Racing in Beitostoelen!

It has been 22 days since I left for Norway, and it has been a whirlwind of amazing training (check out the Newells’ posts on life in Sjuesjoen), some choice tourist activities, and three days of racing in Beitostoelen at the Norwegian opening FIS races.  I just finished watching Wonder Woman side by side with my mom, who flew over to Oslo to be my number one fan whilst racing amongst Norway’s best.

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The Royal Palace in Oslo!
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A morning walk around Frogner Park– full tourist.  Frogner park consists of 212 sculptures, depicting age and gender relations in the full nude.

Reflecting on last season, one thing I felt sure about was my personal need to log more on snow time before the first races of the season that “matter.”  So when I figured out that the two week training camp in Sjusjoen would allow me three race starts…I dove right in to the lion’s den. The “Beito” weekend brings the top names in Norway—Klaebo, Bjorgen, Sundby, Falla, Weng…—plus everyone else.  These races represent the only opportunities for other Norwegians to make it onto the World Cup, and as such the best individuals arrive tuned up to hammer out two distance races and a sprint.

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I “skied with” Marit for an easy lap on course preview day.  She is an impeccable racer- such a smooth skier and strong athlete.

So, I was a little nervous.  I had just begun doing some more ski specific intensity, and honestly my only goal the first day was not to make an idiot out of myself.  The Madshus World Cup tech graciously worked with me for race wax, but I didn’t do any ski testing and instead just relied on his expertise and my ski guessing.  Thankfully conditions were easy waxing, so I headed out for the 10K classic at what I thought was a competitive pace.  I ended up 31st- a solid result.  I felt good, I skied well, but was instantly stunned at just how many fast Norwegians there were.  Even the girl who started bib one (they seeded the race slowest to fastest) looked pretty good.

The next day brought a sprint, and I went out with a lot more intensity after seeing the suffer speed of the prior day.  I made a couple mistakes, and missed qualifying by less than two tenths of a second.  However I was thrilled with 90% of my qualifier, especially since my focus has been a little more on distance skiing this training season.  After a quick lunch, my mom and I went back to the venue to watch the heats.  Again, inspiring would be a disservice.  There were hundreds of fans, cheering just as hard for Klaebo as the thirtieth qualifier.

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Heading out on my sprint qualifier.  Maybe if I’d had my braid tucked into my headband I would have been .2 seconds faster.

On the final day I was faced with my albatross- a 10K individual start skate.  But after watching two days of top performances, I was starting to get an idea of what being competitive in this field required.  I went out hard and never looked back.  Of course there were times where I could have skied a little smarter, worked a different technique longer or took corners better.  But it was the first time in quite some time that I really raced the entire time.  I pushed into the finish and spent a solid thirty seconds on my back watching my breathe curl into the air for reassurance I was still alive.  I finished the day in 19th— my best international performance to date, and very pleased with my company.

It was the most amazing way to finish off my trip to Norway, and an even better way to kick of my season.  I’m headed home for a week (I’ll be home for Thanksgiving for the first time since 9th grade!!), and then to West Yellowstone to kick off the races that “matter.”  We will keep you posted, and be sure to cheer on our World Cup Contingent as they take on the Ruka Triple this weekend!

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Made it to Finland!

Hey ski fans! Jessie here, checking in from Rovaniemi, Finland! A large chunk of the US team just landed here for a week long training camp before heading to the World Cup opening weekend in Ruka/Kuusamo, Finland. That’s where Sophie, Simi and I will meet up with Andy again when he travels from Beito! We picked Rovaniemi because it’s Santa’s official airport and village. Just kidding! We picked it because they have a great training center here with 9 kilometers of snow (man-made and saved up over the summer) and they have a big sport hotel with apartments and an awesome gym for us to use.

Rooming with Sophie, Ida and Liz!
Coaching my high school team before I left home!

