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 The American Birkie: I definitely caught the Birkie Fever…and I still have it!

 If you ever get a chance, head out to Telemark/Hayward to race the American Birkie. This is perhaps one of the best weekends I’ve had in my life! And being a ski racer and doing what I love, that happens a lot! But this weekend will be one of the best for a while. The reason I say this is because for the last 3 months racing hasn’t been very fun, in a lot of ways I felt like I was trying so hard to “pick myself up and dust myself off and get back out there” that I just got exhausted and really stopped loving skiing. Little did I know that a 52km race in Wisconsin and just over 2 hours I would find that energy and love of racing back.

 I love to smile and laugh and my cheeks are still sore from the four days of epic racing and a little bit of celebration!

The Birkie starts at the Telemark Lodge in an open field and then makes a quick turn to some steep hills followed by super fun rolling terrain- I was in love! I had no idea what to expect so I just skied and eventually we had whittled the pack down to four girls. We all worked well together, but at the same time I couldn’t shake the feeling that one of the girls would make a move and with about 5km to go Rebbecca went for it. I tried desperately to cover her, but just ran out of steam and then skiied 3m behind Taz across the lake because the wind was so strong and I couldn’t close the gap. As you approach Hayward you can see the water tower, but don’t be fooled- it is a LONG way away. Then as you enter the down town the streets are lined with cheering people and I think I had to remind myself to finish the race and then enjoy the atmosphere!

I am having a hard time putting into words why this race is so important to me- but all I can think of is that is was the first time since last spring that I had fun racing! The results come when there is balance and I think I found that in Wisconsin this weekend! Who would have thought?

I travelled with Lifesport from Calgary and they provided wax support and accommodation. My skis were rockets! Ian and Bruce did an incredible job and I was so relieved on the first downhill that I had comparable skis to the top women. I also got to hang out with some incredible people who love to race and train and relish the trips they do get to take like this away from their busy lives.

Throughout the course there are a lot of “theatrics”. Such as the drummers up the first hill, then of course ‘Bitch Hill”. The feed stations are also quite entertaining, you definitely had to keep your elbows up and stay alert because there were a lot of quick decisions by other skiers to move across the trail. That said, I have done a lot of loppets over the years, and the one part I had always found tough was managing the master men, most of them don’t really move if you are travelling faster, but at the birkie, they definitely moved and all together! It made the race a lot more seamless for the elite women for sure, as I don’t think I’ve ever done a loppet and not been a little intimidated by the men.

I also have to mention that the support from the race organizers was incredible! I met the most generous people at this race and you can definetly feel that they just love the Birkie and Cross Country Skiing.

Now on to the skiing- The trails were amazing. I had no idea that there were training opportunities in that area like the Birkie trails. The trails are super wide with a ton of terrain! It was a great weekend and I would definitely urge you to consider this race next winter! I will try to post photos when they become available!

 Ciao, Brooke

Oh and something completely unrelated: please go to www.tweetheadwear.weebly.com my friend and I make toques as a creative diversion to the  intensity that racing and training can have…you can order them online and I will also try to bring some to Canadian Nationals and US Spring Series. If you are in the Bow Valley, you can buy them at WANT down town!  No two hats are the same!  We have had a ton of positive feedback and it has been awesome to walk downtown and see someone wearing our product. They are handmade with a very low environmental impact as we use antique buttons from thrift stores, leather scraps from a window covering business and the yarn and material used for the appliques are purchased locally!  We also have some t.shirts and loop scarves in the works with the same funky appliques! cheers!

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I thought I had skied almost everywhere in and around the Bow Valley- until today. I have been to Lake Louise on Moraine Lake Road and the 1A a ton of times, but today I went onto the double track trails at Lake Louise and found myself skiing across the lake all the way to the this really amazing ice waterfall. This weekend was also the ice carving contest so I took a spin quickly through the pieces of art- if you have a chance make a trip up to the Chateau NOW!

I am always in awe of how pristine and beautiful Lake Louise is, and even though it definetly was not quiet on the Lake it was still quite peaceful. You can even take a sled led by horses to the end of the Lake!

Anyhow, I would definetly recommend taking a spin up at the Lake!

Ciao,

Brooke

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The season seemed like it was flying by until I realized that it is still only January and we have another 2.5-3 months left of racing!

