Ok, I admit I am a little late to the blogging game! Sorry about that, but now I’m back from Russia and ready to tell you all about it!
First of all, the end of my little Seiser Alm training camp with Liz and Cork was awesome. We got a ton of fresh snow, and for the first time all year it felt like it was really winter! The skiing was amazing and Liz and I had some good interval sessions together. Cork put in some big training hours too!
Predictably, my favorite part of the whole week was the day we took sleds down the groomed sled run from the top of the mountain to the town below! It was EPIC. There were bridges we zipped under and tunnels we screamed through, and we got up to 48.5 km per hour!
To get to Rybinsk, Liz, Cork and I drove to Munich where we spent the night, then flew on a charter to Yaroslavl airport. From there we took a bus for a couple hours to the sports complex, Demino, which is actually a half hour out of the city of Rybinsk. There was a hotel, cabins, dining hall and the stadium and race trails, and we were effectively in the middle of nowhere because none of us had cars!
In a weird way, I kind of liked being stuck in our cozy little cabin. We had our Russian PT friend Vadim over with some of his family and they brought wood and made a roaring fire. It was really enlightening to hear about life in Rybinsk and such a nice gesture for them to come by and make our house so nice!
The first day of training it was pretty cold (-18 C if you’d like to know) but we were super ready for it. Growing up in Minnesota taught me how to race and go skiing in the cold! I might have actually gone overboard because during training and during the race I was actually sweating. The first race day was also pretty chilly, about -16 C, and I had taped almost every inch of my face. I actually raced in a buff for the first time in years (I can’t stand having anything touch my neck when I ski but this was an exception), and I wore fleece-lined tights under my race suit. Wowzers that was a lot of clothing I had on that day.
And how about Liz’s race, huh? If you haven’t heard about her second place on the podium yet, you should go to crosscountryski.us and watch her race immediately. It was brilliant. Not only was it a personal best for Liz, but the best distance result by any US Woman ever! I am so proud of her, although I have to admit it wasn’t a surprise…I knew this was coming for a while! Liz works so crazy hard and skis with so much heart, and it was so fun to see all that hard work pay off and come through in such a good way in that 10km skate. She is one inspirational woman, and I’m so lucky to have her as a teammate!
Personally, I had a race that was a step in the right direction. I had set a lot of small, process-oriented goals for myself for that race and I met each of them. I was really satisfied with how I approached the race and how I mentally handled it, but the 12th place was definitely a little bit of a disappointment for me, most likely because of how well I had raced in Rybinsk 2 years ago. It’s always hard to come back to a venue when you know you can do amazing, because it’s that much more pressure to perform this time around. That said, everyone has places that for whatever reason are really good for them. You don’t pick your place, it picks you. And Rybinsk seems to be one of those places for me! The rest of the weekend picked up right where I had left off when I was racing well last year. I started skiing with confidence and drive while having fun and soaking up the energy of the stadium and the crowd. I still made some mistakes and didn’t have perfect technique or anything, but I was really happy with how I skied and it gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.
The day of the skate sprint, it was snowing. And not just a little bit…winter was making up for all of the absent snow in a single morning. So the tracks were deep and soft and a little squirrelly, especially for the qualifier! Once all the men had come through it packed down a little more, so in the heats I didn’t feel like I was floundering around on the steep climb. Through my quarter and semifinal I was riding the energy and excitement of having so many US girls in the race: Sophie, Sadie, Ida and I all qualified and Rosie was 31st, so extremely close to the heats!
I knew my Salomon boards were running fast thanks to our techs and coaches nailing the wax, and so over the top of the final climb in my quarter I tucked behind the leader and slingshoted into first going into the stadium. I won my quarter so I advanced to the semis, where I raced with Sophie. On the steep climb I hesitated, not wanting to take the lead over the hill, but the girls to my right weren’t going either so I finally committed and pushed hard over the hill into my smallest tuck, and wasn’t passed until the finishing lanes where I finished second, making it into the final.
Before the final, I was jogging around with the other girls and I was having the time of my life! Jennie Oeberg (Sweden), the eventual race winner, had never made a final before, and neither had Silje Slind (Norway), and it’d been a long time since I’d made a final! We all knew each other from a few years of racing together, and we were just so excited to be there in that warmup pen. We were jogging around and high-fiving each other and wishing each other luck, and it’s cool that we can be friends right up until the moment the gun goes off, and then we’re all fighting for the medals, and immediately after the race we’re congratulating each other and asking each other about how the race went. When the gun went off, I had a little bit of a rough start, getting my equipment stepped on and my pole strap loosened, which distracted me more than I should have let it. I was also feeling a little tired, and when the pack went up the steep climb I tried my hardest but couldn’t hold on, and finished 5th. I know that with the right energy I could have been in there, and that excited “fighting for the medals” feeling was such a rush! I was extremely happy with my race, and 5th place is still currently my best result on the World Cup.
5th seems to be the number I’m stuck on, because the next day in the 15km skiathlon (7.5 classic + 7.5 skate) I finished the same place! I got out to a good start in the classic half, and my goal was just to ski smooth and efficient, and then start moving through the field in the skate half. Sadie and I were stoked because we later learned that our exchange-pit splits were 2nd and 3rd of the day…I mean, there’s no prizes given for clipping into your skate binding fast but it’s always a funny thing to look up afterwards! In the skate half of the race, I just barely managed to hold on to the back of a pack that was moving up through the field. I would start getting dropped and then latch back on, and get a second wind, then yo-yo off the back again. But I got my end-of-the-race kick just in time to ski into 5th, just 2 seconds behind the girls lunging it out for the last podium spot. Again I had that fighting for the medals excitement, and the belief that someday I’m going to be one of the girls lunging for a medal. Liz and Kikkan have been really inspiring me, and showing us younger girls on the team that with confidence it will happen!
While we were in Rybinsk, Ida had her 27th Birthday! We did the best we could in the small kitchenette to bake her some brownies and, randomly, pancakes!
So now we are back in one of our homes away from home, in Davos Switzerland. We have 2 weeks here for a training camp before World Champs, and there are a couple things I’d like to get done this week. 1.) train well and be as prepared for Worlds as I can possibly be 2.) make a new USST music video and 3.) visit my friends in the area and have a fun, relaxing week!