Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Toblach Weekend

After ten days in Davos, including a weekend of World Cup racing, we traveled to Toblach, Italy for the final World Cup races of period one and 2015. We were greeted in Toblach by more sunny skies and beautiful weather, but still no snow. The race organizers in Toblach did an incredible job of laying down a 5k race loop that feels just like natural snow, but it's a weird sight to see a strip of snow surrounded by green grass and mud.
Beautiful sunset in Toblach

Mud and grass leading up to the stadium

Perfect tracks in the stadium
I love Italy for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about it is their pasta. We have a pasta course for every lunch and dinner and if you really wanted to, you could probably have it for breakfast. We stay at the Hotel Dolomiten every time we come to Toblach and love seeing the familiar faces of the hotel staff and the hotel dog.
Noah's personal napkin envelope decorated by Caitlin

Dinner of pasta and a fish, all to myself!
The races in Toblach over the weekend were a skate sprint and a classic 10k. In the skate sprint, we qualified six U.S. skiers into the heats and three women qualified in the top ten! I placed 2nd in my quarter final to move onto the semis and then placed 4th in my semi, just missing lucky loser by .008 seconds. Last weekend I was lucky loser in my semi by .003, so I suppose you can't win them all! The course in Toblach is really fun with some short steep ups and a very tactical last downhill into the finish where a lot of drafting takes place. I was happy with how I skied and how I felt and am looking forward to some more sprinting in the Tour de Ski. However, the most exciting part of the day was watching Simi ski to a 2nd place. He skied like a champ and we were psyched to pick up our first individual podium as a team for the year!
Sim on the podium in the skate sprint

Happy teammates after the sprint

Photo from my sprint qualifier (Nordic focus photo)
Sunday was a 10k classic for the women and a 15k classic for the men. The courses in Toblach are a little more gradual than many of the other World Cup courses we race and many of the men double poled the race. My arms are tired even thinking about that. I struggle a little with classic racing on gradual terrain, but I tried my best to get my power striding on and was happy to give distance racing a go for the first time in a few weeks. Sadie and Jessie both had strong races placing in the top 20.
Classic race (Nordic Focus photo)
After the race weekend, the majority of our team headed back to Davos for Christmas. There still isn't any snow here, but the race loop and golf course are in great condition and they've now connected the two to make a very nice loop of skiing. We have a cozy little apartment right by the ski trails and are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in the sunshine with our teammates. Our next races will be the Tour de Ski series, which begins in Lenzerheide, Switzerland with a skate sprint on January 1st. Happy Holidays!
Celebrating Christmas break with a glass of wine and some Italian pizza

Women's team plus Kikkan's baby 

Scenic drive from Toblach to Davos

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Davos Sunshine and Sprinting

After some exciting relay racing in Lillehammer, we flew to Davos, Switzerland for the next weekend of World Cup racing. Our women's relay team of Rosie, Sadie, Liz, and Jessie skied an amazing race in Lillehammer and ended up third and our men's team of Andy, Erik, Noah, and Simi also skied a really impressive race battling it out with the top nations and ending up 11th!
Enjoying some easy skiing in Lillehammer

With good company

Oh la la

Our women's team (minus Caitlin) after our girls placed third in the relay. So proud!
I was fighting a bit of a nagging sickness while we were in Lillehammer. It wasn't that bad, but it also wasn't getting better and our team docs determined that it might be some kind of bacterial infection, so after giving it some time, I went on antibiotics at the end of last week and those seemed to work their magic right away! I was happy to arrive in Davos feeling healthier and I was also excited to be back in our home away from home. Every time we come to Davos as a team we stay in the Hotel Kulm. The U.S. Ski Team has been staying here since my Uncle Tim was on the team and the family who owns the hotel treats us as their own. Feeling as close to home as we can get while on the road, paired with the sunshine and chocolate of Switzerland usually puts a smile on all of our faces. There isn't much snow here right now, but the 5k loop of manmade snow is really good skiing.
Skiing around Davos with Liz, Jess, and Kik! (jessie photo)

Kikkan and Baby Blue are on the road with us through Toblach (Jessie photo)

Happy to be in Davos (Jessie photo)

A typical lunchtime view from the Hotel Kulm
Davos is one of the highest elevations we race at on the World Cup. It's at about 5,000 feet, which isn't that much compared to some of the other places we train throughout the summer and fall, but boy can you feel it! We make easy skiing a priority when coming to altitude and put a big emphasis on recovery. It's easy to get tired here by overdoing training just a little too much. Between the altitude and recovering from my cold, most of my week was focused on easy training and evening jogs around the beautiful Lake Davos.

