Monday, July 21, 2014

1% - it may not be as small as it sounds!

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to send out weekly emails regarding training. While these emails began as 'threshold Thursdays', last week we focused on meditation. When I began sending these, I was sending them only to the summer training group and I have since realized that this was silly and that I should SPAM the entire team. So, if you missed some of the earlier messages please know that you can find them on our AWESOME new blog.
On Wednesday, Christi and I met with a reporter from UWYO Magazine (watch for the story to come) and we found ourselves repeatedly returning to the holistic nature of our team. We kept reiterating that our athletes are 'superheroes' in all arenas: academic and athletic. This is a nice segue into this week's training topic: marginal gains. That is, in a February 2014 blog by a man named James Clear, the subject of improving everything by a tiny percent is broached. [*Disclaimer - yes, this is a .com site and we can assess this article for commercial interests whenever any of you have sexy minded urge to do so. However, I like what he is saying.]

Clear simply argues that if we break our sport down into every little aspect: nutrition, sleep, pole weight, ski quality, training quality, quality of massage oil (my favorite), fitness level .... and we try to improve each one of these by 1% than eventually the 1%s start to add up to give something big (i.e. lots of little 1%s = winning:)
I actually think that this is something that our team is really good at but I am super stoked to take this lovely friday to overtly call your attention to the benefits of lots of little percents!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Here is Sarah paddling in the Sea caves. We met up to go for a paddle on the 4th!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At last! I had been anticipating this day for many weeks, the drive home from Laramie was long, but I had managed to make it in time for a Tuesday evening paddle. Even though I had just barely stepped foot in my house, I ran back into my car and headed for one of my favorite places on earth, Lake Superior!

A long, cold winter had left BEAUTIFUL ice burgs that managed to stay into the middle of June. Here is a picture of my dad and I paddling amongst them.

What a beaut!

Here is some more amazing water, only its the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. 

Here I am on top of an Ottoman castle. It is only accessible via boat! The Island behind me is home of the Sunken City. Over time it has sunk two meters under the sea. We were able to kayak right over it!

Here are some wild poppies growing amongst some ancient tombs.

The white bank may look like snow but it is actually a GIGANTIC calcium deposit! Yay for calcium and family photos!  

The city of Istanbul taken from under a bridge.

Monday, July 14, 2014

One Summer Adventure After Another

As I sit here listening to Italian pop music, I am reflecting on the past experiences that I have been bless to have had this last year and particularly the most recent of my activities. Many of which have come from skiing, racing, and training. From The high mountains in the heat of the summer sitting in my kayak looking at my own reflection in the water, to the Italian Alps overlooking the most breathtaking mountains I have ever laid my eyes on, I have had an amazing year. Most recently, I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend a week and a half in the Jackson/Pinedale area.

As many of you may already know, we had our Jackson camp over the weekend of the fourth, and there was also the trail race that a few of us raced in this last Saturday. In planning for the two events, Pat and I realized that we could take the week between the ski camp and the trail race to embark on some epic adventures, needless to say it was not a very difficult decision to make. First I will cover the events of the ski camp, after which I will tell you about Pat and I's adventures in Pinedale, and to wrap up I will tell you a bit about my last few experiences in Jackson during the trail race before returning back to Laradise.


Jackson camp in a nutshell was unforgettable. Pat, Kyle, and I stayed with the Thomas family throughout the duration of the camp, our gratitude for this cannot be put into words. Getting to know the Yara and her family more was one of the best parts of the camp. Unfortunately this did separate us from the rest of the team, but we were still able to spend good quality time with all of the team. 
The first day of the camp, the 4th of July, we went on an epic trail run. The trail run was accompanied with sights overlooking Jackson from thousands of feet above the valley, secluded single-track through dense forest's, cascading streams under little pine bridges, birds harmoniously singing, and companionship from teammates.The run, though tiring, stated the camp off on the right.
From there we all prepped to go floating the snake river. Like a herd of turtles in a snow storm, we were off. Floating the river was quite the experience on many different levels. Between the vast crowds of people lining beaches and other groups of people occupying entire islands, the tremendous quantity of people created a spectacular atmosphere that is second to none. our group of a dozen (more or less) was only a spec of sand in the group that populated the waterway. Our group had a few minor snafu's that could have easily brought agitation to any number of people but we were having far too much fun to let being capsized, rolled, and submerged by numerous rapids get us down. After all the laughs and all the fun, the rest of the day was spent recovering from an exciting and long day. In the evening, the Wiswell's hosted our team and many others' 4th of July dinner. Between the brats, grilled chicken, hamburgers and countless other sides and desserts we were all stuffed to the brim. Happy and full, we all dispersed for what was surely going to be a good-night's sleep. 
The next day we were able to rollerski the bike pathway that runs from the park entrance across to the jenny lake turnout. Rollerskiing directly below the Grant Tetons will never get old. In the evening we were guided by both Sam and Yara (our Jackson local experts) to a lake where we swam, jumped off rocks, and had an all-round great time. After our mountain lake adventure, we headed back down to Yara's where her family hosted the team for yet another spectacular meal enjoyed by all. 
On Sunday, Pat and I decided to go to mass instead of going for the morning hike, which we heard was also a "grand" time. By a little after noon, we had said our goodbyes and everyone on the team had left while Pat, Yara and I were off the flat creek for yet another float with some of Pat's old work buddies from the area. 


