January 28, 2015


"Rush-shi-ah, Rush-shi-ah, Rush-shi-ah"

That's all I could hear in my head for hours after I had finished racing so if nothing else, there are some enthusiastic fan in Russia. But in all reality, I really enjoyed my time in Russia, had great races, and got a taste for a country I would probably have never visited if I weren't ski racer. We got a police escort to our charter flight leaving Russia, we were served tongue on the plane, chicken liver was a regular choice at the dinning hall, instant coffee is the only option, there were guards that monitored our cabins all day, we met lots of enthusiastic fans who all wanted selfies with us, we had a sauna in our cabin, and we drank thousands of bottles of bottled water. Russia was neat!

It takes a long time to get to Rybinsk, Russia, even when you are only coming to Estonia. We took a bus from Otepaa to Tallinn where we hopped on a plane to Moscow and then finally on another bus to Rybinsk. It took somewhere around 7 hours to drive from Moscow to Rybinsk because the roads are essentially dirt so we could only travel about 40 mph, but that's nothing a few too many episodes of Gossip Girl couldn't fix. It was somewhere well below 0F when we arrived and that cold continued for a few days. Fortunately, it warmed just enough that we could race on Friday, which frankly gave me deja vu as the conditions were nearly identical to Houghton. I guess the windy cold and I get along as I had a fantastic race, finishing in 13th place to score my first World Cup points ever. Top 30 in every race score points and your points accumulate over the season giving you a world ranking and determining things like funding and team nominations so the more points the better! Even more exciting was that fellow American Liz Stephen nabbed her first podium, placing 2nd, which also happens to be the best finish of an American girl ever!

The following day, it snow a lot and got much warmer which was good for our lungs and brutal for our legs. I found myself in the unlucky 31st spot only .12 seconds out of 30th so I just missed getting to ski in some sprint heats. Getting that close does make you a little more motivated to get after it again so I will have to hold that in my head until the next sprint. I did get to watch 4 U.S. girls race in the heats and all finished in the top 13 while my teammate Erik scored his first World Cup sprint points.

We finished the weekend with a skiathlon. These races are exciting, but a bit stressful as you start out classic skiing for 7.5km before coming into a pit, switching to skate skis and doing a 7.5km skate all while the clock is running. There is a lot of equipment involved and a lot of mistakes that can be made. I am happy to say everything went smoothly, I skied pretty well, but certainly ran out of gas at the end, finishing the day in 20th. We again had 4 girls in the top 20!

I am incredibly excited with how well my entry to the World Cup has gone and I might be even more excited to be done racing for a few weeks. In the last 22 days, I raced 9 times in addition to a trip across the Atlantic and another one to Russia, leaving me utterly exhausted.

However, in other outrageously exciting news, all those 9 races went better than planned and I earned a spot on the 2015 World Championship Team!!! World Championships will be held in Falun, Sweden during the last 2 weeks of February. In the meantime, I have retreated to the Swiss Alps for a little R&R and preparation for the Championships.

A pano of the stadium on a really cold but beautifully clear morning (photo Sophie Caldwell)

We had to walk to meals so we would bundled up, but still be frosty by the time we reached our destination. Thankfully, it warmed up!

Sadie, Erik, and I having a toast to all making the World Championship team. Teammates that live together, race fast together!

Flying into Moscow. There were tons of smoke stacks and the air was quite polluted so I was glad we weren't racing there. 
Liz on the PODIUM!!!

The rest of the weekend was a bit more gray, but the big river that ran right past the venue was still scenic.  
Watching skiing on the local station provides intense techno music and cues for cheering. 

Sadie and I eating a nighttime meal of oatmeal to stay fueled in the cold

The cabins we stayed in

Sadie outside the cabin that Sophie, Sadie, and I shared

Leaving Rybinsk. Lots of Soviet style cement apartment buildings 
And finally, landing in Central Europe to sun and snow!

Woke up in the mountains! YES!

I was featured on KSL this week, check out the story:

January 19, 2015

World Cup Chaos

It seems no matter the distance, traveling anywhere as a nordic skier is exhausting. We drove from Houghton all the way back to Minneapolis where I was graciously hosted by my teammate Rosie Frankowski and her family for a few days of rest before jumping over the pond. The sun came out, which felt out of this world, but the temperatures remained frigid. With toughened skin from the week of racing, we ventured out to walk around the city, get in some shopping, and run some last minute errands. It is really nice to spend a little bit of time in the city when we can since most of our races are really out in the woods.

Tuesday came all too fast and before I knew it, I was back lugging my giant brigade of bags through the airport. Eventually, I met the US Ski Team Wednesday night in Tallinn, Estonia where we hopped on a bus headed for Otepaa, our venue for the weekend. I found it very pleasant skiing in temperatures hovering around freezing and snow that actually allowed your skis some glide. I think this helped me to feel artificially good after a long week of racing and lots of travel.

Saturday was a classic sprint. The course felt remarkably fast and short after our epic sprint in Houghton so I felt I had a chance to make the rounds. I thought I skied well, but it wasn't mistake free so I ended the day in 38th. It was easy to pick out the mistakes and they were all things I can quickly learn from so I felt good about the day overall.

