A Moment to Remember

Ten days have passed, and I think I have finally completely processed the past couple weeks of World Championships in Seefeld, Austria. I walked away not having achieved my goals on a piece of paper, but having achieved many other process goals along the way. For that reason, I can truly say I have no regrets.

When I set goals this summer, I decided I wanted to take a season to put full focus on the World Championships. In the past years of my ski racing, I have felt like I was doing that, but I started to realize I had never given myself a solid 4-5 week pre-Championships training block. In my coach’s opinion, that is what I was missing to find my absolute tiptop form at Championships. So the decision was made, I was going to go full steam for Seefeld. Having had two amazing races there last year, my brain was all game!

Little did I predict that this plan was going to be emotionally tough. Having to drop out of the Tour de Ski, skipping World Cups, training through racing weekends, staying in one hotel for three weeks for a training block: these were all things I didn’t quite anticipate the emotional effects of. My brain may be the strongest muscle in my body, but it also is human! As I kept my head down, and my heart focused, I kept telling myself that it would all be worth it.

During Christmas time, when I was stressing about being sick so much this fall and again at Christmas, my fiancé told me something I will never forget. Despite the fact he has an alpine background, and quit racing during his high school years, he has an incredible ability to relate. As I was questioning some decisions I had made this fall, he lectured me on regret. He told me that at this point in my career, I am not allowed to regret anything. I either do it right, or I learn from the experience. There is no right and wrong. There is only learning. If I put the pressure on myself to always do it right because I have achieved a high level, it will destroy me. I couldn’t believe how insightful that was, and I recognized that was true. Placing and podiums are not the only measure. Committing and learning is “improvement”. 

So, with that said, I went through this winter trying to remind myself to have no regrets! When things got tough, I kept going back to “learning from the experience”. I worked on keeping my brain in check, because I knew that was going to make the difference. 

 The weekend leading into World Championships, we had a race weekend in Cogne, Italy. During that final weekend of racing, I found my belief, my strength, and my mental happy place. The past two months of training through races, staying in hotel rooms, and watching World Cup weekends from the TV became worth it! I headed into the Championships more “hungry and prepared” than ever.

Six person drag race in Cogne (Nordic Focus photo)

Six person drag race in Cogne (Nordic Focus photo)

A little extra loving from family just before the Championships.

A little extra loving from family just before the Championships.

The first race of the Championships was the skate sprint, the race I was individually looking forward to the most. My skating felt amazing, and my tactics were improving. I made a “game plan” for the quarterfinals to the best of my ability, and put myself in the exact place I wanted. On the long downhill, I popped out of the draft one second too late, missed my moment, and was boxed in so much that I couldn’t put my powerful, amazing feelings to use. Just like that, the day was over, and I wasn’t able to advance out of the quarterfinals. But, that is sprinting, it is hard to always do the right thing at the right time.  No regrets, the lesson I learned was to commit to my plan one second earlier for the rest of the Championships. 

Pre-champs excitement! (Reese Brown photo)

Pre-champs excitement! (Reese Brown photo)

Pre heat, pre chopping session on our new race suits. (Getty Images)

Pre heat, pre chopping session on our new race suits. (Getty Images)

The second race of my Championships was the classic team sprint, one I was feeling pretty lucky to be part of. Both Jessie and I channeled our “sideline antsy pants” and sprint frustration into this relay event we knew we had a chance at. The semi finals went well, and I got a good feeling for where I wanted to position myself. I knew the course was short and speedy, so I needed to be in the front. Unfortunately we started back row in the finals, and I spent the remainder of the three heats trying to get past a few girls that always seemed to be between me and the freedom of skiing in the front. Having learned from the sprint that moves have to be made early, I tried to skip the “resting sections”, and double pole while others were tucking, even if it was only going to get me a ten-foot advantage. With such a short course, everything mattered.  Jessie and I ended up finishing fifth, and only two seconds off the podium. We both tried to celebrate and tried to be positive, but we were left frustrated, knowing we were strong enough to have won a medal that day. No regrets, we had done our absolute best.

Relay socks and war paint. (Nordic Focus photo)

Relay socks and war paint. (Nordic Focus photo)

Smiling about giving our best. (Getty Images)

Smiling about giving our best. (Getty Images)

The third race was the 10k classic. The real “dark horse” event for me.  I have struggled with classic wax in quite a few of the races I have started the last few years, so I never know what is going to happen when I put classic skis on. I have worked extra hard to keep believing in myself as a classic racer through the experience, but that is sometimes my biggest hurdle.  When things come together, they can be amazing. But when they don’t, I have no chance. Having had a great few weeks of training in Davos, I was feeling great about classic! I went into that 10k with a totally open mind. My goal was to dial everything I could control, and judge my day on that. With a collection of dry and wet snow out there, it was particularly difficult to pick what to race on. As I went out and tested, I stayed calm, chose to go thin on kick to run the hills and hopefully glide better, and committed to the plan. I took off the start line in full focus, attacked from the start, ignored all feelings, and fought. I am not sure there is any race this season that I have been so mentally focused and positive. I dug so deep that I lay on the finish line, dizzy, and gasping for air for a solid two minutes before I got up and walked out of the finish area. When I saw the result, I was pretty crushed! I was proud of my “race”, stayed mentally positive and engaged, and the posted “number” didn’t seem to show it.  As I saw my teammates, Jessie, Sophie and Rosie finish right around me, I at least felt hopeful that maybe we had missed something in wax. 

