Anchorage 50k

It’s a quarter to one in the morning, and I’m sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting to board a flight to Phoenix and on to Salt Lake City. I haven’t been in the western U.S. since November 10th. I’m really looking forward to it!

Of course, I won’t be there long, about 18 hours to be exact. On Sunday morning I’m going to the Yucatán Peninsula for a week with my girlfriend. I cannot wait to relax on the beach, not think about skiing and not touch a computer. (Therefore I won’t be blogging.)

Believe it or not but my itinerary then takes me from Cancún to a two hour layover in Newark, New Jersey and then on to Oslo, Norway. From Oslo I will drive to Beitostølen, Norway to participate in the Madshus product development meetings. I’m excited to learn more about Madshus products, see where the company is headed and deepen my relationship with my main equipment sponsor. I’ll try to blog as much as possible from Norway although I’m guessing I won’t be able to post pictures of many of the new products.

After only four days in Norway I’ll fly back to Boston, Massachusetts where I will spend a packed week with my title sponsor Thoughtforms Builders and the awesome people behind the company. I will definitely be blogging from Boston.

Finally, on Easter weekend, I’m stopping in Cleveland for a quick trip to see my friends, Carly Debenham and Alex Moore and their three beautiful children.

On Easter evening I’ll return to Park City to stay put for as long as I possibly can. It’s going to be a very busy month, but I’m fitting a lot in and am excited about each adventure.

Today was the National Championship 50k. The race played out quite differently from what I expected. I was not confident in my form or fitness, so my plan was to be conservative. I didn’t think anybody else would want to go hard in the first couple laps either, so I guessed the pace would be very slow. However, I was wrong. My U.S. Ski Team teammate Erik Bjornsen decided to go out hard from the gun. He led the first two laps, almost entirely. He said after the race that he was trying to ski away from the field early.

At the top of the big hill of the course on the second (of five) laps, everybody started sprinting. I had no idea what was going on. I figured somebody must be attacking and the other guys were just responding. I found out later that there was an intermediate sprint point with a cash bonus to the first skier across the line. I don’t know how everybody heard about that, but I missed the memo.

That sprint shattered the field. I felt better than I feared I might and was able to stay with the leaders, Reese Hanneman and Aku Nikander (a Finnish skier racing for the University of New Mexico whom I’d never heard of before today). They were stretching me on the flat sections, but I was strong on the climbs. I decided it was a good idea for me to help us stay away, so I led up the big climb on the third lap. My pace dropped Reese, and Aku and I never saw him again.

So, from about 25 kilometers to go it was just the two of us. I led for a while, to keep us free of Reese and to try to drop Aku. After several kilometers it became clear that Aku wasn’t going anywhere, so we started to work together. He was still stretching me on the flats, and I felt strong on the uphills until he dropped me up the hill on the last lap. I was surprised that he was so strong. I was able to catch him again at the top of the hill, but I could not drop him in the remaining kilometers before the finish. Because he had been so much stronger than me double poling all race, I didn’t like my chances when it came down to a drag race sprint finish. My fears were proven correct as he crushed me before we were even close to the finish line.

Because Aku is Finnish, I still won the U.S. National Champion title. I am very impressed with Aku and will be following his career as he competes on the college circuit and hopefully internationally sometime soon. It’s hard for me to be very disappointed with my race because I have felt out of shape all week and feared it might be much worse. It was certainly not the level I skied when I was at my best this season, but I have known for a while that I am ready for a break. Good thing I get one now!

I have a ton of pictures from today, but I don’t have time to post them as my flight is starting to board. Sorry! If I find any unexpected free time in the next couple days I’ll put them up. As I said, I won’t be blogging next week.

Seafood

I had a wonderful recovery day here in Anchorage, Alaska. The weather has really been incredible. It has been perfect every day. Apparently this isn’t unusual for Alaska in the spring, but I’ve never seen it like this. Also, the days are a normal length right now. I have struggled when it’s always light or often dark when I’ve come here at different times of the year.

My sister took off for the day with Holly Brooks’ husband Rob Whitney. They went backcountry skiing, so I had the day to myself. Liz Stephen, Kikkan Randall and Kikkan’s husband Jeff Ellis picked me up for an easy skate ski this morning. We parked at Hill Top, an alpine skiing area with an operational ski jump.

Hill Top Ski Jump Anchorage

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Anchorage Sprint

It’s really late and I’m exhausted, so this is going to be mostly a picture oriented post. I’m too tired to write much.

Today was the Spring Series classic sprint here in Anchorage, Alaska. I qualified! Barely! I sneaked into the heats in 30th position, 12 hundredths of a second from not making it. You can see the qualifier results here.

In the quarterfinal, my first sprint heat in two years, I improved on my place. I finished third out of the six racers. I did not get a lucky loser spot in the semifinals so my final placing was 15th. Skiing the heat was really fun. You can see the bracket results here.

Here is Andy Newell before his qualifier. Andy won qualifying and crossed the finish line first in the final before getting relegated to 6th for cutting Reese Hanneman off. I didn’t see the move that got him relegated so I can’t comment on it.

Andy Newell Classic Sprint Qualifier Anchorage 2014

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Alaska Skate Race

Random fact: this is my 600th blog post.

When I asked the Alaska Pacific University (APU) team to help me with ski service for these Spring Series races here in Anchorage, Alaska, I was hoping for the bare minimum. All I needed was for them to race wax one pair of skis for me the night before each race. Not only did they agree to help me, but they have gone above and beyond the call of duty. They’ve basically taken me in as one of their own. I attended their pre-race team meeting last night to get all the info for today’s race.

APU Team Meeting Anchorage Spring Series

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Low Key Anchorage Day

Yesterday I moved out of Sadie Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan’s house on the Alaska Pacific University campus. Sadie and Rosie have several other guests this week and their house is at capacity. I moved in with Greg and Amy Schumacher and their three wonderful children Gus, Rudy and Heidi. Greg is a U.S. Ski Team physician. He has joined us on the road for multiple World Cups over the past several years. This year Greg came alone to our pre-Olympic camp in Seiser Alm, Italy, but on past trips Amy and the kids have joined us as well. Greg is an orthopedic surgeon and has been instrumental in helping me navigate my shoulder issues and two shoulder surgeries.

The Schumachers are incredibly generous and welcoming. I’m sure I have the best lodging setup at these races.

The race venue was busier today as more people are arriving. My U.S. Ski Team teammate and Alaska celebrity Kikkan Randall was at the venue with here custom-decorated car.

Kikkan Randall's Car at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska

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Anchorage

For my first two nights in Anchorage I stayed with Sadie Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan at their house on the Alaska Pacific University (APU) campus. They hadn’t been home for over four months, so they didn’t have any food in the house. We took a trip to Costco yesterday to restock everything. I had only been to a Costco once before, and it was a long time ago.

Anchorage Costco

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