Snowflake in Duluth was the place to be this weekend. Metropolitans, including Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak, flocked there to get their post-turkey k's in and enjoy the bountiful early-season snow. Great to see all the familiar faces on the trails. And what a fabulous venue, loaded with tradition! The snow was great for this time of year, good enough to bring out the race skis, and Jojo Winters and I had a grand old time. Yesterday included some 4x4 skate intervals in the AM and classic distance in the PM. We followed that up with burgers and brews at Fitgers, yum! This morning we did a combo classic/skate OD ski.
Sorry, I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures while we were skiing. But I did get these two great shots. . .
"For the girl who likes to ride," our motel neighbors.
Today was one of those days I just woke up grumpy. I didn't even need my alarm clock because getting up at 5:30 felt like sleeping until noon, thanks jetlag! The holidays by themselves make me grumpy. I couldn't look beyond the fact the Minnesota is not in Finland. Everybody who's anybody is in West Yellowstone skiing in an abundance of snow. And now I have a sinus infection! Grrrrrr!
All until I get a call from Jojo Winters! She got my butt out the door on this beautiful sunny day. And now I feel like a whole new person. We hacked around Theodore Wirth with Carolyn Bramante for a good 2 hours and had a grand old time. We chased down some unsuspecting turkeys on our skis (and they thought it was safe to come out of hiding!), played in the snow storm created by the snow guns, practiced our tele turns, and all took a couple good diggers upon encountering surprise slow spots. Days like this remind me why I'm a skier.
Once again back in the Helsinki airport, right where I first posted from Finland. It was an early morning getting to the airport in Rovaniemi, and it will be a very late night (afternoon, actually), when I get home. Sad to be leaving this awesome country. Hoping it will be white when I get home, because I don't think I can stomach any rollerskiing until next May.
I will miss all my knucklehead bros
And of course, Adele, best roommate ever!
I classify this trip as a huge success! The racing was not my best, but what I learned from the races will be invaluable in preparing for the rest of my season. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire experience: my adopted team, the people, the scenery, and the fabulous skiing. Hope to be back again.
Today's race confirmed a lot of things I already knew: I am a bit tired from training on this trip, I need to absorb more training before I am in race form, I have some awesome fast skis, and my double poling feels weak. I was happy with parts of my race, and was just feeling really worked at other parts. Another good learning experience, though.
My main motivation to race fast was so that I could run inside and try to catch Ida racing her first World Cup on Eurosport. Both US relay teams had a good showing in Gaellivare, and it was really fun to watch. I love it, instead of Sunday afternoon football here, they have World Cup on TV.
Yesterday was my third best FIS points race ever, so that should improve my national ranking.
Today's sprint is over. It went off as scheduled, despite my doubts yesterday. For me, it was a step in the right direction, but it still indicated that I need to absorb some more training before I'm in race form. I did manage to feel nauseous after finishing the qualifier, and to worked up a good post-race hack, whereas last weekend I just put on a race bib and kind of slogged around the course. Qualifying went decently, and I came in at 24th. Timing between qualifying and heats was really tight, and I had just enough time to cool down from qualifying before I started warming up again. Hannah Dreisigacker was the other American woman in the heats, she qualified 10th and raced in the first quarterfinal. She did awesomely and finished second, advancing to the semis. I was in the second heat, and did less-than-awesome, but I gave it my best effort. I was a little slow out of the stadium, hung in there on the climb, and then lost more time in the stadium. Surprisingly, my double poling was what felt weakest. Maybe it is because of 3 weeks on snow and the adjustments in strength needed during that transition, but it is something I will focus on in the coming weeks. Just need to develop that next gear, I know it's in me.
The most interesting part of my heat was the crazy chick who was just out of control the entire heat. She was yelling the entire heat trying to track one person or another, whoever she was skiing behind, apparently she doesn't realize that that doesn't work in sprint heats. She was skiing up on everybody's skis and then on the flat at the top of the climb, she tried to track me, but I didn't move for her, which made her really mad. So then coming down the hill she wanted to get into my lane, but was directly beside me, so she just body checked me right out of the way while I was tucking. I stayed up, but she did get the lane. However, about 2 seconds later she tripped herself going up the bridge. Very karmic, I thought.
Anyhow, feeling tired. 5k classic tomorrow. Thanks Adele for the race footage!
