That’s a wrap! The 2020-21 season ended on just about the highest note imaginable (with the exception of covid still being a big part of our lives, of course). This was the hardest and most challenging season I think I’ve ever faced, without the ability to see Wade or my family once in the 4 months straight that I was on the road. As a team, we were extremely cautious in our covid protocol, which meant significant challenges in keeping a light and fun team atmosphere without the ability to interact as a group in person. And yet, despite this, we had our most successful season to date, we kept everyone safe and healthy (including residents of the towns we raced in) and still managed to have fun and enjoy the process, at least most of the time!
Here are the stats:
- 114 straight days on the road
- 24 World Cup races
- 4 World Champs races
- 1 Tour de Ski win
- 1 Overall World Cup win
- 1 Distance World cup win
- 8 World Cup podiums, 3 of them wins
- cried about 4 times
- laughed about 1072 times
- worried about covid approximately 218 times
- managed to somehow get about 19 bruises
- fell off the pull up bar 2 times
I feel so much gratitude and love towards my team and the companies I partner with that have made this absolute dream of a season come true. There has been tireless work behind the scenes, both on the road and back in the US while we are traveling and racing. We have countless volunteers that keep our bodies together (literally and figuratively). And I have many brands I work with that have, in our partnerships, helped me to become the athlete I am today and allow me the time and space to work with so many incredible causes that I believe in.
I’ve been asked a few times in interviews what the best part has been about achieving a lifetime goal of winning the World Cup Overall. Here’s what I think is great about it:
- Getting to celebrate it with the team, because you know and I know that this is NOT the kind of thing anyone achieves alone. I sincerely hope all my teammates, coaches, staff and volunteer staff feel ownership in this, because I feel a team ownership whenever I look at these globes.
- Having the increased visibility for our sport through the press that these Globes and the Tour de Ski have brought, which I hope creates more opportunities for the next generation of skiers.
- Having a bigger platform with which to use my voice to shout about these amazing causes I care so much about: The Emily Program, Share Winter, Protect Our Winters, the WithAll Foundation and Fast and Female.
I will also acknowledge that while it has truly been a team effort, I also had to work very, very hard for a very, very long time to get to the place I am now. This is not the kind of success story that happens quickly, but slowly, over a decade of hard work day in and day out. I have given up things to become the best skier I can be; a normal college experience, time with my family, a normal dating experience and then time with my fiancé, and flexibility. But in return I have gained so much more, and I would forever make these same choices that have shaped my life! I did a lot of growing up on the road surrounded by my teammates and coaches. I gained life experiences by learning about other countries, cultures, and making friends around the world. I learned how to market, well, myself, and then how to work with brands on campaigns I resonate with. I learned how to fail long before I learned how to win. I learned how to use my voice. I learned how to put everything I have towards a goal not knowing if I will achieve it or not, but trusting the process of trying. And in pursuit of trying, I have met the most amazing people from all around the world, and been inspired by them.
Perhaps most important of all, I ended the season feeling inspired and excited to keep trying. We have work to do. But first…a rest!
I’d like to declare that a season is never just sunshine and rainbows, in the same way that it’s not always raining and terrible. There were many highs in the past year, and also many lows. Luckily, the highs vastly outweighed the lows, and I recognize that I am very fortunate to feel this way…and that I have had a lot of privilege in my life in order to feel this way. What you see on social media is mostly a collection of highs, and even the lows and behind the curtain moments are the ones that you’ve been allowed to see (well, naturally…I still had to select them and post them). Yet it’s often a collection of highs because that’s how I feel about life as a ski racer – it’s a lucky way to be going through life!
I try to keep it real with you and let you see behind the curtain as much as possible, because when I was a young racer I really wanted to know what life was actually like for professional athletes. One of the things I did struggle with this season was pressure, especially as it became clear that winning the overall and distance titles was a possibility.
I very much like the phrase, “pressure is a privilege”. I used to think “well, that’s stupid, nobody likes to feel pressure”. But I have since revised my opinion. Let me tell you why.
This season I have felt a lot of pressure to be “on” every day, to be doing all the little mundane aspects of being a professional athlete to the best of my ability. I put this pressure on myself, because I like knowing without a doubt that I have always given my best effort. It gives me confidence on every start line, the same way that I like to cross each finish line knowing that I could not have possibly given more. Essentially, my goal is to be the person who gives the most, not necessarily to be the person who wins.
I have also felt a lot of pressure to produce results, to fly home with the crystal globes and bring back medals from World Championships. Some of this pressure is internal, and some of it comes from the outside as well. And yet, I have worked so hard my entire life to be in a place where this kind of pressure is placed on my shoulders. I have wanted to earn this kind of pressure – not for the sake of feeling it, but because you only feel that people expect you to bring home results if you’re skiing well enough to gain that kind of expectation in the first place. And so in this way, reframing pressure as a privilege that I have worked a lifetime to carry, is much healthier than feeling it as a crushing weight. That’s not to say I feel pressure in a super duper Wonder-Woman style every day, but I’m working on reframing it…even more so as I head towards this next Olympics. Because let’s face it – whether I want it or not, there will never be less pressure than I feel right now. It’s only going to get better (or worse, depending on my mindset).
Back to this idea that the year was made up of a series of peaks and valleys – I’d like to share with you, starting from exactly a year ago, some of my high points and low (or just dumb) points from the last year!
Starting with…Brave Enough. After working so hard for a year and a half, having the book published on on the shelves of bookstores for people to read was a big moment for me! My biggest goal with this book was to bring some compassion, understanding and conversation starters for people around the subject of mental health and specifically eating disorders. But I hoped readers would enjoy the racing, travel and training stories as well! It has been humbling to hear the feedback from readers and how this book has impacted them and the conversations they have, and I sincerely hope Brave Enough continues to inspire brave talks through the years.
