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Alaska, part two: The Glacier

I hope I say often enough just how much I LOVE my job, and how lucky I feel! The past week of training was hard work, of course, but anytime “going to work” means getting dressed up in spandex and skiing on a glacier for 5 hours, you know life is pretty good.

Skiing with a view! (photo by Zuzana Rogers)

Skiing with a view! (photo by Zuzana Rogers)

Life on Eagle Glacier is simple – mostly a pattern of eat, sleep, train and cook food for your teammates. But it wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and hard work of the glacier staff and coaches! Big, BIG thanks to Erika Flora and Dylon Watts for keeping the trails groomed, the Thomas Training Center up and running, and organizing transport! Thanks to Alpine Air Alaska for getting us up and down safely in helicopters even when there was a massive forest fire going on nearby (more on this later!) and thanks to Zuzana Rogers for volunteering her time as a Physical Therapist and keeping us healthy during a big week of training! And, as always, our USST coaches Matt Whitcomb, Jason Cork and Chris Grover were awesomely positive and always ready to help us get one step closer to our technique and racing goals.

Liz and Torch, ready to head up to the land of black and white snow and rocks!

Liz and Torch, ready to head up to the land of black and white snow and rocks!

This post will also be mostly photos of the week with a few stories here and there. Enjoy!

The helicopter shadow way below us! I always think this looks pretty cool.

The helicopter shadow way below us! I always think this looks pretty cool.

The trip starts with a helicopter flight that lasts about 10-15 minutes from Girdwood up to the glacier. The Alpine Air Alaska staff are amazing, friendly and extremely skilled! I love looking for bears and sheep on the mountains below as we zip on up.

Soph and I excited for a ride up the glacier! This NEVER gets old. (photo from Sophie)

Soph and I excited for a ride up the glacier! This NEVER gets old. (photo from Sophie)

A look over Simi's shoulder at the glacier ahead.

A look over Simi’s shoulder at the glacier ahead. You can see the training center on the rocks just a little up and to the left of the controls.

Waiting for our teammates to all get up here!

Waiting for our teammates to all get up here!

Landing on the rocks on top of a mountain will never, ever get old or boring no matter how many times I get to go! I still get so pumped up and excited every time!

The start of the access trail. It's a fun, fast downhill!

The start of the access trail. It’s a fun, fast downhill!

The training center, perched far enough away from the edge but still an awesome view!

The training center, perched far enough away from the edge but still an awesome view!

We all live together in the training center. It’s clean, neat and organized but small with thin walls, so you have to be a super courteous teammate and respect quiet time when people are trying to nap in the afternoon or go to sleep at night! It’s also hard to sleep because when you’re trying to get to bed at 10pm it’s bright daylight outside, so we hang up blackout curtains and sleep with buffs over our eyes.

Virginia and I enjoying the clear views for miles of mountains! (photo by Liz)

Virginia and I enjoying the clear views for miles of mountains! (photo by Liz)

Sim and Soph getting some sunshine.

Sim and Soph getting some sunshine.

You do NOT go past the rope boundary. The edge is somewhat crumbly rock that hasn't been checked out for safety so a 15ft boundary from the edge is mandatory.

You do NOT go past the rope boundary. The edge is somewhat crumbly rock that hasn’t been checked out for safety so a 15ft boundary from the edge is mandatory.

Things 1, 2 and 3 (Reese, David and Scott) ready for training!

Things 1, 2 and 3 (Reese, David and Scott) ready for training!

The biggest pile of cookies ever...left on the glacier for the workers and juniors coming up next! (photo from Virginia)

The biggest pile of cookies ever…left on the glacier for the workers and juniors coming up next! (photo from Virginia)

We take turns cooking and cleaning in groups of 4 up on the glacier. It’s a pretty efficient system! There’s a breakfast crew, a lunch cleanup crew, a dinner cooking crew and dinner cleaning crew and we rotate through the schedule. We all take turns baking fun treats as well since when you’re training 4-5 hours a day you burn through up to 4,000 calories per day!

Virginia, Zuzana and Sadie on cook duty...making homemade gnocchi! Wow! (photo from Zuzana)

Virginia, Zuzana and Sadie on cook duty…making homemade gnocchi! Wow! (photo from Zuzana)

Virginia taking in the view (photo from Zuzana)

Virginia taking in the view (photo from Zuzana)

...and not every day is amazing! Fog during intervals (photo from Zuzana)

…and not every day is amazing! Fog during intervals (photo from Zuzana)

Most days we go out in the morning and skate (since the snow is firmer in the am) for 2-3 hours, then in the afternoon we classic for 1.5-2 hours. We throw 2 strength sessions in there, 2 speed sessions, and one long L3 interval session in during the week. But mostly the focus is on distance skiing to hone in technique on snow!

