There are a lot of moving parts that have to be in the right place for someone to be able to race. As I come back from this injury, I am balancing a few different areas. If I am going to race, my head injury and my left knee (which had reconstructive surgery in December 2019) needs to be healed enough for it to be safe for me to race. Right now, I am in a pretty good place, but that comes with ups and downs, which is something every athlete can relate to with or without injury. Its two steps forward one step back. In August I felt amazing and I was training well and starting to really feel like myself again. I started doing some harder interval sessions, and it all seemed like it was going to be up from there. However, in September I started to get tired. My head injury regressed, meaning I started to have concussive symptoms again. And my knee started to hurt as well. In September my coach Erik Flora told me to take a three week break. “Just go for a run or a walk every day”. This is a big pull back when I think about how many things I usually do each week. I now had a three week break from strength sessions, physical therapy, intervals, and speedwork.
I took the much-needed break to focus on school and physical rest, and once October hit I started to build back into training. I have felt better each day this week, and I can feel it even in my mood. I am talking and smiling a lot and feel excited to go to practice each day to train and see my teammates. The ski season is a month and a half out, and I still have a lot of work to do in that time. If everything goes well, I plan to race the December World Cups in Davos, Switzerland, and Dresden, Germany. If I have some more down turns in health, I may delay racing until after Christmas. I am excited to race, but I don’t want to race unless it is first off, a safe decision for me, and secondly, something I feel excited about and feel like I have a chance to ski well and push myself. Injury and recovery aside, this ski season is less predictable for all of us due to the pandemic, so I think more than ever it’s important that I focus on what I can do each day to improve as a ski racer. I feel lucky that I get to be outside each day with my teammates working on something that I love.
As with most plans this year, my travel and racing plans to tackle the trail and mountain running scene internationally turned around pretty quickly this spring, and I found myself back in Anchorage, working at a local nonprofit, teaching at APU, and training as I have for the past several summers. Fortunately for me, my results on the World Cup last season qualified me for start rights at the first three World Cups of the 2020-21 season in Ruka, Finland, Lillehammer, Norway and Davos, Switzerland. In a year that has challenged everyone’s perseverance, patience and focus, I found focusing on training and recovery to be a positive coping mechanism this summer and fall, and I am excited to be more prepared than ever for a strong ski season of results. Unfortunately for most American ski racers, the domestic season and US Nationals have been canceled, so the main choices for racing are the World Cup, regional racing, and potentially citizen races. With this knowledge, I accepted the distance start rights for Period 1 of the World Cup to give myself the opportunity to test my summer and fall fitness and start the racing season with strong international competition.
Even without COVID-19 changes, my summer looked a bit different this year than the last several. I found a new role in my job at the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. I have been an events and community program coordinator there for the past several summers, so I was happy to move more into project management this year and not deal with coronavirus event cancellations. Without glacier camps, I found I myself leaning more and more into my work, which was helpful as a distraction for the craziness of the world and to gain valuable experience in nonprofit management and workings of local government. I also focused on visiting more of my local trails and recreation areas, including a quick trip up to the Delta Mountains near Fairbanks, and doing some longer 25-30 mile exploration runs around Alaska. Our APU training group was fortunate to be able to train together safely, so, of course, five days a week we were out rollerskiing and working hard to gain new skills.
Now I am looking forward to traveling to Europe in about a month and eagerly waiting for the first snowfall here in Anchorage or up at Hatcher Pass.
Running (and winning) the recent Girdwood Marathon in early October
Coaching our weekly Run & Ski Club at a local Anchorage Boys & Girls Club.
Rollerskiing this spring in Anchorage with teammate Sadie Bjornsen. Photo credit: Ophira Group
Hi! I am Leah Lange and I am a member of the BSF Pro Team. The team is located out of Bozeman, MT. I spent the summer there training with the team and the additional college program there. It was really fun because there were so many Americans, which I am not as used to skiing for University of Utah which has a high diversity.
For this fall I am back in Utah actually finishing up my bachelors in Biology. It works really well because I can work with the talented Utah Ski Team as well as BSF Pro. It also has been really nice being back in Utah because in August I broke my foot and was only able to ride my bike for most of my training. The riding in Park City is my absolute favorite so I’m thankful I got to be on the trails more than normal.
