Friday, December 27, 2013

Example of Solid Leadership

The following is a product of Sierra's idea, filming and superb leadership on the team...
Thank you Sierra,
Thanksgiving Talent Show

Also substantiation for the idea that yes, we have important life skills other than skiing... like dancing.. and singing out of tune..

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What the results don't show

Our careers as a coaches have been very traditionally successful. We have coached state and national champion teams and individuals. We have coached at numerous national and international events. We have have seen athletes come and go, both the winners and the beginners. While it's fun to coach the winners and great to have a winning team the thing we love most about coaching is often what the results don't show.

The World University Games is a good example of this. Our athletes are not standing on the podium in the stadium but they are certainly standing tall in our hearts.

The results don't show Willie smiling as he starts skating in the skiathlon the last part of one of the best races of his career.

The results don't show Sierra flying up the hill in the sprint nor gliding past the Italian athlete in the finishing stretch looking every bit of the world class athlete that she has become.

The results don't show the sheer joy in Taylor as he finishes the first round of the sprint relay nor the grit and determination that took him through to the finish of the 30km.

The results don't show Elise in the freestyle as she methodically takes down women with FIS points 4 times better than hers nor.

The results don't show Britta as she makes up 2 minutes to catch the Chinese racers in the relay nor her smile at the finish.

The results don't show Catherine's poise as she just skied stronger and stronger in the race to the finish nor her face when her legs are numb and she can hardly move them in the he 15km and I say I'm OK with her stopping and she says, "I'm NOT!"

The results don't show the heart and soul that Sarah puts into everything she does, both in her power on the course and her support off.

The results don't show Pat as he accelerates through the 10km, skiing better and faster at the end than the beginning nor the sheer will that gets him around the final lap of the 30km.

The results don't show Kyle's good tactics as he sits in a tuck gliding beside a skier who is skating nor his strength as he powers up the hill.

The results certainly don't show Nathan, who had bronchitis before we left, had to go to the hospital here in Italy and still managed to finish the 10km skate on nothing but desire.

The results don't show Sindre as he dedicates his summer and fall to improving and strains every muscle flying into the finish, nor his willingness to jump into the relay. 

The results don't show Sam as he fights through his newly discovered asthma to ski solid in the 10km after having to stop with an asthma attack in the skiathlon.

The results don't show Bridget, after a good day in the 5km, tough out a really rough race the opening leg of the relay, so tough that she ended up in the infirmary after the race.

The results also don't show the amazing work that goes behind the racing. Hours spent by Shanna & Anna (the Shananigans) waxing, brushing, scraping and doing it all again and again and again. Nor do they show Dick & Evelyn running all over the Dolomites looking for a specific type of klister or a wax remover.

The results only show who skied the fastest on that particular day and not the hundreds of stories,  hours of training and sheer heart that typify this team.

We have never been so proud as we are tonight, after the final race of the Games. We look forward to the rest of the season with these phenomenal young people!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Do Not Get Stuck In A Routine

For most people today was probably just another day. Finding a routine seems to be almost second nature to us as humans, which I think is the cause of most of false perceptions of boring lives. It is easy for us to lose track of the important things in life when we are finding routines in everything we do. If I look closely and get stuck in a routine, I find myself lost and searching for something more. We must be careful not to get stuck in a rut otherwise we lose sight of all the wonderful things we experience. Since we have been here it seems as though all of us have found our own unique daily routines, myself included.

Pack and get ready for the day. 
Ride the bus to the venue.
Ride the bus back to the hotel.
Wait for food (they eat late here).
Eat again.

