Hello, California! I’m in Squaw Valley right now, and Kikkan is taking me “real alpine skiing” for the first time! It’s been a crazy few days; after World Cup finals ended in Falun, the US girls stayed for the Fast and Female event, which was great. Then we spent the night in Stockholm before parting ways and flying home. I was home for about 14 hours, which was basically one looooong layover but was enough to spend good time with my family and spend a night in my own bed! Then I flew out to Cali. So I guess you could say I’m slightly jetlagged and worn out by now. But I’m still really excited to see everyone at finals and get some serious sun exposure.
If you were brave enough to scroll down the page, you’ve probably noticed that this is a pretty long block of writing I’ve got going. That’s because it’s my “season wrap-up post”. I know that the season isn’t really over yet…there’s still the 4 races of spring series and a 30km nationals race, but the World Cup season was, for me, a different entity and one that deserves a post of it’s own. It was, after all, my life for the last 5 months!
I’m definitely pronouncing the season a success. World Championship Gold aside, there were so many great things that happened this year. The team stuck together, supported each other, and had fun. Every girl on our team hit a top-10 and a new career personal best result. Some of us had injuries and worked through them with a great attitude and didn’t miss a step. We hit our team goals of a relay podium and medal at World Champs. We gave back to the community through Fast and Female events, kids clinics and school talks. I got to stand on the top step of the podium with my family there watching. We made a crazy music video as a team while training on the road. Young skiers told me they wanted to get on the US team someday and they were going to keep skiing until they made it.
Not that there weren’t challenges. I got sick twice – two weeks before the Tour de Ski and right after it. The team had one or two down weeks where everyone seemed to hit their “I’m-tired-and-I-just-want-to-go-home” threshold at once. There were days when I wanted so badly to be going to a college party instead of feeling the pressure of racing with the US flag on my back. I had issues with bone spurs on my heels and to take the pressure off, I walked around in backless shoes all winter – a serious fashion issue, to be sure (and my socks never stayed dry). But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s ups and downs to everyone’s job, and I feel so lucky that the good things far outweigh the less awesome parts!
Being on the road for months at a time definitely gives you some crazy experiences; some awesome, some that test your patience, some that really open your eyes and some that make you want to return multiple times. Here are the top 10 things I learned from this year on the road:
1. People keep asking us how our team seems to work so well together, and I think it’s because everyone is committed to one goal, we have fun as a team, and we watch each other’s backs. When you’re with the same group of people most of the year, it’s like your family – you know the best and worst about everyone, and you love them for it. If you’ve got a problem with something….say it, fix it, then get over it, because it’s too long a time on the road to hold grudges!
2. On the topic of people: getting to know the athletes from other teams has been SO fun. Everyone I met was so friendly, and getting to know them was really nice. Some were shy about their english, but I can’t speak more than a couple words in ANY other language, so I’m the one who should be embarrassed, not them!
3. It’s so cool to be traveling to new countries, and seeing new things. However, the one misconception most people have about our jobs and lives on the road is that we get to really explore each place and soak in the culture, which isn’t always the case (unfortunately). When we’re in the same place for at least a week, we usually get time to really check out the town, which I love, but most of the time we’re either supposed to take it easy because walking around for a day isn’t going to make you race fast, and after the race you’re pretty wrecked and tired!
4. Because we don’t have cars (and to be honest, they don’t let me drive the vans anyways!) when we get a chance to get out of the hotel, we do a lot of walking. That’s such a big difference from the US where everyone seems to just drive everywhere…in Europe, you see people biking or simply taking the long way by walking to their destination. I think that’s pretty sweet. It’s probably another reason why there aren’t many obese people in Europe, now that I think of it.
5. I can tell you which airports you’ll probably need to run to your gate in, which have the longest lines (ahem! Amsterdam), and which ones have awesome internet for when you get long layovers (I’m writing this in the MSP airport so kudos to Minnesota).
6. Sometimes it’s pretty sweet to be bopping around from one country to the next, but sometimes the constant travel gets to you and you just want to put down some roots and be in the same country for a few weeks at a time! Luckily, World Champs is a longer race series so we got to really feel at home in Italy.
7. That said (see #5) we’re getting really good at packing up our stuff. Not to brag, but….we can unpack and repack about as fast as my sister folds the laundry.
8. Whoever invented skype deserves a lifetime supply of high fives. Being able to see and talk with my family, especially when I was getting really homesick, was a life saver!
9. After living almost exclusively in hotels for the past 5 months, I know which hotels have great beds and staff, and which ones you end up putting the chairs out in the hallway because there isn’t enough room for both the furniture and your luggage!
10. Jet lag. It’s a thing. I’ve tried telling myself “I don’t believe in jet lag” but wow, my body sure does! Waking up in the middle of the night is such a downer, but you get over it. And that’s why they invented melatonin, right?
Well! There you have it. Now please excuse me, I need to get out the door so I can go alpine skiing! I went yesterday with Kikkan and her Mom, and it was my first time on alpine skis in about 6 years. It was also my first time skiing somewhere other than Afton Alps, which means I’ve never skied on a real mountain before (this is in no way a put-down on Afton Alps. It’s not Minnesota’s fault that there aren’t jagged peaks all over the place!) and I had an awesome time.
We also came to the Tahoe Donner ski club’s pasta feed, and met up with our ski buddies who are here early, and got to meet a bunch of really awesome young skiers. They were super enthusiastic and it’s always fun to see so many people pumped on Cross Country!