Sunday, December 15, 2013

Not Quite There. Yet.

After some days and some illness in the north country of Scandinavia, it was fortunately time to head back to Davos, Switzerland. The trip to Norway wasn't totally without redemption, as a top-10 in the Norwegian Cup got me some World Cup starts in Davos and Asiago, Italy. Sometimes the north can be nice, but this time I was not sad to leave at all.

With the approaching days, I would recover and get in a handful of good training sessions.

Here's one of those days, in bluebird conditions with the Estonian sprinters and the Swiss Power Sprint team. Here, we are getting ready for an impromptu prologue as part of a Wednesday form-sharpening workout. I felt great, and thought I was ready for the big race over the weekend. I'm missing the shape, and maybe more the right feeling at the moment, though. On Sunday, I missed racing in the rounds by just under 2 seconds. It's not an incredible amount, but in this game every second -- or every hundredth of a second -- counts. My flatmate Mauro Gruber missed scoring his first-ever World Cup points by the smallest of margins, one one-hundredth of a second.

Fortunately, I get one more weekend of chances in Asiago to demonstrate what I've been working on and perfecting all these days, months, and years. This picture of an eagle's impression captured in the snow shows what I look to do next time, be an opportunist with the opportunities I get. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

After Davos, Before Beitostolen

The old steam train rolling up from Realp (SUI) into the Furka Pass.

If the days haven't been totally packed since the last time catching up on the training preparations from the glacier environment of Ramsau am Dachstein, the days have been satisfying. After Austria, I headed back to Davos, Switzerland with the leading edge sprinters of Switzerland. I was soon joined again by the Estonian sprint team in Davos, in addition to both the sprinters and all-arounders of Switzerland. It's been nothing less than incredible to spend the fall with Bettina here, to get to know some longtime competitors on a more personal level, then knock heads in the heavy training days.

File photo, from Seizer Alm, Italy.
The snow came, if ever so lightly. Fortunately, SwissSki harvest the spring snow in the Fluela Valley, then cover the white stuff with tarps and sawdust over the summer months. When the calendar turned to November, a 1.5 kilometer track opened on the top of the Davos World Cup track. Maybe its the new impulse of getting to glide on snow, or the early years running track and field, but I didn't mind putting in lap after lap on the harvest snow loop. The terrain was perfect for remembering how to push and corner and carry speed between transitions, though a little too heavy for double-ski training days. 

Unfortunately, on the day I left for Norway, the defending Olympic and World Champion from Switzerland Dario Cologna tore three ligaments in his foot just after leaving his house for a night run. Dario was in great condition, and is a true professional athlete. It's never good to see someone like Dario meet such misfortune. I really hope the healing goes well, and we can see Dario at his best in Sochi. 

Photo stolen from the FB.
The last days I've been kicking it in the small neighborhood of Asmarka, near the ski town (and 1994 Olympic city) of Lillehammer, Norway. Its been great to meet up with my old friends of Team Sjusjoen. Petter Hagen has been making delicious meals, but I'm pretty psyched to leave mid-week next week to the opening races. I'll do my best to provide the story behind the story soon after, so check back next week for sure.

Team Sjusjoen reunion dinner at Hotel Hagen. The opener? A mango and rocket salad, topped with Norwegian salmon and a citrus zest vinagrette. Good food. And good times.

All Best, 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bridger S.F. Luminaries: Heather McPhie

One thing that makes Bridger Ski Foundation such a great organization is that they put serious support behind all kinds of skiing - alpine, nordic, freestyle, biathlon back in the day. I'm pretty sure if women's nordic combined ever made it to the five rings competition Bozeman would build a jump, start a team, and help support some serious talent for the red, white, and blue. Which brings us to Heather McPhie.

Heather McPhie is a talent just entering her prime. Just read that bio - a handful of World Cup wins, 3rd in last season's World Cup overall, requisite RedBull Sponsorship. Don't be surprised to see Heather sharing the cover of the Wheaties box later this spring. 