...but, usually, the view is amazing :) (photo also from Zuzana)

…but, usually, the view is amazing 🙂 (photo also from Zuzana)

Zuzana out for a cruise!

Zuzana out for a cruise!

Zuzana was doing PT and massage recovery work for us, and she helped me when my knee got sore from overuse (it’s fine now). She has the magic touch!

The trail swoops out with this awesome view on a clear day!

The trail swoops out with this awesome view on a clear day!

Our "princess palace", as Rosie likes to call it. Blackout curtains mandatory!

Our “princess palace”, as Rosie likes to call it. Blackout curtains mandatory!

Reese and David on a sunny ski.

Reese and David on a sunny ski.

Sadie working on that slushy double pole!

Sadie working on that slushy double pole!

The birthday boy Erik blowing out his candles. Although Simi seems to be giving him some support!

The birthday boy Erik blowing out his candles. Although Simi seems to be giving him some support!

Erik had a birthday up there (as he likes to remind me, he’s 1.5 months older and therefore I, not him, was the baby of the team for so long. Hah!) and he received an orange pecan pie as well as a chocolate cake! When there’s 25 people to feed one birthday cake just won’t cut it!

Erik happy to have some sunshine! Not bad weather for a birthday!

Erik happy to have some sunshine! Not bad weather for a birthday!

Simi getting after some seriously heavy weighted pull-ups. He got up to 4 x 70lbs!

Simi getting after some seriously heavy weighted pull-ups. He got up to 4 x 70lbs!

Sadie, Rosie and Chelsea striding it out in a train.

Sadie, Rosie and Chelsea striding it out in a train.

Our one-pole wonder, Torch!

Our one-pole wonder, Torch!

Ian Torchia, our newest D-team man, was the MVP of camp in my personal opinion. He broke his wrist a short time ago and although he’s recovering quickly he needed to ski around with one pole all week. But he didn’t even shy away from intervals or doing dishes with the cook crew one-handed! He was super positive the entire time which made him most valuable teammate. But in all honesty, everyone on the glacier was a real champ! It can be tough to stay so positive and contribute positively to the team atmosphere when you’re skiing your brains out and super tired, but everyone handled the load well and it was a super fun team bonding camp.

This isn't what made him the MVP of camp...but it was still awesome! (photo from Kikkan)

This isn’t what made him the MVP of camp…but it was still awesome! (photo from Kikkan)

The running trail, mostly courtesy of Simi's hard work!

The running trail, mostly courtesy of Simi’s hard work!

Simi worked so hard on this new running loop with banked turns, rock bridges and steps! I was amazed! We named it the Happy Trail since everyone was so psyched to have a running loop to add to the places that are safe to walk/run on the glacier!

We got really serious about sun safety, and wore blue zinc on our lips to prevent the most painful sunburns! It made us look funny, though.

We got really serious about sun safety, and wore blue zinc on our lips to prevent the most painful sunburns! It made us look funny, though.

David getting a haircut from Caitlin while waiting for a hell down.

David getting a haircut from Caitlin while waiting for a hell down.

Our trip back down was a little crazy since there was a huge forest fire in between Girdwood and Anchorage. Alpine Air was busy flying some rescue missions and fueling up black hawk helicopters that were flying ocean water over the highway to dump on the fire, so we waited and hoped that everyone was ok! You feel so removed from regular life up on the glacier so until we started smelling the smoke drifting up, we didn’t even know there was a fire! But everyone was ok, and we made it down safe. Then we waited in traffic for 4 hours, most of it in a standstill on the highway while they let each direction drive along a 5-mile stretch for 30 minutes at a time. We got bored sitting in the car, so we got out and walked for 2 hours picking (and devouring) raspberries along the bike path. Finally the cars started getting up to speed again and we sprinted along, “little-miss-sunshine-style” next to the van jumping in so we wouldn’t slow anyone down! We made it back to Anchorage in time for some late night pizza and a big, big sleep.

I’m now headed to Winnipeg for a week of relaxing and hanging out at the lake with my boyfriend and his family. I’m so excited for a chill week to let all the training sink in and find my happy place!

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