Riding the line

There’s been all sorts of balancing acts going on around here lately. Finding the sweet spot during L3 where you can keep that pace for an hour, but are working hard and skiing with good technique. Getting in some tough workouts and lots of volume, but finding the right amount of rest to go with it. Hanging out with friends and still finding some quiet time every day so I can recover. And our fearless leader Pat has been literally riding the yellow line as he bikes along getting footage on our roller skis so we can look at our technique!

Iz and Dave at the pond

Iz and Dave at the pond

Of course, training a lot and training hard is one of the important parts of this job. It’s something that I love to do, and it feels really good to finish up a big week of training. However, it’s so easy, especially when training with a big group of people, to overdo it and end up overtrained or injured. Anyone can put their nose to the grindstone, but eventually you’re going to get hurt if you don’t know when to pull back.

That’s why I have more respect for the person that recognizes that the pace isn’t right for them and drops back, than for the person who keeps chugging along at a near race pace even when it’s supposed to be an easy workout. And goodness knows it’s not easy to do! I freely admit that there have been many workouts where I should have been more committed to doing what my body needed, but I ignored it. There were interval sets where I was desperately tired and should have cut the last few out and kept it at a higher level of quality, but I stubbornly wanted to complete the set. Funny enough, it’s learning to do less in the right circumstances that has been the biggest challenge with the highest reward.

That’s why one of the biggest roles of the coaches I work with (Cork, Whitcomb, all the USST coaches actually, and now Pat) has always been to pull me back when I get too excited and start digging myself into a hole. The last 6 years my yearly training volume has gone up by about 20-30 hours a year, which amounts to right around an extra 5 minutes of training a day. And it doesn’t seem (or feel) like a lot. But it’s really amazing how those sessions where I feel good so I tack on an extra 15 minutes start to add up, and it’s not always a good thing. After looking back over my training logs from past years, the summers and falls when I regularly went over my weekly plan were the years when I performed the worst in distance races. So clearly, it’s  important to find and then ride the fine line between training hard and just getting crazy with it! One of my goals for the summer training season is to be better at listening to my body and training smart, not just training hard.

This past month I’m pretty psyched because training has gone well and while we’ve had some good hard quality sessions, we’ve been able to rest well in between and have some fun as well!

Warming up in front of the gym before strength with the SMS juniors (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Warming up in front of the gym before strength with the SMS juniors (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

 

Our long distance session last week ended at Little Rock Pond, where there’s some great 30-ish ft cliffs to jump off of.

Finally! A chance to cool off after a long ski/run combo (photo by Ian Torchilla)

Finally! A chance to cool off after a long ski/run combo (photo by Ian Torchilla)

We also checked out Wanderlust, a yoga festival that comes to Stratton Mountain every year. The people watching was fabulous.

Well gosh, isn't that just creative!

Well gosh, isn’t that just creative!

The Lululemon tent had a crazy nice lounging area

The Lululemon tent had a crazy nice lounging area

There was a lot of yoga going on, and a lot of booths selling everything from extra filtered water to high end yoga clothes.

Diving into the pond (photo by Sophie Caldwell)

Diving into the pond (photo by Sophie Caldwell)

On our day off, we hung out at the snowmaking pond, which is one of my favorite places to be. Simi was doing all sorts of crazy rolls and tricks in his kayak, and he started teaching me to roll. I spent a lot of time upside down underwater, and except for that one time when I panicked decided to pull the cord and get out, it was really awesome. I’m hoping I can roll a kayak by the end of the summer!

Soph watches as Simi does a front flip

Soph watches as Simi does a front flip

I’ve also been helping Anne with her weekly cooking blog, in which we take some fresh produce from Earth Sky Time Farm and make something delicious featuring the item. I am her official “sous chef and sous photographer”! This week we used fresh picked zucchini in a zucchini lemon-glazed cake, only…it didn’t quite come out of the pan like we wanted it to. It still tasted amazing, just didn’t look quite as professional. Whoopsy-daisy.

"Where did we go wrong?? why?" Anne bemoans the fate of the zucchini cake

“Where did we go wrong?? why?” Anne bemoans the fate of the zucchini cake

But, to redeem myself, look at the photo I took of the beautiful bars we made last week featuring fresh lemon balm from the herb garden! Much better, right? Right. If you want to follow along on this particular adventure, visit Anne’s page: http://annie-hart.com/thursdays-bakery.html

Lemon balm bars! I was actually quite proud of this shot.

Lemon balm bars! I was actually quite proud of this shot.

 

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The must-do’s of a Vermont summer

In case you’ve been wondering, the humidity we had the last week has been unequivocally kicking my butt. I am finally starting to wrap my mind around the fact that every time I train I will likely need to jump into a river afterwards. Don’t worry, I’m definitely ok with that…especially since the training that we’ve been doing has been going really well! I’m psyched with the training group we have here and we have been doing a lot of quality speed work, agility practice, L3 intervals as a group and technique work with the video that Pat gives us on the daily.

At the moment I have a Cheshire cat grin on because I am writing this from my new computer! After my old PC crashed and I found myself dealing with over 2 weeks of not having a computer (which, it turns out, really isn’t that fun), I got my new Mac set up. I’m pretty psyched with it. In even bigger news, our SMST2 team grew by one for the next 2 months! Ian Torchia is PG-ing with us for the summer before he heads to NMU next year. It’s always great to have new faces and more training buddies around, and it’s going to be fun showing him Vermont while he’s here.

I was looking for the right words to explain to Ian why exactly he was going to be so psyched on spending a couple months out here, and I realized I couldn’t do it with only a couple sentences. I needed a top-10 list. So without further fluff, from the eyes of a self-proclaimed “East Coast Rookie”, here are some of the very best parts of being out east and living in Southern Vermont. If you are coming to visit, here’s a handy checklist you can take with you.

1. Go hike up one of the green mountains! If you happen to be a chick, do this hike with the Summit Sisters! This is a hiking group the SMST2 women started this summer, and we are leading hikes up different peaks in Vermont. It’s for all girls of all ages and abilities. We just had our first hike today, and it was really fun to meet more of the community and see new faces! I also got well acquainted with the girls from “Girls On The Run”, and by the end of the hike I had myself a new nickname…turkey-jurkey-Jessie. In case you couldn’t tell, we all got kinda hungry by the time we’d hiked Styles Peak and come back down!

The Summit Sisters hiking group at the top of Styles Peak

The Summit Sisters hiking group at the top of Styles Peak

Hiking is very serious business...sort of...

Hiking is very serious business…sort of…

 

These little newts are everywhere!

These little newts are everywhere!

 

The top of Styles!

The top of Styles!

2. Go get lunch from the Hapgood store in Peru, Vermont. It’s been around since 1827, which is pretty sweet. If you want to get hippie with it, sit out on the sunny deck while drinking their Kombucha on tap from a mason jar. Smile and enjoy.

3. While we’re on the hippie thread…check out Wanderlust. It’s happening at the town of Stratton right now and I’ve never seen so many crazy styles of yoga pants wandering around before.

4. Run a segment of the AT trail. It’s a really beautiful way to see more of the woods, and the time flies by as you’re scrambling around rocks, hopping streams and dodging roots.

The trails are incredibly, impossibly green!

The trails are incredibly, impossibly green!

5. After a run or hike, find a good cold body of water to jump in. I recommend the Stratton Snowmaking Pond, Little Rock pond if you’re into cliff jumping, or Pikes Falls if you want to stand under a chilly waterfall.

