Thursday, August 13, 2015

10 Signs You Have Fallen In Love With Your Job.

1. It brings you to amazing places.

Lex watching a great sunset up on Eagle
Rosie and I all bundled in our llbean rain gear- prepared for a wet descent.

2. It makes you work harder than you could ever imagine for it, but the rewards are high.

Saved by a coke after a long week, and a long final workout!
3. You are happy to make sacrifices for it on a year-around basis. 

4. When it challenges you, you are willing to take on adversity and be resourceful.

Blurry hike on the treadmill after a rollerski crash left my knee and hand pretty banged up.
Best part about wearing your bones on the outside of your gloves... you can check up on any broken ones easily!
5. It brings together with an amazing group of people to collaborate with and improve from each other.
The Women's Team after a sunny and incredibly intense team sprint workout. (Eric Packer photo)
Thanks to these amazing men for keeping the Glacier going! Erik Flora, Don Haering and Andre  Lovett. (Eric Packer Photo)
APU Team celebrating the end of a sweet summer! (Eric Packer photo)
Thanks to our amazing coach, Erik Flora, for managing 100 tasks, always staying positive, and believing 110%!
6. It takes you outdoors in all varieties of conditions, but never lets you focus too much on the weather.
Sunny, or.... (Eric Packer photo)
Not so pleasant....
7. It leaves you feeling fit, happy, and challenged.

Enjoying every second! (Eric Packer photo)
Tyler vs. Rosie. How to get two sets of skis up the long 1km climb from the stadium?
A perfect day on Eagle (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
8. It teaches you about a variety of things, including the changes in climate and glaciers and how to observe your surroundings.

A glacier melting down to blue ice in new places.
Many varieties of snow crystals throughout the day on Eagle. (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
9. You love every second of it, including the brutally long and challenging training hours, races, intervals, and more.

The boys pushing hard, working on uphill DP (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
Team Sprinting with Thomas-Finding the race mindset. (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
Giving it all (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
10. It constantly reminds you to be thankful for the opportunity you are given. 

Racing around the world representing your country!
Skiing on a Glacier in the middle of summer...!! (Zuzana Rodgers photo).
Last week was APU's third and final week of training on Eagle Glacier for the summer. It was a successful camp despite some little hurdles thrown my way just before. (I took a big crash on roller skis that left me with a fairly banged up knee and a hand with some sort of ligament/bone damage).  But, sunshine cures all frustrations, and that last kilometer skied for the summer on Eagle was my happiest. Over the course of the summer, I had some great time to work on technique goals, I got to ski hundreds of kilometers, and I got to focus my heart on ski racing 100%. 

I have been to fourteen camps now on Eagle Glacier, and it still hasn't gotten old. I am just as excited, motivated, and incredibly thankful as I was my first camp on Eagle. It is so hard to believe that I train in town, jump on a helicopter, and am engulfed in winter for a full week… only to return back to town for three weeks of training, and repeat three times throughout the summer! That is a true dream world!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Engine

Since arriving up on Eagle Glacier in a very tired state from three previous weeks of hard training, I had to make a theme for myself in order to make it through the coming six days of challenging training. This month I have made a big step up, and with a healthy body, I have been able to participate in all the training, resulting in a much higher load than normal. With the weather being a bit foggy and warm all week, this meant for a tough week of pushing through some deeper slush and practicing training in the now very common conditions we race in Europe. Global warming often means slushy, man-made, dirty snow conditions throughout the winter. So when the going gets tough on Eagle with some deep slushy glacier snow, I know I am truly practicing my trade!

So, back to my original problem. I arrived on Eagle Glacier far more tired than I ever have, but I wanted to have a successful six days of training, so I made a theme for myself. "My body is an engine". In endurance sports, we often talk about how we want to build a Ferrari engine inside our bodies, so this was my my Eagle Glacier Plan.  Granted, I don't know a whole lot about cars and engines, but I knew enough to work on what I thought a great racing engine would require:Fueling, Maintenance, Efficiency, Speed, and Power. 