We are all gearing up for the supposed sprint race that is happening tomorrow. Late this morning we were out testing skis and attempting to preview the course. It is hard to say whether we were skiing the correct course or not, because there were no markings or tracks set, and the coaches meeting isn't taking place until 2 hours before the start of the race. Needless to say, they are very relaxed about race organization over here. Last week in Muonio, course control was non-existant, and here race information is all hear-say and speculation.
But things are more under-control than they sound. It appears that the course heads out of the stadium diagonally, under a bridge, then over that bridge, up the big climb, which we have been skiing as a downhill since we got here three weeks ago, 180° turn at the top of the climb, bomb the down hill, back over the bridge, over a second bridge, and straight to the finish. Should be fast and fun!
Sam skis the loop-the-loop
The stadium at race time. I heard 200 people are registered for the race, not sure where they were today.
The climb in the course. The one track was being used in both directions for previewing the course, so you had to be careful not to collide.
Other than that, we've been enjoying our last week here in Finland. Wake up, eat, train, eat, nap, train, eat, hang out, sleep, repeat. We've run into town a couple of times, eaten a lot of digestive crackers, and huddled on the couch to watch episodes of Californication.
Downtown Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland
Jätkänkynttilä bridge with its eternal flame over the Kemijoki river
Well, two races done, and my results certainly weren't anything to write home about. But it's early in the season, so I'm using them as training and an assessment of what I need to work on. When I get home, there will definitely be a focus on race-intensity training and L4 workouts. It's pretty cool rubbing elbows with all the international skiers here. The final of the women's sprint yesterday was awesome to watch: Randall, Majdic, Kowalczyk, Follis, Muranen, Genuin. It practically could have been a World Cup final. Kikkan was awesome and won with impressive tactics. There are some good pictures on the NCCSEF website. I'm going to get out and train tomorrow, rather than racing in the 10k skate. These last two days have taken it out of me. But I am looking forward to classic sprint next Saturday back in Rovaniemi.
First race tomorrow, a skate sprint. It should be a stacked field, as most of the national teams are here before they get on the World Cup circuit. Finland, the US, Germany, Russia, Italy, Estonia, Japan, Korea, Spain, you name it. Pretty much everyone except Sweden and Norway. Trying to keep a level head going into tomorrow. The course starts straight uphill, climbs, goes flat across the top, drops down a bit and finishes above the start area. My goals for the race are to 1) finesse my technique by not rushing, instead working the glide and getting full extension in the legs 2) to go hard and learn where my fitness is, and 3) to have fun and enjoy the experience. I'd rather do this than be in an office any day!
Race report to follow.
No pictures because a) it's dark here 18 hours a day b) Now that all the cool kids and superstars are around, I'm trying not to be a starstruck tourist and take creepy pictures of my favorite World Cup racers, despite how much I want to.
We're here in Muonio! We drove across the Arctic Circle and into the darkness. Our drive was uneventful, except for the few times when the bus driver had to slam on the breaks and swerve because there were reindeer on the road. The reindeer here are like cattle. All along the drive, every open field would be just filled with them.
We arrived here and have moved into our housing for the next week. The guys are all in a cabin, while Adele and I are in suite next door. Once again, the Finns know how to do winter right. Even in this little place, they've got a sauna in the bathroom and a drying cabinet next to the door. And Euro Sport on TV! In German! I know what I'll be whiling away the hours doing. . .
The team on the Arctic Circle (minus Freddie, who ran across the street to visit Santa). It was as thrilling as I imagined.
November has the highest occurrence of collisions with reindeer in Finland. I believe it.
Welcome to winter.
I think the Swedish biathlon team is staying across the way from us. Just a hunch. . .
This morning, just as we were getting ready to go out skiing, it started to snow. Thankfully, I hadn't kick waxed yet, because we put on Rode violet klister and covered with super blue. It kept snowing throughout the duration of our 2 hour ski. Now the ground that isn't ski trail actually looks wintery, which makes this whole situation look more natural.
Check out this webcam, click on the one for "Ounasvaara." This is the cross-country stadium where they are blowing snow, but you can also see the snow from this morning. The early snow track ends just over the bridge on the right. Check it before 9AM CST, or else it will be dark.
On another note, this place is awesome! Yesterday we skated in the morning, which kind of rocked me, being my first skate on snow for the year. I needed to rest my balancing muscles, so we went jogging in the afternoon/evening (it being dark at 4PM). We used the fully lit gravel trails around Santa Sport, so it was a great run. I saw my first reindeer on the trail!
After, I hit the pool, and this just made my day. Nick was the only guy who joined me, after the others found out that it was requisite to wear a speedo, and the gym would gladly loan you one in case you forgot yours. Hilarious! I also find it completely amusing that, unlike my gym at home, where you are required to wear a suit or towel in the sauna, here suits and towels are strictly prohibited in the sauna. Welcome to Europe!