The crew last summer at the snowmaking pond: Chase, Erik, Ben, Andy and Erika

The crew last summer at the snowmaking pond: Chase, Erik, Ben, Andy and Erika

6. Go to the local fair (we like the Bondville fair) and watch the tractor and truck pulls. For bonus points, show up in overalls, a hat and boots!

7. Get on the “selfie” bandwagon and take one at the top of a mountain. There are so many and because they’re covered in trees they might not look as epic as the ones you typically see on postcards when you’re standing on the bottom, but the view from the top is well worth it. #fitness! #hiking #sweatingalot

Warning: you will get muddy when running on the east coast in the fall

Warning: you will get muddy when running on the east coast in the fall

8. Accept the fact that you will not pronounce things the way locals do. (This is especially true if you’re from the Midwest.) If you ask for a “pop” you probably won’t receive a fizzy drink. And then accept the fact that you will never have so many awesome varieties of maple syrup to chose from again.

9. Get into, embrace and love the small towns spaced out one every 20 miles or so. They are awesome and have some great character.

The Londonderry 4th of July Parade

The Londonderry 4th of July Parade

10. Last but not least…jump in for a workout with the SMST2 team, of course! (you saw that one coming, right?)

SMST2 training with the SMS juniors at the school (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

SMST2 training with the SMS juniors at the school (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

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SMST2 team 3.0

It’s my third year as part of the SMST2 Team, but instead of things settling down and getting ho-hum, I feel like this new and revised version of the team is making the summer training more exciting than ever! We’ve had some changes this year, including the roster, living situation, workout formats, and social media (wait, what? Yes, it’s almost too good to be true).

We have a new team website: http://smst2.wordpress.com/ Now we have a new way to connect with the community and post the latest news! Check the website often for new blog posts, community involvement, upcoming projects and dates (like our Women’s Hiking group led the by the SMST2 girls, or an upcoming Fast and Female event). We also have a new Facebook page, Twitter Account and Instagram, all under SMST2xc.

We have a team roster full of returning faces, and some new ones. The biggest changes from last year include Pat O’Brien signing on as our new head coach to replace Gus Kaeding, Ben Saxton joining the team (he was a PG last year) and Eric Packer leaving the team. For fun facts, photos and stats on the team, visit our website: http://smst2.wordpress.com/the-team/

Our lovely quote of the day message board

Our lovely quote of the day message board

One awesome situation happening here is where we are living for the summer and fall. We once again have been fortunate enough to have members of the community donate the use of their houses for the summer. It’s so awesome to be able to cook for ourselves and feel comfortable and at home, and the location right in Stratton is perfect for training. We have great roller skiing right out the door, and flatter routes for recovery days but also some monster hills that are perfect for challenging workouts. There’s also the AT trail right in our backyard, so long trail runs are never boring!

Annie, Simi and Sophie dishing up dinner. I love our family meal time!

Annie, Simi and Sophie dishing up dinner. I love our family meal time!

Perhaps the thing I love the most is that we all function so well as a family, and we train together, cook great food from our CSA together, and live together but we also recognize when it’s time to have personal space. If someone needs to go do a workout on their own to have time to think, that’s totally fine, no questions asked.

I think a key to a team running smoothly is that everyone on the team has an important role to play, whether they are the motivator, the tech-guru, the person who gets in your face and yells during strength, the planner, or the person who gets everyone out the door on time. I’m pretty certain that my role is the same one played by Olaf the Snowman from “Frozen”…boundless hugs and optimism right up to the point of being annoying.

Ben setting the chill vibes for the morning training session

Ben setting the chill vibes for the morning training session

Andy showing us some style while skating backwards

Andy showing us some style while skating backwards

Ben, Soph, Me and Simi picking up fresh good food from the Earth Sky Time CSA

Ben, Soph, Me and Simi picking up fresh good food from the Earth Sky Time CSA

This week, things have taken a turn for the worse better soggy. It’s been misting and raining all week, which, aside from making us feel a little tougher when we come back from a workout dripping wet and making the mud room smell like wet dog, has resulted in a lot of blisters. It’s also made for some really beautiful skis as everything is springing to life and I can now appreciate the subtle differences between 50 shades of green.

The start of our uphill running TT - a tough workout but more fun to run with others! (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

The start of our uphill running TT – a tough workout but more fun to run with others! (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

We did some awesome double pole intervals today with the SMS Juniors, and it was one of the more efficient workouts ever despite the potential for things to go horribly wrong as about 4 poles baskets were snapped in the first 10 minutes. Pat had the van and pole kit on hand, and he got us back on track. We were doing anywhere from 3-6 by 8 minutes L3 double-pole only, and we had a variety of terrain to chose from.

Everyone getting the workout outline from the coaches: 3-6x8min L3 double poling, jump in behind the older kids whenever possible! (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Everyone getting the workout outline from the coaches: 3-6x8min L3 double poling, jump in behind the older kids whenever possible! (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Often times, people only go uphill during intervals and I think that’s a big mistake. I mean, think about it: if the start and finish line of a race are in the same stadium, then half your race is downhill. You need to learn to be efficient at high speeds as well as just grinding uphill! So some of our intervals were on the flats, some were on a slight downhill and some snaked up a hill that changed pitch every 100 meters so you had to be constantly adjusting your technique. We would begin each interval together, and the juniors could jump in for as long as they wanted, and although people would inevitably spread out by the end of each interval we would regroup and start all together again.

Starting up an interval: me, Annie P. Anne H, Erika, Katherine, and Sophie skating it out (broken elbow still healing!) Photo by Sverre Caldwell

Starting up an interval: me, Annie P. Anne H, Erika, Katherine, and Sophie skating it out (broken elbow still healing!) Photo by Sverre Caldwell

Simi, Ben and Koby rounding the corner to start the uphill part of their interval (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Simi, Ben and Koby rounding the corner to start the uphill part of their interval (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

The way our workouts are scheduled is similar to a full-time training camp. All our “key” sessions; speeds, intensity, strength, over-distance are all lined up so we can do them together, with some room for flexibility because everyone’s training plan is a little different. We join the SMS Juniors at least 3 times a week, and they can jump in behind us for intervals or speeds to learn from older skiers. As a warmup before strength sessions, we split into groups and the SMST2 skiers lead the juniors through agility, mobility and balance exercises.

I absolutely love it when we get to work with the junior skiers, not only because I like them and I think they are fun to hang around but also because when I’m passing along tips and technique help it feels like I’m able to help someone else get one step closer to their goals. And that’s an awesome feeling. The Juniors don’t know it yet but they are also helping us older skiers get closer to our goals as well! In order to teach someone technique, it forces you to have a pretty good grasp of what you’re doing, and it helps you remember the important points. In other words, we are all going to push each other to get better all summer long!

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One last week out West

I’m really doing my best to collect as much dust and dirt and enjoy the bug-free dry heat while I can! This past week I’ve been hanging out in Park City, spending a lot of time at the Center of Excellence catching up with the strength coaches and sports science staff, and doing spring testing to get a baseline that I can (hopefully) improve upon when we test again in the fall. I’ve also been lucky enough to get to catch up with friends in the area, and it seems like every day we had lunch or dinner with friends, which I loved.

I had hoped to post a bunch of photos with this, but my computer and I are on the outs right now, and it’s crashing. Right as my online Philosophy course at Westminster is starting, by the way. Sooo…..if a girl writes an essay on philosophy but her computer crashes and she can’t turn it in…did she even write it at all?

