The last Northern Hemisphere blog.

Well it’s been a little while since my last blog. The last few weeks have been great and I’ve had an excellent mental break from racing and the regimented training regime. Spring in Alaska I’ll admit is pretty amazing. For basically a month straight we had perfect sun and great temperatures hovering around 0 degrees C. My day would generally consist of getting up to a perfect blue bird day, having a lazy breakfast and then planning the days adventure with Lauren. Generally this would be a hike, crust ski, back country ski or run through the forest. Pretty much heaven for me. In the evenings I had an awesome opportunity to get into a wood working shop, so I had a great time being creative and literally whittling away the hours. There was a sign on one of the walls of the shop that said “The hours I enjoy wasting aren’t wasted hours” which seemed very appropriate for that period of time.

Before I let photos do the rest and give you a visual of what I’m talking about, I need to talk about skiing once more. But just once, I promise.

Without question for the last two years I’ve rapidly improved as a skier and have reached a whole new level of racing. A level where I am able to race on the World Cup circuit and World Championships and  be a member of the Olympic shadow team. This is mainly due to my coach “The Boss” August Teague. He is by far the main reason I’m skiing where I am today and sadly this has been his last winter with us. I hope he might work with us from time to time in the Northern Hemisphere. He is moving on to his own business and other coaching opportunities. He’s set the bar high for my future expectations, as a coach, and the last two years have been great. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors!

The Boss feeling on top of the world training with me on Mt Buffalo in Australia in 2013 Always fun adventures!

The Boss feeling on top of the world training with me on Mt Buffalo in Australia in 2013 Always fun adventures!

So now I’ll let photos do the rest of the talking.

Top of the Glacier looking at an amazing view!

Top of the Glacier looking at an amazing view!

Myself and Kate, Big thanks to Kate and John for hooking me up with gear! Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

Myself and Kate, Big thanks to Kate and John for hooking me up with gear! Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew skinning up to the top of the glacier. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew skinning up to the top of the glacier. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew, back country buddies.

Back country buddies.

A Panorama of the view. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

A panorama of the view. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

Great views.

Great views.

Warm in the sun but still frozen in the shade.

Warm in the sun but still frozen in the shade.

The view for my last run in Alaska

The view for my last run in Alaska.

Lauren on Bird Ridge.

Lauren on Bird Ridge.

One of my endeavors, a cribbage board.

One of my projects in the wood shop, a cribbage board.

I’m actually writing this as I sit in front of the fire at home in Porepunkah, Australia. I finally flew home on the 14th of April. Alaska feels very much like home and seeing as the sun was coming out so much, I’m a little sad to be heading back to autumn and winter when the summer activities were getting so good! I’m already starting to plan my next trip, so I’ll be back again.

 

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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A philosophical blog for a change.

I started writing about chasing the unicorn a few years ago. A simple metaphor of trying to ski the perfect race, catching the uncatchable beast. Mainly due to a terrible race in Australia where I managed to break the same pole twice and crashed in a separate incident. It led me to start writing the odd philosophical blog about life on the road and as an athlete. It’s been a while since I wrote in the chronicles but seeing as the season is drawing to a close and I have been reflecting on the season and trying to work out if it was a successes, a failure or somewhere in-between, I thought it might be a good chance to jot down a few notes into a blog. Not to mention hopefully straighten some of my own thoughts because whether a season was a success or a failure is not clear-cut and a simple “yes or no” answer is clearly not sufficient.

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In the bush, Alaskan style

I find myself in a peculiar situation as I write this. I’m lying on a bare mattress in school music room in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness waiting for a snowstorm to blow over. How did I end up here? Well like most of my stories, it all started with a ski race. At the award ceremony of the American Birkebeiner a few weeks ago, one of Lauren’s teammate’s sister, who works for one of the Native corporations, asked us if we would consider volunteering and head into the Alaskan wilderness to teach children in remote schools how to Nordic ski through a program called NANANordic. After a quick check of dates we both jumped on the idea and after just a week spent in Anchorage we boarded a small 20-seat plane and headed to a town called Aniak.

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The Mecca of Master Blasters.