Monday rolled around and it was time to head off to Pinedale to meet up with Pat's cousin Blane. As we arrived, we met Blane up at the Nordic/Alpine area to check out the next day's venue for mountain biking. After checking out the area, Pat and I headed to what would be our camping spot for that night which is nestled in the foothills of the wind river mountain range right off the edges of a small lake. After a bite to eat, we decided to take the kayaks out to do some fishing until the sun went down. As we paddled across the lake, we noticed the fish were slowing begining to rise, which can only mean good things to a fishermen. after catching a few rainbows and watching the sun dip behind the silhouette of the surrounding pines, we headed back to camp. (On a side-note, sleeping in a tent will never get old)
The next day we packed up our temporary home and headed to meet up with Blaine, his Fiance, and her parents for a mountain bike ride. After a bit of climbing, the view of the mountain range was better than I had anticipated, but not too long of a break to enjoy the scenery and we began the rest if the ride which was filled with jumps, single track, open meadows, tight turns between trees and a few bumps and bruises. After the thrill of catching air and countless mouth-fulls of dust and dirt, we headed back to Blaine's for what would be yet another wonderful meal (aside from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes).
The next day, Wednesday, was our "big adventure" day. Pat and I woke up early to get a good start on the day and have as much time as possible to get as much packed in the day as we could. We started the day off with a few hours of kayaking on and around the green river lakes about an hour outside of Pinedale. I could have paddled that lake all day, between the mountains shooting straight up on the other side of the lake and the pristine water untouched by wind or wave, I was never going to be ready to get off of the water. My stomach however, was ready for lunch and so was pats. Once we had loaded up the boats, we headed downstream to a nice little sport next to a small tributary where we ate freeze-dried mac-and-cheese provided by my very thoughtful sister. At the point of realizing that he fishing was not optimal at that time of day, we decided to take a little siesta. Rough life, I know. Once we woke up it was time to hit the water once again, but this time in a different fashion; with our fishing rods. I can honestly say I have never seen a river quite this unique. Green river is fed by the lake that we had paddles earlier that day. It also loses several vertical feet very rapidly in multiple sections. In the short runs there are boulders the size of small trucks and treacherous white water. In between these sections of chaos, there are flat, slow moving section perfect for fishing with dry flies that sit on top of the water. Pat and I fished for a solid 6 hours if I am recalling correctly. Fighting of mosquitoes from hell, sandal-eating marshes, willows and other various obstacles, the fishing seemed like we were in a movie. Now I will note, the fishing was amazing as I just mentioned, but the catching however, was not so great, not for a lack of trying of course. Pat and I often times can be sometimes a little poor at picking out the correct flies and patterns to match what the fish are eating, however we tried everything. Eventually we caught a few but only right before it had gotten dark. After watching the fish rise time and time again only for us to be frustrated trying new things to figure out what they were biting, in our frustration, we decided to come back the next day to redeem ourselves.
After a night of sleeping, it was time to tie what we predicted the fish would be biting. We spent a good majority of the day getting our fly boxes stuffed full of said flies. Later that evening we were no more successful than the previous night. Unfortunately we were unable to catch more than a few, but we still had one hell of an experience. 
On Friday we re-packed our things and headed back to Jackson where we met with Yara to hang out and enjoy resting before Saturday's trail race.


