About Holly Whitney

Hi Everyone! I hail from midcoast Maine and graduated from Williams College in 2012 with a degree in Sociology. I’m so excited to return to Truckee for my second year on the elite team and to continue coaching at Truckee High School and Auburn Ski Club. Last season, I had the opportunity to compete for the first time at US Nationals and the American Birkebeiner and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve this season on the national circuit. I am also excited to race locally in the Tahoe area and compete once again for the Fischer Cup. Think Snow!

Thank You Farm Team!!

Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted and I’ve been on a lot of sweet ski adventures, thanks to the undying support of the Farm Team and Far West. I had an incredible experience at the American Birkebeiner (all the people and enthusiasm for xc skiing literally brought me to tears at the start line…cheesy but true. It reminded me why I love this sport so much) and a less incredible time at the Great Ski Race (atmosphere was equally awesome…my skis and energy was not). I’ve also just returned from coaching for the Far West Juniors in Fairbanks, AK for Junior Nationals…Fairbanks the town wasn’t anything too spectacular (although it marked my first time ever in AK which was in of itself was awesome!) but the skiing was great and the kids were a pleasure to coach as always. The highlight was visiting the World Ice Sculpture Championships- I had so much fun being a kid again and playing on ice slides and spinning in ice chairs (also, I’ve never felt so sick afterward)- there were amazing ice sculptures and Dylan made sure he got a picture with every one. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Truckee weather has made me a softy this winter, but Fairbanks definitely brought me back to reality so thanks for that, AK!

Me and my J2 ladies in Fairbanks...before it got really cold

Me and my J2 ladies in Fairbanks…before it got really cold

Having fun on the ice chairs with Skyler...before I got really dizzy

Having fun on the ice chairs with Skyler…before I got really dizzy

After a quick one-day turnaround in Truckee, which included a fantastic birthday/farewell party where I got to say goodbye to many of the amazing friends I’ve made over the past 5 months, I packed up my car and am currently mid-road trip back to Maine. My job, at an outdoor education center, starts March 25th so unfortunately I couldn’t stretch out my stay in Truckee any longer (although it is heartbreaking to leave right before the supertour slash leave in general).

I just wanted to thank the Farm Team and all of the Far West Nordic community for all of their support and love this past winter- I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so welcomed and appreciated in my whole life and I had so many incredible days in Truckee- so many memorable training skis to Far Side and around the valley, so many wonderful moments trying to teach people from the bay how to ski, so many bent-over-laughing times with Truckee High School and the ASC Devo and Comp teams. After literally spending all day at TDXC, I always went home a very happy camper. I also got to check a lot of things off my bucket list- racing at Senior US Nationals, racing the American Birkebeiner, applying fluoros and lots and lots of klister (we don’t do that on the East Coast). And, after so many disappointing results in college, it was awesome to feel good about my races and have so much fun on the Fischer cup race circuit.  This winter has definitely rejuvenated my love of skiing.

Finally, I want to say a very special thank you to Ben Grassesschi for teaching me everything I know about waxing and coaching and trusting me with all of those rambunctious Far West kids. And to Jon Halvorsen, without whom I never would have ended up in Truckee- it was such a pleasure and honor to coach with you this winter!

one happy coach...about to give alex K a Mountain Dew feed during his last high school nordic race...whatever makes them race faster:)

one happy coach…about to give alex K a Mountain Dew feed during his last high school nordic race…whatever makes them race faster:)

That’s it from me- off to another perfect, not-real-world job with another group of incredible people- but I’m already looking forward to returning to Truckee next November!!

