The secret happiness behind painful training

Overheard at the lunch table after a morning of time trials in Davos:

“Hey, how was your skiathlon time trial today?”

“It was AWESOME! I destroyed myself.”

While that sounds a little contradictory, it’s a pretty common theme for skiers: feeling awesome after pretty much destroying yourself. While our sport has so many different parts to it; tactics, technique, waxing, pacing, strength, power, speed…a huge part of it is dealing with physical pain as you’re pushing your body to it’s limit. And then a little farther. It seems like enjoying ski racing goes hand in hand with enjoying the lung-burning, muscle-numbing, iron-tasting, mentally-exhausting state you find yourself in near the end of a race.

To a lot of people, this sounds crazy. To me, it makes sense. Until you tear yourself apart, how can you possibly know what you’re made of underneath all the layers of “can I really do this?” How can you know what your limits really are, and if you can push past them?

And of course, let’s not forget that endorphin rush. That’s a big part of the reason hard training and racing out of your mind is so rewarding…not only do you feel like you’ve really done something hard, you get a rush of endorphins that somehow makes it all worth it!

Happy on my first ski back in Davos! (photo by Liz)

Happy on my first ski back in Davos! (photo by Liz)

So last weekend I did a team-sprint time trial with Cork. I was the only girl doing that particular time trial that day (most everyone else did a classic sprint time trial or a distance race) so Cork was my tag zone partner. It was really hard but really fun as well, in that weird way that only painful training can be. The time trial gave me a lot of confidence and good practice going into Worlds, especially since the last team sprint I’d done was the 2013 Worlds race! I don’t know yet if I’ll make the team, but I have to prepare for the races I’ve set my biggest goals on, and so I’ve been training with that in mind.

Sophie making some powder turns down the track we hiked up one day!

Sophie making some powder turns down the track we hiked up one day!

I guess you could say that our pre-Worlds training camp in Davos was one of the best we’ve ever had. When it was time to focus and be on the snow, it was all about the skiing. We trained hard but made sure to keep the pace down on our easy training sessions. The tracks were beautiful and we could ski so many different valleys. And in between, we relaxed and had fun!

Liz and I skiing up the sunny valley (photo from Liz)

Liz and I skiing up the sunny valley (photo from Liz)

You know me...always staying on my feet...(photo from Sophie)

You know me…always staying on my feet…(photo from Sophie)

Erik and Simi getting ready to ski right from the hotel door onto the trail

Erik and Simi getting ready to ski right from the hotel door onto the trail

One night our friends Markus and Maurus had the team over for Mexican food, and we had such a fun time catching up and then watching the live Fasterskier feed of the Craftsbury SuperTour races. It was so cool to cheer on our teammates and actually be able to watch the races happen while we’re in Europe!

On a fun ski with Sophie!

On a fun ski with Sophie!

Sophie, Zuzana and me at the Hockey game (photo from Sophie)

Sophie, Zuzana and me at the Hockey game (photo from Sophie)

Another night we went to a Davos Hockey game, and I had such a blast. It was the second hockey game I’ve been to in Davos this winter and I still think the fans are the best I’ve ever seen!

Andy, Rosie, me and Sophie hanging out at the train station with our "pretzel legs"

Andy, Rosie, me and Sophie hanging out at the train station with our “pretzel legs”

For me, it’s really important to keep that balance between training hard and having a life, because if I start focusing on skiing for too much of my day, I actually won’t ski as fast. So I loved having time in Davos to hang out with friends, meet new people and enjoy the town.

Sadie and her boyfriend Jo out for a ski!

Sadie and her boyfriend Jo out for a ski!

Out having fun on the amazing sled run in Davos!

Out having fun on the amazing sled run in Davos!

The strange "snowman terra-cotta army" in town

The strange “snowman terra-cotta army” in town

The ice skating rink in the middle of town

The ice skating rink in the middle of town

It was hard to leave Davos, but I can’t wait to race again and see another city I’ve never been to before!

