A Thanksgiving spent alone in quarantine? That’s 2020.
A few weeks ago, my teammates Bill, Ben and I traveled to northern Vermont in search of snow and more training partners. Most of the SMS team started Period 1 on the World Cup, so they flew to Europe and their races have already begun! Meanwhile, our domestic races were cancelled back in September leaving us with limited options. The New England Nordic Ski Association worked quickly to put together regional races for the winter that would have allowed New England skiers to safely day-travel to races and compete at a distance from everyone. However, as Covid cases started popping up more frequently in Vermont, these races soon looked doubtful.
The boys and I decided to make the most of it and came to an agreement with the Craftsbury Racing Team (in northern Vermont) that we would try to plan for time trials in December, in the hopes of getting a glimpse at cross country ski racing. Because of the strict Vermont guidelines Bill, Ben and I stocked up on groceries and moved into a host family’s house near Craftsbury, while they were not in town. We tried as hard as we could to create our own bubble and limit outside interactions. We spent mornings training hard and afternoons recovering. I sat for hours right next to the wifi rotor trying to continue with my remote work. In the evenings, we would make a fire and play games to pass the time away. Settlers of Catan, Lord of the Rings Risk, multi-person solitaire… we were up for anything!
Originally, we traveled to Craftsbury anticipating snow to fall and the ski season to begin. Although there have been a few flurries here and there, unfortunately it has accumulated to be just barely NOT ENOUGH snow to ski, but too much snow/ice to roller ski. Alas, we have worked our running legs, explored new hikes in the area and skied on a thin layer of dust on top of pavement.
Although the boys and I were not interacting with outsiders, we were not yet included in the “Craftsbury bubble,” which meant we could not train with them. We waved to them from across the road as we ran by and spread out from each other by 30 minutes for a roller ski time trial, seeing the Craftsbury team out there working inspired us to get working too. Bill and Ben would frequently let me tag along with them on runs or for a few minutes of skiing, but in the end I was left without a training buddy most days.
I don’t have a problem working out by myself and would qualify myself as a pretty good solo-trainer. But friends are nice too! Without any racing or traveling prospects in the near future, I realized we better get into a routine around here. So, when the Craftsbury team extended an invitation for me to join their “pact,” I did not hesitate. Joining the pact entails a 3-4 day quarantine (if you're already a Vermont resident), a Covid test, and waiting for that result to come back negative. Once cleared, I am allowed to move into the Craftsbury team house (home to many of my closest ski friends), train with the other athletes, use their gym and eat in their dining hall. However, I am not allowed to go into a grocery store, a friend’s house, or put myself in any scenario where there could be risk of exposure. So, here I am, six days into a quarantine just waiting to get my test results back…
I'm sure everyone's Thanksgiving holiday looked far from normal this year and I truly hope you were all able to make the most of it. At first, I found it strange spending the day by myself in a cabin, but then I realized it's pretty similar to every other day in the life of a skier. So after training in the morning I worked on a puzzle, finished a book (The Mermaid Chair), started a new book (Lost Girls), binge watched The Queen's Gambit and still got stuffing and cranberries to-go from the Craftsbury Dining Hall!
Something I've been able to reflect on throughout my recent quarantine as well as the year of 2020, is how much consistency can effect your goals. For example, since April I have been doing 30-45 minutes of yoga 1-2 times a week, without missing a single week. I've always told myself I'll do more stretching, but it took a global pandemic for me to actually create the habit. For the first time in my life I can finally touch my toes! I've also been working on cutting back my coffee consumption. This is bittersweet to me because I absolutely adore the smell, taste and energy rush that comes with coffee, but I found myself frequently laying awake at night, unable to fall asleep. I'm down to half a cup a day now!
Covid has forced me to come up with new routines, spend more time on the little things while also looking at the big picture. Let me relate this directly to skiing. I still don't know if I will compete in a single race this winter. However, I am staying diligent with my training, forcing the good habits and focusing on the variables that I can control. This type of consistency will help me in the long run (oh I hope) and push me closer to those big scary goals that are weeks, months, years down the road. Maybe I'm training for a time trial next weekend, maybe I'm training to further my athletic ability in the hopes of one day qualifying for an Olympic Team. Maybe I'm simply learning how to deal with the uncertainty and remembering why I do this sport. Whatever it is, 2020 is challenging me, and everyone, to step up to the occasion, focus on the details and stay persistent with our goals.
I admit, I spent a few hours dwelling on my solo Thanksgiving day, but I quickly realized how lucky I still was. I had a beautiful cabin in the woods all to myself, the most delicious fresh food served in a box for every meal and training right outside my door! I was able to virtually connect with friends and family all over the world and appreciate all of the little things I had to be thankful for. Thank you friends and family for your continuous love and support, I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving. I can't wait to hug you all once we're through this!
