March 8th, 2014
I apologize for such a long delay in updating! The past week has been an interesting experience for me. After traveling out of Sochi, I was so excited to be living in Lahti, right in the city! It’s very rare for us to be able to live in a big city because usually we’re racing in more remote towns and often staying out of the city a ways. But every year we look forward to a little city living in Finland, and this year did not disappoint!
My favorite part of our stay in Lahti was getting to have dinner at Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s house again. She came to our glacier camp in Alaska 2 summers ago, and we have been good friends ever since! She is kind enough to invite all the US girls over to her house for a delicious home-cooked meal, since she knows how special it is for us to be in a house instead of a hotel, and it’s so nice to have time to hang out and catch up. After dinner we even shot oranges out of her potato gun (I really, really loved this)!
Headed into the skate race weekend in Lahti, I was excited and looking forward to it. I had great intervals earlier in the week, and I liked the course, and we hadn’t done an individual start 10km skate all year. But the day before the skate sprint I woke up with a sore throat, cough and stuffy nose…and my weekend was over before it even started. At first I was so bummed out to be missing the races but by Sunday I was so sick and miserable that I didn’t even care. By Wednesday I was feeling so much better but I still had symptoms of a cough and stuffy nose, so I had to sit out the Drammen sprint. And last night the coaches and I decided that since I haven’t been 100% healthy for long enough, it wouldn’t be a good idea to race the 30km classic tomorrow and risk getting sick again since World Cup finals are next week.
It’s so easy for me to feel useless and extremely bummed out when I’m sick on the road…it really sucks to not be able to do my job, and the thing I love – racing. What’s extra hard about getting sick on this team is that instead of being able to go home and recover in your own bed, you get isolated and have to stay in a room by yourself so you don’t get other people sick. I am such a social person that this was maybe the worst part for me – not getting to hang out with my friends. Now that I’m much better I can finally be with the team again, which helps so much! Although I’m really disappointed to not be racing, that doesn’t mean that the past weeks in Lahti and Oslo have been a bust! There have been a lot of silver linings going on.
One of the things I look forward to every year is getting to ski around the Holmenkollen course and soak up the fun atmosphere. The sides of the trail are packed with fans, all excited to cheer for everyone and the woods are filled with tents and elaborate snow-fort campsites. The air smells like hot dogs, campfires and booze and music is blasting from the woods. I think what I like best, though, is that the Norwegians cheer for EVERYBODY. It doesn’t matter what country you race for or if you’re first or last…there will be people in the woods screaming your name, willing you up the hills. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the atmosphere and crowds at the Holmenkollen are better even than the Olympic crowd, because in Sochi most of the crowd would only cheer when a Russian skied by. But here everyone gets cheered for and the fans all have such big smiles on – you can tell they’re having a blast camping overnight by the race trails!
Another really fun thing I got to do this week was be an ambassador at the first ever Fast and Female event in Norway! Astrid Jacobsen, one of our friends on the Norwegian team, organized and made the event possible, and boy was it ever a success. 190 girls were registered in only a couple days, with 100 more on the waiting list! When we arrived, all the girls were checked in and there were a bunch of boys from Astrid’s club, Heming, helping organize and lead the stations.
We got to play a trivia game, do a fun and tricky obstacle course in the gymnasium room, and bounce on some giant trampolines! The girls were giggling, having fun and challenging themselves with new obstacles. Then after a snack and Q&A with the ambassadors, I got do to my dream job…be the dance teacher! I taught the girls a simple line dance (actually, it’s the dance I made up for the US team to use in a music video) and the girls picked it right up! It was really cool for me to see so many girls smiling and dancing, and to feel like I was a part of that totally made my day.
Last but certainly not least, we got to have a potluck party with other girls on the World Cup! Katharine Harsem hosted and everyone brought a dish to share. There were a bunch of Norwegian girls, some Swedish girls and some of the US girls there. It’s not a big secret that I love to bake, so Celine was so kind and invited us over to her house in the afternoon so we could bake banana bread to bring! It felt so nice to be in a house that I was thrilled even when cleaning up the dishes! The dinner party was fun and I couldn’t stop smiling…it was great to get to know the other girls better and have a relaxing night with friends.
On Monday, we’ll travel to Falun, and what I’m most looking forward to has nothing to do with racing, but everything to do with me being super happy…I get to see Kris and Siri! Kris Hansen was my high school coach and is a really good friend of mine, and she and her daughter Siri are traveling all the way to Sweden to see World Cup finals. I can’t wait to see them!
February 25th, 2014
The 22nd Olympic Winter Games are now over, and for me it was a great experience; full of new sights, friends from all around the world, good races and disappointing races, beautiful views, fun trails, and memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life.
The last few days have been such a blur, and it’s hard to believe that we’re already out of Russia! I’ll start with the 30km race, and then get to the crazy travel stories and Closing Ceremonies.
I guess one of the biggest things I took away from the 30km race was that it’s a very, very good thing I’m not a SUMMER Olympian, since I simply shut down in the heat! It’s not something I can control and I even raced in a t-shirt, no hat and no gloves, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from overheating.
However, the first 8km of the race went better than I could have imagined! I was skiing near the front of the pack, staying out of the trouble and feeling great. I also experienced some really cool moments during the race. Around 3km, a Russian shoved me really hard while we were going around a corner, and I stumbled out of the line of girls going up the hill. (For the record, nobody has ever pushed me in a race harder than the Russian girls, except maybe for Justyna). I was in-between two lines and getting stepped on, when I heard someone call my name and suddenly a gap opened up to the side of me. I slid into place and looked back to see who had let me in, and it was Debbie, one of our Italian friends! It was really nice because she didn’t have to let me in…but she did! Later on, I did the same for Liz when she was in-between two lines of girls. We then dropped over the top of a hill where the first feed zone was, and I missed my feed, but Liz heard me go “oh!”. She drank half the feed and passed me the bottle while we were going down the hill. This is just one example of how awesome it is to be racing with teammates!
