I am a professional snowballer.  As a professional snowballer, I pride myself in taking the smallest speck of information (one small snowflake), and taking that snowflake to its most dramatic, significant, and often dark conclusion (a giant snowball).

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And not the kind of “baller” Tom Haverford of my favorite show Parks and Recreation is.

An example.

Situation:

Annie Pokorny, after returning from an adventure in the west earlier this summer, asks if I want to go get coffee.

Amateur Snowballer Conclusion:

OH.  So nice.  She wants to catch up, talk about the last three weeks of our lives (we only communicate in person or in selfies), and enjoy a great cup of coffee during this unusually cool summer day.

Professional Snowballer Conclusion

Ohmygod. She loves the west, was mad at humidity this morning, and is asking me to coffee to tell me that she is in fact leaving the east forever, never going to see me again, and is using this as her two week (week?!? no probably two hour. Maybe even minute. Is that why she got a to-go cup?) notice. Fine.

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Sipping coffee on an unseasonably warm day at Caldwell Sport this past week.

As most of you probably ascertained (especially if you saw the post where Zach Caldwell of Caldwell Sport actually called us cute) the #Annies are still going strong, and the Amateur Snowballer had the right conclusion.

I’m not sure when I became such an illustrious snowballer.  Further, I can’t decide whether being a professional snowballer helps or hurts me.  On the one hand, I feel prepared for almost any scenario.  On the other, I probably expend a lot of energy coming up with almost every possible outcome to any given situation.  My snowballing capabilities are likely my greatest strength, while also marking my biggest weakness.

 

Snowballing is actually very handy as a ski racer.  I consider myself a tactical skier, and before races I like to imagine different ways races could play out, and how I’d respond.  Before my last race freshman year at Dartmouth, the Dartmouth carnival team discussed what our arch-rivals UVM would do to try and win the race.  It was decided that we could not let them get in a line, and I came up with a plan.  The second I saw the UVM women lining up to take control, I was going to go for it.  So going into high school hill the second lap of three, I saw the UVM women getting into position.  I turned to Rosie Brennan, told her I was going to go, and I did.  I flew up the hill, fell at the top, but the move was effective and decisive, and Rosie won her last carnival (I came in fifth).  A snowball success.

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I even found pictures from one of my greatest snowballs to date. I think this was just before we headed into the second lap.  I’m following Rosie in second, with the pink hair.

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A very tired, but decidedly professional, snowballer.

 

Despite my many snowball success stories, occasionally snowballing leads to overthinking, over-trying, and over-doing.  I can get so caught up in what might happen, that I forget to pay attention to what actually is happening.  It’s pretty easy to do, especially this time of year.  With our departure to West Yellowstone only nine days away, and the first official race of the season 18 days away, I find myself getting wrapped up in the future and forgetting to focus on the now.  It’s good GREAT that I’m more excited to race than ever before, but I also need to remember to pay attention to my current to-do lists and needs.  We just had a wonderful week of training with some spectacular November weather, and next week is shaping up to be another great one.

I’m going to sideline the snowballing for just a little bit, relax, and enjoy my last bits of “easy-living” before the suit-case life begins.  In other words, I’m going to focus on the Tom Haverford way of “balling.”  But first, some pictures!

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Paddy and I showing off our new T2 hats pre-Threshold intervals on Saturday.

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When I get REALLY excited I can’t even do a normal smile. Instead this kind of weird half smile forms. I am so thrilled to try out my new Madshus skis on snow in under 10 days!!

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Soaking up the sun with Sophie during a skate speed day.

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A happy camper post sprint simulation! We did it “Kings Court Style,” which basically means it doesn’t matter your gender, just your time. It was pretty fun mixing it up in the final with SMS junior dudes Cam, Adam, and Russel, and SMS T2ers Sophie, and Ben Saxton (who had to start 15 seconds behind us, because he’s so fast).  Also, Pat can’t be bothered with the paparazzi (PG skier Gabe).

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#Erikannies. And Gabe, sneaking in (Sid the Slothing in) the background.

 

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Erika and I made the most delicious pumpkin doughnuts with maple and toasted pecan glaze.

 

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A much need Monday off day and breakfast. Blueberry pancakes and local sausage from Hapgood’s!

 

 

I’ve been trying my hardest to keep the “fun” in FUNdraising.  While at times the prospect of raising $30,000 and asking for donations can be intimidating and a little bit daunting, 98% of the time, it really is fun.  Here’s how I’ve been keeping the fun in FUNdraising.

