East Coast Racing.

Global warming is one serious pain in the butt! We are in-between Supertour weekends here on the East Coast. I’m inside drying out after doing intervals in heavy rain. The paddocks and fields are green and brown dotted with the odd patch of white. The snowstorm that battered parts of the east coast never came north to Vermont or the upper half of New York State where things are desperate.

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No snow in sight driving into Middlebury

So far this year I’ve only raced on two courses that have been natural snow, all the other courses have man made. Strips of white through green and brown forests.
On the 26th I flew down to Vermont from Alaska and hired a rental car. After 13 hours of travel I wasn’t super psyched to drive but I managed to find my way to New York State and a good friend’s house. An old friend of mine whom I knew from back in the Lake Tahoe days and who also skied with Lauren during college.

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Flying down from Alaska. This is landing in Phoenix.

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Valdez

Alaska has so many wonderful places to visit and unique environments to be a part of, and all of it seems to come through skiing or some form of great activity. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Valdez (pronounced Val-deez), a little coastal town which sits on a bay called the Prince William Sound surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. The Sound is an amazing body of water made up of tiny islands and fjords, and the Chugach are simply huge, so it creates breathtaking scenery. Sadly Valdez was also the location of one of the worst oil spills ever seen in 1989, but thankfully it seems back to its splendid vistas.

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Road tripping down to Valdez.

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Great views on the drive

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An amazing winter landscape as we drove deeper into Alaska.

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Houghton Part 2

 

It’s quite amazing what can happen in a few days, a few hours or just a few kilometres. Since my last post a few days ago, we have had quite crazy weather with snow, rain and sunshine all thrown together. For a lot of the teams, this has been a nightmare for them. During these Championships, a few of the major teams with huge budgets really missed the wax and during the races their athletes have suffered for it. On the other hand, (bar my bad judgment call in the first race), Pete and Cody our two wax-tech geniuses have been killing it! It certainly helps when there are just four athletes and all boys, which means each race they can really narrow in and focus on just one race. It certainly helps! A big thanks to them both for doing such a great job!

Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody's case pretending to be hard at work.

Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody’s case pretending to be hard at work.

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Houghton Part 1

My time to date at US Nationals could not be more different to last years in so many ways. The weather for a start is a welcome change. Last year we had -18C and a blizzard for two weeks straight, with no reprieve from a near constant whiteout. So far we have had a lot of sunny days mixed with a few cloudy days but temperatures seem to hover around -5C, balmy compared to last year.

Flying into Minneapolis.

Flying into Minneapolis.

We had to wait for Pete at the airport for a few hours so we busted out the cards for a few games.

We had to wait for Pete at the airport for a few hours so we busted out the cards for a few games.

We definitely had some Challenges packing the two cars... And yes thats my bag being difficult!

We definitely had some challenges packing the two cars… And yes thats my bag being difficult!

I’m travelling with a very small crew of athletes and coaches, just 6 of us in total so a very small and tight group compared to the 24 or so people last year. Perhaps the biggest change this year is laughter and the vibe. I haven’t laughed so much than I have this past week travelling with these guys. The amount of jokes and humour has been great and it’s kept a very relaxed and happy atmosphere with a good focus on skiing, compared to the tense, stressful state I felt in last year.

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Christmas special

Since my last post I’ve had my first set of serious races for the season. I’d planned to write about them and then do a separate post about Christmas in Alaska but that hasn’t happened, so welcome to the Christmas race special blog!

Besh Cup racing.
The state level here in Alaska are called Besh Cups and the first set of races were on the 18th and 19th of December. The first day was a classic sprint and the second a 15km skate.
The sprint for me was a bit of a worry. The previous weekend is tweaked my back in a citizen race and so I was concerned about aggravating it again, especially considering that the course was quite flat and all the men were just going to double pole it on skate skis instead of striding on classic skis.

