Here we go…time for the Tour de Ski to begin! I look forward to this event every year. I just love it. With 8 races in 10 days, in 4 venues across 3 countries, it’s one of the hardest physical and mental challenges you can have in this sport. It’s not just about dealing with your body as you race day after day, but dealing with your mind as you find ways to bounce back from tough races, get psyched about upcoming races, and mentally prep yourself to race all-out 24 hours after you’ve already crossed a finish line and felt like you had nothing more to give. And maybe that makes me a crazy person, for liking it so much. But the whole 10 days feels like one long adrenaline rush, and the feeling of accomplishment that you get when you’re standing on the top of the mountain you just climbed at the end of the Tour is one of the best feelings ever. It’s so hard. It’s insanely hard. That’s why I like it.
Watching the Tour de Ski races on TV, you get one perspective…the reality TV show that is the World Cup. I mean, when you think about it, what we do, why we are able to race, is because people like to watch the excitement of sporting events. Everyone loves the underdog, the emotion, the sacrifice after hundreds of hours of training and the tactics as a race plays out. That makes us an unscripted reality TV show, and the lights and cameras are always ready! But behind the scenes, the Tour is one crazy organized chaotic scene. What you do with yourself after crossing the finish line is equally as important as what you do with yourself during the race. I’m here to take you behind the scenes.
Right after I finish a race, I put on dry clothes to cool down in. I don’t want my body to have to do any more work keeping me warm if I can just put on some warm jackets instead. In between races, it’s crucial to get some food and drink down. I always feel like there’s no way my stomach can take any food, but getting something in during the 20 minute window after my race is the best way to get nutrients to my body while it’s ready to rebuild most efficiently. That’s why I drink Nuun tablets, because they’re easy to travel with and they have all the electrolytes I need, plus carbohydrates to help my energy stores. I also use Honey Stinger chews because they’re primarily honey and get me the carbohydrates that my body desperately needs without ever upsetting my stomach! Once I’ve gotten some bars and energy drink, I’ll go cool down. I try to keep this as short as possible while still making sure my body flushes out all the lactic acid it’s built up during the race.
When we get back to the hotel, I’ll shower and change, and since we usually race in the afternoons during the tour, I’ll take an hour to lie down. That’s when I take a few minutes to write back to media reporting on the race, to chat with a coach and go over the race in my mind. I can always take away something from a race, whether it’s the best in my life or the worst. There’s always, always lessons to be learned! If I can finish a race and find ways to improve for next time based on what I just did, then it will have been a good race and a good experience. It’s only when I fail to learn from it that a race becomes a bad experience. If this sounds to you like I’m playing mind games with myself…that’s exactly what’s going on. Because getting through the Tour requires a whole lot of mental energy, and a huge key to racing day after day is being able to take the race I just finished, take the lessons from it, and then look forward to the next race. I can’t dwell on the last race whether it was a good one or not, because that will take my focus away from the tomorrow’s race. I can’t think about the climb at the end of the tour until I actually get there, because that, too, will take my focus away from the race coming up next. Being in the Tour means being in the moment with all the focus I have, and not wasting it worrying about anything except what I need to be doing in that moment to reach my goals.
Recovery process continues with massage from one of our awesome volunteers that are traveling with us, Zuzana Rogers and Meg Parker. These women are tireless workers and so positive and upbeat, taking time from their jobs and families to work with us and keep our bodies in the best shape possible! I’m so grateful to them! Either before or after massage, I’ll go for a short run to keep things moving around in my body. It’s a fine line between resting and letting your body get stiff and sore, and sometimes it’s better to just keep moving…and crash like crazy after it’s all over!
After dinner I take some time to visualize the course for the next day’s race, and how I want to ski it. I picture myself skiing with the best technique, making all the right tactical choices and the right times, and having energy to push myself as hard as possible. When I line up on the start line, I’ll have confidence, because in my head I’ve already done the race…and it went really well.
This is what our Tour schedule looks like this year. It’s extremely weighted towards classic skiing, with the women skiing 15 more classic kilometers than skate. On principles of fairness, I think that’s a little ridiculous, but I understand that they changed the races in Oberstdorf because of extremely low snow and I’m much rather race in any form than not race at all! Besides, I’ve been learning to love classic skiing, and I am pumped for some upcoming chances to set some new PR’s for myself in the tracks.
This is what the full Tour looks like this year:
- Jan 1: a skate sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland
- Jan 2: a 15km classic race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland
- Jan 3: a 5km skate race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland
- Jan 4: Day off to travel 6 hours in a car to Germany
- Jan 5: a classic sprint in Oberstdorf, Germany
- Jan 6: a 10km classic race in Oberstdorf, Germany
- Jan 7: Day off to travel to Italy
- Jan 8: a 5km skate race in Toblach, Italy. That night we travel to Val di Fiemme, Italy.
- Jan 9: a 10km classic race in Val di Fiemme, Italy
- Jan 10: a 9km skate, then hill climb up Alpe Cermis, in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
I’ll try and update periodically through the Tour…and there will definitely be a recap at the end. We’re in Lenzerheide now, the start place for the Tour in Switzerland, and I couldn’t be more excited to go!