December 6th, 2013
Is it weird if one of the things I was most excited about this week was going out to a movie with my teammates? I guess it shows that sometimes we really need a life outside of skiing, since the movie got out late and we had a real debate about whether or not to go! Geez. But I’m really psyched that we went out, because I just love “team Tuesdays” and I had wanted to see the Hunger Games movie for a long time. Now that I’ve admitted my dork-iness, lets move on to life here in Lillehammer!
The courses here are really challenging. Well, every World Cup venue has challenging courses, and it depends what you define as “really hard”, but there are no flat sections here except for the finishing stretch, and the start lanes. The course twists and loops around, and although it can tire you out quickly if you don’t train slowly, I think it’s really fun! Since I honestly don’t have a whole lot of classic finesse, a straight up hard course might help me out! There are tons of transitions and twisting corners, but in the softer and slower snow it’s not scary.
All the coaches were telling us that they saw Silvio Fauner skiing around the course…and if you haven’t head of him, he was the anchor leg for the Italian men’s 4×10 relay team in the 1994 Olympics here in Lillehammer. He beat out the Norwegian anchor Bjorn Dahlie in a crazy sprint finish, and apparently the entire crowd went silent. I was kind of surprised that Silvio wasn’t just skiing up and down the finishing stretch, doing drag sprints Anyways, it’s pretty inspiring to be skiing on a course where so much XC history went down!
For the first time in, well, maybe forever, the US has enough girls over here to start not one but TWO relay teams. I am pretty over the moon about it! Imagine – DOUBLE the face paint and glitter! I’d better start prepping for this today
While I’m getting all excited about the upcoming relays, if you’re psyched on the race season too and want to show it, please check out these two challenges (Stillwater, I’m looking at YOU!) One is a poster challenge by the US Ski Team – just take a fun team photo with your club and send it in! Here are the crucial details, and more can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ussa-nordic/us-cross-country-ski-poster-championships-january-1-8-2014/605195172860530
Instructions: Get your team or club together for a photo shoot and email your high resolution photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by midnight MST on Dec 31, 2013. A club may submit one full club poster in addition to a poster for each of its many teams – Youth, Post Graduate, EliteTeam, Masters, etc. The poster must clearly display the name of the club or team and a slogan. USSA will print out one 11” x 18” copy of each poster to hang on display at U.S. Cross Country Championships in January at Soldier Hollow.
The second challenge is a T-shirt design contest for the T2 team! I’ll end up wearing the shirt that gets picked, probably all year long, so make a sweet design! Here are the details: The design should include the T2 logo and have an Olympic theme. Note that the design will be printed on a T-Shirt, and should work in both color as well as black and white. Please use an 8.5 x 11” piece of paper for hand-drawn designs. The design may also be computer generated. The contest will run from December 10, 2013 through January 1, 2014.
Attach the design (as a PDF file; scan into computer if hand drawn) to an email and send to T2.Foundation.Contest@gmail.com. Additionally, please post your design to our Facebook page. The winner will be selected by whichever posts receives the most “likes,” and in the case of a tie by judge discretion. The winner will be announced via our Facebook page on January 5th, and the winning design will be turned into a T-shirt, the sales of which will help fund our athletes. The artist of the winning design will receive one of the t-shirts, as well as a prize from Neve Clothing.
Also, if you’ve never checked out Reese Hanneman’s photos, you really should. He’s a ski racer and is a really talented photographer, and last fall he was kind enough to do a lifestyle shoot with me! Here’s a link to his page: http://engineroommedia.net/
Ok, as if I didn’t just dish out a million different links to look at, in case you’re checking this at work and need a 2:32 minute distraction to make you smile, look at this last tidbit below!
To end the post, I need to share with you this awesome little YouTube video by NBC. While at the USOC Media Summit this fall, we were asked to do a lot of singing and dancing, but being a XC skier I didn’t think they’d actually use our footage. Only they did, and Kikkan, the combiners Billy, Taylor and Bryan, Andy, Liz and I all made the video! See if you can find us in “The 12 Days of Sochi”:
December 2nd, 2013
So far, Ruka/Kuusamo has been a pretty nice way to open the season, all things considered! I personally had some struggles with the early races but hopefully I’ve gotten my bad luck out of the way, and it was really neat to see the team perform so well right off the bat. Highlights for me were seeing the team pull together day after day – because someone always had a great race but others may not have, and everyone took turns lifting each other up. The wax techs got right into gear, and the race highlights included Sadie skiing like a total boss, watching Kikkan snag her first classic sprint podium, and of course seeing Noah catch up to the lead pack and get the fastest time on the skate stage!
Warning: this is going to be a nice loooooong wordy post. My Dad always says he wants to hear the “blood and guts”…the details of the race and how it went down from my perspective. So, here’s a look into what was going on in my head this past mini-tour weekend!
To start off; my first race of the season? Well, the classic sprint wasn’t exactly the morning I’d been hoping for, for a couple of reasons. I actually felt fairly good while warming up, and was hoping for a chance to crack the rounds in a classic sprint, something I’ve never done before. I guess I was pretty nervous and forgot to put my poles in front of the gate, so when I started, I clipped my pole and crashed, right there in the starting gate, .05 seconds into my race. What a way to begin the World Cup season, right? :) The kicker is that I actually felt pretty good for the rest of the qualifier, and charged as hard as I could, making it up the steep climb better than I ever have before. I smacked my left kneecap pretty good when I fell, so it was pulling at my concentration and focus during the sprint, but I was proud of myself for not just giving up and still pushing my hardest. Cork looked at the times and thought I probably would have made the rounds if I hadn’t crashed, so that’s a positive piece of news, although I didn’t feel so psyched about it that morning.