And then, of course, the best question I’ve ever been asked in my life! Wade proposed to me last April, and whenever I would get homesick on the road, thinking about how excited I am to get to spend my life with him was the best way to feel happy.
Obviously, covid in general was a low point. Not being able to spend time with my US Ski Team teammates, to have more normal social opportunities with friends, and train on snow from mid-March through mid-November were all bummers.
Yet with that low came a high – super quality time in Stratton, Vermont with my SMST2 team, and very solid, consistent training in a great place!
Because we were in Stratton all summer without the added stress of travel days, we took more trips to do cool epic runs than I might normally do! Below, a photo from one of my favorite days, when Wade, Anne, Thomas and I hiked the Presidential Traverse together in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
….and with the epic runs came a really dumb low point. I sprained my ankle badly on my birthday. Although it did heal remarkably quickly given how bruised and swollen it was, this was still a painful reminder of how easily injuries can derail the best laid plans.
Back to the highs here – with consistent training in one place came repeatable time trial efforts, consistent communication with the same coaches every day, and so many opportunities to learn from my teammates!
Another high point from the road – we went sledding. A LOT. I loved it!
We also had a nice little break during our pre-Tour de Ski Christmas camp. Hailey Swirbul, Katharine Ogden, Julia Kern, Gus Schumacher and I all stayed together in a great apartment in Seefeld, Austria (AVITA living apartments, in case you need a good recommendation)! We cooked great food, we enjoyed the ability to sit on a couch instead of a hotel bed, we enjoyed being able to be in each other’s company in a group of 5 instead of just 2!
We also enjoyed the spices and hot sauces sent by Gus’s Aunt and Katharine’s Mom!
Another season high? Seeing my teammates crush it! This came in the form of BIG moments like Rosie’s wins, Hailey’s first podium and Sophie’s podium and it also came in PR’s, first top-10’s, first World Cup starts and first time scoring points (finishing in the top 30 in the World).
A big high for me was earning the yellow bib and then collecting enough of them to present our wax team and coaches with yellow bibs signed by the team. It’s the kind of gift I’ve always wanted to be able to give, because I needed their help in getting them in the first place!
Luckily, I didn’t sustain any serious injuries during the season, but it’s always a potential low point.
An unexpected high…getting to celebrate Christmas all over again at the start of World Champs! Julia and I decorated our room, just because.
Neither a low nor a high, but a strange new part of life…having permission forms, way too many covid test stick-way-too-far-up-your-nose experiences, and slightly stressful border crossings.
Something I’ve greatly appreciated over the last few years is having a greater sense of purpose and joy in being able to work hard for and represent causes that I care about! No matter how I race, I have the ability to use my platform for good, and that makes every day a little bit more exciting.
And then, of course, we have the nice runny noses and rash that can come along with wearing masks all the time. Not a fun side effect, but a necessary thing to do.
Julia Kern wins best roommate of the year award…and yes, I am biased, because she was my roommate. In normal years we rotate roommates each week, but this year to keep our potential exposure to the absolute minimum we kept our roommates for the season. I very much enjoyed getting to know Julia even better and we created an awesome space in our rooms together!
A low for me was not getting the chance to bring my family or Wade over during the year. In years past, having Wade over for Christmas or in the week after the Tour de Ski has been a huge source of joy and happiness, and the same with my family. But we enjoyed many many video calls together and I got to talk with Wade nearly every single day, which was always a highlight of the day for me!
A definite low point was the false positive test that kept Sophie and Simi in quarantine for our last week of the World Cup in Switzerland, and meant that we couldn’t see them, or celebrate their retirement from ski racing all together. Soph and Sim mean so much to me, and they have been a huge part of my life these past 10 years! They have inspired me, along with thousands of young athletes across the world. They’ve been amazing teammates, leaders and role models, and personally, my sprinting is much better because I get to follow them around all summer in Stratton! I’m so proud of who they are both on and off the snow, and they, like Sadie, are leaving very big shoes to fill in the team. It is going to be extremely hard without them around, but at the same time, I am very excited to cheer them on in their next steps in life!
One last big high point – seeing the beautiful scenery and awe-inspiring ski trails in the places that we raced and trained! I especially enjoyed seeing our last venue in the Engadin Valley, as this was a place I’d never been before but had always had on my bucket list.
Which brings us back to this spring!
I am so excited for time with Wade again, and to just relax, rest and let the season soak in. There’s no pressure to feel great every day, to train any specific way (in fact, I make a conscious effort NOT to train and rest first thing when I come back to avoid any injuries or burnout) and I enjoy this flexibility very much.
One of the things we’ve enjoyed doing together is home projects. Last spring we made a headboard and sliding barn doors for the bedroom, and this winter while I’ve been gone Wade took on the renovation of the entire bathroom and shower! He made a beautiful shower that was ready when I got back, but I got to help install the doors on it and tile the bathroom floor. I was pretty excited about having something to do that had nothing to do with skiing or exercise of any kind!
I have to be honest, there WAS a moment while we were reversing the direction of the bathroom door and really struggling to line up the hinges, where I just laid down on the floor and declared “I HATE this.” We both burst out laughing. But it made me feel better! What can I say? I was in it for the pretty tile, not for the other odds and ends of redoing a bathroom! Luckily Wade is a very patient man, and he had already done all the hardest parts!
And now? It’s time for me to have a little vacation time with Wade. I’m excited to celebrate our first anniversary of being engaged (Is that a thing? Do people do that?) and enjoy some down time together. And when it comes time to fire training back up in May, I’ll be rested, super excited about it, and ready to go!