Making a race strategy with my coach (Erik Flora) and my technician (Jean-Pascal Laurin) before the start of the race. (Reese Brown photo)

Making a race strategy with my coach (Erik Flora) and my technician (Jean-Pascal Laurin) before the start of the race. (Reese Brown photo)

Not to worry, it was relay time! We had a new team that we had never tried before, deciding to switch up some order from earlier in the season. Getting ready that morning all together, putting our face paint on, and dancing around to the Shakira Pandora music station, I was so happy. I took a mental picture that morning to remember what it feels like to be so excited, nervous, and in love with what I do! The race went off to a hot pace, and the four of us fought for every second. We ended up finishing fifth again, only 40 seconds off the podium, and chose to feel encouraged by the experience! That was a great start for this new team! 

Talking race tactics with Julia Kern before the start of the relay. So fun and exciting to know she is eight years younger than me and was starting her first ever 4x5km relay with the team. It was incredible to watch her fearlessly attack that first leg of the relay. There is no doubt this girl is full of guts! (Reese Brown photo)

Talking race tactics with Julia Kern before the start of the relay. So fun and exciting to know she is eight years younger than me and was starting her first ever 4x5km relay with the team. It was incredible to watch her fearlessly attack that first leg of the relay. There is no doubt this girl is full of guts! (Reese Brown photo)

 

The relay day was one of the hottest days of the Championships. Part of our team strategy was how to stay cool during the heat. Here we are stuffing snow into Jessie’s suit as she crosses the line wearing a t-shirt and shorts version of our race suit. (Nordic Focus photo)

The relay day was one of the hottest days of the Championships. Part of our team strategy was how to stay cool during the heat. Here we are stuffing snow into Jessie’s suit as she crosses the line wearing a t-shirt and shorts version of our race suit. (Nordic Focus photo)

For the next 48 hours, I did my best to conserve every last bit of energy, stay out of the sunshine, and get ready for the big 30k war. With slow, soft conditions, I knew I was going to have to get stoked for “no rest”. With the warm weather, the down hills were slowly becoming working sections, so it was going to be a race of attrition! 

Recovery day goals: drink a ton, eat a ton, ski super slow, and stay out of the sun as much as possible. (Nordic Focus photo)

Recovery day goals: drink a ton, eat a ton, ski super slow, and stay out of the sun as much as possible. (Nordic Focus photo)

 As I came off the line in the 30k, I was blown away at the pace. I felt like we were going sprint pace for the first three kilometers. I panicked, not knowing if I would make it to the finish. Somewhere around seven kilometers, my brain “popped”. In the very important “hang on for dear life” section, the disappointment and frustration of the week took over my focus. Ski racing requires so much belief, confidence, fearlessness, and risky mental talk! You have to be willing to kill yourself to hang. That final day in Seefeld, that part of my brain was fried. I had used it all up that week without realizing it. I managed to hang on to 15th, a result that is good, but not what I was capable of that day. My body was firing, but my brain unfortunately wasn’t.

Racing with a view! (Nordic Focus photo)

Racing with a view! (Nordic Focus photo)

 Every Championship is going to have its ups and downs. Sometimes I think it is harder to have a dream than to not care at all. These past two Championships, I have known I have a shot to fight for podiums, which is an exciting experience, but also mentally challenging. You do your best to nail the pieces you can control, and then are forced to analyze the result without considering the “place on a piece of paper”. 

 

When I look back on these Championships, I will remember those days that I committed, believed, and was in full focus. I will forget the piece of paper that reads a number, but I will remember some pretty incredible moments and feelings. 

 

So as Jo would say, no regrets for committing to those two weeks in Seefeld like I never have before. I learned a lot in those two weeks, and for that, I wouldn’t change it. Looking forward, it’s game time now! Time to let out all the frustration “on the course”. I have five more races to unleash my brain and body’s best abilities!

Thank you Seefeld for the sun and smiles throughout the entire two weeks!

Thank you Seefeld for the sun and smiles throughout the entire two weeks!

 Thanks to everyone who came and cheered through the last few weeks. It meant the world to see so many familiar faces. And thanks to everyone else cheering and believing from afar. But most importantly, thanks to Jo for helping me keep perspective in this mentally and physically exciting experience of trying to be the best in the world!

 

I remain a student of this sport, and look forward to finishing out this season!