I got a little bit lucky and due to different plans and schedules, it turned out that there were only four girls here racing from the U.S. including me, which meant I got to race in the team sprint on Sunday. I wasn't expecting to have this opportunity, but was ready to make the most of it. Team sprints consist of teams of 2. Each person skis one lap of the sprint course before tagging their partner. Each partner skis 3 laps total, making for an exciting race of speed and endurance. Ida Sargent skied legs 1,3,5 and I skied legs 2,4,6. The days starts with 2 semi-finals and the top 2 teams from each semi plus the next 6 fastest times from either semi make the final. The snow conditions were such that each lap slowed down so being in the first semi was advantageous. Unfortunately, both team from the U.S. were in the 2nd semi so we knew we would have to try for top 2. We skied comfortably near the front of the pack for most of the race and on the last lap, I did my best to get in the draft on the downhill and sling shot into the finish. We ended 3rd in our heat, but had just a fast enough time to make the final!

I have never skied a team sprint final and this was only the second team sprint I had ever done so I was ecstatic to make the final. I wanted to do everything I could to stay in the pack and make the most of things. Ida skied some very strong legs, always tagging me off in good positions, I did my best to hold on and was able to sneak into 6th place in the finish. It was very slushy and sloppy, making it hard to stay on your feet and even harder on the legs.  I was really happy with the way I skied and felt I did a good job of putting together 6 solid laps throughout the day. I think we both far exceeded our expectations and were happy with our result. On a fun side note, the 6th place team is the last team that gets a little prize money so this marked my first time winning money on the World Cup!

It's hard to take pictures while racing, but here is a link to watch the final as it appeared on Eurosport. USA of course is in the stars and stripes!

And here is a recap from the ADN, which also features my teammate Holly Brooks's win on the marathon circuit yesterday as well.

I shamelessly stole these photos from Nordic Focus...But here I am waiting for the tag from Ida

And climbing up the hill in the final

Sprints often come down to millimeters...This was the lunge for 2nd place in the Men's Classic Sprint, yikes that is a close one!

We head to Russia on Wednesday, which I'm sure will be filled with more adventure and hopefully more good racing!

January 14, 2015

What a Week

Temperatures never rose, the wind never stopped,  and the snow continued to fall, but we pushed on and completed two more races at U.S. Nationals.

I had the most successful week of racing of my career. I walked away with two more U.S. National titles, making a total of 3 for the week and a 3rd place in the other race. I even won what I consider my weakest event, skate sprints. It was truly an amazing week. It's easy to walk away from a week like this, revel in all the success and never reflect more than that. But, something I have been working on this season is focussing on the process of racing rather than the results themselves. Win or loose, I hope to learn something everyday, grow as a person, and make the best of whatever hits, which means taking time to reflect. So what makes a week like this possible?

1. Teammates and Coaches

My teammates have embraced me for who I am. We support each other, help each other, and create an environment in which we can all be ourselves and have an important role on the team. Erik has continually picked up my pieces when I fall apart, helped me to find the good in the bad, taught me how to believe in myself, been a mentor and role model, and continually emanates the most positive and enthusiastic vibes possible. I am happy when I am traveling and racing with my team. And don't forget the hours and hours of ski work the APU staff put in to make sure we were racing on the fastest skis possible! It takes a team!

On that same note, a team that works well together, finds success together. I would say APU dominated the championship, taking half of the spots in the A-finals in the skate sprint and half of the top 10 in the classic races. Go APU!

2. Racing for the Sake of Racing

I am a very goal oriented person and I often find myself becoming fixated on obtaining a certain result. However, this is very counter-productive. I have found a joy in racing this season that was not there last season and every time I stand on a start line, I am excited to push myself rather than feeling the anxiety of having to obtain a certain place in the race.

3. Remaining Positive

It's rare that a race is perfect by chance, but you can always make a race perfect or at least make the best of what is thrown at you. We were dealing with some nasty weather, but at the end of the day someone still was going to win the race so why not layer on the clothes and enjoy the adventure.

4. Putting Yourself Out There

It's often easier to take the safe route, make an excuse, or avoid something altogether, but then you never learn. It takes putting yourself out there and risking not meeting your goal in order to learn and grow and maybe even exceed your goal. I took a number of risks, leading a good portion of the 20k, attempting to win sprint heats from the gun, and not giving up after face planting and breaking a pole. I can consider my races successes because I did these things and I can be sure I learned a thing or two about myself and racing as a result of taking those chances.

5. Knowing and Having Belief in Your Strengths

This goes along with positivity. I find it easy to become obsessed with weaknesses. For me, it's downhills. I often fear downhills to the point that that is the only thing I think about the on the course, how negative! Erik has planted this idea in my head that if I focus on what I am good at, not only do I remain more confident throughout a race, I can develop a race plan that utilizes my strengths rather than revolves around minimizing my weaknesses. Of course, weaknesses need to be acknowledged and worked on, but that is what training is for, not racing. I had a really good summer of training so I felt my strength was my fitness so I focused my race efforts on believing in my fitness to get me through the slow, cold, grinding course of Houghton.

