Thursday, January 29, 2015

As It Happens

About a year ago, Alaska Public Radio started airing an evening news program called "As It Happens". As It Happens happens to come on the air right about the time you'd like to hear the evening news. All of the stories covered on As It Happens have one common thread: none of the stories have anything to do with anything that anyone would consider interesting. It wouldn't be so bad if the show aired at one o'clock in the afternoon when everyone's busy doing important mid-day-stuff, or at three o'clock in the morning when most people are asleep, but this CBC (Canadian) show, with it's wacky Canadian accents, comes on right at the time when most right-thinking people are driving home from an evening ski workout at Kincaid Park. As D asks, "Why do we have Canadians doing the news on our Alaska Public Radio station anyway?!"

This edition of the UAA Ski Team Blog is a news roundup, sort of like "As It Happens", with one important difference: You actually care about the people I'm about to write about here.

Lasse Moelgaard-Nielsen has left skiing behind to focus all his energy on becoming an elite Copenhagen lawyer ...or so we thought.  Lasse was spotted in Liechtenstein this week coaching the Danish team at the European Youth Olympic Games.  And that's not all; rumor has it that he'll be a ski serviceman at the World Championships in Falun in a few weeks. Face it Lasse, ski racers and coaches get to wear red spandex all the time while lawyers are restricted to the occasional red bowtie.  It's not too late to change your career track!

Steffi and Karl Schauer are going to have a baby in May!  Steffi is now the director and head coach for the Partenkirchen junior ski team, while Karl is studying in Innsbruck to be a school teacher. Congratulations to the Schauer family!
Nice lid, Steffi!

Meanwhile in Sweden, Viktor continues his gradual, steady climb up the ranks in the Swedish ski racing scene.  He finished eleventh yesterday at the 30km skiathlon at the Swedish Championships, and first in the under-23 class. Viktor's steady progress toward the Swedish national team continues...
I don't know about you, but I see an uncanny resemblance between Viktor Brännmark and...

Spongebob Squarepants!

And Kjetil Hagtvedt Dammen has apparently recovered from his horrific rollerski accident last August, as he's back on the full schedule for Team Leaseplan Go.  He finished 27th in the Marcialonga this past weekend. Not bad, especially considering his injuries pretty much kept him from training all fall. Good luck in Vasa'n, Kjetil!
Pick a winner, Kjetil!
This must be some kind of inside joke - all the sponsor names are written backwards.

And finally, though we don't have a ton of snow around here in Anchorage, we have gotten enough so the skiing isn't half-bad at Kincaid Park. Here's what the ski stadium looked like this morning:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On Deck

As I write this from the comfort of the Dillingham Airport in southwest Alaska, the UAA Ski Team is driving south from Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Red River, New Mexico. I hope they've been wearing their sunblock.

I guess the lighting is better on the deck than in the wax room.
Sara.  Focused on the job at hand.
Andrew grew up in Colorado. Judging by his "Alaska tan" it's been a long time since he's lived there.
Alex is engineering the next great bridge....
...while Hanna, Clement and Etienne are engineering the next great dance move.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Get in the 'Boat

We have a new freshman on the team from Sweden who goes by the name of Hanna. Hanna was kind enough to send me some photos she took during her first three days of her first UAA Ski Team road trip - to Colorado and New Mexico. It's always interesting to see the world through the eyes of a freshman.
Here's Etienne catching a few rays.
Murder victim?  Or just pooped out?
Get on the bus!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Press

Of course you know that you can get all the information you need about the UAA Nordic Ski Team from this UAA Nordic Ski Team blog. You know this because you're a rabid follower of the blog, and you have personally experienced the vast enrichment of your life that this blog provides. You know that the blog provides all the information you need to keep you thoroughly entertained and to help you make informed decisions about the world that surrounds you.

But some people don't know about the UAA Nordic Ski Team blog. Perhaps nobody has told them about blogs, or maybe they lost their computer or their dog ate their mouse.