Thank you to these amazing ladies, Zuzana Rodgers and Steph McKeen for all their massage and PT work to keep us in one working piece through all the racing!

Thank you to these amazing ladies, Zuzana Rodgers and Steph McKeen for all their massage and PT work to keep us in one working piece through all the racing!

The Man in the Shadow

Have you ever noticed while you are watching the “pre-race” shots, or the pictures the day before the race, all the World Cup athletes seem to have a little “shadow” around them? For me, that little shadow has a curly mustache, a French accent, and a silly little giggle. He is my wax technician, and the man in charge of organizing, managing, and waxing the skis I race on.

The technician in the shadow (SIA Nordic photo)

The technician in the shadow (SIA Nordic photo)

Did somebody say cheese??? (SIA Nordic Photo)

Did somebody say cheese??? (SIA Nordic Photo)

This man in my shadow has been working with me for five years now. When he joined the team, he joined a staff of six other technicians from all over the world, working under the roof of “United States Ski Team”.  The first years were spent getting to know my style of skiing, my style of kick, and my brand of skis. 

This man in my shadow is part of my team, but also part of the “big team”. On the US Ski Team, all the technicians work together to make a glide, and a kick call. They often arrive to the venue around four to five hours before the race, testing and gliding to pick a wax for the entire team. From there, each technician is in charge of one man and one women’s waxing.  They apply the “team call on wax” to three or four of the athlete’s best pair of skis for the day. One and a half hours before the start, the athlete arrives, and the technician and athlete ski around and pick the best pair of skis, and then dial in that pair of skis perfectly for the race. Thirty to forty minutes before the start of the race, the technician goes racing back to the wax truck, and applies the finishing powders and speedy wax to the skis to make them race ready. From there, they run the skis to the start, click them on the athletes feet, and the race is on!

Testing the best of the best the morning of the race (Nordic Focus photo)

Testing the best of the best the morning of the race (Nordic Focus photo)

 The man in the shadow is a huge piece of the athlete’s success or dissapointments. A pair of skis can both “make” or “break” a day. The man in the shadow has the finishing touches on their athlete’s dreams and goals. Stress, chaos, crazy weather…. all these elements are something the technician must take on without showing visual stress. Their confidence in their work is contagious to the athlete. Some of my most successful races in my career have been when “the man in my shadow” has convinced me that he will perform magic on my skis in stressful weather situations. Because of a mutual trust, I put my belief In his work, and he puts his belief in mine.

The waxing crew inside the truck that makes up the american waxing team.

The waxing crew inside the truck that makes up the american waxing team.

The man in the shadow has a heart of his own. On the days he doesn’t succeed, it is often as hard for him as it is for me. But you are a team, so you take the time to learn from it so that you are better next time. All you can expect is his best, the same you expect of yourself. On the days you succeed, you know his hard work was 50% of the opportunity! You are a team, with the same dream. 

“the French touch” some would say…..

“the French touch” some would say…..

 The man in the shadow is a keeper of my ski fleet. I have approximately fifty different skis, for fifty different conditions. Skis vary in flex, grinds, construction, length, wax pockets, models, and more. When one pair may look like the other, the “man in the shadow” knows better. He spends all day working in the wax truck, competing against all the other “best in the world” technicians trying to create the “best skis in the world”.  

Trying to dial the fine line of enough kick, but not too much drag (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Trying to dial the fine line of enough kick, but not too much drag (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Although I can get by waxing my own skis during training…. I would never get by on the World Cup! (Ophira photo)

Although I can get by waxing my own skis during training…. I would never get by on the World Cup! (Ophira photo)

 The man in my shadow is Jean-Pascal Laurin. He has been my technician for five years now, and he has had the finishing touches on my best and worst races. He knows when to crack a joke before the start to ensure I am still having fun, and he knows when to tell me to get focused. He is working his butt off for a common goal. This job wouldn’t be possible without him, and the team of technicians that make up our waxing staff. So next time you see the little shadow skiing around with us, make sure you give an extra cheer for them too. We couldn’t be here without them!

JP at work (Caitlin Patterson photo)

JP at work (Caitlin Patterson photo)

A massive thank you to JP and all the other incredible technicians that are part of our team! We may not get to bring you up onto the podium on our amazing days, but I can guarantee your shadow will be there!

Thank you JP! (Nordic Focus photo)

Thank you JP! (Nordic Focus photo)

From a Podium High to Ground Shaking Chaos

This past weekend was one of the more wild World Cup weekends I have had. I have been racing on the World Cup tour full time now for five years, and I have had a variety of disappointments, excitements, achievements, and even heartbreaks.  This past one came in a new form.

