Training camp is usually a series of very small wins. Every day is another chance to take a tiny step closer to what we’re trying to accomplish with all this grueling training. Getting better at cross country ski racing is really, really hard, folks. Often times progress is not clear-cut, and not obvious, such as minuscule changes in technique that can months to bring about. For that reason, it’s important to celebrate the small victories, the tiny wins. There’s something to be proud of in every training session, even if that’s as simple as “I stayed hydrated on our long ski today”. It could be as big as “I had the best bounding intervals of my life”…but it doesn’t have to be. As long as I can find something good in every workout, I can stay positive and motivated and ride out the workouts that are challenging (because there are sure to be some down the road!).
After week one of our Park City US Ski Team fall camp, I have seen a million tiny wins for my teammates, skiers from other clubs and myself. I’ve seen so many people making small breakthroughs and I love seeing my teammates getting fitter, faster, smarter and in a great mental space before the season. I’m personally feeling great about where my body and head is, and it’s making the camp a really productive one!
I like that we’re all coming together with the intent of making each other faster. We’re purposely using each other to improve ourselves, because we know that working together is the only way we’re going to become faster as a nation. Nobody gets better all by themselves. So when we come together like this, someone is going to be pushing the group in L3 skating intervals, and the rest of the team will have a chance to learn from their speedy example. When we do speed training, we’re all going to learn from a few individuals who have really nailed it. Every training session, there’s some trick to pick up from another skier…and it doesn’t matter if they’re the fastest that day or during the race season, they can still contribute a huge amount to everyone else.
That’s what I find so fascinating about this sport: it’s not an individual sport. Let me repeat that. It’s not an individual sport. Yeah, they hand out medals to one person or one relay team, I get that. But it takes so many people pushing that one skier to get the medal, that the results of any person on this team really take root in about 10,000 different people. Everyone that has ever trained with me, donated to the team, or cheered for me and my teammates in races, for example, has bought into my race season and takes some ownership in it. When I won my silver medal at World Champs last year, there were thousands of people who can feel good knowing that they helped make it happen, and the medal wouldn’t have been possible without them. And I know that when Kikkan wins her Crystal Globes, I had a part in pushing her during training sessions, helping her get faster, so I can take pride in her achievements and it makes me even happier for her knowing that I was a part of the process.
The person who skis in the middle of the team may in fact have the greatest impact on the group dynamics, and that in turn can help create medal performances. So it’s important to take pride in our place on the team, to know that every day we have a chance to impact our own performance but also our teammates and to know that what we do for the team will make a big difference in races months and years from today.
The other awesome part of our job is the team behind the team. Yep, I’m talking about the sponsors that make all our training and racing the highest possible quality with the best gear out there! All my personal sponsors are what make my job possible (and make me fast!) and this year, the US Ski Team has been thrilled to partner with LL Bean and Craft Sportswear to outfit us in our World Cup race gear. It’s so cool to have companies that are so pumped to be working with us, and they gave us a great presentation and uniform unveiling party on Monday.
I love all the gear, and one of the best surprises was the custom logos LL Bean had printed into our jackets. It’s the American Eagle with the US team shield, and the writing above it says “You Are Representing The United States Of America.” Craft sewed those same words into the collar of our race suits. I love this because it’s a reminder that every time we zip up our jackets and get into our race gear, we carry the flag on our backs. We’re not alone, and we’re not just out there for ourselves…we’re representing a nation, and we aim to do our best every time we step onto the snow!
With week one of training complete, I am definitely sore and tired, so a day off was much needed. We went for volume in week one, with a lot of long distance skis and one particularly fun run. We ran up to the ridge line of the mountains, on the Crest Trail. We then snaked along the top and ran for 3.5 hours, but because it was slow paced we were able to get some high-quality intervals done the next morning! We also had to take a small break for a stampede of sheep that were bounding down the mountain. I’ve actually never seen sheep move that fast, but hundreds of them were making a break for it. It was pretty exciting.
Our other long ski was from Provo to American Fork. It was about an hour of double poling on a flat bike path, 45 minutes of kick-double pole and then an hour and a half of striding up the mountain pass…about 3:15 hours total. It was beautiful out and we were just cruising, working on our technique. Believe it or not, this is a pretty low key day of training for us. Interval and strength days are much harder! But that doesn’t mean we can’t get a ton out of sessions like these where we have a lot of time to adjust technique and get comfortable going for a long period of time.
And in between training sessions? We’ve been relaxing! I did my best to give my house-mates a “tiny desk concert” but it ended up being a “oversized chair concert” instead. It’s the thought that counts, you know.
Coming up this next weekend we have a roller ski race series! We’re doing a mini-tour, to practice getting into race mode and tour mode. With no Olympics or World Championships, this year is focused on the Tour de Ski and Tour de Canada. Sunday we have a skate sprint (most likely full rounds though – everyone will have to do all 4), Monday we have a classic mass start and Tuesday we will do a skate pursuit start. Should be painful but fun!