Near the top of the beautiful Sertig valley ski trails

Near the top of the beautiful Sertig valley ski trails

So here we are in the Stockholm airport, on our way to Östersund, Sweden for the last World Cup races before World Championships begin! It was a relatively easy travel day and I’m excited to explore a new place and see the stadium!

 

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From Russia, with Love, face-tape, and hand-warmers.

Ok, I admit I am a little late to the blogging game! Sorry about that, but now I’m back from Russia and ready to tell you all about it!

First of all, the end of my little Seiser Alm training camp with Liz and Cork was awesome. We got a ton of fresh snow, and for the first time all year it felt like it was really winter! The skiing was amazing and Liz and I had some good interval sessions together. Cork put in some big training hours too!

Liz and I post-intervals in one of the most scenic areas to train in!

Liz and I post-intervals in one of the most scenic areas to train in!

This part of the trails looks like you're about to ski into the clouds!

This part of the trails looks like you’re about to ski into the clouds!

Predictably, my favorite part of the whole week was the day we took sleds down the groomed sled run from the top of the mountain to the town below! It was EPIC. There were bridges we zipped under and tunnels we screamed through, and we got up to 48.5 km per hour!

So excited to be on a sled! And a little nervous.

So excited to be on a sled! And a little nervous.

Liz taking a break in the powder

Liz taking a break in the powder

Liz, ready to ski some equipment down the alpine slopes to the car lot!

Liz, ready to ski some equipment down the alpine slopes to the car lot!

To get to Rybinsk, Liz, Cork and I drove to Munich where we spent the night, then flew on a charter to Yaroslavl airport. From there we took a bus for a couple hours to the sports complex, Demino, which is actually a half hour out of the city of Rybinsk. There was a hotel, cabins, dining hall and the stadium and race trails, and we were effectively in the middle of nowhere because none of us had cars!

In a weird way, I kind of liked being stuck in our cozy little cabin. We had our Russian PT friend Vadim over with some of his family and they brought wood and made a roaring fire. It was really enlightening to hear about life in Rybinsk and such a nice gesture for them to come by and make our house so nice!

The frosty riverside walk to the dining hall

The frosty riverside walk to the dining hall

The first day of training it was pretty cold (-18 C if you’d like to know) but we were super ready for it. Growing up in Minnesota taught me how to race and go skiing in the cold! I might have actually gone overboard because during training and during the race I was actually sweating. The first race day was also pretty chilly, about -16 C, and I had taped almost every inch of my face. I actually raced in a buff for the first time in years (I can’t stand having anything touch my neck when I ski but this was an exception), and I wore fleece-lined tights under my race suit. Wowzers that was a lot of clothing I had on that day.

And how about Liz’s race, huh? If you haven’t heard about her second place on the podium yet, you should go to crosscountryski.us and watch her race immediately. It was brilliant. Not only was it a personal best for Liz, but the best distance result by any US Woman ever! I am so proud of her, although I have to admit it wasn’t a surprise…I knew this was coming for a while! Liz works so crazy hard and skis with so much heart, and it was so fun to see all that hard work pay off and come through in such a good way in that 10km skate. She is one inspirational woman, and I’m so lucky to have her as a teammate!

Liz and I with some Norwegian and Swedish friends at the awards ceremony in Rybinsk!

Liz and I with some Norwegian and Swedish friends at the awards ceremony in Rybinsk!

Racing the 10km skate (photo by Salomon)

Racing the 10km skate (photo by Salomon)

Personally, I had a race that was a step in the right direction. I had set a lot of small, process-oriented goals for myself for that race and I met each of them. I was really satisfied with how I approached the race and how I mentally handled it, but the 12th place was definitely a little bit of a disappointment for me, most likely because of how well I had raced in Rybinsk 2 years ago. It’s always hard to come back to a venue when you know you can do amazing, because it’s that much more pressure to perform this time around. That said, everyone has places that for whatever reason are really good for them. You don’t pick your place, it picks you. And Rybinsk seems to be one of those places for me! The rest of the weekend picked up right where I had left off when I was racing well last year. I started skiing with confidence and drive while having fun and soaking up the energy of the stadium and the crowd. I still made some mistakes and didn’t have perfect technique or anything, but I was really happy with how I skied and it gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.

