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...
It’s October now and “happy hour” is looking a lot different than it did a few weeks ago for me. September went by in a blur and consisted of many hours driving along I-90 singing to Lizzo, creating flower arrangements, baking cakes, setting up twinkle lights outside, trying on shoes, car shopping, celebrating happy hour more evenings than not, hanging out with relatives AND MY SISTER’S WEDDING! Oh, and some ski training too.
Over a month ago, my friend Kristen Bourne and I caravanned from Stratton, VT to the Twin Cities. Because of Covid, we didn’t want to stop for a hotel and we both needed our cars in the Midwest so we woke up at 3:40 in the morning and were on the road by 4:00 for a 21 hour drive. I’ve done long drives before but never a solo one over 13 hours, so this was a real test. I was so grateful to have Kristen by my side on the interstate to crack jokes with me during bathroom breaks, share homemade snacks, and explore some new flavors of Red Bull (never thought I’d be a fan, but their new peach flavor is like juice)! While driving, I listened to “White Fragility,” which I highly recommend, called a few friends, and thought about how much popcorn a human could consume. Do you think a person could eat his or her weight in popcorn in one sitting? Kristen and I had a few rough moments (mostly me getting impatient, tired and cranky after 18 hours) but we made it safely back to Minneapolis!
Right away, I jumped into wedding mode. My sister, Marit, and her now husband, Nick, have been together for 7.5 years and got engaged last fall. Our friends and family had been waiting patiently to celebrate this marriage that we always knew would happen and although we had obvious Covid concerns for the event, Marit and Nick decided to go through with their plans. So, 36 hours after driving halfway across the country I put together a bachelorette party for Marit. That being said, it was not a typical bachelorette party. In fact, Marit refused to call it that so we referred to it as “Not a Bachelorette Party.” We started the day with six ladies and a 10-mile run (yeah…) followed by a boat ride out on Lake Minnetonka (I always crave Lake Life after being in VT for a while). Later that evening a few more ladies, moms and aunts joined us in the backyard for an outdoor dinner celebration. Only one game was allowed the entire day and one “outfit” which was a flower crown I created for Marit the day before – also, the most creative thing I think I have ever made, I was quite proud of myself. Don’t ask how long I worked on it.
Soon after “Not a Bachelorette Party,” my mom, sister and I drove up to our cabin in Hayward, WI to get ready for a small ceremony weekend with just close friends and family. The Spider Lake Lodge, located half a mile from our cabin, was the perfect place to hold the weekend celebrations. We spent most of the weekend outside running, boating, kayaking, swimming…
It was such a beautiful ceremony that kept tears slowly streaming down my cheeks the entire time. So many smiles, laughs and references to “marriage is like a marathon…” I’ve always looked up to Marit and it feels like Nick has been my older brother for years already. In a way, the wedding seemed so natural to me, but hearing their vows to each other just reinforced how truly happy I am for the two of them and can’t wait to see what their future holds.
Although it was a precious, small ceremony at our cabin, Marit and Nick still wanted to celebrate with more friends and family back in the Twin Cities. So, we had one week to clean up, recover from dancing, prep a new venue (Nick’s mother’s backyard) and refuel. During this week, I took a few days to connect with the Midwest ski community.
I spent an afternoon working with the team at Gear West to make sure we were all feeling prepped and ready to go for whatever this ski season might bring us. I also hosted a live and virtual strength workout for anyone needing some new at-home exercise ideas. It was fun to see a few familiar faces and work with some new folks, as well as support a giveaway to some Midwest Juniors sporting some of my favorite sponsors!
The following evening, I joined The Loppet Trail Kids practice and hopped into their adventure run. It’s so fun working with these kids and seeing their excitement about getting outside and staying active! After running and completing an orienteering hunt, I chatted with them all a bit about goal setting and chasing dreams. I explained to them that I was standing in their exact same shoes 15 years ago and never would have thought I’d be training as a professional athlete.
Although working with kids is by far my favorite way to give back to the ski community, I also had a great time joining The Loppet Ladies ski session the following morning to work on technique, balance and strength. Strength is such a huge component to cross country skiing, but can often be intimidating to females, so it was nice to see so many of these women working hard to get stronger and fitter with coach Kim Rudd! (Also, huge thanks to Kim for setting up these sessions for me. She’s such an awesome female leader in the Midwest ski world and so great to work with!)
