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.
It seems as though Corona quarantine has been a crazy time for everyone! With an abrupt end to the ski season in mid-March and a rush to get to a safe place, I found myself back in Minnesota staying with my parents for the time being. I feel very fortunate that this novel virus only impacted the very end of my racing season; spring and summer athletes have had their entire season canceled and I feel bad for them. Although I was really looking forward to ending my season with the MN World Cup and World Cup Finals in Canmore, I am grateful for the opportunity I had all season to compete domestically and on the World Cup.
I am so grateful to be home and in a safe/healthy environment right now. I know that many people do not have such a protected space. I understand that this has been challenging for everyone to go through, but I have tried my best to stay positive and make the most of the extra time at home. I have been spending such quality time with my family, I always miss them during the training and competition season, so this has been the silver lining. My mom, sister and I love to cook so we’ve been eating very well these past few weeks. It has been really nice to go for walks with my mom and bike rides with my dad when the weather is nice. Early in April though, if it’s rainy or windy outside, I allow myself to take the break from training and just hang out inside. I’ve been slowly making my way through the Handmaid’s Tale TV series and am wrapping up reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy which has been entertaining. I have also been spending my free time studying for the GRE (am I the only one who forgot what the equation of a circle is? Haven’t used that since middle school!) and re-learning how to play the piano.
Overall, this surprise turn-of-events has been rather challenging for me. I am a planner and like to know what is happening the following week, month… I’ve had to accept that this is simply impossible to do right now. I also love spending April with my friends that I don’t get to see during the Winter and it’s been hard to be so close to them in the Twin Cities, yet unable to see them. In addition, my dad is an infectious disease doctor in Minneapolis and I see the stress and anxiety that our health-care workers are under. The best way I have found to deal with this is to greet my dad with a smile and a home-cooked meal each night, go for short trail runs with him to help him stay happy and healthy, and continue to support him in any way I can. (I've been making him immunity boost shots that we often take during the ski season. This probably wouldn't do anything to help him fight Covid if he were to get sick, but it's something small that I can do right now that hopefully helps at least a little bit).
During my free time, I have also been helping with yardwork/outdoor projects around the house. We’ve expanded our vegetable garden, relocated and planted numerous trees, and cleared the way for future projects to help us feel like nature is near even while in suburbia! Last week included earth day and after working so hard on these projects I felt motivated to do something about earth day. I have seen, first-hand, how climate change has affected glacial meltdowns in Alaska, city pollution destroying air quality in cities like Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China, and completely change winter sports while skiing in what are supposed to be “ cold and snowy places.”
While traveling in Almaty for the 2015 Junior World Championships I was astonished to see the air pollution in the city. What was ironic, was that the hotel we stayed at had a donation box to help children in the city with asthma, a very common problem in that area of the world. Why do you think?!? While traveling and ski racing in Almaty and Beijing, my teammates and I wore masks to protect our own lungs from the pollution. We saw many of the citizens of these cities doing the same, it was normal for them. To live everyday of your life with a mask over your face to protect your own well-being, I couldn’t believe it! Personally, I was appalled with these living conditions and it really affected my mood, happiness, mental preparation, and ski racing performance.
I left Almaty and Beijing, sick, coughing up black gunk, and exhausted. These experiences inspired me to do something about it. This last week, I challenged myself to turn my earth day into an earth week and prohibited myself from driving anywhere or from eating any meat. Driving cars produces carbon emissions that destroy our ozone layer and increases the average temperature/overall climate of the earth. Eating meat requires a demand for slaughtered animals that are being raised solely for the purpose of killing immediately for consumers. These animals (such as cows) eat grass, metabolize it, and release methane as a byproduct. Methane is a common factor for affecting our ozone layer. My family grew up eating meat, and aside from a random 36 hours that I decided to be a vegetarian when I was 9 years old, I've never really thought twice about it. However, I recognize that by cutting back on my meat consumption, and maybe inspiring a few people around me to do the same, we might be able to limit the demand for methane-producing meat and live a more sustainable life.