Action card layout by  DMLEUSCHEN DESIGN  from BSF's Countdown to Sochi Event

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bridger S.F. Luminaries: Hank Kashiwa

I first met Hank through his son, Hennie on the back porch of the Nystad brother's infamous Denver house. For a couple spring breaks during my University of Utah days I'd head to Denver (and perhaps the Black Hole, or some other Southern Utah locale for a desert adventure) to visit friends during a long weekend. What I remember most about Henni and Hank was how much energy both father and son had, and how great they were with guitars and lyrics. 

I first heard about the Yellowstone Club through Hank, the uber-exclusive resort on 13,600 acres outside Bozeman. Big hitters like Bill Gates, Justin Timberlake, Bill Murray and the like call the Yellowstone Club (probably one of many) homes away from home. At the time, I remember being, "Really, a place like the Yellowstone Club and a private world-class alpine resort only open to members could even exist?" Although I've still never been within the Yellowstone Club's pearly gates, I heard it really does exist.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 100 Countdown with Bridger S.F. Luminaries: Scott Schmidt

With 100 days until the big show in Sochi, I thought to take an Olympian or pioneer of skiing from the Bridger Ski Foundation every day this week. Each of these individual's passion and dedication has helped paved the trail for myself and all the others to come. 

With Scot Schmidt I first remember him from the film The Blizzard of Aahs where Mr. Schmidt and Glen Plake brought a whole new attitude to alpine skiing in America. Seeing these two for the first time drop out of the cable car from the top of Chamonix's Aguille du Midi, then proceeded to ski harder than I'd then ever imagined, must have opened many kids' minds to the allure of big mountain skiing. I know it more than piqued my interest.   

Action card layout by  DMLEUSCHEN DESIGN  from BSF's Countdown of Sochi Event

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Snow in the Hills, Holsteins in the Stables

Somedays the light is just right, and you were lucky enough to have packed the camera in the back pocket. Somedays, this extra pound of metal and synthetic silver salts isn't a burden, and you have an image to remind you of where your strides took you. Here, the road up the Dischma to Durrboden doesn't disappoint.

With snow in the hills, the cows throughout Graubunden have now made their trek back down to the lower elevations in town. Thank you for all the time-honored work, the gruyere cheese has been mighty tasty.

If I could ever offer any expertise in picking a book from the cold winter months ahead, it would have to be The Lonely Breed. Written by none other than the brilliant athletics man from Australia Ron Clarke, The Lonely Breed chronicles twenty-one characters of the sport of running. Mr. Clarke's writing is sharp and introspective. He also fills the sentences with insight only a seventeen-time world record holder could possess. Consider this opening on the Kiwi Murray Halberg:

If one word can begin to describe Murray Halberg, it is perhaps ruthless. His whole attitude before a race, his demeanor, his bearing, all seemed to indicate to his opponents his utter invincibility. There is no doubt that Murray was a tough competitor. He was perhaps more feared by his opponents than any other world champion has ever been. 

There was something about the man which seemed to say 'I will win this race.' His reputation was always one of the tough, hardened and bitter competitor, who would give no quarter and expect none. And yet, when you get to know him over a quiet beer, or in an Olympic Village, he is the most friendly of characters -alive with personality, ready with a joke at any time, possessing a dry and remarkable sense of humor. It was my fortune to meet and run against Murray Halberg, and I feel he is one of the great athletes of our time. ... 

Here in this chapter, I  try to illustrate the very invincibility of Halberg. The race selected is not one of his wonderful wins in the Empire or Olympic Games, but rather one which he should not have won - but he knew somehow that he would win, and so did his opponents.
                                                                  *     *      *

Most of the hours of the days here follow the rhythm of the training cycle. I'm quite fortunate to have the opportunity to train with many different teams. This allows me to never check or curb my enthusiasm. It's pretty easy to put the whole of yourself into a session of 5x8min intervals when you have Toni Livers and Dario Cologna and others doing the very same thing you are, chasing the very same feelings, at that very same moment. 