I’ve explained our testing before, but for new readers I’ll give you the 30-second need-to-know details on just what we’re up to when we’re sweating away on those treadmills. It’s actually pretty sweet. This year instead of doing a Max test, where I ski until I literally collapse and fall off the treadmill to find my VO2 Max, I did something a little different. I did an economy test, which basically looks to see how efficient I am in that technique. Since I’ve been putting in a lot of work to improve my classic striding and double poling, those were the two things we tested! If I can stride at the same set speed and distance in the fall while dropping my heartrate lower and using less overall effort than I did this spring, I’ll have gotten more efficient at my distance race-pace, which should translate to better on-snow results. We also test functional mobility, where they check and make sure all our joints are working properly and that we have a full range of motion. If not, they know which mobility exercises to add into our strength routine! We test strength to see if we are getting stronger and more explosive, which correlates to better on-snow performance. So for those of you still thinking you don’t need to lift weights to get faster…you do. We test to make sure we’re not iron or calcium deficient, and we test to see how our bodies are responding to and adapting to higher altitude. It sounds like a lot, but it’s only a couple hours of testing, made exponentially more fun by the coaches and staff running the tests!

What I really love about the COE is the atmosphere in it. The staff is so hardworking, enthusiastic and positive, and they always push me to do my best while handing out high-fives. I also think it’s so neat to watch the other sports training, and learn from them. It’s a cool dynamic because all the athletes are so different, yet fundamentally the same in our drive and passion for what we do. So, while an Alpine skier’s longest race is the same length of time as my shortest sprint, and while the fastest speed I’ll ever reach on a downhill is the slowest they’ll ever go, it’s so inspiring to me to watch them work out in the gym and pick up tricks. If I’m struggling with my downhills I’ll try to get into the mindset of a slalom skier. If I’m uncomfortable on my rollerskis, I’ll think more like a freestyle skier and find the edges of the skis, and try and learn some tricks and agility. If I’m struggling with my balance I’ll make like a snowboarder and spend some time on the trampolines or slacklines to learn spatial awareness.

The moment you think you’ve nailed it and have nothing left to learn is the only moment you truly fail, because there’s ALWAYS something to work on, something new to learn, something new to try. So in the spirit of pushing our limits of being uncomfortable, we did some agility drills in an abandoned parking lot. We were jumping up and down the curb, weaving in and out of cones on two feet, then one leg, working on 180 degree jumps and backwards skiing and cornering at speed. Watching Andy go through these drills made it look so incredibly easy! I hope on day I can be as fearless and sure on my feet as he and Simi are.

One cool announcement that I’m psyched to shout out to the world is that I’ve re-signed with all my sponsors from last year! So Slumberland Furniture will be proudly displayed on my headgear, Fastenal as my silver sponsor and the T2 Foundation as my bronze sponsor. I’ve re-signed with Salomon for my skis, boots and bindings, One Way for my poles, and Podiumwear for my super-cool active training gear! It’s really important to me to have sponsors that I feel great about and equipment that I can rely on, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found that in all my sponsors. What a lucky girl I am! To check out more, go to my “Sponsors and Support” page (found at the top of my website) and follow the links to see the webpages for each sponsor.

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Bumps, scrapes, smiles and skiing like crazy

I’m going out on a limb here and proclaiming this year the best Bend Camp yet. We had an incredible streak of sunny warm days with great skiing up on Mt. Bachelor, and some really fun afternoon activities after the mornings on the mountain.

Just in case my usual blog posts about glitter and sunshine have thrown you off track, I want to set the record straight: yeah, we have a lot of fun, but we work hard. Really, really hard. Don’t let the pink fool you. We’ve been putting in some big hours this camp, and doing tons of drills and video work with a fresh approach to technique. It’s been mentally and physically exhausting, but with plenty of fun thrown in and I’m leaving camp happy and tired…exactly where I want to be!

Adding a little hiking into our crust cruise up Broken Top Mountain

Adding a little hiking into our crust cruise up Broken Top Mountain

A huge thanks goes out to Sue for running the Nordic Lodge and Bachelor Mountain for some awesome trails. Another big thank you goes out to Dave Cieslowski, a Physical Therapist here in Bend who generously donated his time to us to help keep us on our feet! I have been having some issues with shin splints and particularly sore muscles in my forearm so Dave has been awesome in helping me recover and stay skiing. It’s also the reason you’ll see kinesio tape on my forearm in some of the pictures – nope, I didn’t get crazy tribal tatoos crawling up my arm. Next year, maybe. And the biggest thank you I can manage goes out to our amazing coaches for working so hard to not only give us the best coaching possible but finding creative and new ways to keep it fresh and fun. Like adding in the crust cruise, the biking, the point-to-point runs, the new drills, team nights and having awesome attitudes in general!

THIS is why we can't leave our phones lying around anymore. It's also why we have so much fun - our coaches are awesome.

THIS is why we can’t leave our phones lying around anymore. It’s also why we have so much fun – our coaches are awesome.

Our last day here we went for an epic crust cruise. I’d never been crust skiing before in my life (I know…how could I have been missing out all this time?!?) but now I know what all the fuss is about. Zipping along between the trees, it was like a choose-your-own-adventure game where we each picked our lines and went for it! We skied from Bachelor to Todd Lake, crossed the lake and then started up the next mountain over.

Gliding right over Todd Lake (photo from Liz)

Gliding right over Todd Lake (photo from Liz)

Stopping to get a drink (photo from Liz)

Stopping to get a drink (photo from Liz)

I really enjoyed myself all the way to the top of Broken Top mountain, where we climbed right up into the bowl. Then I turned around. Shoot. I forgot that when it comes to skiing down mountains on skinny skis, I have next to no skills, or experience, at all. Oh boy! Watching Andy, Simi and Matt go down the mountain was amazing and terrifying at the same time. I had to get Liz to talk me out of my original plan to side-step my way down the bowl :) I also had to tell myself, out loud, to not be such a chicken. It was a scary thing, and I fell a lot and finished the day with a smaller percentage of skin on my body than I had when I woke up, but it was so worth it. I was so psyched that we had the chance for an adventure ski, because I think it’s so important to keep training fun and throw in those epic days whenever possible!

Whew! Great uphill practice (photo from Liz)

Whew! Great uphill practice (photo from Liz)

Matt, Grover, Andy and Ida about halfway up to the bowl (photo from Liz)

Matt, Grover, Andy and Ida about halfway up to the bowl (photo from Liz)

The learning curve for skiing down mountains is pretty steep. This is what the first part of it looks like!

The learning curve for skiing down mountains is pretty steep. This is what the first part of it looks like! (photo from Liz)

As we do every year, we hosted a Fast and Female afternoon. We had a record number of girls participating in the Bend event this year- I believe over 65! – and it was really fun to see familiar faces of girls who’ve come back every year and see new girls as well. We had a number of stations: obstacle courses, relays, the “winter Olympics” station, and a line dancing station. 10 points if you can guess which station I led!

Kikkan and Liz leading a station going through the sports in the Winter Olympics.

Kikkan and Liz leading a station going through the sports in the Winter Olympics. (photo from Matt)

Me, Sadie and Ida answering questions from the girls after dancing!

Me, Sadie and Ida answering questions from the girls after dancing! (photo from Matt)

YES! Our new friend Annie shows us what the right attitude looks like.

YES! Our new friend Annie shows us what the right attitude looks like. (photo from Matt)

For those not familiar with Fast and Female, check out their newly updated website: www.fastandfemale.com It’s a really neat organization dedicated to empowerment through sport, and I’m proud to be an ambassador alongside such inspirational, strong women!

Fast and Female participants getting their posters signed by Winter Olympians!

