Monday, July 14, 2014

Let's Get Mucky, Bucky -- Sugarloaf Recap

Shooting work at the CVA shooting range

Happy Monday everyone! The crew has just returned from an adventurous week down in the mountains of Western Maine. Last Tuesday we all piled in the MWSC vans and headed downstate to Carrabassett Valley.  Once there we unloaded into the dorms at Carrabassett Valley Academy, our home for the next five days. The camp is the first of a series of summer training camps put on by MWSC for qualifying Maine junior skiers. I think that these camps are a very valuable opportunity for younger skiers to experience a training lifestyle and learn from the wealth of experienced older athletes and coaches. Even though I am myself not a junior any longer I was still able to take a lot away from this camp that I can apply to the weeks of training going forward.

Photo of a happy Kelsey from the top of the Bigalows
photo cred: Kat Howe
Summer training camps have always been the highlight of my summer. I can still remember being a wee first year J2 headed down to southern Washington for the iconic Trout Lake training camp put on by the PNSA. There’s something utterly fulfilling about the sheer exhaustion at the end of a hard week of training that I’ve always loved.  I can still remember long OD adventures bushwhacking to the top of mountains and repeatedly jumping off the Trout Lake Bridge.  I forged friendships with other skiers that I still keep in touch with today. We would emerge from the weeks spent off rural Washington, Oregon and even California bruised, battered and yet utterly content with ourselves. From there we would already be looking forward to the next camp - the next adventure. Training camps help make up the skeleton of the skiing community. They help promote the reasons that we are all here in the first place - uniting around a love of skiing, training, and being active and healthy people. The winter racing season is so short and focused that often times we don’t find ourselves connecting with our competitors. These camps allow athletes to come together in a non-competitive atmosphere and create the relationships that will help carry this sport forward. 

Hiking in the Bigalows with a great group of girls

Bigalow Pano
That being said, this week was certainly very memorable. I was going through a spell of mountain deprivation and so I was absolutely giddy for the extent of our 5hr OD (over-distance) hike in the Bigalow Mountains.  We also fit in some great rollerskiing, bounding and strength sessions. I still feel like there is plenty of technical and aerobic work to be done in the meat of our volume training these next few weeks, but it’s empowering to have my highest volume week so far this summer in the books.

Pano from the Bigalows

Having my first Moxie after the OD hike

So happy to have Kat as my awesome training partner for these big volume weeks!!
I think everyone’s favorite workout probably had to be the Adventure OD on the final day of the camp. Coach Will Sweetser put together an orienteering adventure with points spaced out in the wilderness around CVA. Each point had a question that ranged from Bill Sweetser story problems to SAT vocabulary questions and were worth points based on the difficulty of the question and the difficulty of the location. I teamed up with Katrina Howe and Nate LaTourette and we found ourselves doing everything from wading down the river, running to the top of a mountain, bushwhacking through pucker brush in a dry stream bed, and getting mucky in a leech filled bog. The bog was probably the most memorable part of the adventure. Toward the end of the allotted time we found ourselves with the task of plunging and wading to the middle of a sizable bog to read a question stapled to a stick. I was first out into the mucky mess, shortly followed by my two teammates. We quickly realized we were not alone in the pond, which was also the home to the biggest leeches I have ever seen in my life (6 inches would probably be a conservative estimation). This prompted a very quick exit with lots of yelling before anyone even had time to write down and answer the question. However we weren’t about to leave empty handed and I returned once again to the mucky water. Despite the leeches I could feel swimming around my legs, I managed to write down the question and then we were out of there, hauling our soggy tails back to the start point. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to make it back before the time limit and were disqualified. I still rode home in the van very thrilled with how the day had turned out, full of adventure and good, mucky fun.

I wanted to feel taller than Kat for once. 

Swimming with the leeches

One of the bog questions

But above all of this high-quality training I think that what I am probably most excited about is that this camp helped me feel just that much more a part of the Maine skiing community. I loved getting to connect with the junior athletes and spend more time with my MWSC teammates. Everyone here has been so welcoming to me since I’ve arrived in the state and I hope to give some of that back while I’m here and help support all of these wonderful athletes.

Until next time!

After our bounding intervals up Sugarloaf Mountain

Some post-camp van serenading from the MWSC junior boys

Monday, July 7, 2014

Catching up!

