Well this is going to be the last blog of my 2014/15 winter trip. I’m writing this in the Seattle Airport, the first leg of my three-leg journey back to Melbourne, Aus.
It’s a little bittersweet to be leaving. I have had such a good time in the US and especially Alaska that I don’t really want to be going home. On the other hand however it’s been 10 months since I was home in Australia and I can’t wait! I’m also lucky enough to be coming back down with Lauren. She’ll come down for 6 weeks of training with a little beach holiday thrown in so it’s going to be a great month or two!
I didn’t expect to be writing another blog so soon. But I have a little free time and something to write about so why not!
The training this week has really turned up a notch, which is great. It feels really nice to be progressing forward systematically.
So keeping with the program last weekend, myself and two other APU lads headed out for a run. The plan was a 3.5-4 hour run along a ridge above some beautiful lakes. I was feeling a little nervous about the run to be honest, it was the first time I’d be on a Over Distance (OD) with one of the guys, Scott. Scott is a running machine and has a reputation for going out on some amazing epics runs. I think his last OD was 40km and 7 hours over 3 peaks so yeah, I was nervous it was going to go from 4 to 8 hours and I’d be left crawling along. I even ate an extra piece of toast for more energy as I rushed out the door to meet Scott and our other companion Eric. We car-pooled together and headed to the base of the ridge to start our run toward Triangle Peak, our guide marker. But before we could run along the ridge we had to hike up it and to my slight dismay Scott went to the front and just casually started running up it, while I laboured behind like a donkey at a grindstone! I think Eric was feeling somewhere between Scott and the Donkey. We got to the top and started heading out along it. After roughly 30 minutes I started to feel a lot better than my original donkey self and started to really enjoy the run. It was spectacular. Eric made a comment early on about how picturesque it was and how if the sides of the hill were just a little steeper it would of made for a wonderful running picture. Us on a knife edge with the trail perched on the top.
Early on in the run we came across a few steep saddles, Scott off in the distance charging down with Eric in the yellow.
The pirate’s code is simple: “All those that fall behind, get left behind.” Pretty simple.
Training in Alaska is often like that. Swap the boats for rollerskis and the pirate crew for a bunch of Nordic skiers and you’re on the right track. But instead of this being a negative issue if I get dropped, and I have to fend for myself, I actually love it. It makes me work hard.
This week was a huge learning curve for me, both good and bad. I learned more about myself as an athlete and where I am physically. I also learned a lot about America. I have had my views shifted again on what the United States culturally is like. Finally I also learned what it felt like to be an adult. No, I’m not saying I’m still a boy (although some of you would argue that I still act like a 12 year old) but what it really feels like to have adults concerns and worries. I’ll explain.
Recently living in Anchorage Alaska I have really been captivated by the forests, I even started wondering if the 1949 book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C, S, Lewis was inspired by the Alaskan landscape…
I don’t think it was possible for Lewis just to jump on a plane and check it out during WWII but it really seems possible for that to have been the case. Alaska has all the possible characters; just swap Aslan the Lion for Smokey the Grizzly bear and Moose for centaurs and you’re getting close! It has all the rest of the animals plus enough little crazy people for a good fairytale.
In the past week it really seems like the “White Witch” was defeated and instantly everything has blossomed and turned an amazing lime green. The snow has been pushed back to the peaks of the mountains and shady valleys and replacing it is green grass and bursting leaves. The sun has been shinning almost non-stop (literally, it sets at 11:00pm) and it seems as Lewis once wrote “the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.” The landscape and forests just makes training that much easier and fun. Throw in some great training mates and life has been great, albeit super busy.
So before you click the link and head to the blog a word of warning, this one will be fairly photo laden. However it’s hard to spend a week in the Arctic and not go photo crazy. A few of these are my pics but all the photo genius and praise needs to go to Seth Adams, one of my companions for the trip. He does great work and you should check out his blog here!
On Monday of last week Lauren and I packed our bags again and headed to the airport. This time we were heading into the Alaskan bush as part of the NANANordic Program to bring cross-country skiing to the native children in remote villages. We spent the week teaching all the kids in school to ski and anyone who wanted to try after school. We ended up skiing over 8 hours a day with only 30 minutes off. It’s pretty amazing how enthusiastic the kids are for skiing. They are just so excited to see us and get outside. Generally there isn’t much extra curricular activity going on in the villages so it’s something they look forward to all winter: the week when the “skiers!” come to town.
First flying to Kotzebue on a small but relatively normal plane. Photo credit Seth Adams
Touchdown in the Arctic. We were greeted to strong winds and snow. Photo credit Seth Adams
Flying to Noorvik.
There is something very special about Spring Series, and the week of racing that it brings. No other time of the year feels the same.
The racing is really serious, yet so relaxed and mellow. It’s a time when athletes come together for one more week of punishment after months of racing and pushing our bodies to the edge.
So many athletes are done with the season, burnt out, had enough, yet everyone still comes from all over the country to race and enjoy one more week together. Some athletes even come out of retirement just to participate in races they are so fun.
Are the courses easier? Is the competition softer? Do we ski less? Nope. This week we were racing at over 2200meters on a course that had a 6 minute continuous climb in it. We raced a total of 71 km over four races and some of the best World Cup skiers were there competing.
The reason it’s so special is that Spring Series is simply a celebration of another winter spent racing with friends and that’s always something special. That another year has come to an end and no matter how it went it’s time for fun!
Me and Tommy Smith.
Me and Sawyer Kesselheim, I live with Sawyers parents in Bozeman, they are all awesome people!
I flew straight back to Anchorage, Alaska after Europe and the plan was to recharge, refocus and as one of the Australian coaches said to me “head to my happy place”. Over the course of the two weeks that’s exactly what I did. The conditions in Anchorage were almost perfect for training. No there weren’t endless kilometres of skiing there but what they had was really good quality skiing with some of the best trails I’ve been able to ski all year. That’s all thanks to their ability to make snow exclusively for the cross country trails. But the best part was that there had been a lot of melt out, so if you didn’t fancy skiing finding dry running trails was simple and again spectacular. Everything seemed to set up nicely while I was there. The weather turned to perfect blue bird days but with cool enough temperatures that the snow never melted or softened.
Up high at Hatchers pass just outside Anchorage going on a little adventure with Lauren.
Driving into the mountains behind Anchorage.
I have some time now to sit down and reflect on the past 5 weeks of the Swedish trip. I’m back in Alaska for a few weeks before flying down for one final set of races and the end of my season.
Since my last blog I had two more races to go. Both I had high hopes for and originally had been focussing on these two as my main events. The 15km Skate and the 50km Classic. After the team sprint I was on a high for a few days, I felt awesome and I was loving life. It was great to have some spark back and I was feeling really confident going into the 15km. The race was two laps of 7.5 and the plan from the start was to build into the race and hammer home not just go out guns blazing like I normally do. I was starting at the very back of the field and after 60 guys had gone through the course was a soft mess. The conditions were terrible with basically boot deep slush. The smallest rises now became difficult and I seemed to get bogged down in everything. I didn’t have the race I was after. I built into it and instead of holing on and pushing at the top I just fell straight off the cliff and suffered.
Again I find myself writing this in my room watching snow fall steadily outside. Calmly covering everything in a layer of white. Erasing everything that was underneath from sight and starting afresh. We are at the halfway point for World Championships and under the serenity of that layer of snow lies a tumultuous last week. The team and myself have certainly had its ups and downs.
Our awesome accommodation with great food and super friendly staff!