Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hvem Kjører Bil Nummer Tolv?

There’s only one freshman left in the “Meet the Freshman” interview series – Synnøve Bruland.  Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to get together with her for an interview yet, and I’m currently traveling out of state for about a week.  So in order to satisfy your intense curiosity about Synnøve and your thirst for frequent, consistent blog posts even while I'm traveling in the desert, I’ve dug through the archives and have found an old interview Synnøve did in 2012.

First, some background:  Here on the UAA Ski Team, we occasionally have situations when the coaches aren’t available to drive the vans to practice or races.  For example, the coach may need to miss a practice or perhaps the athletes need to drive from the team house to the race venue, but the coaches are already onsite testing skis so aren't available to drive. For this reason, the athletic department gives permission for some athletes to drive team vehicles.  To get on the approved list, however, the athlete must first go through a rigorous screening process.  Driving records are perused, references are tracked down and interviewed.  The physical, emotional and psychological makeup of each prospective driver is assessed. Phone lines are tapped, e-mails are hacked. CIA, FBI, NSA, BSS and KGB data is gathered and sent to NASA for verification, analysis and processing.  In addition, old archived news reports are analyzed to find out if there could be anything in the prospective driver-athlete’s past which may preclude them from being the courteous, proficient, defensive driver that their teammates need to get them to practices and races in a safe and timely manner.  Usually, these investigations go just fine.  But occasionally they do not. 
Take, for instance, the case of Synnøve.
After hours and hours of intensive, exhaustive internet research, poring over the records of news agencies, television networks and printed media, my minions brought me this little gem from Norway:

According to a followup news article here, it all worked out OK in the end because the Volkswagen in question had "superinsurance".  But the video leaves me with one question:  Why was the warning ribbon strung across the street halfway down the hill where it was too late to stop anyone from attempting to drive down it?  I bet Synnøve was wondering that, too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gold Cord

Hey, are you like me?  Do you like videos?  Then why not click the link below and let Etienne Richard guide you from Gold Cord Mine down the switchbacks to Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass.  Come along for the ride- it'll be fun!
And as always, there's loads more UAA Ski Team video at: UAA Ski Team Videos

Chez Dunlap

Today was a two-workout day at Hatcher Pass.  But we needed to rest between outings, and hanging out in the vans in the parking lot for five hours just doesn't seem like good ski team policy.  Rhonda and Russ Dunlap invited the team to come to their house in Palmer near the bottom of Hatcher Pass to eat, rest, and relax between workouts.  It turned out to be a very good, productive, and fun day of training, and we couldn't have had such a good day of skiing without Rhonda and Russ' hospitality.  Thank you so much!

We started out with some classic skiing:
Coach Andrew and the women's team

Erik Bjornsen and Lukas Ebner were freshman teammates on the UAA Ski Team back in 2010. Lukas is now a senior and Erik is on the US Ski Team. Erik joined us for today's training, and I know Lukas enjoyed the opportunity to do some training with his old teammate.

I wasn't going to take this picture until Andrew pointed out that the sunbeam was focused directly on the Dunlap's house - and brunch!

Brunchtime!  If this was my house, there would have been a few slices of bread on the counter, a jar of peanut butter, maybe a little jelly, and a bucket of water to drink.  Fortunately, we were at Russ and Rhonda Dunlap's house.  We feasted on quiche, salmon, and BACON!  I haven't eaten that well in a long time.

Post-brunch, there were songs to be sung by the fireside.  Here's Etienne and Russ; dueling guitars on "Horse With No Name".

Second workout - skating.

Marine and coach Nicole.

Coaches meeting - Nicole and Andrew discussing the issues of the day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday Morning in the Tree Streets

It's a familiar place for current and former Seawolf skiers - rollerski intervals in the "Tree Streets" on the Anchorage Hillside:
Patricia and Marine

Marine and Pati

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Merci Beaucoup!

