From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.7.8

3007_T08_Grab_04.jpg

The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episode 6: "All's Fair In Love & War" #TeamExtreme Recap

Woohooo we went to Zimbabwe!! Kristi and I have still not finished below 3rd place AS A TEAM after 8 legs of this race. Our consistency is something that not even Kristi and I can fully understand, but we feel very fortunate to have continued to perform well. Neither of us has been to Southern Africa at all and if my face didn't give it away at the start of the episode, we were so excited! I LOVE animals, so I was thrilled to be heading to a wildlife conservation.

How long did it take to get from Prague to Zimbabwe?

After we ripped our clue at Letna Park in Prague, we had to make our way to a travel agency to pick up our tickets. Yes, once again we were all on the same flight. Understandable considering how much of a venture it would be. We walked from the park to the travel agency since we had plenty of time. From the city, we took the metro to a bus to the airport. Then we had a sequence of three flights, including a 12-hour overnight flight from Zurich to South Africa. Once we landed in Zimbabwe, we had to take a taxi to a train station to a shuttle bus to a safari vehicle before arriving at bushcamp. All-in-all, it was about a 32-hour travel day, so we were fried when it came time to assemble that tent.

Aren't you and Kristi supposed to be good at setting up tents?

Hahaha!!! Yes, we've both spent a fair amount of time in the outdoors. I camp a ton with my husband, though thanks to Escapod, we don't camp in tents any more. That said, I've assembled many a tent.  From the train it was full on taxi race to Imire. The first 3 teams managed to stay together and cruise down a super sketchy road. Indy Car's suspension went out during the drive and they veered off the road right in front of us. We knew we were behind the other teams quite a ways, but rolled with it considering the potential outcome. We managed to assemble the tent pretty quickly, but we started about 7 minutes behind the first three teams (Yale, BB & Firefighters). Ocean Rescue impressed me more than anyone. They finished that challenge in 2nd despite arriving there last (10 mins behind the first three teams).

What did you think of the partner swap?

Besides potentially messing with Kristi and I never finishing below 3rd place, we're alright with it. (I still stand by the fact that we have all top-3 finishes to this point as we weren't racing together on leg 7 - have I said that yet?).

We are fully accepting that the Amazing Race creators can do anything they want. However, there was very minimal information provided at the time of the announcement. We didn’t know how long we would be racing for, what would happen to the last team to arrive at the pit stop, and when or IF we would be reunited with our partners. It was pretty stressful. Kristi and I had been racing really well together, so we weren’t thrilled to have something potentially disrupt our momentum.

Were you surprised that Jody picked you?

Kind of. We had been getting along with Jess & Cody really well on the race, but I don’t think Kristi and I quite realized how much teams were paying attention to our performance. Especially being athletes, we’re always looking for ways to improve our performance. We knew we had the best finishes of all the teams, but didn’t necessarily think of ourselves as the “team to beat” until this moment.

How did you decided which partner would switch with whom?

We were very much put on the spot. Since Cody & Jess chose us, Phil asked them who would race with whom. Cody pretty quickly said that he’d race with me and Jess with Kristi. At this point, Kristi leaned over to me and said, “I think your strengths would better match up with Jess and mine with Cody.”

In hindsight it’s always easy to play the “if-only” game, but Kristi is a better paddler than me, so on the rafts, I think it was good to have Kristi with Jess.

Did teams have to do opposite sides of the detour?

No, teams were allowed to do the same side of the detour. There were only 3 stations on each side, so if you arrived early, like we did, you could go choose the same detour. That might’ve been a game-changer for this leg. Or, it might not have made a difference, given how much the Firefighters struggled with the singing later on.

For the record, Kristi does know how to drive stick. However, should she and Jess have gotten stuck, Jess would have been the one doing the winching... they'd still be stuck in that mud puddle.

Then why didn't you switch detours to go with Jess & Kristi?

When the girls switched, it was my initial instinct to go with them. My thought was that 4 brains are better than two. We could potentially work together to get through it really quickly. Cody said that Jess is good at puzzles, so I let it go. That’s not to say that Kristi isn’t, but memory & puzzles are more my thing, physical is more her thing. Had we switched, that would have forced Evan and Daniel to do the 4x4, which could have been interesting… If Daniel were driving, Evan would have had to winch. Evan took stick driving lessons before coming on the race, but these trucks were really difficult to drive. (Hence why I switched with Cody at the water crossing).

Cody & Jen flew through the 4 x 4 challenge. How did they do that?

Cody & I worked really well as a team. The only "mistake" we made was not switching to help Kristi & Jess, but hindsight is 20/20. Originally, I started out driving with Cody in the back, so if we got stuck, he could do the winching. But when we got to the water crossing, I got a bit nervous about me doing the driving. The vehicles they provided were VERY difficult to drive. I kept accidentally starting in 3rd instead of 1st and it made for a very jerky ride... So, I switched with Cody at the water, which was the best decision I could have made.

The second water crossing was intended to get you stuck. We found a good route across and Cody knew a secret about this kind of the driving. Apparently you need to keep wiggling the steering wheel left and right so that you don't dig a giant rut. Welp, it worked! We nearly beat Phil to the mat. LOL. Production was scrambling when they saw us get our pit stop clue.

How did Jess & Kristi get so stuck on that puzzle?

There were a few factors that went into this. Partly, not fully understanding what was expected of them. The clue doesn’t explicitly state “remember the location and order in which you find the evidence.” Some teams read between the lines on this and realized it before getting to the puzzle. Regardless, Jess & Kristi got the first 5 correct and just scrambled the final 3 on their first attempt. Let me tell you one thing about getting a puzzle wrong on The Amazing Race. IT SUCKS! You very quickly start overthinking it, which I think they did.

They thought that they path may have been in a crisscross pattern instead of in a circle. Also, not knowing your new partners strengths and weaknesses makes it very difficult to know when to sit back or assert yourself. Once Evan & Daniel came through and got it on the first try, they realized it must be simpler than they were making it out to be. That's when it all came together for them.

Why didn't anyone U-Turn #TeamExtreme?

Though it sucked to finish at the back of the pack in Leg 7, we were very fortunate that Ocean Rescue and IndyCar were the two teams to finish about 20 minutes before us. Had it been Yale, we would have been U-Turned 100%. Because, according to Evan, that would have been the "strategic calculation" to make. And, she's right. If you were looking at the U-Turn as an opportunity to get the best team out of the race, we would have been it. However, Kristi and I were very close with Indy & Ocean Rescue. We were racing the same way and had a lot of respect for one another.

How did you and Kristi make up so much time through that Detour?

When we were in the cab from Imire Wildlife Conservation to Harare, we weren't able to exactly locate the haberdashery. We knew the street, but not the exact address. I asked our driver which end of the street the "fabric district" was on and he led us there. We made a left when a lot of other teams went right to arrive at the U-Turn board in 3rd place.

Rolling those tires through that marketplace was no easy task. It was about 92 degrees outside and we had to put those suits on over our clothes. Not to mention, we were instructed to "roll the tires like the locals do." The dirt roads had giant holes and rocks everywhere and the surface was extremely uneven. I just knew that the crux of the task would be locating the hardware store, so I kept my eyes peeled. That's ultimately what allowed us to jump in front of Indy & Ocean. We sprinted back to our cab to make our way to the garden.

Why was Kristi mad at you for helping #TeamYale?

Kristi wasn't really mad at me for helping Yale, but it wasn't the smartest race move. If you're going to help a team, it should be a team that will reciprocate that down the line. Henry & Evan gave us no reason to believe that they'd ever help us. They absolutely 100% would not. And I don't blame them. Kristi completely understood why Evan didn't help with puzzle in the previous leg. You can see that she moves past it quickly and shifts attention back to solving the puzzle. But it wasn't absurd for her to ask. If you don't ask for help, you generally don't get it (unless your Yale, and you pass me...oops). So, she was razing me a little bit. Especially because we had strong working relationships and loose alliances with some other teams at the time (Ocean, Indy & BB).

How long did it take you to get the singing challenge?

Kristi and I handily arrived in first place to the singing challenge. We were there for about 15-20 minutes before Ocean Rescue showed up and had already made 1 or 2 attempts on stage at that point. Every time we got up there, they'd tell us we had to another little thing different. First it was pronunciation, then it was keeping pace, then it was not using the paper, then we needed be dancing and grooving more, then my mic got unplugged, then they couldn't hear me well enough... It was like, seriously guys?!

The edit made it seem like we were all more stacked up than we were. The only other team we saw get on stage was Ocean Rescue. Brittany & Lucas very quickly realized it was more about putting on a show than nailing the pronunciation or pacing. Once they got it, we hopped back up and did our best to play to the crowd. We got it immediately after Ocean Rescue got theirs correct. At this point, the other teams were there and learning from our failings, so IMHO it helped them move through after fewer attempts.

What is the name of the song?

For your convenience, I've added the lyrics below. For now, you can watch this YouTube video of the song. Haven't been able to find it on iTunes or elsewhere.

Jen:      E’yay yoi-ye e’yay Ho-ye ba-bá

Pasi pã-no ka’ni pa-ne zee-edzo

Kristi:   E’yay yoi-ye e’yay Ho-ye ba-bá

E’yay yoi-ye e’yay ini n’do-da kwen-da

Jen:      Mwari’uyu akasika wo zwee-no tapira

Dokosi-kawo zeenovava

Kristi:   Musika akasika zweeno-fadza

Dokosi-kawo zweeno-su-weeza

Next week:

We're off to Baharain for the first time in Amazing Race history! We'll do some heavy lifting, make a splash, get up-close-and-personal with multiple mammalian creatures, eat some bugs and more. This is going to be an insanely action-packed two hours of adrenaline pumping RACING! Join us from 8-10 pm MT & CT (9-11 pm PT & ET) or DVR this sh*t and watch it later!!! Preferably both :)

 

From the Cutting Room Floor - Tar 30.6

Screen-Shot-2018-02-01-at-6.45.05-PM.png

The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episode 6: "The Claws Are Out" #TeamExtreme Recap

And so, the adventure continues! **SPOILER ALERT*** Once again, and with honor, Kristi & I landed on the podium. This time we were back in FIRST place. We're the first team of the season to win two legs and are feeling stronger and more confident as we work out our strategies for this race. Prague is a gorgeous city and close to my heart as my great grandparents were from this area. I've always wanted to visit and am more compelled than ever to go back!

When we signed up for the Amazing Race, we did so because of the incredible opportunity the race presented - a potential trip around the world, being tested in all different realms, a prize of $1,000,000 - not because we were going to be on TV. The cameras, the producers, the sound guys/gal, were all secondary to the competition. We almost forgot that there was a TV show being produced at times, we were simply there to compete. The aftermath of the show has been an incredible gift and given us the chance to relive one of the most [amazing] experiences of our lives.

Why didn't you plot against a strong team in the back of the pack and eliminate someone with the W-Turn?

For those of you who don't know the rules of the race, once you've used a u-turn, you can't use it again in the race. [After speaking to some other races from TAR30, I may have been wrong about this]. Regardless, Kristi and I were feeling really strong about how we were racing and with an hour lead on 3 other teams, we felt like we would be wiser to let them battle it out among themselves. Though the "social" game of TAR isn't quite as mission critical as in say Survivor, it is still a crucial element. Being a good team isn't the only reason you get u-turned. You can have a target on your back for being a strong team, for being untrustworthy, for being annoying...