Now I'm not much of a runner, never have been. Growing up I hated running with a burning passion. I ran cross-country in high school for one season, getting my 5K time under 20 minutes only once. Over the past few years I have grown to like running, in fact, I truly do enjoy it now. But aside from racing triathlons, I hadn't raced a running event since Junior year in high school so preparing for this trail race was a little intimidating. I knew I could finish the race but cramping has always been an issue in my racing experiences in the past and I had a feeling this might be pushing my limits. Fortunately I am good about not worrying too much about something for too long if I don't want to. So going into the race I decided to not worry about cramping, fitness, or other potential problems. Instead of worrying about what might happen, I instead focused on the awesome people around me (Sam, Yara, Pat, and Sawyer). Laughing and making jokes at the start of the race was the best start to a race. After setting into a pace I watched Pat, Sam, and Sawyer take off in the first few of the lead packs. Wishing I could keep up with them, I held back and worked on pacing myself. Having a few other pass me and passing a handful of people my pace was set and I really started to enjoy the race. Having the cache creek running fast next to the trail was a good distraction from the pain in path quads as we climbed more and more. Coming to the final hill-climb, I surged over the top and felt a rush of adrenalin and speed. Catching and passing a group of people I felt rejuvenated heading into the last few sections of open fields of willows, more winding single-track, and down into the finish where the guys were cheering me on. enjoying the feeling of accomplishment, I talked with a few racing that I had gotten passed by and re-passed to congratulate them on their races. Heading back to the start I found the rest of the group and talked with them inquiring about how their races had gone. The only thing that could have made the rest of the day any better would have been food and a Nap, which is exactly what we did. 

All in all it was the best week of summer that I've had yet. Being able to share my experiences with so many wonderful people is something that I do not take for granted. I know this is only just the start of many more good experiences with many more good people. Until next time, stay active, stay positive, and as always, stay classy ;)

(Here are a few pictures from the above stories, I hope you enjoy!) 

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Last Thursday, rather than focusing on lactate threshold, we changed gears substantially and had a session dedicated to meditation. As we were all struggling through a much needed but difficult rest week, meditation seemed a more fitting topic. We began our Thursday night session by reviewing a recent journal article in Molecular Neurobiology (2013, vol. 48: 808-811). This article, by Jindal et al. is a review article  succinctly, yet eloquently overviewing the neuro-physiological, neuro-endocrine and neurochemical substrates underpinning the process of meditation. 

Perhaps we all expected the article’s summary regarding the ability of meditation to decrease stress and improve attention. And, after so many phenomenal yoga sessions with Vicky, I do not think that the article’s conclusions about decreased respiratory and heart rate with meditation came as a surprise. However, Jindal et al. also eloquently described the positive impacts of meditation on the executive functions (attention / memory retrieval) of our prefrontal cortex as well as our limbic functions of motivation. In these neural regions, stress promotes apoptosis (a.k.a. programmed cell death or I prefer ‘cell suicide’). This cell death can lead to memory impairment and meditation decreases such stress.

But perhaps even more interesting are the impacts of meditation on neurotransmitters / neuroendocrinology. Melatonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. During meditation, melatonin decreases and this likely helps to balance sleep. The feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin is increased in meditators.  Finally, (and always a buzzword to athletes), nitric oxide (the superhero healer) is enhanced!

After we talked about this article, we did lunar flow yoga on our back porch while the sun was setting. We ended with a focused attention meditation. And as we allowed passing thoughts to float in and gently back out, I think we all wondered why we did not do this more often. For me, as I pictured my breath, in bright yellow, I could sense those around me and perhaps that did just as much as the meditation to bring me peace. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Witness the Fitness: Cashe Game Trail Race

Today I had the pleasure or running The Cashe Game Trail Race with Pat, Taylor, and Yara. The course is 18k of epic terrain climbing over 1,300 feet in Cashe Creek Canyon before dropping 1,500 feet down in adjacent Game Creek Canyon. It is by far my favorite running race and is pure bliss for me. I wasn’t able to get any pictures as we were running like bats out of hell the entire time but instead I am going to link the songs that were stuck in my head through out the race.

The first is Witness the Fitness by Roots Manuva This songs chorus seems very appropriate for how I have changed my philosophy towards ski training since joining the UW team. I am entering my 5th year of full time ski training and for the fist time ever I have done no interval or speed training during the early summer months. After 4 seasons of varying results in interval focused programs I am very interested to see what an over distance focus does for me as a skier. Today was the first real barometer to see how it is going. I have come to know quite a few people in the trail racing scene here in Jackson over the years (this was my third consecutive year doing this race alone). As I went to the start line teammates and friends old and new surrounded me. Even a former ski coach of mine was racing. As the gun went off, I was all smiles. This was a change from the more serious approach I had taken the last 2 years.  During the fist few miles of hill climb I settled into the zone. I get to run with a former cross country team mate, Sawer Thomas (Yara’s little bro), who was great to pace off of.  I have never had such a bast hill climbing before. We passed a few people and came to the steepest part of the course. We power walked up the steep trail littered in loose rocks aiming to catch the group of five in front of us which I later found out was the second pack.  Sawer dropped me there but the group was still in my sights and I powered on. Upon cresting the hill and and the course high point the world seemed to slow.

