About Jennie Bender

A professional cross country skier from the East who joined CXC spring of 2010.

Summer…What do YOU… DO…? Share the nitty gritty.

In case you don’t read the whole post (“Ick! Words!”), I challenge you, elite Nordic athletes, to write just one blog about the “reality” part of your life. If you don’t know what I mean by that, no need to read anymore.

This is about the real life chapter, from which we can escape during the race season, until it comes to say “hello” during the spring, summer and fall. You don’t need to divulge all of your secrets; many things are better left unknown. If anything, it’s to clarify to younger upcoming athletes how to make life work as a professional skier. If you don’t want to share with the world, you can send it to me at (jbender12@gmail.com) and I will take the random anonymous facts (your work, housing situation, school or no school progress, vehicle type if it represents you, whatever you want to say about your financial situation, etc) to compile a report for Faster Skier. Do you live easily or do you struggle daily? It is an unspoken fact that a large percentage of us have parental financial support.  Either way, I would really love to hear what you all have to say.

Reality Blog Jennie Bender: Work

Nordic skiers. We’re weird. Ok, I’ll speak for myself. We have already started training for when next winter comes, and it’s not even summer yet. It boggles the minds of non-athletes. Non athletes who I  depend on to employ me when I am on my “off/training season”.  It’s very sad. Why can’t the meaning of professional skier mean the same as professional basketball, hockey, golfer, baseball or football player, where the term “professional” means a hearty income? Oh that’s right, it’s because we live in America. One of the fattest countries in the world, where our hypothetical fans would much rather sit on a couch at home and watch their sport on tv than go outdoors. Hey I won’t judge, that sounds great, but unfortunately we don’t get Nordic skiing televised in the US unless you know the secret channels/websites/day of year/password/or pay for it.

I work when needed at The Fix Studio (an endurance performance center in Minneapolis). They have been very nice to help teach me what college lacked; how to actually USE my major, Exercise Movement Science, in an occupation. This however, is sporadic work, so I have applied to many jobs since end of Spring  Series. I am drawn to waitressing, because I like the blocks of time, and how my desire to please turns into good tips.  (Insert joke here.) Although they may not call you back, restaurants are always willing to take your application. Thus far, this has been my luck, so I have been hitting up Craigslist, where I find myself questioning my moral values more than I would like to.

All of the above, so far, is not making me very much dough. In the winter I gave some ski lessons, so I have been promoting rollerski lessons for anyone interested during the summer. I just moved somewhere in the Midwest that is surrounded by lakes, and more boats than you can imagine. With the experience of Lee, who  worked many years at a marina back in the East, and my ability to clean, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a mobile boat detailing business. Why not! Check us out – SwankyAnchor.com (sweet name huh?)! Come hell or high water, this will work! I have been going around the area marketing to businesses who do not already offer boat detailing, and trying to figure out how else I can get the name out. After turning down an extremely dubious customer phone call (“Hey, I found you on facebook, you’re pretty good lookin…”) I landed my first legit cleaning  job. Eight hours of scrubbing work, and two boats later, I had finished my first business deal. I learned not to hand scrub with certain chemicals (it will turn your skin white), that bending over for eight hours in the sun equals painful sunburn tramp-stamp, jamming your fingertips into dirty boat crevices makes them extremely sore, and always to keep a cautious eye on that one garage worker staring at you when he thinks you won’t notice. It was tank top weather, but with all my bending over I decided to go long-sleeved pull-over that would, *cough*, cover more up.

Entrepreneurship – I’m into it. Hopefully, there is more business to come.

Reality Blog Jennie Bender: Car

Everyone, and I mean everyone, I talk to who finds out I am from Vermont, asks the same question.  “Uhhh, why the heck did you move out HERE?!” “Isn’t there snow in Vermont, and like, hills?”  After stumbling over the question, and trying not to get into my life story with dozens of strangers who aren’t looking for a long answer, I finally came up with “Well, you live out here don’t you?” which usually ends it. Most importantly, I tell people, “You never know where life will take you.” Which is A) is true, and B) usually gets a slow nod and thoughtful furrowed-brow gaze from the questioner.