After running around for a few days, I took one deep breath and jumped back into wedding week. It was so special to spend time with cousins I hadn’t seen in a few years (yikes, love you guys), celebrate my aunt’s birthday and my grandparents 55th wedding anniversary! We then had a backyard party full of good food, delicious cocktails, gorgeous flowers and so much more dancing. My brother, Anders, and I gave a toast to the lucky bride and groom, which entailed Anders wearing Marit’s veil. That was fun!
All in all, it was a great month being home in the Midwest. Of course there were concerns by everyone about Covid regulations and social distancing, but I think all of our friends and family did a great job being smart and cautious when necessary, while also celebrating Marit and Nick! Spending time with family always makes me a happy girl, which in turn I believe makes me a faster girl when it comes to ski training. That life balance is so important to me and allows me to better focus when it's time to buckle down for training. Although I'm bummed to be leaving behind semi-ritual happy hours with my family, it feels good to be back in Stratton, VT (after quarantining, driving back east and getting a negative test). Recently, there have been discussions about the season that seem more promising than they had a month ago. In all honesty, the domestic ski season was looking pretty grim and I was facing a serious lack of motivation for a few weeks, but nothing gets me more fired up than resetting goals, being back with teammates and getting back to work! Time to switch those evening happy hours into strength power hours!
On one hand, it seems as though the summer has gone by so fast! On the other hand, 2020 has been a tough year and it feels like April was eons ago. This summer, my teammates and I have probably spent the most time ever training and hanging out around the Stratton area in Vermont. With the exception of a one-week family vacation and a few weekend trips around New England, I’ve been living up on the mountain since mid-May. Being a part of a team that is used to traveling for camps almost monthly and as an individual who can get restless when there “isn’t much going on,” the thought of this intimidated me back in the spring.
However, my teammates, coach and I have been getting creative at finding interesting new workouts to do, trails to run and dirt roads to bike on. For anyone interested in what training looks like for a typical “professional cross-country skier,” here is a deep dive into the last three weeks of my summer training...
Week 1: 8/10-8/16
Monday: Day off! This might seem strange to start the week with a day of rest, but we usually put in a lot of hours over the weekend so it’s very necessary for us to put our feet up for a bit. I typically spend my Monday’s doing a few hours of work for my online job, go grocery shopping, get a massage (maybe twice a month), afternoon yoga and cooking up a more extensive dinner meal (frequently homemade pizzas).
Tuesday: Solo threshold/L3 classic rollerski workout with 5x10 min of gradual climbing. For whatever reason, my female teammates all had different schedules and we were unable to do this workout together. It was freaking HOT AND HUMID so this workout took a little extra out of me. In the afternoon, I did a 30 min run as a warm up for an hour long strength session.
Wednesday: A 2.5 hour gravel bike ride with Sophie, Jessie, KO and Ida. The purpose of this ride was to be a super easy recovery after yesterday’s workout and before hitting it again hard tomorrow.
Thursday: 5k skate pace project. This is a new workout that our team has incorporated into our summer training. We found a 5k stretch of road that is super hilly and twisting/windy so it could act as a model for a real ski race course. The idea is to do 3x5k at a time trial or race effort, although we aren’t quite there yet. When we first did this workout in early July it was completely as L3/threshold. In August, we ramped this up to one run at threshold, the second a mix of L3/L4 and then the final was more of a time trial effort. This is a VERY hard workout and should only get harder as the training season goes on. We also followed this up with an afternoon strength session in the gym.
Friday: 2.5 hours classic roller ski with Jessie and KO in the morning. Then, 1.5 hour afternoon run/hike up the back side of Stratton Mountain and back down the front.
Saturday: Classic roller ski speed workout with 4x6min of 15 seconds on and 45 seconds off to help build power while also practicing flushing out lactic acid in our legs. In the afternoon, I went for a 1 hour shakeout run and then met my teammates in the gym again for some core.
Sunday: 3.5 hour solo run around the lakes/ponds behind Stratton Mountain. Again, my teammates and I were on slightly different schedules and few foot injuries prevented anyone from joining me on this one. :( But it capped off a 21.5 hour week!
