Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Casts and Swells of Ski Racing

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

Resting and Recovering

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.
Sela Ronda
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!