Sweden- I made it!

The travel was worth it to race in this stadium with so many fans-  Warner Nickerson  picture

The travel was worth it to race in this stadium with so many fans- Warner Nickerson picture

Loyal ski fans-  Warner Nickerson  picture

Loyal ski fans- Warner Nickerson picture

After Nationals I was selected to race in the World Cup in Ulricehamn, Sweden. “Awesome,” I said “I’ll be there.”

 Well, getting to Sweden from the East Coast sounds mellow for an Alaskan who is used to lots of travel. Compared to flying from Alaska this will be a breeze, I thought… just a short bump to Svenska… but unfortunately this was not to be the case!

 A clever winter storm ripped into the Northeast just as I was scheduled to depart Burlington. I saw the forecasts two days ahead of the storm and contacted American Airlines. They wouldn’t allow me to travel early before the storm arrived because my ticket had not yet been altered as a result of weather. So, I patiently waited for the storm to cancel my flight. The moment my Sunday flight was canceled I called AA, who informed me that the next available flight departed on Friday- getting me to Sweden at roughly the same time as my race start. Not ideal.

The Vermont skiing was incredible after Nationals

The Vermont skiing was incredible after Nationals

Jessica sniping me throwing Hazen in the snow

Jessica sniping me throwing Hazen in the snow

So, I decided to get a little crazy and bought a United Airlines ticket with miles last minute. I canceled my AA ticket with a full-refund because of the weather event. Now, I was scheduled to depart Tuesday. On Tuesday I was all good to go, but then trouble struck again when a drone started flying around LGA. Air-traffic control said no-go to flying while they dealt with the rogue drone situation, which caused my flight to Newark to be so delayed that I missed my connection to Europe. Thus, I enjoyed a night and full day in Newark. Luckily, I brought spare clothes in my carry on and was able to do a full gym-rat session at the hotel.

 I finally made it to Sweden with all my bags and arrived at the hotel Thursday evening. On Friday I tested skis and went for a mellow ski around the race course. My coach told me I had no pressure to race given my late arrival, but I actually felt surprisingly good, so I decided to race both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday went pretty well, but Sunday’s effort sent my legs into utter shock. I think the back-to-back races with swollen feet and ankles from travel might have been a little less than ideal. My feet cramped up Sunday, and by Monday I felt like I had done an intense mountain running race. Luckily, it wasn’t quite as bad as after Mt. Marathon this summer when Jessica had to give me a piggy back ride the next day, but I was still hurting pretty bad.

At least I went into all this travel well rest

At least I went into all this travel well rest

 Don’t get me wrong though, Sweden was incredible! 20,000 fans per day cheering and an awesome course made the travel misfortunes totally worth it (not to mention all the bags of mini-pretzels and cookies I picked up on the plane). The relay Sunday was super exciting despite my poor performance, and there are many more opportunities for great results ahead. Now I need to wash everything I raced in because it stinks of smoke from all the campfires and BBQs burning on the side of the race course from enthusiastic Swedish ski fans! Normally I’d let the BO slide, but the smoke really threw it over the edge.  

Jessica finished her butter knife

Jessica finished her butter knife

Christmas & Nationals in Vermont

Christmas and US Nationals in Vermont made for a genuinely awesome time. The four-week stay with good friends of ours was filled not only with training and racing, but also with a variety of other activities. Jessica perfected her Caesar salad dressing, carved a butter knife, and kept me well fueled with her highly competitive, single participant, multi-day bake-off competition. King Arthur carrot cake with maple syrup cream-cheese frosting was the clear winner. I carved a bowl from a burl to complement Jessica’s butter knife and took many carrot-cake induced naps with Hazen, the four-month old family lab.

Scored a good hug after the 30km!

Scored a good hug after the 30km!

