About Kara

Hello hello! I am stoked to be on the Far West Farm Team this year. I grew up here in beautiful Truckee, Ca. and am a proud product of the Far West junior teams. I learned to ski and to love skiing here in these mountains, so it was only fitting that I come back to fuel my passion for the sport. After attending the University of Denver for three years, I transferred to the University of Nevada where I finished my NCAA skiing career and also threw in a year of running. Today, I am a triathlete, runner and as always, a skier. I am also a journalist with a passion for writing, story-telling and interacting. I love living and playing in the mountians with my dog Levi, and will change the world one day… one story at a time.

Finally Racing!

It’s been a BUSY winter for me this year, with many coaching duties, numerous other supplemental jobs, and continuing to work in my own training. But in these past three weeks I have finally been able to get in some racing! In fact, I’ve been on a roll: 3 races in 3 weeks. The first race I was able to jump into (thanks to having lots of coaching help on the day and getting the waxing out of the way relatively early) was the Allan Bard Classic down in Mammoth. This was a 20-km classic race, which is pretty much perfectly suited to my strengths. I had a really great race, and was able to come away with the win, posting a strong time. This was an awesome feeling, and I enjoyed the race and really pushing myself again, but was reminded how much it HURTS! Not knowing where anyone else was in the field, I was not willing to let my foot off the gas, and put myself in the hurt locker big time by pushing full-throttle pretty much the whole time. But hey, that’s racing, right?! It’s not really supposed to feel good — until it’s over anyway! But generally, I was actually really encouraged by my ability to push so hard in this race, and just the fact that I felt pretty strong, despite everything I’ve been trying to balance this winter. I guess you could say I got the racing bug back, along with some confidence!, so I went ahead and jumped on the opportunity to race a few more times.
The next race was the Paco’s Valentine’s race up at Tahoe Donner XC. They did an awesome job of making this race happen despite really thin snow pack. This was a fast, fun race. But again, it was tough! I was able to get another win, but I really had to work hard for it, and once again crossed the line with no shortage of race pain. I decided to take a fairly early lead in order to take advantage of the gradual descents and flats that are my strengths, so I couldn’t let myself slow down at all, knowing there were some fast women chasing hard behind me. All in all, I felt this was another strong race, and I was really encouraged by my performance.
I raced again this past weekend at Monday’s President’s Cup race at Auburn Ski Club. The conditions were fantastic! This race was especially tough for me, however, given that it was one of my biggest coaching weekends of the season, and followed a few pretty long days of coaching and waxing. I felt pretty tired from the get-go, and really just felt like I was working exceptionally hard but unable to go all that fast. My body just didn’t have enough “juice,” so to speak. But, I gave it my all, making sure to honor the real purpose of racing — to go absolutely as hard as you can all the way to the line! — and still came away with a decent result, placing fifth in a very strong women’s field. Congrats to the juniors on a seriously awesome performance — they are looking STRONG! It feels good to be back into the groove, so to speak, with racing. It’s always nice to really challenge yourself and see what you can do when you’re put to the test. And there’s really just no way to mimic a race scenario other than to get in on the real thing.

Making the Most of What You’ve Got!

If you’ve ever been to the Sierra Nevadas in the winter — particularly Truckee — or even just heard of it, you know that it’s a region infamous for one thing in particular: snow. Lots of snow. As in, storms that last for days and dump dozens of feet of the white stuff.

But this year? Basically zilch… at least so far. January has become June-uary, as the typically frigid, snow-filled days of skiing and sledding are now instead the mild, clear, even sunny days of riding and running.

Our way of life in this small mountain town has essentially been turned upside down. There’s no Nordic skiing to be found, and the downhill resorts rely on their snow-making capabilities to keep the slopes functioning and occupied. In an ‘ordinary’ year, we’d be taking face shots of powder on the alpine slopes and logging dozens of kilometers on fresh, pristine Nordic tracks. We’d have completed several twistedly ‘painful but pleasurable’ Nordic races, pushing our limits further, and getting stronger, with each sound of the start gun.

