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Thursday, March 17, 2016
I am finally able to start functioning and using my brain again after the challenging finish to our 2015-2016 season. The fourth period of this season, the World Cup field finally came to our side of the ocean and competed in eight days of racing over twelve days spanning from eastern Canada to western Canada. Starting on March 1st, we pushed our bodies more than ever before!
|First time to ever wear bib #1. Reese Brown/SIA Nordic photo.|
Canada made quite the showcase of events throughout the tour! Ranging from racing in the city, racing beside the St. Lawrence River, racing through city parks, racing in front of parliament buildings, and then finishing by racing on what I consider to be the hardest courses in the world, in Canmore, Alberta.
The Tours daily events included:
Day 1- Skate city sprint in Gateneau, jump in the bus and travel to Montreal.
Day 2- Montreal distance classic race in the city park, jump in the bus and travel to Quebec City.
|The start in Montreal. Reese Brown photo/SIA Nordic|
Day 3- Day off, check out Quebec City courses.
Day 4- Skate sprint in Quebec City throughout the Plains of Abraham and in front of the Parliament Building.
Day 5- Distance skate race throughout the Plains of Abraham. Jump in bus and travel to Montreal for early flight to Calgary.
Day 6- Flight to Calgary and drive up to Canmore.
Day 7- Check out Canmore courses.
Day 8- Canmore classic sprint race.
Day 9- Canmore skiathlon distance race.
Day 10- Day off… try to spend as much time in bed as possible to recover for final push!
Day 11- Canmore distance skate race.
Day 12- Canmore distance classic race.
Day 13- ….. HIT THE WALL!
|Thanks to JP for working so hard the whole year, and this whole tour- and most importantly, always showing up with a smile! (Reese Brown photo).|
As you can see from this schedule, there was a whole lot of pushing your body, a whole lot of travel, and not very many opportunities for recovering. Thank god for ice baths and our wonderful PT's and massage therapists on tour, Ana, Steph and Meg!
I have always loved the tour format of racing, in fact it is my favorite kind! When you have so many races in a row, you have endless opportunities to improve on the day before. Whether you are disappointed, or excited; you put all emotions in your pocket and prepare for the next day. Much like the toughest weeks of training in the summer, you fool your brain into feeling no pain and decide that feeling exhausted is the new "good"
Having completed my first Tour de Ski this winter, I thought I was going into the Tour de Canada fully prepared. Little did I know how much of a difference it was going to make to be at the end of the season, and already be in an exhausted place going into it. For that reason, I had to be more "mentally tough" than ever before! I am going to share a few of the "mental battles" I experienced throughout these twelve days, just to give a little feel for this "Canadian Tour de Tough Stuff"
1. Weather- The first part of the tour in the east threw us some incredibly cold conditions with even colder wind blowing off the river. Having sent most of my long underwear home after not using it all winter… we weren't' particularly prepared for this. In Montreal, I froze my legs to the point that I wasn't able to get them to work at the end of the race… a lesson learned the hard way. On the other hand, conditions were unbelievably warm in Canmore! My bikini would have been more useful than my race suit!
2. Traveling- Each new stop on the tour had an interesting travel linking it. Whether that meant patiently waiting on a bus that doesn't leave on time, or eating bagged lunches, or checking in 300 people in the airport, each with three pieces of luggage in order to head west… it was always a scene, and required patience! The important thing to remember was that we were all in the "same boat", therefore, relaxing was the best thing you could do.
3. Illness- Staying healthy during tours can often be the biggest battle. Racing day after day, and traveling in between weakens your body. I have had the best success so far by thinking about "fueling". That means eating and drinking more than enough. By day six of the tour, you can sometimes feel hungry all hours of the day. My favorite trick is to always have "night snack" before going to bed. A bowl of cereal, some toast, muffins, etc. Anything to give you a little extra so you don't wake up starving the next morning!
4. Mental Stamina- more so than the Tour de Ski, this tour required mental stamina. Everyone's muscles and bodies were exhausted by day four! It has been a long season of racing hard, so we were all feeling it. The final four days of this tour required true mental stamina. In my mind, it wasn't about the muscles anymore…. but about how willing you were to convince your brain you could keep pushing!
|Jessie rescuing me after giving it my all for the day! (Flyingpoint photo).|
5. Studying- Getting my school work done was a particular challenge during this tour. With so much "focus" on the course, and travel in between…. I just wanted to be able to turn my brain and focus off when I came back to my room to rest. I had to have some serious motivation these past twelve days to keep pushing on with studying during my few breaks from skiing. In a way, I feel like I did a Tour de School as well!