Friday morning I woke up to an extremely rainy day in Lillehammer, Norway… where we generally find winter bliss in early November. But this year, we found plus temperatures, green grass, and a white ribbon of man made snow spread across a 5k course through the hills. Having quite a bit of experience training in rain in Anchorage, I prepared myself for a day of cold, wet madness. Thankfully LL Bean provides us with a great rain suit, so we are ready to take on those miserable days. But, there is more to it than that. On a sprint day, you are racing up to four times per day, with a lot of time in between where the sole goal is to keep your muscles and mind warm and ready to sprint at max speed for 3-4 minutes. One cold muscle can make the difference between your top speed and your top, top speed that you need to advance through the heats. I rolled up to the venue with just about my entire suitcase of spare clothes, and layered up the nano-puff under my rain suit… to the point that I looked like a fluorescent, wet snowman. What felt silly performed wonders. I was able to have my best skate sprint ever, and advance all the way to the finals, crossing the line in third, for my first ever skate sprint podium! 

Skating in the rain (George Forbes photo)

Skating in the rain (George Forbes photo)

Reaching my tenth podium on the World Cup Circuit felt different and special. Skate sprinting was the final discipline in our sport that I hadn’t reached the podium at yet, and it was one of my main goals for the season. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I was walking out to the podium, remembering that you can never take success for granted. During the long summer months, you sometimes wonder if you are doing things long enough or hard enough. During the struggles of your training blocks, you wonder if you have messed everything up. During the toughest training sessions of the year, you wonder if you are mentally tough enough. When all things come together, it feels like a miracle! For that reason, success will always feel like something special, as it is never a guarantee.

One of my favorite things my teammate Jessie says is, “I don’t ever want to let one moment in the past, whether that moment was positive or negative, define who I am today. I have to earn the right to be proud of who I am each and every day.”

Happy Girls! (Fischer/Nordic Focus photo)

Happy Girls! (Fischer/Nordic Focus photo)

Flower Ceremony (Matt Whitcomb photo).

Flower Ceremony (Matt Whitcomb photo).

I love how this pictures captures the magic behind a moment. Here I am on the podium, surrounded by the waxing and coaching team that helped make my successful day possible. Thank you to this crew for making some wonderful skis!

I love how this pictures captures the magic behind a moment. Here I am on the podium, surrounded by the waxing and coaching team that helped make my successful day possible. Thank you to this crew for making some wonderful skis!

 Living on a high, I headed back to the hotel following Friday’s sprint race, so excited to share the news with my friends and family back home that would be waking up soon. A group text chain with all my new and old teammates started congratulating me on my podium. Not long after, Kikkan and Holly started typing into our group message about a massive earthquake hitting home. Expecting it to be like our average quake, my roommate Rosie Brennan and I laughed it off. And then the pictures started coming in. People’s stuff thrown everywhere in the house made me hope that a random object on the shelves or walls didn’t crush my house sitter. After texting with her, I learned she had already left home, and had gone airborne in her car while the quake went off as she was commuting to work, but she was ok. Completely forgetting about my exciting afternoon, I started reading stories online of the damage, and became worried about my home and city. Images showed roads, bridges and houses collapsed. Trying to stay calm, a small stress grew inside of me wondering about the status of my empty home. As I crossed all my World Cup companions in the dining hall, they excitedly congratulated me on my day, but I struggled to hear them, as I had my mind on something completely out of my control back home.

crazy pictures coming in.

crazy pictures coming in.

 Finally as I was getting ready for bed, I called up Holly Brooks, and asked her to go check on my home. Broken belongings aren’t a big deal, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a gas or water leak destroying the place. By this time it was 10PM, and I needed to focus on two more days of racing coming my way. Energy is hard to come by, and I knew I was bleeding it with worry. But I just had to know everything was ok before I was going to sleep. Shortly after Holly arrived, I heard my neighbors on our security system say, “there is water spraying everywhere”, and my heart went into panic. Here I was thousands of miles away from home, and feeling like I couldn’t do anything.

Fortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot of my smaller belongings break!

Fortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot of my smaller belongings break!

 Thankfully, I sent the right friend over. She managed to crawl under the house, shut the main water off, get ahold of Jo (who was out of town working), and fill me in, “there is a small leak, but it is ok.” Not knowing much, I laid awake all night ensuring myself that Holly had it under control, Jo would be able to fly home to the rescue soon, and nobody had died… all wonderful things. Being a worrywart though, I couldn’t take it off my mind. As I lined up for the individual start race on Saturday morning, my mind was in Anchorage. The crazy images were stuck in my brain. I was about to start a 30-minute race that I needed to be in the moment, ready for the pain cave, rather than home in Anchorage. After 2.5k, I headed up the massive climb on the course, and felt my brain click. There it was… back in place, ready to fight. I skied the final 7.5k of the race pushing myself as hard as possible and crossed the line happy to have made it, and put together a race I was proud of.

Finding my focus as I approached the top of the long climb. (Jack Constantine photo)

Finding my focus as I approached the top of the long climb. (Jack Constantine photo)

Saturday evening, Jo had flown home, and walked me through the house showing me all the damage. I had built it up much worse in my head… typical behavior for me.  Thankfully my little French construction worker is going to be able to make everything okay. We managed to water the streets of the entire neighborhood, test out the limits of our stump pump, and give our basement and garage a good washing… but my little house on the hill will survive!