I would have made my transition from skinny-wheeled bike to skinny skis, and gotten past the initial awkward phase of lacking coordination and balance, and heaving at the tops of the hills from inefficiency. I would just be getting into my skiing ‘groove,’ and getting more and more fired up to get out there, go hard and see what I can do. As a coach, I’d be pumping with adrenaline from the days of watching as the kids made the transformation of their own into skiing form, and began to shine brightly on the race course, finding a whole new level of digging deep.

Normally, I’d have fully embraced the spirit of winter’s lazy days, cozying up by the fire, drinking hot chocolate, and baking up a storm. I’d be dressed in my warmest sweaters, down coats and hats, and Levi’s paws would be worn from the cold days of backcountry skiing. My shoveling and car scraping skills would be nearly perfected, and the muscles built up. My boots would be water-stained and wearing down from trudging through the elements. Heck, we’d probably already be complaining about how sick of the snow we are.

I have never known anything else during winter months, in my whole life. Until now.

But as it stands, none of those things can be done. It’s hard to even really acknowledge that it’s winter, as there’s no snow on the ground, a bright sun in the sky, and no Nordic skiing to speak of. But, by the calendar, it is. And with the lack of cooperation on Mother Nature’s part to sync up with the date, as we’re used to Her doing, frustration and disappointment are high. Sorrow and despair have even come in to play. And complaining has been ever-present.

I realize the implications of the lack of snow are significant in my mountain town, where entire livelihoods depend on this one season, and the snow itself. It is a total bummer that our winter has been non-existent, and undoubtedly not without consequence. As a ski coach, I am blatantly aware of this. However, as an athlete, I have learned the importance of being able to adapt.

Having no control over nature or the weather, there is literally nothing we can do about our snowless situation. Yes, we can spend thousands of dollars turning thousands of gallons of water into artificial snow where we have the capacity, but the buck stops there. As such, I’ve convinced myself that there is really no sense in complaining. Sure, we can waste away the day being stressed and disappointed and considering ourselves unlucky about what we don’t have. Or, we can make the choice to make the most of what we do have, right now. I choose the latter.

So I’m not Nordic skiing as I normally would be. But there is plenty more to do; activities I can never say I’ve done before in January. In fact, in many ways, this winter is a blessing for me as a triathlete, and I really out to be soaking up this second lease on fall training. I’ve gotten in some amazing trail runs without having to seek out lower elevation, and probably gotten in more time on my mountain bike in the last few weeks than I did in the same time period at any point last fall. The riding has been incredible, and my legs are getting strong! Yes, there are a few icy patches here and there that you have to watch out for, but who cares? We’re mountain biking in January, in Tahoe!

Not what we’d normally expect or desire, but come on, it’s pretty darn sweet nonetheless. Who knows when we’ll get to say that again. It sounds like snow is on the way this week, and all will be ‘back to normal’ here, but I for one am going to take full advantage of these last few days of snowlessness, as I’m happy to have done so far this “winter.” And I’m going to be thankful that I’m already two months ahead of where I’d normally be in terms of my riding and running, despite being behind in my skiing. I’m going to be thankful that I’ve gotten in so many fun days on the trail with good friends, and been able to be outside, loving what I do, regardless of whether or not the calendar says I should be doing it. Life is never certain, and you won’t always get what you want, so you might as well make the most of what you’ve got.

Racing Season Underway

It’s hard to believe it, but racing season has officially begun here in the Far West region despite the lack of snow. ASC has done an incredible job working to keep some trails open for all of us, and many local volunteers have helped by shoveling snow. It’s super cool to see athletes come together like that, and really see the strength of a community effort. It was the community shovel party on Monday that enabled Wednesday’s classic sprint to take place.

Wednesday’s race went off without a hitch despite the tough conditions. I had a busy waxing day as a coach, and my attempt to pull double duty as both coach and racer proved to be super tough, as I ended up with about 2 minutes of warm up before my prelim race, despite going out last. For those who haven’t tried it (and I recommend highly against it!), take my word for it that doing an all-out sprint race with no warm-up is ROUGH and PAINFUL! Legs and arms seize up quite quickly and it becomes quite a challenge to try to move them fast. Lungs feel the pain too, as they burn unhappily when they haven’t been “opened up” before hand. But, it was (somehow!) still fun, and it’s always nice to put in a good hard effort, even if you’re not prepared. I’m glad I was able to jump in, though next time I hope the circumstances will be different! Being both a coach and a racer certainly has it challenges, but it has advantages too. Since Wednesday was a JN qualifier, the kids’ races were undoubtedly more important than my own, so waxing right up to my race was an easy choice that I made happily.

