Friday, February 5, 2016

Stowe Nordic BKL Practice

One of my favorite recovery day activities is to get out and ski with the local junior program.  With a rest day on Tuesday I joined up with the Stowe Nordic crew for practice.  It is fun to be in Vermont and explore some ski trails I have never skied before.  Many strong skiers come out of Vermont and programs like the one here at Stowe Nordic are the responsible parties.  I loaded my car at the hotel with my skis but as I looked around at the green grass I certainly debated how practice would be.  The groomers scratched up some great skiing for us and we had a great time.  Variable conditions may not be the most fun to ski in, but they make you tough and they make you a stronger skiing as you learn how to adapt technically and mentally.

Excited to head out for ski practice

Dialing in some technique imagery 
After a fantastic winter last year, this years low snow conditions can get you down, these guys didn't mind and made the most of thin conditions with big smiles.

Stowe Nordic Bill Koch League group

Balance is key to nordic skiing and pulling off a successful 'Back Scratcher' on the downhill.

Jackson, practicing getting forward with a chariot pull

Find the edge, find the power, get forward!

No pole skiing
Working on turns and space awareness

Celebrating a fun practice with smores!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Seeley Hills Classic and Training Block

Great to be able to have some fun with Caitlin again
It is great to have the Team back together again!  Caitlin has been in Europe racing the World Cup for 2 months and is back in Minneapolis to recharge.  Face Time is a great way to stay in touch when we are on different continents but you can't beat being together in person.  

Last year we had a great week or training and recharging in Hayward, WI on the American Birkebeiner trail so we decided to do the same thing this year.  This included racing in the Seeley Hills Classic a fantastic classic marathon on the Birkie trail.  Race organizer Dennis Kruse has been a good friend from the first day I arrived in Wisconsin 10 years ago.  With 500 racers the Seeley is one of the premier classic races in the Midwest.  I had a fun race with my friend Matt Liebsch.  We skied the entire race together attacking each other from time to time but neither of us breaking away.  I ended up with the win this year, although a good portion of that was a result of Matt tripping on a climb 1 km from the finish and myself getting the only open finishing lane.

Women's Champion Natalia, Race Organizer Dennis and Me

Signing posters after a Goal Setting session and Q and A with Hayward Nordic Kids
After a great time up in the north woods of Wisconsin I flew out to Colorado for a 10 day altitude block.  Caitlin and I trained in Frisco for 3 weeks last year in preparation for the World Championships and that went well.  Frisco, CO is at 9,000 feet and the trails and skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center are some of my favorite.  The World Cups in Canmore are at a moderately high altitude and I wanted to put some time back high as it has been nearly a month since I have been high.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to bounce between high altitude and sea level throughout the year and I feel my body responds well to the fluctuation.  

Training with my old college teammate Brent Knight
My good friend Brent Knight is now living in Boulder, CO and working for Salomon.  We trained and raced together for UAA and on the professional race circuit for 8 years.  Brent is now working full time but can still push me and help make me better.  It is super nice of him to come up and train with me as I put in a volume block.  I have found that I need to have a few weeks throughout the race season where I push the volume so that I can stay strong for the entire season. 
Colorado Classic Skiing on Toko Red

US Nationals and Recovery

So, I just went to update my blog and realized that this post from two weeks ago was saved as a draft, anyways better late than never....

The 2016 US National Championships proved to be my best cumulative showing at US Nationals so far.  Although I still have yet to meet my goal of winning a National Championship I had a strong week. 
2nd Place in the 30 km Freestyle Mass Start
My focus race going in to Nationals was the 30 km Freestyle.  I really enjoy the tactics of mass start racing, plus distance skate races are my favorite and strongest event.  I had a strong race and finished second, not quite as fast as my friend Tad Elliot who won.  Tad has been on the top of the podium multiple times, but has struggled with illness the last few years.  I am happy to see him back to his normal self and finding success again.

A huge thank you to Caldwell Sport for the fantastic ski service all week at US Nationals.  My skis were fantastic in every race and it was great to have such a strong support team.   Thanks you Amy, Austin and Erik.  My training has been really strong this year thanks to my sponsors, training partners and coaches and it is nice to have things come together at a championship race.   My races results qualified me for the Canadian World Cup Tour in March which is a major focus of my season.   It is nice to be racing and feeling strong, especially after struggling at US Nationals last year.  Last years struggles and disappointing results helped me enjoy the successes this year that much more.  

My other results from the National Championships included a 5th (4th American) in the 15 km Classic, 7th (4th American) in the Freestyle Sprint and a finish in the high 30s for the classic sprint. I have struggled making the heats in the classic races and will need to put some more focus on classic skiing relaxed at high speed.