Recently, a group of people who don't know about the UAA Nordic Ski Team blog wanted to know more about the UAA Nordic Ski Team. Of course, it's natural to want to know more about the team. But, as these people don't have computers, they needed to arrange a special meeting with the team so they could ask questions and find the answers that they desperately needed. These people traveled to the University and set up a bunch of microphones and cameras so they could keep detailed records of the whole meeting. The people asking the questions call themselves "The Press" and the people doing the answering call themselves "Andrew" and "Mackenzie". They called their meeting a "Press Conference".

By the look of things, everyone had a swell time.

They were kind enough to share their press conference on the interwebs with the rest of us, and I strongly urge you to CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wildcard LadyPop

We've all made it back home to Anchorage, despite the best efforts of "The Rock" to extend the ski trip by breaking his seat belt on the Seattle to Anchorage flight segment. Our results in the Utah Invitational RMISA results were a mixed bag, but there was some positive stuff happening over the weekend, and we're in good position as we get into the heart of the racing season.

Mackenzie and Kathi.
Mackenzie second in the skate race. This was her best college result yet.
The skis-to-skier ratio is very high on this team.
Kathi was in charge of this meal, but she had help.
Coaches Andrew and Sara in their natural habitat. How do you wax an entire garage full of skis? One ski at a time.
OK, the garage was not warm.  But it wasn't as cold as Kathi is making it out to be.
The daily team meeting. Here's a confession: it's one of my favorite parts of each day. (Along with team-stretching.)
After seven years with the US Biathlon Team, Coach Sara has become a seasoned traveler who has learned how to find a calm, peaceful island of calm anywhere, away from the noise and commotion of the team. John Farr The Freshman certainly proved himself on his first RMISA road trip, scoring points for the team in his first weekend of racing, engineering the tie-down of the ski bags in the truck, and generally making himself useful around the house to the extent that at one point I heard Coach Andrew tell him, "John, stop washing dishes and let someone else do some work around here..." Anyway, we sent John on a mission to find Sara, and look where he found her hiding out - in the kitchen cupboards! Who knew?

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Head Coach Andrew flew in last night from Michigan with his crew of Brandon, John, Mackenzie and Smiley to join us here in Utah. It's good to have the whole team back together under one roof. We race tomorrow - 5k skating for the women and 10k skating for the men - our first RMISA race of the year. We are looking forward to finding out how we stack up against the rest of the RMISA!

Go toward the light! We met the UAA alpine skiers last night at a World Cup moguls event in Park City.
Manon (barely visible), Etienne, Marion, Clement, Bella
Moguls World Cup.
Coaches Sara and Andrew. Calculating and scheming.
Okay, it's not the Norwegian wax truck, but there should be no mistake about who waxes their skis here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Leisure Sports

This team eats well.  And we eat well because our skiers are good chefs. Anyone who knows me knows that I can survive just fine on some old bread crumbs and the occasional chunk of moldy cheese. But when I travel with the UAA Ski Team, there's no end to the epicurean delights on hand! And being the international squad that we are, we are international cuisine tourists, as each skier takes their turn in the kitchen. We've eaten our share of Alaska salmon and moose stew, but I also still remember Pati's hörnliauflauf from last year in Utah.  Yesterday we enjoyed some of Kathi's apfelbrot on the deck. And Étienne never goes on the road without his beloved sirop d’érable.

Tonight, it was Clément's turn at the oven, with Manon as sous-chef, which means quiche was on the menu, and I'm not talking about that frozen stuff you get at Costco.  I'm talking about the real thing, just the way they make it back home in Beaufort!

I'm talkin' about quiche!
Here's an interesting piece of info you wouldn't know unless you lived here: Those two slices of toast came out of the toaster Tuesday morning and have been sitting in that spot ever since. 
Leisure sports. We're a team of many talents. Pool is not one of them.
We ski in the mornings, and we do some light exercise in the afternoon. Usually that means a short jog and some strength. This afternoon, conditions allowed for a game of volleyball in the yard behind our team house.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Utah Paradox

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I raced for the University of Wyoming Ski Team which was, at that time, an NCAA Division 1 program.  Each year, we drove west on Interstate 80 in January for the University of Utah Invitational races. I-80 parallels the Union Pacific railroad line all the way from Laramie to Park City. When I was a freshman, as we were nearing the Wyoming/Utah border on I-80, we passed a westbound train loaded with car after car of military equipment: tanks, troop carriers, artillery guns. One of my older teammates said, “I’m so glad we’ve finally done it – the USA has declared war on Utah!”

