Ski Blog

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You either love Valentine’s Day or you hate it (I’m not sure there is a single person alive who feels “meh” towards this day of love).  If you hate it…then this blog post is not for you (or maybe it is primarily for you).  Because this blog post is all about love.

I love skiing.  Through skiing I’ve met all of my best friends.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, my body, and what makes me tick.  And most of the time, skiing loves me back.  I’ve found that generally the harder you work at skiing, the better (relative to others) you’ll become.

Except for sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes no matter how much attention and love you give skiing, it just responds with a quick slap in the face.  This smack is often the result of uncontrollable variables.  Sometimes it’s a fall, a sickness, just plain bad feelings… or sometimes it is nine feet of snow in four days (looking at you, Truckee).

And as everyone knows, loving something (or someone) who just doesn’t seem to be loving you back is heartbreaking.  To offset this heartbreak, common practice (Hallmark) produces a myriad of half joking cards renaming Valentine’s day “Singles Awareness Day” in some sort of semi-insulting-but-intended-to-be-empowering marketing scheme.  Or cards hinting at the luxuriousness of cat-lady life, or the half sized bottles of wine to enjoy with your single filet mignon (and a microwave cupcake for one).

And while these are nice ideas, for anyone experiencing true heartbreak, this does absolutely nothing.  No amount of “support” in the form of chocolates, flowers, and cards can heal a heartbreak.  Further, hating other people (or the holiday) for having a requited love won’t get you very far either.  In my newfound experience (thankfully only relating to skiing), the only way to move on is to give your unconditional love.

After the first half of the season and the snow storm that was Truckee, I was starting to feel a little bit spiteful towards skiing.  Instead of throwing my unconditional love at races and training, I started just expecting something to go wrong.  I became overly focused on things I simply could not control, and was failing to race the way I know best- going as hard as I can from the start and holding on.

When I went to talk to my strength/life coach Max, I described it as unrequited love.  From this inherently negative perspective I was going to get nowhere.  Max encouraged me to rebrand the love from unrequited to unconditional.

Racing will almost never go exactly how you want it to go.  In fact, more often than not you will cross the finish line wishing you had done something differently- be it pacing, ski selection, waxing or group tactics.  And if you don’t hold an unconditional love for racing, you will not make it very far.  Because playing the victim and feeling genuinely hurt only digs you deeper into the hole.  And the more you dig, the further you have to climb out.

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Race photos from Ian Austen, Monique Punt and James Mclean.

As it turns out, I had about five days of climbing.  But after five completely off days, I was feeling the love.  Caitlin Gregg invited me to do some skate intervals with her at Wirth, and it was honestly the most fun I’d had in about two months on skis.  We had a great session of cat and mouse, each pushing each other a little faster every interval.  Then I went to Ottawa, Ontario for a three race weekend at Canadian Eastern Championships.  I came away with one of my best qualifiers ever, a third place in the sprint and two wins in the classic and skate distance races.

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We had one day of brilliant sunshine (the sprint day), followed but a classic distance day with flurries, and a 15K skate pursuit in a full on snow storm.

Most importantly, I had so much fun doing it.  Type two fun (because 15 Kilometers of skating in the falling snow as hard as you can go hurts a lot), but still, so much fun.  And then I had three days of extra training in Ontario that included skating on the world’s largest outdoor ice arena, a beautiful ski through Gatineau Park (200 Kilometers of groomed trails!), a trip to the nicest anytime fitness I’ve ever been to, and finally a beautiful sunny day exploring the Nakkertok Trails (and the jumps they groom).  I was lucky enough to be staying at a beautiful home near all of the foreign ambassadors home (courtesy of Veronica and Eric Wessels, Veronica was my mom’s Dartmouth roommate), and took many beautiful walks, checked out local coffee shops and cooked a lot of great food.

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Scenes from my ski throughout the Gatineau forest.

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After three days of racing, I was looking for some active recovery. As luck would have it, Ottawa is home to the Rideau Canal AKA the world’s largest outdoor skating rink. I borrowed a pair of skates from the Wessel’s and spent an hour skating around (I did the whole thing). I only got passed by two people, and was pretty pleased with myself.

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My personal fans. Eric turned out to be the proud owner of a pair of Madshus skis older than me! Veronica is a not a lover of the extreme cold, so I am especially appreciative that she came out to cheer me on. And of course the mother like no other who helped organize the whole weekend!  And as always, all of my sponsors- especially MD Biosciences- for joining me in this unconditional love of sport.

I’m back to a place of unconditional love, and with this emergent perspective I’m feeling a lot of love from skiing, too.  We’re back to a very happy relationship, just in time for Valentine’s Day (coincidentally the next period of Supertour Racing and the Birkie).