Master Blaster: A term generally associated with the older age group of cross country skiers. I was asked recently to define this word and my initial response was “ anyone who trains with high fluros on!” High fluros cost around US$265 for 30 gm of powder, so at $8.83/gram, you’re better off sticking with your cocaine addiction because at least you’ll get a high off it; with fluros, half the time you pick the other pair of skis with that other $265 powder and just end up with $50 worth of wax sitting on your ski that you then brush off…. Cheap sport. But back to our “Master Blaster” definitions. Another person at the table chimed in with, “that old guy that has all the latest gear and equipment but no idea how to use it!” Perhaps the best was “that guy that’s 55 and still tries to fit into his race suit from when he was 18!” Possibly the only thing worse to a Master Blaster in Lycra is being at an Italian swimming pool during senior club training sessions, so many budgie smugglers…

The supermarket had a birkie display in the entrance, or is it a shrine to the Master Blaster?

The supermarket had a Birkie display in the entrance, or is it a shrine to the Master Blaster?

 

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Huckleberry Finn and St Paul

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer… Please, they got to have a scenic boat ride for a few weeks down the Mississippi, a raging river as fierce as a draining bathtub! I feel like a kitten loose on a Fijian boat cruise sounds more ferocious! So here I stood one afternoon gazing out at the giant river. Admittedly the river was frozen solid so to compare current speeds is a little loose and the story is set a thousand miles south but still, I feel I have some authority on the matter, besides I’ve even driven over the river! I will say this. If old mate Huck’ did that trip up further north he would be a frozen popsicle in overalls.

The house we were in had two friendly cats who found my bags extremely comfortable!

The house we were in had two friendly cats (Oscar and Fat Luey) who found my bags extremely comfortable! Thanks to the Luby family for hosting us!

The first thing I noticed after flying from the east coast to central US was it was cold! While parts of the US are having the warmest winter ever, St Paul is having one of the coldest with 61 out of the last 87 days below -18C at one point during the day. So pretty much everything is frozen solid!

The streets in St Paul were slightly old fashioned but very pretty!

The streets in St Paul were slightly old fashioned but very pretty!

The skiing was quite strange but fun. We were racing in a large park in the centre of the “Twin Cities” of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has a population of 3 million! They groomed a series of trails winding through the trees that I guess in summer are walking tracks. This made for some tight and winding racing!

The park

The park, the one open section in the entire race.

Lauren coming up one of the final climbs

Lauren coming up one of the final climbs with the forest all around.

The weekend suited me with two distance races only a 15km classic mass start and a 10km skate.

The 15km went well, I was going through the park with the front bunch of skiers, winding in and out through all the trees. Frustratingly my skis were not kicking well, they were fast but slippery, as I may of chosen the wrong ski, which was a little annoying on my part. I started yo-yoing off the back of the pack and was finally dropped off around 8 or 9 kilometers in. I then skied with a few other skiers who had fallen off the back too. Sadly I was feeling really good but just couldn’t quite put it down onto the snow. On the last lap I went to the front of the group I was skiing with and put the pace on. It was really satisfying to feel strong enough to put the hurt on the other guys and watch them drop off the back because of the pace. I came in 19th, which was my first top 20 for the US season, which was nice.

The first time I've ever had my skis waxed in a truck! thanks Evan for the skis!

The first time I’ve ever had my skis waxed in a truck! Thanks Evan for the skis!

Beautiful sun for Sundays race.

Beautiful sun for the race.

The next day I was really hoping my legs would still be feeling fresh and ready to go. I went out hard the first lap of the two-lap race and early in I got a split I was the fastest skier so far into the race. I paced fairly well but in the last few kilometers my legs weren’t quite as fresh as I’d hoped. The course that was great for classic was a little hard for the skate with the hill being a weird gradient for skating on. I still had a top 30 but not quite what I had hoped for.

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

I’m guessing by this stage in the photos you can guess which side I like to ski towards! Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

I’m now in Hayward for the American Birkibeiner. It’s crazy here with 10,300 entrants for the race tomorrow. I will write a proper blog for the week after the race! The race tomorrow will be crazy with 14 inches of snow falling in the last 24 hours!

Train hard, Rest easy, Live for the moment

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Syrup and a taste of Winter!

I’ve been on the road now for 4 months and I think last week I finally found winter. Maybe in Davos, Switzerland I had a taste of it but I really got to enjoy this last week skiing in Vermont, USA. The first time I’ve skied on great trails with some awesome snowfalls! It has been a while since my last blog, I had a little time off after Europe. That being said a huge thank you should be sent out to everyone who sent me emails, messages and comments after Europe! I really appreciated the support and have not forgotten them!

