You guys…what a crazy year this has been. I left the US on November 14th, and this is my first time back in the states. People often ask how we manage being on the road for 4-5 months at a time, and it’s both easy and hard. Easy, because we adapt to our new “normal” fairly quickly. When you accept that you’ll be living out of your suitcase in hotel rooms for weeks on end, you fall into a new rhythm of packing and unpacking, traveling constantly. That can be both exciting and fun! I don’t know what kind of job I’ll get “when I grow up”…but I’m focused on appreciating the opportunities I have in the here and now.
Constant travel can also be hard, because it’s really tough to be away from family, friends and loved ones for such a long time! I never used to understand why people would ever want to retire from ski racing….why not do this forever? But now I think I get it. It’s not your body that wants to retire first, it’s your brain. I catch myself daydreaming about really simple things, like being able to sit on a couch instead of a hotel room bed. Doing laundry whenever I want (oh, the glorious fresh smell of clean clothes!). Choosing what I want to eat for dinner every night, and cooking it when I want, how I want. I’m always missing Wade, and every time I Skype my family in Minnesota, Leo the adorable dog runs over and gives the camera a little lick, and it’s hard to know I won’t be able to see any of them for a while.
The more ties I have to the US and Canada, the closer I feel to the people I love and the places I love, the harder it is every single year to pack up and leave. But I also know that this isn’t forever, and over the course of my entire life, ski racing will be only part of it. Although the memories from traveling and racing around the world, making friends in every country, will last me a lifetime! Speaking of, it was incredibly cool to have a reunion in Quebec with some of the women who have represented our country at an Olympics (embarrassingly, the US only started sending women in 1972 so there’s 52 alumni total). These women paved the way, persevered through ups and downs and inspired the next generations. I was honored and inspired to shake their hands and meet them!
Now that I have a little down time to rest and reflect on the season, I’ve been thinking about what happened over the past year. It was going by too fast to even begin to process in the moment! Here’s a look back at the last 365 days, and what I learned from them.
In the 50 days following the Olympics, I packed in 25 events, with more to come in the summer and fall. I shamelessly pitched the World Cup coming to Minnesota in pretty much every interview, unsolicited, until we gained more traction. We’d been asking our NGB for years for a World Cup in our country, but I vividly remember a conversation I had a few years ago with Noah Hoffman around the dinner table, when we were talking about how amazing it would be for the US ski community if we got a World Cup race someday. He looked me in the eye and said “just how badly do you want this to happen? We’re not like other sports. Nobody is going to do this for us. If you want a World Cup race in the US, YOU have to be the one to get in the drivers seat and get it started. I 100% think you can do it, but you have to show that you want it and you’re willing to work for it, or it will never happen.” He was right. I started making calls and the organizers at the Loppet Foundation in Minneapolis were psyched and ready to go. But without government funding (the US is the only country that doesn’t supply this to their sports), we needed a little extra spark to help get the momentum needed to fundraise the massive amount of money that a World Cup requires. The Olympics were that spark.
So I joined the Minneapolis World Cup host committee as the co-chair, and although I’m just there as an athlete advisor, I’ve learned so much from watching what happens behind the scenes. I can never take a single World Cup race for granted, now that I’ve personally experienced the crazy amount of work and dedication it takes to make even one race happen! I can’t say thank you enough to the passionate, hard working individuals on the Minneapolis World Cup committees because without them, our sponsors and help from US Ski and Snowboard, we’d never have a World Cup on the calendar.
The date for the race? March 17th, 2020. Mark your calendars, folks!
Find out more information at their website: https://www.mnworldcup.com/
This is where you can find a map of where the park hosting the races is located, sign up to volunteer or become a partner, or read up on the other festival events leading up to the World Cup race on Tuesday!
Now that I’ve made my little pitch for the race (thanks for listening)…back to what I learned from this crazy year! I worked on my public speaking skills as a result of working hard to attract sponsors for the World Cup, and as a result I got hired by an NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, as a motivational speaker. I found my voice, (if you’ll pardon the bad pun), and realized that I love public speaking for the chance to inspire many people at once and share what I love about this crazy sport and our gritty team. I joined two boards, the Share Winter Foundation (focused on getting kids out on snow and teaching them skiing skills they can have for life) and the SMS T2 team board as an athlete representative. I got a little peek behind the scenes of marketing teams from many national and international brands I’ve been fortunate enough to partner with, and found that I have a passion for marketing and building brands. In the past few years, I’ve received the education of a lifetime, and I value every little bit of it.
