Well, I’m ready for a Holiday break, how about you? Time to cozy up with a mug of tea and admire the Christmas tree with my teammates. I’m living in an adorable (and very colorful!) little apartment with Liz, Ida, Andy and Noah in Davos over the two week break before the Tour de Ski fires up. Sophie and Simi are also living in Davos, but in their own apartment, and Caitlin is living here too with her family. The Holidays are always the time of year when I get most homesick, because it’s the time when I most want to be with my family and doing all the traditional things we’d do at home. My Mom, Dad, sister and I always go for a ski – or hike, if it’s a bad snow year – together on Christmas day and I always look forward to picking out and decorating the tree.
This is the most incredible job and I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love every day, and one of the harder decisions I have to make as an athlete is whether to stay over in Europe or fly home. In a two week break, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to fly back to the states, then come back to Europe and get over jet lag in time to start the Tour on January 1st. Extra travel can tire me out and increase the odds that I’ll get sick and miss World Cups, which is the whole point of training so hard year-round. So I always opt to stay over here, and luckily I have such wonderful teammates that I enjoy being around so that the Holidays aren’t lonely!
I’m getting ahead of myself. You probably want to hear the recap of the last weekend of races in period one of World Cups! First, a huge shoutout to our volunteer massage therapist for the last two weeks, Frederica Manning, and our Doctor for Davos, Kyle Nagle. It makes such a huge difference to have an MT and Doctor looking out for us and keeping our bodies in the best shape possible when we’re racing back-to-back races every weekend. All our team Doctors and PT’s and MT’s do, which makes them even more incredible. Thanks Fred for being our MT and “team Mom on the road”, and thanks Kyle for having our backs!
The weekend in Toblach, Italy, was another venue that did impressively well given that there has been virtually no snow in all of Europe so far this year. The last three weeks in Toblach, according to our Italian friends, have seen sun every single day and not a single snowflake! Yet the organizers were prepared and had covered the 5km race track with man-made snow that held together well even as it got above freezing in the afternoons.
Saturday’s skate sprint was such an exciting day for the US team! We had 6 qualify for the heats and score points (Simi, Sophie, Andy, Ida, Sadie and me) and of course the highlight was seeing the most exciting podium of the year (in my opinion) with Frederico Pellegrino (Italy) winning, Simi getting second (yay!) and Andrew Young (Great Britain) in third. How cool is that?!? Simi skied a brilliant race, moving through the heats and then taking the lead over the final hill into the stadium. He earned his first podium in a regular world cup sprint, and the second of his career (his first was a win during the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide). I’m so happy for him and proud of my USST and SMST2 teammate!
Personally, I had some really good things going on in the skate sprint and one glaring issue. I skied well in my heat, making clean but aggressive passes to get into second position rounding the corner into the finishing stretch. I was really proud of myself for finally, FINALLY not letting myself get pushed around, both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because on the final corner someone reached out a hand and shoved my shoulder, but unlike years past I stayed on my feet and didn’t let it impact my race, and I’m really proud of that! World Cup sprinting is aggressive and although it shouldn’t involve physical contact, the truth is that it does, and you just have to deal with it. Learn to sharpen your elbows, or get pushed around. I’m finally learning how to hold my ground. The bad part of my heat was that I rocked back on my heels and skied off-balance and really just terribly in the final 100 meters. I wasn’t skiing like myself at all, and I think because the course was so short I panicked and didn’t trust that I would have the power to ski with a slower tempo.
The good news is that I had a chance to redeem myself the next day with a 10km classic, individual start. I like the course in Toblach because it’s filled with the perfect pitch for “real” classic skiing – long powerful strides instead of running or herringboning up steep pitches that just makes everyone look silly. This is the kind of skiing you see on postcards. My body had some fatigue in it from racing every single world cup plus the two in Gällivare pre-season, and I felt like that last race gear that I usually can tap into wasn’t quite there on Sunday. That said, it was my best classic race so far this year and I’m so happy with it, because I’ve put in so much time working to improve my classic skiing and it’s finally showing with a top-20 world cup result!
A huge part of me becoming a better classic skier was all about believing that I was able to race everything, to be a true all-rounder. I’ve been profiled as a skate specialist and more importantly, I profiled MYSELF as a skate specialist. I knew that I could race both sprints and distance races equally well…as long as it was skate technique. I had to stop saying that to myself. I want to be good at everything. And the first step is coming out of that start gate in a classic race with the intention of scoring some points and racing the same way I do in every other race!
Before leaving Toblach, Liz, Andy, Noah and I went skiing with Debby Agreiter, one of our world cup friends on the Italian National team! I always enjoy visiting with skiers from other countries and getting to know them better, and hearing about what their experiences are like while training and racing the world cup. We had a fun ski and I was sad to leave the Italian sunshine…but Davos is it’s own kind of special paradise as well!
I don’t mean to brag, but I set a new speed record for myself yesterday. Nothing to do with skiing, of course, but everything to do with living life on the road. I got back from training, had a snack, showered and packed up my entire life into my bags in 30 minutes. BOOM! I’m not condoning procrastination as a viable strategy, but I’m getting pretty good at it. It’s a
problem gift. We loaded up the vans, and hit the autobahn. After a crazy pit-stop in the middle of Innsbruck during rush hour, during which we went grocery shopping because food in Davos is a little ridiculously expensive, we made it back on the highway and only got lost once! And then we cooked hamburgers, because we miss America. Stay tuned for an update from the Christmas-camp!