After Europe I decided to head back to Alaska for almost two weeks, the week before I arrived up there they had received a foot of snow and I had heard it was sunny and great skiing. I arrived up there feeling a bit battered after a 30 hour delay in Chicago airport only to find I’d brought the European winter with me. The skiing was still good but the weather turned to rain and grey days, not exactly what I was hoping for! Still the chance to ski with some of the APU athletes was great and I enjoyed it up there.

Great sunset in Alaska.

Great sunset in Alaska.

Not long after my arrival it was time to board a plane again and head to the East Coast, which was a new experience for me! I’ll easily remember Vermont for two things, their obsession with everything maple syrup and their racecourses. They manage to slip maple syrup into everything they cook from dressings and gravy to just straight up candy bars. Lots of sugar!

Tubes set up for taking maple sap

Tubes set up for taking maple sap.

not ideal for powder skiing! hundreds of tubes cross through the maple forest.

Not ideal for powder skiing! Hundreds of tubes criss-cross through the maple forest.

All the races I did wound through amazing forest and the course flowed over continuous rolling hills. The result was a very winding course that you constantly had to keep working but never any monster steep hills. A lot of fun.

After a week of easy skiing and recovering from travel it was time for the first set of races. A Eastern Cup race that also coincided with a university carnival race. The combination brought large fields (150 in each field) but a range of ability and just a great vibe and energy with large amounts of spectators and awesome camaraderie.

A little washed out but shows all the college team tents and vans in the background!

A little washed out but shows all the college team tents and vans in the background!

Great skiing

Perfect skiing on “classic Vermont” trails!

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Sunset in Vermont over the fields and forrest.

I still have a number of result and performance based goals for the year but perhaps the overriding aim for the next few weeks of racing is to go out and enjoy the racing and have fun. Trying to stay relaxed and just having a good time. Too often I stress on results and placing and what each result means for the future and then I choke in major races or not enjoy the moment.

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Being a tourist at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Taste testing time…

The races for the first weekend were a classic sprint and a 10km skate. Because I don’t race for a college nor have a US racing license, on both days I was ranked low and started up the back. In the classic I warmed up and was ready to go, looking forward to my first classic sprint for the year. I came out of the start hard and as I climbed the first hill I realised I was catching the man in front of me. As I crested the first hill I passed him (this is extremely rare for me considering my average sprinting ability) and the rush of adrenaline and excitement helped push me on, and I climbed the last hill into the finish fired up and thinking I perhaps had had one of the best sprints of my life and excited to think I might of made heats (top 30). Well it turns out that the starter in front of me must of just been having a horrible day because I missed heats by just a few seconds and I didn’t have the stellar performance I had hoped for. However with the energy from the sprint I was excited for the next days 10km skate.

Again I was ranked out the back, but knowing I’d have the chance to pass a lot if people (which dose wonders to your confidence and motivation) I was happy to work my way up the start list. The first lap went really well and I skied a quick first lap. Every time I passed someone I seem to get a great kick of energy and motivation and so a positive flow on effect was created. You get the point, I was flying high. The race turned out to be a solid one for me and the second best points for the season. It felt great to finally find some form again, I’m still not skiing as fast and ferocious as I’d like but with the way the season has unfolded I’m just stoked to be close again.

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

10km Skate at the Eastern Cup. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz

So with a bit of spark found again I looked forward to the Supertour the following weekend, which is part of the national circuit and a step up in the quality of competition.

The races in Craftsbury were 10km skate, a 20km classic and a skate sprint. After skiing the course and finding it again that classic rolling twisting Vermont style I was really pumped for the distance events but especially the 20km classic.

The conditions in Craftsbury were amazing. Great snow and cold (-10) temperatures. Warming up for the 10km I got cold before the start due to a cold wind that had come in making things freezing. I didn’t have a repeat of the week before where I felting I was flying high. Perhaps from the cold or not enough warm up but I felt I left my legs at home. After the disappointing 10km I really was keen for a good result in the 20km classic.

Becca's "Dinosaur truck" possibly the only time i've had to use two hands to change gear and to get it into reverse meant turning off the car. makes for  a slow 5 point turn!

Becca’s “Dinosaur truck” Struggled in the cold! The only time I’ve had to use two hands to change gears and to get it into reverse meant turning off the car. Makes for a slow 5 point turn!

The unique thing about the distance race was that it was individually started with athletes separated by 15 seconds. Normally it’s either mass start or separated by 30 seconds. By having the 15-second gap meant there was a lot higher chance of athletes forming packs and skiing together.