Fast and Female participants getting their posters signed by Winter Olympians! (photo from Matt)

Me, Ida and Sophie during a long skate ski

Me, Ida and Sophie during a long skate ski

A typical day in camp looked something like this: wake up, get some breakfast and COFFEE!!!, head out the garage to wax up some skis for the day, and then jump into the car. We’d drive up to the mountain and then ski for usually 2-2.5 hours every morning, working on drills and very specific technique goals. Then we’d get home in time for lunch and a shower, and usually some foam rolling or stretching. In the afternoon we’d either do a run and strength, a longer run or mountain bike. For dinner the girls, guys and coaches took turns cooking and we’d eat family style.

The morning klister scene

The morning klister scene

One thing I’ve been really working on is my balance, so I can stay on my feet more. Somewhat ironically, this has actually made me fall more as I’m now taking more risks and pushing my limits a little more on cornering. But I’m slowly getting better!

Matt raising the stakes in the balancing game...

Matt raising the stakes in the balancing game…

Working on my yoga moves during strength!

Working on my yoga moves during strength!

I’m finding out that I have irrational fears this spring. I have no problem whatsoever with going skydiving, bungee jumping, cliff diving…I’ll jump without any problems. But I am such a little chicken on a mountain bike. It really terrifies me. As a result, on our mountain bike I was going painstakingly slow with my usual death grip on the handlebars. I was (for once) fine, but all my mountain bike fears happened to my teammate. Sophie took a tumble and ended up with a radial fracture in her humerus, right above her right elbow, and is in a cast. She is such a tough cookie, and after a couple days of checking in with the doctors she was out skiing with no poles! She’s going to have incredibly strong and efficient legs, and I’m so proud of her for keeping her chin up and I know she’ll heal up quickly.

One handed? No problem! Sophie rallying us around

One handed? No problem! Sophie rallying us around

Just three girls all crammed into the front of the biggest truck ever...Soph, me and Sadie touring Bend

Just three girls all crammed into the front of the biggest truck ever…Soph, me and Sadie touring Bend (photo from Sophie)

We are such a tight team, and this spring we’ve taken the opportunity to meet as both a large team and a women’s team and go over goals and projects for the year. I feel so lucky to be a part of this!

Matt, Kikkan, Liz, Ida, Sadie, Sophie and I after our girls team meeting getting some treats!

Matt, Kikkan, Liz, Ida, Sadie, Sophie and I after our girls team meeting getting some treats! (photo from Kikkan)

After a long camp, it’s time for a little relaxing! But first we’ll fly to Park City for spring testing, then I’ll be back out in Vermont with my club teammates! I can’t wait to get back to Stratton and see everyone again!

Ida, Andy, Sadie and Sophie at the side of the Deschutes River

Ida, Andy, Sadie and Sophie at the side of the Deschutes River

 

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Le Tour de School visits

27 days in a row. That’s the longest consecutive amount of time I’ve spent in Minnesota in two years! And ya, you betcha it’s been a good time! I despise it when people make lame excuses for not getting a blog post up in forever…but hey, listen to MY lame excuse, right?!? I’m currently in Bend, Oregon at our first US Team training camp of the year, and I’ve been skiing my brains out. No really, I’m getting so tired that I’m getting dumber. Just last night I got out of the shower and started getting dressed before I realized I still had soap in my hair. Yikes. All joking aside, it’s been an extremely fun and productive camp so far, and I’ll be telling you all about it soon! But first, I want to fill you in on my precious last weeks in my home state.

I use the words “home state” pretty loosely, since I’m actually a turtle and my home is in my suitcase. But I still consider Minnesota home since that’s where I spent most of my life. Sometimes it can feel a little tiring, always on the move from one place to the next. But 90% of the time I think it’s the best. It forces me to live with a sense of urgency, because I actually don’t have all the time in the world to do all the things I want to do before packing up and moving on. So where I might otherwise wait to call up a friend to go rock climbing, or sit out on a swing dancing lesson because I can do it next week…I just jump right in there and go for it, because that’s the only way it’ll happen! It’s a little added incentive for me to see more, do more, meet more people while I’m in the state. And boy did I ever get my social time on!

This is the really fun part of my job, the part where I finally get to give something back to the people and the communities that have supported me on my journey. I receive so much love and support (monetary, emotional, huggable and high-five-able) from all over the United States and especially my home state, and it makes all the difference. The support I get from you all is crucial in getting me not just to the Olympics, but to training camps, out the door to go training each and every day, through grueling workouts and long sessions. So now I get to give back!

I remember when I was a junior skier and got to meet one of my sports idols, Kikkan Randall, for the first time. She was handing out medals and signing posters at the Junior Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska, and I was there competing as a J1 (under-18 years old) racer. I waited in line to meet Kikkan and right before it was my turn she ran out of posters. I scrounged around and came up with a tattered piece of cardboard box, and begged her to sign it. She smiled and signed it and it meant the world to me that I’d met one of my sports heroes – I was on cloud 9. Later that week she hung a medal around my neck and told me good racing, great job, and I was most likely speechless. I took the cardboard home and hung it on my wall. 6 years later, I got to race with Kikkan as her teammate at the 2013 World Championships and we won the team sprint together. I never hung up the medal. It’s in a drawer in my basement somewhere. I never look at it. Guess what’s still hanging up on my wall? My signed cardboard scrap from Kikkan. I see it every day. For me, meeting and making a connection with someone that inspires me is so much more powerful than any result I’ll ever get. And maybe I’m nuts and simply don’t understand the value of semi-precious metals shaped like a FIS snowflake, but maybe there’s junior skiers out there that just want the same thing I wanted – a chance to meet a skier on the US team and make a connection.

So here’s the stats! This April and part of May, I did 10 events total – visits to schools, ski clubs, poster signings. I met a total of around 1,870 people, of which about 1,500 were kids. I handed out crazy amounts of Salomon posters and got so many high fives and hugs I think I collected one for every day that I’ll be on the road in Europe! I loved getting to meet so many cool people, hear their stories about how they started skiing and I especially loved it when junior skiers shared their goals – how they were training to try and make the school varsity team, the MN state meet, get on the Junior National team, or how they want to make the Olympics in 4 years. And you know what? I truly believe that they will. I’m pretty sure that this spring, I met a couple of my future US Ski Team teammates. Maybe in 6 years I’ll be teaming up with one of them for a team sprint…who knows? I can only hope that I inspired at least one skier the way that my teammates inspired me.

Getting my Marwe Roller skis from Finn Sisu (Ahvo and Kevin in the photo)

Getting my Marwe Roller skis from Finn Sisu (Ahvo and Kevin in the photo)

Rollerski season is back again! Thanks to Finn Sisu hooking me up with brand-spanking-new skis, I’m all ready to roll! I’m not getting crazy ski-specific with my training yet, however…spring is the time to mix in lots of fun activities. I did a lot of fun hiking and running in the parks with my family – two of my favorites are Afton State Park and Willow River State Park.

My family climbing around the side of the falls at Willow River State Park

My family climbing around the side of the falls at Willow River State Park

Congratulating Mackenzie after a great opening night! She was one of the Wives in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Congratulating Mackenzie after a great opening night! She was one of the Wives in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

I was finally home to see one of my little sister’s productions! She is a great actress and loves musicals, and lucky for me she was doing 19 productions of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” while I was home. It was so good I saw it twice!

Poking around the caves with my sister!

Poking around the caves with my sister!

One of my favorite nights was at the Lake Elmo Park shelter, where we had an open house to celebrate the season. I got to thank the community filled with volunteer coaches and parents who helped me ski as part of the Stillwater High School team. They even retired my ski suit – the one I raced in for the Ponies from 7th-12th grade! Move over, basketball players…I have a retired jersey now, too! :)

Receiving my award from the City Council and their proclamation of "Jessie Diggins Day"

Receiving my award from the City Council and their proclamation of “Jessie Diggins Day”

A line up of local skiers waiting for posters!

