Wild Rumpus Sports

A look back on Seefeld

Let me start by saying this; no, I was not cold racing in shorts and short sleeves, yes, you should try it sometime, and yes, it was refreshing to have the cold slush hitting my legs! Somehow, the sight of me racing in a short suit was more interesting and befuddling to most reporters than the actual race itself. Clearly, they haven’t ever experienced a Minnesota cold snap. Now THAT is cold weather!

Apparently, it got up to the high 60’s in temps that day! (photo from Nordic Focus)

Honestly, it’s hard to describe the amount of distress overheating puts me in, but let me put it this way; racing is already one of the most painful things you can do. If I have to deal with being incredibly uncomfortable, dizzy, and feeling my body start to shut down because I’m way too hot, it becomes even harder to continue pushing my body to the limit, because it’s already that much closer to the limit! And besides, everyone needed the laughs by the time we got to the end of the races.

Just trying to keep up with Ingvild! (photo from SIA Nordic)

Seefeld World Champs was full of ups and downs, hot sun and slush, disappointments and a lot of joy. Also, the realization that Devon Kershaw is the best media zone person ever, because of his total compassion for the person behind the athlete bib. He knows what it feels like to give it your absolute best and either get what you came for (and be overwhelmed by the ensuing attention) or come up short…and then still be overwhelmed by the ensuing media asking you what went wrong. Either way, you don’t get any time to process your emotions in private and decide how you truly felt about a race. Which was why I had to remember my rule for myself – before looking up at the screen I take a few seconds to think back on the race, my mental toughness, pacing and technique goals for myself, and decide if my race was a “success” or not.

This is when I decide if I found success on the course. (photo from Nordic Focus)

The amount of pressure I put on myself was almost crushing. In any given race, there are only three medals, and at least a dozen competitors with a legit chance at getting them. In every race, there are so many uncontrollable factors that you as an athlete can’t change; the course design, the weather, the speed of the snow, the wax on your skis, among other things like broken poles or falling. And I definitely struggled with some of the uncontrollable factors! For example, we missed the wax in the individual start 10km, and I was also burning up from the inside in the heat. My first thought when I crossed the finish line was “awesome, I just killed myself out there. There’s nothing left in the tank, I’m overheating like crazy but I think that went pretty well!”. Then, despite my assessment that it had been a good effort from me, when I saw the results I had a little confidence crisis. What happened to my fitness? Am I not in good shape? What the heck just happened here? 

Sadie and I gave it our all in the team sprint. (photo from Nordic Focus)

And this right here is a great example of why results never tell the whole story, and why we shouldn’t judge our performance or our worth based on results alone. My fitness hadn’t disappeared overnight, nor did it suddenly come back in time for the 30km skate. I don’t suck at classic skiing (although sometimes I hate it, but that’s different). A combination of missing the wax and then overheating had pushed me farther down the results than I’d been in nearly every World Cup all year, but I had to believe in myself and remember that I still had reason to have confidence in my fitness, even when it seemed crazy to do so!

Rosie, Julia and Sadie cooling me down at the finish of the relay! (photo from Nordic Focus)

The next individual race I did, the 30km skate, I had simply amazing wax and amazing skis. I’m totally biased, but I think they were the best out there! Our team absolutely knocked it out of the park. Now, wax doesn’t always make or break a race, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse if that’s not really what was going on there. But every ski racer in the world has experienced having skis that are running better than average, and skis that are not competitive with the field. Learning to deal mentally as well as physically with those situations is a challenge, and can leave you unsure of where your fitness level really is. That’s simply part of the game! However, realizing that my fitness hadn’t suddenly disappeared overnight was such a relief that I started to have fun again, because I wasn’t spending any energy doubting myself or second-guessing my training!

Finishing a good day of testing with Cork. (photo from Nordic Focus)

Why I am writing all this? Because we need to give ourselves a break sometimes. Trying to assume responsibility for the uncontrollable factors in life hasn’t ever gotten me very far, and worrying about it is even worse. That 30km race I finally stopped putting pressure on myself, expecting nothing and racing like I had nothing to lose. I let myself have fun without feeling like a result was the only thing that mattered, and ironically, that resulted in my best result of the week. Life is so weird.

Sending it on the downhills, always! (photo from Lumi Experiences)

Speaking of weird…the following is a transcription of the conversation that my brain had with my body with about 7km to go in the 30km:

Brain: Ok body! Let’s go! LETTSSSSS GOOOOO!

Arms: Going! I’m going!

Core: Ehhh, fiiiiine, I’m going. Woo-hoo and all that.

Legs: ……shut up, I hate you.

Lower quads: *spazzing uncontrollably and cramping up* …can’t….process…what’s….happening…

Brain: *sighs* Good lord! As usual, I’m going to have to drag you along on willpower alone!

Arms: Sooooooo….we’re not just going to double pole this in to the finish?

Legs: I can probably make it down the men’s sprint hill. Probably. Most likely. At least a 6/10 chance this will go well.

Just after getting the tag from Rosie in the relay. (photo by Lumi Expriences)

At the end of the day, I’m leaving World Champs proud of the effort I gave, because that was the only thing within my control and I really gave it all. I prepared the best I could, held nothing back in each race, and most importantly, I had fun with my team. I’m taking a lot of happy memories with me! The excited atmosphere and feeling of team bonding we had while face painting and getting ready for the relays. The hugs from friends I haven’t seen in a while who came to support the team. The smiles that greeted us every time we came into the wax truck. The overwhelming amount of love and care I felt when I was overheating and dizzy and our volunteer staff were huddled around me pouring one cup of water after another over my head to cool me down. The fun atmosphere and laughs we shared at the dinner table every night. Every World Champs has its own atmosphere and feel to it, and whether you looked at the results sheet or not, this one was made fun by the people in it.

