Things I learned

By April 20, 2018 Uncategorized No Comments
I’m still learning how much racing and training my body can handle during the season. It’s such a fine line! A little too much and you’re too tired and can start racing “flat”, which isn’t a fun feeling. It feels like no matter how hard you push, you can’t get your body to cooperate and go with you, and you’re missing that last racing gear. At the same time you don’t want to miss any more races than you need to. Racing is so much fun! It’s addicting, and it’s hard to step away for a break even when you know it’s the right call.

Racing for the first time since the Olympics in Drammen, Norway (photo by Ophira Group)

 

What I’m learning is that every year as I get older and add a few hundred hours of training under my belt, my body can handle more and more. After I peak for the championships, I’m more likely to be able to keep racing and riding that wave before I crash. My body will let me do more races without burning itself out. That said, as I was slumped in my seat on the airplane back to the states, my body was WRECKED. I had a deep, come-from-my-toes cough that we call “race hack”…which happens to most racers after a hard effort. I’d managed to become the person that I’d absolutely loathe sitting next to on a plane – the one who’s coughing so hard that their whole body shakes, and you’re sitting there terrified of getting whatever is is they have. I felt the need to explain that I’m not actually sick to my seat mates so I didn’t scare them, but then again, it appears that most people aren’t germ freaks the way skiers are. Amazing.

Racing the Holmenkollen! It was awesome, but the bonfire smoke gave me a cough that lasted 2 weeks.

Working closely with Cork, my coach who writes my training plan, we’re also getting much better at finding the edge before I get too tired and not crossing it! I haven’t always been great at listening closely to what my body is telling me in the past. And yeah, sometimes you just have to suck it up and get things done, like going out for a long training run in the rain and mud when you’d rather be curled up on the couch. On the flip side, there’s the times when you need to realize when your body is off, and react accordingly by being flexible and confident enough in your training to adjust it so that you don’t burn yourself out. Have I nailed this process? Gosh, no! Of course not! But I’m getting a little bit better at it every year, and that’s making a huge difference.
Looking back on the year, I had no idea I could come so close to the Overall Crystal Globe. I mean…what? 40 points? Yikes! That’s so exciting. I had no idea that my body would be able to just keep riding the peak it had from the Olympics and let me keep racing at that level through the last month of World Cup. But man, was it ever fun.

It was so amazing getting to podium at World Cup finals with Marit and Sadie! (photo from Event Bilder)

It would be so easy to immediately turn around and start saying “if only I hadn’t skipped this race to rest” or “if only I had finished just a few places higher in a few races this year”. But the truth is, I don’t think I would have changed anything about the way my coach and I planned out the season. Had I not chosen to sit out Lahti, for example, when I was mentally and physically exhausted, I very well may not have had good races the rest of the season. Or maybe I would have. The point is, we’re never going to know, so it doesn’t help to dwell on it! I’m not going to spend any time beating myself up for not achieving ALL of my career goals in a single winter.

Racing to fastest time of day in Falun in our last World Cup of the year! (photo from Event Bilder)

I’m psyched, and focused on the fact that I’m leaving this season so motivated for years to come, because now I know that some of the very biggest dreams are well within reach.

Chasing down those goals! (photo from Event Bilder)

This year World Cup finals was really bittersweet because it was the last career World Cups for 3 of my teammates, and Andy’s last official season on the US Ski and Snowboard Team. Noah Hoffman, Liz Stephen, Andy Newell and Kikkan Randall have all been on the US Ski Team since I learned what that was and decided that I desperately wanted to be part of it. The incredible camaraderie, fun-loving attitudes and work ethic of this team is what drew me to it in the first place, and seeing my teammates retire is kind of rocking my world.

The last time the group was together – Holmenkollen weekend!

I really struggled with this in the summer when they told us that it would be their last year. I mean, I’ve known them since I was 18 years old, and I’ve spent the last 8 years on the road with them, seeing my teammates more than my family or even my boyfriend! And suddenly, I won’t get to have them around all the time to hang out with, laugh with, bounce ideas off of, share the tough moments with, and be able to be there for them? It’s a hard shift anytime the makeup of a team changes, but it’s easier to add people rather than take them away. That said, I’m so excited for all four of them and I know their next moves in life will be amazing ones, because of the people they are.
Noah picked the 50km at Holmenkollen to be his last race, and wow, was it ever epic. It’s also a very cool thing that Noah, alongside Liz, Kikkan and Andy, got to pick their last races and go out on their own terms. Sometimes the end of your career is decided for you, and I’m so happy for them that they got to say “ok, now it’s time, and I’m walking out happy with how my career has gone”.
As far as World Cup atmosphere is concerned, there are a few venues that really stand out. Ulricehamm took us all by surprise when, in their first ever World Cup, there were fans 10 deep along the entire 10km course. It was a tunnel of screaming sports fans, and it made you feel like such a hero even if all you were doing was warming up! Drammen and Falun always have thousands of fans, and again, you’re faced with a wall of noise that lifts you up and can inspire some amazing performances. But the Holmenkollen is it’s own special place, and it’s basically a national holiday. I’m not exaggerating!

Sadie, Sophie and I doing race prep hours before the men’s race…and people were streaming out of the woods from every direction to come cheer! So fun!