Until the next time. -T

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Scenes from the Road: Ramsau am Dachstein Edition

The sleepy Austrian village of Ramsau am Dachstein holds a special place in both mine and many others' ski racing career. My first ever international trip, to the 2000 World Junior Championships in Slovakia's High Tatras began with five days in Ramsau to acclimate before the races began. For the last three years, I've spent two weeks in October skiing the serpentine trails atop the Dachstein Glacier. "The place where champions go to put in some heavy work" is how I would most succinctly describe Ramsau. I know of no Olympic champion - ever - that has not melted at lease few snowflakes with their skis at this venue. If there is, let him or her be named!

Ramsau rests at 1200 meters. The base of the gondola resides at 1700 meters. The top of the gondola rises to 2700 meters. The top spire of Dachstein reaches 2996 meters into the air.

Dachstein has been doing some home improvements. Today, you can ride to the top either in the glass enclosed gondola, or atop the gondola in a steel cage, open to the elements. Riding atop the gondola is highly recommended to those without a great fear of heights, or feats of engineering. Above, the tram's station awaits.

In my limited experience, snow cover at the Dachstein has never been better. Everyday, we skied on the the big loop, which took about a half-hour to ski. 

The last two years, I joined the Norwegian outfit Team Sjusjoen in Ramsau. This year, I teamed up with the Swiss Power Sprint Team. Here I pose with (L-R): Mauro Gruber, Eligius Tambornino, myself, Martin Jager. The Swiss Power team is led by Christof Schmid. In addition to coaching skiers, Mr. Schmid cut his coaching chops working in track & field, most notably the 800 meter world champion from 2001, Andre Bucher.

The Estonian National Sprint Team and Swiss Power combine forces at training camps throughout the year. This is a pretty sweet collaboration or national teams working together. It's also for this openness that I suspect I should be greatful that the two teams are happy to have me join them in their Olympic preparations. The Swiss Sprinters are great skaters. The Estonians are most talented in classic skiing. To have both teams to challenge each other with is an ideal situation. For those University of Fairbanks fans out there, NCAA alumni Vahur Tappan oversees the Estonian's technique and preparation, with input from Mr. Schmid.  In the picture above, Kein Einaste takes on Marco Kilp in table tennis. The Estonians ruled on the small table, the Swiss on the tennis hardcourt.

Alaska has its Bridge to Nowhere. Dacstein must have been jealous. Now they have their own Stairway to Nowhere.

Until next time, Ciaoti und Viel Spass!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Postcards from Helvetica

After almost a month across the Atlantic, I haven't sent any handwritten notes to Mr. Haberberger's 6th Grade Reading & Writing class. Fortunately, I'd been picking up postcards, and writing notes while traveling from Davos to  Andermatt, Switzerland, and the Italian mountain towns of Seiser Alm and Livigno. With an eleven-day on-snow training camp coming up tomorrow in Ramsau am Dachstein in Austria I had a rest day to catch up on trips to town and the post office. With Mr. Peck having moved from Peshastin, Washington to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I wanted a class closer to my hometown to connect with. Fortunately, Carl Haberberger and his wife Anastasia moved back to Leavenworth, with Carl teaching down at Orchard Middle School, a two-minute spin on the bike from my parent's house.

A nice benefit from getting to travel is seeing the different architecture that places in particularly harsh environments foster. In tight alpine valleys like the Engadin in Switzerland, not to mention the difficulty of reaching an Italian town like Livigno in the winter months - or a four month ag growing season - towns that now mesh luxury with high alpine have centuries-long history of regional poverty. This made building dwellings where form followed function more than a design ideal. When I see the architecture of places like these, I wonder what my friend-turned-architect Syndicate Smith would have to specifically say about each of these places. When I see a house of his making with his trademark clean simplicity, I can't help but think he's been inspired some by various alpine architecture. 