To risk u-turning a team that we were likely to beat to the mat that day regardless, wasn't worth it. Even had we used the "burn" tactic, wherein, the first team to arrive u-turns a team in the back of the pack, and then the second team to arrive u-turns the first team, thus making it void and leaving only one team u-turned, there was still a chance that team would survive. Well-Strung nearly did. Then we'd be left in a race with a pissed off team and we would have a target on our back for not only being "good" but being "untrustworthy." The U-Turn was an unnecessary weapon for us to use in this scenario.

That said, Jess & Cody absolutely made the right decision in U-Turning Well-Strung. Though all of us were sad to see them go.

Why did you decide to keep your cab in Prague?

We let our cab go at the Roadblock in Belgium and then got super lost finding the printing press. We said we'd NEVER let our cab go again. But then had a terrible cab in Morocco, so we abandoned ship! Haha! See, learning from past mistakes...

On the flight to Prague we asked a local an overwhelming number of questions about their taxis. There are a lot of fraudulent taxis in Prague, as well as only certain ones that travel in certain places. We made sure to learn the trustworthy taxi companies (AAA was one of them). We also knew that cabs were difficult to track down in the city, but were informed that any restaurant would happily call one for you. The Firefighters did that! But, waiting for a cab during the Amazing Race is a form of torture.

So, without giving away too many secrets, we found a way to communicate with our cab driver that we were in a very important race and that we wanted/needed him to wait for us. We also learned how to say "thank you very much" in Czech (děkuji mnohokrát - pronounced djay-qwee-A moots-graat), which goes a long way while traveling.

Why didn't others do the same?

This was the first leg where you really needed a cab, so I don't think the "keep your cab" mentality was quite front-of-mind. The driving time between the detour & roadblock was probably about 15-20 minutes without traffic. And from the roadblock back to the city center about the same. To be without a cab would have been horrendous. You couldn't do it. Hence why so many teams spent so much time trying to find a cab, versus trekking on foot. I don't think many teams thought about keeping their cab at the Rudolfinum and then some others had issues retaining them.

Why did you choose "This" over "That?"

Since we had no information about either detour, we decided that we would go to the closest one. Our cabbie told us that "This" was closer, which apparently wasn't true, but it worked out. The most important thing was that he knew where it was. We got there about 15 minutes before Yale, as they were taking public transportation. I think Kristi and I would have been able to get through "That" pretty quickly as well, but "This" was way more fun.

"This" had some elements that made it very tricky. For example, the "perfect pour." (If the photo of the perfect pour was double-sided, we're total idiots...) I knew we needed some foam, but the area to which we needed to take it for approval was quite a ways away. By the time we got down there, our foam had deflated almost to nothing. On round 2, we brought our mug of beer and another mug full of foam, and refilled our foam right around the corner from the brew master.

What was so difficult about finding the party boat?

This is actually so freaking funny... After we rearranged the kegs, tapped the full-keg, and delivered a perfect pour to the brewmaster, we had to deliver 2 kegs to "Fidelio at Naplavka Smichov." That was ALL the information we had. We first went to our cabbie who was waiting for us, and showed him where we needed to go. He offered to drive us, but we had to go on foot and we're not allowed to have someone lead us. We tried to follow his directions, but apparently our concept of 200 meters is wayyyy off.

This was approximately the route that Kristi & I took, maybe a little shy on the back & forths:

We asked so many other people for directions. Everyone just kept saying, it's at the river, which we thought meant it was a restaurant or brewery on the river. Mind you, the river is long, as rivers are... There was no indication of Fidelio being a boat. However, if any of us had slowed down enough to use someone's phone to look up each individual element of this, we would have learned that Naplavka means "embankment," Smichov is a district in Prague, and Fidelio...yeah, nothing about Fidelio. We were too fixated on this last element, Fidelio, to realize that Naplavka Smichov is a very specific embankment. Not the river itself...

If you did it right, the brewery was merely a 5 minute walk to Fidelio if you went directly there... But Fidelio was tucked behind the wall of the embankment, so you didn't see it while you were walking past it. We past it two or three times before actually finding it. Don't worry, we got it right the second time!

Jen, how did you solve the Roadblock?

The Roadblock was a memory challenge, which I happen to LOVE! Yay! I hadn't seen this episode with Flight Time & Big Easy (though I watched their season, so not sure how I missed it). This was allllll new. As soon as I walked in, the ringing was overwhelming. It was deafening. I just decided right away that I had to be extremely methodical about listening to the phones. I think I was also the only one who plugged their other ear... As I was hearing the words, I'd put them into small individual phrases so that it would be easier to remember.

I made a whole lap around the room, listened to every single phone, but still only had 6 words. At first I was stressing but, it was still only Daniel and I in the room. So, I just started at the beginning and SLOWED DOWN.

The phones weren't real, meaning that picking up the handle didn't trigger the recording. I'm fairly certain that the recording of the words was on a loop, so if you picked it up right after the word played, you'd hear silence for long enough that you'd think there wasn't a recording. But, if you picked it up right before it played, it would seem like the words played quickly. In a nutshell, if you went too quickly, you'd miss words.

I finally got all 8 words and went into the room to solve the puzzle. This was around the time that Evan arrived. The form had a bunch of random questions you had to answer (to confuse you) and then had one section to write the 8 words in, line-by-line. I'm a very visual person, so I immediately went to write the words down on the margin so that I could visualize how they should go together. Apparently that was not allowed. So I started over. I first tried: "It is the meaning of life that stops," which is completely morose...

The real Kafka quote, however, is beautiful: "The meaning of life is that it stops." A little less than 3 years ago, I held my father's hand as he took his final breath. His death taught me to appreciate every moment for what it is. So, that's what Kristi and I have tried to do on this race. "Life has meaning and purpose because it's finite. And our experience on this race is finite as well, whether or not we win, or go home next leg," I say, as Kristi finishes my thought, "we want to enjoy every moment."

Why didn't you work with Daniel?

It didn't even cross my mind to work with Daniel. The twins are the nicest people on earth and their dad jokes are out of this world. Evan had been calling them the "plaid dads," which I think would have been a more appropriate hashtag, but maybe it didn't fit with the theme of the season.

Anyway, my decision to not work with Daniel was simply because I didn't need to. The Firefighters and us were the first two teams there. The edit made it look like Kristi and I somehow arrived long before them, but we weren't there more than a minute before they arrived. We were still at the clue-box when they got there.

At this point we knew Well-Strung had been U-turned because Indy told us when we saw them as we were leaving the detour. So, we knew we didn't have a ton of time pressure. In the same way we didn't need to U-turn, we didn't need to collaborate.

Did Jess sabotage Brittany & Alex?

Before you read on, please remember that behind the "characters" that you see on this show are real people with real feelings and real lives. Be kind. It's fine to be critical of race decisions, but let's not make it personal. All of these people are in a race for $1MM. No one knows who or what to believe or when you're being lied to. As a racer, there are things you don't know until the show airs. Yet, all our opinions on scenarios are filmed BEFORE THE SHOW AIRS. You have to be on your toes, looking over your shoulder, questioning every decision, conversation, interaction, to see what it may tell you about a team's trustworthiness.

I don't think Jess sabotaged Brittany & Alex, but she was uncomfortably sneaky, and intentionally so: "The last thing I wanted was to give everyone all of my hard-work and then see them leaving the roadblock before me. I didn't feel comfortable sharing the actual answer until I was heading out that door with the clue in my hand." This is completely fair, but there was probably a better way to go about it.

In the context of the race, I give her props for thinking on her toes so quickly. I couldn't have come up with that plan on the spot. Might not be the same game Kristi and I are playing, but this girl is in this game to win it. I also completely understand why Brittany is expressing reservations about trusting Jessica moving forward. Don't forget she's also in a race for $1,000,000.

What We See:

Jess asks Brittany, "How many words do you have? I have 5, but I'm missing 3."

Brittany responds, "Which ones do you have? I'll tell you if I have the one that you're missing. Ha!"

Jess says, "This, Is, It, and then Stops," then states, "let me know if you find another word."

We then see Brittany & Alex hand in their sheets, while Jess changes "this" to "life." After B & A get it wrong, she turns her in form, gets it right and gets her clue.

What We Don't See:

I've typed out the scenario, word for word, but we are still missing so much information. For example, we don't see when Alex got in the mix. We don't hear anyone explicitly say "let's work together". And we don't see who did what when they were solving the puzzle... In other words, we don't have all the facts, so how can we judge?

So, what should Jess have done?

By telling them the word before she left, Jess prevented an all out war. Had she not done that, she would have guaranteed that she and Cody would be racing with a target on their back. Jess could have gotten the same results without potentially burning bridges by negotiating the collaboration. She was in a power position because she had more words than Brittany & Alex combined. By saying, I'll give you my words if you let me get the clue first when we solve the puzzle, she would have preserved some relationships. Easy for me to say in hindsight though. All said and done, it's a race.

Next WEEK:

Off to Zimbabwe next week! When we left Morocco we were worried that would be our only African experience. Morocco feels more middle-eastern and Mediterranean than African. We are over the moon excited to go to Zimbabwe! My face says it all! Next week shifts to two-hour time slot from 9-11 pm ET & PT and 8-10 pm MT & CT, only on CBS :)

 

 

From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.3

The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 3: "It's Gonna Be A Fragrant Day" #TeamExtreme Recap

Hope you had fun watching Amazing Race Episode 3 - and if you haven't yet had the chance to watch yet, you definitely should! This was my favorite leg so far. There were so many lead changes, the scenery was stunning, and the Roadblock was really well thought out. Once again, Kristi and I end up in country we've never been to (no skiing challenges yet) and got to cross another one off the list! Morocco was stunning and the architecture was so intricate. I'd love to go back and explore when I'm not running around with a gnome under my arm ;) ***Spoiler Alert*** Kristi and I are now 3 for 3 with top 3 finishes and are learning from our mistakes in every leg. We're the only F/F team left and are stoked to keep on running! Share your favorite moment from Leg 3 in the comments below!!

What was the deal with your cab driver?

Great question. He definitely didn't speak any of the languages that we speak, and I don't think he much enjoyed having the cameras in his cab. According to some Race experts, if you're in a bad cab, you should get out and find another one. While agree with this, it's not always that easy. We left from a hotel 10+ miles from the medina/fish port area of Tangier. It was mostly residential and cabs weren't aplenty, so hopping out to find another cab was a tall order. We tried communicating with him in French, Spanish, English & fish-face...to no avail.

Once we got to the Petit Socco, we decided to jump ship and ask the locals. We obviously knew we weren't at the port, but needed to separate from our cabbie. Using sound reasoning, we decided that fish ports must be on the water, so our first goal was to run down the hill to the shoreline. Once there, we found a gentleman from Spain who spoke English and was able to point us to the fish port.

TeamExtreme cruised through that fish challenge - what was your strategy?

Well, arriving in last place readily adds fuel to the fire. There was literally no time to be squeamish about the smell or texture of the fish, we just needed to get in and out asap. Kristi saw other teams there, but I didn't, so I thought we were in last, last, last the whole time. We quickly fell into our roles at this challenge. Kristi just started scooping out masses of fish and I started arranging them. I noticed that the example was extremely precise. Not only were the heads facing up, but also their bellies, and the fish were formed into very neat layers and rows. We made a base layer with fish so that the angle of our presentation layer was a bit easier to form.

