Davos, take 2

The week in between Davos racing was, by all accounts, pretty awesome. Sure, we still didn’t get enough snow to open more trails or go on epic sled runs, but at least we got enough to build a snowman! GLASS HALF FULL, PEOPLE! I got to spend more time in town, wander around and make new friends.

Sophie and I with our snowman!

Sophie and I with our snowman!

Can't remember the last time I built a snowman...

Can’t remember the last time I built a snowman…

Together with Vadim, a PT for the Russian team, I organized a sort of meet-and-greet with the Russian girls. A lot of them are really friendly, but different team culture and expectations combined with a bit of a language barrier (and unfortunately, my complete lack of Russian language skills didn’t help with this one) meant that although some of them wanted to make friends on the World Cup, they were too shy to do so. My teammates and I were really curious to meet them and see what life is like for them on the tour and through summer training camps, and they felt the same. So one night 5 of the Russian girls came over to our hotel and we hung out and got to know one another a bit better! True to my Minnesotan roots, I had a plate of cookies to share and they also brought some dessert, and with Vadim translating we asked all sorts of questions.

The US and Russian girls (photo from Liz)

The US and Russian girls (photo from Liz)

 

And you know what? People are people the world over. We play some of the same games, we giggle over the same silly things, we all miss our families back home and we all get a little homesick when traveling the whole winter. I was really glad to get to know them a little better, and the rest of the week we’d smile on the track and wish each other good luck for the races. I think sometimes, being a ski racer and having competition be such a big part of our lives, we can forget to reach out and be open to making new friends. But in my mind, it’s not just racing and traveling that I do all winter…it’s also my life, and I want to meet and share fun experiences with as many people as I can! Just because when the gun goes off and the clock starts, I’m racing and want to do really well, doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with the people I race against and congratulate them afterwards, or hang out when we’re off the snow.

Maurus, one of my friends in town, helped me bake Christmas cookies this week!

Maurus, one of my friends in town, helped me bake Christmas cookies this week!

When Andy left to spend some time in the States, I begged volunteered to babysit his guitar. So I’ve been having a grand time learning new songs…mostly Christmas tunes and Taylor Swift, of course.

Psyched to be jamming on Andy's guitar in the sunshine!

Psyched to be jamming on Andy’s guitar in the sunshine!

And finally…the races! My Dad always tells me he wants to hear “the blood and guts”…what really goes down out there and what I really thought of the races. So I’ll take you through a little bit of the mental “blood and guts” of racing, and what goes on in my mind during a weekend of racing. The 10km skate day was a mixed bag for me. Any time I can get into the points is a good thing, and should never be taken for granted. Especially since in a World Cup field if you are off your game by even a tiny bit you will fall right out of the points faster than I can fall on a downhill. So to finish 27th was good…and yet, I was pretty disappointed with my race. I just didn’t feel as sparky as I had wanted, and with the stadium area a sheet of ice I felt like I wasted energy bobbling and trying to stay balanced while moving quickly. I was also crazy nervous before the start, and I passed over the line from productive nerves that help you and give you wings to so many nerves that I couldn’t accurately test skis, and I had to get Cork to take over for me. During the race, however, I was was able to focus and push every second, and although it hurt I felt like I was so focused that the time flew by. I was also extremely nervous about the icy downhills, and skidding around the corner I felt lucky to not catch a tip and go down!

Racing the classic distance WC last weekend (photo by Salomon)

Racing the classic distance WC last weekend (photo by Salomon)

They say pressure makes diamonds, and that’s true, but too much pressure can totally squash you, especially if it’s the kind of pressure you put upon yourself. The difference for me is feeling nervous but also confident and able to focus on my race plan and what I can, and will, do well…or feeling nervous and then panicky and “oh, I hope this works out!”. But don’t worry, I learned my lesson for the next day.

Notice the TEAM USA sign at the top of the sprint hill! It's no longer there as someone stole it, but it was pretty sweet while it lasted.

Notice the TEAM USA sign at the top of the sprint hill! It’s no longer there as someone stole it, but it was pretty sweet while it lasted.

I was talking to my sports psychologist, and she asked me to describe the sprint course. I told her about it – 2 laps, mostly flat with a steep uphill and 2 sharp corners, short finishing stretch. Lots of fans, loud announcers, 6 starting gates, separate start gate for qualification, music playing over the loudspeakers. Then she asked me what I thought about the course. Did I like it? I immediately said no – it wasn’t suited to me when it was icy, it was way too short, there wasn’t enough opportunities to pass and I wasn’t aggressive enough to move through the field. And there was my mistake. She reminded me that while there are always going to be things about a course that don’t suit me, I need to make friends with the course, focus on the parts I AM good at and the parts that DO suit me, and come up with a game plan for the trickier parts.

So I did!

I thought about how I liked the long slightly uphill V2 section, how I could get into the tiniest tuck ever over the top of the hill, and how I was good at remembering to push hard into the downhill. I thought about how I had practiced taking the best line around the sharp right hand corners and I visualized myself carrying speed into the uphill out of the corner. When it came time to qualify I had already seen myself doing it in my head, so I simply had to calm down and let myself ski well! It was a much needed confidence boost to make the rounds, and I was thrilled to have a chance to race again that afternoon.

Racing the sprint qualifier. Photo by Marcel Hilger.

Racing the sprint qualifier. Photo by Marcel Hilger.

In my quarterfinal I got off to a slow start and wasn’t as aggressive right out of the gates, so I quickly found myself pushed to the back of the pack. I focused on staying relaxed for the first lap, and ready to make a move should any windows open up. On the long V2 straight I started to make a move up the outside, and into the uphill. But going around the corner wide cost me a little speed, and I couldn’t pass decisively. The Swedish girl saw me coming and moved to block me, (which was a smart move and totally legal, although it really sucked for me) and I had to nearly stop on the uphill or risk falling or crashing into her. Getting back up to speed cost me the places I had tried to gain and I finished my heat in 5th place. But I was proud of my efforts and although my tactics didn’t work out, I had moved when I saw an opportunity and done my best!

My sister Mackenzie and Mom with their sign for me at the venue!