This is luckily what happened to me. Two Canadian lads caught me after a few kilometers and we worked together swapping turns at the front and really putting down some solid lap times and passing a few people. I’ve been working on my classic technique a lot recently and it all seemed to fall into place on the course. I definitely had a big smile on my face racing!

Sadly due to not having any support staff there I wasn’t able to take on any feeds like the rest of the competitors and slightly fade in the last few kilometers. The races didn’t end up being my best result or best FIS points but it was by far the funnest race of the season and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of hanging with the other racers and realistically the feeds didn’t matter too much in the end.

Racing through a field of solar cells was a first but very cool!

Racing through a field of solar cells was a first but very cool!

The sprint the next day was same old same for me. Especially after all the previous racing I just didn’t have the speed needed for qualifying into the heats. I’ll keep working on it.

Carni Crush which is always around Valentines day is a chance for college kids to put there spin on the  event!

“Carni Crush” which is always around Valentines day is a chance for College kids to put there spin on the event and try and peddle their wares!

I now heading on to St. Paul, Minnesota and I’m hoping the distance form especially will improve. After all racing in a city with such a great name I must be in for some great racing!

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Europe Finale…

Quite an epic week so this blog is a bit of a big one, so if you’ve got time to burn read on and enjoy..

We left Davos with amazing sun and great snow and headed southwest to Chamonix, France. I was extremely excited head to France. Firstly I’ve never been there before. Secondly Chamonix is at the base of Mont Blanc and one of my non-skiing dreams is to climb to the top of it. After reading a bunch of climbing books as a kid I’ve had a big urge to climb big mountains for a long time. Any way enough of mountain speculation, I was there to race and I was keen! In Davos I thought I’d found a bit of that fire that I seemed to have all of last year and I was really hoping to kindle something for the three races, a skate sprint, a classic 15km and a 30km ski-athlon.

The mountian behind my finer is where i hope to stand one day!

The mountian behind my finger is where I plan to stand one day!

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Davos Training Block

So my time in Davos for a 10-day training block was basically everything I could have asked for. We had great snow, good weather (apart from one day) and good company. Arriving in Davos it felt like ages since I had trained properly and even longer since I had had someone to train with.

Training was amazing. Perfect trails and sun or snow every day (ok so that’s a tiny lie I did do 4.5 hours of skiing in the rain one day which was a first in Switzerland but as a few of the local Swiss guys liked to point out, a normal day for Australia so I should be used to it).

A sunny selfie out on the trails.

A sunny selfie out on the trails.

It was just Phillip, Ewan and I for the training block and then on our last night Finn flew in from Australia for the second part of the European trip, including the Olympics.

Only pic I have of Phil but fairly classic, always runs 10C hotter than anyone else.

Only pic I have of Phil but fairly classic, always runs 10C degrees hotter than anyone else.

It was great to head out and train with Phil each day. It really helps the longer sessions go by which is always nice. After Campra I had felt I had lost my spark but after a week of great skiing and sun, it’s come back and I’m really looking forward to racing in Chamonix, France this weekend where there is a sprint and two distance races which suits me!

Phil and I also put together a movie which is always something I love doing so tomorrow it will be posted on FIS and I’ll make sure I put up a link. I’ll let photos do the rest.

Looking out our bedroom window during one of the snowstorms.

Looking out our bedroom window during one of the snowstorms.

Perfect trails

Perfect trails.

More perfect trails

More perfect trails.

Looking down into Davos from the World Cup loop

Looking down into Davos from the World Cup loop.

Davos in the evening.

Davos in the evening.

 

Amazing snow conditions in the valleys.

Amazing snow conditions in the valleys.

Enjoy.

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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Campra race report and New Years Eve!

Campra is a unique place in so many ways. The people that stay their come together differently compared to other race venues. The comradery that’s been built there has formed a lot of friendships for myself and others on the team. It’s one of the main reasons we are good friends with a lot of the Swiss team. We have often been there for races and then had training camps coinciding there at the same time.

Basically if you can survive Campra as an athlete you can survive anywhere it often seems…

Ok so perhaps that’s a little dramatic but fellow survivor and teammate Callum Watson gives the accommodation and food “a half a start rating at best”. Along with Callum I was sharing a room with coach (and Callum’s older brother ) Ewan, together we are sharing one oversized bunk bed. All the accommodation is like this in our section of the “hotel” which is one large building stretching along side the tracks. Just giant bunk beds pushed together.