After a fun and hard week at US Nationals my body was ready for some recovery time.  My body confirmed this with a head cold for a few days.  

Meeting up with the Loppet Foundation's Fast Kids group for an evening Practice
Caitlin decided to come back home to recharge after the Tour de Ski and it is great to be together again.  One of the fun ways we helped recharge ourselves was joining up with Fast Kids which is the team of 8-13 year old kids of our Club, Loppet Nordic Racing.

single digits and darkness did phase these kids
It is really fun to see the joy in the smiles of kids skiing.  I sometimes find that I can get caught up in results and my own training and it is refreshing to just share in the joy of skiing.  Plus it is really cool to hear the kids talking themselves about going to the Olympics someday.

Wes came to our house after his practice to do an interview for his school projects on the Olympics
Wes counted 81 pairs of skis in our basement
After 2 days of rest I am now healthy and ready to get back to training.  I have almost 3 weeks now until the next Super Tour.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Davos World Cup

Davos World Cup weekend has been on my mind and my list of goals for  many years. A 30 km freestyle interval start race at altitude is an ideal race for me.  This past weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to finally compete in this race for the first time.    One of my goals is to finish in the World Cup points, which are awarded to the top 30 finishers in each race.   This is a standard accomplishment for our US women, but has been a challenge for US distance men.  Last year, Simi Hamilton was the only US skier to score distance World Cup points with a 26th in the 4 km prologue in the Tour de Ski.  Last year I finished 35th in the Holmenkollen World Cup for the next best world cup distance result for the US last year.  Last weekend, Noah Hoffman finished 25th in the 30 km Skiathalon for our first men's distance points of the year.  On Saturday I finished 65th, 3 minutes and 21 seconds off of my goal.  My US teammates were not pleased with their finishes either at 52nd, Noah Hoffman and 67th Kris Freeman.  We all agreed that our skis were good and in the mix, we simply were not.  I honestly felt that my race effort was similar to the West Yellowstone Super Tour, and so begins the analysis of what actions and processes can be taken to improve.  Although I am not pleased with my result I still smile about how much I enjoy the process of becoming better.

Thank you Marcel Hilger for the great race photos

Analyzing the split times from the race I skied pretty consistently, although loosing a bit more time each lap in the final 15km.

Arriving in Davos

Solo Training Camp my first few days on the ground with the Swiss Cows
Testing skis with Coach Tom
Another one of my goals for the week was to help Caitlin regain her form.  She did not disappoint with a top 20 finish in Saturday's 15 km.  She also noted that we finished about the same percentage back from the leader, but that the Men's field has more and tighter competition.  We finished with 65 and 68 FIS points respectively which is calculated on percent back from the winner.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ski Week in West Yellowstone

The staff at the hotel here in West Yellowstone refer to last week as Ski Week.  It is quite fitting as the town is overtaken for the week with an estimated 4,000 cross country skiers.  It is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I usually arrived a week before ski week to get some time on snow and adjust to the high altitude.  The week before the festival, West Yellowstone is a ghost town.  Often I might be the only person in a 100+ room hotel.  It is fun to watch the town come to life, and a great way to start the ski season.

Without Caitlin and Lahti here I thought about adopting this guy for company
Thankfully I had my friend Duncan Douglas, otherwise known as Jacked Up Old Man to keep me company and train with for the first week.  Duncan turned 50 on this trip, but he still brings it.  We had a lot of fun training and living together.

A big group of juniors from Endurance United made the trek to snow and the trails in West Yellowstone.  I have worked with some of the kids over the summer and it is fun to see their training and technique work pay off.   We had fun working on our climbing, and even more fun practicing Tele turns on Tele hill.

All Smiles
The family and my support crew here in West Yellowstone.  These guys make the long drive from Washington each year to celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy the trails and put in a ton of work helping me perform at these races. 

One of the first teams to arrive is Green Mountain Valley School.  I had a blast joining the group for some of their workouts.  It is also really fun that they are now being coached by Katrina Howe and Garrott Kuzzy.  2010 Olympian Garrott and I lived and skied together for 5 years with CXC and have many good memories together.

