Birkie Fever

As I sit down and write this, there are exactly 297 days until the next American Birkebiner. Since registration opened yesterday, I am writing my training plan to ensure I’ll be more prepared this coming year than last year. Like a college student attending their first “real” party, no story could prepare me for what awaited at the greatest race on American soil.

It’s 4:32am. I can see the warm glow of last night’s embers in the fireplace as the clock slowly ticks above the mantle. I roll over but know I won’t go back to sleep. In 3 hours, 58 minutes and 13 seconds I’ll be losing my Birkie virginity, and I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas. Finally my alarm goes off. As I head to the bathroom, the gurgling in my stomach is a reminder of all the carbohydrates I ate the night before.

Before I know it, I, and thousands of others, are rolling up to the venue. As we exit the bus, anxious to get this party started, there is faint music playing in the background telling everyone that this is the place to be. While running to the start line, I am reminded that the real reason skiers wear spandex, is not because it’s easier to move in and aerodynamic, but because it does a great job of showing off all the squats you did during dryland. Looking around at the competition, I was hoping I had done enough.

The gun goes off. The flags go up. And before I know it, we’re racing! After the first surge of adrenaline subsided, I looked to my left to see none other than 4 time Birkie Champion, Caitlin Gregg skiing along side me. That should have been the first clue that I was a bit in over my head, but I was having too much fun to care. I was able to keep up for most of the race, but somewhere around 40k I fell off the cliff. Hit the wall. I bonked. But there was only 10k left, so how bad could it  be?

Somehow, (I can’t remember all the details) I crossed the finish line. My friends tell me that I finished strong, but for some reason that seems skeptical. What I can remember is stumbling over to the food truck, trying to ask the attendant for a chocolate milk, and not being able to form any real words. To this day I won’t be able to tell you exactly how many doughnut holes I consumed before passing out, but I can tell you that they’ve never tasted so delicious.

When I finally woke up from my nap, it felt like Uncle Fester was trying out his new clamp on my head. Guess I forgot to drink enough water. While filling my one gallon pickle jar at the kitchen sink, I reflected on the events earlier that day. A smile crept across my face. My head may be throbbing, my back may be sore, and my legs may barely be able to keep me upright, but skiing the American Birkebiner was great!

I can’t wait to do it again.

Birkie  Results

Trust the Process

When I was in High School, I had a teacher that believed letter grades were simply an arbitrary requirement. He went on to explain that, with the way our school system currently works, these letter grades measure instantaneous intelligence and are very poor at representing how much a student actually learns in class. Therefore, his goal was not for each student to get an A, but rather for each student learn as much as possible while developing a passion for learning. Since then I’ve taken notice of the people in my life who have this “lifelong learner” outlook. These people focus on the steps it takes to achieve great goals, and trust that with hard work, positive results are sure to follow.

I’ve had years in my skiing career where the sole goal of each race was to move up the CCSA points list. I went into each race knowing exactly how much time I needed to beat my competition by in order to qualify for NCAA’s. It wasn’t until I stopped worrying about placement and started focusing on perfect technique, that I was finally able to qualify. That same year I became All-American, a goal I didn’t even know was possible until halfway through the race.

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15K Skate, Soldier Hollow UT  (Photo Credit: Paige Schember)

Last week at US Nationals, evidence of trusting the process once again became blatantly clear. Due to the time restraints of Grad School, I have been forced to take a close look at my training and specifically design it to match my race goals. Since all of big goals are in distance skate events, my training all summer and fall have been focused on distance skating. Add in a late start to snowfall and the resulting lack of time to get acquainted with new equipment, and it’s no surprise that my first race at US Nationals (10K Classic) was less than ideal. Negative race results are never fun, and it is REALLY hard to keep bad races from impacting your mentality in upcoming events. Going into the 20K skate, I was feeling less than 100%, but knew that if things were going to get better I would have to rely on habits and routines which have already been proven successful.