The really awful part of my day wasn’t actually the bad qualifier, but came instead during my cool-down. I thought it might be a good idea to do a lap of the far side of the 5km course, and practice going down the “scary corner” once. This corner is a 90 degree right hand turn, and it always looks so much worse than it is, especially when it’s iced out from everyone skidding around it. I thought I’d be conservative and slid around, but I must have caught my wax on the burm and I crashed for the second time that day – but much harder, and right on the same spot on my knee. It was the kind of crash where I just huddled over my knee for a minute, and when I got up I was shaking from head to toe, and had a sick feeling in my stomach from pain and fear that I’d just really messed something up. I’m going to straight up admit that there were tears. But when I got back to the condo, Ana our PT taped me up and confirmed that my knee was going to be just fine, just stiff, swollen and bruised, but skiable. All the girls hugged me up and I felt back to normal. I was careful to ice every hour and keep my knee moving so the swelling would go down, and I feel so lucky to have Ana here to help – we don’t always get a PT on the road but they really save the day when we need help!
Anyways, because of my hard fall, for the first time in a long time I was truly terrified of a downhill coming up in a race. Like, I visualized going down the hill at least 20 times, and I actually walked down it the morning of the race, in a tuck, perfecting my step turn around the corner. It was so weird because I haven’t been scared of falling in a long time (I mean, come on…I fall ALL the time!) but I guess once you smack yourself a good one it takes a little while to grow a spine again. So the classic 5km was an ok race for me – not a good race, but not the worst either, just middle of the road. I had too much energy wasted on stress and I asked for way more kick than I needed. That said, it was another chance to work on my classic racing and work on making it feel more natural, the way I feel about skating. The course was 1 lap of a 5km course, with a lot of climbing that got pretty steep in places, so it was a good chance to work on standing more upright and getting right over the kick pocket. Now I need to work on the glide!
Now on to the SKATING part! Yeah! I was so happy to get in a distance skate race because till that point, I hadn’t done a single one. Zero. Nada. All our fall time trials were classic, and we had only done skate sprints, so I hadn’t gotten a chance to do what I love best yet. This course was 4 laps of a 2.5km loop, and we call it our half pipe course, because it drops down from the stadium and up a big hill, does a little lollipop around the top and drops down again. While a course built exactly to my strengths would have a lot more transitions spots and more gradual hills to do some strong V2 on, I like this course a lot for skating. Especially since we’ve been working on my V1 technique a lot this summer!
As you might imagine, after the way the mini-tour started for me, my confidence wasn’t super duper high, and I was itching for a chance to prove to myself, for my own peace of mind, that I could go hammer a good race and that I was in fact in good shape. Because I started the 10km skate with bib 46, I had a lot of people to pass and chase down, which is exactly how I like it. I got to pass 22 people, and skied back into the points with a 24th finish in the mini-tour. I got the 8th fastest time on the day, sandwiched between Kikkan (7th) and Liz (9th), which is way too cool that we all skied similar races without seeing each other. But the part that I’m proud of is that once again, something went a little haywire for me during the race, and while it rattled me for a lap, I was able to keep calm and pull it together.
I guess there’s just something about me that makes people want to step on my poles. Do I give off that vibe? “Hey, go ahead, step on me!” I suppose I do. Because around 4km, someone stepped on my left pole and yanked it off. Because I had wrapped the grip so tight around my wrist, my glove came off with it. I think I said something like “you KIDDING ME?!??” out loud, and then proceeded to flag down the coaches asking for a pole. I got one that was about the right height with a biathlon loop strap, but it wasn’t until the next lap that I had a chance to get a glove, and I didn’t want to stop on the uphill and lose the pack I was in. So, I proceeded to ski the rest of the race without a glove, which was slightly distracting as my left hand slowly froze. I would just wrap my left hand in my right on the downhill and blow on it, and yes, I realize that it was stupid and I probably should have just stopped to put on a mitten. But I was having an awesome race, I was having fun catching people and wanted to see what I could do in the final sprint-out with the pack I was with (it went well, so maybe it was worth it?). And I figured…I’m from Minnesota. I can be cold and be ok! After crossing the finish line, Sadie and Liz grabbed me (more proof of teammate love!) and pulled a mitten on my hand, and my fingers ended up just fine, after a painful thaw-out period.
So, basically, I’m really looking forward to how it’s going to feel when nothing crazy happens to me during a race – when I’m not bruised or hurting or skiing with the wrong pole. Nah, on second thought…that might be a little boring.
After the Ruka Triple, we made it a 4-stage event by adding in a strength workout after the last race. Ugh. It was hard, for sure, and we were a little tired but it’s important to maintain the strength we’ve worked so hard to build going into a long season.
Since we always hop from one venue to the next right away instead of going home for the start of the week (since it’s kind of a long trip), we usually end up spending more time at the venue than most teams. We took advantage of the extra chill time this past week and went black-light bowling! I really love doing fun things with the team, even if I sometimes granny bowl and mostly put them in the gutter
We also had some birthdays this week – Andy had the big 3.0 and Rosie turned 25 on our travel day to Lillehammer! So we celebrated and even sang to Rosie on the plane ride over. At the moment, we are just getting settled into our room here in Lillehammer, feng shui-ing the rooms around and whatnot. It’s my first time in this city, and I’m excited to do some exploring tomorrow!
