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Canmore has been so good to us over the years, and this fall is no exception! The skiing at Frozen Thunder has been great, it’s been good to be on snow with beautiful mountains surrounding the town, and so far camp has been pretty relaxing!

Doing some one-pole drill skiing! (photo by Anne Hart)

Doing some one-pole drill skiing! (photo by Anne Hart)

I really like this on snow time for a couple reasons. Besides the obvious (it’s snow, duh!) it’s better for my technique practice to be on the real stuff instead of roller skis. Having kick wax that is just the tiniest bit slick on purpose forces me to stay honest with my striding, and really concentrate on feeling my foot connect with the snow. Rollerskiing is a great way to train, get fit and keep some technique gains over the summer, but nothing can replace the exact feeling of kicking and gliding!

You know what else is pretty great? We have a patriotic racing suit this year! While pink and black were awesome, they weren’t exactly on the flag, and this year we’re rocking the stars and stripes…bringing back the Olympic suit for everyday World Cup use. YES. I. AM. HAPPY. ABOUT. THIS.

Andy and Ben, sprinting it up and showing off the new race suits for next winter!!! (photo: USSA Nordic)

Andy and Ben, sprinting it up and showing off the new race suits for next winter!!! (photo: USSA Nordic)

 

It’s also funny because some of the bad habits I have on roller skis, like having weirdly hyper-extensive joints and letting my knees come waaaaaaaay out on V1, disappear once I get on snow. It’s like a big boost of confidence….”see, you actually DO know how to ski, it just doesn’t always feel like it on roller skis!”

Anne "Goobie" was standing at the end of the course, taking selfies with every skier to pass by. What a little ray of sunshine!

Anne “Goobie” was standing at the end of the course, taking selfies with every skier to pass by. What a little ray of sunshine!

While we have been taking advantage of the snow and skiing every morning for at least 2 hours, in the afternoons we have been switching it up. Sometimes I’ll ski as a warmup before strength, or we might go for a run, or roller ski as was the case yesterday. We wanted to do some hard, fast double pole intervals, and doing it on the pavement meant we’d for sure not punch through the snow or be in the way of all the skiers, dodging traffic. They were hard, but went well!

Getting psyched up for our afternoon double pole interval set! (photo from Pat)

Getting psyched up for our afternoon double pole interval set! (photo from Pat)

Pounding the pavement! Ida, me, Liz, Peri and the SMS crew! (photo by Pat)

Pounding the pavement! Ida, me, Liz, Peri and the SMS crew! (photo by Pat)

We have been staying in the Rocky Mountain ski lodge, as always. Same apartment, same girls (Liz and Ida and I), same beds. Same bad jokes, same order of waking up (I’m always last to roll out of bed), same departure times to get to the snow. It’s like nothing has changed! Except we are a little bit older, a little bit faster, we know each other even better than we did last year. Which is actually kind of amazing, considering how much time we spend with each other! :)

Simi, hammering out some laps. Also a wonderful mountain scenery shot! (photo by USSA Nordic)

Simi, hammering out some laps. Also a wonderful mountain scenery shot! (photo by USSA Nordic)

To end the post, I couldn’t resist posting a couple more photos I just got from the USST Ski Ball…they were so fun!

The Olympic athletes welcoming committee! :) (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

The Olympic athletes welcoming committee! :) (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Bidding on live auction items! (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Bidding on live auction items! (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Jonny Moseley really, REALLY won the costume contest. (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Jonny Moseley really, REALLY won the costume contest. (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

 

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Week two of Park City camp has come to a close, and in a very stylish way. Liz and I hopped a flight to San Francisco and attended one of the US Ski Team’s Ski Balls! It was retro ski themed, and we really took it to heart and dressed up. I think it’s a real shame that I missed out on the 80′s. A real shame. Everyone was so generous and supportive of the Ski Team, and it was a blast meeting new people and getting to share ski stories!

My "Punky Brewster" ski ball getup.

My “Punky Brewster” ski ball getup.

The US Olympians at the Ski Ball!

The US Olympians at the Ski Ball!

After cocktail hour and a chance to mingle, make new friends and bid on some auction items, we had dinner and watched David Wise’s Gold medal winning run. He gave a wonderful and inspirational talk, and there was also a live auction on some ski getaways. Liz Stephen spoke about the incredible facilities and staff at the COE that the US team provides for us to train the way we need to train. I had a chance to speak about team and what it means to me, and how our team isn’t just the guys and girls in spandex with race bibs on. It includes coaches, wax techs, the US staff and everyone who supports the Ski Team. It takes really hard work and dedication from every single person involved!

The night ended with a live band, a disco ball and a crowded dance floor. There may have been some fairly incredible dance moves happening as well. John Travolta would have been PROUD.

Liz and I working the floor.

Liz and I working the floor!

The ski team fundraiser was a big hit, and now I get to tell you about my upcoming personal fundraiser! Every fall the Chilkoot Cafe in Stillwater, Minnesota hosts a wonderful dinner fundraiser for me. The money the community raises from this event goes directly to support my travel, lodging and training fees for the upcoming season. I am so extremely lucky to have the support of such a friendly community, and I couldn’t have taken those steps towards the Olympics without the local support! So thank you to those of you who have attended in years past, you have been a big part of my team. Nobody can ever achieve their goals alone, and it takes a mighty big team to get to the World Cups and Olympics!

This year’s dinner will be November 9th, at 6:00pm. At the dinner I am looking forward to being able to see friends and skiers from the community and get to say goodbye before heading to Europe for the next 5 months. I will also be able to share some fun photos and stories of how the summer training has gone, as well as my goals and plans for the upcoming season!

