Wild Rumpus Sports
 

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 thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” So, clearly, he seems to be a man of great science and rational thinking, am I right? Read this article on the interview if you want to either have a laugh (or get good and mad, but probably both).

Caitlin making some turns on a fun easy training day!

 

However, the head of our International Ski Federation showing ignorance on climate change wasn’t actually meant to be the topic of this blog, it just snuck its way in there. I don’t know how it happened! I must have blacked out.

Sertig valley – it took us about an hour to climb up, and a 17 minute tuck back downhill! (photo from Caitlin)

 

The real reason I’m getting back to blogging is because the World Championships are right around the corner, and as usual, it brings a whole host of ups and downs with it. Right now I’m in Davos for a training camp, and it’s been a real rollercoaster! Every other day it’s bright and beautiful sunshine, and then it goes back to dumping snow on us. Kind of like your emotions when you’re nervous and overthinking the upcoming races, actually. We’re in the final phases of preparing for the World Champs, which means carefully planned out interval sets, lots of rest, and winding down the hours spent on the ski trail to let our bodies rest up for some hard racing ahead.

Hoping the crowds are as incredible as the last races we did in Ulricehamn, Sweden! (photo from Warner Nickerson)

 

Every time I make a team it’s exciting, and something that I don’t ever want to take for granted. This will be my 5th trip to a World Championships, and just as every venue is unique and has its own feel, every year has its own challenges, pressures, expectations and excitement. It can be hard to find the words to express how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks, so I’m going to let the words of others help me out.

 

On finding balance after the Olympics:

“You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm”

This is something I desperately needed to hear about 365 days ago, when the 2018 Olympics were kicking off. Without getting too far into it (that’s a blog post for another time!) I’ve been getting sick so much this year because I’ve stretched myself way too thin, trying to help out too many causes at once. The past few months have been a big learning curve for me, realizing that not only can I not possibly fulfill all of the hundreds (literally, multiple hundreds) of requests for my time and energy, but that I also should not. Because if I end up broken, tired, and wanting to retire 5 years too early, I will be able to help far fewer people than if I set limits and take better care of myself. Finding a healthy balance and learning that it’s ok to say “no” will be, I suspect, a goal of mine for years to come, but at least I can recognize that there’s work to be done!

One of my favorite photos from the entire Olympics…the night we got our medals, when I skipped a bunch of media obligations so I could have pasta with Wade and my Mom and have family night!

 

On dealing with pressure:

The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn’t last. It’s all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing.” Jackie Joyner Kersee

Thinking back on my years of racing for my high school team at Stillwater, I had so much fun. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, especially when I knew it could help my team! Even back then, there was a lot of perceived external pressure my last few years of high school racing to win everything. It’s different than the pressure on the World Cup, but in many ways pressure is pressure, no matter where it comes from. When you feel it taking away the joy of competing, it sucks, plain and simple.

Trying to keep it chill at the pre-Olympic press conference a year ago.

 

But that’s why we have a team, and it’s important to remember why we got into the sport in the first place. I mean, did we even get medals for winning state? I honestly don’t remember. I DO, however, remember the joy of showing up every day for practice, all the practical jokes we pulled on one another, the late night sledding at Giants Ridge and the sense of camaraderie and absolute belonging I felt as part of that team. I was so invested in my team that I remember taking a red-eye flight home from US Nationals so I wouldn’t have to miss a race! My teammates had my back, and I had theirs, and the happiness that we all got from being part of something bigger than ourselves was incredible.

A very old photo of a very happy group of high school skiers my senior year, ready to sleep on the floor before a traveling race!

 

The same holds true today (yes, even the late night sledding…and the pranks). There’s always going to be pressure to perform, whether it comes from inside my own head, creepy people commenting on fasterskier from their basements, or TV show hosts. The best way to deal with it is to focus on the happiness and joy that I feel from skiing, from being part of an amazing team, and having fun with it.

Late night sledding down the mountain with Tyler, Rosie and Scott!

Teaching my teammates a dance last year!

 

On heading into the World Champs:

“Success required the emotional balance of a committed heart. When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape. A committed heart does not wait for conditions to be exactly right. Why? Because conditions are never exactly right.” -Andy Andrews

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because in my mind, it captures the feel of professional sports so well. Conditions, it seems, are almost never perfect. Just this week I got sick with a cold that had been going around, and it was definitely a challenge to my belief in myself and my self confidence! When you can no longer follow the carefully planned out intervals and strength routines because you’re sick, you’re forced to be flexible and adapt, shifting your training around. It can be so tempting to think “well, that’s it, then! I’m screwed. This won’t work, and don’t you DARE give me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ crap”, but that attitude has never helped anyone.

Walking around on skis so I can bomb back through snowy fields…this lifted my spirits a lot!

 

All you can do is play the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. There are so many things you can’t account for and can’t control, but by staying positive and focusing on the things I can control, I’m able to make a new training plan with my coach, and know in my extremely committed heart that I’m doing everything I can.

Whenever I get nervous – and people are often surprised to hear this, but here’s a little secret; you never stop getting nervous, you just learn how to work with it and harness the energy better – I think back and ask myself this: “am I 100% committed? Have I done everything I possibly can to find success? Am I doing the best I can right now, in this moment?”

I have complete faith in my tech and coach, Cork, and our team! (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

And when the answer is yes, I can relax and let those nerves melt away, because there’s nothing more I could, or should, be doing. I’ve been training full time for almost 10 years, since the day I walked out of my high school graduation lock-in party and went straight to a roller ski workout with a pro team. I’ve poured everything into training hard and smart, and been committed through ups and downs to giving ski racing the best shot I have, so that I will never have to look back one day and wonder “what if?” And that’s what lets me relax those nerves before a big race, because I know that I’m as prepared as I possibly can be.

There’s no “what if” regrets when you know you’ve given it everything you have! (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

I think back on all the fun I’ve had while grinding out tough workouts with amazing friends and teammates, and I’m so glad I’ve had the experience of a lifetime, chasing excellence all around the world with a group of people just as committed as I am.

Putting it all out there for my team in the relay, every time I pull those socks on. (photo from Warner Nickerson).

 

The night before the race:

“Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.” – Ronda Rousey

This is not the time to think on all the technique adjustments you think you need to make, how you would have trained differently, or how you wish you could ski like someone else. After the races, write it all down and think back on what worked for you, and what you can do to improve. But right before the race? This is the time to reflect on all the things you kick ass at. Know your strengths. Be ready to use them. Focus on the things you can do, and believe that you have the power to do them well!

Only focusing on what I CAN do. (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

On race day:

“As powerful as our legs are, as magnificent as our lungs and arms and muscles are, nothing matters more than the mind” – Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek, man. That guy knew how to suffer. He also knew that a strong mind was the most powerful weapon in sports. No matter what I’m feeling, I know that nothing can compare to the power of racing with an all-in, nothing-to-lose, might-as-well-give-this-everything-I’ve-got mindset. When I’m racing with absolute belief in myself and a positive mindset, ready to turn myself inside out and be ok with how much it hurts, it’s a very powerful thing. When I’m smiling on race day, look out, because when I’m in a great mood I can put myself though an incredible amount of suffering. To me, being mentally tough and ready to have fun, challenging myself to race as hard and fast as possible, is the best thing I can do for myself on race day.

Loving the challenge! (photo from Nordic Focus)

Ouch! At least I know it left it all out there. (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

So as the World Champs begin next week, wish us luck, and you know we’ll be racing our hearts out!

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…

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…