1. Meeting new people, reconnecting with old.

After driving up to Cable with my mom yesterday, I was lucky enough to participate in the Be Healthy Hayward workout group.  This group of kick-butt women have been meeting once a week to train for the upcoming Birkie Trail 5K (happening this Saturday, be there!).  After a nutrition and taper talk, we hit the trails behind the Hayward hospital for a 2 mile walk/run.  I loved talking with all of the women, but my favorite moment came when one of them said, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t, but I just want to touch your thigh.”  An odd request, but one I couldn’t help but acquiesce.  I flexed my quad, she touched it, and stated “something to work towards.”  Awesome.

Also in my brief stint at home (don’t worry, I’ll be back again in a week) I’ve had the chance to sit down and reconnect with my high school nordic coach, Ms. Scott.  An incredibly generous, outgoing, and all around amazing person, Ms. Scott has a lot to do with where I am today, and sitting down and chatting with her was revitalizing and just so fabulous.  Ms. Scott has been doing a lot to promote my FUNdraiser at the PowerHouse on September 27th, and I am so thankful for that.  And we set a date to make Paella at her house, so a double win there.

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Ms. Scott (far Left) with the rest of my high school team after our sections race my senior year.

 

2. Heavy utilization of my planner, getting new pens to keep everything organized

At times, planning a FUNdraiser is the teensiest bit stressful.  Instead of having dreams where I forget an entire half of an exam, I have dreams nightmares that either (a) no one will show up or (b) I show up to the Powerhouse and am suddenly unable to do a pushup or (c) I drop every single Pizza I’m serving at Rivers Eatery tonight, no one gets their pizza, and everyone experiences a new level of Hanger.  One thing that helps me quell my nightmares is writing everything I want to happen down in my planner, and using different colored (new!) pens to keep everything organized.  My planner looks full and pretty, and that in itself is quite soothing.

3. Home

Despite my status as an Easterner for the past six years, I am truly a Minnesota girl at heart.  Nothing makes me quite as happy as landing in the MSP airport, driving home, and sitting in our living room with coffee, my dog, and three cats milling about.  I love St. Paul and all of the great restaurants and shopping, I love that everyone waves at you when you’re running down a country road, and I really love spending time with my family (sorry you aren’t here Henry, but more steak for me).  This is one of the reasons I’m having my FUNdraisers at home- it gave me the opportunity to come back, and also the chance to be among my favorite kind of people- Midwesterners.  Minnesota (and I’m sure Wisconsin) nice, truly is a thing.

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Hanging with Val on my favorite street in the world, Grand Avenue in St. Paul!

 

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Not sure if Liesel loves me or her tennis ball more, but I’m not going to ask questions if I don’t want to know the answer :)

 

4. Crossfit!

This spring I added the PowerHouse to my seemingly endless list of reasons I love Minnesota.  It took all my restraint not to just hop off the Plane at 8:20 in the morning (after waking up at 2:30 that morning) and head right over to the 9:15 class at the Powerhouse.  But I used some judgement, and waited until Tuesday to enter the gym.  I’ve been going every day since (even if just for some mobility, or to say hello), and I can’t wait to share the gym with everyone on SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27th at 2 P.M. for my special session FUNdraiser.  I’ve been talking with both Max and Jill about the workout, and I think it will be a lot of fun.  So please come (and RSVP if you get the chance)!

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Rediscovered my favorite lifting shirt while at home.

 

5. Pizza!

Finally, tonight I will be serving Pizza at one of my favorite Wisconsin spots, the Rivers Eatery.  Mick and Beth Endersbe were my first employers, and really spoiled me for the rest of my job hunting life.  They are two of the most supportive, genuine, and silent sports loving people you will EVER meet.  So if you are in the area and looking for an easy (and supremely delicious) dinner, good conversation and an all around fantastic time, head on over to Rivers TONIGHT.  It also happens to be great fuel for any and all participants in the many events of the Birkie Trail Run (I will be running the last leg of a marathon relay, so look for me sprinting downhill), and I know I’ll be pizza fueled.

And that’s how I’ve been keeping FUNdraising fun, and I hope you’ll join me in my fun-seeking efforts.  The dream I’m living wouldn’t be possible without a huge base of support, and I am forever indebted to those who have made, and continue to make, everything possible.  So come do a workout, or eat some pizza, or both…I can’t wait to meet you.