All throughout high school and college I drove my signature 1992 Toyota Corolla. It was deemed unsafe to drive out of the State with its rusting floor and sides, broken inside door locks, crank windows, lack of airbag, occasionally activating seatbelts and purple UV tinted rear window stick-ons. It gave me freedom; therefore, it was my first love. Before heading to the Midwest, I inherited a 1996 Toyota Camry. It used to be my grandmother’s, and luckily the only dent in its side panel is from her (wow, that sounds bad, I mean she put it there while driving).

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have come across too many people in just one year who think they have me all figured out once they hear “professional skier” or “travel”. You don’t want to know how many times I have washed my laundry in the shower with me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just trying to make my point.

More to come, and please feel free to join me on this skier blog quest about life during the warm six months.

By Jennie Bender Alright Pipe Line don’t fail…

By Jennie Bender

Alright Pipe Line, don’t fail on me now.

This past February I went on my last U23 Worlds trip. Since I have been back, some of my elders have all said a similar line. “Beware, now the game really gets tough.” Great.  Suuuuuuper.

World Juniors my first year 2006/2007
My first time to Europe – Scandinavian Cup Trip

I didn’t realize how cool it was to have the Junior Olympics in Minneapolis until I was strapping timing chips on ankles the day of the sprint. MAN I miss being apart of this! Oh wait, how many years ago was my last JOs? *first pang of where-did-the-time-go* occurs. Oh yeah that was end of high school….and college was in between now and then…..*second pang of -where-did-the-time-go.

Blast from the past - first Junior Olympics in Lake Placid 2004

Meanwhile, if only I had been born a year younger,  I would be racing NCAAs right now *third pang* ON MY HOME COURSE at Trapp Family Lodge. It frosts my biscuit (huh?) that I am missing this, you have no idea.

First NCAAs in Montana 2007/2008

Recently,  I had two random talks with completely unrelated  friends about living life to its fullest. We all agreed that if you don’t have something to strive for in life, what good are ya anyway. I don’t mind having where-did-the-time-go pangs, because I know that the time was well spent with good memories attached. These experiences, although full of ups and intense downs, will stick with me forever.

Which brings me to growing up. In reality, as fun as that end of the week dance IS, if I was still doing JOs, it would probably be kind of old by now. Instead, look where life has brought me in only a year. I am living in a different part of the country, have had an exciting jump in ski progress, have met a whole new group of skiers, and have traveled more than ever.  I even won my first 54k classic Birkie in front of a big crowd on a main street which was pretty cool!

Classic Birkie - 54 really cold k

So to any of you youngens reading this, don’t worry if this is your last year racing in an event or age category, because the future can be just as exciting. It is what you make it to be.

I am on my last phase of races right now for the season, which include Canadian nationals in Canmore, and Spring Series in SunValley Idaho. I have always heard that Canmore is amazing, and its all true. The mountains are some of the best I have seen to surround a world class nordic venue. I am racing the 5k skate, 10k classic, and classic sprint. Maybe the 30k but we’ll see.

Joke of truth by a few sarcastic Canadians – “Why the heck do they call it Junior Olympics?!” “Probably because the USA likes to think that they are the only country in the world…”

Common, you know it’s kinda funny…..

Don’t judge a book by its cover: Latvia

By Jennie Bender

For those of you who like to read blogs, this one’s for you. For everyone else, I included pictures.

Living large in Latvia –

Wow, this place is cool. I never thought I would find myself here, but that’s what I like about life.  If I were to just drive through Latvia, I would think “Eh”, but spending even only three days in Madona , I can say that we have been treated magnificently. We got hooked up with this bed and breakfast type house (called Janis), where the food that they cater in is amazing, and the rooms are painted warm colors with lots of woodwork interior.  The twelve of us took up the whole house perfectly, and everyone who worked there was suuuuuper nice, despite our lame inability to speak any language other than English. (Side note – I asked one of the workers at U23s how many languages he spoke. He said “Oh not many, you know, about seven.” A majority speak at least three.)