November 26th, 2013
Let me start this by noting that even while having fun and getting psyched about racing, I didn’t forget to support “Movember”. Because it’s not a good time unless you can make fun of yourself with a mustache, while promoting a good cause, on national television. Right?
Our week of training and getting used to the time change in Beitostolen was absolutely awesome! We celebrated Sadie and Oleg’s birthday, and Rosie and I had fun decorating our apartment with paper snowflakes. I don’t think I’d cut one of those in years, but a little arts and crafts time sure makes the living situation more like home.
The FIS races over the weekend were a great chance to put a bib on and get the feeling of racing back once again. While I was still doing a fair amount of training – since it’s such a long season, I don’t want to peak too early! – I was really happy with how my races ended up. I identified a lot of things to work on (as always) but there were things that went really well, too. Result-wise, I finished 13th in the classic and in the sprint I qualified 8th and finished 17th.
The 10km classic was cool because this is a technique I’ve been putting a lot of work into over the summer, and I think it’s starting to pay off. While I still have work to do on actually gliding more instead of bouncing up and down on my skis, I am getting better at relaxing and using a more powerful kick. And while I can improve on my race pacing and be patient while my race shape comes around, I am happy with where my head’s at during the race.
The skate sprint was a little different, because it’s one of the shortest courses I think we do all year! It was only 1.1 km, and went very fast (the qualifier took me about 2:14). It’s definitely not the course best suited to me, but that’s good because it showed me what I need to work on. It was a challenge for me to get into that top gear so quickly, and in the quarterfinal round I felt like I was just getting going in the finishing lanes – I wish I had more room to keep skiing! I lunged at the line but finished 4th in my heat and so didn’t advance to the next round. So while I need to work on my fastest-twitch muscles, I am happy with how I started the round with more confidence than last year, getting out of the gate quicker and holding my line. I am definitely scared of being stepped on in sprint heats, probably because I have been elbowed and knocked over more than once in the past. But that comes with the adrenaline of sprinting, and it’s something I’ve been working on: being able to hold my own. And of course, Kikksie picked up right where she left off, winning the sprint in style. So, like most every weekend on the World Cup, someone on the team is putting up a great result for us all to celebrate!
Results from the 10km classic can be found here: http://www.beitoworldcup.com//2013/resultatlister/langrenn/2211/Women%2010K%20results.pdf
And the skate sprint brackets: http://www.beitoworldcup.com//2013/resultatlister/langrenn/2411/Women%20Sprint%20results.pdf
After the skate sprint, we cleaned up our condo…and wow, it’s just amazing how fast 5 months of stuff can spread all over the place! We managed to somehow wrangle it all into the cargo van. It was such a tight fit, you couldn’t have squeezed a piece of paper in between the bags and the ceiling. That’s some real-life Tetris skills, people. It was a really beautiful drive to the Oslo airport area, Gardermoen. We flew on Monday from Oslo to Helsinki, from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (official home of Santa Claus, woot woot!) and then drove over to Ruka, Finland. This is the less glamorous side of the life we live – always on the move, traveling every weekend and continuously adjusting to new time zones. It’s worth it, though!
We are living in these awesome cabins, about 100 meters from the race course. One of the best parts of living here is that 1.) we have laundry. It’s all about the little details. and 2.) we have saunas here! It can get wicked cold when the wind picks up, and Kuusamo is infamous for giving us frostbite.
Technically, I think they call this the Kuusamo World Cups, but the town we live and race in is actually called Ruka. Which of course reminds me of my teammate Erika Flowers, because that’s her nickname! I really miss my SMS teammates, but luckily the snow out in West Yellowstone is supposed to be rockin right now, so I know they’re probably happy and getting great training in.
I’m looking forward to this weekend’s World Cup opening races; the Ruka triple! It’s a mini-tour, and starts with a classic sprint, then a 5km individual classic, and ends with a pursuit-start 10km freestyle. Wish us luck!
November 20th, 2013
Last year, I was in a very different place (literally and figuratively). I was in Muonio, Finland, and it was much darker, I had lost my computer so I didn’t have great access to contact my family and friends, I was super nervous about the upcoming season, and I didn’t have stellar self-confidence in my skiing. This time around, in the weeks before the opening world cup, I feel so much happier! I am living in Beitostolen, Norway with my teammates all in the same hotel condos, we are cooking for ourselves and I am able to Skype with my family so I can stay in touch. It’s been beautiful and sunny here, with longer daylight hours than I was expecting and I have more confidence in myself and how I am skiing. So yep, I’m pretty dang happy with how the winter is starting off!
Speaking of skiing…I used to think West Yellowstone was incredibly crowded. My opinion has now changed a little bit! Our first day here in Beitostolen, we went out for a ski, and since it was the weekend and this is one of the only places with 5km of trails covered, it was packed. There were hundreds of skiers out, most of them kids and high school skiers, from at least 20 different clubs. Even the littlest kids were dressed to the nines in full ski suits and jackets, and making their way around the course. They were racing each other in relays, short sprints, and some were doing intervals. One kid had LMFAO songs blasting from speakers in his water bottle pack. It was pretty neat to see SO many kids and families out skiing, but also a little terrifying and chaotic, since I never knew when one would unpredicatbly stop in the middle of the trail or cut across, and the last thing I wanted to do was run over a pint-sized skier! But after the weekend the traffic wound down considerably, and we were able to get our intervals done without any problems.
The 5 km loop winds it’s way around and behind the stadium, with a couple nice short climbs but no monster hills, which is really nice for a training loop. It’s easy to wear yourself down if all you’re doing is climbing huge steep hills for hours and hours! This coming weekend, we have the FIS races here, which are a great chance to shake the dust off and practice firing up the engine. The race are Friday-Sunday, with a 10km classic, 10km skate and skate sprint, in that order. I will do the classic and sprint races, and I think most of the team will do those two as well.
