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