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Best. Weekend. Ever.

*Simi checking in!

Whewww, what an exhausting but amazing last week it’s been. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that last weekend was the best weekend of my life. Yes, Sophie and I got married. Yes, it was hands-down the most beautiful day of the summer. Yes, everything went perfectly and I didn’t throw up from nerves when I recited my vows. The reason why it was the best weekend of my life was because of the people that were there and the people that made it happen. It could have poured rain, dumped snow, we both could have forgotten our vows, I could have accidentally lit my shirt on fire… it still would have been the most special and unforgettable day of my life. We are both so grateful to all of our friends, our huge families, and of course our teammates for just being there for us.

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Ben and Kyle were our tech wizards. They helped us set up all of our music and PA equipment, taking time out of their busy schedules to make several trips out to Peru. Ben O. and Ian were our charismatic and pro bartenders for the evening. Every time I looked over at the bar they were either doing hilarious bartender tricks or managing to serve what seemed like 15 people all at once. I’m sure several of our single female friends that were in attendance had their eyes on them all night. Jessie set up the coziest LL Bean tent palace I’ve ever seen, complete with flower pedals, a huge, ultra comfy mattress and comforter, and premade breakfast on a coffee table by our bed. All so that Soph and I could begin our official married life together in pure comfort and style. Alayna spent hours prepping the house for the weekends festivities. Julia took time away from her busy school schedule to be there for us as things got hectic and chaotic. And it’s hard to put into words what Kelsey did for us. She spent days and days all summer drawing the most beautiful table cards depicting our favorite 25 mountains throughout the world that we’ve climbed and skied.

All of our teammates’ love for us, their support, and all the hours they spent making a perfect wedding happen that would not have otherwise happened without them made us realize how much we rely on them for everything ski related and everything life related. We can’t thank them enough and we’re the luckiest teammates in the world to have them by our side.

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We’re here in Lake Placid for the next 10 days, having just started our final camp of the training year. Conditions are perfect. The trails and roads are dry, the days are sunny and warm. The nights are cool and perfect for sleeping long hours. And the leaves are popping like the flames of a bonfire. Since we’ve entered the time of year when we start doing less volume and more hard intensity training, the focus of this camp is quality over quantity. We’ll do several hard interval sessions and time trials during the camp, complimented with long and easy days of training in the high peaks when we’re not hammering the pavement. We’ve all got snow on mind as the days get shorter and colder, and we can’t wait to be gliding on the real stuff in just over a month (fingers crossed). Thanks for checking in!

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5 Thoughts on the arrival of Fall

*Ben S. checking in.

  1. Why does temperature always seem so relative? In theory a 50-degree morning should feel the same in October as it does in March, but the changing of the seasons is always uncomfortable. In March, a 50 degree day, is almost unbearably hot and right now, the crisp temperatures leave the mornings uncomfortably chilled. I suppose we’ll get used to the cold in a few weeks, but the way a 50 degree morning can make people who spend their entire winter outdoors bundle up never fails to surprise.

  2. We’ve had a really dry summer (relatively speaking) and the trees here are changing their leaves unapologetically quick. In the summer, the general humidity can mask how little rain there’s been, but the burning reds and blazing oranges on the mountain are a good reminder of how nice we’ve had it. The one thing the leaves make us focus on is road safety. With all the bright colors falling off the trees and onto the roads, being safe while training is more important than ever. Colors that made you stick out amongst the asphalt in July, now blend into the seasonal show. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great high-vis jackets in the ski world, so rollerski vests (think construction worker chic) will have to do.image

  3. And speaking of high-vis, fall is often the time when every skier receives NEW GEAR. Here in Vermont, we just got some brand new Podiumwear togs that are pretty dang cool. While we don’t ski race solely because of the clothes, getting socks branded with your home state are definitely a huge perk.image

  4. Cold weather means cold pavement, and cold pavement, means slow rollerskis. It’s hard to imagine that the temperature change could affect rollerskiing so significantly, but it’s really an entirely different ballgame; it feels something like driving around in your car with the emergency brake left on. This is somewhat at odds with the general shift in fall training towards more Level 4 training, we’re trying to go faster than we have all year…but the pavement doesn’t want us to.

