Sunday, November 20, 2016

Injury Alert :P

I feel like all I do is give updates on injuries these days... This sport is rough. 


I arrived in Kaprun, Austria, on November 2nd for the last camp of the 2016 prep period. With the first World Cup of the season on the horizon (December 10th in Ruka, Finland), it was time to fine tune my competition run that I had been training so hard to improve through the prep period. Despite a bout with the stomach flu earlier in the camp, I was feeling good. My training was going well, we had some epic powder days early in the camp, and I was happy with the progress I had made throughout the summer and fall.

Training at Kitzsteinhorn, Kaprun, Austria

On November 17th, I was having one of my best days of training until I really wasn’t.

In landing a front flip, my knee inwardly collapsed. I felt immediate pain, but after some tossing and turning, I decided I was fine to stand up and ski down.  On impact, I expected what would soon become reality, but in the moments after the crash, I had little pain and even debated continuing training. I ultimately decided that I should be done training for the day, but was able to ski down without pain or trouble. I held false hopes in these moments, but my knee got worse as the day went on. As it swelled and showed signs of instability, I decided to go to the hospital.

My MRI images revealed a grade 2 MCL tear, bone bruise on my lateral tibial plateau, minimal damage to the meniscus, and [thankfully] only a sprain of the ACL. I have learned that with injuries in sport I cannot form expectations. The most I can do every day is apply myself fully to my recovery program, and hope that my body cooperates with my wishes of return to sport. I am so sad that because of this injury I will miss the first world cup in Ruka, but I hope that my recovery program will have me prepared by mid-January for the rest of the world cup season. For now, I am staying positive because I am overwhelmingly thankful that my ACL is fully intact, and when it comes to knee injuries, I am coming away quite lucky.

The outlook is relatively good.

I want to thank my German and Austrian friends for helping me in every way possible these past few days. Thanks to Dr. Christian Fink for seeing me without delay, and thanks to everyone at the U.S. Ski Team for coordinating my return home and recovery program. Good luck to the FIS freestyle crew at the first World Cup, and hope to see everyone in Lake Placid!

At least a day trip to Salzburg was really fun!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Trial and Error of Cooking on the Road


The majority of my days are spent on the road. Traveling can pose special challenges for those who prioritize nutrition. Exhaustion (from traveling, training, work) can cause me, and many others, to eat on autopilot. My wonderful nutritionist, Susie Parker Simmons (USOC Sr. Sport Dietician), helps me understand my habits, strengths and weaknesses in eating, and reminds me to apply mindfulness to my diet so that I can successfully prioritize nutrition and take on the challenges of cooking while on the road.

It is easy to retreat to going out to a restaurant or to cooking meals that are uncomplicated (what I refer to as “brown” – think bread, pasta, potatoes, heavier meats) while on the road. The last thing I typically want to do at the end of a long training day is cook up a meal. Yet, I also find that cooking on the road is an opportunity to experiment with new recipes. Given I am already short on supplies, ingredients, and on a budget, the whole process of shopping and cooking becomes a course of trial and error.

The process of experimentation starts at the market. Foreign markets offer different ingredients that are not necessarily popular within America. American supermarkets are also on steroids. Markets in the U.S. offer multiple choices for each product, whereas markets in small ski towns are often more limited. And even finding the most simple ingredients can be difficult when they are listed in foreign languages.

I set my intention going into the Zermatt training camp that I would make my meals and nutrition a priority. Having a clear intention of feeling good when I was done eating guided my choices. I aimed to make my meals colorful, delicious, and nutritious. The choice in doing such contributed to my enjoyment of the trip and effectiveness in training. And, with a clear set intention, food choices weren’t difficult, meals were easily planned in advance, and I was able to reuse healthy ingredients in different meals and in different ways throughout the camp.

I am not much of a recipe follower. I experiment in combining ingredients and keep a watchful eye so things do not get overcooked. Knowing this, if you’re looking for easy meal ideas with flexible ingredients while you’re traveling, check out the meals (and recipe overview) that I cooked up while at my Zermatt training camp.


Salmon Salad

On oiled baking sheet, top salmon with olive oil, lemon, local honey, and lightly with jam. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes. Place salmon on colorful salad. I used spinach, walnuts, avocado, tomato, peaches, and figs. Mix together olive oil, lemon, and honey for a dressing.

Chicken Salad Sandwich and Baked Carrots

Skip the mayo! Cook and cut chicken into small pieces. Thinly dice red pepper, tomato, avocado, and red onion. Toss together and dress with lemon and olive oil. The avocado spreads to make this creamy like chicken salad. Served best on top of fresh baked bread from the bakery down the street and with arugula and spinach and salt and pepper.
Roast oiled and salted carrots, which are much better and heartier than chips.