The Norwegian team is here too, with an impressive possy of trucks. They now have three wax trucks, two of them being two-story pop up ones! Crazy awesome. I have to stop myself from just standing there staring. Our wax building is warm and nice, but not quite as big or impressive. But hey, it’s better than a cardboard box, right? Anyways, it’s the wax techs inside that make the difference. And our techs have been working really hard, getting all the skis organized, scraped, helping us test them out and figure out what we need for the year. We would be nowhere without these guys, and I’m so psyched that they are with us!
We are staying in these awesome condos, only a 10 minute walk away from the ski trails. Since our budget doesn’t really take well to being on the hotel dining plan, and since we’ll be eating from buffets most of the winter anyways, we are cooking for ourselves. I am quite enjoying it, thank you very much. My roomates and I (Holly, Rosie and Ida) decided to do an “American” dinner and make hamburgers, sweet potato fries and brussel sprouts. Everything was delicious, except for one small detail: we can’t read Norwegian, so at the grocery store we got pork instead of ground beef by accident. We were cooking, going “wow, these look like garden burgers or something…weird…” but the team was nice and said they tasted good anyways. They weren’t half bad!
Ok, so here’s something awesome I have to share. If you know me at all, you know that I love making new friends and hanging out with them. So I got really excited when the Norwegian girls invited us US team ladies over for Norwegian “bolle” at their cabin! I got to know Astrid this summer when she came to Eagle Glacier to train with us, but now I’ve gotten to meet all the rest of the girls. They were all so friendly and nice and spoke amazing English, and as we walked back home that night I was perfectly happy. I think 5 months on the road is fun, but it’s way more enjoyable when you have lots of friends to hang out with, and I’ve been getting to know the girls from other countries more every year. I guess this isn’t how the World Cup used to be – separate countries don’t usually hang out so much with each other. But this is how I think it should be, because when you know the people you ski with you can learn about other countries, try new things (like brown cheese – yum!), cheer on other athletes and be happy for them when they have breakthroughs because you know how hard they’ve been working to get there.
November 16th, 2013
The past week at home has been so incredibly good for me, and so incredibly busy, that I have only just stopped to catch my breath…in Beitostolen, Norway! The team flew here today, and it’s so great to have everyone here, ready to spend the next 5 months traveling and racing our way around Europe.
Whenever I go home, I always settle into the most comfortable version of myself. I sit slumped over my coffee at the kitchen counter every morning, my posture so bad it’d make the strength coach cry. I lay on the living room floor with the dogs, getting covered in dog hair and dodging kisses to the face. I love every minute of our family dinners, where we all sit together and just talk and enjoy each other’s company. I’m definitely going to take these memories with me on the road! And although I was only home for 6 days, I got to spend a lot of quality family time. However, I had a lot going on in those precious 6 days!
I was the guest speaker at the Winona Nordic Annual Fundraiser dinner, to help raise money to put in lights along the ski trails where they have snowmaking. It was a cool opportunity to meet members of the community and annouce something I’m very excited about…a new sponsorship! I have signed with Fastenal, and I will be part of their Blue Team Sports (powered by Fastenal). They manufacture products from fasteners to welding and safety products, and are very involved in giving back to the community. You can learn more about them here: http://www.fastenal.com/web/home
I joined the St. Croix Valley Minnesota Youth Ski Club at their annual ski swap, to work on balance and ski movements with the kids before playing capture the flag and games like we always do. Then, I showed a slideshow presentation of what life is like as a professional nordic skier; traveling, training, racing the World Cup, and hopefully helped inspire a couple MYSL skiers!
That evening, I had my own dinner fundraiser, at the Chilkoot Cafe. This is the third annual dinner, and it wouldn’t be possible without Randy Moses and Lee Stylos organizing and hosting the entire event.
I was so completely humbled by the amount of people that came, and the strength of the cross country community where I live. It was also a great chance (and my only chance) to say hi to and get a hug from so many friends before I leave for the winter. The fundraiser was an awesome success, but even more than the financial support, the moral and emotional support I recieved was incredible. When the road gets tough this winter, when I’m homesick, I’ll think back to what a great community of skiers is home cheering on our team, and I’ll get through it. I just had to include the picture below of the basket that Kris Hansen (my high school coach) organized and dropped at my front door the night I got home. I am, both literally and figuratively, fueled by the Minnesota community!
One last presentation I gave that week was at the Slumberland Conference, as a suprise guest speaker after dinner. I had a great time meeting more people from Slumberland, as they are my headgear sponsor and have been sponsoring me long before I ever earned results on the World Cup. So I was happy and honored to be able to speak at their event!
A theme I touched on for all these presentations came from a book our coach Matt gave to all the girls. It’s called “The Boys In The Boat”, by Daniel James Brown, and it follows the story of how the 1936 Olympic 8 man rowing team won Gold, beating the Germans in front of Hitler. But more importantly the book tells about how the boys banded together as a crew and learned to trust each other in a race. This quote applies to our team, and I think it explains a lot about why we have been doing better and better in races:
“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmantes that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt…’It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do’.”
It really, really MATTERS to me whether my teammates are happy or not. It matters to me whether they meet their goals. It matters to me if they win the medals I think they deserve. That’s why, especially in relays, I can ski so much harder, and why we can all put in such incredibly hard efforts, because everyone wants to contribute as much as they possibly can to the team goal. It matters, plain and simple, if you’re a team player or not.