Currently I am in Winthrop, WA getting ready for the Super Tour races. A small group from the AWCA made the trek down here yesterday- All eleven hours of it! It seemed to go by pretty quick.

Its pretty wet here, but they still have a ton of snow, we will be going over to the sprint course soon to test some skis.  I really hope it clears up for one day because all of the photos in the newspapers and magazines here make Winthrop look like a skiers paradise.

Previous to these races I went to Valcartier for a NorAm and these were also the races for the U23 adn WJ trials. Our team did amazing! I think there are 6 or maybe more of the athletes going to Europe for those Championships from the Academy.

Other then that I will be racing at the World cup in Canmore in a few weeks and then we will see what happens after that!

Happy Trails,

Brooke

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I am not a huge fan of cold weather- I love spring skiing and dress overly warm for cold weather- yes, I’m usually the one skiing around with full icebreaker in +5…my body really doesn’t like the cold.
 (if you don’t know what icebreaker baselayer is then go to www.icebreaker.com it will seriously change your comfort in cold weather)  

That all said,  I LOVE winter and I LOVE snow. So I have worked on ways to keep warm…especially when you get down to fight weight in racing- it doesn’t leave a lot of insulation! I also have tried to get rid of any post race coughing quickly as in the past it has developed into bronchitis, lung infections, exhaustion from not sleeping, and basically everyone thinking you have the plague so they don’t come near you!

1) get in a good warm up. I have finally got a pretty good warmup routine down and along with running back and forth testing race skiis, I seem to stay warm for the start.
2) change your top, toque and gloves before the start of the race! in the past I would get in a good warm up and sweat so much that it would freeze on the start line.
3) ski with warm sport drink or tea in your waterbelt. I know its not super good with the plastic and all, but it does keep your lungs warm on those frigid days.
4) for long skiis carry some extra neck warmers (I think my mom calls them dickies). I like fleece neck warmers because I find they don’t freeze as fast as some of the other ones out there , they are also a lot bigger and allow the air to get warmer. I usually change my nexk warmer once or twice in a long ski on a really cold day and if you have to do intensity- keep your mouth and nose covered. It might be terribly uncomfortable, but I would rather fry my lungs in a race then in a workout!
5) always wear long underwear under your tights- keeping your muscles warm keeps them moving efficiently.
6) saline nasal spray: use it before and after workouts to cut down on coughing. I forgot this on our trip to West Yellowstone and coughed for about 4 days after.
7) change right after your workout and drink something hot! Always bring extra warm toques and gloves/mitts. Your body wastes more energy when its cold!
8) socks are so so so important: invest in atleast one very good pair of socks with sweat wicking properties. I recommend Icebreaker hiker mid-weight, they dry fast and are not super thick.
9) re-fuel right after your training or race…you burn more calories in very cold weather!
10) if you are suceptible to bronchitis and lung infections, bad coughing etc. it might be a good idea to hold off on racing when it is near the cut off for races!

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! Silver Star is showing off for us today- great snow, great grooming and some sunshine!

Brooke

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Over the years I’ve tried to make meetings with coaches as efficient as possible, this was mostly due to the fact that I was working and training full time and I needed to use my time wisely. However, now that I am only focusing on skiing, I still feel that coach-athlete meetings need to be as focused as possible. Obviously there are different “types” of meetings, but mostly the meetings are to discuss the program, how your feeling, what you think you need to work on and the meeting is also an opportunity to bring up any other issues. Meetings are also a tool to help with building confidence in racing and in the program and building coach-athlete relationships.

So here are a few pointers for getting the most from the meeting…these may also help if you are a bit more shy and are not always great at speaking up (like me).

1.) Set a time, date, place

2.) Make an agenda: write down the items you would like to discuss and write down the answers to them. This will keep the meeting flowing in the direction you want it so that you don’t stray too much off topic.

3.) Make sure to review your plan and bring a copy of it with you.

4.) Its a good idea to have a calendar or day-timer to refer to.

5.) If you are too afraid to ask a question point blank, write it down and hand it to your coach or email them before the meeting so they can address it during the meeting.

6.) Try not to be tired, hungry or stressed when you have a more serious meeting- it will make it that much harder to discuss tougher topics.

Ciao!

