By Kendall Kramer and Kaya Ratzlaff of NSCF-FXC in Fairbanks, Alaska
Sun Valley, Idaho—12 hours of travel, 2,760 miles, and a 5,500+ ft altitude increase from the near-sea level Alaska to Sun Valley was almost as rude of a wake-up call for the northernmost U16 skiers as the 6:30 am alarms set for early morning activations.
Tired eyes followed Bryan Fish, U.S. Development Coach, who enthusiastically explained our drills to us. We responded with groggy moans while we mustered up all the energy we had to sprint and hop.
“Why are we doing this to ourselves?” We might grumble to ourselves. But Rick Kapala, head coach for the Sun Valley Nordic ski team, told us at our nightly meetings of the glory our passions for skiing brings us.
Our first workout of camp allowed us to finally train with our Junior National competitors we last saw in Lake Placid back in March, who once seemed so mysterious and intimidating. But we were all on the same suffer train for the next week. The skate technique workout spared us pain but didn’t spare loads of new technique and power knowledge, or an amazing, smooth bike path to rollerski our hearts out on. Later that day, in the 85-degree weather, ski walking turned a beautiful day into a calf-destroying and sweat-dripping type of beautiful. We ended the training session with a swim in our secret watering hole, a good way to cool off after a long workout in direct sunlight.
The next day it was off to the pristine rollerski track again after our activations, where we re-learned the art of the double pole, as one can never do enough, striding, and quick transitions, which appear to be more and more important in modern World Cup ski racing. It was a rainy morning, so the fresh paint on the path made for slippery corners and a few crashes and an accidental rock slip-n-slide. The boys had little trouble maneuvering the terrain, forming a “rippin’ draft train.”
That afternoon it was into the strength AND pain cave, for our strength testing. The grimacing and teeth-gritting faces made throughout the testing confirmed we were putting in our best efforts and getting some great results. Similar faces were seen the next morning on Harper’s uphill time trial, a staple of the Sun Valley Nordic team. Great runs were made and $150 was earned by Novie McCabe for blazing the old junior record on the hill, generously “donated” by gambling coaches. The morning activations and afternoon activity were off, so packs of new friends decided to take some trips to the mountain-bordered downtown Sun Valley. But don’t worry, we kept our competitive spirits satisfied with intense games of spot-it and spike ball.
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