 As I finished out the final race yesterday of the mini-tour, I celebrated making it through, as well as Anchorage making it through. I am so happy and thankful to know that there were no casualties in the 7.0 shaking of the city. I feel for the people that have a lot of clean up work to do. And more than anything I am darn thankful for the people in my life: the ones that celebrate the highs with me, but also are there for me in the shaking chaos too. 

Classic climbing on the final day of the tour (George Forbes photo)

Classic climbing on the final day of the tour (George Forbes photo)

One of my friends wrote to me and told me that Anchorage had jumped up and down so hard celebrating my podium that they had shaken the ground a little too hard. If that is the case, I have a lot of friends and fans back home, so thanks for the cheers. But next time, lets bring it back down to a level 1 celebration!

Special shout out to my brother, Erik, who had the 3rd fastest time in yesterdays pursuit race. Pretty proud of this boy!!!! Although they don’t put time of day on a “podium”, I am counting this as Erik’s first World Cup podium, because yesterday, he skied the third fastest of anyone out there!

Special shout out to my brother, Erik, who had the 3rd fastest time in yesterdays pursuit race. Pretty proud of this boy!!!! Although they don’t put time of day on a “podium”, I am counting this as Erik’s first World Cup podium, because yesterday, he skied the third fastest of anyone out there!

I am back on the bus now, headed to our next stop on the World Cup tour in Beitostølen, Norway.  I am looking forward to a week of recovering and catching up on some lost zzz’s. There is a 4x5km relay coming up this weekend, so be sure to tune in and watch. Saturday is a 15km skate, and Sunday is the relay event. If you haven’t found it yet, you can now get a winter subscription to NBC for a very affordable price to follow our races this winter!

Happy 30th to this little nugget! And congrats to Rosie for an amazing start to the season. Pretty cool to see!!

Happy 30th to this little nugget! And congrats to Rosie for an amazing start to the season. Pretty cool to see!!

Thanks to everyone who sent me notes these last few days, it means the world!

4.5 Months On The Road With Mary Poppins

One of the secret toughest parts of being a professional cross country ski racer, and traveling on the World Cup Circuit, is packing up your bags and leaving home for 4-5 months straight.  The actual process of “being gone” we get used to. The first few weeks can be painful as we shift back into hotel rats, but as with anything… you can get used to it. Every new hotel room we walk into, we shift the whole room around, doing our little feng shui to make it our own. Since we always are living with roommates, the first step is to make the room big. Put the two beds parallel to the wall, which allows for an open middle space for stretching, or just feeling a little more “homey”. Second step is to put all our belongings in the drawers or closets if they exist. If that doesn’t exist, then turn our duffle bags into shelving. This allows it to feel a bit more organized and “home”, rather then clothes and belongings everywhere. And third, put up some pictures, candles, and stuffed animals… some little small trinkets that make us feel happy.

 

OK, so as you can see, we have found a way to survive. We may be hotel hoppers, but we have adapted to the lifestyle to make it our own. After six full years of doing this… maybe hotels are closer to home to me. But, the one part for me that I have always struggled to adapt to is the “living out of a bag”. I am a woman of things, and always have been. I struggle to wear the same shirt and same pair of pants every single day for five months. So the challenge becomes, how to give a little spark to my 50 pound allowance?

 

Anyone who knows me well knows that packing for the World Cup is “a thing” for me. I often start making my pile somewhere around one month out, and each day leading to my departure I add a little, take something out, look through it, think about it… make sure that come Nov. 12 when I hit the road, I am dialed. I even have “packing parties” where I bring my teammates over and ask them to tell me what to take and what to take out. 50 pounds is a small amount of belongings when you realize that it is everything I will live off of.  So, in case anyone is curious what is hidden in that Mary Poppins bag of mine for five months…I will show you what: 

 

1.    Sport Nutrition Product- sport bars that I know I can eat before the race. Gummies that I know don’t give me a side ache. Drink mix that I know I like and doesn’t upset my stomach, NUUN to keep me drinking throughout the day. Almond Butter to add a little protein into a meal if it doesn’t work. And finally, some recovery drink so that I always have something quick to get into my system post race.

IMG_1504.JPG

2.    Special Treats- American gum, American coffee, gin-gins for carsick rides. I’m sorry friends, but these items are just not the same in Europe...and the real deal makes me happy!

3.    Happy Lamp- The first and last month of our tour is often in the darker northern Scandinavian countries. Since we don’t always get to see the sun, our vitamin D levels and happy state can drop. This year I brought a small 1 pound 10,000 lux lamp to sit in front of during breakfast to help both happiness and jet lag. Your mind wants to know it is day out…. So why not help it out a bit?