This has been my routine for the majority of the days since I have been here. Of course there have been a few variations, but as a whole this is has described most of my days. I have found myself lost and searching for more. Wait, WHAT!?!?! How is that possible? I'm in Italy skiing with some of my best friends, representing the United States of America, something I have dreamed about doing since I was a child. Looking back on all that has happened the last week and a half I feel so honored to be here. Every day has been one amazing day after another, filled with unimaginable experiences. Yesterday Sam and I had the opportunity to ski from the venue all the way to the end of the Marcialonga trail which ends roughly a mile from our hotel where from which we walked back to the hotel. I have always enjoyed being able to travel from one place to another powered solely by the human body especially when it involves skiing. Being able to get from the hotel to the venue without having to use any cars or other modes of modern transportation is unbelievably satisfying (not to mention skiing under the moonlight for about half of the way up). Today we were also able to walk to the trail and ski back down to the race venue. Mountains with peaks veiled behind a wall of fog and clouds is an excellent background to any skiing experience, especially today's.
Watching the girls race today in the 3x5K relay was so much fun. Standing on the world cup venue enjoying the company of my men's team will never get old. I am proud to call both the men and women on our team my teammates. We are all so unique and full of different specialties and diversity it amazes me how talented we all are. I am grateful for every opportunity that I have been given. Thank you to all of those who have been supportive to myself and our team, we wouldn't be here without the endless support that we have been given.

With all the excitement that has been going on I refuse to get stuck in a routine, tomorrow will be yet another amazing day here in Pradazzo and I hope yours is just as well!!

Ski Jumping

After a short jog east up the valley to watch ski jumping last night it was decided amongst the jogees (willie, pat, nathan and I) that ski jumping would most likely not be a part of our future aspirations. Sledding down the bottom part however proved tempting idea. *Provided below is a reference picture to exhibit my artistic talent in realism.

The Monster Inside

The gun goes off and the race begins. The competition is fierce but so am I and I know deep down I can do battle with this course and this field of incredible skiers. But after a few minutes into the race the pack is slowly but surly slipping out of my grasp. I keep hearing this wheezing from the racer behind me. The world slows down and the small fear in the back of my head slowly grows into a giant monster chasing me around the course. I outrun it for a little while but eventually it catches me and attacks. I suddenly feel like I have swallowed to big of a bit of food and it just wont move out of my windpipe. The wheezing is louder but the racer is still behind me and I know I can still beat him. Coming into the stadium the world starts to fade around the edges. In a moment of clarity and acceptance I know the wheezing racer is really me and that something is terribly wrong. The coaches appear in the distance and I make heartbreaking decision to drop out of a race for the first time in my life. There in Rachel’s arms breathing but not really getting any air I accept my fate and that I have full blown, real life, asthma. Sarah hands me an inhaler and I accept it desperate to breath again. The feeling of getting that first breath was like being woken up from a deep sleep with a cold bucket of water. The next few hours were mostly a blur of pain, anger, sadness, and finally, acceptance. As confirmed by doctors that night and the next day I have asthma and will have to start taking medicine to get better again.  They upside is that I can and will get better and will be able to race again. Racing is one of the greatest joys in my life and to be racing internationally has been a dream of mine for years now. Yet hear I am, competing against some of the best in the world. To say the least I am not at my best but in the past few days I have come to realize I can still live this dream. And I have.  Five days after the asthma attack I completed my first international race on the beautiful course here at Val Di Fiemme. It wasn’t my best and I still had some problems breathing but it was infinitely better than the skiathalon. I have begun down the road to recovery and I now know deep down that I can beat the monster inside of me. 

Although having this experience here has been a challenge I am loving the time spent with the team spent here in Italy. Skiing here has been a jaw dropping experience every time I am out on the course and I can't imagine dong anything better!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A few of the photos from the day in Trento

Ancient ruins and stunning architecture

To enter the church

Hand written!

Secret passageway in the church walls!

Elise bought a yummy sweet tomato-like fruit!
One of many dogs in poof coats..

Waitin' for the bus back to Predazzo

Collision. Impact. Chance.