My sister Mackenzie and Mom with their sign for me at the venue!

Now, I’m super excited to have a week and a half here in Davos with my family. We are staying in a lovely little apartment and I’m ready to soak up some much needed rest and family time!

Snuggling on the couch with my sister

Snuggling on the couch with my sister

 

Happy for a fun week of skiing with my family!

Happy for a fun week of skiing with my family!

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Davos. Our other home away from home!

I’m sitting in my room, listening to the sounds of shoveling from the deck below, where staff at Hotel Kulm are preparing the outside seating area so that holiday Gluhwein can be served to guests after dark. I just love staying at this hotel and living in Davos, and our team is often asked why, when we travel all around the world, do we love this little ski town so much? I think it has to do with the feeling of independence we get here, because public transport on the bus and train system is so efficient. Any time I want, I can get a ride to town and wander around, coming back on my own schedule. And as subtle as that sounds, it’s actually a pretty big deal because when I’m on the road for 5 months (and really, most of the summer, too) I’m often not on my own schedule, and need to figure out rides with the few team cars, if we have them in that country. In years when the snow is really good, we can also ski right out the door of the hotel…no joke, the trail goes right into the garage. So we can ski anywhere, anytime! Add that to the fact that the hotel staff is so kind, and treats us like family as we stay here year after year. Heinz, the owner of the hotel, remembers all our names and even what kind of coffee we drink every morning!

Hotel Kulm is right at the train station stop before the town of Davos.

Hotel Kulm is right at the train station stop before the town of Davos.

Of course, this year the snow situation is a little different. There wouldn’t be enough to race on, but the organizing committee here in Davos is working round the clock to get snow laid down on the 5km race loop. They have been trucking it in, and all along the venue you can see army trucks and men in uniform laying down snow. Pretty sweet that the army’s top job this weekend appears to be making the XC races happen. Priorities, people!

There may not be snow this week, but last week I got lots of it! Showing off my little tree fort :)

There may not be snow this week, but last week I got lots of it! Showing off my little tree fort :) (photo by Cork)

The view from our balcony on a foggy morning.

The view from our balcony on a foggy morning.

Our first few days in town, we skied on a smaller 1.5km loop of the race trail, farther up the valley where it’s colder and in the shade. It was pretty busy there, and doing intervals was quite fun because I was always dodging traffic and never alone! There is also a small loop on the golf course, on the opposite end of town, where we skied for some easy, low-key distance training yesterday. I had on my rock skis, so I went on a little solo mission up Dischma, the sunny valley. I skied on a thin layer of snow over grass up, up, up the valley, and came bombing back down, jumping and dodging rocks and bumping over the grass rollers, whooping the whole way down. It was awesome!

Sadie and I out having fun on the golf course!

Sadie and I out having fun on the golf course!

Perhaps the other reason I love Davos so much is because this is where the team does our holiday celebration together, since it’s usually the last stop where we are all together before some fly home and the rest of us split up for Christmas. We have a Secret Santa, where you pick a name and find a small gift for that person, but you also have to write them a poem. Then you sneak down to the lobby, place your gift and poem in the pile, and after dinner we all gather in a meeting room we call “the hot room” because, you guessed it, it gets really hot in there.

JP reading his poem to the team

JP reading his poem to the team

Each person finds their gift, and has to stand up in front of the team and read the poem written for them, and often they are funny, embarrassing, or just super cute. After everyone has read them, we go around guessing who our secret person was! This year I had Peter Johansson, our Swedish wax tech, who wrote me a lovely poem and got me the book I am Malala, which I am really looking forward to reading! I drew Bryan Fish’s name, and in a addition to a slightly embarrassing poem I got him his favorite candies and a lime green pair of glasses and tie, so he has a waxing uniform to wear for the weekend!

The photo is a little dark, but here's Fish in uniform!

The photo is a little dark, but here’s Fish in uniform!

The crew laughing at Grover's poem presentation

The crew laughing at Grover’s poem presentation

I think Simi won the day, however, with his hilarious and creative poem presentation for Grover. Grover, being our head coach of the USST, just loves his powerpoint presentations and pre-race meetings. So Sim got ahold of the FIS team captains meeting presentation and put in his own words and version of the pre-race meeting. We couldn’t stop laughing!

Well done, Simi.

Well done, Simi.

I would also like to say a big thank you to Frederica “Fred” Manning, our massage therapist for this week through next weekend! She bring so much positive energy to the team and we are so lucky to have her each year in Switzerland! This weekend we also have some awesome guests with the team: Liz Arky and Levi Hensel, who are both helping the team with marketing strategies. Liz is also the newest member of the USST board, and to have her here cheering us on is such a motivational boost! And last but not least, Peter Johansson’s son Robin is also here in town, and it was so cool to meet him and have him, Liz and Levi get to know the team better at the secret-santa poem party!

Before JP got to town, I borrowed his travel guitar from the cargo van and was practicing my music on Sadie, Liz and Sophie. The “Sodie” room (Sadie + Sophie) has a stage, so it was a fun setup!

My beautiful audience!

My beautiful audience!

Practicing my mini-guitar music!

Practicing my mini-guitar music! (photo by Sadie)

Siblings Erik and Sadie at the gym earlier this week

Siblings Erik and Sadie at the gym earlier this week

Tomorrow we will race a 10/15km classic individual start, and Sunday is the skate sprint. I am looking forward to a fun weekend, and another chance to challenge myself in classic racing!

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Lille-Hammer-ing

Lillehammer! It’s a really fun venue to race at. The fans are great, the atmosphere in the stadium is electrifying, and the energy from racing day after day in a mini-tour gets you pretty pumped up.

For me, the race weekend was a mixed bag of highs and lows, but I was able to go into and out of each race with pretty much the same attitude and outlook, which is something I’ve been working on and getting better at each year. I am a really happy and optimistic person, and to let myself just be myself no matter how the racing goes is to be able to bounce back from a tough race, or remember what a good race felt like and then prepare for the next day. Just because a result isn’t what I was looking for doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy the energy of the race stadium, or the rest of the day!