Reid Lutter and the Podiumwear team came over to Afton to do a fun photo shoot while I was home as well, and I got to see the fun new designs for the women’s line Podiumwear is making! Pictures will be up on www.podiumwear.com soon, so be sure to vote on your favorite!
Kare 11, an NBC affiliate, came to film a piece, and interviewed my parents and sister as well! I was psyched to give them a small roller ski tour of Afton, and show off the beautiful area.
Last but certainly not least, the Stillwater High School ski team invited me to come join them in a roller ski practice! It’s been a long time since I was doing intervals up Trading Post with the team, but I had some really great flashbacks while watching the first half of their practice. We did some agility drills, including 180* hops on their skis before going through a slalom course and seeing how long they could glide out each ski. Then they got to the intervals, and since my intervals were the previous day, I went back home to finish packing!
It was really hard to say goodbye to my family and friends, and leave for a 5 month tour. But I’ll get to see my family this winter, and we’ll stay in touch! So that brings me to the present, sitting in the lobby of our hotel in Beito, desperately trying to stay awake through the time change.
A quick note on our flight here…I’m starting to come to a sad realization about the baggage check-in desks. When I was flying back to Utah from Placid camp in a boot and crutches, I was treated like a china doll. They didn’t weigh my ski bag, or even bother to charge me for it. But flying to Europe, feeling strong and ready to go, I was super polite but couldn’t catch a break with my big bags and the United lady tried to tell me that only ONE pair of skis was allowed in a ski bag. Yeah, right! What I’ve concluded from all this is that the more weak and pathetic I look, the better I’ll be treated. And isn’t that a kicker? Too bad my job is to be strong and fit. Maybe I’ll travel with crutches from now on…
Anyways! Wish us luck, and I’ll be updating on our adventures!
November 5th, 2013
Hmm, let’s see…this week, I think, may have been one of the most mentally challenging weeks of training I’ve had all summer! I would say sorry about not writing earlier, but I really hate when people make lame excuses. And it’s probably good that I waited, because I was way too tired to make much sense anyways. Which implies that usually, I DO make a lot of sense. (See what I did there?)
After a 10 day stint in Canmore, Alberta for the Frozen Thunder camp, Liz, Noah and I returned to Park City while the rest of the team went home. Don’t worry, I’ll get my family time in soon, but first I had one more stretch of training at altitude that I needed to finish up. And….drumroll, please…the dreaded treadmill tests that I still needed to do. I believe that in Latin they call it “Painfulus Maximus”. Anyways, the end of Canmore camp was really great. We had some great times hanging out with friends, and wandering around Banff one afternoon.
I was also pretty psyched to be able to finally shake my cold and do a time trial – a 10km classic. It felt so great to be going hard again. It’s funny how much I miss that.
Since I got sick in Canmore and had a little forced rest, I was ready to go and hit the last week of training really hard. Although I wasn’t fully recovered from the past 3 weeks of hard training at camp, I was rested enough to have 3 sets of intervals and a day of testing. The hard part was staying mentally in it and dealing with some really quite spectacular weather moments that Mother Nature threw at us!
The day after we got back, Liz and I went for a skate ski around town. I don’t know exactly how fast the wind was blowing, but it felt like we were skiing through the set from “The Wizard of Oz” movie when the tornado was going off. The power lines were truly frightening because they were whipping up and down and looked like they’d come loose any moment, and every 10 minutes or so I’d get nailed by a tumbleweed going a million miles an hour. But we ducked our heads, V2′d down the hills and V1′d the flats, and made it just fine.
The next day was testing. On the one hand, I really hate the treadmill tests simply because they actually ARE a loosing battle. You’re never going to be able to out-ski the treadmill, and if you really truly go to max effort, you’ll be thrown off the back and swing from the harness. If you’re lucky, you’ll have sweet rope burn and treadmill burns to show for your effort. Everyone loves a little proof of a job well done, right? On the other hand, I like the treadmill tests because it’s a chance to get deep into the pain cave and see what you find. It’s a chance to test your limits of willpower and grit, to ski until you don’t think you can take another step, and then take one more. It’s a chance to dig deep and figure out how far you’re willing to go when every breath sears your lungs and every muscle feels like it’s on fire. I guess, in the final few seconds of the test, I don’t even care about rope burn or feel the instinct to protect myself from being thrown off the treadmill, because at that point anything…ANYTHING, would feel better.
Liz took the above picture a little while after my max test ended, and I didn’t even know she was standing there. I was in my own little world. On the plus side, I did beat my time from this spring by a ways, and in my double pole max test I beat it by a long shot, which helps me believe that we’re on the right track with my training this summer and fall!
On that note…training. The fun didn’t stop after that! The next day I had classic intervals on roller skis, and right as my interval started, the snow came pouring down. It started sticking to the roads and at points I was skiing through slush that came up to my boots! Dave Knoop took the picture below as he ran out of his house to cheer us on (I ended up passing his house right in the middle of my interval!) The picture ended up circling around, but what I hope people notice about it isn’t just the snow, but the fact that Cork was on the bike next to me. A lot of people would have just stayed in a warm car or pushed their athlete out the door, but not our coaches. Not this dude. His hands probably froze to the handlebars because biking sure is colder than roller skiing, but he managed to get video for technique review and keep up a string of encouragement the whole time. This is one of the reasons our team is so successful – we have athletes willing to go push themselves when it gets tough but we also have coaches willing to go do it right alongside us. Matt, Grover, Fish, Cork and all our wax techs have all stood outside filming and helping us through workouts when it really sucks to be outside, and that’s no small thing. Thanks guys.