We always fly to Rovaniemi on the way to Kuusamo, so this year, we knew that we wanted to train somewhere with a little more terrain without having to add a lot of travel. It made sense to end our 25 hour travel day right at 25 hours and save the last bus ride to Kuusamo for next week! It’s been really fun for me to finally see the town that we always drive past but never got to ski in. There are lights everywhere because the sun doesn’t come up until 9am, and it’s dark by 4pm. So lighted trails are a must! There are also Santa things everywhere. Our hotel is called “Santa-sport”, and there are photos of reindeer above the door. It’s a pretty cheerful theme!

Liz in our living room. We have to keep the TV on because the internet goes through the TV!

As we adjust to the jet lag, it’s easy to get in a rhythm through training. When it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning I just walk to breakfast knowing that I have to be ready to ski and meet my tech to test skis so I can’t be late. And when I get tired in the afternoon I can head out for a shorter training session to stay awake!

Happy to be on snow!

It’s been really fun to be on snow again, but for me the best part is seeing all my teammates again and having almost everyone in one place to catch up! I’m really looking forward to the World Cup mini-tour we race next weekend: a classic sprint, 10km individual start classic and a pursuit start 10km race. Keep checking in with the blog to see how we’re training and where we’re at!

 

 

First Race Starts

As Erika mentioned in her blog we have been enjoying some epic early season skiing conditions here in Norway for the past few weeks. Cabin living and long skis in Sjusjoen is about as good as it gets but it’s important not to forget why we are here to begin with. To get some early season race starts in!

 

Racing on rollerskis is similar but at the same time it always takes some adjustments to get back to real on snow racing. Technique is a little different, snow speeds and conditions feel different, and sometimes it feels like you are using completely different muscles on snow.  This was the main reason I traveled over to Europe early this year, to make all these small adjustments and jump in the Norwegian FIS openers in Beitostolen.

Skiing for days!

After a week of easier training we were fortunate enough to jump in a time trial with Devon Kershaw and his crew Team Telemark. For me this was the first race type effort on snow and I was grateful for the practice leading up to Beitostolen. The TT was a 12k skate race with a solid group of fast guys to contend with, but at the same time pretty relaxed. Individual start, no race waxing, 8am start, basic and simple.

Amazing cabin sunsets

Erika, Hoff, and I jumped in the TT and I was happy with how it went, but also happy it was a ‘practice race’.  For me pacing distance races is always a little different on snow than on rollerskis because the terrain changes are so much more dramatic on snow.  Real ski courses have so many transitions, short hills, and steep climbing that racing terrain on ski trails can be a bit different than the roads we are used to training on all summer.  It was the perfect practice before the real ‘practice races’ this weekend in Beitostolen.

Doing some intensity

Today we traveled from Sjusjoen to Beitostolen, just a few hours driving North of Lillehammer. Hoff, Annie, and I will all be racing here this weekend and even though the atmosphere was super chill for our Sjusjoen TT things will be a little different come the weekend. Anyone who tells you they don’t get nervous pulling on a bib for the first race of the year probably doesn’t have a pulse. I also think I’ll be super excited considering the circumstances. Last year I really wanted to start the Beitostolen races but came down with an injured elbow and had to sit out, so this year I’ll be even more stoked to toe the line.

The first race for me will be a Classic sprint on Saturday, and realistically one of the most stacked races I’ll participate in during the next month. Norway uses the Beitostolen races as selection for the Kuusamo World Cup and the Lillehammer nations group quota so for a lot of these skiers it’s their only path to the World Cup all season. No World Cup = no shot at the Olympics, so you can imagine that domestic skiers in Norway have been tuning up for this classic sprint.

My goals will be to practice my pre race routine, dial in a good warm up, and hopefully practice some very competitive classic sprint heats before the World Cup in Kuusamo. I can feel my hip-felxors getting sore already! Going to be fun!

Shooshin in Sjusjoen

Loving the snow!

