“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backwards after taking a step forwards is not a disaster. It is a cha cha.” – Robert Brault

I feel like the last few years have been big opportunities for learning more about myself; learning what I can do, what I can’t do (yet) and where I feel comfortable in the great balancing act of work, life, family time and outside commitments. It’s no secret that last summer I found myself completely overwhelmed by the number of things I was doing outside of training. I hadn’t allowed enough time for simply recovering and absorbing the crazy amount of training I was doing. As a result, I found myself feeling just a little bit emotionally and physically tired all the time…not enough to really notice it as it was happening, but with some hindsight, enough to notice that I feel much better this year! Over the last three years, I’ve done a little cha cha dance of taking one small step forward, one step backwards, slowing dancing my way to a happier place. I wouldn’t take back my schedule of last year, any more than you’d want to eliminate a step from the dance!

Last summer, my spirit animal accidentally started to look like this:


THIS summer, I’m finally finding some balance and the ability to say no when I need to, in order to prioritize time with my family and time to properly recover from all the hours of training. Now, my spirit animal looks much more like my dog:

That’s more like it.

That’s not to say I haven’t kept busy, but as I’m adding hours to my training, I’m learning how to keep a healthy balance. Here’s a little recap of the summer, and what’s kept me inspired and happy while training hard all over the world!

After an awesome start to the training season at home in Minnesota with my family, I went to Bend, Oregon for the first US national team training camp of the season. It was a great chance to meet new team members, train hard, but also just get some long hours on snow under our belts!

They say dogs and their owners sometimes look alike. Too much, maybe?

So happy to reconnect with the girls again! Sadie, Hannah, me and Hailey (photo from Matt)

Some of the crew on a long, fun crust ski up to Broken Top mountain. (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

When coach says “we’re headed up that mountain”. (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

Next, I had the awesome opportunity to fly across the pond and join the Norwegian National Team women in a training camp in late June. I already knew most of the girls, but it was such a fun chance to get to meet new friends and get to know everyone even better! I think what I loved most about that camp was seeing how much they care for each other and work to support a good team chemistry. I admire that even more than their incredible racing and work ethic (a big statement, since they’re amazing athletes all round), because the commitment to building the soul of the team is what will continue to grow those opportunities for success.

Having fun, but training hard with the Norwegian girls! This was after a tough strength workout.

I have so many friends on the World Cup circuit, from pretty much every country out there. It’s exciting to me to meet skiers from around the world, to get to know them. Despite growing up in very different places, we’re usually more alike than we are different. I also love that feeling of camaraderie that comes with recognizing that everyone has given a race their best effort, and you can be friends up until the moment the gun goes off, and friends immediately afterwards. I see this all the time on the US circuit, but I see it on the World Cup circuit every weekend as well.

Finish line hugs with Erika Flowers and Liz Stephen after a US Supertour race (photo from Reese Brown/SIA Images)

Getting a big hug from Marit after the last World Cup race of 2018 – and her last World Cup race ever. (photo from Falun World Cup)

When you see someone giving it everything they’ve got, it’s as though international boundaries and team lines melt away and you only want to congratulate and support a fellow human for a job well done. That’s why you’ll see myself and many other athletes patting backs, unclipping ski bindings and helping to untangle pole straps for anyone still trying to catch their breath in the snow after a race, regardless of what color suit they have on. I think this is one of the best parts of the cross country ski circuit, and one of the things I’ll be taking with me when I retire someday.

Getting some much-needed help from Ingvild and Heidi after the 2018 Tour de Ski finish line (photo by Fiemme ski World Cup)

I think this feeling is best summed up in an awesome quote by pro cyclist Amber Pierce:

“None of us can do as well solo as we do in a race when we compete with others. Your competitor is helping you to discover your limits and potential and how you have more in yourself than you thought possible. She is your greatest ally in that self-discovery, and you are the same for her,” says Amber. “Regardless of whether you win or lose, you are creating an arena in which you can reach peak performance. You are competing together because you bring out the best performance from each of you. In that regard, training hard and being as prepared as possible to give your best effort during competition is the best gift you can give your competitor, because she has to reach that much higher to find her own personal excellence.”

Beyond the obvious (don’t cheat, compete clean, DUH!) the best thing we could ever do for the competitors we admire and respect is to simply show up ready to give it all that we have. And I’m so grateful to each and everyone one of the women on the Norwegian team (and their coaches!) for having me and coach Jason Cork at their camp, so we can continue to push one another to the highest levels we possibly can!

At home, this is what we do every single season; we re-create and form a new arena where every member of the team can find opportunities to grow. The exact makeup and feel of the team is going to change every year as the people on the team change, but the commitment to helping each other find success is a constant.

