Jessie’s spring break recap

Hey there ski fans! Jessie checking in from spring break. This is a longer post but if you’re ready for an interesting read with tons of photos, buckle up for the Hawaii trip recap!
When I was in 1st grade, I met Danielle Mangine. We’ve been friends ever since. And although I don’t get to see her or any of my friends back in Minnesota as often as I would like, it’s one of those friendships that just picks right back up from where we left off the last time we saw each other! Danielle is a “yes” person who never turns down a chance for an adventure, which is one of the reasons she’s an awesome travel buddy. So when I called her up in January asking if she wanted to fly to Hawaii for a week of hiking, surfing, and relaxing on the beach (yes, I actually DID use the word “relaxing”!) she said “yes” right away!
Adventure buddies!
With a few months to plan, we got our flights, picked out our AirBnb stay, and then because I’m a nerd I read an entire guidebook cover to cover so we could plot out the best adventures to be found on Oahu. And boy, let me tell you, we packed a lot into that week!
Welcome to Oahu!
We started off with Makaha Beach. This would later be a really controversial spot for us, but I’ll tell you that story when I get to it later in the week. For now, the beach was amazing! We saw huge shore break with waves that crashed up bigger than me (run away! run away!) and we saw a super cute little turtle just chilling and surfing the waves, “Finding Nemo” style. If he could talk, he would have been one chill little dude.
Me, goofing around in the waves.
We then headed to Kaena Point, the North-Western most tip of the island. We saw cool little tide pools, huge waves, a sea arch and a blowhole that made a really funny whistling sound when the waves and wind hit it just right!
Danielle on Kaena point!
What better place to field-test my Podiumwear training tank?
Danielle exploring the tide pools on Kaena Point.
The next day, we drove up and down the famous North Shore. Why is it famous, you ask? Because SURFERS LOVE IT! We did, too. We saw the famous Banzai Pipeline where the waves, sure enough, were forming perfect barrels. We saw the beaches where waves in the winter months get up to 20 feet high (yikes!) but they were calm the day we went there. I jumped off the rocks at Waimea Beach, which was super fun and then got turned head over heels body surfing in the huge shore break. We met a big turtle at, (you’ll love this): Turtle Beach. Well named. Then in the afternoon I rented a board and surfed until my arms were sore and I couldn’t paddle fast enough anymore. Also, because I got distracted by some turtles popping their heads up. Those little buggers really are the cutest things ever.
Me, doing a little cliff jumping!
Sleepy turtle. (and protected, so don’t disturb!)
Getting ready to go surf some smaller waves on the North Shore (not going to pretend I can handle anything above 3 feet!)
Then we saw the famous Hanauma Bay and snorkeled from one end to the other, and I loved all the fish I got to see!
Danielle and I at Hanauma Bay!
However…the biggest thing that gets me about Hanauma Bay is that before you’re allowed to enter you have to watch a really cool video about preserving marine life. It’s not hard, you only have one rule: DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. If you step on or touch the coral you can kill it, which means the fish lose their home and bam! The reef is not as magical anymore. Don’t touch the turtles either- they’re protected and also don’t want to be harassed (I mean, hey, I wouldn’t like being poked either). But what do people do? They STAND ON THE CORAL! This drove me slightly nuts, because most people shouldn’t be that stupid or selfish to kill a reef just for the sake of a cool selfie. Just find a patch of sand to stand on when you need to take a photo or adjust your mask. Or suck it up and wear a life jacket so you don’t have to stand when you get tired swimming. Ok, preacher mode turned back off now. But now, should you ever go snorkeling, you know not to touch anything and we can all still be friends. 🙂
Danielle crossing a stream on our hike
So much beautiful green! Which is probably why it was raining.
After we stopped for lunch and enjoyed a picture-perfect beach on the east side, it started to rain and we went for a hike anyways in search of a waterfall. The trail was unmarked and covered in mud, and after wandering around in the jungle-like forest we finally headed back to the car, without a waterfall but happily tired from our hike and loving the vines and ferns we got to see. Since we were sweaty and super gross, we went right to the epicenter of people: Waikiki Beach. I’m really glad we were renting a room on the west side because staying in this super busy city would have been a little overwhelming for me (thank goodness Danielle is more city-savvy than I am and could direct me through the traffic!). We had hilarious beach-bum moments as we used the outdoor showers to scrub the mud off and changed in a bathroom stall into our dresses, but then we blended in pretty darn well for the fireworks show and dinner afterwards!
Fireworks over Waikiki
The next day was both the most amazing day of the trip…and the worst (that night). We really wanted to see and hike the Haiku Stairs, which were built during the war up to a huge satellite tower on top of a mountain that overlooks pretty much half of the island. While originally wooden ladders strung up a ridge, they were rebuilt as sturdy metal ones. But the tricky thing is…the stairs are now illegal, with a fine apparently over 2,000 if you get caught. So, I think I’m supposed to say this for liability sake: I’m NOT telling you to go do this hike, and I’m officially not recommending it. Wink, wink. The hike was amazing.
Danielle and I about 1/3 of the way up!
One of the rope sections. That rope came in handy as the mud could get a little slippery.
