1.29.13 Sochi Preview
This post is written to you from Sochi, Russia – the longest city in the world! It runs along the black sea, and I’m staying up on top of a mountain, at the ski venue where the 2014 Olympics will be held next year.
It’s pretty exciting to see all the buildings pop up in the woods, and everything here is brand-spanking new. The houses we are living in are very big and nice, although when the boys upstairs take a shower the water leaks down through the floor and drips from the ceiling of the common room downstairs! So there have been many Russian plumbers coming through our house, trying to fix the pipes and in the meantime we have a collection of bins on the floor to catch the water drips.
Last week we spent training in Les Saisies since there was a weekend off from World Cup racing. It felt really nice to get to spend week without any stress of racing and just go for long skis in the sunshine and mountains! It’s important to be able to take some recovery time and not be racing every weekend, otherwise we get “burned out”, which is our way of saying too tired and grumpy to want to race anymore!
While I was in France, I received a bunch of great letters and questions – thank you guys for asking whatever you’re curious to learn about! I’ll answer a couple of them this week as best I can:
Question: “Don’t you get tired of racing every day?”
Answer: Yes! But only after a long time. During the Tour de Ski there was so much excitement that I didn’t feel really tired until after it was all done. But then it is important to take some time off to ski slowly and do some easy training, and after a couple weekends of racing in a row we usually take a weekend to just train so that we don’t get too tired and every race can be a fast one!
Question: “What is the fastest ski technique in skate skiing? And which do you use to go uphill?”
Answer: The fastest technique depends on if you are going uphill or on the flats. When you are skiing on flat ground or a slight uphill, V2 is definitely the fastest. You pole once on each side as you skate along, and with good push-off from each side you can get moving very fast! And when you come to an uphill? V1 is your best technique, as you can pole on just one side and your feet are a little wider apart to help you climb up the hill.
Skiers From Around the World:
Here in Sochi there is a little bunny hill for alpine and snowboarding, on top of the mountain. We walk up the side of the hill to get to the dining hall, and every morning there are at least 20 kids under 10 years old learning how to alpine ski. They are crashing and getting back up, learning how to be coordinated on skis, just like you guys had to first learn how to stay upright!
And in Les Saisies, there were groups of kids your age skiing behind their instructors, doing drills like skiing with no poles and making step-turns around downhill corners. It was fun to see all the groups of skiers, and it looked just like MYSL practice! Once again, it doesn’t matter where in the world you happen to be – most skiers are the same in all the ways that matter. Although because the Nordic Trails come close to the alpine hills, these kids had on bright yellow safety vests so that skiers and snowboards coming down fast could watch out for them.
Cool things about Les Saisies: It is a small town in the mountains in France, and it’s where they have the Olympic venue from the 1992 Albertville Olympics! So there is a great ski stadium, and biathalon shooting range, and all the trails are very wide and well-groomed. It’s also at higher altitude, ranging from 4,200-5,000 ft above sea level (Minnesota is about sea level). So it’s harder to breathe up there, and even walking up the stairs you arrive at the top breathing much harder than normal. That’s why we made sure to ski a little slower than normal for the first day, because it’s easy to accidentally go too hard and then make your body super tired for the next few days.
And, since Les Saisies was in France, there was very fresh bread and good cheese everywhere. Of course! Each morning we would walk to the bakery and buy hot baguettes straight out of the oven, and tuck the steaming loaves under our arm and run back to the house so everyone could have some hot bread and jam for breakfast. The food in France was pretty spectacular.
Cool things about Sochi, Russia: There are crazy transportation systems here! To get to meals you can either walk up the side of the bunny hill, or jump on the back of a snowmobile. The drivers go fast through the icy snow and we always end up bumping along. Or, if you take a van ride, you end up going through a tunnel with a huge deep mud puddle in the middle. I always cross my fingers and hope the van doesn’t get stuck, or else we’d end up wading in mud up to our knees!
Also, there are guards everywhere here. They have grey uniforms, or blue jackets (for the volunteers) and they have big fur hats, and most of them don’t smile. They will stop the van or snowmobile at checkpoints, and look at your credentials to make sure you are allowed in. When we arrived in Russia, we were all given credentials – a plastic card that has our picture on it and words letting the guards know where we are allowed to go. It’s very important not to lose the card, otherwise you might not get let back into your house! There are also lots of rules here – having your credentials everywhere, rules about transportation, rules about having meal tickets to get your food. So if you thought there were a lot of rules to follow at school, just imagine being in Russia for a day!
Training Tip: This time the training tip is about going downhill fast. If you think about it, when a race starts and finishes in the same area, half of the race is going uphill and the other half must be downhill, right? So, it’s very important to learn not only how to go fast up the hills but how to go fast down them, too!
Here’s how I go about making my downhills as fast as I can: when I come to the top of a hill, I take one last push with my poles and then get into my best tuck. I bend my knees and fold forward so that my head is low and I bring my arms and poles in so that my hands are up by my chin. When there is a corner, I think about looking where I want to go, not looking off into the woods! If I look where I want to turn, and “steer” my hands in that direction, the rest of my body follows as I step my skis around the corner. The last thing I think about is to be fearless! It’s okay to fall down once in a while, because that’s how I learn and get better. So next time you’re out skiing, pick a hill and try going down it as smooth and fast as you can, in your best tuck. It can be really, really fun to go fast!
Till next time…happy skiing!