After a big week of training with three major intensity sessions, I was desperate for another day off before starting one of my last big volume weeks of the summer.
Week 2: 8/17-8/23
Monday: Day off, phew!
Tuesday: Classic roller ski threshold/L3 workout of 2x25ish minutes of double poling on pretty fast terrain to work on high speed, neuromuscular motions. Not a workout that exhausted me but definitely made my back a bit (a lot) sore and challenged me to double pole with power and speed for an extended period of time while following my super strong lady teammates. We followed this up with an afternoon strength session.
Wednesday: Went for a longer run with KO, Sophie and Ben. We chatted about a lot of "girl stuff," so I was impressed Ben didn't take off and ditch us after 30 minutes. In the afternoon, I went for a short, easy skate ski.
Thursday: 2.25 classic roller ski in the morning followed by an afternoon rip around on the mountain bikes with KO and Bill. I was immediately dropped during the bike ride, but then waited for so I could be the "water carrier" while Bill went for a downhill KOM Strava segment... this is what teammates are for!
Friday: Skate roller ski workout with 8min L3 warmup, 4x2min at L4a with little recovery, and then 3-4x8min L3 to practice skiing well with tired little leggies. I was definitely suffering by this point in the training block with a lot of intensity and hours under my belt, but I was able to get things together for another afternoon strength session.
Saturday: 4 hour run on the Appalachian Trail going up and over Pico and Killington Mountain.
Sunday: Another day of easy distance consisting of a ski in the morning with Jessie and an afternoon gravel bike ride to round out a 25 hour week of training.
After finally coming to the end of a pretty solid and significant training block, I was very ready for an easy week. As I've ramped up my training in the last few years I have come to realize how necessary easy weeks are. In order to find improvement in my skiing and fitness, I need to be well rested, but I also need to be mentally prepared to keep things firing. I frequently try to get away from Stratton during an easy week, sometimes I don't bring my roller skis or walk into a gym at all and instead go running, hiking and biking with family and friends. However, this year it has been more challenging to get away during easy weeks. So, when I am in Stratton for some chill time it usually looks something like this.
Week 3: 8/24-8/30
Monday: A day off with more yoga and maybe some "corona-safe" socializing.
Tuesday: Morning run that was supposed to be easy but didn't feel very easy. Clearly, my body was still tired. Then a mini core session.
Wednesday: Very chill mountain bike ride!
Thursday: Back on roller skis for a short skate workout of 1x25 mins of L3 to wake up the rested body, followed by an afternoon strength session.
Friday: App Gap roller ski race in Northern Vermont, put on by NENSA (New England Nordic Ski Association). Our team woke up early to make the drive north for a 7.5k race up a mountain. The race had been going on all week with various teams competing one day at a time, or virtually. It was a great and safe race that tested out a few ways we might be racing this winter. I then hopped in the car to visit my brother, Anders, at UNH before he starts classes this week.
Saturday: Run in the rain with Anders and some of his UNH teammates.
Sunday: Longerish skate roller ski to end a 13 hour training week.
Summer training involves A LOT of volume! I come from a background in ski training with fewer summer intervals and higher hours. Although, I have gradually incorporated more intensity into June-August, it is still an adjustment I am working on. In addition, reflecting on what I am able to accomplish at this point in time versus what I was capable of handling 4-6 years ago is drastically different. If I tried to train this much in high school or even in college, I would be burnt to crisp before any colorful leaves could fall. Back in high school, my biggest weeks in the summer would MAYBE reach 18 hours and in college they were around 21-22 hours. It is pretty cool to see the progress though and to realize how much I've learned about training from my coaches at UVM, in Bend, OR and here at SMS. Not to mention everything I have learned from following teammates out on the roads or around the trails. It's pretty great to be able to take advantage of the people you're surrounded by and take something away from them every single day. They're not lying when they say team work makes the dream work!
PS- I'm a big Strava girl as of the last 10 days so if you're interested in following along with more workouts, go check out my Strava account!