Doing some steeper hiking
We hiked up the backside, in the Moanaula Valley. It was 5 miles to the top, and a lot of epic climbing up the ridge line. In many places, ropes were strung up as you couldn’t have made it up the steep mud and dirt on just your feet! The flowers and plants were amazing and most of the time it smelled like perfume since it rains so much that it was impossibly lush. Even more amazing: I didn’t get a single mosquito bite! Unlike the plants, however, I didn’t smell that great so maybe that was what did it. 😉
Danielle on one of the coolest rope sections up the ridge!
When we got to the tower at the top, it was an incredible view. We have photos, but that somehow never does a place justice. If you want proof of how amazing it is, you’ll probably have to go hike it. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to say that!!! Remember: I’m officially not encouraging people to hike the illegal stairs.
Panorama of the top!
Danielle and I at the top of the stairs!
While we were originally planning to hike down the way we came, we met some locals at the top who assured us that the guard would only lecture us at most and that it “wasn’t even THAT illegal anymore. It used to be bad, but not now”. We decided to risk it and took the amazing and crazy 3,920 stairs down. My calves still don’t like me for it.
At the top of the stairs, the steep sections look like a roller coaster drop-off!
Ready to go down!
A short few sections were flat…and it looked like you were about to run off the edge of the earth. 
…and other parts looked a little “Indiana-Jones-ish”.
Nearing the bottom, we were super ready to take off running after the last stair and, with the help of satellite GPS, find our way out of the bamboo forest into a nearby neighborhood (also per recommendation by the locals). But to our amazement the guard thew us a peace sign and winked, and we scurried out of there, our faces bright red. We didn’t look back.
Some amazingly beautiful shore break – it was a lot taller than I was!
After catching an Uber back to our car, we drove back to Makaha Beach (remember? Surfing turtle place?) to rinse off in the ocean and relax before dinner. We locked our wallets and anything valuable in the trunk, completely out of sight, (thinking it would be safer than having it on the beach when we were swimming) and while I came back to the car to check on it before the sun started to go down, we returned an hour later, while it was still light out. The drivers side window had been smashed and the trunk popped open, with both our wallets gone. This was a serious dent in our vacation. Without getting too far into it, everything is ok now: we have the police on it, they found video of the woman trying to use my credit cards (this woman had probably been watching us pull up to the beach and targeted us because we are obviously not locals), our cards were cancelled and while she stole some clothes and things as well, we didn’t lose things we can’t live without and nobody got hurt. What we DID lose, however, was our peace of mind and trust in the locals, which is a huge shame. Every time we parked the car after that, we cleaned it out entirely and never touched the trunk in case people watching thought we were locking valuables away. We didn’t trust people like I always do, and that bothered me that our vacation had a slightly different color to it for the last few days. We still enjoyed it, and didn’t let it ruin our time there, but it was different. I’m not telling you this for your sympathy (or for your blame in having left anything in the car), but I AM telling you this so if you go on vacation remember that just because you’re as happy as you’ve ever been, there are sometimes people who are bad people and target tourists, and that just plain sucks!
The sunset right before we left.
The next days after many, MANY hours on the phone trying to figure everything out with credit cards and such, we still got to hike Diamond Head Crater and see Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Memorial was extremely powerful and it was so humbling and moving to see the museum and learn everything about what happened there. I was really grateful for the opportunity to go see this, and Danielle felt the same way.
Top of Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki
After Danielle flew home, I had the next morning to spend before my flight so I hiked to Manoa Falls to see the beautiful 100ft waterfall (and got totally soaked in a really fun rainstorm). Then I went back to Waikiki Beach (the only place I felt safe parking my car in a secure parking garage) and spent my last few hours before I flew home on a surfboard!
Danielle “battling the weekday crowds” at our last beach stop together!
Hiking in Manoa valley was so beautiful!
The 100 foot tall waterfall was really cool
I got soaked in a rainstorm while hiking through the bamboo forest!
When I got home the next morning at 6:15am, I had 30 hours to spend in Minnesota before my flight to spend time with my boyfriend in Boston (finally! YAY!). While I was slightly less excited to finish filing my taxes, I was thrilled to be headed to my end-of-season party that evening, organized by Kris Hansen and my wonderful parents! Huge thanks to Slumberland for hosting the event, and to Salomon, Podiumwear and Swix for providing really cool door prizes…including a new pair of carbon skis – wow!
Visiting with the next up-and-coming skiers! (photo by Bruce with SkinnySki)
Giving a presentation on the winter and what it’s like to be racing on the road. (photo by Bruce with SkinnySki)
It was so fun for me to see my home ski community after being gone all winter, to get to meet new people and have a chance to share photos and stories from my year on the road. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing your enthusiasm for this sport we all love!