A little R & R in the rocks (Zuzana photo)
Fueling- While on Eagle Glacier, fueling is important, and also entirely up to your own choice. We cook group meals in the evening; but in the morning, afternoon, and snack hours, fueling  is open to interpretation. Now that I have started training higher volumes, I have enjoyed experimenting with different types of foods to see how they carry me through the next training, or even the next day. For example, the later in the week of training; the more glycogen I can eat, the stronger my engine can run for the next training session, or even the next day. It is a common occurrence to be woken up in the middle of the night while training up on the glacier by hunger, so I am forced to head downstairs to eat a little snack because I can't get back to sleep. It is also common to make it through 1.5 hours of training during the second session… and find myself bonking so badly at the top of the course that I literally have to waddle back to the start of the course and find a snack in my drink belt. Avoiding these little crashes has become my goal. So, this camp, while I arrived with a high load of training, I worked really hard to keep my body fueled correctly. By avoiding useless fuel, and taking in more efficient fuel, I managed to have a very successful week of training. My favorite fueling moment came on Wednesday, during our afternoon session following morning threshold intervals. I was feeling really good in the afternoon following intervals, so I took off with a hot pace. Things felt amazing until about 1.5 hours on the top of the big climb at the far end of the course… and I began to start weaving. I could tell I couldn't really keep my technique together, and I was dragging myself around the course, not even working on the important parts of skiing. As I came into the intersection of the access road back up to the building, and the start to another loop, I pulled over and ate the fresh baked cookie in my drink belt. As I headed out for another loop, about three minutes in, I suddenly had the "invincible energy" back. Again, I felt light, quick, and strong. This is when I discovered the "cookie comeback". While you wouldn't commonly feed your Ferrari a cookie, my racing Ferrari thrived on this extremely sugary and easy to access fuel!

Some Powerbar Coke Gummies on OD day saving the day! 
Maintenance- As with your nice racing car, sometimes the maintenance and care can take just as long as the actual training/racing. Many people, when they hear that as athletes, we are training 4 hours a day, they wonder what we spend our time doing the remainder of the day…. And the answer is, maintenance. As we come in from our training sessions, each athlete has their own maintenance routine. For me, this looks like: change into dry clothes, get a snack, do a stretching routine, foam rolling, massage, eat a larger meal, get my feet up and rest a little in order to recovery for second training, take care of skis (waxing and cleaning)…. and then, out for another training session, and repeat. It is literally a full days work to maintain my body and keep it healthy. A lot of times, it becomes easy to cut out large portions of this maintenance process, because it becomes easy to fill your day up with other activities. But, while on Eagle Glacier, there are no distractions. For one full week, I am living to train. I am giving 110% of my energy towards maintaining and training the very best Ferrari engine possible! Lucky for us, the APU team is sponsored by an amazing clinic, Advanced Physical Therapy. Last week we had Zuzana Rodgers, the worlds best PT up on the glacier to help us stay healthy and ready to train. For many of us, her manual labor on our stressed and tired muscles is the magic!

Big thanks to Zuzana Rodgers!
Efficiency- Finding the most efficient way get an engine going fast is key. For a cross country skier, technique is a huge factor in efficiency, and it is also an ever changing process. With new efficiency, new movements, new techniques… the sport stays exciting. Becoming a master of the trade means being innovative, aware, and dedicated to focus. With our 20-30 hours per week spent skiing kilometers around our Eagle Glacier track, we have hundreds of thousands of repetitions to work on perfecting our technique. We often watch World Cup videos, technique examples, and videos from our previous training sessions to find cues and things to work on. My personal goal on Eagle Glacier is to focus every minute of effort on skiing the most technically well I can. Because I have skied so many kilometers with my old habits. I know that I have to spend hours and hours of work on the "better technique habits" I am working on, before I will resort to them in a race. So efficiency is an ever-going goal of mine while up on Eagle Glacier. 

Technique work 
Speed- On day four of training camp, we often get to rip out some speed training. With the majority of our week so far being distance training, our distance muscles become extremely tired. In fact, we just feel exhausted. I am always blown away by the fact that when it comes to speed, I find this extra storage of energy I had no idea existed. I am magically able to rip out some speed when I thought I had nothing left. Then, day five we have a "practice race", where we throw down some laps around the sprint course at top speed. Again, we are feeling so exhausted, we can't even imagine we can make four laps of 1.5 kilometers. This is the speed that is fun to practice. Like World Cup racing, when it comes time to go top speed… you are rarely rested, or full of energy. Instead, it is at the end of a 1 or 5 or 30 kilometer race, and you feel you have already topped out. Instead, you have to turn that Ferrari engine up, and find one more gear of speed. The best way to train that speed, is to train it in a similarly exhausted state, on day four and five of Eagle Glacier.

