Back to Europe!

The start of the season is here! We flew up to the edge of the Arctic Circle, to Rovaniemi, Finland. Land of reindeer, Santa’s “official airport”, and early season skiing!

The girls ready for our first ski in Rovaniemi! (photo from Pete D., our PT)

Only, climate change is crazy, and there was no natural snow to be found! The side of the trail was full of spongy green moss and green bushes and perfectly clear running trails through the woods, and one of the days it was raining and 40 degrees F. Holy smokes! But the organizers here were doing everything they could, and they rolled out enough snow to save a 1.4km loop from the original 9km of trail they had from man-made snow. We were extremely grateful for everything they did to make the training work out!

Grateful for the chance to get to ski at all given what the weather was doing! (photo from Coach Cork)

The sun rises around 10 and sets before 3, so it’s pretty dark! The trails were all light, and the hotel had really bright lights to help you feel more awake. But we did borrow Rosie Brennan’s sun-lamp to stare into one afternoon when we had a good case of jet-lag tired feelings going on!

Ida and I staring into a sun lamp. (photo from Sophie)

Tomorrow, we’re driving from Rovaniemi to Ruka, Finland, only a couple hours away. Then this Saturday and Sunday we’ll have our first World Cup races of the year! It will be a classic sprint and a 10km classic for the women, 15km classic for the men. Wish us luck!

One of the days this week we actually got to see the sun…and it was beautiful! This photo of the sun just peeking up over the horizon was taken at 12:10pm. We really are far North! 
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Train. Rest. Repeat!

Here we are, pounding the roller ski track in Soldier Hollow in our last US Team training camp of the year! How is it already late October? This is nuts, people! It’s hard to believe that on November 12th, I’m going to be getting on a plane…and not coming back to the US until late March. I’m excited for the season, ready to get back into the thrill of racing and see all my friends on the World Cup again, but there is one more month of work to do first.

USA Team jumping shot! (photo by Reese Brown/SIA Images)

Thursday and Friday we had back-to-back time trials. We had a skate sprint time trial first, with round-robin style heats so everyone raced the course 4 times. And wow, I somehow managed to forget (or trick my brain) in between New Zealand and now. I managed to forget how hard racing actually is on your body! It HURTS, you know? Pulling up to the line before the final, my legs felt shaky and I thought I might actually puke, and I couldn’t really feel my toes.

Hammering in intervals with Rosie Brennan! (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

But then I went out and hammered as hard as I could anyways, and it turns out that even when I’m convinced my body is about to fall apart, somehow that darn thing keeps on going! We’re so much stronger than we think, and our bodies are capable of so much more than we realize. Having a time trial to play around and push myself in every round was a great way to not only practice that race feeling, but to remind myself that the “pain cave” is my specialty, and it feels so satisfying to dig deep and then dig some more, and realize that I can handle it.

It feels so good to be done with intervals!!! (photo fro Matt Whitcomb)

Today we did a 12.6km for the women and 16.8km for the men. We did this on purpose, because FIS is considering adding in those distances, based on careful focus groups that determined the ideal race length for fans. These changes will go into place starting in the fall of 2019, so we need to start adjusting our bodies now! Just. Kidding. But did I get you going there, just for a second? We did those distances because that’s how long three laps of the paved roller ski course in Solder Hollow is. The real answer is so boring!

Sadie and I working on our double pole. (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

While racing at altitude is tricky because you have less oxygen and can “blow up” or “hit the wall” a lot faster than at sea level, I appreciate the chance to practice here. It’s good for me to get to play around in a low-stakes atmosphere to see exactly what it feels like right before I’m about to blow up. And as we near the end of camp, I’m feeling really good about where the team is at! Everyone’s working hard, in a good place, and looking good.

Team L3 skate intervals on a cold snowy day! (photo from Andy Newell)

But sometimes, it can be really hard to feel confident when there’s not a lot you can actually measure. We don’t have a 400 time on the track to compare in the off-season. We’re not swimmers, where we could go off a time to see if we’re in the right place. Our roller ski courses and wheels are all slightly different speeds, and even a time trial course on the pavement can be drastically faster or slower depending on the weather!