Fairbanks feelings…

Here we are, in sunny and cold Fairbanks, Alaska, ready for the last 4 races of the entire season! The team is excited (especially for the team relay, because of course we are) and everyone has different parts of the week they’re looking forward to and pumped about. Here’s a quick snapshot from the team!

Jessie, Anne, Sophie and Erika showing off the new suits! (photo from Paddy)

Anne: “I’m having so much fun with my fellow food lover Jessie cooking up some tasty treats to fuel us through a big week of racing!”

Paddy: “This is my first time in Alaska – it has been really fun to explore somewhere new and see the ski culture and history here in Fairbanks.”

Erika doing a little ski testing at the stadium!

Jessie: “It’s so fun for me to get to be with my SMS family again and hang out cooking, doing yoga, enjoying the sunshine and catching up in between races!”

Coach Pat testing the last of the skis the day before the skiathlon.

Sophie: “This is my first time to Fairbanks and so far it hasn’t disappointed! It’s cold, but by race time the temperatures have warmed and the sun is shining bright. The race trails are awesome and I’m excited to finish off the season with my SMS teammates.”

Andy: “The weirdest thing thats happened so far? I got sick the day before the first race… thats actually not that weird because it happens all the time at Spring Nationals. It’s a pain in my ass {butt}, but at least I will be able to work on my cheering skills for a few days.”

Erika: “I’m really looking forward to the team relay. We’ve been runner up too many times, this year we can win”

Simi: “It’s great to be in beautiful Alaska for our last races of the season. They’ve had a great snow year up here in Fairbanks, the skiing is probably the best we’ve had all year, and finally being able to spend time together as the SMS family is a great way to end the season. I think everyone up here wants to race fast this week, but the vibe is still one of celebration at the end of a long season and to be able to hang out with so many people in the US xc ski community is an opportunity we only get once a year, so we’re all pretty psyched for that.”

Ben: ”     “.

Getting ready for Quebec World Cups!

Erika shares her past few weeks

Reporting live: Erika’s world champs re-cap. I thought I’d share World Champs from the other side. What it’s like watching World Champs on the computer screen…the drama, the excitement, the nerves. A different side of racing and one you might not be so familiar with. I’m totally kidding. But if you can’t tell I may be losing it a bit after spending a few weeks on my own in Craftsbury, Vermont. To be fair I haven’t been completely alone. After low snow, rain and warm temps forced a cancellation of the American Birkebeiner most of the SMS domestic squad headed east to Craftsbury, home of the infamous snowmaking wizards who manage to make skiing possible in any weather.