The team celebrating Andy's birthday last week before traveling to Lillehammer

The team celebrating Andy’s birthday last week before traveling to Lillehammer

The first day of the mini-tour, the skate sprint, was such a weird day for the whole team. Sadie was the only one to qualify for both men and women, and there were some mighty long streaks of sprint qualification ended that day. For me, it was weird because I haven’t failed to make the skate sprint heats since the first World Cup sprint I ever did, in Drammen 2011. I know exactly why I didn’t make it, too…I wasn’t totally prepared for the speed I was going to feel on the downhills and sweeping corners in the glazing snow. I didn’t have great downhill confidence after falling in Kuusamo, and I’m sure seeing what happened to Noah freaked me out a lot more than I admitted at the time. I bobbled on both downhills, almost falling and then scrubbing speed as I struggled to get back onto a better line around the corner. It cost me precious seconds and in a World Cup qualifier, especially in a field with this depth, making small mistakes becomes quite costly. I shrugged it off as best I could and just told myself that I would have a lot of extra energy for the skate 5km the next day!

The girls team cheering on the boys race once we got back to the hotel. There is often a long time gap between the men and women's racing!

The girls team cheering on the boys race once we got back to the hotel. There is often a long time gap between the men and women’s racing!

I got my downhill confidence back the next day, and was skiing with every second in mind during the 5km. I definitely would have paced it less conservatively on the long uphill if I could do it again, but because I arrived at the top without jelly legs, I was able to aggressively take each turn on the way down and hammer into the stadium. I could tell it was a big step closer to how I want to be racing because my focus was 100% on every stride during the race, and I don’t really remember what I was thinking, just that I was present for every moment.

Andy and Liz sharing a foam roller, doing some classic US team hallway recovery after racing.

Andy and Liz sharing a foam roller, doing some classic US team hallway recovery after racing.

Unfortunately, during the 10km pursuit start classic the next day, I didn’t have that same focus. My body was tired and not performing how I had hoped it would, and although I think my technique was better than last year, I struggled to stay upright. About halfway through the race I just wasn’t having fun anymore and wasn’t mentally into it, and didn’t really care if I finished 30th or 50th. That’s awful for me because what I am good at is hammering my heart out, and if I can stand up at the finish line, I feel like I haven’t done my job because I had more to give. But after thinking about it, when I race about 30 times a year, it’s not realistic for me to absolutely kill myself like I do in relays two or three times a weekend. I mean, sure, to be a cross country skier is to be slightly masochistic, but I’m also not crazy! Well, not that crazy…

But the sun came out again! So that made the race weekend that much more fun.

But the sun came out again! So that made the race weekend that much more fun.

It’s pretty cool, when I step back and think about it…so many people all so dedicated to the same goal, from all over the world, each trying as hard as they possibly can with all their focus and drive. When races go well it’s easy to say Great Job, and when they don’t, it’s easy to criticize from the outside – it’s so easy to look at a result sheet and say “what happened? why are the US skiers not going as fast as last year?” when perhaps there are reasons, like illness or injury, but sometimes it’s as simple as it wasn’t a good day. But everyone has days when they are trying their hardest and still don’t meet their biggest goals. Most days it’s impossible to put in the kind of passion and 100% focus that it takes to have a spectacular race. To me, the really courageous people in life are those who can put everything they have on the line, and maybe fail multiple times in front of the world, and never give up. Everyone has bad races once in a while, and even bad years, but it’s the people who keep putting their heart into what they’re passionate about that I admire most, and try to emulate.

And that’s exactly why I never read the comment section of ski websites, or spend time analyzing articles written about myself or the team. Was it disappointing to have a race weekend that didn’t come close to how I felt racing last year? Yes, of course! But I know that my race shape is getting closer every day, and I know that after how hard I trained all summer it will take more time for my body to rest and get racing fast again.

I just LOVE the festive feel of Lillehammer's main walking street!

I just LOVE the festive feel of Lillehammer’s main walking street!

Besides just racing, I always make an effort to have a “real person life” in each town I go to. It can be shockingly easy to turn into a little skiing machine and spend all my time in the hotel, and let racing become the center of my life. That’s not that fun, or that healthy, to be perfectly honest. I need some balance, so I always make sure to walk around each town, maybe do some Holiday shopping for family gifts, find some fun postcards, or just wander around and get lost. I get lost a lot, actually. :) I also went to the movie theatre our last night in Lillehammer to see the 3rd Hunger Games movie, which was really fun!

Enjoying the beautiful skiing in Sjusjøen one last time!

Enjoying the beautiful skiing in Sjusjøen one last time!

Now the team has just arrived in Davos, where hopefully we will have enough snow to race a 10/15km classic individual start, and a skate sprint! I love this town and I’m really looking forward to spending another week there. We always stay at the Kulm hotel, where the family that runs it treats us like family and we feel right at home!

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The “Halfpipe course”

Finally, I’m getting around to a recap of last weekend’s races…just in time to start the Lillehammer mini-tour tomorrow! For those of you wanting to tune in, you can stream the races live at THIS link. But, as with anything you stream, if it asks you to download something…don’t do it. Or, if you want to see the race afterwards, this site here is amazing with putting up the races. Results afterwards are on FIS at this link! Thanks everyone for cheering!

Racing the 10km. (Photo by Salomon Nordic)

Racing the 10km. (Photo by Salomon Nordic)

Last weekend we had the first World Cups of the season in Ruka (also called Kuusamo), Finland. It was a classic sprint and a 10 (15 for men) km individual start. For me, it was a great opportunity to get the jitters out without too much pressure. Since I have yet to qualify for the rounds in a classic sprint, just making the top 30 would have been huge for me…and I came pretty close! I was doing really well and my skis were great (thanks coaches and techs!) but on the second downhill I fell. In the flat light I must have just caught an edge, and I actually skidded to a stop right in front of the ski depot and warm up tracks at Simi Hamilton’s feet.