Until about 8km the race was extremely fun for me and also going really well, and then we started up the long climb that happened to be in the sun. I could feel my body temperature rising and rising until suddenly I hit my limit, and I simply shut down. It was such a weird feeling; I couldn’t get into the next gear that I know I had, couldn’t push any harder, since my body was fighting itself in the heat.
I have never had a race where I’ve been more thirsty or drank more feeds in my life, and during the rest of the 30km I proceeded to drink probably 8 feeds and dump about 5 bottles of ice water over my head, and as evidenced by the photo above I was still way too hot! But that’s where my teammates and coaches come in the picture – it could have easily been such a terrible day and instead it was still a good experience because they were out there cheering me on and helping me stay as cool as possible.
Although the team sprint was a while ago, I had to include this great picture Zach took of Erik Flora cheering on Erik Bjornsen. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of having someone yelling at you with all their heart – it really gives you a boost during a race!
After the race, I hit up the gym for some recovery lifting. Training never stops, I guess! The next day we went out on course to cheer for the boys in their 50km. Luckily the race started much earlier in the day so the tracks stayed hard and faster for longer!
Then it was time to get going! We had some crazy packing and organizing to do, since we had been given so much Olympic gear but then needed to get it all home and out of Russia. After scurrying around for what felt like forever getting all our things packed, we left the Olympic Endurance Village and headed down to Coastal.
Only…the 45 minute bus ride turned out to be a 2 hour adventure since the bus first drove up to the Mountain Village, waited for a long time, then drove back down to our village, THEN went to the Coastal village! It was an interesting sight-seeing trip, but since I hadn’t yet been to the Mountain cluster it was neat to see it.
We had to take the cliché medal-kissing picture with Alex Deibold, who won a bronze in snowboard-cross. This guy is always working so hard in the gym, and it was so cool to see such a nice, dedicated person achieve their dreams! Also, a great plug for SMS athletes
After our bus stopped at the Coastal Village entrance, we went on a little trek to find the USA houses. The village was so different from the 5 foot high snow banks and ski chalets we were used to! But it smelled like flowers and there were palm trees everywhere and even a gravel “nature path” to walk or bike around.
One of the neat things about this village was the bikes! They had them everywhere for people to use and then leave outside buildings, and it was a really efficient transportation method. Especially for the boys who had just finished a grueling 50km! They had just enough time to bike to the cafeteria and experience the McDonalds there (the only McDonalds of the Olympics was in the coastal village, and it had crazy lines!).
The houses went right up to the edge of the black sea, which was extremely beautiful!
For Closing ceremonies, all the countries get clumped together and there wasn’t a set order we marched in. Which is really cool, since that symbolizes all the nations coming together and getting to know each other. It also meant that the line moved much faster!
One really neat part of the closing ceremonies for me was seeing them award the metals for the 30 and 50km races. These are the only awards given at closing…maybe because they are most grueling competitions of the games? Anyways, I think this was the first time they gave the medals at the ceremonies to both women and men (usually it’s just for the guys).
The show was fantastic, incredible, and hard to keep track of – I could watch it 10 more times and find something new to see each time around! There were people floating through the air, confetti and snow drifting from the ceiling, circus acts, piano players, opera singers, ballet dancers and those huge animal mascots of the games circling around looking impossibly real and animated!
A cool tradition is that the next Country to host the games puts on a bit of a show during closing ceremonies, so here Pyeong Chang had dancers dressed as doves and children dancing around to get us all excited for 2018 (it worked)!
As soon as the ceremony officially ended, a DJ set up in the middle of the floor and athletes and volunteers came pouring down the stands to go dance, trade hats and jackets, and hang out. I think everyone got asked for pictures by volunteers at least 100 times, they were so excited! I can’t say thank-you enough to all the organizers and volunteers for all their hard work putting on these games and making them a success. It wouldn’t have worked without them!
Our shuttle came around 1am to take us to the coldest airport (it was a tent) I’ve ever experienced! We were so tired and trying to sleep but the cold floor leached all the heat out of us! Eventually though, we got on our charter flight to Munich and made it safely to the Movenpick, where we stayed for the next day. It was great to have a day to relax, sleep and work on packing our gear for the last 3 world cup weekends!
February 22nd, 2014
The Endurance Village has a lot of fun! This will definitely make you HAPPY! Video courtesy of the USA Biathalon team, with cameos by skiers from so many countries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkH0TQsveLc
At the moment the Endurance Village has an interesting spring-series kind of feel to it. When you’re competing in an endurance sport where your results rely so much on how your body can perform, you have a slightly different set of rules than the sports where it’s all about skill sets and tactics. Earlier in the Games, the village was full of people since we couldn’t go wandering around the Costal village for hours – it would have tired us out before our races. But now that a lot of athletes have finished racing, they have time to go to other events, check out the Park, and get off the rock a little more. A lot of countries also flew their athletes home once they were finished competing, so the dining hall has suddenly gotten a lot quieter! I had my chance to check out the Park earlier in the week, but I’m definitely looking forward to cheering for some other events in person as soon as I’m finished with the 30km!
I’ve been so pleasantly surprised to find that I’ve been able to hang out with my family much more than I thought I’d be able to! The second day we learned quickly that if I tried to visit with my family near the spectator fencing we’d be quickly mobbed by people wanting pictures or autographs, people who would push aside my family members as I was trying to talk to them (as you can imagine, this really pissed me off). After that we found ways to get my family onto the athlete side of the fence, which was better anyways!