Power- I think of power as your endurance. To me this is all the aerobic training I do on a yearly basis, and over my lifetime. This includes the first weeks of training in Park City with my US Teammates, the many hours of hiking and running, and the huge amounts of distance skiing that is so important in endurance sports. This is what creates my power. Eagle Glacier is all about fine-tuning my engine's power. For 25 hours, I push my already exhausted body, and tell myself I can keep going. When the weather is bad, or I am having an epic energy crash, or I am pushing over the top of the hill on the last lap of our practice race on day five ;power is that little voice in my head that says "must keep going". It is the same voice that chirps in during my racing! 
Rosie, Becca and I
VoilĂ , that is "my engine".  Now you know all the funny and hilarious things that run through my head during a week of training that feels harder than ever! It is now back to building the strongest engine in the world right here in Anchorage for three weeks of dryland before heading back up for our final week of skiing on Eagle in August. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Home, Home on the Range

Last week was one of the best weeks ever! My older sister got married in the Methow Valley, on a cute little ranch up above our home town. All of my family from both my mom and dad's side was able to attend, so I got to have five full days of catching up and family time. It has been years since everyone has been together, so we all felt pretty blessed to be able to make it work! As a young girl, my summer job was catering weddings, but I haven't participated in many myself. So, I got to learn all about what a wedding entails. I realized the most wonderful part about a wedding is how all your closest friends and family all gather together in one place to celebrate love; like a huge love birthday party!

Our newest member of the family!

Bridesmaid Additions
Ask a french man to dress cowboy for a wedding.... and this is what you get ;) Jo, arriving to the Methow in style!
Maid of Honor and Best Man, speed walking down the aisle!
As the maid of honor, I also got to learn about what that role entails on a day full of chaos, excitement, and happiness. As my beautiful sister pulled on her stunning dress, got her hair and make-up done; and started walking down the aisle alongside my father, I found tears sliding down my face. I had never seen her so beautiful and happy ever! It was really neat! Not only that, we got one new member in our family, a new brother-in-law! I am pretty stoked to have Tyler join the clan, he is a wonderful guy!

Speech time!
Jessica and Kelly, our friends from high school doing our make-up in the sunshine.
A bunch of bridesmaids and a bride headed for the big wedding!
Our beautiful little flower girl cousin. 
Jo and Granny
With five short days at home, we didn't have a whole lot of time, but we made the most of every minute of it. My cousins girlfriend caught the bouquet, so we are all hoping we get to do this all again soon!

The Kaley sisters and all the cousins.
A happy bunch of Bjornsen ladies.
Spending time with two of my favorite people out there! My sister, and my god sister!

This weekend I am headed down to Seward to watch the famous 4th of July race up Mount Marathon. Some runners from out of state/out of country will be there this year including Kilian Jornet, and Forsberg, so it should be nothing short of exciting! I have never actually been to the "top" of the mountain, so I am finally headed there this year to watch from above. Shortly after, we will head back up for another week of training on Eagle Glacier.

Happy July!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping Eagle in Perspective

I step onto the snow my third day of training on Eagle Glacier, and suddenly, I am slammed with a gust of wind, somewhere between 50-60 mph. Closing my eyes, I pull my hood over my head, hold on tight to my skis and poles to make sure they don't get sent flying down glacier, and wait for it to calm. I am just thankful I am not Liz Stephen right now, otherwise I may have just gotten picked up and flown down glacier! As it momentarily calms, I quickly bend down, snap on my skis and poles, pull my sleeves down, my buff up, and secure my glasses. Although it is a complete white out, and I can hardly see my skis below me because of the dense fog… it is still bright as can be. This gives me hope the sun must be somewhere up there. 
Zip up, here we go!
As I start sliding down the hill, I proceed cautiously, searching for the wands every 10 feet that mark the trail. The fog is so thick, I can't find the wands, so instead I start doing an awkward half tuck, half snow plow, searching the ground, looking for some corduroy. The wind is blowing so hard that the snow drifts are hiding the majority of the fresh corduroy… so I am going down the 1 km access trail from our little warm house slower than ever. If someone is behind me, and can actually see me, they must be laughing their heads off. I literally look like I just learned how to ski, turning hard right… realizing I am wrong, strongly overcorrecting right… realizing I am still wrong… goodness gracious, the darn trail is straight! Why do I keep expecting a turn?