Perfect table settings every night, yeah, we dine classy


The Training Venue –

Apparently this is the first big race (or race ever?) to be held at our venue. Might I say that, as the theme of this blog goes, I definitely would never have known this fact.  They had to make some snow to fill in the 3.3k and 1.1k loop, but the trails were at least world cup standard width or wider. Along with the athlete warming houses, podium arrangement, rockin tunes, wax trailers and jumbo result screen with a calming spring pictures slideshow, I would say they are well underway to top notch.

Diggins and her Junior candy flower award

The Last Night –


“We go to house, you eat, we have pool party, then who knows!” were the words of the young blonde intern who was working there as part of her hotel management degree. SO, we all piled into our cars having no idea what we were in for, where we were going, who would be there, or really anything. As we were following the intern in the car ahead of us, we started to worry as she took us into the dark wilderness on snowy back roads. At this point we realize that they could be completely ransacking our rooms back at the hotel at that moment, and we would be totally screwed as they pop all our tires in the woods. “Make sure you take your bags” she says to us as we unload into a dark empty parking lot. By the look on our faces, she then follows with “Don’t be scare! It is ok I do not bite!”  A short walk down a snowy driveway later, we are at a big, two story log lodge.  Janis’s “sister” lodge.  Inside there is an amazing dinner set up waiting for us, as well as a few other guests that the intern and owner brought along.  Following dinner we wet sauna-ed it up, drank sauna tea, played some casual pool dodge ball, and headed home all soft skinned and full of joy.  We miss you Latvia.


A shot of some typical Latvia scenery


Welcome (back) to Estonia -

We just arrived at a Europe version of the OTC in lake placid, but with a whole lot more. All the teams are staying at the venue, partially because we are on the trails, but mostly because there is nowhere else to stay. We are, or so it seemed driving in, a ways from other civilization. Speaking of, stay tuned for some good stories of inter-team socialization. Or you might just have to ask Skyler yourself.

The classic sprint race was today, and I just got back from watching Ida place 5th in the A final after qualifying 14th. For myself, well I qualified 15th, and got knocked out of lucky loser because of my high bib number. I need to work on that. Just didn’t have the energy today. Classic 10k tomorrow, then spending a night in Tallin before we all fly somewhere.  For some it’s home in the US, and for others more racing in Europe.  Wish us luck!

Sadie and I in front of the stadium last day of U23s


By Jennie Bender

Have you ever heard of Kiiking? Me neither, until one of my friends from back home said, “OH you’re in Estonia? Are you going Kiiking?”

Kiiking is a sport that was invented in Estonia by Ado Kosk around 1996. In Estonian language kiik means a swing. In a kiiking swing, the swing arms are made of steel to enable a person to swing 360 degrees going over the spindle of the swing . A person is fastened to the swing base by their feet. To swing the person begins to pump by squatting and standing up on the swing. The swing will gain momentum and will by skillful pumping take a person across the spindle.”

I really wish this was a winter activity, but I have a feeling it would be hard to find right about now.  You must see this to get the full picture – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWbcsEDrmFE

Let me back up. On Sunday we left our Scandic luxury and construction zone wax area (see photos in past blog at http://jbenderblog.wordpress.com/) for the race venue in Otepaa Estonia . Our travel day consisted of  about five to six hours of driving with a two and a half hour ferry sandwiched in the middle, which needless to say was the highlight of our adventure.

