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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

AK Again

I made it back to AK. My flight got in at midnight:30 last night. I feel like I've spent a depressingly large portion of my life waiting around baggage claims for skis. So last night I didn't wait, I grabbed my duffel bag when it came out on the conveyor and left. Skis (actually just poles this time) are always the last thing out. I went back to the airport this morning and picked up my poles. I think that this is a travel technique that I like, especially since my house is only 5-10min from the airport.

Monday, July 30, 2007

USST Time Trial

July 28, 2007
8.016 KM Time Trial
30 Sec Interval Start
90 degrees, sunny, dry


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Sunday, July 29, 2007


Do you monitor your morning heart rate? If so, at what point do you modify your training because your heart rate is too high? For example, I usually have a heart rate of about 35-38 when I'm fully rested but sometimes it skyrockets to 45-47 after a bounding or interval session? In short, your training plan, no matter how well planned out, is at the mercy of how your body adapts to the stress loads you place on it. If you go over those stress loads without adequate recovery you break your body down instead of up and your body suffers. Do you rely on your morning heart rate or how you feel to determine if you're ready for another hard training session?

Matthew Rowe

St. Scholastica Skier (Duluth, MN)



You're already a big step ahead of most skiers because you know your morning heart rate baseline. Furthermore, you clearly have a good concept of training theory and the stress & recovery cycle. I imagine there's a lot of people who are more like me: I start to feel kind of off and take my morning heart rate to see if it's elevated. Except I don't know what's elevated and what's not so it's not very informative.

I discussed your question with Troy Flanagan, USSA Director of Sport Science, and Justin Carlstrom, USSA Physiologist (two wickedly smart dudes). An elevated heart rate is a sign of too much stress and not enough recovery. Justin advised not necessarily jumping to the conclusion that if your AM HR is elevated it means that you need to back down the training a notch. Often an equally effective reaction would be to increase the quantity/quality of your recovery time which would allow you to maintain a good training load. (Of course this brings up the issue of priorities when you have to decide whether an hour nap in the afternoon or going to bed early is a better use of your time than, say, going to work, watching youtube videos, finishing that paper for Psych101, or practicing your keg stands.) Troy said that you can usually get away with one day of an elevated AM HR but once you had two consecutive days of ~10bpm above normal there was (according to one of his studies with women's soccer) about an 80% chance that you would get sick about two days later.

So if you think you know why your heart rate is elevated, in your case maybe because of hard intervals the day before and then spending the rest of the day in class instead of sitting on your couch, you can probably continue with your scheduled training plan. If it stays +5bpm two days in a row, you should consider cutting back on your training slightly or going out of your way to get better rest for a couple of days. If it's +10bpm two days in a row, it's time to bust out the zinc lozenges and zicam and get a head start on the upcoming soar throat and sniffles.



After our OD workout this morning, the P.City July training camp is over. We had a nice 1:20 skate ski up Immigration/East Canyon followed by a 1:45 run across to Parley's Canyon. The testing part of the camp finished up on Saturday with an 8k classic rollerski time trial around Soldier Hollow. For both the time trial and the OD we were foined by a group of TUNASLCST (the utah nordic alliance salt lake city ski team, usually just TUNA) high school age athletes. Two weeks is a long time for a training camp and, while it's been a great camp, I'm ready to get outta here and head home.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lindsay Williams, static jump.

I think that maybe I didn't have the right attitude for our max strength testing. First of all I felt like I was back in a physics lab with force plates and displacement measuring devices on a much bigger scale than I've played with before. And mostly what I did in physics lab was play with the equipment so I was at the start thinking "what fun!" instead of "okay, time to work" which is maybe what I should have been thinking. How can you not be excited about good old Newtonian physics where physics still makes intuitive sense.