One of the beautiful mountains in Glencoe, Scotland
It’s been quite the whirlwind since I left home. My younger brother Riley didn’t have much time to celebrate his graduation before we packed up and crammed in our family car to drive to Seattle. From there it was a not-so-quick hop across the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland where we finally tumbled into rickety beds at a small B&B on the shore of Loch Lommond. My mother, being the amazing adventure planner that she is, had arranged for us to spend our family trip hiking along the West Highland Way through the Scottish Highlands.

Hiking through the Higlands

Needless to say, the trip was amazing. I had no clue that Scotland was such a mountaineering mecca. I would love to do some more exploring of the area and climb some of the serious behemoths that we passed on our route from Ardlui to Fort William.

Some highlights include:

·      Ice climbing in the world’s largest indoor ice climbing facility (or so that was their claim to fame)

Having a nice family dinner after a day of hiking

One of the many card tournaments on the train from Fort William to Glasgow
·      Spending some quality time with my family, It’s been a really long time since we’ve gotten to do anything like this together

Just doing some extra training before hiking! 
·      Getting to see our Irish relatives!  

My Irish Aunts and I!

After returning to Fort Kent from the UK I didn’t have much time before packing back up to head down to Lake Placid, NY for USBA’s Talent Identification Camp that I had been invited to a few weeks prior. The camp was a great opportunity for me to build on my success from last season and meet the national team coaches. I think that the four days I spent at the OTC were incredibly valuable from a variety of aspects. The staff did a good job giving all the athletes present a good insight into what it means to be an athlete on the national team and how you can get there. We spent those four days doing a variety of testing, including everything from an uphill time trial on Whiteface to a variety of strength testing. It was also fun getting to know the group of athletes that was present at the camp and make some new friends. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing all of them in the future at some of the upcoming biathlon races.

The girls at the TID camp 
4th of July sunset in LP

Since my return from LP life has gone back to the usual training routine here at the Jalbert house. These next couple months consist of the meat of our summer volume and I’m excited to see what adventures I will get to go on with the MWSC crew. Already we’ve done things such as rollerski in Stockholm’s 4th of July parade and go for long distance bike rides in Canada. We've also finally gotten a reprieve from the oppressive heat of last week (one day reaching a high of 92F). This upcoming week we are heading down to Western Maine for a camp with the MWSC Juniors at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley. It’s going to be a nice change of pace and a good chance to get some quality time on foot in the more mountainous (relatively) terrain they have over there.

Updates to come!

Sheep on the WHW

Trying to fit in some climbing during the hiking trip

One of the cute B&B's we stayed at


Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. Hopefully I can come back and climb it some day

The boys having fun on a roller ski before the Stockholm parade

4th of July!

All of the residents of the Jalbert house on the 4th of July

Monday, June 23, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Alright, well this post was supposed to go up a couple weeks ago when I was actually at home. I wrote it on the plane en route to Scotland, but never found internet to post it until now. So because of that I am going to post this now and then talk about my trip back over the pond and then my camp in Lake Placid in another post a little later. Thanks for bearing with me!
Photo from the flight home 
At this point in my life I visit home roughly twice a year; once around Christmas and once usually in the spring, what could be considered the off-season from training. I've pretty much always appreciated growing up in the Methow (save for the occasional bouts of teenage angst), a beautiful valley with stunning panoramas and a quaint, small-town atmosphere. When people ask me to describe Winthrop my first response is usually to highlight that we have no stoplights - just one four-way stop in the middle of town. The closest traffic light is an hour away.

Downtown Winthrop, WA
Downtown consists of cute western storefronts selling souvenir cowboy hats and such to the huge influx of tourists that swarm the town as soon as the scenic North Cascades Highway opens for summer. The Methow Valley is well known in Seattle as a way to escape the big city life and go ‘rough it’ in the great outdoors for the occasional weekend. To them the locals (makes one think of a bunch of savages) are rugged ranchers and hippies that live a slow and simple life off the land. To observers it’s either a dream or a nightmare to live in the country. They are either drawn in by thinking that we live a simple carefree life in the mountains (communicating with the wildlife and such) or rebuffed by a lack of stimulation - how could we possibly exist without a mall or a movie theater?
View from my drive home