A line up of local skiers waiting for posters!

I joined team Slumberland during the YMCA challenge, and we won a team relay kayaking in the pool!

I joined team Slumberland during the YMCA challenge, and we won a team relay kayaking in the pool!

My favorite planter, because it's a little whimsical with the ivy and curly grass

My favorite planter, because it’s a little whimsical with the ivy and curly grass

Found my spirit animal scurrying around in the garden

Found my spirit animal scurrying around in the garden

Right before it was time for me to leave, I did a lot of yard work with my parents. I love gardening, and I helped my Dad put up the fencing around the raised vegetable garden we built. Then I helped my Mom plant all kinds of seeds – carrots, lettuce, beets, kale, snap peas, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes. Yum! I also saw my spirit animal, a chipmunk, hanging around, which I’m taking as a really good sign to kick off a new training year.

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SKYDIVING and spring adventures!

My first jump! What a rush!

My first jump! What a rush!

I guess most rational people look at skydiving the way you’d look at putting metal in the microwave; it shouldn’t ever be done, it’s terrifying when it happens, and once is all it takes to learn your lesson and never do it again. But I see jumping as a huge rush, and the feeling of flying then floating through the air is incredible. I was lucky enough to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft a week ago, and I am still re-living the experience in my head! If it’s that awesome, why did I wait till now to jump? Because it’s spring…basically, one big carte blanche! April is that one month out of the year when I get to do exactly what I feel like doing – if I want to go kayaking in the river, I can do that and not worry about messing up my training for skiing. If rock climbing for the day sounds fun, I can do that. If it’s raining and cold and miserable and I don’t want to go outside…I don’t have to! And if I happen to twist my ankle when landing with a parachute on…then this is the right time of year to do that.

Being an athlete is a funny kind of job in the sense that while you might only spend up to 5 hours a day training, you don’t get to “clock out”, either. Everything you do will relate to how well you train and how fast you race; how you eat, how you sleep, what you do in your time off during the day (do you rest? Or do you run around and get tired and compromise the next day’s training?) So, from May till the end of March, it’s a 24/7 job, and that’s why April feel so spectacular. I can stay up late if I want to and I’m not worrying about things outside my control, like getting sick. I can go camping for a couple days and not worry that I’m not getting in enough ski-specific training. You know you’re a total dork when the idea of staying up late and getting sick is exciting…just saying.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my job! So much! And I love having a training plan and knowing exactly what I’m going to focus on for the day to get one step closer to my goals. By end of spring I’m always itching for a training plan and to get back into full camp mode, and of course I already miss my teammates like crazy. But hopefully my explaination of why I get so excited about April makes sense. I mean…why else would you get excited about the rainy month when it’s still cold and grey outside?

 

The landscapes were really, really pretty

The landscapes were really, really pretty

Which is why I flew down to Arizona for a couple days with my Mom to visit my Grandparents! It was a short trip but I was so happy to spend some time with them. And I’d never been to Arizona before, so that was pretty neat! The first thing my Grandma did when I got to the house was prank me with a rubber snake and a cactus…and I totally fell for it. Arizona has such a different kind of beauty than Minnesota. Except for when you’re actually on a mountain, the land is dead flat with small cactus and saguaros everywhere. It’s a dusty, dry heat which felt perfect to me after a long winter, and the sunsets were long and gorgeous. We went hiking in the superstition mountain, around Casa Grande (where my Grandparents live) and up Picacho Peak.

Mom on one of our hikes

Mom on one of our hikes

 

The packing room at Eloy

The packing room at Eloy

However, the most exciting thing I did in Arizona by far had nothing to do with saguaros or hiking…it was skydiving! I jumped in this little town called Eloy, which is an international skydiving mecca. In the chute packing room there were flags and people from around the world, looking like they just stepped out of the surf with tanned skin, windblown hair and the outward calm you only get after you’ve done something truly wild. The town was full of tents, RV’s and motel rooms rented out for weeks at a time to these jumpers, who basically lived at the jump site. Planes took off every half hour, and in between you could see people playing basketball, packing their jump gear, learning to juggle, slacklining, running in off the landing field, wandering into the general store to pick up a cold drink and a sandwich. It looked like the kind of place you could wander into and easily make friends, then end up staying for a year.

Ready? Ok, go.

Ready? Ok, go.

I’d wanted to skydive for a couple years, especially after going bungee jumping in Whister the summer of 2009. I decided on a tandem jump since I wasn’t in town long enough to do the real class and get certified to jump solo. My Grandpa, who has jumped 5 times and only stopped about a year ago, told me no less than 21 times to do the “wild weasel” (it turned out to be a fast spin!). We got into the plane and headed up to 13,000 feet! Any higher and they said they’d need to hook up oxygen (it wasn’t pumping through the plane since the door was cut out so we could jump through it). When they opened the door and people started throwing themselves out the plane one by one, I felt like I might have left my stomach back on the tarmac in Eloy. Kim (my tandem jumper buddy) and I were the last ones out of the plane, so we got to watch everyone jump before us. One lady plugged her nose like she was jumping into a pool. Uh…..huh? It’s funny how logic tends to leave you when you’re scared.

In free fall...the best part!

In free fall…the best part!

Then it was my turn! I’d already asked Kim if we could do some tricks, and since she’s awesome she agreed. We swung out of the plane into a backflip, and then straightened out. The first thing I did was open my mouth and scream. The second thing I did was shut it. When you’re falling at an average speed of 115 mph, the wind comes at you pretty hard! We spun in circles, I was able to move my arms around and it felt like I was flying. Only the first 3 seconds were terrifying because that’s when I felt like I was truly falling, while we dropped away from the plane. But after that, the ground wasn’t rushing up quickly the way it does in a bungee jump, and it wasn’t nearly as scary! I did get a suprise when Kim pulled the parachute, because she was over me and I couldn’t see her pull it. One minute we were horizontal and the wind was so loud I couldn’t hear a thing, and the next we were sitting in the harness, floating silently over the perfectly square cotton fields thousands of feet below us. The landing was pretty easy since Kim was steering by pulling the sides of the parachute. It was such a cool experience, and I feel so lucky! I also can’t wait to do it again. :)

My Mom, Grandma, Grandpa and Me

My Mom, Grandma, Grandpa and Me

 

The cheering squad back on the ground! (photo from my Grandma)

The cheering squad back on the ground! (photo from my Grandma)

 

Coming in for the landing! (photo from my Grandma)

Coming in for the landing! (photo from my Grandma)

 

Happy camper post-jump (photo from my Grandma)

Happy camper post-jump (photo from my Grandma)

The trip to Arizona was a great way to reset and enjoy some time with family. While I was home in Minnesota, I got a lot of really good family time, but I was also a very social butterfly! I signed posters at Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing, and helped shoot photos for the store advertisements. Which was great, since the humane society had a lot of puppies that needed to be adopted…what better way to get the word out then to include them in the ad?

The Red Wing Nordic ski team!

The Red Wing Nordic ski team!

 

My awesome job as puppy-wrangler

My awesome job as puppy-wrangler

 

Catching up on cuddles with our dogs!

Catching up on cuddles with our dogs!

Hiking with my family at Willow River park!

Hiking with my family at Willow River park!