The men's final rounding the first sprint corner

The men’s final rounding the first sprint corner

 

Simi immediately started cheering for me “Get up! Get up! You still got this!” which was super nice of him to say since if you fall in a sprint qualifier, you probably don’t still “got this”! But I kept hammering anyways, although I fell right before a good gliding section so I lost both speed and energy as I had to bring myself back up to pace. I finished about 9 seconds out of qualifying, which was really encouraging for me because if I hadn’t fallen I believe I would have made the heats! Obviously, staying on your feet is part of the game and it’s 100% my fault for falling, but everything else about that sprint went pretty much perfectly for me. But someone on our team had a career-best day: Ida got a 5th! So we all piled onto the side of the course to cheer her on, and she even heard us during the race. It’s always so great to see someone on the team have a good day, and that’s the strength of a team – even if your race doesn’t go well, someone’s probably did, and you can rally around them and celebrate their success, as they will for you when it’s your day!

Curled up on the banner fence, cheering for the finals! (photo: Noah Hoffman)

Curled up on the banner fence, cheering for the finals! (photo: Noah Hoffman)

The next day, during the 10km, I finished right about where I thought I might. Considering the training load I was carrying through the week, and how the entire team had a goal of coming into the season a little more gently since the big races are all in January and February, it went very well! I feel like my technique on the gradual climbs reflected all the work I’ve been putting into it. However, the Ruka courses have some incredibly steep climbs, and every girl and guy had to herringbone the tops of the hills. Turns out, my herringbone is pretty inefficient and, knowing this, I tried to stay in the tracks longer than I should have! I made some poor decisions with that as well as pacing, but I have learned some things to carry into the next race weekend!

Liz and Sadie out for our last run in Finland

Liz and Sadie out for our last run in Finland

Noah's getting really good at the selfie thing! This is a photo of us cheering on the sprint that he took.

Noah’s getting really good at the selfie thing! This is a photo of us cheering on the sprint that he took.

Unfortunately, our team seems to be cursed with a bit of a freak accident streak. In Noah’s race, he fell on the blind corner and got his foot stuck in the fence, breaking his fibula. Thanks to the coaches, staff and venue workers, Noah was taken off course in a snowmachine and right to the hospital, then flown to Vail where experts have been working with him. Right now the plan is for him to be ready by World Champs in Falun in February. We are wishing Noah luck today as he gets surgery on his leg, and he is in great spirits, motivated and I know he will come out of this strong and fired up to race again in February!

Simi bringing out Andy's birthday cake! We celebrated in Ruka.

Simi bringing out Andy’s birthday cake! We celebrated in Ruka.

I had fun baking Andy's b-day cake! And we all had fun eating it!

I had fun baking Andy’s b-day cake! And we all had fun eating it!

Coach Grover looking through the cargo van for some skis. This is our "wax truck"

Coach Grover looking through the cargo van for some skis. This is our “wax truck”

You already know that the techs and coaches do an amazing job working round the clock to make our racing possible, but I would like to say a special thank you to another man who has been working tirelessly for us the last 3 weeks as well! Pete Dickinson, from the Methow Valley, Washinton, has been our team Physical Therapist on the road all the way from Muonio to Lillehammer, and he has been fitting in the entire team each day! He checks on injuries, helps sore joints and muscles, and makes sure we don’t get hurt. It has been incredible having him here and we are lucky anytime we can get a PT or MT (massage therapist) on the road, as this is an important part of racing fast and every team on the World Cup has at least one with them. Thanks Pete!

We finally saw the sun again in Lillehammer, Norway!

We finally saw the sun again in Lillehammer, Norway!

Sadie, Matt, Liz, and Sophie out for a ski on the Birkie trail in Sjusjøen (near Lillehammer)

Sadie, Matt, Liz, and Sophie out for a ski on the Birkie trail in Sjusjøen (near Lillehammer)

Sjusjøen skiing!

Sjusjøen skiing!

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Revving the engines!

Oooooooooh boy here we go! I’m in Ruka, Finland, which is also called Kuusamo. Yesterday felt like the first day of school to me…seeing friends I haven’t seen in 6 months, asking how everyone’s summer has been, feeling so excited to get hugs and stories and smiles from people I’ve missed for a while! Today it really felt like the usual World Cup circus again. When I think about it, the World Cup tour really is a kind of a circus. The tents, the trucks, the lights, the announcing, the coaches and trainers, and us athletes the performers to entertain the crowd! I just love it. It’s like being part of the best kind of reality TV show, the kind that ridiculously dedicated people get up at 4am to watch!

I finally got a name bib!!! It's the little things that motivate...

I finally got a name bib!!! It’s the little things that motivate…(photo: Noah Hoffman)

Road trip! Jeff, Andy, Kikkan, Erik and Sadie

Road trip! Jeff, Andy, Kikkan, Erik and Sadie

I tend to get pretty excited about the little things. One of those is the training bibs…if you finish the last season ranked in the top 30 overall in the world, your training bib for the next year has your name on it. It was one of my goals last year to get myself a “fancy bib”! I hope I don’t spill drink mix on it right away…

Our room is one of the upstairs ones of the cabin on the left. A photo from a clear day in Ruka!

Our room is one of the upstairs ones of the cabin on the left. A photo from a clear day in Ruka!

Skiing on the course today was totally hectic, and exciting. I felt my heartbeat picking up a little faster when the announcer started going, when the sponsor banners went up alongside the course, when fans showed up to watch training and cameras and lights were flashing everywhere. The parking lot turned into organized chaos overnight with huge wax trucks everywhere, techs carrying skis and test fleets back and forth, and athletes weaving through spectators on their way to training and race prep.

The hills on the race course are steep...and so is the walk to every meal!

The hills on the race course are steep…and so is the walk to every meal!

Wait, back up a second! The end of our training week in Muonio, Finland went really well. I spent a bit of time every day testing out new Salomon skis with Cork, and it was great to be able to test in a low pressure, low stress situation. I forgot my headlamp (I know! Shame on me!) but the trails were always lit so it didn’t matter anyways. Our second to last day, I went on a really fun ski with Cork, where we went off the beaten path (quite literally) and took the mountain loop. It wasn’t groomed but skied in, and it was great to see some new terrain and just laugh a little on the twisty downhills, trying to catch air on the rollers. I think it’s really important to just remember to have fun once in a while, without thinking too hard about technique or ski testing or wax testing or anything at all – just skiing purely because it’s really, really fun and it’s a beautiful sport on inspiring trails outside.