Love Holly

The Lessons of Coaching

I was inspired by Beth’s awesome road trip lessons post to share a few lessons that I have learned these past few days (plus, i’m way overdue on posting). I have just returned from a terrific few days at Soldier Hollow, Utah coaching the Far West Juniors at the Super JOQ. This was my first weekend as a “real” coach…by which I mean I had to apply some wicked expensive, cancer-causing stuff called fluoros and actually test skis instead of just guessing. It is a very steep learning curve but under the tutelage of the older, wiser Far West Coaches, I managed to survive the week. Here are some handy lessons for newbie coaches:

1. Being in charge of making sure athletes don’t miss their start times is harder than it sounds- it may include running and screaming and waving your hands to get an athlete’s attention who is zoning out listening to pump up music as they do their 500th lap around the Biathlon range with no concept that the announcer has been calling their bib number for the past three minutes.

2. Just because you’re not racing, doesn’t mean you don’t get nervous and anxious too.

3. Coaching is more exhausting than racing: you stay up late applying fluoros and wake up early to test wax. and brushing is a serious arm workout.

4. Testing wax is a good interval session. Log it.

5. Wearing a red coach’s bib would be cool except when you are 5’0″ and it looks more like a ridiculous dress

6. If the bib doesn’t do it, you are constantly reminded of your height when waxing next to Ambrose all day

7. Carrying a radio IS wicked cool and a huge part of why I became a coach in the first place.

8. Boys don’t know how to scrape their skis…or just get distracted in the process so you’ll probably have to do it for them

9. Being a coach, and therefore all mighty and powerful, doesn’t mean you’re good at bowling.

10. When you are a coach you automatically get to either drive a large van (totally sweet) or get shot gun…which sounds sweet except on a ten hour drive with ridiculous high school boys pestering you the entire way.

11. Coaching is the best job ever because you get to chill with awesome kids all day.

 

Coaching is pretty much as sweet as it looks (photo: Stacey Herhuskey)

 

US Nationals: An Unexpected Journey

Skiing at US Nationals has been on my bucket list for like ever. However, as a college skier it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense- traveling, racing a bunch, getting tired and probably sick all right before the carnival season. Since I never had a hope of making a junior team, racing at Nationals never seemed worth it. When I crossed the finish line of my last college race last February, I thought that my ski career was over and accepted the fact that US Nationals just wasn’t going to happen. Sure I’d race a few citizen’s races, but I never thought I’d have the time, wax support, money or training to go to Nationals. The Farm Team and Far West Nordic made that all possible however and I jumped at the opportunity to go just for the experience and to cross it off my bucket list. As my parents said, “just do it for the Schwag!” So I headed to US Nationals with no expectations in terms of results. As Coach Ben said after watching the Hobbit- if you go in with expectations, you’re probably just going to be disappointed. Just race your best race and that’s all you can do. As competirive people, most skiers tend to forget this and base their happiness level on how they stack up on the result sheet- I certainly always did. But without any expectations at Nationals, I just focused on racing the best I could each hill (and there are a lot at SOHO), turn, and flat (not too many of those). Consequently, I came away with some of the best races of my career, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be “semi-retired” and have not trained as much this year as before.

We started with the classic sprint. Classic sprinting is my favorite ski event and I usually do pretty well (it’s the only discipline in which I’ve ever won a big race) but it just wasn’t in the cards at US Nationals. I cramped up from the get go and was trying to rush too much and forgot good technique, a common problem with sprinting for me. But I was in heaven just to spend the rest of the day cheering on the best skiers in the country, including Miss Annika Taylor who qualified in 30th and was spectacular in the fastest women’s quarterfinal of the day, right on Sadie Bjornsen’s tail the whole way.

Annika killing it in the classic sprint

Next up was the Skate 10k interval start. I’m not a fan of interval starts at all and I’m even less enthusiastic for 10ks… It’s the hardest distance mentally and physically and I’ve never had a great result in a 10k. I was really psyched for the 20k classic and in my mind the 10k skate was just the road to get there. No expectations. But I felt amazing on the first loop. I was relaxed, skiing well technically, and I felt that I was just flying- my skis were so good! I wasn’t as aggressive or focused on the second lap as I could have been but I was still thrilled with how I had skied. I almost didn’t look at the results because I didn’t want to ruin my happiness. But the results, for once, matched how I felt and I went home that day more satisfied then I have ever been with a 10k skate race.

