A Lot Can Happen in Two Months

Erik and David having some fun at the Sunday market in Park City.

Erik and David having some fun at the Sunday Market in Park City.

It has been a busy couple of months since my last post. Since then, I have had a two-week camp in Park City, had a training block in Anchorage, went to visit my old team in Fairbanks, and now I am in Bozeman recovering after another two-week camp in Park City. When I originally started this blog, I didn’t think I would have enough to write about, but now I am overwhelmed with what I have done since my last post. I will try keep you engaged by “telling” with pictures.

The first Park City camp was amazing. I have been to Park City three times, but only once in the summer, so it was great to go back and enjoy some hot weather and some sun. Even though Alaska had the best summer in the last century, we had one of the worst falls on record and we were able to get out for a good chunk of it.

 

The team after a hard threshold workout up from Salt Lake City.

The team after a hard threshold workout up from Salt Lake City.

The camp was a pretty normal training camp, the biggest difference though was that we lived just above 8000 ft and trained mostly between 5000-6000 ft. It was an amazingly ideal situation and so valuable considering the majority of the important races next season will be at altitude.

We had a few critical workouts including a sprint time trial. My coaches, Erik Flora and Sam Sterling, spent most of the day before searching for the perfect course and they found it in a new neighborhood about 40 minutes outside of Park City. It is incredible how much dedication they have for this team.

Sprint time trial on the "Sochi" course.

Sprint time trial on the “Sochi” course. (Photo: USSA)

Reese and I at the Girdwood 2020 golf scramble.

Reese at the Girdwood 2020 golf scramble.

 

We finally made it back to Alaska for an easy recovery week. At the beginning of the week, Reese Hanneman and I had the opportunity to join in a golf scramble fundraiser held by Girdwood 2020. Both Reese and I received a “Go for the Gold” grant for this season from them so we were very happy to join in. I had never golfed before, but I was lucky enough that we played the best ball of our group.

Erin Phillips, Pete, Reese, and Jack Novak at a fundraising dinner.

Erin Phillips, Pete, Reese, and Jack Novak at a fundraising dinner.

 

 

The team also put on a fundraiser dinner for the winning bid from the APU gala earlier in the summer. We do not get the opportunity to make such good meals that often, so I was a little nervous on how the meal would turn out, but my more experienced teammates pulled through and it went really well.

The team gave a toast to Sochi.

The team gave a toast to Sochi.

Since this is an Olympic year, the pressure is high for the whole team, but we get the unique experience of a lot of media attention. Cross-country skiing has not been the most popular sport in the past, but with the success of the US woman’s team in the last year, the team is getting a much stronger media presence than ever.

Erik getting interviewed my Al Jazeera America.

Erik getting interviewed by Al Jazeera America.

Towards the end of the Anchorage training block, Anchorage started getting nicer and nicer. Since I live less than a mile from Kincaid Park, I spend a lot of time there, especially when training alone. These three pictures basically sum up what Kincaid means to me in the summer: moose, the Cook Inlet, and overlooking the Chugach. It does not get much better to me.

One of the many moose of Kincaid.

One of the many moose of Kincaid.

Sunset after a late recovery run overlooking Cook Inlet from Kincaid.

Sunset after a late recovery run overlooking Cook Inlet from Kincaid.

Snow is coming. The view of the Chugach from Kincaid.

Snow is coming. The view of the Chugach from Kincaid.

For my last recovery week in Alaska, I decided to go up to Fairbanks with my former UAF teammate and current APU teammate, Lex Treinen. I have a lot of fond memories of Fairbanks so it was great to go up and see my old team and do a few workouts in my old territory.

Lex decided to jump in the river halfway through a run on the way up to Fairbanks.

Lex decided to jump in the river halfway through a run on the way up to Fairbanks.

The water seemed nice enough that I went in, too.

The water seemed nice enough that I went in, too.

Lex in front of the iconic "Into the Wild" bus. He pulls it off pretty well.