Pork Loin over Autumn Quinoa
Rub pork with orange-ginger tea (literally, I cut open tea bags and used it as a rub) and bake. Combine cooked quinoa with cranberries, almonds, a mix of veggies, olive oil, cinnamon, and salt and pepper. Boil red wine, cinnamon, and jam to make sauce.

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing
Cook shrimp with oil and red pepper flakes on stove. Chop mixed greens (I did kale and spinach), mango, cucumber, and avocado. Top with shrimp and almond slices. Pair with night-off glass of vino ;)

Non-Breaded Chicken Cordon Bleu
Roll cheese in a slice of ham and place in halved chicken breast. Bake for about 20 minutes, top with more cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve with veggie-loaded side salad.

Thai Chicken Wraps
Heat a grill pan over high heat. Toss chicken with soy, chili powder, and oil and cook through. Steam edamame.
Chop and combine cucumber, grated carrots, scallions, basil, mint, and ginger.
Whisk peanut butter (I used almond butter because it is what I had), soy sauce, vinegar, oil, and chili powder together. Warm wraps in oven. 
Pile chicken, veggies, edamame, lettuces, and tomatoes (I like tomatoes with everything, but this may not be for everyone) in wraps and drizzle liberally with spicy “peanut” sauce and Thai chili sauce before wrapping. Served with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots (see Chicken Salad Sandwich and Steam descriptions).

Spring Roll Buffet
Place out a bunch of ingredients so each roll can be different. Some staple ingredients are shrimp, Asian cabbage mix, other lettuces, mango, tomato, avocado, cucumber, nuts (I used almond meal and walnuts that we already had), peanut sauce (again, I used almond butter, see Thai Chicken Wraps), soy sauce, and Thai chili sauce. Soften rice wraps in water and fill with your choice of ingredients. Super fun!

Taco Night 
I served this buffet style too. I seasoned chicken, steak, and fish in Mexican seasonings and cooked separately. Warm up tortillas. Serve with staple ingredients such as beans, rice, greens, tomatoes, avocado, lime, mango, and onions.

Beet, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto Salad, with Garlic Goat Cheese Flat Bread
Cook and chop beets. Mix fresh greens (I mixed arugula, spinach, and spring mix) with beets, onions, halved cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and prosciutto. Dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
We had so many leftover wraps to use, so I baked goat cheese and garlic in wraps like a quesadilla. Topped with a little olive oil, and it made a fancy side flatbread.

Almond and Coconut Encrusted White Fish Sticks
Cut white fish into sticks and coat in olive oil. Mix almond meal and coconut flakes in a bowl. Roll each fish stick in flakes until fully coated. Line on oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 10 to 15 minutes or until the sticks are nicely browned. Mix together squeezed lemon juice, honey, olive oil, and dijon mustard for dipping sauce (can also serve with ketchup). Serve with a cucumber, avocado, tomato, and basil side salad.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken
Cut chicken breasts in half and coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and pesto. Bake for about 20 minutes, top with more pesto and cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve with fresh side salad and warm loaf of bread from the bakery.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Baked at 350F for 30 minutes (or until squash is soft) with butter and cinnamon. Then, stuff the squash with cooked quinoa mixed with veggies, cranberries, walnuts, honey, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Curry Chicken Wraps
Cut chicken into small pieces and cook on stove in coconut milk, curry powder, and chili powder. Finely chop sweet potatoes and carrots and lightly coat with olive oil. Heat pan on stove and add in sweet potatoes and carrots—cook until softened. Steam rice on stove. Combine curry powder and chili powder into plain Greek yogurt for sauce (add more flavor to liking). Mix cooked chicken with curry yogurt sauce, finely chopped nuts (cashews are recommended, but I used walnuts and almonds since I had them already), finely chopped ginger, raisins or halved grapes, cilantro, onions, and salt and pepper. Place curry chicken salad, rice, sweet potato and carrot mix, and Asian slaw mix into wraps. Add Thai chili sauce to liking.

Steak and Roasted Sweet Potatoes (not pictured)
Coat steaks in olive oil and salt and pepper (or marinate or add rub prior to cooking). Heat pan on stove. Add ½ teaspoon of butter per steak to pan and immediately follow by adding steak to pan on top of the butter. For a medium rare steak (steak about 1” thick), I seared the steaks for about 3 minutes on each side.
Preheat oven to 425F. Cut up sweet potatoes and coat them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and Italian seasonings. Spread out sweet potatoes on baking sheets and place in oven while also turning the oven down to 375F. Bake for 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. A short, closely watched broil after they’ve softened helps crisp the outsides of the potatoes. Serve with mixed vegetable side salad.

 Happy travels and eating!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Balancing life, school, and professional skiing...