Something I didn’t realize till week 2 was that Pin Trading is a sport in and of itself. People love trading and collecting those things on their credential lanyards, and they are also better than money when it comes to getting what you want. Want the bus driver to drop you off right at your door? Hand him a pin. Want to smuggle water past the security checkpoint? Hand the guard a pin. Want a volunteer to help you find something in the village? Hand them a pin and you have yourself a tour guide for the day.
Of course, all the volunteers are super helpful anyways and will help you out whether or not you have pins on you. But like most places I’ve ever been, there’s a subtle divide between people who only want to help you and people who want something from you. There’s so many volunteers who’s first words to you are “Hi! Have a nice day!” and there are some who’s first words are “Gift me? You have pin? I can have your bib?”. I find my stubborn little self only wanting to give things to the people that never asked for it.
Trading clothes is another big thing! Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland came over yesterday with her duffel bag full of Finnish gear, and we all got our trade on big time! That’s one of the fun things about the Olympics is getting to know other countries a little bit better (although we are already good friends with Aiku).
Since there are events on TV all the time (no, really….there’s ALWAYS something to watch!) we’ve spent a lot of time cheering on our friends in their competitions. It’s more fun to be there in person, but one bonus of cheering from inside? You can wear whatever you want!
I was so excited for our team when both the men and women made the team sprint finals! Our coaches got a lot of TV time as well during the event
Sophie was leg 1 and Kikkan was leg 2 for the women, and for the men Simi led out and Erik was leg 2. I’m really proud of both teams!
Erik had an especially awesome move during his quarterfinal where he pulled a crazy sprint over the top of the last hill to drop down into the stadium in first place. He was leading the Olympics! You should have heard the cheering coming from the USA house…it was absolutely deafening. He got passed in the finishing stretch but they still qualified for the finals by time.
After the finals the top three teams always take a lap up and down the finishing lanes, to wave to the crowd and celebrate. We like to call this the “happy lap” instead of the victory lap because everyone’s always so giddy!
So, about Wally the Wombat. He’s the mascot/leading man for the Australian team, and he travels everywhere with them, making his way into photos from World Champs and the Olympics. Here he is, hanging out in the USA house for a night!
And of course we’ve taken our fair share of “cheesy Olympic pictures”. How could we not?
It’s time for me to go pack up my race bag and head out for my final race of the Olympics, the 30km skate. It’s going to be a hard, hot race out there, but I’m so excited because I love to skate, I love to race, and there’s going to be a whole lot of US flags waving out there. I can’t say “thank you” enough to all of you for you cheering, your support, and your belief in this team. It makes all the difference in the world to know that when I’m out racing, there’s a lot of people cheering and rooting for this team! So, once again…thank you!
February 18th, 2014
There’s been a lot to see and do the last few days! Since I don’t race again till the second to last day, I had enough of a break that I was able to spend a day with my parents and check out the Olympic Park down in Sochi (details on why this takes a whole day coming later in the post…) But first, we had some cheering to do for the Men’s 4x10km relay race! Our team was Andy and Erik (classic legs) then Noah and Simi (the skate legs). They skied a great race and it was also incredibly inspiring to watch Sweden, Russia and France ski such gutsy races to get onto the podium!
Of course, I was also very psyched that the boys let me put some patriotic face-paint on them for the relay. I think they made the flags look really good!
My parents brought up some cards from home, and between all the good-luck notes hanging above my bed and all the pictures I have on my computer, I am never short on support and encouraging words!
So, the travel down to the Olympic Park! I think if I did it again and knew exactly how to time it, I could maybe make it in 1.5 hours, but yesterday because of some confusion it took me 2.5 getting back home! I guess the only thing you can do is just be patient and accept that a.) things will take a long time b.) you will be told some wrong directions along the way and c.) eventually you’ll find someone who is more than happy to help you.
To get down to Sochi, I walked to the gondola at the top of the Endurance Village, then rode it down to the bottom where I had another walk along the side of the river to get to Krasnaya Polyana, the town at the bottom. Then I went through security to get to the train station, where I met my parents and took a train to Adler, the jumped on another train to get dropped off at the Olympic Park. Not a bad trip at all though, since I was with my family and had an opportunity to catch up with them! I was mostly just excited to be with my parents, but also getting to see the Park was something I was looking forward to and didn’t think I’d have a chance to do.
The park reminded me a lot of a theme park from Disney World. There was an elaborate entryway and the tickets were shiny with holographic stickers. Inside there were different buildings from all sorts of Olympic sponsors, with long lines to get in and see what they had to offer. And of course, people taking pictures right and left…myself included! I’m turning into such a tourist, complete with my credentials hanging around my neck at all times. Oh boy.
This was one of the buildings, and their station was ice climbing. I desperately wanted to try it out, but thought it wouldn’t be such a smart idea before the 30km race. However, it was cool to watch, and one of the women climbing as part of the show was really talented! She maneuvered her way around the hanging “ice” blocks while lead climbing, and it was pretty cool to watch.
Another interesting sight was the Russian House, where they showed ladies making traditional crafts; engraving tiny designs into metal and making fancy lace by hand. And of course, they also showed the painted Russian dolls!
There was also a part of the park with roller coasters, and I am so sad to say that they were not yet operational. But it looks like it’ll be quite a wild ride once they get going!
One of the biggest lines was to do this crazy thing with your face. They scanned your face and then later, on this huge screen, it showed up…in 3D. The faces would just push out of the wall and stare down the crowd. It was really cool but also extremely creepy to watch!
Pyeong Chang also had a house where they showed some of the culture of South Korea and their plans for hosting the next Olympics, in 2018. It was neat to check it out and get a sneak peek at the new race trails there.
One of the most famous sights in the Park…the Olympic Flame! It’s absolutely enormous, and when you get close you can hear the sound of fuel burning, the way a hot air balloon sounds.
