The week in between Davos racing was, by all accounts, pretty awesome. Sure, we still didn’t get enough snow to open more trails or go on epic sled runs, but at least we got enough to build a snowman! GLASS HALF FULL, PEOPLE! I got to spend more time in town, wander around and make new friends.
Together with Vadim, a PT for the Russian team, I organized a sort of meet-and-greet with the Russian girls. A lot of them are really friendly, but different team culture and expectations combined with a bit of a language barrier (and unfortunately, my complete lack of Russian language skills didn’t help with this one) meant that although some of them wanted to make friends on the World Cup, they were too shy to do so. My teammates and I were really curious to meet them and see what life is like for them on the tour and through summer training camps, and they felt the same. So one night 5 of the Russian girls came over to our hotel and we hung out and got to know one another a bit better! True to my Minnesotan roots, I had a plate of cookies to share and they also brought some dessert, and with Vadim translating we asked all sorts of questions.
And you know what? People are people the world over. We play some of the same games, we giggle over the same silly things, we all miss our families back home and we all get a little homesick when traveling the whole winter. I was really glad to get to know them a little better, and the rest of the week we’d smile on the track and wish each other good luck for the races. I think sometimes, being a ski racer and having competition be such a big part of our lives, we can forget to reach out and be open to making new friends. But in my mind, it’s not just racing and traveling that I do all winter…it’s also my life, and I want to meet and share fun experiences with as many people as I can! Just because when the gun goes off and the clock starts, I’m racing and want to do really well, doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with the people I race against and congratulate them afterwards, or hang out when we’re off the snow.
When Andy left to spend some time in the States, I begged volunteered to babysit his guitar. So I’ve been having a grand time learning new songs…mostly Christmas tunes and Taylor Swift, of course.
And finally…the races! My Dad always tells me he wants to hear “the blood and guts”…what really goes down out there and what I really thought of the races. So I’ll take you through a little bit of the mental “blood and guts” of racing, and what goes on in my mind during a weekend of racing. The 10km skate day was a mixed bag for me. Any time I can get into the points is a good thing, and should never be taken for granted. Especially since in a World Cup field if you are off your game by even a tiny bit you will fall right out of the points faster than I can fall on a downhill. So to finish 27th was good…and yet, I was pretty disappointed with my race. I just didn’t feel as sparky as I had wanted, and with the stadium area a sheet of ice I felt like I wasted energy bobbling and trying to stay balanced while moving quickly. I was also crazy nervous before the start, and I passed over the line from productive nerves that help you and give you wings to so many nerves that I couldn’t accurately test skis, and I had to get Cork to take over for me. During the race, however, I was was able to focus and push every second, and although it hurt I felt like I was so focused that the time flew by. I was also extremely nervous about the icy downhills, and skidding around the corner I felt lucky to not catch a tip and go down!
They say pressure makes diamonds, and that’s true, but too much pressure can totally squash you, especially if it’s the kind of pressure you put upon yourself. The difference for me is feeling nervous but also confident and able to focus on my race plan and what I can, and will, do well…or feeling nervous and then panicky and “oh, I hope this works out!”. But don’t worry, I learned my lesson for the next day.
I was talking to my sports psychologist, and she asked me to describe the sprint course. I told her about it – 2 laps, mostly flat with a steep uphill and 2 sharp corners, short finishing stretch. Lots of fans, loud announcers, 6 starting gates, separate start gate for qualification, music playing over the loudspeakers. Then she asked me what I thought about the course. Did I like it? I immediately said no – it wasn’t suited to me when it was icy, it was way too short, there wasn’t enough opportunities to pass and I wasn’t aggressive enough to move through the field. And there was my mistake. She reminded me that while there are always going to be things about a course that don’t suit me, I need to make friends with the course, focus on the parts I AM good at and the parts that DO suit me, and come up with a game plan for the trickier parts.
So I did!
I thought about how I liked the long slightly uphill V2 section, how I could get into the tiniest tuck ever over the top of the hill, and how I was good at remembering to push hard into the downhill. I thought about how I had practiced taking the best line around the sharp right hand corners and I visualized myself carrying speed into the uphill out of the corner. When it came time to qualify I had already seen myself doing it in my head, so I simply had to calm down and let myself ski well! It was a much needed confidence boost to make the rounds, and I was thrilled to have a chance to race again that afternoon.
In my quarterfinal I got off to a slow start and wasn’t as aggressive right out of the gates, so I quickly found myself pushed to the back of the pack. I focused on staying relaxed for the first lap, and ready to make a move should any windows open up. On the long V2 straight I started to make a move up the outside, and into the uphill. But going around the corner wide cost me a little speed, and I couldn’t pass decisively. The Swedish girl saw me coming and moved to block me, (which was a smart move and totally legal, although it really sucked for me) and I had to nearly stop on the uphill or risk falling or crashing into her. Getting back up to speed cost me the places I had tried to gain and I finished my heat in 5th place. But I was proud of my efforts and although my tactics didn’t work out, I had moved when I saw an opportunity and done my best!
Now, I’m super excited to have a week and a half here in Davos with my family. We are staying in a lovely little apartment and I’m ready to soak up some much needed rest and family time!