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*Kyle checking in.

I flew home from Stratton yesterday. As expected, my uneventful travel streak finally came to an end last night as my flight was delayed, putting me home well after midnight. A minor setback aside, I am very happy to be home. I haven’t been home at this time of year in a long time and I am really looking forward to it! The main reason for me being home is due to the fact that one of my best friends from high school, Aaron, is getting married. On top of that, Kelsey is coming out to visit and come to the wedding with me. It’s also going to be her first visit to my home and she will get to meet my parents so that’s always exciting. The morning of Aaron’s wedding is also the Eden Prairie High School Cross Country Alumni meet. In this 2 mile race, the high schoolers and high school alumni race and the results are scored like they would be at a cross country meet to determine a winner. I haven’t been able to participate in this event since my second year out of high school so I am super excited to be back. It always makes me really happy to see this wonderful program thrive. I attribute a lot of my skiing and training ability to high school cross country and the experiences I had participating in it.  This trip home falls at a similar time to our trip to New Zealand last year, so like that trip, I will use it as the shift from summer training to fall training. When I get back to Stratton, it will be time to get down to business and start to really put in the super hard work that will determine what kind of season I will have. I always love this time of year and I’m very excited for the weeks to come!

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Ben and I pretending to be sophisticated at a T2 Foundation fundraiser last weekend in Rhode Island. The house on the hill to the left of us apparently belongs to Taylor Swift. 
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Looking forward to less long “boring” L3 and more satisfying L4!
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Tunnel Vision

*Simi checking in.

If you asked a bunch of people on the street what their idea of a good time was, you probably wouldn’t get too many answers that involved cross country skiing in an enclosed 1 kilometer tunnel for 12 hours over the course of four days. And to be perfectly honest, that probably wouldn’t be the first answer I’d give either. But here we are anyway, skiing round and round the hamster wheel, wearing ventilation masks to filter the recirculated air and spending countless hours playing around with different ways to kick a classic ski and crunch on top of the poles during V2. ‘Here,’ is Oberhof, Germany. A mecca for biathletes, bobsledders, and Bavarian winter sports fans, Oberhof claims to be the winter sport capital of central Germany. We actually used to start the Tour de Ski here every year, but I think after so many years of dismal conditions in early January the TdS organizers finally nixed that idea and moved the starting stages to central Europe where they can at least (usually) rely on somewhat cold temperatures to farm enough snow to hold a race. But in mid January, travel to the small Thuringian town in the rolling hills halfway between Frankfurt and Leipzig, and you’ll witness the town’s population swell in size from 1,500 to 50,000+ just for the week-long biathlon World Cup celebrations. So, even though our World Cup race circuit does not include this quiet town any longer, it still identifies itself as a central hub for winter sport recreation and competition (in addition to hosting a biathlon world cup every year, Oberhof also plays host to a bobsled/luge/skeleton world cup each year and will host the World Championships for those sports in 2021). Because of its centralized location and its distinction as such a well-known winter sports hub, a relatively new, modern, and stylistic ski tunnel sits right between the edge of town and the ski stadium. When looking at it from the outside, the first shape that comes to mind is one of those commemorative ribbons that you see pinned to politicians’ collars or magnetized on the back of some mini vans. It’s basically an oval with two tails coming off the end. If you ski from the end of one of the tails, around the oval, to the end of the other tail, and then reverse directions and ski back to where you started, you cover about 2 kilometers. Within that 2 kilometers, you climb and descend about 200 feet. So really, if you’re looking to get on your skis, on real snow, in June, July, August, or any month of the year for that matter, and you don’t feel like flying all the way down to New Zealand, Australia, or South America, Oberhof is your place.