Cork leading the charge

Cork leading the charge

Everything was so black and white! And snowy!

Everything was so black and white! And snowy!

So yesterday Kikkan and I went off the racecourse onto the flatter tourist trails here in Ruka, and found the sunshine! I hadn’t actually looked into the sun in a week and a half, and it was starting to get to me. So standing in the rays was pretty special, and something I guess I shouldn’t take for granted! Kikkan also made a fun, fast little video from the footage she took behind me on the fastest downhill on the racecourse! Here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfob6XzrJW8&list=UUCRyeHKrnXVF1ssvEuaNs5Q

Sunlight! Gaaaah! Finally!

Sunlight! Gaaaah! Finally!

I am so excited to race tomorrow, and nervous too. But that’s part of it…if I am nervous, that means I care, so it’s good for me to have butterflies! I usually work into the season so I’m not expecting to cause a scene this weekend, but I do have a lot of classic technique goals that I have been working very hard towards all spring, summer and fall so I am excited to see how the hard work pays off!

The beautiful sunrise (which is also the sunset) around 1pm.

The beautiful sunrise (which is also the sunset) around 1pm.

Sadie had a birthday last week, and we made her wear these huge false eyelashes to dinner!

Sadie had a birthday last week, and we made her wear these huge false eyelashes to dinner!

Thanksgiving was an interesting experience…our big meal consisted of rice and meats covered in a sauce, but we all went to dinner together and said what we were thankful for! For me the best part was getting to Skype my family. I haven’t been home for a Thanksgiving meal in years so not being in Minnesota didn’t seem like a weird exception, but holidays away from home are always a little bit harder than any other day.

Getting a family photo so I can see them every day!

Getting a family photo so I can see them every day!

Now, it wasn’t anything close to a turkey dinner, but I did get a chance to do a little cooking in our mini kitchen! I’m rooming in a little cabin with Sadie, and this is one of the few places all winter where we have our own kitchens and can cook food for ourselves. So I made a huge batch of banana bread! It smelled like home and it was fun to share.

The aftermath of the mess I made in the kitchen!

The aftermath of the mess I made in the kitchen!

And last but certainly not least, I am excited and proud to announce that this year’s new “Jessie Diggins Women’s Line” from Podiumwear suits are out! There is a sale going on right now for black friday…check them out at the link below! I’ve added a couple photos of my favorite suits, and I love the way all they fit and look. I was able to help design the cut and look, and work with Podiumwear’s awesome team to come up with this year’s new funky, fun and fast designs! I especially like the flannel and jeans look, because: AMERICA. Enough said.

https://www.podiumwear.com/team-storefront/black-friday-diggins-benefit-nordic/

I’m putting the link on my athlete Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/jessiedigginsski), and I’d love to hear which suits you like best! Please let me know!

Women's jeans n flannel suit

Women’s jeans n flannel suit

Men's jeans 'n flannel suit

Men’s jeans ‘n flannel suit

Women's color blocking suit

Women’s color blocking suit

Women's "tribal" design suit

Women’s “tribal” design suit

Men's color block suit

Men’s color block suit

Women's floral suit

Women’s floral suit

Unisex sweater suit

Unisex sweater suit

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Lapland and the Northern Lights situation

Here we are – on the road again! Hopefully I can give you a glimpse through my writing into life on the World Cup. We bounce around from place to place but there is always something new to learn about each country and venue, even if I’ve been there before!

The other night I walked out the door, looked up and started freaking out. After two years, I was finally seeing Northern Lights again!!! I ran around to all the cabins, banging on doors and pulling people outside to look at them. They were only bright green for a short while then faded, but Reese is really REALLY good with cameras, and with a longer exposure he found a way to show the colors! Here is one of the super cool shots he took:

Checking out the Northern Lights. (photo credit: Reese Hanneman)

Checking out the Northern Lights. (photo credit: Reese Hanneman)

As you might have noticed from the Northern Lights, we’re pretty far North in Lapland! This week we’re spending in Muonio, Finland. Although the cabins we are living in are actually a few kilometers away from the town of Muonio, so it’s pretty isolated here…a little resort area in the woods.

Our wax techs hard at work! Gus, JP, Peter, Oleg, Bryan, (Matt's missing in this photo) and Cork!

Our wax techs hard at work! Gus, JP, Oleg, Peter, Bryan, (Matt’s missing in this photo) and Cork!

A frosty stretch of tracks

A frosty stretch of tracks

In addition to cabins, there is a hotel, waxing garages, cabins and a restaurant where all the athletes eat. We usually are served buffet style on the World Cup, which is easiest for everyone since people come in from training to lunch at various times and we all like different foods. One of the funniest things to me is when google translate doesn’t totally work out at the buffet table. Slow-cooked pork is labeled as “overcooked pork” and there are also “mixed meats stew” that all taste pretty good but can be a little misleading!

The view from our cabin door on a "bright morning"! I'm really into the crooked "Dr. Seuss tree".

The view from our cabin door on a “bright morning”! I’m really into the crooked “Dr. Seuss tree”.

Speaking of foods, we visited an elementary and primary school in Muonio and spoke with the kids there. We asked them what the best Finnish food is, and answer was unanimously reindeer with lingonberry sauce. We then asked them what their favorite US food was, and right away: “hamburger!!!!” So there you go. Our fast food reputation proceeds us.

Headed into the Muonio school (photo: Matt Whitcomb)

Headed into the Muonio school (photo: Matt Whitcomb)

We talked to the kids about skiing, and showed them our Taylor Swift goofy music video we made, as well as a video Andy made of the glacier camp this summer. And they had a special surprise for us! Four of the girls did a dance with scarves and matching outfits, and it was really awesome. It was cool to come back to the school since we had visited two years ago, and now it’s become sort of a tradition!

Talking with the kids and trying to learn some more Finnish words while they practice their English on us.