I was so thankful to get to spend time with my parents and have the chance to check out the Park while I’m here!
February 15th, 2014
All you can ever give is everything that you have at this moment, this day, at this point in your life. It’s mathematically impossible to give more than 100%. So when each of us on the team crossed the line or tagged to a teammate and weren’t able to take another step, that’s certainly a small victory…knowing we did the best we could today. Heading into this 4x5km relay day there was an incredible amount of pressure, expectations and high hopes. We knew that if everything went right, we had a shot at a medal…but so did at least 6 other teams. That’s one of the reasons sport is so exciting, because everyone is hoping and preparing for the same goals, but you never know how a race is going to shake down until it’s over.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had reporters ask me what it would mean to this team to get a medal here in Sochi. Every time they asked me about medals and what I would define as having success at the Games, I answered that for me, success would be crossing the finish line and never having to look back. Knowing that I prepared in the weeks, months and years beforehand the best way I could. Knowing that I gave everything I could in the race and left it all out on the course. Knowing that there’s not one single thing I could have done to go faster, no stone unturned. And in my races here so far, I have felt that. Did we medal today? Nope, but it doesn’t change how I feel about myself and my team. I am so, SO very proud of this entire team and how we have prepared and handled the pressure of the Games, and results don’t define our character and team spirit; how we deal with them does.
Holly sent us all this awesome quote that really captures how I felt today: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Courage is having a tough moment, and not giving up. And we won’t.
And Pete Vordenburg sent this incredible email to the team at the start of the games, and this passage in particular really held my attention: “Every time you do something it is for the last time. Even if you do it again it will be different and you will be different. This is the only time you will ever do this. Enjoy it. Even the tough parts. Especially the tough parts. In a similar way every time you do something it is for the first time. Even if you have done this before this time it will be different and you will be different.”
These races at this Olympics will be different than any other races I’ll ever start, and so far they have been quite an experience. Some good, some tough, but all of them teaching me something new about team, about courage, about what it means to have a gutsy race.
So, the race today! Here’s a snapshot of the day, from my perspective. I woke up…and immediately skied the 5km race in my mind. I had been so nervous the last few days, my stomach tying itself into a tight knot whenever I thought about the relay race. But the only way to handle those nerves was to focus on the things I could control, which meant having a good game plan and knowing the course. And man, did I ever get that course down inside and out. I could ski every inch of it in my mind, knowing which line to take on every downhill, knowing where the shade would stay the longest and make the hardest track. That helped a little bit, because whenever I got nervous I could just take a deep breath and ski a section of the course in my head, picturing myself with the most perfect technique I could manage.
Luckily for me, although we had to wait until 2pm for the race to start, the girls were hanging out at the house and I had lots to keep my hands busy since there was a lot of hair-braiding and face-painting and glitter-applying to be done. Thank goodness for that. As always, putting on a little sparkle helped remind me that in the end, it’s just a race and it’s meant to be fun.
I think the very best part of our team is that we are so supportive of each other and we are one big team, even if a relay can only start 4 people. When we walked out the door to go to the venue, you couldn’t tell who was racing and who was cheering – we all looked the same with face-paint and glitter. Holly and Sophie and Ida were so awesome, grounding me when I was getting too nervous, letting me paint their faces even if it was just for the sake of giving me something to get my mind off the race.
I didn’t get to see any of the classic legs since I was out on the other loop, warming up. Liz was just heading out on her first lap when I got to the staging area and started jogging around, getting my bib on and taking all my layers off. Wow, was it hot and sunny out! I raced in my regular spandex bottoms but only a tank-top under my bib. And I somehow still overheated!
When I got the tag-off from Liz, I was only a couple meters behind Italy, so I jumped on board and worked with the Italian girl to ski the best 5km we could. It might have been hard to stay so invested in the race when it wasn’t going at all how we had hoped, had it not been for the incredible cheering from our team. Those guys and girls were amazing, screaming as if I was leading the race, and they reminded me why this matters so much. It doesn’t matter what place I was in; if my teammates fought for every second and the whole team is out there lifting us up the hills with their yelling, then every second I could get mattered immensely. I care too much about my team to just give up, so I fought as hard as I could.
On the last uphill before the drop down into the stadium, I kicked into the last gear I had and dropped the Italian girl. I was definitely struggling in the heat and must have been pretty dehydrated, because going down the last hill I was getting tunnel vision. I blanked completely and took the lap lane. I realized what I’d done a split second later and pulled a hockey stop to turn around, but fell and I lost us the 8th place spot as the Italian girl skied on by. That was a pretty dumb move by me, but I can laugh about it now. When I scrambled back up my legs immediately flooded and I wanted nothing more than to puke my guts up and then lay down, but I stumbled across the finish line and started looking for my teammates. We huddled together and said “well, that was a tough one, but we did out best” and nobody was in tears, nobody was angry, just proud of each other and our commitment to the team.
I finally got back to our house in the evening and was overwhelmed with the love and support flooding in from every direction – our coaches and techs, teammates, friends from other teams here, and especially from back home. I loved the pictures and stories I heard from the Chilkoot Café where all my friends back home got up at 3:30 am to cheer and watch the race…I heard there were about 200 people there! That’s amazing! It’s so incredibly awesome to feel that love from home, and it makes all the difference in the world. Thank you so, so much everyone!
There is one more race I will start here at the Games: the 30km skate! I am excited for it, and excited to hopefully see a lot more of my parents here before then. I’ll keep you updated on Endurance Village life!
February 13th, 2014
So wow, that was pretty cool. And noisy. And intimidating. And exciting. And adrenaline-filled. And terrifying. And thrilling. And filled with pressure and expectations and surprises.
