My life is better now, and here’s why

Adventure time up in Alaska! Boy was that fun. I was so happy that I got an extra 4 days there to play in the backcountry, get on the alpine slopes, hang out with friends and soak up some long days of sunlight!

Holly and I at Alyeska enjoying some turns in the sunshine! (photo from Holly)

Holly and I at Alyeska enjoying some turns in the sunshine! (photo from Holly)

First, a million and one thanks to Alyeska Resort letting Olympians ski for free that weekend, and an awesome ski setup borrowed from Zuzana Rogers, a super awesome PT who works at Advanced Physical Therapy in Anchorage and traveled with us this year on the road! And thanks to Don Haering for being my “Alaskan adventure guide” for the weekend – I had to learn what “setting an edge” meant and I most definitely slowed him down since I didn’t know what I was doing at all, especially my first time skinning up a mountain! But he was really patient and I had an awesome time.

Alyeska was so much fun, and I spend the day trying to keep up with the group, which was great because it pushed me to go faster and learn faster. I absolutely love those adrenaline-filled “oh crap!” moments where you’re just a little outside your control but pull it back together at the last second. Of course, sometimes you don’t pull it back together and eat snow pretty hard. On the off chance that either my coach or my Grandma is reading this right now I’m NOT going to tell you if I crashed or not…but you can probably guess.

The occasional ski house mouse really keeps you on your toes. Or standing on top of the chairs. Either one.

The occasional ski house mouse really keeps you on your toes. Or standing on top of the chairs…either one. Pat took care of this one for us!

While I was up in Anchorage I stored my stuff and crashed at the ski house, so a big thanks to Sadie, Rosie and Erik for letting me once again invade their home! I feel like I’m a very part-time resident of many different people’s homes by now, and this is one I’ve frequently stayed in. And it’s always a good time. Even when we do happen to find dead mice…but that’s why we keep the guys around! ;)

Holly, Brian and I enjoying our free ski passes courtesy of Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

Holly, Brian and I enjoying our free ski passes courtesy of Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

 

I love the view from the slopes at Alyeska!

I love the view from the slopes at Alyeska! (photo from Holly)

 

Sharing one of these, I think, is quite mandatory after a big day of skiing (photo from Don)

Sharing one of these, I think, is quite mandatory after a big day of skiing (photo from Don)

The day after getting my inner Mikaela Shiffrin on, I was thrilled to try backcountry skiing for the first time ever. I had always seen epic-looking pictures from all my friends but alas, there isn’t really the right terrain for it back home, so I’d never been. So on Monday morning Don and I drove up to Eddy’s Mountain, and we did a quick lesson on how to put on skins and change the backcountry bindings (yes, I DID need help with this) and how to use the beacons in case of an avalanche. Then we were off!

Taking a break on the way up to enjoy the view of the sea! How cool is that overlook?

Taking a break on the way up to enjoy the view of the sea! How cool is that overlook?

Hiking up looks like the left side...feels like the right!

Hiking up looks like the left side…feels like the right!

I didn’t trust the skins at first because I was so used to kicking classic skis, so it took me a while to get comfortable. This was also the part where I made Don lead so he couldn’t see how goofy I looked.

Don digging a pit to make sure it'd be safe to ski down the steep part of the mountain

Don digging a pit to make sure it’d be safe to ski down the steep part of the mountain

We were originally going to do a couple runs of the bottom half of the mountain, but we got 2/3 of the way up and then decided heck, why not go for the whole thing. I’ll admit, when we were hiking up the last steep pitch I was getting pretty nervous because skiing in powder isn’t exactly like skiing groomed trails, but it was too late to chicken out and a big part of me loves to get scared like that.

I swear I stayed on my feet...most of the time...(photo from Don)

I swear I stayed on my feet…most of the time…(photo from Don)

 

Don right before we started our ski back down

Don right before we started our ski back down

So at the top we took a moment to catch our breath, and then we came back down! It was terrifying (mostly because of my ridiculously low alpine skill level) and exhilarating and I loved it. Although the snow wasn’t crazy powdery it still felt like I was floating over it, and I was laughing on the way down.

Me at the top of the mountain! (photo from Don)

Me at the top of the mountain! (photo from Don)

The last day in Alaska Sadie and I were running around town trying to find cocktail dresses for the D.C. party and packing. We managed to get everything except for the things I proceeded to forget at the ski house. Go figure. It was a great stay up in Anchorage and I’m really thankful for all the people we got to hang out with who made it an incredible experience!

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Spring series

Me, Erika, Sophie and Annie all dressed up for Sophie's finish-line birthday party

Me, Erika, Sophie and Annie all dressed up for Sophie’s finish-line birthday party (photo by Rob Whitney)

The past two weeks have been such a blast. Every Alaskan I’ve come across has been ecstatic about the sunny warm weather and clear skies. And with good reason…it’s been perfect spring skiing here! It feels both awesome and kind of sad that the season is finally drawing to a close. Admittedly, I’ve been looking forward to a break for the last few weeks, but what on earth am I going to do with myself once the days are no longer centered around skiing? Go alpine skiing, of course! I’m staying up in Anchorage for an extra couple days before flying to DC for the White House trip. Everyone on the US Olympic and Paralympic Team gets to meet the President, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while! I’ll be putting up a post soon with details from my adventure time after the races, and then one for the White House trip, but first I should probably recap the last moments of the 2013-14 race season.

Perfect tracks, sunshine, and tired girls!

Perfect tracks, sunshine, and tired girls!

In a somewhat ironic move, my body decided to start clawing it’s way back towards the race shape I had in February. The last few races just started feeling better and better! While it was frustrating to end my racing on the World Cup feeling like my body wasn’t at all where I wanted it to be, it was nice to end the season knowing that I pushed things as far as I could and it was getting better with every kilometer I raced.

Erika, Sophie and Annie tasting the apple bread I made - I was excited to bake again!

Erika, Sophie and Annie tasting the apple bread I made – I was excited to bake again!

Ben got super into the carrot-shredding for Sophie's birthday cake

Ben got super into the carrot-shredding for Sophie’s birthday cake

 

I loved the 10km freestyle individual beause it was the first time I’d been able to do that race all year, and I really liked the course. I took the first lap out a little hot and burned out, but that might have just made all the cheering from the side of the course even more special. It was so cool to see old friends and meet new ones here, and it felt like a big party/reunion after each race!

The very best part about the 10km freestyle day wasn’t about the racing at all, however…it was about Sophie’s birthday! A bunch of us girls were waiting at the finish line with ridiculous costumes thrown on, and the second Soph crossed the line we attacked her. I actually felt a little bad about that becuase she had just finished a really hard race and suddenly girls in masks, feather boas and cowboy hats were decending on her and hugging her and singing, and I’m sure it was a little bewildering. But boy did we suprise her!