Not driving or eating meat for a week will hardly make a difference in our global state, but I do think that I can find a way to continue changing my own habits and affect the people around me. Going forward, I plan to devote 2-3 days a week to finding alternative protein sources. I also hope to find alternative transportation services, whether that means biking to and from the places I need to go or carpooling, I will be able to cut down on the carbon emissions that I produce. Hopefully, my actions will influence my friends and family to do something similar and to tell their friends and families about these challenges. Maybe we can make a difference together? So far, I have convinced my parent’s household and my sister’s household to start composting; a sustainable option for some of our waste and a benefit to our gardens. :)
Here are a few things that I learned/realized during my earth week in the middle of quarantine:
The lucky thing about being an endurance athlete is that we can pretty much train whenever and wherever we are (as long as restrictions for exercise outdoors remain the same). With an abrupt end to the ski season, I feel fully rejuvenated physically and without much else I can do in the world right now I am happy to get out the door. As of right now, I am enjoying getting back into running, biking and roller skiing with my family until further notice. I am motivated and hope to return to work with my teammates in Stratton, Vermont once it is safe to do so!
Six races in nine days. There were good moments and not so great moments. We were treated to just about every type of weather possible, with it changing every ten minutes. We walked away tired, but also a little bit tougher.
After a hard weekend of racing in Falun, Sweden, the US team made its way to Ostersund, Sweden. We spent four days previewing the courses for the first two races of the ski tour, a 10k skate race followed by a 10k classic pursuit race. We explored the town that is home to many of the Swedish National Team and rested up for a crazy week.
I loved racing the 10k skate; we were on a twisting course that offered steep uphills, grinding false-flats and fun downhills. It was energizing to ski with my fellow Americans during the race, seeing Hailey Swirbul on my first lap of two, and then catching a bit of a ride from Sadie Bjornsen when she caught me from 30 seconds back. With encouragement from the coaches and exciting crowds, I was able to ski my way to a career best, 43rd place. I rode this high for about 24 hours until we started the pursuit style 10k classic race in some gnarly, wet, snowy conditions. Being the type of athlete that prefers to build into a race, I found myself kicked out the back of our wave start of 30 skiers, as the women tried to chase down THE Therese Johaug.
Although I was bummed about this race, I couldn’t help but be happy and proud of my teammate, Julia Kern, who skied the 6th fastest time of day! Her best ever distance result on the World Cup by a landslide! We had little time to reflect on this though, because the very next day we traveled to the next location, Are, Sweden. Switching up disciplines, the Ski Tour challenged us all with a skate sprint race directly up an alpine mountain! This was without a doubt the most bizarre ski race I have ever done and without having much of a chance to ski the course ahead of time I had no idea how to pace it. So, I just went for it! My legs were shaking at the finish line and it took me about 15 minutes to walk the 700 meters back down the mountain, but this ended up being a sprint best for me in 42nd place! I went straight back to our hotel to rest up for a 34k race we had coming up two days later.
We skied very little on our rest days during the tour, but still enjoyed getting out to move the body a bit. Finally, we reached the day that I was looking forward to the most out of the whole week: a long-distance skate mass start race that went out into the backwoods of Norway. Despite my enthusiasm going into the race, things didn’t quite click for me that day. After 8 kilometers of straight uphill and a pack of women chasing down Johaug (again), I thought it was about time I took a feed so I could avoid bonking later in the race. However, it turns out that this 8k of working hard meant that my stomach was already in knots and as soon as I took a feed, I knew something bad was about to happen. I had been hanging on to the back of a large pack of skiers up until this point, but when that sugar-water hit my stomach, my gut said, “no thank you,” and I found it coming right back up. Dealing with this hiccup I lost the draft of my pack and found myself alone out in the fields of Norway fighting against 35 mph winds for another 24k... You live and you learn.
The final stages of the tour went by in a bit of a blur and I couldn’t quite find the physical or mental racing gear that I needed in order to finish it off on a high note. I felt defeated and tired, and although part of me wanted to keep pushing and grinding through another two weeks of European World Cups, I knew I needed a break. On the evening of the last tour stage, I booked a flight back to the US for the very next morning and packed my bags. Sitting on the plane I felt disappointed in this outcome, but I quickly realized that it was okay to feel this way. It means that I care and that I want to do better next time. Also, as soon as I landed in Minneapolis and made it back to my own bed, I knew I had made the right decision.
Despite tricky conditions and missing some of our goals throughout the week, the team found one thing we could always count on to make us smile. Throughout the stadium at each race venue the announcer's voice shouted through the microphone, “Welcome to the Ski Tour 2020!!” However, they pronounced this in Norwegian every time and it turns out that the translation of “2020” is pronounced “shoogie shoogie.” Whether the US team was out testing skis, running to the start line, or collapsed at the finish line, we would hear this over the intercom and get a good giggle out of it. :) Sometimes, it’s the little things.