When training is going well, it’s hard to justify taking some down time. Most skiers want to keep pushing themselves and working hard until their body breaks, but I’ve recently found myself feeling more burnt out mentally than I am physically. That’s why I was really appreciative of Coach Pat including a mid-summer break in our training schedule so that my teammates and I could travel if necessary.
With Covid, traveling becomes really tricky and it requires much more time before and after to quarantine, get tested, etc. Add to that the paranoia of a bunch of athletes worried about exposing themselves and their loved ones to something dangerous… there are a lot of hoops to jump through! A few weeks ago, some of us experienced flying during a pandemic for the first time and I traveled out to Colorado to meet my family for a one-week vacation. I didn’t pack roller skis and I actually forgot to pack my heart rate monitor *gasp*. I had just finished one of my biggest volume weeks ever and suddenly I felt free to relax!
I went on walks with my mom, 10-mile bike rides with my 80-year-old grandpa, and hikes with my aunt, uncle and cousins. No longer was I worried about getting in enough volume or keeping my heart rate high enough (or low enough ehem, altitude…) and just appreciated the people and nature that I was around.
Somedays, we hiked for 8-10 hours. Other days, I went for a 30 minute jog with my sister. My mom, sister and I sat by the pool in the afternoon and cooked up a storm in the evenings. By the end of the week, my siblings and I decided it wouldn't be a family vacation without a Sonnesyn team race. We were in Vail, CO and somehow found one of the only running races that was actually happening this summer: a 4.5 mile run up the mountain. Of course! We wore face coverings at the start/finish line and with the steep grade the crowd spread out pretty quickly.
I came in last place out of the sibling race, but it was still really fun to do some hard run/hiking with my sister for a few miles before she dropped me. The night before the 7am race my uncle had challenged us by betting that the last sibling to cross the finish line had to shot gun a beer at the top of the mountain. We really had no idea which sibling this might be! The one requirement was that my uncle beat us at the top on his bike before we finish the race. Thankfully, he got a later start that morning that he anticipated so I was in the clear. Just some great family competition!
With my heart feeling full and happy again, I parted ways with my family and made the trip back east. I quarantined in a separate condo for a week and did all of my training alone. Normally, I would be bummed about this, but with all of the activities and excitement with my family the week before I was feeling okay with a little down time. Also, with such a long break from roller skiing and hard workouts, I was suddenly so excited to do roller ski intervals again and get back into working on my weaknesses.
After a negative Covid test and lots of hand sanitizer, I rejoined my teammates for training sessions in Stratton. We've been able to pick it up right where we left off with plenty of intervals and lots of volume. However, I think the most important thing to realize is that I wouldn't have been able to do this without a week away. Reflecting on summer training in previous years, the high amount of intervals that we do as a team can be really hard for me to keep up with. I've tried just pushing through the summer, attending all of the team camps and jumping into every workout without realizing how much stress my body has been under. This year, I'm feeling grateful for the break I've given myself both physically and mentally!
Cross country skiing is a very unique sport. It requires self discipline and goal setting, which can be difficult to motivate yourself for. Not to mention all of the equipment and clothing you need in order to glide across snow when it's -5 degrees! Luckily, you don't have to do this alone. Gear West Ski and Bike shop is always around to help!
I am so excited to be working with Gear West this year as my official headgear sponsor! Not only does Gear West support everything great about cross country skiing such as races and fun events, the shop also works with the community to create opportunities to get outside and explore! The Twin Cities is one bustling area, but Gear West helps you step back, smell the flowers, and enjoy the view. Whether that means helping you pick out a new pair of skis that are just the right fit for you or inviting you along for a Wednesday night bike ride from the store, the mission is still the same; get outside, move around and enjoy it!
I so vividly remember the first time I walked into Gear West in search of a new pair of skis. I was in 8th grade, had made some major gains in my skiing ability and also grown a lot in middle school. Grateful that my parents could support my skiing so much, I was still nervous to step through that door and get fitted for a new pair of classic skis. However, the staff was so welcoming, working hard at 7:00 on a Friday night in November to make sure that I was ready to chase my goals when the snow fell. With their help, I found the perfect pair of Rossignol skis that I soon referred to as my "magic skis" because they were so fast, yet I could kick up any hill I came across!
