Snow Skiing in Forêt

Our team headed up to Forêt Montmorency, Canada to ski on snow for 4 days this past week. Forêt lies 1 hour north of Quebec and they make snow late winter and save it so that they can roll it out in October. Even after some heavy rain, they still had the full 2.1 km loop to ski on!

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Sophie was pretty excited.
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…and Pat might have been even more excited!
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We even got some natural snow too!

With the first races only 18 days away, getting on snow as much as possible is very important. Although it we had a “wintery mix” almost every day while were there, the skiing was quite good for October and we were able get in high quality speed and interval sessions. Nothing beats snow skiing, that is for sure!

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Kelsey joined us for the week and the rain suits were an important thing to pack.

Most of us are finishing our last intensity block to get the engine revved up for some racing. I even got the chance to put a bib on and do a rollerski race run by NENSA in Stowe, which was a great opportunity to put a bib on and remember what racing feels like. We are excited to join the SMS juniors for one last week of training by jumping into some of their time trials as part of their nationals week simulation before we head to Europe/ Yellowstone!

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Toasty fire + bananagrams + team hang out = bunker life
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Excited to be back on snow (and to have stayed nice and dry).
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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

Preparing in Park City

Ben updates on his thoughts during our annual Park City Camp!

It’s cold in Park City. Not a snatch the air from your lungs cold, but a type that means you’ll wake up to a frost coated front lawn each morning. Of course, all that frost evaporates when the sun creeps up from behind the mountains. It’s not a lasting cold, it’s a warning. In the words of literally every character on Game Of Thrones: Winter is coming.

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Yes Jon Snow, we know, winter is coming, which means that skiers everywhere are entering the final stages of preparation for racing season. But what if I don’t feel ready? It’s in this final stage of training that I feel most often the creeping doubt that I might not have done enough. It’s when I get an urge to cram extra training in. It’s something like the fear that enters your brain the night before a final exam.

That feeling of not knowing is why I believe in the power of sport to transport us above and beyond all of the levels to which we so often reduce it. I can frame this upcoming season in terms of fitness, in terms of strength, in terms of results, in terms of recovery — and thinking in all those terms can be helpful and enlightening. All those things will make contributions to what this season will become. But when that perfect race comes and your boots seem to fit just right, it doesn’t feel analytically finite. Maybe that’s just endorphins messing with brain chemistry, I don’t know. But it feels like a miracle that has nothing to do with a training log.

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Do you think Alex was counting his yearly hours right here?

 

But if the racing season can feel so dislocated from preparation, then why am I worried about whether or not I’m ready? Maybe it’s because that the struggle at this time of year isn’t to ready yourself further. Maybe it’s to recognize that you won’t feel ready until you do the dang thing. No matter your natural talent, practiced skill, or earned experience, you won’t know the truth until you toe that first starting line.

That doesn’t mean that training or preparation should ever stop, it’s just that believing this is remarkably freeing. If you can admit that you won’t ever feel totally ready, you don’t have to ask yourself about the specifics. You’re only left with one choice: Do I want to try? Or don’t I? That decision should be much easier to make.

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A Taste of Winter– Park City Camp

We are out in Park City, Utah for the last dry land training camp of the year. Although this camp is earlier than usual, we have been given a taste of winter that is just around the corner. It has snowed up on the mountain most of the days we have been here and sometimes even in town! The running has been especially scenic with the fall foliage and snow. I know that the snow has made me especially excited for the winter! We have also all enjoyed the cooler temperatures after some very hot late summer days before we left for camp.

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Running in the snow!
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If you can’t tell, I am pretty excited for winter just around the corner!
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Fall foliage + snow = 🙂

It is really fun to have such a big training group between the U.S. Ski Team and club teams—there is always someone to train with and learn from. This is one of my favorite camps of the year because it is the last time everyone is in one place training together before the racing season starts to kick off. Training camp is a great time to go head to head not only with our own teammates, but also skiers from other teams.

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Rolling with a group of skiers from other teams.
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Jessie, Liz, Erika, and Steffi (a skier on the German national team) out on a run.
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Annie and loving the aspen trees.