Last time, I wrote a little report from Nordic Weekend in Andermatt. The final race. the "berglauf" finished atop the Gotschener Pass, beside this lake. I stiched together several photos to try and capture the scene in more detail. At the top, I ran into some Americans from Boulder, Colorado cycling through the Alps for the fourth time. I could tell, though, they were more than a little uneasy about all the flooding and destruction going in their Colorado backyards.

Coming back from Nordic Weekend, I step my first steps in the Swiss National Park. If I was king for a day, I'd make sure there were than just the one national parks here in Switzerland that sits beside Zernez and the Ofenpass. I think Teddy Roosevelt, for whom this blog is named after, would agree as well.

The Breaking Bad finale awaits on Sunday. I know my mind wanders from time to time to try and glimpse the future of the destruction on Walter White. What about yours? 

Finally, a cool little story about Alan Webb and Shalane Flanagan getting all In The Arena with Portland State Cross Country.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scenes from the Road: The Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland

For the second consecutive year, I've had the opportunity to race the Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland. It's always cool to travel to unique towns and locales. Andermatt is certainly not the exception. The tight, green valley sits below the three towering passes of the Gotthard, the Furka, and the Oberalp.  Andermatt is so geographically isolated, Switzerland built fortresses into the granite mountains to serve as its last stronghold against foreign invasion.  This kanton (county) of Switzerland identifies itself with the bull. This white steer head was definitely the coolest one I found in my short time in town.

The race series got underway with a 3.5km prologue on the military grounds of Realp. This track is the official training grounds of the Swiss biathlon team. The weatherman said it was supposed to be 50km winds with pelting rain. The breeze was in the air, though the rain thankfully didn't yet arrive with the opening stage. With these race photos, I have to give a big shout out to photographer Urs Steger for sending them my way.

The highlight of the three-races for me was the classic hillclimb on a crazy Euro country road that ran up the valley beside the Furka Pass road. Last year, I finished this race totally gassed, and satisfied with the performance. This year, I was again right on the limit, but 40 seconds closer to Dario than last year. I was stoked with my performance, and the way my body was responding to my first real sustained ski-like race of the preparation season.

The weekend finished with a punishing 8km mountain run. Heading to the early morning race start, I passed the most impressive goat devil carved in bas relief into the mountain side. My companions told me the legend of this figure comes from a Swiss herdsman making a deal with the devil to make a bridge across the brutal Reuss river. The Devil offered to build the bridge, though he insisted on the soul of the first to cross as repayment. The Herdsman fooled the devil by driving a goat from his herd across.  

This Devil's Bridge allowed people to traverse from the Milano region of Italy to the Rhine, and thus North Sea of Scandinavia. Spending more time here in Central Europe I'm slowly discovering just how important North to South routes through the Alps are, both in times of carriages and cars. 

Heading back to Davos, Bettina took me for the first time to Switzerland's one and only national park. There is snow in this neighborhood these days. Maybe winter isn't too far off. I will glide on the real thing again in just over a week, atop the Dachstein Glacier. I'm pretty sure there will be a story or two to tell then. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Death Valley Race Article: For the Hell of it

"You can't see anything from a car. You've got to crawl, on hand and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark you trail, you'll see something maybe," begins the latest article by my old roommate and college running teammate Colby Frazier.

Vintage photo from the cheap seats of Cal-Berkeley's football stadium, aka Tightwad Hill.

"How far to the main road?" The article continues.

"Careless worlds. A multitude of implications. A lot to contemplate out here in the middle of Death Valley. I spit, wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes and run on, upward toward the summit, into a naked blue sky that cares little for answers."

 Colby's latest article just made it from print to digital with Trail Runner Magazine. If you want to read a little more, you can check out the article here.

