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Wild Rumpus Sports
 

The Unexpected

This season summed up in one word: unexpected.

Does the unexpected come from defying expectations (in a good or bad way), or is it from a lack of expectations at all, or both? Do expectations arise from believing that you can achieve something? Or do expectations just add negative pressure?

I put some thought into these questions throughout the year, as unexpected things kept happening and sometimes a lack of expectations lead to some pleasant surprises. The conclusion I came to (for now), is that expectations, beliefs and goals can be separated. I can approach a race with confidence and with a goal in mind, but whether I achieve that goal or not is irrelevant of my expectations, but the belief and process goals I implement to achieve that goal is what is relevant. Expectations are only one’s belief about what one thinks will happen, but lets be honest, if I learned anything this year, it is that that we often really don’t know what will happen, so why waste energy and add pressure with expectations? We can set goals and control a large portion of the process towards achieving our goals, but there will always be some unexpected factors such as crashes, fast skis, random weather, luck, and other competitors’ performance. My sports psychologist reminded me this winter that setting outcome goals (like getting top 3) are important, but what is more important are setting process goals that you can have full control over whether you achieve them or not (like giving it my all in a race).

You never know when crashes will happen in sprints, but you know they will at some point (Photo: NordicFocus.)

With a frustrating training year riddle with injury and illness, I had no idea what to expect this season, so I didn’t set any expectations at all for Period 1 of the World Cup. How did Period 1 end…my first ever World Cup podium!  I will be the first to admit that no one expected that, myself included. I approached the first period of racing with the sole focus on process goals, no result goals or expectations in mind, because honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. When it came to the morning of last race of Period 1, I felt that I was building momentum and was weirdly psyched that it was pouring rain out.  I told myself, “today is the day I make it to the finals for the first time”. I didn’t have any expectation of that, but suddenly I believed I could do it. I think it was largely due to the fact that our women’s team had 5 consecutive World Cup podiums, consisting of 4 different athletes, and they showed me it was possible if you believe. 

When you spend enough time with these speedy teammates, you start see and believe it is possible! Thank you for teaching and sharing all your experience with me 🙂

Many people have asked, “What did you differently this year?” My answer: Honestly, nothing.  If at all, what I did “differently” was have a less than ideal training year than the previous year. On paper, my season doesn’t quite make sense based on my preparation, but I have come to realize that it isn’t just about what you do but what you believe. This year I believed that I could go head to head with the top skiers. This didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual transition as I spent more time on the World Cup gaining experiencing and learning from my incredible teammates the past few years.

After Period 1, the season continued on with more unexpected highs and lows. I hit a rough patch mid season with a cold during the Tour de Ski that sidelined me for a bit, followed by a leg injury that left me limping around for a few weeks, sitting out multiple World Cup races and unable to ski. I went from feeling the fastest I have ever felt, to coming back from injury, racing a 10km race that felt like the longest, hardest 10km race of my life, just fighting not to finish in last. I continued to believe in myself as I went to work and did what I know works for me: race, race, believe, and race some more….so the Tour of Scandinavia was perfect timing in that sense.  

Injury is never fun, but I have learned creativity is key! Seated ski erg with a spin bike as a seat and a chair as leg rest.
Fighting through the longest 10km of my life (Photo: NordicFocus)

The Scandinavian Ski Tour was filled with new race formats and challenges. How can you have expectations for an uphill mountain sprint, or a 34km race during a massive windstorm on a course you haven’t even previewed? You can’t, and that is fun of it!  The Tour was the perfect prep to find my form again by U23 World Championships, one of my key race weeks of the season.

I was extra excited because the races were in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, the ski trails I learned to ski on with my family, and where have spent every Christmas skiing. I had big goals going in, I wanted to medal in one of the races and be fighting for the Top 5 in all races. Most importantly, I was REALLY excited to race in front of my family who were cheering me on every day there! At the time, I didn’t know my season would end with U23s, and that has made me even more grateful that I got to race at “home” in front of my family and give it my all to finish off the season.

Bronze medal in the sprint at U23s! (PC: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).

Upon returning to North America after having left the U.S. 4 months ago, I was getting really fired up for the last World Cups of the season, the North American World Cups! I had structured my season to “peak” for U23s and the last World Cups, but unexpectedly, Covid-19 cut the season short before the best part 😦  Our whole team was really looking forward to racing a World Cup on U.S. soil, it was really unfortunate timing, but we understood it was the right thing to cut the season short and put health first.

Last race of the season was rocking the stars and stripes in a team relay! (PC: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).
Racing in front of my grandparents on the ski trails they taught me to ski on was extra special (Photo: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).

Looking back on the season, I am glad I raced any opportunity I got because you never know what will happen! Now more than ever, we are in a time of uncertainty, all plans on hold, or no plans at all, living with an unpredictable future. My goal this spring is to take the time to be present in the moment, slow down a bit, and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while keeping myself quarantined.

A huge thank you to everyone has supported me this season, your support means the world to me and I couldn’t do it without you! Thank you to my family for your unwavering support, to my coaches, teammates and staff, including my wax tech Eli Brown for making me super speedy skis, and to everyone else who has supported me along the way whether it was a kind message, a loud cheer, your belief in me, or financial support. I wish you all a healthy and safe spring!

And if you want a laugh, you can check out my season “goofy highlights” video here!

-JKern

Ski Tour 2020!