The day of the skate sprint, it was snowing. And not just a little bit…winter was making up for all of the absent snow in a single morning. So the tracks were deep and soft and a little squirrelly, especially for the qualifier! Once all the men had come through it packed down a little more, so in the heats I didn’t feel like I was floundering around on the steep climb. Through my quarter and semifinal I was riding the energy and excitement of having so many US girls in the race: Sophie, Sadie, Ida and I all qualified and Rosie was 31st, so extremely close to the heats!

I knew my Salomon boards were running fast thanks to our techs and coaches nailing the wax, and so over the top of the final climb in my quarter I tucked behind the leader and slingshoted into first going into the stadium. I won my quarter so I advanced to the semis, where I raced with Sophie. On the steep climb I hesitated, not wanting to take the lead over the hill, but the girls to my right weren’t going either so I finally committed and pushed hard over the hill into my smallest tuck, and wasn’t passed until the finishing lanes where I finished second, making it into the final.

Racing the skate sprint qualifier (photo by Salomon Nordic)

Racing the skate sprint qualifier (photo by Salomon Nordic)

Before the final, I was jogging around with the other girls and I was having the time of my life! Jennie Oeberg (Sweden), the eventual race winner, had never made a final before, and neither had Silje Slind (Norway), and it’d been a long time since I’d made a final! We all knew each other from a few years of racing together, and we were just so excited to be there in that warmup pen. We were jogging around and high-fiving each other and wishing each other luck, and it’s cool that we can be friends right up until the moment the gun goes off, and then we’re all fighting for the medals, and immediately after the race we’re congratulating each other and asking each other about how the race went. When the gun went off, I had a little bit of a rough start, getting my equipment stepped on and my pole strap loosened, which distracted me more than I should have let it. I was also feeling a little tired, and when the pack went up the steep climb I tried my hardest but couldn’t hold on, and finished 5th. I know that with the right energy I could have been in there, and that excited “fighting for the medals” feeling was such a rush! I was extremely happy with my race, and 5th place is still currently my best result on the World Cup.

Jumping up onto the 5th place podium at the awards ceremony (photo by Matt Whitcomb)

Jumping up onto the 5th place podium at the awards ceremony (photo by Matt Whitcomb)

5th seems to be the number I’m stuck on, because the next day in the 15km skiathlon (7.5 classic + 7.5 skate) I finished the same place! I got out to a good start in the classic half, and my goal was just to ski smooth and efficient, and then start moving through the field in the skate half. Sadie and I were stoked because we later learned that our exchange-pit splits were 2nd and 3rd of the day…I mean, there’s no prizes given for clipping into your skate binding fast but it’s always a funny thing to look up afterwards! In the skate half of the race, I just barely managed to hold on to the back of a pack that was moving up through the field. I would start getting dropped and then latch back on, and get a second wind, then yo-yo off the back again. But I got my end-of-the-race kick just in time to ski into 5th, just 2 seconds behind the girls lunging it out for the last podium spot. Again I had that fighting for the medals excitement, and the belief that someday I’m going to be one of the girls lunging for a medal. Liz and Kikkan have been really inspiring me, and showing us younger girls on the team that with confidence it will happen!

Ida with her "microwave gluten free brownie birthday cake"

Ida with her “microwave gluten free brownie birthday cake”

While we were in Rybinsk, Ida had her 27th Birthday! We did the best we could in the small kitchenette to bake her some brownies and, randomly, pancakes!