4.    Vitamins and Immunity kit- As a professional athlete, I have to be so careful about what I am putting in my body. Competing clean means being aware of any potential product that could lead to a positive doping test. Even something such as a child’s cold medication with pseudoephedrine is banned. The best way to know we are clean is to know our medicines. You never know when a cold is going to come your way, and you are going to want some zinc, vitamin C, or Tylenol. For that reason, I travel with my own little “med kit” of things such as cough drops, Cold-FX, and throat coat tea.  

IMG_1505.JPG

5.    Sport layers- one thin, medium and thick long underwear layer for top and bottom as well as a gym outfit. 

6.    Jeans and Shirts- here is where it is the hardest for me. Sometimes we are in hotels that are warm, sometimes we hike to meals in the cold… so we have to have something for everything. So, two t-shirts, two sweaters, one long sleeve, one sweatshirt, one pair of sweat pants, and two pairs of jeans. Man, you better love those items…because is your life for the next 4.5 months.

7.    Jackets- being in a winter sport means we need to have lots of options for a huge variety of weather conditions. I found out last fall I am allergic to down, so this has become extra challenging to me. Synthetic hasn’t proven to be as warm… so I end up bringing more layers to help make the warmest option. So, thin training jacket, thick training jacket, rain jacket, thin puffy, thicker podium puffy, puffy vest and training vest. 

8.    Skhoop Skirt- I am super excited about traveling with this new piece of clothing, called “the Sadie”. I’m pretty excited to know I will always have a cozy bum!  

IMG_1723.JPG

9.    Bottom layers- puffy pants, rain pants, and two over pants.

10.Shoes- OMG shoes… another issue for me! Snow boots, casual shoes to wear inside during meals at the restaurant, running shoes, “heel less slippers” for when my heels flare up (I call these four wheel drive slippers, because they often get worn outside when I have to), “over” spikes for when it is super icy out, five pairs of ski boots (old skate and classic, new skate and classic that I am still trying to break in, and skiathlon boots).

IMG_1524.JPG
IMG_1525.JPG

11.Bathroom bag- you know it, you name it. All the above.

12.Hats/Gloves/Buffs- Another hard department because I need to be prepared for everything. The hot days, the wet days, the freezing cold days, and the normal days. In addition, I need two of each for gloves so I have one to warm up in, one to race in. 

IMG_1523.JPG
IMG_1531.JPG

13.Glasses- a variety of lenses for a variety of conditions. Flat light and super sunny light!

IMG_1739.JPG

14.Bathing suit- Because ice baths are a regular part of our post race routine. 

15.Massage tools- foam roller and lacrosse ball, the basic tools to flush your muscles and arches. 

IMG_1509.JPG

16. Ear Phones- Noise canceling, training buds, and sleep buds. New this year are my sleep buds that play calming noises to help block out the loud noises that sometimes come with hotels or loud roommates.

IMG_1506.JPG

17. Socks, Sports Bras, and Underlayers- Spare you the details, but enough to deal with only getting to do laundry every once or two weeks. 

18.Technology- laptop, phone and kindle. 

 

And that about sums it up. Sadly, I am not as powerful as Mary Poppins… and all of this actually weighs more than 50 pounds combined. But, I am pretty good at putting my heaviest items in my carry on, and eventually I make it fit! 

 

So, now you know how it works. How I manage to live this life out of a bag, hotel hopping across the world. Even if I get homesick sometimes, or I miss my bed, I still love the heck out of this life! I like to think my semi-professional packing skills are advancing at the same rate as my professional skiing skills…. but I am not sure I can say that.  So if you see me running through the airport, and you wonder why I have a goofy rolling carry on, now you know why! It is a box of bricks inside that would break my back in half if I tried to carry it. 

 

Time to get this season started! I have spent this first week in Beitestollen Norway, where I have gotten a chance to do a ski testing camp with Fischer and my technician.  By luck, the snow has been amazing here, unlike most other parts of Scandinavia. It sure is sad to see winter leaving us! Monday we head to Kuusamo where the opening World Cup races are. Sadly there is only about 2.5km of man-made snow. The hunt for winter continues!

Some beautiful skiing up above Beitostolen.

Some beautiful skiing up above Beitostolen.

Testing camp with my tech, JP, and Scott Patterson (who JP also waxes for).

Testing camp with my tech, JP, and Scott Patterson (who JP also waxes for).

Pretty thankful to go back to having somebody help with this part! (Ophira Group photo)

Pretty thankful to go back to having somebody help with this part! (Ophira Group photo)

 

My schedule for the winter is posted here for anyone that wants to follow:

http://www.sadiebjornsen.com/competition-calendar/

 

Let’s get this party started!

Altitude Camp

I just finished up my final camp of the preparation period before this new season gets started. Every fall we head down to Park City, Utah, where the US Ski Team is based out of for an altitude block. My favorite part of this camp is that we generally skip the awkward season back in AK where there is just enough snow on the ground that you can’t rollerski, but not enough to be able to ski on. By migrating down south to Park City, we enjoy an extra two weeks of Vitamin D, thin air, and good company. 