Talking with the kids and trying to learn some more Finnish words while they practice their English on us. (photo: Matt Whitcomb)

A couple fun things I’ve been learning about Finland over the years…the “Angry Birds” game was invented in Finland so every store has stuffed toys, stickers, and tummies shaped like little frustrated winged creatures. And all the trees are covered in thick white frost, because of the “ice fog”. There’s probably a more scientific name out there for this phenomenon, but on our team it’s known as the dreaded Kuusamo ice fog. This is when it’s really cold outside but also pretty humid, and there’s tons of tiny ice particles in the air that freeze to your clothes and coat your glasses in a icy sheet. It’s when your eyelashes get too heavy from all the frost!

Matt and I out for a skate (photo: Reese Hanneman)

Matt and I out for a skate (photo: Reese Hanneman)

A view of where the sun hits (hint....it doesn't hit the trails directly)! (photo: Reese Hanneman)

A view of where the sun hits (hint….it doesn’t hit the trails directly)! (photo: Reese Hanneman)

I’ve also had people ask me if we learn other languages on the road. And my answer is usually only a couple of words. I know exactly two words in Finnish, as it turns out. Hello: “Moi moi!” pronounced “moy moy” as in “toy” but with an “M”. And thank you: “kiitos” pronounced “key-toes”. So that’s the extent of my Finnish speaking skills…for now, anyways!

We still lift weights and do strength twice a week in the winter, because skiing fast means having power and to be powerful you have to be strong. The gym in Muonio is in the police station, so the whole crew of us shuffles on into the station and lifts weights there. It’s pretty fun, and I really like doing strength, especially in the winter. It’s a chance to train while getting to really talk with your teammates and trade off between blasting Taylor Swift and Rock and Roll music.

Erik posing on a somewhat sketchy lifting contraption he made.

Erik posing on a somewhat sketchy lifting contraption he made.

One of the popular and efficient (and, in my opinion, very very fun) modes of transport in this town is by spark sled. It looks like a cross between a razor scooter and a sled, where you stand on the back and on the flats you push yourself along with one foot. Whenever we go to the grocery store we see little old ladies cruising down the street on their spark sleds, with their grocery bags loaded on the front. I think it’s awesome.

Here's an admittedly creepy shot of a sledder we took out the car window.

Here’s an admittedly creepy shot of a sledder we took out the car window.

Yesterday some of us did a classic time trial, and I did a 10km. It felt so good to be going hard and fast again! I have been putting in a lot of work on my classic technique over the spring, summer, and fall, and our coaches have been really creative in helping me find new ways to improve. So when the time trial went really well and I finally felt like I was striding instead of bouncing along, I was pretty psyched!

Smiling and striding after the time trial. (photo: Matt Whitcomb)

Smiling and striding after the time trial. (photo: Matt Whitcomb)

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The week that flew by

Whew, we made it! After 27 hours of traveling, 4 flights and a whole lot of time zones, team USA checked into the cabins in Muonio, Finland. We are here training until next tuesday, and the groomed 6km loop of natural snow has been great! While there are a ton of athletes out hammering loops, it’s a large enough area that you can find space to do intervals or speeds without running into other skiers. We are living in these cozy little cottages, and because it’s Finland, each one has this amazing sauna inside! Although I think we use the sauna more to warm up after skiing in the cold dark afternoons instead of how they were intended to be used. More details from Muonio to come soon…but first, I want to fill you in on the busy, fast and extremely fun week I had in Minnesota and Stratton before jumping across the pond!

The first big snowfall for Minnesota! A snowy view up my driveway.

The first big snowfall for Minnesota! A snowy view up my driveway.

I was in Minnesota for only a week, but I somehow managed to pack a month’s worth of things into that time! I led a bounding workout with the Stillwater High School girls team, and played games with the St. Croix Valley Ski Club kids before showing them photos from last season and talking about what it means to be a professional skier.

Some of the Stillwater High School girls after our bounding and running workout!

Some of the Stillwater High School girls after our bounding and running workout!

 

I also had the opportunity to speak at Slumberland Furniture’s conference, and tell everyone how the Olympics went! This was really cool for me, as Slumberland has been my headgear sponsor for many years and it was great to be able to connect to all the stores. I spent an afternoon with the fun crew at Podiumwear, taking shots of the new suits, designing my new line for this coming season and going through the process of making a suit!

Working on the design process with the crazy talented designers at Podiumwear!

Working on the design process with the crazy talented designers at Podiumwear!

And yes, they do have a pinball machine at the Podiumwear factory. So that's pretty cool.

And yes, they do have a pinball machine at the Podiumwear factory. So that’s pretty cool.

One morning, my Dad hauled me out of bed early to help him drag the deer he shot out of the woods. The dogs were going absolutely nuts, it was opening day of hunting season, and we were set up with enough red meat to last all winter long! Although my week was busy I found ways to spend father-daughter time, like field dressing deer, going for roller skis, or reading in the living room with the dogs. And I got mother-daughter time when we went running in the park together, at the gym, and cooking up some delicious dinners! I even got to see my little sister around her busy theatre rehearsal schedule!

Dad and his buck!

Dad and his buck!

The biggest event of all was the Chilkoot fundraiser dinner, which was originally capped at 50 but we somehow managed to squeeze about 60 people into the restaurant for the evening! This fundraiser is important to me because although I am on the USST’s A team, have access to the team’s resources and am mostly funded, there are many weeks in the summer where I am responsible for training costs and the odd non-racing week in the winter when I need to fund myself. Not only did we raise money for my skiing, but the community raised about 1,500 for the National Nordic Foundation as well! It’s really awesome to be able to support and push forward the future of US skiing by lowering the trip costs for junior athletes to compete in Europe.

Giving a slideshow talk about how summer training has gone, and what's up next!

Giving a slideshow talk about how summer training has gone, and what’s up next!

What is really cool to me is that talking about the Olympics with my hometown community was a full-circle moment. Last February, the Chilkoot Cafe opened their doors at 3:30 am (AM!) and 200 people packed into the main dining room. A screen and projector streamed the women’s 4x5km Olympic relay, and everyone cheered and screamed and watched the entire race. I wish I could have been there to see it.