So, after a day of good recovery, I had another interval set at Soldier’s Hollow. This is so typical me, but I forgot to put in my contacts (don’t ask) and ended up crashing twice. The second time knocked the wind out of me and I definitely needed a good hug before finishing up the set, but it got done! That afternoon I had strength, and it was the last time for a couple months that I’ll get to lift with our strength coach, Michael Naperalsky. That’s a huge bummer. He writes our plans but then does them with us when we’re in town, which is so great because not only does he help us with lifting technique so we stay injury-free, but he pushes us and challenges us to get stronger, to lift a little more than we think we can. So a huge thanks to him as well, and hopefully we’ll get to see him on the road this winter! It feels a little like the team is playing a game of “Red Rover” with the USST: “red rover, red rover, send the strength coach over!” We always want to see more staff come over to Europe with us, but the budget is one big balancing act and let’s be honest, it’s not easy to just jet over to Europe because a ragtag band of ski bums wants you. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed!
The final challenge of the week came when I was out doing long classic speeds and yes, once again, it was snowing and cold and windy. You kidding me, mother nature?? But once again, Cork was out there filming and the whole thing was totally worth it because we stopped by the Farra’s household after for coffee and snacks.
We also went to the Salomon headquarters in Ogden, Utah this week! It was great to see all the offices and meet the people behind Salomon USA. We also got a tour of the warehouse and helped pick out skis for Nick Hendrickson.
This Friday, I’ll head home to see my family for 6 days before flying to Europe on November 15th. I’m so excited to sleep in my own bed and see my friends before leaving!
October 24th, 2013
There are sports out there that you can compete in while sick, or coming back from a cold, and still do decently well. Cross Country skiing is not one of them. Darn it! So when I caught a small head cold (sore throat, stuffy nose) on my second day in Canmore, I was pretty bummed out. I only had to take 1.5 days off from skiing, but the rest of my time here has been slow L1 on snow, working on technique and sitting out the intervals to make sure I don’t drive the cold into my lungs while I recover. While I’m extremely grateful for the time on snow, it’s been really hard to not hammer around the way I’d been hoping to.
As an elite athlete, getting sick is part of the deal. It comes with the territory. Everyone catches a cold sooner or later. But it always stinks, and it’s never easy or fun to have to take a day or two off from training! Although it doesn’t affect your overall fitness and is only the smallest setback, it feels like the biggest deal in the world at the time. Usually, when you get sick the team puts you in a separate room (sometimes a separate hotel) and basically chalks an X on the door. See you in a while. But that’s where this team is different, and makes such a difference to me.
While I did move into a new room, my teammates were amazing. They came knocking to check on me and tell me that I’d be better soon, no stress. They brought me get-well cards, baked goods, fizzy water, and gave me their Netflix passwords so I wouldn’t get bored. I know that good vibes alone aren’t entirely responsible for me feeling good enough to ski the next day, but I’m convinced they were a large part of it. I felt so much love and support, and I know that whether or not I can ski, they’ll treat me just the same. And when I wasn’t able to race the sprint time trial today, I was able to pour my energy into my teammates and cheer for them during all the heats, which made me feel much better.
It’s easy for a team to get along and be nice to each other when everything is going perfectly and stress is low. But it’s when something goes wrong that you really get to know your teammates. I feel so lucky to be on a team where I know that my teammates have my back no matter what, and will be there for me, just like I am for them. Yes, I know I tend to gush a lot over how great this team is on my blog….but hey, I write straight from the heart about things I’m passionate about, so you’re likely to hear quite a bit more about how much I love my team over the years.
Now, lets discuss what happens in my head while skiing on frozen thunder, or any other confined loop of snow for that matter. It’s an interesting feeling, because once the initial “Whoo! I’m on snow! Take that, roller skis!” feeling wears off (usually after the first hour) I realize that I’ve been going in loops of less than 2km for a long, long time. My brain starts to send signals to my shoulder angel, who says “dude…you’ve been skiing in circles for hours….you are so dumb. Get a life!” The trick for me is to brush that off, and concentrate on one very specific technique element at a time. Maybe one lap I’ll ski with only one pole to emphasize what that arm is doing, where I’m planting my pole, how I’m activating my core as I push off it. Then the next lap I’ll switch poles, or go no-poles and focus on how my legs are pushing off. Funny enough, this whole practice-skiing-with-one-pole drill came in handy last year, so I’m probably going to keep doing it, even if it’s just to alleviate boredom.
But wait! Skiing in loops isn’t the only training mode available here…there are great trails for running, biking, and there’s also a sweet roller ski track at the Nordic Centre. I’ve worked up to 30 minutes easy jogging pain-free on my foot, and some plyos on dry land. I’m really thrilled with this because I enjoy running and it’s been good to get outside more instead of being on the spin bike!
Of course, we’ve done pretty well hitting up various coffee shops around town for social time and then internet time. I really enjoy hanging out with my friends – I think it’s one of our biggest hobbies as a group
I also had to share this picture from back in Park City, because I forgot earlier (shame on me!!) and it’s pretty cute. We have this tradition with our Park City camps – when we have a looooong roller ski starting in Kamas, the coaches pick up these monster donuts from this one gas station, and have them for us to share at the end. It’s such a nice treat at the end of a cold hard ski!