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So if you’re a person who loves Valentine’s Day…I’m with you.  If you’re a person who thinks it’s the dumbest day in existence, I encourage you to change your perspective.  Instead of thinking of it just as a hallmark holiday for people already in love to obnoxiously share that love all over social media, find the things that you have unconditional love for.  Really give the unconditional love your full self, and I promise you’ll get some love back.  With or without a card and instagram post :)

I feel confident that not one single person (even the ski guru Zach Caldwell himself) could have predicted the past nine days at Soldier Hollow for US Nationals. What is normally a very straightforward venue- both for waxers, coaches, and skiers alike- became anything but.  Each day brought some new form of precipitation, often changing every five minutes.  And in a sport where (like it or not) skis and wax make almost as big of a difference as an athlete’s fitness, this made the last week, in a word, hellish.

Waxers quite literally made beds under wax benches before classic days (Pat did an absolutely amazing job all week long- he cares so much and I am so lucky to have him on my side), and dealt with a myriad of logistical obstacles.  To start, the wax trailers were 2 days late.  Then the morning of the first race, there was no power to any of the wax trailers, forcing an hour delay.  The grooming plan wasn’t clear, and for athletes there was not a warm up course that at all represented the actual race course.  The timing site often crashed, leaving waxers, coaches, and athletes waiting till the last minute on sprint days to find out if they were in fact lucky losers.  And finally, the wax cabins were about a 5 minute run and a 10 minute brisk walk to the start, which when combined with changing conditions (and coaches waiting until the last possible minute to make a wax call to try and ensure the best possible skis) certainly resulted in a couple of pre-race stress tears (GUILTY).

I don’t normally like to complain about race sites, but for this to be a standard for US Nationals competition is unacceptable, especially because U23 and Junior World Championships will be held at the same venue in just over two weeks.  While it is a massive bummer that this had to happen at US Nationals, I think there is a lot that can be improved when the world’s best descend on Park City.

For all of these reasons (combined with the 5,000 foot elevation), this week did in fact put every single athlete, coach, waxer, volunteer, and parent through both hell and high water. Despite all of this, I’m pretty happy to report that I had two great race results, one medium result, and one result I just really have no explanation for at all.

The first day of racing was the 10K skate, and I will give that day an A+ for planning and a C for execution.  I have always struggled with distance skating at altitude (I seem to always have a spectacular blow up), so I wanted to really pace the day.  I went out conservatively, and for the first time in my life almost even splitted (went the same pace each lap), and also for the first time in my life missed the finish lane and instead headed out for another lap.  I wasn’t the only one (the course was not well marked), but I feel lucky that even in my race haze I remembered to pull a 180 and go backwards to finish.  So while the plan was a good one- pace and don’t blow up- I never got going fast enough to be competitive in the race.  I think this is an important lesson.  When you make a race plan, it will probably only work 75% of the time.  It doesn’t mean that your plan was necessarily bad or you should never make a plan again, but it is worth recognizing what went right and what went wrong so you can make a better plan the next time.

Despite the added variables on a classic day, both the classic sprint and the classic 20K were great physical and mental efforts for me.  I ended up racing the “A” Final on the classic sprint day to end up as the 4th American, and then went the opposite distance and finished as the fifth American on a very challenging and mental resiliency testing 20K day.

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Racing the qualifier, doing a quick cost-benefit analysis of whether to stop and scrape my skis or head down the hill with a large build up of snow. Seeing as some people chose the latter and fell, I’m pretty psyched with my decision.

 

The new classic sprint course at Soldier Hollow is awesome.  It is a course where double poling really isn’t a viable option for four rounds of as-hard-as-you-can-go efforts, and requires both tactics and fitness to prevail on top.  The course is a combination of a minute of climbing, a fast downhill, a big kicker, and then a long stretch into the stadium.  The lead up to the qualifier was I think the most nervous and stressed I’ve ever been before a race.  The conditions were absolutely out of control- a combination of fresh powder, glazed tracks, and icy climbs.  I chose to race on klister.  I exploded out of the gates and was really excited about how I felt and the ratio of kick to glide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO5LNExTPrU) on my skis.  But part way up the last wall, I realized that I was starting to accumulate a lot of snow on the bottom of my skis.  This is particularly dangerous going into a big downhill (think face plant), and I decided to stop at the top of the climb and quickly scrape off my skis.  I’m happy to report I made it down the hill on my feet, and also feeling really mature about myself as a racer.  I know if that had happened last year I would not have even considered making a risk analysis (stop clean skis and lose seconds, or fall and lose more seconds) two minutes into a three minute race.

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Start of the “A” Final

I qualified well, and throughout the heats learned  that my fitness is right where I want it to be, but I got a little out-tacticted on the final climb.  I was at the back of the pack as we descended into the stadium, and put down maybe my best double effort+lunge to date to clinch fourth American.  Also, it was pouring outside the whole time (with no dry space near the start for either athletes, waxers, or coaches to go between heats- another thing to fix before U23/Worlds), and by the end of four rounds everyone looked like drowned rats or wet kittens (depending on your facial expression).