Gear West isn't just a shop for outdoor equipment, it's an access point to a whole new world. With a tremendous crew of hard-working, dedicated athletes, the team knows how to lead by example. The owner, Jan Guenther, is the epitome of a badass lady (excuse my language). She has opened the door to female athletes to make sure they feel safe and comfortable trying new things and she inspires them in the process. She also gives most Birkie Elite Wave men a run for their money! Not to mention all of the time and energy Jenny Beckman puts into making sure every little detail is taken care of so outreach events and races can run smoothly. It's pretty exciting to be surrounded by such strong women and they motivate me to keep chasing my goals!
It's impossible to predict what this ski season will look like, but I know that Gear West is determined to support it in any way possible. I am really looking forward to working with the shop to create safe and creative options to get more adults feeling fit, juniors challenging themselves and setting goals, and youth playing outside!
We have finally reached the middle of the summer which means training volume is high, intensity is high and if you’re in the east (or Midwest) the humidity is HIGH! This means that EVERYONE needs to take certain precautions with hydration on those hot, steamy days, but athletes, at any level, especially need to prioritize refueling.
My friend/teammate, Jessie Diggins, wrote a blog post last week about the emotional and support side of fueling. Many athletes face challenging relationships with food; this can be in the form of disordered eating or simply not knowing the best way to fuel their bodies. In her blog post (click here), Jessie answers some tricky questions about the conversation and if you, or someone you know, is struggling with a relationship with food then I highly recommend reading it (and seeking professional help if necessary). Jessie and I live together, cook together and eat together. We feel very comfortable chatting about fueling, food, etc. so we decided to bounce some ideas off each other this past week and share each other’s work. In contrast to her Q&A blog post, here is a light-hearted, fun collection of the yummy and delicious ways that Jessie and I have been getting creative to refuel and stay cool this summer so we can continue to train our hearts out… (Side note: I also wrote a blog post last fall about some of the meals we had been cooking at that point in the year).
Often times, Jessie and I start refueling THE NIGHT BEFORE a big workout. We’ll place our running water bottle or ski drink belt in the freezer with a bit of water in it to freeze overnight. We also sometimes make coffee ahead of time, so we have iced coffee in the morning and/or we’ll make overnight oats for a breakfast straight from the fridge. Starting with a cool body temperature can help so much when you’re heading out the door at 8 am for hard intervals in the sun! Of course, we don’t forget to grab our hydration pack from the freezer in the morning, top it off and add electrolyte mix (my personal favorite is Tailwind Nutrition, which can be found at Gear West Ski Shop in MN or online). Also, we make sure to pack a snack for during the workout (such as Honey Stinger gummies or waffles) and after the workout while driving home. Our go-to snack these days for the car? SMOOTHIES! It’s pretty quick and easy to mix before leaving the house: a frozen banana, a bunch of frozen berries, some protein powder and almond milk thrown into a little blender, then into a Hydroflask to keep our smoothies cool while we train.
I think it’s pretty easy for athletes to prepare themselves for a long day in the sun by packing extra bars and gummies for fuel. It’s been engrained in our brains through so many advertisements over the years and there are copious amounts of easy products out there that can help us fuel on the go. However, whenever I have the option to fuel with fresh, "real" food, I take it and save the bars for emergency bonk circumstances.
When Jessie and I return from morning training, then the fun really begins! It’s important to make sure that lunch and dinner have plenty of carbohydrates, protein and nutrients to help us recover and prepare for the next session. However, during the steamy, summer days, we try to eliminate using the oven as much as possible. We live in the state of Vermont, which does not believe in Air Conditioning (*gasp*) and the oven can turn our entire condo into one hot mess! Instead, we turn to the toaster, waffle iron, instant pot, grill or magic bullet. The hardest thing for me is to make sure I'm getting in some veggies in the middle of the day, rather than only around dinner time. When we're doing intervals and strength training it can be tough on the tummy to run home and eat a big salad, digest it all in a few hours and then go workout again in the afternoon. So I've been making green smoothies that are also cool and refreshing!
One green, mean fighting machine smoothie contains: a handful of spinach or kale, 6-8 slices of frozen zucchini, half a frozen banana, half an inch of freshly grated ginger, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and about half a cup of almond milk/water (depending on the consistency). This is much easier on the stomach and still contains lots of nutrients! For lunch, I'll usually have this plus eggs or some leftovers from the night before.