In a fun new twist for the evening, I will also be auctioning off some of my Olympic gear; items from the Opening/Closing Ceremony, and some of the specially made clothing items for Sochi Team USA. They money raised from the auction will go directly to supporting junior athletes who are taking that crucial next step towards international racing. Until we can (finally!) get some World Cups in the US of A, it’s necessary to get to Europe to race on the world’s biggest stage. It’s also important to me to help get these junior athletes there, because people were there to help me out when I was looking to make that jump! Time to pay it forward, people. That’s why I’m willing to part with some of the coolest swag you can get once every 4 years. :)

Here are the condensed details:

The Chilkoot Café and Cyclery in Stillwater is once again hosting a fund raiser dinner for Olympian, World Champion and US Ski Team member, Jessie Diggins, on November 9th at 6PM.  The cost for dinner is $100, all proceeds of which go directly to Jessie to support training and racing expenses.  In addition to an evening of wonderful food and great race stories from Jessie, Jessie will be auctioning off some Olympic gear.  All proceeds form the auction will go to the National Nordic Foundation, to support junior skiers who qualify for international and national racing and training opportunities.  Call for more information or to reserve your spot at the Chilkoot Café, 651-342-0429.

Back to training camp updates! That’s why you read this far, right?

Sophie, Me and Sadie after the time trial workout

Sophie, Me and Sadie after the time trial workout

The team had a 10km time trial in Soldier’s Hollow on the roller ski track, which was a good opportunity to practice pacing at altitude.

Me, getting my serious face on (for once)

Me, getting my serious face on (for once)

Like we did in the spring, Hans, one of the USST interns, got out on my roller skis and practiced his classic technique doing laps of the COE parking lot. The poles were too short for him but he was a great sport!

Hans getting some double pole work in

Hans getting some double pole work in

We did some really hard, hot and dusty bounding intervals down in Salt Lake with the entire crew – there must have been about 40 athletes sweating it out on the trails. I had a rough workout as it was dusty and getting hot, and right in the middle of the set I had an asthma attack. I’ve always had sports-induced asthma, and for whatever reason I have never struggled with it during races or on skis, but sometimes it flares up during hard summer training. I am smart about slowly warming up my lungs and using my rescue inhaler if I need it, but this one caught me off guard. I was suddenly panicked and fighting to breathe while feeling like I was trying to suck air through the tiniest of straws. I was making the worst sort of rasping sounds and then for a while there were no sounds because there was no air, either. I eventually got it under control, and after giving myself a couple extra minutes to slow my breathing down, I finished my interval set.

I’m not sharing this as a pity plea, and I don’t go around thinking “oooooo poor me”, but I’m sharing this because I know a couple young athletes who have asthma, struggle with it during summer training, and are looking for ways to work around it. Sometimes it’s just hard, because there will be workouts when you start to struggle with breathing and as soon as you panic, it’s game over. And it’s important to acknowledge that there will be workouts when it doesn’t go perfectly! But over time I’ve been working on ways to re-focus, keep my mind off my breathing and stay calm when I know I am inches away from not being able to breathe. Sometimes simply counting to 10 over and over during a hard workout or a race can help me stay right in the moment, break down the interval into small manageable parts. Anyone can do anything for the count of 10, right? I sometimes sing (in my head, not out loud) because skiing to the rhythm of a song I’m really into can help me think of that instead of my lungs or how my legs hurt. Yesterday morning I tried something new – I smiled once every minute during an interval. Coach Whitcomb suggested that little trick. Just the act of smiling can help me relax and remember why I’m out here skiing hard, and it’s another way to get my mind off of the sound of my lungs. The biggest thing has been to continue to see an asthma doctor and make sure I’m doing all the little things right – taking my inhaler with enough time before the workout starts, etc. Hopefully if you’re also working to figure out how to get through interval sets with less hassle, this is helpful!

The last workout for me of the Park City camp was 6×10 minute L3 intervals up East Canyon, and a couple hours afterwards Liz and I hopped on the plane to San Francisco!

The US girls team! Me, Sadie, Kikkan, Liz and Ida (Sophie is missing from this photo)

The US girls team! Me, Sadie, Kikkan, Liz and Ida (Sophie is missing from this photo)

The next stop for us is Canmore, Alberta, where we will be training on snow. Cross Country Canada does a fantastic job with “Frozen Thunder”, getting a great track prepared so that skiers can dial in their technique on real skis before heading into the season. I’m excited to see some Canadian friends and take down some laps!

Last but most certainly not least, we have one more important fundraiser coming in hot this fall. Stratton Mountain School is hosting a send-off party and fundraiser for the SMST2 team on November 15th. We also have some exciting news! A generous donor has offered to match all donations up to $25,000 to the SMS T2 team. All donations made to the team by November 15th, 2014 will be matched. Click here to donate or see more details…or to read up on the team’s latest escapades! http://smst2.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/sms-t2-receives-challenge-grant/

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This first week of training camp in Park City has flown by! The first few days were filled with testing at the Center of Excellence (COE) for the US Ski Team. We did our usual tests on the treadmill; VO2 max, sub-max tests to test our our efficiency and technique gains, strength testing, mobility testing, yadda yadda yadda. It’s taken the whole week for me to adjust to living at such high altitude since our condo is at 8,000 ft, and for a while we were all getting the crazy “altitude dreams”! But now I’ve started to settle in and it’s nice to train up high to learn some things about pacing, like we do every fall.

Kikkan and I have some varying opinions on how to dress for fall weather! (photo from Ida S.)