Fortunately, we got the task done before Indy (love you boys!) and Kristi's french proved to be very helpful for getting directions to the next location. We actually lucked out, in that the Souk was up near the Petit Socco where our cab driver wrongly let us out earlier in the day. Also, we got to run up some hills, which I think is one of our strengths compared to other teams. We were the 5th team to get the Roadblock clue.

What did you think about the situation with Jess, Brittany and the Gnome?

Listen, it's a race. Both Kristi and I bonded with Jess and Brittany on this race. They are fierce, strong, smart women. Things get crazy in this race. When you are out there, it's pure survival. This was the first leg in which there was a TON of interaction between the teams during a challenge. We were all collaborating at various points and somewhat leapfrogging off of each other.

For example, I started out at the back of the pack on the Roadblock and worked with Brittany to get to the first zip line. After that, I spotted a sign for the Kasbah, which allowed us to make up serious ground. Arriving to the Kasbah, we ended up with EVERY OTHER TEAM (except Cedric, who was still out front). When I saw everyone else, I had to split from Brittany and run my race. Then I linked up with Chris from Well-Strung to find the tele-boutique and after that, Conor from IndyCar to make our way back to the Souk.

In the case of Jessica and Brittany, I don't think that Jess took the gnome from Brittany's hands with the intention of having her forget her gnome. If they weren't at the back of the pack, maybe Jess would have said something to Brittany. But, you never know what's coming in this race. For example, your next clue might tell you to run to the Pit Stop or it will send you into a challenge that doesn't play to your strengths. Every second counts.

Simultaneously, I understand where Brittany is coming from. It's hard to not be suspicious of another's intentions when you're competing against complete strangers in a game with very vague "rules" for $1,000,000... This race certainly brought out paranoid thoughts in me. Only Jess knows her own intent.

What didn't we see during the Roadblock?

First of all, Kristi and I had no idea that we were in 5th when we got to the Roadblock. Since Brittany was right there with me, I asked her if she wanted to collaborate to find the American Ligation Museum. To which she responded, "as long as you don't run off on me once we find it." Fair enough, I thought. It took us forever to find the museum, but Brittany found someone who spoke Spanish and was willing to show us. Except that he was about 75 years old and just walked (walking might be generous) the whole way there. I was freaking out. I think we were the last two teams up to that first location, and I sent my Gnome off first and stood by my word and waited for Brittany to send hers off. Then we worked together to retrieve it and find the Kasbah.

When I split from Brittany after we got meshed in with the other teams I was so worried that she was going to be pissed that I ran off. But, then the whole gnome thing happened... After retrieving my gnome from the 4th rooftop, we had to find the tele-boutique. I worked with Chris to find the phones. What they don't show is that I used all my coins on the first call and then was trying to juggle the gnome and the coins and hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder... The recording played, then there was a dial tone, and I was like, "uhhhhh, I have no idea what that just said and I have no more coins."

Fortunately, Conor showed up right then and didn't know where to get the coins. So, I told him that I'd tell him where to find the coins if he told me what the phrase was. He agreed. Then we worked together to find our way out of that crazy maze and to find the detour.

Why did you choose "Shake It Off" and not "Drop It Off"?

Honestly, despite being tired from the Roadblock, our decision was more about the complexity of the tasks than physical exertion. Running around that town during the Roadblock, made me very aware of how difficult it was to navigate in the medina. However, Kristi does not dance (I mean, neither of us really does) and we weren't sure how stringent they would be with our dancing. But, I didn't feel like getting lost anymore, so we opted for "Shake It Off"... Fortunately, they weren't too strict with our dance moves! After seeing the show (and talking with teams that did the other detour) it's clear we made the right decision. But, as I said on the show "no one will ever cheer for my dancing like this again!"

Oh, side note. Funny story, Amazing Race production gets our measurements before we come on the show so that our costumes "fit." However, my hip to waist ratio is a bit insane because of my skier's booty. So, when pants don't have a zipper, it's really challenging to get them on. It was quite the process to get those pants on. Kristi was attempting to lend a hand, but I basically had to do hip circles for a few minutes to make it work...

Amazing Race Episode 3 #TeamExtreme Summary:

We got to the first task in last, left there in 8th (2nd to last) surpassing Indy. Then we arrived to the Roadblock in 5th, hopped around from 2nd to last to tied for first. We finished the roadblock in 2nd. Then we went to the detour where I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. Ultimately, we finished the leg in 3rd. Our third top-3 finish in a row.

Next week we head to St. Tropez, France! Kristi FINALLY gets to play in the water and I get to continue working on my cheering game.

From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.2

111185_06543.jpg

The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 2: “You’re The Best French Fry Ever” – #TeamExtreme Recap

Another leg down, another country we've never been to, and Kristi and I landed on the podium during The Amazing Race once more! This week's episode was able to capture a lot more of the "real" action from the race (i.e. - the action that played a major role in any team's performance). Without needing to spend as much time introducing the teams' background's and only covering 10 teams' journeys, allowed for this. However, there's still a few details to fill in about our race.

Why were you in such a hurry leaving the mat in Iceland if all the teams were on the same flight?

When Kristi and I opened our clue, it told us that we had flights reserved for that afternoon, but that if we found a more advantageous flight, we could take it. So we were in a hurry to get there to see our possibilities! When we got to the travel agency, we found a flight that would arrive about 30 minutes earlier than the original itinerary. We were likely the ONLY team who could make this flight as it left in just over 2 hours (which would mean we had to race to the airport). It would be a longer day of travel with a connection through Oslo, but an advantage is an advantage, right?

Why didn't you book the alternate flight?

Going into this race we told ourselves that if we were the only team who could get on a seemingly advantageous flight, that we SHOULD NOT take it. We learned from watching this show that it's sometimes safer to have other teams around you, especially early on. However, adrenaline (we're on the Amazing Race) and ego (we want to maintain our lead) played a role and we were VERY close to pulling the trigger. Jody came in and left, calm, cool, and collected, so we could only assume that they took the original flight. Then we realized that the airport was not the one for which I saw the sign close by, but actually 50 minutes away. (This was when I realized we had directions from the wrong airport in leg 1).

By taking the second flight, we ended up with hours to get to the airport. So, we decided to take a bus to save money. In the bus ticket office, we took off the boots given to us in Leg 1, and asked them to take them to goodwill. Hopefully they ended up there! We took the bus with Yale, Well-Strung and Indy, while other teams, with later starts, took taxis. This was the first opportunity that we had to actually talk with Trevor & Chris, since we were on different flights to Iceland.

When did you arrive in Belgium?

We landed in Amsterdam around 7 or 8 p.m. and had to take a train from Amsterdam to Antwerp. All the teams got in an unnecessary footrace to the train station to all end up, yet again, on the same train! When we arrived at the station in Antwerp, we had to find the chocolate shop. It was after 10 p.m. at this point, but we had to assume that were going to be thrust into a challenge as soon as we found the shop. So, we started running, again. Well-Strung got their first, followed by Indy, followed by Kristi and me. This is when we learned that the shop wouldn't open until 9 a.m. the next day. Time to hunker down.

Where did you sleep?

We slept on the floor of an old hotel? Not entirely sure what the building was, but we were in a large open room that had a small kitchen/bar in one corner, and one random couch in the middle. Everyone found their spot and set up camp. Amazing Race production was kind enough to provide teams with  light foam sleeping pads, but we didn't need them since we brought our own. Or so we thought...We gave Indy our sleeping pads, so they could double up, but it got really COLD overnight. Kristi and I kept adding layers until we had nothing left in our bags. Turns out inflatable sleeping pads don't hold heat well. Poor Cedric, however, didn't sleep a WINK that night. But it didn't seem to impact his performance the next day.

Kristi crushed the Roadblock, what was her strategy?

We arrived to the Sky Climb in 8th place...not where we wanted to be. Fortunately, there were 4 spots on the sky climb, so Kristi was able to go on the second ride, tying us up with the teams who arrived in 5th, 6th and 7th. Though most teams successfully completed the challenge on the first go (some of that is questionable though...), Kristi was able to get up the ladder and back down to the bottom before the ride was over. She wrapped her leg around the ladder, which helped keep her more vertical, thus making the climb faster. This enabled her to jump off, jet over to me, to read our next clue. She crushed it, passing 3 teams and putting us in 5th place, but you should have seen the bruises on the inside of her thighs!

Why did you choose to do "Old Print" and not "Diamond Glint?"

This was a very easy decision for us to make. In the description of the detours, there was an element of Diamond Glint that was very subjective: determining color and clarity. I don't think the mathematics element was actually the problem for any of the teams, but determining those values. Both of these factors changed the formula, so if you got them wrong, your answer was wrong. You'll have to ask a team who did it, but that's my guess. Old Print sounded much more straight-forward. Once we figured out that it needed to be a mirror image, we were able to move pretty quickly through it.

You left the detour in 2nd place, why did you arrive at the square in 4th?

When we got our clue leaving the printing press, we found a very nice woman who spoke flemish to translate it. Then we pulled out our "trusty" map of Antwerp and asked her where Silvius Brabo square was. We had a tourist map, which had images of historical buildings on the map. She pointed to one on the shoreline (or so I thought) and we navigated there quite smoothly, but it was the wrong building. We got hung up a little longer because we saw production equipment for post-race interviews. Eventually, we found someone who pointed us in the right direction and we made our way to the square.

What were your thoughts about the "Head-to-Head?"

For the first time in Amazing Race history, teams had to go head-to-head in a challenge. We knew signing up that the masterminds behind The Amazing Race could do anything they wanted, anytime they wanted. We were warned on the start-line that there would be twists this season, but I don't think any of us ever anticipated this. Kristi and I benefited from the head-to-head in this episode. Arriving to the square in 4th, Kristi beat Evan in the head-to-head, thus leading us to a 3rd place finish. The exciting part of the Amazing Race is that it tests racers as all-around competitors, from physicality, to grit, to intelligence, to social prowess.

The head-to-head nearly nullified our performance in all other challenges. Sure, getting there early gives you more opportunity to stay in the race, but continuing on in the race comes down to whether or not your good at the head-to-head skill. The argument can easily be made, however, that is true for any challenge you face. If you get stuck on one challenge in one moment of this race, it can be the end. Ultimately, I thought it was quite exciting to watch the Frites Race on TV. I thought it would get old after a while, but it kept me on my toes and I even knew the outcome!

Kristi's Thoughts on the Head-to-Head:

Kristi, however, felt more strongly about it. She was saying as soon as we were done, that there was only one team who would be going home that day: Goat Yoga. I was hopeful that the skill element would play more of a roll, but I wasn't the one who did the Frites Race, so I have to defer to her. Kristi asserts that if the head-to-head was in the middle or beginning of a leg that led into other challenges it would be better. That way, you would have other challenges through which you could potentially make up time. She was not a fan!

On to the Next!

Kristi and I race off to Morocco this week! We've never set foot on African soil, so we're excited to go there. Episode 3 is going to be action-packed, so hope you can tune in! 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm MT/CT on CBS!

From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30 .1

Screen-Shot-2018-01-04-at-11.47.52-AM.png

The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 1: "You're A Champion, Prove It" - #TeamExtreme Recap

WOW!!!! I can't believe the time is finally here. Amazing Race 30 made its debut last Wednesday night (1/3/18) and ***SPOILER ALERT*** Kristi & I couldn't be more proud to have taken home the W on the first leg of the race! My heart was beating so fast watching it last night that I felt like we were running the race all over again! I've been excited to see the edit for months now (I do realize we didn't have to wait nearly as long as most other seasons) and was curious to see how they fit all that action into 45 minutes of television. If you do the math, that's only 4 minutes per team in the first episode...

