2016 Aspen Nordic Fundraiser and Sendoff Party

Join us for the annual Aspen Nordic Fundraiser and Sendoff Party at The Limelight Hotel in Aspen on November 17th from 5-7pm! This year we are celebrating all of the coaches and athletes, past and present, that have been an integral part of Aspen Nordic. We will have free pizza and beer and a huge silent auction. I’m super excited to get to go to Colorado before heading to Europe and I hope to see you at the Limelight!

fall-2016-rmna-aspen-fundraiser

Skiing Does Not Define Me

This afternoon I received an email from one of my good friends. Here is part of the email:

Okay are you doing okay? BE HONEST! I have been reading your blog and it just seems like you are starting to believe this sport is you and defines you. Don’t lose perspective, skiing is something you do not who you are. You are a son, a friend, and a good person (to name a few) and some day you won’t have skiing as the center of your life so if there is anything I can say it’s don’t get too wrapped up or bogged down with sport. 

Not only do I think this message is apt and valuable, it also resonates deeply with my beliefs. In my mind, I have never been defined as a skier. Cross country skiing is the vehicle that I have chosen to pursue excellence, it is not my lifelong passion. I am very excited for the end of my career when I will spend my time very differently than I do now.

It scares me to hear my friend say to me that “it seems like you are starting to believe this sport is you and defines you”. I don’t believe that this sport defines me and I don’t want other people to believe that either.

On the flip side, I think my friend’s observation, which is based on the honest writing that I’ve done recently in this blog, is true. I have been feeling sad and lonely and lost, and the only thing I have to focus on is my skiing. On the one hand, this narrow focus is exactly what I need in order to handle the high load that I’m training. On the other hand I feel one dimensional.

I want to expand my horizons. I want to get an education, have a social life, have hobbies, play recreational sports, give back, adventure, experience new things, push my limits, get out of my comfort zone, etc…

Although I don’t like feeling and for the most part being one dimensional, I have done it intentionally and with deliverance and I know that it’s the right decision and the right way to live my life right now and that it will only happen for a finite period of time and I believe it will help me achieve my goals.

Searching for my Identity

This morning my teammates and I did a 15 kilometer classic time trial on the roller ski track at Soldier Hollow. My goal for the race was to find a good balance between tempo and power and to put down a good hard complete effort. I feel like I accomplished both of those goals.

This was the second roller ski time trial that I’ve done in a week, after the skate 15k that I did with Alex Harvey last week.

My post race lactic acid today was measured at 13.3 mmol, the highest number I’ve seen in many years. This built on the high number that I saw in the race against Alex. With my high training load, I am very happy that I am able to elevate my lactic acid so high.

Here’s a look at my heart rate graph for today’s race:

I did not accumulate as much EPOC during today’s race as I did last week. Here are the text messages that my coach Zach Caldwell sent me about the EPOC accumulation of today’s race compared to other races. (Zach uses Firstbeat Technologies to analyze my heart rate.)

Today’s race was 7.23 ml/kg/min for 37+ min
The one with Alex was harder
The Alex one was super brutal -like 8.5
You also just didn’t put your HR quite as high today
You were coming off a slightly higher recovery score (nighttime heart rate data) with Alex, but not enough to be significant
For comparison – last year in Toblach (Tour de Ski stage, I finished 19th place) you were at 6.5
Alpe Cermis was 7.56
I don’t think it’s exactly an index of how “good” the effort was. But there’s no question you’ve got access to going “hard”.

My teammate Simi Hamilton won today’s time trial. I was second, 20 seconds behind Simi. Roller ski results don’t mean a lot and I’m not too concerned about today’s result. I am not a good roller skier. However, I think Simi skied really well today. I believe he will be good in distance races (as well as sprints of course) this season. I’m very excited for him and for our relay team!

Feeling Antsy

My training volume is lower right now than it was in the middle of the summer. This is a deliberate plan to bring the energy up so I can have higher quality intensity sessions.

On top of my lower volume, I’ve been training with other people consistently for the last several weeks while the Canadian and U.S. Ski Teams have been in town for camps. Training with other people feels easier than training alone. Not only does the time seem to go faster because there is outside stimulus, the training sessions also tend to be less focused, less consistent and sometimes slower than when I’m alone.