Proven Successes:
Nutrition: Parmesan Chicken for dinner and a smoothie for breakfast   √
Course Preview: I can ski these trails in my sleep   √
Skis: Pick the fastest pair (duh)     √
Clothing: Layers on bottom and less on top to prevent overheating   √
Strategy: Go out in control, with the best technique you can muster, then crank it up. Stay calm and intense, no matter what happens, you know how to do this.    √

 

US Nats 2016

20K Skate, Houghton MI  (Photo Credit: Skinnyski)

 

With my goals for the day so focused on racing smart, I thought I’d misheard my coaches that the front of our pack was top 10. Realizing that they weren’t wrong, I stuck to the plan and tried not to get dropped. At the end of the race, I went up to my coach and as soon as he saw me, all he could do was laugh. I was laughing too. Not only was it a fun race, but it also proved that all of the training I’ve done this year has worked.

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10K Classic, Houghton MI (Photo Credit: Annika Ferber)

I’d like to say that I never doubted myself, but I’d be lying. Having less than desirable results really sucks, and it’s very easy to start second guessing your coaches and yourself. What separates great athletes from the rest of us is not simply the hours in their training log and their fancy equipment, it’s also their ability to trust the process.  They are able to see roadblocks as mole hills, they understand that it’s not going to be easy and above all they never stop believing that their work is worthwhile. As one of my teammates shared with me before NCAA’s:

“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else, I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.” ~Ken Venturi

 

The Snö Maker

For Immediate Release

CXC Introduces The Snö Maker

 

The Future of Skiing is Here.

Skiers all around the world are frustrated with the warm temperatures and the lack of snowfall over the past few years. Dizzy from skiing around 1km loops on manmade snow, our engineers here at CXC have been working around the clock using state of the art equipment to develop the first skier portable snow machine, The Snö Maker. Using all natural elements, no GMO’s, and zero carbon emissions, The Snö Maker blows a thin strip of snow right in front of each ski.

Sno Maker

The Snö Maker

Our Secret.

This revolutionary approach uses liquid hydrogen. Rather than carrying around an entire water molecule, we simply carry the hydrogen and pull the oxygen from the atmosphere allowing for a weight savings of over 900% as compared to traditional water systems. Hydrogen has an excellent safety record, with only one minor German incident in 1937. It is all natural and non-carcinogenic. Even Jerry Brown, Governor of California, has given our machine his gold seal of approval.

How Does it Work?

Conventional snow making requires air temperatures below freezing. This limits skiing to only when the weather cooperates. With our patented dual purpose water and power generation fuel cell unit, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate electricity and water which then passes through our Kjølerom© where a refrigerant and fan work together to freeze and propel the snow forward. One simply fills their drinkbelt tank with the liquid hydrogen and goes skiing. Initial results are promising with 10% more snow production than our simulations predicted.

From Our Lab to Your Trails

With the Holiday Season upon us, we have moved from the design and testing phase to full production. There was a small mishap involving a research assistant, but they were considered expendable and easily replaced by another “volunteer.” Progress has continued and The Snö Maker will be in stores across the country by January 2016.

With the release of this innovative new product, our friends at Toko have agreed to develop a brand new line of waxes specially designed for the conditions produced by the Snö Maker.

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1st working prototype at CXC Labs

(Disclaimers)

100 meters of skiing requires just 40 liters of liquid hydrogen. Skiing at a 3:20 pace only takes 2000 horsepower to freeze the water. Expected system weight is less than 10,000kg. CXC is not liable for fires, explosions or any property damage and bodily injury, including death and dismemberment, resulting from the use of The Snö Maker. Do not attempt to modify the The Snö Maker as this will void the warranty and may result in accidental suborbital skier launch. The Snö Maker should be stored in a cool dry place, with the standard safety procedures of an ammunition bunker.  

Don’t wait! Pre-order you very own Snö Maker today at your local ski shop.

 

(Special Thanks to Co-Author and Inventor Andy Brown for helping to prepare this press release)

For more articles like this and to support the mission of CXC, please consider donating to our year end Fundly campaign.  We proudly spread passion for skiing and aim to inspire athletes across the Midwest. With your donation we can spread the love even further. To elementary schools, adaptive athletes, master skiers, disabled veterans and your neighbor down the street. Simply follow the link below, click on the “I want to spread the love” (a.k.a. “Donate”) button, fill out the required information, and feel great for the rest of the day knowing you helped put a smile on at least two people’s faces! 