Kikkan and I have some varying opinions on how to dress for fall weather! (photo from Ida S.)

Speaking of things we do every fall…you know what time of year this is? National Nordic Foundation (NNF) fundraising time, that’s what! We are doing the annual Drive for 25, which asks members of the ski community to donate $25 or more to the NNF. This money goes straight to funding their projects which include lowering trip costs for juniors going to international races (like World Juniors and U23s, which I competed in last year). They also help pay for transport, lodging and waxing costs in Europe, which add up to a lot! This link takes you to my fundraising page, where I’m asking you to pitch in any amount of money if you love watching World Cups at 4am. If you love hearing that US skiers are on the podium in Europe. If you think it’s cool that we are starting to become competitive as a nation in ski racing…please help support it! https://support.nationalnordicfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=353704

My fundraising page:  https://support.nationalnordicfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=353704

My fundraising page: https://support.nationalnordicfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=353704

We did some 10km level 3 intervals on the roller ski track at Soldiers Hollow, which was fun because we could play around with pacing and strategy and learn something from comparing the two 10km intervals that we did. We did some nice easy runs and some sprint training. And we’ve hung out together as a team!

Working on my sprint starts! (photo by Pat)

Working on my sprint starts! (photo by Pat)

Anne H and I working on cornering at speed (photo by Pat)

Anne H and I working on cornering at speed (photo by Pat)

 

Simi, Ben, Matt, Grover and Patty getting intense during team game night!

Simi, Ben, Matt, Grover and Patty getting intense during team game night!

The huge group, including athletes from the USST, SMST2, APU, Craftsbury, Sun Valley and the NEG camp did a long classic roller ski up a canyon. It was fun to meet the NEG athletes and ski with them, and the scenery was amazing.

Rolling uphill for a couple hours (photo by Fish)

Rolling uphill for a couple hours (photo by Fish)

Unfortunately, early in the week Sophie tripped and landed on her left elbow and broke it. She got surgery 24 hours later, and with a screw and a pin in it it should be healed in 6 weeks. This is obviously not ideal and painful, but if anyone can get through two elbow injuries in a summer and come out swinging, it’s Sophie! Nothing can bring that girl down! We are supporting her and she has the best attitude, and she is being really smart about training through it and getting on top of PT. Send her your best bone-healing thoughts!

Mary, Me, Sophie and Anne, who found a second "sponge bob arm protector" to hike with in solidarity. (photo from Soph)

Mary, Me, Sophie and Anne, who found a second “sponge bob arm protector” to hike with in solidarity. (photo from Soph)

Coach Whitcomb tying Sophie's shoes. We're taking  care of her, don't worry!

Coach Whitcomb tying Sophie’s shoes. We’re taking care of her, don’t worry!

 

Yesterday we finished off our first week of training with a nice long run. I ran with a smaller group and although the going was slow with the snow, hail and 8,000ft of altitude, we kept trucking along! People peeled off to go meet cars at the bottom of the mountain or go on ahead. Annie Hart and I finished the run together, and it was a 4 hour 15 minute effort. WHOO!

Annie P. showing Mary our running route across the mountains.

Annie P. showing Mary our running route across the mountains.

It needs to be noted that Annie cut her finger in a food processor the night before, got 3 stitches at the ER and still came out for the over-distance workout. Such a trooper. The other challenging part of the run was that we were never quite sure how close we were to the houses, because you could see them across the valley but the trail wound all the way around. So we told stories and bad jokes and time passed by, and we finished without any more injuries to add to the tally.

Aaaaaaaaaand…..Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! Since I’m now the only resident Canadian on the team, it’s my job to say it! We celebrated last night with the SMST2 team. Every year we have a big Canadian Thanksgiving party, since it’s our last chance to have a holiday together as a team before we split up and half of us head to Europe for the winter. I haven’t had a US Thanksgiving with my family in years, so it’s nice to have this one as a team!

Those SMST2 girls know how to bake pies in style!

Those SMST2 girls know how to bake pies in style! And after running for 4 hours…it’s a welcome treat.

Simi, Annie P, Me and Mary enjoying the unreal sunset! (photo by Patty)

Simi, Annie P, Me and Mary enjoying the unreal sunset! (photo by Patty)

 

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Yesterday, thanks to amazing organizing and hard work from Liz Stephen, we pulled off a record-breaking attendance at the annual Park City Fast and Female event! We had 190 girls out having fun, being active, getting to meet ambassadors from all types of winter sports and hear inspirational stories.

The girls listening to ambassador talks about competing in sport (USSA photo)

The girls listening to ambassador talks about competing in sport (photo from Kikkan)

True to form, I got to run the “Dancing with Diggins” station, but now it should be named “Dancing with Diggins and Hopping around with Hart”, because Anne Hart led the other part of our station, where the kids followed her around a loop and did ploys, lunges, hops and high-skips!

Annie leading the girls in a warmup! (photo by Lauren Fritz)

Annie leading the girls in a warmup! (photo by Lauren Fritz)

In between laps, I would teach a few moves of a dance at a time, and after 15 minutes the girls had learned a new dance and were tired out from all the jumping around! We got tired, too. :) But it was totally worth it! It was really fun to see smiles on everyone’s faces and see girls willing to learn something new and give it a try.

We also did some stretching afterwards! (photo by Lauren F.)

We also did some stretching afterwards! (photo by Lauren F.)

The other stations included ski jumping, snowboarding, mountain biking, speed-skating, biathlon, aerials on the trampoline, and alpine slalom courses.

Girls trying out simulated G-forces in speed skating (photo by Lauren F.)

