Friday, November 28, 2008

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving!

11.27.08 Östersund, SWE

Our caterer mentioned he will try to give us a Swedish version of our Thanksgiving meal with chicken (kyckling) instead of turkey (kalkon), mashed potatoes (potatis-mösse) because I don’t think you can get sweet potatoes or yams here, and lingon berry jam (lingon sylt) because you can’t seem to get cranberries (tränbär) easily in Scandinavia either. He definitely didn’t mention pumpkin pie.

But, as you know, it is not about the food we will eat tonight. This is my third year celebrating Thanksgiving with Americans in a foreign country. Because we are not surrounded by festive decorations, holiday sales on TV, and the quintessential ingredients for the big meal, The “thanks” and “giving” can shine through. I am very thankful to be here, to have this opportunity, and to be supported by so many of my loved ones, friends and community.
It feels pretty good to be back here in Sweden. It is a familiar place, and except for the lack of light, it has been easy to transition this past week to the time, food, and language. The snow conditions are excellent. The tracks are mainly built with man-made snow, from snowmakers that have been running around the clock, but this morning I awoke to an inch or two of new snow. We are staying right at the venue, only a few feet from the trail. We watch people ski all day long from 7 in the morning till 9 or 10 at night. In addition to the local skiers, kids and ski-joring (skiing with a dog), more teams are arriving in preparation for the first World Cup. Out there right now, our team is joined by the Russians, Swedes, Canadians and Ukrainians. This is only the beginning, but really the World is at my finger tips on this circuit.

A view of Östersund’s biathlon stadium from our apartments at noon.

A defining image of Sweden that is important to convey about this time of year, is the light, or shall I say the lack of it. Recall how far north Sweden is on your globe, and how far, at this time of year away from the equator and the sun’s winter rays. The sun rises on my way to training, around 8:30-8:45am. It begins to set, and the light dims around 2:30pm, slowing setting til 3:30 or 4 when bright lights flood the trail, because by 5 its just dark. 8pm then feels like 10pm.

Building the new grand stands above the stadium.

The venue is also preparing for the races, setting up new stands, tents, and walkways for spectators, and working tirelessly on the tracks so that everything will be world-class by Wednesday – the opening race. I will follow up on this photo so that you can see the difference when the venue is packed and the races are on.

The US Team’s wax room: lots and lots of skis, and two of our wax technicians – Andi from Germany and Gara from the Czech Republic - who take care of them, test them, and make them very fast for competitions.

As the races near, I will begin to test my fleet of skate skis. I have different pairs for different snow conditions, temperatures and course, and for these upcoming races I will need to figure out which ones feel the best here in Östersund based on their ability perform in a variety of snow conditions, their ability to glide and carry speed, and depending of how soft or hard the ski surface is, how smooth they feel when I ski fast. The preparation of equipment is so very important, and this is only the beginning. By the end of the season I will know my set of skis inside and out. Your equipment becomes and extension of yourself.

My teammate, Lanny Barnes, and I in our kitchen during a rest day.

However, it is not all about skiing. We train for an hour to three hours a day, which leaves a lot of time remaining in the day. I have a variety of books with me, a knitting project, and spend time online writing e-mails and reading the news. We fill our time by watching movies, taking naps, eating our meals together, stretching after training, walking around town, and simply relaxing. It might sound like we can stay in our PJ’s all day, but at this point in the year we’ve completed the majority of our training and it is time to shift to racing. This means quality and low training hours, high quality rest and recovery, and most importantly, high quality racing.

Östersund - 360°

Its pretty simple here, this little video from my camera (its classic home video quality, hope it doesn’t make you nauseous) will give show you 1. our brown-sided, green-trimmed apartments, 2. the city’s heated water tower, 3. the biathlon range and stadium, 4. Frösön, the lake below, and 5. the trails and hardwood forest.

While I am here, here is a little Swedish vocab for you:
Hello Hej-Hej (pr. Hey-hey)
Good-bye Hejdå (hey-door)
skis – skidor (shi-door)

1 en
2 två (tvoe – like toe)
3 tre (trey)
4 fire (fearre)
5 fem

biathlon skidskytte
cross-country längdåkning
competition tävling

1 comment:

Carmen said...

So, how was your Thanksgiving meal? Any pumpkin pie?

Have you been eating lots of Pepperkaker? I don't know what they are called in Swedish, but in Norwegian that is what they are.

They are very flat spice cookies that are polular at this time of the year. We have them here in Switzerland but they come from Holland:-)