Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eastern Block and Olympic Selection

First, I have to say, I am so excited to be officially named to the 2014 Olympic Team in Sochi! Ever since I was a young girl, I have dreamt of competing in the Olympics. I can remember telling all my classmates, my coaches throughout the years, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my sponsors, everyone! But, it is one thing to dream of going to the Olympics, and another thing to make all the sacrifices, hard training, tough decisions, and steps to get there!

The J2 years racing in Soldier Hollow
Four years ago, I dropped out of college and moved back to my home town in an effort to train my heart out to make the Vancouver Olympic Games. After giving up what felt like everything, and throwing all efforts into this dream of racing at the Olympics- I came out short. I had one of my worst years of ski racing, and lost all "fun" in the process. That same winter, I wondered if it was simply time to give up that "dream of racing in the olympics". It was at that same time that Holly Brooks and APU approached me and convinced me to give it a true try.

The APU World Cup Ladies
So, again, I went a new direction. What felt like a spontaneous and extreme decision four years ago turned out to be the best decision of my life so far! These past four years training with APU I have fallen back in love with this sport and made some huge improvements, and suddenly I am now going to be competing in this "Olympic Dream" of mine! As an athlete, there are always a million hard decisions you have to make, weeks on weeks of struggling, and and endless hardships. It is a bumpy road, but I am lucky that I have so many people in my life that keep me going. When injury seemed like it took over my existence and happiness last year, Erik Flora amazingly kept me afloat with the most positive outlook in the world! When I made the crazy decision to drop out of an NCAA supported school and transfer to APU- my parents didn't necessarily approve, but they supported my decision. There have been so many steps to get here; and it is crazy to think how each one could have worked out.

One awesome coach!
Since I was a young kid, I have had an incredible family full of love and support. My parents taught us how to work hard, how to appreciate the opportunities we get, and how to dream big. While Olympics may not have been what my parents were thinking when they told us to always reach high, but "doing our absolute best" was the real lesson. So, here Erik and I are, competing in our first Olympics together.  It has meant a lot to have Erik around all these years. Since our very first races, Kaley, Erik and I were always looking out for each other. Even if that meant blocking each other in a mass start when we were 5, 7 and 9 years old!

Kaley and Erik
We have always had a sense for each other, and how to keep each other going! So as Erik and I have followed the same path since we started competing in sports 18 years ago, it has been awesome to have a brother and friend to keep me going. Erik has an incredible sense and ability to always keep the atmosphere light, the training hard, and the spirit high. Life is about having fun for Erik; so he always has a contagious smile and hug to offer. It has been vital for me to have that constant reminder around me year around! So, as Erik and I have had similar goals over the years, it has been fun to reach the same level together. Even though we are not directly racing each other anymore; everything is still a competition for us! If he wins two National Titles, then I better win three! If I make the Olympics, then he better too! So, here we are, at an even count now. Both competing in our first Olympics together.... so who is going to win this one?
An awesome Family full of support!
He is the younger brother after all- he is supposed to be a little twerp! 
Anyways, as you can imagine, I am pretty excited for what is going to come. Last year was a ton of fun for our pre-olympic world cup in Sochi, so I am looking forward to seeing what the real show will be like this time around!

I have been recovering from a pretty bad flu virus the last two weeks, so it has been so nice to be able to train again. I wrote up a little summary of these past two weeks and the hardships for the NNF. Check it out here:
NNF Blog

Thanks to everyone for all the kind notes you have sent!! It is pretty exciting.

From here is is one more week of training up here in Seiser Alm, Italy- and then our final World Cup before the Olympics. I am already excited to get back to racing after nearly 6  months off from racing.!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

16 days with 6 French Frogs

16 days of holidays and the six French boys that live in Jo’s house!! 16 days of resting, recovering, and revamping for this next period of racing. 16 days to wake up late, wash my laundry, wax my own skis, bake some cakes, skype with my family, catch up on emails, plan my next semester of school, talk to some media from back home, organize my bags. 16 days to forget I am a ski racer, and truly recover and relax. These are the 16 days I spent in Meribel, France for both Christmas and New Years.

Jo vs. Sadie. Fat vs. Skinny... the ongoing controversy :)
Snow, mountains- winter wonderland!
I have been visiting my boyfriend, Jo, now for four winters in Meribel. It has always been a special place for me, because it is a place I can release all the pressures of being a ski racer- and fully recover my mind and body. Generally I spend a week alpine skiing, eating home cooked meals, and trying to learn some French. So, when I made the decision to stay in Europe for Christmas, Meribel, and boyfriend time sounded the best!
The boys don't have an oven- so cooking happens in a toaster oven.
The Meribel Ski Club was always out on the trails, smiling and being awesome!
I got to train a few days with these enthusiastic little buddies! So nice!
The 16 days started out with a trip home form Asiago with the French Team. They were friendly and generous enough to bring me all the way to Albertville, so Jo only had to come 45 minutes to pick me up. It was so convenient and nice of them, so thanks Frenchi’s for that!