  5.  Speaking of that change in training, the race season is getting close. Like, really close. The fall is exciting because it means we’re nearing showtime. It means all the work we’ve been putting in during the summer months will start to build towards more than just the next workout. We’re skiers because we love to race, and when the leaves start to drop it’s like getting a Save the Date from the snow gods. I can’t wait for the big day.

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More Economical: V1 or V2?

*Ian checking in.

This past month, my thesis project for my Masters Degree in Exercise Science at Northern Michigan University was finally submitted and approved and I officially graduated! “General Strength and Muscular Endurance: Relationship to V1- and V2-Skate Skiing Economy in Collegiate Cross-Country Skiers” was a lengthy project taking over a year and a half from its inception to final edits. I learned some valuable lessons from the project, not just from the data outcomes, but also from the research process as a whole. From its onset, I sought to answer the question, which technique is more economical (via oxygen consumption), V1 or V2? A secondary query sought to answer the question: is 1-rep maximum general strength or muscular endurance training better to improve skiing economy?

I started by putting my NMU teammates and volunteer assistant coach Tad Elliott through the ringer of testing: the NMU ski team strength test (pullups, dips, situps, pushups; minute on, minute off, minute on) which represented muscular endurance, general strength 1-repitition maximum test of elbow extension, shoulder extension, trunk flexion, and hip flexion, as well as the dreaded skate VO2max test. To test their economy of movement, I put my teammates through two 5-minute submaximal rollerski treadmill tests utilizing V1 and V2 at a set pace and grade representing race effort determined through VO2max testing. The participants were hooked up to an oxygen analyzer that determined their metabolic cost via O2 consumption. A lower oxygen consumption would mean greater economy at the set pace and grade.

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Early morning VO2max testing.
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1-rep maximum strength testing

The results for my initial questions were quite bland. No strength measures from both muscular endurance and 1-RM strength were correlated with greater economy (less oxygen consumption). There were no differences in economy between V1 and V2 during the 5-minute race bouts. Therefore for my participants being elite collegiate skiers, it is up to individual choice which technique to use on relatively steep hills during a race situation. 2 key takeaways occurred after I used statistical analysis to compare economy measures and anthropometrics to FIS points, essentially seeing if the faster skiers had certain body types or greater economy. The better distance skiers of both sexes had very economical V1 technique, which is backed up by previous research showing that over 50% of race time is spent going uphill. Another finding was that the lighter female skiers had lower FIS points, which is reflected in the Therese Johaug/Frida Karlsson body type and their respective success at the most recent World Championships. However, it is speculated that greater strength by females can be targeted as a place for improvement, evidenced by Marit Bjorgen’s career success.

Conducting my own research project took a long time, was at points frustrating and  exhausting, but in the end, very rewarding to see the fruits of my labor. Kind of like success in skiing, eh?

Climb to the Castle

*Kyle checking in.
This weekend I had the opportunity to drive over to Lake Placid and hop in the Climb to the Castle. I personally love these uphill skate races and I was super disappointed last year’s race happened so close after our return from New Zealand, meaning it wasn’t the right timing training wise.
I am always amazed by how many people turn out for these NENSA races in the East and I can’t express how much excitement I get from all the enthusiasm. We had a great day for the race with the temperatures in the high 50s, perfect for racing. Last time I did this race, I had just completed a really hard USST camp in Lake Placid and was on my last legs. Unsurprisingly, I struggled to hang on and ended up a distance 5th. This time around, I had also just finished up a hard two weeks of training, but it was smart training and my legs had energy left for a big effort. I tried to just focus on skiing relaxed and with good technique and I was able to create a gap rather quickly so I went with it. I can take confidence away from the fact that my fitness is finally coming around right on time. It was great to mix it up with the US Biathletes as well! It’s always really nice when our paths cross and we can collaborate. Now I’m back in Stratton ready for an easy week and then it will be back to two more weeks of quality intensity to continue building towards race season!
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Looking down on the road we climbed (PC: Drew Palcsik)
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The home stretch before the finish. (PC: Drew Palcsik)
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PC: NENSA Nordic, Podium with the Brown brothers!

Getting back in the groove

Jessie checking in from the kitchen table, where I’m shamelessly stealing Alayna’s incredible homemade pumpkin spice granola. Besides benefitting from her spot-on baking instincts, it feels so awesome to be back in Stratton for a long stretch now after finishing a big block of training in the Southern Hemisphere!