Finally, I reach the "intersection", the place where our 7.5km loop meets the steep downhill access trail. I drop my water belt full of sport drink and goodies, and set out on the loop. It is interval morning, so I make sure I start my warm-up slow. As I move around the course, I wonder where am I? I know I am on the first part of the loop… but which way is up, which way is down, which was is north… more importantly which way is the cliff that drops the 5,600 feet down to the ocean? (Thank god there are wands on the course, so I know to stop if I haven't seen one for 10 feet). All I can think is thank god I don't often get lost in the mountains. My sense of direction is terrible! It is so foggy and windy I don't even know if I am going uphill or downhill. I am convinced I am going downhill, so I crouch down into a tuck… again searching the corduroy on the ground to find my way. As the wind takes a good slam, I realize I must not actually be going downhill, because my skis aren't moving. In fact, I am on an uphill, and after being blown by this gust of wind, I am going backwards. Now I am straight up laughing, this is almost comical how crazy the weather is! I have forgotten how wild it can get up here, somehow I only have memories in my brain from those sports bra and shorts laps we were doing last year!

Corey and I, pretty stoked we made it back up to the building! (We started calling this 1 km. access trail back up to the building, Alpe Cermis... because it somewhat resembles a very shortened version of the final climb of the Tour de Ski)
But, it is interval day, so I must rally myself! Finding motivation on a day like today requires a little bit of a deeper dig, but somehow it is so much more rewarding at the end of training! While it is frustrating, I keep my mind in a light mood, and stay positive. Seriously, Swedish Olympic Gold Medalist, Anna Haag is out here training with us. It is still a great day to watch her, and try to improve!

This is just a glimpse into the first half of our glacier camp that was hit by a series of stormy days. I believe this is my 14th camp on Eagle Glacier in the past five years, so 14 weeks I have spent living in the little house on the rocks, training around the belly of this enormous and incredibly accessible glacier. In all those years, I have never seen the weather quite as wild as it was the first half of the week. Huge gusts of wind that kept your poles flying sideways, your head tucked down, your hoods and buffs up… and your mind incredibly exhausted from a full blown white out. Searching for the wands every 10 feet was often the hardest part of the 4-5 hours a day of training. 

Skiing with teammates often made these training sessions hilarious. If you were the one leading, you were the one looking out into this complete white out searching for the trail. If you were the one following, you were truly entertained, as the person in front of you, and your point of reference went wandering all over the place trying to find the trail. Even more challenging and frustrating was the grooming. All week, Erik Flora kept his patience together and experienced this same feeling, only 10 times worse as he sat in the cab of a Pisten Bully attempting to go straight as he searched his way through the whiteout to create a trail. In many cases, the wind was blowing the snow drifts so much, he would spend the whole training session driving around course, keeping a trail for us to follow… talk about a brain fry!!
Morning scenes inside the house. Erik preparing to head outside with the schedule posted above.
But it was awesome! It was a week of perspective. It was a week to remember how to find your motivation, how to find the positives in a less than ideal situation, and most importantly, how to be tough! Getting out in these often frustrating conditions, being constantly blasted by the wind that sometimes left hail flying at your face… it all felt like you were fighting against something. That fight throughout the season of training is what keeps me motivated. Those days when it is super tough for whatever reason, you feel like you are fighting against expectations, and you finish feeling accomplished! So, although many of my past glacier camps have been those incredible and sunny days where you feel like you can be out there forever skiing… this one kept me on my toes. It make me think a bit more about "if" I wanted to be out there training, and "why". It was a great way to start the summer of training!

Still smiling!
And after all that hard work plowing through several feet of snow that fell, and huge gusts of wind; we got rewarded on the last day with one of those perfect Eagle Glacier beautiful days! The sun shone all day, and we enjoyed 3 hours of amazing skiing in packed powder. Funny enough, I bet that is the day I will remember when I think back on the first camp of this summer! Those perfect days somehow erase the challenging days pretty darn quickly!