CXC Team Athletes Fundly Campaign 

Sacrifices

The end of November is one of my favorite times of year. Partially because it’s the first time we’re back on snow and kicking off of the ski season, but also because it’s a time when many people look outward from themselves and give thanks to everyone for helping them throughout the year.

Professional athletes make quite a bit of sacrifice for their sport. Sacrifice and a certain amount of selfishness are required in order to perform at a high level. So much so, that often times the sacrifices other people make for us are overlooked or forgotten. I’m guilty of it too, being blinded to what the people around me are giving up so that I can race fast.

This year I want to give special thanks to those who have made sacrifices on my behalf:

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The Coaches who I’ve worked with over the years have given up countless hours out on the trail and in the wax room. These are hours that could be spent with their families. No one wants to stand outside in a snow bank when it’s -10, gloves off, working a video camera; but our coaches do it because they know it will make us better. They sacrifice their health in the wax room and sit through countless monotonous coaches meetings. When things get hard they are on the side of the trail reminding us to “look up” and somehow make it to the finish line when we collapse. From pep talks to heated arguments we owe our coaches a lot.

 

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This year I need to especially thank CXC’s Sponsors for their generosity. They have literally offered part of their company to CXC so that our team will have the best season possible. To think about how much burden it would be on each individual to acquire everything our sponsors have come together to provide us, is immense. It is true that we work hard for our sponsors, but nonetheless we would not be in the same spot without them.

 

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We don’t usually think about it, but The Communities who host our races and training camps give up the use of their trails. This is especially true here in West Yellowstone. For one week the town is taken over by Nordic Skiers, the trails close for three days of racing, and despite all of the shenanigans that occur our hosts invite us back each year with a smile.

 

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My Friends and Family have accommodated my persistent training and race schedules throughout the years. They’ve moved Christmas, postponed birthday parties and waited in hotel lobbies so I can finish workouts. With the holiday season coinciding with ski season it’s never easy to miss another chance to see loved ones. Eating pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream just isn’t the same via Skype. Even though none of us like being apart, they understand that these things have to be done in order for me to succeed. Their never ending support is priceless.

 

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NCAA 2015: Lake Placid

Most of all, My Parents have made the greatest sacrifices to get me where I am today. In high school they would drive me to the local ski trails two, sometimes three, times a day. On weekends they’d place their plans on hold so I could attend races. They purchased my 1st pair of race skis and have given many more loans from the bank of Mom & Dad with negative interest rates. They’ve stood behind me as I chase unattainable dreams and are the first ones to congratulate me when these dreams come true. They’ve reminded me to keep smiling when I get too stressed. Even when I’ve specifically told them to “keep the _____ away from me” they’re always there when I need them. There are times when their persistence is really annoying, but I couldn’t be more grateful for their investment.

As a community, Nordic Skiers have a lot to be grateful for. As an athlete, I owe a lot to the people who have impacted my career. It’s been a fabulous journey and I look forward to someday being able to pay forward all of the kindness that’s been presented to me.

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Fiery skies at Sunset, West Yellowstone

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

October: A month to learn from

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Fall Keweenaw Road

Holy Crap! Where has the month of October gone? Reflecting back on the past four weeks I feel a little bit like Pocahontas during colors of the wind. This has been by far the warmest, driest, most colorful and most pleasant fall for training in the Keweenaw since I moved here 6 years ago.

The opening act for this month was the annual Copper Harbor ski. This 24 mile ski meanders along the shore of Lake Superior offering views of bays, sand dunes, rock outcroppings and best of all, treats from the Jam Pot.

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Annual Copper Harbor Ski #followthehuskies

This year the weather was wonderful allowing us to see all of Lake Superior’s beauty with perfect clarity. Unfortunately, I was so caught up with my to-do list for the weekend that that’s all I could think about.

The next week, the smack down happened. Only a couple days later, life grabbed me by the shirt collar and body slammed me into the floor. This happens every so often when things get so busy I forget to take care of the little things, like washing my hands before each meal and not drinking enough water.