Training with Liz Guiney GRP

I headed to Craftsbury to bide my time in skier purgatory, caught in limbo while waiting to hear where I would race next. Unfortunately I had found myself on the bubble for both OPA Cup trips and the Canadian World Cups and my fate was to be determined by a series of other people’s races. Note to future self: don’t be on the bubble.  Fortunately I had a great place to stay (Thank you Elizabeth and Zander!) and great skiing almost out the door so I focused most of my energy on logging good training sessions and tried not to think too far into the future. Last Saturday I found out that I qualified to race in World Cup finals in Quebec City, Canada and I could not be more thrilled. I’m on cloud nine…CLOUD NINE (for all you bachelor fans out there).  The invitation to race was followed by 3 days alone in Craftsbury Vermont where I enjoyed great skiing during the day and some solo karaoke sessions by night. When in a house by yourself, solo karaoke is always a good idea.

Snowmaking wizards hard at work
Post intervals with Kait, Anne and Liz

Although I may have started talking to squirrels once my teammates left (Paddy to Lyme, Julia to JOs, Pat to Stratton, Ben and Annie to Europe), I was fortunate to train with the Craftsbury Green Team during the day. I love my SMS teammates but it is rather refreshing to jump in with people you literally never train with and experience a whole new set of warm-ups, rituals, and ski styles. Annie and Julia and I train well together but I also know where Annie’s going to push the pace in intervals and where Julia is going to stride it out on a long distance ski. Skiing with the green team was like joining a new sorority (a really fit one). Everything was new, including the coach (thanks Pepa), the structure of the workouts and the strengths of each skier. I learned to push the V2 skiing behind Caitlin Patterson and lengthen the double pole chasing down Liz Guiney. I practiced jumping off the line with Kaitlyn Miller and jump skating behind Ida.  We are all getting ready to crush some ski races up in Quebec and had fun pushing each other in workouts as we prep to race the best in the world next weekend!

Not much snow but pretty pretty
So Vermonty

On Friday much of my team (finally) returned to Craftsbury and the house is in full buzz mode as we gear up for Quebec next week. Check in for updates from the team and follow along as we compete at World Cup Finals! I will for sure be the one jumping up and down to see Marit Bjoergen and casually obsessing over my first official World Cup bib. It’s the little things.

Ciao for now,

Erika

Simi’s World Champs account

It always goes by faster than it seems it’s going to. Maybe that’s why the seven years I’ve been living life on the road racing across the other side of the globe feels like one long adventure instead of individual chapters with each having a starting page and an ending page. But as far as I can tell, that’s a good sign. I’m confident there are plenty of professions and careers out there where each hour seems to feel like three and you’re just trying to make it to 5 p.m. on Friday. I recognize how lucky I am to be waking up in a new country every Tuesday, worrying about which 1 pair of 40 pairs of skis is going to be fastest on race day, and catching up on three weeks of missing data in my training log because I’ve got a slight problem with procrastination.

Racing in the team sprint (Getty Images)

As I look back on how quickly this season has passed, it’s easiest to remember (but also trying to easily forget) the crescendo of the race year. Last weekend marked the end of World Championships in Lahti, Finland. These 6 races were by far the most important part of the season for us. For me, personally, I was focusing on the individual skate sprint, which took place on the first day of competition at the championships. Leading up to World’s, I was happy with how my season had gone but I knew that my training and preparations (and the many races that preceded World’s) were all different parts of the equation that would yield being on my A Game for the championships. I had put in the work, I had been patient, I had stayed healthy for most of the year, and I was feeling more confident in my fitness leading up to World’s than I had been all season. Things were looking good. Unfortunately, conditions were slightly less than ideal for the sprint, with about 6 inches of fresh, slow snow blanketing the race venue the night before the sprint. This was especially tough for me as I am one of the bigger skiers in the World Cup field and I generally excel when conditions are hard and fast. I felt decent for the qualifier, placing 11th, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be a day for me when everything just kind of ‘clicks’ and I had to fight with everything I had in a very different way than I am used to when the snow is fast and firm. In my quarterfinal, I hooked a tip in the fresh powder to the side of the skied-in track on the longest and fastest downhill into the stadium before the finish. Before I even had time to feel sorry for myself, I found myself sliding on my face at 20 mph, grinding to a stop as everyone else behind me in my heat shot by me into the finish stretch. Needless to say, it’s one of those race days I want to forget. But I will also undoubtedly remember it for the rest of my life because I was fortunate enough to be on the sidelines for the rest of the day to watch history being made as Kikkan, Jessie, and Sophie all skied in the final women’s heat. Our team walked away with Jessie scoring 2nd, Kikkan notching 3rd, and Soph fighting incredibly hard throughout one of the toughest but best days our team has ever had, coming in 6th in the world.