And then the tests themselves made me laugh too. The first one was a static squat. Per Lundstam, who was running the tests for us, set up the squat bar so that it was at rest at the height of the lowest point in the squat (quads // to the floor). Then we'd get under the bar and try to lift it. But I think we had 150kilos on the bar so, um, nothing moved. (We were standing on a force plate so Per measured how much down force we created.) I couldn't help but laugh at Lindsay, who was my testing partner, because it was the most anticlimactic strength test I'd ever seen.

Next was the static vertical leap, which is what Lindsay's getting ready to do in the photo. Holding the bar across her shoulders she'll go down to a squatting position and stop when the dowel hits the safety bars on the side of the cage. She'll hold that position for a couple of seconds and then jump. There's a belt around her waist that is connected to a cable that's rigged up above the weight cage to measure her displacement. Per takes a zero at her standing position and uses that to measure her vertical leap. He also gets a force graph for the jump from the force plate. After Lindsay it was my turn and on my first practice jump I fell over because I tried to go all the way down to where Lindsay had the side bars set and it was way too low, so I made it all the way down and then toppled.

The last test was a simple vertical leap. Still holding the dowel behind our shoulders so we couldn't use our arms, but we got to start from a standing position so we could drop down and then spring.

Not gonna lie, I was a little perturbed to be the object analyzed instead of on the computer pulling numbers out of graphs and putting them into equations.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lindsay Williams working the treadmill. Acutally, here she's just cruising along at a HR of about 130bpm, but she threw down a little bit later on the max portion of the test. Troy Flanagan is sitting at the table, absorbing data. Vordenburg is ducking around taking pictures.

Justin Carlstrom taking my lactate after a short warm-up on the treadmill but before the real work starts.

Getting ready to go, just waiting for the treadmill to start rolling.

Laura Valaas treadmill skiing. Photos: Matt Whitcomb

Testing protocol:
Fill out short background form.
30min warm-up skate skiing outside.
Measure body mass, put on harness.
8min warm-up on treadmill, w/out mask, 4min really slowly, 4min slowly.
Break to take lactate, put on mask.
5min at 4% grade, 3mph. Take lactate.
Repeat, increasing +1mph each time until lactate goes above 4mmol.
20min break, spinning on stationary bike.
Return to treadmill, same 8min warm up w/out mask.
Start at 2mmol speed/grade from previous test.
Increase grade 1% every minute.
Until you fall off.
Take lactate 0, 5, 20 min after end.

At least that's pretty close. I didn't pay too much attention to the details, I was mostly concerned with skiing.

This was my first time rollerskiing on a treadmill. If you can handle the sensation of riding rollers, you wouldn't have any issues with rollerskiing on a treadmill. We're on some kind of green rubbery mat so the poles stick really well without having to be very sharp. VO2 max testing isn't as tough as it looks-- only about 1 minute out of the whole testing procedure is rather painful, the very last minute on the treadmill. There's a harness so you don't have to worry about hurting yourself if you fall. Although I didn't fall, they turned off the treadmill before I'd stopped skiing. I was on my way off the back, but I hadn't actually given up yet. The worst part by far is wearing the mask and having your nostrils pinched shut with a nostril clothespin. Since you can't swallow very well with a big tube in your mouth, you end up getting everything nice and slobbery and when you take off the mask there's a nice slobber waterfall. You don't think about that when you're actually skiing though. I haven't seen any of my graphs or numbers yet, the sports science guys were pretty busy and have a week of very long days so I didn't want to bother them with questions.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Downhill skating speeds at an access road near SoHo Tuesday morning. I was working on hopping the V2 and then Whitcomb had me hop my V2-alternate (um... what do you Canadians call that one?) which I hadn't ever tried before. I lked it, I thought that throwing a small hop into the V2-alt helped me become much more dynamic. Try it.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Alexa Turzian rollerskiing on the road to Soldier Hollow, warming up for some 3x10min L3 intervals around the SoHo paved trails.

