Europa Cup Challenge

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.

Some beautiful days in Anchorage, even before it snowed!
Some beautiful days in Anchorage, even before it snowed!

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.

David is really excited about the snow making. Thank you NSAA!
David is really excited about the snow making. Thank you NSAA!
If 2k of trail is good enough for Kikkan, it's good enough for me!
If 2k of trail is good enough for Kikkan, it’s good enough for me!

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.

Racing in Europe last year.
Racing in Europe last year.

Holyton of Snow!

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.

Lex getting a birthday interview after finishing second in the 30k classic.

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.

Part of our large APU contingent jamming out in between races.

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.

15k skate day. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

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.”

Logan leading Eric and I in our quarterfinal. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

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.

I swear this was not staged. I am so blessed having the team and friends that I do. This is after Lex and I finished the final, which was also Lex’s best sprint result ever and put him in the running for most consistent skier of the week with a top 10 in every race! Photo: Christopher Schmidt

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.

The podium ceremony with Reese, Dakota, and me. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

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.

Come and Gone

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.

My team on the glacier shot by the great Chris Hodel.

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.

Sister watching the last sunset before not seeing it again for a month.

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.

Thanks to TOKO’s Ian Harvey for the always great shots in West Yellowstone.

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.

Besh Cup sprint podium with teammate Eric Packer in third and former UAF teammate Logan Hanneman in third.

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.

A few of the adventures I’ve been on since last season. This is a picture from NANA Nordic in Noatak.

The whole experience was a blast and I can not wait to go again next spring.

More NANA Nordic pictures from Noatak. Coaches still need to get a workout, too!

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.

Lickety-Splits! Featuring our mascot moose antler name tags.

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.

I had a photo shoot with Northern Air Cargo which featured Sadie, who is sponsored by Saltchuk, which owns NAC. For some reason, they wouldn’t let us climb on top of it for the shots. We’ll work on it for next time though.

Thank you to Northern Air Cargo. I plan on representing them well throughout the rest of this season.

Another great shot from Chris Hodel featuring Northern Air Cargo and my focus face.

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.

Until next time.

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.

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.

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.

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