January 16, 2016

First Tour

I just completed my first Tour de Ski! The tour is a bit different every year, but this year we did 8 races over the course of 10 days at 4 different venues in 3 different countries. When the tour first started, 10 years ago, the U.S. didn't send anyone to compete in it and even after a few U.S. skiers started to race in the tour, I thought they were crazy and I couldn't fathom how anyone could do such a thing and that for sure this race format would not stick around. Fast forward a few years and here I am, in bed, recovering from my own first attempt at the event AND the U.S. had 2 stage victories AND 7 athletes complete the event, what a difference a few years can make!

An average day at the tour went something like this. Sleep in as late as possible, which for me is about 8:30. Go for a light jog to loosen up the body and start up the metabolism. Eat a hearty breakfast. With 3 hours until race time, have 2nd breakfast. Pack up and head to the venue. Start testing skis and warming up 1.5 hrs before race time. Race, generally around 2. Cool down, which was usually running because winter forgot to hit Europe. Eat as much as your stomach can handle. Go back to the hotel. Massage/PT and body care. Ice bath. Jog or walk. Then, if it's a departure day, throw suitcase in the van and hit the road to the next venue. Get in as much dinner as possible. Hope you can sleep!

It is imperative to put all other things aside and focus on eating enough, doing everything you can to recover from each effort, keeping stress as low as possible, and keeping the focus high.

My tour started off very slow. I had three of my worst races of the year to start the tour off, which was far from ideal. I did my best to just reset and treat each day as a new day. By stage 4, I started feeling more in my element and finding better race feelings. Each day I improved a little bit from the previous day and finally, on stage 7, I was 30th which scored me my first point of the season. While I always expect more from myself, I felt I really just needed to break the ice in order to start building back the confidence I need to ski faster so it was a huge relief. It wasn't until the last day that I woke up just exhausted and unsure of how I was going to fare. O, and don't forget, the last day involved a 4km climb up an alpine mountain...I held it together and finished the tour ranked 32nd. More importantly than my rank is that I not only finished, but did better each day I raced and was able to turn a rocky start into a promising finish. I really enjoyed the event and am really looking forward to getting another stab at it in the future. It was amazing to see two teammates top the podium as well and something that has given me hope and inspiration for the future.

Now, I am doing my best to recover and get ready for the second half of the season on top of a beautiful mountain in Italy. Life is good.
Stage 5 racing (Photo Marcel Hilger)

The team at the top of the climb! Thanks to all the waxers, massage therapist, physical therapist who took excellent care of us both on and off the snow.

2 American Victories, Jessie Diggins and Sophie Caldwell

Sophie and I classic racing (Photo: Marcel Hilger)

not much snow in Europe, also we had to do a little mischief to get the American racer to be winning the race!

Cheering for the boys up the climb

Happy we all made it to the end

green but pretty Germany

Erik climbing his way up the alpine mountain

And our little piece of paradise in Italy for recovery