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Wild Rumpus Sports
 

Turning Things Around

*Sorry for the long hiatus mid season, my computer was broken all of January, and it is hard to get a new one when you are in Europe all winter.

I am going to be brutally honest and say that the past 7 weeks have been really hard for me. I usually try to see the positive side of things and can deal with setbacks pretty well, but that gets really tiring after a while. 5 days ago I was ready to book a ticket home—that is when things turned around (once again)…

Rewind 7 weeks ago. I kicked off the New Year by coming down with a bad cold, leaving me lying in bed for 7 days and not even training for 10 days. I was bummed to miss some OPA Cup races, but kept my mind focused on resting a lot so I would be ready for my next World Cup opportunity, the Dresden city sprint. Doing a World Cup city sprint has always been a dream of mine, but to do it in my “home” country Germany with my grandparents watching was a real dream come true. I was ready to rock and roll, gunning to qualify for heats, especially in a less deep World Cup field post Tour de Ski. Unfortunately, the fast and flat 2-minute sprint wasn’t quite what my body was ready for after being sick. It was a shock to the system, but I was ready to turn it around and attack the next weekend in Planica, Slovenia! My teammates however crushed it, with Sophie placing 3rd in the sprint and Ida and Sophie also 3rd in the team sprint!

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Sophie charging to a 3rd place in front of the scenic backdrop. 
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I made the newspaper in Germany! I was on my way out to hold spare poles for the team sprint where Sophie and Ida got 3rd! Coach Kern ready to go.

We spent a few days in Ramsau, Austria before heading to Planica. I was excited for interval day in Ramsau—I was eager to go hard again and put in some quality intervals, something I lacked the previous weeks. To my surprise my body felt terrible, and I had no idea why. I tried to shift my focus and just said to myself it was a bad day, it happens sometimes. As the days continued, I continued to sleep poorly, and felt more exhausted than ever, so I rested some more. Before I knew it, it was the day before the sprint in Planica and my HR was incredibly high, and I was longing for a good night of sleep. Regardless, I loved the sprint course and was psyched to race the next day. I got myself amped up and ready to go, woke up feeling a little better, and I put it all out there. I was excited to feel a lot better in the qualifier than I had expected, and to see that I has skied a pretty good qualifier, taking one step closer to qualifying for heats. Planica was an absolutely beautiful place and I was sad to leave the World Cup, but excited to head to Switzerland for U23 Championships and carry my forward momentum with me.

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Even though I wasn’t feeling great, Ramsau offered a gorgeous backdrop.
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Hello Slovenia, my first time there.
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Charging in the classic sprint (Photo: Toko) 
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Feeling small with Sadie on a distance ski. 

The first few days of skiing in Switzerland were incredible—the snow was amazing and I was feeling really good in training…just in time to get sick, again. I didn’t understand how my plan to stay in Europe to minimize travel and risk of sickness backfired, and I didn’t understand how I could get sick so soon after being healthy and not training much. I spent the days leading up to U23 Championships isolated in my room, frustrated, antsy, and hoping for a miracle.

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No double tracks….but TRIPLE tracks!
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Sunshine and smiles the first day.
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And then came the sick walks…
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Thankfully I have awesome friends who got me outside to build a snow tunnel when I was sick to cheer me up!

Come sprint day, I was still super sick but decided if there is one event you can “fake”, it is a sprint qualifier. I ended up qualifying, but I didn’t have enough energy in the heats to match the pace. I decided to sit out the 10km in hopes of getting healthy for the skiathalon. I really thought I could turn it around by skiathalon day, but come race day, I was still not 100% healthy. I talked with my coaches and decided to give it a shot, since you don’t know how you are going to feel unless you start the race. I gave it shot, but my body was still affected by my cold so I DNF (did not finish) the first race of my life. To be clear, this was not because I was frustrated or because things were not going how I had hoped, it was part of the plan—start the race and see if you feel good, and if not, don’t push your body into a deeper hole than it already is.

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Cornering in the sprint.

As much as DNF’ing was a really hard thing for me to do, I believe it was the smartest thing I could have done that day. Racing the first 5km of the race gave me the confidence boost that I needed. I was reminded that I can ski with those girls if I am feeling good, but I also saved my body from driving the cold deeper into my system. What was really exciting to see though, was how well our team did at World Juniors/U23s! My close friend Hailey placed 2nd and 3rd in the two distance races, making history and the junior men’s relay team bested our bronze medal in the relay last year by earning a hard fought silver medal! I was so exciting to see the whole team do well and have a historic week in Switzerland–the future is bright!

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Hailey with a SILVER MEDAL!
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Killer relay for the guys! 
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Thankfully I was surrounded by people who made me laugh during the tough times at U23s.

After U23’s, I headed to Germany with my teammate Hannah for a 3 week trip through Germany. We planned to stay over in Europe so that we could get more competitive racing in and minimize travel between Europe and the US. The first week in Germany I was focused on getting healthy and happy again. Between dealing with an elbow injury all summer and fall, and being sick 4 times this season so far, my mental strength to fight back and find the positive side of things had dwindled. Thankfully Hannah and I were greeted with great skiing in Germany, so it made it hard not to smile when you were skiing. And of course, Hannah is goofball and brings out my goofy side as well, so after a few days, I was back on the horse and more excited than ever to race.

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Showing Hannah my favorite city in Germany 🙂
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Oberwiesenthal treated us well!
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Just getting a little goofy 

And that is when I got sick again…For two days I was convinced it was my allergies, but in hindsight, it was the only way I could make sense of how I was feeling. There I was in Germany, racking my brain how I could have been healthy for 4 days before I got sick again, and where I went wrong. I was beyond frustrated (to the point of not caring anymore), and I said screw it, I have tried resting, training, racing, and nothing has worked so I might as well try the sprint. The night before the sprint my body felt worse than ever, my cheeks suddenly got red and I felt hot, and maybe I had a fever for an hour. That was when I was ready to book a ticket home and throw in the towel. I said to myself if I feel miserable tomorrow, I am going home.

And that is where things turned around once again (seeing a pattern here?). I woke up feeling a little better and decided to do the sprint. I felt surprisingly good in the qualifier, especially for a 4 minute long sprint course. I think I was just so excited to race and feel good that I sent it in my quarterfinal and we posted the fastest quarterfinal of the day. I made a tactical error in the semi final and may have burned a few too many matches in previous heat so I didn’t move on to the final. But that quarterfinal was the most fun I had racing in a very long time! I decided to race all 3 races this past weekend, because although I still was congested and was coughing, my body was able to push hard in the races and feel good. I was pleasantly surprised with my results given the roller-coaster ride the past few weeks and my first distance races in 9 weeks.

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Mass start at the OPA Cup in Arber.

I have now arrived at my next stop, Oberstdorf, Germany after taking two days completely off in hopes of getting 100% healthy before another 3 day weekend of racing in a few days. Although I do not know if I will have another setback, I do know I still have enough strength to “turn things around” because I really missed racing, and this weekend reminded me how fun it is and how much it is worth it if you can get through tougher times. I am looking forward to more racing to come, and more regular updates 🙂

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I got to spend a day with my grandma on my off day!

-JKern

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