The classic sprint was pretty sweet because while I don’t label myself specifically a “classic sprinter”, I had fun trying to become one (and I’m not just saying that…nobody in their right mind labels me as a classic sprinter, either)! The course started out flat, then swept down a twisty hill before ending with a long climb. At around 4 minutes for the girls it was a real lung-burner! It was a pretty sweet moment at the start of the final as we lined up, and realized that it was all USST girls in the final, and we decided to do our ridiculous eagle cry cheer. It’s weird, it really is, and it sounds like croaking baby birds, but it’s also one of those things that you can’t possibly do without breaking into a laugh.

The athlete tent packed full before the sprint rounds

The athlete tent packed full before the sprint rounds

 

Me, Annie, Sophie and Erika with our facepaint, glitter and mustaches on (photo by Eric Packer)

Me, Annie, Sophie and Erika with our facepaint, glitter and mustaches on (photo by Eric Packer)

Another fun thing I got to do besides racing was a photo shoot for Podiumwear with Charlie Renfro. He’s a super talented and really nice photographer, and took the time to get some sweet shots of myself and Karl Nygren skiing in all three lines of suits. Check out Podiumwear’s website for photos soon!

Hold on just a second…lets talk about that MIXED RELAY race! Whoa was that ever neat. I hope the format sticks, because it was one of the most fun races I’ve done this year since it gets the whole team rallied around one focus together and with the classic-classic-skate-skate boy-girl-boy-girl format, it kept things changing up every lap. APU’s team led and we chased for the remainder of the race, and I’m already excited to see how it shakes down next year (so please, USSA, don’t go changing formats on us). We wore facepaint and glitter, of course, and the boys made my day by letting me paint up their faces too. The girls also painted on mustaches, but since the guys already had real ones we figured it’d be overkill to paint theirs as well.

Our first SMS relay team - Me, Simi, Sophie and Andy with photo-bombing by Annie and Erika (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Our first SMS relay team – Me, Simi, Sophie and Andy with photo-bombing by Annie and Erika (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

 

Our second SMS relay team of Erika, Ben, Annie and Erik (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

Our second SMS relay team of Erika, Ben, Annie and Eric (photo by Sverre Caldwell)

 

The relay podium - APU 1, SMST2 2, and APU 3 (Fasterskier photo)

The relay podium – APU 1, SMST2 2, and APU 3 (Fasterskier photo)

Mid-week, we got to meet lots of young skiers from Alaska in our Ski with the Olympians event! I made so many new ski buddies that day, and we played follow the leader, tag, and practiced our downhill racing as well as hop-skating up the hills. All of the ambassadors told a little something about themselves or their experiences at the Olympics and then we signed posters and got to talk a little more with the up-and-coming Olympians for team 2022 :)

A beautiful 9:30 sunset from the Packer's house

A beautiful 9:30 sunset from the Packer’s house

The 30km. Yep. I’m going to be perfectly honest here (it is MY blog, after all…) and say that I wasn’t psyched that it was a CLASSIC 30km for the second year in a row. Mostly because I love to skate but also because it should be switching up every year. Anyways, it was one of my more enjoyable 30km classic races although I spent much of it yo-yo-ing off the front pack. I even had a little moment where I slipped a couple times in a row, planted my skis in a herringbone and stopped dead still for a second so I could mutter about how much I wanted to just be done racing already, before getting on with it and getting up the hill. Immature moment? Sure, why not. Everyone is entitled to one at least once every race season. But once I got back into it the thrill of racing took over. I got some great feeds from the coaches, volunteers and from the APU team as well, and even kept most of the gatorade off my face! And the feeling of ending the season after a long, hard race is really satisfying.

Then it was time for us to hike back up Spencer’s climb one final time to set up the feed station for our boys. We had a great time hanging out in the sun in between laps, passing out gatorade and coke to the guys and cheering in-between. And just like that, the season was over!

Last but certainly not least, another huge thank-you goes out to the Packer family, for their incredible hospitality in hosting the SMST2 team at their house for the entire race series! We had an amazing stay and most of that was because of their kindness in sharing their home with us. Thanks guys!

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City of moose

The beautiful view over the ocean from Packer's deck! And the light stays until about 10 in the evening!

The beautiful view over the ocean from Packer’s deck! And the light stays until about 10 in the evening!

Here we go…the last 4 races of this oh-so-very-long season are coming up fast! I’m up in Anchorage, Alaska with the SMST2 team, and it’s been awesome to see these guys again! Especially since we’re all living together in Eric Packer’s house, which is so generous of his family to let us all stay here. I mean, we come with a lot of baggage (literally)! I got picked up at the airport by Erik and Annie, and when Annie found me in the airport we did that totally cliché girly hugging, jumping up and down squealing thing you see in “Love Actually” credits. It made me so happy to see my club teammates again!

We jumped right back into our routine from the summer; cooking meals together, hanging out and celebrating things together. Like….Sophie’s Birthday, which is today! I’m excited to sing to such an awesome person on her 24th!

Before coming up to Alaska, I had about 2.5 days at home, which I really needed. On the one hand, it was hard to be home and then pack up again leave again, but it was worth it to get a couple relaxing days with my family. The first thing I did when I got home was cuddle with the dogs and then have a wonderful family dinner, and spend time talking and catching up with my family. I didn’t do a whole lot besides laundry, spending time with my family and skiing at Lake Elmo with my Dad and Mom the whole time I was home. It was the perfect break! When I return home in April for a much longer stay, I’ll be much more social, but it was pretty fun to be a little hermit for a couple days and recharge.The awesome lodge and start of the Lake Elmo ski trails!

The awesome lodge and start of the ski trails at Lake Elmo park, where I went skiing with my Mom and Dad!

We had fresh snow at home...and turkey's invading the backyard.

We had fresh snow at home…and turkey’s invading the backyard.

Ok, so…the reason we’re all up here: racing. Or at least, the excuse to come up to Alaska and then stay a couple extra days to try and backcountry ski afterwards. While I’m very ready to be done, I’m also excited for these races, especially the mixed team relay! I’ve always been so jealous of biathletes since they get to do this race on the World Cup, and it looks like a ton of fun. It’s a 4x5km relay, with the first 2 legs classic and second 2 legs skate, but it also alternates girl-boy-girl-boy. Talk about team depth! This will be the first time we’ve ever had a national race like this, and I’m hoping the format will stick.

In my first day up here we already came across a moose. Actually, Gus chased it across the road in the car, and it was pretty exciting. I hope to see a lot more while I’m here…but hopefully not on the trails during a race! I’ll get a more detailed post with more pictures up soon!

 

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World Cup Finals and all the things I’ll miss

The sun is out in Falun!

The sun is out in Falun!

