Our team has the amazing privilege of being funded by donors that care about creating opportunities for college athletes to ski. While all of the athletes work hard through hours and hours of fundraising it would mean nothing if donations weren't made for our efforts. Getting to travel around the nation to race with barley paying a penny is an opportunity that very few receive, but the members of UW Nordic know what that's like.
Every year to thank some of our largest donors we host a benefit dinner. The UW team spends all day cooking a multicourse meal for fifteen to twenty guests that have shown support for our team in the past. While being a rewarding night, it can't be done without hard work.
Preparation starts far before dinner time, and in 2020 it started almost a week before when one of my teammates Kat and I decided to take the SUS skiers shopping for dinner attire. I don't think we knew the half of what we'd be getting ourselves into, as we spend a good chunk of an afternoon sorting through clothes on racks and shuffling our SUS teammates in and out of the dressing room. It was an experience full of laughs and tired feet from trying on one too many pairs of heel, but at last we had them dressed for success.
The day of the Benefit dinner way crazy, but it was always crazy. You're surrounded by the chaos of hot pans, people running to refill drinks, and food that just needs two more minutes in the oven. In between the courses we take a moment to introduce ourselves to all of the guests. Telling them tidbits about where we're from and what we're studying. It lets our donors see who they are helping. This year our donors got to see even more though. They were helping fund a team that was hosting ten skiers from Shanghai and man they could bring a tear to your eye with the gratitude they expressed for their opportunity. It was an amazing showcase of out team, both new and old. It was one of the first times our new expanded team had been showcased, and it allowed everyone to have a moment to see what we were working so hard for.
Time flies when you’re having fun. I've been here for a year and a half. I still remember when I first came here, I cannot adapt to the life here and wanted to go home very much. After a long time, gradually I began to like here, not only the surrounding environment, but also the people around me. A year passed quickly, we left too many beautiful memories in this small lovely place. We trained together, we played together, we cooked together... It's all fresh in my memory.
This year's season is coming to an end, there are too many memories. One of the memories impresses me is that we did the leaf raking together. It's the annual tradition of the ski team to clean the fallen leaves. We use this way to raise money for competitions. Although it is not mandatory, we all want to make contributions to the team through our own efforts. The process of sweeping leaves is full of fun. Although we were very tired, we have to go to several families to clean their yards one day, but everyone is very enthusiasm. The sense of accomplishment after cleaning makes me forgot my fatigue! In the end, we've raised more money than in the past few years and everyone is satisfied with their contribution to the team!
Dan Yan (Doris)
Being in UW's homecoming parade was something that previous generations on the ski team used to do, but I hadn't gotten to be a part of it yet. This year, with our ever-growing team, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase who we were. Waking up the morning of the parade it was a little chilly and we stood in the parking lot decorating our van, Zima. We'd bought window makers the night before, possibly testing them out on a few of our teammates cars just to make sure they worked, and we wrote all over the windows. Lydia, one of the SUS skiers, wrote snow in Chinese on the back just to add a little touch for our SUS skiers. To be as festive as we could I ran around giving sparkles to anyone that wanted them. Nordic skiers often put sparkles under their eyes by applying chapstick to our faces to stick on the cheap glitter. I was excited at the reaction that I was getting from the SUS skiers as I was doing this. They were all giddy as they asked me to put glitter on their faces, even the boys. I'd been so used to watching my previous male teammates run from me the second I got my glitter bag out, and I was happy for the change. I felt as though I was growing a little closer to my new teammates, literally and figuratively, as I gave them glitter. Nothing bonds you better than touching each other's faces.
As the parade started we put on our roller skis and proudly circled Zima down through the main streets of Laramie. We seemed like kids in a candy shop as we zipped around on such smooth asphalt. That feeling is something that makes nordic skiers' weak in their knees, and our SUS skiers were starting to feel that as well. We weaved in between our teammates all laughing as we thought about how funny we must look to the parade patrons. We did a few little sprints down the street to catch up to the floats in front of us if we fell behind receiving cheers from the viewers watching from their camping chairs. Looking back on this memory makes me think about how important it is to have those days where you just are goofy and you soak up the time together seeing everyone's' smiles. I'm grateful for this time that we got to share and it still brings a smile to my face to think about that chilly homecoming morning.