The skate sprint was, for me, an ok race…not the best I’ve ever had and not what I was hoping for, but there were also a lot of things I’m happy about. I suppose if I was going to design a sprint course that played to my strengths, it would have looked very different; it would have been much longer with more opportunities to pass and without so many 180 degree corners. But I can’t design the course, only work with what we’re given, and I gave it my very best shot!
I qualified in 12th place and was in the 4th quarterfinal with Sophie, a Slovenian (Katja) and three Russian girls. I was pretty psyched because the crowd only got loud when Russians were racing, so our heat had a lot of stomping and clapping going on as we marched out to the start gates! And it was great to race in a heat with Sophie; I know that when we race together, we are of course both hoping to move on from the heat, but I never even think about trying to cut her off and I know she would never step on my skis, and it feels so good to know that I have a teammate by my side!
I have always struggled with the really fast-twitch things, and getting out of the start gates first was a crucial part of this sprint course since it had so many turns. I had one of my better starts, but it wasn’t quite good enough, as I settled into 3rd place and couldn’t find any windows to pass. The course was also a bit tricky as it was slushy in some places, but still hard and fast where they had salted and the track hadn’t broken down yet, and I struggled to adjust my technique during the rounds. When we hit the finishing lanes, I bobbled a bit in the suddenly hard and fast snow, and lost crucial time. You can probably tell from my writing that I’m pretty good at immediately knowing exactly what I need to improve on and where I made mistakes. But I’m also getting better at finding the things I did well! I am proud of how I skied, how I handled my nerves and expectations coming into the race, and I am proud of how I kept looking for windows to pass and didn’t give up.
I finished the day in 13th overall, but my own race wasn’t the one I had the highest hopes for that day! My heart broke a little when I saw the lucky loser times and realized Kikkan wasn’t going to make the semis. But you know what? Anyone can be smiling and happy and a good sport when they win; it’s in defeat that true character comes through, and in the sprint Kikkan showed the world why she such an incredible sportswoman and role model. She was so gracious and composed, even though immediately after the quarterfinal she had to go through a huge round of media asking questions and throwing cameras in her face to try and capture her reaction. Not many people could have done what she did, and I am so proud to be her teammate.
Sophie gave us something to really celebrate, though!! I was just so proud of her, how calm and smoothly she skied through the rounds, and I thought I was going to die of nerves watching the final! After a tangle, she came in 6th, but regardless of where she finished in the heat she is such a winner in my eyes for skiing so well and giving it everything she had!
As promised, here are some pictures of the venue (finally! geez!) As you can see, the stadium area is HUGE and so beautiful with the mountains as a backdrop!
There is easily enough room on the trails to have a couple classic tracks and two skate lanes….
And to further assure you of the extremely good security around here, during the races they have cameras up in the air! One of them is on this white blimp thing that flies on race day above the village, and before and during the race you can hear helicopters circling. Cool beans!
The day after the sprint, I did some light strength in the hotel gym, which is super nice and well-stocked! Michael Naperalsky, our strength coach, came up to lift with me. His words, not mine: “This gym needs more ”MURICA!!!” So, he dressed the part!
We had a really fun time! I think the other countries in the gym may have been laughing too I really enjoy lifting because it’s so different than the rest of our training, and it’s a great mental break from being out on the race trails with the announcer in your ears, reminding you how high stakes the races here are.
I got to see my family yesterday afternoon! It really made my day, to finally be able to spend some time with them off the race trails. I showed them around the Endurance Village, and then we just sat out on the deck in the sun and caught up.
I think what I missed most about seeing my family was being able to get hugs. I have kept in touch with them all winter over Skype, which has been great since I can see them, but I always sign off wishing that I could just get one good hug in. So now I’m finally able to!
They have been staying down on the cruise ship in Adler and from what I hear, having a ball! I got the reports from them about what the Olympic village, P&G house and USA houses were like, since it’s likely I won’t be able to go check them out because my races are all evenly spaced out over the games. They have also been making friends with people from other US teams, and other countries. The spirit of the games is a pretty fun thing to be involved in!
I also got to visit with Ken and Barb Larson, who have sponsored me and supported me for years, long before I had a chance at making the Olympic Team! It was so kind of them to come cheer, and it was great to see them after the race!
Today I was out on course cheering for the girls in their 10km classic race…and it was so SO hot and sunny and slushy out there! I was proud of our girls for pushing so hard and racing well in the heat!
February 9th, 2014
The Opening Ceremonies was such an incredible experience, and it’s something I’m never going to forget. Walking into that stadium with Team USA, with the enormous crowd and flashing lights and music blasting made me feel like I was in the middle of a race – my heart was pounding and I felt such an adrenaline rush! I kept looking around to see if I could find my family in the crowd, but they were on the opposite side of the circle (each team only walked halfway around the circle since we came out in the middle). I think I only blinked a couple of times, since I didn’t want to miss anything, and I had such a huge smile on the whole night.
Because not everyone went down to the ceremonies, we all got ready together and walked around the village, and took a team photo. It was so exciting getting the group together – I could feel the energy!
We left the Endurance Village around 5pm, and took the gondola down before hopping on a bus to the staging area, in the arena next to the big stadium. We spent at least and hour chilling and hanging out with US athletes from all different sports, which was really neat since we are all in seperate villages!
Then we started moving towards the main stadium. We’d walk about 100 meters, and get so excited; especially me, Sophie and Ida. We were hugging each other and skipping around, barely able to contain our enthusiasm, especially when we got inside the stadium and heard the crowd and the music. The volunteers lining the path to the stadium were clapping and chanting for hours, which was incredible, and they kept chanting the Sochi slogan “hot. cool. yours!” which was pretty funny.