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My coach, Matt Whitcomb, and I arrived here last Thursday night, and boy have we been logging the hours inside the concrete snake. Well, I guess not as many as you would maybe expect, but when you’re skiing the same 1,000 meters of trail over and over and over again, 5 minutes starts to feel like 30 minutes pretty darn fast. But it is incredibly beneficial to get on snow, especially for classic ski training, and the fact that the snow is old, transformed, pretty dirty, and somehow has about 0% water content, it’s good to learn to ski on that sort of stuff considering that’s what we race on most of the World Cup year anyway. In the last three days, I’ve put in 10+ hours of training in the tunnel. After this morning’s classic speed session, we were supposed to go back into the mines for an easy distance session this afternoon, but staring through the tunnel’s few windows at the warm sun and green forest outside during this morning’s ski had us both thinking that we should probably use the opportunity to get outside for a run and absorb a bit of vitamin D after being deprived of the nutrient since Thursday. All and all, it’s been a very valuable mini-camp here, and I feel like I am taking the time and energy that I need to figure out some things with my technique and get the summer on-snow time that I know is beneficial for me (no New Zealand for me and most of my teammates this year). After one last interval session in the tunnel tomorrow, Matt and I will head south back to Munich where we’ll spend the night, then hop a plane Tuesday up to Trondheim, Norway where we’ll meet up with quite a few of our US Ski Team teammates. We’ll base out of there for about 10 days, linking up with the Italian National Team for a mini-camp before we put our race bibs on and race in the annual Toppidrettsveka rollerski circuit with most of the Norwegian National Team (and a big portion of the rest of the World Cup field for that matter). So really the August European adventure is just beginning, and it will be a blast to take off that ventilator, strip down to just the shorts, and get out for some sessions with my teammates under the Norwegian sun (which, according to most Norwegians, is probably the most beautiful sun in the whole world). Thanks for checking in and have a great rest of your summer!

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The Dictionary of Cross Country Skiing

*Ben checking in.

The term “cross country skiing” is easy to define. It means “a painful physical exercise invented for the purpose of selling spandex”. However, ours is a sport fully populated with unique and confusing jargon, and so to help avoid the embarrassment of sounding like an Alpine skier, here is a pocket dictionary of cross country skiing terms you can study to be ready for the winter.

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bib (n.) – The numbered article of clothing worn by skiers during the race. It is meant to identify the athletes, and serve as either a corset, or a drag chute. There is no in between.

Birkie (n.) – The largest, most important, and distinguished ski race in North America, perhaps the world. So important, that the best racers in the world usually skip it rather than sully it with their actual participation. (See also: Fever)

classic (n.) – The older of the two styles of cross country skiing, it is characterized by linear motions and grippy wax underneath the skis, and looks similar to running on snow. Traditionalists respect this form so much they hardly even put it on the schedule any more.

double pole (v.) – A form of classic skiing, in which you use only your upper body to move forward, leaving out the body’s largest muscle groups. Seen by some as a form of cheating, it is being legislated out of the sport.

Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) (n.) – The international governing body of cross country skiing. Primarily responsible for taking in advertising revenue and ignoring disciplinary action.

fifty(50)-k (n.) – Formerly a method of torture used by medieval Scandinavians, the 50k is currently longest event contested at the World Championships and Olympics.

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klister (n.) – A type of grip wax used underfoot in classic skiing. It also has applications as an industrial adhesive, and in those glue traps people use for rats.

Ladies (adj.) – FIS’s preferred description for events contested by female athletes. Chosen as such because “Women’s” wasn’t pejorative enough.

live timing (n.) – The only way anyone outside of continental Europe can keep up on ski racing without paying roughly $1300 a month for NBC’s Super Extreme Gold Pass.

mashed potatoes (n.) – A common snow condition found at most World Cup events, characterized by a complete lack of solidity and most comparable to quicksand. Also, a delicious starch-based dish.

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Pisten Bully (n.) – A hybrid bulldozer-tractor machine used for grooming the ski trails before use. They would be the coolest machines ever seen if they didn’t top out at 13 miles per hour.

roller skiing (n.) – A summer translation of cross country skiing onto wheels, it is the primary training method of most cross country ski racers as well as the number one thing local drivers yell at skiers about.

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salt (v.) – An attempt to combat soft snow conditions by introducing salt to the snowpack and raising its freezing temperature so that the course will freeze solid at a higher temperature than normal; also (n.) the feeling athletes get when they race poorly.

skate (n.) – The second, and newer, of the two styles of cross country skiing, distinguished by side to side motions and a lack of grip wax on the skis. It is believed to have been invented by Bill Koch on the beaches of Hawaii after a long period of trial and error.

sprint (n.) – A racing event that was invented in the late 1990’s to allow people with fewer than 3 hours of free time to watch cross country skiing.