Last summer, when Lasse left town, he stored his things at my house for a couple weeks after he moved out of his place and before he got on the plane to Denmark. When he finally packed up his stuff and went to the airport, he left me a pair of his Swenor rollerskis, saying they were faster rollerskis than he he needed this fall in France.  And besides, he said, I'd need a faster pair of rollerskis so I could keep up with the boys on interval days this fall. I really appreciated it and I went for some nice workouts on those skis during the summer and fall with the team.

But there was a weak link - my ski boots. I was wrapping my feet in 1991 technology, and 22 years have taken their toll on those old Alpina green and purple ski boots. It had gotten to the point that even duct tape couldn't save them. That's why I was so excited when Marine offered me a new pair of Rossignol ski boots so I could keep using Lasse's rollerskis, and so that I can use the team's fleet of test skis this winter with Andrew and Nicole, and help our NNN-shod skiers test their skis before races. (Personally, I've been on the Salomon SNS system for 20 years now.)

So I want to offer a huge thank you to Lasse for the rollerskis and Marine for the ski boots, which fit perfectly!  If you two are still reading this blog 20 years from now, and I'm sure you will be, chances are I'll still be rocking those Swenor skis from Lasse (with replacement wheels perhaps) and the Rossignol boots from Marine. If you've seen my wardrobe you know I'm not kidding.

Thank you Lasse and Marine!

The blogger testing new gear.

Friday, October 18, 2013

UAA Ski Team Media Guide

You've been anxiously awaiting its release, but the wait is finally over; the UAA Ski Team Media Guide has arrived and is on bookshelves everywhere!
Take a gander at it here:   Link to Media Guide

And in other news, we did this this morning:
Photo Credit: Sparky Anderson

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Most Knowledgeable Freshman in the World - Mackenzie Kanady

Yesterday at Hatcher Pass, I skied several laps with Lukas.  Eventually, the conversation turned (inevitably) to freshmen, and I ridiculed Lukas (a senior) for not demanding that the freshmen on the team wait on him hand and foot, as is their prescribed burden.  I noted that I had never seen Alex Loan shining Lucky’s shoes, nor had I seen Synnøve bringing him a glass of water. It seemed to me that Lukas, in letting the freshman off the hook like that, is in fact shirking his responsibilities as a senior and a team leader, and that nothing good could come of it. To which Lucky replied, “But these freshmen don’t consider themselves freshmen!  They don’t actually even believe that they are freshman!  They all have fancy descriptions of their class standing.  Andrew Arnold considers himself a “transfer student”. Alex Loan is a self-described “local”. Synnøve thinks she’s a “mercenary ski racer on loan from Norway”.  So any time I try to tell them to do stuff for me because I’m a senior, I first have to go through a whole argument with them about the definition of “freshman”.  It just isn’t worth the hassle!” I advised Lukas to direct any team members with any questions about their class standing to the ultimate authority on such matters – the UAA Seawolf Athletics web page, which lists all the athletes on the team, several of whom have a big fat F for ‘Freshman’ printed next to their name for all to see:  Link to Ski Team Roster

As for Mackenzie, she reckons she already completed her freshman year of college a couple years ago in Montana.  Then she figures she was a freshman again last year when she went to Norway to study at the university in Trondheim. By Mackenzie’s reckoning, if she’s still a freshman, then she’s the “most knowledgeable freshman in the world.”  These are her own words, as announced to everyone in the team van immediately after the interview below.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Flat Light

Anchorage is pretty chinooky today – warm, wet, and windy.  So this morning we climbed into the team van and ascended 3,500 feet to Hatcher Pass, where the rain turned to snow.  It’s been snowing for days there, and there’s now three or four feet on the ground. The snowstorm didn't seem to be letting up at all while we were there.
Patricia and Mackenzie

Coach Andrew and Lukas


Pati and Mack

I know it looks like Lukas is just standing there, posing like a skier, but he was actually skiing past me when I took this picture.  UAA skiers don't pose.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scenes from the forest

Here's what we did this morning.  It was not an easy workout.