Last night I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to the Wasatch Speakers Series in Salt Lake City to see Dr. Gupta speak on the topics of media and health. As a neurosurgeon and reporter for CNN, it was very interesting to hear about his experiences reporting on natural disasters and health epidemics, both things that have been extremely prevalent in our world lately.

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Dr. Gupta answering questions from the crowd.

Today is our mid camp off day before we kick off another week of intense training. Look for more updates to come from camp!

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Uphill rollerski intervals on the treadmill with Pat. 

Striking the Balance

Going into this training year, I have made recovering from training a primary focus.  I’ve been carefully monitoring my resting heart rate and HRV scores, ensuring that I spend at the minimum 8.5 hours with my eyes closed every night, and have been very on top of proper hydration and nutrition.  I adjust my training based on these numbers and feelings, and for the most part it has rewarded me with higher quality intensity sessions and an easier time cutting half an hour here and there with the added verification that yes, my body needs that.

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Stoke so high I couldn’t even smile naturally

However.  As I recently discovered in New Zealand, sometimes it is all about finding the right balance of listening to your neuromuscular system and listening to your heart (and sometimes both).  New Zealand was absolutely amazing, as I’m sure all of the SMS T2 blog readers have ascertained.  There were days when my neuromuscular system was not recovered, but the thought of shortening a session was simply out of the question.  Like the crust cruise day, where we skied for 3.5 hours in the morning, and then come evening the light was perfect and the classic skiing sublime…so against my neuromuscular system’s wishes I headed out for the most peaceful classic ski of my life.  I paid for it the next day by setting a new recovery low, but then balanced it out with a day of less than 1,000 steps, and the next day popped right back up into optimal recovery.

IMG_0141It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the science and numbers of training.  But at the end of the day (in my unscientific opinion), it is how you are feeling about what you are doing that really matters.  That’s not to say ignore data, but rather keep it in line with the other things that can’t be quantified.  Was the extra afternoon session what I needed physiologically? Probably not.  Did it ingratiate me a profound sense of peacefulness and love of skiing? Yes.  Will that feeling help me when things get painful? Yes.  I’ve figured out how to use data as a helping hand instead of an end all be all, and it has been the best.

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Sometimes recovery is napping with the bulldog on the floor.  This was after Pudge and I both had pretty hard workouts.  One of us did 30 seconds on 30 seconds off for 30 minutes, and the other walked with speeds for 3 miles.  I’ll let you be the judge of who did which.

It took me until today-8 days after arriving back from New Zealand- to feel like my normal self (and for my recovery scores to put me in a comfortable and safe training zone).  Putting that amount of load on my system put me into a bit of a hole, but with the proper encouragement to “relax harder,” I’ve entered into the Fall with a renewed sense of energy and excitement for the season ahead.

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Relaxing and recovering also included some oatmeal raisin cookies.  After the hard workouts, at least one or two of these was required.

 

I’ve begun my journey west a little earlier than my teammates, but am excited to meet up with everyone in Park City in about a week.  We will have another big block of training then, and then begins the big rest before the real deal season begins.  Thanks for following along!

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And after a week at home, I’m now in Rapid City visiting my boyfriend Thomas. Some of my favorite trails in the world are right outside his door, and this morning I crushed a half marathon on them 🙂 Happy Fall!

It’s official – we are SMST2 again!

We are proud to announce that it’s now official, and the SMS team is once again the SMST2 team! Thanks to the T2 Foundation for being our title sponsor.

As a team, we have two goals:

  1. Support the quest for international excellence in cross country skiing.
  2. Grow the sport in our communities as well as promote a healthy lifestyle.

The T2 Foundation has a very similar mission of helping athletes achieve international excellence with the funding they need and to inspire and teach kids through sport. As we have the same goals it’s an easy partnership and we’re excited to welcome T2 back!