On another note, the first few races of this season have provided me with a platform to combine my journalism skills with my passion for skiing and racing. Check out my first two race reports, published in the Sierra Sun, Here: http://bit.ly/vJFkJg, and Here: http://bit.ly/vw6zhR!

Far West Girls’ Cookie Party!

This past Saturday, I led a “Girls’ Day” for the Far West girls after skiing up at ASC. I thought that it would be great way to get all of the girls together to spend some time with one another off the snow, and I thought working on a fun project together would be the best way to do that. From my perspective, it was a definite “success.” There ended up being 10 of us — 4 athletes from ASC, and 5 from Sugar Bowl Academy, plus me. We made gingerbread and sugar cookies from scratch, and then had a decorating extravaganza, with colored frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips and more. The cookies actually turned out great! I was a little skeptical during the preparation process ;) Once we had everything mixed up and ready to go, we baked the cookies by the dozens in the oven, and then went to town with our decorating. The juniors came up with some seriously cool cookie designs. I was impressed! There were Christmas trees, rudolphs, angels, and even a whole snowman family! As pretty as they were, we enjoyed digging in to the masterpieces when we were done — and maybe a little bit along the way too! :)

The cookies were delicious, but it was really the process of making them, all together, that made the day special for me. I truly believe that the importance of setting aside some “team bonding” time, outside of workouts, cannot be overstated. A team that can laugh together, enjoy spending time together, and be there for one another is truly a strong team. And, as we all know, a strong team is a fast team! More importantly, while Nordic skiing does so much for us in the way of our physical shape, we also love it because it provides us with lifelong friendships. I know from my experiences as a junior that while my Nordic career did so much for me athletically and scholastically, it is also responsible for some of my most cherished memories, and strongest friendships. But even though Far West is a small division, we are so busy in the winter that sometimes we don’t get as much time as we’d like to just hang out with our teammates, rather than train with them. So hopefully “Girls’ Day” provided the juniors with a chance to better get to know those they don’t know well yet, and strengthen the bond they already share with others. As Nordic skiers, we work so hard alongside one another all year long, sharing the same challenges and similar victories; generating sweat, tears and smiles. In my mind, there is no better basis for friendship.

And while the juniors and I are separated by years, our experiences when it comes to skiing are still very much the same. And while I know I’m not the fastest skier out there, I truly hope that the person and friend I am both on and off the snow provides a positive influence for our juniors — girls in particular. I know that, for their dedication, effort and more importantly the heart they put into not only skiing, but one another, they sure do give me something to look up to, despite being younger. There are few things more valuable than a strong, kind female role model. So thanks, Far West girls, for being just that! (And yes, while this post is focused on the girls and the girls’ day, you boys are pretty awesome too! Thanks, also, for your impact on me as an athlete, coach and person. And of course, for always making skiing fun!)

Gratitude

As usual, things have been exceedingly busy since late November and Thanksgiving. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s truly been a whirlwind, between prepping for my final running race, getting ready for ski season and starting my winter coaching gig. But even though the holiday has passed, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving — gratitude — as it applies to my life now.

It can be easy for me, as I think it is for most people, to get caught up in feeling bad about my situation, or worrying or stressing about the things I don’t have, or haven’t accomplished. As a constant striver, I think that, despite setting short-term goals, I can become dissatisfied about not being where I ultimately want to be just yet. But I think it’s immensely important — if at no other time than the holidays — to take a good, hard look at all of these things we do have, and acknowledge just how blessed we really are.

Okay, so I’m scrambling to balance four jobs and still just barely squeaking by (or sometimes just missing) on the bills every month, while still maintaining and working toward the goal of becoming an elite professional athlete: not exactly the ideal scenario. But, it’s what I’ve got, and I’ve got to work with it. And really, in the grand scheme of things, “what I’ve got” in fact makes me pretty darn fortunate.