What do you do in the summer, you know…since there isn’t any snow?

This is the most asked question when I tell people I am a full time professional cross country ski racer.  It’s a good question, and I could try and explain using words, but I think videos are a lot more fun.

If you want a further explanation and more stories from this past summer and the 2014-2015 season, please join me on SEPTEMBER 27th at 2 P.M. for a special session at THE POWERHOUSE AT HIGHLAND.  For more information head over to http://www.annie-hart.com/bethedifference/.  And please let me know if you are coming!

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Rounding a corner on the roller ski complex in Lake Placid, New York at a US Ski Team training camp.

 

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Working on some uphill speed at the roller ski track!

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Working as a group during some hard bounding intervals in Lake Placid!

 

I love tennis.  I love watching tennis, reading about tennis, talking about tennis…pretty much everything except playing tennis.  I have minimal hand eye coordination, and every time I’ve played tennis in the past I have left with a face reminiscent of a waffle iron.  I am however pretty positive that there exists some past or future me who was, or is going to be, a tennis star.

And with the conclusion of the U.S. Open, I’ve been wondering what about tennis it is I just love so much.  I am in constant awe of the mental focus it must require to play a constantly evolving game, set, and match for 3.5 hours.  The strength to serve a ball 122 miles per hour, and the precision to simultaneously hit it in between the lines.  But after careful reflection, I think I love it because of the drama.  Players grunt with each hit, scream in both defeat and victory, and thanks to modern day television I get to be right up in Serena’s face when she’s agonizing and when she’s celebrating.

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Sweet Victory

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Agonizing Defeat

 

Further, I think I’m in love with the tennis player attitude.  From what I’ve read (and in the past couple weeks, I’ve read A LOT), tennis players work hard, they know they work hard, and are very good at celebrating their strengths while recognizing their weaknesses.  And somehow, instead of seeming cocky, the top tennis players emanate a respectful confidence in themselves.  They don’t take victories for granted, but (usually) aren’t surprised when they win.

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Djokovic after winning the 2015 U.S. Open

 

The week before winning the Men’s U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic told the New York Time’s Style Section (another thing about tennis players both men and women…they know style), “I think you either progress or regress, so it’s either going up or down.  Everybody is moving, the people, our planet, so you either keep up with it or you just stay where you are.  But staying where you are…you actually regress.”

How about that for some motivation.

I don’t think that quote needs a whole lot more added to it, but I will tell you how I’m going to apply it to my current life as a professional ski racer.  We just arrived in Lake Placid, New York for the first fall U.S. Ski Team training camp of the year.  For the next week we will be hammering out a lot of high quality intensity sessions from our home base at the Olympic Training Center, resting hard in between sessions, focusing on technique and fitness, AND having a ton of fun.  These camps are a phenomenal opportunity to keep moving up and progressing, so I’m going to do my damnedest to live by Djokovic’s philosophy of success.

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We kicked off camp with two intensity sessions…no pictures but here is a screen shot of Jessie, Sophie, and I hammering on each other during high intensity double poling.

And, don’t forget that I will be headed home on Monday for a week of quality Midwest time leading up to my fundraiser at the Power House at Highland on September 27th at 2 p.m.  Keep your eyes peeled for a little teaser video of some summer training later this week, and I can’t wait to get strong with you!

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And sometimes when faced with a big week of intensity, you need something a little more than Djokovic telling you to make progress.  Thank you, Channing Tatum.

 

 

As we are approaching the end of the summer, we have sprinkled quicker, harder, and almost entirely anaerobic efforts into our normal long threshold intervals.  We’ve been introducing race pace and level four intervals, as well as 30 second sprint pace intervals into our training.  The 30 seconders hurt (a lot), but are also some of my favorite intensity sessions.  The goal is to find a “comfortable” anaerobic “cruising” gear.  They are especially pertinent to sprint races, and especially prone to incident.  Watch the video, and then read on.

One thing I’ve been struggling with recently is just how far away the ski season seems.  Even though it is already basically the end of summer (I measure summer by my birthday, which is this Thursday August 20th), and we are already talking about plans for nationals (back to Houghton!), the end of November seems devastatingly distant.  All I want to do is pull on full spandex, pop into my new Madshus skis and hit the race course.

