“I write down my goals so that when I get them, I’ll know I was brave enough to want them.” -Alexi Pappas
It can be incredibly hard, goal setting. It takes guts to admit that you want something so badly it hurts, and then put everything you have towards getting it. It stings when you don’t get what you want. It can be overwhelming when you DO get it. And sometimes it scares me when I realize just how much of my being I’ve committed to this crazy sport that I love. But I wouldn’t be doing this right if I didn’t admit that I love the idea of going after the impossible, of doing something that’s never been done before. We’ve never had a Women’s XC medal at the Olympics. You know that. I know that. Your second-cousin-once-removed knows that. But until yesterday, we’ve never had a Woman win any distance longer than 10km, either. We’ve also never had this many different Women on the World Cup podium in one season.
So I know it’s not impossible, after all.
I want to know that I was brave enough to want it.
As we head into the Olympics, here are my goals, shared with you. Because there are no secrets in this sport, only hard work. Hard work in training. Hard work in being a good teammate. Hard work in recovery. Hard work in fierce positivity. And hard work in keeping alive that ridiculous optimism!
- Be the one who steadies the boat, not the one who rocks it.
The very best thing you can do for your team is to not become an emotional firecracker. And the best thing you can do in sport is to be a good teammate. At the end of my career, what will matter most will not be the results I had or how I celebrated, but the friends I made and the kind of person I was moments after a really bad race.
That’s why my number one goal for the games is to be able to just be myself, the “team cheerleader”, through the ups and downs. To recognize that while someone always has the best day, someone else had the worst day, and to not let your attitude hours after the race reflect how you performed.
- When I cross the finish line, be able to look back and honestly say I gave it everything that I had.
There are a whole lot of tiny puzzle pieces that need to fit together in order to have the race of your life. Some of them you can control, and some of them you can’t. You need to be 100% healthy, hit your peaking plan just right, be in the right mental space before and during the race, pick the fastest skis you have, have the wax techs nail the fastest wax of the day, make the right strategic move at the right time, and hope nobody else crashes into you or breaks your equipment.
The one thing I CAN control, however, is showing up to that start line knowing that I’ve done everything in my power to be ready to go. And as of right now, I’m nailing that part. For the last 8 years I’ve been a professional athlete, and everything in my life has been warped around ski racing in one way or another. I’ve given up a lot, but gained so much more by committing everything I have to this sport and knowing that I’m honestly giving it my best shot.
So for me, success at the Games will be decided in those moments after I cross the finish line; lungs burning, legs on fire, lactic acid making me want to throw up. When I’m lying in the snow, that’s when I take my 10 seconds to think back on the race and decide if I had “success” or not – meaning, if I dug deeper than I thought possible, raced with courage, and held nothing back. If I can finish my races and know that I did that, I will have found success.
3. Race with guts.
I’ve had a lot of criticism thrown my way over the years. My all-time greatest hits:
“She doesn’t have the tactical experience for a relay anchor”.
“Her arms are flopping around everywhere”.
“She doesn’t know how to use her core”.
“She tucks down the hill funny”.
“Jessie can’t classic ski”.
And most recently at the start of the 10km that I won yesterday from Eurosport: “I sure wouldn’t pick Diggins to win a sprint-out at the end of this race”.
But, guys…that’s sport! And it’s a really weird part of the job. I mean, you usually don’t show up to work at the office and have complete strangers telling you all the things you’re doing wrong, what you need to change to do better, and that they either love you and want to marry you or they are planning to send you hate mail (or maybe you do? And if that’s the case, I’m so sorry.) But in sport, those things are starting to become weirdly normal. And I’ve grown thicker skin.
However, the one thing that’s never been said to me is “gee, if only you’d TRIED HARDER”. And I’m proud of that. I know how to suffer, and I know how to dig deep into the pain cave. In time, I’ll clean up my technique. I’ll keep getting better at mid-race strategy. I’ll figure out how to stop my hyper flexible elbows from freaking everyone out. But from day one, I’ve known how to push past my limits, and race with guts. That’s one of my biggest goals at the Games…to race like I’ve got nothing to lose. And I’m going to swing for the fences.
4. Have FUN with it!
This may sound like a ridiculous thing to write as a goal, but it’s a necessary one.
I want to make sure I can see my family and boyfriend as much as possible during the Games, because they keep me grounded. Also because I love them and want to see them, obviously! It can be easy to get caught up in the nerves and pressure and completely forget to have fun, as well. I mean…it’s the Olympics, for pete’s sake. Enjoy it, kid.
5. Learn when to say “no”.
Everyone wants a tiny little piece of you, but if you’re not careful you’ll discover that suddenly there are no pieces left.
This includes reading media or comments (refer to “greatest hits”, section 3. A). I’d like my ego to remain roughly the size of a peanut, and all year I’ve avoided reading Fasterskier, newspapers and especially any comments. Which is really hard to do, by the way. It’s like driving past a car crash…you know you shouldn’t look, but everyone somehow can’t help themselves. It takes a lot of discipline to ignore what people say about you and keep on keepin’ on anyways, whether those comments are positive or negative.
So to those of you writing really nice notes to me…I’m going to apologize in advance for not getting back to you! It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, because the love and support from home means the world to me. I’ll just be getting to those after the games are finished. To those trolls out there…never mind, we all have better things to do with our lives. I suggest you find yours.
Since we’ve finished our last race before the games, now it’s all about training smart, peaking at the right time…and flying to South Korea. See you from the Olympics!