Monday, September 28, 2015

Vermont Fall

Ever since we got our new L.L. Bean rain jackets earlier this summer, we've been pretty lucky with the weather. I don't know if the two events are at all related, but New Zealand was beautiful, Norway rained the first day and then cleared up, Lake Placid was the nicest weather we've ever seen, and the past week in Vermont has been perfect. According to the forecast for this coming week, we're finally going to have to use those jackets, but for the time being, I can't complain.
Mtn biking in Landgrove (SMS photo)
People often ask me what my favorite time of year is and I've decided that this is it. I suppose it's officially fall now, but the transition season of late September and early October in Vermont is hard to beat. The temperatures have fallen, the leaves are changing, there are fresh apples and cider doughnuts in every store, and I get to be home.
Fresh apples mean mom's apple cake for dessert

Juggling lessons with Jessie and Erika
And of course, weirdly shaped gourds
We have most of the T2 team around the Stratton area and have been focusing on recovering from Lake Placid camp and getting in some solid training before heading out west for the majority of October. Jason Cork was here helping out for the last week, so between Coach Pat and Jason, our workouts have been really well supported. SMS is in full swing and we've done some workouts with the high school kids. It's a big, speedy, young group that everyone should be looking out for this winter!
A hike up Mt. Abe during a visit with my sister, Isabel

Summit Selfie!

A view for miles

Double pole intervals chasing Jessie around

A mtn bike in Landgrove with the high school kids. John O. showing us the way. (SMS photo)
In other exciting news, our annual SMS Skiathon is happening tomorrow. Be sure to look for updates and visit our website if you would like to make a donation. Happy Fall!
A photo from our skiathon last fall

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lake Placid Camp

Lake Placid camp was a little different this year. Instead of our normal two week camp, we condensed the camp into one week. One really hard week. The first day of camp we did intervals in the morning followed by intervals in the afternoon. Two more intensity days, some speeds, strength, and a lot of easy distance later, the week was over. I loved the new format of camp. The Olympic Training Center is an ideal place to train and recover, but I also haven't spent very much time at home in Vermont, so I was happy to make the camp a little shorter and allow for some more time spent at home. I don't feel that we lost any quality by making it a shorter camp because we condensed a lot of what usually do in the two weeks into one week.

The beautiful rainbow that popped out on our ferry ride over to New York

Double pole intervals (Reese Brown photo)
The USST showing at the camp was pretty small, but the number of younger athletes who joined us made up for it. The campers consisted mainly of the SMS T2 team, the Sun Valley Gold team, and a big group of younger NTG athletes from all over the country. I think it's particularly fun to have a bigger group of younger athletes because it wasn't too long ago that I was one of them. This is probably one of the first camps where I've been one of the older athletes. I got to room with my USST and SMS teammate Julia Kern, and when she told me how she had the pre camp excitement jitters, it put a smile on my face and reminded me just how lucky we are to be able to be doing this. I don't get nervous, or even super excited for camps anymore, but I remember when the idea of a camp where I could reunite with all my friends AND train with Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen made me feel exactly that same way. Now they're my teammates, as well as my dear friends, and I hope that the younger girls at Lake Placid camp can now confidently add our names to their list of new friends.
Cooling down in the river after bounding intervals (Pat O'brien photo)

Skate speeds with Kelsey Phinney of Middlebury (Pat O'Brien photo)

Hanging with the NTG girls before our last workout of the camp (Jessie photo)
Skate threshold intervals with a good crew (Reese Brown photo)
We skated, classic skied, bounded, ran, did strength, mountain biked, and double poled. I think we covered it all and no one was the strongest athlete every single day. We worked together to push and pull each other through a hard week. I personally had a handful of good days and a couple workouts that I had to physically and mentally push through. Although we didn't do the Climb to the Castle this year, we still did the annual Whiteface bounding intervals which are one of the toughest workouts of the year for me. That may have been a workout where my goal was to survive, but there were other workouts where my goal was to thrive and each person came in with different strengths and goals for the new day. I learned a lot from following others and hope that everyone else made some gains from following me. After the classic sprint qualifier, Jessie took me down the scary downhill three times to show me how to ski it safely without losing time. She could have kept her amazing downhill skills to herself and dusted us all on the downhill, but instead she shared her knowledge to help make everyone better. That's just one example of good teamwork that stands out from the past week, but I think there were a lot of success stories of working together and everyone came out of the camp a better skier.
Bounding intervals up Whitface Mountain. Phew! (Pat O'Brien photo)