I’ve got a head full of memories of times with the SUS team. Some of my favorites are ones that happened early on; I was so nervous to meet Leon, my partner, until we exchanged gifts and names and handshakes abound. I was so enamored when we all jumped rope in coaches’ driveway after a shared team dinner, the more daring of us eschewing our shoes for better aerodynamics so that we could all jump through the same rope, one at a time. Andy, Doris, Simona, and Lydia invited Silas and I over for dinner once, before they even really knew us. It felt like a family.
There is something different about Andy, though. I don’t know why it is that I feel closest to him; I contemplate this. He is still willing to make me dinner (I live with him now) for some reason, but all the SUS kids were like that: so giving, and so easy to give to. I learned a lot from them that I feel that the West side of the globe really lacks. Always quick to loan out a spare buff, never letting another skier race alone, and always offering an open ear despite disparate languages. The SUS skiers are selfless. I called them kids, but really, they were more mature than I was. (And older, too, anyway.)
Everyone’s English improved immensely from the first time I met them to the time we said goodbye. Andy still teaches me Chinese, but I think he sees more potential in me than is really there. I am illiterate in the Far East. Sometimes I wonder, during conversations with mutual friends, how much he really picks up. Every time, though, he is ready to chime in with a Chinese-icized American witticism, and I’m so happy with how much we have been able to show each other. I almost feel guilt around him. He does so much for me, and I’m at a loss for ways to pay him back. I have to go, the water’s boiling, it’s time to throw the noodles in. I must dry my eyes, though; this recipe doesn’t call for salt.
Lan Jia Hui
The big thing to do if you live in Laramie is to climb Medicine Bow Peak. From the top, on a clear day you can look all the way from the Snowy Range to the town of Laramie. With an elevation of 12,000ft the climb to the top of Medicine Bow Peak can be straining to some, especially for our new SUS friends that came from basically sea level. The base our team has always been adventure training. Being able to get out, climb mountains, swim lakes, bike to another town, anything with a large goal that sounds like fun. Every previous year that I'd been on the team we'd run up around and down Medicine Bow Peak, once even in a blizzard. Even it sometimes it was type two fun, I always enjoyed climbing mountains with my team. The day that we drove the SUS skiers up to the Snowy Range I think there was some apprehension from all of us. They were still adjusting to our high Laramie altitude, and we were about ready to make them go even farther.
Our goal was to get everyone to the summit, and we made a game plan to make sure no one was left behind. The abilities of the people the UW team has always spanned a wide range, now more than ever with our new teammates. We planned to go up separate ways dropping our SUS skiers off at a parking lot closer to the summit so they wouldn't have to do the full loop. While they struggle, strained, and breathed hard to make it to the top they all did it. It's one of the things that I love most out this team. We want to make sure that everyone is included in the goal of our adventure. While I may take being able to run up Medicine Bow Peak for granted, it's not that easy for all. It was amazing to see all of our new skiers in the parking lot at the end of our adventure. We all sat and ate out snacks and stretched together smiles on our faces because we call had accomplished something great that day. That day I was really shown the grit that our whole team had. Today we were climbing a mountain, tomorrow we'd be skiing a marathon, and in just a few short months we'd be on our ways to Nationals
We are hitting our quadruped training block, in which we start to run with poles, when the motions of running start to feel more and more like skiing. Today’s midweek adventure run took us to Happy Jack. This run turned out to be the perfect time for me to reflect more on ski culture, something I have been meaning to take time to do since reading Rachel’s most recent blog post. Upon reflection on and after the run, a word repeatedly swelled up in my thoughts, a word which I couldn’t help but realize embodied precisely what ski culture means to me.
This is admittedly an interesting word and feeling to associate with a sport which puts us in the coldest of elements and places.
The majority of the run today was spent in a lack of conversation, something that doesn’t normally happen on our group workouts, but made for the perfect storm of thoughts and time for reflection in my own head. Although saying there was a lack of conversation may sound like a lonely or odd energy between the team, it was quite the opposite. As we ran along, I felt a stronger than usual connection between myself and my teammates.
My arms swung in a pendulum motion bringing my poles along with each of my strides. My hearing focused in on the clicking of the whole groups poles on the ground in front of and behind me.
I felt the shambled cork of my pole grips as we ran along. This set of poles have been with me for quite a while now. A pair of green and silver One Way’s, which were passed on to me by one of my high school coaches. These poles have accompanied me on a great variety of workouts, from easy runs to workouts which by the end left these poles as the only thing holding me from collapsing to the ground, witnessing me in my most exhausted state.
This almost methodical ticking of poles on the trail slowly subsided any residing feelings of overwhelm from the day, any general stress from life load. I became grounded, in a way only training seems to be able to do at times. I can only describe this grounding feeling as warmth.
