Before I get into the race tales, I have received a number of questions about my book, Brave Enough, so I thought I’d take the hottest of seconds to go through those. First of all, thank you all so much for the positive messages and excitement! After 18 months of hard work, I’m pretty over the moon about the book coming out for real on March 10th!
A lot of you have asked about the best way to buy the book, and the answer is 1.) pre-order that cute little sucker! and 2.) if possible, order it from your local bookstore. The Indiebound and Barnes and Noble links on my website should take you right to where you can pre-order it. I’ve also gotten questions about how to get a signed copy, and the mnworldcup.com site has a tab under “Festival Information”, then “Merchandise” where you can purchase a special copy of my book. I signed a one-time run of special bookplates that commemorate the Minneapolis World Cup, and that’s a great way to get a limited-edition copy of the book if you’re into collecting things like I am! You can also get a giant cowbell on this same page, so really, it’s the whole package.
Why do authors always ask you to pre-order their book? I always wondered this, and then I became one of those people asking you to pre-order their book. How cliché of me. Here’s why: if you like the author and want to support their book launch, then pre-ordering the book from your local bookstore or Indiebound lets stores know that you want this book, which results in them stocking the shelves, so more people see the book and pick it up. Pre-ordering also guarantees the lowest price, and you know that I know that you know you love a good bargain.
Either way, the German Women’s Team coach and one of the Norwegian Women’s coaches told me they pre-ordered it…so my day has been made! Now, on to your regularly scheduled programming from the World Cup.
The first week of being back on the the road for a 4-month stretch of World Cup races can be the most exciting, because it feels like the first day of school. You’re stoked to see all your friends from other countries and hear how they’re doing. You’re also not-so-secretly excited to see the good, the bad and the ugly evolution of each Nation’s race suit. The first week can also be the hardest, though, because you’re the most homesick and trying to adjust to being on the road again.
Luckily for me, we got to stay in small apartments while in Beitostølen, which made a huge difference! Being able to hang out as a group on the couch instead of in your bed all day makes you feel more at home and less like a nomad. We marveled at all the glorious snow falling from the sky almost every day, we ate brown cheese, and we got caught up with friends. We each selected one or two races that first weekend to use as tune-up races, and it brought a huge smile to my face, getting to cheer as Sophie got 3rd place in the classic sprint! The next day, I placed 4th with Sadie 5th (we basically skied the exact same race!) in the 10km classic, and it felt good to put a bib on again and remember how to test skis before a race. Then we hopped on a bus ride, two plane flights and another long bus ride to get to the land of Reindeer and the snowy forests of Ruka, Finland.
The first World Cup of the year is almost always a classic sprint race in Ruka. And by “almost always”, I mean that I’ve been starting the season with this race for the last 8 years! For 8 years, I’ve been working on improving my technique on the uniquely steep climbs that we’ve dubbed “the half pipe course”, and this year I feel I finally started to make that sought-after progress. I had the best sprint I’ve ever had, qualifying in 12th and being hundredths of a second from making the semifinals.
The next day, the individual 10km classic race, wasn’t quite as sparkly, although I certainly pushed my body right to the limit that day. I was frustrated with how my body felt during the race, like I was pushing up against my top race gear, hammering on the door and trying to get in, and was simply unable to. This is the feeling athletes often refer to as “feeling flat”, and it’s honestly the same feeling you get when you’re next in line for the amusement park ride and they shut down the ride before you can get on. This analogy makes no sense if you’ve never experience heartbreak while waiting to get on the Spongebob Squarepants Roller Coaster at the Mall of America, but I have, so just go with me here.
However, 20 minutes after the race, I had a larger self-pity problem going on, as my left hip had a rapidly blossoming inky black bruise and for some reason, I was unable to raise my left arm above my head. I had crashed on the far corner of the course, bounced right back up and kept hammering away during the race. I thought I’d gotten away with just a little “plonk” into the snow, but now that I couldn’t raise my left arm, I was re-thinking how I had fallen.
It was the injury scare that I needed, whether or not it was the one I deserved. It knocked me into a better mental state. Suddenly, instead of wishing I could feel closer to sharp race fitness, I was simply wishing to be able to race the next day. Pete Dickinson, one of our volunteer PT’s, did a quick screen of my shoulder in the wax truck. He reassured me that my shoulder was ok; my muscles had just tightened up and were pinching together to try and protect my hyper-mobile joints after I’d apparently smashed them into the snow.
As a racer, I sometimes have to issue an official apology to my body. This was one of those times. Luckily, my body was in a “forgive and forget” kind of mood, and other than a slightly sore hip, it didn’t hold a grudge. Within a few hours my shoulder had totally loosened up, and I was psyched to race the next day.
The other thing that got me excited was seeing my teammates performing so gosh darn well! Sadie came in with a 3rd place in the classic sprint, then she got a 4th place in the 10km classic with Rosie coming in 6th! It’s so fun to see my teammates on fire because I know how hard they’ve worked for it, and it feels like seeing a family member accomplish a hard-earned goal.
Without any pressure and with the only goal to chase down as many people in front of me as possible, I went out charging with everything I had. I ended up having my best ever day in Ruka with the 3rd fastest time of day in the 10km skate pursuit. It was a sneaky podium that FIS counts on your profile, just without the flower ceremony and giant wedge of cheese! Apologies to our wax tech JP and his fondue set that is waiting underneath the wax bench in the truck. With or without the pomp and circumstance, I felt equally proud of my effort and the team effort behind the race that it took to get such awesome skis gliding in that cold, compact snow! I felt one giant step closer towards that feeling of unlocking my top race gear, which is exactly where I want to be this early in the season.
I went out charging with everything I had
Our next stop is in Lillehammer, and I’m not sure what I’m more excited to see…the Christmas lights all down main street, or the 10 different varieties of brown cheese in the grocery store!