Julia and I got back from the Snow Farm about a week ago, and I was so immensely grateful for the time spent on snow where I could work on all the things I simply can’t touch on while roller skiing. Things like epic finish line lunges, striding on slippery wax, herringboning up steep hills and sharp fast downhill corners…and we really hit those technique elements hard to make use of every km we had on snow! In case you’re nerdy like us, you might be interested to hear how many kilometers we skied at camp after Julia tracked them on her watch: we averaged 650km skied between the two of us. That’s a LOT of time to improve our technique, so hopefully all that hard work will translate over when the season begins!

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Having fun on one of our last skis. (photo from Julia)

Once we landed stateside, I took a few days in Boston to recover from the biggest camp training load I’ve had to date, and in those recovery days I tried my hand at painting the walls of the condo I share with Wade. Update: my painting skills really aren’t that great. He may have to re-do the walls. But at least I tried!

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Taking time to do fun things like visit the Jamaica parade and pig roast with Wade in my recovery week!

When I came back to Stratton I brought some very special guests with me…my Mom and Grandma, whom I call “Meme”, came out east to visit and see where I live and train! They had a really fun time seeing the school and the awesome gym, and of course we had to go see the view from the fire tower up on top of the mountain. It was special to share Vermont with them!

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My Mom, trying out the “recovery pants”!
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Checking out the views together (I promise they were much better than my old camera lens!)

Now I’m looking forward to settling in and getting back in the groove of team training sessions, and pushing each other forward to faster and faster intervals as we get closer to winter!

 

Thirteen Friends Running Around the Mountains

Well, it’s back to the training grind here in Vermont, and although it’s a hot and sticky situation out there right now, it’s felt a little more like Colorado in September and a little less like Vermont in August these last few days. As with any time I spend away from Stratton and the team and my home-away-from-home, no matter what the weather is or how hard the training is, it’s great to be back. And where was my last adventure that took me away from Vermont, you ask? Well, for every wedding there’s always a bachelor party…

Last Wednesday twelve of my best friends, new and old, boarded planes and merged their cars onto the highways leaving their hometowns and made their way to Jackson, WY for what would be a pretty adventurous and not-very-run-of-the-mill bachelor party weekend. In the late 2010s I spent 3 summers living in Jackson working for Exum Mountain Guides. Although the majority of my days were spent either hiking/climbing the relentlessly long summit push to the top of the Grand Teton or teaching climbing classes in Cascade Canyon to prepare people for that relentlessly long summit push, I was able to do my fair share of exploring the Tetons beyond the beaten track. I fell in love with those mountains, the climbing, and the people, so to be back there after a decade-long hiatus was a treat to say the least. My best friend from growing up in Aspen, Linden Mallory, who is himself an incredibly accomplished climber, skier, and big mountain guide, took on the monumental task of organizing the weekend, and even though we found just the right amount of “well, what should we do now” adventure, it was pretty much one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. To give you a snapshot of the weekend’s ridiculous nature, the very first thing we did was pile 13 people into a rented van (right after picking me up from the airport), with mandatory Hawaiian shirts and shorts to match, and stop by the local rodeo. Arriving as it was wrapping up was both a blessing and a curse since there were “only” a few hundred people left in the stands, but you can imagine that every single pair of eyes in attendance noticed the 13 guys strut in wearing matching short-shorts and turquoise hula-girl shirts. And that was just in the first hour. But since I consider all my closest friends and me to be more on the outdoorsy side of the spectrum, we weren’t long for typical bachelor party shenanigans. Day 1 was spent sport climbing at Blacktail Butte, a classic limestone crag just outside of the national park. Getting to re-climb some of my favorite sport routes I’ve ever done was a treat, and the dip in Jenny Lake made the hours spent in the sun at the base of the crag totally worth it. That afternoon we headed up the trail to the Meadows camp zone in the Main Fork of Garnet Canyon. A great dinner and lots of laughs had us in bed and asleep while most of the bars in town were probably still empty.

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The Squad
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Setting out

Early to rise, packs filled with helmets and layers of down, we set off for the summit of the Middle Teton on Day 2. Even though getting thirteen 20 and 30 year-old guys to focus on one long task is like herding cats up the Empire State Building stair well, we still managed to easily catch and pass every party of climbers that had started with headlamps long before day break. A quick tag of the summit, complete with a group shot of (almost) everyone in their official weekend uniform, and we were on our way back to the cars and back to hot showers at home.

