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?