The crew celebrating Ida's Birthday

The crew celebrating Ida’s Birthday

So now we are back in one of our homes away from home, in Davos Switzerland. We have 2 weeks here for a training camp before World Champs, and there are a couple things I’d like to get done this week. 1.) train well and be as prepared for Worlds as I can possibly be 2.) make a new USST music video and 3.) visit my friends in the area and have a fun, relaxing week!

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Keep on the sunny side

As I write this sitting in my hotel room in Seiser Alm, I’m watching some seriously stylish Italians attempt to navigate the slalom gates on the ski slope directly under my window. Go-Pros are everywhere. Someone in slippers and a fluffy robe is shuffling out to the outdoor sauna, and one of the waiters is pacing back and forth having a smoke break. Nobody is rushed (except the skier still frantically making their way around the gates), the sun is out, someone is sending it down the sled run on a toboggan, the slopes are full of skiers, there’s snow on the mountain and if I were to be stuck up here for the rest of my life I wouldn’t be all that bummed out.

Pointing to our hotel up on the mountain!

Pointing to our hotel up on the mountain! (photo by Cork)

After I admitted to myself (and then to my coach) that I was too sick to continue racing in the Tour de Ski, I got really pretty sick. I was like a fuse on the end of a firework…right before everything blew apart I burned a little faster and a little brighter than I should have. So I took a few days of total hibernation, sleeping like the dead and shutting myself up in my room with episodes of the Vampire Diaries and other beautifully mindless yet somehow catchy shows.

I started playing with sculpy clay when the internet stopped working...

I started playing with sculpy clay when the internet stopped working…

And I also finished the book Peter gave me for Christmas! If you haven't read this yet...do it.

And I also finished the book Peter gave me for Christmas! If you haven’t read this yet…do it.

I aggressively watched twitter updates of the races in Houghton at US Nationals, cheering on my SMST2 teammates and all my friends there. Congrats to everyone who made the Scando/Junior/U23 World Team! I’m really excited to watch you guys rip it up. I also watched the Tour races on TV and cheered for Liz (and, really, every single person that did that final climb. Because that thing is HARD) although it was really painful to be surrounded with racing and talk of racing all day and not be able to go do it myself. It made me feel useless, not being well enough to do my job. Times like that are when it’s so important to remind myself that while yeah, my whole life basically revolves around skiing (I am in Europe for 5 months straight, after all) it’s not all of who I am, and there are other parts of me that are awesome and don’t hinge on race results.

I went on a couple walks in Predazzo to get some sun, and saw some beautiful homes! I love the laundry hanging outside to dry.

I went on a couple walks in Predazzo to get some sun, and saw some beautiful homes! I love the laundry hanging outside to dry.

I came out of hibernation and snapped out of it just in time to travel to Seiser Alm, and for Liz’s 28th Birthday! We had a lovely evening and I’m so excited to be up here spending a week of training with her and Cork. I’m now well enough to start training conservatively again, and I’m looking forward to all the amazing skiing up here!

Me and Therese this morning. It was so fun to ski with her! (photo by Cork)

Me and Therese this morning. It was so fun to ski with her! (photo by Cork)

While it’s a really low snow year, there are still 13km of really good trails, and this morning I went for my first ski with Cork. We ran into Therese Johaug and skied a lap with her, and it was really fun to talk, hear about her Tour and share plans for the next few weeks!

My special "sit down tuck". Still doing it!

My special “sit down tuck”. Still doing it!

Cork in the lower stadium

Cork in the lower stadium

Of course, because it’s Seiser Alm and gorgeous and sunny, I needed a few photos to share. Cork graciously posed for some too (if you know him, you’ll know how rare and special this is).

Cork, missing 'Merican food...and finding it in the Alps.

Cork, missing ‘Merican food…and finding it in the Alps.

I’m looking forward to this next week!

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The Committed Heart

I think it’s time to re-share one of my all-time favorite quotes.