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Chasing Sunrises, Location: Portage Lake

Feeling like I was hit by a train, constantly trying to keep up with my runny nose, I knew I would have to take some unplanned time off. Unfortunately as soon as I started feeling human again, school decided it was time to build a mountain of homework so high that Everest looked like Panorama Point (Nebraska’s high point). It’s these busy weeks that bring out a renewed appreciation for skiing. It gets me outside, lets me chase sunrises, enjoy the fall weather and gain mental clarity, all while making progress towards bigger goals.

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Crystal clear waterfalls, snow and my kind of Red Carpet

With the summit of Homework Mountain in sight, the biggest lesson and reminder October has provided is; no matter how busy you may seem, never forget to make pit stops throughout the day to take care of yourself and appreciate what you have. Opportunities are presented to us each day, but if we’re not ready for them they’ll fly by faster than Kikkan Randal in a skate sprint. With so much of my everyday life geared towards making Future Alice better than Present Alice, it’s far too easy to put on the blinders.

With this lesson sitting in the front of my mind, the remainder of this month has been spent stopping at apple trees for a snack during OD’s, playing in the leaves and taking water breaks in the middle of pine forests or next to waterfalls. It’s been spent soaking up every wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to have the world as our training ground. As excited as I am for the snow to come, I know that I still have a lot of work to do before I’m ready for it. I want to be prepared when the snow flies, so with that I’m off to a run. See you on the trails!

Upcoming Event: CXC Superfit at Finn Sisu:  October 30th-November 2nd

It’s a Lifestyle

I’m waiting in the starting pen, the 20 degree wind blowing gently across the stadium as the clock beeps the tell-tale tones of another racer starting. I chisel the chunks of snow out of the bottom of my boot and clip into my skis. I step up to the wand.

“15 seconds”20150918_065452

“Beep… Beep… Beep….Beeeeeeeep”

I try to start but for some reason my feet just won’t move.

“Beep… Beep… Beep…. Beeeeeeeep”

“Thwap!”

Groggily, I fumble through the sheets looking for my persistently beeping phone. It’s 5:52 am and my body feels like a sack of bricks. I roll over placing my index and middle finger on the underside of my wrist. 10 beats in 15 seconds, 40 BMP. Not a bad AM pulse, but that’s a little higher than normal. I’ll have to drink lots of water today and make sure I haven’t caught the back-to-school-plague that seems to have taken over the school.

Stepping outside, the entire town seems dead. If it weren’t for the street lights, I’d be unlocking my bike by starlight. Occasionally I’ll pass by a group of ROTC students running in synchrony, but until arriving at the Student Development Center there’s no one in sight.  This morning we’ll be doing metronomes, a workout where we double pole around the track at different tempos to work on technique and speed.

Name: Metronomes

Total Time: 45-60 min

Goal: Focus on high quality technique while using different tempos. Immediately apply this to sprints and starts. 

Warm-up: ~10 minutes or 3 songs

The Workout:

Set 1:  (with metronome playing over loudspeakers)

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Speeds during Metronomes: Can you catch the blur in front of you?

2:30 @ 50 BPM

0:20 @ 60 BPM

0:10 @ 80 BPM

Repeat 3-5x

Set Break: Length= one song of your choice

Set 2: 

6-10x 100m sprints

Cool down: ~10 minutes

This workout has a lot of benefits.

  • It teaches the athlete how to ski using varying tempos
  • By skiing around the track, it is much easier for coaches to work with athletes of different speeds and track progress throughout the session
  • Technique and tempo can be applied immediately during the 100m sprints
  • It’s good mass start practice due to the amount of passing that occurs
  • Pace lines will form and it’s fun to go fast in a group!
  • There are a lot of opportunities for younger skiers to ski with, watch and learn from older people on the team. 
  • You get to listen to music
  • No Cars!

But be careful, this is an intensity session and should be counted as such. Recovery in between the 80BMP and sprints should be a priority.

Sunrise on campus

By 7:30 the sun is painting the sky hues of pink, purple and yellow. It’s not hard to realize how lucky we are to live in a place like this.