Working with Cork to improve my technique (photo from Reese Brown/SIA Images)

So what do we do, when we don’t have a way to really know where we are? Train hard, train smart, and have a little trust in the process. We’re not robots, after all. It adds a little bit of excitement, that edge of uncertainty. I do the absolute best I can, and if I’m giving this sport everything I have in training, and listening to my body, then I’m doing my job right. I also like to focus on getting the best recovery I can as well! When I go do do a strength workout in the gym, or do 6 x 4 minutes all-out intervals up a hill, those things don’t actually make me faster by themselves. I’m tearing my muscles apart and breaking my body down, and only by resting and recovering will my body come back stronger and faster. Which makes getting enough sleep basically one of the most important parts of my job!

Resting in a “cuddle puddle” with Hannah, Hailey and Julia after the time trial!

When I was training in high school, I’d hear that I needed to be sleeping better and longer, and I’d sort of roll my eyes – hey, I was a teenager! That’s what we do! – and think “but I have so many things I need to be DOING!” But hey, you know what? Mom was right. (She’s always right, by the way). Without enough sleep, I wasn’t recovering and getting the full benefit of the training I was doing. When I turned pro, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt once I started sleeping 9 hours a night, and once I had some down time in the middle of the day to do things like stretch, foam roll or ice tub. Honestly, if I could go back and tell my 15 year old self one thing to make me a better athlete.. it’d be this: sleep more. Everything else can wait, because you’ll do a better job if you’re rested.

The team at the Warren Miller movie the other night…because we’re IN IT! Sometimes you need that balance of fun things in your life along with the rest. (although I DID sleep for 8.5 hours that night anyways)!

I realize this sounds sort of ironic, coming from the girl who appears on social media to be EVERYWHERE and doing All Of The Things that a person could possibly do. And I recognize that the amount of extra work I’ve been taking on post-Olympics is only sustainable in the short term, so don’t worry, you’ll see me doing less next year! But in between training and helping promote the sport I love and my sponsors whom I love for supporting me in my career and also helping to grow this incredibly fun sport, I’ve been working on resting. I make sure to come to every training session ready to go, and in between training sessions I get off my feet and have a little down time. I look for ways to sleep better, to totally chill out in the middle of the day, to relax both my body and my brain!

Enjoying a really pretty sunset run!

Back into VT training!

It’s good to be back! I’ll be honest, beating back the jet lag and time change wasn’t easy, but now that the team is recovered from our epic New Zealand training camp it’ll be nice to have a few weeks with everyone here to get some good solid training in at home! These next few weeks will be a good chance to focus on getting back into intensity training and shorter, harder intervals after some great volume in NZ. We got a chance to do some FIS racing there which was awesome, but also reminded us that it’s time to start shaping our fitness into more race-ready pacing as we get closer to November!

Getting some intervals done on a slightly soggy day! (image from Reese Brown/SIA Images)

But while we were in our recovery week, I went on a really fun and relaxing camping trip with my boyfriend, Wade, to Bourne Pond! It was funny hiking in and camping in a place that’s only a few miles from home as the crow flies, but it was a beautiful part of the Green Mountains that we hadn’t yet seen!

These signs are adorable.

It was really nice to hike in nice and slow and take the time to really enjoy the trail! Usually, we’re running all the trails we go on, which is super awesome, but sometimes it’s fun to slow it down a little and notice more.

Wade and I enjoying the slow hike in.

We REALLY slowed down life with the hammock by the pond! After a lot of travel it felt pretty good to unwind! And now that I’m rested, I’m super excited to be back in training with the team!

Some pretty cool clouds in the lake!