Lex in front of the iconic “Into the Wild” bus. He pulls it off pretty well.

Back in Southcentral Alaska, my teammate Reese Hanneman and I got the amazing opportunity to talk to the kids at the Girdwood K-8 School. Opportunities like these are major motivators for me. The passion and excitement kids have when they get to listen to what we do is humbling and really makes me forget all of the trivial aspects of the sport and causes me to remember why I actually started.

Reese and I talking about the importance of making goals.

Reese and I talking about the importance of making goals.

Here's me talking about how I got started in skiing and where it has taken me.

Here I am talking about how I got started in skiing and where it has taken me.

This was my first school presentation and I definitely need more practice, but I am excited for the next ones after the season ends. Ms. Cook and her class will be following Reese and me this winter so the pressure is on us to perform well this winter or we will have a lot of disappointed kids back home.

Reese talking about life on the road.

Reese talking about life on the road.

Reese and me with a few of the girls from the class. They were all super excited we came, which makes me excited for more school visits.

Reese and me with a few of the girls from the class. They were all super excited we came, which makes me excited for more school visits.

Finally, we just finished up our last Park City altitude camp. It was a pretty hard camp for me, getting food poisoning the first day and trying to get back on track. The camp ended really well though with some nice weather and a large group of guys to train with. In total, there were over 25 top US men in Park City for the two weeks so we were able to butt heads in a few workouts. I am pretty excited about where this country is headed in the world of skiing.

Now, I am taking a much needed recovery week visiting my teammate David Norris in Bozeman for a few days and family nearby before heading back up to Anchorage for the last training block before the race season. I can hardly wait, but I’m glad there are a few more weeks to tune up.

Moose in Park City. Even though I see 15 of these critters a day back home, for some reason it is special to see them outside of Alaska.

Moose in Park City! Even though I see 15 of these critters a day back home, for some reason it is special to see them outside of Alaska. We saw a group of four bulls here.

The team on our last long run of the season, overlooking Park City.

The team on our last long run of the season, overlooking Park City.

For more on our Park City camp, check out Reese Hanneman’s blog.

What I’ve Been Up To

Since coming off the Eagle Glacier after the first APU camp, I spent a few days relaxing in Anchorage before going up to Kiana, where my mother grew up and my grandmother operates a store. Shout-out to Blankenship Trading Post. If you ever find yourself lost in the wild of the Arctic and need to buy anything from guns to “aged cheddar”, this is your place.

Aged Cheddar

Aged Cheddar. Yumm

While I was in Kiana, my sister and I put on a running camp for the kids in the village. There is not much to do in Kiana during the summer for the kids so they were all excited to have something new to try. We had about 50 kids between ages two to 19 for each day of the three day camp, which is about a third of the kids in the community.

sprint

Lickety-Splits Running Camp Kiana. These kids were quick!

running camp

Everyone was pretty excited about new people in town to play with for a few days.

The other reason for going North is to see some of my cousins I haven’t seen for a really long time. A few of them, Katy, Peter, and Kaylor, helped coach our camp, too. It was a pretty fun rest week and a really good to get away from focused training for a bit.

Balance beam

My cousins and me on a playground next to the school in Kiana.

After I got back from Kiana, we jumped right back into training. The team usually meets six times a week and we usually get the weekend to ourselves. Sometimes we stay in town, but the best part of living in Anchorage is its accessibility to so many different places within a few hours.

Every year, it seems like half of Anchorage convenes to the city of Kenai for two weeks in July to subsistence fish for the winter. It is called dip netting, and only Alaskan residents are allowed. The process involves three to six foot nets held out in the water ideally to catch red salmon. The first year I went, I caught 25. Last year, my sister and a friend caught 80. This year, I went with a few friends. We caught 10 total. I was allowed to bring 55 home so I was a bit bummed with only three.

sprinting out

Lex and David demonstrating what they would do if they actually caught a fish. (photo: Emily Russell) 

lars cleaning

One of my old teammates at UAF, Lars, helping us clean one of the few fish we caught. (photo: Emily Russell)