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Top four Americans after the classic sprint at drug testing. The most challenging part of the day (aside from the torrential down pour) may have been getting hydrated enough to provide an adequate sample. Here we all are showing off our hydration of choice.

The 20K classic was a course with three distinct huge climbs, followed by fast downs with almost no flat or undulating terrain.  It was clear to me at the beginning of the race that I had amazing climbing skis.  I was able to stride right up most of the hills, and spent most of the race leading a group of four to close down a gap to the leaders.  While I didn’t quite catch third place, I was really excited with my mental strength throughout an hour-plus of racing.  I never gave up, and while I ended up fifth American on the day (not quite the first I was hoping for), I gave everything I had and have to be satisfied with that.

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The start of the 20K. I am a notoriously fast starter, which I think is good in mass start races because it keeps me out of trouble.

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Leading the chase pack. Looking back, to “win the chase pack” I shouldn’t have led. But my goal is never to win the chase pack but instead to win the race, so I worked hard the whole time to try and catch back up to the leaders.

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It is always fun to look at heart rate monitor graphs from long races. As you can see, for the entirety of the 20K I was hovering around the high 180s, with my max at 190. Work!

The final day of racing- a skate sprint qualifier only- I really have no answer for.  I felt a little flat from the 20K effort two days prior, and the waxing conditions were rather difficult (heavy falling snow over wet snow over ice), but still I’m not sure what happened there.  Typically my skate sprinting is one of my strengths, but I ended the day in the 20s, disappointed and scratching my head.

By the end of eight days of “hell and high water” (according to Caldwell Sport), I was exhausted and having a really tough time getting past the negatives and variables and focusing on the things that I did really well.  I was having a hard time finding the silver lining.  Driving to dinner with my mom through yet another snow storm, one of my favorite songs came on:

It’s worth listening to a couple of times (I’ve listened to it at least five times this morning).  My three favorite lines are (1) “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet” (2) “It just takes some time, little girl your in the middle of the ride, everything everything will be alright” (3) “Live right now, yeah, just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.”

Skiing, and US nationals this year in particular, felt like the most puke inducing roller coaster ride of my life.  It was supremely challenging both physically and mentally, and I certainly had some seriously questioning moments.  But it would be unfair to me to completely write myself off- at the end of the day I still had two top five races.  I felt good, and I continue to feel strong and fast.  I’m controlling the variables I can control, and getting much better at shaking off the variables I can’t.  After all, it just takes some time, I’m going to keep on being myself and everything, everything will be just fine, everything, everything will be alright alright :)

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Flashback Friday: Sophie and I (my sophomore year of college and her senior year) pretending to be on a roller coaster ride.

 

 

There are a lot of skills (both practiced and innate) that get you to both the start and finish line of a race.  There is punctuality (don’t ever take for granted getting to the start line on time, even after three years of professional racing and eight additional years of high school and college, I STILL have nightmares about missing my start), time management, multi-tasking, organization, fitness, strength (both mental and physical), speed, stamina…the list goes on.  But- as I was recently reminded by a father of teammate of Val’s at St. Paul Academy- there is an often overlooked skill.  As the father eloquently put it, “and of course, the essential athletic talent of forgetting.”

I’m going to make a slight adjustment.  To get successfully to the start and finish line, one needs the essential athletic talent of selective memory.

In any career- whether it is skiing, law, teaching, parenting or cooking- you are going to have bad days.  Sometimes caused by things in your control, but also often a result of uncontrollable variables.  In fact in a lot of ways, you’ll have more bad days than perfect ones.  But to reach those perfect days- when pain doesn’t resonate and everything just falls into place- you need to remember you are capable of a perfect day, AND you not only need to have bad days, but also you need to forget they even happened.

I set incredibly high expectations for myself going into the season.  Coming off a kick-ass summer of training combined with some really positive fall time trial efforts, I was ready to take the season by storm.  But race after race after race (x3 more races), I fell short of what I feel I’m capable of.

It was incredibly frustrating to finish every race disappointed in the end-result, and I had an incredibly hard time in the moment recognizing the things I could control, and the things I couldn’t; what went really well, and what went poorly.  And each time I started a race, I carried that emotional baggage (which definitely took a physical toll) all the way around the course.  So by the end of period one- despite actually placing better than I ever have in these opening races (nothing below 12th place, whereas last year I had some high 20 results)- I had six races weighing me down both mentally and physically.

So when my mom forwarded me that text, I was stunned.  I had honed all of my other skills- I’m objectively stronger and faster than ever before- but I’d forgotten how to forget, or rather selectively remember.  I’d dwelled on things that didn’t go my way or well, and completely forgot to remember all the things I had done to get me to this point.

So with a 14 day training block at home before heading to the ever important nationals races in Par k City Utah, I embarked on practicing the skill of selective memory.  This doesn’t mean I’m not going to reflect on less than ideal races, but every time I start a training ski or a race, I’m going to view it as a blank slate and an opportunity to showcase my effort.  I’ve had some really positive sessions this last week (I did my first muscle-up!), and also some really wonderful relaxing at home with my family.