The song in my head changed to the epic electronic remix “Help Me loose My Mind” originally by: Disclosure and remixed by: Mazde. Enjoy! (Free Legal Download)  I have always struggled with the downhill section of this course. It is steep and treacherous and it has been known to trip up people sometimes throwing them violently off the trail. Today was different and I made up my mind that I was going to slay this dragon! A few seconds into the downhill I experienced one of the coolest things in all of endurance sports: the second wind. The suddenly I was sprinting as fast I could and the thought crossed my mind I am a mother f*****g stallion! I started eating up terrain like none other and caught the group in front of me and passed them. We ran though the most gorgeous field of chest high wild flowers. In that moment nothing could stop me. There is nothing quite like the feeling of bone jarring flight that comes with steep downhill trail racing. It’s not smooth as skiing downhill. Knowing a single misplaced step could send you careening into the bushes is exhilaration and the amount of focus you have to put in is tremendous. I could feel the energy of the racers around me and the air was almost electric. The last part of the race enters a down flat that is brutal with legs that feel like lead but a good test of your endurance and I still felt like I was flying. Crossing the finish like I looked at my time. It was 20 seconds faster than last year. Heart rate stats were just as impressive with a in race max of 213 bpm and an average of 202 bpm sustained over an hour and twenty minutes. To put it in perspective I had done over 20 speed sessions prior to this race last year.

After the race we went to Nora’s and got huevos rancheros and biscuits and gravy, yum :). It was a perfect summer morning spent with awesome people. No complaints here in Jackson.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Summer Loving

"I think I have an iron allergy, everytime I lift weights I get swole!" Thank you ten pm sidewalk chalk artists around Prexy's pasture... this quote is a gem.

Tonight was really fun! We celebrated Ferne's birthday with orgasmic vegetables, and delicious chicken and mushrooms. We also had fresh salad from ACRES, quinoa, and banana bread for dessert.

After dinner, we took CLIFFORD for a drive with some Aerosmith's Dude Looks Like a Lady blasting. Viatly was worried about where we might me going, but danced for us anyway. (Kyle can you post a picture of CLIFFORD in action?). Note that the first song that came on the radio in Clifford was We Are the Champions. I think it is a sign for the coming year!

Then, we watched The Great Race (Ferne's choice), which was fantastic. We laughed the whole way through the first half (we had to stop at intermission because it is a long movie).

I am getting excited for recovery week to be over, so we can get out on the trails for OD runs and adventuring! I think the Rawah Wilderness is next on the agenda for this weekend.

Also, here is a little music from Grease to get you going...

Jackson Camp!

I have been hoping for an amazing post from an athlete but I'll get the ball rolling on this myself.

The Jackson Camp ROCKED!!!!

Thanks so much to Yara & Sam for organizing and even more to their parents for hosting not only the athletes but feeding us for two dinners! The food and the company was stupendous and we really couldn't afford a camp in that area without the support of the families!

We started with a bang on a fantastic run up Phillips ridge! So beautiful with the wildflowers and the views!
View from Phillips Ridge
That afternoon the athletes all took a ride down the Snake River on a variety of floating devices. A great time was had by all, even Willie! We then spent the evening at the Wiswell house, lovely time and great food!
Our own personal flag!

The next morning we did the most beautiful rollerski I have ever done on the bike path from Moose to Lake Jenny and back! It was almost surreal watching the team ski with the backdrop of the Grand!
The Majestics and the Majestics!

That afternoon the athletes went swimming and cliff jumping and that evening we had another fantastic dinner at the Thomas household.
Sunset at the Thomas house

The next morning was a choose your own adventure with the coaches doing a bike ride from Jackson to Jenny lake, 40 miles, and the athletes doing an awesome hike along a ridge with amazing views!


It was wonderful to see our Jackson athletes and connect with them as well as Nathan, who met us from Idaho!

We really couldn't have had a camp that was more fun, more productive and in a more beautiful place!