Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tour de Sadie

I can't think of any better way to describe my last two weeks other than "Tour de Sadie". After having a little more relaxing period for World Champs- I got back to racing with a bang. Starting with the World Cup's in Lahti, Finland.

Last year I had one of my best races of the year in the pursuit race in Lahti. At that point that meant coming in 31st... the closest to the points I had ever been. So, this year I went into the weekend with confidence. After having a less than successful experience at World Champs, I was determine to prove to myself I was in better form. I could feel my shape was there, but I knew that things needed to line up better in order to have the day I was capable of.

The first race was the skate sprint. After a 13th place qualifier in one of the most stacked fields I had raced against this season, I knew that I was in a good place. As I walked out to the my first quarterfinal heat, I took a look around me. To my largest fear, every person I would be starting my heat with had won a World Cup medal. Thank god to the immediate encouragement from my coach, Matt Whitcomb, I released my fear into the back of my mind. This year I have had many strong qualifiers, but not once had I finished that day feeling like I skied my quarterfinal to the best of my abilities. So today, I was going to lay it out there. This would mean laying it out there standing beside none other than Marit Bjoergen, Kowalczyk, and Anne Kylloenen. Standing on the line I started to believe in myself, not allowing the intimidation to get to me. After advancing as lucky loser into the semi's, I made a small tactical mistake in my semi's, and narrowly missed moving on to the finals. But what this meant was that I finished my day in 9th- not only my first top 10, but my first top 20! And this was just the motivation and confidence that I needed.

A video of QuarterFinals

Chasing down Kikkan in the Semi-Finals (Salomon Photo)
Enjoying some time in the leaders chair after the 10km
The following day we had a 10k classic, and again I had a PR, finishing 18th. With little time to soak it in, we jumped on a plane and travelled to Norway where we had a midweek sprint in the city of Drammen on Wednesday. Last year this was my last World Cup Race of the season, and also the first time I had ever made points. So, I went into these races with some confidence from the previous year. Qualifying in 26th, I was determine to move up through the field. Drammen has a unique atmosphere with the fans packing the streets screaming and pushing you on, making it extra fun. Unfortunately, I struggled to get my skis to work throughout the course, crossing the line and moving back to 30th place. While a little disappointed, I couldn't be for too long... because I would be racing three more times in the next four days.

Ran into Pete Kling up at Holmenkollen during my race prep.
Sophie and I having some fun in Oslo
Sophie, Rosie and I enjoying the ocean on our pre-race run!
So, thursday morning I woke up early and jumped on the air plane from Oslo to Innsbruck where I began my adventure through the public bus system and train stations with my skis and duffle. 12 hours later I arrived in Dobiacco for OPA Cup Finals and tried to prepare myself for the next race early the following morning. I knew this travel was not going to be ideal, but with this mini tour being at the end of the season, I was willing to put myself into the "hurt zone" a bit. I also really enjoying ending my European season with both a different group of people, and a different challenge. Winning on the day is possible, so instantly your mind frame goes in a different place.
A new group of people and our awesome waiter in Dobiacco (Lauren Fritz photo)
Bryan Fish photo
Many thanks NNF for making this awesome trip happen!
The three day tour certainly took on a new challenge. When warming up becomes a challenge, you have to dig to new levels during racing. Throughout the three days I finished both 3rd, 2nd and even won one race... which put me in second for the combined mini-tour effort. With 6 races in 9 days in 3 separate countries- I crossed the line in the final race exhausted and exerting every last drop of energy! I had completed my very own Tour de Ski. Some rest and recovery was in store!!

Standing on the top of the podium for the first time in an OPA race. (Lauren Fritz photo)
My huge chunk of meat I won!
So now with a little over two weeks until our finals series of races in California, I am spending a little recovery time in France with my boyfriend. I am trying to break up the usual training and get some "downhill" time in. It also means some time to catch up in school, catch up in emails, and catch up in life in general!
Pete, Erik and I on top of Meribel
enjoying some fresh powder
getting some uphill training as well, of course!
Enjoying some powder!
Every good day ends with some Hot Chocolate for Erik!
One more week of rest and then it's the home stretch. Five more races; A prologue, a distance race, a sprint race, a hill climb up the alpine slope, and then a 30k classic. The finish line is in sight!

