The last three weeks have been so amazing, I’m almost speechless. However, since this is a blog, I had to find some words to describe what I’ve been up to in Alaska. And since so many adventures happened up here, I’ve split this post into three parts; the glacier, Hope, and Halibut Cove.
In case you want to listen, not read, check out what NPR had to say about our camp!
In the past, the popular thing to do when going to Alaska for camp has been to grumble; it’s too cold, it’s always raining, the mosquitos will kill you, the moose will get you, blah blah blah. And if all you do is come and train, then yes, you might have bad weather and you may be justified in whining about the bugs. But if you get to go on some adventures and actually SEE Alaska beyond the paved roads, it’s a totally different experience, and that’s why glacier camp is the best!
Our first week of NAWTA camp was great with the dryland training super high quality and the run out to bomber glacier was, well, the bomb. The best part, though, was that once we got up to Eagle Glacier for a week of solid on-snow skiing, we totally lucked out with the weather and nearly every day was sunny, warm, and beautiful. The weather actually has quite a huge influence on how fun the camp is, because near the end of the week when you’ve already logged 20+ hours and are having trouble getting out the door, a beautiful view and the chance to catch some rays helps a lot.
Before I talk any more about the camp, I need to give a HUGE shout-out to the coaches and glacier workers without whom the camp would totally and completely fall apart. Erik Flora runs the whole operation, and Mike Matteson and Don Haering were working almost literally round the clock. Matt Whitcomb and Jason Cork, our USST coaches, were there doing video, technique and shouting encouraging things all week long. And, drumroll please….we had massage and PT therapists at the camp! This is huge because the more you can take care of yourself, the better you can train. So a great big thanks to Zuzana Rogers (Advanced Physical Therapy of Alaska) and Michael Henrich (the Alaska Club). During our first week of dryland, Norma Haubenstock from Fairbanks also donated time to help us out with massage! Because of these guys and such a positive group of girls to train with, this camp was one of the best I’ve ever been to (and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve been to a TON of different camps by now).
I was so glad that Astrid Jacobsen came to our camp – she was so fun to have as a guest, like all our foreign guests! It was great to get to know her better, and we had a good time exchanging ideas and stories. One thing I noticed about her is that she is so very brave. Not only did she fly over the North Pole to come train with girls she had barely met, but she was open to trying new methods of training in an Olympic year. Not that our training is actually very different than other countries, but still…that can be scary! She wasn’t afraid to break the routine, share what she knows and learn a few random things from a country of skiers that only recently started producing results again. I’m so glad she came, and I am happy to have made a new friend!
Now for the skiing part! Our camp schedule looked like this: wake up and have breakfast around 7am, and skiing was open by 8 after a quick pre-game meeting (we would sometimes watch technique video, or just talk about the workout). We always skated in the morning (except for classic intervals day) and did our striding in the afternoon because the track would get soft after 10am, and skating in the afternoon was nearly impossible. After skiing you would find everyone getting a snack and drink, foam rolling, stretching or icing if they had an injury, and then making lunch around noon. We had quiet hours from 1-3pm, for those who napped…which was mostly everyone, although I’m not a big sleeper so although I tried a couple times I usually just stayed up. Then afternoon training opened at 4 and by 7:30 everyone was back, cleaned up and eating dinner. We had four teams that rotated through the chores of making breakfast, cleaning lunch dishes, cooking dinner and dinner cleaning crew. I may have gotten on a little baking kick and made muffins a couple times for the next morning’s breakfast. The fun part about cooking on the glacier is that everyone is so hungry and needs to eat so much that you can keep trying a new recipe every day…because within 12 hours you’re guaranteed a clean tray.
Waxing was great in the container – we had everything we needed and I thought it was great for the skiers to have to take care of our own skis! It’s good practice since all winter we are so spoiled with wax techs taking care of everything. And honestly, considering my waxing skills (or lack of) it’s probably a very good thing I’m not in charge when it’s race time. But Matt and Cork helped a ton and under their eye we got our skis prepped every day. For training, it feels good to know how to klister my own skis and by the end of camp I finally started getting the hang of it and didn’t have the stuff oozing all over my sidewalls!
And the training hours during the camp? For me, it wasn’t the number of training hours in the week that mattered but the quality of those hours. This has been a big goal for me this year – not caring about total volume but rather what I’m doing with that time. So I flew up knowing my week could be anything from 20-30 hours, depending on how I felt. If I thought I was really making progress with my technique and was feeling good, I’d just keep skiing, and the moment I thought I was getting into bad technique habits I’d trudge back up to the training facility. This method of actually putting more thought into how my training was going instead of simply chasing a number worked so much better for me, and I left the camp tired but really happy with the skiing!
One of the cool things we got to do up there was check out the bergschrund – this huge crack in the glacier. The glacier is basically this living, breathing thing that keeps moving, shifting snow around, melting and opening new cracks…and we were lucky enough to go into it and see it! Flora and the guys rigged up some ropes and harnesses and although we didn’t go too far in (safety first, I guess) we still got to see a lot of the water dripping and melting and running into this huge endless hole. We kept throwing snow down it to see how far it goes, which was pretty scary because it really goes down there. Glacial blue might just be my new favorite color.
I was really impressed with everyone’s extremely awesome attitudes, especially in the last days of camp when everyone is tired and probably sleep deprived since it never really gets dark up there. We finished an awesome week of training and everyone got just a little bit better because of it!