Girls trying out simulated G-forces in speed skating (photo by Lauren F.)

At the end of the event, we signed the girls posters (and some hats, too!) and got lots of pictures. I hope to see everyone back next year!

Signing event posters for everyone! (photo by Kikkan)

Signing event posters for everyone! (photo by Kikkan)

It’s funny because one day I’m dressed in pink and glitter and dancing around in a skirt, and the next day I’m still dressed in pink but I’m skiing all-out on the treadmill during testing until I fall off. It’s not an either-or situation for me. I don’t have to choose between being girly and loving chick-flicks and wearing pink sometimes or skiing hard and fast. I can do both! And that’s one of the messages I think it’s so important to pass along to young girls in sport…you don’t have to stop being active and competing and going all-out because you’re worried about fitting in at school or looking “girly”. You don’t have to stop trying to win races because you’re worried people will see you as intimidating. You can lift weights and run incredibly far distances and still wear glitter or whatever you want and look cute. Or not. It’s your choice. The point is, it’s YOUR choice, and you don’t have to drop out of sports if you don’t want to.

So! The next day, we started in on our yearly testing. I had a classic max test on the treadmill, and wow did that ever hurt. But Matt and Cork said I kept my technique together for longer than I have before, which is something I’ve been working really hard on this summer: keeping it together even under a lot of stress. So that was a small win for the day! String enough small wins together and it starts adding up to fast racing, and I’m psyched because everywhere I look I see my teammates chalking up more small wins in strength, in technique, in intervals and long distance skis.

There are a TON of balloons in Park City. One landed right outside the COE!

There are a TON of balloons in Park City. One landed right outside the COE!

Camp is just starting so I need to keep my excitement at a sustainable level, but it looks like it’s going to be a great 2 weeks out here in Park City. The sun in shining, the pavement is great for roller skiing, we have a bunch of teams out here to join in some training sessions and the coaches are ready to roll as always. Happy fall training, everyone!

Some poppy fall colors from back out east.

Some poppy fall colors from back out east.

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Ok, people! It’s time to start up life on the road again…the glorified life saga of a ski bum continues!

I'M SO FREAKING EXCITED TO TRAVEL!!! (source: google)

I’M SO FREAKING EXCITED TO TRAVEL!!! (source: google)

This weekend it’s time to pack up my life into a duffel, a ski bag, and a oversize backpack and start going places. From now till April, the longest I’ll be in one place is 3 weeks! And the craziest part? I’m pretty psyched about it! First stop is Park City, for a USST camp, then Canmore to get on-snow at the glorious Frozen Thunder loop. It’s going to be an intense 3 weeks of training but I think we’re all up for the challenge.

As for the last week I’ve spent with the team in Stratton? Well, people have slowly been trickling out as we all have various stops to make on our way to Park City. Annie H and I had a nice few date nights in the house where we made ridiculously nice dinners, watched a movie and proceeded to get ready for bed by 9. We are such a wild and exciting bunch when it’s a big training week!

Sophie and Erika enjoying some of the last hot and sunny days out East!

Sophie and Erika enjoying some of the last hot and sunny days out East!

But, the week before we had Jason Cork join us for some quality training and technique help. It was so great to have him out here! Cork has written my training plan for the last 5 years, and although I work with a lot of coaches and take advice from all of them, it’s nice to have the guy writing my plan out here watching it executed in real time!

Apple picking day! Yum yum!

Apple picking day! Yum yum!

We did some hard bounding intervals up Stratton mountain earlier in the week, and it was the kind of workout that convinces you that your heart is going to grow at least another few mm wider to recover. Yikes!

Erika and I in the hurt locker during some 4min bounding intervals! (photo from Pat)

Erika, Annie and I in the hurt locker during some 4min bounding intervals! (photo from Pat)

The other interesting adventure the SMST2 Minnesotan girls had was the night we had a pet mouse! I named him Frederick but unfortunately he may have eaten something bad for him because he had a very short half-life. He joined us for a while and then we let him go outside, and it was an emotional farewell…until he started towards Annie, then there was a lot of squealing. Videos of our squeamishness can be found on Instagram. :)

Frederick the mouse keeping us company

Frederick the mouse keeping us company

We joined the SMS juniors for a fun over-distance workout that ended in Little Rock Pond…and the water was freezing but I had to go for one last jump off the rocks! We also made friends with a couple out taking their pack-goats for a training hike. That was pretty awesome, and Soph was ecstatic since goats are her favorite animal.

Soph and her new hiking buddy! (photo from Erika)

Soph and her new hiking buddy! (photo from Erika)

Lest you start to believe that all I do is make friends with animals, I should probably share that I had a lot of social time, too. We checked out the Peru fair, and there were SO many people there! The live music was awesome, and it was a beautiful day with all the leaves changing color.

Looking down main street at the Peru fair!

Looking down main street at the Peru fair!

I helped Annie with her thursday baking blog and we made a whole wheat honey loaf. It was very exciting, and like Annie said, she only “kneaded” a little help to make a loaf that would rise to the occasion!

Annie and Erika have a tea break after all that hard work!

Annie and Erika have a tea break after all that hard work!

Ok, time for me to get back to packing and cleaning! Happy weekend everyone!

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Yesterday we did that crazy thing we do every fall: we took a day, dedicated it to massive food consumption, pavement-pounding and scenic hills, and roller skied 100 kilometers. It took us 6:15 hours, and we split that pretty evenly between skate and classic, starting with a lot of double-poling.

Girls house inspiration board as we prepared for 100km of skiing. Quote courtesy of Annie P. and Ernest Shackleton.