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At least the shorts made us easy to find.

Day 3 saw us take a more relaxed approach to the day as we loaded up our single raft with 10 paddles and made our way to the day stretch on the Snake River between Hoback Junction and the small town of Alpine. Opting to treat ourselves to the comfort of gravity, we floated, swam, and reveled our way down the class III/IV- stretch until our bellies hurt from laughing so hard and our bones shivered from the 55°F water. For our final night of celebrating, we treated ourselves to margarita “sloshies” and bison burgers from the brewery down the street from our house. And just like that, the 5 a.m. alarm was going off for my 7 a.m. flight back to VT. What a weekend to remember, and as I realized somewhere at 30,000’ between Jackson and Chicago, I truly have the greatest, craziest, and least-laziest friends in the world.

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Grateful for all these guys.

For now, the whole SMS T2 crew is back together in Stratton/Peru, and you can see it in everyone’s demeanor that we’ve all started the countdown to winter in our heads. Our energy is high (which is good because there are still a few things that need to be taken care for me and Sophie’s wedding in three weeks), people are rejuvenated by the crisp Fall breeze, and we’re all healthy and happy. Not much more we could all ask for. Thanks for checking in!

Sit still and grind

*Alayna checking in

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit still in Stratton and just train. In August, I went home to Minneapolis for 10 days to spend time with my family and work with the ski community there. While I was home, I hosted a ski clinic with Gear West Ski and Bike Shop and I attended multiple club practices around the Twin Cities Metro area. These events were primarily meant for high schoolers and I chatted with them about staying in sport, setting goals, and putting themselves out there. It was a really special opportunity to connect with the ski community that I grew up in, and was ablate relate to all of the kids that I spoke to.

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Working with some of the girls at Nordicwerks Ski Klubb in St. Paul, MN.
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Heading out for a ski with a crew of high schoolers at my clinic in Minneapolis, MN.

After a busy week at home, I went off to Bozeman, MT to visit my boyfriend for 3 weeks and get a quality altitude training camp in. Bozeman isn’t super high in altitude, but I’ve noticed over the years that even a subtle amount of elevation can have a huge effect on me and I wanted to practice a few altitude racing scenarios before we get started on the Supertour Circuit in December. I was able to train some pretty high hours in Montana with their elite skiers and enjoy the dry, mountain air! 🙂

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Early morning mountain bike ride around Bozeman with some speedy ladies.

 

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Enjoying the running and hiking in the mountains around Bozeman.

So, it’s been while since I’ve been in Stratton to train with the team and Coach Pat, but I am so happy to be back with our crew and I’m ready to sit still for the next few months. The fall period is so important in our build up to the racing season and it’s pretty awesome to have such an incredible training group to dig in to the pain cave with. Last weekend, Sophie, Ian and I decided to put ourselves into this cave and signed up to run the Maple Leaf Half Marathon in Manchester, VT. It was such a beautiful morning for a race and we were all excited to get out there and give a hard effort. But when the gun went off and we all started racing down the roads, I was not prepared for what was to come. The night before I was thinking over what a good goal would be and having run a trail half marathon at 7 minute pace I figured I could do that much, but I wasn’t sure how much faster…maybe around 6:45 pace? Well, we opened our first mile in about 5:40, and boy that was a shock to the system!

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Happy after an awesome half marathon in Manchester, VT!

Sophie was able to keep grinding a that pace for a bit, but I was skeptical about my own abilities so I pulled back a little and got into the rhythm of my own running. Coach Pat was amazing the entire time; he biked along side, cheering us all on and offering feeds as we needed them. Sverre and Lily Caldwell came out to cheer for us and we saw many SMS alumni racing too! Its as great to see so many Southern Vermont faces. In the end, I surprised myself and ran a lot faster than I had anticipated and we all had a blast jumping into the race and challenging ourselves. Although a few of us had trouble walking the following two days…

NTG Camp Update

*Ben O. checking in.

Hey sports fans Ben writing his first blog post here. Topic: some skiing related stuff happening at the end of the summer. 