 

I was escorted into the Lions meeting by the Girl Scouts

I was escorted into the Lions meeting by the Girl Scouts

I met the Southwest High School ski team (winner of the NNF auction for a school talk!) and showed photos and stories from the Olympics. I spoke to the Scandia Marine Lions Club members and went for a fun mud run in the park with the Loppet Nordic Racing training group. I got to meet with the crew at Podiumwear and talk design and fit and see the cool new ideas they’re coming up with for top-of-the-line racing and training gear. They even made me my own bike jersey!

Meeting the Southwest Nordic Team!

Meeting the Southwest Nordic Team!

 

At the end of a great run with the Loppet Nordic training group!

At the end of a great run with the Loppet Nordic training group!

Fastenal flew me out to Indianapolis for a trade show, where I signed posters and got to test power tools (I loved this). I even got to test out a sledgehammer….on a car. It was an old beater car, but still! When else can you smash up a car like that and not get arrested? So needless to say, it’s been a busy month, and I have a couple more events coming up in May before I leave for our first training camp. But this is the fun part of my job! This is when I get to spend time with and give back to the community that has supported me for years. It’s fun to meet young athletes in the area, and hopefully my future teammates!

Testing out the Fastenal Team Race Car...

Testing out the Fastenal Team Race Car…

Alright, confession time. I did something really dumb. “Again, Jessie?” you ask…but yes, sadly, I did. I signed up for a race I have no business doing. None at all, and here’s why: I hadn’t gotten on a bike since I did the 75 mile Ironman Minnesota ride with my Dad last year. I did do a lot of spin biking in the gym when I injured my foot, but I havd’t hopped on a real bike since last May. But I decided that it’d be a great idea to sign up for the 100 mile ride this time around, and my Dad was game, so heck why not? Ironman Minnesota 2014! I did get out for about 2 rides beforehand, which was just great. Since clipless pedals terrify me, I decided to once again go on my trusty ol’ mountain bike. It’s ok for you to roll your eyes at this point, I won’t mind. Anyways, the forecast was pretty grim, but we thought we’d give it a shot.

Dad and I headed out on our ride, wearing the new jerseys Podiumwear made us!

Dad and I headed out on our ride, wearing the new jerseys Podiumwear made us!

We started biking right from our house, and after an hour and a half of cold wind I was thinking, hey – this might not be so bad! I can get used to being a little bit cold and wind sucks but it’s ok…and that’s when it started raining. Ugh. It was a constant cold rain and somewhere in the next hour I crossed the line between cold and miserable to hypothermic. We made it to an aid station after biking for 2.5 hours, and decided that as much as I really wanted to bike the whole route, it was going to be stupid and kind of dangerous to continue. Especially since I was having issues forming coherent sentences. I don’t get cold often, but when I do, it’s usually really bad. Like, blue-lips-shaking-limbs bad. So Mom came to the rescue to pick us up, which was really lucky for us! It took me 15 minutes of jumping jacks before I started to have feeling in my toes again. What a bummer! So, Dad and I decided that while Mother Nature really didn’t have any interest in making the ride possible today, we would do our own epic ride later this spring when it was nice enough to enjoy it. And hey…good karma points for effort, right? :)

 

Ok, last little note in this long blog post! I’m looking forward to a chance to thank more of the community for their support and celebrate the season on Wednesday April 30th, from 6-8:30pm at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. I’ll be showing a slideshow of photos from the season, sharing stories from the Olympics, and signing posters. It’s free and open to the public, and I’d love to see you there!

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Hugging the President! And the other things I did last week.

Sophie and I, giddy after meeting Obama (photo from Sadie)

Sophie and I, giddy after meeting Obama (photo from Sadie)

One of the coolest parts of getting to race in the Olympics actually comes along 3 months later…the trip to Washington D.C. to meet the President! I was looking forward to this and especially a chance to experience that part of the country since I’d never been and am not likely to go again anytime soon with the camp schedule. I had a bit of a crazy travel day to get there, leaving Anchorage on a red-eye flight with a 2 hour layover in the Minneapolis airport, during which time I had coffee with my Mom. We found out that we needed a cocktail dress for a red carpet event that night, and I hadn’t packed one, so she brought some in to the terminal with her and I tried them on in an airport bathroom. Seriously? Yep. This is the really classy side of my life, being on the road all the time! In all honesty it was pretty fun and the airport security ladies would wander in and give their input on the dresses as well. I think I might have one of the nicest Moms in the world, for her to drive to the airport at 6am so we could hang out for an hour!

Some of the XC guys on the trip - Torin, Erik, Brian and Kris (Simi and Andy not in the photo)

Some of the XC guys on the trip – Torin, Erik, Brian and Kris (Simi and Andy not in the photo)

I arrived in D.C. in the afternoon, and that night we went to the Best of US Awards show at the Warner Theatre. Although everyone was dressed very nicely, you could easily pick out the athletes because none of the girls could walk in their heels and the guys looked like they couldn’t wait to get out of their suits! Or maybe that was just me? The show was pretty cool though, and it was really touching to hear the thank-you speeches of the recipients. They gave awards to best male and female Olympic and Paralympic athletes, best moment of the Olympic and Paralympic games, best team of the games…things like that. There were a lot of athletes present, too! Not the entire crew, but a pretty good showing considering how close it was to the end of the season.

Sophie, Me, Sadie, Liz and Holly at the Best of US show (photo from Sadie)

Sophie, Me, Sadie, Liz and Holly at the Best of US show (photo from Sadie)

 

Mr. Whitcomb, this look goes out to you. (photo from Holly)

Mr. Whitcomb, this look goes out to you. (photo from Holly)

The day of the White House visit I was raggedly tired, yet still extremely excited and nervous about meeting the President and First Lady. Because of the crazy redeye flight and travel schedule to Washington D.C. and the late event the night before, I’d probably gotten a total of 7 hours of sleep over the past 3 days. I was the kind of tired where you think you’re standing still but in fact you’re swaying back and forth a little bit. Rest assured that I’ve learned my lesson about time zone hopping and travel plans, and I’ll be planning much more sleep for future spring trips!

Liz all ready for a fireside chat!

Liz all ready for a fireside chat!

 

Athletes milling around waiting to start our march in.

Athletes milling around waiting to start our march in.

Most of the morning was spent sitting and standing and waiting. This is such a big part of the Olympics and everything surrounding it – the experiences are amazing and always, always worth the time it takes to get there. But….there really is quite a lot of waiting around! We went through some impressive security measures to get onto the White House grounds, and then were ushered out onto the lawn to film a video for Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” campaign. I think it’s so cool that she works hard to get the message out that activity is not only healthy but can be fun, too, and I was psyched to be part of the video! Although truth be told, it was slightly awkward and funny because we were told to mimic the Opening Ceremony march-in, with athletes at the front of the line carrying bouquets made of broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts and a torch made of green beans and carrots (despite how that sounds, they looked beautiful!). We were smiling, cheering and waving not at a crowd, but about 20 coaches and staff members! So as you might imagine, we felt a little self-conscious, but I think the video will work out just fine.

Bryan and Erik hanging out in the White House library. Weird as it is, I loved the smell of this room.

Bryan and Erik hanging out in the White House library. Weird as it is, I loved the smell of this room.

 

Holly with the veggie bouquet and torch. Classic.

Holly with the veggie bouquet and torch. Classic.

The procession stopped when athletes at the front stopped to pet the Obama’s dog, which was being taken out on a walk by a security guard! After that we all hung out on the grass and smelled the cherry blossoms which were just coming out, until it was time to go inside. We were able to go on a self-guided tour of the White House (though not the upstaris where the Obmas live, of course), and in each room there was a staff member full of cool facts and helpful information about the room and the White House in general.

Stopping to pet the Obama's dog (sure, why not?)

