Sunday, July 26, 2015

Altitude Camp Round 2

I am back in Park City, Utah for my second block of altitude training. Although I wasn't so sure about how effective my first block at altitude training went, my performance on my benchmarks upon returning home to sea level in Minneapolis gave me a lot of confidence.  A huge benefit of being able to go to and from altitude during the training season is that it is allowing us to really dial in our acclimatization plan.  We have been keeping a diary to determine how many days it takes us to feel good at altitude and how long the 'boost' from altitude seems to last.  We are dialing this in as we both felt that our altitude camp in Colorado last year played a big role in Caitlin's bronze medal at World championships and my 35th at the Holmenkollen world cup.

The Run Club Boys
I sure do miss the kids at the Club when I am away at training camp, but the weather started to get pretty warm and humid in Minneapolis and I certainly don't miss that.  Ever since I was hospitalized with heat exhaustion in high school I have found that the heat really adds a big load on to my training.

Technique work with Coach Bill of the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy
One of the things Caitlin and I really try to incorporate in to our training is working with and learning from other training groups.  It has been great to train with the US Ski Team Nordic Combined crew as well as the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy.  Coach Bill has been awesome in sharing with us his technique philosophy and observations as well as taking video of multiple sessions.  I have also really enjoyed skiing behind his older athletes who I honestly think are better technical skiers than myself.

Focusing on getting forward and relaxing at speed
One of my bucket list line items has been to hike Mt. Timpanogas and we had a perfect day for it.  Caitlin made it a double date with our friends Noah and Marta which worked out perfect.  We took the more gradual route which allowed us to run most of the way.

Caitlin, Me, Noah and Marta at the saddle on the way to the Summit
Enjoying my LL Bean Gear
A special thanks to LL Bean who sponsors In The Arena and our community service project with the Boys and Girls Club.  I am a big fan of quality gear that is built to last whether it is my new shirt in the photo above or my LL Bean vest which is older than me.  .  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Minneapolis Training Block

Four weeks at home sure went quickly and it is hard to leave to head back to altitude.  The weather in Minneapolis has been fantastic which for me is not too humid and on the cooler side of things.  It has been nice to train on my favorite local loops and see where my fitness stacks up this year.  Training in Utah this spring has been good, but since many of the routes and interval loops are different it is hard to compare my fitness to past years.  My time at home included another volume week of 30 hours of training, a recovery week and an intensity week.

Enjoying Loppet Adventures night with the Loppet Foundation members.
One of the values of the Loppet Foundation is 'adventure', with believe that living an inspired life requires taking paths with uncertain outcomes.  I enjoy and good adventure and the loppet Adventure group meets up once a month for a different activity encouraging experience veterans and first timers to come enjoy an evening together.  I have been getting more comfortable in the canoe and had a great time enjoying the solstice on the chain of lakes my college teammate and friend Brent Knight and our new friend Atan-wa.  A great way to recover after a big week of training.

Perfect summer training weather
Summer session is in at the Club which brings more kids and several new faces to Run Club.  A huge thanks to Kim, Will, and Gwen for running practice while we have been out of town.
Several runners are off the charts at Run Club including Gregory and Avis
Updated Run Club training logs

Plank Off  as we wait for a thunderstorm to roll through before Run Club

Enjoying some rest and an organic apple from Fruitshare after running our  3 mile goal for the day.
A great start to my intensity week, shaving off  over a minute from my 10 km Rollerski Time Trial in Tyrol and pacing pretty darn even splits.  Only 16 seconds of PR from October before Sochi.
Training with the US Ski Team crew out in Park City in May has been a bit of a humbling experience as the guys train hard and fast.  I often felt like I was getting my butt kicked.  One of the nice things about training at home is I could see how I compare in some of my regular benchmarks.   I think it is good to get your butt kicked as an athlete as it can help expose your weaknesses and encourages you to raise your level and standards.  A shout out to my neighbor Gerald for coming out and taking splits for me.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Live High Train Low

Tomorrow I head home to Minneapolis after nearly 5 weeks of living at 8,200 feet.  I have had some of my most focused training since the Olympics and it has been great.  I haven't been moving super quick since I have been training high but I have been absorbing the training well and I think it will set me up for a strong racing season this winter.  I have been able to push the volume and recover well with the ability to focus nearly 100% on training.  I am looking forward to coming home, but it sure is nice to be away from the many distractions of home.