Andy and Jessie running the kids group through some ski walking drills
Jessie sets an example for bounding technique

Wait, wait, wait…what exactly does T2 stand for? Glad you asked! The T2 foundation was started by a supporter of US Skiing named Tom Karam. Originally called “Team Tommy”, he supported a handful of US skiers who needed help paying for the expenses of racing and travel. In 2008, he turned it into a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the dual mission of supporting athletes and giving back to youth, and the name was changed to T2.

Andy and Simi coaching some ski walking at an open clinic

 

Photo Update from New Zealand

We wrapped our two-day trip down in Wanaka by doing a long adventure run along the Matukituki River, which hands down was the most beautiful run I have ever been on! We made friends with cows, ran over suspension bridges, stood under a massive waterfall, and made some glacial river crossings.

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A scenic start to our run.
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Mooooo.
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Erika and I cooling off near the waterfall (peep Jessie in the background).
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Suspension bridges with a 5 person weight limit. 

Since our return to the Snow Farm, we have been lucky with the weather and have had great ski conditions almost every single day. I have enjoyed skiing and catching up with the SMS team after being away at school this summer. The Craftsbury Green Team, Sun Valley Team and some other U.S. skiers are here as well so there is never a lack of training buddies. My favorite ski this camp (and I think I can also speak for the rest of our team) was the crust cruise! We climbed uphill for almost 2 hours until we reached Mount Pisa where we were greeted with views of the mountains in all directions…and then the best part begun. We all descended back down to the Snow Farm over perfect crust in the warm sunshine. Some of he boys in my group ended the last descend with a jump over the river (I did not dare to). To say the least, everyone had a blast!

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Jessie and I on a long classic ski together.
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Sunset walk shenanigans. 
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Ben enjoying the sunset views.
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Up and up we go! (Matt Whitcomb)
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Jessie shinning and smiling as bright as the sun.
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Incredible view in the background towards Lake Wanaka. 
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A group of us skiing along the ridge during our crust cruise. (Matt Whitcomb)
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Ben sending it across the river to finish off the incredible day!

With only a few days left of training down in New Zealand, many of us are finishing off the camp with some races. Simi and Jessie won the Merino Muster (41 km) and Sophie won the Snow Rake (21km) a week ago! Yesterday the New Zealand Winter Games begun and Jessie took home the win in the 5km Skate and Sophie finished right behind her in 3rd . Today Sophie and Ben took home the win in the classic sprint, and Anne finished 5th! We are psyched to wrap up the camp with some races before we make the big leap back home.

Merino Muster!

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5km Skate Podium.
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Ben double poling for the win!
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Sophie charging hard towards the finish in the classic sprint. 

What Ping-Pong taught me about skiing

Training on snow for the first time after months of roller-skiing can be frustrating. As much as we’d like to pretend that those two things are totally analogous, they’re not. There are many little differences that add up to create a very different experience when you step into your skis and out onto snow for the first time. I am currently down in New Zealand on the Snow Farm, and I can tell you that — at times — training has been very frustrating.

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The first speed session we had down here was one of those times. Speeds are generally some of my favorite workouts, but these ones did not go especially well. I felt lost at times and rather than the balanced powerful motions I aim for, I was skating around like I had banana peels under my feet. I wasn’t happy with how I had skied in the new circumstances, and as we headed into our off day I couldn’t help but feel a little slow.

Our off day was spent down in the nearby town of Wanaka where we rented a house on the lake. Around 1:00 in the afternoon, one of our coaches Matt, told me about the house’s great secret; there was a ping pong table in the garage.

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I could try and tell you what happened next, but it was mostly a blur. What started out as a simple rally turned into one game, then two, then five. As our mutual inclinations to take things like ping pong just a bit too seriously fed off each other, the garage became suffocating. We began to sweat, so shirts were thrown aside, and 5 hours later, the total sat at 17 games to 17 games. We kept score with a bucket full of walnuts we had found in the garage. A game for me meant one walnut on the left windowsill, a game for Matt meant one on the right. We tentatively guessed we had played close to 1500 points, but I don’t really remember that.

