Bend…I missed this place; this snow, these trails, the local skiers and the riverside trail running. Yes, yes, we will get to the crash photos and discuss my downhill ineptitude in great detail later on. But first, a cheesy love note to my team and why I’m still here, getting excited for camp like it’s the first day of school.
As it turns out, I have loved every phase I’ve been through while growing up on the ski team. I enjoyed my years as the baby of the team (thank you to my past teammates for their extreme tolerance and ability to field 10,000 questions), my years as a middle child and now my time as one of the big kids. I love seeing the World Cup for the first time through younger eyes each winter, and being there as a resource in whatever capacity I can be.
I’ve also come to a fun realization. It is not about “the little engine that could”, anymore. It’s about why that little engine even tried.
Skiing is hard. It’s humbling. It can frustrate me to tears at times (just ask my coaches), but it can also bring the kind of satisfaction you only get from doing something impossibly hard. So it’s important to me to know my why, otherwise known as my purpose. Why do I want to try so hard? Why am I not only skiing, but racing and dedicating my life to this?
It’s kind of a huge question. Yet it’s an important one to answer for myself.
Without my why, it becomes impossible to tear myself away from time with Wade to attend camps. A winter on the road becomes too great a hurdle to get over. Early morning cold rainy workouts get skipped altogether.
But knowing that I’m doing this because it’s about something a little bigger and more meaningful than just winning ski races makes this little engine ready to fire up again and keep chugging up the hill. I’ve got causes I care about, a team I adore and goals in every direction to keep chipping away at. And I’m lucky as it gets in having a family – the one I was born into, the one I’m marrying into and the one I ski with – that supports me and understands this drive to keep ski racing for the foreseeable future. Once I know my why, the how is easy – be at camp and be ready to get my ass kicked!
Getting to team camps is important to me for more than just ski training, though; it’s about building a team atmosphere and culture that gets us through long winters on the road. We’re always asked HOW on earth we deal with such a long time away from home, and when I answer that “it’s because the team feels like family”, we get more than a few eye rolls. Before you, too, cast your eyes skyward, let me explain a little further; it’s like family in that we also beat up on one another and drive each other totally nuts sometimes. Despite the occasional family squabble, we are there for each other in a solid, tangible way, and that kind of support net takes work to build. It doesn’t form on it’s own, and it takes everyone’s buy-in to build it. The best way to do that is time spent together, especially outside of a highly competitive and stressful atmosphere (hello, World Cup and Olympic selection year!) so we can build a safety net that doesn’t tear when things are thrown at it. I’m proud of the work this team has already begun, and we have more work to do, always!
I’ll never be done learning from this team, either. Every time I ask someone what they’re working on or what they were thinking about during a speed, I get a new perspective, something to think on and try out. I loved following not just different girls but different boys, as well. It challenged me to ski in a new way and think differently. I think if there were a feasible way to do it, I’d like my whole life to be one big training camp, because there’s no better way to wake up feeling inspired to be challenged by people you admire every day.
So….what DID a typical day in camp look like?
First, I should tell you that everyone there was vaccinated, which is why you’ll see photos of us together without masks. We also had covid testing every couple days. I don’t imagine there’s many people reading this blog right now who have access to a vaccine and haven’t gotten it yet, but if so…10/10, would recommend. Life being back to almost normal was the most incredible thing!
Because the snow would usually start to soften and slow down late morning, we would get up early and drive up to the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center at 7 or 7:30am. We’d ski for anywhere between 2-3 hours, depending on the day and the person. We’d ski together, do technique drills, speed work and intervals, and also mix it up a little with other clubs and friends out training on the trails!
You’ve probably heard me talk about this before, so I won’t pull out my handy-dandy soapbox. And yet, I know there’s a lot of young skiers reading this. So! Learning to read your body and doing the right amount of training for YOU is the second most important thing you can do to progress as an athlete. The first thing is having passion for what you do so that it stays fun your entire career. You don’t look, think or talk like anyone else, so why would your body respond the exact same way to training sessions? Creating space on a team to accommodate individuals training lengths and intensities is always a challenge, because you want to also maximize your group training so you can learn from one another. Somewhere in there lies a really cool balance where you can keep one finger on the pulse of the team, and one on your own, so you can see what the team needs from you (and you from them) and what you need from yourself. That space is where we excel.