Collision. Impact. Chance. Sometimes I look at life like a massive web of interconnected lines and stories with criss-crossing intersections, some of which pass by each other smoothly and others that completely change the course of another life. Being here and experiencing Italy made me realize that standing on the start line of today’s race was a result of those moments. You see, I’m not supposed to be here. As of July I wasn’t even going to be skiing this year, I wasn’t going to be at UW, I wasn’t supposed to be on the WUG team, I wasn’t going to be on a ski team at all after several life transitions. But here I am!  Breath in. Breath out. Every sinew of my being is present in this moment as I realize the magnitude of the events and impacts that occurred to bring me to this red line that I’m about to cross at the start of the women’s 5k freestyle. Five four three two one, and our legs know exactly how to carry out the job for which we have trained them for so long. All the overwhelming feelings fade away when the only task in the moment is to embrace the pain that strains against the gravity of the hill. All of the built up anxiety is thrust into every new stride.

            There is never a more beautiful sound that the voices of my wonderful teammates and beautiful coaches who scream their hearts out as if to transfer more energy to us with every cheer. We Americans are by far the loudest people in the entire valley. The fact that each and every one of them has impacted me over the time that I have known them makes their presence even more motivating. I can’t imagine having two more inspirational women than Christi and Rachael pour their hearts and souls into my racing experience and the personal development of every one of their athletes. The chances that I have been given overwhelm me. I can only hope I can have the courage to take full advantage of the impacts, and end up completely spent in a gasping heap on the finish line knowing that the job was done fully well. Being content in knowing that I have nothing left to give is the best feeling in the world. Collisions, impacts, chances: make the most of the moments you’re given.

Pre-race jidders

This is a picture of our wonderful coaches waiting for the race to start. Today is the 5k skate! The pre-race routine has consists of Bridget, Sarah, and I laying around with lots of water, electrolytes, and pump up music (Enya). The course today will wind around two different 2.5K laps with lots of fun hills. My goal for the race will be to keep my tempo snappy. The sun is shining and I feel good and ready!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sprint Relay

Today was the third race for the World University Games here in Trentino Italy. It has been an amazing journey watching fellow teammates racing, prepping for and racing our own individual races, and of course the year-round training. Watching and competing has been such an amazing experience. Being able to watch the different countries and my own friends competing has been more exciting than I could have ever asked for. Today was a very unique experience, combining both competing, and watching my teammates race all in one. Because of the nature of relays, we were able to race, tag-off, watch our relay partner race. We were to each do three laps each, alternating ever-other one. We had two teams competing in the mixed team sprints (one male and one female racer), and I was fortunate enough to be on one of those teams.

                                                                  The Race:

Heart pounding. Adrenalin pumping. Breathing heavy. Looking down at my skis as I slide them back and forth (in true Nordic fashion) to try to calm myself down. I am lined up with nineteen other guys all waiting for the sound of the start gun to fire.  From the back of the pack I look up, only to see the massive field of men from all over the world with our 1.2 kilometer sprint course is the backdrop.
Everyone begins to settle as the count to the start begins. Breath-by-breath the seconds fly by. There is not a sound coming from the stadium filled with people. No breeze, nothing but the cool air touching my face. The steam from my breath floating up into the sky. Pure serenity. BANG. All hell breaks loose. Simultaneously all of the men begin the race, getting faster and faster all through the start lanes. Skis, poles, arms and legs now up to full speed. Trying to slow my breath and relax into the quickened pace we come the the first rolling hill on the course. Still in the back, I manage to work my way up into the group passing two men as we crest. Getting to the backside over the roller, we all settle into a tuck. Breathing heavily now to recover as much as possible before the big hill. This hill has been ascended by countless racers, many of which have been world cup skiers and Olympians (whom I have watch countless times on this very hill on you-tube). It is now our turn to climb. Standing up and breaking into the hill with as much momentum as possible, I am able to maintain most of my speed. Calm, cool, and relaxed I work my way further towards the front of the pack. Pole, glide, pole, glide all the way to the top. Legs aching, lungs burning, the pack has slowly spread by the top. Feeling exhausted, the downhill tuck is nothing short of painful, filled with desperate grasps for air. Coming into the corner leading to the next up-hill my breath calms and I am prepared to hit the hill hard. Coming out of the tuck and "throwing the hammer down" I pass one of the many guys in front of me. On the the next down hill I tuck in for more grasps for air. Coming back over the other side of the rolling hill, I hold my momentum as best as possible before the last flat to the tag zone. Keeping my distance in front of those who were behind me I sped through the flats and into the tag. Searching for my partner as I skied into the tag zone I finally spotted her. Elise began moving down the track as I quickly tagged her with sheer exhaustion. Elise flew out of the gate to continue the race. And just like that, the first of my three laps were done.