Sunshine and Smiles, and some interesting styles! (BR photo)
Seems to me the sun has come out! (KR photo)
So, now I am back to Anchorage, 5,600 feet lower, and it is full on summer. Straight from winter, back to green summer! Crazy! Up next; my sister's wedding, a few more weeks of training in town, and then another trip up to Eagle Glacier for "Take 2". 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Team, New Year

Training Camp number 1, complete and done. The US Ski Team would normally go to Bend, Oregon to ski on snow at Mt. Bachelor for the first camp of the year… but this year with the lack of winter in most areas of the Pacific Northwest, we were forced to switch to a dry land camp. With the US Ski Team "home base" being in Park City, it seemed right to shift our spring camp there. This way we could do our testing on the treadmill, and then finish up our 12 days of training right in Park City.

Camp began with the familiar spring set of tests: classic max, double pole max, BMI tests, strength tests, mobility tests, physicals, body screening, hemoglobin tests, blood tests… the whole fun series of it all. This amounts to two days of constant going.. but once it's done, it becomes time to train!
Got to love going to max and flying off the back of the treadmill.... even if the treadmill always wins!
With the weather being infinitely rainy and cold, Park City felt a little different than our normal warm, summer-like fall camp. Regardless, we embraced the rainy situation and managed a great 12 days of training. 

Running through the woods on a search for some Sun Flowers!
We have some new members on the US Team this year, four new women. Two young women, Katherine Ogden and Julia Kern. And then two more women named to the B Team, Rosie Brennan and Caitlin Gregg. This means we have a women's team of 10 people now. It is really exciting to be able to add to our six girls; with new goals, and a new dynamic. I have always loved the value of "team", so it has been fun to add these women into the mix of training and team goals, and see what we can do! We have a long summer of training in front of us, but it is fun to have 10 girls on the same page as far as "where are we going".

A team full of bright enthusiasm! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Ski Walking Intervals... the best type of classic training at altitude! 
Most of our training consisted of lots of roller skiing, running, bounding, biking, swimming, and gym work. With the shift from soft snow to the hard pavement pounding, my elbows have been causing me a little trouble. So, for me, this camp meant a little more running and swimming, and a bit less roller skiing. My elbows are really looking forward to heading up to the Glacier next week…. dreaming of a soft fluffy snowy surface.

(USSA Nordic Photo). Starting with the core.
Somehow "triple time" becomes normal at Camp.
Working on my focus in the gym this year.
This year we have a new partnership for our summer training clothes as well as our winter racing suits with Craft, and L.L. Bean. It has been fun to start working with these companies and share some enthusiasm. Both companies seem so excited to start designing clothes, race suits and, warm up's. We spent a portion of our down time last week doing lots of video's, photos, and promotions for this fun new partnership. I am excited to see what sort of stars and stripes they will put together for our winter attire!

Getting back in the rhythm of rollerskiing. (USSA Nordic Photo)
A bunch of crazy's.... thanks Finnsisu for setting us all up with rollerskis! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Find a challenge... and chase that challenge! This year my goal is to finish my first tour. There are two of them this season, both 7-8 stages long. That means a lot of durability, strength, and mental stamina! (USSA Nordic Photo)
It seems everyone had a great break after the season with lots of adventuring, vacationing, and catch up with family, friends and sponsors. After spending all winter with many of these teammates now for four years, it was nice to get back together and catch up on the fun happenings of the spring. Everyone seems finally recovered, and motivated to get going again!

Lounging in the sunshine on our final day... the sun decided to visit us just in time!
After our hard 12 days of training, everyone shared hugs and departed back to our home club team's for the "June 1st" start to hard training. After missing a long two week sunny stretch of Alaskan weather… Alaska has decided to go back to its wonderful rainy state. I managed to squeak two perfect days in though before it changed, just after arriving back from Park City. This made for a weekend of hiking and biking, soaking in some serious rays of Vitamin D. These will keep me happy and going for a few more weeks before heading down to Washington for my sister's wedding!

Enjoying some awesome road biking in my secret neighborhoods of Anchorage
Hiking up to Exit Glacier with my brother, Marine and Jo.
Next up, a week of training in town before I head up to my first glacier camp of the summer. Who will be the guest of the summer? It's a surprise… but a new country this year.!