Technical Delegate (n.) – The race official responsible for monitoring technique, and disqualifying people for double poling too much.

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Wax Technician (n.) – A member of the frighteningly disciplined and sleep deprived race employed by skiers for the sole purpose of using wax to make their skis faster than usual. Known for living in small containers with dozens of other wax techs, and their ability to subsist solely on beef jerky and pretzels, they are like Keebler Elves, but normal sized and cuter.

Community

*Sophie checking in.

After a couple weeks of travel, it’s nice to be back in VT! Apparently I missed the crazy humidity when I was gone and was lucky enough to land just in time for a beautiful week of weather. I love traveling, but it was nice to be back home and get back into the routine of training with the team. We put in a solid week of training with a couple days of intervals, a speed session, some strength and some easy distance adventuring, but my favorite day was an afternoon we spent with the SMS Nordic juniors, BKL kids, and their families.

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Morning Ski with Jess (PC: George Forbes)

In the morning we did a long combi workout with our SMS T2 team and the SMS juniors where we skied from Manchester up to the Little Rock Pond Trailhead and then ran out and around the pond. In the afternoon we met up with the bigger crew of younger kids and their families and did a hike up Styles Peak and then finished off the day with a cookout at Hapgood Pond.

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It was so cool to see how many people from the community showed up for these events and inspiring to see how many young kids were psyched about skiing or just being outside and active in general. I had given some of the young girls who came up and cheered for the World Cup in Quebec City our race bibs from the weekend and it melted my heart when they showed up to the hike wearing their bibs! It seems like forever ago that I was that age and part of the West River BKL group, but it’s a good reminder that in no time they could be filling our shoes on the race scene. So thank you to everyone who came out and we hope to see some more of you this summer!

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Summit shot on top of Styles (PC: George Forbes) 
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Some of the girls getting to hold Jessie’s gold medal 🙂

Goals: Dream It, Plan It, Do It

*Ian checking in.

Two months into being a professional skier for Stratton Mountain School T2 Elite Team, I faced a stay-up-at-night question from somewhere deep inside myself: What are you chasing?

To be clear, I was not questioning the decision to move out East and making training and racing at the elite level my full-time job. I was just seeking an answer to my reply to close friends when they ask how I’m doing. Living the dream while chasing the dream man, it’s been great!

What was this dream I was chasing? I didn’t want to let myself off the hook with a fluff answer either. To be the best skier I can possibly be. To see my limits and break through them. To pursue excellence with no regrets. These are all great soundbites for an interview but I wanted a tangible goal, something that is real and that I can accomplish with certainty. Again, process goals are great and all, but they are nothing without an outcome that you are striving for.

I mulled over this goal question for a couple days during long training sessions and came to the conclusion that fits the rising tide of American skiing. I told myself that I will be on the Mens 4x10k relay team when it wins a medal at World Championships or the Olympics. Besides the obvious individual goals of making those teams, along with a host of other individual goals, I realized nothing fires me up more than being part of a team that has a shot at success. With Erik Bjornsen killing the 1st leg for all the relays this past year, along with the US boys gold medal at the Junior World Championships, we have an opportunity on the men’s side to match the excellence achieved by the women these past couple years.

During these hot and sweaty summer training days, I am keeping this goal in the forefront of my mind to not only push myself during the painful big workouts, but stay focused to do the small things correctly that often decide the difference between failure and success.

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The long road (trail) to winter.
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Staying focused on the goals at hand so that hopefully one day…
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…when I’m older I can look back at having accomplished them!

Train, Cool Off, Repeat

*Julia checking in.

We have reached the part of summer where things are hot and sweaty. Thankfully we train at 7:30AM every morning at Dartmouth in the summer to beat the heat and so that we finish in time before classes. I have also been taking advantage of my love for water by hanging out in bodies of water and using swimming as a mode of training on the super hot days.

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Doing some paddling with friends on Lake Morey to beat the heat on a hot weekend. 
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One of the best forms of recovery on a hot day.