I’ll post another update after Nationals, and until then I’ll be snacking on all the best holiday treats, singing my favorite holiday songs, and working on that selective memory (in fact I just recently watched Finding Dory, a movie all about a fish with short term memory loss).  Happy Holidays, and now for lots of pictures!

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Podium pals in West Yellowstone with Erika!

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Also, it was really cold every single day of racing. In fact this week was the first time I haven’t skied in lobster mittens (shout out to both Toko and Sauce for keeping me warm!)

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All layered up in Silver Star!

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Even though I was disappointed with my results, Silver Star is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Cold smiles with Julia on a training day!

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…And another really cold set of races once I got back home to Minnesota. I travelled up to Houghton, Michigan (the site of the last two nationals) to get some more racing in, and was definitely feeling more myself. I took the win on both the classic sprint day (pictured here), and the REALLY COLD 10K skate day (pictured below)

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So cold, I even raced raced in my warmup pants. And a vest with hand warmers in the pockets (actually -26 real feel at the start).

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And just like that I was back home! We’re taking care of Henry’s dog Pudge (the bulldog), and our other dog Liesel is not exactly thrilled. I’m playing mediator here.

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I also was able to squeeze in lunch with my (I kid you not) first ever friend from Kindergarten Caroline. We spent 13 years together growing up in high school, both went to college out East (so saw each other on the eastern ski circuit), and she is now in her first year of Law School in Boston.

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And now Henry is being very domestic, making sugar cookies in the kitchen. I’m off to “supervise” this task, so happy happy holidays and new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year I head into the first races of the seasons with high expectations.  Each time I toe the start line, I know I’ve worked harder than ever before.  I know I’ve made gains in technique, fitness, and strength.  Despite this knowledge, every year I cross the first finish line I am left…wanting.  A little disappointed, a little discouraged, and a little bit perplexed.  So, every year I write a blog working my way through the weekend.  Year one: On Starts.  Year two: Finding Finesse.  Given this history, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the opening weekend of races.  They were WAY better than years past (each year at West Yellowstone I’ve cut my eventual result in half- 7th this year instead of 28th in 2014), but still not what I wanted (RE: winning).  This year is a little different because that first race weekend didn’t count for overall domestic points scoring (that happens this weekend), but still a race is a race.  And as a racer I’m generally unhappy when things don’t go to plan.

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Year One (28th)

 

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Year Two (14th)

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Year Three (7th).  Above photos from Toko Representative Ian Harvey.

So cooling down from the races, I was searching for an analogy.  Being a perennial pancake person (in the ongoing debate of pancakes vs. waffles vs. french toast), I decided that my racing is rather like pancake making.

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The First (Doggy) Pancake

To anyone who has made pancakes- you know about the first pancake theory.  For no real scientific reason- the pan, the ingredients, and the chef remain the same- that first pancake just doesn’t turn out like the rest.  I tried searching for a scientific explanation, and there just isn’t one.  There are some nonscientific ones HERE, the most succinct coming from KrazyKakeKylie using the source “myself.” You don’t do anything differently, but that first pancake is a little flat, a little burnt (or undercooked), and just not as tasty.  So you make one (and in our household give it to the dog), and then by the next batch things turn around.

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The next batch…with all the goods. RECIPE linked HERE

 

And, no one remembers that first pancake.  The first pancake is heavily (and thankfully) overshadowed by the glorious batches that follow.  I was devastated after the first races last year, but went on to podium for the first time at US Nationals, win my first SuperTour, and race in my first World Cups.  But if I’d given up and assumed that the first pancake would be representative of the following pancakes…well I’d be hungry.

So instead of throwing away the entire batch before I even give it a chance to cook, I’m going to figure out how to make them better.  For one, I should turn up the heat.  I skied technically well last weekend, but (I think) was so focused on skiing well that I ignored the ski really fast part.  Pacing has always been a struggle of mine, and the transition from pavement to snow makes that extra hard (you don’t get a perfect push every time on snow).  Further, you don’t pick different roller skis for different conditions.  I’m immensely thankful for all the new Madshus skis I got this year, but am still figuring out the prime conditions for each and working with Pat to figure out how to best wax them for kick.

Finally, I will head into the next weekend of races with twice as much skiing under my belt.  I decided to stick around Vermont this summer instead of travel for snow, so the learning curve is steep.  Kikkan Randall (who, granted, had a baby last year, making her transition all the more impressive) likened getting back to snow skiing like riding a bike: “It is a bit like riding a bike.  The sensations are all there and I’m used to it, but it’s also new again. But I kind of like that. I really enjoyed working my way to the top and where I was through the 2014 season, and now I have to work my way back. I like that challenge.”