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What I remember was the feeling of having banana peels on my paddle. I remember struggling, and I remember Matt and I learning every single strength (our forehands) and weakness (our backhands) we had. I remember starting out with rallies that lasted 3 or 4 hits, and finishing with rallies that lasted a minute or more. I remember thinking I would never be good at ping pong and finishing ready to enter the 2020 Olympic Trials with Matt as my doubles partner.

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After spending the better part of a week frustrated with my ability to find speed across the Kiwi snow, I had been reminded that sometimes, it is only through the struggle of trial and error that you can find your form.

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When we returned to the Snow Farm, we had another speed session, and this one went better. Making the switch to snow can be awkward and slippery but this time, the apprehensions faded away and the metamorphosis back to a snow skier was complete.

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Well, more complete anyways. If I learned one thing from our marathon, it’s that in ping pong or skiing, you never stop refining your skills; you only need the drive to go out and play. With that in mind; it’s a sunny day, the snow is fast, and I’m headed back out to play — but I’ll have a shirt on this time.

Hello from the Other Side (New Zealand)

Hello from down under!! Several of us made the trek to New Zealand a week ago, and a few have only been here a couple days, but it’s nice to have most of the team reunited on the opposite side of the world. New Zealand is definitely one of my happy places. We stay up at the snow farm, which is the only place to cross country ski in the country and Life. Is. Good. The skiing is right out the door, the food is delectable, and the jet lag is awesome as long as you enjoy falling asleep early and waking up early.

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We just finished up our first week of training up at the Snow Farm and are spending a couple days down in the town of Wanaka to do some runs, take an off day, and recover at sea level. As much as I love being up at the Snow Farm, it’s really nice to spend a little time in town. Town actually feels a lot like summer with mild temperatures, bright sunshine, and no snow except for the capped peaks in the distance.
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We will be in New Zealand for one more week putting in some big hours on snow and then finishing off the camp with some races. Be sure to follow along our Instagram account and blog for more updates!

Time Flies

Writing this as my first full 24 hours as a 25 year old (eek!  A quarter century!) I am only reminded just how incredibly fast time flies.  I truly feel as if each year I grow older, time moves just a little bit faster.  It seems like just yesterday I packed my things for the East Coast after a June in the West, and I can’t believe that in just three days I’ll be packing my things for a BIG trip to the Southern Hemisphere.

Part of the reason time has been moving so quickly this summer is thanks to how much activity I’ve managed to pack in around quality hours of training with the team in Vermont.  On a drive to the Brattleboro co-op, I ended up listening to the TED radio hour (a great way to pass any amount of time- from five minutes to five hours).  Fittingly, this hour was focused on the concept of time.  Among other cool mini segments (did you know there is something magical about 4 a.m.?), an individual spoke about how the older people get, the more content they become.  Her reasoning was that as people get older, they start to worry less and less about the future (primarily because there is less and less future to worry about- a little morbid, but ultimately refreshing).  What follows is the perception of time moving more quickly, simply because you are more happy with what is occurring in the now as a result of not dwelling over what might happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday.

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Happy crew of Midwest ladies after some hard 3 minute skate intervals.  Thanks mom for driving!

And while 25 isn’t exactly old (or so I’ve been told by many), it is older than 24.  And along with this less-future-age comes the wisdom of what once was.  This all combines to being more comfortable and content with the now, and everything I’ve done this summer and continue to do.

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Teaching juniors plyos, agility, and how to have a good time on roller skis

Whether it is teaching the juniors a plyometric progression from my strength coach, cruising along some freshly paved roads with 90% focus and 10% gossip, or surprise birthday parties from my best friends, it has really been an amazing summer.  I’m so excited to see what these days bring in the future, and while I don’t want to wish my days away I am SO SO SO excited to hop on that 13 hour flight, compression tights and all, for 2.5 weeks of on snow bliss that I’m sure will go by even faster than I can imagine.

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Since we weren’t all going to be together on my real birthday, I had a surprise birthday party two weeks early! Blueberry buckle a la Sophie substituted for cake 🙂
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Celebrating my “real” birthday, bulldog and all.
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A rare family photo pre amazing birthday dinner (yes, I had three different birthday dinners).