Unfortunately, that's a tough task! The production team for the Amazing Race is absolutely extraordinary, but there is no way to introduce America to 11 teams and fit in an entire competitive leg of the race. For Kristi and me, this made us appear to be out for a casual walk in the park and conveniently landed on the mat in first place. Haha! However, there is a LOT more that goes on behind the scenes. During our viewing party last night, friends were asking some common questions, so I figured I'd share my insights into what went on. Like, how we got to that first route marker in 5th place and worked our way to the front of the pack.

How did you get from NYC to Iceland?

One minor detail that this episode didn't discuss was that there were in fact 2 different flights to Iceland. As we left Washington Square Park it was a race to the airport to get on the first flight which would land 30 minutes ahead of the 2nd flight. We didn't know how many seats were on that first flight (turned out there was room for 7 teams) and we were lucky to get to the airport first and secure our seats. Flight 1 was Jody, Indy, OceanRescue, the Twins, Yale and GoatYoga. Flight 2 was NBA, RingGirls, Well-Strung and Hot Dog.

We took a red-eye flight out of JFK and turns out there was no food on flight #1, but flight #2 did have food (lucky ducks!). I don't think we landed a full 30 minutes ahead of those other 4 teams, but we definitely did have a solid head start. However, head-starts disappear quickly when you're too rushed to stop and get a map during a self-drive leg, you don't have your own cellphone to use for navigation, you hand-drew a map from someone's computer, but drew the map and wrote down directions starting at the domestic airport, which was 45 minutes closer to our final destination than the international airport where we actually flew into... and then, you take a wrong turn when you already don't know where you are.

 

You can try this yourself by looking for Reykjavik Airport (domestic airport) and Keflavik Airport (international airport). Get directions to Husafell. where we were was a bit beyond Husafell, but this will give you a general idea of the route. Not to mention, the road signs in Iceland are very confusing (they show business routes differently, so I kept seeing signs for route 1 pointing in every direction and couldn't figure out which Route 1 I was supposed to be on). What you don't realize is that, without a cellphone or map, if you get off course a little bit from your handwritten directions, you get VERY DISORIENTED, which led to the following:

Thanks, CBS, for keeping this out of our edit :) and Kristi, again, I'm sorry I yelled at you, especially because YOU WERE RIGHT and I was wrong. So, despite finding our car quickly and heading off with Yale and OceanRescue, we ended up lost and got to the first challenge in 5th place. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge NBA for their phenomenal navigational skills because they beat us to that first Route Marker challenge despite being on flight #2.

It seemed like you made it through that first challenge quickly? T/F

True. But you could only gain so much time because there were only two zip-line stations. We got there as IndyCar was going out on the line, but had to wait for them to finish before we could begin. Kristi was smart enough to realize that it would be easier if we sent the lighter person out on the line (aka: Kristi), which was advantageous. She didn't drop the line as far as some of the heavier competitors which made it easier to pull her back in. Plus, I understood the dynamics of using my leg strength in addition to my upper body to pull her in.

What was so hard about the buggy challenge?

Well, first of all, we haven't slept for, um, I don't know 30 hours or something... secondly, no food for nearly the same amount of time, third, you have a dude driving you in a buggy around a course filled with puddles and it is his intention to drive insanely fast and ACCELERATE into the puddles, which then splashes all over you while you're trying to spot letters in random locations, out of order, that have numbers on them and you can't write anything down. I was happy to see the edit and realize that Henry and I took the same approach. We both repeated sounds out loud to help us remember the order. We also asked the driver to slow down, so that we could get our bearings. To which his response was, "No, I'm not allowed." It was like the movie Speed.

Ultimately, I made 3 laps down in the river bed and still hadn't found 2 of the letters, but it was the first two letters _ _ GOLFSTORG. So I was riding round chanting, golfstorg to myself for a few more minutes until I decided to go try my hand at the puzzle. I had everything right and decide that 'IN'GOLFTORG sounded more Icelandic than 'NI'GOLFSTORG, so I guessed, and fortunately got it right. Picking up 2 places, putting us in 3rd on our way to the square.

What was up with those shots??

Well, as you saw, Kristi and I each had to take a shot of either Cod Liver Oil or Brennivin, which they also maybe call "Fire Wine" but there is nothing wine-like about it. Apparently. I wouldn't know because I drank the cod liver oil. However, the people who drank the Brennivin said that it was more like rubbing alcohol than wine. It burned something fierce, and caused several people to either vomit or nearly vomit. Kristi fell into the "nearly" category along with Conor. We'll spare details.

How did you end up in first??

I'm still not sure what happened to Henry & Evan on their way to the square, but I assume they must've gotten lost along the way...? Kristi and I decided to stop and write down detailed directions from someone's phone - we still didn't have a map. This paid off, despite being a 10-minute stop, because we didn't get lost going to the square. We found our answers to the questions easily by asking locals. We used the same approach to find the pit stop. Ask-a-local is to the Amazing Race as phone-a-friend is to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. We got solid information from our local friend and I saw the lake as we were driving to the square. So, we made our way to the Pit-Stop pretty quickly.

Kristi and I truly believed we were in no better than 3rd place when we landed on that mat. We were absolutely thrilled, shocked, honored and proud when Phil told us we won the leg! The Amazing Race isn't simply about not making mistakes (though that would be nice), but about recovering quickly when you do. Not a single team ran a flawless race this leg. Some excelled at navigating and struggled in the challenges, others struggled navigating and excelled at the challenges. In the end, we seemed to mitigate our issues better than our competition. We leaned into each other's strengths and even managed to learn from mistakes within the leg to help us reach the pit stop first. The timing of our issues allowed us to continue to climb the ladder instead of fall further behind. Leg 1 carried with it some HUGE learning opportunities that we carried into Leg 2.

Other questions received:

Why were #TheRingGirls and #GoatYoga carrying those bags?

Production gave us some gear to wear in some of the challenges (boots, rain jackets, wool socks, hat, gloves, etc.). Our additional information told us to bring all our belongings with us when we park the car in Ingolfstorg. These ladies took that a bit literally... Kristi and I put the boots on our feet, tied our sneakers to our bag and left everything else behind. We already had clothes for cold weather, so we didn't need the products they provided. Given that we weren't sure if we'd be doing more tasks in Iceland the next leg, we chose to keep the boots. We didn't keep them for the rest of Amazing Race, however.

Last Frontier Heliskiing - What Dreams Are Made Of

In October 2015, I got an email inviting me on a trip to Last Frontier Heliskiing in Canada. A lifelong dream was coming true, at the most unexpected time. Turning a cheek to the heli as it blasts snow after a drop!

Life has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you need it most.  So for me, it was in the midst of a mild depression last fall (October 2015) that I first learned about the opportunity to go heliskiing with Last Frontier Heliskiing.

I was in New York City for the Women's Sports Foundation's Annual Salute when I saw an email from photographer Ashley Barker looking for a male and female athlete to take on a marketing trip to Last Frontier Heliskiing. Figures it's upon "retirement" that my first chance to go heliskiing finally presents itself... The Women's Sports Foundation event that I was attending was hosting its first annual Athlete Leadership Connection. My day was busy planning my post-skiing life, digging, grasping, and searching for the "next" chapter. At this point in time, what I "wanted" was falling to the wayside of what I "needed" and what I really needed, was a job, not a heliskiing trip.

What Dreams Are Made Of

As a young kid, I had always imagined going to the Olympics. First, that dream was for mogul skiing but once I found a halfpipe, that dream morphed. The competitive nature of skiing was enticing to me because of its simplicity - show up, compete, and see where you place. But creativity and expression were always a core element for me. The dream of heliskiing, however, was a far off one - an idea that seemed nice, but not a goal that I was actively pursuing.

As my competitive career was winding down I began seeing so much value in the film and photo side of the sport, purely from the joy, excitement and aspirations that people get from seeing stunning images. I had hoped to transition into a full-time film and photo athlete, but timing and sponsor alignment never came together. Begrudgingly, I let go of the dream and tried to find a job.

The Transition

When I got home to Utah from the Athlete Leadership Connection, my husband, Chris, and I continued conversations about my career prospects. Fortunately, he pointed me toward a job with an affiliate marketing company in Park City called AvantLink. My eyes grew wide. Suddenly, all of the pieces seemed to be falling into place. After a few emails, a phone call and a successful interview, AvantLink offered me a job. I had found a company that allowed me to apply my knowledge of marketing and had a boss that appreciated my love of skiing!

Finally, I could ski for fun and make money elsewhere! I'm sure that this sounds like a silly "revelation," but I had been doing what I loved for a living since I was 17-years young. Passion, purpose and profit were all wrapped up in one neat package. Until now. And the Last Frontier Heliskiing trip, would actually be possible. So I called up Ashley and committed.

The Trip

After months of working a desk job, the March trip to Last Frontier Heliskiing was a very welcome one! Our travels north were quite smooth. Despite the select few flights from Vancouver to Smithers, we were put up in a Hilton in downtown Vancouver the night before our flights. It was a short, but incredibly scenic flight from Vancouver to Smithers. Skimming over the Canadian Rockies' peaks was the perfect way to build anticipation for the skiing to come. Upon arrival in Smithers, were greeted by the crew from Last Frontier. Our bags were loaded into the tour bus as we piled into our seats. No detail was overlooked and we were fed gourmet boxed lunches as we settled in for the 4 hour drive to Bell II Lodge.

On the final day at Bell II Lodge, all of the guests enjoyed a bonfire in the center village and released paper lanterns carrying their greatest wish.

Evenings were filled with beer and wine and sing-a-longs.

When we pulled up to the lodge, Bell II wasn't entirely what I was expecting. This was mainly due to the ease with which we arrived and its proximity to the infrequently traveled road... But once inside, the lodge had that wood-burning stove coziness to it, and the faint scent of hot apple cider. This wasn't a sterile hotel, but a home-away-from-home. A place to come together with strangers to celebrate over a common bond - snow.

The Heliskiing

Weather was a bit challenging for our first day at Bell II and periodically throughout the trip. If we were there simply to ski we could've spent all day on the hill, but we needed light to capture the images we were after. Staying hunkered down in a lodge certainly wasn't our objective, so we made quick use of the ping-pong table and bow & arrows.

Hunkered down

Alas, on day 2 we were able to fly! I've been in helicopters before, but only in Afghanistan on a USO trip, so this was an entirely new experience! What incredible, powerful, maneuverable machines! With all of the camera equipment that we had, we just about maxed out the weight limit, but our pilot, Sean, was not deterred. I peered out of the windows in awe of the vast mountain expanse that were the Canadian Rockies.

Reviewing our surroundings on a map before one of our first runs of the trip.

There's an interesting dichotomy at play with heliskiing - the man-made sound and flight of the helicopter intertwined with the serene and all-powerful presence of the mountains. It was strange, at first, to find the balance of appreciating both sides of this. Climbing into the helicopter after an intimate mountain experience, only to put on headphones that help drown-out the whir of the blades. But to me, it felt like the ultimate celebration of humanity - these man-made developments were enabling the deep exploration of our natural world.

Finding the light and dancing down the mountain with our bird.

It hadn't snowed much leading up to our arrival, but we got enough of a dusting to keep things interesting. When skiing terrain like this, sometimes the freshness of the snow is not what matters, but the pure, virgin nature of it. I haven't skied so many untouched lines ever in my life. Still, there was a deep surface hoar that kept us away from enticing areas but our guide, Michael, was on top of it. The possibilities were virtually limitless as long as we were conscientious of existing avalanche terrain.