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Other ways to work through that First Pancake include awesome teammates who will flip batch after batch with you until they come out perfectly. Thanks to Annie Pokorny (who is now on the Sun Valley Team) for capturing Erika and I in the act

I’ll report back on the second batch next week.  Until then it is time to recover from a big week of training and intensity on snow, and get ready for our first Super Tour races of the season- back at West Yellowstone because of (lack of) snow problems in Bozeman.

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And a HUGE thank you to my boyfriend Thomas who drove from Rapid City, South Dakota to be our assistant wax tech this week (and my number one fan).

 

Loading up my haul of 2016-2017 Madshus skis for the race season, coach Pat reminded me to raid the Caldwell Sport ski tie bin.  If you’re racing at any level, chances are high your skis have travelled through Putney, Vermont and the Caldwell grinder.  And if you’re lucky enough, you not only get your skis ground, but watch fresh coffee get ground and then transformed in their state of the art espresso machine.  I digress.

Because of the vast quantity of skis that go through the shop in the season, Caldwell sport ends up with a lot of ski ties.  And I mean a lot.  And in a world where ski ties are essentially currency come race day, I loaded up for the season (because somehow, like hair ties and socks, you never seem to hold on to them for more than a week).  As I tossed the ties into my bag, I noticed one of them said, “Sharmila Ahmed, Midwest J2.”img_2756

Sharmila and I crossed paths many times in high school and college.  We raced together with Jen Rolfes (who went on to ski for Harvard and from what I can tell became fluent in Russian) to fifth place during the 2008 Junior National Relay Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. I distinctly remember a sections race where seeing Sharmilla on the start list right after me may have initiated my habit of starting races as hard as possible (and seeing her teammate Maria Tinebra 30 seconds behind me only further fueled that questionable habit).  And while Sharmila had mono (I think) our senior year of high school and consequently wasn’t competing in the race, she is front and center in a picture I have framed at my house of now teammate Jessie Diggins and I tucking into the final sprint of the 2010 State High School meet (dubbed by the Star Tribune as the most exciting cross country ski race maybe ever…full recap with video here).

Her mouth is wide open with her hands in the air as she’s cheering both Jessie and I on (I know it’s her because of the Burnsville Letterman’s Jacket, and her signature braids poking out from her hat).  Our paths diverged in college- her competing for St. Scholastica in the central region and me for Dartmouth in the eastern one.

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Sharmila, Jen and I showing off our pre-race “intense” face complete with homemade headbands.

 

Sharmila and I are Facebook friends, but other than that I don’t think I’ve talked to her since sometime at an NCAA race in college, so this blog post will probably come as a huge surprise to her.  But seeing her name on that ski tie brought a big old smile to my face.  And because we are nearing Thanksgiving, I’d like to start the what-I’m-thankful-for-list.  I’ll begin with ski ties.

Obviously I’m thankful for ski ties because they keep my skis safe from me, the pavement, and the airlines.  Beyond binding my skis together, in a community like the cross country ski one that seems simultaneously so vast and so small (and so prone to thievery, apparently) ski ties are a great way to reconnect and reflect.  It seems silly that something so over priced (5 dollars for a piece of foam sewed between two flimsy pieces of fabric…unless you’re Sam Tarling and get them personalized…points out there to anyone who managed to snag one of those) and so small could bring me so much joy.  Ready yourself for the pun ahead: Ski ties really are the ties that bind.

As everyone hits their first snow and first races of the year, I encourage you to take a look through your ski tie collection.  I’m willing to bet you have a tie with someones’ name on it that will bring you back to a particular race, moment, old friendship or rivalry (and undoubtedly some awkward high school crushes).  Reach out to that person.  And realize how fortunate we are to be part of such a wonderful and supportive community.  I feel so thankful all the time that I get to spend some of my twenties chasing snow and goals alongside such an amazing crew.

And Sharmila, if I haven’t lost the ski tie by the time I post this blog (which may seem crazy, but I’ve lost ski ties faster than that), I’d like to give that ski tie back to you as part of a holiday care package.  Let me know if you like milk or dark chocolate, and I’ll send it your way :)  Happy early snow to everyone, and happy Thanksgiving!  Here are a couple shots of the last two weeks…

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Coaching the local Bill Koch League practice. Push Ups on Tires!

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And for my own strength Max and I have been focusing on explosive power in the gym to tune up for the first races! I was pretty excited to hit a new PR for height reached on jumping push ups.

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Happy campers after the last roller ski of the season (hopefully)

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I had an amazing time doing a photo shoot with LuLu Lemon a couple weeks ago. I have about a cagillion pictures, so expect some more of those in the coming weeks.

 

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I’ve upgraded my head wear since my J2 days. I’m super excited about my new Sauce Headbands, and also my headgear sponsor for the season, MD Biosciences!  Still working on the selfie though.  Stay tuned for how you can order your 2016-2017 pattern!

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Back at it!