 For less than a 3 hr ride across the gulf of Finland, our low-end cruise ship kept us quite entertained! There was live music and karaoke, internet (although slow), food and coffee, sightseeing on the upper decks (although a very cold activity), free Wii sports, and of course the mariachi band with complementary scantly clothed dancers greeting at the entrance. On the main floor was a large cafeteria like seating area, tons of slot machines lining the walls, and a vacant dance floor in the far back which, perhaps if the boat ride had been longer, might have been more intriguing..…


 A couple pairs of us braved the Karaoke microphone. If there is any place to try something new and potentially embarrassing, it’s in a temporary location with strangers in a different country!  The rest of the gang worked on their homework, which was very physically taxing….but they do good work


Back to the present, our venue today came alive with teams prepping for the first race today. I love the rush as I first enter the stadium of a new venue in my team swag and realize that the athletes around me could be speaking any language in the world. The fact remains, however, that they are still my peers,  and they are doing their thing for the day on skis just like the rest of us. This is my last year as a U23, and when I first began, I couldn’t help thinking ‘do I belong here with these people’?  I wanted to qualify so badly, but then when the time came, I seemed to stress/psych myself out. Years later, I finally put my foot down, slapped my results on the table and asked ‘well who are THEY to be here? Heck yes do I belong! And man if feels good. So although I have some big goals for this up coming week, no matter how it goes, I am excited to say that my ball has just started rolling…..

Where the pristine magic happens

The spill over/shit show room of excellence

Until next time, I will leave you with these last words before our races kick off later this week. We shall race hard, we shall take names, and as we ski by you in flames of fury:

Beware of Descending Boom!

Do the Snow dance

By Jennie Bender

Do the Snow dance

It goes something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlxjbhB9HE

Definitely NOT this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyjC-1jG0NA 

 Emergency news: snow donations encouraged for nationals. Every dirt patch covered comes with a complementary happy skier and one less complaint at the end of the day when ski base conditions are examined. Volunteers who have been out there shoveling already, we thank you tremendously.

 I love being back in New England. When home for Christmas I skied at my old stomping grounds Trapp Family Lodge, and have raced at Rumford many times throughout high school and college, making it another home course for me. Unfortunately, New England weather is also very unpredictable, and our January thaw during nationals is neither a surprise nor an expectation.  As Mark Twain once said about the East “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” I’d like to think that growing up in Vermont, I have learned how to find advantages in training and racing through weather that is less than ideal. This morning I skied an hour on the dirty 1.4k sprint loop, sadly watching as each lap got thinner snow coverage in the sun.  Despite the nagging reality that all of the skiers out testing for the sprint were not helping the situation, we were all there in full force revving the engine for tomorrow. Crossing the stadium was like trying to jaywalk in the middle of Minneapolis during rush hour. (Only of which I have recently witnessed.)

Possible racing conditions on the 5k loop in Rumford Maine, without the falling of course. If these guys can do it, so can we:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vp8CqgFQgo . Chopper Reid would have something to say about these conditions for sure.

By Jennie Bender  I was skiing along the…

By Jennie Bender

 I was skiing along the far trails, when I rounded a corner and there was a huge bear in the trail only feet from me. I hockey stopped and accidentally sprayed him with snow, making him angry. Wanting to make myself look big and intimidating, I held my jacket open and growled as loud as I could. Unfazed, the bear lunged closer, so I took off my skis and stood on guard with my ski pole as a sword, swinging it violently. He took another step closer and I cracked him upside the head and stared him in the eye, saying, don’t mess with me bear…

What do you think, good story? Yeah I didn’t think so either, but I thought about this scenario frequently when I was alone on the trails out on dead dog or windy ridge. I am pretty sure you aren’t supposed to do any of those things if you see a grizzly bear, and play dead instead. Yes, my reasonable voice could assure me that bears were all sleeping this time of year. Perhaps it’s my wild imagination or all of the bear memorabilia in this town, but I definitely did a few I’m-alone-and-slightly-freaked-out pickups during the two weeks that just the CXC team had been in West Yellowstone.  But really, there’s a bear statue as the towns center roundabout, tons of stuffed bears, shirts, bear cups, bear posters, bear hats, and a bear exhibit where you can see live bears. So, my paranoia has some foundation.

If you followed the updates or got marooned in or outside of the festival, you’d already know it has been one of the best snow years they have had in a while. The day before we left it was sunny, and for the first time in two weeks I could see a full cloud-less 360 degrees of landscape surrounding the town. Gorgeous I might add.