Marine & Mackenzie

Lucky and Andrew. Lukas was truly a workhorse today!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meet the Freshman - Étienne Richard

Here's another in the "Meet the Freshman" video series.  Ideally, this edition was supposed to feature one of new women on the team, but I'm finding it difficult to get my hooks into them, and I haven't managed to track either of them down for an interview.  But I did find Étienne out kicking around at Hatcher Pass yesterday, and this is what he had to say for himself:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hatcher Pass

It's that time of year again - time to go to Hatcher Pass!  It seems like only weeks since the last time I went skiing at Hatcher pass, but it's actually been over four months.  Looking back at this blog, I see that the last time Hatcher Pass was groomed for skiing was at the end of May. Today, we were skiing on around two feet of snow on the upper parts of the loop.

This morning, the team put the rollerskis aside in favor of some on-snow training. Here are a few photos from this morning's fun:

How's the coach supposed to test kick waxes effectively during the race season if he's not in race shape? Here's Coach Kastning doing some strength drills.


OK, it's a little blurry, but you get the idea.  Marine and Nicole excited to see snow.

Lucky in his natural habitat.

Scenes from the team van...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

All-Star Weekend

The first time I met Tobias Schwoerer was mid-summer sometime in the late 90’s.  I was living next to Kincaid Park at the time; I’d just come back from a run and was getting ready to go to work.  My neighbor knocked on my door to ask if I wanted to go out for a run in Kincaid Park with him and a young German tourist, supposedly a good skier, who was headed for the wilderness of the Brooks Range in a few hours but wanted to get a little exercise before leaving for the North Slope. He introduced me to Toby, who didn’t seem too eager to stand around and chat – there was training and traveling that needed to be done.  For the few days that Toby was in Anchorage, he stayed at the home of Greg Cress, who was the UAA Ski Team coach at the time.  Toby had spent some time on the German National Team, so I can only imagine that Greg must have been salivating over this potential UAA ski talent, and was probably working him over pretty good, trying to get him to come to UAA and join the ski team.

(Luc Mehl photo)

I don’t remember when I ran into Toby next, but by that time he’d been roaming all over the Brooks Range, was falling in love with Alaska’s wilderness, and had decided to come back to Alaska as a member of the UAA Ski Team.  I don’t need to tell you about Toby’s accomplishments as a skier and runner at UAA.  You can read about those here:  GoSeawolves Article  But I can tell you that those statistics and accolades only scratch the surface of what Toby is all about.

Flying in to a climbing trip in the St. Elias Range. (Trond Bjørn Jensen photo)
Toby has pulled off some really impressive competitive feats outside of the NCAA realm.  Soon after he first came to Alaska, I remember calling Toby on the phone one sunny summer afternoon and telling him about the Bird Ridge race, an uphill-only hiking race which back in those days was held on a Tuesday evening.  Toby said he’d just come back from a rollerski workout and was kind of tired out, but since it was a nice sunny evening and he’d never been up Bird Ridge, maybe he’d go and participate in the race anyway.  He didn’t know how long the course was, so when he got to the top and they told him to stop after about 40 minutes of climbing, he had been under the impression there was a lot more climbing to go and had been pacing himself accordingly.  Nevertheless, he set a record in the race that evening - and never raced it again.  Mount Marathon a few years later – pretty much the same story.  Didn’t set a record, but came as close as anyone to a record that had been standing for 25+/- years.  He won the race (by a lot) and hasn’t been back since.

The Eastern Alaska Range.