Two weeks ago, Annie, Andy and I packed our bags and skis for the winter and headed to the birthplace of cross-country skiing and brown cheese: Norway! In an effort to log some extra on-snow time before the start of the season, we traveled to Sjusjoen, a small ski town about 2 hours north of Oslo. Noah Hoffman also joined us in Sjusjoen to prepare for the first period of World Cups.  Every spring, Sjusjoen ski organizers save a mansion-sized pile of snow to lay out on the race tracks the following October, thereby guaranteeing early season skiing. We traveled to Norway on October 29th and a massive snowstorm welcomed our arrival. In addition to the manmade snow loop on the race trails, the natural snow opened up an additional 100 kilometers or so of skiing so we’ve been able to adventure to our heart’s delight.

Adventuring with Goob on a snowy Sunday OD

People often ask why Norway is so dominant in the sport of cross-country skiing. One trip to Sjusjoen pretty much explains it. The town is built around Nordic skiing. Perfectly groomed trails crisscross the rolling hills dotted by candlelit cabins, small trees and lakes, and thousands of skiers. On any given Sunday, families take to the trails, trading football for fast ski tracks. Dogs with harnesses whip down the trail towing their owners in hot pursuit while young parents tow children barely coordinated enough to walk, half skiing have falling down the track. Anyone from age 6 onward has pretty much flawless technique. In fact I’m pretty sure the 8 year olds could make an instructional video on par with Bryan Fish’s Level 100 clinic. Perhaps even more impressive however are the older skiers, gray hair, gators pulled up around their calves, slightly bent at the waist and passing you while you stop to drink some water. You usually find the older skiers miles from the nearest trailhead and while they aren’t the fastest skiers out there, they also never stop moving. Like the tortoise they will beat the hare any day.

Fireside recovery

A quick look at your phone shows GPS location for each of Sjusjoen’s two dozen or so groomers. A green track means the trail was groomed in the last 0-3 hours, orange means 3-12 hours, purple 12-48 hours and blue, well, don’t even bother-that trail was groomed two days ago. It’s actually hard to ski less than two hours…an average loop takes 3+ hours and you could easily ski for 8 hours straight without doubling back a single time. Add cozy cabins complete with saunas and wood fires and waffle makers and you are looking at cross-country skier heaven. And as one Norwegian reminded me…its barely even November!

Early morning intervals with some athletes from the local Lillehammer Ski Club

To say we’ve enjoyed ourselves is an understatement. We’ve skied every single day, sometimes twice, and filled our downtime mastering our best Norwegian waffle recipe, trying brown cheese on pretty much everything, making fires and listening to the new Taylor Swift album on repeat. As Annie would say…it’s pure fire. We’ve also been able to join up with a few different skiers in the area for our intensity workouts (even though it has meant starting before the sunrise some mornings). Unfortunately we only have one more day shooshin’ around in Sjusjoen but that also means racing is right around the corner! I’m headed back to Bozeman on Tuesday to get ready for the first SuperTours in Montana while Annie and Andy head to Beitostolen with Noah for some race practice in the Norwegian season opening FIS races. Stay tuned for more!

Stellar sunrises
Stellar skiing
And even more stellar skiing

 

 

Fall tune-up

Early November is a funny time of year. You scrape ice off your windshield every morning, yet there’s still green grass in the front lawn. If you’re not home from training by 4:45 p.m. you get caught in the pitch black dark, yet you’re still out pounding the pavement on your roller skis. Two-session training days are few and far between, yet race season still seems impossibly far away. No time of year is better defined as in-between season than right now. We’re straddling the border between the training year and the race season. In a sense, we’ve done all that we can do and now it’s just up to us to say healthy, recover between race weekends, and cram a bit of training into those rare two week periods when we don’t put a bib on. And there’s a bit of truth to that… that’s how we operate for most of the season. But if you fall into the trap of complacency and you don’t tweak the dials when you have the chance, that’s when you get into trouble. So that’s what we’re doing in our final week at home… we’re twisting those dials to get things just right.

Sophie and Julia after a great workout!