If you click on some of the food pics it will send you to the recipes. Otherwise, they're recipes that we made up!
For my birthday, we made a few different types of tacos but never had to turn on the oven! Sweet potatoes were grilled and lentils/beans were on the stove. Chicken went into the instant pot and sauces were created in a magic bullet. I think that aside from our creative smoothie concoctions, I am most proud of the sauces we've been making. Even if it's just a simple tahini sauce, it can add so much flavor!
Although we have a quite a few veggie nights each week, we also try to get in some sort of fish and red meat once a week to help balance it all out. Easiest excuse for a grill night! Sadly, Stratton Mountain does not allow real grills around the condos, but we make the most out of our little electric grill!
Jessie and I love getting creative with our meal planning and are so excited that our garden is starting to flourish with home-grown veggies. Although we always try to eat a healthy balance of carbs, protein and veggies, we also recognize that we have to satisfy certain cravings.
If there's a reason to celebrate, we're ready to celebrate as a team! And if there's a celebration then there must be a celebratory cake! My teammate, Ben Saxton, celebrated his birthday last month and really wanted a popcorn cake, so we made that happen!
Of course, Jessie and I have plenty of evenings where we throw together whatever we have left in the fridge and call it a meal or we mix up a simple pesto pasta. But those meals aren't exciting enough to share. We also go out to eat (or takeout these days) from a few local restaurants. Although, there really isn't much to order from when living on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Vermont. We're always looking for fun, new ideas for fueling. As I mentioned before, food can be a tricky topic of conversation around athletes, but I'm a firm believer that a problem is never going to be resolved if it isn't talked about. Jessie has done an outstanding job at opening up the door to talk about these issues! The more comfortable we can feel about discussing our concerns for ourselves and each other, I think the healthier we can become as a community. There can be a lot of stress revolved around eating and fueling, but there can also be a lot of fun and joy around it too! Cooking can bring people together, which can then provoke interesting conversations and create happy memories. In addition, fueling properly can help us train hard and ski fast so we can fulfill our potential as athletes! The more we share with each other the better we can support our friends and family. Stay tuned because Jessie will soon come out with her Part 2 blog post of fueling where she shares her own personal approach to eating around training.
It’s been hot and humid lately which means summer training is in full swing! There’s a saying that "cross country skiers are made in the summer." A lot of time, work, energy and resources go into summer training so that skiers can be strong and fit for a grueling winter season of racing. This year, I really put an emphasis on my spring training so that I’d be ready to hit it hard in the summertime. I gave myself enough recovery after last season to recharge, but then started working in quite a few miles of running and biking early on. The first few interval sessions were brutal, but I knew they’d get easier and I would become accustomed to the pain again. And that’s exactly what happened! About three weeks ago, things started to click! I was feeling better and better in hard sessions, the big volume felt more manageable, I even squeaked out a course record on our SMS uphill running time trial course!
Although, skiers love a good challenge and the world seemed to recognize that things were starting to click for me a little too early on. Last week, I headed out for an easy 2.5 hour skate ski with my teammates and things really took a turn for me. It was a gorgeous, Vermont summer day and we had just come off a recovery day so it seemed like there was lots to chat about from the previous 48 hours since we had seen each other. About 15 minutes into the ski, I was chatting and laughing with my teammate, Katharine Ogden, while we skied up a hill. All of a sudden, my wheel hit a little baby pothole that I didn’t notice and stopped moving. I was kind of able to catch myself as I fell to the ground and took a knee, only to lose my balance and somersault off the road and four feet down into the ditch…
However, I got up, surprised to see no broken poles, didn’t seem to have hit my head and didn’t have any road rash on my legs! So I crawled out of the ditch and onto the road only to have my teammates look at me and point saying, “Oh no!” I looked down and saw a white, golf ball-sized hole in my knee, that suddenly started gushing with blood. :) I insisted on finishing the ski, it didn’t even hurt! Luckily, my teammates are all smarter than I am and convinced me I needed to go get stitches.
