Friday, June 10, 2016

A Different Kind of Triathlon

Serious bloggers like me need to do research. Lots of it. That's why I hire so many staff (and interns). How can we report to you what's going on with UAA's current and former Seawolf skiers if we don't go out and find them in their native habitat, doing what they do?

The Great Cornholio? No. Lex Treinen. Lex was runner-up at the NCAA Championships in 2009, skiing for UAA. Now he's racing for APU. 
Tracking down former Seawolf skiers sometimes requires extraordinary measures, but I was in luck this morning because I have a friend who has helicopters. And everyone knows that if you have access to helicopters, you can go almost anywhere. 

Remember earlier when I was saying that Lex Treinen was a Seawolf in 2009? Well, so was Sadie Bjornsen. Sadie was third at NCAA's that year. This year she scored about a zillion World Cup points and ended up 14th overall on the World Cup circuit. Not too shabby!
Knowing that APU was conducting one of their many on-snow training camps on Eagle Glacier, I strapped some skis to the motorcycle this morning and made my way to Girdwood to see my friend Deb, who has helicopters.

Hey kids!  All you need is a couple bungee cords and you can turn a boring drive to the ski place into a fun ride to the ski place!
I suspected I'd find Sadie and Lex on Eagle Glacier, but I couldn't know for sure unless I took a flight up there myself.     

Here's Deb.  And her whirlybird. And some ice cream for the APU team.
I like hiking; don't get me wrong. But sometimes when I'm flying to the top of a mountain in a helicopter I think about how much easier it is to fly in a helicopter than it is to hike, and it makes me feel good. Is that so wrong?
Here's the edge of Eagle Glacier.
Here's the building where everyone eats and sleeps between workouts.
First-class travel arrangements.

I have spent a lot of time at Eagle Glacier over the years.  Most of it was back in the early and mid-1990's. Back then, things were somewhat more rustic than they are now.  And we used to fly up there in airplanes, not helicopters. This is back when Alpine Air was a fixed-wing operation, before they became a helicopter operation. I haven't been inside the dorm building in the past few years. (And I didn't get a chance today either.  My day job revolves around looking inside buildings. I didn't want to look inside a dumb building today - I wanted to ski!) In the old days it always smelled a little moldy, it was never quite warm enough, and we used incinerator toilets that emitted little puffs of smoke now and then which was a little spooky for a couple of different reasons. 
But I've heard things are very plush and comfortable in there nowadays thanks to a lot of remodeling work by APU over the years.

I took a lap around the 5k loop with David Norris today and he told me Kikkan had GPS'd the Sochi Olympic trail a few years earlier so that Erik Flora could model that summer's training loop on Sochi's profile in preparation for the 2014 games. I asked Erik about that and he told me he sets a loop for each camp that's targeted at the kinds of skills the team is trying to improve on. Last year he built in some fast turny downhills to force improvement of downhill skills.  And today they were doing a sprint relay workout on a course specifically designed to mimic a World Cup sprint course profile, and they cut it in half so that the athletes could isolate and identify strengths and weaknesses in different kinds of terrain. 

Erik and me.  In addition to being the ski coach of one of the most successful ski clubs in the world, Erik is a diesel mechanic who can operate, maintain, and fix Pisten Bullys. That's not an insignificant skill to have when you are isolated on a remote glacier with a team full of athletes and one snow cat. Erik is also a Seawolf. He was an All-American for UAA in 1994 and 1995.
I was impressed with the organization that went into APU's training plan for the day.  But what impressed me most up there was the good vibe among the group on the glacier. I saw a lot of smiles, and everyone seemed pretty happy to be there, doing what they were doing. That's no small thing in the middle of a big week of training, isolated on a glacier. I know that those big training weeks can make a person pretty tired. But it looked like a lot of good work was getting done at training camp.

I'm not actually as short as I look in this photo.  It's my posture. See how they're all standing straight up, and I'm not?  That's what I'm talking about.
(These APUers are Tyler Kornfield, Scott Patterson and Eric Packer)
 So anyway, in the end I came to the conclusion that our former Seawolves Lex, Sadie and Erik are doing just fine at APU. They say "hi". 

note:  I want to thank Deb (and pilot John) at Alpine Air Alaska in Girdwood for turning a five-hour miserable hike up a scree slope into a five-minute awesome helicopter ride. And I want to thank APU's ski team for letting me chase their skiers around the glacier for an hour this morning!

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