Farmer Spencer Eusden flying in the 15k skate

The 20k classic mass start was equally as awesome. I started dead last in the chevron start, which is the way I like it. I started last in my first Junior Olympic’s mass start way back when and it was my best classic race ever- it takes all the pressure off and it’s super fun and motivating to pick people off. My college coach always said that mass starts are easy: just try to improve on your bib number. Since there were several scratches, that was pretty much a guarantee. It was my first 20k ever (we only do 15ks in college) but there was plenty of rest on the course (despite having to climb Hermod’s hill four times) and I was able to ski the whole race aggressively and in control. I paced in impeccably and had enough punch in the end to out-sprint the girls I had been skiing with. Since it was a small, and impressive, field I didn’t actually beat that many people but, despite the results, I was completely satisfied. I could not have skiied any faster, or smarter, than I did and that is all we can do as ski racers.

Junior Women’s Mass Start 5k Classic

By the end of the classic race, I was pretty exhausted and getting sick but I still put everything in to the skate sprint…I was pleased with the race but not going to lie, happy that I only had to race the qualifier and could stand around and cheer the rest of the day. We traveled home yesterday, many of us sick and tired and ready for a good rest and our own beds.

 

I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to race at Nationals, nevermind actually being happy with my races. Without expectations, I was able to relax and enjoy every moment and not once did I get nervous, which has been the bain of my skiing performance for so long. Later this season, I’ll get to cross another event off my bucket list when I race in the Birkebeiner, the largest ski race in North America. So much for retiring:)

The Coaching Life

Today was my first race as a ski coach…and I loved every minute. All the local high schools gathered at the Kirwood meadow for some super fun and funky relay races. Highlights of the day:

1. The boys totally outdid the girls in the costume contest…I saw several middle school boys sporting tutus and wigs…

2. The middle school boys race course was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t very well marked and we had a few dozen middle schoolers on the highs school course…oops. After figuring it out, I spend a good 45 minutes yelling directions at middle school boys since I didn’t have any flagging.

3. I skiied one leg of the middle school course with a girl who didn’t know how to skate ski and was trying to classic without any wax..She was getting a wee big frustrated so I nominated myself as her cheerleader in the hopes that she wouldn’t quit cross country skiing the minute she finished.

4. Standing at the turnaround point of the high school race, yelling my head off for every racer…and being very proud at how many names I could actually remember. I was in desperate need of a cow bell though in order to project my lone voice and so immediately texted my mom to have it sent with my xmas presents…which may or may not ever come.

All in all, a terrific day- complete with both sunshine in the morning and snow in the afternoon. Congratulations to all the racers…especially those for which this was their first high school race…or first race period!

Escape to Higher Ground

As the Truckee River rises and basements flood, ASC Comp and Devo Teams headed to higher elevation in search of snow and adventure- we certainly found it! On the road up to Mt. Rose, we came upon about 3-4 feet of fresh powder which made for some pretty sweet backcountry skiing (although I definitely wished I had real backcountry poles instead of race poles…my pole sunk through the snow to the grip a few too many times). There were about 15 hardcore skiers who came out to brave the elements but besides some serious ice chunks to the face, the weather held up and everyone enjoyed breaking trail through the woods. I have always appreciated Nordic Skiers’ adventurous spirit and excitement about character-building workouts- it makes for some pretty sweet people to hang out with!