For fear of pulling a metaphor further than it can stretch, I’m looking at my little roller ski spill (which really only left me with a little less wind in my lungs and a little less skin on my hips) as an example of what could happen if I get a little bit too excited about the season.  Doing too much training in the summer basically knocks you off balance.  You can try and save it during the fall (the season, but that’s a funny coincidence given the metaphor) by pulling back and resting a bunch in October and November, but then you are either still over trained and tired or simply flat come race time.  It’s hard to take back doing too much too soon.

Erika described the summer’s sentiments perfectly.  She said she feels like a race horse being held at the gate, rearing and ready to take off but being held back.  And while sometimes it’s frustrating to admit that you’re tired, cut out workouts and stay inside when the running trails are all but screaming your name, it is maybe the most important part of training.  If at all possible, you never want to find yourself in a situation where your only thoughts are “Save it save it save it.”  Instead, you want to find yourself just saying “Send it send it send it.”  And that means listening to your body, your coaches, your teammates, and naturally your parents :)

We have one more big week on the agenda, and then in compliance with not doing too much too soon we have a big break week with minimal hours, no organized training, and just a lot of relaxing.  And next time you hear from me, I’ll be 23 (whoa), but first some pictures!

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Another way to avoid getting too far off balance and tired…eating! We’ve had some spectacular meals to keep us fueled through some big weeks before our big rest. These buckwheat waffles were particularly delicious.

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I’m also currently living in a house with three boys (Ben, Kyle Bratrud from CXC and Ian Torchia from Northern Michigan University are currently visiting us out East!)…yes all of these burgers were for one night, for four people. Yes, they were all eaten.

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So lucky to have some of my best friends from Dartmouth back in Vermont for a little bit! Elise (middle) just got back from Germany where she was being a Fulbright scholar, and Isabel (right) just left for grad school to get a degree in teaching at the University of Vermont! So much fun catching up with both of them!

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At the top of a different mountain following some threshold ski walking intervals with Erika, Sophie, and Sophie’s cousin Anya.

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I was a counselor at the SMS Junior Camp this year, and loved working on the fundamentals with a bunch of very excited and seemingly never tired kids!

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Cheering the juniors in at the end of their uphill run test!

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We’ve been lucky to have a lot of sunny beautiful days, but we were due for a yucky rainy one. Erika and I braved the roads for some double poling action. Thank goodness for fenders! In other news, I’m contemplating inventing a helmet with a retractable umbrella.

It was Sunday night.  After finishing up our second week of volume training with a three hour road bike in the morning, a busy afternoon of organizing details for my fundraiser happening on September 27th at 2 p.m. at the Power House (more details soon!), and an evening of baby-sitting two wonderful four year olds, I drove into the drive way wanting nothing more than a 10 o’clock snack and bed.  Instead, I got a bear.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one with a 10 o’clock snack in mind- Mr. Bear was enjoying his own snack of wrappers and recycling.  Yummy.

Not entirely sure what to do, I honked my horn a couple times, flashed my brights, and sprinted into the house.  Then, I went into the kitchen still in pursuit of a 10 o’clock snack, and two little mice gave me quite the scare.  After building myself a bridge of kitchen chairs to the fridge (so I could avoid mice scrambling over my feet), I got my snack, went downstairs, and decided I’d deal with everything in the morning.

We lovingly call the T2 house the Disney house, but I am not Snow White.  I wasn’t whistling while I picked up the bear’s dishes.  I was fuming.  I didn’t want mice as friends (although I could use some more friends, as the rest of my house is currently in New Zealand!).  So instead I went on the offensive.  I spent most of my morning googling ways to keep bears away and capture mice in such a way that I wouldn’t have to see them dead.  I built a bear booby trap with pots and pans, sprinkled ammonia all around the shed, and piled peanut butter into traps for when the mice got hungry.  Although I haven’t caught any mice (maybe they prefer crunchy peanut butter to smooth), I think my tactics with the bear have been effective.  I do have a Plan B (unlike the New York prisoners who tried to escape) for the bear, and it involves balloons.  I almost hope Plan A doesn’t work so I can see if Plan B does.

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Not pleased.

 

And figuring out how to co-exist with animals isn’t the only thing I have been (along with the rest of the SMS T2 team) taking the offensive on.  The past two weeks have been a perfect case study of taking the offensive during training in anticipation of the rest of the season (big hours now followed by a big rest should mean big improvements come winter).  I’ve been diligently hydrating, eating, stretching, and resting to take the offensive against illness and injury.

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Taking the offensive against longer races…nearing the top of a large climb during our 3 hour over distance bike ride Sunday morning.