Here we are…about to start the last World Cup race of the season! It feels good to be done after nearly 5 months of traveling and racing, but at the same time I know that in a few weeks I’ll be a little ”homesick” for some parts of my life on the road.

Falun is so fun, every year. It seems like it’s always sunny and warm when we’re here, and even though this year Mother Nature hasn’t always cooperated with the snow cover at each venue, I’m impressed that the organizers managed to cover the race trails well and have a good stadium set up! Of course, the people here are really awesome too. We all went over to Maria Grafnings house to have a “Fika” (dessert) with her and some of our Swedish friends, and it was so nice to hang out with them! And of course, seeing Kris Hansen and her daughter Siri here has been so nice, and really made my week.

Me and Siri! It's been so great to see Kris and Siri here in Falun (photo from Kris)

Me and Siri! It’s been so great to see Kris and Siri here in Falun (photo from Kris)

 

Before we left Oslo, I went to a Backstreet Boys concert with Reese and Noah. It was a blast!

Before we left Oslo, I went to a Backstreet Boys concert with Reese and Noah. It was a blast!

We are racing here in a mini-tour, like we do every year, but this year is especially important to try out the venue because these are the courses we’ll be competing on at World Championships next February. The courses are challenging with big climbs up the infamous “Mordarbacken” hill, and lots of twists, turns and bridges. A course map looks like a total maze because the trails loop over and under themselves, but it makes more sense when you’re racing it! The mini-tour is a classic spint, a 15km skiathalon and a pursuit start 10km skate. They keep track of your overall time from the first two races, and that’s the order we start the pursuit skate in. Whomever crosses the line first in the last day’s race wins the entire mini-tour, although other racers may have skied the fastest time on the course that day.

Usually, I really love racing here in Falun – the course suits me well and I’ve had good results the last two years. This year I’m still enjoying the courses, the awesome fans and good atmosphere, but my racing hasn’t been that much fun after being sick. It’s a huge bummer for me because I know that a month ago, I was in really good racing shape. I’d done everything I could do and was excited to finish out the season strong. When I got really sick right before Lahti, there was nothing I could do with a hacking cough but wait to get better…but 2 weeks of being sick and not racing took a toll on me and now my race shape isn’t what it was. It’s always hard to finish a race knowing you’re capable of so much more but don’t have the time left in the season to get back to good race shape. Still, I’m planning to go out today and finish my season as best I can…race my hardest, leave nothing out on the course and cross the finish line satisfied that I gave it my best. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing I really have control over: how much effort I put into the race, and I plan to make the most of it!

Kik, her globe and the team! (Nordic Focus photo)

Kik, her globe and the team! (Nordic Focus photo)

As much as I’m looking forward to having a break and finally letting my body rest, there are so many things I’ll miss about being over here. I’ll miss seeing all my friends on the other teams, and getting to hang out with them. I’ll miss seeing new countries and new towns every week. I’ll miss living with my teammates all winter! Strange as it is, I’ll miss the way my hands shake when I’m putting on my race bib and how my stomach drops when I hear the ticking down of the start clock. But next fall we’ll be able to do it all over again :)

We also got to celebrate Kikkan’s THIRD Sprint Globe! This is such a big deal, because she’s the all-around best sprinter in the World for the third year in a row…not an easy thing to accomplish! We’re really proud of her and it’s fun to be able to celebrate as a team.

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Lists of silver linings…

I apologize for such a long delay in updating! The past week has been an interesting experience for me. After traveling out of Sochi, I was so excited to be living in Lahti, right in the city! It’s very rare for us to be able to live in a big city because usually we’re racing in more remote towns and often staying out of the city a ways. But every year we look forward to a little city living in Finland, and this year did not disappoint!

My favorite part of our stay in Lahti was getting to have dinner at Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s house again. She came to our glacier camp in Alaska 2 summers ago, and we have been good friends ever since! She is kind enough to invite all the US girls over to her house for a delicious home-cooked meal, since she knows how special it is for us to be in a house instead of a hotel, and it’s so nice to have time to hang out and catch up. After dinner we even shot oranges out of her potato gun (I really, really loved this)!

Shooting oranges out of Aikku's potato gun!

Headed into the skate race weekend in Lahti, I was excited and looking forward to it. I had great intervals earlier in the week, and I liked the course, and we hadn’t done an individual start 10km skate all year. But the day before the skate sprint I woke up with a sore throat, cough and stuffy nose…and my weekend was over before it even started. At first I was so bummed out to be missing the races but by Sunday I was so sick and miserable that I didn’t even care. By Wednesday I was feeling so much better but I still had symptoms of a cough and stuffy nose, so I had to sit out the Drammen sprint. And last night the coaches and I decided that since I haven’t been 100% healthy for long enough, it wouldn’t be a good idea to race the 30km classic tomorrow and risk getting sick again since World Cup finals are next week.

It’s so easy for me to feel useless and extremely bummed out when I’m sick on the road…it really sucks to not be able to do my job, and the thing I love – racing. What’s extra hard about getting sick on this team is that instead of being able to go home and recover in your own bed, you get isolated and have to stay in a room by yourself so you don’t get other people sick. I am such a social person that this was maybe the worst part for me – not getting to hang out with my friends. Now that I’m much better I can finally be with the team again, which helps so much! Although I’m really disappointed to not be racing, that doesn’t mean that the past weeks in Lahti and Oslo have been a bust! There have been a lot of silver linings going on.

One of the things I look forward to every year is getting to ski around the Holmenkollen course and soak up the fun atmosphere. The sides of the trail are packed with fans, all excited to cheer for everyone and the woods are filled with tents and elaborate snow-fort campsites. The air smells like hot dogs, campfires and booze and music is blasting from the woods. I think what I like best, though, is that the Norwegians cheer for EVERYBODY. It doesn’t matter what country you race for or if you’re first or last…there will be people in the woods screaming your name, willing you up the hills. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the atmosphere and crowds at the Holmenkollen are better even than the Olympic crowd, because in Sochi most of the crowd would only cheer when a Russian skied by. But here everyone gets cheered for and the fans all have such big smiles on – you can tell they’re having a blast camping overnight by the race trails!

Some of the ambassadors ready to have fun and spread the love! (photo by Kikkan)

I got to glitter up all the ambassadors...loved it! Here's Miken getting glammed up (photo by Kikkan)

I got to glitter up all the ambassadors…loved it! Here’s Miken getting glammed up (photo by Kikkan)

Another really fun thing I got to do this week was be an ambassador at the first ever Fast and Female event in Norway! Astrid Jacobsen, one of our friends on the Norwegian team, organized and made the event possible, and boy was it ever a success. 190 girls were registered in only a couple days, with 100 more on the waiting list! When we arrived, all the girls were checked in and there were a bunch of boys from Astrid’s club, Heming, helping organize and lead the stations.

