And just like that, we’re already back in sparkle season – otherwise known as racing season, but I like it to have a lil’ more flair. It’s still not the same as it used to be (thanks, Covid) yet even with the extra precautions and sticks waaaaay too far up our noses multiple times a week for testing, I’m so darn happy to be here. I genuinely love the people in this sport, and especially all the people I get to hang out with every day on our team. It’s fun, motivating, a little scary and definitely a wild ride to be chasing down big dreams every weekend.

My goodness gracious, here we are again! Back with my tech and coach, Cork.

Before I get into the season opener recap…I have a Holiday Gift guide for you! Last year, I had a lot of fun rounding up some of my favorite gift ideas. This year I’m back, and we’ve got a wide variety of items as well as price ranges. To make it easy for you, most of these have links that will take you right to the gift. A disclaimer: some of these items are from companies I partner with, and some are not (but I’m a fan)! I take great care in only partnering with companies I like and products I really use and would recommend to others. So if it’s on here, it’s for a reason! 

For the one who thinks boring gloves are, well…too boring:

JD x Swix Olympic gloves! The proceeds from these are going to the Share Winter Foundation, helping to get kids on snow learning to ski or ride for the first time. And I just love that. I don’t have a link for these, as the best place to buy these is from your local ski store!

The new gloves are here! (photo from Bill Harmeyer)

For the runner in your life: 

I’m a huge fan of both the Salomon Sense Ride 4 and the new Ultra Glide shoes! The glides are the most cushy and supportive for those long runs, but both of them have some amazing tread that gets me up and over rocks, roots and through mud. 

The Sense Ride 4 shoe (photo by Bill Harmeyer)
The new Ultra Glide shoe! (photo by Bill Harmeyer)

For the one who loves a good shoutout (and a good cause to match): 

You can book me to make you a video on Cameo! I’ve made birthday shoutouts, good-luck videos, go-get-em-in-the-Birkie videos and more, and 100% of my booking fee I donate to the WithAll Foundation for the research and prevention of eating disorders. We’ve raised over $7,500 so far, and I’ve loved making these videos for you all! 

For the sparkliest person you know: 

Dermatone (protect that skin from the cold AND make that glitter stick!) and biodegradable glitter stocking stuffer combo! 

Dermatone + glitter…how the magic happens!

For the one who loves cheesy sports books (forgive me, had to): 

Brave Enough is now out in paperback! (also as an audiobook, e-book and hard cover). 

Brave Enough, and the amazing Steger Mukluk boots!

For the one who never wants cold toes: 

Steger mukluks! I adore mine, and I have some seriously weird feet so if they work for me, they will surely work for anyone. 

For the Nordic History (HER-story?) buff: 

Trail to Gold, the journey of the 53 women who have represented the United States in Cross Country skiing at the Olympics. The struggles, the history, the triumphs…meet the team behind the current team! 

So proud of this book and recognizing the amazing history of all the women who have paved the way for us!

For the one who wants to take hydration, immunity and performance to the next level: 

Nuun hydration set stocking stuffers! This is my go-to for hydration, and as an additional stocking stuffer idea, their seasonal spiced cider immunity flavor is ahhhh-mazing. 

These Nuun hydration sets are Lucy-the-good-dog approved.

For the foodie in your life: 

Rise and Run cookbook. I love all their books because they focus on real, healthy relationships to cooking and eating. And their newest book hits every muffin recipe you’ve never even thought of. 

For the one who wants to stay warm AND look cute: 

A long puffy vest from LL Bean so you can layer up while skiing! I honestly think this is one of my favorite things LL Bean gives our team. 

Me, Katharine and Julia! Julia and I are both wearing different colors of the long puffy vest, and I ski in this all the time. (photo from Hailey)

For the one who brings a little spice to your life. 

Gus Schumacher’s aunt sent a box of spices and sauces to Christmas last year, and I discovered Tajin for the first time. No going back now. And I think Tajin mini spice as stocking stuffers are cute as heck. 