This is my 3rd“sophomore summer” at Dartmouth and each summer has been quite different from the last. This summer I started off not dealing with elbow pain, but instead recovering from my elbow surgery that fixed my nerve. Taking class has kept me really busy and balanced as I have been working on getting back into things without over doing it too soon. The running terrain out the door is awesome so I have been taking advantage of all of the terrain available right out the door.

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Hot and sweaty bounding intervals!

Between workouts I have been hopping from one class to the next, cooling off in air-conditioned buildings while working out my brain and resting my body. Although summer is always a little busier than I would hope, I enjoy the fast pace and endless amount of things I want to do. This summer has been awesome since I have been able to make a few weekend trips down to Stratton to train and catch up with the team!

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Catching up with Sophie on a long run.
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And finding cold swimming holes to cool off in.
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Crafting prototypes for my Engineering class. 

Yesterday I roller skied with two poles for the first time since surgery and I am excited to get back to normal training soon! I am looking forward to being able to train normally with both the SMS and Dartmouth Team since I have had to modify my plan and do more solo workouts than usual. I love training with people so getting back to normal plan has got me very excited for the next training block ahead!

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Yay for 2 poles!

Around the World in 20 Days

*Jessie checking in.
It’s Jessie here, checking in from Minnesota where I’m sitting on the couch with my family’s dog, enjoying some cuddles for the 3 days that I’m here! I’ve been spending quite a lot of time on airplanes lately, and had some fun adventures in between good solid training sessions in Stratton.
The last week of June, I was training with the Norwegian National Team women in Bø, a few hours south of Oslo. It was awesome to join some of the strongest and fastest women in the world, and most importantly, to make even stronger friendships and get to know them better. Some of these girls and I have been racing together since 2011 World Juniors!
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Training with the Norwegian girls was hard work but also fun!

After flying back to the East coast after Norway camp, I had a great week of training with the team, and despite some crazy humid weather we laid down some solid training sessions. I even snuck in a one night camping trip with Wade!

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Enjoying hot dogs, the training fuel of champions…:)

Then I flew up to Alaska to see my longtime teammate Sadie Bjornsen get married, and it was also a fun way to reunite with many of my retired teammates that I haven’t seen in a long time! The ski community may be spread out over long distances and many years, but we are a close-knit family, for sure.

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Sadie the most beautiful bride (inside and out!) and her husband Jo.
On my way back to Stratton, I decided to take the opportunity to stop in Minnesota for a few days to check in with my family. I’m really close with them, and any chance I get I want to spend more time with them. Then it’ll be back to Stratton for – yes, really- a whole month in one place! Amazing!
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Flying into Minneapolis!
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Caption: Snuggling with Napoleon, our dog.

Colorado 

*Kyle checking in.

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Gone fishin’

It has been a nice two week block for me here in Boulder. It is great to be back and to see Kelsey again. The first week was my recovery week following our first big training block in Stratton, so it was really nice to relax and go for some chill runs/hikes in the mountains. We got to go have dinner with Paddy on the weekend and we even did a little fishing. This past week, we spent a few days up in the Frisco area and it was really nice to see that place again as I spent a decent amount of time there before I went to college with my good friend Tucker McCrerey. Overall it has been a great trip filled with a lot of relaxing and a bit of training too. I can’t wait to be back here again, but now it’s off to Stratton for another block of training.

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Catching up with Paddy!
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Track laps.
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Checking out some different roads. 

Giving Back

*Alayna checking in.
A few weeks ago I got an email from one of directors at the central cross country ski association asking if I would be willing to join the central region for their Regional Elite Group camp. I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to give back to the ski community that has provided so much for me over the years and decided to take him up on this offer. Luckily, I made it home a few days before the camp started and was able to spend the 4th of July with some friends and family. It’s been a tradition that my mom and a bunch of her friends spend the 4th on an island in Lake Superior called Madeline Island. When I was in high school, my sister and I joined her for these weekend getaways, but it had been a few years since I got to tag along. I was very excited to get back to this tradition and spend 3 days on the island with some incredible women who have been role models throughout my whole life!
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Taking the ferry across Lake Superior to Madeline Island.
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Sunset from the island, right out our back door.