Double pole intervals with Annie Hart and Jessie (Reese Brown photo)

Classic sprint time trial with Coach Matt and his awesome cheering (Pat O'Brien photo)

SMS T2 team after bounding intervals
Rounding the corner during the classic sprint with Jessie, Annie, Hannah, and KO (Pat photo)

The camp wrapped up with my favorite workout of the week...a run in the Adirondacks! We ran up Algonquin and then to Avalanche Lake. We started the morning in a bit of a fog, but halfway through the run the skies cleared and we had some beautiful views. Today marks the first day of fall and that was visible in the changing foliage. After the run yesterday morning, we packed up and headed back to Vermont for a couple more weeks before heading out west for most of October. Thanks to Lake Placid, my coaches, Matt and Pat (and all the other coaches at camp), and all the athletes who made it such a good week!
Jessie and I tend to have different ideas about how to appropriately dress for colder weather... (Jessie photo)

Overlooking Avalanche Lake on our run (Jessie photo)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Recovery Week

After two big weeks of training and four races in Norway, it was time for a recovery week. Simi and I flew to Colorado for a week of recovering and spending time with his family. Recovering at altitude isn't the easiest thing for me. Sometimes standing up can put me into level 1, so I tried to be very careful to keep our adventures easy and not tire myself out too much by trying to keep up with Simi and the rest of the family. We spent the first four days in Aspen and did some mountain runs, climbing, and a roller ski down in Carbondale. Simi's sister Jenny and her fiancee, James, just got a new kitten who we spent a lot of time babysitting and playing with - the perfect kind of recovery!
Shiv taking a cat nap in my jacket

He came road tripping with us and found many creative ways to sleep

There was a little smoke in Aspen our first couple days, but then it cleared out and we mostly had sunshine for the rest of the week
After a few days in Aspen, we headed down to southern Colorado to spend some time at Sim's family's ranch. I hadn't been back since last summer and I think it's one of my favorite places to be. It's somehow the most relaxing and activity filled place in the world. By early afternoon on the first day we had paddle boarded, played volleyball, mountain biked, eaten lunch, and dropped some tennis rackets off to play tennis for when we returned from the climbing adventure we were about to embark on. On the first climb, Jenny took a nasty fall and really messed up her ankle. Not only was it the worst injury I've ever witnessed, but it was also the most pain I've ever seen anyone in. We took her to the hospital in Del Norte where she was airlifted to Denver for surgery. I don't know of anyone else who could have gone through that much pain without fainting, but she's the toughest cookie I know!
View from the bike

Al, Celine, Jenny, Maile, Sim, and Jock taking a little break during our mountain bike

Simi our boat chauffeur coming to pick us up and take us across the lake
Our buddy and former Norwegian World Cup star, Celine Brun-Lie, joined us for the weekend at the ranch. She is going to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and had just finished up her first week of classes! She came out of retirement for the weekend and was quite the trooper participating in every single activity we did. Our last morning at the ranch we went for a big hike up into the zone that a wildfire had burned down a few years ago. It's a very different kind of beautiful to see a forest that had been destroyed mixed with the regrowth of all the wildflowers and baby Aspen trees.
Drew, Molly, Carson, Maile, Simi, Celine and I all piled into the boat (and didn't sink it!!) to row across the lake to our hike