This feeling of warmth was different from the feeling of warmth my swix coat or buff gave me on this run. It was a warmth I felt in my gut. A warmth to my core that reconnected me to my deep love of the sport of nordic skiing and this team that I was running in a pack with. It brought me back once again to why simply being a nordic skier makes up such a large piece of my identity. I was so content to be running with this group, all of whom I know hold similar identities as skiers, all in slightly different ways, which creates a strong team synergy.
As Ella lead the group through the trails of Happy Jack, I thought about how many countless miles she has put into these trails. I felt no resistance whatsoever to just follow in her stride wherever she decided to take us, a feeling when training with a team that I have recently realized how much I take for granted. So much freedom comes with that feeling of just being able to fall into a rhythm with the group. This freedom comes with a lack of worry. A lack of worry about finding the next turn or about whether we are going to go for the right amount of time. The group energy just seems to guide us the right way at times.
Between Ella and myself was Leon. I couldn’t help being brought back to Christi and Rachel’s discussion with us about how we would find more in common with the SUS team than we might have initially expected simply though the common athlete culture. As I ran behind Leon, our strides almost perfectly in sync, I found yet another feeling of warmth in how this created such a substantial connection between anyone at any given time in this simultaneously individual and team sport.
The last minutes of the run, the fog began to really set into the dips of the hills and valleys as we made our way through the engulfed terrain.
This image, of the daylight fading and the fog of the first snow clouds settling in, may have seemed quite dark and cold to some. But somehow the energy of it all, catalyzed by this team, by this sport, was simultaneous comforting and exhilaration. We were running through the first signs of winter, of the season ahead. I’ve realized that each season brings similar patterns, filled in with different details. Those details will soon unfold before this years group, adventures and memories to come that are not even thoughts yet.
After we all re-grouped at the vans, people began changing base layers and piling back into the two vehicles. I quickly realized how familiar the smell of the heaters and the warmth of the air was, senses I hadn’t felt since last winter. These senses have accompanied me all over the region and even country over my years of skiing. From the middle school ski club vans, to the airport busses in Chicago and New York taking us to the larger competitions over the last few years. This warmth of car heaters after a workout in the cold was a different kind of warmth. It brought a comfort that carried over the years and different environments. An indication that another day of training was complete, with various teams over time, but always with that common core. The core that has grown up with me, raised me, seen my greatest battles and greatest growths. The core that has kept me warm.
Before snow session,we have a super fun adventure in Happy Jack every Wednesday
,it’s usually about one and half hours or two hours.It’s really different from run in the track.Meanwhile,it’s different from run in sea level.I still remember my first time run in Happy Jack,it’s also my first cross-country running.Before running,I felt exciting and looked forward to it,because it was new thing I have never tried before.After our coach Christi told us we have two groups to follow,one faster,one slower.Of course,boys should take the faster group.Although I knew my aerobic capacity is not as good as other teammates,I still wanted to try.Finally I found out that I was wrong.The boys are so fast from beginning to end,especially when they went down the hill,I couldn’t keep up with them, my heart rate are really high and I had to slow down.I told my partner Bryan about my situation and he told me I should keep my intensity below zoom 3.At that moment I wasn’t understand zoom very clearly, I still believe training hard and gain more.Bryan asked me to slow down and follow him.I felt much better.He explained reasons to me during running,because we want to develop our aerobic capacity,we need to keep our running long duration and low intensity,if I run in high heart rates,I can’t hold on for so long.In the future training,I never run as that fast,I keep my own pace because I know training smart is more important than training hard.
As school had began to pick up and our new SUS skiers and American teammates began to be more intergraded into the team they were introduced to our weekly Wednesday adventures. It was a time during the week that we could go for longer runs or skies together. This Wednesday we went to the upper parking lot of Happy Jack and when we arrived there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. It made me think, as I looked at this huge team that surrounded me, I was grateful to share this beautiful view with them and all the views that were to come. As we began to run that day we were still trying to work out some bumps in the road with our adjustment to having our SUS teammates there. We didn't want them to get lost as we set them loose into the woods that I barley knew myself. We began to settle a little as all of the SUS skiers grouped up with someone that knew where they were going and we all slowly jogged along... or most of us went slowly. There was some small communication errors as one of the SUS boys, Harry, ran off with some of our fastest Americans. While he was running, with his heart rate probably a little too high, I was running with a small group of girls and one our our coaches, Christi. As we ran along, we'd stop every once in a while to grab a drink and chat about how we should be feeling and where our heart rates should be. I don't know if any of the SUS girls understood a thing that we said, but they still followed us blindly. Looking back I now see how much their language skills have grown since we first met them. We finally ended our run tired but happy and we started to wait for some of our boys that had ran a little further. Harry was with those boys and I think we were all a little nervous about his well being. Many minutes later we saw heads bobbing up over the hills. Harry was trailing behind a little. When they reached the parking lot he admitted that he had chosen a group that was a little too fast for him and he wasn't in the correct heart rate zone. I think that day there were a few things learned about how to train smarter not harder.