There were so many girls there having fun! (photo by Kikkan)

There were so many girls there having fun! (photo by Kikkan)

 

A big jump from the trampoline into the pit (photo by Kikkan)

A big jump from the trampoline into the pit (photo by Kikkan)

We got to play a trivia game, do a fun and tricky obstacle course in the gymnasium room, and bounce on some giant trampolines! The girls were giggling, having fun and challenging themselves with new obstacles. Then after a snack and Q&A with the ambassadors, I got do to my dream job…be the dance teacher! I taught the girls a simple line dance (actually, it’s the dance I made up for the US team to use in a music video) and the girls picked it right up! It was really cool for me to see so many girls smiling and dancing, and to feel like I was a part of that totally made my day.

The girls got a spotter if they wanted to try a front flip off the trampoline! (photo by Kikkan)

The girls got a spotter if they wanted to try a front flip off the trampoline! (photo by Kikkan)

 

Kikkan doing a selfie with a bunch of excited fast and female girls! (photo by Kikkan)

Kikkan doing a selfie with a bunch of excited fast and female girls! (photo by Kikkan)

Last but certainly not least, we got to have a potluck party with other girls on the World Cup! Katharine Harsem hosted and everyone brought a dish to share. There were a bunch of Norwegian girls, some Swedish girls and some of the US girls there. It’s not a big secret that I love to bake, so Celine was so kind and invited us over to her house in the afternoon so we could bake banana bread to bring! It felt so nice to be in a house that I was thrilled even when cleaning up the dishes! The dinner party was fun and I couldn’t stop smiling…it was great to get to know the other girls better and have a relaxing night with friends.

Oslo has been wicked foggy lately! (photo by Hoff)

Oslo has been wicked foggy lately! (photo by Hoff)

On Monday, we’ll travel to Falun, and what I’m most looking forward to has nothing to do with racing, but everything to do with me being super happy…I get to see Kris and Siri! Kris Hansen was my high school coach and is a really good friend of mine, and she and her daughter Siri are traveling all the way to Sweden to see World Cup finals. I can’t wait to see them!

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30km slush fest and Closing Ceremonies

The first-time Olympians on the girls team headed out of Russia: Sadie, Me, Sophie and Ida!

The first-time Olympians on the girls team headed out of Russia: Sadie, Me, Sophie and Ida!

The 22nd Olympic Winter Games are now over, and for me it was a great experience; full of new sights, friends from all around the world, good races and disappointing races, beautiful views, fun trails, and memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life.

The last few days have been such a blur, and it’s hard to believe that we’re already out of Russia! I’ll start with the 30km race, and then get to the crazy travel stories and Closing Ceremonies.

Skiing in the pack near the start of the race (photo from Margaret Knapp)

Skiing in the pack near the start of the race (photo from Margaret Knapp)

I guess one of the biggest things I took away from the 30km race was that it’s a very, very good thing I’m not a SUMMER Olympian, since I simply shut down in the heat! It’s not something I can control and I even raced in a t-shirt, no hat and no gloves, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from overheating.

However, the first 8km of the race went better than I could have imagined! I was skiing near the front of the pack, staying out of the trouble and feeling great. I also experienced some really cool moments during the race. Around 3km, a Russian shoved me really hard while we were going around a corner, and I stumbled out of the line of girls going up the hill. (For the record, nobody has ever pushed me in a race harder than the Russian girls, except maybe for Justyna). I was in-between two lines and getting stepped on, when I heard someone call my name and suddenly a gap opened up to the side of me. I slid into place and looked back to see who had let me in, and it was Debbie, one of our Italian friends! It was really nice because she didn’t have to let me in…but she did! Later on, I did the same for Liz when she was in-between two lines of girls. We then dropped over the top of a hill where the first feed zone was, and I missed my feed, but Liz heard me go “oh!”. She drank half the feed and passed me the bottle while we were going down the hill. This is just one example of how awesome it is to be racing with teammates!

I've never seen my skin that bright red before! (photo from Zach Caldwell)

I’ve never seen my skin that bright red before! (photo from Zach Caldwell)

Until about 8km the race was extremely fun for me and also going really well, and then we started up the long climb that happened to be in the sun. I could feel my body temperature rising and rising until suddenly I hit my limit, and I simply shut down. It was such a weird feeling; I couldn’t get into the next gear that I know I had, couldn’t push any harder, since my body was fighting itself in the heat.

I have never had a race where I’ve been more thirsty or drank more feeds in my life, and during the rest of the 30km I proceeded to drink probably 8 feeds and dump about 5 bottles of ice water over my head, and as evidenced by the photo above I was still way too hot! But that’s where my teammates and coaches come in the picture – it could have easily been such a terrible day and instead it was still a good experience because they were out there cheering me on and helping me stay as cool as possible.

Cheering is pretty important! Erik coaching Erik during the team sprint (photo from Zach)

Cheering is pretty important! Erik coaching Erik during the team sprint (photo from Zach Caldwell)

Although the team sprint was a while ago, I had to include this great picture Zach took of Erik Flora cheering on Erik Bjornsen. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of having someone yelling at you with all their heart – it really gives you a boost during a race!

A bunch of girls from Sweden, USA and Finland cheering for the Men's 50km! (photo from Holly)

A bunch of girls from Sweden, USA and Finland cheering for the Men’s 50km! (photo from Holly)

After the race, I hit up the gym for some recovery lifting. Training never stops, I guess! The next day we went out on course to cheer for the boys in their 50km. Luckily the race started much earlier in the day so the tracks stayed hard and faster for longer!

Sophie and I getting ready to march! (photo from Sophie)

Sophie and I getting ready to march! (photo from Sophie)

Then it was time to get going! We had some crazy packing and organizing to do, since we had been given so much Olympic gear but then needed to get it all home and out of Russia. After scurrying around for what felt like forever getting all our things packed, we left the Olympic Endurance Village and headed down to Coastal.

Only…the 45 minute bus ride turned out to be a 2 hour adventure since the bus first drove up to the Mountain Village, waited for a long time, then drove back down to our village, THEN went to the Coastal village! It was an interesting sight-seeing trip, but since I hadn’t yet been to the Mountain cluster it was neat to see it.

Just a bunch of SMS kids celebrating Alex's Bronze medal!

Just a bunch of SMS kids celebrating Alex’s Bronze medal! (photo from Sophie)

We had to take the cliché medal-kissing picture with Alex Deibold, who won a bronze in snowboard-cross. This guy is always working so hard in the gym, and it was so cool to see such a nice, dedicated person achieve their dreams! Also, a great plug for SMS athletes :)

Anna, ready for a serious expedition!

Anna, ready for a serious expedition!

After our bus stopped at the Coastal Village entrance, we went on a little trek to find the USA houses. The village was so different from the 5 foot high snow banks and ski chalets we were used to! But it smelled like flowers and there were palm trees everywhere and even a gravel “nature path” to walk or bike around.