Once we got inside the stadium, we did a lap under the stands, and we could peek through gaps in the netting to see the crowd. I looked like a cartoon when I first saw a glimpse into the stadium – my jaw dropped and my eyes got huge! When we finally burst up into the stadium, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath, and suddenly it hit home that I was at THE OLYMPICS, at the world’s biggest competiton stage!
After our walk, we were able to take our seats while the rest of the countries walked in. When the Russian team entered, the stadium noise level went from a 4 to a 10. The stomping and clapping and screaming of the crowd was such a shock after how tame it was for every other country! Then, as the show began, it was time for us to leave. I desperately wanted to stay and see the entire show, but I was pushing it enough just being there at all, so I got on the early bus home with most of the atheltes and booked it up to the village. We got home around 11:30, which was fine with me because with the time change I hadn’t been going to sleep till then anyways!
The next day, so many coaches and athletes from other countries came up to me and said “we saw you at the ceremonies!!??!” I think I might have been one of the only girls competing the next day to do the walk, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I know what I need to race fast; I need to be happy, excited and loving life, and the rush I got from the Ceremonies gave me the extra boost of energy I needed!
When I went to go test skis an hour and 15 minutes before the start of the skiathalon, I was buzzing with nervous energy. I had to take a deep breath every so often and pull the nervous butterflies back into formation. Nerves are a good thing for me – if I’m not nervous, it probably means I don’t care enough. But the trick is being able to harness that energy and adrenaline and make it work for me, not against me!
As we marched into the start lanes, I had to remind myself that this is just another race, and I already know how to ski…even though there were cameras all over, a crowd roaring and Olympic rings overlooking the stadium, I didn’t want to change anything! The gun went off, and I tried to stay as smooth and calm as I could. Mass starts are often a challenge for me because they are so aggressive! People are changing lanes right and left, and more than once I got stepped on, but luckily I stayed out of tangles and falls and nobody pulled my poles off my hands. My strategy for the race was to stay in contact as much as possible in the classic portion, and then start ramping it up in the skate half. I was so fortunate to have great skis all day, and being able to have good kick and glide in the classic half helped me a ton!
I came into the pits for the exchange in 25th place, comfortable with how I’d been pacing it so far. I started picking off people one by one, and got such a boost of energy when I heard my family alongside the course cheering me on! Going into the final half kilometer of the race, I pretended it was suddenly a new race; a sprint qualifier. I was in a pack of 5 or 6 girls, and I didn’t know what places we were in, but I knew that if I wanted to outsprint them to the line I needed to make a move on the final uphill, which is the men’s sprint hill. I put my head down and hammered, and was able to open a gap over the top. From there I just thought “don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall” and although my body was flooded with lactic acid, I made it through the finishing lanes and across the line! I just laid in the snow, trying not to puke my guts up, and thought “I’m officially an Olympian now!” It was so cool to be able to race with my teammates and have that experience with them!
I found out afterwards that I had gotten 8th place, and that it tied the best Women’s XC Olympic result ever and was the best distance result ever. But the highlight of my day was definitely when I found my family and friends on the side of the course after the race. I got hugs from everyone and was able to see them in person for the first time in months! It made my day, seeing them and knowing they are having a great experience over here.
After my cool down I got lucky with a shuttle ride back down from the venue. If you can’t catch a shuttle it’s about a 15 minute walk, but if you’re tired it sure feels a lot longer than that! I sat down on the bus and the bus driver turned to see who had come in. He saw my pink and blue hair and got really excited, breaking into a wide grin that showed off his gold teeth. He pulled me out of the bus for a picture, and was so happy with the picture that he drove me right to our cabin! That’s an example of how nice the volunteers here are…they are so anxious to help out and love getting pictures with athletes and coaches!
Before I forget, I need to share this awesome photo with you. The wax cabins are lined up in two rows, with the inside windows facing each other. Our guys are accross from the Italian cabins, and one morning the techs heard a knocking on the window and looked up to see this! The put up a sign wishing us good luck. The next morning, they offered our coaches espressos. How nice is that?!? I guess that’s part of what the Olympic spirit is all about – nations coming together and sharing the pursuit of common goals while getting to know each other better. I think it’s pretty awesome.
February 7th, 2014
Today’s the day! Opening Ceremonies…probably the thing I’ve heard Olympians talk the most about. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time, and it’s happening tonight! However, the question of “to walk or not to walk” has been a big debate over the last few weeks. The issue is that the first XC event of the Games is the very next day: the women’s 15km skiathalon. And I’m racing it. So the reason I was so stressed last week is because I desperately want to walk in the Opening Ceremonies, and be able to get the experience because I know that it will make me ridiculously happy, but all the other girls racing the skiathalon are skipping the walk because it’s the night before the race, and we will get back around 11:40pm. For a while I had some serious guilt over choosing to go, but then I decided to just commit to it and let myself be happy and feel the excitement of walking into the stadium with my country.
I’m in the group that isn’t staying for the entire ceremony – we are going to walk, and then immediately jump into a shuttle that will take us back to the Endurance Village. Now that I’ve decided to walk, I’m really happy with my choice because you only get to walk into your first Olympic games once, and if I make the Games in the future, there’s a huge probability that I’ll face the same issue again of a race the next day, and I might not be able to go. So I’m going to soak up as much of the experience as I possibly can, and use that energy the next day! I’ll be sure to post as many pictures as I can when I get back!
A lot of questions are being asked about the stadium and trails, and all I can say is that I love it! The skiing has been unbelievably nice in the time I’ve been here. There’s tons of snow, the tracks are rock solid and perfectly groomed, and the trails are wide. The trails are also really challenging, and I like that! I think it’s a good thing for our team that the skate half has such a large climb (it’s about a 5 minute climb) and I like how the classic half has such nice rolling hills with lots of transition spots. Technically there’s not really a “skate” and “classic” half, because both techniques will be raced on all the trails, but for the skiathalon that’s how my mind has split them up. I’ll be putting up stadium and course pictures later this week!