When my SUS teammates made their first appearance in Laramie, I had no idea what it meant for the team or myself. As an incoming freshman, I had only been to a few team events when we had the barbeque to meet our new team members. Many of my older teammates had been talking with the new skiers before this, but I only had a vague idea of what SUS was and about the exchange that would be taking place. I had no idea that we would spend the next year forming deep friendships and learning lessons from each other about things far more meaningful than just ski technique. That first night, things began as you would expect. There were introductions and then lots of hand gesturing small talk as we all started to get to know each other and attempted to overcome language barriers. It was friendly, but everyone seemed hesitant, not quite sure how to act as a team when we knew so little about each other. I don’t know who it was that pulled out the jump rope after dinner, but somehow that changed things. Within a few minutes, the whole team was standing on the pavement outside of our coaches’ house. With a teammate from China on one side of the rope and a teammate from the U.S. on the other, we began to jump. In that moment, all of the uncertainty was gone. It seems appropriate looking back. That jump rope was so symbolic of what was to come, the way that SUS and UW would become tied together. The way we are all still connected, even though many of our teammates are now at home in China. Writing about my teammates from China has reminded me of the many special, small moments that helped create this connection. I think back to our very first days on snow, when the Chinese athletes were still learning the art of skiing, and I am still wowed by their willingness to try something so unknown. I can taste the feasts of Chinese and American food that we ate together, often not knowing exactly what we were eating, but enjoying it all the same. I wonder if they miss running on dirt, surrounded by trees, instead of in circles on a track, something that amazed them all the first time we did it. I remember explaining every food at the Thanksgiving table to Murong and I hear the Chinese songs that were sung at the Thanksgiving talent show, when we all spent hours eating, laughing, and performing in Dick and Ev’s living room. I remember hearing about everyone’s families back in China, how my teammates missed them, but also how they would miss us when they returned. When I think back on all of these things, it is with gratitude for the way that the SUS-UW connection shaped my first year on the team. I hope that the bond that was formed in the short year that we had to train and learn together stays with each of us. I know that all of us, whether we are in Laramie or Shanghai, are better because of it.
This story is the process from learning Roller Ski to participating in the national competition. Recalling the first time I learned roller ski and skiing, everything seemed to be yesterday. In these experiences, I was very impressed that I went to snow for the first time to learn to ski. I always wrestled without taking a few steps. Every time my wrestling, my teammates laughed. It always feels easy to watch others skiing, but it feels not so easy when skiing on your own. Whenever training is tiring, everyone creates some fun. Whenever I see the smiling face of a teammate, I always think that no matter who he meets, he should be the one who should appear in your life. It is no accident that he will teach you something. Therefore, I believe that wherever I go, that is where I should go, experience what I should experience, and get to know the people I should know.
Every great story has to begin somewhere. While I could have pick the moment when we first found out we would be adding ten athletes from the Shanghai University of Sport (SUS) to our team, or when we first saw pictures of them all, or when we met for the first time, I want to choose the moment when we put them on roller skis. Our ten new teammates had quite the athletic pasts at SUS, but they had no knowledge of Nordic Skiing. They had bravely decided to devote a year of their life to learning everything that they could about the sport, and me and the rest of the team was there to support them. The first day we all met we made quick work of getting them on roller skies, a ski roller blade hybrid that Nordic skiers use to train when there is no snow. That day I found myself literally supporting my SUS ally, Murong, as she wobbled on our strange equipment. Being a Nordic skier myself for almost ten years now I was scared for my new teammates. The majority of the Nordic community sees rollers skis as an evil necessity. We need them to keep our training going in the summer, but the taste of pavement in a crash is a lot worse than snow. Even with the nerves that I had for them they showed none as they took their first strides and falls on roller skis. I ran next to Murong as she quickly progressed past my expectations with a smile on her face. After that day I was scared that we wouldn't get them to do it again, but there they were happy as ever the next day at practice.