Erik and Bird on the village bikes...Erik's came with a clown nose and Bird's with a balloon!

Erik and Bird on the village bikes…Erik’s came with a clown nose and Bird’s with a balloon!

One of the neat things about this village was the bikes! They had them everywhere for people to use and then leave outside buildings, and it was a really efficient transportation method. Especially for the boys who had just finished a grueling 50km! They had just enough time to bike to the cafeteria and experience the McDonalds there (the only McDonalds of the Olympics was in the coastal village, and it had crazy lines!).

The coastal village is quite different from the 5ft snow banks we're used to!

The coastal village is quite different from the 5ft snow banks we’re used to!

The houses went right up to the edge of the black sea, which was extremely beautiful!

A beautiful sunset over the black sea, right next to the coastal village!

A beautiful sunset over the black sea, right next to the coastal village!

 

Lets just say...not all of us felt entirely comfortable in all the layers of fancy clothing. Erik and Cork (photo from Holly)

Lets just say…not all of us felt entirely comfortable in all the layers of fancy clothing. Erik and Cork (photo from Holly)

For Closing ceremonies, all the countries get clumped together and there wasn’t a set order we marched in. Which is really cool, since that symbolizes all the nations coming together and getting to know each other. It also meant that the line moved much faster!

Countries starting to mix together to walk in the closing ceremony

Countries starting to mix together to walk in the closing ceremony

One really neat part of the closing ceremonies for me was seeing them award the metals for the 30 and 50km races. These are the only awards given at closing…maybe because they are most grueling competitions of the games? Anyways, I think this was the first time they gave the medals at the ceremonies to both women and men (usually it’s just for the guys).

The awards ceremony for the 30km and 50km are the only awards given at the closing ceremony - how cool is that?!?

The awards ceremony for the 30km and 50km are the only awards given at the closing ceremony – how cool is that?!?

The show was fantastic, incredible, and hard to keep track of – I could watch it 10 more times and find something new to see each time around! There were people floating through the air, confetti and snow drifting from the ceiling, circus acts, piano players, opera singers, ballet dancers and those huge animal mascots of the games circling around looking impossibly real and animated!

There was so much going on at once! The camera guys were zooming around on segways to capture it all.

There was so much going on at once! The camera guys were zooming around on segways to capture it all.

 

...and then the circus came to town!

…and then the circus came to town!

 

Pyeong Chang put on a cool show highlighting the upcoming games in 2018!

Pyeong Chang put on a cool show highlighting the upcoming games in 2018!

A cool tradition is that the next Country to host the games puts on a bit of a show during closing ceremonies, so here Pyeong Chang had dancers dressed as doves and children dancing around to get us all excited for 2018 (it worked)!

The mascot animals were extremely well animated...blinking their eyes, crying and waving to the crowd

The mascot animals were extremely well animated…blinking their eyes, crying and waving to the crowd

 

The opera singer on the boat (floating through the air) was incredible!

The opera singer on the boat (floating through the air) was incredible!

 

So much gold confetti came floating down from the ceiling during this part!

So much gold confetti came floating down from the ceiling during this part!

As soon as the ceremony officially ended, a DJ set up in the middle of the floor and athletes and volunteers came pouring down the stands to go dance, trade hats and jackets, and hang out. I think everyone got asked for pictures by volunteers at least 100 times, they were so excited! I can’t say thank-you enough to all the organizers and volunteers for all their hard work putting on these games and making them a success. It wouldn’t have worked without them!

The dance party on the closing ceremony floor right after the Games officially closed

The dance party on the closing ceremony floor right after the Games officially closed

Our shuttle came around 1am to take us to the coldest airport (it was a tent) I’ve ever experienced! We were so tired and trying to sleep but the cold floor leached all the heat out of us! Eventually though, we got on our charter flight to Munich and made it safely to the Movenpick, where we stayed for the next day. It was great to have a day to relax, sleep and work on packing our gear for the last 3 world cup weekends!

Trying to get some sleep on the coldest floor ever, around 3am (photo from Sadie)

Trying to get some sleep on the coldest floor ever, around 3am (photo from Sadie)

 

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A little more Olympic Village Livin’

Painting Russian dolls with my Mom!

Painting Russian dolls with my Mom!

The Endurance Village has a lot of fun! This will definitely make you HAPPY! Video courtesy of the USA Biathalon team, with cameos by skiers from so many countries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkH0TQsveLc

At the moment the Endurance Village has an interesting spring-series kind of feel to it. When you’re competing in an endurance sport where your results rely so much on how your body can perform, you have a slightly different set of rules than the sports where it’s all about skill sets and tactics. Earlier in the Games, the village was full of people since we couldn’t go wandering around the Costal village for hours – it would have tired us out before our races. But now that a lot of athletes have finished racing, they have time to go to other events, check out the Park, and get off the rock a little more. A lot of countries also flew their athletes home once they were finished competing, so the dining hall has suddenly gotten a lot quieter! I had my chance to check out the Park earlier in the week, but I’m definitely looking forward to cheering for some other events in person as soon as I’m finished with the 30km!

My parents met a Dario super-fan at the race

My parents met a Dario super-fan at the race

I’ve been so pleasantly surprised to find that I’ve been able to hang out with my family much more than I thought I’d be able to! The second day we learned quickly that if I tried to visit with my family near the spectator fencing we’d be quickly mobbed by people wanting pictures or autographs, people who would push aside my family members as I was trying to talk to them (as you can imagine, this really pissed me off). After that we found ways to get my family onto the athlete side of the fence, which was better anyways!

Signing some tickets after the race while hanging out with my family

Signing some tickets after the race while hanging out with my family

Something I didn’t realize till week 2 was that Pin Trading is a sport in and of itself. People love trading and collecting those things on their credential lanyards, and they are also better than money when it comes to getting what you want. Want the bus driver to drop you off right at your door? Hand him a pin. Want to smuggle water past the security checkpoint? Hand the guard a pin. Want a volunteer to help you find something in the village? Hand them a pin and you have yourself a tour guide for the day.

Of course, all the volunteers are super helpful anyways and will help you out whether or not you have pins on you. But like most places I’ve ever been, there’s a subtle divide between people who only want to help you and people who want something from you. There’s so many volunteers who’s first words to you are “Hi! Have a nice day!” and there are some who’s first words are “Gift me? You have pin? I can have your bib?”. I find my stubborn little self only wanting to give things to the people that never asked for it.

"Give me please your country pin"

“Give me please your country pin”

Trading clothes is another big thing! Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland came over yesterday with her duffel bag full of Finnish gear, and we all got our trade on big time! That’s one of the fun things about the Olympics is getting to know other countries a little bit better (although we are already good friends with Aiku).

Liz modeling the Finnish gear while Aino-Kaisa was over here.