Team! Julia, Sadie, Rosie and me. (photo from SIA Nordic)

You can never really retire from this team! Getting a great big hug from Holly Brooks. (photo from a good friend of the team)

I want to take a moment to address the scandal that hit World Champs when 5 men; 2 Austrians, 2 Estonians and 1 Kazakhstan racer, were busted for blood doping. The news really hit everyone hard, but in different ways. I had considered one of the cheaters a friend, and I felt somehow personally let down, my first thought being “but…I thought you were a good person???” My second thought was that I felt so angry, on behalf of all of us who are doing our best every day and competing clean…so angry at the coaches who encourage cheating…so angry at the dopers for what they’ve done to skiing in their respective countries and for how hard they’ve made it on their teammates who were just here to compete and do their best. But after all that anger I tried to find a little compassion (I had to dig reaaallly deep for that) and perhaps some understanding. How can we try to prevent doping in sport if we don’t take the time to try and understand what drove these men to do it in the first place? Is there something more we can be doing to educate athletes at a younger age that this is not ok?

As shocking as this was, it would be crazy to jump to conclusions and declare in anger that sport is ultimately flawed or broken. It is not broken, because WE are not broken. As long as there are athletes who are competing clean and using their voices to say that cheating is not acceptable in any form, there is hope for the future.

So for what it’s worth, I do not look upon the news that 5 athletes were caught doping and shrug and say “well, that’s sport!”. I think that it’s so wrong. I think it’s even more messed up that there are coaches and doctors supporting this, perpetuating a culture where they tell the athletes they support that they should cheat and throw away their life’s integrity for the hope of having their name higher up on a results sheet.

I think you can be clean and win, but beyond that, I’m proud to be part of a team that values HOW you race more than the result itself. If you win but you’re a terrible person, that’s much worse than competing with integrity and good character, being a good teammate and friend, supporting the next generation of skiers and showing them through your example that how you pursue a goal matters so much more than whether you actually reach it or not.

For example, at the end of World Champs, I had so many people come tell me they loved watching me race…not because of where I landed on the results, but because I raced in shorts because I put my heart and soul into it and even when the wheels were clearly falling off, I kept dragging myself up each hill as fast as I could. Frankly, they didn’t care if I ended up with a medal or not. It’s a gutsy, gritty performance that moves people and inspires them. It’s HOW you race, not if you win. But you only get to own the performance if you compete clean, because once you cheat, it’s all over. No matter if you win or not, no performance is actually truly yours anymore. It all becomes a lie. It’s hard for me to even fathom why you could choose to throw away everything for the chance of winning, when some of the races I’ve been most proud of are the ones where I didn’t even come close to the podium! But I also recognize that I’ve grown up in an amazing culture that celebrates a gutsy, go-for-it, give-em-hell try rather than glory alone, and that my whole view is shaped around the idea that integrity is everything.

So, to all the young athletes out there, whatever your sport is, I want you to know that the one thing you will always have throughout your career, regardless of result, is your integrity, the joy of competing and giving it your all. Protect that. Value it. Don’t ever throw it away, even if someone suggests that winning is the only thing that matters. Because it’s not, I can promise you that. Having both won races, lost them, and landed somewhere in the middle many times, when I look back on all the races I’ve gotten to do thus far in my career I have the pride of knowing that each and every one of them was my own, and they were real, and that it was my body doing it’s absolute best every time. So protect your integrity and race the right way, because someday when you retire you’ll want to look back at all the amazing memories you made of racing, traveling and training with a team, and you’ll want to know that all those memories and races are truly yours.

Enjoying every second of this awesome thing we get to do. (photo from Nordic Focus)

Let’s talk about eating disorders

Hello from a super sunny Seefeld! It’s been some absolutely amazing weather and atmosphere in the packed stadium for the first few races of World Champs this week. And, as always, it’s fun to get out there and do what I love! But this post isn’t actually about ski racing (there will be an update on the races coming later!). It’s about something much more important. Headed into more races soon! photo by THIBAUT/NordicFocus. This week is Eating Disorders Awareness week, and I want to call attention to the fact that eating disorders are: 1 Common – More than 30 million people in the U.S. will have an eating disorder. 2. Serious – Eating disorders have devastating physical and psychological consequences—roughly one person dies every hour from eating disorder complications. 3. NOT a Choice – Eating disorders are biologically based illnesses influenced by psychological, sociocultural and physiological factors. Reaching out…

Heart on Fire

I’m watching the snow swirl ferociously around the window, snowflakes magically drifting upwards as the wind gets caught around the side of the hotel. It’s amazing to see how much snow we’ve gotten both here in Davos and back in Seefeld, and I’m thrilled to be able to play in it, ski hundreds of kilometers on freshly groomed trails, and bomb down through the powder. A beautiful view in Davos! (photo from Caitlin Patterson)   Let’s get something straight, though. Local weather is not the same as climate, and just because we’ve had a great snow year doesn’t mean climate change isn’t a real threat. Although, sadly, our current president of FIS doesn’t seem to realize that. However, he also tried to stop women’s ski jumping from becoming an Olympic event, saying in 2005; “Don’t forget, it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about two metres on the ground about a…

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…

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…