 

 

 

Last year around this time I wrote about campaign season, and how I secretly loved every minute of it.  I’m here to formally retract that blog post.  I am BEYOND ready for this election season to come to a close.  That said, this blog post will be drawing inspiration from this current situation.  Regardless of political leanings or opinions, you would be hard pressed to call this election normal. In typical election years, the October surprise is a news event concerning one or both of the primary presidential candidates that either coincidentally or purposefully influences the eventual outcome of the race.  But when the Saturday Night Live skits and the events they are satirizing could work both ways, can there really be an October surprise?  I’m going to argue no.  Nothing that happens from here until (…or beyond) November 8th will surprise me.  And that goes for my ski season as well.

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Actually there was one October surprise. At fast and female I was challenged to a plank off with an 8 year old. I held it for 5 minutes, but she edged me out (after we agreed to stop at 5) for another two seconds.

 

 

The last two weeks in Park City have made it clear to me one thing:  If you spend five months working really hard, focusing on the small details, there won’t be any October surprises (the same can’t be said for America, apparently).  And when the only kind of surprises I like involve good food, this is a good thing.  In past years I’ve been incredibly nervous for the first race simulations of the year, wondering how I was going to feel and where I’d land amongst my peers.  In fact during my first year of full time racing, I couldn’t even finish a bowl of oatmeal before the first Park City time trial (a surprise to all who know me).

But this year was different.  Before our two time trials, I warmed up as I normally would and instead of feeling nervous I just felt excited (okay, also a little bit nervous, but in the good way).  I shot out of the “gate” (Head Coach Chris Grover’s arm) and immediately began focusing on my breathing, and relying on months of technique work to take care of itself.  I found myself not worrying about other people, but only how I was going to get up this hill (or more importantly DOWN the infamous solider hollow hill on roller skis), across that flat and into the finish line.  So when I finished, I didn’t have to wonder if I had put down a good time- I knew I had done the absolute best I could, so that time would be good enough. No surprises, just a lot of hard work summarized in a 30 minute all out effort.

Of course October roller ski time trials don’t mean everything, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a confidence booster going into the season.  I’m not expecting any November Surprises either (again, not sure if we can say the same for America), but I’ll keep you updated as we get closer to race season (three weeks for me, six days for America- make sure you vote!).

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Distance training with Craftsbury Skier Caitlin Patterson! These camps are a great time to ski with other top racers.

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…but still a great time to continue training with my best buds. Erika and I switching from classic skiing to running on an over distance workout!

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In addition to our shared love for all things pumpkin spice, peanut butter, lulu lemon, skiing, and weddings (to name a few), Erika and I share a love of strength. We were in charge of the Fast and Female strength station, and inspired by a workout from my Strength Coach Max Lipset, we created the Flowers and Hart 100 challenge. Do it alone or do it in a group…we promise it will get you strong (or at least sweaty and sore)

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Post Time Trial face (tired, but stoked, in an intense and stoic manner).

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The views in Park City do not stink.

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And pretty happy to visit Henry and his baby bulldog Pudge on my way back to Stratton! It was also nice to have lunch w with my mom in the Minneapolis airport on a layover :)

And for the best "Why Me" Halloween costume, this dog we found on Main Street Park City.

And for the best “Why Me” Halloween costume, this dog we found on Main Street Park City.

 

 

 

 

 

On a list of all time favorite movies, Finding Nemo tops my list (me, and everyone else in the world.  On Rotten Tomato’s tomatometer the film scores a whopping 99%, with only 2 “rotten reviews.”  And the people who gave this film a rotten review must have lost a pet fish recently and therefore felt particularly sensitive when confronted with their deceased fishs’ likeness).  It’s hard for me to pick a favorite scene from my favorite movie, but Nemo’s naming ceremony definitely ranks in my top 3.

In this scene, Nemo gets re-dubbed “Shark Bait.”  And besides the forever quotable line, SHARK BAIT OOH HAHA, the moment is big for Nemo.  Before receiving his name, he must swim through the ring of fire- an aggressive line of bubbles.  This might be easy for other fish, but Nemo is young and has a small right fin (the result of an attack on his home as an egg).   But with a strong determination, the promise of membership in the tank, and his mentor waiting on the other side, Nemo swims through the ring, and right into the waiting nose of Gill.  It is then that the other fish give Nemo his alter ego as Shark Bait, and the story continues from there.

Backing up, what got me thinking about Nemo, Shark Bait, and celebrating Shark Bait was the first fish I held in South Dakota visiting Thomas.  The fish was not big, I did not catch the fish (that honor goes to Thomas), but it was none the less exhilarating to hold the little guy up for the camera.

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Back to Nemo, I don’t think it is a coincidence that they name him Shark Bait.  Obviously in the literal sense Nemo is actually Shark Bait.  He is small, and in the big ocean he sits closer to the bottom of the food chain than the top.  But, that doesn’t mean he isn’t important.  He plays a vital role in the broader ocean ecosystem, the dentist’s tank, and is family.  Besides being a talking fish, Nemo has many accomplishments that ought to be celebrated.