3hr point-to-point OD run on the Mid Mountain and Spiro trails in Park City. See the four girls running straight across along the top. Yeah, that was where the trail was, but I was in the part of the group that decided to follow Matt Whitcomb and Pat Casey on the alternate route. I don't know what I think about following Matt & Pat.
Does this make you want a mountain bike or what? I don't even mountain bike and I want to mountain bike here.

I'm a nerd, 4 years working with entymologists has ruined me for life! Honestly, who sees a cool insect on the trail and stops to take a picture?

Not that you would guess based on these pictures but we're having a nice little thunderstorm in P.City this afternoon and I am sitting at my little desk in our condo while the fan I have propped in the window next to me is misting me with raindrops. Quite pleasant.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Dear LAV,

I'm a pretty fast, decent skate skier. I am beginning my second year with the classic technique and am considering the purchase of some Marwe classic rollerskis to help me prepare for the upcoming season. I already use the skate rollerskis.

Anyway, my crazy neighbors say that classic rollerskis are a bad idea and will harm my on-snow technique. They say I should spend the money on new truck tires instead.

What do you think?

Thank you in advance.

Wondering in Wyoming

p.s. I enjoy your blog very much. Why do you dislike Taz Mannix so much?


Dear Wondering,

Thanks for the note. As always if any of my readers have particular questions (related to skiing... or not) feel free to email me at laura@lauravalaas.com and I would love to answer them.

I'm glad to hear that you're expanding to classic as well as skate; too many people get into skate skiing and miss out on the fine points of classic technique.

Your neighbors are right to be concerned about the effects of classic rollerskiing on your technique, but don't let them dissuade you. Pete Vordenberg advises using classic rollerskis with caution, saying, when I asked him this afternoon: "You can make big improvements with classic rollerskis if you start out with technique sessions-- go out to a hill and work on specific aspects of classic technique. Where it's not helpful is when you just go out for a distance classic ski on rollerskis."

The danger of rollerskiing on classic skis is that it allows you to develop poor kicking habits, something I call being straight up lazy. Rollerskiing allows you to kick late with stupendous results. In order to avoid falling into the lazy trap really focus on a sharp, early impulse in the kick. Try to imagine the pocket of the ski compressing and then springing back up when you whip your leg forward again. I often use double pole kick to work on having an early kick because there's more time to focus on and think about each kick. If you don't think that you can self monitor your technique, classic skiing is still good for gains in ski specific strength. I like to do the occasional flat classic rollerski where I work on my double pole or even do some single-sticking to really tax my core/lats/triceps. If you use classic rollerski for technique work and specific strength work, you'll be much better prepared for skiing this winter.

There is one caveat: if your truck won't be able to get you to the trailhead this winter, you should forget about the rollerskis and buy some new tires otherwise your ski-specific strength won't do you much good! Just try to slip some double pole work on skate skis into your training.


p.s. Taz had to go up in the sling load because she was overzealous and did all of the grocery shopping and planned meals for 24 people for one week on the glacier, APU punishes overzealous athletes.

p.s.s. Always wear a helmet :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rollerskiing again

So I keep thinking, "man, I really need to wash me hair," which at first appears to have nothing to do with skiing. Really though, it does. After Eagle Glacier I flew down to Park City to train with the rest of the USST for two weeks and do some physio testing. It is hot here, well over 90° F every day, and we're training twice a day and sweating a lot. So you can imagine that I should probably wash my hair pretty often. But I never seem to be able to get around to it because after training I come back to our condo and shower. Now, normally this is when I would be washing my hair, but after a rollerski my hands are so blistered and tender that the last thing they want to do is scrub vigorously. Especially hair, because now that my hair's kind of long the strands cut into the blisters.