A photo from For the Hell of it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Scenes from the Road: Here, There, Pretty Much Everywhere

After a month away from writing here, I have a little catching up to do. But where to begin seems a suitable question. There's the annual two week training camp in Canmore with the Bridger S.F. And the breathtakingly quick two days of physiology testing back in Utah, to the ten days back home in the Northwest, which lead right into last week's training camp in the Italian Dolomites. And now, I woke up in the Swiss mountain town of Davos, my home away from home.

Post Sulfur Mountain training session with Bridger SF along the Bow River. I could hardly believe some of the younger one went swimming that day. It was so so cold I think I saw snowflakes in the mountains above. Even when running up the mountain, I was thinking how nice it was going to feel to put on a dry shirt at the end.

The view of Antelope Island from the Great Salt Lake's southern border. In addition to getting on the treadmill and chugging along until the machine spit me out the back, crumpled with a blessed mix of fatigue, lactic acid, relief, and satisfaction, I got in one last mountain run with Colby and Nephi. It's an interesting experience to say goodbye to some of the closest people in your life for six months of your life. 

You know the saying: "There's no place like home." It's because there's no place like home. Central Washington is a unique combination of mountain, sage, and pine. While home and back with (near) sea-level air, I pushed a high-intensity training block.  Kinetic movement just feels so good sometimes. It feels especially good while moving super-fast over the roads and trails that I have built up a close acquaintance during the "trials of miles, miles of trials" as Quentin Cassidy once said.

Parting shot from my time in the Northwest: Mt. Rainier emerges from the clouds. So long Mom, Dad, Kari, Sten, Max, and everyone else back home. Hello and Goodbye. Until the next time, that is.

The Seiser Alm scene from the car. The narrow roads that lead up to Seiser Alm lighten in grade, for a moment. Here I follow Simen Sveen up, with Lars Amund Toftegaard running support. In addition to these two Norwegian friends, the Norwegian national team (sprinters and distance) joined us in Seiser Alm. This didn't help my German speaking education much (in this part of Italy you rarely hear Italian, and only the biggest of road signs will include the Italian with the requisite German), but I got the chance for the first time in six months to speak some Norwegian again. Experiences like this make me want to be more diligent with foreign language learning. Only time will tell if this "September 1st Resolution" holds strong this fall and winter.

Another great photo, compliments of "Toftis." I have almost reached the top, and the end, of a controlled intensity session up the serpentine mountain road. Sveen, one of the best uphill skiers in the world (ex: first Norwegian at this year's rollerski Blink Festival) was just a little farther up the road here.

Here's a little poster I put together for the people who support my ski racing gig. When I sent this, two-time Olympian Dan Simoneau wrote back.

Seiser Alm is sacred ground. It's the site of the only World Cup 4x10 relay ever won by the US. It's the site where Kochie won the WOrld Cup and I clinched 7th overall. Throw some dirt over your shoulder. Breathe deep. Draw strength from history. Here you don't have to imagine greatness. It's real. Yes, great things can be done. They have been done. Your turn. Suck in the air. Believe. Know.

Until the next time, Viel Spass! -T.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Scenes from the Road: Heading West

The other day I made it up to Alberta mountain town of Canmore for a training camp with Bridger SF. The venue sits just to the south of Banff National Park, and has an earned reputation as a burly, beautiful place full of bears. It's also the hometown of some of skiing's elite. Yesterday, Bettina and I stopped by the Paintbox Lodge to say hi to (2006 Olympic Silver Medalist) Sara Renner. Tonight, its off to dinner at Chandra Crawford's (2006 Olympic Gold Medalist) place in town.

Before leaving Deseret, I had to stop by my friend Colby's new place of employment, Uinta Brewing Company. Colby's a brewmaster there. One day I hope he joins the gold medal winners from the Great American Brew Festival, Icicle Brewing Company in Leavenworth.  

Colby even has a lab, though it doesn't resemble the one I remember in high school. Utah abolished some of the more antiquated brewing laws, allowing certain brewers to begin making higher point beverages, hence the use of old whiskey oak barrels to the brewing process. 