I have now been traveling on the World Cup circuit for five weeks and have finished nine races. I am currently in the middle of the 2020 Scandinavian Ski Tour which consists of six races in nine days throughout Sweden and Norway. So far, I have faced a lot of ups and downs while racing my first European World Cups. Seriously though, there are a lot of hills over here. We just go up-down, up-down, up-down, cross the finish line. It’s quite exhausting! There’s even been a sprint race where we just climbed straight up an alpine mountain! It has been intimidating, humbling and inspiring to witness the next level of ski racing, and I have already learned quite a few lessons…
1. Don’t forget your athlete bib. Ever. We typically ski around race venues during the early parts of the week when anyone is free to access the trails. However, as we get closer to race day there are more restrictions enforced in hopes of preserving the highest quality of race conditions. Racers are given “Athlete Bibs” so we can walk to wax trucks, changing rooms and onto the race course. However, if you forget this bib and try to enter a restricted area at a World Cup, good luck!
2. Always carry your own instant oats with you. We’ve been traveling to some strange places in Europe. Nove Mesto, Czech Republic didn’t quite have the breakfast that most endurance athletes would look for on race morning. Most hotels are confused when you ask them for sloppy, plain, boring breakfast porridge. Sometimes it’s necessary to avoid this confrontation and mix up some yummy oatmeal in your hotel room.
3. Be prepared to just completely unpack at every stop on the World Cup. Sometimes we stay in one place for seven nights and sometimes we only stop for two nights. However, in just 48 hours you can pretty much count on using every article of clothing in your duffel bag and you always need the one item that’s buried at the bottom. For a few weeks, I tried the “digging” method; I wait until I need something and then I prowl through my bag to hunt it down. This method saves time when initially moving into a new hotel but really catches up with you in the long run. It’s easier to admit defeat as soon as possible and unpack the bag in an organized fashion to save time later in the trip.
4. Push the boundaries, but don’t push them too far or you’ll end up with a yellow card. I learned this lesson in Falun, Sweden during a classic sprint qualifier. It was a hilly and twisty 1.6 kilometer course with a lot of “cornering technique." Previewing the course, I was intimidated by all of the twists. I wanted to have a good qualifier, but I knew that a lot of time could be gained or lost going up and over hills and around corners. My teammate, Simi Hamilton (a sprint specialist), encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and ski the transitions as aggressively as possible. So that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I still didn’t ski fast enough to qualify and my “cornering technique” was proven to be “skating.” So, something I know I can work on for the future!
5. Don’t expect anything, anticipate EVERYTHING! You want to be prepared for every possible scenario to happen in your race. Also, for every possible course to be ready for you. Previewing a course the day before a race could show fast and icy conditions, only for it to rain all night and you end up with a slushy/snowy mix that is slow and grinding. Another example is the uphill skate sprint we just finished. We started at the base of an alpine mountain in Are, Sweden (home of the 2019 Alpine World Championship races), and we climbed straight up the mountain for two and a half minutes. I was not anticipating that back in July when I was training for the season!
6. Don’t be intimidated by athletes from other countries. We are more similar than we are different. No matter what their FIS points are or how many World Cup podiums they have, we ALL eat, sleep and poop.
7. Flexibility is key. Sometimes travel is delayed, and you don’t get to go for that afternoon ski you were looking forward to. Or, lunch is served late and you have to rely on a few snacks to hold you over until the food is ready. Whatever the issue is, usually everyone else is facing the same problem and you just have to put your heads together to make the most of the situation!
8. Nothing is perfect. Even though we are racing on a “professional circuit” there is still some sense of inorganization and unknown. Typically, World Cup races only have snow on the race course which means we might not be able to warm up on snow at all. Sometimes, we have 5 minutes on course to test skis before we race, but then we have to switch into running shoes and start jogging.
The most important lesson that I've been able to take away is to stop and smell the roses. No matter what the results on paper show, I've been taking time at each stop to enjoy the moment, take in the scenery, and appreciate what I'm doing and who I'm with. I am so grateful to have this experience and the opportunity to learn everyday about how to be a better skier, teammate and person.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.