After a relaxing mini vacation with my mom, I traveled over to Ironwood, MI and met up with 22 junior skiers for the REG Camp as well as 25 U14 kids for “Dream Camp.” I’ve been working mostly with the REG athletes as a “mentor athlete/coach” so far but have been having a great time interacting with all of the kids. We started off the week with some testing: an uphill run, agility course, and double pole TT. After all of this intensity I’m excited to get into the distance skiing and interval workouts so I can really get to know the kids more and help them with various techniques or training cues. In addition to that, I’ve been encouraging them to ask me a lot of questions because I want to act as a sounding board for all of them; what to do after high school, how to look at college teams, what to expect when they transition to a college team, etc. I’ve been trying to find the right balance of leading by example, while also making sure the athletes all understand that I was sitting exactly where they are just a few years ago…

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Bryan Fish and I leading an early morning mobility session. 

 

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The whole group after a hard uphill running time trial.
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Cooling off in a nearby river after a solid afternoon workout 🙂

It’s been a really great start to the camp so far and I can’t wait for more to come!

 

 

 

 

The Hot and Humid Grind

*Simi checking in.

How is it already July?! It seems like last week that I was writing a recap about our on-snow camp in Bend in May, high-mountain ski adventures in Colorado in April, and how I was really looking forward to getting the summer training season started in earnest. Well, surprise surprise, it’s almost mid-July and we’re much closer to our first snow storm than we are from last season’s final race. The hours are flying past, especially since most of our non-training time is taken up by planning an October wedding. And to be honest, I’ve done about 1/100th of what Soph and her parents have done. But whenever a hole needs dug or wood needs split and stacked, I’m there!

I have to say, I’m a getting a little sick of slapping bugs off my exposed skin every time I step outside, and I could do without some of those ridiculously humid 90° days, and I think I’ve been double the mileage on all of my normal training runs because I’ve been avoiding so many mud pits, but other than all of that it’s been an awesome summer! Ha, but seriously, it has been a really great summer so far. And if you don’t have some of those really annoying and challenging things to deal with on a daily basis, you just end up getting too soft anyway.

For the most part we’ve just been grinding away in Stratton, getting in a lot of quality rollerski workouts, gym sessions, and the occasional Landgrove bike ride. But I have gotten a couple of cool chances to sneak away to the bigger mountains on either side of Vermont and quench my thirst for adventure a bit. A few weeks ago I headed northeast to the Whites in New Hampshire. Full disclosure: I actually headed up there for a bachelorette party… Sophie’s cousin Alexa got married last weekend in Putney, VT and a couple weeks prior some of her favorite girlfriends (me, Soph’s brother Austin, Izzy’s boyfriend Dave, Alexa’s brother Tyler, Tyler’s partner Andrew, and Soph) all met up for some fun. The fact that 5 of the 6 people at her bachelorette party were guys was a great sign I thought. Dave and I ran from Lincoln Woods to Lafayette via Mt Flume, and with blue bird skies and low humidity we picked a great day to get up high. We met Soph and Alexa on top of Mt Lafayette, and then made the steep but quick decent back to the car in Franconia Notch to meet the others for a cold beer by the river.

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Dave, Alexa, Soph and me on top of Mt Lafayette in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

A few weeks later, after pounding lots of pavement around Stratton on my rollerskis, I decided it was time to get away to the higher mountains again. Going northwest this time, I made the trek up to the Adirondacks to do the Great Range Traverse outside of Keene Valley. The adventure has been on my tick list for quite some time now. And I felt like it was finally time to make the short drive over there, set the alarm for 4:30, run 28 miles and 10,000’ vertical on one of the most technical trails in America, and then drive home in time for dinner. Even though it was above 90% humidity all day, and it was 92°F when I got back down to Keene Valley, it was one of the coolest runs I’ve ever done and I’m already counting down the days until I can get back there and do it again (in slightly cooler and dryer conditions).

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Selfie on top of Gothics Mountain in the Adirondacks. The Great Range Traverse takes the undulating ridge all the way to the summit of Mt Marcy (the highest peak in New York), which is the peak with the speck of snow remaining in the far distance.

Thanks for checking in and see you all again in early August!