*This blog post was written right after the tour but accidentally didn’t post it because the internet kept crashing in Germany. The past few weeks have been filled with many firsts for me! I just finished the Ski Tour 2020, which consisted of 6 World Cup races in 9 days in both Sweden and Norway. Although this was similar to the Tour de Ski in terms of it being a tour, this tour was the first ever of its’ kind, including race formats and conditions that brought all sorts of new challenges and experiences. I have always dreamed of finishing the Tour de Ski, so being able to race an entirely new tour and finish was such a fun experience. I am going to break it down stage by stage, since every race and stage comes with its’ own feelings, adventures, and laughs, and of course with photo documentation to…

Patience: Day by Day

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I learned this fall that sometimes the best approach is to take things day by day. I was also reminded how fortunate I am for my family, friends, and teammates. In short, this fall was turbulent and early season was wild…but first I will rewind to the end of the summer. Summer Just as I got cleared at the end of July to start using my elbow again, my IT bands got flared up, sidelining me from lower body training. They always say injuries come in pairs, and it is likely no coincidence that my legs flared up after using my legs more while rehabbing from elbow surgery. Although I thought I was being smart in training, sometimes it is hard to foresee these injuries ahead of time until it is too late. Lesson learned… After enough rest, I was able to rollerski…

Going With The Flow

Anyone who knows me knows that I like having a plan going in. Whether it is a training plan, my day plan, or a route plan in mind, I like plans—they give me a sense of direction. Ironically, I don’t care that much about whether I stick to the plans I make, it is just about having one going in and then changing things on the fly and going with the flow . Last time I posted, I was headed back to Lahti, Finland for a World Cup, which marked the halfway point of the season and also the part of the season that I didn’t have a solid plan in place. The remaining part of the season was totally up in the air, dependent on how the previous races had gone and each race to come. Everything that followed could change on a weekly, or even daily basis. This…

Whirlwind: Ups, Downs, Expectations

Every year the start of a new season marks uncertainty, excitement, goals, and lots of race opportunities. Expectations are loosely there, but it is not until you are a few races in that you can gage exactly what expectations are appropriate and the races start to matter. There is general race plan in place, but as the season goes along, things can change last minute and it all becomes a whirlwind as I hop from one location to next, finding myself in a new bed every week. It can be scary setting goals, unsure whether you will succeed or fail, and how you feel at certain points in the season. Since the CSU summer training camp I went to when I was 14, I have made a goal pyramid every year before the season. The process and smaller goals are at the bottom to build the foundation for the result…

The Pre-Season Mix

Everyone from New England knows that the weather in last few weeks leading up to the racing season is as unpredictable as it gets. One day you might be wearing a tank top and shorts, and the next you are bundled in your mid-winter ski outfit. This year the weather gods decided us New Englanders had gotten soft so they wanted to ensure us New Englanders are tough come the race season. I am not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t see the sun for 3 weeks straight. On top of that, many of those cloudy days included freezing, cold rain. Oddly enough, with one rainy day after the next, it started to be just another normal day in the east and each rainy day felt less dreary than the last. Maybe part of my reaction was due to the fact that I was at Dartmouth this fall, and…

What My Teammates Have Taught Me

Upon returning from our last U.S. Ski Team camp of the year in Park City, Utah back to Dartmouth to finish up fall term, I have been thinking a lot about how I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by incredible teammates wherever I go. Each team and individual teammate has taught me something different, and I know I wouldn’t be nearly as fast or have nearly as much fun without them! For starters, I am very appreciative that each of my teams support me to pursue both my skiing and academic pursuits.  The past few years I have been hopping between the Dartmouth, SMS T2, and the U.S. Ski Team and the amount I spend with each team has changed every year. My teammates on all three teams have been extremely supportive and understanding as I phase in and out (for example leaving Dartmouth for a U.S. Ski Team…

Walking The Fine Line

Since high school, I have been bouncing back and forth between doing a full term at Dartmouth while training, and solely focusing on skiing. These two lifestyles fall on opposite side of the spectrum—when I am in school I am wishing I had more free time and while when I am just skiing, I have too much free time to fill. My frustrating season last year didn’t discourage me, it actually did the exact opposite—it made me want to be “all in” this year and set really big goals. Ironically, I came to conclusion that being “all in” for me meant not just focusing on skiing, but rather, it meant the opposite—that I would go to school and train with the Dartmouth team while taking a full course load in the spring, summer, and fall (a full year of school). Focused and “all in” at training camp (Pat). Growing up,…

Finishing Strong

If your parents were anything like mine, then you were probably tossed into the deep end and had to learn how to swim from there. You could say that is what it felt like to jump on the World Cup circuit for the first time, spend 4 straight months in Europe (which is my longest streak yet), and travel across 10 different countries. I am going to admit, the first few weekends on the World Cup were really tough. I had some expectations and goals based off the end of last season, but I fell short of what I had hoped for—not just in results—but in my general form as well (unfortunately in part due to being injured the 5 months leading up to the season). Fortunately, just like your parents are there to help you learn how to swim, I was surrounded by teammates, coaches, family, and friends, who…

Blank Slate

Once again, my bags have been packed and unpacked too many times to count since my last post. After Zwiesel, I headed to Obsertdorf for a German Cup with Hannah, which was our last stop on our Germany tour. After taking 3 full off days in hopes of kicking my illness for good (but really this time), I had my head up and eyes looking forward. I was ready to put my illnesses behind me and just go out and race hard. The sprint day was shock to the system and gave my body the wake up call it needed to get back in gear and fired up again. I put my “Darth Vader mask” on at the start of the 10k skate mass start, told myself it is a new day and put my sensations from the sprint behind me, and was ready to charge (I mostly wore it…