I think the reason that Europeans are so fast at ski racing is because they have this recovery thing totally figured out. Half of the lap pool was reserved specifically for my favorite recovery activity, aqua jogging (I seriously love it). Ever since my college running days, I have found that cycling your legs under water makes your muscles feel really great. Next, I indulged in a contrast bath using the hot and cold tubs. The hot tub could have been hotter, but the cold tub made for one of the more leg numbing ice baths I've ever experienced. Finally, I stood under a back and should massaging pressurized waterfall. Today I'm going to try out the wicked hot sauna.
Some men's volleyball over dinner, yummy!
Adele models the latest in Finnish fashion at the machine show
Snacks and Finnish rednecks at the machine show
Stay tuned, I'm going to be posting a video of our skiing soon.
My first day here in the "Official Hometown of Santa" has been most excellent. I slept great last night, got a full 9 hours, woke up at 8AM, jogged, went to breakfast, and got out for my first classic ski with the group. The 5k track is made of snow saved from last spring and the temp was 0 Celcius, so we were kicking on red klister. Coach Will had a us all doing some striding drills with one and no poles, which was a great way to get used to being on snow again. My favorite, which was new to me, was a German drill where you no pole stride with your hands above your head. I'll have to experiment with that one some more.
This afternoon we were in the gym for strength. According to some Japanese coaches Will once met, strength will stimulate the release of HGH (human growth hormone), which is supposed to help you sleep at night. I'll let you know if that works. While we were in the gym, we saw people around the athletic complex practicing nearly every other sport imaginable: track, weight lifting, volleyball, floorball, gymnastics, judo. Needless to say, it is a very cool facility.
The accommodations here at Santa Sport are awesome. We are in a duplex cabin half a kilometer away from the ski track and main building where the cafeteria, gym, and a number of other facilities are, so we just walk everywhere. Our cabins are totally dialed for athletes. My favorite features are the saunas and the drying cabinet, where you hang up your wet jacket, gloves, and whatever else from training, and its warm and dry by your next session. The sauna is sweet, because all you do is pop the lid on the heater, and the whole thing is steaming hot in 10 minutes.
Kicking on red klister. Some Big Green representation here (4 of the 9 on the trip are alums or current Dartmouth students)
The beginning of snow track. They saved this snow from last year in a parking lot under sawdust and wood chips to make this 5k track.
The gym at Santa Sport
Floorball practice. In my country it's called floor hockey, and it's for elementary school gym class, but here it's a legit sport.
The food here is great so far. Potatoes with every meal and lots of veggies.
The gang's all here: Nick Michaud, Glenn Randall, Mike Lessard, Sam Tarling, Fred Bailey, Coach Will Sweetser, and Adele Espy (not pictured Leif Zimmerman).
Camped out in the Helsinki airport. My flight to Amsterdam went as well as any red eye could, and flying to Helsinki was also pleasantly uneventful. I landed here at 4:30PM local time, and night had already fallen, only a sign of what's to come once we fly 1 hour 20 minutes north to Rovaniemi, and then drive 3 and a half more northwest to Muonio.
Traveling with my bodyweight in luggage, always a fun challenge.
The Amsterdam airport was neat. I hope to get back to the city and actually leave the airport someday. The pub was filled with Heineken drinkers before noon, and the most popular souvenirs for sale were tulip bulbs and wooden clogs. Holland, I like your style.
My only complaint so far: I just had to pay for water. I guess drinking fountains are an innovation that has yet to reach Europe. . .
Off-shore wind turbines on the descent into Amsterdam. Those can cancel out the bottles of water I bought.
Check out this motley crew I bumped into. My adopted fam for the next 3 weeks.
I'll take three! Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer.
Herring, beets, and potatoes. Welcome to Finland!
One last flight to Rovaniemi to complete my 21 hour-long voyage. We'll stay in Rovaniemi for a week of training before going to Muonio for the first races.
I'm off for three weeks of training and racing in Rovaniemi and Muonio, Finland with the Maine Winter Sports Center. I'm super psyched for an amazing experience on and off the snow. Follow me here, I will post as often as possible.
Huge props to Ahvo, a man who's not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. He cares about the progress of US skiing and does his part to contribute.
Thanks for your support on this trip and always!
Never fly without these.
Never leave home without this.
Next post from the other side of the pond! Think warm and sunny thoughts.