As a skier, it can become daunting to think of the big things- in this extended metaphor, the shark. Earlier this summer I got myself a little wrapped up in chasing the shark, forgetting to acknowledge the “shark bait” I was achieving.  When I went home to Minnesota, I had a wonderful opportunity to slow down and think about how all of the shark bait I was achieving was actually helping me reach the shark.  I had a series of great workouts where everything felt like it should- my mental and physical coalesced into workouts where I thoroughly surprised myself.

Further, I had the awesome day of Friend and Fundraising, where a bunch of individuals (different shark baits) all came together to chase the big shark- and it was a success!  Within the next week I will be emailing the winners of the raffle (sorry of the delay! Things got very busy at home), and would further like to thank everyone for being part of my shark bait.  I’ll be in the West (moving from Rapid City to Park City) for the duration of October, and then I will head back East until racing starts back out West in early December.  Thank you to everyone who reads along- you can’t catch a shark without some shark bait (OOH HAHA)

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Really awesome to have Caitlin Gregg show me some urban roller ski loops. We had two great intensity sessions together- here we are pre-classic speeds.

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…And here we are post uphill skate intensity!

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I was lucky to be home during (1) a beautiful stretch of fall weather and (2) the Birkie trail run! I did a marathon relay with Tamer and Margie of Endurance United- we each ran two legs (although Tamer along with some other relay teams ran a little bit longer than they were intending).

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So pretty! A beaut of a day for a 3.5 hour skate ski on some rolling Wisconsin terrain.

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Running along some Birkie Single Track- hooray for fall!

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All of the leaves did make for some slow single track running however.

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My mom allows me to indulge my gourmet tastes at home- here we have some tasty chili alongside browned butter cornbread. The perfect way to cap a long but fun day spent outside!

 

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One of my favorite shots from my day of empowerment at the Powerhouse…In the center you see Sasha, Max and Jill’s daughter, going all in on some hops during tumbling class. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing the Powerhouse is.  Once again if you participated in the day of empowerment, I will be sending the raffle winners an email in the next week!

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Time to log some time on my new Mountain Bike! Thomas has a pretty nice set up here in Rapid City. 20 miles of mountain bike trails are quite literally right out his back door.

 

 

 

 

September has been an exceptionally busy month.  It is the time of year I love most- the leaves are changing, the air is crisping (as well as the apples and oats in my oven), and training takes on a new level of intensity (both figuratively and literally).  Looking at my training plan, I only have to click twice (TWICE!) to get to the sheet with “Travel to Snow” in the comments section.  So while I’m still clicking into roller skis and having pole tips slipping on pavement, I’m feeling almost giddy with anticipation.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this year Pat and I decided to structure my training a little differently, with the summer months touching volume and threshold, and only in September would I introduce some speed and race pace efforts.

In addition to the transition in training, I’ve been in-transit.  While my teammates were in New Zealand, Pat, Paddy and I explored some new training terrain in Vermont and New Hampshire.  I then tried out a different flavor of East Coast while visiting my brother (and his new baby bull dog) at Yale, and then flew home to Minnesota for a friend/fundraiser.  I’ll be here for the next week, head north to Wisconsin for the Birkie Trail Run, be back in Minnesota for a few days, and then start heading West.  I’ll stop in Rapid City to visit Thomas at his new job, and then make my way out to Park City for the annual October (OCTOBER!) camp.

With all this transitioning, I figured, what’s one more transition.  I’ve decided to start up a separate food blog-http://enduringeats.com.  Bear with me as I do some website updating, but from now on that is where I’ll be posting recipes.

BUT it is still September (even if there are only four more days left).  Which means two things.  One, the chance to win some Toko gloves, Sauce headwear, and 3FU3L shaker bottles is still alive.  I had a great day at the Powerhouse at Highland on Saturday being on the other side of class (teaching instead of learning), meeting tons of new people and giving everyone a taste of the training I do day in and day out.  If you weren’t able to make it and still want to donate, please head over to my support page.  You can either donate online to my team (make sure to include my name in the memo when prompted), or send a check made out to “Anne Hart” to 9727 Primrose Ave N, Stillwater MN 55082.

Two, I can still post September photos!  I have a fun next week of training planned, and will be capping it off with a marathon relay on Saturday.  Thanks for checking in, and I’ll update again soon.

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Getting some serious vertical in during an over distance classic workout in New Hampshire

 

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Running along the Appalachian Trail near Hanover, New Hampshire. This run ended up being 20 miles, and I am constantly reminded how incredibly lucky I am to (1) have a body capable of this and (2) have a job where this is what my day-to-day looks like.

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The key to staying happy and healthy during big volume blocks? Eating…

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…and sleeping. We stayed at Paddy’s house in Lyme for the the three day block, and I loved hanging out with his cats.

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More furry four legged friends! After finishing up the volume block and one more mini three day block, it was time for some serious rest and recovery. I babysat Micco while Thomas made his move out to South Dakota (Micco can join him in November once he hits six months).