This is an interesting time of year because it’s when I tend to have the hardest time keeping my confidence high. Starting in May, I begin laying this brick wall of confidence and belief. Every high five or hug from a teammate, every word of encouragement from a coach, every smile I see on the face of a Fast and Female girl I’ve worked with adds a brick. By the fall, this wall is getting pretty high, and it needs to be if it’s going to last the entire season. Because at some point in the season, I will have a bad race, and at some point I’ll probably get sick, and I’ll definitely get homesick once or twice. But if this wall is high enough, it can keep out the creeping wave of self-doubt that sometimes tries to wash over the top. Every year I’m becoming a better brick-layer, and my teammates, coaches and family are a huge help with this.
The fall is when it’s hardest for me to keep putting down layers of belief and confidence, because right before the season is when I don’t yet know if all those hours of preparation have worked. I don’t yet know if I’ll be in good race shape in November, and that can be tough, especially in times like this when a cold is preventing me from testing out my fitness in time trials. I know I’m not the only athlete that feels this way – in fact, most people I’ve talked to say that right before the seasons starts is when they are most stressed out and intimidated.
You’re probably wondering….why are you sharing all this, Jessie? Aren’t you supposed to be a role model or something? Shouldn’t you have great confidence after a good race season? Well, yeah, that’s exactly why I’m writing this. Because everyone has moments of self doubt. Every sports hero you’ve ever looked up to is human, and has had to build their own brick wall of belief to deal with tough moments. All my role models have had to find tricks to boost their self confidence before races, and when I learned that I felt so relieved, because it meant that even Olympic champions are human and maybe I can get there one day, too.
So! That said, I’m going to continue to train as hard as I can, rest as well as I can and build up my teammates as well as my own confidence.
I also have to announce -I’m so excited! – that I have signed with Podiumwear as the official ambassador the new custom women’s line of athletic wear. This is so fun for me because I basically get to help design my ideal training jacket and suit, and see it come to life and become available for everyone!
For more information, check out this link: https://www.podiumwear.com/2013/10/jessie-diggins-partners-with-podiumwear
October 19th, 2013
There’s something about getting into Canada that makes me undeniably happy. Everyone here is so friendly and nice, and even the customs officers knew what Cross Country skiing was and were quick to wish our team good luck! The atmosphere around town is similar to that of the West Yellowstone Festival…many people’s first time on snow in a long time, and the socializing that comes with any large group of skiers getting together. Frozen Thunder is, in my opinion, even better than last year. With an added loop and out-and-back section, the loop is closer to 1.4km and the snow is super clean and 3-4 ft deep in places! And yeah, you do end up going in circles for a long time, there’s no getting around that fact. But when you’re working on technique drills, doing intervals or time trials, or skiing with friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s not bad.
For further demonstration of how awesome our Canadian friends have been to us: 3 hours after arriving in Camore, Chandra Crawford had the team over to her place for a delicious hot dinner. I haven’t seen her since Alaska in July, and it was so great to get a good hug in. Also, Patrick Moore, aka “Toque” drove down to help us wax and ski with us for a couple days! He is a wax tech on the World Cup for us during the winter, and then spends his vacation time hanging out with us nerds. So cool. I’m so excited to hang out with all my Canadian buddies this week!
Ok, ok, back it up a second…before I go on about how much I love Canmore, let me wrap up the Park City part of camp! The second week of PC camp was great, and while it had the potential to be really overwhelming with so many clubs and around 50 athletes attending, the coaches did a great job of finding safe roads with good terrain. Although there is still a certain corner at Soldier’s Hollow that I don’t enjoy going around in a group…
We had a rollerski time trial at Soldier’s Hollow, with no elimination in the rounds so that everyone could get in a great workout and practice tactics. There was moving around in the heats, however; if you won your heat, you moved up, and if you were last, you moved down. That way the groups were constantly changing and it made it a little more exciting. I was happy with getting to practice my starts off the line, since they were simply horrible last year (no way to feather that fact) and I’ve been working really hard on them all summer. The work is paying off and they are starting to improve!
We also had a beautiful if slightly mind-boggling ski up Wolf Creek Canyon, as we were in the sun the whole time but as we climbed higher we eventually saw frost on the road and piles of snow on either side. It was really beautiful!
Mike Engal, a great friend of the ski team who lives in Park City, once again hosted a fabulous dinner fundraiser for the USST. It was Russian themed (20 guesses why!!) and a real Russian catering crew served delicious little piroshkis while we met members of the community interested in helping us reach our goal of Best in the World. What a fun night!
Here’s a quick foot update: I have been able to do plyos in the pool without any pain whatsoever, and I even got to try running this week – finally! It’s really nice to be back to nearly all the training modes full time. Later this week, I’ll get to do regular jumps and bounds out of the pool, and I was so excited I jumped for joy. Just kidding, that would be doing plyos. I did a little shuffle-skip dance instead.
So here we are, once again at the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge in Canmore, Alberta, ready to go ski our brains out on Frozen Thunder!
October 11th, 2013
Seeing as it’s International Day of the Girl (real holiday), I thought today would be a great day to post the details on my annual fundraiser dinner! Chilkoot Café in Stilwater, Minnesota is once again generously hosting the event, which will include an absolutely delicious dinner, fun social time with awesome people from the Midwest, and a slideshow about training, my preparation for Sochi and cool details about the upcoming Olympics and World Cup season.
This fundraiser has been so important to me the past few years, because it fills the gap in funding that pays for my training and travel expenses in-between USST camps and races. But the best part for me is that it’s a chance to get the local ski community and friends together, talk about all things Nordic, and get to see all the people who support me for just being a local girl who is going after a big dream, before I fly off to Europe for the next 5 months.