Now that we’ve gotten into the swing of things, we’ve developed a series of shortcuts to get to the dining hall. One of them involves climbing over the top part of a fence where the snow has been piled high enough, and another involves climbing over the “coca-cola deck” railing. Pretty fun, huh?
We also played a couple games of pool last night, which was especially fun when some Norwegian skiers joined us and we had a team game! I think I’ll be playing a lot of games and learning a lot of new songs on my little pink guitar by the end of the 2.5 weeks we’re up here, just to have fun and keep my mind off the racing.
The house here is beginning to feel like home, especially since I’ve hung up good luck posters, pictures and cards from home above my bed! It’s nice because we all have rooms to go to if we want more quiet time, but we also have the common living space where we can hang out, spin bike, foam roll or watch TV. I feel so lucky that we have staff staying here with us as well! Margo, our communications guru helps us through the mix zone and manages media for us. Ana is our PT who helps take care of us and make sure we stay injury-free, and Steph is our amazing massage therapist who keeps us from getting all knotted up!
In other fun news, I got this picture from my Mom the other night from their travel day to Sochi. I am so happy to have family and friends here! It means a lot to me and I can’t wait till I can see them in person.
February 6th, 2014
Whooo! We’re here! We made it to Sochi! I’m so happy and excited to be here!!!! Ok, whoa, slow down…too many exclamation points. Alright. My goal for this website during the Games is to update you with as many pictures and inside stories and information as possible, so look for a new post every couple days. I’ve been in the Endurance Athlete Village for exactly 24 hours now, so here’s the low-down on what it took to get here, and what it’s been like so far! *update – I wrote this all up the day after we got here, but the internet comes in and out a lot.
THE TRAVEL: Our alarm clocks went off in Munich at 4:50am. Sophie rolled over and said “hey…guess what? We’re GOING TO SOCHI TODAY!” And that was basically the tone for the whole day…long travel, lots of waiting, tired sleepy eyes at the start…but just so happy and excited the whole time. We drove to the Munich airport where we boarded a charter flight that went straight to Sochi in about 3 hours. It was pretty cool because we got to sit wherever we wanted, and the flight was really pretty empty. Which turned out to be a good thing since we all carried on Ralph Lauren bags full of Opening Ceremony outfits, just to make sure they arrived in time (our other village clothes were shipped from Munich and will take a couple days to get here).
As cheesy as this sounds, I was just so genuinely excited to be going to my first Olympics that my heart was pounding and every hour or so I’d grab that arm of whomever was nearest to me and squeal “we’re going to Sochi!” I just couldn’t get over my excitement!
Don’t worry, I had some serious time to calm back down! Once we got to the Sochi airport, there were volunteers swarming all over, even taking our luggage off the belt for us. It took a while to get all our bags organized because we were carefully checking to make sure we had every last piece of luggage. It was so great to get all our bags smoothly!
Then, we started a series of checkpoints and screening stations. The first stop was your regular customs station, where they checked our passports and visas (which were also our games credentials that allow us access to the villages and venues). Then, we moved all our bags outside and got them on a bus that took us to the Costal Village, which is where all the ice-skating, hockey, curling and other indoor events are located.
At the Welcome Center, we put each of our bags through a screening process and then got our credentials activated and laminated so we can wear them all the time. And I really do mean ALL THE TIME. I think I’m going to start brushing my teeth and going to sleep with that lanyard around my neck, because if I lose it I go nowhere. Not one step!
After getting our bags back onto the buses, we headed out for about an hour drive up to the Mountain cluster. At the Mountain Village, there’s all the sports on the slopes: ski jumping, alpine, slope-style, snowboarding, Nordic combined, aerials, moguls…all those athlete stay at the village at the base of the mountain there. But we kept going up, up, up!
We got off the bus at the base of the gondola, and had to scan our credentials once again before riding up the mountain (the mountain we’re at the top of is opposite the alpine mountain).
At the top, we got into small buses and took our last ride of the day (phew!) to our ski chalet! The boys are staying in apartments, and all the girls and female staff members are in one big house together. Of course, you probably already know that I LOVE it when we all get to live together.
Speaking of all that security, I feel so, so safe here. I want to make sure I make that clear, because I haven’t been reading newspapers lately, but I can guess that there’s been some speculation. But get this – the Chief Security Officer for the US Olympic team came from the Secret Service, and intercepted a Presidential assassination, so I think we’re in pretty good hands.
The house has a nice common living area for us to hang out in, and I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of such a great team! The team behind the team has already been here for a week, running around doing so much prep work to ensure that we have everything we need to have success at the competitions. Our house has three spin bikes in it, as well as strength equipment and medicine balls. We have two coffee makers (a race day essential…ok, essential for every day…) and a fridge stocked full of powerades, waters, coke products, milk, almond milk and yogurts. We have a cupboard full of cereals, instant oatmeal, a rice maker, tuna, and enough peanut butter and jelly to feed us for a year. This is especially great because although the dining hall is open 24-7, sometimes you just want a small snack and don’t want to get all dressed up and do the walk over.
When we do walk to the dining hall, however, it’s absolutely beautiful! Especially since the sun’s been out all day. We walk down the road in between the ski chalets with different countries flags flying, and then alongside the snowmaking pond with all the flagpoles. Some countries are staying in housing, and some are in apartments while others are living in the hotel.
The hotel is enormous, and the athlete dining hall is on the side of it. The food is good here with tons of options to try and cover needs from every nation and every possible food allergy. It’s also a fun atmosphere because it’s the best people watching out there, since we get to see all the uniforms from every country!