Liz modeling the Finnish gear while Aino-Kaisa was over here.

Since there are events on TV all the time (no, really….there’s ALWAYS something to watch!) we’ve spent a lot of time cheering on our friends in their competitions. It’s more fun to be there in person, but one bonus of cheering from inside? You can wear whatever you want!

Holly cheering and taking pictures of the semis!

Holly cheering and taking pictures of the semis!

I was so excited for our team when both the men and women made the team sprint finals! Our coaches got a lot of TV time as well during the event :)

Ana overlooking the wax box area as the techs make the final adjustments before the start

Ana overlooking the wax box area as the techs make the final adjustments before the start

Sophie was leg 1 and Kikkan was leg 2 for the women, and for the men Simi led out and Erik was leg 2. I’m really proud of both teams!

Sophie sprinting in the team sprint with Kikkan as leg 2

Sophie sprinting in the team sprint with Kikkan as leg 2

Erik had an especially awesome move during his quarterfinal where he pulled a crazy sprint over the top of the last hill to drop down into the stadium in first place. He was leading the Olympics! You should have heard the cheering coming from the USA house…it was absolutely deafening. He got passed in the finishing stretch but they still qualified for the finals by time.

Erik during his lap of the team sprint with Simi

Erik during his lap of the team sprint with Simi

After the finals the top three teams always take a lap up and down the finishing lanes, to wave to the crowd and celebrate. We like to call this the “happy lap” instead of the victory lap because everyone’s always so giddy!

The top three teams taking a victory lap down the finishing stretch

The top three teams taking a victory lap down the finishing stretch

So, about Wally the Wombat. He’s the mascot/leading man for the Australian team, and he travels everywhere with them, making his way into photos from World Champs and the Olympics. Here he is, hanging out in the USA house for a night!

Hanging out with the Wombat

Hanging out with the Wombat

And of course we’ve taken our fair share of “cheesy Olympic pictures”. How could we not?

Liz and Kikkan holding up the torch!

Liz and Kikkan holding up the torch!

 

One more goofy picture with the torch...

One more goofy picture with the torch…

It’s time for me to go pack up my race bag and head out for my final race of the Olympics, the 30km skate. It’s going to be a hard, hot race out there, but I’m so excited because I love to skate, I love to race, and there’s going to be a whole lot of US flags waving out there. I can’t say “thank you” enough to all of you for you cheering, your support, and your belief in this team. It makes all the difference in the world to know that when I’m out racing, there’s a lot of people cheering and rooting for this team! So, once again…thank you!

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The Olympic Park

There’s been a lot to see and do the last few days! Since I don’t race again till the second to last day, I had enough of a break that I was able to spend a day with my parents and check out the Olympic Park down in Sochi (details on why this takes a whole day coming later in the post…) But first, we had some cheering to do for the Men’s 4x10km relay race! Our team was Andy and Erik (classic legs) then Noah and Simi (the skate legs). They skied a great race and it was also incredibly inspiring to watch Sweden, Russia and France ski such gutsy races to get onto the podium!

Cheering for my teammates! (photo from Andy)

Of course, I was also very psyched that the boys let me put some patriotic face-paint on them for the relay. I think they made the flags look really good!

Andy showing off the face-paint for the relay!

Andy modeling the face-paint for the relay!

My parents brought up some cards from home, and between all the good-luck notes hanging above my bed and all the pictures I have on my computer, I am never short on support and encouraging words!

I'm running out of wall space! The best problem to have when it comes to good-luck cards!

I’m running out of wall space! The best problem to have when it comes to good-luck cards!

So, the travel down to the Olympic Park! I think if I did it again and knew exactly how to time it, I could maybe make it in 1.5 hours, but yesterday because of some confusion it took me 2.5 getting back home! I guess the only thing you can do is just be patient and accept that a.) things will take a long time b.) you will be told some wrong directions along the way and c.) eventually you’ll find someone who is more than happy to help you.

To get down to Sochi, I walked to the gondola at the top of the Endurance Village, then rode it down to the bottom where I had another walk along the side of the river to get to Krasnaya Polyana, the town at the bottom. Then I went through security to get to the train station, where I met my parents and took a train to Adler, the jumped on another train to get dropped off at the Olympic Park. Not a bad trip at all though, since I was with my family and had an opportunity to catch up with them! I was mostly just excited to be with my parents, but also getting to see the Park was something I was looking forward to and didn’t think I’d have a chance to do.

One of the nice walkways en route to Krasnaya Polyana

One of the nice walkways en route to Krasnaya Polyana

The park reminded me a lot of a theme park from Disney World. There was an elaborate entryway and the tickets were shiny with holographic stickers. Inside there were different buildings from all sorts of Olympic sponsors, with long lines to get in and see what they had to offer. And of course, people taking pictures right and left…myself included! I’m turning into such a tourist, complete with my credentials hanging around my neck at all times. Oh boy.

Looking through the waterfall into the Park entrance

Looking through the waterfall into the Park entrance

This was one of the buildings, and their station was ice climbing. I desperately wanted to try it out, but thought it wouldn’t be such a smart idea before the 30km race. However, it was cool to watch, and one of the women climbing as part of the show was really talented! She maneuvered her way around the hanging “ice” blocks while lead climbing, and it was pretty cool to watch.

See the ice climber on one of the cubes?

See the ice climber on one of the cubes?

Another interesting sight was the Russian House, where they showed ladies making traditional crafts; engraving tiny designs into metal and making fancy lace by hand. And of course, they also showed the painted Russian dolls!

The Russian house

The Russian house

There was also a part of the park with roller coasters, and I am so sad to say that they were not yet operational. But it looks like it’ll be quite a wild ride once they get going!

The soon-to-be amusement park rides

The soon-to-be amusement park rides

 

A...lifeguard? Hey, they take safety seriously around here!

A…lifeguard? Hey, they take safety seriously around here!

One of the biggest lines was to do this crazy thing with your face. They scanned your face and then later, on this huge screen, it showed up…in 3D. The faces would just push out of the wall and stare down the crowd. It was really cool but also extremely creepy to watch!

The faces popping out of the wall. So weird...yet so cool.

The faces popping out of the wall. So weird…yet so cool.

 

My Mom and Dad on the bridge...there was quite a big crowd at the Park yesterday!

My Mom and Dad on the bridge…there was quite a big crowd at the Park yesterday!

Pyeong Chang also had a house where they showed some of the culture of South Korea and their plans for hosting the next Olympics, in 2018. It was neat to check it out and get a sneak peek at the new race trails there.

Check it out! People are already excited for the next Olympics - and this one's not even finished yet!

Check it out! People are already excited for the next Olympics – and this one’s not even finished yet!

One of the most famous sights in the Park…the Olympic Flame! It’s absolutely enormous, and when you get close you can hear the sound of fuel burning, the way a hot air balloon sounds.