Sharing my Sochi Slideshow with the GMVS athletes

Working on no pole classic striding with the Duluth East team

Signing posters at the expo.  I still have the posters of the top US skiers of my childhood on my wall at home
Stretching before presenting
"Training Habits and Goals" to a huge group of 80+ Loppet Nordic Racing Juniors
Of course the highlight of the week is the first Super Tours of the year.  The first of a season of opportunities to see the benefits of a Spring, Summer, and Fall of hard work.
I had a good weekend with a win in the 15 km Freestyle and a 10th in the Freestyle Sprint 
I sure am Thankful to have the support of great sponsors and people
(like my brother hauling the Toko wax box home from the race)
A great week, became even better when the US Ski Team offered me a start in the upcoming World Cup in Davos, Switzerland.  The race will be a 30 km Freestyle interval start race at altitude which is one of my favorite races.  Plus, I get to see Caitlin again too.  We have both had our eyes set on Davos during our summer training.  Looking forward to the race, time to pack to bags for a flight over to Europe.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coming Soon....first day on snow

The off season for cross country skiers is long.  With snow being a major requirement for our sport, the typical competition season is November-March or roughly 5 months.  I actually ski more on roller skis than I do on snow.  Thankfully, I enjoy roller skiing.  My first ski race of the year is 12 days away and my first day on snow of the year will be tomorrow!
Last day on snow April 26, 2015 Snowbird Glacier, Alaska
This season will be my 10th as a professional ski racer, but one thing that still remains the same is my excitement for that first day back on snow and for the first race of the year.  It is certainly possible to ski each month of the year thanks to glaciers, the southern hemisphere and saved snow projects.  However, this year Caitlin and I put a big focus on altitude training and therefore we haven't been on snow since April.  Each year I find that it gets easier to regain that feeling of being on snow.  I certainly am excited to confirm that tomorrow. 

Training in t-shirts on November 11th
The last two weeks in Minneapolis have been really nice.  Typically November is on the rainy and cold side.   I am not the biggest fan of the in between  Fall and Winter weather as it makes it challenging to train well.  Sometimes not enough snow to ski on, but enough to make the roads slippery, which means the roads are either slick or sandy.  This Fall the roads have been freshly swept, the skies blue and the temperatures warm.  I certainly do hope that the cold weather comes soon to Minnesota, but it has made training and Fall chores pleasant.

Headed West to ideal snow conditions in West Yellowstone, MT
I have additional motivation this year to ski fast and earn a start on the World Cup.  I dropped Caitlin off at the airport on Friday and if things go like we expect she will spend the full season in Europe.   My best chance of getting to see her is to be the Super Tour leader after the West Yellowstone and Sun Valley races.  This fits right in with my goals and is a nice extra incentive. She gave me this little bear to keep me company while I am on the road.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Race Season is nearly here

Wrapping up our altitude camp in Park City today.  Wow, I am not sure that I have ever had such nice weather for a fall training camp.  We capped off a great three weeks with a 4 hour double pole/run combo on yet another beautiful fall day.  This past week has been about as fun as you can get with 3 days of roller ski racing dubbed the Soldier Hollow Mini Tour, a recovery day, and 4 days of high volume.

10 km Classic Mass Start Race       Photo: Toko US
Soldier Hollow was the venue for the 2002 Olympic Cross Country races and has one of the few roller ski tracks in the country.   The paved trails follow a portion of the courses that were used in the Olympics and for multiple Super Tours and National Championships.  A huge benefit of a rollerski track is that the hills are as steep as what you would find on a cross country ski course.  I try to mimic a roller ski course on the streets of Minneapolis and while the terrain may come close, all of those courses are open to traffic, garbage trucks, school buses and other hazards.  The US Ski Team coaches and Club coaches organized a great event.  It is always a bit of a mystery of where your race fitness matches up to your competitors over the summer and it was fun to test each other.  Although different speed wheels and ski models add more variance than a typical on snow race it was good to go head to head with some of the top US racers.  I finished the tour in 3rd place overall. 
On days like this it felt like I could ski forever     Photo: Tom Jorgenson
Although tough weather conditions can be good for mental toughness, I must say that I have enjoyed the fantastic weather we have had this camp.  I do think that is more challenging to stay healthy in bad weather as it adds another load to the body.  Temperatures are cooling off and we have woken up to a dusting of snow at higher elevations.  

Me, Caitlin, and Tom  
A huge benefit of this camp has been having all three of us together.  Coach Tom came on to the Team in September and we have been training together in Minneapolis but it has been great to all be together in a camp environment.  We have been able to maximize each workout with video, lactates, and technique feedback.  It has been great to have the additional support.  As a testament of that we both had a fantastic mini tour, plus a great final 4 days of volume.  We are finishing the camp healthy and feeling strong.  We will still take advantage of several recovery days upon arriving home in Minneapolis but recovery days when you are feeling strong can be even better than recovery days when you are completely blown out. A huge thank you to our sponsors and donors who have allowed us to make this next step forward this year.  

Tom, riding alongside Caitlin as they work on V1 technique
Tom also takes fantastic photos!

Focusing on using the legs evenly on V1

We will be skiing on snow soon!

Who is excited for winter?