My plan to have a quiet, boring spring went sideways faster than you can upload your google calendar. But it’s been exciting, too! You can’t always control how things are going to go, and sometimes you need to roll with what’s happening in the moment.
Not including the post-Olympic media tour or phone interviews, since the last race of the season I’ve done over 25 events for sponsors, schools, open community events and appearances. It’s been only 50 days since that last race in Craftsbury. People have asked if, and how, my life has changed since the Games. My answer is that nope, my life is the same and I’m still a dork! I’m just a much busier dork with a little more on my plate, and a few more chances to inspire others and speak up for the causes I care the most about. Which is the best thing ever.
I’d have to say the very best thing that happened out of all my time at home was that I got to help grow excitement and find the right sponsors to partner with the Loppet Foundation as we put in a bid to host the first World Cup event in the USA in 17 years! All the hard work paid off, and just this week our bid was scheduled for a race in March of 2020, in the Twin Cities. I got the email before training two days ago and spent the following 10 minutes jumping around my kitchen whooping and hollering, I was so excited! Of course, the exact race format and date may change as we move closer, so we are trying not to count our chickens before they hatch. But this is an incredible first step towards building cross country skiing in the US!
I am so, so proud of all the work that the Loppet Foundation has taken on and so extremely grateful to all the companies that are signing on to sponsor the event. More to come on this later, but for now it’s enough to say that it means the world to me that all the junior skiers all over the US will have the chance to finally see their heroes racing right in front of them, at the highest level of racing in the World. What better way to inspire the next generation, than to bring their heroes right to them so they can have a front row seat to the World Cup races? And personally, I’m so excited to finally be able to race at the World Cup level in my home country for the first time in my life!
The other thing I’m extremely proud of has been becoming Protect Our Winters newest ambassador. On April 25th, I took a day trip to D.C. to address climate change with members of Congress alongside fellow Olympians and representatives from Protect Our Winters and the Citizens Climate Lobby. One week after our visit, one of our Minnesota Representatives changed his stance on climate and joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a huge step! Actions like this make me feel hopeful for our future, and make me realize what a huge impact our voices have when we decide to use them. I wrote a blog about the trip for Protect Our Winters, and here’s the link if you’d like to give it a read! https://protectourwinters.org/with-a-medal-in-my-pocket/
But hey! Don’t worry, I’m still putting training and my team commitments first. Somehow I’ve managed to squeeze in twice a day training while at home this May. April was my month off, and here’s exactly what I did with it, training-wise. The first two weeks I made myself take the time completely off from anything I would even remotely consider training. And you know what? That’s hard for me! I’m a really active person and I love doing things all the time. But after a long season of racing and traveling and training so hard I wanted to make sure my body truly has a chance to recover, and absorb all that hard effort. So every year I don’t do anything more physically active than the 10 minutes it takes me to bike over to join my boyfriend for lunch in the downtown Boston park. It also means that mentally I have a full break from training, and when it’s time to get going again, my body tells me.
One morning mid-April I woke up and realized that what I really wanted to do was go to the gym and lift weights. So, Wade and I went to the gym! The next day I decided it would be really fun to “play” tennis. I use quotation marks here because I am actually the absolute worst at tennis so we can’t really play the game well, but hey, it’s still fun! The second two weeks of April I spent my time doing whatever I thought would be fun that day. If it was raining and gross outside and I didn’t want to go be active, I didn’t! Because there will be plenty of times later this spring and summer when it’s horrible weather outside and I’ll have to go get my training done regardless. So it’s important to me to keep April fun and free and spontaneous. Then May 1st I started up with official training again, but the plan Cork writes for me started nice and easy, with something like 4×4 minutes level 3 for my first interval set. To put that in perspective, later in the summer I’ll be doing more like 5×10 minutes level 3. It’s important to ease into things, not give myself an overuse injury or burn out!
If you want to impress me, don’t tell me how many hours you’re training. Frankly, I don’t care. Tell me about the volunteer work you’re doing coaching little kids. Tell me about the time you realized you were getting sick, so you DIDN’T go to practice and do intervals. Tell me about how you compare technique ideas with your teammates, not training logs. Tell me about the time you truly went your own pace in Level 3 intervals, instead of racing your teammates and going too hard. It’s not difficult for me to put in a lot of hours training, but it is tricky to find the line between recovering and training smart, and not cross that line. The athletes I’ve always been most impressed by are the ones that stick up for what their body needs in training, and feel confident following their plan. We shouldn’t all be training the same hours and doing the exact same plan, because we are different individuals with different body responses to training! So one of my goals going forward is to feel confident in doing what my body needs, whether that is backing off on the training plan for the day if I’m feeling tired and on edge, adding a little volume if I’m absorbing all the training, or doing L3 intervals on my own in order to truly go my own pace.
I spent the first two weeks of May with my family in Minnesota, and it was great getting to roller ski once again. It feels so strange the first few steps on roller skis! They’re so short compared to skis! I got to ski over all my favorite loops and interval hills on my old stomping grounds, and go for long runs in the Afton State Park. I was often joined by my high school coach Kris and her daughter Siri, my Mom on her bike, or my high school friends so it was easy to stay excited and motivated, sharing the hard work of training with others.
On Saturday the 12th we had the big “Jessie Diggins day” in Afton, Minnesota! There were a couple thousand people there to celebrate cross country skiing, try the new ice cream flavor the local shop named after me, and get a poster. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t pick the flavor but it’s delicious – vanilla with strawberry and blueberry fruit swirls, served with gold sprinkles. It’s been so much fun getting to share the excitement of the past winter with the ski community I grew up with! Seeing the faces of young skiers as they get to hold the Gold Medal is priceless, and also the best feeling ever. You can practically see their goals getting set, their excitement to get outside and get rocking and rolling with their teammates growing.
I had such a blast getting to throw the (ceremonial, of course!) first pitch for the Minnesota Twins team. To be totally honest, my hand-eye coordination is TERRIBLE and I am such a poor throw that my boyfriend Wade took me out to the field near his house in Boston for throwing lessons, because I was so nervous! And I have to say, he’s one amazing coach. Not that I’m biased, of course. But he helped me get the basics so that I actually made it to the plate…against all reasonable expectations I had for myself. I just wanted to do better than Fifty-Cent’s throw.
To wrap up a great visit home, I went to speak to my old High School, Stillwater. It was so fun to come back after eight years, and get to inspire and hopefully motivate the current group of students! It was also such a treat to see my teachers and get to share the medal with them, because after all, they’re the ones who helped me catch up with all my homework when I was flying around the World for ski races all year long!
Right now, I’m in New Orleans for a day with the Smuckers company, before flying on to Bend, Oregon for our first US team camp of the season! I’m so, so excited to see my SMS T2 teammates, my national team teammates, and all the coaches. I really miss everyone when we’re going our separate ways in the spring, so it’s going to be good to get the crew back together. Check back soon for updates from Bend!