NZ Update

I’m sure updates from New Zealand have been hard to ignore, and you might even be a little sick of hearing about them by now, but I’ll try to give you a quick update on some behind the scenes events of New Zealand. It’s hard not to talk about how lucky we were this year with sunny weather and endless amounts of trails, but you can only ski so many hours a day, so what else did we do while we were down under?
Alayna at “THE tree” in Wanaka (photo from Kelsey)
1. Wanaka – there is this lovely little town called Wanaka that is about a 35 minute drive from the Snow Farm, and we spent a couple days in town recovering during the middle of camp and a couple off afternoons wandering around town. If Wanaka weren’t all the way across the world, I would move there in a heartbeat. It’s set on a beautiful Lake with beautiful running trails that stretchalong the perimeter, there are delicious coffee shops littered throughout the town, a big grocery store with every kind of Tim Tam you could imagine, and manageable sized population.
Beachy sunsets (photo from Julia)
2. Sunset/sunrise walks – I never really feel trapped at the Snowfarm, but we do spend most of our time either on the ski trails or contained in the same building, so getting outside for a stroll when the sun is rising or setting is a lovely way to explore what else the Snowfarm has to offer. The sunrises and sunsets up at the Snowfarm are unbelievable with the mountain settings and the beautiful colors.
Kelsey, Alayna and KO enjoying the beautiful mountain sunset! (photo by Julia)
3. Naps – We put in a lot of hours of skiing at the Snowfarm, so whether you’re a napper or not, it was important to put your feet up for a few hours in between sessions and try to recover. Sometimes you can even multitask with a nap and a movie at the same time!
Simi multitasking
4. Food – The food at the snowfarm was amazing and we were lucky to have three hot meals prepared for us each day. A lot of training results in a lot of eating, so we were very grateful for all the tasty treats that were made up for us every day.
YUM!
5. Goofing off – We were down in New Zealand to train, but it’s always important to keep it fun. Whether it’s a team movie night, a ping pong game, a game of bananagrams, or a mid-ski photo opportunity, we took the time to appreciate the people we were surrounded by. I am feeling incredibly lucky to be on a team with such awesome people who keep each other smiling day in and day out. By the end of camp, there’s something pretty special about cracking a joke and watching the tired giggles unfold!
🙂
Tired goofy girls group
We’re all making our way back to the states and looking forward to that beautiful fall weather we hope is just around the corner!

Hello from New Zealand!

Winter in August is something special. After months of dry-land training in Stratton it is quite a shock to the system to jump right into mid-winter conditions here on the Snow Farm. New Zealand has had an excellent winter and as such all of the trails here are open and in perfect condition. 

A happy crew heading out to Mount Pisa
One of the special things about this camp is that it brings together several club teams from around the US. It’s going to be a fun three weeks coordinating sessions with Craftbury’s Green Team and Sun Valley’s Gold Team and learning from the other skiers and coaches out on the trails. 
Perfect skiing!
Most of the team is staying at the Snow Farm for just over three weeks. The primary focus of the training camp is to put in lots of quality hours on snow to dial in technique goals and get a big dose of volume based training. Towards the end of our time here we will transition to more intensity sessions and jump into races at New Zealand Winter Games. The Winter Games is a three day race series with two distance races and one sprint. Stayed tuned for updates from the rest of camp and the upcoming races!

SMS Summer Camps!

It’s your favorite time of year again…last week was SMS summer camp week! Although it was sweaty, hot and sometimes raining, I saw so many smiles and hard work and fun happening throughout both camps. There was the BKL kids camp, with the younger skiers, and then we had the junior camp with the older kids. It was incredible with over 60 kids at the BKL camp and over 50 at the junior camp!

Sophie leads a group of roller skiers at BMD. (photo from SMS)

Every summer, the SMS Elite team members try to schedule our training around the camp so that we can come visit for a workout or two, eat a meal with the campers, and most importantly give all the skiers a chance to ask questions about what it’s like to travel and race, to be a professional skier, and (of course) the timeless question…”what do you eat for breakfast on race day”?

It was awesome seeing kids faces light up when I handed the medal out to be passed around (photo from George Forbes)

With our big three week, ski-your-face-off training camp in New Zealand about to begin, the team was doing a wide variety of training that week as everyone needed to do what their body required for them to show up to New Zealand after a full day of flights rested and ready to go. But I was super happy to have had the chance to see both camps in action!

Saying good-bye (with photos, too) to the BKL age camp! (photo from Kelsey Phinney)

And now, I’m off to the airport! No, really, my Lyft ride from Boston arrives in 8 minutes. Wish us luck Down Under as we get back in touch with the feeling of being on snow again!

 

I got to demo the super fun pump tracks that Justin Beckwith made for camp! (photo from Justin)

Lake Placid camp, part two

Well, there’s definitely no way to entertain you better than KO letting you in on the secrets of camp and “Fat Roy”, the possibly pregnant house cat at our awesome rental house. So, you should probably go back and read the latest blog post if you haven’t already. I’ll just talk workouts instead. Because we’ve been doing quite a few of them at this camp!

Big train of girls on a distance double pole! (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

Often, our team training camps are two weeks, because of the travel involved getting to snow or a camp location. Once you get there…may as well stay a while and make it worth it! But since this camp is more local and a short drive away for SMS, Craftsbury, and the US Ski team members on both teams, we made it a shorter but more intense camp. With a 9 day camp, we’ve been doing intervals every other day, and in between doing some fun long runs in the Adirondack mountains, speed work or easy distance training.