 

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Loving the local vegetables coming out of farmstands during peak season! Part of my lunch the other day was simply too beautiful not to photograph.

Most exciting of all, on Saturday Erika, Annie and I took the offensive against breast cancer by participating in the 10K race for the cure in Manchester, VT.

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Pink army at the start- along with Erika and Annie some of the SMS juniors also took part in the race!

 

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About .1 miles from the finish line, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. We haven’t done a whole lot of flat running (much less pavement pounding), but I didn’t hold anything back.

 

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In fact, I ran my best 10K time ever at 39:38! It was an SMS sweep- I took home the women’s victory, with Katharine Ogden, Annie, and Erika in second, third and fourth! Turns out fitness transcends activities!

In my mind, taking the offensive minimizes uncertainty.  While knowing how to react and adapt to surprises remains paramount in all things life and ski related (you just never really know when your competitor will take off), the easiest way to tackle big challenges is anticipating them.  That way, you can prepare yourself for anything.

Watch out Mr. Bear, I’m coming for ya.

 

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But first, I’m going to dress up and have a nice summer evening with the ladies :)

 

 

Mornings (and Mondays) are a good time for reflection.  Especially today.  What, with the rain drops running down the windows, the Van Morrison playlist providing a playlist for my off-day to-do list, and my third cup of coffee sitting next to my computer, how could I not stop and consider the big questions.  What will I make for dinner?  How many emails can I send today?  How long can I make a to-do list? When did “the jumping picture” become a thing?

I don’t know the answer to the first three questions. The fourth, however, is definitively during the Fall of 2012.  In a foreshadowing of my current life, I spent my off term from Dartmouth (Fall 2012) training alongside the newly created SMS T2 team.  Scrolling through my old facebook photos (some times I manage to embarrass even myself…yikes), I came across the first recorded jumping photo.  On September 27th, 2012, Sophie and I leaped off a wall at the summit of Equinox, a nearby mountain in Manchester, VT.  From there, the jumping photos just don’t seem to stop.  Nearly all epic adventures, mountain tops, hard workouts, and every day occurrences seemed to be photographically captured via the jumping shot.

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And so it began.

This led me to another question- what about the jumping shot is so intriguing as to have become a necessity in the lives of full time skiers?  As with most topics, I have a couple of thoughts.

1. Prove that if we really wanted to, we could have been beach volley ball players

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…well everyone except for Annie. Celebrating a great day in Ramsau, Austria during the Pre- World Juniors trip in Winter 2013.

2. Prove that we can all count to three, all at the same time

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When you consider how many muscles had to fire at exactly the same time, this coordinated jump shot from my senior year trip with Dartmouth to Silver Star is actually VERY impressive.

3. Demonstrate that even after a hard workout, we can still leap into the air (fitness)

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Just a couple days ago we did threshold ski walking intervals up Stratton, and despite the hard effort managed to get ourselves air borne at the summit.

4. Because it’s part of our strength plan

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This week for strength Max threw some hurdle jumping into the mix! Channeling my inner-bunny.

5. Our best attempt at trying to capture just how happy, excited, and truly lucky we are to be doing the things we do.

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Whooo! Jumping for joy in Almaty, Kazakhstan with my SMS T2 teammates Ben and Annie at the 2015 U23 World Championships.

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Celebrating the absolutely stunning landscape with my Dartmouth bestie Natalie in Silver Star, Canada.

Sometimes it’s hard to capture how awesome skiing is.  And sometimes a “normal” picture just doesn’t seem to do it justice.  I think the jumping photo is the closest thing we have to showing just how happy we are to be doing what we do.  Even if it’s cliched and silly, I love the jumping shot.  So let’s keep on jumpin’!

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Other ways to show you’re happy (and also tired): goofy roller ski shots at the end of a Sunday roller ski over distance session.

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Sophie showing how much fun she’s having being pulled around during a recent roller ski drill session. Yee-Haw- Till next week!


 

 

 

NPR recently released a very long, very confusing, very educational-albeit slightly boring- article on how the Billboard Hot 100 songs are determined, and how streaming services (think Youtube, Vevo, Pandora, Spotify) affect the songs that land the coveted top spot.  The list has had to stay in tune with (pun only half intended) the constantly evolving world of music (listening, purchasing, downloading, and sharing).  As with any “top” list, industry politics play a large role in determining what gets put into the equation that spits out the top song, and many people get their feelings hurt, and have a lot to say on the matter.  The issue is especially hot right now, as Billboard just released their first “Song of the Summer” ranking, and as the NPR article discusses, some people are mad.

