WE MADE IT! The 2013-14 Tour de Ski is over, and Liz, Noah and I all finished the final stage healthy and happy…the best I could ask for! Here’s a somewhat lengthy recap of the last two stages here in Val di Fiemme, and what comes next. But before I go any further, I’m so excited to officially announce that I have made the 2014 US Olympic Team! Based on the objective qualifying criteria (World Cup points), since I am 15th on the World Cup distance points list, I’m on the team. Huge thanks to my family, friends and awesome sponsors for helping me get here! There’s still a month of preparation left before Sochi, but all the hardest work has been done over the last 5 years. Time to start getting excited!
So, stage 6 of the Tour de Ski – at the course in Val di Fiemme (last year’s World Championship venue). The classic 5km individual race was far and away the best I’ve ever felt in a classic race on the World Cup! I came in 10th place, and it was such a great confidence booster for my classic skiing, since I’ve been working on technique so hard and now I feel like I’m maybe getting the hang of it. The course was one 5km loop, with some climbs and a lot more double pole than we’ve seen so far this year. Since it was raining, the field was somewhat split between klister skis and zeroes. I went for klister, and I’m psyched because I’ve been working with Cork as my tech for a couple years now and I feel like every time we test kick we get a little better at reaching that sweet spot of just enough kick to ski well and have great glide to boot. I asked the coaches not to give me splits during the race because I already had my pacing strategy and I wouldn’t be able to push any harder anyways! So instead they cheered and yelled out the technique pointers I’d asked for (like long glide, getting up over my poles, etc.) which helped a TON. After the finish line, it was time to get right on the recovery process for the next day and final stage, so we got food and water, cooled down, changed into whatever dry clothes we had left, got massages, foam rolled, got in the ice tub, talked to the media…it’s quite the process! But by now it’s just a routine.
How about that hill climb, you ask? The conditions were really interesting with pouring rain that turned to snow just before the start of the girls race! But the climb is hard and slow going no matter what, so the weather almost doesn’t matter; I know that when I reach the top I”ll be nearly blacked out anyways and in more pain than any other race.
My strengths are the rollling hills and especially the flat sections, so that’s where I tried to make up the most time. I caught the 4 girls in front of me, but with the exception of Aurore Jean (from France) nobody would take a turn pulling the pack. I didn’t want to hang around playing that game, so I just did most of the work for the section connecting to the base of the climb. Sometime during the flats near a feed zone, my glasses were fogging with the snow and I threw them off near a Swedish coach, and he got them back to me after the race! That sure was nice.
Then during the climb I just tried to get in a rhythm and keep moving. The course profile for this race is almost funny, it looks so ridiculous. The steepest part of the hill is 28%, but by the time you get there you can’t feel your legs or much of anything anyways! I am not a great climber, but I definitely gave it everything I had, and I proud of that. I didn’t get up the hill the fastest and slid back 2 spots in the overall, but I didn’t leave anything out there and it feels good to end the tour knowing I did the best I could! What also made such an impact on me was the fact that we had so many people out there cheering for us – Liz’s parents, Noah’s parents, and our awesome friends from Davos Markus and Karin, who drove all the way out here to cheer us on! And don’t even get me started on all the great emails of encouragement I’ve received from family and friends throughout the tour. We have such great support, and it makes a world of difference. Thanks you guys – you know who you are!
I am psyched to have made my goal of a top-15 finish with a 13th place. And I’m especially psyched for Liz with such an awesome tour – the best any US woman has ever had! Noah finished 25th in the overall, which is also the best men’s result to date, and I suppose I’m the youngest US woman to finish top-15 in the tour, so…huzzah for making history! And speaking of making history, I am so happy for the Norwegian team. It’s fun to see them win their first ever tour, and with a podium sweep for the girls! I love seeing people really excited and celebrating at the finish when they have achieved a new goal, so to see those girls all smiling ear to ear made me smile as well.
Once we decided that we weren’t in fact going to get hypothermia (Liz and I were soaked to the bone) and changed into dry clothes and trash bag raincoats, we stayed to cheer on the boys. It was a new perspective, watching the climb, and wow was it easy to cheer! Like Cory Wubbles said after cheering on us girls “It was almost a little awkward. I mean…I could have read you a chapter of a book on one of the steep sections, people were moving so slow”. He could have given us the full top-30 results update from Nationals back in Soldier Hollow while we trudged on by. He didn’t, but it would have been funny.
I have to laugh a little because so many people have said to me, with a smirk on their face like I should be embarrased about it; “gee, you sure looked TIRED on that final climb! haha” because I was nearly tipping over at the top. But, people, I’m proud of that! If I ever finish a race with enough energy to remain standing at the finish line, I’m dissapointed in myself. Because that means that I didn’t give everything I had, that I held back and was too scared to push myself into that place where I’m skiing just outside my limits. To me, that’s the worst feeling in the world… looking back at the finish line of anything – a race, a test, a project – and knowing I could have pushed harder and didn’t. Sure, it’s not pretty when I’m falling apart at the finish, but one day I’ll be strong enough to keep it together longer and longer. Technique, endurance, finesse…those are all things that I can train, and things I will get better at in time. But the ability and the will to go deep into the pain cave is my greatest asset, and something I’ll always have.
Our staff was amazing, working so hard through this whole Tour de Ski, and I’m really proud to be part of this crew. If you think racing 7 stages is hard, just imagine WAXING for 14 races (men’s and women’s combined) and being on your feet for at least 6 hours a day prepping and testing skis, and then packing up and moving the wax room to 4 venues! I don’t know how they do it, but somehow they gave us extremely competitive skis (I was psyched!) and stayed so positive and awesome the entire way. I can’t thank them enough!
Now that the tour is over, I definitely feel a little bit of a letdown, because all the fun and exciting races are over! But I also feel so relaxed, and am happy to get back into a more normal routine. My stomach is finally not tied up in knots, and I can wake up each morning without the nervous pre-race jitters. Liz and Noah are both with their families, out on some relaxing adventures; the Stephens went to the Tuscany area while the Hoffmans went to Cinque Terre. Meanwhile, Matt and I are chilling in Predazzo! We might do a day trip to Venice tomorrow, which I am quite excited about. One of the big reasons for me to do the tour was because it’s a sweet training tool to prepare for the upcoming Olympics. Last year I felt like it set me up well fitness-wise for World Champs, and I hope for even better results this year since I am learning how to be better at resting Super compensation time, here I come!
I always enjoy spending time here in Predazzo. I love the way the cobblestone streets wind their way around the city, how every time I go for a run I see at least one cat slinking it’s way across the street and under someone’s rickety old wooden fence. I love how nearly all the buildings here are stone, some polished and some crumbling with sketchy wooden decks listing crazily out over the narrow street. I love how the bakeries take pride in making everything to the highest quality. I’ve also noticed that every 5th shop here is either a hair salon, or a lingerie outfitter.
And, weird as it may sound, I thoroughly enjoy being able to walk to the laundromat and clean everything I own while I’m here. It’s the little things. And clean clothes are definitely one of those things! I remember one year in Lahti, Sadie, Noah and I went shopping, and we hadn’t been able to do laundry for a disgustingly long time. So we bought new outfits and stripped down in the bathroom, cutting off tags and putting on entirely new clothes. We then proceeded to wash literally everything we owned. That’s the glamorous life on the road, folks! Anyways, today I marched into town with upwards of 40 pounds of laundry (not all mine, don’t worry!) and then proceeded to sit on the deck in the sun, sipping an espresso and reading my book. I felt so happy and relaxed, and I think this is a perfect way to wind down after the tour!