There's a lot of side effects of being a skier that you just don't think of until you actually experience it. Don't worry though, this morning I woke up with all of my blisters turned to calluses so maybe I'm through the blistering stage of rollerskiing again.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Brent Knight

The group, hanging out on a spur at the edge of the glacier before hiking back down to civilization. Casey shuttled us over to the start of the hike on the snowmobile so it takes awhile for everyone to get over there. At least it was a pretty nice day, we couldn't see down into the Girdwood Valley because of the low clouds but we could see back towards the glacier.

Nicole Deyoung. And she was standing very scenically until just as I took the picture Kate accidentally caused a rock to slide down the talus slope and Nicole turned to look.

Kate Arduser (Pearson) before the start of our 2hr hike down.

On this part of the hike down I was thrilled to find a bunch of forget-me-nots-- the Alaskan state flower.

Casey, Colin, Nicole, & Katie pausing on a bluff.

On the way down we found a nice waterhole in the stream so some of us decided to experience Eagle Glacier in its other form.

Peter Kling from VT, one of next year's freshman on the team for APU.

Then Casey Fagerquist took a dip.

...and then I did, of course! I was dreaming about glacial runoff water all last year, how could I resist?

Then we all made it safely home and I drank two cans of diet dr. pepper, what can I say, I have my vices.
Laura Valaas, Eagle Glacier

Taz Mannix, Eagle Glacier

Katie Ronsse took these sweet photos while Taz and I were doing some L3 work.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Sometimes I forget that my readers might actually be interested in the nitty-gritty training detail. I train a lot, so I'm more interested in the marveling at the sudden weather changes and the geology around Eagle glacier.

Speaking of weather changes and geology. I was absolutely fascinated by both. The weather could be so different from one minute to the next and even on different parts of the course. And I wanted to make a 3d vector graph of the wind-- some places it would be wicked fast and then you'd reach a point on the trail where it would suddenly cease. I wanted to throw a huge handful of sand or dust motes up over the glacier on a sunny day and be able to see the wind patterns. I also wanted to have S.Konrad up there so she could tell me glacial geology stories. Her specialty is rock glaciers but I bet that girl knows a thing or two about your run-of-the-mill glacier too.

Back to actually skiing. I have everything I did training-wise up there immaculately recorded in my training log. The training log itself even without any of my training numbers in it is pretty impressive-- and excel workbook with 19 tabs. One of which is "Directions."

Everyday people trained a total of 3-4hrs, except on Wednesday and Sunday when we only skied in the morning, for a total of between 18 and 25 hours over the week. Mostly distance training in L1-L2. Erik lets us do distance training up in L2 which I think is good up on the glacier because with the altitude (5200-5700' depending on who I asked) it's hard to ski technically well in L1. I don't like the L2 training dryland so much because I'm simply not used to it so I just get dropped like a piece of moldy cheese with mouse droppings on it. Back up on the glacier we did speed workouts Tuesday morning and Saturday afternoon, individual pick-ups Wed and Fri morning, and a longer L3 interval Tuesday afternoon and Saturday morning. We also busted out 5minutes of strength on Wednesday. Those 5minutes are the only minutes in my training log for last week not under the "skate" or "classic" columns. That alone is enough to know it was a good week!

The Eagle Glacier camp participants, from L-->R
Back: Bart Dengel, Brent Knight, Tyson Flaharty
Middle: Kassie Rice, Nicole Deyoung, Peter Kling, Becca Rorabaugh, Erin Phillips, Ky Eiben, Kalysta Schmidt, Casey Fagerquist.
Front: Katie Ronsee, Colin Rogers, Laura Valaas, Erik Flora, Taz Mannix, Kate Arduser (Pearson) Don Haering.

Athletes not pictured: Kikkan Randall, Kristina Strandberg, Anders Haugen, Jeff Ellis, Lars Flora. (These guys caught a helicopter ride back down to Girdwood and skipped the hike out.)

Coaches/staff: Erik Flora, Frode Lillifjell, Casey Fagerquist, and Dylan Watts

Monday, July 16, 2007

Once we settled into our bunk beds and got a good (but short due to the time consuming trip up) sleep it was time to get down to business and go ski! We started off the first day with some easy distance, skating in the morning and then slathering on the klister for the afternoon's classic ski. I love klister.