Getting cozy

Getting cozy

At US Nationals Jessica kicked things off with an amazing second place in the 10km Classic. Despite high expectations, I ended up finishing 5th overall in the 15km Classic. While I felt strong, I wasn’t able to pull out a better performance, and was left wanting more. The next day, I raced the Classic sprint, which wasn’t a huge focus of mine; this raced served more as training for me than anything else, and an opportunity to pick up a salted chocolate milk from the Craftsbury Outdoor center for the drive home. Win-win. Then it was time to focus on the 20/30km skate mass start in two days.

 Jessica reached the podium again in the 20k after skiing a really fast last couple kilometers. Watching the APU women crush that morning gave me confidence that the wax techs had dialed the skis, which meant that the rest was up to me. About 6km into the race, I made a pretty hard push that was able to break the group. The lead pack went from about 20 athletes to just Scott Patterson, Kyle Bratrud, and I. From that point on, the three of us raced together until about the last kilometer. That’s when I knew I had to make a push to the finish; I would rather go hard 1km out and die than leave a long race to the chances of losing a group sprint at the line. I played my cards right this time and was able to string out the group, finishing just ahead of Kyle and Scott. Both of these guys are super strong and have multiple National Titles to their names, so I was psyched to reach the finish line in front of them.

IMG_3677.jpg

The 30km mass start skate is my first US National title.  I’ve been on the podium nearly every season since I was 18, but have never managed to pull off a win. It meant a lot to me to finally reach this goal of mine, and the cherry on top was that it also helped me earn a spot on the US team for the FIS World Championships in Seefeld, Austria in February. Jessica also qualified for World Championships, which meant that we finally get a chance to race in Europe together (and spend Valentine’s Day together too, aww).

 After Nationals I stayed in Vermont for another week and a half to train before heading back over to Europe. During this week I was able to relax and enjoy training. Jessica and I did a couple long skis and a fun tour from Greensboro over towards Craftsbury. With the races behind us and a little break until the next events it was incredibly pleasant just to ski once or twice a day, split a pot of coffee (or two), and boost my complexion with snail-jelly masks. I even got an extra two days of this, as my flight to Europe was cancelled due to Vermont style snowpocalypse. Although this wasn’t ideal for my racing schedule, it gave me a chance to throw Hazen into the powder and finish sanding my bowl.

Snail slime mask four days before race is key

Snail slime mask four days before race is key

My burl mostly hollowed out

My burl mostly hollowed out

The wood cutting crew

The wood cutting crew

Luckily, the cold day came after Nationals

Luckily, the cold day came after Nationals

Period 1 World Cup

This fall was my first season racing the period one World Cup races. The World Cup venues for period one were: Ruka, FIN, Lillehammer, NOR, Beitostølen, NOR, and Davos, SUI.  I left Anchorage November 12th and returned to Vermont on December 18th. Returning to Alaska will probably have to wait until April, but spending a few weeks in Vermont with family friends feels a little bit like being home.

 

The World Cup racing this November and December were really valuable to me. I don’t feel like I ever crushed a race or had a performance that was stellar, but I know I didn’t do horribly either. I set my goals higher than I achieved, but I am still feeling positive about my time racing in Europe this fall. I have seen places where I can improve and weaknesses I can strengthen.

 

Coming out of the fall World Cups my aim is to keep my confidence high and focus on US Nationals. I know I pursued better results than I produced this fall, but the only way to earn more chances on the World Cup to achieve those goals is to race fast at US Nationals, which takes place during the first week of January.

David Norris Skate

About 1.5km from the finish line pushing really hard.

David Norris Classic

In the final day of the mini tour in Lillehammer I caught this guy. I thought he was dying, but I could never drop him… He beat me across the line in the end.

David Norris Sophie Caldwell

I felt a lot of pressure drawing Sophie as my Secret Santa recipient, but I bought a pencil and got to work.

David Norris Davos

Switching it up- doing a distance workout with my new friend, Thomas Wick of the German team. He trained with the US team a bit during our pre-camp in Finland. Since then we have done a couple workouts together.