Also, other skiers tend to break up their long training sessions in different ways. They often do combo sessions, splitting the session in half between classic and skate or roller skiing and running. They may also change it up by hiking in the middle of a run. I tend not to chang things up in the middle of workouts, and when I join other people and we do change it up, it makes the whole workout easier.

All of these factors that have made my training feel easier over the last several weeks have me feeling antsy. I’m generally very good at relaxing and prioritizing recovery when it’s time every fall, but this year it feels too early. I feel like I’m losing my edge and the focus and quality and high training load that I had all summer.

These feelings are compounded by all of the non-training obligations that the camp brings and the things that need to be accomplished before I depart for Europe for the winter.

Overall things are going well, but I’m missing the quality that I had all summer, when I was able to be more focused on training. For my final three weeks in Park City, I am striving to regain simplicity, focus and the feeling of working hard with quality.

Feeling Good

The last couple days have been much better for me than the beginning of the week when I was struggling both emotionally and with time management.

Emotionally, I have been focusing on two goals.

First, I’m trying to do things that make me happy, and then I’m trying to personally enjoy them without focusing on sharing them with other people. I have a tendency to only feel satisfaction when I’m sharing something awesome with at least one other person. I struggle to be happy when I’m doing something alone, even if the thing that I’m doing is something that I generally enjoy. Marisa helped me realize that I have this tendency to experience disappointment and sadness if I’m not able to share the incredible experiences in my life.

Here’s an example this tendency: on Wednesday I was mountain biking on Park City Mountain Resort. It was late in the afternoon; the sun was shining low through the branches, most of which were bare with only a few golden leaves still shimmering in the light. There were two inches of fresh snow on the trail, but the ground was firm underneath and the riding was perfect. I came into a clearing and an entire herd of elk, all of the males with full racks, were standing just feet from me. Startled by my presence, they bolted up the mountain in a stampede. As they ran up the hill I distinctly remember thinking “this would be really cool if there was somebody here with me”.

Now that I have identified my tendency to need to share my life, I’m excited about finding ways to experience personal happiness by myself. Next time I’m in the woods by myself on a perfect fall evening without a cloud in the sky, with my mountain bike underneath me and fresh snow on the ground, and I come around a corner and start a stampede of elk, I hope I think to myself “this is really cool”.

For my second emotional goal, I’m trying to use a “fake it till it’s true” method to deal with the emotional swings that I’ve been experiencing. To me, this means that I want to do the things that make me a great human being, even when I don’t feel like a great human being. I’ve been playing with this theme for two days, and I believe it’s helped me feel more steady. The reason this method is helpful to me is that it doesn’t create any pressure on me to not be sad. The goal is simply to do things that are good, which is much easier than feeling good. This method makes me feel like it’s okay to be down emotionally. In fact, not only is it okay, it simply doesn’t matter, as long as my actions continue to be good. It seems to have created a positive feedback loop for me: if I accept that I’m sad but still do good things then I feel better because I did good things.

On the time management front, I was able to get a lot of things that were weighing on me accomplished by taking two days away from my team and the camp. I was excited to return to training with the group this morning, and I feel like everything I have to do is manageable now.

Training has continued to feel really good. I had a great skate roller ski intensity session with both my team and the Canadian National Team this morning. We did 5 by 10 minutes at level 3, a sustainable pace. Recently I have been able to elevate my heart rate very easily which is a good sign for my energy levels.

Step Back

I’ve been completely overwhelmed the last couple days with everything I had scheduled and had to do; I felt like I didn’t have time to breath. The U.S. Ski Team Park City Camp is always very stressful for me. It feels like I still have to do everything I’ve been doing all summer, but then I also have so many new camp obligations. All of the sudden I have to drive to train as opposed to training out the door. I have to work around the team schedule. We have team dinners and team meetings. We have physical testing and appointments with the nutritionist. We have to fill out visa applications and deal with multiple group emails a day. It all adds up extremely fast. I certainly bring a lot of it on myself because I’m still trying to fit in a social life outside of the team that makes me happy. I am feeling a sense of dwindling time and opportunities to spend with my friends as I get ready to depart for Europe for 4+ months.