“Most people fail at whatever they attempt because of an undecided heart. Should I? Should I not? Go forward? Go back? Success requires the emotional balance of a committed heart.

When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution.  The undecided heart will search for an escape. A committed heart does not wait for conditions to be exactly right.  Why?  Because conditions are NEVER exactly right.”

- Andy Andrews, The Traveler’s Gift

This Tour has been full of ups and downs for me, but one thing that allowed me to keep pushing and give it my all was deciding to fully commit. Not worrying about overall standings, results, points or anything other than deciding to give it my all each day. I don’t have really pretty or efficient technique, I don’t have raw speed or power, and often my race tactics are a little off the mark. But what makes me a good athlete is having a committed heart and being all-in, every time. Yet even this committed heart needs to recognize when it’s time to put down the cards and leave the table, and being really sick is one of those times that’s out of my control.

 

The morning of stage 3′s skate sprint in Val Müstair, I woke up with a really sore throat. Of course I immediately told the coaches and my teammates because that’s what you do when you live on the road with others – it sucks to be put in an isolation room and treated like you have the plague, but it sucks even more to get a teammate or coach sick by being selfish and not telling others that you may be coming down with something. I was convinced that my sore throat was simply because of the dry air in the altitude of the Swiss Alps, and that I was fine, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something in my body wasn’t quite right. I put my mind towards racing the best I could, although looking back (hindsight’s always 20/20, isn’t it?) that explains why I suddenly died in the middle of my quarterfinal.

I got a solo room once we arrived in Toblach, Italy, and was hydrating and taking as much Vitamin C as I could, but I didn’t sleep well, waking up every few hours with a sore throat and pounding head. In the morning once I was up and moving about I felt much better, and decided that if I was getting sick I may as well have one last go. I raced the 5km classic, and had my third best classic result on the World Cup ever, coming in 19th. Uh….what the heck?!? I think in part that was because I was racing like it could have been my last day on the Tour, and I wanted to keep racing so badly that I was out to prove to myself that I could race through anything, even sickness. I figured conditions are never exactly right, and I didn’t want to make excuses for myself, so I didn’t tell the media.

However, that night I was up for what felt like the entire night, waking because I couldn’t breathe properly and the next day I felt so achy and awful that I knew it was time to call it. It really hurts to not finish the Tour when I  had my sights set on completing it, and my races have been going well (except for the 10km classic, I’ve been in the points each time). But I have big goals left for the rest of the season and it’s time to get healthy again. And being sick I haven’t had any appetite the last 3 days, which is a real problem on the Tour when you need to be taking in enough food to recover each day. In all likelihood I would have crashed and burned had I tried to start today, so it’s better to start the recovery process sooner instead of dig myself into a hole. This all sounds totally obvious, I bet, but it’s always harder to make the decision for yourself than to look at the situation from another angle!

So, my plan from here is go still go to Predazzo, Italy and then to Seiser Alm, where I will recover and then have a nice little training camp before the races in Rybinsk, Russia. I will also be cheering on Kikkan and Liz in today’s race, and then cheering with all my heart for Liz as she finishes the tour! Of course I have also been avidly following the Nationals races in Houghton, and I’m cheering so hard for all my SMST2 teammates and friends over there! Let’s go, guys!

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Tour de Ski guidebook for dummies

You’ve probably heard of the Tour de France. Maybe even the Tour de Ski. Maybe you’re even got up at 0-dark-hundred to watch it live! My goal is to give you a little behind the scenes information as to what actually goes on during a Tour event when the athletes aren’t racing on camera.