Stopping to pet the Obama’s dog (sure, why not?)

 

Sadie, Sophie, Me, Holly and Liz jumping for joy on the White House lawn! (photo by Torin Koos)

Sadie, Sophie, Me, Holly and Liz jumping for joy on the White House lawn! (photo by Torin Koos)

One part I thought was pretty neat was that each President gets to make their own set of china. Each design is different and the current family residing in the White House usually eats on Lincoln’s set of china, I was told. So I had to go check it out!

The Presidential china sets on display - Lincoln's set is in the purple.

The Presidential china sets on display – Lincoln’s set is in the purple.

We wandered through the rooms labeled pretty accurately…”green room”, “red room”, “blue room”…you get the idea. A little after noon they handed out bag lunches, and there wasn’t enough room to sit so there we were, sprawled over crazy old sofas or on the floor of the White House! I’ve never felt so glamorous while sitting on the floor in my life. I swear my posture was better, anyways.

Picnic lunch in the White House

Picnic lunch in the White House

Then it was time to meet the couple we’d all been dying to see! The recieving line was impressively long, and I was amazed by how the Obamas were able to be on their feet for so long smiling and genuinely congratulating each and every athlete. The President would shake each person’s hand, exchange a few words, and then Michelle would hug them and also tell them good job at the Olympics.

Holly, Sadie and Sophie taking a break in the receiving line to meet the President!

Holly, Sadie and Sophie taking a break in the receiving line to meet the President!

I had months to think about what I was going to say to the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. I desperately wanted to say something at least mildly intelligent or interesting. But I was so nervous and excited and in awe of Barack and Michelle that it didn’t quite go as planned! When it was my turn I stepped forward and told him: “I’m such a big fan! Thank you for all you do!” and then mentally slapped myself for sounding like such a dork. But Obama smiled and said “thanks, I appreciate that”, and asked where I lived. I said Minnesota, and he started asking me about the skiing there, but instead of answering I blurted out “can I hug you?”. He laughed and opened his arms and right then and there I hugged the President of the United States. I wasn’t sure that was even allowed, to ask for hugs, but I don’t know what came over me and couldn’t stop myself from asking. I stepped to the right where Michelle was waiting, and got another hug, and she told me she was proud of me. I was so overwhelmed by how nice the Obamas were that I started to cry. I tried so hard to keep it in, but when I opened my mouth to thank her I could barely get the words out! I covered my face and rushed out the door, mortified and praying that there was a place to hide somewhere (there wasn’t).

The White House staff and security were laughing at me and said it was really adorable that I burst into tears, and assured me that I wasn’t the first person to do so. But I was so embarrassed! Luckily, I had time to recover before the Obamas came into the big hall and addressed the entire Sochi team. They both gave beautiful speeches that were inspiring and at times funny, and when they left Barack said “Enjoy the House…don’t trash the place!” With that, it was over, and we wandered out past the gardens, back onto the buses and out of the White House. Getting to meet the First family was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had, and something I’ll never forget. Especially since I totally embarrassed myself by crying in front of the President just because he hugged me!

Barack and Michelle Obama giving beautiful speeches to the athletes

Barack and Michelle Obama giving beautiful speeches to the athletes

The next day was the athlete summit, with different speakers and presentations, mostly on how to retire and move into the next stage of your career. Since I figure I won’t be retiring for a looooong time to come, I wanted to get outside and see D.C. while I was there! I ran to the Lincoln memorial and checked out that half of the National Mall with all the famous sights. I was in full tourist mode, too. You know what I’m talking about – camera out, jacket tied around waist. Yeah buddy.

Finally! Spring is here!

Finally! Spring is here!

Just me and 1000 other tourists out for a walk

Just me and 1000 other tourists out for a walk

It seemed like everywhere I turned there was another memorial or plaque or SOMETHING that I should be reading or learing about. But I was quickly running out of time, so I didn’t get to really dig into some of the exhibits and museums like I’d wanted to. True to form, one place I spent a little extra time in was the Conservatory. I mean, I know there were famous exhibits to see, but it was the orchid show, people! I had to check it out. :)

The Capitol

The Capitol

At the end of the day I dragged my tired and jet-lagged self onto the airplane, and finally, FINALLY got home for a good long stay. I’ll be in Minnesota (with the exception of a short vacation to Arizona) for the month of April and half of May, and it’ll be the longest I’ve been in one place since last spring. God forbid I start actually growing roots somewhere!

 

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My life is better now, and here’s why

Adventure time up in Alaska! Boy was that fun. I was so happy that I got an extra 4 days there to play in the backcountry, get on the alpine slopes, hang out with friends and soak up some long days of sunlight!

Holly and I at Alyeska enjoying some turns in the sunshine! (photo from Holly)

Holly and I at Alyeska enjoying some turns in the sunshine! (photo from Holly)

First, a million and one thanks to Alyeska Resort letting Olympians ski for free that weekend, and an awesome ski setup borrowed from Zuzana Rogers, a super awesome PT who works at Advanced Physical Therapy in Anchorage and traveled with us this year on the road! And thanks to Don Haering for being my “Alaskan adventure guide” for the weekend – I had to learn what “setting an edge” meant and I most definitely slowed him down since I didn’t know what I was doing at all, especially my first time skinning up a mountain! But he was really patient and I had an awesome time.

Alyeska was so much fun, and I spend the day trying to keep up with the group, which was great because it pushed me to go faster and learn faster. I absolutely love those adrenaline-filled “oh crap!” moments where you’re just a little outside your control but pull it back together at the last second. Of course, sometimes you don’t pull it back together and eat snow pretty hard. On the off chance that either my coach or my Grandma is reading this right now I’m NOT going to tell you if I crashed or not…but you can probably guess.

The occasional ski house mouse really keeps you on your toes. Or standing on top of the chairs. Either one.

The occasional ski house mouse really keeps you on your toes. Or standing on top of the chairs…either one. Pat took care of this one for us!

While I was up in Anchorage I stored my stuff and crashed at the ski house, so a big thanks to Sadie, Rosie and Erik for letting me once again invade their home! I feel like I’m a very part-time resident of many different people’s homes by now, and this is one I’ve frequently stayed in. And it’s always a good time. Even when we do happen to find dead mice…but that’s why we keep the guys around! ;)

Holly, Brian and I enjoying our free ski passes courtesy of Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

Holly, Brian and I enjoying our free ski passes courtesy of Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

 

I love the view from the slopes at Alyeska!

I love the view from the slopes at Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

 

Sharing one of these, I think, is quite mandatory after a big day of skiing (photo from Don)

Sharing one of these, I think, is quite mandatory after a big day of skiing (photo from Don)

The day after getting my inner Mikaela Shiffrin on, I was thrilled to try backcountry skiing for the first time ever. I had always seen epic-looking pictures from all my friends but alas, there isn’t really the right terrain for it back home, so I’d never been. So on Monday morning Don and I drove up to Eddy’s Mountain, and we did a quick lesson on how to put on skins and change the backcountry bindings (yes, I DID need help with this) and how to use the beacons in case of an avalanche. Then we were off!

Taking a break on the way up to enjoy the view of the sea! How cool is that overlook?

Taking a break on the way up to enjoy the view of the sea! How cool is that overlook?

Hiking up looks like the left side...feels like the right!

Hiking up looks like the left side…feels like the right!

I didn’t trust the skins at first because I was so used to kicking classic skis, so it took me a while to get comfortable. This was also the part where I made Don lead so he couldn’t see how goofy I looked.