6. Rest and Recovery- resting and recovering in a way gets harder by the day. As your body learns that you are on "go", it can sometimes forgets to turn off. The last few nights of these tour events, I often stop sleeping at night. I feel like I am constantly wired with coffee or energy… because I am working so hard to stay in "fight mode." That is why taking advantage of the rest and recovery early seems to pay off by the end!
|Steph and Ana working on us before sprint heats.|
7. Course Profile- Many of the course profiles were a bit different than what we are familiar with racing in Europe. Super long sprint races combined with super challenging and high altitude courses in Canmore threw us all for an "exhausted loop". By the time racers were hitting the finals in the sprint races, it was resembling the finish of a 15k race!
|A challenging course and a challenging day in Montreal! (Reese Brown/SIA photo).|
8. Selfish Sadie- That's what I have to call myself during these tour events. With such a "battle", you have to look out for yourself. When you feel tired, you need to rest (despite feeling bad about it). When you feel hungry, you need to find food. In an odd way, you turn into a machine… where you truly listen to yourself. Unfortunately this sometimes leaves you feeling bad for being anti-social, and glued to your bed!
Just making it to the finish line was one of my greatest achievements so far in this sport. Two tours in one season, a full world cup season, and fighting for every last race…. it was a big battle! I wasn't particularly thrilled with my last race of the tour, but there wasn't a second that I gave up in my brain, and as I lay on the ground for possibly five minutes trying to catch my breath, I was proud! I may have missed the top 10 by five seconds- but I gave it my all! There will always be things you can't control on a certain day, and there will be some "boo-boo's", but I am proud that I fought full force and made it to the finish!
|One of my favorite moments from the tour was racing 10k behind Kalla and trying to learn how to skate like the best. (Reese Brown photo).|
With that, I am excited to have finished my first full World Cup Season ranked 14th overall, 14th on the overall distance standings, and 14th on the overall sprint standings. It was a goal of mine to become a more consistent racer, able to fight for a podium any given day. Although I may not have gotten that individual podium yet, I made the consistency step, and I am ready to come back next year prepared to fight for some podiums! In the meantime, number 14 may just be my lucky number for the next eight months!
Thanks to everyone who made this season possible and so wonderful for me! My sponsors, my team, my coaches, my wax tech, my family, and all my wonderful friends sending cheers all winter! You have helped make it an incredible winter!
I am now on a plane, headed for Vermont to complete the last four Spring Nationals races of the season. This will be a 10k skate, Classic Sprint, Team Relay, and a 30k Classic.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
I just finished a book about lighthouses, storms and ocean waves… so it is hard to not think about the reference when I look back on this last period of racing and think about the casts and swells of waves. These past three weeks I have been on a "Scandinavian Tour." Following a little training period in France three weeks ago, I started my final push of racing in Europe for the season. With lots of travel, lots of racing, and not a whole lot of rest… this was one of the more challenging periods.
|Enjoying the amazing Holmenkollen scene!|
|Taking some time to get to know some amazing people fighting against the cancer battle.|
|Jessie and I living out of the sauna... dreaming of my closet at home :)|
This season has been longer and more intense than in the past. Having completed my first Tour de Ski, and starting all but four World Cup races this season, I have had to keep my brain "focused to fight" far more than ever before. It is incredible the amount of focus that it takes to race 40 times in four months… and be at your absolute, absolute best! Inevitably, things are going to swing a little bit. I realized pretty quickly this past period that letting your brain sleep for just one second throws you off track pretty quickly.
|Doing some ski testing in Stockholm with my amazing and silly tech, JP. (Erik B photo)|
|Always a crazy transition to be sprinting on snow in the middle of the streets! Stockholm was a really neat experience!|
|Back in school means back to the life of going straight from the trail to studying!|
With a variety of challenges faced including challenging snow, challenging conditions, challenging skis, and challenging courses- I have had a huge sway and cast of belief in these past three weeks. In the course of three days I can go from feeling on top of the world to missing out on qualifying on a sprint course that would generally be one of my greatest strengths. The second your train goes "off track", it is hard to believe how easy it is to continue on the path of destruction. Your confidence becomes rattled, your belief gets punched in the face, and you start to question everything. With some ups and downs in my racing these past three weeks, it has been so fun to learn how to "ride the casts and swells"... and keep my train going in my own direction. Sometimes I feel like I am learning a new lesson every day on this journey!
As an athlete, you are judged on your "success" on the daily. You either perform, or you don't. What went wrong and what went right never shows up on a result sheet… and frankly doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Maybe your closest followers will watch a video and see you crashed during a sprint. Or maybe your wax tech will know that your skis weren't perfect that day. And maybe your coach will see that that extra set of intervals that week took the little edge off of you… but the result sheet doesn't show that. Therefore, as an athlete you have to get darn good at finding your own silver lining. You have to absorb the emotions of not only yourself, but all the others around you. As part of a team, some of your teammates are going to be standing on the podium weekend after weekend… some are going to be scoring their very first World Cup points, and some are going to be disappointed beyond belief. Through all these emotions, expectations, pressure, and feelings…. you have to sort out your own path. To me, this has meant finding my sliver lining.
|A fun little reminder (Jennie Bender inspired).|
|Soph and I lost a bowling bet... so we had to wear our racing attire to dinner one night.|
So, I am going for it! I am on a plane right now, headed back to the states. With a short five day break in Vermont at one of my friends house, I am going to rest my brain and body a bit and come back for redemption for this Tour de Canada. With eight races in eleven days spanning from Quebec, all the way over to Canmore, Alberta… it is going to take an enormous amount of energy and focus! I couldn't be more excited to have some World Cup racing on our side of the ocean, and to be able to share this unique and amazing experience with friends and family.