Me, Blair and Caitlin after speaking at the ACIST sales meeting in Chicago
Caitlin and I took a quick trip to Chicago for our rest day to speak with the ACIST sales team.  We have shared our story often and incorporated goal setting, working hard, working smart and working consistently however this was our first presentation to a group of adult professionals.  We had a great time with Team ACIST and took advantage of a day at sea level for a hard track workout.  We were able to run to the track in 20 minutes on the crushed limestone path outside our hotel.
8 x 800 m at 2:30 pace
This trip is the first one we have taken in a long time without two 50-70lb bags each.  It sure is nice to travel with only a carry on.  

Leading the Team Soldier Hollow junior crew for their Saturday distance session
Last fall I did an open ski for juniors prior to the first Super Tour of the year in West Yellowstone, MT.  Many of the kids were from the Soldier Hollow ski team.  Caitlin and I led a distance ski walk session with the junior team on Saturday.  Their coach and our friend Morgan Smyth just had knee surgery and is recovering.  Morgan has been pretty creative with the kids, driving a golf cart to coach them on the roller ski workout and meeting us before the hike for some drills in the parking lot.

Enjoying the view from the top!
Where's the snow?
I am excited to see our dog Lahti tomorrow and return to the house.  Next week is my second super volume week of the year and it will be fun to explore my favorite routes around the Twin Cities.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Altitude Camp

Caitlin and I have had good luck with altitude training over the years.  Most recently with our altitude camp at 9,000 feet in Frisco, CO leading up to the 2015 World Championships.   We have received a lot of guidance and direction from personal experience, research, Randy Wilbur with the US Olympic Committee, and Olympic Champion Billy Demong.  Altitude training will be a key part of our training plan this year.  We are excited to be be living at 8,150 feet in Deer Valley, UT for a four week camp to kick off the ski season.  The last two weeks we have been training with the US Ski Team and it has been fantastic.  I have always been a fan of training with athletes who are faster than you and the entire US Ski Team A and B teams were in town for the camp.  
Noah Hoffman and I post 5*6 min L4
It is fantastic to train with the National Team crew and I found myself pushed in pretty much all of the workouts.  Last year I did not do a group training camp in May and it lead to a slow start to the training year.  It is great to get be back in full on training mode.  The first day of camp was actually my first day off of antibiotics and a nasty sore throat that kept me sidelined for the first two weeks of May.  A big focus for Caitlin and I is double pole this year.  This became a larger goal after getting destroyed in two different double pole interval sessions by the other guys.  I do look at this as a positive though, because it means I have a lot of room to improve in this area.
Enjoying a 4 year wedding anniversary ski on the roller ski track at Soldier Hollow
One of my favorite places to race is at Soldier Hollow, home of the 2002 Olympic Cross Country ski races.  There is a 5 km paved loop that follows the ski trails and flows just as if you were skiing on the trails with snow on them.

Nitrogen Bath
One of the big names in altitude training is Jim Stray Gunderson.  Many of the papers and studies on altitude training have been done by him and he lives here in Park City and works out of the USSA's Center of Excellence. I have really enjoyed talking with him about altitude training and look forward to dialing in our altitude plan with him.  He performed a hemoglobin mass base line test on us to help us see what kind of response our bodies have to the altitude during our weeks here.  He was helping a runner recover from a training session with what I can only describe as a nitrogen bath.  He asked if we wanted to give it a try.  You stand in this dunk tank and liquid nitrogen is pumped in making it super cold but only for a few minute burst.  I honestly had to google it when I returned home:  I felt great the next day for training, but I think an ice bath might be a bit easier.