Some ash art

Sim hiking through the burn zone

Hanging in the woods with Celine and Mai


After heading home from the ranch, we drove to the hospital in Denver to visit and spend some time with Jen before heading back east. She's doing a little better each day and we're sending her a lot of love and speedy recovery vibes. I flew back home to Vermont on Tuesday and arrived at my parents' house to the rest of my SMS T2 team and a delicious team dinner. September training is kicking back up and it's nice to have the group back together after a busy summer of traveling. I'm looking forward to being in one place for the majority of September and getting into a nice training routine back home. We have a bunch of visitors coming to train with us this month and a one week camp in Lake Placid in the middle of the month. We also have a team fundraiser pizza dinner on the 8th at the J.J. Hapgood General Store in Peru. So if you're in the area, you should stop on by for some tasty pizzas and live music!
SMS T2 pizza night!

Coming home to a huge Leroy is a little different than cuddling up to a baby Shiv

Back to America with a tasty homemade Sverre burger!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Norway Summer Camp

It's unclear what the exact number of spectators was for our final roller ski race in Norway, but I've heard guesses that range from 30,000 to 50,000 people. Yesterday we got an email from the race organizer that said 50% of all TV viewers in Norway chose to watch that final race. This is cross country skiing we're talking about. Actually, it's not even cross country skiing, it's off season roller ski races and half of the nation's TV viewers chose to tune into it on their Saturday afternoon. I'll talk about the training and roller ski racing in a minute, but personally, the biggest take away for me was how much of an eye opening experience this camp was. So thank you to the Toppidrettsveka organizers for including us and making this trip possible.

Posing with our "We Love Aure" signs on our off day fishing excursion
The number of spectators was not the only eye opening thing about this camp. The respect we encountered while training was something I had never experienced before. I'm a big advocate for safety while roller skiing. It bothers me when people don't wear helmets and I try to wear bright clothing whenever possible. Cars are generally a lot bigger than we are, so I try my hardest not to get in their way, but on the roads in Norway, the traffic catered to our needs. They didn't expect us to pull over when they passed. If they honked, it was a honk of approval instead of frustration, and when they decided to slow down and follow us for awhile, it was because they were genuinely curious and excited about what we were doing.
Skate speeds with the girls (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Distance double pole ski (Matt Whticomb photo)

Cooling down from speeds with Jessie (Noah photo)

Practicing transitions before the races (Matt Whitcomb photo)
The final take away from this camp was the reminder that Norwegians are fast. Really fast. We did quite well as a team in the races. I think each person had some highs and some lows, but we came away with two podiums, several top 10s, and a lot of strong solid race efforts. The highlights for me were the classic sprint where I ended up 5th, and the final 15k classic pursuit, where I was able to ski with a big pack for the majority of the race. We did four races in three days that consisted of a 5k uphill running race, a classic sprint, a 15k skiathlon, and a 15k classic pursuit. This was probably the most racing I've ever done in such a condensed period of time. It's easy to fall into a more laid back routine of summer training, and I think it was really beneficial to put on a race bib and do some races against a World Cup caliber field. We came away from the camp knowing what our strengths are, and more importantly what our weaknesses are and we're left with just under three months to work on them before the World Cup season begins.
Jumping for joy after some bog running with Kik and Jess

Scouting for fishies with Jessie

Liz on the podium for the uphill run!

The USST gals on top of the mtn after the uphill run (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Thumbs up after my classic sprint (Caitlin photo)

Oh! One more highlight was racing to the line with Petter Northug in the uphill run. I didn't realize it was him at the time, but Matt captured this moment and it's probably one of my biggest achievements to date :)

Brown cheese!

Racing with Jessie in downtown Trondheim

A group run in Trondheim led by Conor Bolger after the races

Goodbye Norway! (Simi photo)
Now it's time for a week of recovery. I'll be spending this week in Colorado with Simi before heading back to VT for September. I'm looking forward to some mountain adventures and a lot of resting. That's all for now!
Taking Jenny and James' kitten for a little bike ride 
Running under some smoky, but still beautiful Colorado skies