Precip: first SNOW, then RAIN!

Holly BrooksSeptember 7, 2011
The August glacier camp was the latest camp our team has ever attempted.  At some point during the “summer” the glacier transitions from melting away under the sunshine and/or rain (ablation) and begins the annual accumulation process of collecting snow and refilling crevasses.  The blue ice temporarily disappears and once again, the surface of the glacier is covered in a fresh, white blanket. 
That said, if you have no expectations about the weather, you cannot be disappointed. The typical first move on Eagle is to climb out of bed and pull the blanket covering the window tacked to the wall away and see what you’re in for that day…. “Is it blue bird and sports bra or is it ice-pellet shrapnel and windbreakers?”  This camp was the later…. Because I knew the forecast going into it, I thought this was necessary:

Casey and Erik enjoying a rare moment of relaxation with espresso in the afternoon. 

The bergschrund that forms every year at the top of the glacier, near the facility.
While the “pure enjoyment” part of me wishes that we had sunshine everyday, or even for ONE DAY, I know that we gained MORE by skiing in challenging conditions…… by doing intervals when it was 32 degrees and snowing…. (Poor Pete iced so bad he fell on his face and broke his ski). 

When the going gets tough there are two options: you can give up and create excuses or you can work with and overcome the situation. You can tough it out. No, the skiing may not be pretty… you may not be proud of it but maybe you’re even the fastest one out there that day? Who knows….

Erik Flora, our coach is famous for all kinds of lines and points.  He emphasizes and re-emphasizes things with new found enthusiasm all the time.  One of his favorite talking points on the glacier is to speak favorably about the “difficult weather.”  He makes the point that Eagle features conditions that are similar to the last three championship cycles.  He has a good point: 
1) In Oslo/2011 we raced World Championships in front of tens of thousands of spectators in pea-soup fog; Conditions often found on Eagle Glacier.
2) At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver we raced in our fair share of either rain or slush up above our boots; Conditions often found on Eagle Glacier.
3) In the 2009 Liberec (Czech Republic) World Championships they raced in poor conditions and wild grooming; Luckily our grooming is mostly awesome these days thanks to our new Pisten Bully! However, there was one day that the wind drifts were so bad that all twenty of us completed our training session “tailing” the Pisten Bully so we could ski in the tracks before they “blew in” with fresh snow!

Here are a couple of pictures of the blue ice/fresh snow glacier on our single “sun-break”

This camp, due to the low snow, the skiers enjoyed a daily commute on the Pisten Bully down to skiing. One of my teammates likened it to riding the school bus to school; our skis and poles were our books, our workouts our assignments, and our post-training granola bar our “sack lunch.”

Another sweet picture of Casey and the new PB. Thanks so much to all the supporters who chipped in!!! 
This is the post-training traffic jam in the glacier kitchen that is LUNCH!

One of the many products of the “traffic jam”

Some of you may wonder what we do all day, everyday during our glacier training camps.  The schedule is surprisingly jam-packed and I rarely find myself with much extra time.  Here is what the general schedule looks like: 
6:30am – wake up/breakfast/dress/last minute ski changes & adjustments
7:45am – “pre-game meeting” Description of workout, technique examples, daily training volume assignments, waxing recommendations.
8am – Board Pisten Bully to “commute to training”
8:30-11am – train & ride PB back to facility
11am-noon – Lunch #1
Noon – 3pm – Afternoon chores, pm ski prep (klister!) & technique review from the morning session, dinner prep – some athletes are able to nap. (This is where my sleep envy comes in…. ) + Lunch #2
3:15 – 4pm: Afternoon “pre-game meeting” , PB transport, etc.
4-6:30pm – Afternoon training, ride PB home
Post-afternoon ski core or strength routine.
7pm – Dinner
Dinner clean
Training talk
10pm – lights out/quiet time….. get ready to wake up and do it all again the next day.

Erik graciously goes over technique with anyone who wants it for hours and hours…. 

Matt Gelso putting peanut butter on his burger? Hum… can’t knock it until I try it and well, I didn’t try it. 

Was this really necessary?
Okay, this was HILARIOUS. Right before we left, Eric and Reese made a deal:  Reese could smash a rotten tomato in Erik’s face and Erik would earn $5.  An amount, which he pointed out would otherwise take him 30 minutes to earn at his $10/hr job.  This situation goes to show that we’re not a rich sport, but what we lack in dollars, we make up for in passion!