Brooke

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Sometimes opportunities present themselves in the most unexpected ways. The reason I say this is because the few days leading up to our Whistler camp I admittedly lost perspective of what I was trying to accomplish in training and racing. In other words, I was having a bit of a tough time having fun. I started micro-managing every aspect of my training and recovery which left little to no time for balance and fun in life.  And lets be honest, if you chose to be a ski racer in North America and get the opportunity to do it full time your life doesn’t get much better- and this is what I lost grasp of.

The day before we left I wasn’t even sure I would be heading to Whistler for our volume camp. In the spring this was the camp I wanted to be perfect and to go into it with a ton of energy and motivation, unfortunately my plan got a little side tracked. That was until a friend of my boyfriend called and asked if we would like to take a helicopter tour of Canmore and K-Country for free. So of course we jumped on the opportunity, but even as I fastened my seat belt I was still not present in the event that was about to take place. This feeling quickly went away as we pulled further and further away from Canmore, high above the mountains I look up at every single day. For an hour we swooped through the valley’s and by glaciers, waterfalls, and beautiful turquoise lakes. At about 45min into our hour tour I realized that skiing didn’t have to be so hard and if I remembered to take a few steps back every now and then to look at the big picture, I am reminded that I have the opportunity to train in the most amazing place and go after my dream. It just took a helicopter ride to get me to wake up a bit!!!

Thanks to Corey  at Alpine Helicopter Tours!!!

Enjoy the photos!

Perspective, perspective, perspective, perspective, perspective…..you get the point!

Brooke

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The AWCA team just finished a 10 day camp in beautiful Whistler- British Columbia definitely wasn’t too bold in stating that is “the best place on Earth”.  Camps are time to be 100% focused on the process and pay attention to all those little things. That being said “the little things” are different to everyone and recovery and training advice also varies. So I asked most of the AWCA athletes to write a few lines on the “Best Training Advice” they have been given or try to follow.

“Work your program, don’t let it work you”- Joey Burton, 1st yr AWCA athlete

“Perspective, perspective, perspective. Its important to not sweat the small stuff and keep focused on the big picture (Mike, the coach would be proud!)”- Heidi Widmer, 2nd year AWCA athlete

“Always step-by-step, you are always capable of taking that one more step”- Sara Hewitt, 2nd yr AWCA athlete

“Your teammates are one of your biggest assets, use them, work together”- Marlis Kromm, 2nd yr AWCA ahtlete

“Perseverance is key. “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever”- Lance Armstrong– from Annika Hicks, 1st yr AWCA athlete

“Don’t ignore a cold. More often than not, you will be better off taking time off training/racing to ensure a full recovery than if you pretend you aren’t sick and try to train through a cold”- Rhonda Sandau, 2nd year AWCA athlete

“You have to believe in yourself more then anything, no one else is going to make you fast. You have complete control over how hard you can go…and its always way harder then you think” – Brooke Gosling, 2nd yr AWCA athlete

“Don’t let others intimidate you into training too hard. you will only get the full benefits from the workout if you are training at the pace. So don’t let others dictate how hard you push”-Anonymous AWCA athlete

“Athletes are made in the summer so train hard and train smart”- anonymous AWCA athlete

“Train at every opportunity, it may be raining for you, but your opponents are out there in clear weather. Don’t waste your opportunities to improve yourself”- ananymous AWCA Athlete

I would encourage other teams to do this exercise, its also a great way to get to know your teammates learn something new.

ciao!

Brooke

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One of my favorite training trails is the trip to Sentinel Pass (you can also dip over and back around to Lake Louise). Last weekend my boyfriend and I hike/ran the pass. I have done this hike about five times and every time the weather has been awful everywhere except over this beautiful mountain mecca. I also love bringing people to the Valley of Ten Peaks  who have never been to the area before (Ten peaks that surround Moraine Lake), you get a huge bang for your buck.

The only twist was convincing my boyfriend who is not a skier but an exceptional “recreation athlete” (basically there is nothing ‘rec’ about him…he can run and hike with me) to run/hike up a mountain with not too many breaks and staying MY zone 1.  I gave in a bit and allowed for a snack break and we took some photos (inset).

The hike starts at the base of Moraine lake and switch-backs up the mountain into Larch Valley- if you do this hike in the fall the larch trees are yellow, it is amazing! and then from Larch Valley you approach Sentinel pass which is a quick steep switch back up the mountain bowl. At the top you are greeted by an amazing view and the tops of the mountains have spires (I’m not sure what the technical term is).