Don digging a pit to make sure it'd be safe to ski down the steep part of the mountain

Don digging a pit to make sure it’d be safe to ski down the steep part of the mountain

We were originally going to do a couple runs of the bottom half of the mountain, but we got 2/3 of the way up and then decided heck, why not go for the whole thing. I’ll admit, when we were hiking up the last steep pitch I was getting pretty nervous because skiing in powder isn’t exactly like skiing groomed trails, but it was too late to chicken out and a big part of me loves to get scared like that.

I swear I stayed on my feet...most of the time...(photo from Don)

I swear I stayed on my feet…most of the time…(photo from Don)

 

Don right before we started our ski back down

Don right before we started our ski back down

So at the top we took a moment to catch our breath, and then we came back down! It was terrifying (mostly because of my ridiculously low alpine skill level) and exhilarating and I loved it. Although the snow wasn’t crazy powdery it still felt like I was floating over it, and I was laughing on the way down.

Me at the top of the mountain! (photo from Don)

Me at the top of the mountain! (photo from Don)

The last day in Alaska Sadie and I were running around town trying to find cocktail dresses for the D.C. party and packing. We managed to get everything except for the things I proceeded to forget at the ski house. Go figure. It was a great stay up in Anchorage and I’m really thankful for all the people we got to hang out with who made it an incredible experience!

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Spring series

Me, Erika, Sophie and Annie all dressed up for Sophie's finish-line birthday party

Me, Erika, Sophie and Annie all dressed up for Sophie’s finish-line birthday party (photo by Rob Whitney)

The past two weeks have been such a blast. Every Alaskan I’ve come across has been ecstatic about the sunny warm weather and clear skies. And with good reason…it’s been perfect spring skiing here! It feels both awesome and kind of sad that the season is finally drawing to a close. Admittedly, I’ve been looking forward to a break for the last few weeks, but what on earth am I going to do with myself once the days are no longer centered around skiing? Go alpine skiing, of course! I’m staying up in Anchorage for an extra couple days before flying to DC for the White House trip. Everyone on the US Olympic and Paralympic Team gets to meet the President, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while! I’ll be putting up a post soon with details from my adventure time after the races, and then one for the White House trip, but first I should probably recap the last moments of the 2013-14 race season.

Perfect tracks, sunshine, and tired girls!

Perfect tracks, sunshine, and tired girls!

In a somewhat ironic move, my body decided to start clawing it’s way back towards the race shape I had in February. The last few races just started feeling better and better! While it was frustrating to end my racing on the World Cup feeling like my body wasn’t at all where I wanted it to be, it was nice to end the season knowing that I pushed things as far as I could and it was getting better with every kilometer I raced.

Erika, Sophie and Annie tasting the apple bread I made - I was excited to bake again!

Erika, Sophie and Annie tasting the apple bread I made – I was excited to bake again!

Ben got super into the carrot-shredding for Sophie's birthday cake

Ben got super into the carrot-shredding for Sophie’s birthday cake

 

I loved the 10km freestyle individual beause it was the first time I’d been able to do that race all year, and I really liked the course. I took the first lap out a little hot and burned out, but that might have just made all the cheering from the side of the course even more special. It was so cool to see old friends and meet new ones here, and it felt like a big party/reunion after each race!

The very best part about the 10km freestyle day wasn’t about the racing at all, however…it was about Sophie’s birthday! A bunch of us girls were waiting at the finish line with ridiculous costumes thrown on, and the second Soph crossed the line we attacked her. I actually felt a little bad about that becuase she had just finished a really hard race and suddenly girls in masks, feather boas and cowboy hats were decending on her and hugging her and singing, and I’m sure it was a little bewildering. But boy did we suprise her!

The classic sprint was pretty sweet because while I don’t label myself specifically a “classic sprinter”, I had fun trying to become one (and I’m not just saying that…nobody in their right mind labels me as a classic sprinter, either)! The course started out flat, then swept down a twisty hill before ending with a long climb. At around 4 minutes for the girls it was a real lung-burner! It was a pretty sweet moment at the start of the final as we lined up, and realized that it was all USST girls in the final, and we decided to do our ridiculous eagle cry cheer. It’s weird, it really is, and it sounds like croaking baby birds, but it’s also one of those things that you can’t possibly do without breaking into a laugh.

The athlete tent packed full before the sprint rounds

The athlete tent packed full before the sprint rounds

 

Me, Annie, Sophie and Erika with our facepaint, glitter and mustaches on (photo by Eric Packer)

Me, Annie, Sophie and Erika with our facepaint, glitter and mustaches on (photo by Eric Packer)

Another fun thing I got to do besides racing was a photo shoot for Podiumwear with Charlie Renfro. He’s a super talented and really nice photographer, and took the time to get some sweet shots of myself and Karl Nygren skiing in all three lines of suits. Check out Podiumwear’s website for photos soon!

Hold on just a second…lets talk about that MIXED RELAY race! Whoa was that ever neat. I hope the format sticks, because it was one of the most fun races I’ve done this year since it gets the whole team rallied around one focus together and with the classic-classic-skate-skate boy-girl-boy-girl format, it kept things changing up every lap. APU’s team led and we chased for the remainder of the race, and I’m already excited to see how it shakes down next year (so please, USSA, don’t go changing formats on us). We wore facepaint and glitter, of course, and the boys made my day by letting me paint up their faces too. The girls also painted on mustaches, but since the guys already had real ones we figured it’d be overkill to paint theirs as well.

Our first SMS relay team - Me, Simi, Sophie and Andy with photo-bombing by Annie and Erika (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Our first SMS relay team – Me, Simi, Sophie and Andy with photo-bombing by Annie and Erika (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

 

Our second SMS relay team of Erika, Ben, Annie and Erik (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Our second SMS relay team of Erika, Ben, Annie and Eric (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

 

The relay podium - APU 1, SMST2 2, and APU 3 (Fasterskier photo)

The relay podium – APU 1, SMST2 2, and APU 3 (Fasterskier photo)

Mid-week, we got to meet lots of young skiers from Alaska in our Ski with the Olympians event! I made so many new ski buddies that day, and we played follow the leader, tag, and practiced our downhill racing as well as hop-skating up the hills. All of the ambassadors told a little something about themselves or their experiences at the Olympics and then we signed posters and got to talk a little more with the up-and-coming Olympians for team 2022 :)

A beautiful 9:30 sunset from the Packer's house

A beautiful 9:30 sunset from the Packer’s house

The 30km. Yep. I’m going to be perfectly honest here (it is MY blog, after all…) and say that I wasn’t psyched that it was a CLASSIC 30km for the second year in a row. Mostly because I love to skate but also because it should be switching up every year. Anyways, it was one of my more enjoyable 30km classic races although I spent much of it yo-yo-ing off the front pack. I even had a little moment where I slipped a couple times in a row, planted my skis in a herringbone and stopped dead still for a second so I could mutter about how much I wanted to just be done racing already, before getting on with it and getting up the hill. Immature moment? Sure, why not. Everyone is entitled to one at least once every race season. But once I got back into it the thrill of racing took over. I got some great feeds from the coaches, volunteers and from the APU team as well, and even kept most of the gatorade off my face! And the feeling of ending the season after a long, hard race is really satisfying.

Then it was time for us to hike back up Spencer’s climb one final time to set up the feed station for our boys. We had a great time hanging out in the sun in between laps, passing out gatorade and coke to the guys and cheering in-between. And just like that, the season was over!

Last but certainly not least, another huge thank-you goes out to the Packer family, for their incredible hospitality in hosting the SMST2 team at their house for the entire race series! We had an amazing stay and most of that was because of their kindness in sharing their home with us. Thanks guys!

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