Here’s a quick way for the Billboard Hot 100 to avoid any scandal: Put SMS T2 in charge of the chart.

Here at SMS T2, we take our training soundtrack almost as seriously as the actual training itself. For every aspect of our lives as full time skiers, we have a song. From coffee inspired wake up jams to pre-snoozing ballads, we make sure our soundtrack stays current and awesome. Due to the wide variety of moods, times, and people we must have a song for, I think it’s safe to say we have the ultimate Billboard Hot List. There’s a song of the summer on here for everyone, so take a look!

The Happily-Sipping-Your-Coffee-Song

Shine (Kygo Remix), Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Even if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, Kygo’s epic remix of Shine will be sure to flip that frown upside down (make you smile).

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And if that song doesn’t put you in a good mood…Jessie certainly will! Jessie arrived on Wednesday, and it has been such a treat spending time and catching up with her! We found a new coffee shop near Stratton, the Coffee Bar, and it is AMAZING. Jessie poses with her mini Macchiato (don’t be fooled, that lil guy punches a two shot espresso punch).

The Interval Song

I Want You To Know (feat. Selena Gomez), Zedd

I don’t always have as much fun doing intervals as Selena has dancing her face off in this music video.  But with this Zedd dance-pop anthem blasting out the van window, I can’t help but have a little more fun.

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           I was however having a lot of fun on Wednesday doing interval and taking full advantage of a bluebird Vermont day by doing some double pole threshold intervals. This week has been pretty relaxed volume wise, but the quality of sessions has been high. We have a full five months of hard training ahead of us, and thought it would be smart to ease into the swing of summer training.

The Over Distance Workout Song

Loving You Easy, Zac Brown Band

In my opinion, over distance time means country music time. Country music typically provides a good but relatively slow tempo to keep spirits high and feet moving when the workouts get long. Further, they often give many lyrics to interpret and emotions to consider. Loving You Easy fits this bill perfectly, as do a lot of country songs, because a lot of them sound the same.

The I LOVE TRAINING Song

Ohio (filous Remix), Damien Jurado

Really more of an I love life song, one listen (or twenty five if you’re me) keeps the positive vibes rolling.

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WE LOVE TRAINING. Sophie, Ben, and I successfully got above the fog line on an easy run one morning, and couldn’t have been more pleased.

The I DON’T LOVE TRAINING Song

Broken into Better Shape, Good Old War

Training isn’t always fun. Even though this week has been awesome, I know there is a workout in the future waiting to break me. Thankfully Good Old War mixes their signature vocals with a message perfectly suited to picking you up if you’re down.

Close Second: Kanye (feat. sirenxx), The Chainsmokers

Because occasionally being Kanye seems like a good alternative to doing all out intervals in the pouring rain.

The Strength Song

Stole the Show (feat. Parson James)*, Kygo

The perfect strength song makes you feel tough, motivated, strong, and a little bit angry. Usually on the darker side, the ideal strength song wouldn’t be caught dead on a Kidz Bop remix. Kygo has a lot of pure gold music, but Stole the Show stole my heart (and continues to give me muscles).

*Maybe the weirdest music video I’ve ever seen

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Working on some squatting in the gym. I’m working with the Power House at Highland (where I strength trained this spring) from afar, and it has been awesome. Bring on the protein powder!

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Pat has so much confidence in my leg muscles that he didn’t even have to watch- he just knew I’d make it back up :)

 

The Dinner Party Song

2 Heads, Coleman Hell

The key to a good cooking/dinner party song is for it to be simultaneously subtle and interesting. As is the nature of a party, some people will be deep in conversation not listening to the music and others will be by themselves listening intently. 2 Heads is perfect for the 2 ways a dinner song can be enjoyed.

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Jessie and I have been whipping up some stunning meals. We started our romantic cooking for two off with the previously featured Mexican-themed corn cakes Thursday. Friday we had a Vietnamese inspired Beef Pho soup (pictured here), and Saturday we made a Farro salad with Italian sausage and roasted brussel sprouts (check back on Thursday for more on that…). Eat well, train well!

The Always Appropriate Song

Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Taylor Swift

I’m only a little offended she didn’t ask me to take part as one of her sidekicks in the music video.

Happy Monday, and I’ll be back next week with another life update!