Girls house inspiration board as we prepared for 100km of skiing. Quote courtesy of Annie P. and Ernest Shackleton.

As official girls train Kilometer-keeper and self-proclaimed cheerleader of the event, I arrived on the scene appropriately caffeinated. Or not. Perhaps I overdid it. In all honesty, it was challenging to hit the right balance between my usual peppy self to keep spirits up, and knowing when to shut it because nobody wants to chit-chat when they’re skiing into a headwind after already skiing for 5 hours.

Thanks Polar for helping me keep track of how many K's we clocked! (photo by Annie P.)

Thanks Polar for helping me keep track of how many K’s we clocked! (photo by Annie P.)

We had an awesome support crew with us, and I was so grateful to have them! Sverre, Cork and Pat drove the vans, although Pat biked the last half with us, which was awesome. We also had Annie Pokorny’s Dad bike the whole darn thing with us! In cars taking photos and cheering we had Annie P.s Mom and boyfriend, Simi’s Mom, Aunt and Uncle!

Our "before" shot (photo by Annie P.)

Our “before” shot: Annie P., Anne H., Me, Andy, Erika, Ben, Paddy, Sophie, Simi (photo by Annie P.) 

Here are my big mile markers kilometer markers from the event. Some of the kilometers are, quite honestly, wiped from my memory, but the notable ones are still there.

1km: this actually didn’t happen, since we didn’t look at our watches for the better part of an hour. Patience is a virtue.

20km: me excitedly announcing that, at this rate, we would be done in only 5 hours! (sigh). If only. Curse of the eternally optimistic, I guess.

Happy girls! (photo by Sophie)

Happy girls! (photo by Sophie)

33.3km: Me: “you guys! We are already 1/3 done!” Everyone: “yeeeeeeeeeaaaaah! We got this! We sooooooooo got this!”

33.4km: sooooo….how far are we? are we there yet?

The scenic views of the New York roads we were on were amazing!

The scenic views of the New York roads we were on were amazing! (photo by Annie P.)

48km: this was when I was convinced I was having hallucinations. I saw 3 big piles of what might have been salt in a farmer’s field. Me: “uh, guys? does anyone else see those snowbanks?” Everyone: “it’s not snow, Jessie”. Me: “uh…..guys? I think it’s snow”. (insert giggles) “you guys, I’m hallucinating. Let’s go make snowballs”. Everyone: “it’s not snow! keep skiing”!

Soph leading the girls train. Thanks Podiumwear for the sweet tanks! (photo by Annie P.)

Soph leading the girls train. Thanks Podiumwear for the sweet tanks! (photo by Annie P.)

52km: switch techniques! Finally…clean socks, skate wheels, and a mighty quick lunch break! This was also when we did our mental re-set. We just finished a typical weekend over-distance workout. Time to start another, only we pretended we were starting from scratch.

53km: our first skate uphill, where it became shockingly clear that just pretending we were starting a skate OD fresh wasn’t going to work. Tired legs don’t lie, folks.

Sverre making sure we had enough food and sports drink handy! (photo by Annie P.)

Sverre making sure we had enough food and sports drink handy! (photo by Annie P.)

55km: I rapped Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” in my head. It sounded good.

60km: I took down some more caffeine. Good idea? Depends on who you ask…but in addition to the wonderful ratio of about 1 PowerBar per hour I was doing pretty well in the energy department!

Pat, promising us that the headwind we had for at least 70km of the event would turn into a tailwind soon. Riiiiiiiiight. (photo by Annie P.)

Pat, promising us that the headwind we had for at least 70km of the event would turn into a tailwind soon. Riiiiiiiiight. (photo by Annie P.)

63km: dead skunk roadkill in the middle of a downhill. Masterful dodging by Sophie.

65-83km: this was, as the Annie’s described it, “the dark hour”. This was a time of very little spoken words. This was also the time frame when I was a.) most bored, b.) really starting to regret my bad posture and c.) absolutely tired and sick of eating food. True to form, I tried to spark up some conversation in a last-ditch attempt to restore the good mood. When I was answered in single-syllable, single-word answers, I decided to stop speaking. When you’re in a bad place, you just kind of want to be left alone sometimes. Am I right?

84km: we were using “open field technique” IN AN OPEN FIELD. I was very, very happy at this time. Finally, the midwest term for V2-alternate made sense to absolutely everyone.

Pretty! (photo by Annie P.)

Pretty! (photo by Annie P.)

89km: the boys finished. This was in no small way a total slap to the face as we skied by them and watched them drink their recovery beverages, sitting in the sun on the grass. Andy had mapped out a route slightly short of 100km, figuring that since boys are blessed with testosterone and always finish before the girls, they could ski a little over 100 and the girls could ski a little under and we’d all be cool. I was not cool. I was like: “(insert expletive here) no! I am a strong, independent woman and if I am going to ski for over 6 hours I will darn well finish all 100km!” So. The boys finished their 100km and we still had 30 minutes left, and 89 km was the only time I regretted my earlier tirade about finishing the whole thing.

90km: the boys came to the rescue. They leapfrogged us in the cars and along with our support crew they were cheering us on, giving us high-fives and offering up creative feed zone foods and drinks. They were awesome.

99km: this is when I got into my full-on cheerleader mode, and every .10 km we came closer to our goal, I would shout it out. There was a lot of shouting and cheering and whooping as we skied out that last km, which also happened to be on a downhill section so it went by pretty quickly!

100km: we almost got hit by a truck. This was most likely my bad since we were all over the road and I was busy looking at my Polar watch making sure we actually hit 100km (stubborn streak, much?)