Pretty quickly after arriving, it was already Christmas; so Jo and I took off for his parents house in Hauteville, only two hours away, and had a great family holiday. It sure was different than normal, but an awesome time! We started the evening with a firework festival, and then went all the way until 3:30AM eating, drinking good red wine, and celebrating the holiday. While most of it was in French, it still felt so good to be around some family, and in a cozy home, rather than a hotel room! I learned that the holiday celebration wasn’t too different in Europe than what I was used to.
Maubet Christmas Tree
Jo letting Leo open his present for him.
Jo's mom, Diane used to ski for the US Ski Team as an alpine racer. It has made it extra special sharing everything with her because she can relate so well! Here she is rocking this year's Olympic Gloves. Our biggest French supporter!!
Christmas Day
Christmas Dinner with Jo's Family and Friends
one of our many courses of Christmas Dinner- I am proud of myself for at least trying everything!
For the next two weeks I had a great time of building back into some training, meeting some great people on the Nordic trails, making friends with the young junior team of Meribel, baking, skyping home with good internet, watching the Tour de Ski on the TV, and just relaxing!
I got to meet some of Jo's clients. Here is "Whats",  a young boy from Paris that was skiing with Jo for the week. Rocking some awesome American spirit, even my pink shades during lunch!
The nordic trails run across the alpine slope quite a bit- so I happened to run into Jo and his clients some. Here is one of the young boys from a friendly family from Paris. They are supporters of the American squad, which is always so fun to hear!
The older brother
making friends with Jo's parrot!
At times I was really struggling and having a hard time resting. Every day I would watch my teammates on the TV doing so well racing day after day. It is hard in our sport; we spend 11 months of the year pushing our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. All we know and learn is to push, push, push. So when it comes time to rest; everything is foreign to us. We aren’t familiar with the feelings, so we hate it. Not only that, aside from pushing my body in training, I am also constantly stressing my mind with school. I always have homework to be done, reading to do, and something pressing in school. My mind functions on a level of stress that I grown really familiar with. So, for the first part of this break I was going crazy and loosing my mind. Resting, and no stressful school work to get done (I had a two week Christmas break from school). It was driving me nuts!! I felt like a bump on a log! Even though I knew that was the goal... there was something terribly unsatisfying about the whole thing. But, I kept telling myself this was just as important as the actual training, and eventually I came around. By week two I started to do some intervals, and get into some more training; so life got better pretty quickly.
Watching the Tour de Ski. One Computer was delayed with the sound... so sound from one, picture from the other.
Everyone on the team is great about keeping in contact over the break. Here is a talking frog from Ida that gave me an awesome update on the extra blue skiing in Davos... and it even spoke a little French to me :)
A care package I received mid-week from Marine Dusser. American Peanut Butter!!! Awesome
Unfortunately, the last week, all six boys in Jo’s house each got some odd version of the flu. With the holiday season comes tourists and tons of sickness’s. Everyone is sick, and coughing everywhere, and germs are “flying everywhere”. I tried to calm the storm, and keep my immune system firing; but unfortunately by the end of the trip I started picking up a mild version of the flu. So after resting for what seemed like all winter; I am stuck resting a little bit more now until I get healthy.... darn!

Jo introducing me to a world of seafood!
But I have arrived safely in Czech Republic, and getting ready to hopefully be healthy enough to race this weekend. There is no snow on the ground, aside from on the tracks, so that is always funny! But the course is plenty filled, and the weather looks like there is some moisture and cold in the future. It has been so fun to re-unite with the team again! Not only that, I have been receiving some awesome care packages and presents from the US which have been awesome! Peanut Butter, American Coffee, new additions to my wardrobe... it has been awesome!! Thanks everyone for keeping me happy and going!
Stoked Selfie!! Coffee, power bars and a sweet tank top from  Kittiwake AK. Christmas of American necessities! Thanks to Zuzana for brining over and Calisa for helping organize. You guys rock!
I also am so happy to now know I have officially made the Olympic Team. The first criteria is to be top 50 on the overall World Cup standings, and I finished 25th in the distance standings- so that means I have made the first criteria. So that is so exciting, and so awesome!! I can’t even wait to see what it will feel like to walk into my first opening ceremonies, compete in the Olympic suit, hear our National Anthem when a medal is won; the whole thing!! I have been dreaming about making the Olympics sine I was a young girl, so it is so awesome to have it finally come true. There were some recent publications that came out on the local news and Alaska, and the NPR:


So now it is time to find my health, cheer on my brother back in the US at Nationals, and gear up for another block of great racing! Thanks everyone for your great notes lately congratulating me on the Olympic Team. As always, I love hearing from you all, and appreciate it so much!!

Fun fact of the Holiday. Jo takes his parrot in the shower with him, and is kind enough to ry him off afterwards!