About half of the SMS T2 crew (Andy, Erika, and Annie) have been living the winter cabin life in Sjusjoen, Norway for the last 2 weeks. They’re eating their fill of brown cheese, skiing on natural snow out their back door, and stoking the wood stove stove throughout the sub zero nights. The rest of us (Sophie, Ben, Paddy, Julia, and myself) are in Stratton for a few more days before we head off to the Arctic woods of northern Finland on Wednesday (Ben will join Annie and Erika in West Yellowstone to kick off the Super Tour season). On the Vermont end of things, our last week has consisted of doing lots of “sharpening workouts”. Essentially, a sharpening workout is any session (usually on skis or roller skis), that makes it easier to access your race gear. So it usually consists of very short, very hard intervals that are separated by ample recovery. On Tuesday, we did one of my favorite race prep workouts; 3x8x30 seconds, with a 10-minute set break in between sets. A workout like this allows you to move fast (at race pace or above race pace), which kicks in your body’s anaerobic system, but because it is still a relatively short effort, you’re not taxing your body too much during the interval. The multiple intervals and multiple sets helps your body to maintain it’s aerobic efficiency, which we’ve spent most of the summer developing with lots of easy volume and low-intensity interval sessions. Julia, Sophie, Paddy, and I did this workout at Ball Mountain Dam, choosing fast, rolling terrain so we could really get a feel for the speeds that we’ll achieve during on-snow races in a couple weeks. The second hard session of the week were intervals that simulated a full sprint race. Yesterday was cold and clear as we warmed up on Winhall Hollow Road, choosing to do the session on a stretch of the road that best mimics the classic sprint course we’ll be racing on in 14 days in Ruka, Finland. We “raced” a low level 4 qualifier (skiing individually), and then grouped up for 3 more intervals, each one skied faster and faster, after the qualifier. The point was to get a really hard effort on a course that is very similar to the one we’ll see in Ruka, and practice pacing and tactics. Mentally, it makes a huge difference to get in a hard workout on a course that’s similar to a World Cup course we’ll be seeing soon. Most courses we see in Europe on the circuit are beastly and intimidating, so if we can make it through a tough workout at home and feel like we really attacked the session hard and got a lot out of it, then we’ll show up to the venues in Europe that much more ready to throw down. Tomorrow will be our last really hard dryland effort of the season. Most of the Vermont crew will finish off the week of intensity with a distance time trial (10 km for women, 15 km for men). The primary goal for that workout will be to treat it like a World Cup race effort, practicing everything from a really good warm-up (supposed to be a low of 5°F tonight!) to attacking a long and steep uphill in the last few minutes of a 35 minute race.

Simi and Paddy during intervals

And once all of that is complete, it’s time to start filling the duffel bag with everything we’ll need for the next 4 months! I’d like to think that after doing this for 8 years, I have my packing list pretty dialed, but the truth is that every time I have to face that reality, it takes me 5x as long as it should to pack because I dread it so much. But I do know from the last 8 years that once I’m on the trans-Atlantic flight on Wednesday night, the only thing I’ll be stressing about is whether or not I packed enough Cholula in my bag to get me through another season of reindeer and schnitzel.

Stay tuned to the blog to hear from the crew that will be hunting down deep snow at the Super Tour kickoff in West Yellowstone, MT, as well as those of us that will be trying to survive the dark days and ice fog in northern Finland. Thanks for checking in!

 

 

Sendoff dinner!

Happy Halloween! Happy almost November! That happened quickly. It’s almost November and we have just under a month until our first races of the season. It’s been a beautiful fall in Vermont and I’ve been able to put in some solid weeks of training over the past month. I’m happy to have my teammates back with me and we’ve enjoyed some long easy training sessions to catch up on the past few weeks as well as some hammer sesh days to begin fine tuning everything for winter.

Bounding intervals

We had a wonderful send off dinner and owe a huge thank you to everyone who donated to our 100 donation challenge and to those who came to our dinner. We are extremely lucky to be part of such a supportive community and it puts a big smile on our faces to head off into the season after connecting with everyone at the dinner.

Sue and Sophie

We all have slightly different schedules at this time of year in order to do what we feel best prepares us for the season, but a group of us will be heading up to Quebec on Monday for a few days of skiing on the snow they saved up from last winter. It will be nice to be back on snow and then have another ten or twelve days back in Stratton to take care of everything and do some more good training before heading overseas for the winter!