We still had a lot of fun and enjoyed the great people. We don’t have very many professional sports in Alaska, so this is our entertainment for the year where a bunch of different people come together for the same goal: conquering Salmon. This year, Kenai had another massive red salmon run with 1.3 million getting past our nets and into their spawning grounds.

david eating fish

David pulled a few flounder in. Normally we throw them back, but he was hungry. (photo: Emily Russell)

child and seagulls

There are an abundance of seagulls due to people filleting their fish on the beach. Also, a child is practicing the art of killing salmon. (photo: Emily Russell)

It’s never a bad thing when you get to bring home a fresh meal for the night.

filet

One of the filets I cut up for the night’s dinner.

After three weeks in town, the APU men made it up to Eagle Glacier for our second and last Glacier camp of the summer. We had a few guests up this time. US Ski Team member Noah Hoffman wrote a pretty good blog post about it and my teammate Reese Hanneman has one here.

bird

We were greeted by a family of Ptarmigan this camp.

The weather was perfect again this camp. We had five amazing days and it just started to take a turn as we were leaving. This was my third glacier camp and I am really excited by the improvements I have made since the last two. With four hours of skiing a day, instant coaching, and quality rest, Eagle Glacier is a well oiled machine meant for making skiers fast. It is one of the best tools APU has offered me.

pillows of cloud

This was our view for the first five days. Cloudy down in town, but perfect on the glacier!

lake

The trail past our drinking pond on the way to ski.

Heli

Helicopter coming in to take us down.

We get flown up from Girdwood every camp by Alpine Air. These guys are amazing and if you are ever in need of an adventure, call these guys up!

heli drop

Swing load of food for the camp after us.

nighfall

Nightfall in Alaska. The darkness is starting to creep in.

I am now on my way to join my team in Park City for our first altitude camp. Soldier Hollow, which is close to Park City, will be hosting the 2014 US National Championships leading up to the Olympics, so this camp will be extra special in preparation for the winter.

Until next time!

Tyler

Summertime Ramblings

It has been a very busy last couple of weeks. Since my last post, the team and I have worked our way into summer training. Most of our training is in and around Anchorage, whether it is hiking in the mountains above town, roller skiing on the streets of Anchorage, or doing strength in the APU weight room.

Mountain running race up Bird Ridge

Mountain running race up Bird Ridge

David Norris on our distance hike in the mountains.

David Norris on our distance hike in the mountains.

The team on a training run outside Anchorage.

The team on a training run outside Anchorage.

Throughout the year, the APU Ski Team participates in various fundraisers to help them cover many of the fees associated with the team. One of these events was the APU gala put on by the university, where the ski team was asked to volunteer and where we put up items for auction.

This year, both the men and women teams will be hosting a catered dinner for the bidders. We will also have an Iron Chef competition in September where the men and women teams will be pitted against each other with the help of local celebrity chefs. I’m pretty interested to see how that turns out, especially since I’ve seen some of my teammates cook… (wink) but I am sure it will be a good time.

The APU gala. High class affaire.

The APU gala. High class affair.

This past week, the team had their first “glacier camp”.

Panoramic view of the camp with Girdwood below.

Panoramic view of the camp with Girdwood below.

The most unique feature about APU is that it has its own glacier facility. A few times every year, the team flies up to Eagle Glacier which is located above Girdwood, a ski town an hour drive south of Anchorage.

Taking the helicopter onto the glacier.

Taking the helicopter onto the glacier.

Our fresh water pond with the glacier in the background.

Our fresh water pond with the glacier in the background.

We stay up on the glacier for a week. We ski twice a day, usually skate skiing in the morning when the snow is harder and classic in the afternoon as well as two strength sessions. When we are not skiing we are busy cooking, eating, sleeping, stretching, or watching technique video from the day. The camp revolves completely around skiing so that when we get back down, we are ready for a week of recovery with less emphasis on training.

Erik in our "strength room". "Train hard and stay safe."