After skiing it was eat, drink, dry clothes and getting down from the mountain to our rental houses. Megan Chacosky was our amazing chef (she’s also a sport dietician and working for the USOPC!) and she took incredible care of us. Coming in to a hot shower and then hot ramen soup was not only tasty and wonderful, but a fast start on recovery to make the next training session more productive and higher quality.
In the afternoon, we’d wax our skis for the next session, many of us took naps, many had homework to do, and various tasks to finish. Such as, I don’t know, looking at wedding dresses (random example 🙂 ). We’d head out for a second training session around 4pm, which for me was either running or strength, although many of my teammates brought their mountain bikes to the awesome trail system in Bend! After dinner we might have a team meeting, or just get to bed early to get as much sleep as possible with the early wake-up time.
What were the big takeaways from this camp? I’m so glad you asked.
- Coffee!!!!! (Was that too many exclamation points? I’ve had a cup or two, or three). Let me tell you, I had no idea how little I knew about good coffee. I’ve since learned that you’re really supposed to grind the beans right before. Also…light roast. Always. Thank you Kevin, Julia, Luke and Noel for this knowledge…and now this slightly higher caffeinated Jessie you’re all going to have to deal with.
- It’s ok to be working into the season. It’s MAY, and everyone comes into this camp and the year in a different place. So even though it can be hard amongst a team of highly driven people…don’t compare and judge yourself to others, just learn from them and work with them.
- Living in a house while on the road is night and day from living in hotel rooms. Whenever possible, be in a rental home…the team atmosphere thrives in it, as people hang out in common areas rather than in their beds.
- You can do some seriously incredible strength in a garage with minimal equipment. Also, Tschana Schiller is the boss when it comes to writing strength programs that are purposeful, personalized, and fun.
- Even 15 minutes of laying down and chilling out can save you in a busy afternoon with a lot of training.
- You want to push a little harder? Make the workout an inter-team competition. You automatically go faster when you know your reps are being counted and the prize is ultimate bragging rights.
- I realized how much I took hugs for granted before this year. I think maybe everyone does. Now, getting to sit the whole team down in one room together again, hug my friends, high-five whenever I want to…that made me so happy. I’m a very snuggly person and this realization that I can get my hugs whenever I need them was a big one for me.
- Someone like myself should always travel with rather large pieces of Tegaderm.
Let me explain that last one. During hour one of day one of camp, I took a nice crash on a fast downhill. Nice going, Jessie! The sun-baked slush of the previous day had been groomed then frozen into ice (which is super common for spring skiing), and as I slid around the corner going way too fast, I just kept sliding towards the edge of the trail and the trees. I elected to sit down rather than hit a tree, and I maintain that this was the correct decision, as I ground to a halt clinging to the edge of the ski trail by my fingertips.
Still…ouch. Showering quite literally took my breath away for about 5 days, and then it started to get better. A big thanks to Jen Kimball, our PT at camp, for looking out for me and my lack of skin!
After camp, I came back to Minnesota for a long weekend, where Wade joined me and my family. I was beyond thrilled to be a bridesmaid for Anne Hart at her wedding to Thomas Rabon, and it was truly one of the most gorgeous, stunning events I’ve had the honor to be at! We had a lot of fun, and danced up a storm.
As is the case with most weddings, it’s also an amazing chance to see friends from near and far! This was the longest I’d gone without seeing Sophie and Simi in about 10 years. And any chance I get to hug Erika and Andy is a special day for me!
Then Wade and I did a little more wedding planning of our own! It’s still a year away, but wow, I cannot wait. Now I’m back to Stratton, Vermont for the next big block of training with my awesome SMST2 teammates!