Our next adventure is underway, as we headed out to Canada on Monday. The drive was quite scenic and I have never been in this neck of the woods before. The combination of lakes, mountains, and valley of fruit trees in Washington kept me staring out the window.

We pack quite the load…

Today was our first day skiing in Silver star Canada, which is on top a mountain and paired with an alpine resort. We traded our plush queen size beds for twin bunk beds tightly packed into a small apartment, but it’s cozy enough.

The poor van after over a month on the road gets a beating.

More stories to come…

SkiErg World Sprint Fundraiser

Come Join the 2nd Annual Concept 2 SkiErg World Sprints!
Date : Saturday, November 13 , 12pm – 6pm
Location: The Fix Studio 3725 Minnehaha, Minneapolis, MN 55406 (The Fix Studio)

That’s right, this is a WORLD event, and the people at the FIX Studio in Minneapolis MN are making sure you get your chance to compare times against skiers all over the USA and the WORLD through the Concept 2 contest!
Heres how it works:

1) Call The Fix Studio at   612 –  220 – 0215 and get a slot. Walk-ins are most certainly welcome, though you may wait for some people to finish theirs. Coming in early would be a good way to check out the competition and see how it’s done!

2) There IS an entry fee of $10, but it goes to two Olympic hopefuls ( Matt Leibsch and Jennie Bender ) who are busting their butts to be professional skiers, so it’s a good cause for the future of cross country skiing! You also get a prize if you go fast!

3) Get in some last minute double poling up the biggest hill you can find

4) Come to the Fix Studio November 13th between 12pm and 6pm to double pole 1000 meters. The test generally takes between 3 minutes 30 seconds to 4 minutes 40 seconds.

Its best to wear sneakers, shorts, t-shirt, bring water, and take your inhaler if you’re an asthmatic, because your mouth is going to be a sucking black hole…..are you ready for the challenge?

To learn more about the machine go to : http://www.skierg.com/logbook/skierg-world-sprints
or just http://www.skierg.com/

Men and Woman separate
Age Categories and prizes for fastest time are:


There will also be SPECIAL PRIZES for people who:

1) Fastest time who beats Matt Leibsch – WIN A PAIR OF SKIS!!!
2) Fastest time who beats Jennie Bender (Woman only) – Choice of a FREE RMR, EMR, VO2 test and/or Sports Massage at the Fix Studio.
3) Junior who scores better than Piotr from GO Training – WIN a dozen bruegger bagels! Mmmm
4) Fastest time of a non Skier* (aka all you bikers from The Fix!) – TBD

* Rule to #4 : Make sure you specify this in signing up. Means you have never been on nordic skis. (Though will start this winter…!)

Hope to see you there!


Jennie Bender and Matt Leibsch

Fall no other way

By Jennie Bender

What do I think of when reflecting on many of my past fall to winter transitions? Camp at the Olympic Training Center at Lake Placid, duh. To my recollection, my past five to six October camps have been spent here, and I wouldn’t want to spend fall anywhere else.  The East has a lot of rainy gloom, yes, but it makes the sunny days that much brighter, especially as the leaves shine with a red, yellow and green glow. You have to observe the positive benifits, such as the magnificent water falls cascading down rocky slides, or muddy trail runs through the woods. The lifestyle of an endurance athletes provides an everyday outdoor experience that very few people allow time for. We go places it takes work to get to, and see things that hide when life is too loud and busy to notice.

We are only a small dot in the big picture. Bounding intervals up Whiteface Mtn trails


Even the chair lift is colorful!