Hardcore Nordies- Photo credit: Jon Halvorsen

Today I am thankful for Football:)

So, while most people are sitting with their families, stuffing themselves with Turkey, I am sitting in a very empty house, eating pasta leftovers all by myself. This may sound depressing, but I am watching my beloved Patriots so I could not be more content. Now you might think that something is wrong with me (which is a valid argument), however, to be honest I’ve never really been all psyched about Thanksgiving mostly because, as a skier, I’ve never really celebrated it. In high school, I spent most Thanksgivings skiing in Canada and was lucky if I got to enjoy a token pumpkin pie. Perhaps my fondest memory of thanksgiving was a few years ago when I was in Nepal, and went to the US ambassador’s house and had miniature turkey sandwiches…I was just so thankful to eat meat that I actually recognized after 3 months of…?? So, to make a long story short, I am thoroughly enjoying watching football, which is the only thanksgiving tradition that I religiously follow. All that being said, Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!!

I have also spent this Thanksgiving working on the online course/test I have to take in order to be certified to coach at the high school. This course literally takes 5 hours…yup, 5 hours. Most of the test questions I could answer without actually reading anything but instead I am forced to page through endless lessons and demonstrations. That is not to say I haven’t learned anything. Perhaps the most interesting thing was reading about how to help athletes with anxiety before competitions. I will probably talk about this a lot this winter, but I have had serious issues with anxiety throughout my skiing career and it has definitely inhibited my ability to preform well on the race course. The more nervous I am, the worse I do, no exceptions. There is a very fine line between nervous excitement/adrenaline which is usually a positive and throwing up my entire breakfast minutes before my start time (yeah, gross, I know, but that was me…every single race last year). This course says that anxiety is all about how the athlete perceives the differential between their ability and the difficulty of the task. The bigger the perceived differential, the more anxious they are likely to be. This is only partly true, I think. I get more nervous when I’m in better shape and I care more. I thought I had learned how to handle my anxiety in college, until I got to my senior year. I had spent the summer training in Truckee and I was probably in the best shape of my life so I had higher expectations and I wanted all my work to pay off. Cue upchuck. So this season, my goal is to figure out how to turn nerves into excitement and just relax and have fun skiing. That is why we do it, after all. My other goal is to help my athletes to relax, embrace excitement and handle nerves. My biggest regret was not dealing with my anxiety earlier or talking to my coaches about it until the last weekend of the season (my best friend wasn’t racing so she was my personal shrink and skiied the warmup with me, distracting me with gossip. It worked, I didn’t throw up, and I had my best races of the season.)

One last thing- the ski season starts for real tomorrow!!! Good luck to everyone racing in West Yellowstone! And this weekend is the first World Cups of the season in Sweden. SO EXCITED!! If you are a young athlete, let me tell you, there is nothing more motivating and inspiring then following the US ski team (or canada or really anyone…pick someone cool) on the international stage (maybe even more exciting than football…and that is saying something coming from me:) If you don’t already, you should follow fasterskier.com- it has terrific and timely reporting from all the major xc races around the world. Also, if you are an early riser, check out frombar.tv (formerly sportlemon.tv)- they usually have all the live races from the world cups but only live (no replays) so you have to wake up for Euro time (disclaimer: not sure how legal this site is…but it’s awesome!)

leftover picture from road trip

Touch Down in Truckee

I made it. After 7 days of long drives, beautiful views (colorado, Utah), not so beautiful views (won’t mention any in order to avoid hurt feelings), and one very dirty car, I’ve arrived in Truckee. And of course the first thing I did was go skiing at ASC, which, although rock skiing, was still skiing!!!! I’m trying to take it slow and adjust to altitude (and get my feet back under me after sitting in a car for a week) but hopefully we’ll get some snow next week and I’ll be ready to ski and ski and ski! Truckee High School practice started the Tuesday, marking my first day as a ski coach. It looks like a really strong group of athletes this year- a lot of very competitive kids who are really invested in having fun by pushing themselves in training and racing, not just by gossiping on the sidelines (of course, that is also very important). When you learn how to have fun even when you’re exhausted and about to collapse, you know you were to be a nordic skier. I’m looking forward to meeting to larger Truckee/Tahoe Nordic Community as the weeks go by and I’m really looking forward to the potential snow this weekend (knock on wood)! See y’all on the trails! Ps. tried but failed to upload pictures…I’ll stick them on another post.