The TDS schedule looks like this (girls distances):

  • Jan 3 – Obersdorf, Germany: 3.2km skate prologue
  • Jan 4 – Obersdorf, Germany: 10km classic pursuit
  • Jan 5 – day off, travel to Val Müstair, Switzerland
  • Jan 6 – Val Müstair, Switzerland: skate sprint, travel to Toblach, Italy that night
  • Jan 7 – Toblach, Italy: 5km classic
  • Jan 8 – Toblach, Italy: 15km skate pursuit
  • Jan 9 – day off, travel to Val di Fiemme, Italy
  • Jan 10 – Val di Fiemme, Italy: 10km classic mass start
  • Jan 11 – Val di Fiemme, Italy: 9km skate pursuit hill climb

It’s 7 races in 9 days, spread across 4 venues in 3 different countries. Pack your passports, people! This tight timetable is especially hard work for the coaches (who are also our techs) because each venue we go to they need to build the wax room, prepare test skis, determine what the race wax will be and then prepare skis for their athletes to test on race morning. This means that none of them get very much sleep, and I am totally amazed at how they can keep going day after day. People think a Tour is hardest on the athletes, but that’s probably the easiest job of all!

Salomon Nordic photo of me racing stage 1

Salomon Nordic photo of me racing stage 1

That said, racing that much is still not easy. It does funny things to your body and your head, and just to finish is a huge accomplishment in itself! The TDS for me is like one big adrenaline rush. You’re racing almost every day, and when you’re not racing you’re working to help your body recover or traveling to the next venue.

So happy about all the snow in Obersdorf! (Sophie photo)

So happy about all the snow in Obersdorf! (Sophie photo)

After stage 2, I enter this weird complex where I almost always have a bad stomach ache from the stress of racing, but I’m also always hungry. So I need to eat but really just want to lie down. As the tour goes on I end up eating more and more bland food and less fruits and vegetables, and by the end of the tour I just want a new stomach altogether!

Not quite so happy about all the rain we got right before the race...

Not quite so happy about all the rain we got right before the race…

In terms of sore muscles, bumps and bruises…if I can start the tour with somewhat of a clean slate, it’s a total miracle really awesome.

As it ended up this year, I came into this thing without any soreness but some bruises on my legs, and after a training crash and then a race crash in Obersdorf my legs look totally destroyed. They still feel ok though!

Luckily for me, I have had lots of help dealing with all those bruises and sore muscles! We have Meg and Anna, Massage Therapist and Physical Therapist respectively, and they have been rockstars. Besides helping us with body work they have been in the start and finish pen for the races, helping us get our warmups off and then on again and keeping track of our skis while we’re jogging around. A big thanks to them for coming on board for such a crazy and intense 2 weeks!

Kikkan starting the recovery process with food, drinks and dry clothes right after the race!

Kikkan starting the recovery process with food, drinks and dry clothes right after the race!

It’s amazing to watch what happens to my body as I progress through the tour. One day I might have an awful race and feel like I’m at the end of my rope, and the very next day I could have one of my best races all year. Last year I remember having a lot of ups and downs, just like a regular season but compressed into one intense week. For me, a big part of staying in the game and riding out the good days and the bad is simply mental.

While being consistent is obviously the goal, there will inevitably be a bad race or two, and being able to keep each race separate from the TDS as a whole is key. I like to tackle it each day at a time, not thinking about how much racing is left or how I need to get “x” results to achieve “y” goals. I just think about what I need to do that moment, that hour of that day to take care of myself, be a good teammate, and make sure I can race as well as possible. Now that I think about it, the Tour is great life practice because it teaches you that nothing is the end of the world and you can also come back from anything.

The TDS gives you patience and humor when you get situations like a glass shower in the middle of a hotel room!

The TDS gives you patience and humor when you get situations like a glass shower in the middle of a hotel room!

So, what happens once the TV broadcast for the day is over? For most athletes, it probably looks a little like this….quickly cool down from the race and keep it as short as possible while still flushing the lactic acid out of your body. Change into dry clothes and get in some food and drink, even if you feel like you’re going to puke, because your body is going to need that fuel the next day. Get back to the hotel and shower, throw your clothes into your duffel, and pack into the team vans. Eat lunch on the road. Answer media questions via text, call, or email while trying not to get carsick.