Before moving out, I had to meet up with my old Italian teammate from the University of Utah Ski Team days. When I told Marco what Colby was up to he said, "That sounds about right." When I told Colby about Marco's latest job as the U.S. brand manager for an winery from the homeland he said, "That sounds about right." Go figure. 

Heading north, I was en route to Bozeman, Montana. With Yellowstone and Old Faithful just to the east, one couldn't complain about the drive through the canyon to Big Sky Country. After several days with the ski team, I had one day back home in Washington before catching an aeroplane to Canada. I'm stoked to be in Canada now. I'm also really looking forward to getting back to life along the Columbia River, having a couple days back with the family, and running a bit with the Panthers of Wenatchee High. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

See Ya, Summer School

Summer might have officially begun just three weeks ago. However, tonight I feel a bit of accomplishment, and a bit change on the horizon. You see, today I finished up my last assignment for classes this summer. To earn my degree, a Master of Arts in Professional Communication from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, I am now just one class (Integrated Marketing Communication) and one project (working title: Legends) away. 

Especially working on this degree, I feel a bit like that old Johnny Cash song One Piece at a Time. Johnny's words go a little something like this:

One day I devised myself a planThat should be the envy of most any manI'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my handNow gettin' caught meant gettin' firedBut I figured I'd have it all by the time I retiredI'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand
Now when I graduate I'm pretty sure I won't be driving down Main in a long and black Cadillac. But it just might have something worth a hundred grand, just the same. I guess this is where I should give a shout-out to Westminster College and the Director Deb Vickery for putting together a great program for athletes to both study and compete at the highest levels. 
Roll on, Mighty Colorado, Roll on.

People and programs like this - or Amory Rowe and In The Arena - are some of the people behind the scenes who put in so much passion and work to help people put themselves in a position to succeed. 
Talking about success and sport, I like to check in from time to time with Team In The Arena. Today I see Kristin Hedstrom picked up second at this weekend's World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. Bonne Chapeau.
For all the ITA skiers, we have a few months before the racing season starts. Though for me the skiing stoke is soon going a little higher. With school out, I'm heading up to Bozeman, Montana to meet up with my ski club, Bridger Ski Foundation. From there, we'll head up to Canmore, Alberta for a training camp in Canmore, Alberta - an annual tradition.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Stars are Projectors

Summer feels like it is here. The rollerskis see plenty of use. The dirt's felt a few footsteps. But every once in a while, I dream. I dream of the next time I can get on the real white stuff. With the snow pack leaving the Cascades so fast this year, I wasn't able to make it onto the ski trails or for the early morning crust cruises above Bend like season's past. That's alright, though. The longform human engine building feels like it's right on track. And when I get back into these hills below the Dachstein Glacier, it will be that much more special.

With school easing up a bit and no late-spring ski trip in the plans, I am sure a rogue visit to the slot canyons in Utah will soon be calling for a southern excursion.

An image from last year's trip into Emery County's Black Hole. 

Before that, though, I will be heading back to Washington for five days. I have a directed study assignment for class, one that a Washington business wanted me back for so bad they had no problem flying me to the home stomping grounds to act as an "outside communication expert." It wasn't hard to say yes to this request. With Mr. Peck retiring from Osborn Elementary, I also look to meet up with a teacher or two and see if continuing the In The Arena work in their classrooms will make for a perfect fit. First on the list to visit is Carl Haberberger. I grew up with Carl in Leavenworth. These days, he's teaching at Orchard Middle School - which I believe is where my ITA and USST Alumni  teammate Laura Valaas once put in four years of learning.

Carl's also a coach at the local high school, Wenatchee High. I don't think I'd have much expertise to offer the running backs of the varsity football team this fall, but volunteering to help with the track team could be interesting. Here's Mr. Haberberger with Isaiah Brandt-Sims, the fastest high schooler in Washington two years running.

Next time I'm sure to update you on trip back to the Pacific Northwest.