In the main building there are also other places to check out, like a post office, laundry room, game room, a disco, fitness center, art gallery and internet center.
And although we try not to be materialists….lets talk about the clothes!
Our ski suits are so fun, with both stars and stripes. We look so patriotic (finally). I remember in years past, at World Junior trips, not many countries wanted to trade suits with us. But now, skiing around, we’ve already gotten so many people asking to trade after the games! Booyah.
The Sochi volunteers all have these super bright, rainbow-ish jackets. Which makes them easy to find! The volunteers are all very helpful, and they went through an intense interview process in order to be selected to be here. They speak great english and I’ve had very positive experiences with them.
The warmup outfits we have are all white – white pants with white, red and blue jackets. I’m sad to say that I’ve already gotten mine muddy!
Time for me to go hit up the classic tracks!
February 3rd, 2014
It’s really happening!!! I’ve been excited for the upcoming Olympics for a long time, but today was the first day it felt real, not like this far-off dream. We drove to Munich right after the skate sprint in Toblach on Sunday, and stayed at this absolutely huge hotel where all the team USA processing is based out of. I’m actually writing this from a laundromat in downtown Munich, where Kikkan and I are cleaning our race clothes from last weekend. Since we’ll be getting all new race suits at the Games, we’ll be leaving a fair amount of things in Munich for the 2.5 weeks we’re gone…and it seemed a good idea to make sure our suitcases weren’t full of mold when we got back.
In the lobby we saw other athletes; alpine skiers, curlers, ice skaters, and snowboarders. Every team has to stop through processing in Munich but the window is over a few days, so not everyone’s here at once. Which is kind of a bummer – I was looking forward to meeting the entire team USA because we’ll be spread out over 3 different athlete villages during the games. But hopefully most of us will be there for Opening Ceremonies!
However, I did get to meet a pair of Ice Dancers, and it was so cool to learn more about their sport and how their competitions work. In turn, they had lots of questions for us as well! It’s like playing a big guessing game sometimes…you look at someone and try to guess what their sport could possibly be. I’m really looking forward to meeting new friends on team USA and then rooting for them during their competitions!
Let’s rewind a quick second to the skate sprint in Toblach. For a lot of us, it was an ok day – not great, not terrible, just, you know…an average day at the office. The sprint course was 2 laps running around the stadium. You went out straight then started making a lot of left hand turns, so if my right leg is much stronger next week, now you know why! There were 3 climbs during the sprint and the snow was super hard, wet, fast and tricky to balance on. I felt a whole lot like Bambi on ice skates!
I qualified in 21st, and we got 6 athletes to the rounds- Kikkan, Sophie, Holly, Me, Andy and Simi. Only Kikkan made it out of the quarterfinals, finishing 5th in the finals. I think we all struggled a bit with tactics, since the draft out of the last downhill before the finishing turn mattered a TON. For me, though, tactics didn’t play much of a part as I got off to a very bad start in my quarterfinal. Someone stepped on my ski tip and I bobbled, almost going down as my momentum stopped. Then, rattled, I planted a pole between my skis and almost fell again! Yeesh. I was settled into 6th place, and no windows were open to pass, although even if they were I don’t think I would have managed it very well – I had extrememly low energy, for whatever reason. I was just missing that spark, and I think it’s because I got really dehydrated after a hot day in the sun at the U23 sprint, and I needed more rest than I’d had time to get. I’m not worried about it, because not every race is going to be amazing and luckily for me, this race was more of a tune-up than anything. It was also a great chance to watch and learn tactics, and I definitely picked up a few good pointers that weekend.
Ok, back to the fun stuff! I’m not super into clothes or fashion, and my little sister can definitely tell you how bad my matching skills are. So it came as a suprise when I found myself getting so excited about all the Olympic gear! Proccessing was in the Munich Olympic stadium, in a huge gym with stations all around the outside of the room.
I instantly got a huge hug from Celeste, the PT from the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center who flew all the way out to Munich to help check in athletes! She was the one who helped check out my foot injury last fall and got me to the hospital for x-rays when I was scared and hurt. So getting a hug and a send-off from her felt pretty awesome, especially since my foot is very much better now and I was practically prancing around the room with excitement.
I made friends with the people working the Nike station – they were so nice and enthusiastic and helpful! That’s basically been the theme of my Olympic experience so far…everyone has been psyched and ready to help point us in the right direction.
The Ralph Lauren station was a funny experience for me, becuase anyone who knows me also knows that I really can’t stand heavy, hot clothes and I especially freak out when things are touching my neck. I think this comes from having asthma – wearing a turtleneck or tight necklace makes me think I can’t get enough air. This is also why I always cut up the front of my race suits. So when they dressed us in the Lauren station (yes, they showed us exactly how the shoes were to be laced and how many buttons to fasten on the coats!) I was trying hard not to panic, wearing a turtleneck layer under a thick sweater! Don’t worry, I didn’t lose it. And the people there were super nice!
At the end of it all, we were able to ship a huge box back home. I thought this was great that they provided this service, since we just got so many things but definitely don’t have room for it all on the World Cup traveling circus! I had brought with me some extra clothes from my regular duffle bag, and so my box was packed, but on the plus side there’s a little more room now in the cargo van.
Tomorrow we fly out early on a charter flight, so the next update will be from the Endurance Athlete Village! My Parents, little sister, Grandma and headgear sponsor CEO Ken Larson and his wife Barb are all coming to the Games to watch, and I’m so excited for them, because I know this is going to be such a cool experience and fun trip. My Mom and Dad are keeping a facebook page updated with their journey, so check it out for updates!
Also, here are links to two really nice articles written about how the community has been such an incredible support system and how I wouldn’t be where I am without them!