Skiing one of the most exciting lines of the trip. Unfortunately, a small wet-slide released above me to the lookers right and I had to wait out the snow before skiing through my narrow exit.

Doing my best to replicate Callum's ability to play along the shadow lines.

Our final day at Last Frontier Heliskiing truly delivered! The rain in town had us a bit concerned, but sure enough, the precipitation laid itself down as snow up high. I did my best to take in every moment of this trip as if it would be my last heliskiing trip ever. All I could think about every day was how excited my dad would've been to hear about this trip. I can't tell you the number of turns that I took that had me grinning ear-to-ear with a warm feeling of joy in my heart. I am so blessed and was so fortunate to have had this opportunity. So thanks again to the folks at Last Frontier Heliskiing (pilot Shawn, guide Michael, head of marketing Mike Watling, filmer Grant Baldwin , photographer Ashley Barker, all the staff and of course, my fellow skier, Callum Pettit) for making this happen.

Continuing to Dream

It took a lot of work to retrain my brain how to dream of a life I wanted and it took a lot more to begin living it. I used to live by the Henry David Thoreau quote "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." But as my halfpipe skiing career came to a heartbreaking close, dreaming again felt impossible. Day after day I'd have small conversations in my head, asking difficult questions like, "If you removed all barriers about what you thought was possible, what would you choose to do with your days and how would you want your life to look?".

These questions are a constant for me now. Not a day goes by that I don't dream of being able to ski whenever and wherever I want, but I also value the freedom that the inflexible stability of my job provides. My competitive nature continues to fuel me and I still feel that I have more to give on my skis. I also recognize the challenges that athletes are facing these days for funding and there's a part of me that feels it's a selfish pursuit. I see a life ahead of me filled with future adventures and endeavors on my skis and bike, but also in starting a family with my new husband and finding different ways to contribute to this world.

The one common thread for me has always been writing. But when I ask myself these tough questions, writing is always a piece of the answer. I'm working on breaking down the barriers that I've created surrounding my ability to make money through writing, skiing and biking. I dared to dream once before and it led to 11 of the most-memorable and exciting years of my life. So now it's time to dream again.

 See a full gallery of the trip below!

Monte Cristo Directissimo- The Mountains Are Mirrors

20160220_124519-01.jpeg

My head spins with irrational fear. The weight of past mistakes, falls onto my shoulders, collapsing my core. I feel vulnerable, scared, but I'm lying safely in my bed, tucked under my down-comforter as my fiancee changes out of his work clothes before crawling in beside me. He's suggested our route for tomorrow: Monte Cristo Directissimo. In Andrew McClean's The Chuting Gallery: A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains, he cautions against getting stuck on this route too late in the day, as warming can cause wet-slides which could quickly turn a skier into a "corpsicle." We'd made that mistake just a year before, narrowly avoiding such a dreadful fate, and the thought of choosing to return, was daunting.

Sweet Dreams

I slept surprisingly well that night, albeit only for 5 short hours. Sometimes I feel that my dad visits in my dreams. I think he came to see me that night to remind me that these experiences are what life is about. Have many of them, as many as possible. And he's right. You can be safe, you can calculate your every move, and you could still be gone tomorrow, without ever having left the house.

My mind seemed to settle at rest, to sort out fact from fiction (or fear). The day would be cool, not likely to be above freezing until noon and there should be some cloud cover for most of the day. Last year we were inexperienced, and naive to dangers outside of a typical slab avalanche. Wet slides caught us off-guard, but we've learned so much since then. We know our route, are aware of the snow conditions, and have the proper gear. Not to mention, my lungs are screaming for some extra blood flow and my legs feel strong and ready for use.

So, I rolled out of bed to get ready for our day. My morning routine can't be altered even if I have to leave the house before dawn. Breakfast- a balance of carbs and protein, coffee, with a little cream, and a LOT of water before piling into the car. I used to strongly dislike the drive from Park City to LCC, but now I embrace it. I know that I'll feel good once my ski boots are on and I start the ascent.

Panorama of Alta & Snowbird across from Mt. Superior.

The Approach

The sun was beginning to rise when finally got our skins on and started our approach. There were about 10 other skiers on similar programs that morning, but we all found our own rhythm and naturally spaced out. As we worked our way up to the south edge of Toledo Bowl, Chris and I wondered if we should have brought our ski crampons after-all. Cross-hilling was challenging as there was a small dusting of loose snow atop a bullet-proof layer of ice, but we pressed on.

We reached the ridge in due time and after another 30 more minutes of precarious skinning, we started the bootpack. This is probably my favorite part of the ascent. For some reason skinning feels like torture, but bootpacking on a knife-edge ridge and stair-stepping to the top of the universe somehow feels fun...

The Summit

We reached the summit around 11:30 am and were content with our timing. We could take a moment to enjoy the summit, but still had enough time to descend before temps would become dangerously warm. There is nothing quite like standing atop a mountain like this. It's not huge in the grand scheme of alpine terrain, but Monte Cristo still rises over 11,000' and with views down to the Salt Lake Valley floor, the 7,000' visual drop feels significant.

It's the smallness you feel while standing up there that is compelling. The city seems small, the houses tiny, and the people microscopic. Our problems: nonexistent, yet we so often let them rule our lives. Somehow we all co-exist, not always harmoniously, but seamlessly. We push and pull, lift and drop, hope and dream, and the world turns.

20160220_112639-01

Slide for Life Skiing?

We settled in about 10' below the summit to shelter ourselves from the wind while we ate lunch. I couldn't eat much, my shoulders were tensing up and my bladder was extremely full. All I could think about was the descent, which was shrouded in a cloud, making visibility a challenge. The variable conditions began to concern me. We would we now be on slide-for-life ice above a cliff that we need to rappel down? My nerves started to fire rapidly, uncontrollably, [somewhat] irrationally, once again. This is where I'm grateful for the man I'm marrying and why we all benefit from a solid life partner.

"Jen, let's just take it one step at a time. If we don't like the conditions we can divert around. We're still a long way above the rappel. Besides, this open bowl is so wind-blown, the couloir is more protected and won't be this bad."

Chris has a way of simplifying things, sometimes too much so, which is what got us in trouble last year, but I tend to overthink things. We allow our dialogue to continue in this push-pull manner until we arrive at a safe and probably very rational decision to ski. Chris went first and found an island of safety below some rocks (not that a slab avalanche was remotely of concern today, but it's good practice to reinforce the right habits). I proceeded to ski into the couloir and nestled behind a large cliff at the start of a separate couloir that would divert around the rappel, should we decide not to complete this route. Once I was safe, I called to Chris. He skied down to the top of the first cliff to set up our initial rappel.

As I sat there, I could see and feel the wet slide that took place just over a year ago in that exact location. We didn't know exactly where we were (fail #1) and got caught out too late in the day (fail #2). I had skied all the way down to the top of the first rappel when I realized we were cliffed-out. Chris was above me, trying to see if we had another option out. He watched as a wet-slide powered through the couloir down the exact path that I had skied only moments before. I was fortunate enough to be able to tuck behind a small rock outcropping while the slide moved through, but I was out of Chris' site. For all he knew, I'd been swept over the cliff...

"Jen!"

Chris' voice snapped me back to the present moment.

"We're good. You can come down to me."

No wet slides today. No confusion. No thoughts of nearly losing someone you love. I carefully skied down to Chris and clipped into the anchor.

Rappelling With Skis On My Back...

There are fixed anchors on this route, which made our setup pretty straightforward. Chris descended first. I watched him ease over the edge and waited until he confirmed that he was secured to the next anchor before I maneuvered the rope into my rappel device. Now it was my turn.

I always loved climbing as a kid. My dad and his colleagues were avid rock climbers and I was fortunate enough to tag along on many of their adventures. A few of my favorites were climbing out of a canoe somewhere in the Gunks, working my way up the [former] Old Man of the Mountain and climbing one of my first multi-pitch climbs in the Las Vegas Red Rocks when I was 12. Rappelling was always one of the most enjoyable aspects for me. A celebration of completing a physically demanding feat, you could spring your way down the wall.

20160220_124519-01

While rappelling with skis on your back and ski boots on your feet is a bit more awkward than the rappels of my youth, it still felt celebratory and fun, and it's certainly easier than climbing with skis on my back! Once I rejoined Chris at the foot of the cliff, we prepared for the second, larger rappel. This one topped out at about 100' and gave me a few butterflies (the good kind, the kind where you know you're safe, but it's exhilarating anyway).

Halfpipe Couloir!

My feet planted softly on the melting snow and I sank into the upward pull of the rope to get some slack. I unclipped from the rope. We had made it down two pitches and we now had the remaining drainage to ski back to the road.

The couloir fills in in a halfpipe-like manner, making for a playful descent and oddly familiar terrain. Some roller-balls were forming due to the predicted warming temps, but a smile found my face and a full-breath filled my lungs. The mountains are mirrors for what's in our hearts.

This is life. This is what we're here for. Small progressions to move past previous limitations, comparing yourself to no one other than who you were yesterday.

--------

A few of my favorite deals:

Skiing Utah's Suicide Chute

DSC_0945.jpg

Skiing Utah's Suicide Chute is a rite-of-passage for any Wasatch backcountry skier. The chute, located off the south ridge of Mt. Superior stares at you from Alta and beckons you to ski it. About this time last year, I watched a video of Angel Collinson and Erik Roner skiing the iconic line. It looked magical and certainly planted a seed with me.

Rise and Shine

It's still dark outside when a familiar twinkling sound softly causes me to wake.  I hear this sound every morning, letting me know that my slumber has come to an end and it's time to begin my day. But why is it still so dark? Then I remember. Chris and I decided to ski Suicide Chute before the next snow storm deemed conditions too dangerous to ride for a while. But my bed feels like the coziest place in the world at the moment; I'm warm and weightless in a swaddle of down. Please don't make me get up! Yet I do.

Our gear was all ready to go the night before. Bags packed with essentials. Shovel, beacon, probe. Helmet, goggles, gloves. Even our PB&Js are safely tucked away along with a bottle of water.  Chris begins making some oatmeal as I grind coffee for the french press to take on the road. We're efficient in our silent preparation for our day's venture and are out the door in 20 minutes. Skis and poles are thrown in the back of the truck, boots are up front with us to stay warm.

No more than 45 minutes later we pull into the upper parking lot at Snowbird. We were surprised at how quickly we made it over to Little Cottonwood Canyon from our home in Park City. When the roads are clear, the drive is smooth. Maybe too smooth. The caffeine from our coffee doesn't seem to have done much for me as we turn the engine off. I would much rather close my eyes and take a nap than step out into the cold to put hard plastic boots on my feet and a heavy pack on my back in order to climb a mountain. But, of course, I do.

Initial Approach

Before long, the alpenglo begins to illuminate our skin track. Headlamps are no longer needed to light our way, and I feel my body begin to wake up. And then... I see the mountains.

Jen Hudak Skinning Up to Suicide Chute

The last time I saw Mt. Superior covered in snow was last March. I had been a guide for Kristen Ulmer's Ski To Live camps, one of the most life-changing, perspective-framing events of my life, and was inspired to FaceTime my father from atop High-Boy at Alta. For some reason I felt that my father might never see those mountains again, and I wanted to give him the chance to see them one more time. So I called, and he answered. A lot of the time I resent the conflict of technology interfering with one's appreciation of nature, but that day I couldn't have been more grateful for the geniuses behind the internet and the iPhone. It turned out that my hunch was right, my dad passed away the following month.

