Lillehammer! It’s a really fun venue to race at. The fans are great, the atmosphere in the stadium is electrifying, and the energy from racing day after day in a mini-tour gets you pretty pumped up.
For me, the race weekend was a mixed bag of highs and lows, but I was able to go into and out of each race with pretty much the same attitude and outlook, which is something I’ve been working on and getting better at each year. I am a really happy and optimistic person, and to let myself just be myself no matter how the racing goes is to be able to bounce back from a tough race, or remember what a good race felt like and then prepare for the next day. Just because a result isn’t what I was looking for doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy the energy of the race stadium, or the rest of the day!
The first day of the mini-tour, the skate sprint, was such a weird day for the whole team. Sadie was the only one to qualify for both men and women, and there were some mighty long streaks of sprint qualification ended that day. For me, it was weird because I haven’t failed to make the skate sprint heats since the first World Cup sprint I ever did, in Drammen 2011. I know exactly why I didn’t make it, too…I wasn’t totally prepared for the speed I was going to feel on the downhills and sweeping corners in the glazing snow. I didn’t have great downhill confidence after falling in Kuusamo, and I’m sure seeing what happened to Noah freaked me out a lot more than I admitted at the time. I bobbled on both downhills, almost falling and then scrubbing speed as I struggled to get back onto a better line around the corner. It cost me precious seconds and in a World Cup qualifier, especially in a field with this depth, making small mistakes becomes quite costly. I shrugged it off as best I could and just told myself that I would have a lot of extra energy for the skate 5km the next day!
I got my downhill confidence back the next day, and was skiing with every second in mind during the 5km. I definitely would have paced it less conservatively on the long uphill if I could do it again, but because I arrived at the top without jelly legs, I was able to aggressively take each turn on the way down and hammer into the stadium. I could tell it was a big step closer to how I want to be racing because my focus was 100% on every stride during the race, and I don’t really remember what I was thinking, just that I was present for every moment.
Unfortunately, during the 10km pursuit start classic the next day, I didn’t have that same focus. My body was tired and not performing how I had hoped it would, and although I think my technique was better than last year, I struggled to stay upright. About halfway through the race I just wasn’t having fun anymore and wasn’t mentally into it, and didn’t really care if I finished 30th or 50th. That’s awful for me because what I am good at is hammering my heart out, and if I can stand up at the finish line, I feel like I haven’t done my job because I had more to give. But after thinking about it, when I race about 30 times a year, it’s not realistic for me to absolutely kill myself like I do in relays two or three times a weekend. I mean, sure, to be a cross country skier is to be slightly masochistic, but I’m also not crazy! Well, not that crazy…
It’s pretty cool, when I step back and think about it…so many people all so dedicated to the same goal, from all over the world, each trying as hard as they possibly can with all their focus and drive. When races go well it’s easy to say Great Job, and when they don’t, it’s easy to criticize from the outside – it’s so easy to look at a result sheet and say “what happened? why are the US skiers not going as fast as last year?” when perhaps there are reasons, like illness or injury, but sometimes it’s as simple as it wasn’t a good day. But everyone has days when they are trying their hardest and still don’t meet their biggest goals. Most days it’s impossible to put in the kind of passion and 100% focus that it takes to have a spectacular race. To me, the really courageous people in life are those who can put everything they have on the line, and maybe fail multiple times in front of the world, and never give up. Everyone has bad races once in a while, and even bad years, but it’s the people who keep putting their heart into what they’re passionate about that I admire most, and try to emulate.
And that’s exactly why I never read the comment section of ski websites, or spend time analyzing articles written about myself or the team. Was it disappointing to have a race weekend that didn’t come close to how I felt racing last year? Yes, of course! But I know that my race shape is getting closer every day, and I know that after how hard I trained all summer it will take more time for my body to rest and get racing fast again.
Besides just racing, I always make an effort to have a “real person life” in each town I go to. It can be shockingly easy to turn into a little skiing machine and spend all my time in the hotel, and let racing become the center of my life. That’s not that fun, or that healthy, to be perfectly honest. I need some balance, so I always make sure to walk around each town, maybe do some Holiday shopping for family gifts, find some fun postcards, or just wander around and get lost. I get lost a lot, actually. 🙂 I also went to the movie theatre our last night in Lillehammer to see the 3rd Hunger Games movie, which was really fun!
Now the team has just arrived in Davos, where hopefully we will have enough snow to race a 10/15km classic individual start, and a skate sprint! I love this town and I’m really looking forward to spending another week there. We always stay at the Kulm hotel, where the family that runs it treats us like family and we feel right at home!