Laughter and Stress

“You gotta get mad… really pissed off, and harness that energy into your racing to beat the competition.”

This is the advice I was given before race day as a High School racer. With advice like this, it is not hard to understand why, I was a huge headcase before races. The headphones would go in and I would try to focus on beating the competition, try to “get mad” that they were going to beat me.

It didn’t take long to figure out that this was not an effective way for me to control the pre-race jitters. A few years later, someone recommended that I laugh as much as possible the Friday before a big weekend. Sure enough, that positive energy transcended the night and carried me through one of the best 5K’s I’d had up to that point.

Last week, while crunching numbers at my desk, I was reminded of how important it is to be happy the night before a big race. Sophie Scott was quietly presenting her TED talk in the background on my computer, discussing laughter. In her talk, Why We Laugh, Scott refers to a group of studies by Dr. Robert Levenson. These studies* find that married couples who manage stress though laughter (or other positive emotions) are more capable of getting though difficult or stressful times and are happier within their relationships.

Sophie Scott: Why We Laugh

A relationship with Nordic Skiing is no different. Racing and training place an immense amount of stress on a person, especially during the racing season. The racers that are able to best control and balance this stress are the ones that will achieve personal bests. Having experienced both extreme happiness and anger/fright before important races, I have found that the results in Dr. Levenson’s study holds true for racing too. High volumes of laughter the night before a race has directly correlated to a high amount of mental clarity the next morning.

I know laughter isn’t the magic ticket for everyone, but it’s fun to see that there is research behind the personal experiences myself and teammates have had.  So whether you end up pulling out  the deck of Cards Against Humanity, playing Charades, spending the evening listening to your coach dramatize “racing in the good ol’ days” or doing whatever else makes your face hurt from smiling; take some time to clear your head and forget about the stresses that tomorrow will bring. Laugh lots and surround yourself with happy people.

This sport is supposed to be fun! Remember: Happiness is paramount.


*One of the research papers referenced in the TED talk


“Where have you been?!?”

The past month has been a whirlwind adventure. At the beginning of May I graduated from Michigan Tech with my Civil Engineering degree. Being able to share this huge cornerstone with so many friends and family members was a real treat. This set the tone for the rest of the month.


Walking at commencement. Thanks for the picture Sarah Bird!

Only two days later, my newly earned degree was already being tested by Minnesota Board of Architecture and Engineering (AELSLAGID, civil engineers do love their acronyms). The 6 hour Fundamentals of Engineering Exam covers everything from circuits to pipe flow to concrete beam design. By passing this exam and graduating, the board then awards you with an Engineer in Training (EIT) certificate. This is the first step in becoming a licensed Professional Engineer!20150513_212102

Once back in The Cities, the week quickly filled with getting back into training, catching up with friends and visiting family. That weekend my dad and I hopped into the car and made our way to the land of cheese to watch my cousin hop around stage in her High School’s production of Tarzan.  This trip coincided perfectly with treadmill testing at the CXC office in Madison. After sitting in a library chair for the past two months studying for exams, running on a treadmill as fast as you can for as long as you can really hurts. Andy and Marty did a great job explaining what all the lines and numbers represent, and as expected, I’ve got some work to do this summer. As if running isn’t hard enough, next was skiing on the treadmill. Rollerskiing on a moving belt creates and entirely different dimension of difficultly to the already kinda sketchy activity. It’s a really weird sensation, but after figuring out a good rhythm, it’s easy to see that this is a great coaching tool. It’s pretty fun too! And no asphalt!


Rollerskiing in Madison

Press Release: Kyle Bratrud and Alice Flanders Join CXC Team

May 11th (Woah, it’s only May 11th??) was my first day at WJE, an engineering and architecture firm that does building restoration and forensic analysis. The people are GREAT! The work is super interesting and I am unbelievably excited and extremely grateful that they are letting me join them as an intern for the summer.


Click on the picture to see the cool things these engineers and architects get to do.

Work has been a lot of fun. (yes, fun!) Before this year, I had no idea that jobs exist where you get to be onsite, outside and do engineering mathy stuff. However being flexible with training and not stressing out over little things is going to be tricky due to the sometimes long hours. Let the balancing act between working full time and training begin.

That Saturday my mom and I celebrated Mother’s Day by attending Hopkin’s Main Street Days as a vendor for their art sale. The air was filled with smells of deep fried food, kids had their faces painted, and the rain decided not to show up, all telling everyone that summer is officially on it’s way.

Pottery Sale

Spending time with my Mom, Happy Mother’s Day! (belated)

Over Memorial Day, the Copper Harbor Trails Club hosted Ride the Keweenaw, so of course this requires a trip back to Houghton. The long weekend couldn’t have come at a better time with respect to training. After a week of long hours at work, a mini-Houghton training camp was the perfect solution. Multiple OD’s of various modes and playing in the woods saved the week from being a total training bust.


Back in da Yoop!

The topper to this whirlwind of May, was spending a fantastic weekend in the Detroit area. This weekend is by far, the best vacation I have had in years. It was a weekend full of firsts: the first time I’ve been downstate, first time receiving door to terminal entertainment during a flight,* and for the first time since starting to ski competitively, I didn’t have to worry about work, school, or training (planned off days of course). It has been a great reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in the hectic world of balancing working and training. This past month, I forgot how important it is to cut time out of the day to take care of yourself. Just like in training, after putting heavy stress on your body, it’s important to have adequate recovery.

Please pass the Chocolate Milk and a Pasty! It’s time to recover and prepare for whatever comes next.




*Coming home, our shuttle driver narrated (with musical accompaniment) the entire ride from the car rental place to the airport. Then, on the plane one of the flight attendants began doing magic tricks and even taught us how to do one of them! I’m going to need a lot more practice.