Brian making his way towards the castle, where we will be rollerski racing to on Friday

Fudge puppies and Fried pickles

By Jennie Bender

Australian battered potatoes, pig ear french fries, scotch eggs and meatballs, and batterfried cheese curds. My ski career would be a short one if I could tell you what all those tasted like, much less consisted of. But alas, since I moved to Minneapolis, I have heard continuous stories about the State fair and its glory.  Apparently close to one million people attended the previous year, and they have “everything possible to eat on a stick”. Growing up as a loyal Champlain Valley Fair go-er in good ol’ VT, this I had to check out. Endurance athletes have to have a fairly strict view of what we should and shouldn’t put in our bodies, so I relish in the once a year cultural experience of plunging head first into the valley of lard. Speaking of the devil, you could actually win your face carved into a 90 lb hunk of butter. Great party center piece, but what you do with it after, I’m not sure… 

 After parking far away and taking a bus to the entrance, I soon realized this would be a go with the flow afternoon, literally. You knew when you weren’t going with the flow. 

I washed my hands….alot




I decided I was going to have more of a smell don’t taste approach, yet after analyzing the options, decided I had to have at least one item on a stick. The giant pickled looked pretty nasty, right along with the double fist sized hunk a pork in a cone. Therefore I experienced  the “Fudge Puppy”, which is a Belgian waffle on a stick  covered in chocolate and whipped cream. Mmmm 


Looking back, the Bucket of Cookies would have been pretty sweet. Thats right, an overflowing  bucket of cookies for six bucks. That along with the one dollar milk with free refills, who could go wrong?! 

No wonder  Americans have food proportion issues. Trips like these remind me of yet another reason for why I live the athletic lifestyle that I do, although a little bit of good old fair food once a year never hurt anyone.

Don’t knock it till ya try it

  By Jennie Bender

      Don’t cha know? Here I am, an Easterner who chose to train in the Midwest, who didn’t grow up here. And you know what? My skin hasn’t shriveled up nor my eyes fall out, my VO2 isn’t screaming at me for lack of mountains, and everyone here can put on a kill face during workouts; midwestern hospitality and all.  For most of my college ski career, I was going through pros and cons of various clubs across the country, deciding which would be the best fit for me. Once decided, I found it hard to get a positive reaction from some friends, ski enthusiasts, and random people I would find who listened on the street…..when I told them I would be in the MIDwest. I had a few people say, “Oh out West that’s so cool!” When I elaborated about it being based in the Midwest, they would reply with a drawn out “Oh…., why, or whats out there?” Before I left Vermont, I started getting quite tired of the confusion and hesitation on people’s faces. 

       So here’s the down low. I arrived open to a new experience, and am happy to report that it has exceeded my expectations. The places I have been so far are actually quite like areas in VT, just without the mtn horizon. They do, in fact have big hills, and great roller skiing terrain. They have lush forests, great ski/rd bike/mtn bike trails, lakes everywhere, and a huge ski community. So far our camps have been in St Croix MN, and Hayward WI.  I missed May camp due to my Graduation from the University of Vermont (whoot whoot!) but now I have moved into Minneapolis MN with Caitlin Compton as my roomie in our chick shack. It’s a sweet apartment on the outskirts of the city, right next to a few parks, lakes, and a whole bunch of nicely paved bike trails. The park of 2011 Junior Olympics is only a few blocks away. The thing about being close to Minneapolis, is that there is EVERYTHING. There is city life if you want it, or country side skiing 20 minutes away. There are also tons of athletes, training for any sport you want. My Lesson # 1: Resources to train with are pretty much everywhere, and all it takes is personal action to discover them. Although it is awesome, and if you buy me a ticket I will go, you don’t always need to be on snow in New Zealand, or on manicured roller ski trails in Utah. 

     The hardest part for me so far has been being away from all those who are important to me back in the East. However, it is comforting that if needed, I can drive back in a day. (One full, very long day.) Furthermore, the fact that my family and friends are all very supportive of what I am trying to achieve, makes me so much stronger towards pursuing  my goals. I wouldn’t be here without them. 

 Giddy up, I’m here for the adventure, and ready to rock. 

Now the fun stuff – 


Bakery AND Cheese?! My two most favorite things! Only found in Wisconsin? I’ll search around and let you know.  

AWESOMENESS – My conclusion is that this is a must see, too bad it’s a week after camp is over in Hayward. PS don’t miss that it is the WORLD championships, not just any. 


 Cookie Brownies…… Weird – Yes………Good – Oh YES