The Olympic Flame across from the stage where they hold the Medals Ceremonies each night.

The Olympic Flame across from the stage where they hold the Medals Ceremonies each night.

 

So pretty it doesn't even look real! One of the hotels lit up at night.

So pretty it doesn’t even look real! One of the hotels lit up at night.

I was so thankful to get to spend time with my parents and have the chance to check out the Park while I’m here!

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Post-Relay racing thoughts…

This is why I love our team. We are ONE team, no matter who's racing.

This is why I love our team. We are ONE team, no matter who’s racing. (Holly photo)

All you can ever give is everything that you have at this moment, this day, at this point in your life. It’s mathematically impossible to give more than 100%. So when each of us on the team crossed the line or tagged to a teammate and weren’t able to take another step, that’s certainly a small victory…knowing we did the best we could today. Heading into this 4x5km relay day there was an incredible amount of pressure, expectations and high hopes. We knew that if everything went right, we had a shot at a medal…but so did at least 6 other teams. That’s one of the reasons sport is so exciting, because everyone is hoping and preparing for the same goals, but you never know how a race is going to shake down until it’s over.

The SOCKS!!! (Holly photo)

The SOCKS!!! (Holly photo)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had reporters ask me what it would mean to this team to get a medal here in Sochi. Every time they asked me about medals and what I would define as having success at the Games, I answered that for me, success would be crossing the finish line and never having to look back. Knowing that I prepared in the weeks, months and years beforehand the best way I could. Knowing that I gave everything I could in the race and left it all out on the course. Knowing that there’s not one single thing I could have done to go faster, no stone unturned. And in my races here so far, I have felt that. Did we medal today? Nope, but it doesn’t change how I feel about myself and my team. I am so, SO very proud of this entire team and how we have prepared and handled the pressure of the Games, and results don’t define our character and team spirit; how we deal with them does.

Holly sent us all this awesome quote that really captures how I felt today: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Courage is having a tough moment, and not giving up. And we won’t.

And Pete Vordenburg sent this incredible email to the team at the start of the games, and this passage in particular really held my attention: “Every time you do something it is for the last time.  Even if you do it again it will be different and you will be different.  This is the only time you will ever do this.  Enjoy it.  Even the tough parts.  Especially the tough parts. In a similar way every time you do something it is for the first time.  Even if you have done this before this time it will be different and you will be different.”

These races at this Olympics will be different than any other races I’ll ever start, and so far they have been quite an experience. Some good, some tough, but all of them teaching me something new about team, about courage, about what it means to have a gutsy race.

We really got our hair-braiding on...(Holly photo)

We really got our hair-braiding on…(Holly photo)

So, the race today! Here’s a snapshot of the day, from my perspective. I woke up…and immediately skied the 5km race in my mind. I had been so nervous the last few days, my stomach tying itself into a tight knot whenever I thought about the relay race. But the only way to handle those nerves was to focus on the things I could control, which meant having a good game plan and knowing the course. And man, did I ever get that course down inside and out. I could ski every inch of it in my mind, knowing which line to take on every downhill, knowing where the shade would stay the longest and make the hardest track. That helped a little bit, because whenever I got nervous I could just take a deep breath and ski a section of the course in my head, picturing myself with the most perfect technique I could manage.

The techs were up so early getting our skis ready! Here's Peter, Randy and Cory (Holly photo)

The techs were up so early getting our skis ready! Here’s Peter, Randy and Cory (Holly photo)

Luckily for me, although we had to wait until 2pm for the race to start, the girls were hanging out at the house and I had lots to keep my hands busy since there was a lot of hair-braiding and face-painting and glitter-applying to be done. Thank goodness for that. As always, putting on a little sparkle helped remind me that in the end, it’s just a race and it’s meant to be fun.

We did an awesome team cheer before heading to the race venue (Holly photo)

We did an awesome team cheer before heading to the race venue (Holly photo)

I think the very best part of our team is that we are so supportive of each other and we are one big team, even if a relay can only start 4 people. When we walked out the door to go to the venue, you couldn’t tell who was racing and who was cheering – we all looked the same with face-paint and glitter. Holly and Sophie and Ida were so awesome, grounding me when I was getting too nervous, letting me paint their faces even if it was just for the sake of giving me something to get my mind off the race.

Kikkan, lap 1 of the race (Holly photo)

Kikkan, lap 1 of the race (Holly photo)

I didn’t get to see any of the classic legs since I was out on the other loop, warming up. Liz was just heading out on her first lap when I got to the staging area and started jogging around, getting my bib on and taking all my layers off. Wow, was it hot and sunny out! I raced in my regular spandex bottoms but only a tank-top under my bib. And I somehow still overheated!

Sadie striding it out, leg 2 of the race (Holly photo)

Sadie striding it out, leg 2 of the race (Holly photo)

 

Liz headed into the tunnel with Italy (Holly photo)

Liz headed into the tunnel with Italy (Holly photo)

When I got the tag-off from Liz, I was only a couple meters behind Italy, so I jumped on board and worked with the Italian girl to ski the best 5km we could. It might have been hard to stay so invested in the race when it wasn’t going at all how we had hoped, had it not been for the incredible cheering from our team. Those guys and girls were amazing, screaming as if I was leading the race, and they reminded me why this matters so much. It doesn’t matter what place I was in; if my teammates fought for every second and the whole team is out there lifting us up the hills with their yelling, then every second I could get mattered immensely. I care too much about my team to just give up, so I fought as hard as I could.

Me chasing down Italy...lap 1 (Holly photo)

Me chasing down Italy…lap 1 (Holly photo)

 

Sophie cheering me on during the race (Holly photo)

Sophie cheering me on during the race (Holly photo)

On the last uphill before the drop down into the stadium, I kicked into the last gear I had and dropped the Italian girl. I was definitely struggling in the heat and must have been pretty dehydrated, because going down the last hill I was getting tunnel vision. I blanked completely and took the lap lane. I realized what I’d done a split second later and pulled a hockey stop to turn around, but fell and I lost us the 8th place spot as the Italian girl skied on by. That was a pretty dumb move by me, but I can laugh about it now. When I scrambled back up my legs immediately flooded and I wanted nothing more than to puke my guts up and then lay down, but I stumbled across the finish line and started looking for my teammates. We huddled together and said “well, that was a tough one, but we did out best” and nobody was in tears, nobody was angry, just proud of each other and our commitment to the team.

Over the last hill into the stadium... (Holly photo)

Over the last hill into the stadium… (Holly photo)

Cork even wore the socks!!! This is a BIG DEAL!

