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Author Archive

Arctic Training

24.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

Sunrise today was at 10:21am and a mere three hours and forty-one minutes later at 2:02pm, the sun officially set.  And between those times there was not a lot of daylight as the sun barely rises above the horizon and never shines over the mountain behind the ski area.  Muonio is over 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Finland and close to the Swedish border.  The darkness could sound depressing but it hasn’t felt that way yet.  Just as a rainy day can makes a sunny day feel extra special, the darkness enhances the light here.  Sunrises last all day, slowly morphing into a sunset which eases out over the hours of dusk.  This is my fourth trip to Muonio and I’m probably in the minority for skiers, but I really like it here.  The GRP has trained here a few times which was when I first came here and the USST also often starts their season here.  It’s simple and relaxing.  We stay in cabins on the ski trails and just a short walk from meals.  There isn’t anything to do but ski, eat and sleep so it’s the perfect place to recover from the jetlag of international travel and prepare for the upcoming ski season.  Despite the darkness it is surprisingly beautiful here, the Arctic light reflecting on the snow in a unique way.  There isn’t a lot of natural snow but there are 6km of manmade tracks which have been excellent, providing more than enough terrain for great training.  Tomorrow we are driving to Ruka, Finland and the World Cup season opens this weekend.  

Muonio on the map.  Head north and keep going!

Arctic light

Sunrise or sunset?

An ice fog settled in and we even got some new snow this morning.  This photo almost looks like it is taken in black and white but it’s full color today

Northern lights over our condos one evening.  It was incredible!  (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Kikkan is psyched to go back to school!  We visited the Muonio elementary school which was a tradition started by Clare when the GRP was in Muonio for almost a month.  We shared videos of our team training and racing and the kids were excited to meet us.  Finnish school seemed pretty similar to American except everyone takes off their shoes before coming inside.

The beginning of the season means lots of new skis to test.  Here is my fleet of Fischers as well as Matt’s coat rack.  On top of being the women’s team coach, Matt is my wax tech.  He has done an awesome job preparing skis, cleaning skis and helping me test.  It’s important to have skis for every snow condition and course profile but too many skis can be overwhelming so we have put in a lot of work testing and getting to know the different skis in the fleet.  Thanks Matt!

 

VT to Finland

18.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

My last week in the US was a frantic and busy week.  I balanced packing, cleaning, training, and running the last minute errands necessary before leaving the country for over four months with also wanting to spend as much time as possible with friends and family who I wouldn’t see over the winter. It felt surprisingly relaxing to sink into my airplane seat for a 28 hour travel day from northern VT to northern Finland after all the craziness of getting ready to leave.  Leaving was bittersweet with a mix of saying goodbyes and enjoying the last few nights in my own bed played against the excitement to be back on the road at the start of the season.  Here are some pictures from my last week or so at home.

A frosty early morning in Craftsbury on Little Hosmer Pond
Sunrise at home! The shorter days have provided some wonderful sunrises and sunsets!

A little snow before I left was the perfect transition to winter.  The Outdoor Center also turned on the snow guns too which stockpiled more than the natural dustings.

It’s always fun to wake up to a white blanket outside!
My breakfast view from the cottage.
GRP girls dinner before we head our separate ways to Finland, Norway, West Yellowstone, and Canmore.  We missed Clare but it was a great chance to get the rest of the team together.
Snow on the side of the road (and a little in the road too) for our last rollerski of the year
Eben came home for hunting season and luckily our paths crossed for one day!  It was fun to share stories of recent adventures and travels.
That’s a lot of stuff!  Two ski bags, a duffel bag, and a big backpack for the winter travels.

 

 

It took about 28 hours from to get from Craftsbury to our little cabins in Muonio, Finland which is about 250km north of the Arctic Circle.  It was surprisingly sunny for our ski this morning and fun to ski under the lights this afternoon.

Winter!