Making a stop on my way to camp to visit my sister, brother in law, and my adorable nephew.

Making a stop on my way to camp to visit my sister, brother in law, and my adorable nephew.

This year followed the same wonderful trend, except for one little part. Instead of skipping that “half snow” season in AK, we brought it with us to Park City. For the first few days of camp we had to get creative in order to find ways to get our interval sessions and easy distance in. The trails were either covered in snow, or this sticky form of mud/clay that happens in the west. While at first it was frustrating, by the end of camp I loved to wake up to the white ski runs and the crisp air. For whatever reason, I think it put everyone in an awesome place. The smell of winter pushed us a little more in each interval set, and helped us bond as our minds drifted towards our winter goals. Just like my spring epiphany about this new and exciting young team, I was reminded how fun it is going to be this season. Everyone looked amazing, and there was no shortage of motivation and belief.

Feels like winter! Morning views on the way to training.

Feels like winter! Morning views on the way to training.

The US Ski Team girls (minus Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent). SIA Nordic photo

The US Ski Team girls (minus Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent). SIA Nordic photo

Trying out our new suits for the season. We will now being racing in Swix and LL Bean!

Trying out our new suits for the season. We will now being racing in Swix and LL Bean!

During the last couple days of the camp, the coaches put together some practice races for us in order to get our minds ready for the season. I will always remember the first couple years when I was on the US Ski Team, I would fear the practice sprint race at the end of camp. I was terrified of going up against the A-team girls like Kikkan Randall. I was terrified of putting my elbows out and holding space. I was terrified of getting up over my skis, committing to my poles, with the risk of falling down and losing a layer of skin to the pavement. And most notably, I was scared of taking a risk, going too hard, and failing. In the six years since these fears overtook my brain, things have changed enormously. Not only have learned to take risk, create my own space, and believe in myself, but it is the norm among our younger generation. The USA is no longer producing juniors that fear the fight. These young athletes are quite literally chomping at the bit. They speak about what they want to accomplish, they send it and often explode, and they aren’t afraid to lose some skin to the pavement. It is just so cool to see. I am starting to believe the USA has potential to be a Nordic nation. And to put a cherry on top of this movement, the USA has a bid in for a world cup race in three of the next four years. I can’t even imagine what this Park City practice sprint race is going to look like in four years!

I got to train with some of the young “up and coming” girls from my home town, Novie McCabe and Ella Kuzyk who are already crushing on the international level! How cool! (Bryan Fish photo)

I got to train with some of the young “up and coming” girls from my home town, Novie McCabe and Ella Kuzyk who are already crushing on the international level! How cool! (Bryan Fish photo)

Taking some time to focus not only on the training, but the technique piece too. (SIA Nordic)

Taking some time to focus not only on the training, but the technique piece too. (SIA Nordic)

The best part of practice racing is reminding yourself how much it hurts to enter into the pain cave. Gasping for air is just a side effect of doing it correctly. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

The best part of practice racing is reminding yourself how much it hurts to enter into the pain cave. Gasping for air is just a side effect of doing it correctly. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

 I am now headed back to Anchorage for three more weeks of training and final preparation before taking off for the season. In case you are curious what some of the final things I will get up to before I say goodbye for five months, here are a few things on my “to do list”.

 

1)  Spend ten extra minutes in bed each morning appreciating how comfortable my own bed is.

2)  Put up a Christmas tree, decorate the house, blast Christmas music, wear warm cozy sweaters, and celebrate the holiday two months early. 

3)  Ship myself a care package to Europe for halfway through the season with my favorite little US goodies. Gum, Coffee, ProBar Gummies, good & plenty’s, and a few more little things.

4)  Bake and cook my favorite goodies and meals before being away from a kitchen for the season.

5)  Attempt to wear as many different outfits as possible, because soon I will only be limited to two options from day to day. 

6)  Take a moment to thank my sponsors, say goodbye to my friends, and share some extra hugs with my fiancé.

7)  Hopefully do some hot laps on the amazing Anchorage ski trails that I don’t get to enjoy all winter. 

 

Well that list should about make the most of every moment for the next three weeks before I pack up my duffle bag, jump on the plane, and chase after another season of exciting World Cup racing! Thank you to my coaches, teammates, physical therapist, massage therapists and supporters for helping make another successful preparation period!

 

Until then, if you hear some Christmas tunes blasting out of my home, don’t be afraid to come in and sing along!

 

At the end of the day, smile away! (Matt Whitcomb photo)

At the end of the day, smile away! (Matt Whitcomb photo)

No Rest For the Weary?

