I’m watching the snow swirl ferociously around the window, snowflakes magically drifting upwards as the wind gets caught around the side of the hotel. It’s amazing to see how much snow we’ve gotten both here in Davos and back in Seefeld, and I’m thrilled to be able to play in it, ski hundreds of kilometers on freshly groomed trails, and bomb down through the powder.
Let’s get something straight, though. Local weather is not the same as climate, and just because we’ve had a great snow year in some places doesn’t mean climate change isn’t a real threat. Although, sadly, our current president of FIS (the international ski federation) doesn’t seem to realize that. There is currently a petition circulating to remove him from office due to his comments on climate change, and other subjects. Read this article about the interview if you want to either have a laugh or get good and mad, but probably both. Clearly changes in leadership are needed so we can move forward based on real facts. I hope to see this happen during my career.
However, the head of our International Ski Federation showing ignorance on climate change wasn’t actually meant to be the topic of this blog, it just snuck its way in there. I don’t know how it happened! I must have blacked out.
The real reason I’m getting back to blogging is because the World Championships are right around the corner, and as usual, it brings a whole host of ups and downs with it. Right now I’m in Davos for a training camp, and it’s been a real rollercoaster! Every other day it’s bright and beautiful sunshine, and then it goes back to dumping snow on us. Kind of like your emotions when you’re nervous and overthinking the upcoming races, actually. We’re in the final phases of preparing for the World Champs, which means carefully planned out interval sets, lots of rest, and winding down the hours spent on the ski trail to let our bodies rest up for some hard racing ahead.
Every time I make a team it’s exciting, and something that I don’t ever want to take for granted. This will be my 5th trip to a World Championships, and just as every venue is unique and has its own feel, every year has its own challenges, pressures, expectations and excitement. It can be hard to find the words to express how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks, so I’m going to let the words of others help me out.
On dealing with pressure:
“The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn’t last. It’s all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing.” Jackie Joyner Kersee
Thinking back on my years of racing for my high school team at Stillwater, I had so much fun. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, especially when I knew it could help my team! Even back then, there was a lot of perceived external pressure my last few years of high school racing to win everything. It’s different than the pressure on the World Cup, but in many ways pressure is pressure, no matter where it comes from. When you feel it taking away the joy of competing, it sucks, plain and simple.
But that’s why we have a team, and it’s important to remember why we got into the sport in the first place. I mean, did we even get medals for winning state? I honestly don’t remember. I DO, however, remember the joy of showing up every day for practice, all the practical jokes we pulled on one another, the late night sledding at Giants Ridge and the sense of camaraderie and absolute belonging I felt as part of that team. I was so invested in my team that I remember taking a red-eye flight home from US Nationals so I wouldn’t have to miss a race! My teammates had my back, and I had theirs, and the happiness that we all got from being part of something bigger than ourselves was incredible.
The same holds true today (yes, even the late night sledding…and the pranks). There’s always going to be pressure to perform, whether it comes from inside my own head or TV show hosts. The best way to deal with it is to focus on the happiness and joy that I feel from skiing, from being part of an amazing team, and having fun with it.
On heading into the World Champs:
“Success required the emotional balance of a committed heart. When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape. A committed heart does not wait for conditions to be exactly right. Why? Because conditions are never exactly right.” -Andy Andrews
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because in my mind, it captures the feel of professional sports so well. Conditions, it seems, are almost never perfect. Just this week I got sick with a cold that had been going around, and it was definitely a challenge to my belief in myself and my self confidence! When you can no longer follow the carefully planned out intervals and strength routines because you’re sick, you’re forced to be flexible and adapt, shifting your training around. It can be so tempting to think “well, that’s it, then! I’m screwed. This won’t work, and don’t you DARE give me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ crap”, but that attitude has never helped anyone.
All you can do is play the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. There are so many things you can’t account for and can’t control, but by staying positive and focusing on the things I can control, I’m able to make a new training plan with my coach, and know in my extremely committed heart that I’m doing everything I can.
Whenever I get nervous – and people are often surprised to hear this, but here’s a little secret; you never stop getting nervous, you just learn how to work with it and harness the energy better – I think back and ask myself this: “am I 100% committed? Have I done everything I possibly can to find success? Am I doing the best I can right now, in this moment?”
And when the answer is yes, I can relax and let those nerves melt away, because there’s nothing more I could, or should, be doing. I’ve been training full time for almost 10 years, since the day I walked out of my high school graduation lock-in party and went straight to a roller ski workout with a pro team. I’ve poured everything into training hard and smart, and been committed through ups and downs to giving ski racing the best shot I have, so that I will never have to look back one day and wonder “what if?” And that’s what lets me relax those nerves before a big race, because I know that I’m as prepared as I possibly can be.
I think back on all the fun I’ve had while grinding out tough workouts with amazing friends and teammates, and I’m so glad I’ve had the experience of a lifetime, chasing excellence all around the world with a group of people just as committed as I am.
The night before the race:
“Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.” – Ronda Rousey
This is not the time to think on all the technique adjustments you think you need to make, how you would have trained differently, or how you wish you could ski like someone else. After the races, write it all down and think back on what worked for you, and what you can do to improve. But right before the race? This is the time to reflect on all the things you kick ass at. Know your strengths. Be ready to use them. Focus on the things you can do, and believe that you have the power to do them well!
On race day:
“As powerful as our legs are, as magnificent as our lungs and arms and muscles are, nothing matters more than the mind” – Scott Jurek
Scott Jurek, man. That guy knew how to suffer. He also knew that a strong mind was the most powerful weapon in sports. No matter what I’m feeling, I know that nothing can compare to the power of racing with an all-in, nothing-to-lose, might-as-well-give-this-everything-I’ve-got mindset. When I’m racing with absolute belief in myself and a positive mindset, ready to turn myself inside out and be ok with how much it hurts, it’s a very powerful thing. When I’m smiling on race day, look out, because when I’m in a great mood I can put myself though an incredible amount of suffering. To me, being mentally tough and ready to have fun, challenging myself to race as hard and fast as possible, is the best thing I can do for myself on race day.
So as the World Champs begin next week, wish us luck, and you know we’ll be racing our hearts out!