100.02km: skis came off, pronto. Food and water were consumed, hugs and high fives were exchanged, photos were taken, and then I laid my head down on my backpack in the van and proceeded to pass out.

20 minutes from home: we get a flat tire. Luckily for us, the coaches still had their wits about them, and Pat, Cork and Ben changed the flat tire in under 10 minutes.

Cork and Pat taking care of business. And taking care of us.

Cork and Pat taking care of business. And taking care of us.

9 hours after we left the house: we returned! What a day! It was a big, successful and tiring event and I’m very glad we did it. It really helps to put things into perspective as well. When you ski three times the longest World Cup race Women get to do, it suddenly makes racing only 30km seem less daunting!

Time to relax and recover! Erika shows her zen mode.

Time to relax and recover! Erika shows her zen mode.

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Mist and fog swirl around you as you rapidly climb the mountain. Your ragged breathing catches in your throat and you think you might throw up. You hear noises behind you – someone yelling at you – you’re being chased! Your lungs are burning, your legs feel like lead and it’s quite possible that they will combust any second. Suddenly, you cannot take another step and you drop to your knees, trying to get your lungs to cooperate. No, this isn’t the set for a horror movie…it’s bounding intervals, and what makes it even better is that you’re doing this to yourself. Ugh!

When you’re training hard, the highs are intense and the lows are really low. Every time I have a set of hard bounding intervals, I’m reminded of how incredibly humbling this sport is. It takes years of countless hard intervals where you’re left hanging onto your poles, ready to keel over, before you start racing well. And yet…without a doubt, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. At the end of the day, when you’ve pushed yourself hard enough, the feeling of accomplishment (and, let’s be real, the endorphin rush) are pretty amazing. That’s why although the worst moments you feel in this sport during training are some of the toughest, the “training highs” in this XC skiing are also some of the best you’ll ever find.

Erika and I bounding up Stratton in L4 this morning (photo from Pat)

Erika and I bounding up Stratton in L4 this morning (photo from Pat)

Last weekend we had one of the best days I think I’ve had all summer. We had a long easy roller ski, and because the pavement was fast and we were fired up, we rolled 55km. Pretty good practice for what’s coming up this weekend, eh? (hint, hint: 100km skifest). We ended the ski at Sophie’s Grandparent’s pond and after a cold swim Pat drove us up the road to his parent’s house. Will and Deb generously hosted us for an evening of fantastic ribs and corn on the cob, and crane rides! Thanks guys!

Perfect weather for an outside dinner! (photo by Annie P.)

Perfect weather for an outside dinner! (photo by Annie P.)

Sophie and Annie share the hammock (photo by Annie P.)

Sophie and Annie share the hammock (photo by Annie P.)

Happy girls after a great ski and a mountain of spare ribs! (photo by Annie P.)

Happy girls after a great ski and a mountain of spare ribs! (photo by Annie P.)

Will O’Brien runs a tree service, and he let us hook onto the crane and ride up all 110ft to the top! The views were stunning and it was such a cool experience.

So THAT was awesome. (photo by Annie P.)

So THAT was awesome. (photo by Annie P.)

Coach O'Brien. Winning. (photo by Annie P.)

Coach O’Brien. Winning. (photo by Annie P.)

View over the house from the top! (photo by Annie P.)

View over the house from the top! (photo by Annie P.)

Ben, Simi, Sophie and Deb watching the crane rides (photo by Annie P.)

Ben, Simi, Sophie and Deb watching the crane rides (photo by Annie P.)

"I came in like a wrecking ball"...(photo by Annie P.)

“I came in like a wrecking ball”…(photo by Annie P.)

I got you, Sophie! (photo by Annie P.)

I got you, Sophie! (photo by Annie P.)

The Minnesota girls having a good little gigglefest (photo by Annie P.)

The Minnesota girls having a good little gigglefest (photo by Annie P.)

It was a great team day of hanging out, having fun, and although we may have considered stranding Ben at the top of the 110-ft crane, we left with the whole crew intact.

 

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“If it feels good, you’re probably not doing it right.”

How many times have you heard that from a coach when you’re trying to make a technique change? When you’re doing hard intervals? When you’re racing? For the record, it’s true when you’re talking about most things related to extremely challenging endurance sports. If you feel pretty awesome, then chances are, you’re not putting yourself out there and pushing your limits. I know this is true because the farther up the hill I bounded this morning during L4 intervals, the longer I spent at the top hanging over my poles.

Pat finishing his daily 100 pushups...for the 14th day in a row. Guarantee that didn't feel good in the moment.

Pat finishing his daily 100 pushups…for the 14th day in a row, while Annie cheers. Guarantee that didn’t feel good in the moment!

However, there are times when you DO want to feel good. When you’re tapering before a big race, for example. When you’re cruising easy during training. Or near the end of a rest week after a hard camp. And that brings us to where I am now…starting to feel so good at the end of an easy week that I’m bouncing off the walls.

Erika, Annie, Anne and me spinning before our last strength session of LP camp

Erika, Annie, Anne and me spinning before our last strength session of LP camp

So what have I done with my excess energy when training load is low? I accomplished my goal of baking a beautiful, fluffy whole wheat sandwich loaf of bread. Of course, that consisted of various experiments beforehand that involved a lot of flour flying around and a great big mess, but luckily I had on my trusty pink apron that Liz made me so I emerged from the fracas clean as a whistle.

Finally! My "perfect" bread loaf!

Finally! My “perfect” bread loaf!

