Wild Rumpus Sports

Finding my happy!

Seefeld training camp over the holiday break was incredibly wonderful, and it was exactly what I needed. I found my happy again, and I re-kindled my joy for ski racing through easy fun skis with my boyfriend Wade, and taking a big step back from World Cup racing to just remember how much fun it is to be gliding through snowy wooded trails, enjoying the feeling of sending it on the downhills and appreciating how beautiful the scenery is. We also got a ton of fresh new snow, so it was a winter wonderland!

What a picturesque trail!

“But wait, what’s this need for finding the joy in racing again”, you ask? Well, a few weeks ago, I would have said “I don’t want to talk about it, s’all ok here”. But I changed my mind. I DO want to talk about it, because not every day of my life is filled with unicorns and glitter (just most days) and I think in this day and age of social media making everything look better than it really is, it’s important to share the downs as well as the ups in life.
I got sick again right after the races in Davos, and for a few days before Wade arrived I was amazed at how sad and bummed out I felt. I felt isolated and lonely because, of course, I was trying to keep all my germs to myself and not get anyone else sick. Being a social butterfly, I knew why this was making me feel alone. But I also felt a huge let-down from period one of World Cup racing. Ever since the Olympics, I have felt as though there’s been enormous outside pressure coming down on me. Maybe it’s the increased access to athletes that comes with much better broadcasting, social media, TV interviews and online reporting. Maybe it’s my own naiveté, thinking that cross country skiing would never have the same kind of press and pressure that comes with the “big sports”. Whatever the reason, this season it’s been incredibly hard for me to tune out the external pressure to (simply) “be amazing” all the time.

Landing on the World Cup podium…is actually pretty hard, believe it or not!

In Davos, for example, I finished 5th in the 10km individual skate race. That was a good result for me any time of year, but especially in period one. More importantly, however, it was a good race for me regardless of result, because of how I raced it. I was in the zone the entire race, pushed my body so hard I was tasting blood the entire second lap, focused on skiing with the most efficient technique I had, and paced it well. For those reasons, I was proud of that race. But it seemed that all anyone said afterwards was: “good. you’re on track.” On track to what, exactly? And for whom? I felt like I couldn’t enjoy what was truly a good race for me because it hadn’t lived up to others expectations for where they thought I should be. I should point out that these “other people” aren’t the people who matter to me; my teammates, coaches, family and friends, sponsors and home ski community all support me for the right reasons, regardless of how I’m racing. Still, it’s amazing how hard it is to ignore these other voices of media, reporters, commentators and other critics because theirs are the loudest voices.
***This, by the way, is exactly why I always tell parents who ask how to best support their young racers to never ask their kids about the result after a race. Instead, I think it’s important to ask how the kid felt about the race, if they had fun, and if they were happy with it. The worst thing you can do to another racer is to tell them what they’re feeling and assume without asking that you know how they should feel and react. The right to be proud of a race effort isn’t reserved only for the winner. ***

Views like this remind me how much I love being out in the snow!

Feeling pressure isn’t exactly new, but the increased media spotlight since the Games has been different this year. As it turns out, getting everything you ever wanted isn’t exactly what I imagined it to be. There’s a downside to success in such a publicly broadcasted setting that nobody ever talks about, but over the last few months I found out what it’s like to be in a spotlight that you didn’t realize was part of the job. In the USA, the Olympics are such a huge milestone that if you win a medal, your life really will change.
Suddenly, you will be asked to do anything and everything. There will be events and galas and exciting opportunities, but there will also be times when you feel overworked, exhausted and used. You will feel immense pressure to carry the fundraising efforts for your team, but you’ll also have the opportunity to support causes that are incredibly close to your heart. There are big ups and downs, but if you’re not careful, you’ll look around and suddenly realize that you’re not happy because you never took any time for yourself to process what’s happening around you. You might feel like you need a break, but you can’t figure out how to take one.

Wade skiing the Seefeld courses with me!

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing to complain about here, and I know that! Everything important in my life is going great; I have an amazing boyfriend who treats me like I’m the most important person in the world, my friends and family are all well, and I get to live my dream job every day. But our perception shapes our reality, and if you’re not happy, you’re not happy. Simple as that.
Luckily, I had Wade there to make me feel so loved and appreciated and help me forget about the pressure I was feeling with ski racing! We went out for some awesome skis together, and on Christmas Eve we hiked some sleds up the side of a mountain and then came screaming back down in the fresh snow. Cooking great food in our cozy little apartment and getting to spend some good time with friends, I finally relaxed and started to remember why I love this sport so much! I got into ski racing because I love pushing myself and the challenge of the race, and it was nice to be able to take a step back and remember that.