I consider myself fortunate to have been able to join Toby for a bunch of adventures – into the mountains, over glacial ice, into the woods, on motorcycles, to rock concerts… but Toby’s adventures are often more ambitious than what I’m looking for. I’m usually satisfied just to be out in the wilderness somewhere, enjoying the sights and sounds of the natural world around me.  But Toby is an explorer. He is very curious about the world around him. He likes to discover the undiscovered.  He likes to attempt to go places where he’s not sure if it will be possible to go.  This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s risking death to try to achieve something that nobody has the guts to try.  But Toby loves maps, and when he looks at maps, he gets very curious about what lies there, on the surface of the land that those maps represent.  If you want to try something fun, go over to Toby’s house and mention an Alaska wilderness trip that you’d like to take – any trip – and see what happens. See how long it takes Toby to say, “Yes!  I’ve actually been thinking about something like that.  Let me show you what I want to try… I think it could be done…” In addition to Toby’s many Alaska packrafting adventures, mountaineering trips, and ski trips, Toby once hiked/ran the length of the western Alps, traveling light with just a small tarp to sleep under, from the northern side of the Alps all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. (You can read about more - a lot more - at Toby's Blog of Wild Adventures)

Toby in the St. Elias Range. (Trond Bjørn Jensen photo)

Toby is now married with a young child, and works as an economist for the Institute for Social and Economic Research here in Anchorage.  It’s a job that suits him well because it allows him to satisfy his deep curiosity about the world around him.  He gets to use his analytical skills to research and investigate Alaska’s most pressing current economic questions.  And he’s exploring new personal experiences, too. He's on the executive board for Anchorage's orienteering club, and he is often asked to speak at ski clinics. The last time I spoke with Toby, he was in the middle of putting more insulation in the crawl space of his new home, and telling me that his son, Suvan, was learning to crawl.

In the St. Elias Mountains. (Trond Bjørn Jensen photo)
Toby was recently inducted into UAA’s Seawolf Hall of Fame, which is no surprise considering his accomplishments on the ski trails, running trails, and in the classroom.  The ski team (as well as the rest of the University’s athletic teams) always attend the induction ceremony.  But this year’s induction ceremony on Sunday, October 13, should be more interesting than usual for the UAA Ski Team.  And no matter what facts and figures we hear about Toby at the induction ceremony, I’m sure they will only scratch the surface of Toby’s character.

Congratulations to Toby Schwoerer for his induction into UAA's Seawolf Hall of Fame!  It's well deserved!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


**Achtung** - This post has little, if anything, to do with the UAA Ski Team - **Achtung**

Sometimes having a job gets in the way of having fun.  But sometimes the job is the fun. Last week I needed to miss the whole week of ski practice for work, which is a drag considering that two of the workouts were described by Andrew as: "the best hiking workout (Falls Creek), and the best running workout (Kincaid Park) that the UAA Nordic Team has done in the past three years".

But Coach Kastning gave me an excused absence for the week, so I flew down to the corner of the state known as the "Alaska Panhandle" to outsiders, or simply "Southeast" to Alaskans. I spent a few days traveling by boat in Petersburg, Yakutat and Cordova, exploring the coastline and the rain forest in the area, inventorying remote houses and cabins.
We had to fly a few laps around Petersburg before landing to allow the fog to clear enough so the pilot could find the runway.

Our transportation for much of the week. I swear I remember my boss telling me earlier this summer we were going to be on a "yacht"...

Rain forest in Wrangell Narrows, near Petersburg

A fixer-upper. Maybe this is the "yacht" my boss was talking about.

Not all the places we needed to go were easily accessible by boat, so I needed to spend one sunny day buzzing around in this Hughes 500. I like airplanes, but I love helicopters.

Petersburg Creek with morning fog.

Farragut Bay in Frederick Sound.

Petersburg, with Devil's Thumb in the background, rising out of the Stikine Ice Cap.
I had been hoping to do a little surfing while in Yakutat but there was a storm, and surfing seemed like a bad idea, especially for a novice like me.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tour of Anchorage

Today we took a lap around the city's paved multi-use trails on our rollerskis.  The women's route went a little over 40km.  The boys probably went around 60+/-km.

We start early on this team.  The bridges were still frozen in the morning.

About as close to sea level as you can get.

A quick photo during a drink stop at Lake Hood. Marine, Pati, Mackenzie, Synnøve.

Lake Hood - largest floatplane base in the world, and the only one with a control tower.

The workout ended at the Kastning Kitchen, where Andrew and Nicole had been preparing breakfast while the team skied.  Thanks to the coaches!