Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Beginnings

Some people like to think the new year begins on January 1.  But I haven't felt that way for quite some time.  To my way of thinking, the new year starts right about now.

It's a new school year at UAA. Students are arriving on campus in preparation for the coming academic year. We have new UAA skiers arriving in Anchorage for the first time, and old ones returning for another year.

Preparation for the new school year takes many forms.  For example, Etienne's new used car is being scrupulously prepared for him to his exact specifications down at Arkansas Street Auto Works.

Don't worry about the lack of seats.  Etienne's car has the important stuff:  steering wheel, shifter, and hand brake. Comfort is irrelevant to a UAA Skier.

Head Coach Sparky is getting into the proper spirit of the season with his new license plate border declaring his love for cross-country skiing:

And everywhere I go in town, I see signs on businesses welcoming the Seawolf Ski Team back for another year of NCAA racing.  I snapped this picture as I was driving past a McDonalds this afternoon:

As for me, this is the time of year when I always get an irresistible urge to go camping in the Nevada desert, so there won't be any blog updates until I return from the wilderness in early September.  Happy training, Seawolves!

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Joke

Yes, that's all snow.  (And that's before it really started snowing.)
Any perceptive reader knows that the content of this blog mostly consists of wild exaggeration and the occasional outright lie.  But what I'm about to write here is the straight truth:  UAA is planning to host RMISA nordic college races on the new Girdwood nordic trail system this coming February!  This is very exciting stuff because these will be the first elite-level races ever on the new trails, and our team loves training there because they have good solid uphills and fast fun downhills. And they're in a rainforest so they get pummeled all the damn time by big fat wet rainy snowstorms.

Girdwood is known for its powder skiing.

When I called the corporate headquarters of the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club to confirm whether our dreams of Girdwood nordic racing were really going to come true this winter, I heard no denials.  So it's on!  

This moose needs fatter skis for more flotation.

Here's a link to an article about our racing schedule for this coming winter: Ski Racing RMISA Article link

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.56.01 AM

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Music Television

Remember when MTV used to show music videos and not much else?  Of course you don't, because that was back in the '80's and if you're reading this you probably weren't born yet.  But I remember it well.  (link and link)

While MTV may have mutated into nonstop reality shows, the UAA Ski Team has stayed true to its values after all these years, and still produces its own cutting-edge music videos.  Why, just this summer Andrew Kastning produced an epic video featuring the team in all its glory, playing in the snow, flying on jets, getting muddy, waking up early...

You can get all the satellite, cable, and pay-per-view TV subscriptions you want, but you're not going to find this video anywhere else.  We ought to be charging money to watch it.  But we're not, because Andrew's not in the music video business for the money.  He's in it because he's got soul. Check it out here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Last spring, Nicole DeYong decided not to return as UAA's Assistant Nordic Coach.  As an NCAA All-American  for the UAA Ski Team in the early 2000's, followed by several years' worth of elite-level and World Cup racing and junior-level coaching, Nicole brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to UAA when she arrived last September. But probably her greatest strength was her ability to relate to the athletes with warmth and compassion, and convey her knowledge in a way that our athletes could understand and relate to. This spring, when Nicole decided to pursue other interests outside of cross-country skiing instead of returning as UAA's assistant coach, several UAAers expressed doubt that the team could find another assistant coach who could bring the qualities to the team that Nicole brought.  One of those UAA doubters was the head coach.  I remember Andrew telling me, "I'm really going to have my work cut out for me this summer trying to replace Nicole!"

About a month ago I was in my local grocery store, shopping for avocados or chicken wings or mouthwash when I came around the end of the potato chip aisle and face to face with Zach Hall and Sara Studebaker. I'd raced against Zach a handful of times in the old days before he graduated from high school and went off to college and the national biathlon team, but I'd never met Sara before. Of course her reputation preceded her as she was a member of an NCAA national champion college team and has been on a bunch of World Championship and Olympic teams in biathlon.  And though it wasn't official news, Andrew had mentioned to me that there was a possibility that we might be able to convince Sara to coach for us - straight off the 2014 Olympic Team. Sara and I had a chance to chat for a bit at the grocery store about what it's like to go out running for "exercise" instead of "training", now that she's not chasing the elite circuit around anymore.

I was really excited to hear the official news a couple days ago that Sara has agreed to be UAA's assistant coach.  I know the rest of the coaching staff is very excited about our new team member, and I'm definitely looking forward to finding out all the latest Olympic-level technique tips direct from Sara!

1950 Studebaker Brochure-07
The "other" Studebaker.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Song Remains the Same

Danielle says the best thing you can do after your vacation is to take a vacation.  That way, you won't get sad when your first vacation is coming to an end, because you know you have another vacation as soon as you get home - you don't even have to unpack your bags!

So as soon as we got home from Europe, I jetted off to Kodiak Island for a day of work, and as soon as I got back to Anchorage we jumped back on the jumbo jet and jetted down here to Hawaii, where we are hunkered down now, waiting for tonight's hurricane to hit the islands.  (After tonight's hurricane, there's going to be a second hurricane a day later. I'm not kidding.  I don't bother with just one hurricane.  Surviving a hurricane ain't no thing.  I take my hurricanes in pairs.  Here's video - wish us luck tonight: Looks like we're going to make history!)

So, since I've got a few hours until tonight's hurricane hits, I'll tell you a little story about an experience I had in the Black Forest of southwest Germany last week:   As we were driving our rental car through the area on our last day in Europe, I started getting the strange feeling that something wasn't quite right.  It was a familiar feeling - sort of a deja-vu - but I couldn't quite place what it was.  We were driving toward Furtwangen that day.  Dieter Ebner had graciously offered to let us keep our bike box at his house while we drove and biked around the Alps.  As we got closer and closer to Furtwangen, this strange yet familiar feeling got stronger and stronger.  What could it possibly be?!  As we pulled into downtown Furtwangen just a couple hundred meters from Dieter's house, the feeling got so strong I could actually smell it!  And suddenly I realized I knew that familiar stench - the smell of broken carbonfiber!  And all at once the pieces of this mystery fit together and it all made sense.  Hadn't Lukas been here just days earlier with Mackenzie, before flying back to Alaska?  Hadn't he been training for next winter's racing season as a professional ski racer while he was in Furtwangen?  Everybody knows Lukas and carbonfiber don't mix, and it only made sense, considering the circumstances, that Lukas would have come into contact with some ski poles or some rollerskis right here in Furtwangen, just days earlier!

Dieter showed me where the rollerskis are kept in the Ebner garage.  And there they were - a broken pair of One-Way rollerskis - the break so fresh you could almost hear that familiar splintering crackle still echoing through the garage.  Dieter confirmed that Lukas had, as I suspected, tried to go out for a tour around the area on a new pair of carbonfiber rollerskis.  Apparently, Lukas isn't aware that some rollerskis are made of aluminum.  Or even wood.  Hey Erik Bjornsen - are you going to hook your old UAA teammate up with some Woodskis or what?  (Lukas - check the link - these rollerskis have not an ounce of carbonfiber in them!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I don't always fly from Europe to Alaska on the Condor charter.  But when I do, I prefer to sit by a window.

North Coast of Greenland

Alaska Range