The hike up is perfect terrain for ski walking and you can easily do the hike in 1.5-2hrs, but I would definetly stop to take some photos.

The way down is always a fun run, and jumping in the lake at the end is definitely refreshing!

The best thing about living in the mountains is that you get to be creative with your training and sometimes after weeks of going up and down the same road roller-skiing it is rejuvenating to go on an adventure!

Brooke

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On July 13th we ran into the Haig Glacier located in Kananaskis Country, AB. The run in takes about 2-3 hours (maybe longer) it has quite a bit of flat flowing terrain along the river and then the switch backs begin. Over the years I’ve heard various ideas around “how” to go into the Glacier, ie. don’t go in trying to break records etc. but I think just respecting your zones is the best way. However if it is your first trip to high altitude (if your coming from Ontario for example) and don’t have too much time in Canmore for acclimatization I would suggest going quite a bit slower then what your zone 1 would be at sea level.

It is a 30min-1hr hike from the camp up to where we ski and this is the place I have noticed the most impact on your actual ski training. Hiking too fast up to the ski trail usually leaves you with lactic acid buildup and then it is tough to ski for a long time as it is pretty hard to kick out once your up skiing. I try to stay about 10 beats below z1 when I’m hiking up in the morning for the first few days until my legs get under me.

This week most of us did some of the bigger hours we have ever done. It was great to have such a big team training, although the bad weather at the start of the week made for a bit of cabin fever! I felt awesome until the day before we had to leave and my throat got super sore so I no matter how much I tried to deny I was sick, I ended up nursing my first cold in about 2 years this last week. I feel way better today, but man, getting sick just plain sucks. I took one full day off and then eased back into training, although it was tough to decide if I was tired from the training at the Glacier or tired from being sick so instead I just ignored both and enjoyed training in the wonderful HOT weather we have had here in Canmore over the last 7 days!

The Academy athletes are all building on their strengths from last year and technique improvements have been quite substantial from our Silverstar Camp in May.

We will be leaving for a 13 day training camp in Whistler on August 9th. I”m really looking forward to training on the Olympic courses and seeing how hard I can push my body over those few weeks.

happy training!

Brooke

Photos: Terrell Stephen and Dan Roycroft

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Wow, I can’t believe its already July 10th!

Canada Day is quite the experience in Canmore, as it is in most cities in Canada. This year the Academy staked its claim in the Canmore parade (I didn’t participate, but thought the photos were worth a post!). It sounded like it was a blast, and I am a little sad I missed it, but I was moving into a new place and seeing as how it was a holiday it was impossible to get anyone to help- I should have planned it a bit better!

Some of the team also participated in the Canada Day “Fun” run. I use the term “fun” loosley as there is nothing recreation about those that enter the race! Along with the uber fast rec runners, the Academy, some of the National Biathlon team participated too. The race was 8km and ran along the river- this is usually the place where most skiers do their recovery runs, but on Canada Day it is packed with racers! I am not sure how many people participated, but I think somewhere in the 300-400 range.

July 1st also marked the end of our testing week. During this week we did a Vo2 test, an uphill double pole test, an uphill skate test and the 8km run. I didn’t realize that I had completed all of these full out efforts in seven days, and it was no wonder that by Saturday I was exhausted!

In addition, to this being the first week of July this is also the week that I finished my last day of work. For the last five years I have held a full time job as a construction coordinator/ assistant to the Superintendent/ Project manager with a development comany (Stonecreek Properties) who I am so thankful to for giving me the flexibility to manage my training and racing scheldule but also have a job that I was able to use my degree with. I have realized the more that I train and the more that I get closer to accomplishing my goals I just wasn’t able to recover enough and in June it got to the point where I wasn’t doing a good job of training or recovering and I wasn’t fully present at work. This was a no-win situation. So after a conversation with my boss I decided the best thing to do would be to just focus on training, my employers were even more excited for my pursuit then they had been all the years previously! I am now a full time athlete! Its awesome- I feel like I won the lottery! This is the best lifestyle anyone could ever have and I am going to cherish every moment of it! Albeit, it is going to be financially tough, but I have some great people and parents and other support behind me that I feel fully confident that I can bring my training to a whole other level!

We are heading to the haig glacier monday for the first week of a tough few months!

Brooke

Photos courtesy of: Blair Dunbar, Dan Roycroft and Gordon Jewett

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