|Packing my bag to head back to North America|
|A lot of luggage, a lot of skis, and a lot of waxing equipment means an expensive trip back overseas!|
Here is the schedule of races for anyone that wants to follow. There should be the usual broadcasting on Universal Sports as well as on www.crosscountryski.us
March 1- Gatineau Skate Sprint
March 2- Montreal 13k Classic Mass Start
March 4- Quebec City Skate Sprint
March 5- Quebec City 10K Pursuit Start Skate
March 8- Canmore Classic Sprint
March 9- Canmore 15k Skiathlon
March 11- Canmore 10k Skate
March 12- Canmore 10k Classic Pursuit Start
Let's get this Canadian Tour party started! Welcome to North America World Cup racers!
Monday, February 1, 2016
I think of the TDS as the halfway point. It is the big "mountain in the middle", where you build a lot leading into it, and then you build a lot leading out of it. In order to keep things going strong though, there is a certain amount of rest and recovery that has to happen after eight races in ten days with a lot of travel in between.
This year my rest and recovery sort of came in two parts. Directly following the Tour de Ski, I headed to Sieser Alm for ten days of high altitude recovery. Following the tour, I picked up a small cold that seemed to hang on for much too long, so I was doing more than my fair share of resting and recovering. In a time when some may find it stressful to miss training, I was taking advantage of the extra rest that I realized my body must have been asking for.
|Sun and sleds for Liz's birthday.|
|Jessie and I resting, in the form of dancing under the sun.|
|Seiser Alm treats us really well with some delicious food!|
|Some amazing crust cruising!|
I was lucky in that Jo got to take some time off of work and come and visit for a few days. He encouraged me to not only take the physical rest, but also take the mental rest and throw on some "fatter skis" and use gravity to my advantage. On one of those PERFECT Italian sunny days, we skied the Sela Ronda Tour, a big 30+ kilometer tour around a big beautiful chunk of rocks. It starts in Val Gardena, one of the many alpine downhill World Cup stops- and then circles around from there.
|Keeping up with Jo on my nordic skis|
|A funny little bar mid-tour.|
|The big rocks we were circling around.|
|Believe it or not, this guy is a pretty good nordic skier!|
After the 10 days of heaven, I jumped back on the World Cup Tour and headed for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Having done not very much training, and no intensity at all, I was feeling a little "intimidated" jumping into the World Cups in Nove Mesto. On saturday, I gathered my head and my mind back together and put together my best ever 10k skate race! It was a good reminder that things don't always need to go perfectly. Often when your body is shutting down, it is in fact smarter than you think…. and it must need the rest!
|So fun to have Chelsea on the road with us- here she is on her birthday.|
|Rosie and I enjoying a little sun before the big snowstorm arrived.|
|A perfect Czech sunset!|
The following day only continued in excitement. I think it is safe to say relay days are many of my teammates favorite races. Unfortunately, we were missing our 8th woman, so we were only able to start one of our relays. With a new team that we hadn't tried yet, Sophie Caldwell lead the race out. She did an incredible job, and proved to the world, and herself, she is not just a sprint racer. From there, things continued in a perfect direction, and we managed to finish second, our best ever relay finish ever! As Jessie crossed the line, we celebrated in our new achievement, but also celebrated in our new belief. Every weekend our team learns to "believe in ourselves" more, and take more chances! The spirit is high, the excitement is high, and the belief is extremely high! Not only are we having tons of fun, but we have learned to push ourselves and not fear chasing those Norwegians. As I watched our boys fight up until the final climb for a medal themselves in the relay, I got goosebumps! I am so excited and lucky to be part of this team we are building now!
|Second Place! Nordic Focus photo|
|Striding and gliding! Nordic Focus photo|
|Stoked on smiles!! Nordic Focus photo.|
From the Czech weekend of World Cup's, I jumped back on the plane and headed for France, my final "training break" of the season. Jo got to take another week off of work, so we headed to a new place, Les Saisies, France. I had never skied here before, and I have only heard wonderful things, so I decided to check it out. We had an amazing week of training and preparing for the final push of the season. Somehow we were lucky enough to have sunshine almost the entire time, which made for some perfect tracks, and amazing views. Les Saisies is just beside Mont Blanc… so the scenery was almost distracting sometimes. I finished the week feeling fully rested, recovered and ready to rally this final period of European racing. It is hard to believe in only three weeks, I will be jumping on a plane back to the US to prepare for the final Tour de Canada!
|Good morning Mont Blanc!|
|Some beautiful tracks.|
|Jo enjoying some "ski in- ski out" from our cabin.|
|The Pierra Menta during one of our backcountry adventures.|
|Some beautiful terrain!|
|Jo, teaching his little "hot potato" to ski.|
|Mandy, Robin, and Uncle Jo :)|
|Dear France. Thank you for bringing winter! Yours truly.|
Until then, I am jumping on the airplane, enroute to Oslo, for some of my favorite races of the year! Drammen and Holmenkollen, here we come!