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White Clouds

Bursting through clouds of white, frozen water particles seems to be coming the new norm in Anchorage. The Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage has pulled out all the stops (and guns) and have been blasting snow non-stop for the last few weeks. They only time the guns have seemed to of stopped is for the racing. Making kilometres of trail at least 40 cm thick and 5 meters wide is no easy task. The temperatures and humidity for snow making seem to be ideal, hovering around -5 to -12C so they just don’t seem to switch off the guns. They are pumping out mountains of snow along the trails and then pushing it all out before starting the process all over again. There is now a permanent 3 km loop of great skiing with another kilometre to be added any day now.

There seems to be big flurries of snow come through, promising storms and blizzard but nothing really comes from them.

The snow gun spray caught in the first rays of the sun.

The snow gun spray caught in the first rays of the sun.

Winter.

A man made glimpse of Winter.

great trails

Great trails.

the stadium being completely covered by man made snow

Part of the stadium. Eventually it was completely covered by man made snow. an impressive effort!

There are a few subtle downsides to all of this snowmaking.

The first being that a hose only stretches so far and so their reach and ability to make snow on new trails is limited. To get around that they can make massive mounds of snow and then push it out over the trails but it’s not as effective for getting the trails skiable. The second downfall is that because there are only a limited number of kilometres groomed it’s not really recommended that you keep count of the number of laps you ski. We recently did a 30km time trial which was 12 laps… Finally the snow makers and groomers are very enthusiastic about making snow. They never turn off the snow guns, so periodically as you ski around the loop, you get absolutely blasted by snow! It seems you can ski from one side of the course where it might be crisp and sunny but pleasant to getting hammered like you’re in the middle of a blizzard a few hundred metres down the trail.
However I’m definitely not complaining!

sometimes you just have to climb the odd snow mound....

Sometimes you just have to climb the odd snow mound….

Lauren and Skyler in the early days of the snow making.

Lauren and Skyler in the early days of a new trail being made.

A snow gun in action.

A snow gun in action.

Skiing back with the APU boys is great and really motivates me to ski well. A lot of the guys got on the podium in the first two rounds of Super Tour racing so they are stoked and it’s nice to ski with the best. I will start to have my first few races in the coming days here locally in anchorage before flying down to US Nationals. I already have jumped into one local citizen race, which was fun but a mediocre result. I was 9th (2nd non APU Skier) but I also tweaked my back during the race, so it has slowed me down a little this week, just resting it and mobilising it. On the positive I was really pleased with how my skating felt and so I’m really excited about racing this weekend and doing my first FIS race of the season which is a classic sprint and a Skate 15km distance. I will post a proper race report in the next day or so when I have some race pictures to accompany it!

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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Caught between seasons

I have been in the US for 10 days now and what a start to the season it has been here. I arrived into Anchorage and -18C at 5:00pm in the afternoon! I had left Melbourne in the mid 20s so it was quite a shock to the system! I made it worse by arriving without a jacket, yep, didn’t pack a warm ski jacket. Luckily, Lauren was waiting to pick me up with one that I’d left behind from my last trip. So rugged up and warmer, we headed to what feels a lot like home now in midtown Anchorage.

Flying over Lake Tahoe, I have so many great memories here. I need to take a trip there soon!

Flying over Lake Tahoe, I have so many great memories here. I need to take a trip there soon!

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On the plane

There are times in anyone’s life where we question what we are doing. Why do we put ourselves through things like suffering or frustration? Take for example me, sitting in the middle seat of a small plane on the final leg of my journey to Alaska.
Like a giraffe crammed into a shoebox I’m just an ungainly, gangly mess. To top it off I’ve decided to drink “coffee”, or at least America’s unique attempt at making something so delicious taste like vinegar and tar. It’s just rubbing salt into the wound!

Why do I do it?
To ski; to get onto that amazing white stuff once again for another 6 months! I can’t wait to get back to winter. At home it’s 37C so I’m glad to be escaping that, I can barely handle 29C. And as for the coffee, there’s a part of my brain that each time I get a cup tells me “It’ll be fine, it’ll be better this time. They can’t stuff it up again” the other more logical side just shakes it’s head in disgust and reminds me I’m only drinking it for the caffeine and the chance of keeping my eyes open for just another few hours. Continue reading

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The final post for the trip

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!

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Lessons from the mountains.

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.

Early on in the run we came across a few steep saddles, Scott off in the distance charging down with Eric in the yellow.

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