David Norris Davos World Cup

Working with a train of dudes in the Davos Skate 15km

David Norris Norway

I quite enjoy the cured meat offerings here in Europe 


Summer recap in pics

Jess leading the ride in Southern Utah

Jess leading the ride in Southern Utah

This summer was great. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I don’t believe this opinion is inflated as a result of writing this blog retrospectively from Finland. Over the summer I accomplished a lot of the things I wanted to- mountain bike more, train a lot, go fishing, go on my first sheep hunt, race Mt. Marathon again, and start a business.

david norris glacier

I went to Eagle Glacier for two training camps this summer. Training with the boys up there was fantastic - with the exception of Forrest trying to hit me with snow balls.

The snow conditions and weather on the glacier were phenomenal in June and July. Because of these conditions, I skied more during those two camps than in previous years. During June camp, I tried to torch myself- knowing that I just had to race Bird Ridge after the camp before a week long break of set net fishing for salmon. On the other hand, July camp was basically the opposite. I came into that camp fairly rested due to my post Mt Marathon legs, which left me immobile for a few days. After Mt Marathon, my legs were so swollen and sore that I actually avoided walking up and downs stairs. This led me to spend some extra time recovering after the race, and eventually I healed with no long-term aches and pains. I was also able to use my fresh legs to put in the most productive glacier camp of my life in July.

david norris mt marathon
david norris jessica yeaton

Mt Marathon is guaranteed fun, but sharing the win with Jessica was a huge bonus. Luke also threw down in his first adult category race. Getting to know more folks in the Alaska mountain running circuit has been super fun, and I am really grateful for this community.

david norris hunting

I did quite a bit of hunting (for me) this fall, but unfortunately came home empty handed. I learned a ton on my sheep hunt and I cannot wait for a second try next August. On a different hunt I ventured into some amazing goat country and saw lots of sign- so I am optimistic for next year.

jessica yeaton fish

Jessica continues to land larger fish than I. Take note: check out the water dripping off that hog. Her etiquette is on point #keepemwet

david norris park city

To wrap up an awesome summer. Park City training camp in October also went really well. This camp always signifies the end summer- although this fall PC was snowy and rarely offered that last boost of Vit D I generally count on. I would post more training pictures, but I rarely take pictures during workouts. Summer training is a huge a focus for me and equally as enjoyable as my other activities. So do not let the lack of photographic evidence confuse you :)

Alaska Pacific University Fall Mailer

This fall I was asked to contribute to the APU fall newsletter. I hope you enjoy the read- this past season really showed me the importance of community and team. I couldn't be racing now if it weren't for the community, my teammates, and family. 

 

 David Norris winning the 2016 American Birkebeiner

Cross-country skiing isn’t just about the racing. As professional skiers, competition is our livelihood- the main reason we spend hundreds of hours training each year. But it isn’t the only reason. Regardless of wins or losses, this sport offers a community that provides endless support on multiple levels. As a member of APUNSC, I am provided with the resources to pursue my goals of Olympic success while simultaneously earning an MBA. APUNSC also serves as a platform to give back to the community- in appreciation for all the support it gives me. This relationship fuels me to pursue my goals. When racing across the country and in Europe, I not only feel the support of my teammates, but also of APUNSC and the Alaskan community as a whole. Each year, this support becomes more and more apparent; above all the successes and shortcomings last season, it was what stood out to me the most. 

Since joining APUNSC in the spring of 2014, I have been incredibly optimistic towards my results for each upcoming season. Being a part of such an incredible team, it seems reasonable to set the bar high. Training amongst a group of phenomenal athletes while under the guidance of one of the country’s most respected coaches, progress is constant- if not exponential at times. The gains I make each summer always give me confidence leading into the next season. Yet I have learned that the mental trajectory you create is not always the one you follow. 

When last season kicked off in West Yellowstone, I was disappointed in my results. I made a quick mental rebound and shifted my focus to the following weekend’s races in Sun Valley. Again, I was disappointed in my results. This cycle continued through US Nationals. I had no excuses- I was well prepared, healthy, and my coaches gave me fast skis each weekend; I simply performed below my expectations. 

