The Glacier, or the Beach?

I just finished up a solid training block, capped off with an unbelievable training camp on Eagle Glacier.

First I have to rewind a bit, since it’s been a while since I last posted.  I had a big fall while running in the mountains in mid June (story here) where I slipped off a cliff and tumbled down a boulder field.  Afterward, it seemed like every bone in my body was achy and sore, but amazingly I was not significantly hurt.  No head injuries, no broken bones, and no spine trauma.  I was very lucky.  With the help of Zuzana Rogers and Advanced Physical Therapy, I was able to recover and gradually get back to activity over the course of two weeks.  I feel incredibly thankful to be healthy again, and I’m super fortunate that the fall wasn’t any worse.  Save for a few nice battle scars, I’m back to 100% now.

The fall definitely put some things in perspective, and it’s shifted my attitude a bit.  It’s easy to lose perspective in the midst of day-to-day routine training, but once injured and confined to limping around the house, you realize how lucky you were and want nothing more than to go back to feeling normal.  Also, the realization that the fall could have easily ended my ski career… I spend much more time now enjoying the moment in training, and not worrying about the things that don’t matter.

Spending time on a glacier certainly makes it pretty easy to enjoy the moment.

Unreal tracks on an unreal day.

Unreal tracks on an unreal day.

The training plan on the glacier is pretty much the same every time we go up for glacier camp.  It’s nice to know exactly what to expect and have a good sense for the rhythm of the week.  One of the goals of this repetition is to get used to a routine that minimizes stress outside of training.  We generally skate 2-2.5 hours every morning and then classic 1.5-2 hours every afternoon, for daily volumes of 4 to 4.5 hours.  We then sprinkle in two speed sessions, two strength sessions, an interval session, and a race to keep things interesting.  When I was filling out my training log I realized that we averaged over 50k of skiing per day- equivalent to running a marathon every day for 6 days straight!

The flight up to the glacier was smooth, and jaw dropping as always.  Helicopter flights in the Chugach never get old for me.

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Alpine air dropping off a load of athletes at the glacier.

We had a good outlook for the week, and the weather delivered starting the very first day, with blue skies, sun, and summer temperatures.  We all took full advantage.

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The glacier, or the beach? Rosie Brennan and Chelsea Holmes lead the APU ladies team on an afternoon classic ski.

Enjoying the sun and great skiing.

Yours truly enjoying the sun and great skiing (Reese Hanneman photo).  My Rossignol S2’s have been killer on the glacier.

The glacier has melted significantly over the course of the summer and for this final camp we were down to multi-year glacier snow.  This multi-year snow is really stable and stays relatively firm throughout the day, even when its sunny and warm.

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Erik Flora grooming the course with the PB100

The grooming and skiing on the glacier is World Class.  Huge thanks go out to Erik Flora and the glacier staff who make it happen.  They groom with the PistenBully twice a day to make sure that we have the best possible tracks for every training session.

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Perfect tracks for our afternoon ski

Becca Rorabaugh enjoying the firm morning tracks.

Becca Rorabaugh enjoying the firm morning tracks.

Teammate David Norris with his Coca-Cola, mid workout.

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Thomas O’Harra and Forrest Mahlen through swirling patterns of sun cups.

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Rosie Brennan cruising on a classic distance ski. Note the patches of glacier ice appearing through the snow. This is the first time in memory that those areas have opened. At the end of the week, there were several areas of the course that were melting through to glacier ice.

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Jess Yeaton, Rosie Frankowski, Becca Rorabaugh, and Rosie Brennan

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The triangular “Rock” by the upper loops of the course is a striking feature, with a striking wind feature cut into the glacier all around it. The tiny dots to the left of the photo are skiers.

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And a zoomed in view. The “rip curl” is a feature caused by wind howling around the mountain and increased melting close to the mountain’s rocky face.

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The company Incase hooked me up with this sweet pack – look for a review coming soon!