Now, here I am again. Alive, and seeing this mountain shrouded in snow once again. I get to climb it and ski it. Who needs caffeine? Chris and I are the only ones on this mountain and suddenly I'm lit up with excitement and appreciation for our day. Who knows how many thousands have seen Mt. Superior before us, and how many thousands will after us, but this mountain, blanketed in this exact snow, is for our eyes only. It is changed as soon as we glide our skis across its surface and place a boot-pack in the newly fallen snow. The mountain is generous and welcoming. We are lucky to be here to enjoy its offerings.

Jen Hudak at the mouth of Suicide Chute

The Boot Pack

The approach up the apron was short and sweet. In just over an hour we began removing our skis and strapping them to our packs. Crampons went on our feet and our ice axes came out of our packs.  The boot-pack would be the brunt of this climb, so we were glad that the initial approach was so gentle.  Making one's way up Suicide Chute varies in technicality depending on what time of year you're making the approach. It's still mid-December and we haven't quite seen the effects of El Nino just yet... For us, this means that the entrance (and later, the exit) to the chute has a small ice fall (no more than 10 vertical feet) that we need to maneuver before the straight boot pack begins.

Despite some fresh snow, our feet easily find the icy surface below. Crampons were a great decision. The ice axe however, was debatable. At one point I told Chirs that I wished I had a whippet, and he replied "I wish I had another ice axe!"  The discrepancy could be due to the fact that I was using a 50 cm ice axe and his was 60 cm, but given that he's at least 10 cm taller than me, I'm not sure that reasoning is valid. Still, I had to bend over pretty far in order to find a firm surface that my iceaxe would plant on and I really didn't need to use the pick end of the ice axe at all.

Conditions were pretty easy for our approach, all-in-all. Neither one of us had serious issues with our gear, just minor details we'd like to improve upon. Jen Hudak entering Suicide Chute hike

Jen Hudak Boot-packing Suicide Chute

DSC_0936

Working my way the chute! Slow & steady...

It didn't take long for Chris to move well in front of me on this part of the approach.  I wasn't moving slowly, but I wasn't about to win an Olympic medal with my performance. So, I did my best to settle-in, something I've found very useful for my bouts with racing mountain bikes. Granted, I realize this chute is child's play compared to what's out there in the world, but it was still hard-work. The sound of my feet pressing through the snow and finding the ice below, served as a metronome for my thoughts. Day-dreaming about the skiing to come, reflecting on my past, letting go of my former-self step-by-step. My glutes were burning and I was sweating, but I could see the top. I could see the top for so long, and I just kept lying to myself, saying "you're almost there, Jen." My body seemed to believe me as I pressed on. Eventually that lie became truth and I stepped out of the couloir onto the saddle overlooking a view of the Salt Lake valley below.

DSC_1014

View of the Salt Lake Valley

Skiing Utah's Suicide Chute

The ski down always goes too quickly, yet somehow it makes the uphill well worth it. The further we worked our way up the chute, the more filled in it seemed to get.  This time, we seriously lucked out on conditions.  The skiing was a blast!  There is something that feels really exhilarating about chute skiing, even when the pitch isn't super steep. (Suicide Chute is also known as "Country Lane" because it never gets over 40 degrees). But charging between rock walls, and visibly seeing the valley floor getting closer, makes you well aware of your surroundings and your speed.

Skiing Utah's Suicide Chute

There was significant powder the entire way down, until the exit. Due to early season conditions, the chute wasn't entirely filled in. You had to be precise and calculated in your turns to avoid some rocks hidden just beneath the surface. Keeping speed under control was key.  The trickiest part was working our way through the choke at the exit. We side-stepped our way down and each did a quick jump-turn in order to straight-line the choke. It didn't exactly go as planned for either one of us, as the snow on the apron we exited onto was not ideal, but we survived. Then we got to enjoy some sweet and soft low-angle turns on our way back to the car.

I highly recommend skiing this Wasatch classic line. Be safe, get educated and only ski with partners that you know and trust. The mountains should never be taken for granted!

Gear Used:

Petzel Glacier LiteRide Ice Axe 50 cm

Under Armour Women's Nimbus GORE-TEX® Shell

Under Armour Women's Nimbus GORE-TEX Bib Pant

RAMP Sports Skis, Beaver

Backcountry Access Float 27

Black Diamond Neve Pro Crampons

POC Lobes Goggles

Backcountry Access Float 27 Tech Airbag Backpack - 1650cu in

When Your Dreams Begin To Haunt You...

url.jpeg

"This

Most kids are taught to dream big.  When we're young, we bravely think anything is possible. But as the years tick by and we see failed dreams all around us, we begin to doubt the truth in that. Society begins to beat us down. Eventually, those dreams begin to haunt us.

It Starts With A Dream

I have wanted to be an Olympian since I was 12 years old.  Initially I thought it would be in mogul skiing, but when I found a halfpipe in 2002, I found my true calling.  At the time there were no Olympic Games for halfpipe skiing. It was so impractical to become an Olympic Halfpipe Skier that it made the dream easier to have.  In essence, I couldn’t be accountable for “failing” to go to the Olympics, if there were no Olympics.  There were so many external obstacles that could make this dream impossible.  So, I focused on all the other contests as potential stepping-stones for what I ultimately wanted to achieve. All the while, I was softly focused beyond those goals.  It was like Les Brown says, “shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” 

As I began to achieve these smaller goals, one-by-one, I found a deep satisfaction with my ski career.   Sure, there were ups and downs, but gradually goals were being crossed off my list of “to-dos.” Win a world cup, check, win US Open, check, win WSI, check, win X-Games, check.  But this one goal always remained: win the Olympics.  When the sport officially gained acceptance in 2011, my dream suddenly began to feel daunting instead of motivating and I couldn’t understand why.

Having the Olympic dream as my larger goal, made all the smaller goals easier to achieve. They never overwhelmed me, because they paled in comparison to what I was really trying to accomplish.  But now this is it. We are getting down to the wire. There is a clearly defined timeline of when I need to be performing at my best, and my best suddenly needs to be better than a lot of other amazing skiers.  What is bigger than the Olympics?  How can I reach the mindset that I had when I was younger with this one last dream of mine? Perhaps I need to dream bigger, not just dream of being an Olympian, but reinstate my dream of being an Olympic Gold Medalist.  To do that, being an Olympian will have to happen, so I will begin to see myself as an Olympian, before I even get there. 

The Haunting Begins

When you get close enough to realizing your dreams, when you can visualize yourself standing atop that Olympic podium, national anthem blaring, grinning ear to ear, proud before the millions of people you’ve inspired - that's when the stage is set.  As we get closer to the Olympics, I look around the US Ski Team gym and realize that every athlete in here is aspiring toward that same goal.  Suddenly, I can see that person on the podium being someone else entirely - not me.  What makes me so special, what should I be the “chosen one?”  A sinking feeling in my gut overtakes me. 

I start to imagine myself on the sidelines watching another person realize my dream. The future that was supposed to be mine now belongs to someone else.  And that was when my dream began to haunt me.  It was as if my mind was preparing to deal with the potential “failure,” that might ensue.  “Disappointment management” I like to call it.  My father does this all the time, while watching sporting events on TV.  Towards the end of a game, if my his team is down, he’ll say, “That’s it! It’s over...” even if there is a reasonable chance for a comeback.  He’ll prepare himself for the disappointment that he might feel if his team does loose. But if they win, he’ll be that much more elated! 

To take this approach as a spectator is one thing, but to do that as an athlete, is another.  If you think you’re going to lose you will, more than likely, lose.  So, as scary as it is to see yourself as the winner because of the possibility that you will fall short of your expectations, that is the only way to achieve your goals.  See yourself where you want to be.

Look Beyond Your Fears

In moments when your dreams feel overwhelming, your mind begins to play tricks on you.  It will attempt to minimize your goals, “What do the Olympics matter anyway?” It will actually try to convince you that your dream is fruitless and superficial, “you’re a fool to be attached to such a lofty goal because there is so much luck involved.”  Yes it is true that timing can be everything—so rarely does an opportunity like this come around.  But we can’t be afraid to dream. 

If I never dreamed of being an Olympian I don’t think I would be able to say that I am X-Games Gold Medalist or a World Champion.  It was the courage to look beyond what was directly in front of me that carried me so far.  It’s like climbing a ladder. If you're only looking at the rung directly in front of you, it’s not overwhelming, but as soon as you look behind you and realize how far you’ve come, how high you’ve climbed, the thought of falling becomes very scary.  The closer I inch toward my Olympic dream, the closer I get, the deeper the wound will be if I don’t make it.  There is much further to fall now than when I began this journey as a wide-eyed, naïve teenager.

Pressing On

The last few years have been extremely humbling. Many of my worst fears came true, and somehow I was still okay.  I know that I want this, I know that it is worth the fear and the doubt to continue in this pursuit.  I hope to rise to my potential in time for the Olympic Games, to have my comeback moment occur when it matters most, but I also know that what is meant to happen will unfold.  This is my path, and I must believe it is the right path—I will follow it through the brush, until it ends.  From there I will find my way. 

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."  Bill Cosby

I'm Not Done Yet

The alarm went off at 6:15 as it has every morning for the last week and a half.  It’s dark outside- winter’s dawn won’t be for over an hour.  My bed feels too hot, and I struggle against the tightly tucked layers of sheets and blankets, to free my left leg and expose it to the crisp air.  Ahhhh.  At first I forget that I don’t need to be awake; it’s finals day for the New Zealand Winter Games, and I failed to qualify.  But my roommates and teammates, Anais and Anna, need to get up, as does our coach Elana.  We are sharing quarters for the month down here as we train and get ready for the biggest potential contest of our lives, The Olympics. For the last week we have been on the same schedule: 6 a.m wake up, slow crawl out of bed, immediately turn the electric kettle on to boil water for our French Press coffee, whose plunger is currently held together with medical tape (it’s all we have on the road).  I prepare 2 eggs mixed with a bit of milk; the gas stove in our kitchenette burns hot, so the eggs cook quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them and getting my gluten free bread toasted perfectly by the time my eggs are done cooking is always a challenge.  After a week, I’m beginning to get it down.

My eyes and head feel heavy.  Abruptly leaving behind the long days of summer for the stunted days of winter in New Zealand makes mornings seem darker than usual—we’ve been cut off of our sun addiction cold-turkey.  My 2 other roommates awaken around the same time and we awkwardly dance through the small living-dining-cooking space, as everyone prepares for the day ahead—Anais with her yogurt and muesli, Anna with some toast with an egg, ham and cheese, Elana with a cup of coffee.  Slowly ski clothes find their way out of the bedrooms, ski pants climb their way up our legs, excess coffee is poured into to-go mugs and we tumble out the door toward our cars.

Elana drives the Ford Ranger—it’s 4-door truck with a short bed, but it seats 5.  All of our skis and poles go in the back of the Ranger (11 pairs in total) and 5 people load into the cab.  My car, as I like to call it, is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado—“The Prado”.  It’s a huge, wide, very American looking SUV.  We have one of the rear seats up, so that we can fit 6 people, 6 backpacks and 6 pairs of boots.  I climb into the right side of the Prado as the rest of the kids fight over shotgun and bitch.  The auxiliary cord gets passed to the backseat somewhere and Lil Wayne begins to sound.  I’m always shocked at how good rap can make me feel before the sun is even up.