Hiking up Mt. Marcy with the girls!

Some of the key workouts for intensity included a skate team sprint, which was super fun! We partnered the older athletes with the younger ones, and my partner was Lina with the Craftsbury team. We also did some super hard double pole intervals, which was challenging but great in a big group of girls changing leads.

Lina coming in for the tag (photo from Coach Pat)

This morning we did a long run up and over Mt. Marcy, and the views were spectacular with a clear day!

Me, Ida and Sophie

Ida, Sophie and I hiked our pink wigs supporting Kikkan to the top and did a happy dance for her there!

Sophie crossing the “Indiana Jones” bridge

A few of the group made it a longer loop and went over to Avalanche lake, which I love because of the narrow boardwalk along the side of the cliff over the water.

What a cool place to run!

Check back in later to hear the next team member’s update!

Jessie

 

How to beat the heat: a guidebook

The forecast in Vermont tells us that we are currently in a “heat wave”, but this is slightly misleading. Today the main floor of our house was 93 degrees Fahrenheit; this is not a heat wave so much as a death sentence. Obviously fighting to stay cool in these satanic temperatures is a losing proposition, but we at the Ski Haus have made some bold strides in the last few days and we thought we’d share them with you.

Alayna gets some ice cold water from Coach Pat

 

  1. Stay hydrated. Drinking water is key in keeping cool. As you lose water to dehydration, your body temperature rises, so replacing fluids is essential. If your body is well hydrated you’ll be better able to sweat which is your body’s best defense against the heat.

  2. Eat lots of popsicles. This is easily the most delicious way to stop yourself from melting. Any flavor will be useful in the cooling process, but I have it on good authority that Blue Raspberry is the most effective.

  3. Use a water gun filled with ice water to spray yourself during the heat of the day. This is a favorite of Coach Pat.

  4. Get air conditioning. Seriously, what is this eastern obsession with forgoing the comforts of modern science?

  5. Stick your head out of the car window while moving. Dogs do this because it works! You’ll never feel better than when that breeze hits your face. DISCLAIMER: Do not try this while you are driving, passengers only.

  6. Dig a large hole. We all know that basements remain cooler than the rest of the house because heat rises. So why not go even lower than your basement? Dig yourself a home worthy of a hobbit and you’ll feel back to normal in no time.

  7. Buy a five-gallon bucket of Wilcox Maple Walnut ice cream. Use an ice cream scoop (or spoon) to create a big hole in the middle. Then turn the bucket upside-down, and put it on your head, using the handle as a chin strap. You’ll immediately notice a difference in how hot your head feels. As the ice cream melts, feel free to walk around saying, “I’m cool.”

  8. Take a kitchen knife and carefully cut a watermelon into equal halves. Plunge your bare feet into each piece and feel your feet get colder by the second. Wear these “melon slippers” the rest of the day to keep your feet frigid, and remember, if you get hungry you’ll have a delicious snack close by.

    Pro Tip: Use a pineapple if you’re looking to get better traction.

 

So there you have it! Eight ways to survive a heat wave from three desperate skiers. Best of luck!

 

Finishing a big week!

It’s been an awesome, solid week of training here in Stratton! Now that we’re all back in one place (well, almost, but we get Alayna here tomorrow and then the family will be together), it’s been awesome to get back into a rhythm of regular training. We usually do interval sessions and strength (in the afternoons) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a longer over-distance training session on Sunday, and in between we have some easy distance training or speed sessions. Sounds simple, and we like to keep it that way, especially when we’re building up to more and more hours!

 

That face you make when the hurdles are a little bit too close! Jessie, Julia and Kyle led foot agility before strength this Thursday.

A pretty cool thing about our program is that the senior SMST2 athletes lead the juniors in agility warmups before strength a couple times per week. We get to share fun drills that have helped us, make up some new slightly ridiculous drills, and get creative on ways to get better at balance and technique!

Sophie, Simi and Julia led agility warmup on skate skis this Saturday, with some fun partner band pulls!

We capped off this bigger week of training with a really fun roll-run combination workout. We started with a nice flatter double pole that ended with about 25 minutes of climbing up to the AT trail junction and Little Rock Pond.

The girls train double poling their way closer to the swimming pond.

