I reached over to grab my water bottle and toppled out of the tiny bed in our apartment in Ruka, Finland. Hitting the floor with a thud, I immediately burst into what Matt calls my “Pee-wee Herman laugh”. Being stubborn, I immediately denied having a Pee-wee laugh, until he pulled up a Youtube clip and the moment I heard it I couldn’t NOT laugh, and then there were not one but two Pee-wee Herman’s laughing in the room. How embarrassing.
Anyways, besides falling out of our impressively tiny Euro beds (I always forget how small the hotel beds are over here!) we’ve been getting back into the rhythm of World Cup life, shaking off the jet lag and desperately soaking up any hint of sunshine we find between the hours of 11-1pm! We started out with a week in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is right on the Arctic Circle and more importantly, the “official” airport and home of Santa Claus.
Sadly, it was 40 degrees F and also raining, and the beautiful 9km loop of man-made snow melted out for maybe the first time ever. *Cue massive alarm bells about climate change* The organizers there did a great job with what they had to work with, but we ended up moving to Ruka early in order to be on more snow, and for the first time ever we also saw green moss and plants on the side of the man-made snow in Ruka, as well.
It can be so easy to slip into self-doubt at this time of year. I hadn’t yet had a chance to do a real race, and the time trial we did in Rovaniemi was a 10km skate on the 1.4km loop of snow, weaving in and out of about 60 people training, so it was quite the experience! I’d be lying if I said my confidence was rock solid going into the first World Cup race of the year. But once I got back into the process of testing skis, doing race-prep intervals and course inspection and warming up for the race as I always do, the return to the routine helped calm my nerves. And I got to remember how gosh darn fun this all is! I just love racing and challenging my body to go faster and faster. When I look at the process of trying to get faster and race smarter, I have been doing all the hard work, no slacking off and no shortcuts, every day the last 8+ years. There’s every reason to be proud of my efforts and to trust in the process, as it’s a long season ahead! I seriously wish I could go back and tell my 20-year-old-self that exact sentiment, because it’s taken years to find the self-belief and trust in the process that I need in order to race like I know I belong on the World Cup!
I didn’t qualify in the sprint, but that didn’t have any negative effect on my attitude or my belief in myself, which is something I’ve worked hard over the years to have with mental toughness training! I skied stronger and with better technique than I ever have on this course, and although the steep running-skiing technique isn’t a strength of mine, I know where I can still work to improve and I also know that I’ve come a long way from a few years ago when I would have scrambled all over the place! And I reminded myself that last year I also finished around 33rd…and that season went pretty darn well. It’s a long year, and the only way to count yourself out is to put yourself down in your own mind!
I have to say, after going to a lot of different sporting events this year and enjoying the experience every time, it does make me appreciate the cheering on the World Cup and how positive it is! There’s none of what I call “down-cheering”, which is when you actively cheer against a person or a team. There’s only cheering for the people the fans love the most, and clapping or ringing cowbells for each and every skier, which is a super cool way of saying “you may not be my favorite or my own team, but I realize you’ve gone though a lot to get here, so I’m cheering you on, anyways!” I know this isn’t unique to Cross Country Skiing, but it is one of the things about this culture that I simply adore and admire. So a huge thank-you to all the fans out there in person, or sitting in bed in your pajamas at 5am watching the races, because all your positive energy is a powerful thing!
There IS an astonishing amount of down-cheering on the internet, mostly because people who would never have the spine to say it to your face suddenly find a whole lot of courage when they can make an anonymous profile online! It is, shall we say…a Presidential level of arrogance to assume you know what I’m thinking, what my strengths are, how to win a World Cup or Olympic race when it’s never been done by you, or even that anyone with access to me is actually reading your ramblings. I’m assuming these things are being said based on what others tell me in the summer after the season when we’re having a good laugh at the craziness of internet commenters during a boring training run. Because here’s the thing: I purposefully never open up a ski reporting site during the year, I never read comments, and I don’t even read many comments on my own instagram. Because the very few select people in the World who do actually have constructive feedback that can make me better are all here with me, or a quick phone call away. I’ve learned that my personality just doesn’t have thick skin, so I build a happy bubble of confidence around myself, and I’m honesty pretty stoked that I don’t have to harden my heart in order to still remain positive and confident throughout a season!
To keep the team spirits high, we really love to get into any celebration, and this week we had two birthdays and Thanksgiving! We all got together for Sadie and Oleg’s big days, and I had a lot of fun making two apple pies with “The Oleg” written across them. Being me, I’ve also been baking up a ton of banana bread, as it’s a really fun and relaxing activity for me and also it’s tradition for me to make a huge batch for the Wax Techs whenever we have access to a kitchen.
I had such a huge smile on my face when I got to see all the other countries roll into town. It’s a really special thing, having friends from around the World on different teams! Of course, you always want to race well, but the competition is reserved only for the space in between the start wand and the finish line. Which is why you’ll see a funny “na-na-dance challenge” getting passed around the World Cup instagrams, starting with Thomas Wick (Germany) and I! It’s super cool to see how hard every single person who is part of the World Cup works, but also how friendly nearly everyone is and how there’s this base level of respect; it’s a recognition of how darn tough it is to get here and how hard racing is.
If you want to follow along live, here’s where you can find the schedule! Unfortunately, this weekend in particular isn’t being broadcast live, but you should be able to see most everything else. I don’t know what time zone back in the USA these are being shown live, but we’re supposed to start the Lillehammer sprint final at 12pm Lillehammer time, so you can work it backwards from there! BROADCASTING SCHEDULE LINK