We pull out of our drive, remembering to stay left.  Some days Elana is the lead car, and other days I am; some days we try to break ground speed records and other days we try to practice the skill of patience as we sit behind a car going a mere 90 kmh in a 100 zone.  Elana is typically more aggressive on the pavement in the first part of our drive, while I prefer the dirt of the second half.  Getting up to the base of Cardrona Ski Resort takes between 28 and 40 minutes (depending on how we choose to drive) and the pipe is open from 7:30-11 or 10 or 12… New Zealand isn’t the best at creating a consistent schedule.  But, this morning is a contest day, so the schedule will be a little different.  And then I remember, I’m not competing.

Yesterday was the qualifiers for the World Cup.  Going into it I was feeling really good.  My skiing was progressing nicely, training had been on a steady incline and I was prepared to peak for contest day.  My warm-up runs felt solid, and I was done with about 5 minutes remaining of our 35-minute session.  There were 26 girls competing and I felt confident about being in the top 12 to qualify for finals.  The run that I was competing was fairly basic compared to my best skiing of 2 years ago.  Big straight air, alley-oop mute, 540 safety, alley-oop 5, cork 7 tail, switch 180.  That run earned me 2nd place at this exact contest 2 summers ago.

In my first run I landed really low on my alley-oop 5, I didn’t touch the ground with any part of my body and I fought through, determined to stand up and finish the rest of the run.  I was really proud to have skied away from that trick and glad to feel the strength in my right leg after all it has been through.  Last winter, stepping into my binding was a challenge and now I am able to pull off landings that would be tough for anyone of any age, gender, health or strength.  My score was a 68 and put me in 9th.  I was happy to at least be in finals, for the time being.  I made the decision to keep my alley-oop 5 in for the 2nd run- my thought process being that I’m not going to the Olympics without it, and I felt that I will land it better and improve my score from run 1.  Most of that statement was right, I landed the trick better, but still low and somehow felt really slow going into my 720, last minute I thought to do an air to fakie instead so that I could still do a switch 180, but I decided too late and ended up just flailing on a straight air.  I didn’t fight.  My stomach sank, and I felt that I had just made a big mistake.

My intuition was right.  4 girls managed to land better 2nd runs and I moved from 9th place to 13th—one spot out of finals, one short fight away.  But sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.  My intention for this first event was to do the run that I did.  My skiing is exactly where I had wanted it to be at this time, but adjusting to where that has placed me was tough.  As I said, 2 years ago that run landed me on the podium (granted it was a little cleaner) and now it didn’t even make finals.  It is a proud moment to observe the growth that this sport has gone through, but an intimidating one.  The path that I have laid out for myself has me peaking in December, taking every step, and pausing there for a moment, one new trick in training, one new trick in a contest run; not skipping ahead just for the sake of a competition.

I'm feeling reconnected with the sport that I once loved greatly and drifted away from for a while.  It feels really good to be motivated again, to want to learn new tricks, to be able to focus on the elements that are in my control, no longer distracted by the doings of others. The Olympics won’t mark the end for me whether or not I qualify to compete, so I will just continue look ahead.  I will progress on the timeline that I lay out, not forcing anything based on the looming event that has us all on pins and needles.  I’m not done skiing yet.

Staying focused on your future goals in times when you fall short of your immediate goal is imperative to success.  Know that you have what it takes to get there as long as you are patient.  Often we are only one trick, one day, or one moment away from being where we intend to be, but we give up just before we can see over the horizon.  Do not quit too soon,  “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  Thanks for that, Helen Keller.

(Side note: I watched finals that morning.  It turned into a one run contest because the fog was so intense.  My US Freeskiing teammate Devin Logan, ended up winning.  It was her first contest back from an ACL tear she suffered in New Zealand one year prior.  My good friend Angeli VanLaanen got 2nd, her first podium at a Platinum level event since her return to skiing post recovery from Lyme Disease treatments.  Anna Drew ended up in 5th after crashing really hard on a right 900 in training (her unnatural way of spinning).  I was happy to see her healthy and skiing.  And Anais did a beautiful 900 first hit and went a little big on her alley-oop 5 resulting in a crash. She ended up 12th, but is skiing really well. On to the next one.)

Wednesday Workouts: Competitiveness and Circuit Training

I have been an athlete my entire life and for the last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to make a living as an athlete.  There have been so many learning opportunities along the way and an area that I have grown to truly appreciate is the work that takes place off the hill (or field, or floor) to be truly exceptional in one's sport or discipline.  The glory of what I do is often limited to a 30 second performance in a halfpipe where a panel of 5 judges decides my fate, but all of my growth and the majority of my happiness comes from the work that I do outside of the halfpipe.  This series aims to provide a little inspiration and motivation into your training goals.  There will be a combinations of workout ideas and some self-reflection thrown at you.  Take it or leave it.  Not everything will help everyone, but I hope you will find something in here to propel you forward! This week I want to first speak about competitiveness and then I will give you a 5-exercise circuit that I have been doing this spring as base-conditioning.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

For as long as I can remember people have commented on how competitive I am.  Often times, it would be stated in an almost negative way, as if I'm not having fun because I'm competitive.  Granted, in my younger days, I may have let my competitive nature get the best of me at times, but even today I feel that my competitiveness has been negatively stigmatized.  I've been thinking about this for a while, and I think I've gotten to the bottom of it- at least to the bottom of where my competitiveness comes from and the purpose that it serves in my life.  As for others' interpretations of my competitive nature, well, that's purely speculation, but I'll throw some thoughts to the wind.

There is a large spectrum of intensity in life.  We can go for a walk, power walk, jog, run, sprint or we can run marathons in 6 hours or in 2 hours, and if that isn't even enough we can run ultra-marathons.  You get the idea.  Everyone has a different preference and a different tolerance for activity, there is no right or wrong here, no good or bad, just differences.  For me, I enjoy exploring the idea of potential in everything that I do.  If I'm going to run a 5K I'd like to see how fast I can do it, I love living right at the edge of what is possible for ME. I happen to carry that trait into everything that I do, from playing bocce in the backyard, to ringing out groceries at Whole Foods when I worked there, I thrive on the notion of high performance and I examine what that means even in the most mundane of tasks.  It seems to make life more interesting, more enjoyable, and often more efficient.  I love efficiency.

Where the issue comes into play is when others are involved in the game, event, activity, what have you...  I am operating at a high level of intensity, at the reaches of my max.  But it is not to try to be better, faster or stronger than the people I am with, it is to see how good, how fast and how strong I CAN BE!  Sometimes this gets misinterpreted, understandably, and creates conflict.  I don't think that I'm alone in this...  I'm working on being okay with being called "competitive" and not feeling the need to be defensive about it, or to even explain myself .  This is a part of my character, and I'm guessing, a part of yours.  It is what makes us good and lets us experience life fully.

As William Faulkner says, “Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday Workouts: Competitiveness and Circuit Training

This is a series of 5 exercises that are to be performed back-to-back with speed and efficiency while maintaining proper form.  Circuit training is a great opportunity to practice the aforementioned concept of trying to better than yourself by timing each round and trying to shorten the duration of the rounds every time.

Once adequately warmed up and stretched out, find a light to medium weight that allows you to complete 6 reps of each exercise back-to-back.  Use the same weight for each exercise.  You can use a barbell as shown in the images or dumbbells depending on your preference and weight selection.  Once the round is completed, spin for 3 minutes and then repeat the circuit for a total of 4 rounds.  At the end of the circuit be sure to spin for 15 minutes and don't forget to stretch and foam roll!

Shop this post!

Women's Studio Headband

Soft fabric construction delivers a lightweight feel with a super-supportive fitBreathable moisture-wicking fabric stays dry & light for all-day ... more info.

Women's UA Studio Capri

UA StudioLux(R) fabric delivers relentless support with a super-soft luxurious feelSignature Moisture Transport System wicks sweat to keep you dry & ... more info.

Women's UA Studio Rave Racer Back

Electric neons. Bold pops of mesh. And unique design lines crafted to flatter every curve. When it comes to our UA Studio Rave Collection, innovation ... more info.

Take The Backroads

photo-5.jpg

The Salt Lake City skyline juxtaposed against the Wasatch Mountains. Home. I have been living in Salt Lake City for 4 years now.  In that time I have found back routes from my house to locations that I frequent- the gym, Whole Foods, Sugarhouse Coffee, or Guthrie Bicycle for example.  If you were to measure the distance of my side-street-ventures, it would likely measure longer than taking the main roads, but I love my back roads.  There is less congestion, fewer traffic lights, and an ease with which I seem to flow from locale to locale.  Clearly I am not the only person who has lived in Salt Lake City for 4 years, I can't be the only person who has had the option of taking these alternate pathways, and yet, my back routes still remain full of flow and free of others.  More often than not there is uncertainty involved in choosing the backroads; they are the alternative, not the first choice, and everyone wants their first choice. It dawned on me recently that these opposing paths are much like life.

I fractured my tibial plateau just over a month ago in Russia.  In a season where I was returning from a major knee surgery the year before, getting injured again was not something that I had planned on; I suppose no one ever plans an injury, but I certainly didn't see it coming in such a flukey way, and definitely not if I was taking all the right steps in a gradual return to competition.  Last week I had a day where I was really down about having another season (my third in a row now) cut short by injury.  I asked myself, "when are you going to learn? when are you going to change so that you don't get frustrated and down?"  The reality is that we will never change; at least not completely.

There will never be a time that we are unaffected by difficult situations that arise in our lives.  We are human, and when bad things happen, it hurts.  But we can become more aware of how we handle these moments.  This awareness is what will allow us to flow through life with more ease, even when things go awry- just like my back roads.  The traffic on the main roads never really goes away, stop lights don't always stay GREEN, but if we are aware of the back roads we can begin to flow with what is happening around us.  Instead of remaining controlled by our ego, which was fixed on taking the main road, we open our eyes to other options.  When a light turns red ahead of us, we turn; where there is traffic, we get out of it.  We begin to see that there is more than one way to our destination and our future doesn't have to be exactly as we had envisioned.

Every now and again life catches up with us.  Our goals and dreams suddenly seem more daunting than motivating, we dwell on the past or fret about the future, instead of staying grounded in the present moment.  Once again this year, the path that I had outlined had taken a major detour; the future I had envisioned hadn't arrived.  The path to fulfillment is often a challenging one.  We set our heart's intent on achieving something outside of ourselves, something over which we don't have complete control.  Whether this goal is ending a war in Congo, like my friend Sean Carasso founder of the Falling Whistles Campaign for Peace, or winning an Olympic gold medal, there are only so many aspects of the pursuit that fall directly in our control.  The important part is following our hearts and creating the path along the way, remembering always that there is more than one road. For me right now, this means taking a little more time off of snow and a little more time giving my body what it needs more than anything: a break.  What does it mean for you?