After switching to running gear (and eating a wide variety of snacks, including but not limited to banana bread slices) we ran a loop that went right through Little Rock Pond. Of course, the yearly cliff jumping into the cool water had to be carried out, and we all had some pretty unique styles!

Sophie with “the ninja jump”
Paddy with “the flying squirrel”
Jessie with the “but coach you said to get more forward!” jump
And Simi just making the rest of us look like uncoordinated fools with his sick tricks.

Nobody belly flopped, and we’re focusing on body care now that we have a day off before starting in on next week! And last but certainly not least…a Happy Father’s Day shoutout to all the rad Dad’s out there! Thanks for all you do for us, taking us to practices and races and helping us be better human beings every day.

Springing back into training!

All right, everyone! It’s TRAINING SEASON once again! After a long, fun season and then a nice break and some time off in April, it’s been such a blast getting back into the swing of things and getting back into training once again. I spent the last two weeks of May with my family in Minnesota, and it was great getting to roller ski once again (it feels so strange the first few steps on roller skis! They’re so short compared to skis!). I got to ski over all my favorite loops and interval hills on my old stomping grounds, and go for long runs in the Afton State Park. I was often joined by my high school coach and her daughter, my Mom on her bike, or my high school friends so it was easy to stay excited and motivated, sharing the hard work of training with others.
I was also quite a busy little bee, running around the Twin Cities doing lots of events! It’s been so much fun getting to share the excitement of the past winter with the ski community I grew up with. Seeing the faces of young skiers as they get to hold the Gold Medal is priceless, and also the best feeling ever. You can practically see their goals getting set, their excitement to get outside and get rocking and rolling with their teammates growing.
At the Afton event last weekend! (photo from John Kaul)
The day after I arrived I gave a talk to over 700 employees at 3M, then the next day I went to do a meet and greet at a Slumberland Furniture store. I drove up to Winona to do a big meet and greet with Fastenal, and did a live Facebook feed with MilkBone and my dog, Leo. I did another meet and greet at a local Xfinity store, and then on Saturday the 12th we had the big “Jessie Diggins day” in Afton, Minnesota! There were a couple thousand people there to celebrate cross country skiing, try the new ice cream flavor the local shop named after me, and get a poster. So needless to say…between training twice a day, it’s been quite the busy spring…and that was only the last two weeks!
Campaigning for a MN World Cup!
I had such a blast getting to throw the (ceremonial, of course!) first pitch for the Minnesota Twins team. To be totally honest, my hand-eye coordination is TERRIBLE and I am such a poor throw that my boyfriend Wade took me out to the field near his house in Boston for throwing lessons, because I was so nervous! And I have to say, he’s one amazing coach. Not that I’m biased, of course. But he helped me get the basics so that I actually made it to the plate…against all reasonable expectations I had for myself. I just wanted to do better than 50 Cent’s throw.
The serious face! (photo from the Twins)
Psyched to put on my own jersey! (photo from Erika Flowers)
To wrap up a great visit home, I went to speak to my old High School, Stillwater. It was so fun to come back after eight years, and get to inspire and hopefully motivate the current group of students! It was also such a treat to see my teachers and get to share the medal with them, because after all, they’re the ones who helped me catch up with all my homework when I was flying around the World for ski races all year long!
Students psyched to hold the gold medal!
Speaking to the class
I’d have to say the very best thing that happened out of all my time at home was that I got to help grow excitement and find the right sponsors to partner with the Loppet Foundation as we put in a bid to host the first World Cup event in the USA in 17 years! All the hard work paid off, and just this week our bid was awarded for a race in March of 2020, in Minneapolis at Theodore Wirth Park. I am so, so proud of all the work that the Loppet Foundation has taken on and so extremely grateful to all the companies that are signing on to sponsor the event. More to come on this later, but for now it’s enough to say that it means the world to me that all the junior skiers all over the US will have the chance to finally see their heroes racing right in front of them, at the highest level of racing in the World. What better way to inspire the next generation, than to bring their heroes right to them so they can have a front row seat to the World Cup races?
Right now, I’m in New Orleans for a day with the Smuckers company, before flying on to Bend, Oregon for our first US team camp of the season! I’m so, so excited to see my SMS T2 teammates, my national team teammates, and all the coaches. I really miss everyone when we’re going our separate ways in the spring, so it’s going to be good to get the crew back together. Check back soon for updates from Bend!
Fueling up before a training run with beignets in the French Quarter!