A few different angles of our room. I had the win of the top to myself but had to keep all my gear up there because space was tight.

A few different angles of our room. I had the win of the top bunk to myself but had to keep all my gear up there because space was tight.

The one good thing about our accommodation is that we are 30 meters from the trails.

So there was a sprint on Saturday and a 15km skate on Sunday but due to a huge snow storm dropping 130cm in 24hours the race was delayed a day so that the trails could be packed down. The sprint wasn’t great, I raced flat which was frustrating. I had hoped that the sprint would wake up my body for the 15km the next day but that night Ewan and I both had a little bout of food poisoning and I suffered stomach cramps all night and a fever. The next day feeling fairly beat up I raced the 15km but my dreams of feeling fresh and invigorated from the easy Christmas week and then the “wake the body up sprint” from the day before quickly vanished. It was a fairly disappointing weekend and I was really glad to leave Campra that afternoon. A big thank you nonetheless to Ewan who did a fantasist job of coaching and waxing for the few days!

The amount of snow was amazing in campra

The amount of snow was amazing in Campra.

Pretty awesome trails even with the amount of snow.

Pretty awesome trails even with the amount of snow.

The large dump of snow brought a lot of trees down.

The large dump of snow brought a lot of trees down.

Callum standing in the walk way to the hotel with the masses of snow.

Callum standing in the walk way to the hotel with the masses of snow.

The car park.

The car park after another 30cm fell.

We are now back in Davos which is wonderful in a nice little apartment. Ewan, Phillip (who joined us from Germany) and I will stay here for a week of good training and preparation before heading to France and then onto Poland for the next World Cup. I’m really hoping to have good training here and find the spark I’ve been missing. We just had New Years here, which was quite spectacular. We headed into town and watched as hundreds of fireworks were set off. Basically just groups of people set them up in the middle of the street and let them loose. It was amazing to watch and by far the best display I have ever seen. In the end though we beat a hasty retreat back to our apartment after some fireworks were starting to get shot low and Phil had a close call with a fire working going off near his face and I was quick enough to turn but coped a bit of casing to the back of the leg. Still was a fun night.

In Davos loving the fresh cut tracks up the Zertig.

In Davos loving the tracks up the Zertig.

All these were privately bought which makes it quite impressive.

All these were privately bought which makes it quite impressive.

Some of the fireworks.

Some more of the fireworks.

So as usual.

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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Christmas in Germany!

So I had a very unique Christmas this year. For the first time in quite a few years I had Christmas with my family! Normally they are back in Australia so the closest I get to a family Christmas is skypeing them. This year we were all gathered in Haag Im Der Oberbayern,  with our good family friends that live there. I’d gotten a ride with my parents up from Italy to Germany. It was really nice to have a change of pace especially after all the races.

It was basically a mini holiday for me, I went Ice skating, Running through the amazingly green forests out to dinner, to the theatre and ate my fair share of Christmas food! Overall it was wonderful just having some family traditions and laughs at the dinner table.

Ice Skating  (form left) Andi, Chrissi and Andrew.

Ice Skating (from left) Andi, Chrissi and Andrew.

Family christmas time

Family Christmas time.

The Horse of Haag. I found this in the forrest during a run.

The Horse of Haag. I found this in the forrest during a run.

Another discovery in the forrest. I'm guessing it was something the local kids made.

Another discovery in the forrest. I’m guessing it was something the local kids made.

Had an amzing forrest run through gream moss and pine trees. I ended up just running through the forrest off the track it was so much fun.

Had an amzing forrest run through green moss and pine trees. I ended up just running through the forrest off the track it was so much fun. As you can see, zero snow around!

Family time

Family time.

 

I have now head back into Switzerland and rejoin the distance skiers from the AUS team in Campra a very small ski area in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. After the break I’m really keen to ski again and burn a few kilos of Christmas food! The snow here is crazy yesterday 1.3 meters of snow fell and so things are fairly chaotic here with trees down and roads snowed in. The races have even been pushed back a day because the snow is so deep it will take a day just to pack it all down.

I’ll let photos do the rest.

A snow blower attempts to cut a path up the road higher from Campra to the Pass.

A snow blower attempts to cut a path up the road higher from Campra to the pass.

Ewan next to a buried 4WD.

Ewan next to a buried 4WD.

Mountians of snow everywhere!

Mountians of snow everywhere!

A lone light on the other side of the valley.

A lone light on the other side of the valley.

The footpath

The footpath…

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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