Qualifying for the sprint rounds (Getty Images)

The sprint at World’s was frustrating and it left me with a feeling of wanting so much more. But as cliché as it is, that’s ski racing. That’s part of it. It won’t be the last time in my life that I’ll be disappointed by the outcome of something that I work incredibly hard towards. But that experience has lit a fire in me that will continue to burn for many months and years to come.

We’ll finish out the World Cup season next weekend (I’m on a plane back to the U.S. as I type this!) in Quebec, and I am incredibly excited for it. It feels like having World Cup finals back on our home turf is the decadent desert served after a five course meal that was satisfying and filling, but the main course wasn’t exactly what had I ordered. Our SMS team racing in the WC finals will include myself, Andy, Sophie, Jessie, Paddy, and Erika, and between all of us we’ll have a small army of fans and family members from across the country making the trek up to the banks of the Saint Lawrence yelling for us as we put an exclamation point on the end of a great season. Can’t wait to see you all there.

 

World Champs recap

Sophie recaps the team’s experience at World Champs! 

We just finished the most successful World Champs the U.S. Ski Team has ever had and our SMS Elite team was a big part of that group! If there’s one word I can use to describe the experience, it is INSPIRING. The first race of World Champs was the skate sprint and we had six athletes qualify for the rounds. Four of those athletes were SMS Elite teamers Andy, Simi, Jessie and me. Sim had an unfortunate crash, but Jessie and I made it onto the semis and before we knew it, we were on the start line of the World Champs A Final with our teammate, Kikkan. Yep! Three out of the six women in the final were from the U.S.. That was pretty neat. Jessie and Kikkan went on to place 2nd and 3rd and I was 6th. It was an incredible day for U.S. skiing.

Sophie qualifying for the sprint (Getty Images photo)

We continued to have a strong championships with Sadie and Jessie teaming up for 3rd in the team sprint, Simi and Erik placing 5th in the team sprint, our women’s relay team getting 4th, and Jessie getting 5th in the 30km skate race. I think it’s safe to say that our team is riding a high right now and we plan on keeping it rolling through the rest of the season.

Kikkan and Jessie ski the flag down the finishing stretch (photo: John Lazenby)

We have a city sprint in Drammen, Norway tomorrow and then the four of us will be flying home for a few days to prepare for World Cup Finals in Quebec City. There, we will be joined by a handful of our SMS Elite teammates and get to put on a show in front of our home crowd. We hope to see you in Quebec!!

These dorks want to see you in Quebec cheering!

Welcome to Estonia

The team has come back together from our various training camps around the world, and we’ve rejoined the World Cup here in Otepää, Estonia! This was the site of my first-ever overseas racing trip with the J1 Scando Cup trip (back when it was called J1, that is…I’m old now). It was such a fun experience with amazing people, and it’s what motivated me to keep training hard so I could someday come to World Juniors. So coming back after a few years away from the venue is pretty exciting!

Simi, Liz and I got really excited about the old-school arcade game at the Ostersund airport in Sweden.
Simi, Liz and I got really excited about the old-school arcade game at the Ostersund airport in Sweden.

Before you can read any further, you need to please open another window with this song, and read the rest of the post with “Welcome to Estonia” playing in the background. I don’t know what they’re saying except for the chorus, but every time I’ve ever raced in this stadium the fans LOVE this song. They chant it from the bleachers as it gets piped out of the loudspeakers, and now this song has become a symbol of the “go get ’em” attitude you need whenever racing in Otepää.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XgCsv-y-mc 

Checking out the courses before the World Cup chaos begins! (photo from Jason Cork)
Checking out the courses before the World Cup chaos begins! (photo from Jason Cork)

Before traveling to Estonia I was in Valadalen, Sweden with many of my teammates and my family! My boyfriend made the trip over for a week, then my parents, and it was so incredibly special for me to have the chance to go skiing with them.