Caitlin and Antje Harvey with their World Championship Bronze Medals
Over the last 9 years, Caitlin and I have been sponsored by Toko gloves, wax and tools.  Ian Harvey is the US Brand manager for Toko and he and his wife Antje live in Heber, UT near Soldier Hollow.  We joined the Olympic duo for lunch between training sessions.  It was pretty fun to see Caitlin and Antje with the bronze medals.  The medals are identical designs, even though they were earned 30 years apart.  Both of the girls are a little shy about showing off their medals, but I find it hugely inspiring.  One of my goals here in Park City is to get to see Billy Demong's gold medal.  Naively I didn't even realize that Antje had 4 Olympic medals from the '92 and '94 Olympics in biathlon.  Caitlin knew her history though and Antje pulled out the box with them so we could admire them.  They are beautiful.

I am so excited for this season.  I have had a good last two weeks of training but it is clear to me that I am not in very good shape right now and have a lot of work to do this summer in training and recovery.  The good thing is that I am hungrier than ever to put in the the work and enjoy the rewards.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


I have had a lot of wonderful people and programs that have impacted my life.  My personal experiences are what have motivated me to pursue having a similar impact on others.  Effect and influence is a difficult thing to measure.  A few things happened this week that make me feel pretty good about the impact of my In The Arena projects.  

Gregory won the prize for running the most miles in Run Club this Spring.  Over the last six weeks he ran 43 miles.
This week marked my final week in Minneapolis for the school year as Caitlin and I are headed out to Park City, UT for her first US Ski Team camp.  Typically this would also mean the final week of Run Club.  New this year though, volunteer Kim has offered to continue running practices for the kids on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  Kim called us two weeks ago to see if she could join her child at run club and for the 5 km race.  She has been awesome and a huge motivation to us and the kids.  Our friend Will has also offered to help with Run Club and it makes me so happy to see the program continue while we are away at training camp.

Caitlin and Kim
The second thing that really made me smile were the comments left on my last blog post by the kids in Kaktovik.  Due to some technical issues I am not able to publish the comments in the traditional sense but here they are:

Lydia K:
I had fun skiing with you out by the snow fences. I fell a few times,
but I liked going up and down the hill. It was nice to ski with twins
because I am a twin, too. Ms. Deb and Mr. V took us skiing on
Wednesday. I'm glad we have skis at the school. Are you planning to
come back to Kaktovik next year?

Lenora K.
Thank you for coming to Kaktovik to ski with us. You, Chad and Andrew
are all really good skiers. I miss you. I liked when Chad held my hand
and I was the secret weapon out by the snow fences. We still have snow
by the fences, but the tundra snow has melted behind teacher housing
and the school. I liked it when Officer Ben came and watched us ski.
Will you be coming back to Kaktovik next year? I hope so.

Michael L.
I really like cross-country skiing because you taught us new things
like going down low and through the poles. My favorite thing was going
downhill from side to side. Are you going to come visit again. Ms. Deb
took us out a few days ago and I won the race around the snow fence.
Thanks for teaching me how to ski.

Thank you, Brian, Chad, and Andrew for taking us out skiing. It was
super fun and awesome. I hope you can come back again. I really liked
it when you took us almost all the way to the dump. I'm glad you left
skis here for us to use. Ms. Deb took us out the last week of school.

Still skiing in Kaktovik in mid May.
It is great to see the familiar faces of the kids and to see that they are using and enjoying the equipment that SkiKu left for them at the school.  The smiles tell the story and the impact for the kids.

Spring has arrived to Kaktovik
To the kids in Kaktovik: Here is how we "roller ski" so that we can go skiing when there is no snow.  It is fun, but real snow is better!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Polar Bear, Fast Kids, Sleepovers

The last two weeks of April have seen fantastic weather and incredible experiences. I finished up the second half of my SkiKu week teaching skiing in the Alaskan village of Kaktovik.  The community there is just amazing and it was hard to leave.  The kids all told us they hoped the weather would come in and we would be able to fly out.  I am amazed at how well the kids have progressed in our 5 days on snow with them and their second year with the SkiKu program

Final day of teaching skiing in Kaktovik, AK
We had some fun races to cap off a great week. The kids have 25 pairs of skis, boots and poles that will remain at the school for them to use.  We had several of the teachers out skiing this week too and they have promised to take the kids out this Spring.  Keep in mind that ice is out in the Ocean around July 4th.