So I'd ski along and then stop and take pictures. Good thing I have so many hot teammates willing to model for me! This particular model is Anders Haugen.

I skied up to Don & Aaron, two of the junior boys, just standing on the side of the trail and it was clear enough to see the mountains behind them so I stopped to take their picture. I was in no hurry so I was talking to them as I got my camera out and they pointed out that they weren't actually stopped for my picture taking benefit, they had stopped to pee and were waiting for me to ski past. So they may be smiling in the picture but they're actually probably not happy about it. Especially since by the time I put my camera away another stream of people were approaching. Really though, they just need to learn to pull a Laura Matsen and pee regardless of what's going on around them.

I took advantage of a temporary lift in the fog to get a photo of Katie Ronsse in front of my favorite rock out there.

Yes, I am pretending to fall into the crevasse... did I convince you? No? drat. Most of the crevasses were itty-bitty, this was the biggest one I saw. We all stayed on the groomed trails though so we wouldn't punch through and be swallowed up by the glacier.

The coaches loved riding around on snowmachines. This was the first day and Frode's not actually coaching here I'm pretty sure he spent his first half hour on the snowmachine just zipping around looking for excuses to ride somewhere else. Actually it was really nice to have them on snowmachines because on our 30min L3 interval Erik would ride alongside and give some technique suggestions, be able to talk to (at) all of us and then be stationed at another hill to take lactate by the time we got there.

People looked very-very small on the glacier.

Colin Rogers & Nicole DeYoung. It was sweet to have some non-APU skiers up on the glacier too to keep the team dynamics fresh. On sunday morning when it was absolutely gorgeous all (3) couples who were up on the glacier were skiing around together in matching spandex. It's so adorable.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Getting there is half the fun

Actuary-Schmactuary. My new ambition is to be a HELICOPTER PILOT. We flew up Sunday evening with Alpine Air based out of Girdwood to the Thomas Training Center on Eagle Glacier.

This is the sweet, sweet R44 that we flew in. I don't know anything about helicopters (...yet) but I thought that this was the most beautiful transportation device that I'd ever seen.

Most of us flew up in the helicopter, 7 loads of 3 athletes per load plus Andy who was piloting. Keith was flying up sling loads of gear. Some of the athletes that Erik doesn't like had to be wrapped up in the netting and flown up with the gear. Here, Tazlina Mannix.

While waiting for my group's turn to fly in I had an Exciting Opportunity. Debbie, who was in charge of the ground side of things (and I'm 90% sure I remembered her name correctly, but I could be wrong so correct me if you're in the know), went to pick up some pizzas for the pilots and said that if Keith came back to pick up the next load of gear before she got back that it would be great if someone could hook it up for him. I, being eager to interact more with these beautiful beasties, volunteered. So Keith did come back and I signaled that I would attach the load for him so he wouldn't have to stop and land. (And then I jumped up and down a couple times because I was So excited.) Keith came down and hovered about 6 feet off the ground and I walked under the helicopter and attached the top of the rope to the belly of the helicopter. I felt as I walked into the roaring and windy vortex around the R44 that I was offering a sacrifice to some scary mythical beast and that it only really wanted the rope but it might take my hand too if I wasn't careful. I felt a moment of panic when I went to hook the rope in because, what if I messed up and the load of all of our backpacks fell halfway up to the glacier? eek! I felt responsible. The hook was very simple and closed with a satisfying click, though. Then Keith flew up and I guided the rope up and then the mesh bag tightened around our gear and everything lifted off the ground.

Andy returned shortly after and we were finally actually in a helicopter! Katie Ronsse is modeling the sweet headset that we all with microphones and earpieces so we could talk and hear each other over the roar of the blades.