Anne, Soph and Erika after a great training session!

Follow our blog closely to see where the season takes us all. We should have updates coming in from all over the country and world!

Last month in VT!

Last week we wrapped up the final USST training camp of the year in Park City, Utah. This is one of my favorite training blocks of the year because it brings together some of the best skiers from around the country for 2+ weeks of high quality group training. The camp featured two time trials at Soldier Hollow, several brutal interval sessions and lots of high-altitude runs through the surrounding mountains.

(Group trying not to get blown off the mountain during a long run in Park City)

After a successful training camp in Park City most of the team is back in Stratton for one final month of dry-land training before kicking off the season. This time of year the overall volume of training comes down and the intensity goes up. Most of us have specific interval sessions that we are targeting these last few weeks as we make the final touches on our conditioning before the race season.

(Team heading out for a skate speed session in Stratton, VT)

On Saturday, the ladies hammered out a brutal sprint-specific bounding workout on our trails below SMS finishing with a double pole sprint on the ski-erg. The guys took on the mountain for some longer high intensity intervals up and down the work road. Summer seems to be having a second wind here in VT.. Fingers crossed the weather turns and the snow starts flying soon!

(Bounding intervals up Stratton!)
Andy hitting it hard!

SMS T2 Greatest Hits

I’ve come a long way since my first days on the SMS T2 team.  I arrived in Vermont fresh out of college with a jumble of roller skis and athletic clothing in one hand and a heap of goals in the other.  I was pretty sure I understood on a pretty fundamental level what it would take to become the best skier I could be, and I also thought I knew how to do it.  Just train a whole a bunch, race really fast, and win all the accompanying medals, money, and lifelong fame. easy.

I was quickly kicked out of this fantasy when I found myself sliding down fifty feet of hot pavement during week one of life has a full time ski racer.  To say I was mortified would be an understatement- here I was all set to make the big splash, and instead I was sobbing into a towel as Coach Pat (also in his first week as a full time coach) picked out pieces of spandex from my left butt/hip using a tweezer.  I went through about a billion bandages in two weeks, but thanks to Pat’s steady hands, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from Simi and a reassuring “Walk it Off,” from Andy I was ready to roll.

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Cheering Sophie on in 2015 when she broke her elbow…twice.  She was stuck inside doing uphill walking on a treadmill, and we decided she needed a fan base 🙂
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Zach Caldwell posted this photo with the caption, “I’m pretty sure Annie Hart knows who the cool kids are.” 

Later that year, the girls team was doing some threshold (….for some) steep uphill skating up the Stratton Mountain Access road.  As you might have guessed, I was not in threshold.  About four minutes into what was supposed to be a much longer interval, a asked Sophie between big breaths if it would be okay for me to stop.  She turned around, got one look into my sweaty/teary eyes, and told me it would be okay.  And yes, I could stop if I needed to.

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Vintage squad also from 2015.  “Cooling down” after a time trial in Canmore!
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Erika accompanying me to my first ER visit when I immersion blender-ed my finger.

Skipping ahead, I had just crossed the finish line at US Nationals in second place, for the second time.  I was trying my hardest to qualify for the 2016 Tour de Canada, and while second place might have been good enough, the sure fire ticket was winning the race.  So while I was happy to be on the podium, I couldn’t help but cross the finish line in a heap of tired tears.  But then Erika came running up, put her warm puffy over my cold spandex, and said, “Goob, don’t worry you just got second.”  And with that she pulled me up, and then cheered me on as I raced through my first World Cups in March.

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Maybe we did achieve some level of fame in the LL Bean catalog…too bad this picture didn’t make the cut!

Basically, SMS T2 is hands down the greatest team in the world (and as of last year, officially the fastest team in the US).  While we all share the same goals of medals, money, and lifelong fame, these aren’t the things that really motivate us or bring us together.  It is our shared passion and love for pushing each other to be the best possible versions of our selves.  It is an understanding that any individual success is really just a  factor of team success.  And this leads us to the firm belief that any medal- Olympic, World Cup, Junior National, or Bill Koch League- can not only be attained, but through our collective efforts will be attained.