After getting a few weeks of training in at Stratton, I flew up to Alaska to see Sadie become Sadie Maubet Bjornsen as she married Jo! It was so special to get to see a teammate but also very close friend get married, and of course the weekend also felt like one amazing team reunion! I finally got to meet Holly’s adorable babies and catch up on the stories of all my teammate’s lives.

Holly Brooks, Ida Sargent, me, Liz Stephen and Kikkan Randall all out for a mountain run.

On my way home, I stopped in Minnesota for a short but sweet visit with my family.

Leo and Dad swimming in the St. Croix river on a hot day

Then it was time for more training with my SMST2 teammates in Stratton!

A regular Tuesday suffer session (photo from Jason Cork)

Parking lot sprints with the junior training group (photo by George Forbes)

In addition to our weekly coaching sessions every Thursday afternoon for the local skiers, we hosted a few clinics as well, and it was very cool to see so many different junior skiers training hard and challenging themselves!

Honestly not sure what I’m doing with my right hand, but I’m trying to demo the pump track for an agility workout with the CSU team! (photo from Reese Brown)

I snuck in a camping trip with Wade, too!

We went “fancy camping” and brought a quilt…the same one I smuggled out of the Sochi Olympic village.

I’d been dreaming of doing the Presidential Traverse for a few years now, but due to the fact that it’s about 20 miles that goes over 8 peaks in the white mountains of New Hampshire, it didn’t quite fit into the training plan for a while. But this summer, I finally did it, with our club coach Pat O’Brien and Ida Sargent! It took us 7.5 hours and we added on an additional peak, but wow, what a day! My legs were crushed for a few days afterwards, but the views that day were well worth the inability to go down a staircase.

Pat, Ida and I on our way up Mt. Washington, about half-way through our epic 7.5 hour hike/run!

Because I love being cold and pretty much cease to function properly in the extreme heat and humidity, it was time to escape from summer and head down to my all-time favorite training camp: New Zealand.

Cork and Julia cruising on top of the world! *Or is it bottom of the world, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere?

This camp was just me, Jason Cork and Julia Kern, and we had an amazing time down under. Because it was just the three of us, it was really easy to decide what to do with our day off: paragliding over Queenstown!

Julia taking flight!

We encouraged each other in intervals, pushed each other in the New Zealand Winter Games series, and helped each other with our speed and technique goals. There are certain things like fast downhill corners, finish-line lunges, kicking classic skis in tricky waxing conditions and herringboning up hills that you simply cannot work on while on roller skis. We used the most of our averaged 650 kilometers that we skied those three weeks (oh yes, Julia added it up on her watch!) to work on all those skills as well as push our comfort zones in each of the 4 races we did!

They had some short but really steep hills on those race courses! I loved it. (photo by New Zealand Winter Games)

Practicing giving it everything I have. (photo from Cath Beattie)

The sunsets were ridiculous every few nights, as well. I swear, I did NOT edit the image below. It’s just that gorgeous.

This never gets old!

We also mixed it up with a really fun, long run halfway through training camp! In case it isn’t obvious, I have a huge crush on everything New Zealand.

Loving the single track running! (photo from Cork)

Goofing off in Wanaka! (photo from Julia)

Of course, camp wouldn’t have been complete without the traditional crust skiing day, where we got to practice our “Nor-pining” skills by making turns…on classic skis with klister wax on! Talk about committing to the turn!

Julia cooling me down with some fresh powder 🙂

All in all, it was an incredible camp, and I felt that my body absorbed the training and racing load well. I feel so grateful to have had that chance to push myself and get better during those three weeks!

Now I’m back in Stratton for a nice big block of training, and loving the steady rhythm of training, napping, cooking up really awesome meals with my roommate and teammate Alayna. We’re also into the sweet habit of re-watching Game of Thrones with a bowl of popcorn every night together!

Alayna and I were so impressed with the Stratton Nordic kids for going to the Global Climate Strike last week!

Alayna and I getting some sunshine time!

We have one last team camp coming up, and I’m so excited to get together with my teammates and create that arena where we can help each other reach our best performances. It’s our last chance to push each other to be better, to challenge each other in hard intervals, before the final few weeks of preparation leading in to the World Cup season. It’s not always convenient or easy to pack your bags and leave your cozy home to hit the road. I’d love more time in my own condo, more weekends with my boyfriend, more chances to plan little camping trips. But every time I go to camp, I think it’s well worth the time spent traveling in order to not only build myself into the best racer I can be, but use my strengths and years of experience to help build my teammates up as well.

In the wise words of Winnie-the-Pooh:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

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