While I’m on the road, it can seem a little isolated at times since I’m on the other side of the world from my local community and family, but I feel the love from you guys. I really do. Every time I hear about someone getting up at 5am to watch us race, all the cards I’ve gotten, all the emails wishing me and my teammates good luck, they all stack up to an incredible amount of support. And honestly, the best kind of support I can ever receive is the emotional kind – the knowledge that back home, there’s people that believe in me, that really think I can do it, that are 100% behind my team and what we’re out to do. So I want to thank you all for the cheers that I’ve gotten all winter.
Now, where was I? Oh yes….details! The dinner will be at the Chilkoot Café and Cyclery, in Stillwater, MN at 6:00 on November 10th. Call for more information or to reserve your spot by calling the Chilkoot Café at 651-342-0429. I hope to see you there!
Meanwhile, in Park City, the training camp has been off to a great start. Here’s a couple pictures from agility practice, where we had a super fun and challenging obstacle course put together by our coaches. There were multiple 180′s, slalom courses, backwards skiing and crossing of one ski over the other while rolling. And though it’s hard to believe…..no blood!! I didn’t go down! This may be a first
We had a fun little girls night up on Guardsman Pass…Sophie brought us bowls of chili and cornbread, and we took some blankets up to watch the sun set!
I’ll close with this girls team photo – Matt once again came up with a totally inspiring kick off before we head to Europe, and I realized how extremely proud I am to be a part of this team. We’ve got some really big goals and tough races ahead of us, but we’re training as hard as we can day in and day out, as a team, together. I can’t wait to get on the road with this second family of mine, but first we get one last big training push before the season starts. We’re going to make it a good one!
October 8th, 2013
“Hi, I’m Jessie. I like glitter, chipmunks and raspberries. And that’s all you really need to know”. That’s been my usual intro for Fast and Female events lately, but I was nearly speechless at our event yesterday, with around 135 girls in pink all over the COE. Just kidding, I’m never speechless, I love talking. But still, the turnout and excitement for this event really wowed me!
I had the best time painting glitter on the girls while they got pink stripes sprayed into their hair (the wash-out kind, don’t worry Moms and Dads!) and then the girls made tutus in their age groups.
After introducing the ambassadors, everyone broke up into their groups and went through each station. We had dance (cross country), speed skating, trampoline (free skiing), foam pit, obstacle course (alpine), and biathalon.
Like the last few years, I got to run the dance station, “Dancing with Diggins”. I love this because although I’m not actually a great dancer, it doesn’t matter at all! The whole point was to be constantly moving (endurance athlete, remember?) and get every single girl to have a moment in the spotlight. So we went around the circle, and each girl made up a dance move that we strung together into one big dance. The highlights for me were seeing the really shy girls come up with something and then see them start to light up as all the other girls practiced her move.
Before each group left my station, the group came up with a couple moves to contribute to the Fast and Female dance, which we’ll be putting together shortly, so that at every F&F event around the world, all the girls can learn the same dance! After getting a healthy snack, all the girls took a seat and listened to different ambassadors tell their inspirational stories. Then we signed posters for the girls to take home, another great event in the books!
Now for the USOC Media Summit – this was an all day event for me, Kikkan, Liz and Andy on Wednesday. We spent 12 hours straight going through different media outlets, doing all the interviews, photos and broadcasts for the upcoming Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. It really got me excited about the season, although by the end of the day I was worn out! We started with broadcasting and did a lot of TV interviews, answering largely the same questions over and over for different stations. Questions like how we got into skiing, what goes through our minds during a race, and funky pre-race rituals. Through that process, I’m afraid I may have earned myself the nickname “glitter girl”. Uh-oh.
I struggled a bit with how to answer the question “why do you cross-country athletes compete when you have to endure so much pain?” I tried so hard not to come up with a blank look on this one. I mean, everyone has their own reasons for venturing into the pain cave. Some go in after medals, money or glory. Some go in for the sheer challenge. And some of us are hopelessly addicted to endorphins and the rush of doing something ridiculously hard. Basically, we’re exercise druggies. I think my reasons change with the race – in an individual race, it’s a chance to push myself to the limit and learn something new. Because when I’m lying in a twisted little heap in the finish pen, unable to breathe or think, that’s when I really learn something about myself. I’m stronger than I thought, braver than I thought, and I can get through a whole lot more than I thought prior to the start of the race. In a team sprint or relay? Well, it’s about finding something bigger than yourself. For me, knowing that my teammates have put everything on the line and pushed themselves so hard….giving up just isn’t an option. It really isn’t. So, yeah, our sport involves dealing with a lot of physical discomfort and pain, but it’s always worth it.
My favorite part might have been the singing and dancing we did for NBC…they re-wrote the words to a familiar Christmas jingle, and had athletes with guitars singing and dancing. It’s going to be really, really funny when it comes out! Kikkan and I also did a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated, and while I don’t know if they’ll use the photos yet, we sure blew through a metric ton of fake snow!
We also finished up the Athlete Ambassador training for Sochi today, which was pretty neat. Basically, the goal was to prepare athletes on how to deal with media, family, culture and language differences and proper US flag-holding etiquette. There were some big laughs when we did a mock press conference and some pretty outrageous questions were thrown to the athletes, but it was also a good reminder to be flexible and roll with whatever happens!
Tomorrow I’ll go get after some intervals, while the rest of the team finishes up treadmill max and strength testing at the COE. Because of my foot situation we decided to wait till I get back from Canmore for my max tests, but wow was it inspiring cheering on my teammates today! I think many PR’s were set, and everyone looks like they’re in great shape. Geez, it’s so fun being part of a team that pushes boundaries on a regular basis.