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My favorite picture- Thank you Steve Fuller!

And so much of this is due to the incredibly community we are so lucky to have.  So if you’ve donated to our Fall Fundraiser, thank you thank you thank you.  To celebrate this, please consider stopping by for dinner tomorrow evening.

 

Ready for the next training block!

Hey SMST2 friends! Thank you so much for donating and helping us get closer to our goal of 100 donors! If you’re reading this and need extra motivation to give $5, think of this: we’re currently stuck at 69 donors. Help us move past this, please. We only need 31 more people to donate any amount and T2 will make sure we can pay our coach a livable salary! (Clearly, this is a really big deal for us). Thanks for helping us get there!

We overlapped with the NEG juniors group so we had a few awesome training sessions with them!

I’m currently out in Park City, finishing up an altitude block of training. I know that my body is really slow to respond to living at altitude, so it’s important for me to stay here for a four week block. That way, I can adapt and get the training benefits when I come back down to sea level oxygen. Last weekend we finished up our big training block with the US Ski Team and many different clubs coming together to push one another. Team camp was such an awesome one this year and it made me so excited for the season, seeing my teammates training so hard and giving it their all! Everyone is looking great and ready to go. And this is the time of year when the excitement to begin racing really starts to ramp up!

Still got some pep after bounding intervals!

With the team split between flying to Finland for the opening World Cup weekend and headed to West Yellowstone for the opening Super Tour weekend, we will have a lot going on a month from now. But for now, there’s just enough time left in the preparation phase for a rest week after our grueling training camp and one more block of training! It’s important to build a base from May until the beginning of November so that our fitness can last us an entire winter and we will still race fast in March. And looking around at my teammates training their butts off, I feel confident that they’ve built an incredible base!

Cooling down in the foam pit after strength with Cork and Hazel, our strength coach’s daughter (and mascot)

Happy fall,

Jessie

 

Don’t forget to donate (and pack those outlet converters)

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Steffi Boehler Photo

I’ve been home from Park City camp for just 24 hours and I have a slightly embarrassing secret to tell all of you. I’ve already started packing for Europe. Am I losing it? Going crazy!? It could likely be the case but I can tell you two things that I’m absolutely certain of.

1.)  I’m beyond fired up to start the season.

2.)  When you’re about to tackle 5 months of travel and racing, it takes a lot of planning.

So this is why I already have my wind briefs folded up, counted out the exact number of socks to travel with, and have already started taping up race skis for the long flight to Norway.

A list of the slightly less obvious things I need to remember include: boot dryer, hand warmers, yack tracks, head lamp, heart rate monitor batteries, pillow, cliff bars, protein shakes, stretching cords, outlet converters, 5 packs of cold ease, 4 bottles of hand sanitizer, 3 bottles of cold FX, 2 packs of ear plugs, and everything in 1 duffle bag under 50 lbs. Phew…

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Taking a selfie, trying to remember if he forgot anything irreplaceable in the remote European town

The point I’m trying to make is that life as a skier takes a lot of planning and successful seasons don’t just happen but revolve around a lot of details in order to run smoothly. This is why myself, and the rest of the SMST2 team couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who has donated to our Fundraising Challenge! You are not only helping support our team for the coming years, but are also allowing us to focus on what really matters instead of worrying about if our budget will last the season.

Coach Pat has been on the phone for weeks ordering the appropriate wax, booking reservations, and getting our ducks in a row. Even small donations go a long way and go directly to helping the SMST2 team successfully travel to all the Olympic qualifying races and provide piece of mind as we try to navigate this exciting winter together.  Thanks to everyone who has been a part of our fundraising effort!

Now I can’t promise I wont forget my boots to at least one practice this winter, or leave my phone charger in Estonia, but I can promise that thanks to your generosity we can be more focused than ever on making it a historic year.  Thanks so much for your support!

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Matt Whitcomb Photo