But on November 9th, I finally got to hear the cheer that has been building up and waiting for me since last February. I think the noise shook the building! It was so inspiring. And our relay event at the Olympics didn’t even perform nearly as well as we had hoped! I think that’s what I love about it…at the end of the day, it’s not about cheering for me, or for the US Women’s team. It’s about the love of the sport, about being inspired by it. It’s about watching someone tackle a seemingly impossible task and give it everything they have, win or lose. It’s about community and rallying around cross country skiing. And that is amazing, a truly special thing, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it!

So thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who attended the fundraiser, to everyone who donated to me and to the NNF, and to everyone who follows the sport and cheers us on. You make such a difference! Special thanks goes out to Lee Stylos, Randy Moses and the Chilkoot team for making the amazing event possible! Thank you to Ahvo Taipale for 1,000 matching grant and individuals for matching him, Out There sports for donating gloves for auction, One Way Poles for donating poles for auction, and Ben Popp and the Birkie Foundation for donating as well!

Andy, Ben, Pat, Simi, Annie, Erika, Jessie, Annie and Sophie. SMST2 2014-15 season racers!

Andy, Ben, Pat, Simi, Annie, Erika, Jessie, Annie and Sophie. SMST2 2014-15 season racers!

Then I flew over to Stratton, Vermont to spend a short 3 days with my club team, SMST2. It was great to see everyone one last time before we part ways, with half the team headed to Europe and the other half headed to tear up West Yellowstone. We had another fundraiser dinner the evening before we flew out, and it was such a fun evening of good food, friends, support for the team and a wonderful send-off to motivate us for the next 5 months!

The Marstons won a live auction item - the SMST2 girls team will be cooking dinner for his family and guests this spring!

The Marstons won a live auction item – the SMST2 girls team will be cooking dinner for his family and guests this spring!

I guess there was a lot of salt on the roads because my previously black tights came back from a roll looking like this! Yikes!

I guess there was a lot of salt on the roads because my previously black tights came back from a roll looking like this! Yikes!

The morning that we left it was Annie P’s 22nd birthday, so we played a ton of Taylor Swift’s “22″ song and had a lot of goodbye hugs. It probably wasn’t enough hugs to last 5 months, so I’m hoping we’ll get to see our SMST2 team on the road in Europe this winter!

Birthday hugs for Annie!

Birthday hugs for Annie!

Goodbye kisses for Andy!

Goodbye kisses for Andy!

 

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Some images of what’s to come…

WHAT?!?!? The season is here? No way. Noooooooooo way. It’s not November….is it?

can't. believe. it.

can’t. believe. it.

It’s ok, though. I’m ready. Ready to hit the World Cup!

Time to go!

Time to go!

So, in a series of images that are pretty much the finest the internet has to offer, I’d love to show you what the next few months of my life will look like!

I’ll have to pack up for Europe. 5 months on the road is a loooooong time, so packing is a really big process. Literally.

It's hard to bring everything, ok? Don't judge!

It’s hard to bring everything, ok? Don’t judge!

Then I’ll show up to europe with way too much stuff. But….I REGRET NOTHING!

Not a thing.

Not a thing.

I always conduct myself professionally in our hotel rooms.

that's me.

that’s me.

The World Cup dining halls are often crowded. People watching is spectacular. It kind of reminds me of high school lunches sometimes….ooooooooh, who will I sit with?!?

Sometimes you can even trade food :)

Sometimes you can even trade food :)

And sometimes, the food is just amazing.

can't even stand it.

can’t even stand it.

Because our girls team is pretty tight, we sometimes usually always try and coordinate outfits.

Sadly, this is kinda true.

Sadly, this is kinda true.

I also get asked why I’m almost always skiing around without a jacket or extra coat on. Well….

I feel ya, Elsa.

I feel ya, Elsa.

When we’re skiing around the World Cup, I always have a moment or two when I’m totally starstruck. It’s not my first rodeo or my first year on the circuit, but I’m still blown away by all of the amazing skiing happening right in front of me!

Wow....

Wow….

Time to race! When it’s time to put glitter on people and braid hair, I will be like:

Yeaaaahhhh...no.

Yep.

Inevitably, some races will go very well. And some of them won’t. And then I’ll be like:

(but don't worry, it's never THAT bad...)

(but don’t worry, it’s never THAT bad…)

And then our coaches will be like:

so get a grip!

Everyone needs a little help sometimes.

Everyone needs a little help sometimes.

Of course, people will anonymously comment on our races, good or bad:

Looking at you, Fasterskier comments.

Looking at you, Fasterskier comments.

But hopefully it won’t ever look like this:

ouch. ouch. ouch.

ouch. ouch. ouch.

And there will be some great races and fun times! And our coaches will be like:

strong work.

strong work.

There’s always the tricky road trips involved with getting from one place to another. Maps can be hard, folks.

Um.....how do we get there?

Um…..how do we get there?

And the twisty roads? Don’t even get me started!

So. Scared.

So. Scared.

So. Carsick.

So. Carsick.

Who knows? I may try and talk people into making another music video. Which means I get to choreograph the dance. Which means I’ll be spending a lot of time in my room like this:

I just need to buy some moon boots first...

I just need to buy some moon boots first…

There’s always a time during those 5 months when spirits are down and people are a little homesick.

No parents?!?!?

No parents?!?!?

And nobody’s doing their laundry. Because there are no machines to be found. Then people start doing this:

sad, but true.

sad, but true.

This is when my role as team cheerleader is pretty important. And a good reminder to everyone:

So get out there and ski!

So get out there and ski!

And if all goes well, we’ll end up looking like Bjornsen when he crossed the line at his first Olympic race ever:

Yeah buddy!

Yeah buddy!

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Calm before the storm

Canmore camp is over, and now I’m back in Park City for a rest week at some higher altitude. It was such a good camp, getting to be on snow again and dial in some technique ideas before the season starts back up!

A beautiful Canmore sunrise!

A beautiful Canmore sunrise!

We did a lot of volume training just so we could have time to work on our technique and dial in skis, but we also did a classic sprint time trial and a 10km skate time trial.

