to explore some new trails, but unfortunately, when we got to the far point of our route, the wind and fog set in and our adventure ended up being a little longer than we anticipated. Matt came to our rescue and picked us up on our way back and a chocolate bar has never tasted so good!
Snowy view out our cabin window

Sunset ski with Sim

Beautiful light and hundreds of kms

Happy skier
After our week in Sjuesjon, we drove to Oslo. There was a mid week city sprint in Drammen last week followed by the 30km and 50km Holmenkollen races over the weekend. I've had mixed feelings about the Drammen sprint in years past. It is hands down one of the coolest venues where we have raced. The track is set through the city center and loops around the beautiful Drammen church. The crowds in Drammen are wild. Norway loves skiing and it feels like the entire country comes out to watch the races. I have done the Drammen sprint the last three years and had never qualified before. In fact, I had never even been close to qualifying! It's a gradual course, which is one of my weaknesses in classic skiing and the field tends to be stacked because Norway is allowed to have more starters in these races. So while I've always loved the atmosphere in Drammen, it's been a difficult race for me to perform in. But this year was a new year, and I went into the sprint with the confidence that I've had the rest of the season, and I qualified 11th! Jessie, Sadie, Simi and I all qualified in the top 12, which are probably the best qualifier results we've ever had as a team in Drammen. Jessie, Sadie, and I all narrowly missed moving onto the semi finals, but Sim made the semis and placed 11th on the day. This wasn't the strongest day we've ever had in sprinting, but I think it says a lot about how far our team has come in a sprint that has historically been challenging for us. I was thrilled to not only qualify, but to qualify well and to be in the mix in my quarter final.
View of the Drammen church from the high point on the course

Jessie and I were psyched to qualify in Drammen for our first time!
After the sprint in Drammen, we moved up to Holmenkollen to prepare for the weekend races. I didn't race the 30k because I want to be well rested for the upcoming sprints, but I was still looking forward to enjoying the Holmenkollen atmosphere. We had pretty awful weather for the weekend, but that didn't stop the crowds from coming out in force. Fans come up to Holmenkollen for the weekend and camp out on the edge of the trails. You can count on cheering around the entire loop and are surrounded by the smell of grilled food. It's a race weekend that I look forward to coming back to as a fan some day. I had a lot of fun working at the feed stations and cheering on my teammates as they fought to some impressive results.
Welcome to the Holmenkollen!

I was able to test out our new feed hats, courtesy of L.L. Bean. The hunter orange color and headlights made for the best hats out there on a foggy day! 
In addition to training and racing, we were able to do some other pretty neat activities while in Norway. On one of the off days, Simi and I went down to explore the city of Oslo.  I've been to Holmenkollen many times, but I never actually had the time to go check out the city, so I was excited to play tourist for a day. Former Norwegian ski racer, Kristin Stormer Steira set up an event for us with the organization she now works for, Aktiv Against Cancer (Aktiv Mot Kreft in Norway). It's an incredible organization that promotes physical activity for cancer patients during and after treatment. They support research on the topic as well as set up Puste Rommets (breathing rooms) within hospitals where patients can go to receive a personal training plan and workout with instructors. We were honored to attend a spinning class with a group of patients who are training for a bike trip in Majorca this spring. It was an inspiring event and we were happy to learn that Aktiv Against Cancer is branching out to the U.S. To read more about them, visit http://www.aktivagainstcancer.org/.
Sadie, Jessie, and me getting ready for our spin class

Liz exchanging autographs with one of the little girls

Spin workout complete!

The crew after spin class
Climbing up the opera house in Oslo

View of the city from the top of the opera house

Exploring the old fortress
This afternoon we are flying to Stockholm, Sweden for another classic city sprint on Thursday. This will be the first time I've done the Stockholm sprint! After the sprint, we will drive to Falun, Sweden for a weekend of distance racing. After Sweden, we have one more weekend of European World Cup races before heading home for the week before the Canadian Tour. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a countdown on my phone telling my how many days until I get to be home, but I'm looking forward to our last 12 days (to be exact) in Europe. Thanks for following!