Hiking up into the sunset!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Val di Fiemme

I am just finishing up my week of Championships here in Val di Fiemme... looking back on all the great moments. At the same time, I am going through the process of reviewing my week and thinking about all the things that went very well, and the things to improve for next time. I must say, I didn't have quite the Championships that I was hoping for, but in other ways- things were also very positive.
Matt giving us some pointers for the classic sprint (fasterskier photo)
As a ski racer you can never look at anything as a failure. If you did, you wouldn't make it very far beyond one year of racing on the World Cup- because this process is not very forgiving. The difference between an average day and an overly excellent day could be .15 seconds... one size larger boot. Or the difference between putting one too many layers of kick wax on your ski, or simply the difference between finding one more gear of energy for the last climb of the course. It is all so small, yet so important. So even though my two individual start races were less than my best, there were some very encouraging parts at the same time!
Salomon Photo- Racing through the stadium in the Pursuit

So in honor of moving forward in a positive manner; here are a few of the things about Val di Fiemme that I won't be forgetting.

1. Fans! After having my first World Championships in Oslo, my standards of World Championships fans was set sort of high. To my surprise though, these Italian fans lived up to the challenge. Maybe 70% of them traveled all the way from Norway... but regardless they were out there in full force. It was also special to have so many US fans as well. World Masters took place somewhere near here, so there was an extra bunch of familiar voices and faces out there that made it special!
One of the stands full of spectators! (Fasterskier photo)
2. Hills- Holy hills! This venue knows how to test your fitness, test your mental strength, and test your hill climbing. I remember many of my teammates warning me of this after they raced the final stages of the tour here last year... but I didn't experience the full feeling of it until racing. It was fun to test my hill climbing skills though.
UP we go- USSA photo
And more UP- USSA photo
3. Wax Crew- This week has been one of the most challenging weeks for waxing yet. With temperatures hanging around zero, and constantly changing... things get tricky and tough. The techs have been incredible at working hard and moving forward. The important thing to remember is just like an athlete, tech teams have tough days as well. Even if they are putting 100%, there will always be challenging days. So thanks techs for working your butts off and always staying positive.

Group Effort!!- USSA photo
4. Records- While the week started off with much less than our best, the following days were filled with records, bests, firsts and everything else. Kikkan and Jessie set the mood with winning the team sprint for US Nordics FIRST World Championship Gold. That was one of my more emotional moments of being a ski racer. As I watched the girls ski their hearts out and cross the line first, emotion struck. As tears rolled down the faces of all the US group… I may have spotted a tear rolling down the Norwegian coaches face too. Finally, US is a force to recon with. Over the years as Kikkan has set an example of believing that we can compete, the rest of our team has started following along!
A team celebration after Jess and Kikk win the first ever World Champs Gold!! (Fasterskier photo)
Making records and having fun! USSA photo
Fasterskier photo
5. Sunshine- It is hard to not absolutely love every second of the day when you are out ski racing hard in the sun. Black suits sometimes make that experience a little more miserable than it should… but for the most part, the sunshine always brings out the best in us! If there is one thing you can count on in Italia, that is sun!
soaking in the sun! USSA photo
USSA photo
6. Team Spirit- The team “spirit” has been great throughout the week. The success of the team just spreads through our group. I think this is one of the things that is bringing us to a higher level as a team. Because one person’s success is contagious, it helps us all believe!
Jessie- you did it!!!
Matt, the ladies, and the medals!
7. Relay- Yesterday I got to participate in my first World Cup 4x5 relay. Since being a young girl, relay racing has always been my favorite. There is something about the different pressure, and your collective effort… it just gets me in a new level of energy… as with all the US ladies. Aside from being fun, the US Team managed to finish our best result ever in history. Although we were just off the podium, we were extremely stoked with a 4th place finish. This was a huge improvement from our last World Championship finish in 9th. With our goals set on a medal of course, we came away proud and pleased that we had reached 4th place! Everyone skied their hearts out, and our goal is certainly attainable in the near Olympic future!
Using the relay socks for the first time ever- Fasterskier photo
All of these things have made this Championship week incredible and memorable. With two more races to go, the 30 and 50k, we will be back on World Cup soon. Next weekend we will be racing a 10k Classic and Team Sprint, so some more exciting racing in the near future!
Salomon photo- Classic Sprinting
USSA photo

Here is a funny photo from the local paper. I have been hoping all week to get in there just once, but I wasn’t quite expecting this one. This is what google translate says:

What the Photo Symbol of the World
Let's say that the scene was the most beautiful and the American athlete of the relay this morning (yesterday, ed), shooting as he undressed. Sadie Bjørnsen has affected all of us photographers, the femininity and grace of gesture, of usual when it comes to the masculinity of athletes.

Thanks everyone for the cheers and nice emails this week. I really appreciate it!! A few more days here, and then off to Scandinavia!