I am just finally sitting down to rest, recover, and review one of the more exciting and challenging things of my life, the Tour de Ski. Much like the Tour de France, with an added amount of travel, the goal of this event is to test who is the toughest and fittest over the course of eight races in ten days across four venues throughout Europe. Having participated in this event last year for the first four races, and then dropping out… I must say I didn't really realize what I was getting myself into! The second half of the tour is when things start getting extremely challenging, so I was in for a surprise this year! I am going to share a few little fun facts about this "big battle" I just finished a few days ago.
|Mission Accomplished- Top of the final climb. (Zuzana Rogers photo).|
1. This summer I set a goal for myself to complete my first Tour de Ski, and finish in the top 15.
2. Attack the skate races of the tour like they were my strength.
|Sticking on Jessie like glue in one of the skate races.. Nordic Focus photo|
3. Never let the disappointment from one race bleed into the following day's race. Every day is a fresh day.
4. Stay healthy. Traveling sometimes 6 hours between venues directly after your race truly tests your immune system and even patience sometimes… so staying healthy is key!
|Packed, and ready to rally to the next venue!|
5. Be diligent with my ski testing. Even though I am tired, and the waxing crew is tired, spend the extra ten minutes to really dial my skis, and not just cross my fingers and hope I made the right decision.
6. Fuel enough. Again, ten days of intense efforts means you need to pay attention to eating enough. When you become really rushed to travel to the next venue, or you arrive home and you are dog tired…. you have to remember to fuel well… because it's the only way to survive.
7. Focus on Recovery- Ice bath, massage, morning and afternoon jogs, drinking lots of fluid. In order to keep performing, I had to focus on this all day every day.
|Rain suited and ready for a seriously rainy day mid-tour.|
8. Stay positive during that final climb. There are only a dozen people on the World Cup Tour that were loving every second of that uphill climb… and I am not one of them. For that reason, it was my goal to stay positive in my head and never give up.
1. Pack light. Just as you unpack your bag, you are repacking to travel to the next venue… therefore having a specific "tour bag" that only has the racing necessities is key.
|Living out of the tour bag.|
2. Always keep your eyes up. Some days you will have amazing races, where you can't stop thinking about them. Other days you will have terrible races, and you can't stop thinking about them. But, during the tour, you have to move on to the next race, because the train keeps moving, and if you jump off, you may just miss out! I struggled with this on day one. I had one of my best sprint races ever, and missed out on making the finals by a photo finish. I had lunged too early, and that was the end of it. I spent that night not sleeping, because I just kept replaying the last fifteen seconds of that semi-final in my head. Full of adrenaline and excitement… I forgot to relax, and waisted too much energy. I realized pretty quickly that wasn't going to fly, and I just needed to look forward.
|Not your most impressively timed lunge. (Nordic Focus photo).|
|Sprinting for the line in the semi's. (Nordic Focus photo)|
3. Sleep isn't everything, but rest is. For ten days I had more nerves than maybe ever before. Right away my sleep started to suffer. I spent the first three nights of the tour wide awake in bed.. but never stressed about it. I realized that rest was the key, but that sleep would come when it needs.
4. Be patient with my recovery. While the first three days I may not have realized it, my body started getting tired quickly. Being proactive about body work, ice bathing, jogging in the morning or evening to move your muscles. All of these things become exponentially important as the tour goes on.
5. When in doubt, sit down. I am a person that loves to run around and be active between races. I had to learn this tour that I needed to focus on resting my legs when I wasn't racing. So, I spent more time in bed than normal, and avoided running around as much as possible.
|Rosie, Jessie and I doing some cheering on the final day.|
6. Challenge and disappointment will strike, so be ready. I had a really challenging two days in Obersdorf, Germany. The first day was a classic sprint that I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, I took a huge tumble on one of the big downhills and slammed into the boards, scrubbing all my speed and losing a significant amount of time. I jumped back up and raced to the finish line… but falling in a sprint does not allow for qualifying. After some big disappointment, I went home and enjoyed some extra rest. Then, on day two during the 10k classic mass start, I really struggled with my skis, and dug extremely deep to finish! While frustration overtook my brain in that race, I kept reminding myself that every second counted in this tour, and I kept pushing. I crossed the line in a heap of pain and exhaustion… only to fall back in my overall placing on the tour more significantly. In two races that I would have normally looked forward to so much, I wasn't able to reach what I wanted… and that was my first lesson about dealing with disappointment during the tour… just stop thinking about it!
|Obersdorf classic skiing with Jess. (Marcel Hilger photo)|
|pre-tumble photo. (Marcel Hilger photo)|
7. Teammates allow you to dare to dream. During this tour, two of my teammates stood on the top of the podium during the week! It was amazing, and beyond exciting. But if there is one thing to learn from seeing that, it is the confirmation that you need to dare yourself to dream. You can't just hope and wait. These two girls took a chance, believed in themselves, and they got there. While Kikkan taught us that early one, these girls are continuing the tradition. As I watch them, I believe in myself, and take my own chances in races. Pushing a little harder than I think is possible!
|Soph in Obersdorf winning her first World Cup. (Marcel Hilger photo).|
|Jess and I pushing each other early on in the tour- using a little teamwork! (Nordic Focus photo).|
|We are really lucky to have this team! Dagbladet of Norway wrote an article about us:|
8. The staff is everything! The PT's, the Massage Therapists, the Coaches, and the Wax Crew are the people making our world go round. They are constantly working to make sure everything is perfect, finding the wax day after day. By the end, everyone is dog tired, but the staff are everything! Huge thanks to these guys!
|JP and Noah making a ski testing plan for the following day. Thanks JP for putting your heart and sole into making the best possible skis for us! We are lucky to have you part of our team!!|
9. You can't listen to your body. After about day four, my muscles and brain started screaming "help". Everything become tired, achy, and stiff. But if there is one lesson about the tour that I realized, it is that you can't pay attention to a single feeling. Instead, you just start the race, and imagine you are fresh. This is the best way to ensure that you are giving it your best every day.
|Marcel Hilger photo|
|Mega pain train post race!!|
10. Set some goals- I set many little goals for myself during this tour. This summer I set the goal to not only finish, but to finish in the top 15… and I chased that to the end. I also set a goal to be top 10 in a skate race in Toblach. Every day I had a little goal for myself to encourage me to keep pushing in those races that were maybe my weakness, or the races that I knew were going to be a challenge. This allowed me to keep me on my toes, and keep me fighting.
|Nordic Focus photo.|
The cool thing about this tour is that it included all types of cross country skiing for a combined score at the end!
1. Both short and long distance (5 kilometers- 15 kilometers)
2. Both skate and Classic
3. Sprint Racing
4. Skiing up an alpine slope… uphill climbing
|Cheering on Erik near the top of the hill climb.|
|Rosie and I enjoying some ice cream after completing the big battle.|
Holy cow, what a fun experience. I can't wait until the next! I feel like I learned a season of lessons, and got a season of experience. I want to say another big thanks to the staff for making this possible for all of us! We are lucky to be able to participate in an event like this, and we are only able to compete because of the help we are given!
|The Team behind THE TEAM! (Zuzana photo).|
|HUGE THANKS to Zuzana Rodgers and Meg Parker for coming over and helping during this intense time. These woman worked their butts off all day!!|
From here, I have some resting and recovering up in Seiser Alm before jumping back onto the World Cup in 10 days for some relay racing in Nove Mesto!