On top of all that, my teammates train differently than I do. I really like having a structure to my training: three days on followed by a recovery day. That structure makes the training seem manageable. I can always get through three hard days, and I always have a lighter day to look forward to. The camp plan doesn’t fit into that structure at all. Instead of a cycle, every camp day is pretty much the same, moderately hard without much variance in training load.
Yesterday I reached a bit of a breaking point. I felt like the quality of my training, and more importantly of my recovery, was suffering from my time management issues and the lack of structure to the training. So, my primary coach John Callahan and I reworked the plan. We decided I needed to take a couple of days away from the camp to “reset” and catch up on recovery and other obligations. We also forced some structure into the remaining camp plan by upping the load on most days then significantly decreasing the load on some recovery days.

I explained this to my teammates last night, and I’m very grateful that they understood my need to step away from the camp for a couple of days.

This camp is a great opportunity for me to train with my teammates; I know that I need to train with other fast athletes more often. I also enjoy training with my teammates. In addition, I understand the necessity of all of the things we’re asked to do during this camp. I’m just trying to find balance to make sure my quality remains high. I’ve put in too much good work this summer to lose the edge now.

Swings

I was in a really bad mood when I arrived at the Center of Excellence (COE) this morning, and I made a passive aggressive comment towards my teammate Ida Sargent. I realized I was in a bad mood and had the good sense to keep my mouth shut after the one uncalled for comment, but I feel bad that I was mean to Ida, my teammate and one of my best friends.

An hour later, after strength, I was roller skiing by myself and feeling painfully sad. I felt like I had no hope for a great future or to ever be happy again.

Now I am feeling happy. I feel like everything that I was sad and worried about this morning isn’t a big deal. I’m feeling excited for the rest of the day and the rest of the camp and for the coming season. I’m feeling excited socially, even though I have nothing new going on, and I’m feeling content with, even proud of, myself.

I don’t believe these mood swings are extreme or cause for concern, but I am trying to dig deep into them, into all of my emotions, to look for causes and to learn about myself and to grow as a human being. The lows have been extremely painful; I’m working to be more even keeled.

This morning I did a body composition test. I do that once every month or two to monitor how my body is changing over time. After New Zealand (September), the last time I tested, my body mass (weight) and skin folds (fat) were way up relative to where they were in June and August. Today they were down from September but still a little bit above the summer tests. I am not actively cutting out calories but I am trying to eat a slightly healthier diet (by cutting out dessert) to bring them back down to summer levels before the season.

After body comp I did my strength routine at the COE. I was psyched because I was able to do the Dragon Fly exercise off the end of the bench for the first time. My strength coach, Tschana Schiller, took a video of me doing it. You can see it here.

Because I had body comp and strength, I missed the start of the group roller ski, but I went the opposite way around the loop and caught them for the second half. I was having trouble with my roller skis and had a frustrating session that was harder than it needed to be.

Inspired

Today was the first day of the fourth and final U.S. Ski Team camp of the training season. My teammates all arrived here in Park City over the weekend or last week. Even though the camp officially started today, we didn’t have any group training because some athletes are doing strength testing for the first couple days; the camp training plan begins on Wednesday.

This morning I went for a distance run with my teammate Erik Bjornsen. Erik and I haven’t gotten to train together since Bend camp in May. He and I are the only two distance skiers on the World Cup team, and we’re good friends. It is great to have him in Park City and to train with him again.

Since there wasn’t any U.S. Team training this afternoon, I joined the Canadian National Team for a distance roller ski. The Canadians are here for another week.

Yesterday I listened to the most recent episode of Death, Sex and Money, a podcast from WNYC in New York. The episode featured two amazing women, Ellen Burstyn and Gloria Steinem, both in their 80s and both pioneer feminists, having a conversation about their lives and looking ahead at their futures. They are both strong independent women who have lived amazing lives. They inspired me to want to find a cause that I’m passionate about and to spend my life fighting to fix one of the world’s many problems. I am feeling excited about the amazing life I have ahead of me. I want to be the best person I can be.

Some of the subjects that are part of the current national conversation that I’ve been following closely include microaggressions, trigger warnings and their impact on free speech and implicit bias. I learned a lot from this morning’s NPR story about implicit bias.

Lastly, if you haven’t watched this trending video from Canada telling us that they think America is already great, it made me smile. Thank you Canada.