 

Frozen Thunder Skiing

2.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

As the first flakes have fallen here in Craftsbury,  winter is just around the corner.  I was lucky to already have a little taste of winter in the form of a 2km ribbon of snow saved from last winter in Canmore, Alberta.  Every year the Canmore Nordic Center buries a pile of snow under a mound of wood chips and digs it up in mid-October to spread around a loop, aptly named Frozen Thunder.  The 2km track takes anywhere from 6-8 minutes to ski depending on how fast the snow conditions are that day.  Since we would usually ski for two to three hours every morning, it was important find technique or pacing cues to focus on or a good friend to chat with, anything to keep the mind active and distracted from counting laps or looking at your watch while skiing round and round.  In years past we have had colder weather and have seen some natural snow or at least new manmade snow added to freshen the track.  This year, though, the temperatures were warm and it rained a few times so many days Frozen Thunder was not very frozen. Over the eight days that we were there, the depth of the snow decreased noticeably and certain sections of the track were much less elevated from the ground than they were at the start.  But a huge thank you needs to go out to the grooming staff for an awesome job maintaining the snow and the ski conditions were awesome all week despite the unseasonably warm weather.

Since I had skied in September in Ramsau, Austria with the rest of the GRP, the transition back to snow was remarkably easy.  I was very grateful to have had the glacier skiing just a month earlier because skiing felt natural almost instantly in Canmore, rather than having the normal few days spent trying to navigate the awkward skis which feel helplessly long compared to rollerskis.  Most of the skiing I did in Canmore was just distance training but Cross Country Canada also organized a couple races  which were a really fun opportunity to put on a bib and go hard.  The lung burn and tired legs were a quick reminder of what racing actually feels like but made me more excited than ever for the World Cup season to start at the end of the month!

I didn’t take any pictures this week so I stole some from Noah’s blog.  Thanks Hoff J!  The GRP skiers are training in Craftsbury for a few more weeks now before hitting the road to start the season!  Happy trails and don’t forget to do your snow dances!

Sunrise at the Canmore Nordic Center

Canmore is one of my favorite places to train and race!

Noah got artsy with his skiing shots and I think this is a cool image of me skiing over the top of the hill
Some one pole skiing to work on technique early in the season.
I had a great time hanging out with my Canadian friends!  We had dinner at the homes of Chandra and Perianne who both live in town and each of the evenings was a highlight of the camp.  Here’s a picture of dinner at Chandra’s house where she cooked a delicious feast of four lasganas, two giant salads and a couple amazing carrot cakes.
Since we will be in northern Finland for Thanksgiving probably eating fish and reindeer, we celebrated early and cooked a Thanksgiving feast except with chickens instead of turkeys as we couldn’t find turkeys at the store.  It took all the stoves and ovens from the four different team apartments with tiny kitchenettes to create the feast as well as several hours of chopping and prep but was worth the effort for the fun evening with the team.
Racing!  The Classic Sprint was organized in the King’s Court format so everyone did all four rounds and moved up or down in the seeding based on their placing in the previous heat.  The other fun twist was that guys and girls were combined so I raced most of my heats with guys but had fun skiing one of the rounds with Peri.

 

Ramsau Days

15.Sep.2014 by Ida Sargent

Training camp often implies a certain factor of monotony.  Long hours of training are followed by napping, resting, and preparing for more training.  Distractions are limited to enhance recovery.  Tired bodies lead to tired minds which often don’t correlate with much intellectual involvement.   This past week in Ramsau, Austria has seemed much more like a very athletic vacation than a training camp.  Each day provides new excitement and adventure.  Not once has training felt like a job but instead with each session I feel incredibly lucky to be active and outside in such a beautiful location.

The view from behind our house.  The farmer who is renting to us even brings us pitchers of fresh milk from the cows grazing outside.

Our days usually begin around 6:15 or 6:30am with a groggy breakfast.  The first few mornings were extra challenging as we stumbled into the kitchen fighting the jet lag and the time change and hungrily devoured big bowls of yogurt and muesli with steaming mugs of coffee.  Then we were ready to start the day!  Our commute began with a 10km drive from our house in town to the tram station, switchbacking through green farmers fields along the base of the mountain.  Town is situated at around 1,100 meters (3,700ft) and the tram station is about 500 meters higher.  The real elevation gain happens when we get into the tram and climb straight up along the cliffs to the upper station situated at 2800meters.

