March 20, 2015

World Cup End

We had less than a week from the time we finished the 30km at World Championships until the World Cup Tour resumed in Lahti, Finland. I had done well enough at U.S. Nationals back in January that I maintained my lead in the SuperTour granting me starts rights for the last two weeks of World Cups so my travels through Europe continued. After feeling great doing race prep the day before the sprint, I woke up on race day with a cold. It was baffling because I felt like I had taken good care of myself, I had felt great the day before, I hadn't been overly exhausted or anything. I was incredibly frustrated and unsure of what my next move should be. It's important not to spread illness so I was quarantined in my room, feeling sad, lonely, and ready to book a ticket home. Luckily, I have this awesome friend, Sadie. We went for a walk after the weekend of races was over and she told me that I am never going to get healthy if I can't be happy and that I can absolutely recover over the next week and race again if I believe that I can. So off I went to Oslo for the last few races of the year.

We found the sun in Oslo. I hadn't seen more than a day or two of sun since I left Utah in December. We also found waffles, brown cheese, salmon, a beach, the ocean, great skiing and suddenly, I started feeling a lot better. Wednesday came around quickly, and I didn't feel great still so I sat out one more race in hopes of putting together a good race over the weekend, the Holmenkollen.

Holmenkollen, the venue in Oslo, is a big deal. There are thousands of fans that camp all weekend along all parts of the 8km loop to cheer everyone on. The King of Norway even attends the race. About 3km into our 30km race, I was descending and suddenly, I stopped turning even though I was trying to pick of my skis and step them around the turn. I looked down to see that someone had skied between my skis, preventing both of us from being able to maneuver. As a fence came closer and closer, I decided my best option was to sit down and try to slow down before hitting the fence. A few of us became tangled as we smashed into the fence and equipment broke. Unsure of what I had broken or how my body had fared, I got up slowly, checking the damaged. Everything seemed fine so I started skiing again, however, I was now the last person... My pole ended up breaking a few km later, but a coach was right there to get me a new one. I worked hard to move back up in the field, but I just couldn't find the focus I needed to fight. I was really disappointed in myself because I wanted to fight and I wanted to be in the mix, but for whatever reason, it just wasn't in the cards. I decided that I wanted to finish the race anyhow so I just relaxed a bit, tried to focus on my technique and skied the remainder of the race. The amazing part is, the entire time, people were chanting my name as I skied past even though I was quite a ways back from the leaders.

Check out this video to see just how crazy Holmenkollen is! 
Morning walks on the beach are one of the best parts of Oslo and a good way to get over a cold.

We had some beautiful weather!

It's amazing to me to be racing on snow and be at the beach in the same day!

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One day, it was nice enough, we decided to go for a quick dip in the ocean

Liz took charge and jumped in first

Sand feels amazing after a winter in ski boots. 


Skiing with Liz, Jessie, and Lina, a young girl from Park City who came to watch us!
Sunbathing with Sadzarue
As I got on the plane headed back to the U.S. I couldn't help but feel disappointed that my last two weeks on the World Cup had been more or less a disaster. I have had to remind myself, that just 6 months ago I wasn't even sure if I would race this season and when I left for Europe, I thought I would only be spending two weeks there. I am very happy to have conquered a lot, figured out how to race World Cups, made it to World Championships and had some success to boot. It's been a wild season, that's for sure. 

And it's not over just yet...we have four more races in Sun Valley to complete the season. It's warm, sunny, and sure to be a good time!

March 4, 2015

World Champs Wrap

It’s always difficult to sum up a big event like World Championships. There were 6 different events and 4 racers in each event for both men and women, totaling 2 weeks of highs, lows, excitement, let downs, fun, boredom and everything in between.  I highly suggest reading other team members’ blogs to get a variety of perspectives from the Championships. I can assure you that everyone had their own highs and lows so rather than put words in their mouths, I will focus on my own experiences.

It’s amazing how fast your personal expectations change when you are competitive. If you had asked me one year ago what place I would get at World Championships, I would have said that it would be a great success to just make it to the Championships. But, after some success on the World Cup when I arrived in Europe earlier this year, I already had started formulating expectations for myself. This is important because it keeps you driven and keeps you hungry, always looking for more, however, it is also important to take time to look at the bigger picture. So, yes, it was a great victory to make it to the start line of not only one, but three different races over the course of the championships.

My championships started with the skiathlon, which entails 7.5km of classic skiing, switching skis and poles, and 7.5km more of skate skiing. After getting in a bit of a pile-up in the first minute of the race, I pulled myself together and worked my way forward, skiing a strong classic leg. My exchange to skate was good and I came out of the exchange with a good group in my sight. However, I really struggled to find my groove skating and started to drop places pretty quickly. I finished in 30th, which was not a disappointment by any means, but certainly less than I felt I was capable of.