Enjoying the sunny skiing together!

The start of the tracks in Seefeld go by this gorgeous old church.


So my goals moving forward with the season are these:
Remember to have fun and race only for myself and for the joy of pushing myself as hard as I can.
Be the Steve Prefontaine of the Tour.

This is how I want to race.

Whether or not I’m going to be the first one across the finish line is out of my control. I can’t control the weather, the course, wax, skis or my competitors. The only thing I have direct control of is my own effort and how much of myself I choose to give at any given moment. Choosing to give it all, racing with guts and pushing past my limits is what gives me that crazy endorphin-rush feeling of victory after a race. And that’s the feeling I’m seeking race after race, not a number on the results sheet.

Checking off the “having fun” goal with sparklers on Christmas! (photo from Simi)

Right now I’m with the team in Toblach, Italy, right in the awe-inspiring, jagged Dolomite mountains. I don’t have a great photo of how awesome it looks here, so here’s one I shamelessly stole from google. You’re welcome! Everywhere you look, there are these huge peaks lit up by the sunshine as you’re skiing around the race course, and this is one of my favorite courses on the World Cup!

Toblach, Italy!

Speaking of favorites…the Tour de Ski is, honestly, my favorite 9 days of the season. It’s hard to describe why racing day after day, fighting back the feeling of being deliriously tired, feeling like your legs are made of lead and your shoulders are too tired to lift your arms up, but racing anyways is fun…but it just is, ok? Racing is the biggest challenge we can give ourselves, and whether the race goes great or terribly wrong, you have to move on immediately to the next thing. Find the lessons to be learned from that day’s race, then start preparing for the next one. There’s no time for regret or wallowing in mistakes, just looking forward to the next opportunity to do something awesome. Maybe that’s what I love most about the Tour. It’s one big opportunity, one hopeful day after the next, one huge adrenaline rush!
You know what else is great about the Tour? Sleeping in. Check out NBC’s broadcasting schedule for the tour if you’re interested in following the action…and not getting up at 3am to do it! Click HERE for the race viewing schedule.

We’re really into Sparkle Season now, folks

Relay days bring out my inner Disney Princess. What can I say? I have always had a profound love of glitter and all things sparkly, but on relay day I get to put the USA and some stars or a flag on everyone’s cheeks in face paint, too! I glitter it up to high heaven and put on the striped socks that make me feel like I can go do anything. Magic can sometimes happen on relay day, and perhaps it’s that stubborn belief that “miracles happen, you know?” that makes me laugh and realize I do in fact sound like a Disney Princess. But like, one of the new-age ones that goes out and does cool stuff, not one of the original ones that just lays around waiting for a strange man to kiss her. Getting Sadie ready for the first leg of the relay (which she totally crushed!)…

Back to the World Cup!

I reached over to grab my water bottle and toppled out of the tiny bed in our apartment in Ruka, Finland. Hitting the floor with a thud, I immediately burst into what Matt calls my “Pee-wee Herman laugh”. Being stubborn, I immediately denied having a Pee-wee laugh, until he pulled up a Youtube clip and the moment I heard it I couldn’t NOT laugh, and then there were not one but two Pee-wee Herman’s laughing in the room. How embarrassing. Sophie and I goofing around for the YLE station TV (photo from Jesse Vaananen) Anyways, besides falling out of our impressively tiny Euro beds (I always forget how small the hotel beds are over here!) we’ve been getting back into the rhythm of World Cup life, shaking off the jet lag and desperately soaking up any hint of sunshine we find between the hours of 11-1pm! We started out with…

Road safety, snuggles, ski galas and skol chants.

The rest of the team training camp in Park City was awesome, and so were the extra three days I spent in town! It was so fun catching up with friends while still training a lot but winding down the intensity from camp. It makes my heart feel so happy when I get to just chill and catch up with friends that I don’t get to see often enough! Liz, Sadie and I did a painting class! (photo from Sadie) Then it was time to zip over to NYC for the annual Gold Medal Gala fundraiser! This is a really important event as it’s the single largest fundraiser for the US Ski and Snowboard team, and it supports all athletes across all sports. This year one of our big supporters donated a jet so that we could get to the ball quickly and save on plane tickets. I was extremely…

Train, Rest, Repeat!