Erik in our “strength room”. “Train hard and stay safe.”

The ski trails.

The ski trails.

For the next week I am going up to the village of Kiana for a family reunion of sorts. Ideally it will be a good little adventure and a week of relaxing, but realistically it will be taking care of the various cabins my grandmother has accumulated over the years. Anytime you go up past the Arctic Circle is an adventure and I am excited to go back after a four year hiatus.

The village of Kiana.

The village of Kiana.

Last week, I had a few really good questions sent to me from my website. One of them was: “How do I stay motivated?”

The APU Elite mens team for this season. I am pretty excited to train with these guys.

The APU Elite mens team for this season. I am pretty excited to train with these guys.

This is a complicated question. I think in general, everyone loses motivation throughout the year. Skiing has its ups and downs in everything from performance to motivation. Sometimes you can feel like you can take on the best in the world whereas other times, you feel like you can barely get out of bed.

I gain motivation through a lot of different means. This year, the biggest motivation is being able to train with a new team and coach. I also decide on major goals for the next season and tack them on the wall (usually with a picture and a corny saying).

In the end, the easiest thing that gets my motivation back on track is taking a step back and reassessing why I ski. Mostly what it comes down to is that I can’t imagine enjoying anything else as much as I do skiing. Even with its ups and downs, all I have to do is flip through my pictures to remember that this is a once in a lifetime adventure and I don’t plan on letting it end anytime soon.

It’s the Little Tweaks that Count

 

After each season, athletes look back on how it went and what they need to do to improve. Sometimes it is easy; just a few tweaks here and there, but nothing drastic. Sometimes it is hard. That is where I am.

Sometimes you're on top. And you're happy.

Sometimes you’re on top. And you’re happy.

Sometimes you fall. And it hurts.

Sometimes you fall. And it hurts.

I have talked to a lot of people who have expressed feelings and opinions about how my season went. Early on in most conversations, the question of, “What went wrong?” comes up. I think for every person I’ve talked to, I’ve given a different answer. Maybe it is that I am narrowing down on the right one, but it’s most likely that I really have no idea.

There are so many things that go into being a good skier. Good coaching, training, equipment, mental aptitude, luck, a strong support system, good wax technician, etc. Within those things, if I wanted to, I could go into excruciatingly small detail of how I have lived in the last year. I could analyze every detail to try to find out the reason I had a sub-par season, but it wouldn’t work.

Getting patted on the back after a frustrating Junior National race

Getting patted on the back after a frustrating Junior National race.

Skiing and training is so complex that over-analyzing would leave me stressed and with a lot of questions rather than answers. Even though a frustrating season left me feeling like I needed to change everything I did differently, I’ve come to realize that I was just over complicating things.

After I give the answer of, “I don’t really know”, the next question is, “Well, what are you changing?” Obviously, this question is heavily dependent on knowing what went wrong. As I said, most of the time, it is just simple tweaks. Maybe it is introducing more speed or less strength and more distance training. I have a few of those simple tweaks as well. For me, it is organizing my resting areas, eating better, being more prepared for workouts, and increasing flexibility, among others.

The biggest change I am making is obviously a new team and a new coach, but if I don’t make an effort at the small things, the effects of a new training program will be minimized.

At the end of the conversation, some people accept my response, but most do not. Most people really do not like the simple answers and almost all of them have a different opinion. In the end, it really does not matter what anyone thinks but me. The only way I will fail is if I doubt the changes I am making. As I steadily train and develop a rhythm, my confidence in the changes I’ve made will steadily increase and will allow me to train and race harder and smarter.

So, as I finally made it back to Anchorage for the summer, I have been busy dialing in my routine and making sure I give myself an opportunity to make my tweaks. Even though it’s been the nicest beginning of summer in recent memory, I have had to spend a lot of time inside recovering from a bit of sickness. Luckily, we are starting to ramp up training, so I’ll be able to get my needed dosage of Vitamin D. Hopefully next week, I’ll have done some exciting things that I can share with you.