Onward. Tuesday ended up a being a rather exciting day with some crazy weather, some really good ski service by the USA, and two Americans on the podium. It was a cool experience to attend the award ceremony for two of our own. There is lots of media about the day so check that out if you are interested. The impact of that day is still coming to fruition, but I deeply hope it has a wide-spread and positive impact on skiing in the U.S. And of course,  I hope there are more medals in our future because that was pretty cool.

Thursday was relay day. The U.S. prides themselves on the strength of their team, not in ski results, but in camaraderie, friendships, and looking out for one another, making the relay a great way to share this with the world. I was really honored to be selected for this team. I got to race with three friends and girls I greatly admire. Sadie led us out, skiing really strong, but got tangled with another girl in a crucial part. She fought very hard to get back to the front the whole race, tagging off to me in 6th place. I did my best to start hard, hoping to get a ride from the girl in front of me and hoping to distance myself from the teams behind. I was able to pass one girl, tagging off to Liz in 5th. Liz and Jessie both skied ripping fast skate legs. Liz pulled us up to the next group of skiers and Jessie dusted them at the end moving us up into 4th. Medals were on the minds of many that day, but I was truly ecstatic with our result. It wasn’t a perfect day and we were still able to be 4th. The relay is a neat event because it means you have to have four strong skiers to even be remotely competitive and we have that!

I have a bit of a love-hate relationships with 30kms. I have had some of my best and also my worst races in that distance and you never really know what kind of a race its going to be until you are across the line. So much can happen and so much can change over that distance. I started hard, hoping to work my way up to a group that I could ski more comfortably with. I made it to the front group at about 6km when some of the top girls decided they had had enough and really surged breaking things up. So my time with the lead pack was very short lived, but I found myself in a great chase pack. I skied around with them for the next 15km, feeling strong. Heading into the last 10km, I started to loose them and just couldn’t bridge the gap. Suddenly on my own and really dragging, I started to get caught by those behind me, not the encouragement you need at 23k…. Up the last big climb, Justyna Kowalcyzk passed me. She is a many time medalist and World Cup champion and someone I never imagined I would be skiing with. I tried to ski with her in the relay and was unsuccessful, but suddenly I had my second chance. She had a gap on me has we headed up some smaller climbs, but I got a second wind and decided I had to catch up. I bridged the gap on the last climb before the stadium. We are both known for our really bad downhill skills so I was pleased to be heading down into the stadium believing that my downhill skills could maybe keep me close to her. Up the last bridge, I ran up the hill with all I had, started double poling into the stadium and didn’t look back. I thought for sure she would come up on the side of me and she did, but it was too late. I stuck my foot out and beat her to the line. It was a really exciting finish of a great race for me. I ended the day in 16th place and felt good about the way I was skiing.

Just like that, the Championships were over and I am already feeling anxious for more. It was really great to have my Mom and brother cheering amongst the tens of thousands of fans there were out in force everyday. I also have to thank my coach Erik for taking his own time to spend a month over here with us to help us prepare for the Championships and take care of us during. It is so helpful to have him around! Thank you to Patrick Moore, who also volunteered is own vacation time to come over here to wax my skis for me. I had some good skis and he is the most upbeat and accommodating tech around. I was lucky to have time. And lastly, Zuzana, our faithful physical therapist from Anchorage who also volunteered her time and took care of us over here for a full month. Being the injury prone athlete I am, I am eternally grateful for her work.   

I am now in Lahti, Finland for regular World Cups. We have two more weekends of World Cups before heading back to the States!

 My wax tech, Patrick aka "Toque" and I. Thanks for all the hard work!

 Getting ready to warm up for the relay
 Sadie and I getting ready to walk through the media zone after the relay (zuzana photo)
 Relay face paint and focus (zuzana photo)
 Relay team: Me, Sadie, Liz, and Jessie (Eli Brown Photo)

 Skiing in the 30km (Charlie Photo)
 Relay racing (Erik Mundahl Photo)
 This is my favorite photo! This is on the skaithlon day just after I switch to skating. It really shows how many fans showed up everyday. Cross Country skiing in Scandinavia is NO joke! It was an amazing experience! (Flying Point Road Photo)
 Sadie and I with our PT, Zuzana Rogers from Advanced Physical Therapy in Anchorage. Thank you!
 Sharing a moment with Sadie (zuzana Photo)
 Relay team post-race (zuzana Photo)
 All the girls and some staff members after the relay. Check out our relay leg warmers! They are an important tradition for the USA!
 Making my way into the stadium to tag Liz (Zuzana Photo)
 Starting my relay leg, again, look at all the fans! (fasterskier photo)
 Sadie got a big with her name on it (even if they spelled it wrong)!!! This means she has had an excellent season and is ranked very high!
 We were hoping to rally Audis, one of the sponsors, but it turned out we only got to ride in the car while a professional drove. It was still pretty neat. 
 Checking out the fans before the race. 

 Some USA flags sticking out during the Awards Ceremony. 
 All the volunteers who came to help us out!!! Thank YOU!
 Liz and I digging deep in the 30k (fasterskier photo)
 Jessie and Caitlin with their medals!
Climbing in the 30k (fasterskier photo)