Here we are, pounding the roller ski track in Soldier Hollow in our last US Team training camp of the year! How is it already late October? This is nuts, people! It’s hard to believe that on November 12th, I’m going to be getting on a plane…and not coming back to the US until late March. I’m excited for the season, ready to get back into the thrill of racing and see all my friends on the World Cup again, but there is one more month of work to do first. I’d say we’re pretty much Pros at the classic “team jumping shot”…(photo by Reese Brown/SIA Images) Thursday and Friday we had back-to-back time trials. We had a skate sprint time trial first, with round-robin style heats so everyone raced the course 4 times. And wow, I somehow managed to forget (or trick my brain) in between New Zealand and…

Snow Farm living

I feel so spoiled, living here at the Snow Farm in New Zealand! I’ve been to a LOT of training camps in my life, but this one takes the cake….Every. Single. Time. Why? Because every time I ski here, I feel so inspired. The rolling mountains are jaw-dropping. Our crust-cruise day last year, on the most perfect of days! (photo by Matt Whitcomb) On a bluebird day, the tracks look fake, like an over-edited image that can’t possibly be real. I mean…this backdrop can’t possibly exist in real life…right? (photo by Matt Whitcomb) First tracks! Because there are around 65-70 kilometers of groomed trails here and you’re never bored. Headed out to “hanging valley” loop! Kelsey enjoying “the loop” The crew climbing “Kirsty Burn” trail up into the mountains (photo by Matt Whitcomb) Because some of the trails hug the edge of the mountain and it looks like you’re about…

Staying on the Treadmill of Life!

We used to do VO2 Max tests quite often. Twice a year, in fact, at the US Ski Team’s headquarters in Park City, Utah. Then the specialized roller ski treadmill belt broke, and, well…you can still do the test on the new treadmill…BUT. The resistance is very different, so you no longer have consistency in the variable of how long you can remain skiing until exhaustion. And for me, that was the only one that mattered. It mattered because it tested my mind, not just physiological markers that might perhaps indicate success in sport. To my way of thinking, how resilient your brain is is the most important marker of success in sport. You could be ridiculously gifted, but that doesn’t really matter if you quit. Demonstrating the fun roller ski pump tracks for that NENSA brought for the SMS kids camps back in Stratton! (photo from Justin Beckwith) For…

Body Issue(s)

This is a blog post I wasn’t ever sure I’d write. It can be scary to reveal the less glamorous parts of ourselves to others, the parts we’re sure that nobody will love. But it is precisely because of this that I knew I needed to write this post. It takes a different form of bravery to open up to others in the hopes of helping, but it’s the most important kind of bravery I hope to possess. ~ This spring, I posed for the ESPN Body Issue. That is something I never thought I’d do! For those of you wondering, I had an all-female closed set for the photo shoot, and it was incredibly empowering. ~ Admittedly, I mostly figured I’d never get asked or have to consider it since cross country skiing isn’t a “famous” enough sport, but times, they are a-changin’! But the biggest reason I never…

Finishing a fun week!

It’s been an awesome, solid week of training here in Stratton! Now that we’re all back in one place (well, almost, but we get Alayna here tomorrow and then the family will be together), it’s been awesome to get back into a rhythm of regular training. We usually do interval sessions and strength (in the afternoons) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a longer over-distance training session on Sunday, and in between we have some easy distance training or speed sessions. Sounds simple, and we like to keep it that way, especially when we’re building up to more and more hours! The face you make when the hurdles are juuuuuust a little too close together! Julia, Kyle and I led foot agility for the juniors this Thursday (photo from Sverre Caldwell) A pretty cool thing about our program is that the senior SMST2 athletes lead the juniors in agility warmups before…

Please jump in

This year’s Bend camp is going down in the books as one of the very best. Despite it being the 3rd lowest snow year that they’ve had, the skiing held out until the very end of camp. We had some awesome klister skiing and easy kicking conditions to work on improving our technique in! This camp is all about getting back into shape and laying down solid volume to build a base for the rest of the summer. It’s also about getting the team back together after spring break to start the year fresh! The girls working together in intervals with a pretty amazing backdrop! (photo by Bryan Fish) A huge, warm thank you to the staff of the Mt. Bachelor Nordic center for their hospitality in keeping the trails open for us, their awesome grooming and keeping the trails clean in fast-melting conditions, and their great support of the…