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Finishing out Pat, Paddy, and me camp with some rolling speeds…and YES that is Pat on roller skis.

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Henry!

 

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September must have been the month of animal friends. Meeting “Pudge” for the first time.

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I arrived home just in time to watch Val run a particularly muddy 5K. She lost a shoe, but still did awesome. Thumbs (and shoe) up!

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3FU3L tasting at during my takeover of the Powerhouse. Check out my new food site for a pumpkin spice recipe featuring the vanilla flavor!

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I’ll do a more complete post on the day of empowerment once the raffle window is over (Friday!), but basically it was five hours of awesome (and five hours of sweat).

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Back at it in Minnesota!

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Head to http://enduringeats.com for the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas just headed out to Rapid City, South Dakota to begin his job as a trust advisor for the Concord Trust Company. I’m so proud of him, but also South Dakota is far away. This is a bummer for two reasons. One, he’s no longer just a 2 hour drive from Stratton. Two, he is currently in the middle of Ohio driving across the country (it’s a 30 hour drive). I’ve always been one to deal with stress through cooking, so I went on the hunt for a recipe that would alleviate some sadness through slight sweetness, and be portable so Thomas could have some high quality road snacks…and avoid expired Twinkies from 7/11.

The other constraint I was dealing with was time. I decided to make him these cookies at the last possible second, so I need a 20 minute miracle. And I needed to have everything I needed already in the cupboard.  I had tahini and honey and almond flour, and when I typed these into the Google machine, came across a very simple yet highly rated recipe from Food and Wine. I didn’t modify these at all, although next time I might throw a couple dark chocolate chips in there…because dark chocolate is a cure-all-maladies type of food.

These were meant to last Thomas the whole trip, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t make it past Vermont.


Sesame Tahini Cookies

Food and Wine says it makes 30…mine made more like 20 :)

The Stuff

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup tahini

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The how

1. Place sesame seeds in a bowl (you’ll use this for rolling the little cookies in). Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper

2. In a medium bowl, mix the almond flour, baking soda, and salt together.

3. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the honey, tahini and vanilla together.

4. Create a small well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet mixture into the center. Using a wooden spoon fold together until completely combined.

5. Using your hands, make golf ball sized balls of dough, roll in the sesame seeds,  and gently flatten. Place on cookie sheet and repeat until all the dough has been used.

6. Bake for 8 minutes, switching pans from top to bottom half way through. They should be  just turning golden brown on the bottom.

7. Let cool completely, and in my case put in a ziplock Baggie for travel food!

Whenever I travel back to Vermont from a stint at home, one of the first questions my teammates ask me is how many times I went to the Power House at Highland. I count the Powerhouse as one of my happy places. Whether it’s a group workout led by Logan or Jill, some one-on-one coaching with Max, a midline and mobility session with Meredith, or a friendly but also fiercely competitive workout with Gunnar…I do my best to be there every day.

As I wrote about last year, the Power House at Highland has a unique environment that encourages people to test their physical and mental limits in a space that is safe and welcoming for that, at times, painful task. Looking back after a full year of calling the Powerhouse my oasis, I think it can be neatly re-dubbed the EMpowerhouse.

Feeling empowered on a recent ski in New Hampshire

At the EMpowerhouse, doing your first real pull up is just as exciting as doing your tenth pull up in a row. Going to Pilates every day is just as impressive as competing in the Crossfit Open, and eating mindfully for a week earns just as much respect as finishing your yardwork. It’s a judgement free zone, where other people’s accomplishments lend a helping hand for you to reach your own goals.
Further, any perceived failure at the EMpowerhouse is celebrated. When you come up short, it means you gave it your all. Give it a rest, and next week you’ll “fail” better. Beyond that, when an entire community shoulders the effects of “failure,” getting up is that much easier.

First podium at US Nationals

For all of these reasons, I’m excited to call Saturday September 24th my personal EMpowerhouse day. Once again Max and Jill are graciously opening their gym for me to use as a fundraising platform. I will be at the gym all day, helping out with every class. The workouts for that day will have a ski-vibe in the programming, and there will be a question and answer as well as a raffle. In addition, keep your eyes out for an Instagram challenge in the next couple of days.

My goal for September is to raise an additional $5,000. My fundraising for the year is off to a great start thanks to the generous support of my new headgear sponsor MD Biosciences, and a grant from the American Birkebeiner Foundation. Last year I raised enough to cover my journey to my first World Cups, and this year my goal is not only to race in World Cups but place in the top 30. There is a lot of time, money, and energy that goes into this pursuit, and I am humbled and grateful to all of the people who have helped me along the way.

Starting bib 1 at my first World Cup series last March

There will be a donation box at the Powerhouse starting next week, and I hope you will be able to join in for a workout on the 24th. The class schedule for that Saturday is available HERE, and if you can’t make it but still want to donate please send a check made out to “Anne Hart” and send to 9727 Primrose Ave N, Stillwater MN 55082.