I spend the end of the summer on a little trip out west to Bozemen, Montana and Park City, Utah. In Montana, I met up with SMS alum Andy Newell and his pack of college skiers who were in the midst of their last week of group training for the summer. They were on a volume week and it was great to join in with them in intervals and long sessions. This occupied the majority of the first week, and the story of the second week was Ben Hegman’s new sprinter van conversion. Me him and Scott Mooney dove into this epic project and it turned out really nice. One of those projects I have always dreamed of doing so it was cool to get an idea of what its like. 

After this I headed south to  Park City for NTG camp. August NTG is always a time where junior and U23 level skiers can get together and take advantage of each other’s strengths and get a midsummer training boost. By grouping up at these camps you can learn what peers across the country do to prepare for the upcoming season. This year’s group is particularly talented and motivated which shows every day in training. The NTG camps are always a good training block involving a combination of big hours and hard intensity, so that was a good way to end the trip.

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Here is a sneak peak of ex-nordie Ben Hegman’s new sprinter.
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A few of the members of Nordic Team Collegiate.
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The famous BIG Noel after a BIG crash (NTG Camp).
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End of a Nice long UTAH rollerski 

 

 

New Zealand Part 2!

*Julia checking in from New Zealand.

Jessie and I are wrapping up our 3 week U.S. Ski Team training camp in New Zealand! We have been super lucky with the weather this year, having almost entirely perfect weather and ski tracks every day! As usual, we have been welcomed by friendly New Zealanders, but the incredible views never grow old!

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Jessie skipping some rocks during an afternoon trip to Lake Wanaka. 

We were able to put on a race bib and remember what it feels like to race. We did the Merino Muster (I did the 21km and Jessie the 42km) as well as 3 races for the New Zealand Winter Games. It was a good reminder of how tough, but fun racing can be. Especially at this time of year, I find it is important to tap into the race mindset after having a long summer of training and still a whole fall block before the race season starts. I have found that racing down here is both a good reminder of all the things I want to work on before the season starts as well as a huge motivator to push through fall training.

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Getting back into the race zone (PC: NZ Winter Games).
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Jessie taking home the W for the Classic 10km Mass start (PC: NZ Winter Games).

Besides racing, Jessie and I have been enjoying long skis and other adventures as well! I got out for an incredible mountain bike ride along Lake Wanaka, exploring the not so snowy part of New Zealand. We also went paragliding the day before our 3 day race block to get the adrenaline pumping during the point in camp when tiredness kicks in. We even found some crust skiing the past few days, which has added some fun playing around on skis during our last long training sessions. We are sad to say goodbye to the beautiful, snowy New Zealand, but also excited to get back to Stratton to train with the whole team again!

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Mountain biking adventures!
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Overlooking Lake Wanaka.
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Paragliding!
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Dust on crust!

Prove it

*Ben S. checking in.

If you’re not a World Cup regular, skiing is what you might call a “prove it” sport. The only way to get opportunities is to earn your bib, through results and hard work. You’ve got to prove, over and over again, that you deserve opportunity, and that reality can often leave you feeling like you’re living on the fringe. I know it makes me feel that way.

But there’s something about that life that’s incredible. You learn things when you’re trying to prove it every time you toe the line. You learn how to put your head down and go to work. You learn how razor thin your margin for error is. You learn how painfully slow progress can be, and how that doesn’t mean it’s not still there. You learn about the strength that comes from having people who believe in you — and the joys of proving them right.

The winter is the time when you actually have to “prove it”  race after race, weekend after weekend, but the summer is the time when you have to live on the fringe with no race start in sight. This is the time when having teammates can make the biggest difference. They compel you to “prove it” every sweltering, humid day, and every day, you want to show them you can.

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Prove it even when it’s 93 and humid.

When you’re living life on the fringe, your team is your most powerful tool. You never owe anything to a bib, even if it may say “World Cup” on it; who ever cared about proving anything to a piece of cloth? Your teammates are your friends, your adventure buddies, your cribbage partners, and they care enough to ask you to “prove it” when there’s no carrot hanging on the end of a stick.

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If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.

This summer, I have been especially thankful for my teammates. Not because they are funny, or clever, or cool, or can hit the high notes on the Mulan soundtrack (though they can totally do all those things). I am thankful for my teammates, because every day they ask me to take a step forward, and because when you’re living life on the fringe that’s the best thing anyone can do.

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Sometimes teammates have been asking you to prove it since high school!