 

 

 

I’ve always loved dancing. If I were home I’d be pawing through our family photo boxes for the shot of a much younger but slightly chubbier me in a floral print leotard, sweat band, and great hair-do jamming to the “barbie dance workout” VHS. I graduated from TV lessons to ballet, which I loved until I realized that ballet required a lot of standing in one place (and very sore toes). Figure skating seemed like the next best option, and so I danced across the ice until I discovered my love (as well as a little more natural talent) for nordic skiing.

Here’s the thing though. I don’t know if I would be considered a very “good” dancer in the traditional sense. I’m not flexible enough to back bend or do the splits (or a split if you are from the East). I can’t do the worm, I can’t roll my belly, and if I whip my hair too hard back and forth I develop lasting and searing neck pain. I have a very small arsenal of moves that I pull out in a repeating cycle, and instead of my hands flowing through the air like freshly laundered linens they slice like knives.

Further, there isn’t exactly a lot of dancing in a nordic ski race. While some technique may be described as dancing up a hill (not mine, I ski more like a tank), for the most part there is a “good” way and a “bad” way to ski. We spend HOURS working on technique, changing the most minute angles in our ankles, shins, hips, elbows, shoulders, and head to find the most efficient and effective way to move.

So when I was asked to run the dance station at the Sun Valley Fast and Female, I had to think hard about what a dance station was doing at a ski themed Fast and Female. Obviously there’s some coordination involved in both activities. Also balance, endurance (try dancing as hard as you can for 10 minutes, and you’ll see what I mean), and focus. But a lot of sports have that in common. And then I remembered that before every single race I dance. I walk over to the start pen with my headphones blaring whatever is topping the pop music charts, drop my skis and poles, and dance. It doesn’t matter if I’m freezing my butt off in Houghton or wearing a t-shirt in Sun Valley.

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For the station I taught the girls a dance I had made up. It wasn’t very long or complicated, but I loved watching the girls go from timid to smiling as they gained confidence in the movements. After the hour of dancing with five different groups I have some weird muscles that are a little sore, but totally worth it.

When I’m dancing in the start pen, I am 100% focused on myself. And then when I get to that start line, the focus translates. I’m not worried about who is around me, who is watching, or what lays around the next corner or up the next hill. I’m only focused on my movements, my race. And those are the best races- the ones where bibs don’t matter, and who you are passing is insignificant. It’s just you, the trail, and the clock. Or if you’re in a heat or mass start, individuals don’t matter. It’s just about getting yourself across the line first.

Further I think that dancing brings a lot of self-confidence. One girl told me at the start of our dance lesson that “she couldn’t dance.” To which I told her that simply isn’t possible. Dancing is just moving with character. You put yourself in your movements, and you jam. While ski racing may have better and worse ways, I think it’s similar. You just put your skis on and go as hard as you can. You just focus on yourself, do what you know how to do, and get from point A to point B. Everyone can dance; everyone can race. And by the end, the doubter was grooving and moving with everyone else.

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This photo was taken during the 10K pursuit at OPA finals in Chamonix. I moved up ending the weekend in 21st! I had an okay first race, had one of my best 10K skates ever the second day, and my time for the pursuit day clocked in 18th. For a distance oriented weekend of racing I was very pleased with the results!

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Eric Packer took both this photo and the above, and here he captured me pretty stoked on life at 12,000 feet. We took a tram to the top of Aguille di Midi ( I think), a mountain next to the famous Mont Blanc in France.

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Reunited with lots of my favorite people! Thomas is here with the Dartmouth team, and most of the SMS T2 team is back in one place. Jessie is sick so is back in Minnesota until she feels better, but everyone else is here. We miss Jessientons, but it’s hard not to smile when in Sun Valley.

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Thomas!

We are currently gearing up for the last series of races in Sun Valley. The racing begins with a 10K individual classic race tomorrow, followed by. a skate sprint the next day. After a day pause we have the club relay, and cap off the week with a 30K mass start skate race. I arrived back to the U.S. on Monday after a successful European racing stint, and while I loved Europe I am so happy to be back in the US. It’s been an exciting and exhausting winter, but everyone is rallying for one last dance. And trust me, I’ll be out there dancing.

I didn’t even know it was possible for it to snow when it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  I thought that at its earliest beginnings, nature decided to not strike unsuspecting skiers with the double whammy of brutally cold temperatures AND literally feet of new falling snow (or for that matter the triple whammy with 25 mile per hour winds).  I’d dealt with each of these phenomena independently, but not until this last week of racing at U.S. Nationals did I face the trifecta of a spandex-clad racer’s worst nightmare.