Noisy football stadiums and rowdy tailgaters, miserable all-nighters cramming, jam-packed rooms of college students, smells of sweat and beer-stained rugs, techno music you can’t resist dancing to, sorority rush, beer pong tournaments, and some arguably inappropriate outfits – these are many of the memories that mark my college years. College is, in fact, the only time when these loud and mildly depraved behaviors seem acceptable. But although these types of memories stand out, they aren’t the only ones that should make a lasting impression. College was, for me, as for many others, a time I really figured ME out. The benefits of attending (and furthermore, graduating) college are numerous.

Cal game daze.

Though it was always my dream to make the U.S. Ski Team, going to college, getting an awesome education, and having that cliché experience as I described above was something I wasn’t willing to miss out on. The fact that I am a college graduate on the U.S. Ski Team has caught a lot of attention. A few years back, I was asked to write an email that generally answered, “How the heck did you do it?” The email became somewhat infamous in the freestyle skiing community, and because I get several requests for it every year, I’ve decided to post the complete, original email here (names changed), so that everyone can have access to it. I love that I can help athletes, who are considering balancing college and skiing in this way.

On top of the numerous advantages of going to college, I also got so much better at skiing during these years because I used the off time to focus on training. I made the U.S. Ski Team when I was 22-years-old (which some consider old), but I had already graduated from college. I believe it boosted my overall confidence and set me ahead of many members on the team in terms of skiing mindset. And, because I had graduated, I was also able to complete my graduate degree under the U.S. Ski Team-Westminster College partnership and have been granted many mentorship and job opportunities. It's hard work, and lots of give-and-take balancing everything, but absolutely worth it. Skiing is the s**t, but so is college and all these other cool experiences I've had because of it! If you can do it all, I definitely recommend it!

The email is a novel - I hope it helps anyone considering balancing school with competitive skiing (or any sport for that matter)!

Original email:

Part of Stew's original question was about if I had taken a semester off from college and if I thought it was possible for Brooke to compete on a whole NorAm tour while at school...

So, I did take some semesters off while I was in college. Cal is a semester school, which really wasn't conducive for skiing. I'll explain the way I did things a bit in depth here, but I will also say that my way may not be for everyone and sometimes I think I was a bit crazy to have done it the way I did. Brooke is also different from me in that she is a much more talented skier than I was at that age. 

Anyway, for my freshman year of college, I actually jumped the gun and took 2 classes the summer before I "started college" (this was in anticipation of skiing). I also attended full time, all year. Full time at Cal was considered 13 units. I know units vary from college to college, but 13 was full time, 15 was average, 21 units was max per semester, and to graduate you had to have a total of 120 units (with all major/breadth requirements met). This was important for me to know moving forward. I'd encourage Brooke to figure out the same stuff. Freshman year, for me, was a lot about taking breadth courses and figuring out what majors I might be interested in. I took 15 units my first semester. I'll note that this semester and every fall semester while I was in school, I had to tell my professors right away that I would miss the finals due to the U.S. Selections event. I would always go to their first "office hours" they provided and let them know. Most were understanding (especially when you play the wanting to make the U.S. Ski Team and Olympics card), but some had no interest in making separate plans, which meant I had to drop the class and find a different one to take. The teachers who were understanding would reschedule the final for me so that I could take it before having to leave for Selections. At Cal, our finals week was always the week of Selections. For second semester, I planned my schedule so that I would only have classes on Tuesday through Thursday. That way, I could take long weekends in Tahoe for training. Because of the constraints, I had to give up some classes I preferred to classes that fit into my schedule. It's all give-and-take if you want to balance skiing and school. So, I'd ski Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then usually leave Monday for homework. I took the bare minimum of units (13) because I was busy with skiing. I only skied one NorAm this year, but I should add that it was also only my second NorAm ever. I got a lot better with the training I did. If Brooke is debating whether doing a full NorAm Tour will hurt her, it is really hard to say, but the first time I ever did a full NorAm tour was my senior year of college (and I had actually already graduated, as I'll explain). Now that I am on the team too, I can't say how much I'd appreciate a year of focused training. So much emphasis is put on competition, but we never have the time to truly dedicate ourselves to training. My teammates and I have all talked about how nice it would be to do exactly that. 

Cal had several summer sessions. I always committed myself to the session that only lasted 6 weeks. I took 9-10 units. Honestly, it was hell, but hell for only 6 weeks. Class would typically start at 8am and go until about 4pm. I would typically be doing homework until 1am and then sleep and do it all over. This was Monday through Friday. This was BY FAR the hardest part[s] of my college education. It was exhausting and very hard to stay committed, but I knew it paid off. In just 6 weeks time, I completed a bunch of units, and I still had the rest of the summer to train for skiing, travel, and just enjoy the regular summer activities. SO worth it!

