Alaska or Narnia you decide.

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…

Probably not.

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.

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The Arctic Circle.

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 Kotzebute on a small but normal plane. Photo credit Seth Adams

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

Touchdown in the Arctic. We were greeted to strong winds and snow. Photo credit Seth Adams

Flying to Noorvik.

Flying to Noorvik.

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Spring Series and the end of the racing season.

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 Tommy Smith.

Me and Sawyer Kesselheim, I live with Sawyers parents, they are all awesome people!

Me and Sawyer Kesselheim, I live with Sawyers parents in Bozeman, they are all awesome people!

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Back in the sunny States.

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.

Up high at Hatchers pass just outside Anchorage going on a little adventure with Lauren.

Driving into the mountains behind Anchorage

Driving into the mountains behind Anchorage.

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World Champs Part 2

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.

Falun.

Falun.

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World Championships the half way point.

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!

Our awesome accommodation with great food and super friendly staff!

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Ostersund World Cup

There is light rain falling as I look out the window of my room. Back home we call mizzle it’s not mist and it’s not drizzle. In some ways it’s hardly noticeable but you get wet from it fairly quickly. It’s trying to snow but not quite. It’s a standard grey day here in Falun Sweden. The entire World Championship team is now together and living in our allotted athlete accommodation for the Championships. This year our team is huge, 11 athletes and 8 support staff. This is the largest overall group we have ever sent to a Championship event! It’s pretty exciting to be part of such a huge group. There is a lot of excitement and a few nerves floating about the team. We have four athletes competing in the 10km qualifying race on Wednesday. I’m lucky enough to be prequalified and able to skip that race. I think all of the athletes should qualify, they’re skiing well and looking good! They have to come in the top 10 to go through. This weekend I was up in Ostersund. Around 5 hours north of Falun racing on the World Cup. These were my first races on the World Cup this year and as always it’s extremely fierce racing!

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Gronklitt Training Camp

So for the last week and a half I have been living in the “mountain” resort of Gronklitt in Sweden. I say mountain because I think we are only at 550m but it seems like they sell this area as a little Alps ski resort in Sweden. In honesty it’s actually flat here. Most of the trails are all around lakes and very few have any hills. That being said the training week has gone as well as I could have hoped for. I feel like the final preparations before heading to the World Cup in Ostersund and the World Championships in Falun have been really successful. We had great snow and trails here and I had a lot of good sessions. Tomorrow the World Cup team will drive up to Ostersund to race a classic sprint and a skate distance race. I hear that there is minimal snow and the only skiing is on the two race courses. I hope it’s not rained out and rough but we’ll see.

Our little mountain home. We had just one of four apartments in this house and an extra apartment next to this one.

Our little mountain home. We had just one of four apartments in this house and an extra apartment next to this one.

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Sunrise on my last day in Gronklitt, It has been amazing going for a run each morning pre dawn and seeing these amazing sunrises and sunsets.

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Scandinavia

So I’m finally in Sweden and joined up with the Australian team as we prepare for World Championships! The pointy business end of the season! Where all the work we have done for the past year really counts! Last week in Craftsbury, Vermont I had yet again a mix bag of results, where my body felt solid and ready to charge yet not quite able to do so. I was hoping for some big results but again felt like I wasn’t able to capitalize properly on my races. The big positive to come out of the weekend was I qualified for the heats in the sprint race! This is the first time this season I have been able to do it so I was stoked to be in the mix, racing the big guns! I drew a very tough heat for the first round, the eventual winner and third place finishers were in my heat. The race went well and I was sitting in second for over half of the race but on one of the hills I was out kicked by two other racers coming either side of me. I finished up 4th in the heat out of 6. It was disappointing that I didn’t move on but I was glad to of made it and given it my all. Continue reading

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Cruising to Craftsbury

When “Sweet home Chicago” was written for the Blues Brothers, they clearly hadn’t flown much. Or if they had, they clearly had just decided to make Chicago home, due to always having to spend a night at the airport waiting to catch a flight out… Chicago O’Hare Airport and I have a true hate-hate relationship. I think I’ve only flown through once without my flight getting cancelled. Still, I love that song.

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