That all sounds very dramatic, but walking to the line for the first race of the week (a 10K individual start skate race), I had entered full on panic mode.  Despite my diligent effort to improve my distance skating over the warm summer, I was actually scared of the 10K skate.  I am definitively a power skier, and snow that is fresh and so cold your skis squeak with every push is not kind to a big push followed by a long glide.  Instead, this kind of snow requires “constant output.”  Basically this means there is minimal glide, and instead you just have to work your way up the hill little step by little step at a time.

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Working my way around the course during the 10K skate (SkinnySki photo)

So after 32 minutes of half-assured but full effort skating around the course, I battled my way into the snow blown and headwind heavy finishing lanes ending the day in 24th position.  This was not what I had wanted.  I didn’t have huge expectations for the 10K skate (or even really what they were), but after looking at the results I knew my expectations had been higher.  After a sad cool down, I waddled into the wax room to talk to Pat.  Before I even had the chance to say anything, he gave me a big high five and a hug, telling me he was so impressed with how I had skied.

WHAT?! I was so confused.  I thought I hadn’t skied very well, and was a little too close to throwing myself a pity party in the wax room.  He continued, telling me that I had successfully adapted to the course.  No it wasn’t my favorite conditions, and no, it probably didn’t favor me.  But regardless I hadn’t completely blown the race, and instead gave a solid effort for a fine result.  Sure it wasn’t great, but I had the whole week in front of me.

So when I showed up to the start of the classic sprint qualifier, I was ready for anything. The course conditions were epic (it snowed 8 inches in 3 hours during qualifying).  But I forced myself to remember that the course was epic for everyone, and I wasn’t the only one out there suffering.  After a decent qualifier, I found myself lined up next to 5 other woman-warriors on the quarterfinal start line.  I skied tactically well, sneaking in behind the leaders for the first flat and downhill, and then started pushing up the hills.  I came across the line in first and moved on to the semifinals.  I approached the semifinal just as I had the quarterfinal, and did the same thing in the “A” Final.  Skiing amongst other people in the heats simply reminded me that everyone was in the same boat, and the best thing you can do is just focus on each stride ahead of you and go forward confidently knowing your training, team, and coach is behind you.  I ended the day in fourth, my best ever National’s result.

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Leading my quarterfinal to the finish line! Check out all the snow (SkinnySki photo)

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The start of the “A” Final in the women’s classic sprint. I skied what I thought to be a smart race, hopping in behind eventual winner Rosie Brennan right away. I didn’t have enough zip at the end, but was still so excited with the result and with how I skied (FasterSkier photo).

 

And then I carried the knowledge and confidence from the classic sprint to both the classic mass start and the skate sprint.  I skied a very fun (and very hard) 20K with Erika, and I ended up the day in 12th (tied for my best ever distance result at Nationals).  Finally I entered the last day of racing with tired legs but a happy, positive, and excited mental state.  I had a decent qualifier, skied a great quarterfinal to snag the lucky loser spot into the semis, and just found myself with nothing left in the tank about 3 minutes into the semi final, ending my day there.  But I got to cheer on Erika, who had her best ever National’s finish skiing to 6th in the “A” Final that day.

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I’m bib 112 (the first red suit) trying to hang on to third place with about 500 meters to go. I was not successful in that endeavor, but was so happy that Erika did ski the semi final with a fast enough time to get herself into the A Final as a lucky loser! (Caitlin Gregg and Jennie Bender are leading us)

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A celebratory selfie for Erika’s best finish ever!

Lesson learned: It’s important to never give up, and always remember that you aren’t the only one out there suffering.  Ski racing is hard, it hurts, and unless you really love it then it is just going to be a cold, frostbitten, and basically miserable existence.  To anyone who walked away from this week of racing with a newfound love of ski racing, cheers!  We did it!  And while I think I learned a lot from this week of frigid racing and did in fact reaffirm my love for the sport…I do hope we don’t have to deal with that amount of cold for awhile. There’s only so many times I can sing Frozen’s “Let it Go,” before even I begin to question if “the cold never bothered me anyway.”

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I’m also excited to say that with this week of racing I qualified for U23 World Championships. This group of woman warriors and I leave for Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 26th!

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…but let’s not put that sentiment to the test, for at least a couple weeks