Dad, Mom and me! (photo from Liz)
Dad, Mom and me! (photo from Liz)

Training camp was hard work and also a little nerve-wracking, since it was our last chance to tweak things before World Champs begins! Not that you can change too much at this time of year, but it’s really important not to over-do it and tire yourself out, which is the most common mistake since you get nervous and antsy and just want to ski more and more! Having my family there really helped me focus on quality time and stress less about upcoming races, focusing instead of being happy and hitting each workout the best I could.

Matt racing me to the finish in my team sprint time trial! (photo from my Mom)
Matt racing me to the finish in my team sprint time trial! (photo from my Mom)
A beautiful sunset on our last night!
A beautiful sunset on our last night!

Tonight is the techs team sprint, which means nothing less than the BIGGEST TO-DO OF THE YEAR! Techs from every team on the World cup compete and many of them are scary serious about it, holding try-outs the day before. Many of them are past Olympians and World Championship medalists, but let me tell you…none of them have the heart and team spirit that our guys have! I can’t wait to get out there and cheer!

-Jessie

Valadalen Training Camp

Simi checks in from the training camp in Sweden

I glanced at the face of my watch two nights ago to figure out the date while filling out a rental car agreement form and realized that our season on the road has been slyly sneaking by all of us. In exactly 4 weeks from tomorrow, most of us will board a plane in Oslo bound for home. As is always the the case this time of year, it comes as a surprise that for the last 12 weeks we’ve been packing and unpacking our duffel bags, wringing out dirty socks and undies after yet another load of sink laundry, and searching hotel floors to find the least used internet router to sit under while loading emails. As cliché as it sounds, it seems like it was last week that we were stepping off a plane in Finland to kick off the World Cup season in November.

Throughout the chaos that gives a season of racing World Cups full time in Europe it’s unique flavor, some of my most favorite times of the winter are the ones when we get settle down a bit, break into a daily training and living routine in a beautiful spot next to countless kilometers of tourist trails, and start chipping away at that book loaded on the kindle that hasn’t been opened yet because we haven’t had the time. And even though the race season always flies by faster than we can ever anticipate, we always revel in the times when we can take a deep breath, rejuvenate our tired bodies and minds, and remind ourselves why our love for skiing transcends going fast with a bib on. These next two weeks are one of those times.

A beautiful sunny ski!
A beautiful sunny ski!

Currently, we’re based in Valadalen, Sweden, just a few clicks south of the Swedish alpine mecca of Are. The Swedish xc national team uses this place as a bit of a home base for training camps during the summer and winter because of it’s training opportunities, its low-stress atmosphere, its delicious food and comfortable living quarters, and of course its kick-ass sauna. With the exception of Christmas training on out-and-back ribbons of snow in the fields surrounding Seefeld, Austria and Toblach, Italy I haven’t skied on any trails other than the punishing World Cup venues we’ve travelled to for our races for the entire winter. So to say that those of us who are here in Valadalen are psyched to be able to step out our hotel door onto 30 km (they usually have 100+ km but it’s been a somewhat unusual and dismal snow year… again) of perfectly groomed rolling trails through the birch and firs of Scandinavia is an understatement.

Looking for trails!
Looking for trails!

The landscape in this part of the world is pretty much perfect for what we are looking for when it comes to easy, enjoyable training during these short blocks when we get to catch our breath a bit. And fortunately for us, this mini training block leads right into World Championships, a two-week period of high anxiety and nervous energy that blankets the xc World Cup circuit every two years. For the next week we’ll take solace in knowing that tomorrow is another day that we can get out the door when the late morning sun brings warmer temps or when the coffee pot is empty (whichever comes first or sounds best at the time), that we can fall asleep without the anxiety of testing race skis on the race track the next day, and that the laundry machine in the building next door doesn’t have a 2-day line up of other teams’ smelly race suits and stiff socks. For now, we just have to focus on what book to start next, what new loop we want to go explore in the woods tomorrow, and how hot we want that sauna to be after our afternoon training session. Thanks for checking in. –Simi