Thanks to the tremendous support from my teammates, coaches, and the Alaskan ski community, I remained optimistic. I found motivation in my teammates’ successes- an attitude we all shared. My teammates were always excited for each other; they never let personal disappointments take away from the success of the team. Because of this, each podium result my teammates achieved last season was a catalyst for another. We built each other up, and were stronger as a team than as a group of individuals. 

After US Nationals, I came back to Anchorage to refocus and prepare for the second half of the racing season. The tiny manmade loop at Kincaid became the epicenter of the Nordic community; because of the lack of snow, I was fortunate to run into several of you who are reading this letter. I skied with many individuals that I would not have normally encountered on the usual trails. It was encouraging to visit with so many local skiers, and I was humbled by their support. I saw just how many people were cheering for APUNSC from afar- a realization that helped inspire and rejuvenate me for the rest of the season. 

After my training block in Anchorage I headed to Lake Placid to start the second half of the SuperTour series. The first day of racing started with a bang; not only did I reach my first SuperTour A Final, but I won the race. The next day I followed my first ever SuperTour win with another in the distance race. That weekend, nearly four months after the start of the season, everything turned around for me. Weeks after, I won the American Birkie by out-sprinting seven Europeans at the line ahead of a strong field of American athletes. The season concluded with the US National distance championships, where I achieved a 3rd place podium finish after a grueling, sun-scorching, and sloppy 50 kilometers. 

It is easy to finish a season only thinking about your most recent results. While I am excited about the way I concluded last season, I keep recollecting the first half of my season. My thoughts circle back to what “team” is all about, and how it has come to influence me as an athlete. Great results encourage me to push harder, train smarter, and continue pursuing my goals. More importantly, however, are disappointing results, which ultimately lead to growth. These results force me to ask myself why I am so passionate about skiing, why I am doing everything I can to reach my goals, and what I can do better in the future. Through both the successes and disappointments of last season, the one thing that remained constant was the incredible support from my peers, coaches, and the APUNSC family. Team. 

Despite being frustrated with my racing in the fall, making a Thanksgiving feast on the road with my teammates remains one of the highlight evenings of my season. After winning both the Birkie and Mount Marathon this year, I was rushed at the finish line by my enthusiastic teammates. Within seconds of crossing the line at the Birkie, Lex- disappointed with his own result -lifted me off the ground with one of the biggest hugs I have ever received. Pursuing excellence and performing well is only so rewarding because of the individuals I share these experiences with. With APUNSC, we are a cohesive unit. It is the entire team- from juniors to masters- that makes being on the elite team such a valuable and rewarding position. 

Again, I am optimistic going into this 2016/17 season. Without the support from the entire APUNSC family, it wouldn’t be possible for so many athletes to pursue their dreams. To all of you who follow and cheer on APUNSC athletes racing across the country and in Europe, graciously donate to our team’s racing expenses, and encourage us to keep putting it on all on the line- THANK YOU! - David Norris APU Elite team member

Pre Nationals

The winter has kicked off to a slow start. With only 6 races under my belt and 2 of which were local town races amongst teammates it almost doesn't feel like it is the ski season yet. I am envious of the World Cup athletes that have already raced a ton and race so much each year. Something to aspire to at least. Next week is US Nationals in Utah with 4 races in a week so I am looking forward to the opportunity to race hard there.

                    Great Skiing in Silver Star, BC...           Ophira Group snapping this pics

                    Great Skiing in Silver Star, BC...           Ophira Group snapping this pics

Striding it out on the town trails in Bozeman. Got to love Linley Park

Striding it out on the town trails in Bozeman. Got to love Linley Park

Oakley sending their love. These monsters came in the night before leaving town hence the Mooses Tooth take out. 