Sophomore year was interesting because I actually thought I was going to quit skiing because I was loving college so much and the Squaw team had kind of fallen apart. I know Brooke fought with the decision to quit as well. I finally realized how upset about this decision I was though, and last minute joined the Vail team because my friend skied out there. In order to do this, I knew I had to take a semester off. I had completed about another 18 units during the fall semester. I found that Cal, being a big, public school, did not care about me taking off semesters at all. So long that you were in good standing as a student when you left, all you would have to do is re-apply when you wanted to come back, and they'd let you back in. So I took off the spring semester, moved to CO, and did a couple more NorAms that season, but still mainly focused on training. After skiing, I moved back home in the spring and took an online course that could transfer to Cal as one of my breadth requirements. Another thing I suggest is to talk to the school counselors/advisors. They were horrible at Cal (I think because of the big, public school thing again), but I did learn one important thing from them. There is a website online (I wish I could remember its name) where you can find out all the courses from all schools (online and physical) that are transferrable to your own school. This helped me find classes to take in my free time in the spring or if classes weren't available at Cal. I took 4 transferrable classes online over the course of college. And again, this summer, I took another 9-10 units during the 6 weeks summer session.

By junior year, I had figured out that I couldn't be a business major like I had planned if I wanted to continue skiing (again, it's give-and-take). This was because they only offered some of the required classes in the spring semester. After looking into a bunch of different majors that I thought I'd be interested in or form into some kind of business-like study, I decided on psychology with an emphasis in business communications because it worked well with my ski schedule and seemed enjoyable. I figured there was always graduate school for the Master's in Business Administration. So this is where I got a little crazy. Since I was finally committed to skiing, I knew I had to take a bunch of units to graduate on time. I took 21 units this fall semester. This took a lot of planning on my own (like I said, the advisors sucked) because I had to make sure I was meeting all of the major requirements, and, at Cal, many classes are hard to get into because they are in such high demand. I wish I could remember another website that was super helpful (one may be "ratemyprofessor"). I used this website to find filler classes, or electives that will get you the units towards graduation. On these websites, you can find interesting classes and a lot of information about the professors. Because I was so busy with my heavy course load, I looked for professors that were easy. Taking classes in which I knowingly could get an A majorly lightened the load! I also used it to find elective business classes since that is the major I would have originally chosen. I skied back at Squaw this season because Colorado was too cold for me (I’m pathetic) and the team had somewhat reformed. I traveled with Park City to a couple NorAms, but again, mainly trained and competed in regionals. This spring, I took another online course that transferred.

This summer was hard because half way into the 6 week summer session (I was again taking 9-10 units), my friend got sick. I was going to move out to Park City after school was done, but I decided instead to stay with her. Because of this, I actually got 2 more classes done over this summer. Summers were nice because classes that were required for your major were easier to get into.

By the time that senior year came around, I realized that with the extra classes from summer, I only had a few requirements and units left to fulfill. I ended up taking 10 units at Cal and my language requirement online. I took my language requirement online because the classes were in high demand at Cal and known to be hard. I am not a language-minded person. So, I graduated that 3 and a half years! After I graduated, I moved out to Park City, joined PC Free, and skied my first ever full NorAm tour. 

This is a novel, but I know how much I wish I had had some guidance. My main suggestion is to PLAN. Look up all the unit and major requirements. Look into all the class options. Talk with your professors. Don't think that taking classes at your college is the only way. AND ENJOY COLLEGE! Brooke should enjoy her freshman year. At times she may feel like she's falling behind in skiing, but she'll be getting much more from balancing her lifestyle than committing fully to one or the other. And, I was never expected to make the team. There is always this talk of the "next person." The people in college are never suspected, but college gave me a great mental advantage over the other competitors when I started skiing full time. 

So, yes, I did take a semester off in college. Several, in fact. 21 units in a fall semester was a lot, but I actually found that I work better when I am busy. Everything was well-scheduled and it didn't allow for any procrastination. College really is the "best 4 years of your life." I made my best friends. I partied. I experienced things I won't experience anywhere else but in college. I had so much fun! This stuff happens naturally, but on top of getting an education, these factors are exactly why I encourage skiers to go to college. 

Brooke should and can do whatever she finds best balances her life between school and skiing. She's done it well so far! I spoke to my teammate about this a lot in Hood this summer. She seemed to think the full NorAm tour would work out. She explained it to me, but I also haven't seen the NorAm schedule. I think it could definitely be doable, but I also know how much I'd appreciate a full season of training at this point in my ski career. It will make her so much better. 

Please pass along my words, and remind her that I can help her any time. 

Some of my best friends from Cal

To anyone reading this now, please also feel free to ask me any questions. Happy finals and graduation season!

Just because I never have to take a final again in my life and I'm stoked!