I recently had to clean up a lot of photos on my computer, and I went through a LOT of memories during this process. I realized just how much growing up I did on the road with various ski teams throughout my life. Here’s these photos of little 18 year old Jessie, tagging along after the experienced athletes. Most likely peppering them with questions as I went. “How do you warm up? What do you do between sprint heats? How do you tell if a ski is fast?” To all of my older teammates: I’m so sorry for this.
The underlying question underneath it all, of course, was “how do I get to be like you people? What do I have to do to be on this team forever?” I found a photo of me watching Chandra and Kikkan and Liz ski and there were stars in my eyes. I wanted to be like them in every single way. Still do, as a matter of fact! Only now I have a little more perspective and I know I also have some good qualities to add to the mix – I don’t need to be an exact copy of someone else. I just need to be me, and that’s good enough. And speaking of being good enough, this is a good year to keep on keeping on with some good self confidence as we head into another Olympics!

Our first team sprint win in 2012…and I didn’t know how to open the bottle of champagne! Kikkan had to give me lessons.

The most common question you’ll hear in the lead-up to an Olympic year is this: “What are you changing in your training leading up to the Games?” My answer (if I’m feeling snarky) is “everything! I’ve thrown out all the training advice that’s worked for me over the last 10 years and starting over!” Just kidding, I haven’t ever said that. But really, I’m changing absolutely nothing. You don’t fix something that isn’t broken, and XC skiing is a long-term game of patience and slowly getting faster and faster as you get older. There is no miracle training secret, no fast fix for anything. It’s just a LOT of hard work over years and years!

This morning’s hard, hard intervals. (photo by Matt Whitcomb)

The second most asked is: “Are you aware that the last time an American medaled at the Olympics it was Bill Koch in 1976?” Yes, I’m extremely aware – I grew up with his poster of surf-skiing Hawaii in my room! He made skiing look cool! He’s a national hero! Of course I know, and I’m doing everything I can to follow in his footsteps. But just thinking and hoping and wanting it doesn’t do any good – its the day to day training that matters in the end. And that’s all I’ve been focused on this summer. One good day at a time.

Happy to see snow during a long run with the team! (photo from Kikkan)

Putting in the hours over a long ski/run…and then resting a lot, too!

The summer, in fact, has totally flown by. I feel like I was just in New Zealand! Somehow, in between that camp and now I’ve flown to Minnesota for 20 hours, been in Stratton, Vermont for 2 weeks, and then come back West for our last US Ski & Snowboard team camp of the year in Park City, UT. As crazy as that sounds, it’s business as usual for me to be bouncing from camp to camp. I feel like I thrive in camp environment, partially because it’s so beautifully simple: you train hard, rest hard, and eat a lot.

Park City Media Summit to talk about our sport before the Winter Games.

I also love being with my team all the time because I feel like I’m passionately invested in making this individual sport a team one. We only lift the level of US skiing up when we’re training together and pushing each other. So organizing my life around team camps, always cheering on my teammates and encouraging them in the gym, and just being a team cheerleader in general makes me feel really psyched up. I love seeing my teammates improve and feel confident in their training, and when they’re not as confident, I want to be there for those times, too, to help where I can. I always describe our team members as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Everyone contributes a vital piece, and it doesn’t work unless everyone buys in. Every piece is totally different, too! While my specific role may be the team cheerleader, I really suck at logistics. That’s not something I’m helpful with. Luckily for us, someone else is. Everyone contributes something totally unique that we all need, and we’re all better for it.

Training with the junior NEG camp girls!

So, when reporters ask the third most-asked question: “Who’s your role model?” I actually get kind of annoyed. I mean, how can you pick just one when you have hundreds of people who have inspired you, 7 big sisters for teammates, coaches who have put their lives on hold to give us the chance to achieve our dreams and parents who taught you everything you know? It’s an impossible question. I don’t have enough room on this blog to list all the people who have inspired me. But if you’ve ever come training with me, coached me, cheered at a race or been a huge fan of our team, you’re on it.

Coaches running big bags of clothes down the mountain after bounding intervals up it.

I’m finishing up an altitude training block here in Park City and headed home on Tuesday to be with my family in Minnesota! And I’m intensely excited for it. If you’re around the Twin Cities on Nov. 1st, come train with me and get a poster at the Super Clinic hosted by Salomon! From 6:30-8:30pm at Theodore Wirth Park Chalet. It’s free, open to everyone, and all you need is a pair of running shoes. We’ll do a short training session together, then I’ll talk about what the year will look like for me and what I’ve been doing for training. Hope to see you there!

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