I think that sunshine is so underrated. It has such a big impact on me, and getting to spend a whole week here in Davos with time in the sun every day has been huge! I have freckles all over my nose and a big smile on my face. That’s not to say that everything is always coming up roses – just, you know, most of the time. I had a day or two this past week where I was really pretty homesick, but luckily I got to Skype with my parents and email with friends back home. There were also some bugs going around with a couple people on the team fighting off colds (they are doing much better now). But all things considered, this has been an really fun week on the World Cup.
It’s always fun when we arrive at the venue a whole week ahead of the races, because it means we have time to actually explore the town and get into the local culture, instead of having to be careful about staying off our feet and resting for a race the next day. The town of Davos is really long – it might take you 45 minutes to walk the length of it! And that’s assuming you’ve got your hockey-mom-power-walk going on. There are a lot of cute shops, a lot of touristy shops, and a lot of bakeries and coffee houses. Sophie and I had fun getting paper, scissors and tape to make our room look more like Christmas….and now there are red and green paper chains strung across the wall and paper snowflakes, as well as a big red bow on the door. Hey, you’ve gotta do what you can with what you’ve got when you’re thousands of miles from home!
One thing we did this week as a team that I wish we could do every week (I might be the only one who wants this every week, actually) is Secret Santa! It’s a tradition on the US team to have Secret Santa at the last World Cup weekend where we’re all together. Like usual, you get your secret person a small gift…although because we are still on the road for 4 months, it has to be either very useful or very edible. But the best part is that you also write your person a poem, and then they have to read it out loud in front of everyone (they don’t know who wrote it for them, since we sneak our gift/poem downstairs earlier) and guess who it was from. I wrote a poem for Andrew Morehouse, the BSF coach who came to tech for Torin Koos this weekend and in Asiago. And Rosie Brennan wrote a poem for me!
Here’s a couple lines of the poem she wrote me (my favorite parts): “Losing poles left and right, never afraid of a little frost bite. Running shorts and a cotton t-shirt, you’re always ready to play in the dirt”. She nailed it!!! That’s me alright! She also got me a gift card to the KaffeeKlatsch, the most amazing coffee house in central Europe (in pretty much everyone’s opinion, including mine).
I think, though, my very favorite part of the week was seeing the Tech Sprint Relays. They do these every other year or so, and it’s the one race where the coaches and techs get to put on a bib! I was so excited, hopping up and down holding the spare poles on the top of the sprint course. Our relay team went: Eli Brown, Andrew Morehouse with Erik Flora in anchor. They had a blast and made it to the semis, where they were knocked out.
It was so fun to see the serious game faces…I think the Russians had maybe 6 teams, and in one of the heats I saw a Swedish tech do the sneaky stop-and-go over the top of the hill. HAH! The way some of the Russians were skiing, it looked like more than pride was on the line…maybe job security? There were probably at least 5 Olympic Gold medalists racing, and many World Champions, all coaches or techs now. Pretty cool!
So, on to our (less exciting) races. The first race of the weekend was a 15km skate for the girls, 30km for the boys. It was an individual start, and the course here is very unique. I like it a lot, but I think I’d like it even more if it wasn’t at altitude! 🙂 It basically goes up and up gradually, then turns and gradually comes down. You really can’t rest anywhere out there, since you bleed time if you just tuck down the hill without working it. Despite my best efforts to pace it right, my body was just too tired and I still went out a little too hard, and didn’t have a great race. I had good parts of the race, like a good downhill section and, for the first time this year, a skate race where nobody stepped on my poles and I didn’t crash (yay!), but overall it wasn’t a good race for me. I think what made that feel worse is that I had pretty high hopes, since my skating has been going well this year and the bar keeps raising higher and higher on this team these days – to impress now, you need a top-10! So I was happy to still finish just inside the points in 30th, and what’s really neat is that although none of us girls had a stellar race, we put 4 in the points (Kikkan, Liz, Holly and me). But it’s very important for me to remember and remind myself that you need the lows to have the highs, and not every race will be a good one, and that’s not only ok, it’s necessary. Also, the body is a very weird thing and it can turn around in the blink of an eye – from a good race to a poor race and back to another good race! And that’s exactly what happened the next day…I went from feeling tired and super low on energy to feeling like I was riding an insane coffee buzz during the skate sprint!
The sprint was a great course for me – a 2 lap course with a lot of V2 and one steep climb, with the top of the hill being pretty key. If you took that one extra push, that last little “oomph” over the top of the hill, your downhill was wicked fast. But I’m going to first point out that our coaches and wax techs killed it out there – I think our skis were the fastest in the field, and my Salomons were flying. It doesn’t do any good to push hard over the hill if your boards don’t carry you through, and I had total confidence in my skis thanks to our great crew! Speaking of our great crew, it was so fun to have Tiger Shaw and his wife Kristin here for the sprint race! Tiger will be taking over from Bill Marolt to lead USSA next year, and it means a lot to us that he was here to see our race and cheer us on.
In the qualifier, I finished 6th, which I was psyched on. Fred Manning, our PT here in Davos, was awesome giving us a quick leg flush to help us recover before the heats. I curled up in the leaders chair that was chilling in the athletes changing room…I mean, when you have a chance to sit in that thing, do it, right? Then it was time for the quarterfinals. I took a fairly risky move that paid off, charging over the hill on the second lap of the course and passing on the outside of the corner to win my quarterfinal. I was absolutely thrilled, because I hadn’t passed through to the semis in a loooong time. I’ve done a ton of quarterfinals, but in the past something has always gone wrong – either I don’t have the energy or gear shift at the right moment or I got boxed out or pinched in. But finally, everything went right! And to top it off, of course Kikkan made it through her heat just fine and Sophie did the exact same thing as me and won her heat as well! So for the first time in a while, we had 3 girls in the semifinals.
In the semis, I was starting right next to Sophie, which I was thrilled about. I was so psyched for her, and proud of her skiing, and it was also nice to know that person skiing next to me wasn’t going to step on me the way some of the other girls would (there can be some super aggressive skiing out there!) I think we skied well, and I took the first lap pretty relaxed. But on the last time up the steep hill, I was skiing a little to frantically and leaning into the hill a bit too much, and I fell. Since I took a knee, I was able to bounce back up, but the damage was done. I was a little disappointed in myself for tripping because my energy felt really great, but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. This race was a much needed sprinting confidence booster for me, and now I know that when I ski calm and smooth, I can make it through rounds. Then it was fun to see Kikkan podium, getting second by a few centimeters! Andy and Simi didn’t make it through the rounds, but a fun little fact is that all 4 of us SMST2 athletes here finished top-20!
Right after the semifinals, Sophie and I busted out a 3 minute hard sprint interval. So that when we do get into the finals one day, our bodies will know what to expect. And the fun part is that I felt great in the interval, which bodes well for future sprints 🙂
The fun doesn’t stop there, though! If a 3+ hour sprint day doesn’t sound like enough, get a load of this: we did strength that evening! Training doesn’t stop, and now it’s time for a good week before starting to rest up for the Tour de Ski. Surprisingly, strength felt great and it was one of my better lifting sessions of the race season. Go figure!
Today, though, is a much needed day off. I’m excited to walk around town, spend a lot of time in the sun (don’t worry Mom, I put on my sunscreen!) and drink lots of delicious coffee!