For starters, let’s consider the fact that I can dedicate myself toward such lofty athletic goals, seemingly ‘unrealistic’ or not. I am able-bodied, healthy and happy. I am able to train long, hard hours and push myself to levels beyond the comprehension of your everyday ‘average joe’ walking down the street. And through everything I’ve done, and all the years I have trained and competed, I have stayed (relatively) healthy. Now that is a blessing.

I can run, with my own two legs — and run far! I can escape into nature on my own accord, leaving life’s stresses behind. I can chose to run slow, or go fast. I can bike up mountain passes, over peaks, across creeks and meadows or along coastal roads. I can go anywhere, really, and all on my own capacity — provided that the two wheels stay pumped up. I can swim across lakes, and feel the water on my face and between my toes. I can ski on virtually any terrain, whether in sunshine or among falling snow. To be able to do all of the things I am capable of — even if not yet at the level I am hoping to reach — I am so very grateful. I know there are others who long to simply be able do these things. So thank you, to my healthy, strong and capable body, for enabling me to train, push and compete. Thank you for taking me on incredible adventures, to unbelievable landscapes and to new heights some others may never reach.

And thank you also, to my mindset, for being as ‘crazy’ as you are. For being crazy enough, as most people say, to let me actually enjoy working out, getting stronger and faster, because I know this is a struggle for many. In fact, you are crazy enough to make me long for a sweat, dissatisfied without it. I can think of few things I’d rather do. For this, I am truly grateful. And thank you also, mindset, for being crazy enough to remain idealistic and maintain your desire to chase down these dreams that sometimes seem unattainable — even if you do prove to be unrealistic. For my mind’s ability to stay positive, focused and determined, I am grateful. I know this will only continue to make the difference for me, time and time again.

I am grateful, too, for the overwhelming support and positivity that surrounds me. While my training situation may be unideal in some ways, it is absolutely exceptional in others. For one, I am lucky enough to live in an incredible community. Trails are plentiful, adventures abound, the scenery is breathtaking and the weather is amazing. The training options here in Tahoe are unparalleled, all year long. For that, I am incredibly fortunate. But beyond the terrain this place has to offer is the community behind it. Truckee is full of incredible, passionate, active people. It’s inspiring and uplifting to be surrounded by so much talent, dedication and passion. I am consistently impressed by this community. And on a more personal level, I couldn’t be more fortunate than to have the family and friends that I do. From company on my adventures to encouragement during my races, I receive so much support, both physically and mentally, from those close to me — even when they are not around. I carry that support with me, and it pushes me through the tough moments, and makes the triumphs that much sweeter. I could not ask for more.

But above all, I am so very grateful simply to be able to be this passionate about what I am doing, and the goals I’m pursuing. I know many people search a long time to find a true passion. I have undoubtedly found one, and it is the fire and desire in my life, day in and day out. I can’t imagine my life without the passion I have developed for athletics, and all of the gains I have made as a person from the pursuit of my athletic goals. I don’t know that gratitude can really quite describe the feeling, but it is definitely a start.

So as the days go on and I continue reaching for more, working for more, and desiring more, I will strive to remember my gratitude for the foundation from which I am working. Because for that, I am truly blessed.

Listening and Accommodating

As athletes, we are planners. We are always looking ahead, driven by the future. If we want to do well in a race in May, we start planning and preparing for it in the fall; if we’re winter sport athletes, we’re “made” in the summer; and even though we have no idea what will come into our lives in three weeks, we’ve got our training plans already laid out for that time. Planning ahead, particularly when it comes to a training/racing schedule, is crucial to being a top-tier athlete. But so too — and much less discussed — is the ability to steer away from that plan.

When we make a training plan, we plan on the notion that our bodies are healthy and our souls content. In the weeks leading up to a big-race taper, we prepare ourselves to push beyond what we’ve done before, to endure pain along the way, and become stronger athletes once we reach the other side. This is a necessary process to improving ourselves. But when our bodies aren’t in that healthy and happy state, we just cannot treat them the same way and expect the same response. We absolutely need to listen. And, as simple as it sounds, this listening, and the consequential “backing off,” can sometimes be one of the hardest things we as athletes have to do.