I soon realized that stitches in my knee meant that I was going to be unable to bend my leg for a while, due to risk of the stitches breaking or the skin pulling. There was also a huge risk of infection with it being so hot and humid and my job requiring me to be outside in nature so much. This meant my only option was the ski erg, a stationary double pole machine that helps mimic the skiing motions without needing to get on skis or roller skis. Sounds pretty neat but let me tell you IT IS BORING!!!
Here are a few of the pains one goes through with a peg leg for a week:
Here are the GAINS you get with a peg leg:
All in all, I am very lucky with the injury I got. My crash could have been so much worse with a head injury involved or torn ligaments. I also have had relatively few injuries in my career (knock on wood). I have teammates who seem to constantly be battling with injuries and there are skiers who have had to sit our entire seasons or end their career due to injury. I’m feeling pretty thankful this was still a minor setback, but there’s not a great way to describe injuries other than that THEY SUCK! Of course, as soon as everything seems to be going well, there’s got to be a wrench thrown to keep you on your toes. But it’s good! It makes you question how much you really want to chase your goals. It’s easy to get outside and roller ski on a beautiful day, run through gorgeous mountains, and throw around some of the heaviest weights. But as soon as that’s all restricted and you can only move in certain directions, training becomes harder. It becomes monotonous. It requires grit. Cross country skiers love grit. I have found that the best way to deal with an injury is to rely on your support system. They are the ones who can encourage you to work through the sore muscles, but also persuade you it’s too soon to jump into intervals without risk of worsening the injury. Teammates can relate to you because we’ve all been through it, coaches can help modify workouts so you still get the work done, and your friends and family can send all the best messages to keep the fire fueled!
Fingers crossed I get these stitches out soon so I can stop walking with a peg leg, rejoin my teammates and get back to doing what I love most!
As we buckle in for what will most likely be a long summer and fall of ski training in Stratton, it’s important to develop a sustainable foundation and sense of home. With little prospect of traveling in the near future, I have created my home away from home as well as my family away from family. That is, I have a new mom and dad (also known as Jessie and Wade) whom I spend copious amounts of time third wheeling in our cute little home/condo on the mountain.
There are family chores to be done such as sweeping the kitchen floor, taking out the trash, cleaning dishes and washing clothes. Unfortunately, I have yet to convince my “parents” that I am spoiled enough to have them take care of these tasks for me so, for now, we divide and conquer. Our condo also includes an at-home gym that Mom and I use periodically through the workday while Dad is busy in his office.
Occasionally, it ends up being “Bring your Child Work Day” and I get to play 20 questions with Dad, grilling him about the stock market, bond trading, and office etiquette. I’ve learned a lot about the financial world in the last four weeks! When Dad has had enough of his daughter pestering and nagging him about work details, he sends me outside to see what Mom is up to. (I have a hard time believing any other parents out there use this method when they’re trying to get work done). Afternoons are spent as mother-daughter bonding time while we work in the garden, caring to our precious tomato plants, fragile pea shoots, and beautiful flowers. This special time continues indoors as Mom and I bake snacks in the afternoon and plan out healthy and delicious dinners for that evening.
Finally, Dad gets off work and we all contribute to cooking dinner. Mom and I take turns being Executive Chef vs Sous Chef, while Dad usually picks up the slack working on dishes. During our dinners, we get to reflect on our days, talk about current events, and remark on how great the food tastes usually every 90 seconds.
After dinner, we engage in a rapid group clean up, so we have time in the evenings to either watch movies or play games. We have been rotating through the tv shows New Girl and Home Town or the James Bond and Harry Potter movies. Dad has NEVER seen or read ANY of the HP movies (which Mom and I are appalled by) so this marathon has been very necessary. On evenings when the weather is nicer, we like to head outside and play croquet in the backyard or challenge ourselves to slackline tournaments. This is when I’m allowed to invite my neighborhood friends over to play and some of our SMS T2 teammates who have been following Covid quarantine guidelines come show off their skills. Sadly, I seem to be the bullied kid in this group and have yet to be able to complete a game of croquet without getting knocked out by the poison ball at the end. (If you don’t know what the poison ball is, I highly recommend touching up on your croquet tactics). Lucky for me, Mom catches me before the water works begin and grabs me a bedtime snack of either banana bread, popcorn, homemade ice cream or a piece of chocolate, and suddenly all of my worries are behind me.