I worked on my balance, which is something I’m sure you’ve indirectly noticed because I haven’t shown you any more photos of me in the ER getting stitches. I also did a lot of yoga on the deck in the sunshine, and perhaps even took “shavasana” to the next level when I proceeded to fall asleep in the middle of it. Talk about being relaxed!

Another beauty day in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Another beauty day in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Podiumwear sent the entire SMST2 girls team customized training tanks! So I've been parading around in mine

Podiumwear sent the entire SMST2 girls team customized training tanks! So I’ve been parading around in mine

A little teammate love before starting strength...Annie, Me and Sophie

A little teammate love before starting strength…Annie, Me and Sophie

Most importantly, I’ve been having fun doing a lot of dancing. Uh, I mean, working on my spatial awareness. Annie P. commissioned me to choreograph her a dance, so that’s been exceedingly fun. The deal was if she made her fundraising goal, she has to film this dance on every travel day for the rest of the year (cue embarrassing airport dance scene) so of course I wanted in on the project. So every day we’ve had our 10 minutes or more of dance class, and it’s going really well. I’m basically getting to do my future dream job of being a dance instructor and Annie is going to look awesome in every airport she graces with her presence. It’s a win-win!

Erika and I also did some speeds in the rain...good way to freshen up the body after a big camp!

Erika and I also did some speeds in the rain…good way to freshen up the body after a big camp!

But wait! How did the end of Lake Placid camp go? Oh gosh, it was pretty good, thanks for asking! It was also very hard with all the interval sets, strength, speeds and over distance workouts catching up to me, but overall it was a high quality camp and I felt that I made progress towards a lot of my technique goals while building fitness. Of course, the infamous Climb to the Castle roller ski race was an event in itself. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s an uphill 5 mile race on the road up Whiteface mountain, and yep, there IS a castle at the top (yes!). The average grade of the road is 8.5%, so it’s  a great chance to practice for the final climb in the Tour de Ski, which gets up to 28%. The time trial is always painful, and you never get a chance to clear the lactic acid slowly building up in your legs. Add that to the fact that everyone in the field has different wheel speeds on their skis, and there’s usually a strong headwind on every corner, and it’s a great chance to practice suffering for 40-55 minutes!

My most adrenaline filled part of the morning actually came 15 minutes before the race even started. The race starts about 2 miles up the Whiteface road, and there’s a side road where we usually warm up. I hadn’t been on that road in over a year, and I forgot that there’s a little hill right before you need to make a sharp right hand turn to get back onto the course so you don’t start flying down the mountain into town. So of course, by the time I realized that I was going to need to make the turn or else start rolling down the access road I was going too fast and couldn’t make it. A volunteer grabbed at me and slowed me down just enough that I decided to bail instead of taking my chances with the stop sign 2 miles down. I flew into a patch of sand, got the wind totally knocked out of me, but there was no blood, I was fine, and I didn’t even break my poles. Of course, at that point I might have also been in mild shock and when the gun went off I absolutely didn’t care about racing at all. It took about 20 minutes for me to get into the “I care about this” mindset, which is awful, I know, but I finally got there. However, I got a good chance to practice going hard uphill for an extended period of time, and got to practice racing when things didn’t go perfectly in the warm-up, which is good for me!

I’m very excited to show you what’s coming up next week…our 3rd annual 100km ski! For about 6 hours, the SMST2 team will be tearing up the New York pavement in our team’s annual ski-a-thon fundraiser. It’s a loooooong time skiing, but it’s fun, and what’s wrong with a little 6 hour team bonding session? Wish us luck!

SMS T2 Skiathon Poster

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I learn best when I’m watching and actually, physically moving and trying out a new task. If you’re teaching me a new song on the guitar, you should let me play it along with you. If you’re teaching me to knit you should put the needles in my hands and have me watch and do it with you. If you’re teaching me to bake a cake you should have me involved in the process. So it makes sense that when my coaches want me to try out a new idea or cement a movement pattern while skiing, they tell me to hop in behind someone who is doing it well.

This is where the Art of Erasing Yourself (and your ego) becomes pretty important. I try and clear my mind, forget about all the other things running through it and simply become someone else for a short period of time. Piece by piece, I erase parts of my body and pretend they are someone else’s. If I’m following someone who’s double pole I really admire, I’ll start down with the ankles, and try and make my joints bend at the exact same time and the same way. Then I’ll move up to the knees, and bend them like I was a carbon copy of whomever I’m following. I’ll match my arm swing, the timing of the core compression, and the follow-through.

This can sometimes be hard as I tend to march to the beat of my own drummer, and I usually have a pretty high tempo. But it can also be a wonderful way to try out something new, to force myself to slow my tempo down and get the movements right. More importantly, it doesn’t always mean that I have to permanently stick with someone else’s style of skiing, only try it out and see if it works for me. If it does, great! If a coach tells me to try skiing behind someone else, it doesn’t mean that I’m doing it wrong, or that the other athletes I’m not following are doing it wrong either. It’s just a way to try out something new!

Annie and Erika working on starts together (USSA photo)

Annie and Heather working on starts together (USSA photo)

So, during today’s 4 x 15 min L3 intervals, I skied as much as possible behind Ms. Liz Stephen. She is without a doubt one of the best hill climbers in the world, and in my opinion, one of the best possible people to follow when skating. I really admire her technique and so when it was time to get down to business, I busied myself with the task of becoming Liz’s shadow. I learned so much!