The Sun Valley crew missed the tomato incident but luckily Reese caught it on film…. 
Speaking of Reese, check out his latest video account of our final glacier camp of the year (including the tomato incident) here: 

Hiking off the glacier on the first beautiful day… 

It was great having Sun Valley (SVSEF) join us for this camp.  Top l-r: Mike Sinnott, Matt Gelso, Chelsea Holmes. Bottom l-r: Morgan Arritola & Colin Rodgers.

Of course the APU crew needed a team shot too. (The rest of our folks flew down… ) Fitz, me, Erik BJ, Pat PJ, Reese and E-Flora

Gelso sports his plastic bag “diper-slide” for Gus’s Crack, the infamous steep pitch of heather which is often easier to slide on your butt than try to hike… 

In the car we found this waiting! Not necessarily standard fair but it sure tasted good at the moment! 
And then there was JUNEAU…… 
After this structured, ski-only schedule it was time to get out of the Anchorage Bowl and see some new territory.  I realized that between summer school, glacier skiing, and intensive training I haven’t left South Central Alaska since May.  While I enjoy being home, the redundancy of my days, (especially when it’s bad weather) starts to get to me and I need a change of pace.  So, a couple of weeks ago I booked a mileage ticket to visit my good friend Sarah Schoen in Juneau.  While I have lived in Alaska for six years now there are still many, many parts that I hadn’t seen and I was curious to explore the South East.  

Now, I know that the weather in the South East is unpredictable at ANY time of the year but after spending almost a week there I am AMAZED at how much it rained.  In many ways, it made ol’ANC look like dry Arizona in comparison. I resorted to borrowing Sarah’s “Rain Moo-moo” which was actually a rubber Helly Hansen rain jacket that went down to my mid-shin. On Friday night we attended Juneau’s First Friday event, an art opening where all the downtown galleries and shops have open houses to display local artist’s pieces.  At least half of everyone in attendance were wearing Xtratufs, (brown rubber boots) even at the wine tasting event: Rubber in Juneau is a Nordic Skier’s Spandex, a surfer’s board shorts or a Seattleite’s favorite coffee mug. 
Check out this AWESOME fence!
Despite the dismal weather (I experienced THREE whole hours of visibility during my six day stay) I had a great time visiting with Sarah and she was as always, a wonderful, gracious host. 

Sarah picked and pickled “fiddle heads” which I’ve always wanted to try.  They are young fern sprouts and an Alaskan delicacy. 
Here I am with the Mendenhall glacier in the background during our 3 hours of clear weather! 

My visit to Juneau also gave me a chance to catch up with my friend Abby Lowell (McCallister).  Abby and I raced for PNSA, Pacific Northwest together.  In fact, we raced the J2 relay together back in the day.  In this picture Abby is actually 8.5 months pregnant.  Up until last week she had been running an average of 35 miles/week while pregnant!  Abby is actually the editor for the Juneau Empire and blogged about the experience.  Perhaps the most interesting blog title is called, “No, it does not bounce all over the place.”  Check out Abby’s blog about running pregnant HERE.
It’s funny what people do in order to adapt to bad weather.  Juneau folks definitely have the creative bug….. Theme parties are big: one night there was a fried chicken party at a bar.  Sarah also told me about a theme party her parents attended in Juneau when they were young where everyone showed up in their swim suits with a lawn chair…… the heat was turned up and they sipped on Margaritas; all the while it was pissing rain and perpetually 50 degrees outside.  Instead of either of these options we chose to pick blueberries in a downpour:

Now it’s time to head back to ANC to get back to work. I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me with fall classes, a 2.5 week visit from my brother, a three-week block of power training and then it’s off to Park City for a two-week altitude/sunshine training camp. Two months of preparation left and it’s off to Europe for race season! It’s going to happen quickly!! Tighten your seat belts! 
My Labor-Day ski from the end-of-the-road to Sarah’s office in Auke Bay… 
Also, if you’re looking for something to do (!) check out this recent “Pro-Workout” I did with Faster Skier the other day here:
Until later, enjoy the fall and thanks for reading and following along!
Holly 🙂

Holly Brooks

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