I understand that it is important for Mom and Dad to have their alone time too. So, once a week I make a playdate at another friend’s house or go somewhere that is “Covid safe.” For example, I have had movie night and/or poker night with some of the boys. Also, I have been able to reach out to my long-lost aunt/grandma…. My ex-teammate from UVM, Mackenzie Rizio, grew up in the Stratton area and I have gotten to know her aunt and grandma over the years while living in Vermont. They truly have taken me under their wing like I am a part of their family and I always enjoy getting together with them for some good laughs. Last week, I went out to dinner for the first time in three months! I met Aunt Kimmy and Grandma Joan at the Arlington Inn in Arlington, VT. I have roller skied through this town before but never stopped to really appreciate how beautiful of a town it really is. Although dining outside with tables placed 20 meters away from each other was far from “normal,” the evening allowed me to stop and take in the beauty of the spring flowers, Vermont character, and family-like love.
The year 2020 has been quite the roller coaster so far. As my teammates, friends and family take a step back to realize the impact that our actions do or don’t mean to help the community grow, I think we have all found one thing we can really appreciate. It is so important to cherish the people around you and those that mean the most to you. While we all try to take this time to find the most productive ways to call to action, I have found extra warmth from my friends and family that keep me motivated, inspired, and happy to keep challenging myself and the people around me.
A few weeks ago, I packed up my Subaru full of snacks, masks and gloves and drove from Minneapolis to Vermont. I consumed a lot of coffee during this drive, was extremely careful when stopping for gas and didn’t buy any food to-go (hence, the snacks). It was a long push, but it felt so good to get back to Stratton Mountain and move in with my teammate/friend, Jessie Diggins.
Jessie and I have been careful the last two weeks as we’ve settled into our summer home. We’ve been quarantining together so we have felt safe training together, but close to home. We’ve been taking the necessary precautions as we move to a new environment and try to keep contact with others to a minimum. We've been hitting the mountain for some uphill running/bounding sessions with support from Jessie's fiancé, Wade. Together, this trio is making it through with lots of giggles, good food, and a Harry Potter marathon!
Let me tell you, it feels GOOD TO BE BACK in this training paradise with a teammate to help me get out the door! I'm usually one to gradually work into training again each season, some years I haven't even done intervals until the end of June or early July (this is late for most XC skiers)! However, with an early end to the 2020 season, an appropriate amount of rest in April, and a lot of quarantine boredom, I've been getting back into things at a quicker pace than normal.
No matter how "gradual" I am with intervals though, the first few sessions of the year always seem to hurt a bit more than anticipated. I'm still working on waking up my body after all the spring down time. Muscles ache through the night and creak in the morning, blisters seem to pop out of nowhere... it's a tough transition getting back into shape! My first interval set with Jessie was FAR from glorious and I started to question why I had ever let myself get "out of shape," but then I remembered how important it is to let the body recover. That way, we can come back stronger!
Aside from the aches and pains of the new training year, Jessie and I have been getting back into our routine of cooking up A STORM every night and spending lots of time tending to our mini-garden.
We're excited for the day that our babies will start producing us fresh veggies and herbs so we can get even more creative with our food experiments!
Now that I've been in Vermont for more than two weeks, I've started venturing just a little bit further from home. It's been nice to continue to mix up training modes and go running or biking with some other local friends. Without any training camps on the horizon, I'm finding it important to keep training fun and entertaining so that I can keep up my motivation for the coming months.
As excited as I am to be back in Vermont, I was definitely sad to leave the Midwest. I had such a fun time spending extra time with family this spring and exploring the backyard that I grew up around. I was able to find a lot of new trails that either didn't exist when I was in high school or I just didn't know about. I will miss my parents and siblings this summer, as I'm not sure when it will be safe to travel again to see them.
There has been a lot of uprise back home in Minneapolis this week. It is deeply disturbing to me and saddens me to see so much violence occurring in, what is typically, a very peaceful city. My heart goes out to the families hurt by this violence and to all of the people out there who feel unsafe. I hope that all of my friends and family back home are protecting the ones they love and sharing kindness to the people around them.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.