Here we go again! The first World Cup weekend is under our belts and it felt SO GOOD to get the jitters out! I never know how it’s going to go until I’m actually on the course, racing, so it was a relief to get the first races out of the way. But I swiped my glitter on my cheeks, pulled on my red, white and blue suit, laced up my boots and by the time I’d gotten on course to test skis, habit had taken over and I was much less nervous.
For the first time in about a year and a half (that I can remember, anyways) I raced on hard wax classic skis instead of klister! Wow. Climate change is a scary, scary thing and when it rained 3 days before the World Cup opener – in late November this close to the Arctic Circle – I was pretty nervous for what the season would look like. But luckily for us, it snowed and we got to race in real wintery conditions. Which made all of us struggle to remember how to kick in soft, new-snow tracks!
In the classic sprint, I was absolutely thrilled to qualify in 13th place, making it through to the rounds. The course in Ruka is perhaps the World Cup venue least suited to my strengths as it has a lot of sharp climbs that are more running than actual striding, with quick switches from herringbone to steep striding and back again. This is something I’ve been working hard to improve, but I still have farther to go! And being able to qualify was a sign that all our work over the summer has kept me moving in the right direction. (Whew)! During the quarterfinal I really struggled to find my technique as the tracks were melting down in the snow, and I felt like one of those cartoon characters that is trying SO hard to run but just spins their legs in a circle and doesn’t go anywhere! So, I didn’t move on from my quarter, but I know exactly what I need to work on to improve for next time.
In the distance race, I was ready to get after it right from the start, and it felt good to blow the cobwebs out and really push hard again in a distance effort. I must have looked pretty bad at the finish line, with glassy eyes, because PT’s and doctors from other teams were making sure I was ok! But I was happy with my race, and it made me excited to get after it again in Lillehammer!
And now, a brief message for high school officials. Particularly the ones who told me to wipe the glitter and face paint off my face back when I was in high school. I’d like to explain where the race day glitter came from, and respectfully point out that if I’m allowed to have face paint and glitter on my face at World Cups, the World Championships and that little event called The Olympics, high school racers should be allowed to have glitter on at Minnesota state meets. I’m pretty passionate about this!
The glitter on my cheeks during a race started as a reminder to myself that I race because it’s fun, and I love to ski. I used to get so nervous before races that I could barely function, and I’d definitely waste a huge amount of energy. So putting on glitter was a special reminder to myself that I didn’t need to worry about the outcome of the race, only worry about giving it my absolute best effort, and to remember to enjoy the process. Because that’s what it’s all about. If you only race to win, you’ll be sorely disappointed, because the awards ceremony lasts a full 10 minutes and that’s it. But training, traveling, racing, and being part of a team lasts for a lot longer than that!
Putting on glitter before my race is a salute to the little girl who just wants to “go super speed!!!”. It’s a promise to myself that I will race my absolute hardest that day. It’s a ritual that gets me in the right mindset to get out of the start gate and give it everything I have. It’s harmless, doesn’t negatively impact anyone, but to me it’s a huge part of my race morning. To my team, it’s become a habit of mine that everyone is used to. I glitter up anyone who comes to the door asking, and whomever I’m rooming with gets a big swipe on each cheek.
And on relay days? Oh man. I get so excited about relay days. I get to paint the flag, “USA” and stars on the faces of my teammates, and one of them will paint it on me as well. Then I put glitter over everything! It’s a special time when everyone is nervous, and excited, to be representing our country and we get together early in the morning to help each other get ready and deal with our pre-race nerves. It’s a little bit like our special striped relay socks…it’s part of what we do, as a team.
So this weekend, I’ll definitely be breaking out my little jar of sparkles as we have a mini-tour here in Lillehammer! Friday is a classic sprint, Saturday a 5km skate individual start and Sunday is a 10km pursuit start classic race. Wish us luck!