I got a pretty good taste of this lesson late this summer/early fall as I dealt with the injury to my foot. I learned to embrace the rest from running as a chance to improve my bike and swim, get some ski-specific training in, and of course to heal my body — but it was not easy. And now, after working so hard to come back to form with my running, and just when I was rising back to top shape before my December marathon, last week brought yet another setback.

As usual, my plate has been beyond full these past few months. As I try too wear more hats than can truly fit on my head, I have become increasingly overwhelmed, somewhat stressed, and of course VERY busy. Naturally, my body is not a fan, and last week it spoke up loud and clear to tell me that I needed to slow down. During what was supposed to be one of the biggest weeks of my race prep, I came down with a terrible cold. The coughing kept me up at night, and my head throbbed during the day. And as tempting as it was to just push on through, wanting to complete my two hard interval sets for the week along with my distance workouts, I decided to listen to my body, and accommodate it. With everything else I already had going on that week, I was wearing myself down plenty just by checking the tasks off of my to-do list, including several trips down to Reno for some broadcast work and numerous early mornings. The interval days came and went, and while I naturally wished I was out there, I knew I was doing the right thing to rest.

By the next week, I was feeling much better, and sleeping through the night. And after the rest, my body was raring to get moving again! I came back this week and put in a solid long run along with what was undoubtedly my best interval set since coming back from my injury. Despite missing the days last week, I am still finally reaching the level I have been hoping to get to since I first started running again in late September, after an eight-week hiatus. After decades of hard athletic training, it seems I’m finally learning the lesson of listening to my body, and altering my schedule to accommodate its needs. And this time, I got it right. And my body responded fabulously.

While we plan ahead as athletes, and line up the perfect plan to get us to peak form by performance time, we can’t always foresee what else will happen in our lives beyond the training. Life brings unexpected challenges. Sometimes one task gets added to the already-expansive “to-do” list, and it becomes too much. Our bodies get tired or we come down with an illness. While these things are inconveniences for certain, they are not deal-breakers. We can come back from a week of not having the time to get in our training hours, or getting sick and having to take days off. But only if we listen, and respond. Our bodies truly do know best. So if they’re trying to say something, don’t block it out! Listen. And accommodate. Despite altering your plan, you’ll be doing yourself — and your body — a huge favor in the long run.

A Fun Day on The Mountain

Hello fellow nordies!

Yesterday I joined up with the UNR Winter Sports Club, including my FW Farm Team teammate Gus Johnson, for a run/hike up Mt. Tallac in South Lake Tahoe. The workout was tough for me today, after a really hard interval session last night, but it was a blast. Despite my not being able to run most of the steeper sections due to (extremely) tired legs, I pushed the pace on the hiking sections and was able to make it to the top in a little over an hour and a half. As usual, we were in for a real treat at the top. If you haven’t yet done this spectacular hike (as I hadn’t done until last summer, despite growing up in Tahoe!), I highly recommend you get out there and check it out. The views are absolutely incredible, spanning over Lake Tahoe and some of the surrounding lakes including Fallen Leaf, as well as the vast Desolation Wilderness. The terrain is quite steep and the elevation gain over the five-mile route to the summit is significant, making for a great distance workout, even at a slower pace.

All in all, it is a truly special experience, and was again today, on my fourth trip up the mountain. I was tired at the top, and didn’t quite have the guts to jump right near the summit’s edge for photos, as Gus, August and Nikki did, but still loved the views and the thrill of the accomplishment. The way down went quickly, as I was able to run consistently, taking care not to roll an ankle on any lose rocks. But despite losing elevation, my legs remained fatigued, as the steep downhills provide a great lower body strength workout. Needless to say, I was pleased to see the car when I arrived at the bottom! :)

After the workout, everyone humored my request to go see the salmon spawning at nearby Taylor Creek, and they were glad they did — or at least convinced me they were. I know I was. This is also a really special and unique experience, though a bit concerning when you really think about the fact that you’re examining the animals in their final moments of life; ‘last sacrifice,’ so to speak. BUT, that’s nature I guess. And it’s cool how it all comes full-circle for the fish. At any rate, I’d never seen this before, and was glad I did. The many bright red fish swimming together upstream is a sight unlike many other. I also recommend checking this out sometime. South Lake is a neat place in the fall!

 

Such a beautiful summit!!!