I learned that athletes can have a really loud voice when it comes to speaking up about important issues, or changes they want to make. And I don’t want to reach the end of my career, look back, and realize that I never used my voice to say anything important. Choosing to speak up about my recovery from an eating disorder and sharing my story was the best decision I could have possibly made. Taking away some of the stigma and mystery surrounding eating disorders by telling EVERYONE that I had one can hopefully open the door for athletes currently struggling to not be as scared to reach out for help.
Wearing the Emily Program logo on my headband at every race is a reminder of not only how far I’ve come and that it’s possible to turn your life around, but that I’m racing for something larger than myself. All the messages I’ve received from athletes, saying that they saw themselves in my words and were going to focus on their health and recovery, brought happy tears to my eyes every time I read a new one. The emails from parents and coaches saying that they were grateful to have an understanding of what it’s like to have an eating disorder were uplifting, because with awareness, understanding and open conversation, we can help a lot more people.
I have an exciting announcement to make soon (and it deserves it’s own blog post, gosh darn it!), but for now I’ll leave you with this; writing short blog posts about my experiences in the hope of helping others has been such an honor, and something I’m passionate about. And I’m working on something a BIT longer than a blog post, to share more of my story and hopefully inspire and help more people.
Hectic schedule? Absolutely. Given the chance, though, I wouldn’t take anything back. Helping bring the World Cup to Minnesota is one of the things I’m most proud of, and getting the US back in the World Cup calendar will be something that outlives me and helps the next generation of skiers long after I retire. That’s always been the big goal, for me; to give more than I took from the sport, and help the next generation have a better starting point than we did. This last year has been a crazy busy year of giving back in all the ways I know how, and it wore me down, but man, it’s been worth it.
But just like a fuse that burns hotter and brighter right before the end, I realize that I’ve been hurtling along at a completely irresponsible pace towards early burnout. Somehow, I’d managed to pack about 2-3 years of work into one. I’ve felt a deep, underlying feeling of mental and physical fatigue all season, and I can’t sustain the pace I’ve been going at with all my “extra-curricular activities”. I want to be a good role model for younger athletes not just by finding ways to give back, but by finding a healthy life-work balance, and learning how to put my health and needs first so that I can continue to give back over a long and happy career.
And by no means was this year not a good season for me in terms of my ski career! I’m extremely happy to have 5 podiums, 2 of which were wins (I had the fastest time of day in Oberstdorf and hey, if it’s a 0-point FIS race, that’s a win in my book). Results aside, I’m proud of how I raced, and how I took a step forward technically. I gained confidence in myself and it showed in the way I raced sprint heats. Knowing that in many ways, the funding supplied to your team is directly tied to how many podiums you get can be the kind of pressure that crushes you slowly over a year. I had to learn how to navigate that pressure and was able to end the season happy and in a good place mentally. I pushed through a lot of self-doubt, self-imposed expectations and ups and downs. So perhaps more than the results, I’m most proud of reinforcing my belief that I am the only one who gets to decide if my race was a success. I judge based on how I raced, not how I placed, and shut out external expectations. All things considered, I feel that this year was pretty darn fantastic!
So this spring, I’m hitting the re-set button in every way; physically, mentally, emotionally. This meant that after the final World Cup races in Quebec and a whirlwind 30-something hour trip to NYC with Kikkan to promote the Minneapolis World Cup, I was done racing. I realized that it made absolutely no sense to force my falling-apart-body into spring series if my brain, heart and head weren’t going to come along for the ride. Although it was incredibly hard to miss being with my team and seeing all my US friends and racing alongside them, it was the right decision this one time. As soon as I got to Boston, I was sleeping 10-12 hours every night, my body soaking up rest and recovery like a sponge. The weird and annoying little physical manifestations of stress that show up on my body started to heal. I felt myself growing happier and more relaxed as the only physical exercise I did each day was walk to the grocery store or take a city bike to the LL Bean store to look up camping gear.
This April, I’m spending as much time as possible with the love of my life, and we’re headed to Peru to hike from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. We’re also hitting the beach with Wade’s family for a few days in San Diego, and in early May I’ll get some time with my family as well. My soul, my sense of adventure, my inner beach-babe and my desire to be with family are all fulfilled.