Liz leading me and Caitlin up a climb (USSA photo)

Liz leading me and Caitlin up a climb (USSA photo)

What’s also really great about this style of learning is that when we are doing something that I’m good at, I can take a turn at the front and hopefully give someone else a chance to try a new technique style or tempo. With a team full of skiers who are all specialized in different areas, we have so much to learn from each other! And not just from the other girls…I pick up so much from just watching some of the guys. It’s a pretty fun way to get better with other people.

Andy leading Paddy, Ben and Ben during some intensity (USSA photo)

Andy leading Paddy, Ben and Ben during some intensity (USSA photo)

Rotating through a turn at the front of the pack during a long double pole (USSA photo)

Rotating through a turn at the front of the pack during a long double pole (USSA photo)

Speaking of being with other people, camp has been going really well! It’s that point in the camp (1.5 weeks in) where everyone is getting pretty tired and keeping focus is harder than it was on day 1. But this is also where so many gains can be made, as long as we are smart and don’t dig ourselves into a hole too deep to climb back out of! Andy, Erika and I had some fun on our day off, and hit up the Flume to do a little cliff jumping!

Taking a jump!

Taking a jump! (photo by Erika)

There were a ton of people there, including some guys doing flips off the bigger jump

There were a ton of people there, including some guys doing flips off the bigger jump

Andy and Erika hiking in!

Andy and Erika hiking in!

Erika and I chilling on the underwater shelf

Erika and I chilling on the underwater shelf (photo by Andy)

We also had a fantastic evening at Annelies Cook’s house last night, and it was a great chance to get out of the center and hang out with friends!

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This is the 7th year that I’ve come to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center for a fall training camp. Crazy! It still feels like it’s maybe my third year here. Some things haven’t changed at all…the same chicken, pasta and marinara sauce are always options at every single meal (but there are, of course, other food options too!). I still give the bobsledders plenty of space in the gym because I’m scared of getting a 10,000 lb weight dropped anywhere near me, and the hallways still reek of smelly boots whenever it rains.

One of the perks of training camp is that you're never training alone...(USSA photo)

One of the perks of training camp is that you’re never training alone…(USSA photo)

We've been doing a lot of swimming in the lake lately!

We’ve been doing a lot of swimming in the lake lately!

But some things are different. I still feel like death at the end of our L4 interval sets, but we are all going faster and doing more than we were in the past. I have more time to kill because I’m not frantically trying to do make-up homework for all the school I’m missing. With that extra time, I’ve gotten better in tune with what my body needs for recovery that day; maybe foam rolling, yoga, a cold tub or contrast baths. You could say I’ve perhaps gotten older and wiser, but I know better. I’ve just gotten older and formed better habits. At some point it’s kind of the same thing; good habits make you look like you know what you’re doing! And who do I look to when forming those habits? Well, you could start with my teammates and coaches.

Annie got clever with taking post-workout food to-go!

Annie got clever with taking post-workout food to-go!

Starting a classic sprint time trial at the jumping complex. So much pain, so much technical and tactical gain! (USSA photo)

Starting a classic sprint time trial at the jumping complex. So much pain, so much technical and tactical gain! (USSA photo)

This camp is always a really high quality training camp, and a sort of crossroads where big volume training weeks clash with high intensity and higher amounts of L4 intervals. So, needless to say, we haven’t been an especially lively group in-between training sessions since it takes a lot for our bodies to recover from 7 x 4 minute L4 intervals in time for running and strength later that afternoon!

Matt running alongside our uphill skating intensity session, helping with technique and cheering us on! (Pat O'Brien photo)

Matt running alongside our uphill skating intensity session, helping with technique and cheering us on! (Pat O’Brien photo)

Girls rounding the corner during our sprint simulation. Skiing in packs is something I always need to work on! (USSA photo)

Girls rounding the corner during our sprint simulation. Skiing in packs is something I always need to work on! (USSA photo)

Ida and I working on our reaction time and spatial awareness. Ok, ok, we were just having a grand time on the playground.

Ida and I working on our reaction time and spatial awareness. Ok, ok, we were just having a grand time on the playground.

While it’s certainly not all fun and games, there are some fun things going on at camp! My 23rd birthday was on the first day of camp here, and I’d like to thank everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes! I had a fantastic day, despite the incredible intensity session we had (uphill skating L4 intervals) that morning. :) I had so many funny and thoughtful cards and fun surprises from my teammates…I was overwhelmed with all the love! The SMS girls planned a fun surprise for me, by secretly ordering in white cotton tanks with the words “Sparkle Chipmunk doesn’t sweat…she glitters” on them. (A sparkly chipmunk is my official spirit animal, and it must be true because Chandra Crawford approved it!) They were white because the girls brought along a tie-dye kit, and we spent the afternoon doing arts and crafts on our shirts! I was totally thrilled.

Apparently, this is what post-interval snack-time looks like when it's your birthday! (photo by Erika)

Apparently, this is what post-interval snack-time looks like when it’s your birthday! (photo by Erika)

Erika, Katherine, Liz and Anne all cramming in the car so we could go into town!

Erika, Katherine, Liz and Anne all cramming in the car so we could go into town!

Tomorrow is our day off to rest after a big week of training. We finished it off today with a 3:45 hour run up Mt. Marcy, and unfortunately the weather wasn’t entirely cooperating so we were not rewarded with the amazing views you usually get in the fall here. However, I didn’t care because for once I emerged from the Adirondack trail system without any blood on my knees. Yes, you read that right – NO INJURIES! BOOM!

Annie P., Anne H., Me, Paige and Katherine on top of Mt. Marcy. Beauty views, eh? (photo by Anne H)

Annie P., Anne H., Me, Paige and Katherine on top of Mt. Marcy in 40mph wind. Beauty views, eh? (photo by Anne H)

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