It’s also way more fun if you happen to be a man. Ever since they stopped racing the men and women in the same day, they decided to put the men first on Saturday and the women on Sunday. And as everyone knows, you can only have so much party stamina when you’re camping friday night and cheering like crazy on saturday during the day, and, um, drinking some fun drinks while you cheer. So whomever has to race Sunday gets 1/100 of the crowd. I’ve asked more than a few times for men and women to alternate race days every year.
But I digress. This was Hoff’s day!
We came out to cheer for all the men on Saturday in Oslo, but it was especially emotional seeing Hoff’s last race. He was high-fiving us along the course on his last loop, and on the bridge above the stadium we made a tunnel of high fives for him. Right before he dropped into the final 100 meters for the last time Noah came to a stop to hug his Dad and literally EVERYBODY was crying. They played “Born in the USA” as Noah skied to the finish line and then the whole team was there to hug him and wish him well. When I retire someday, I hope it can be even half as epic.

Sending Hoff off in style!

Liz and Kikkan raced their last races in Craftsbury with the 30km US Nationals race. It was a gorgeous day and getting to hug them after the finish line brought so many emotions, but no more tears (those happened earlier in the year). We’ve had the entire year to come to grips with this and now I’m just excited to see them off on their next big moves! And Andy I’m certain I’ll see this winter as he decides where to go with the races he’d like to do. I’ll be supporting him no matter where he chooses to go!

Erika and I sharing some finish line hugs with Liz in Craftsbury (photo from Reese Brown)

From my SMST2 club team, Anne Hart is also retiring and moving on to law school. As her roommate all last summer, teammate of many years and high school racing buddy, I can say with absolute certainty that whatever “Goobie” tackles, she’s going to give it 100% and find success with it. I’m proud of her career and all the amazing moments she has gifted our team with!

The SMST2 girls at Spring Series – me, Julia, Anne (Goobie) in the middle, Sophie and Erika (photo from Reese Brown)

You won’t always be winning. That’s just a fact. Eventually you get older, retire, move on to the next thing, so you can’t dominate a sport forever. The real difference is what you leave behind when you go. You can be the person who creates a movement that lives – and dies – with you, or you can create a legacy that will last long after you move on to the next career. You can be the reason someone else finds success, even if it means that the kid you’re giving a leg up to might beat you someday.

Getting a finish line hug from Marit, another amazingly classy lady who has pushed the sport forward and shared so much with her team! (photo from Event Bilder)

That’s the real magic of what Liz and Kikkan, Noah and Andy have done here. Not only did they find success as individuals in their sport, but they were able to do what many athletes struggle with and step outside their own egos, openly sharing everything they’d learned to the next generation of aspiring skiers. Every one of them, alongside the current members of the team, have contributed in amazing ways to each other’s careers. They’ve helped create this culture on our team where we lift each other up instead of fighting to be the best among ourselves. They cemented a team atmosphere that makes little kids like me desperately want to be on the ski team! So a big, huge thank you to these friends, teammates and heroes of mine as they tackle their next adventures.

Getting a photo with these inspirations of mine! Bill Koch, and Andy Newell.

This spring has been a continuation of the whirlwind that started the moment I crossed the finish line in that team sprint with Kikkan. It’s been fast, it’s been furious, it’s been fun! And it’s been exhausting, too. It’s always been very, very difficult for me to say “no”, even when I have to. But this spring I’ve come face to face with the fact that there is no possible way for me to honor even 1/10th of the requests that have come in, no matter how much I would love to.

Wade and I getting snuggles from Leo during my brief stay back home in Minnesota!

Going for an adventure hike on my morning off with the Bohacek/Hansen family! (photo from Kris)

Which is why I’ve put so much energy and time into this process of getting a bid to host a World Cup in 2020 in Minneapolis, because that’s how I can reach the largest number of aspiring skiers and help to inspire them, and show them what it is they can be working towards. There’s an entire generation of skiers who have never seen a World Cup race live, because we’ve never hosted one! It’s time for that to change.

Speaking at a press conference while visiting the House of Representatives at the Capitol.

My family with Minnesota Governor Dayton (photo from the Governor’s office)

Sharing my experiences, hopes and goals with the ski community and next generation of skiers in Minnesota! (photo by Bruce at Skinnyski.com)

In my short visit home to Minnesota this April, I got the chance to thank as many members of the ski community as I could. Stillwater threw a parade honoring myself and the three State Champion teams that season – the Cross Country girls, Alpine girls and Gymnastics girls.

Parade time! (photo by Carl Bohacek)

High-fiving the Stillwater community where I went to high school! (photo from Carl Bohacek)

My family, friends and sponsors threw an amazing Welcome Home event and I gave away about 600 posters, got a photo with everyone, and got the chance to share stories and photos from the Olympics!

Getting the chance to thank everyone for their support! (photo by Bruce at Skinnyski.com)

I also visited my elementary school, Valley Crossing, and on the way out of the gym every kid in school got a chance to hold the gold medal. One of my goals is to share this thing as much as possible…because otherwise, what’s the point? Why bother to win at all if you don’t share it with anyone?

Before they left the gym, every kid in school got a chance to check out the medal. (photo from Amie Schroeder)

Back in the gym at Valley Crossing…only a little bit older now, and with a medal to share! (photo from Amie Schroeder)

Before I left, I got to do the “let’s play hockey!” call for the Wild at their first home playoff game. What a blast! The energy in the stadium was electric. My boyfriend Wade and I cheer for opposing teams so it was a pretty funny situation in the stadium. 🙂

Jets vs. Wild (we crushed that night).

Now I’m in Boston with Wade, starting to get back into doing active things when my body tells me it’s time, and enjoying watching other athletes crush their playoff games while my body is resting and healing itself!

When you get invited to a Celtics game and they give you a jersey…you rock it! (don’t worry, sports fans, I’m still supporting my Minnesota teams too).