All you can ever give is everything that you have at this moment, this day, at this point in your life. It’s mathematically impossible to give more than 100%. So when each of us on the team crossed the line or tagged to a teammate and weren’t able to take another step, that’s certainly a small victory…knowing we did the best we could today. Heading into this 4x5km relay day there was an incredible amount of pressure, expectations and high hopes. We knew that if everything went right, we had a shot at a medal…but so did at least 6 other teams. That’s one of the reasons sport is so exciting, because everyone is hoping and preparing for the same goals, but you never know how a race is going to shake down until it’s over.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had reporters ask me what it would mean to this team to get a medal here in Sochi. Every time they asked me about medals and what I would define as having success at the Games, I answered that for me, success would be crossing the finish line and never having to look back. Knowing that I prepared in the weeks, months and years beforehand the best way I could. Knowing that I gave everything I could in the race and left it all out on the course. Knowing that there’s not one single thing I could have done to go faster, no stone unturned. And in my races here so far, I have felt that. Did we medal today? Nope, but it doesn’t change how I feel about myself and my team. I am so, SO very proud of this entire team and how we have prepared and handled the pressure of the Games, and results don’t define our character and team spirit; how we deal with them does.
Holly sent us all this awesome quote that really captures how I felt today: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Courage is having a tough moment, and not giving up. And we won’t.
And Pete Vordenburg sent this incredible email to the team at the start of the games, and this passage in particular really held my attention: “Every time you do something it is for the last time. Even if you do it again it will be different and you will be different. This is the only time you will ever do this. Enjoy it. Even the tough parts. Especially the tough parts. In a similar way every time you do something it is for the first time. Even if you have done this before this time it will be different and you will be different.”
These races at this Olympics will be different than any other races I’ll ever start, and so far they have been quite an experience. Some good, some tough, but all of them teaching me something new about team, about courage, about what it means to have a gutsy race.
So, the race today! Here’s a snapshot of the day, from my perspective. I woke up…and immediately skied the 5km race in my mind. I had been so nervous the last few days, my stomach tying itself into a tight knot whenever I thought about the relay race. But the only way to handle those nerves was to focus on the things I could control, which meant having a good game plan and knowing the course. And man, did I ever get that course down inside and out. I could ski every inch of it in my mind, knowing which line to take on every downhill, knowing where the shade would stay the longest and make the hardest track. That helped a little bit, because whenever I got nervous I could just take a deep breath and ski a section of the course in my head, picturing myself with the most perfect technique I could manage.
Luckily for me, although we had to wait until 2pm for the race to start, the girls were hanging out at the house and I had lots to keep my hands busy since there was a lot of hair-braiding and face-painting and glitter-applying to be done. Thank goodness for that. As always, putting on a little sparkle helped remind me that in the end, it’s just a race and it’s meant to be fun.
I think the very best part of our team is that we are so supportive of each other and we are one big team, even if a relay can only start 4 people. When we walked out the door to go to the venue, you couldn’t tell who was racing and who was cheering – we all looked the same with face-paint and glitter. Holly and Sophie and Ida were so awesome, grounding me when I was getting too nervous, letting me paint their faces even if it was just for the sake of giving me something to get my mind off the race.
I didn’t get to see any of the classic legs since I was out on the other loop, warming up. Liz was just heading out on her first lap when I got to the staging area and started jogging around, getting my bib on and taking all my layers off. Wow, was it hot and sunny out! I raced in my regular spandex bottoms but only a tank-top under my bib. And I somehow still overheated!
When I got the tag-off from Liz, I was only a couple meters behind Italy, so I jumped on board and worked with the Italian girl to ski the best 5km we could. It might have been hard to stay so invested in the race when it wasn’t going at all how we had hoped, had it not been for the incredible cheering from our team. Those guys and girls were amazing, screaming as if I was leading the race, and they reminded me why this matters so much. It doesn’t matter what place I was in; if my teammates fought for every second and the whole team is out there lifting us up the hills with their yelling, then every second I could get mattered immensely. I care too much about my team to just give up, so I fought as hard as I could.
On the last uphill before the drop down into the stadium, I kicked into the last gear I had and dropped the Italian girl. I was definitely struggling in the heat and must have been pretty dehydrated, because going down the last hill I was getting tunnel vision. I blanked completely and took the lap lane. I realized what I’d done a split second later and pulled a hockey stop to turn around, but fell and I lost us the 8th place spot as the Italian girl skied on by. That was a pretty dumb move by me, but I can laugh about it now. When I scrambled back up my legs immediately flooded and I wanted nothing more than to puke my guts up and then lay down, but I stumbled across the finish line and started looking for my teammates. We huddled together and said “well, that was a tough one, but we did out best” and nobody was in tears, nobody was angry, just proud of each other and our commitment to the team.
I finally got back to our house in the evening and was overwhelmed with the love and support flooding in from every direction – our coaches and techs, teammates, friends from other teams here, and especially from back home. I loved the pictures and stories I heard from the Chilkoot Café where all my friends back home got up at 3:30 am to cheer and watch the race…I heard there were about 200 people there! That’s amazing! It’s so incredibly awesome to feel that love from home, and it makes all the difference in the world. Thank you so, so much everyone!
There is one more race I will start here at the Games: the 30km skate! I am excited for it, and excited to hopefully see a lot more of my parents here before then. I’ll keep you updated on Endurance Village life!