If you haven't guessed already by how childishly excited I am about the helicopters... this was my first time up in a helicopter!

Because it was marginal weather on the close side of the glacier we had to take the longer way in around the back. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

We passed Keith with the sling load on the way in. I was very happy to see the bag of gear still attached to the helicopter.

My first view of Eagle Glacier

Katie Ronsse & R44. A thick fog blanket had crept in (most likely on little cat feet) between when the previous load got dropped and us so Andy let us down on the lower part of the glacier and told us to wait and that they would call Erik up at camp and have him pick us up on snow machines.

can I make a side note here? So I've always called them snow mobiles, but in alaska people generally call them snow machines. I don't care and am not interested in debating what they're actually called so when I'm in AK I'll say snow machine but when I'm back in the lower 48 I'll probably go back to snow mobile.

LAV, happy to be back in the snow

Kalysta Schmidt, Ky Eiben, Katie Ronsse huddled in the pile of gear also dropped at the bottom of the glacier. After Andy dropped us off he came back half an hour later with three more people. And then half an hour after that with the last three athletes who informed us that no one actually knew we were down here because they hadn't been able to get ahold of the coaches, but we should just wait. So we waited. And got hungry. And cold. So we went through some of the boxes of food and got some snacks and went through our backpacks and pulled out whatever extra clothes we had. Then the drone of snow machines could be heard in the distance and we were rescued and whisked up the glacier to the training facility!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I'll be back on Sunday. Until then, wish us fair weather on Eagle Glacier!

Forest Fair

Taz took me to experience one of my first Alaskan cultural event on Saturday. Okay, so it was just an arts and crafts fair/weekend celebration up in Girdwood. It is out in the forest though so it feels very Robin Hood-esque. It was nice to get out and mingle with another segment of the Anchorage area population. I've never lived somewhere with such a huge variety of people, it's quite interesting. There were also a fair speckling of normal people (AKA skiers). Matt Johnson (Middlebury) and Anna Barnwell (Colby) even had their own booth selling earrings that Anna made and silk scarves that Matt made. Those skier types are so impressive. They don't just ski!

(Also, as a side note, and probably (hopefully) the longest parenthetical comment I ever make, I really wanted to publish a blog yesterday at 7:07AM to commemorate the beautiful 07/07/07 date. But I was still asleep at seven in the AM. So next year on August 8th I will have another chance and this time I'll only have to be up by 8!)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I don't know why this moose at the Hillside parking lot was wearing a collar. I imagine someone was studying her. Actually, she was probably someone's pet. I don't know why I didn't think of that first.

Friday, July 06, 2007

And it's Glacier Time!

Almost. I'm getting really excited already though. I may be more excited to ride in a helicopter than the actual skiing (yes, don't tell my coach) especially since it's probably going to rain next week so my first time in a helicopter is looking even better by comparison.

On Sunday we head up to APU's Thomas Training Center on the Eagle Glacier in the Chugach Range. So at 4pm Sunday afternoon we'll fly in by helicopter. That is unless we decide to fly in at some other time on Sunday, any other time having about the same probability. Unless of course we end up flying in on Monday morning. But we'll go in Sunday or Monday at least. Unless of course the weather is bad and we can't; then we'll have to hike in sometime. After a hectic winter of schedule changes though you learn to love never knowing what's going to happen until it actually happens. That or you stress out and age prematurely. Not wishing to age prematurely I prefer to not worry. ("Everything always works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end." this being the appropriate quote that popped into my head but I don't know the author so I'll leave it in parenthesis unless someone can enlighten me and I can properly use the quote.)