In class, while other students are guzzling coffee trying not to nod off, I’ve got positive endorphins keeping me engaged. However, as the day continues I find myself gazing out the window as storm clouds congregate on the horizon. It’s supposed to rain tonight. Right now I keep my fingers crossed that the rain will go somewhere else, keeping our roads dry for practice this afternoon. In a few weeks these clouds will hold potential for snow. As my professor fills the board with equations, I day dream about how much snow we’d get if it were 15° cooler.

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Class time: Where recovery and learning come together

Excelling in any sport takes an extreme amount of commitment and self discipline. It takes over your thoughts, drives your decision making process and rules your schedule. Every moment of the day is carefully crafted to strengthen your body through nutrition, intensity, recovery or education. It’s an all encompassing full time job.  Luckily, this job comes naturally when you have passion for the sport. It begs us to reach higher, to do one more pull-up, to push the limits of comfort and ultimately persevere. What are your goals this season?

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#MyRaceStartsHere

Alice’s Back to School Check-List

September 8th, the day after Labor Day and my very first day of school!

Ok, so it’s not actually my first day of school… but it is for thousands of students across the country! Attending new classes, preparing themselves for the wonderful opportunities that await them. For me this is no different, it is going to be an awesome year of adapting to changes.

As many of my friends and co-workers know, I am a huge fan of lists. Lists allow me to organize my life, keep promises, and most importantly lay out responsibilities in a manageable way.  This year I have once again implemented a List of Lists to organize my life; however this year I’ve added an important “Sanity Items” section.  This is intended to keep my commitments realistic. In the past I have started allegorical forest fires from all my two ended burning candles. That is not a sustainable juggling act.  Everything was always so rushed I rarely had time to enjoy what wonderful things are right outside my back door.  By setting up a schedule that matches a typical 40-hr/week job, I am hoping to create benchmarks at which I can reward myself in the form of “Free Time.”

With the conclusion of the first week of classes, so far so good. My homework assignments are done days in advance and my training log is finally getting back on track with my goals. It feels like it’s going to be a good year, hopefully the lists can keep up the good work!

To-Do:

SKIING

  • Pull high vis fall training clothes out from 
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    Feeling like a champ at the top of Brockway Mountain Next Step: Ride down and climb back up!

    the depths of the closet
  • Get training calendar from the Michigan Tech Nordic Team
    • Confirm with coaches that I can join their workouts
  • Update training log
    • Share new entries with coaches
    • Input anticipated workouts for the week
  • Work on new blog posts (yay!)
  • Do awesome workouts each day
    • Share pictures with CXC
  • Morning strength
    • Complete with post-workout sunrise viewing!
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Feeling accomplished and its only 7:45, let the day begin!

SCHOOL

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    Fresh cinnamon rolls and muffins each morning for breakfast? YES PLEASE!

    Meet with Graduate Adviser to confirm graduation requirements
  • Order textbooks and building codes
    • Perform the world record 100yd dash to the mailbox upon delivery confirmation
  • Find leftover notebooks/binders from last year
    • Go office supplies shopping for any remaining items
  • Meticulously color code, highlight and tab out class notes
  • Make food for the week
    • Bread
    • Cinnamon Rolls
    • Pretzels
    • Ice Cream
  • Do some studying with a view

    Studying along the canal and getting distracted by the sunset

    Studying along the canal and getting distracted by the sunset

SANITY ITEMS

  • Balance the equation: Skiing+School+Work+Life=Happiness
    • Develop a schedule that includes free time
    • Try not to procrastinate
    • Don’t overbook yourself!
  • Go Fly Fishing!
  • Start a Kitchen Dance Party
  • Sleep in a tent

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Relaxing on the riverbank successfully fly fishing with Ruth!

Being a student-athlete is a huge time commitment and a ton of fun; but it can be far too easy to get caught up in a over-restrictive schedule. For me, high stress generally corresponds to poor performance in the classroom or on the trails.  By blocking off specific time each week to turn off my cell-phone, to watch the fish swim by, tromp through the woods, or sleep under the stars, I am hoping that the stresses from graduate school and ski training will be negated. Even if momentarily. Finding the balance won’t be easy, but that’s a challenge I’m looking forward to this season and throughout the school year.

Happiness is Paramount.