We were listening to The Mountain Life on the local public radio station on our way to ski practice this morning, and they had a psychiatry professor on the show named Perry Renshaw. He used to be a Harvard guy but is now a Utah guy and he was describing all kinds of contradictory research findings from studies he's been involved in. He told us that surveys indicate that people who live in Utah are the happiest people in the USA.  That sounds reasonable enough.  Then he went on to say that Utah has the highest suicide rate in the USA. Obviously, something was not adding up.

At 5,000 feet of altitude, there's 15% less oxygen available to us. According to Dr. Renshaw, it might be the high altitude living and the low-pressure ambient air that's causing all this depression... and all this happiness.  Of course this makes pretty good sense to me - it would take more than just my own fingers and toes to count all the times ski racing at high altitude has made me depressed.  I can think of many times at the 2km mark of high-altitude ski races where I've thought, "I'm in trouble. This is not going to end well. What a bummer."

But of course the high altitude makes us happy, too.  Where else could we come home from a morning of skiing in January and eat lunch on the deck in shorts? I haven't seen any frowning faces around the team so far this week.

But according to Dr. Renshaw, it's not as simple as that.  If I understood him correctly, according to his theory the thin air at high altitude makes it more difficult for our bodies to produce serotonin.  This lack of adequate serotonin production has been linked to depression, which is of course linked to high suicide rates. Bingo! Mystery solved. (Of course, I could have gotten it wrong. We were laughing hysterically at Dr. Renshaw's Darth Vader breathing.)

But what about all the happiness reported in Utah?  As it turns out, despite the thin air, people around here like to charge out into the mountains every chance they get. Dopamine is the juice that makes us feel good when we're out exercising in the mountains. All this playing in the mountains makes our bodies produce lots of dopamine. All this extra go-juice flowing around in our systems makes us feel extra happy - until the lack of serotonin catches up with us and we go for our guns. And speaking of guns, Utah's got more guns than any other state in the union, which is another factor that Dr. Renshaw mentioned when talking about the high suicide rate here. Apparently it's easier to shoot yourself if you've got a gun handy. As a side note, I will mention here that Utah is the only state in which I've laid my grimy little hands on an AR-15 Bushmaster assault rifle, the choice of school shooters everywhere.

Later this week, we'll begin testing ski waxes in preparation for our upcoming races (Sunday and Monday). It's been very warm and sunny. Obviously, the yellow and red warm-snow waxes will be the fastest in our testing, right?  Wrong. This is Utah. As my local wax-expert friend says, at Soldier Hollow the rules go out the window. The snow tends to sublimate here; it goes directly from solid (snow) to vapor. It doesn't tend to melt to liquid first before evaporating. Thus, we use super cold weather wax while skiing in short-sleeve shirts - another Utah paradox.

The M's. Testing the Trabs

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Learning to Breathe

As always happens in mid-December, the team scatters to the ends of the earth during the holidays, to reunite in the beginning of January for the first RMISA college races of the season in Utah.  Head coach Andrew is in winter’s icy grip in Michigan at the US National Championships with David, Mackenzie, Smiley, John and Brandon. 

Manon flew in to Utah from France yesterday.  Mario flew in from Italy. Etienne, Kathi, and Pati have been in Park City, and Clement has been in Salt Lake City. Davis and I flew in from Alaska with assistant coach Sara. 

Our first RMISA races of the season will be Sunday and Monday. 
That's all I have to say for now. 
Here are some pictures:

This is what I saw on TV at the rental car agency in Salt Lake City.
In the team house.
Kathi and Manon
Pati, Kathi, Manon
Lunch on the deck at our team house
An afternoon run
Mario training his lungs