After a great US Nationals, the APU Elite Ski Team and I are off to Craftsbury, Vermont to start the second half of the race season. We will be in Craftsbury for the next two weeks racing in five SuperTour races. Due to such a successful US Nationals, the entire elite team qualified to join the US Ski Team for the Europa Cup. We will be bringing a total of ten athletes, which is over half of the team!
Along the way, we will be making videos and weekly updates for those who want to follow our journey. This next trip will be a large financial hurdle for us. For that reason we are starting a crowd funding campaign that will help support our trip:
Please share this with anyone you think may be interested in following us.
Back in Alaska
After US Nationals, most of the team came back to Alaska for a two week training block. I was under the weather for the first week but got back to full steam for the second week.
It seems that wherever we go, snow soon follows. After two weeks of skiing on the new man-made ski loop at Kincaid, snow finally hit Anchorage after a month long drought. It was only about a half a foot but it was exactly what we needed to sharpen up the trails. We still had some gorgeous days of skiing before the new snow, but you could feel the excitement in the city when it came.
Most of the APU US contingent is shipping out of Anchorage today and heading East for the Craftsbury SuperTours. We land into Boston at 4pm today, right before the “potentially historic” Winter Storm Juno is to hit New England. It is supposed to dump over two feet of snow on the Boston area and will gradually creep up towards Vermont. With any luck, we will time it just right and make it to Craftsbury without tempting the blizzard.
We will be in Craftsbury for two weeks before heading over for the Europa Cups. I am really excited for the chance to race the Europa Cup again this year. I made a huge step in my development and I hope to make another this year.
Another US Nationals has passed in Houghton, Michigan. I have raced in Houghton quite a bit since UAF races in the central region of the NCAA against schools like Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, St. Scholastica, etc. I have been to Houghton a total of six times now, but in no way was I prepared for it this year.
With a constant blizzard and wind chills down to -20 F, I didn’t leave a single item of clothing unworn. When people discovered I am from Alaska and spent four years in Fairbanks, the common phrase of “this must be warm for you!” was repeated. Nope. Though Fairbanks gets down to -40 F once in a while and Anchorage has its wind storms, when you get the snowy trifecta, it starts to drain the mind.
That said, I had a wonderful time in Houghton. We had to get creative when it came to our free time so the team spent a lot of time reading in coffee shops, strumming on guitars, and singing songs. In general, the weather cleared up for the race days and along with the great volunteers in Houghton, the championships went on without a hitch.
My week of racing started relatively unremarkably for the first three races. Finishing 22nd, 17th, and 15th in the Skate 15k, Classic Sprint, and Classic 30k respectively. I was not completely satisfied with my results, but they were still small steps in the right direction. At least that’s what I kept on trying to tell myself. With the last race coming up, the skate sprint, in order to qualify to race in Europe and meet my real goals of the season, I needed to achieve a top five.
I have talked to my coach a lot about the importance of patience, long term goals, and how the process outweighs the daily outcomes. Unfortunately, even though I know that to be true, my subconscious really wanted to race in Europe with the rest of my team of seven guys who had already qualified. Europe is where the majority of competitions are including the World Cup. It is critical to gain experience racing on foreign soil.
For the final three days of US Nationals I had this battle going on in my head. Sometimes it would click: “Everything is going to be great. I can make any situation work. I can adapt.” Other times: “If you don’t make it, your season will crumble.”(That obviously wouldn’t happen, but pressure can make you think funny things). By race day though, I had come up with my mantra: “Race to win, not to qualify.”
The qualifier went well where I crossed in 9th, but it wasn’t until my quarterfinal heat against Besh Cup rivals and current/former teammates Eric Packer and Logan Hanneman that I knew I could make the podium. Finishing the final 200 meters, I discovered I had a finishing sprint I’ve never had before.
With a similar result in the semifinal, all my focus was on the final. Racing against two of my other APUNSC teammates, Reese Hanneman and Lex Treinen, and classic sprint champion, Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess, it was not going to be easy. The pack went out aggressively with a lot of jostling. I was almost certain someone would fall or break a pole. I struggled to follow my race plan of moving up as we got closer to the finish. Every time I tried to move I was shut out. Instead of coming into the final 200 in the top three, I was tied for last. Luckily, I found a hole and went for it with everything I had. Dakota had already broken up the pack at that point so I concentrated on him. With my coach telling me that I could get him, I pushed with everything I had, but he was too strong. My second place finish was a huge result for me and I’m now qualified for the European races later in the season.
So, with my season plan finalized, I am heading home today before potentially heading up to Fairbanks this weekend for a Besh Cup or going down to Valdez for a back-to-back 35k race called the Qaniq Challenge. Following that, the team heads over to Craftsbury, Vermont for more National Points racing and onto Europe soon after.
Summer has come and gone and I have nothing to show for it. At least on this blog.
Countless hours spent with my team at amazing places like APUNSC’s Eagle Glacier and the high altitude camp in Park City made up most of the highlights.
After Park City, I was fortunate enough to have my sister fly down for a little adventure into Moab before flying back to Anchorage. We had a solid two weeks of decent skiing but were forced to switch back to bounding when we had our annual thaw. We had to get creative with a few hockey games but our preparations for West Yellowstone were still good.
Our first period of racing was in Montana. First in West Yellowstone and finishing up in Bozeman with both a sprint and distance race in each weekend. For both sprints, my qualifiers went well but I left frustrated in the heats, getting out-lunged West and going down in Bozeman. I also struggled in the distance race in West before finding my rhythm for the racing in Bozeman before going down twice on an icy course.
When we returned to Anchorage, the skiing was still less than optimal, but luckily, the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage got the new snow making system going just in time to hold the Besh Cup races. I was able to pull to win through against a thick field in the sprint.
Since I have not updated this for almost a year, there is a lot worth noting. Among that, I was able to participate in NANA Nordic as a coach for the first time.
The whole experience was a blast and I can not wait to go again next spring.
After Besh Cups, I was able to hold my fourth annual Lickety-Splits Ski Camp for Kids. We had 150 kids sign up and with the help of 23 local coaches, it was the best one so far.
Photos thanks to the fantastic Dana Tower!
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to train and host camps like Lickety-Splits because of the support I get from the Anchorage community and my Gold sponsor, Northern Air Cargo.
Thank you to Northern Air Cargo. I plan on representing them well throughout the rest of this season.
We move on to US Nationals at Houghton, Michigan in the beginning of January. I have always been able to hit my stride around January so I am really excited to get back on the road.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s never a bad thing when you get to bring home a fresh meal for the night.
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.
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.
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!
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.