"You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can't, you do the next best thing. You back up, but you don't give up." - Chuck Yeager (first man to break the sound barrier)

Stepping Back

Yesterday was the 9th time that I’ve turned south off of Interstate 70 onto CO-82 for the Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO and will mark my 8th Winter X-Games appearance.  (It would be my 9th appearance, but I was sidelined last year with a knee injury and attended the event as a spectator. You can read about that trip here.)  I couldn’t help but recount the feelings of anticipation that I’ve had every year, each year markedly different, but this one feels extremely special.  Most of my peers that I began this journey with 10 years ago are retired and no longer competing, male and female alike.  The girls that I would go to registration with, eat, train and party with are no longer by my side.  I will be, at 26 years young, the OLDEST competitor in the WXG women’s ski halfpipe field this year and the ONLY woman to have competed in the first women’s WXG ski halfpipe event in 2005.  As I made the journey to Aspen yesterday, I felt extremely nostalgic, lonely and proud- honored, to still be here, pursuing my dreams after a decade of hard work,devastating injuries, and the passing of friends. I recalled how excited I would get each year heading into town, thinking of the great halfpipe that we would be able to ski, story-lining my imagined success of landing new tricks and landing on the podium.  I’ve never driven to Aspen for X without the belief that I could win, but this year I have.  My knee is not yet 100% normal from my injury sustained over a year ago on January 10, but my strength is at 98% of what it was at my strongest in the fall of 2011.  I am able to ski, but the image that I have of the skier I once was is something I have let go of.  That’s not to say that I will never do the tricks that I once did before, or that I will never stand atop a podium again, but it’s not going to happen right now.  It’s a humbling feeling and an honorable one, to still want to go out, naked, exposed and vulnerable, to allow a judging panel to tell me that I’m not number 1.

For the first time in my career I’m not worried about wining, being the best, or being better than everyone else.  I’m focused on doing the best that I can, with what I have, where I am.  It’s a mindset that I’ve been told about for the last decade, one that is written about in every sports psych book on the market, but one that is scary to adapt, when the will to win carried you so far for so long.  It’s exciting to be in a place where I can watch these young girls throwing both way 900s, filling their runs with more technicality, switch hits, amplitude and grabs, and just feel proud- proud for them, and proud for myself, that I am still here, now, just skimming above the dogfight, doing my own thing.  I can’twait to do some of the big tricks that are in my arsenal, but if I don’t respect my body and I don’t accept where I am right now, I will never be able to do them again.

My sights remain set on competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the only way to get there is through living every day doing all I can.  Though my circumstances have changed, my end goal doesn’t need to.   Sometimes we have to take a few steps backward in order to move forward again.  It’s in this time that people often doubt themselves, doubt their ability to improve and decide it’s time to quit.  But a lot of the time, this is when you are inches away from your greatest success.

“The secret of life is to fall seven times and get up eight times.  Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Paulo Coelho

 

Don't Let Your Dreams Define You


 

“Don’t run from your monsters because I hear they can heal you.” Jayson Haws

The last 3 months have been the most challenging few months of my life.  Without rehashing the details, but still informing new readers, I’ll catch you up.  On January 10th I sustained a severe knee injury, a season ending and career threatening injury, and that same day, my friend, greatest idol and rival sustained a life ending injury.  The following weeks and months were relentless.  I endured surgery on my knee as numerous friends and teammates also sustained season ending knee injuries.  Another friend was caught in an avalanche that took 3 lives, hers being spared because of a life saving airbag backpack.  My father has continued to battle the aftermaths of a non-optional stem-cell transplant needed to cure him of leukemia.  And my mother continues to bear the stress of our entire family, while being my father’s primary caretaker.  I should be broken down, unable to get out of bed, certainly not able to crack a smile.  I was for a while, but I am no longer.

When life gets this hard, we often collapse.  But sometimes it is within that collapse that we experience our greatest growth.   I hit rock bottom around the beginning of February.  I began questioning my path, what my goals and intentions were for this life, if the risks were worth taking.  At first I was extremely overwhelmed, too many thoughts of the past and fears for the future were bogging me down.  But then I had a realization about the importance of staying present. (I wrote about that here.) After living with the intention of staying present, I have begun to see some serious improvements in my well-being.  My life hasn’t dramatically turned around but I feel more emotionally stable and happier overall.

By focusing on this, I was able to resign myself to the present moment, to let it be.  I stopped keeping track of time, I stopped placing a timeline on my healing process, I stopped having expectations of where I should be.  I began to accept my circumstances any given day. Living by the motto: where I am, is where I am supposed to be.  I started making the best choices in every moment to encourage healing; I work as hard as I can when things feel great, and I back off when things don’t feel good.  And now, I am flowing with the tides; I am no longer fighting the current.

But there was still a part of me, deep inside, that wasn’t ready to completely let go.  The part of me that brought me great success in skiing, the competitor, my ego, it wasn’t ready to surrender- until yesterday. Friday morning, mid-workout, I had another epiphany.  One that led me to this thought: Don’t let your dreams define you.  Believe in your dreams, chase your dreams, but remember that YOU ARE NOT your dreams.   My competitive spirit was afraid to let go, because of the fear of not reaching my biggest goal: Olympic GOLD.  This is something that I have aspired toward for my entire life.  I always saw myself as an Olympic gold medalist, before my sport was even an Olympic event.   For a while, namely before my sport got added to the Olympic schedule, I wasn’t afraid to shoot for that dream.  There was a buffer there, something that I could always blame my “failure” on.  Hey, if my sport isn’t in the Olympics then it’s not my fault if I don’t go…  My mindset changed, or at least, my emotions changed when my sport got into the Games, and after this injury I began to feel even more doubt.  This “Fear of Failure” demon has been haunting my dreams, day and night.

It seems that people with big dreams all suffer through this in some way or another.   We attach ourselves so thoroughly to our dreams that the idea of not reaching them makes us sick to our stomachs.  Our sense-of-self feels threatened, our self-worth devalued, because we are unsure what we have to offer if we don’t reach that ultimate goal.  What we are missing, and what I just realized, is that it’s the way we choose to live in each moment that defines us, not the goals or dreams we are working toward.  It is the work that we are doing, not the work that is to be done, that makes us who we are.  So, for the first time, I feel at peace with what I am doing.   I will live with the intention of going to the Olympics. I will continue to make good choices, to try for that gold, but whoever said, “there is no such thing as try, there is either will or will not,” they lied.  Trying is worth a whole lot.  Trying is everything.  And trying may get you to your final destination, it may land you elsewhere, but if you are doing your best every day, then I believe you will finish where you were meant to.  Your value is in how you work, not simply in the work that you do.  So, try to be with yourself in every moment, and feel proud to be where you are. You are on the right track.

Moving Mountains

Neu Productions and Pro Skier Jen Hudak Announce Fall Release of “Moving Mountains”

Breckenridge-based production company releases trailer for a fall 2011 web-based ski film series featuring professional skier, X Games Gold Medalist and Olympic hopeful, Jen Hudak

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO- April 27, 2011 – Neu Productions, a Breckenridge based production company, proudly announces a new short film series featuring two-time X-games gold medalist and women’s freeskiing advocate, Jen Hudak.  “Moving Mountains” is a four-part film series that follows Jen through her 2010-2011 season as she travels the globe, pushing the limits and pursuing her dreams.

As a 2014 Olympic hopeful, Jen hopes this series will motivate others to commit to what they are passionate about, as she has done with her skiing.  Jen explains, “This is not just about the skiing- it is about everything that goes into it and everything you get in return.  It is about the hard work and dedication, the triumph, and the failure.”

The first film in the inspirational four-part series is scheduled to be released in September, 2011, and a full-length TV show will be available on The Ski Channel in late fall.  In Jen’s words, “The series takes a really honest look into one of the toughest seasons of my career.  I was given obstacles to overcome, and in doing so I grew as a human being.  There are always lessons to be learned from these situations. You always gain insight into another piece of yourself.”

John says, “It is amazing to work with Jen, her ability to perform at the highest level, articulate her struggles and triumphs, and smile along the way is inspiring.  Simply, I can’t wait for people to see this project, we focused a great deal on story and hope to reach an audience not just within the core ski community but on the mainstream level as well."

Similarly, Jen states, “John Roderick’s cinematography and editing is amazing.  From the second I saw his work, I knew I wanted Neu Productions to produce my project, I couldn’t be happier with our decision to collaborate.”

To view the trailer for “Moving Mountains”: http://vimeo.com/22921112.

Jen and John would like to thank the sponsors that made this project possible: Under Armour, The Stone Clinic, Paul Mitchell and Volkl/Marker.

 

To celebrate their upcoming fall 2011 web-series, Neu Productions proudly releases, “Moving Mountains” trailer.

 

###

 

Neu Productions is a diverse production resource company based in Breckenridge Colorado, producing innovative content that bridges both commercial and endemic visions to produce powerful branded content.

www.neuproductions.com

 

Newly refurbished www.jenhudak.com features recent photos, blog, schedule, sponsors, etc.  The site showcases insight into Jens amazing personality.  By following links provided on her website you can personally connect with on her Facebook fan page and Twitter.   Jen is a professional skier of 7 years.  Based in Salt Lake City, UT.

 

###

 

the uneXpected

Boy do I wish I could turn back the hands of time. Again, I get to build character this season, with one of the most incredible and simultaneously most frustrating moments of my life. On Thursday night after the men’s snowboard pipe qualifiers went down, the 6 ski girls who made finals dropped in to a chewed up halfpipe. Conditions were certainly not ideal, but everyone has to ski the same pipe. So I stuck with my game plan and I was ready to throw down.

My game plan was to do a “safety run” on my first run, land it and then replace my 7 with a 10. 900 tail, alley-oop critical, mute, alley-oop 540 , 540 mute, tail, 720 tail. First run, my ski popped off when I landed my 7. It shouldn’t have, but it did. So for run 2 I went with the same plan as run 1, get a decentscore, hopefully secure a spot on the podium and then do the 10 on run 3.

But again, my 7 gave me trouble. This hit was far less vert than the previous days in training, and though I popped I could see that I was really close to the deck. My landing wasn’t super clean and I definitely punched the ground a little bit, so I was a bit concerned about the score, but I was optimistic. Sadly, the score came in a 78- good enough for 5th.

Run 3 it was on. I was fired up and ready for the 10. I was extremely conscious not to think too far ahead in my run and forget about the tricks I needed to do before I got to the 10. Dropped in with heat,10 foot 9 grabbed, big alley-oop, grabbed my 5, focused on the tail grab going into the 10, just remember to pop and grab. So I did, and I landed a 10 tail grab. As I began to celebrate (albeit a bit prematurely) and went to turn around, I caught an edge and fell. The run wouldn’t be enough.

For the first time in 5 years I won’t be taking home a medal from X-Games. But I will be taking home a new trick and a new perspective. I have never had so many people compliment my skiing when not on the podium. Though the run wasn’t completed, the 10 was landed, which is what I wanted to do when Iwoke up in the morning. I told myself that as long as I do that trick in my run I would go home happy. I do this sport because I love it and I want to reach my potential. I have unlocked a new level of my skiing that will lead me to incredible places in the future. I didn’t take home a medal, but I am taking home my pride. But before I go, I need to leave you with this: Sarah Burke is back in action and I couldn’t be happier. Witha newly revamped cork 900, and back-to-back flairs that took a year of sacrifice to get dialed, Sarah islooking good. She took home the gold. X-Games newcomer, Brita Sigourney took home silver throwing a massive 900 landed consistently throughout the night. Roz-G took home bronze for the 2nd year in a row, andher consistency is certainly being noted. In 4th, my teammate, Anais Cara deux. She made me so proud with both way 5s andmassive 900. I ended up in 5th. And last but not least was fellow east coater and the number 1 qualifier fromWednesday, Devin Logan. She threw back to back flairs, steezy 5 tails, and a solid 7. It was by far themost progressive women’s ski pipe comp that I have ever witnessed. This sport is going to incredibleplaces. For photos and a full recap visit this link: http://newschoolers.com/ns/content/readnews/id/3674/