Moose blocking my way out.

Moose blocking my way out.

Moose blocking my way home.

Moose blocking my way home.

Until next time,

Tyler

Jumping In With Both Feet

 

I am on my way back to Anchorage from my first official professional ski camp in Bend Oregon. After a frustrating season, Bend was going to be where I would get my fitness and my mind pointed in the right direction training in some sunny weather. Unfortunately, we missed the window by a week. As it so happens, the day I left Anchorage until the day I come back was “the best 10 days Anchorage has ever had.” Bend was lacking for a few of those days and we skied in some pretty stormy weather. As it so happens, the next week in Bend is supposed to be perfect and Anchorage’s weather is starting to turn back to what it is known for. Just can’t get any luck.

Interval day in powder. What Mt. Bachelor looked like most of the week.

Interval day in powder. What Mt. Bachelor looked like most of the week.

Anyways, Bend was a great camp even with the rough weather and I am happy to finally feel like a skier again. I also got to spend a lot of time with my new coach at APU, Erik Flora, and am slowly learning his training philosophy. Even though I grew up in Anchorage and have been around APU my entire life, I have discovered I know almost nothing about how the team actually operates and how Erik coaches. Erik’s enthusiasm for sport is contagious and the more time I spend working with him, the more excited I get about skiing.

My team and me skiing on one of the few nice days in Bend.

My team and me skiing on one of the few nice days in Bend.

As my first blog post, I think this is my best chance to thank some really important people who have supported me. All of these people deserve a blog post of their own as gratitude, but I’ll give them just a paragraph for now and hope they forgive me.

Thank you to my family for putting up with me and all of my neediness. It’s tough to be an athlete, but it is even harder to be the family of one. I have had to lean on my family a lot over my career and I am privileged to have one that is this supportive of my goals and dreams.

My family at my graduation this March.

My family at my graduation this March.

I actually got a surprise visit from my dad over the week. Without me knowing, he was flying an airplane up to Alaska from California for a friend. He had to make a detour due to some bad weather as well as a gas shortage and when he saw Bend on the map, he vaguely remembered I was there training. He called me up when he landed and we went out to lunch. That had definitely never happened to me before.

My dad and me in my Bend host house.

My dad and me in my Bend host house.

The plane my dad is flying up to Alaska from California in.

The plane my dad is flying up to Alaska from California in.

Thank you to my junior club and coaches. I was nine-years-old when I started with Alaska Winter Stars coached by Jan Buron and Ben Arians. I have become incredibly close with both of them over the years, through the good and the bad, and will continue to be for the rest of my career. It was with Winter Starts and a special group of athletes that really pushed me and my love for the sport.

My coaches and me after the 2010 US National Classic Sprint.

My coaches and me after the 2010 US National Classic Sprint.

Thank you to my college, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Fairbanks, my adopted city, for the last four years. I have achieved some surprising results and gone on some amazing adventures because of the support of coach Scott Jerome and my Nanook teammates. It was definitely a good ride and I am very fortunate to continue skiing in Alaska to be able to visit Fairbanks as much as possible.

My team in Coleraine, Minnesota on my last ski trip with the team.

My team in Coleraine, Minnesota on my last ski trip with the team.

Thank you to the countless others who have given me so much support. All of my friends, extended family, the Anchorage community, and everyone else. It can not be done without everyone.

The last two weeks, I was able to stay with a family in Bend. Without these huge gestures from often people who I have never met, I would not be able to go to all the places I do to race and train. Thank you to Dana, Jason, Aidan, and Aamion for letting me stay with you!

Aamion and me.

Aamion and me.

Me and Aidan

Me and Aidan

I hope you enjoy my blog. It is definitely a work in progress and I will work to get rid of all the bugs. I will try to update it weekly and let you see what life is like as a professional athlete, hopefully with more pictures. There will be a lot of pretty cool adventures: glaciers, mountains, foreign places, Alaskan wilderness, etc. Thank you for visiting.