I have been impressed with the vibrant green of the pastures but we have had a fair share of rainy weather to nourish the grass.
The tram ascends directly to the top of the peak without any poles.  The first morning I couldn’t tell if my racing heart was from the elevation or my excitement to ski!

From the tram station we walk a couple hundred meters down to the trails, strap on our skis, and start the morning session.  The trail switchbacks tightly across the glacier, packing in 9km of skiing in a small area.  Sometimes these types of loops on a glacier can become repetitive but so far that hasn’t happened and the training time flies by.  Being on snow in the summer is a great opportunity to work on technique, to transfer any technical changes made on rollerskis onto actual skis so I have a focus for each session, a small goal to concentrate my energy toward.  Dachstein glacier is also one of the most popular XC summer training locations in the world so we are not alone on the glacier and are instead skiing our laps with other elite skiers from Sweden, Russia, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Austria, Germany, and Kazakhstan.

Switchbacks across the glacier
Skiing! (GRP Facebook Page photo)
I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the snow and grooming on the glacier.  Often glacier skiing can be soft and mushy but they groom almost continuously and the skiing has been excellent with a range of snow conditions.  A couple of the warmer days were slushier but one day it snowed and we had fresh packed powder!
Skiing with the other Ida (Ida Ingemarsdotter from Sweden) during a foggy whiteout powder day (Pepa photo)
Testing new skis! Zach Caldwell, who was in Austria for a trip to the Fischer factory, skied with us one morning and we tested new skis.  I have worked with Zach for a long time and he has helped build my fleet of Fischer skis and also keeps them running fast by dialing them in with new grinds and structures. This morning we had eight  new pairs of skate skis on the snow and there were a lot of fast ones!  (Caldwell Sport photo)

After a couple hours of skiing, we take the tram off the mountain and drive home for lunch and recovery.  We are renting a big house in town with wonderful views and only a short walk into the center of town.  I usually try to get off my feet for a little while after lunch but I’m horrible at napping so I have usually spent my afternoon getting sun on the deck off my bedroom or curling up with a book near the fire on the rainier days.

 

The view from the deck

Our afternoon session is dryland training and usually involves a hike or run in the mountains.  The trail system here is endless and all very well marked which makes it easy to explore.  Some trails climb high into the mountains while others meander through the pastures and even driveways and backyards.  We haven’t seen any private property signs here and instead everyone is out sharing the land and getting their exercise.  We have had a lot of cloudy and rainy weather this past week so we’ve missed many of the beautiful views in the valley but the forecast for the upcoming week looks very promising for some sunny days of training.

A misty OD hike

Gordon, Andrew, and Pete climbing over a pass

Jake descending out of the fog

Skiwalking above town with Caitlin (Andrew D photo)

 

We are taking turns cooking dinners for the team and have been surprising even ourselves with the incredible amounts of food that we consume with every meal.  At first we shopping at the local market but since it sold only small European sized portions, we branched out and found a bulk grocery store for the rest of our shopping.  Containers are measured in kilograms and we still have to shop every few days.  Yogurt is of course the training fuel of choice and we easily polished off a 10kg bucket of it in less than two days!

Ethan sized pan of mac and cheese

And if the daily training days haven’t been exciting enough, we have turned into tourists on our recovery days, visiting the nearby town of Schladming on our afternoon off and the city of Salzburg on our off day.

Exploring Schladming on a rainy afternoon.  The last time I had been in town was for an Alpine World Cup night slalom so it was a little quieter in town this time.

Fresh pretzels are my favorite Austrian treat.  The markets in Salzburg sold so many different flavors of sweet and salty pretzels!

Salzburg

Rooftop views

Life is good and I’m feeling very grateful to have the opportunity to train in such a beautiful place.  I have my fingers crossed and my sunscreen and shades ready for some sunny weather for the next week of camp.

Prost!