Matt brought a 6-pack along for the ride. 6 pack of Boost, that is.

Matt brought a 6-pack along for the ride. 6 pack of Boost, that is.

The beautiful floating church on our drive from Obersdorf to Val Müstair

The beautiful floating church on our drive from Obersdorf to Val Müstair

Drive a few hours to the next venue, where you’ll all pile out and check into a new hotel, find your rooms and half-way unpack. Then, if you’re lucky enough to have Massage and PT on the road, you take turns with your teammates getting body work done to help your legs recover. Go for a short jog, foam roll or stretch, and have dinner. Go to the team pre-race meeting, meet with your tech, come up with a game plan for the next day’s race. Climb into bed and hope that your body isn’t too jazzed up from the previous race so you can get some sleep. Wake up and do it again! Wow, doesn’t that sound like fun??? Oddly enough, it actually is.

Having a little look out our hotel window! (Sadie photo)

Having a little look out our hotel window! (Sadie photo)

I had a solid start to my TDS with a 14th place finish in the skate prologue, only a couple seconds out of top-10. This was a great sign for me because on such a hilly course it meant that I was in good race shape and ready to go! I definitely paced it a little too conservatively, but I was happy with how my second lap of the race went and I felt like I was able to push hard over the tops of the hills. And I was definitely proud of our techs and my Salomon skis, as I later found out that I had the fastest split time from the top of the course to the stadium on both laps! We had a good laugh over that one as I’m known for falling down, not killing the downhills.

A rare graceful moment on classic skis! (photo by Marcel Hilger)

A rare graceful moment on classic skis! (photo by Marcel Hilger)

However, the next day was…well…not disastrous, but pretty close! In testing I picked my race pair of skis and we dialed in the wax, and I could kick easily up the steepest section of the course with good glide to boot. I was psyched and we called it good, and I took my warmup skis off to finish skiing. However, conditions were rapidly changing (it also started very lightly snowing) and I started getting worried as my warmup skis stopped working. I should have run back to the wax cabins and re-tested, but we don’t have a huge staff and we were stretched thin as it was, and I was running out of time. During the race my skis were crazy slick, and it wasn’t just that it was hard to make them work, as I kept playing with my technique to try and get grip. I was slipping 5, 6 strides in a row and loosing so much time on every hill as I had to start herringboning up everything. I don’t blame my skis (they were crazy fast yesterday after all, and my glide was good!) and I don’t blame the techs, but it was nothing short of frustrating to move back so quickly and have it be totally out of my control. I was proud of myself for keeping focus in the race and still searching for every second, and holding my own on the flats. To top it off, I caught one of the ruts on my last downhill and crashed, but at that point I only lost 2 places from falling and I wasn’t injured, so it wasn’t the worst thing ever.

My awesome roommate Sadie can always find ways to make me laugh.

My awesome roommate Sadie can always find ways to make me laugh.

So what do you do when things don’t go your way? Because chances are, not everything will always work out as planned. Do you give up? Do you look for excuses? Do you doubt yourself? Or do you take a deep breath, remember that you still have what it takes, and put your energy into moving forward? I’m choosing to move forward, get my chase-mode on and see what I can do!

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Best. EVER.

The FIS guys have a joke that us American girls are always saying that this awesome thing or that cool thing are “the BEST EVER. Like, ever.” Apparently we also say things are “the best ever” when they’re actually not all that fantastic, but I like to call that optimism.

Anyways, this Christmas break with my family in Davos might actually have been the best ever. I was so happy to be spending a relaxing week soaking up family time and just hanging out with my Mom, Dad and little sister. It helped that they were in vacation mode and I also needed a little break from racing, so I was able to chill out which was exactly what I should have been doing.

On a hike with my sister Mackenzie!

On a hike with my sister Mackenzie!