Oakley sending their love. These monsters came in the night before leaving town hence the Mooses Tooth take out. 

After Utah the team and I will make the drive to Tahoe for a few more races as part of the Super Tour circuit. From that point on my season calendar is not set in stone. If I race well I might get opportunities to race in Europe... If I underperform I will probably be heading back home to AK and putting in some training before jumping back onto the Super Tour for the spring races. Either way I'm looking forward to the racing, travel, and hanging out with my friends and teammates at all the races. 

Summer Pictures

Wednesday, APUNSC did our fall time trial up Gas Line. I had a pretty good effort considering the training load I felt coming into the race. I'm stoked!

Wednesday, APUNSC did our fall time trial up Gas Line. I had a pretty good effort considering the training load I felt coming into the race. I'm stoked!

I met the Mount Marathon age group champion at the AK Sports Hall of Fame event! So impressive because she goes up and down through the most technical portion of the mountain.

I met the Mount Marathon age group champion at the AK Sports Hall of Fame event! So impressive because she goes up and down through the most technical portion of the mountain.

                        Coming off Mount Marathon- July 4th         Credit: Peakthree 

                        Coming off Mount Marathon- July 4th         Credit: Peakthree 

Hottest glacier camp to date... I came home with a sun rash under my biceps!  Credit: Dre Foto

Hottest glacier camp to date... I came home with a sun rash under my biceps!  Credit: Dre Foto

Mt. Marathon

Starting my downhill. Photo Credit: Rob Whitney

Starting my downhill. Photo Credit: Rob Whitney

First time racing Mt Marathon was quite the experience. I earned a start spot into this crazy race through winning one of the uphill only mountain races in Girdwood, AK last August. I have done several mountain races in Alaska, but Mt Marathon on July 4th is in its own category. 

Approaching the final drop before hitting the road into town. Photo Credit: Peak3 Media

Approaching the final drop before hitting the road into town. Photo Credit: Peak3 Media

I had so much fun racing this weekend thanks to the epic course, strong competitors, and amazing crowds in Seward. I can't explain how amazing it was to run into town with crowds of people lining the street screaming me home to the finish. 30 minutes of climbing a mountain at near max effort and immediately descending 3,000 ft in ten minutes made for a punishing race, but as soon as I hit the bottom of the cliffs and I saw the crowd waiting for me the pain in my legs disappeared! 

Truly epic and now I know why so many runners are hooked on this race! 

1st Spring Adventure

When the avalanche danger was to high on the slopes we changed our plans and took to the valleys and flat land on skinny skis. Originally, we had planned to do the Eklutna traverse and ski as many peaks as possible along the way weather permitting. That trip would have been about three nights. With the avi reports recommending that we don’t do any serious down hilling we figured we could do a quick lightweight overnight trip on our Nordic skis. After discussing several different options and looking at the forecasts we decided to hit up a route that Scott had backpacked/pack rafted a few summers ago.

            Our route sent us into the mountains off of the Glen Highway about an hour from Anchorage. We used some common snow machine trails to access the mountains. The further we got from the highway the less snow machine tracks we saw! While we hoped and planned to ski on good crust once we got off the snow machine trails the crust wasn’t great yet. Thankfully, we were able to combine the marginal crust with old snow machine tracks to give us just enough of a base to travel our 50 mile route with decent ease- most of the time... 

Getting up the valley on day 1

Getting up the valley on day 1

Digging a hole for home!

Digging a hole for home!

After digging through 3ft of sugar the tents have a solid foundation. Sleeping bag time!

After digging through 3ft of sugar the tents have a solid foundation. Sleeping bag time!

When we didn’t travel with ease:

Attempting to ski down a gully that turned into what would have been a chain of waterfalls in the summer. Down climbing frozen waterfalls without any climbing gear and Nordic boots was a fun twist.

Post-holing with and without skis on our feet.

Skiing up steep climbs on narrow snow machine trails- had to double pole or hike. We initially attempted to be purest using the double pole technique, but soon the hiking became a judge free option.