Matt and Jason waxing up our skis for the classic sprint race/time trial (photo by Noah)

Matt and Jason waxing up our skis for the classic sprint race/time trial (photo by Noah)

Me, getting ready to start the first qualifier of the season! (photo by Cross Country Canada)

Me, getting ready to start the first qualifier of the season! (photo by Cross Country Canada)

The time trials were really fun. I don’t always like change, so I wasn’t super ready for the race season to start up yet. (Can’t we just train all the time? Long roller skis are so fun!) But with the “kings court” style classic sprints where nobody got eliminated but simply moved up a heat or down a heat, everyone got to do all four rounds and we ended up racing with some of the boys. It was such a fun day! It was great to practice going through the rounds, dial in the kick wax and figure out what to do in-between sprint heats.

Liz, Annie, Me and Erika happy to be in Canmore! (this photo was our idea, not Noah's, but I stole it from him)

Liz, Annie, Me and Erika happy to be in Canmore! (this photo was our idea, not Noah’s, but I stole it from him. Hah.)

For the skate time trial, the girls were set to do 4 laps (which was actually more like 7.5km) but Liz and I did 6 laps like the guys. I wanted to get the feel for a real 10km distance, so we just kept going round and round the loop!

Coolest street view in Canmore...the sign says "Walk of Champions"

Coolest street view in Canmore…the sign says “Walk of Champions”

We also had time during camp to catch up with friends. Both Perianne Jones and Chandra Crawford had us over for dinner, and it was so relaxing and fun to catch up and hang out! I basically went around collecting hugs, especially since I won’t get to see Chandra for a while.

The #Annies and Erika dancing it up to a Taylor Swift song before our time trial.

The #Annies and Erika dancing it up to a Taylor Swift song before our time trial.

When Taylor Swift’s new album released during the camp, we quickly had some new theme songs to jam out to. Anne Hart made sure of that!

We had another team thanksgiving! But with chickens. It was tasty. (photo from Noah)

We had another team thanksgiving! But with chickens. It was tasty. (photo from Noah)

Noah always has his camera out taking shots of the team training, whether or not we know it’s happening. I wanted to prove that I, too, could take some candid shots. OH, HOW THE TABLES HAVE TURNED!

Just because.

I think he knows I’m taking a photo of him taking a photo of me taking a photo…

Last but most definitely not least, I want to say a huge thank you to the coaches for all their hard work that made the camp run so smoothly! They waxed up our training and time trial skis every day, organized everything and made it so that we could focus on training hard and resting hard. We got so much out of this camp, largely because of the coaches!

Patrick Moore, aka "Toque", bringing some energy to the scene!

Patrick Moore, aka “Toque”, bringing some energy to the scene!

Matt and Cork, wiped out from a big waxing day!

Matt and Cork, wiped out from a big waxing day!

Gus, showing some style.

Gus, showing some style.

Now I’m off to do a nice easy roller ski! Bye!

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Beauty skiing, eh?

Canmore has been so good to us over the years, and this fall is no exception! The skiing at Frozen Thunder has been great, it’s been good to be on snow with beautiful mountains surrounding the town, and so far camp has been pretty relaxing!

Doing some one-pole drill skiing! (photo by Anne Hart)

Doing some one-pole drill skiing! (photo by Anne Hart)

I really like this on snow time for a couple reasons. Besides the obvious (it’s snow, duh!) it’s better for my technique practice to be on the real stuff instead of roller skis. Having kick wax that is just the tiniest bit slick on purpose forces me to stay honest with my striding, and really concentrate on feeling my foot connect with the snow. Rollerskiing is a great way to train, get fit and keep some technique gains over the summer, but nothing can replace the exact feeling of kicking and gliding!

You know what else is pretty great? We have a patriotic racing suit this year! While pink and black were awesome, they weren’t exactly on the flag, and this year we’re rocking the stars and stripes…bringing back the Olympic suit for everyday World Cup use. YES. I. AM. HAPPY. ABOUT. THIS.

Andy and Ben, sprinting it up and showing off the new race suits for next winter!!! (photo: USSA Nordic)

Andy and Ben, sprinting it up and showing off the new race suits for next winter!!! (photo: USSA Nordic)

 

It’s also funny because some of the bad habits I have on roller skis, like having weirdly hyper-extensive joints and letting my knees come waaaaaaaay out on V1, disappear once I get on snow. It’s like a big boost of confidence….”see, you actually DO know how to ski, it just doesn’t always feel like it on roller skis!”

Anne "Goobie" was standing at the end of the course, taking selfies with every skier to pass by. What a little ray of sunshine!

Anne “Goobie” was standing at the end of the course, taking selfies with every skier to pass by. What a little ray of sunshine!

While we have been taking advantage of the snow and skiing every morning for at least 2 hours, in the afternoons we have been switching it up. Sometimes I’ll ski as a warmup before strength, or we might go for a run, or roller ski as was the case yesterday. We wanted to do some hard, fast double pole intervals, and doing it on the pavement meant we’d for sure not punch through the snow or be in the way of all the skiers, dodging traffic. They were hard, but went well!

Getting psyched up for our afternoon double pole interval set! (photo from Pat)

Getting psyched up for our afternoon double pole interval set! (photo from Pat)

Pounding the pavement! Ida, me, Liz, Peri and the SMS crew! (photo by Pat)

Pounding the pavement! Ida, me, Liz, Peri and the SMS crew! (photo by Pat)

We have been staying in the Rocky Mountain ski lodge, as always. Same apartment, same girls (Liz and Ida and I), same beds. Same bad jokes, same order of waking up (I’m always last to roll out of bed), same departure times to get to the snow. It’s like nothing has changed! Except we are a little bit older, a little bit faster, we know each other even better than we did last year. Which is actually kind of amazing, considering how much time we spend with each other! :)

Simi, hammering out some laps. Also a wonderful mountain scenery shot! (photo by USSA Nordic)

Simi, hammering out some laps. Also a wonderful mountain scenery shot! (photo by USSA Nordic)

To end the post, I couldn’t resist posting a couple more photos I just got from the USST Ski Ball…they were so fun!

The Olympic athletes welcoming committee! :) (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

The Olympic athletes welcoming committee! :) (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Bidding on live auction items! (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Bidding on live auction items! (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Jonny Moseley really, REALLY won the costume contest. (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

Jonny Moseley really, REALLY won the costume contest. (photo: Sarah Brunson, USST)

 

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