Training time
Training time

January recap from Europe

Sophie recaps her month of January

I recovered from my Christmas cold just in time to start the Tour de Ski. I did the skate sprint and the classic 5k and they were both solid races. I had a great qualifier where I qualified in 5th, but just missed making it into the semis! The next day was a fun 5k classic mass start. I don’t think I’ve done a 5k mass start since I was a junior, so it was a little hectic, but pretty fun. After Val Mustair, the sprinters packed up and headed to Toblach, where we would spend the majority of the next two weeks before the sprint World Cup weekend. We took three days the following weekend to head to Planica, Slovenia for an OPA Cup sprint and distance race. I really love that area in Slovenia. It is in the Triglav National Park, set at the base of the Julien Alps. I was psyched to take the win in the skate sprint and think I had some extra motivation that day from watching my teammates, Jessie and Sadie, get 1st and 3rd in the Tour de Ski 5k skate.

Hanging with Ides between heats at the OPA Cup

 

Skate sprint in Val Mustair (Nordic Focus/Toko US photo)

 

Cooling down with Breck in Val Mustair

 

Sim and I both took the wins in Planica and here we are with our head coach, Chris Grover, at the awards ceremony

 

Slovenia was a little chilly, so Ides and I embraced comfort over fashion in an attempt to keep ourselves warm

There wasn’t much natural snow in Toblach, but the area did an incredible job of laying out man made ribbons of snow throughout all the valleys. There were probably 30kms of trails when we arrived and about 60kms of trails when we left. Unfortunately, two days after we got back from Slovenia I came down with a pretty nasty stomach bug. I’m really scared of throwing up and haven’t thrown up from a stomach bug since middle school, so it caught me a little off guard and came on fast, but one hospital trip and a couple days of rest later, I was feeling okay. It took a little while to get my appetite fully back, but by the weekend I was feeling healthy enough to race. I was pleasantly surprised to have a decent qualifier in the sprint and then felt better in my quarter final and moved onto the semis. In my semi final, Kikkan rode up a little hot behind me on the first down hill and ended up tangling in my skis and we both fell. Luckily I only broke a ski and neither of us were injured. I was pretty bummed because both sprints that I’ve made it into the semi finals this year, I’ve ended up on the ground and missed a chance to move onto the finals. Every once in awhile, falling is part of ski racing, but I’m thinking I’m ready to be finished with falls for the year. Anyway, the real highlight of the day was watching Sim ski a brilliant race and get 2nd in the Toblach sprint for the second year in a row! The next day was a team sprint, where I didn’t have a lot left in me, but the team sprint is always a fun event to participate in and I’m looking forward to doing another one in Korea next week.

Recovering from the flu on a field trip with my parents 😉

 

Skiing around TOblach with one of our techs and my friend, Andrew Morehouse

 

All smiles after Sim’s 2nd place!

 

Sprint heat in Toblach

 

Sprint qualifier (Marcel Hilger photo)

 

Team sprint (Marcel Hilger photo)

 

Hot air balloons everywhere!
After Toblach, we traveled to Ulricehamn, Sweden. This was a new venue for the World Cup and it did not disappoint! Ulricehamn is a town of 8,000 people and they sold 50,000 tickets for the weekend of racing. The volunteers could not have been friendlier, the tracks were great, and the fans were psyched. There wasn’t a sprint last weekend, so I was mostly training in Ulricehamn, but we had eight healthy girls, so we were able to start two relay teams on Sunday and I skied a skate leg on our second team. This was only the second time ever we’ve had enough girls to start two teams and it was made extra special because it was our supertour leader, Liz Guiney’s, first weekend of World Cups! On Monday morning, we loaded a bus and drove to Falun, Sweden. This weekend I will do the skate sprint in Falun.
Training in Ulricehamn (Simi photo)
We’re over halfway through the season and the second half tends to fly by. We have a lot to look forward to in the next month and a half. After the races this weekend, a small group of us will fly to South Korea for the Olympic test event. It will be a quick trip, but I’ve never been to Asia before and think it will be quite the experience! After that, we head to Valadalen, Sweden for a little training camp before the World Cup in Oteppa, Estonia and World Champs in Lahti, Finland. After World Champs, I will do one more sprint in Drammen, Norway before heading back home because World Cup Finals have been moved to Quebec City!! We will  be in Quebec City racing from March 17th-19th, so if you had fun cheering at the Ski Tour Canada last year, come do it again in March. Thanks for following!
Ready for the races! (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

Seiser Alm Training Camp

Jessie talks about her post-tour training camp in Italy! 

