About halfway through a set of thrusters in the gym last week, I bonked myself on the noggin. Somewhere between a deep squat and an explosive overhead press, my head got in the way of the bar. I managed to throw the full strength of my body plus about 75 pounds of moving deadweight squarely into the bottom of my chin. After the initial shock of slamming a bar into my face wore off and the subsequent tears had subsided, I shuffled back to the bar to the finish the set. This time, I spent an extra few seconds double checking my form. I focused on tightening my core, placing my feet squarely below my shoulders, taking an extra step back from the squat rack and breathing deeply before launching into a series of squat thrust combos. Ten minutes later I had completed my sets and moved on to the next exercise.
|The magic of New Zealand summer (er winter)|
Traveling to New Zealand in August was kind of like a figurative bonk on the head (or noggin as they say down South). I was initially thrilled to travel halfway across the world for the chance to train on snow during the summer months. After 3 solid months of roller skiing and running in Stratton, I think I half expected to jump on snow and absolutely crush every workout, perhaps earning extra pats on the back for my new found strength and productive off-season gains. Instead I was almost instantaneously humbled by the snowy trails and my speedy teammates. My legs felt wobbly trying to navigate long skis and variable snow conditions. My sore hip flexors missed the perfect kick of ratcheted roller-ski wheels. My arms frantically wind-milled in an attempt to match the double pole pace of my fellow U.S. skiers and my lungs resisted as I strained to race at 5,000 feet.
|That view though|
After getting over the initial shock of skiing on snow and suffering through a few workouts that didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, I was forced to accept that perhaps I hadn’t achieved perfect skate technique and a flawless double pole over the past three months. Skiing on snow makes weaknesses painfully obvious but at the same time offers endless opportunity for improvement. After a few tears and a re-focusing of effort, my noggin went from blown to re-energized. I had a direction and a map and some incredibly beautiful terrain to cover on the way there!
|Afternoon adventure with Jessie and Sophie around the “Loop”|
|Powder ski with Katherine, Sophie and Liz|
|Pretty stoked to be skiing down South!|
|Snowy cabin in the hills|
Staying in Vermont definitely would have been easier. I would have saved myself over 2 days of travel, a trip across the date line and associated jet lag, the cost of a pricey plane ticket and the frustration of jumping on snow only to realize you still have a lot of work to do. Yes, staying in Vermont would have been easier but I think I would have missed something pretty important. Sometimes in order to move forward you have to give yourself a little bonk in the head to figure out how. New Zealand flipped things upside down (both literally and figuratively), forcing me to refocus and fine tune the things I know how to do well while simultaneously identifying the things I can do much better and continue to work on over the next few months.
|We aren’t happy at all… obviously|
|Adventure ski with Jessie the jumping bean|
In the end the trip to New Zealand was invaluable. One of my goals this year was to log more on-snow time in the off-season and over two weeks in New Zealand offered some of the best on-snow training I can imagine! We spent mornings at the Snow Farm, sweeping along seemingly endless trails and working on technique, practicing speeds and downhills, changing gears on uphills and even jumping in some races. We experienced everything from fresh powder snow and clear blue sky days to 60 mph winds, fast icy conditions and even one day of slushy rain skiing. The changing conditions meant we got to practice skiing in a little bit of everything-a sort of microcosm of the various conditions you might experience over a season of racing.
|Extra focus during an interval session|
|and enjoying some fresh POW during an easy distance ski|
|Navigating the fog|
We stayed right at the Snow Farm, a snowy mecca atop high mountains which offers perfectly groomed trails as well as ample curst cruising. After a morning on the snow we could roll inside to hot showers, soup, our freshest pair of sweatpants and a flat white. The food in New Zealand is a tasty mix of British and Asian inspired cuisine that includes a lot of lamb, veggiemite, miso, curry, kimchi, fennel, arugula, root veggies, kiwis (duh) and the best cakes and sticky puddings you can imagine. I also came to LOVE veggiemite with my eggs and toast in the morning. In the afternoons we typically headed outside for a second session on snow or occasionally made the trip off the mountain to run and do strength in the lake town of Wanaka.
|Skipping rocks next to the floating tree in Wanaka|
|Driving down off the mountain|
|Running in Wanaka|
|The best and most beautiful flat whites|
The trip was both a bonk in the head and mind blowing and I cannot wait to go back! Big thank you to the Snow Farm for hosting us and to the U.S. Ski Team for letting me join the camp!
|Last run by the lake|
|One of many glorious sunsets|
|Andy catching some air|
|Peace out New Zealand!|