Down climbing a snow covered waterfall!... Safely I assure you Mom :)

Down climbing a snow covered waterfall!... Safely I assure you Mom :)

Scott side stepping with the shovel acting as his ice axe.

Scott side stepping with the shovel acting as his ice axe.

Minor hardships of the trip:

My pad had a huge leak. I woke up with no air meaning no insulation against the snow. That being said I had a cold butt and back until I blew my pad up for the remaining hours until morning.

David Norris
Skiing or sliding down a creek.

Skiing or sliding down a creek.

Best parts of the trip:

Awesome views, jumped hundreds of ptarmigan from their hiding places in the snow, slept from 8pm to 7:30am, and eating an entire party pack of cola gummy bears about 8 hours into the second day of skiing.

Thanks boys for a fun ski

Thanks boys for a fun ski

55 miles or so

55 miles or so

Birkie Hug

So pumped!

So pumped!

I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people! This weekends win at the Birkie was a huge accomplishment and a level of result that I have been working towards.  Crossing the line Saturday was the first time in my life where I threw up my hands and screamed in excitement! Taking the win, having the confidence to lead the last 800 meters of the race, and to pull it all off was an incredible feeling.

Lex T and myself- I am way happier than I look.

Lex T and myself- I am way happier than I look.

To top off all of my excitement at the line was seeing Lex Trienens and Tyler Kornfields faces light up when they realized I had taken the win. Lex was last years top American and by no means would his 17th place finish this year be satisfying to him. BUT within seconds of him crossing the line he had his skis off and ran over to give me the biggest hug of my life! Tyler soon followed to share the same kind of excitement.  In addition, it was awesome to share the podium with fellow American, Caitlin Gregg- making it a double American Win!

Fun night at Trivia with Tyler Kornfield

Fun night at Trivia with Tyler Kornfield

All day I received this kind of sincere congratulations. Kikkan Randall who is used to winning World Cups saw that I was getting cold doing my interviews minutes after my race. She brought me my dry clothes bag without anyone asking. The Birkie represents the great ski community we have and why cross-country skiing is one of the best sports out there!

The Race!

The pace went out steady during the first 5km, which decreased the lead pack to just 20 men. The course is very rolling and I just skied as efficiently as possible throughout the race. There were a few accelerations between 10km-45km, but none of them stuck and our lead group would regather as the pace would slow back down. Around the 43km-45km marker the pace got challenging as a Frenchmen took charge and broke the mens pack.

After a steady climb skiing in maybe 6th or 7th with the Frenchmen about a 100 meters ahead and gaining I decided I needed to close that gap. I moved into second and started the chase. I caught the leader over the next few minutes and I had hoped he would continue his effort all the way to the lake. As expected he slowed down and I wasn’t interested in leading at that point because five others skiers were right on our heels. We regrouped and skied last 5km of the race as a pack of seven.

Dropping into Main Street. One last glance to check out where the competitors are.

Dropping into Main Street. One last glance to check out where the competitors are.

As we neared the 1km until the finish mark I started to move towards the front. As I got to the front I held as relaxed of a pace as I could, but still while maintaining my position at the front. As we came off the lake with 700 meters to the finish I started my kick and gave it everything I had until the line. Main Street was so loud! Sprinting down Main Street was pure muscle memory and adrenaline cause my body felt numb with the excitement produced by the amazing spectators in Hayward.

A cool video of the race highlights can be found here: https://vimeo.com/156182805

David Norris Birkie Award

A lot went into this weeks win. I had excellent skis provided to me by Rossignol. The Rossignol reps where out testing skis with a headlamp on the morning of the race after only getting a couple hours sleep Friday night. A huge thanks to Rossignol, Exel Poles, Bliz Eyewear, Toko Gloves, and the APU Nordic Ski Center. It was also blast getting to meet the Louis family and all their friends while they hosted me for the week in Wisconsin- thanks for your support!