Panorama from the top of Driveway Butte
What they don’t realize that the Methow is a paradise, a mountain playground just waiting to be realized, explored and appreciated. A major draw of the Valley is its outdoor recreation, but to go beyond the weekend expeditions and live in such an amazing place is a fortune that not many are lucky to have. My point in all of this endless description is that I think it took leaving this beautiful place to realize just how remarkable it is.
When I think back on being raised in the Valley my memories are full of mountain adventures with my best friends and teammates, taking off to go peak-bagging and seeing just how far we could hike before keeling over. I look fondly back on spring skiing and bushwhacking to the top of a mountain just because it was there. Everything was an adventure and I cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am for that.
Like I said, I find myself appreciating the valley even more now that I am not living there. I love Duluth and Fort Kent, but something clicked this time around. I really connected with how much the Methow will always feel like home. I felt it running up iconic Driveway Butte while absorbing the heavy scent of the sub-alpine and the vision of balsam daisies against snow-capped mountains. To me, home is going into the mountain shop and being recognized immediately (yes, I did break my rollerski tips again) or to the grocery store and spending twice as much time there (because you can’t not chat with everyone you know – which ends up being everyone there). Home is in the dusty dirt road to a log house on a hill, the rattlesnakes that I always dread and yet inevitably come across. I’m glad that I get these rare opportunities to go see my family and remind myself that I come from a wonderful place.
Who wouldn't want to come back to this adorable face?
Just too dang cute
One of the first items on the agenda upon my return was running a fun intro-to-biathlon for some of the local younger girls. It was a great chance to reconnect with a good portion of the younger MVNT crowd and give back to my home team. I could only be inspired by the enthusiasm and talent displayed by all. It appeared that they all had a blast running around and learning about this crazy sport. I am really happy that I could give back something to this community and share some of my limited experiences with these upcoming athletes. Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend a day running around in the sun and playing games with Coach Betsy and a gaggle of awesome girls?!

Such a great crew!

Girls with guns, MVB style! 
I also attended a practice with the local junior nordic crew, led by my old coaches Laura McCabe and Leslie Hall. We did some fun rollerski speeds on the track and then went off to do some specific strength drills. I had a great time reconnecting with everyone and I was definitely inspired by the energy of the crew while we were out pounding around in the heat of the afternoon.

The awesome MVNT girls (plus Walker)!
My two awesome coaches from growing up. Leslie Hall and Laura McCabe!
I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without them!
Staying hydrated on our hike!
Betsy and I at the summit of Driveway Butte!

But really, my main purpose of going home this spring was to see my younger brother Riley graduate from high school. Whoever said that country life is slow obviously was not witness to my family in the days leading to graduation. It sure made things exciting getting to see some extended family as well as prepare for our post-graduation family trip. I am still in disbelief that my younger brother is really done with high school and off to college (Western Washington University). I feel like it was just yesterday that I myself was leaving to move to Sun Valley for my post-grad year (I’m pretty sure I was still taller than him then). This year’s graduating class from Liberty Bell HS has already accomplished great things, with one student going on to Harvard and others planning to do things such as travel abroad to learn about sustainable farming. Liam Daily’s valedictorian speech encouraged the graduates to go out and ‘do something new’. Graduation signifies a departure from one’s comfort zone into the unknown. From here on out, these individuals are going to be writing new stories and doing great things – I’m excited to see what they go on to accomplish.
I still can't believe this happened...
Probably the best senior prank ever.
They cut a car in half and welded an archway in front of the school.
A little family time!
The Grandparents and I before graduation.
Can't wait to see what this girl is going to
 accomplish in her PG year in SLC!
Just an example of some of the shenanigans we endured during grad week.
Getting to see my brother graduate was a good opportunity to reflect on where I’ve come since my own graduation. A lot has happened in these past three years (has it really only been three years?) and I feel I’ve really grown as a person since I first packed up to move to Idaho. I’m eager to see what the next few years have in store as I finish college and see what I can accomplish in biathlon.

As usual, it was only a short stint at home. Now the family and I are off to Scotland for a backpacking trip! It should be a great adventure. Until then.

Fun rollerski out in Mazama
Nice to connect with some good friends!

 More views from home (couldn't resist):

The Smith's adorable new puppy named Charlie!