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Reese Hanneman, Andre Lovett, and Forrest Mahlen

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Andre Lovett

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Forrest Mahlen

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The Dartmouth Girls – Alum Rosie Brennan and incomming freshmen Taryn Hunt-Smith and Lydia Blanchet

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Olympian Sadie Bjornsen

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Practicing high speed corners

We had sun and great weather every day for the six days of the camp.  We finished the week on Friday with a super hard Team Sprint workout, which included a double pole qualification round.  Afterward we got some team pictures.

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The crew, from left: Erik Flora, Scott Patterson, Rosie Brennan, Thomas O’Harra, Jessica Yeaton, Andre Lovett, Chelsea Holmes, David Norris, Sadie Bjornsen, Forrest Mahlen, Lydia Blanchet, Lex Treinen, Becca Rorabaugh, Tyler Kornfield, Rosie Frankowski, Reese Hanneman, Taryn Hunt-Smith, and myself.

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And the team muscle shot.

Finally on Saturday the clouds rolled in as we skied the final OD (over distance) ski of the summer.  For each of the last two glacier OD’s this summer we skied 60+k but this time was more like 50k.  By the time we finished the training center was in the clouds and the weather was getting worse by the minute.  The helicopters that ferry us up and down from the glacier depend on sight and cannot fly in the clouds.  We packed in a mad rush to beat the weather, and then all piled in the back of the PistenBully to drive down glacier below the cloud layer.   The PistenBully is big enough to drive right over most crevasses, and we saw some snow bridges collapsing as we drove over them.  Finally we dropped out of the clouds, were we were met by two of the helos ready to fly us down.

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Two R44 helecopters and Pistenbully… on a glacier. All in a day’s work.

 

We had an awesome camp, and I wouldn’t have been able to participate without the help and support of the community.  Ski racing at a high level requires a huge amount of resources, and I am fortunate to be part of an incredibly supportive community.  I want to give thanks to a few key people who have played a huge role in supporting my training this summer.

First of all, the camp wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of Erik Flora and the Alaska Pacific University glacier staff who put in a ton of hours keeping everything running.  From grooming the trails twice a day, to coordinating food and logistics, to coaching and video, the camp wouldn’t work without them.  These guys work 80+ hours in a week to make these camps happen.

Our awesome glacier staff: Erik Don, and Andre.  These guys work hard every day to make sure that the only thing athletes have to worry about is training, eating, and sleeping.

Our awesome glacier staff: Coach Erik Flora, Don, and Andre. These guys work hard every day to make sure that the only thing athletes have to worry about is training, eating, and sleeping.

After my fall in June, Zuzana Rogers was a huge help in helping get me realigned and back to training.  Zuzana, a former alpine ski racer herself, works at Advanced Physical Therapy and is a huge supporter of the team.  She volunteered a week of her time to come up with the team to the glacier camp in July, and worked with me 2-3 times per day to help loosen my neck and back (I basically had a form of whiplash after the fall).  It was like magic and within a week most of my symptoms were gone.

Big thanks to Zuzana Rogers for coming up to the July glacier camp and keeping us all working.

Huge thanks to Zuzana Rogers for coming up to the July glacier camp and keeping us all at our best.

Recently I got the news that Paul Clark, the Racing Manager at Rossignol, is moving on to a new position at Backcountry.com.  While at Rossignol, Paul did an amazing job raising the profile of cross country in the US.  His hard work made me proud to represent Rossignol, and he deserves a ton of credit for really raising the bar in the skiing industry.  Thanks for your hard work, Paul!

Lastly, I also want thank my main supporter and sponsor, Rich Suddock and the Alaska National Insurance Company.   Rich is an accomplished athlete, and has been a mentor and training partner since I was a junior athlete with Alaska Winter Stars.  Rich recently underwent knee surgery for a torn meniscus, so my thoughts are with him for a speedy and full recovery.

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Rich on his feet post surgery!

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Back to the real world, and some recovery rides sporting my Alaska National kit!

 

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