I set out for a ski this morning in Sjusjøen with every intention of not getting lost…but then…well…oops! It was just an incredible day of skiing by myself, out on these perfect trails with new snow. The best part is that we’re here all week for a training camp, so I’ll get to ski to my heart’s content. But I’m getting ahead of myself! First, let’s talk about last weekend’s World Cup races in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.
It was pretty much my dream weekend. I set down the 10km individual start freestyle race as one of my big goals this fall, when we sat down as a women’s team and targeted specific races that we wanted to do well at during the season. In a year without any Olympic games or World Championships, it can be easy to see the weekends blurring together, but setting specific goals and target races can help break up the year and get you pumped up for certain races you believe you have a shot at winning. And Nove Mesto was one of my weekends!
Our wax staff and coaches have been working so incredibly hard all year, and once again they delivered simply amazing skis! I was also quite thrilled to be skiing in a snowstorm again, because it felt like real winter and because it made me excited to keep pushing on the downhills and corners. I had told the coaches to give me splits if I was doing well; “like, only if I’m winning!” I joked the night before, but mostly I wanted to hear specific cue words like “stable core” that I knew would help me stay focused on HOW to ski fast, not IF I was skiing fast. I couldn’t change my energy output by hearing splits…I was going to be giving 100% no matter what, but by focusing on the way I was skiing I might be able to eek out a few more seconds. But then I heard the coaches freaking out and saying “you’re winning! you’re leading” and I thought “hahaha…very funny, guys”, before I realized that they were serious.
I was pretty far in my little pain cave at the finish, but I knew it had been a good race and I was just thrilled to be on the podium again this winter! It was so fun running around the finish pen hugging everyone and it was really fun sharing the post-race-good-feels. It’s one thing to race well but what really makes my day is when people are happy WITH me! Which is probably one of the reasons relay days are my absolute favorite, because you have the whole team to share the emotions with since they had the same race.
I was talking with Astrid after the 10km, and she said something that really made sense to me. She was commenting on the feeling of doing well in a World Cup when you know you’re up against the best in the world, and she said “it’s really cool when you can see the top. When you know exactly how close you are to winning and you know what you have to do to get there.” And she’s exactly right. It’s so daunting to feel like everyone is just skiing so darn fast out there and you have no idea how on earth they do it – and that’s exactly what I felt like all fall! For a long time, we couldn’t see the top. Not even close. But finishing under 10 seconds behind the leader, and winning a race, I can see exactly what I need to do in order to win, and how close I am to skiing as fast as the fastest girls in the world when I’m having a really great day. It makes it feel less daunting, more do-able, and makes me believe that I can do it! And it’s also how I know that my team can do it, because we all train together and do the same things.
And in the relay, we all caught a glimpse of the top! It was unreal for me, warming up and watching my teammates skiing so incredibly smart and strong, and knowing that when I was tagged off we were surely going to get a medal…but that I got to help decide which color it would be! Sophie skied so smooth and smart, staying out of trouble in the mass start and tagging Sadie off in a great group. Sadie worked together with Finland to drop the others in the chase pack and I was so impressed with her gutsy skiing! Liz laid down a really impressive leg, starting out with Finland but then doing her hop-skating thing up those hills and tagging me with a 5 second lead over 3rd place.
And my strategy then became to go out as hot as I thought I could possibly manage, because I knew if the girls behind me couldn’t see me anymore and heard that I was putting time into the leaders, then it would likely be a mental game-over. After the first lap I was flooded and spent the second lap skiing a little more carefully, because I knew that if I could avoid any falls or mistakes then second place was ours. Crossing the line and skiing straight into the arms of my teammates was the most wonderful feeling, and I’m so proud to be on a team with so many strong skiers!
One thing I love about the stadium in Nove Mesto is that there’s a sweet system of tunnels built underground beneath the stadium. You’re running to the start and you drop down into the tunnel, get your bib and timing chip down there, and then pop up into the stadium with the crowd and the music blasting and all the excitement pumping through you. You’re a gladiator.
After the races, some of my teammates went to France and the rest of us came to Sjusjøen, Norway, to train for the week before heading to Drammen for the next World Cup race. It’s been incredible here, with more snow than we’ve seen all winter and this incredible trail system that you can step out the cabin door onto!
Needless to say, I’m happy to be here and looking forward to the rest of the week!