Cork even wore the socks!!! This is a BIG DEAL! (Holly photo)

 

An awesome shot of everyone cheering as Sadie skis her leg

An awesome shot of everyone cheering as Sadie skis her leg (Holly photo)

I finally got back to our house in the evening and was overwhelmed with the love and support flooding in from every direction – our coaches and techs, teammates, friends from other teams here, and especially from back home. I loved the pictures and stories I heard from the Chilkoot Café where all my friends back home got up at 3:30 am to cheer and watch the race…I heard there were about 200 people there! That’s amazing! It’s so incredibly awesome to feel that love from home, and it makes all the difference in the world. Thank you so, so much everyone!

Cheers from back home...thanks guys!

Cheers from back home…thanks guys!

There is one more race I will start here at the Games: the 30km skate! I am excited for it, and excited to hopefully see a lot more of my parents here before then. I’ll keep you updated on Endurance Village life!

 

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Skate sprinting, and views from the venue!

Liz, Kikkan and I playing on the rings!

Liz, Kikkan and I playing on the rings!

So wow, that was pretty cool. And noisy. And intimidating. And exciting. And adrenaline-filled. And terrifying. And thrilling. And filled with pressure and expectations and surprises.

The skate sprint was, for me, an ok race…not the best I’ve ever had and not what I was hoping for, but there were also a lot of things I’m happy about. I suppose if I was going to design a sprint course that played to my strengths, it would have looked very different; it would have been much longer with more opportunities to pass and without so many 180 degree corners. But I can’t design the course, only work with what we’re given, and I gave it my very best shot!

I qualified in 12th place and was in the 4th quarterfinal with Sophie, a Slovenian (Katja) and three Russian girls. I was pretty psyched because the crowd only got loud when Russians were racing, so our heat had a lot of stomping and clapping going on as we marched out to the start gates! And it was great to race in a heat with Sophie; I know that when we race together, we are of course both hoping to move on from the heat, but I never even think about trying to cut her off and I know she would never step on my skis, and it feels so good to know that I have a teammate by my side!

Right out of the start, heat 4 with me and Sophie (photo from Sadie)

Right out of the start, heat 4 with me and Sophie (photo from Sadie)

I have always struggled with the really fast-twitch things, and getting out of the start gates first was a crucial part of this sprint course since it had so many turns. I had one of my better starts, but it wasn’t quite good enough, as I settled into 3rd place and couldn’t find any windows to pass. The course was also a bit tricky as it was slushy in some places, but still hard and fast where they had salted and the track hadn’t broken down yet, and I struggled to adjust my technique during the rounds. When we hit the finishing lanes, I bobbled a bit in the suddenly hard and fast snow, and lost crucial time. You can probably tell from my writing that I’m pretty good at immediately knowing exactly what I need to improve on and where I made mistakes. But I’m also getting better at finding the things I did well! I am proud of how I skied, how I handled my nerves and expectations coming into the race, and I am proud of how I kept looking for windows to pass and didn’t give up.

In the finish lanes of heat 4 (photo by Unleashed Coaching)

In the finish lanes of heat 4 (photo by Unleashed Coaching)

I finished the day in 13th overall, but my own race wasn’t the one I had the highest hopes for that day! My heart broke a little when I saw the lucky loser times and realized Kikkan wasn’t going to make the semis. But you know what? Anyone can be smiling and happy and a good sport when they win; it’s in defeat that true character comes through, and in the sprint Kikkan showed the world why she such an incredible sportswoman and role model. She was so gracious and composed, even though immediately after the quarterfinal she had to go through a huge round of media asking questions and throwing cameras in her face to try and capture her reaction. Not many people could have done what she did, and I am so proud to be her teammate.

Sophie gave us something to really celebrate, though!! I was just so proud of her, how calm and smoothly she skied through the rounds, and I thought I was going to die of nerves watching the final! After a tangle, she came in 6th, but regardless of where she finished in the heat she is such a winner in my eyes for skiing so well and giving it everything she had!

Looking down into the stadium from the high point of the course

Looking down into the stadium from the high point of the course

As promised, here are some pictures of the venue (finally! geez!) As you can see, the stadium area is HUGE and so beautiful with the mountains as a backdrop!

Looking down the first hill of the course (after you turn the right hand corner out of the stadium)

Looking down the first hill of the course (after you turn the right hand corner out of the stadium)

There is easily enough room on the trails to have a couple classic tracks and two skate lanes….

A view up the first sprint hill (and the only hill for the ladies sprint)

A view up the first sprint hill (and the only hill for the ladies sprint)

And to further assure you of the extremely good security around here, during the races they have cameras up in the air! One of them is on this white blimp thing that flies on race day above the village, and before and during the race you can hear helicopters circling. Cool beans!

Cork by the blimp on the "red course"

Cork by the blimp on the “red course”

The day after the sprint, I did some light strength in the hotel gym, which is super nice and well-stocked! Michael Naperalsky, our strength coach, came up to lift with me. His words, not mine: “This gym needs more ”MURICA!!!” So, he dressed the part!

Seriously patriotic shorts on Michael, our strength coach!

Seriously patriotic shorts on Michael, our strength coach!

We had a really fun time! I think the other countries in the gym may have been laughing too :) I really enjoy lifting because it’s so different than the rest of our training, and it’s a great mental break from being out on the race trails with the announcer in your ears, reminding you how high stakes the races here are.

Lifting with attitude

Lifting with attitude

I got to see my family yesterday afternoon! It really made my day, to finally be able to spend some time with them off the race trails. I showed them around the Endurance Village, and then we just sat out on the deck in the sun and caught up.

Mackenzie and I in some bright, bright sunlight with beautiful views!

Mackenzie and I in some bright, bright sunlight with beautiful views!

I think what I missed most about seeing my family was being able to get hugs. I have kept in touch with them all winter over Skype, which has been great since I can see them, but I always sign off wishing that I could just get one good hug in. So now I’m finally able to!

My Grandma, Sister, Dad, me and my Mom together in the Endurance Village!

My Grandma, Sister, Dad, me and my Mom together in the Endurance Village!

They have been staying down on the cruise ship in Adler and from what I hear, having a ball! I got the reports from them about what the Olympic village, P&G house and USA houses were like, since it’s likely I won’t be able to go check them out because my races are all evenly spaced out over the games. They have also been making friends with people from other US teams, and other countries. The spirit of the games is a pretty fun thing to be involved in!

My sister and Dad having fun checking out the Olympic Village!

My sister and Dad having fun checking out the Olympic Village!

I also got to visit with Ken and Barb Larson, who have sponsored me and supported me for years, long before I had a chance at making the Olympic Team! It was so kind of them to come cheer, and it was great to see them after the race!

Getting to see Ken and Barb after the 15km skiathalon!

Getting to see Ken and Barb after the 15km skiathalon!

Today I was out on course cheering for the girls in their 10km classic race…and it was so SO hot and sunny and slushy out there! I was proud of our girls for pushing so hard and racing well in the heat!

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