Traditional MukTuk (Whale Skin and Blubber)
One of the teachers brought some Muk Tuk to the community dinner.  I can't say I am a huge fan, although it was very fascinating to try.  It is quite chewy.  The Boys and Girls Club kids liked Caitlin showing them photos of my Alaska trip.  I brought a small chuck of blubber back with me, but I accidentally left it in Paul's truck.  Sorry buddy, I did double bag it though.
Polar Bear Tracks.  A goal of mine for a long time has been to see a Polar Bear in the wild. Here are his tracks.  He was first spotted 5 houses down from ours, but we only ever saw him from a long distance away on the ice through binoculars. 
Our final morning in town we were awoken with a phone call that the Nanook was just a few houses down from ours.  I don't think I have ever dressed so quickly at 4:30 am in the morning. It was helpful that it was completely light out.  A pretty fun way to celebrate Earth Day.  I am happy to teach skiing anywhere in the world, especially on snow in April, but I had requested Kaktovik knowing there was a small chance of seeing a Polar Bear.  Many of the native villages still hunt and eat polar bear, but they do not kill the bears in Kaktovik.

An overnight back country ski tour with Chad and Paul
Back at the Club on Monday after the red eye flight.  Pretty wild the contrast between Alaska and Minnesota
Wednesday Run Club Practice
Wednesday LNR Junior Practice
Thursday Fast Kids Practice
Sharing the same training hills, trails, and exercises with a World Championship Medalist
Passing out numbers pre-race
Boys and Girls Club on the start line of the Endurance United: Go Spring 5/10k Race

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kaktovik, AK: Polar Bears and 8 Months of Winter

SkiKu Coaches: Me, Chad and Andrew at the Anchorage Airport
After a nice two weeks at home I am back on the road again searching for snow.  I am currently sitting in the school in Kaktovik, AK.  The sun is still high in the sky at 8 pm and the snow is still accumulating with temperatures about 12 degrees. It is awesome!  Conditions for skiing are great and the kids are super excited for their second year of SkiKu here in the village.  About 30 pairs of skis stay here in the village and we have an additional 30 pairs that we flew in with.

Andrew challenging the group on day one with some balance exercises before heading outside.
Skiku’s mission is to create a sustainable Nordic ski program in communities throughout Alaska.  Currently the program provides equipment to schools and a week of instruction each year.  The kids have been looking forward to SkiKu's return to Kaktovid and ran up to greet us as we entered the schools.  Giving us big hugs despite having never met this particular trio of coaches.  Last years group of coaches: Rosie, Lars and Jonas did a great job.

Polar Bear tag, watch out for the twins
We are in Polar Bear country here in Kaktovik, AK.  Polar Bears are my favorite animals and it is cool to see their natural habitat.  The kids are well educated in Polar Bear or 'Nanuk' awareness.  Today during practice we even had Officer Ben come out to be on bear watch.

Fresh powder on day 1 made for magical fresh tracks

I love working with kids and the opportunity to do so with skiing is great.  Even better is the fact that I am out of competition season so I can put 100% of my energy in to the kids.  I fell asleep last night at 9 am and slept 10 hours.

Despite being the weekend we still have over 30 kids meet us at the school to ski each day!
The kids in Kaktovik are unbelievable.  Perhaps the best behaved kids I have ever worked with.  They are so excited to ski and so supportive of each other.  I love the sense of community in the village.   We have a huge spectrum of abilities and yet the more advanced kids help the beginners.  I cant help but smile all day long.

Chad the Penguin heading down the hill as a trio

Chad and Andrew out for a morning 'coaches' ski

Checking out the whale bone pole at the end of the airport runway

Not the 80 degrees of Minneapolis, but I prefer this weather!