Regardless of when or how we get to the glacier, I'm more excited to BE there. I'm particularly curious to check out the toilet situation. The training center is very eco-friendly and, I think more from necessity, has a composting toilet. I've been lead to believe that it's a state-of-the-art composting toilet. Although I'm not sure that the art of composting toilets (um, toilets that compost, not toilets that are composted) is well developed so I don't have a very good guess of what the state-of-that-art might be. Anyway. The training center got cold this winter and the contents of the composting toilet froze solid. As composting's become quite popular I'm sure you all know that frozen things don't compost. So for the June glacier camp (while I was on the ferry) there was an amount of bagged, double-bagged and 5-gallon bucketed baggage to be sling-loaded off the glacier by the helicopter.

Yeah, um... I'm not really sure how to end my blog after that paragraph

The one downside

As great as Alaska is... the apples make a mockery of what an apple should be.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Williwaw Lakes

I know it may be Independence Day most places, but in AK the forth of July seems to be Mount Marathon day. It seems that all of the people (in my small world) spent the fourth down in Seward either racing or watching Mount Marathon. The race is a very tough and technical out and back. 6-time winner Brad Precosky's PR is 45:07, 34:52 up and 10:15 down (very, very, very fast). Mountain running is a serious sport around here... but it's good to see the skiers representing well with Trond Flagstad (UAA coach) getting second today and Brent Knight (APU racer) placing third. I haven't heard the women's results from today other than that the expected winner, Cedar Bourgeois won. It's such a big deal that you can't even just register to race, you have to buy a bid in a lottery and then they select at random who gets to race UNLESS you raced the year before. If you raced the year before then you get to keep your spot if you want to. So, needless to say, I didn't even have the option of racing.

Instead I hiked up to Williwaw Lakes through the rain and the fog and the wind to enjoy the scenery.

I paused in the very, very deep bowl where this small lake was for a snack and was so pleased to be there on the tundra with the glacial-flour-green-blue lake that I was perfectly satisfied with life and thought that there was no where else in the world that I would rather be. Then the rain picked up and the wind picked up and I decided that my car at the trailhead wasn't such a bad place either.

This was my first time out in real tundra. At least I think I was in the tundra, not having been in tundra before I could only make my best educated assumptions. Tundra or not, it was pretty country. Good rock and miniature plants and marmots. (The marmots sharing the adjective 'miniature' with the plants in that sentence.)

And then you drop down and the plants get bigger rapidly. It's like a normal mountain vertically compressed so you feel like you're really high after gaining only a couple thousand feet in elevation. It's very rapidly rewarding. It makes me think that I've accomplished more than I did because I'm used to it taking a lot of work to get above treeline down in the Cascades.

The wildflowers were gorgeous, from the miniatures up high to the lush greenery in the valley-- Columbine, Indian Paintbrush, Ground Dogwoods, Wild Roses, Heather, Arnica, Buttercup, Twin Flowers, lots others that I didn't know.

Sochi, Russia in 2014

The 2014 Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia with the Nordic events at Psekhako Ridge. I'll let Bill Marolt describe it since I have no idea where Sochi is or what it's like (maybe I will get to find out though!):

"What a fabulous opportunity we have with the selection of Sochi, Russia, as the 2014 Olympic site! It's a chance to take our sports to a new and truly fascinating destination in the Caucasus Mountains along the Russian Riviera of the Black Sea.

This is truly a unique destination! Imagine this-- spectators will be able to catch an Olympic competition in the afternoon in the mountains and stroll along the playa in Sochi that evening underneath palm trees!

And, yes, these are real mountains! The mountains reaching skyward above the Krasnaya Polyana valley are the home to Russia's primary winter resorts with massive alpine terrain. And the new Rosa Khutor will have over 5,000 feet of vertical, making it one of the biggest lift-served mountains in the world. These are towering alpine peaks, much like the French or Swiss Alps, with huge bowls of powder and long, flowing runs. And it's all just 30 miles from the Black Sea!

Sochi's airport is just 10 minutes from the city. And with the mountain venues less than an hour away, it will be one of the most convenient Winter Olympics in recent history.

