After the Tour de Ski ended, the only emotion I felt more than fatigue was overwhelming happiness! It felt so good to be done with the challenge of mentally and physically racing your hardest each day, but it also felt so good to have accomplished some big, big goals of mine and the team’s. This year we had more Tour finishers than ever, with 7 healthy athletes crossing that red line in the snow on top of Alpe Cermis. We had 2 stage wins, and a lot of PR’s in the overall Tour. I was happier than a bluebird with a french fry to have made one of my big goals for the season in finishing top-10 in the tour, and to have my first World Cup win on top of that feels like the icing on the cake. Here are some of my notes from each stage of the tour…what I was feeling, what it felt like to win the first modern distance World Cup for American women in cross country, and some of the fun things we did as a team throughout the Tour.
The 5km individual skate race in Toblach was one of the best races of my career. I just love those individual start races, because there’s no tactics, no games, no strategy other than just going out there and skiing your heart out. And my goal was to do just that – leave every ounce of energy I had out on that course and ski every inch of it as well as I possibly could. I knew it was a course designed for me, because of all the V2 sections and those winding downhill sections where you could either sit in a tuck, or continue skating and working the downhill and keep looking for the best line around every corner. I was an earlier starter, so I wasn’t getting splits on the other top 5 girls in the race…they were getting splits on me. But to me, that didn’t matter, because I was going to ski as hard as I possibly could anyways! A split wouldn’t change my effort or energy output in a 5km race. What did help a ton was all the crazy excited cheering that was coming from the woods. My teammates that were retiring from the Tour to save energy for the sprint weekend in Slovenia (Sophie, Ida, Simi and Andy) were all out there yelling and freaking out. The coaches were jumping up and down. It was such a boost of adrenaline every time I heard them!
I also had a really great morning testing skis with Jason Cork, my tech and my personal coach for the last 6 years. He and I have worked together for so long now that we just have our little system nailed down. He knows when I start making bad jokes and dancing to the stadium music that I’m in my happy place, and I’m ready to go crush a race. The day before, our off day from racing, I had the most fun skiing around with him and testing skis. I remember saying “Wow! You know what? I just really LOVE skiing!” I was having fun, and when I’m happy like that, that’s when I tend to ski my best. I got into this whole thing for the love of the sport, and that’s what keeps me in it (that, and being part of such a fun, dynamic team).
So, what did the win mean for us? Distance skiing for the US cross country women had remained a barrier that we hadn’t yet broken down. In 1978, Alison Owen-Spencer won a World Cup distance skate race in Telemark, Wisconsin. FIS called it a “test event”, but you know what? She was racing against the best in the World, and she won, so who cares what they call it – in my opinion, it counts! Since then, no American woman had won a distance world cup event, until last week. We are always standing on the shoulders of the pioneers in sport that worked so hard before us. And yes, while I was the one who skied the race and attacked every inch of the course, there is a huge support team of people that have attacked every other aspect of the race, making sure it was possible for me to have the best skis, the best training, the best teammates, and opportunity to win. Nobody ever accomplishes anything alone. It’s impossible. You always need a team, and I’m so lucky to be a part of the most supportive team I could ever hope for! So this win, this distance breakthrough, doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to about a thousand different people, all working hard to keep skiing in the US moving forward. So thanks so much everyone for all the cheering and kind notes! More photos from the day can be found here: http://fasterskier.com/blog/article/diggins-diggins-diggins-a-photo-gallery/
I was so excited about this win because it not only proved to myself that I am capable of skiing with the best in the World, but that every little kid growing up in the US is, too. Because I’m not a special person. I’m not the strongest, and I don’t have crazy raw speed or talent. I don’t always make great tactical decisions, and my technique has a long way to go. But I ski with a lot of heart, and I know how to push my body as far as it will go, and then a little farther. I grew up skiing in the Minnesota Youth Ski League club, and I raced with my high school team in Stillwater. I didn’t do anything crazy or special, just loved to ski with my friends. So if I can do it, you can, too! And that’s the best message I can possibly send home…that it’s possible for young skiers in the US to keep dreaming those impossibly big dreams, because they’re coming true right now.
Val di Fiemme, Italy:
The last 2 stages of the tour! We are so close! Driving to Predazzo, the town we always stay in and only 15 minutes away from the venue, we saw the alpine hill on Alpe Cermis and my stomach twisted itself into a little knot. The first race in Val di Fiemme was another mass start 10km classic, and it was another exceedingly tricky wax day. Skis were icing up, and slowing down, and it was another day for me where I felt pretty frustrated, because I didn’t have the skis I needed to compete as well as I knew I could in that field. But that happens sometimes, and the best way to deal with it is to not get hung up on it but to look forward to the next race, and learn what you can from it!