Practicing downhills with sadzarue (Jessie photo)

Skiing with Nalgenes while Caitlin decorated our drink belts!
My new drink belt customized by Caitlin

Sunset run by the lake
The races this weekend were a skate 15/30k and a skate sprint. I only raced the skate sprint, but in the 15k we had three girls in the top 30 with Jessie leading the way with an 11th! My favorite event on the World Cup is the skate sprint and even though we've already been over here for almost a month, we hadn't done a skate sprint yet. This left me a little nervous, but mostly excited. I really like the sprint course here in Davos. It's a two lap course that is mostly flat, but has a short steep uphill on each lap and a few technical corners. Pacing is important on this course because it's two laps and it's at altitude, so if you go too hard the first lap, you often find yourself crawling up the hill on the second lap. I felt great in my qualifier and paced it well and ended up qualifying with the 5th fastest time! We had four girls qualify in the top 20 and for the boys Simi qualified in 10th and Andy in 21st. It's a really quick sprint for the boys that ended up taking them under two and a half minutes, so the times are super tight.
Sprint Qualifier (Marcel Hilger photo)
We have a new system this year where after the qualification you actually select which heat you're going to race in. In both sprints so far this year I've selected the first heat, which gives you more recovery time if you move on, but it also usually ends up being a very fast heat because a lot of the top qualifiers end up choosing it. This can be a blessing because many lucky losers come from this heat, but it can also be a curse because it's so fast and hard. On Sunday it ended up being a blessing for me because I was third in my heat, but ended up being a lucky loser because it was such a fast heat. Jessie won her quarter final and we both moved onto the semis. Jessie and I were in the same semi final and I ended up fourth in my semi and got the lucky loser spot again! I guess I was the luckiest loser of the day. Between the altitude and the hard skiing, I think I built up more lactic acid than I ever have before. I was unsure whether I was going to lose my breakfast or not up until a couple minutes before the final. I didn't :). I skied hard for the first lap of the final and then imploded and got dropped hard by the group, crossing the line in 6th. Even though I didn't ski very fast in the final, I was so happy to be there and am fired up to do some more skate sprinting this weekend. Our service team gave us awesome skis all day, and it was really cool to have six skiers in the points and two in the top ten.
Fasterskier photo

Sadie doing a good job of keeping warm after the prelim

Proud teammates! Pretty awesome to have two SMS T2ers in the top ten. (Kik photo)

Sim with a big smile and a hug between each round even after an unlucky pole break in his 1/4 final

The team behind the team. Our team was lining the course cheering for all of us and it meant so much to have Kik in the pen encouraging us and giving us tips between each round. It was also awesome to have our strength coach Tschana and our nutritionist Susie here with us for the week!

Skiing with Jess in our semi (Marcel Hilger photo)
After a big day of racing on Sunday, I'm resting up before we head to Toblach, Italy tomorrow. The races in Toblach this weekend are a skate sprint and a classic 10/15k. Tune in at the following link to watch our final races before Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kuusamo to Lilllehammer

Last weekend was the opening weekend of the World Cup! We had a mini tour that consisted of a classic sprint, a skate 5k, and a classic 10k in three consecutive days. As a team, we had a good weekend, but we know we have bigger and better things to come in the future. Some of the highlights of the weekend included four girls qualifying for the heats in the sprint, Ida ending up 7th, Andy getting 4th, and Sadie placing top 15 in every race of the weekend for a 14th overall in the mini tour. Personally, I was really happy to qualify for the sprint in Kuusamo. This was the first time I had ever done that, so it was a nice way to start to the season! I was a little tired for the skate race, but I feel like my skate distance technique is better than it ever has been, so I'm excited to do some more skating later in the season. I woke up the morning of the classic race with a little tickle in my throat, so I decided not to race and to focus on recovering. It hasn't turned into a full blown cold, but it's a persistent tickle that still won't leave me alone, so I've been enjoying some easy training and rest the past few days.
Andy skiing to a 4th place in the opening sprint! (Nordic Focus photo)

Training day in Kuusamo with Rosie

Skiing around the tourist tracks with Sim

Welcome to Ruka!

My sprint qualifier (Nordic Focus photo)

Training with the gals (Noah photo)
After a busy weekend of racing in Kuusamo, we flew to Lillehammer, Norway for the next World Cup weekend. Lillehammer doesn't have a ton of snow, but higher up in places like Sjusjoen and Nordseter there is enough natural snow for some beautiful skiing. In addition to skiing on natural snow for the first time in awhile, we also found the sunshine here. We just went two and a half weeks without seeing the sun in northern Sweden and Finland, so we were all smiles when it popped out in Norway. I haven't even been up to the race course yet because I've been enjoying skiing on the easier trails of Sjusjoen and Nordseter, but I'll venture up there this weekend. I probably won't be racing this weekend in order to get totally healthy and rested before Davos, but I'll be cheering hard for my teammates in the skiathlon and relay!
Skiing in Sjusjoen with Jessie and Sadie

Enjoying the sunshine (Sadie photo)

Sodie twins!

Jessie posing in front of the gingerbread house in downtown Lillehammer

Lillehammer in the evening

Favorite Christmas decorations