Sochi has a rich history dating back to the Byzantine Era. It is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and has welcomed visitors for thousands of years, from travelers and merchants on the famed Silk Road to Russian czars. Sochi became Russia's most popular resort destination a century ago, and continues today to be an attractive international destination because of its moderate climate in the city, over 300 spas along its Mediterranean-like Black Sea coastline and in the nearby Caucasus Mountains.

The climate in Sochi is unique-- the northernmost tropical climate in the world due to the unique location between the Caucasus Mountains, including Russia's highest peak (Mount Elbrus, 18,000-feet) and the Black Sea. Temperatures in the mountains likely will be in the 20s with little wind, with winter temperatures in the 40s and 50s in the city.

Russia is a great winter sports nation and the hosts will bring incredible passion to these unique Games. I think you'll be amazed at the hospitality of the Russians and the quality of the competition."

--Bill Marolt, USSA CEO & prez.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Burky's Bunkhouse

The Burkholders have left for a little vacay so I'm going to indulge in a little gossip while they're not here to defend themselves. I'm renting a little mother-in-law type apartment room/kitchenette/bathroom in their house in Anchorage and I can't image a better place to be living. Apparently I'm only the latest in a stream of famous skiers to stay here including Adam Verrier, Kikkan Randall, and Jeff Ellis. Regardless of who they house, the Burkholders are legends in their own right. Jim "Burky" has been a ski coach in Anchorage for a long time (I don't have all the info, just tidbits of information and my own general impression). He was the first Nordic ski coach at UAA and I suspect that he's coached other High Schools and programs in Anchorage. Now he makes very cool skiing (and other sports) related art which I have some photos of for you.

Sally used to teach math. Which I adore because, well, I have a math major too and I have to stick up for my major. She also started the Alaska Ski For Women Organization which raises funds ($48,000 in 2007) and awareness for Abused Women's Aid In Crisis (AWAIC) in Anchorage. Which is pretty much awesome. I'm a little sad because I haven't been in the Anchorage ski community long enough to really know how awesome the Burkholders actually are... I still mostly have to guess. I do know that they've been super nice to me and made me feel very much at home here and that Sally makes good rhubarb pie!

The Alaska Ski For Women icon, designed and made by Burky.
One of the sheds at the Burkholders'.

(how could I NOT feel at home here?)

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I was thinking about how much patience it requires to become a skier. I was thinking this mostly as I was watching everyone else skate away from me and I was trying to decide whether to maintain x effort and get dropped (yes, still on the warm-up) or work harder and ski faster to keep up. I decided to ski at the pace I thought was appropriate for my workout. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the other APU skiers were skiing too fast-- It's me that's a slow rollerskier. Rollerskiing appears to take a certain skill that I haven't been able to master yet. I'm working on it and I'm better than I used to be, but I still rollerski with the slowest of 'em. So I have to wait all summer for the snow-skiing when I feel like I'm back in my element. And it's easier to wait if I'm patient, more frustrating if I'm impatient. (Although it would make me happiest if I could just figure out how to rollerski as fast as everyone else.)

At least now there's one thing I don't have to be patient about: training hours. I've always felt that I've had to restrict my training hours to a reasonable increase from the year before to build up a progression of yearly hours. Now that took patience. Especially when I wanted to be a much better skier than I'd been training to be in the past and a coach would say, "so you trained about 425 hrs last year, this year you can do 475" and I would think, no I have to train more than that if I want to be competitive. But I mostly managed to follow the general training progression and probably because I waited and increased my training each year per coaches' advice I avoided any serious overtraining or burnout. Now though, I've built the base and I get to train as much as I'd like (and as negotiated with Erik).

Enough gloating though, I don't want to make the many many people who aren't so fortunate to get to spend as much time training as they'd like to jealous. Now I have to solve the how-to-rollerski puzzle. I don't know that I'll ever be a rollerski master but it would be nice to be able to keep up with people. I'll have to figure out some tricks to make rollerskiing easier. hmmm.

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