As I watched Elise burn through the course, I couldn't help but give hugs to my two amazing coaches from all the excitement. I didn't need to say anything for them to know how great it was out there, I could tell they knew. I too could tell how excited they were for me, glowing even brighter than  they usually do. Smiles beaming we were all feeding off of each-others excitement. Oddly enough, even though it was only a third of the actual race, it was an experience that I will never forget and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

And the stadium!


Mountains down near Trento

Wooo fans!!

Women's Pursuit

WUG so far...

Surreal, is a word that I have been using the most to describe my experiences here in Italy. I been trying to suck in everything from the sight of some of the world cup skiers to the odd smell that hits your nose getting off the bus. It really doesn't feel real sometimes. On the classic sprint day, it was weird to think that all the training I have been doing is going to be used in 1.8 km. I wasn't expecting much I just wanted to do my best and represent USA. The lap went so fast, it didn't seem like I had time to think. I wont forget when I was heading toward the finish line and I could hear the commentators voice. It give me an extra burst of energy. I took a spill before the finish line, it was disappointing at first but I knew that I gave it my all. I felt really proud of my teammates as they give everything even though we don't expect move on to the rounds/finals. The only really easy part of the experience will be to remember this for a long time. The excitement is rising for the 10km on tuesday!

Mixed Team Sprints

The Pirates of the Caribbean theme song led the men out of the start gate for the team sprints today. Kyle and I watched from the biathlon range as Taylor and Elise crushed it on each lap of their sprint. It was eerie seeing what I would be doing in just a few minutes...watching coaches rub down our muscles and our skis, offering encouraging words, and giving us a homemade concoction of orange juice and tea. It was a fantastic race. I like the idea of needing a fast woman and man to work together. I like that the men start and the women finish it up. You have to really trust one another and give them the best position you can for the rest of the race.  The sprints felt really good today especially with the entire team on the big hill screaming for me. The best part was the quick uphill right after the big downhill. It felt really powerful and fun.
After the race, Kyle and Taylor and I skied the Marcialonga east. It was really beautiful at night with the towns all lit up and the final sprint announcements in the background.
It was a beautiful day! On to exploring Trento tomorrow.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

casa per la settimana

WUG - Italy Adventure

Italy is amazing!! The Hotel Bellaria in the small town of Predazzo, which is 5km from the ski venue and 70km from Trento, and it has been a fantastic home for us. We take public transit to and from the venue and to other sport events throughout the valley. We have had two competitions so far, the skiathlon and classic sprints. Tomorrow is the team sprint where one male and one female from each team comprise a racing team and trade off sprinting 1.2 km with skate technique. Elise and Taylor will be one team, and Kyle and I will be the other team.

A couple of personal highlights from the trip so far:

At the end of the skiathlon, one of the volunteers saw me carrying my two pairs of skis in my hands and a cup of tea in my mouth. He stuck out a finger and helped pour the cup of tea into my mouth and allowed me to finish it. What a great volunteer!!!

At the end of the women's skiathlon, the Australian women were very impressed with our team cheering for them!

For the finals of the sprints today, I stood next to a local couple who were cheering for their son's best friend. He ended up falling during the final, but they cheered him all the way home. They were curious about Wyoming and whether or not you can ski through Yellowstone.

The kick wax for the classic sprints.

The night ski on our training day Friday on a short trail along the river. The town on the neighboring hill were lighting up the hillside and the moon took care of lighting our trail. Then we moved onto the sprint course to preview. It was really exciting previewing the course at night with all of the other racers, the smell of wax and excitement filling the air.

Late night pizza with the girls and hot vino!