20k Classic Victory (fasterskier photo)

Skate Sprint Victory (fasterskier photo)

Last Race Exhaustion and Elation (fasterskier photo)

Chelsea and I leading the pack in the 20k classic

The Men's team put together some impressive media production that was picked up around Anchorage. Thanks Boys!
Here are the new clips:


And the ADN article:

I have just arrive in Estonia where I will be joining the US Ski Team for World Cups this weekend and next weekend. I hope I can take everything I have learned so far this year and apply it to the World Cup.

January 7, 2015

Halfway Through

Houghton...what comes to mind when I think of Houghton? Well, literally every different descriptive word I can come up with comes to mind. It's very hard to get to, it's cold, windy, but also has lots of snow, good courses, great volunteers and race organizers. There are pasties, snow machines, and beer, but not a whole lot of greens or good shopping. I have had crashes, but also some break throughs. This week seems to be no different.

The first race was a 10k skate individual start. It was very cold and blowing snow. Adorning some of the most attractive looks Nordic skiing has ever seen with lots of layers and very little skin showing, I set off to see what I could do. The first part of the course is pretty gradual allowing for some big, smooth skiing. I was just getting in my groove, starting down a long, winding, gradual downhill, when, BOOM, I had a mouthful of snow and was unsure of what just happened. I actually thought I had broke my ski, but I stood up and it seemed in tack so I went to plant my poles to start moving again only my pole didn't catch me and there I was getting a taste of the snow again. I then realized it was my pole that broke. Shucks. I got back up reminding myself to stay calm, these things happen, I can still have a good race. There were only two people near me and one was kind enough to offer their pole, only after I grabbed it, did I realize it was taller than me...I kept moving anyhow, doing my best to try to use a pole a size of me as I frantically climbed looking for my coach. Due to the cold and the many layers everyone was wearing, I didn't actually see my coach until he was next to me giving me splits. I told him I needed a pole, which he didn't have in his hand so he took off behind me. Not willing to stop, I kept moving up the hill thinking I probably missed my best chance to get a pole. But I have a coach who literally gives everything he can to help us succeed and soon enough, he was sprinting next to me with a pole that fit. At that point I was 3k into the race and could finally think about actually racing. Unfortunately for me, Caitlin, who ultimately won the race, was able to catch me while I was floundering around. Knowing her impressive skating results, I knew I could still have a good race even if she had already put 30 seconds into me so I did my best to regroup and make a plan. As we headed into the climbs on the second lap, I was feeling great, I wanted to push, and I didn't want to bring anyone with me because I also knew my teammate, Chelsea, who started ahead of me was having a good race. So, I went as hard as I knew how the last 2k and was able to make up some time. 2k wasn't enough distance for me to make up everything, but it was enough to climb on to the podium. Frustrating, of course, but also a learning experience and something I could be happy I made the best of. 
Following Caitlin (fasterskier photo)

Podium, APU went 2,3 with Chelsea in 2nd and me in 3rd! (Skiinyski.com photo)

Skiing very awkwardly with a pole taller than me... (fasterskier Photo)

Next up, classic sprints! We awoke to quite a bit of new snow and heavy snow falling, with also single digit temperatures, yikes. I started first in the qualifying round and I felt as if I was skiing through a snow globe, with no one in front to measure distance, pace, or even see where the trail went. As I entered the stadium, I looked up to see the clock past 5 minutes and I couldn't believe the people who started behind me hadn't caught me. Most sprints take around 3 minutes...It turns out cold new snow is not fast and that is simply how long it took. I qualified in 2nd, frozen and wet. The race organizers are very on top of things here so they actually re-groomed the course before the heats and the snow had enough moisture in it, that it set up nicely, making for some good skiing. The snow even let up a bit and the temperatures maybe climbed a degree or two.  The tracks that had been skied in the most were the fastest so that was the key to the day, to stay in those tracks and keep moving. Our wax team did a remarkable job and my skis were very fast. I noticed that I was getting a gap on a small downhill between two of the climbs so I took advantage and tried to extend the gap up the next climb, then relax and ski well to the finish. This strategy worked in my quarterfinal and then in my semi final so I had to trust it for the final too and it worked! After I crossed the line, I looked back and there was my teammate, Becca, coming across the line in 2nd, adding more excitement. And then my teammate from Park City, Elizabeth crossed the line in 3rd, putting the cherry on top. It was a tough day to be out there racing, or volunteering, or waxing, or really anything so I am very thankful for all the work that was put in and I am ecstatic with how things went. 

Showing off Nordic Skiing's best fashion (skinnyski.com photo)

Nothing better than sharing hugs at the finish...(skinnyski.com photo)

With close friends and good teammates (Skinnyski.com Photo)

Leading out the final (Fasterskier Photo)

Podium pic, APU goes 1, 2 this time! (Fasterskier Photo)
We still have two more races and weather is supposed to be remain the same so it's time to get used to cold snow, cold toes, and not having skin exposed. 

The Alaska Dispatch News has been doing a great job of covering the races so here is a link to the article: 

Fasterskier.com is also, of course, covering all the races if you are looking for more.