For the baker in your life who wants to cut down on waste: 

A silicone baking mat. These are absolutely money when it comes to getting the cookies to turn out perfect. And, I like that I have been re-using mine for years without throwing away sheet after sheet of parchment paper or having to grease the pan ahead of time. 

I LOVE my baking mats!

…and, silicone muffin cups! These will NOT let your muffins dry out, and as a bonus, you never have to spray or grease them ahead of time. 

Silicone muffin cups – one of the many little things we travel with! Julia, above, making muffins in Ruka.

For the one who appreciates a little me-time moment: 

Osmia coffee + mint soap. I kid you not, I started deciding what I was going to pack in my bag for 5 months of on-the-road living back in October. And this soap is coming with me as a little reminder of home! 

For the one who always asks you for a massage: 

Addaday massage gun. Easier than foam rolling, and helps you work out the knots! 

Both the Addaday and Lyric massage guns are ahhh-mazing.

For that crazy baker you know who always shows up bringing dessert to the team dinners: 

Ok, ok, that’s me. But I love my cake carrying tupperware and it has seen a LOT of mileage this summer, I tell you! 

One of the many cakes I had too much fun baking this summer.

For the athlete who works out at home: 

Emma coburn bands! You can do A LOT with resistance bands. A lot. 

For literally everyone who goes outside: 

Julia Kern buff “Julia’s journey” from Skida! The collection drops this Monday, and you can order from the link above. I got a sneaky preview of the design and its amazing. And, it’s supporting one awesome girl, so you can feel great about that! 

For the one with a quirky sense of humor who keeps a journal: 

Fun fact: I am a huge fan of Liz Climo cartoons. And of journaling. And now, you can have both all at once! 

For the one who needs toe warmers, like, every day: 

Ok, this one is also me. I’ve been using my heated SIDAS socks most days this winter and it’s been a game changer for my feet! 

Got the squad back together!

In other news, we got to Ruka with one week to kick the jet-lag and get used to being on snow! It was awesome to be back with the team and get right to testing skis with Cork. I felt like it was the first day of school – getting to say hi to all my friends from different parts of the world, getting used to my own team dynamic once more.

I get a lot of questions while in Europe about why I’m always smiling. I’m not always smiling, but a good deal of the time, I am really truly happy. I have what you might call a glass face; my emotions are there and ready for anyone to see. If I like you, you will know. If I don’t like you…you will also know. So for me, seeing so many people I genuinely love to be around, it would be hard NOT to have a smile on!

Ready to rock and roll! (photo by Nordic Focus)

We had some cold, COLD temperatures on our first weekend! It was -18 C, and on Sunday it was below the legal racing limit so the Women’s race was delayed until the afternoon. It was a good lesson in how to layer up and find a way to stay warm during the races! I had some uncomfortably cold toes after the last race, but to be honest, I will always take super cold winter over 70* slush fests every time!

So cold! So frosty! And so exciting to be finally racing again! (photo by Jesse Vaananen)
It warmed up juuuust enough for the second distance race! (photo by Jesse Vaananen)

We were staying in little apartments and cooking for ourselves, which was a huge help as we were getting used to being on the road for the winter. We baked a lot of tasty muffins, a birthday cake for Oleg our head wax tech, and had brought coffee and aeropresses with us. There isn’t an awful lot of sunlight that far north, but when the sun did come out, it was frosty and gorgeous!

Travel day matchy-matchy! Hunter and David ready to head to Lillehammer.

I’m really happy with how my races played out – it was a big surprise to win the classic sprint qualifier, but the rest of the race results came in about exactly as I had expected. I always work my way into the season, and for me the first few weekends are all about nailing down the process. Get my head right and be pushing incredibly hard in each race, work on my pacing, technique and make sure my ski testing process with my tech is going as smoothly as possible. I always take my time coming into sharper race form, and that’s by design in a long season with my focus farther on the horizon. That isn’t to say I’m complacent with performances that are below what I know I am capable of; but it means that I am proud of, and satisfied with a weekend where I pushed myself hard and fulfilled the potential that my body has ready for me right now.

Working with Cork and the Salomon team for ski testing! (photo by Nordic Focus)

Excited to be back in the groove again, and working my way upwards each weekend!