Now that the foot is getting back to normal, so is my training. The past two weeks BSF Pro Team has actually been staying in Park City for a camp. I was stoked I got to stay with them and work with my team for two weeks on technique, long roller skis and good intensity sessions at Soldier Hollow, followed with two time trials at the end. We also were joined with SVSEF, Crosscut and Utah Ski Team. All teams took good precautions not getting within 6ft and wearing masks in stadiums, but it was really fun to be with some other teams and test our shape. My favorite part of the camp was a roller ski to run combi workout we did and then grabbed lunch at Harvest on Main. This was a huge deal for me because it was my first time striding that long as well as running for that long since the boot. Additionally, we couldn’t have gotten luckier with the leaves and weather! What a time to be outside!! Hope everyone is enjoying the fall and getting outside wherever they are too!
October is upon us and it has brought cool crisp temperatures and soaking rains that mean the white snowy stuff is almost here. While the temps have been dropping the intensity has increased as we get into more race-specific intervals and get more familiar with that lung-searing, muscle-burning goodness of hard efforts. One of my all-time favorite workouts from my Northern Michigan University days was the infamous “45-15s”. It involves all-out bounding with poles for 45 seconds, stumbling back down the ski hill or road for 15 seconds and repeating 4 times. You then repeat that set 4 more times. So in total, 4x4x45 seconds all out, 15 seconds off. It is a great workout to trick your mind into going extremely hard for essentially 4 minutes straight but with the carrot on the stick of those precious 15 seconds off. Try it out for a terribly painful good time!
I am very excited to have been granted start rights to the Lillehammer and Davos World Cups. The NNF grant I received helps relieve part of the financial burden of expensive racing overseas while being unfunded by the US Ski Team. I am looking forward to being in the mix in those races with a goal of a top-30. Receiving this recent news of World Cup start spots has narrowed my focus and added a big log of motivation to the fire. Looking forward to the snow flying soon!
Thank you NNF and the ski community for all the support!
I have been in Alaska for about two months now after spending the entire summer at home in Tahoe. Classes at UAA have been switched to mostly online for the semester which in a way has been nice because it gives me more flexibility for training. While that has been a positive, I definitely miss being on campus and college courses aren’t the same over zoom. The past couple weeks, our coaches have been allowed by the university to come to practices which has made team training feel a lot more normal. Everyone has been good spirits despite the news that our alpine team may be discontinued if they do not come up with two years of funding by February. We are confident that we can meet the goal and everyone is working hard along with school and training by reaching out to the ski community for help.
It just snowed in Anchorage, so I am getting super excited to hop on some skis. Hopefully we can head up to Hatcher’s pass in the next couple weekends where they are usually able to groom pretty early in the season. For now we are mostly running and bounding as the roads are a little too icy for roller skiing. The first World Cups of the season are fast approaching and I can feel that I’m starting to really look forward to those first races. I’m super grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to head over to Europe for about a month and experience racing on that level. I have high expectations for myself but I am also just looking forward to soaking it all in and treating it as a learning experience. Huge thanks to the NNF for helping me out on this journey and I’ll keep you all updated along the way!
The Pro Team and I just spent 2 weeks in Park City rollerskiing, running, lifting, and mountain biking. It was a fantastic opportunity to put in lots of training hours. The best part of training camp is that there is extra time to rest, without work and other commitments to get in the way. The extra rest translates to high quality training hours that the body can adapt better to than when training at home.
This past weekend, we had two time trials (mock races) with a few other western pro teams (Sun Valley Gold Team, University of Utah Ski Team, and the Crosscut Pro Team).
On Saturday we had a Classic sprint time trial (Four 3-4min races including a qualifier, quarterfinal, semifinal, and final). I had a great day and won the final race beating out both Kevin Bolger and Gus Schumaker who will be starting in the early World Cup races this season in Europe.
Sunday, we had a 15k Skate time trial that was a great race effort and day to practice for similar races this winter.
I have been greatly enjoying the company of my new teammates on the BSF Pro Team and am very excited to travel more with them this winter.
Our race schedule for the first couple months of winter is as follows:
28th November – West Yellowstone, MT (10k Skate Individual)
11th-13th December – Sun Valley, ID (Classic Sprint, 10k Skate, 15k Classic)
2nd-3rd January – Midway, UT (Skate Sprint, Classic 10k)
16th-17th January – Midway, UT (TBD)
These early season races will be my top priority and will act as qualifying races for the World Cup. If I do well enough in these races, I could be selected to travel to Europe to race World Cup and possibly World Champs.
I will be sure to keep you updated on my results. I will also let you know if there is ever live streaming for you to watch from afar. There is always live timing so watch your email nearing those weekends for a link to the live timing for results.
All the best,
Under the sprint course bridge in the semifinal (I am following Gus in second)
Climbing/running up the final climb in Saturday’s Classic Sprint.