After the Tour de Ski was finished, it was time for some serious rest and recovery! We spent an extra day in Predazzo, the awesome little town near the venue in Val di Fiemme where the last two stages of the Tour race. Then it was time to pack up our bags and drive to high altitude for a week of easy training in Seiser Alm, Italy!

Getting our high-speed sledding on!
Getting our high-speed sledding on!

This is quite possibly one of my favorite places in the entire world! Usually, there’s feet of snow, but this year has been quite a hard snow year for most of Europe. Still, they made a 7km loop of man-made snow for us to train on! And, of course, for Liz’s birthday we had to go sledding down the 2.5km track that parallels the ski run down the mountain! Out of curiosity I wore my GPS watch…and found that I got up to 60.2 kilometers per hour! Yikes!

Liz in her birthday outfit!
Liz in her birthday outfit!

There was a lot of sunshine to be soaked up, and we had a lot of fun! It was good to get back into some normal training days after so many days of race, race, race!

Going for a run on the snow-less alpine meadow!
Going for a run on the snow-less alpine meadow!

Our hotel is up on the mountain, so every day we either take the chairlift down to town where the XC trails are, or else we ski down! We even tried to run gates on our skate skis….and we didn’t do too poorly, although I imagine metal edges might have been useful!

Liz, Sadie and Noah skiing at Passo Lavaze on our way up to Seiser Alm!
Liz, Sadie and Noah skiing at Passo Lavaze on our way up to Seiser Alm!

Back on the World Cup: Toblach

Andy gets back to Europe after a solid training block

I’ve been back in Europe for a little over a week, getting adjusted to the time zone again and getting back into the World Cup racing state of mind. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to skip the Tour de Ski and spend Christmas in Montana since it gave me a full three weeks to hang out with Erika, experience the joys of Christmas in Bozeman, and get in a ton of real winter skiing. Three weeks was the perfect amount of time to build back up some training in order to hit the bulk of the ski season full steam and with full energy.  There is a lot of ski racing left this season and after a tough start with injuries and sickness the rebuilding process was really important. Now I feel like I’ve traveled over to Europe with a fresh start to the World Cup, and with a great base built up to maintain fitness throughout the whole season.

Andy, Tim, Simi, Ida and Grover
Andy, Tim, Simi, Ida and Grover

Since arriving in Munich last Wednesday I was able to jump right into some practice starts at the OPA cup in Planica.  I have to admit it wasn’t super fun to come off a plane Wednesday and jump into a race on Friday but it was still a good workout and although I didn’t feel the best racing I think it did help me with jet lag and a few days after I was feeling good to go. Since then we have been training here in Toblach. Toblach is a quiet Italian town with not much going on which makes for a relaxed atmosphere.  Our hotel, which has become a regular and familiar stop for us, is walking distance from the ski trails. Right now the skiing consists of ribbons of entirely man made snow at the moment but it is still fun, fast, hard packed skiing.

The beautiful stadium in Toblach that skis right up over a building!
The beautiful stadium in Toblach that skis right up over a building!

Since Bozeman Christmas break had such awesome skiing I have been dropping down the hours since arriving back in Europe and just focusing on staying fresh and quick for the races.  Since they host several marathons here throughout the winter there is actually a ton of skiing prepared and some really long out and backs on the man made snow.  We got in one long ski as a group but for the most part have been sticking to the race trails and working on speed and interval training. In our down time we have been checking out the area and adventuring into the beautiful Dolomite mountains which are pretty incredible and one afternoon drove up to the base of the Tre Cime (three peaks).

Training on the snow ribbon!
Training on the snow ribbon!

Many of the skiers who completed the Tour de Ski are still resting up which means we have a slightly smaller crew here in Toblach than a normal World Cup weekend but we are all fired up to race.  The schedule calls for a skate sprint on Saturday and a team sprint on Sunday. This will be our first team sprint of the season so I know Simi and I will be excited to let it rip!