I think maybe one of the most mixed feelings in the world is waking up super sore and achy, with knots in muscles you didn’t even know you had and energy levels so low you just go back to sleep instead of going down to breakfast. It feels aweful for sure…but at the same time, you know that to get to this point you’ve pushed yourself hard. Past whatever previous limits your self-preservation had set for you. Past that mental wall that says you can’t race hard and fast day after day. And certainly past the point at which you actually care what flavor of energy bar you get!
The Tour de Ski is finished, and everyone on our team made it through healthy and with a great attitude. And now we get to: 1. do laundry!!! 2. drink Italian espressos in the sun and 3. train in the beautiful mountains while we recover. As I’m typing this there are a bunch of somewhat tipsy Italians singing outside the hotel, so I’m taking that as a sign of the start of a great rest week.
Today we did a team debriefing of the Tour, focusing on what we did well, what we can improve on for next year, and how it went overall. It was great to review, so here’s my short(ish) recap! It was a great tour for us, with Kikkan in 12th, Liz in 15th, Me in 21st, Holly in 38th, Bird in 44th and Noah in 46th.
Starting the tour for me was a little rough – I was still getting over the virus I picked up in Canmore and hadn’t stopped coughing yet. But my lungs were slowly clearing out and I knew that the best way to get back into racing shape was simply to race! Falling hard in the first stage and coming in 62nd was a little rough but it also took off any pressure – all I had to do was chase and try to move up in the standings, one day at a time.
The only way to handle the tour, for me at least, was so focus only on the day at hand, especially if it wasn’t a great race the day before. In such a long stage race there will definitely be bad races, and there will also be great races. But if you focus on a bad day and let it pull you down, you can get pretty negative pretty fast, which won’t ever help! That’s another reason this team is so awesome – the whole team was committed right from the start to taking this challenge day by day and staying strong mentally, even when it wasn’t easy. It made all the difference!
My worst race were definitely the ones in Oberhof, the most exciting was the night sprints in Val Mustaire, and my best was in Toblach-Dobbiaco, in the 15km skate. I skied the race almost entirely by myself instead of in a pack, which was sometimes harder but much faster for me on the downhills because with some faster corners I was able to ski them the way I wanted to, and make up time instead of playing tactics. But that’s a women’s race for you – just hammer, don’t mess around!
The last two races, my stomach wasn’t cooperating very well. I get stomach aches after either getting wicked nervous, or after super hard efforts. And after so many races in a row, my stomach was just in a constant knot! It was pretty painful and I felt like I might puke. So…timing the food just right when the racing gets more intense is definitely something I need to work on!
The last day, the day of Alpe Cermis climb, I was the most nervous. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I wasn’t nervous about how I was going to finish, or how I was going to race. I was nervous because I have done hill climbs in the past, and I know that for me, they are more painful than any other race. And I was scared not of how much it was going to hurt, but scared that I would get to the point where you either stop or push through it…and not keep pushing. I was worried that I wouldn’t push myself hard enough when it came down to it. Because giving up is the worst feeling, worse than losing a race when you have given your all.
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry, because I ended up pushing hard enough to be pretty much delirious on the finish line! But I definitely had a moment during warmup when I had to stop, stand still and just breathe, and remind myself that this is just a race. The last stage started especially well; since Liz and Holly warned me that the mass start was crazy and you could get stuck on the narrow trail, I led from the mass start and tried to set a fast pace so we could start reeling people in. I knew Liz was going to have a great climb and I didn’t want people getting in the way of a fast section from the stadium to the base of Cermis! Then we took turns leading and that flat section till the base was probably the most fun I had since we were working together and moving along fast. It was so cool! (but not literally – it was super hot outside and I was burning up in the black race suit!)
Of the 74 girls who started the tour, only 51 completed all the stages. I was the youngest one to cross the finish line, and I guess I have about 10 more Tours coming up in my career. And I’m pretty psyched for them!
But the most impressive thing about the Tour is not the amount of racing but how much hard work goes in behind the scenes. Our staff was amazing – they were waking up early and testing, getting our race skis prepped, moving the wax room every day or evey other day, and they did a great job. We don’t have the biggest staff on the World Cup, but the people we DO have are fantastic and I feel so lucky to get to work with them!
The night sprint we went to right after the Tour was a show team sprint put on by Sportful, and it was so, so fun. Our teams were me and Ida, and Liz and Holly, and we were zooming around this loop in a field with banners, arches and a pretty good crowd! I tagged for the final time to Ida with a small lead, and then Holly bridged the gap in the last lap and won, with Ida coming in 3rd. We all got gift baskets with RIDICULOUS amounts of cheese and sausages. Yum!
Here’s a couple pictures from the night sprint, taken by Cork:
Last but certainly not least, CONGRATS and good luck to everyone back home at Nationals! While you guys are waking up early to check on us in Europe, we’ve been staying up to check on your results. Seriously – Liz and I literally couldn’t sleep until we heard how the first races had shaken out. It’s been super fun following!