October brought us a lot of things… peak foliage, election stress, unseasonably cold weather, unseasonably warm weather, lots of hard ski intervals and a hard transition from summer to fall. Now we're well into November and we've had plenty of training days of 35 degrees and rain, but there were also days of 75 and blue skies! My teammates, Ben S., Bill and I are up in Craftsbury, VT hoping to get on snow any day now.
As the temperatures drop though, skiers (all athletes) need to be even more prepared to face the day with the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients. People burn more calories when they're cold; metabolism picks up its pace to keep your internal temperature on track. Also, when you add hard training sessions on top of that you suddenly need extra fuel to stay healthy, energetic and recover faster. Once the backyard garden is ripped up and the farmers markets have closed for the season, it can be tricky to find the fresh, local produce that every athlete should strive for. In addition, my teammates and I are trying to create our own quarantine bubble and limit our trips to the grocery store, which means we might need to stock up on what we can! These obstacles could lead toward a plate full of bland, colorless food. However, I’ve collected a few ideas on how to keep fueling in a delicious and nutritious way all winter long!
Figure out what produce is in season! Your tomatoes may have frozen over, but apples are still crushing! (Disclaimer- Sonnesyn family members will typically eat a garden fresh tomato like we're biting into an apple, not sure if that's weird)? I find it so helpful to understand what produce is being harvested at what time of year. Here is a link to a seasonal food guide that can help you navigate the supermarket during the chilly months: www.seasonalfoodguide.org.
When I'm in need of inspiration, I figure out something I could make that's in season. Maybe that means something easy like a cabbage slaw tonight. Or, if I have more time over the weekend then I'll crank up the music, throw myself a party and spend the extra time to use sweet potatoes and make homemade gnocchi.
(Click on the images to find the recipe)
A few weeks ago, Jessie and Wade packed up their belongings and drove off. Jessie went back home to MN for a few weeks before traveling to Europe for Period 1 of the World Cup and Wade went back to their apartment in Boston to work. Before they left though, we made sure to have one last pizza party featuring some seasonal inspiration, but also some of Wade's Polish heritage with a Pierogi pizza!!
Aside from trying to find inspiration in seasonal produce, I also get a little bit lax with always using fresh fruits and veggies in the winter. Sometimes it is just not realistic! So I'll buy some frozen vegetables and incorporate more legumes into meals with soups, stews and curries that are the perfect way to warm up after an afternoon ski or run in the frigid air.
When in doubt, add more garlic and ginger. If your winter cooking is getting a little bland and you're not sure how to make it more exciting without constant access to fresh produce, throw in some garlic/ginger! Garlic and ginger are both root vegetables that are relatively inexpensive and contribute LOADS of flavor. They also keep for a really long time without going bad so if you're trying to limit grocery store runs, you can stock up on them.
As the season ramps up, intervals get harder and racing becomes more prevalent (fingers crossed), it is extremely important for us endurance athletes to remember that the ratio on our plate should look a little different. For example, during an easy week of training with few hours or intensity sessions, it's important to prioritize the colors and protein at each meal. However, as we start demanding more from our bodies, we need those simple carbohydrates!
I never realized how valuable that key point was until I did my first ski tour last season. The world cup circuit completed a Scandinavian tour with six races in nine days. By the fourth race I was starting to have stomach issues and was hitting a major energy wall. No longer did I have that fight in me to chase down every second I could in each race, instead I was just trying to make it to the finish line. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a nutritionist from the US Ski Team and she pointed out to me that my body didn't have the time or energy to digest leafy greens when we had back-to-back race days for over a week. Something so simple was eye-opening to me as I realized it might actually be more beneficial for me to turn down the salad bar and head straight toward the bread and butter.
Aside from fueling properly, I typically view cooking and eating as a time to bring people together, converse and get a belly ache from laughing too hard (or maybe fueling too hard). Especially during this time of year, family and friends want to come together to celebrate the holidays, but are probably finding it challenging while following Covid regulations. However, I think we can still get the best of both worlds by taking advantage of the warmer/sunny days we still have and venturing outside for meals.
Or by bundling up and embracing the cold weather while enjoying treats outside with friends and family.
It may not always be the most glamorous way to celebrate birthdays & holidays, but it's what 2020 has given us and we're making it work! When it comes to cooking and dining, whether you're fueling for a long ski the next day or making a fancy dinner with your household, my advice is to keep it balanced. That doesn't mean you need to have a salad for every meal, but try to maintain as colorful a diet as possible. And don't forget to treat yourself to the seasonal treats too! ;)
Now that I'm fueled properly and feeling energetic, I'm ready to bring all of this hard work I've done roller skiing onto the snow and get this party started! Any day now snow gods, we're ready for you...
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.