My Dad, sister and Mom on our hike up Dischma

My Dad, sister and Mom on our hike up Dischma

Psyched up for an intense time trial workout in my new Podiumwear suit! (photo by Kikkan)

Psyched up for an intense time trial workout in my new Podiumwear suit! (photo by Kikkan)

Of course, I was still training, and focused when it was time to clip into my bindings, but as soon as the skis came off it was time to play Christmas tunes on Andy’s guitar with my Sister singing the lyrics, decorate the tree, bake a gingerbread house…all the traditional fun stuff we get up to over the holidays. And thanks to friends in town, we went to a Davos Hockey game!!! It was so fun!

Mackenzie and I cheering with the glow-in-the-dark goggles!

Mackenzie and I cheering with the glow-in-the-dark goggles!

Dad and I at the rink!

Dad and I at the rink!

We quickly learned that the standing section was where all the fun people were and also where some of the most enthusiastic fans on the planet stood.

We quickly learned that the standing section was where all the fun people were and also where some of the most enthusiastic fans on the planet stood.

On Christmas Day we had the USST team “orphans” over for some family time and a nice dinner. We also made a gingerbread house from scratch, which is actually pretty hard to get all the pieces to fit together right! But with a little help from some string we got it done. :)

Starting to glue the pieces together.

Starting to glue the pieces together. (photo by Sophie)

Kenzie, Sophie, Simi, Me and Ida (Liz is missing in the photo) with our finished house!

Kenzie, Sophie, Simi, Me and Ida (Liz is missing in the photo) with our finished house!

Everyone at the table! Minus Liz, who took the photo.

Everyone at the table! Minus Liz, who took the photo.

Our beautiful little Christmas tree!

Our beautiful little Christmas tree!

We also took a day trip to Livigno, in Italy. It was fun to ski some new trails and see a town I’d never set foot in before. We skied for a few hours, ate delicious food and walked the shopping street all lit up for Christmas.

Mom, Mackenzie and Me on the trail next to the river.

Mom, Mackenzie and Me on the Livigno trails.

Kenzie took a little field trip to pet the animals! We think these were extra furry donkeys?

Kenzie took a little field trip to pet the animals! We think these were extra furry donkeys?

The lights were so festive!

The lights were so festive!

Although there’s definitely a little risk that comes with Alpine skiing during the competition skiing (especially for me! Hah), I decided I needed to make sure I wasn’t SO careful with my career that I would resent skiing for stopping other fun adventures.

My family and I on top of Parsenn! No, they didn't have goggles to rent and I don't travel around with them, so yes, we did look a little dorky.

My family and I on top of Parsenn! No, they didn’t have goggles to rent and I don’t travel around with them, so yes, we did look a little dorky.

So on my day off my family and I went Alpine skiing on Parsenn, one of the mountains surrounding Davos. It was powdery and the morning was sunny and clear and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I was so happy!

It was such a beautiful morning on the mountain!

It was such a beautiful morning on the mountain!

It’s funny to me that on many XC skier’s “day off”, we often go do other adventures or try other sports. *sigh* it’s hard to make an endurance athlete actually rest! But I didn’t fall or hurt myself so I’m not on the outs with the coaches.

Mackenzie, Me and Dad at the top for our first run!

Mackenzie, Me and Dad at the top for our first run!

Enjoying a meat fondue with my family

Enjoying a meat fondue with my family

A spectacular sunset in Davos!

A spectacular sunset in Davos!

My family left last Tuesday, but it was a wonderful vacation!

Sister time!

Sister time!

Before we left Davos, we celebrated Kikkan’s 32nd birthday with a mustache ski. This isn’t a new thing for us! We did it 2 years ago on the tour, and I think we really confused a lot of the other teams but it made everyone laugh.

Kikkan, Me, Ida and Liz sporting our new staches.

Kikkan, Me, Ida and Liz sporting our new look.

And of course, we had candles and cake!

And of course, we had candles and cake!

Then we traveled to Obersdorf, Germany for the start of the Tour de Ski. After a healthy break I’m so excited to be racing again!

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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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