"No rest for the weary!" For the longest time, this saying has been something that rolls off my tongue, and feels natural. If you are strong, you never rest! You must keep pushing. Never give up, just keep pushing. These are all sayings that we learn as kids, and it gives us our strength and work ethic. It teaches us to be stronger than we think we can, and as a result, often brings us further along in life.

For the majority of my ski career, "no rest for the weary" is what I tell myself all those afternoons when I stare out at the pouring rain, convincing myself to push on and ski another two high quality hours despite my aching, tired legs. Motivation and pushing myself are my strength and what has brought me to this level. It is hard to imagine that my true struggle could be how to let off the gas. Believe it or not, this is the struggle of most top level athletes

So focused on the larger goal, how could you imagine slowing down to rest? (Ophira Group)

So focused on the larger goal, how could you imagine slowing down to rest? (Ophira Group)

Every summer, I work in four week blocks on my training. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but I try to aim for four weeks. What that means is that I push myself for 3-3.5 of these weeks, and then give myself a mental and physical recovery before starting on to the next block. This pattern helps me break the summer up into workable chunks and workable goals. One block I may focus on technique, one block I focus on leg strength, one block I focus on speed, and one block I focus solely on intensity. The beauty of this schedule is that there are periodic "rest weeks" built in.

This block I was focused on making my legs stronger than ever. Thanks to Eagle Glacier for some soft snow, and tough climbs to do some quality damage! 

This block I was focused on making my legs stronger than ever. Thanks to Eagle Glacier for some soft snow, and tough climbs to do some quality damage! 

After having lots of experience throughout the past ten years of training at a high level, I have learned a lot. I have a book of lessons that I would love to pass on to the next generation, but what I often discover is that as an athlete, there are a lot of things you have to "learn for yourself". The advice of others is helpful, but in the end, you control your mind. If there was something I could add into those young kids minds, it would be that in fact, there is rest for the weary. Yes, you need to push yourself more than you thought possible, but never ever take out your mental and physical rest. In my opinion, these are the times you become stronger. This is when your muscles get the opportunity to absorb the work, and come back stronger. In addition, this is the time that your mind can also rest, and come back hungry to work.

Rest is a big ambiguous word. It can mean a lot. For me, it often means keeping my legs moving at some level. There will be days that I don't even put any training clothes on, but there will also be days that I go hiking with friends, or bike to the store for groceries. After completing this past block of one week of skiing on snow, and three hard weeks of dry land training- I am guessing there will be more than one day I don't put my training clothes on!

Until next block, cheers to a hard earned break, and some new fire and energy to take on my next step!

Recovery week strolls with Marine.

Recovery week strolls with Marine.

Recharging my mental power with some amazing friend dates. 

Recharging my mental power with some amazing friend dates. 

Muscle recovery work with The Alaska Club. (Classic Visions Photography)

Muscle recovery work with The Alaska Club. (Classic Visions Photography)

My latest recovery week adventure choice.

My latest recovery week adventure choice.

Most importantly, a little bit of vertical time to truly recover! (Ophira Group)

Most importantly, a little bit of vertical time to truly recover! (Ophira Group)

Find Your Inspiration

Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something”. In sports, we often find inspiration in amazing performances, successful accomplishments, aim at a big goal, a teammate’s breakthrough, or something else. I have always found inspiration easily, as I have been surrounded by amazing teammates doing amazing things. At the completion of this past Olympic quadrennial, I found myself searching for inspiration. Having completed my best ever season, ranked sixth in the world, and four individual podiums, I would have expected that was enough to get me super inspired this spring.

Since being a young kid, I have always been one to be terrified of change. I like when things work as planned, as scheduled, and as expected. I got my undergrad degree in accounting, because I love knowing a process. Numbers should add up, and a job should be done. Once I find a routine that works, I don't love to change it. These past four years, I have done an exceptional job of “doing last year”, but a bit better. I have been living in Anchorage, going to school, surrounded by amazing teammates, and chipping away at my plan. Each year I add one more layer of challenge, skill and strength, and I have accomplished new and improved levels!

At the start of this new training season, lots of change took place with the National Team. Four of my amazing teammates retired, one of my best and closest training buddies didn't get renamed to the team, and a slew of new young boys and girls got named. There was also a change in coaching roles, with the previous "women's coach", Matt Whitcomb, changing to "world cup coach", meaning he will now be coaching both the men's and women's team. In addition, for the first time ever, I didn't have an "end goal", not really knowing where I wanted to aim with my ski racing. Do I go to the next Olympics, or do I take one year at a time? All this unknown, and change kind of left me searching for inspiration to get the new training season going.

A new face within this team!

A new face within this team!

These past two weeks I have been down in Bend, Oregon for our annual National Team "spring camp". This is a camp where we spend the mornings on skis up at Mt. Bachelor, and the afternoons doing any sort of dry land activity we see fit. Running, biking, swimming, roller skiing, hiking, surfing the river wave, skipping through the woods taking selfless… whatever you want! In the days leading into this camp, I almost feared the "change", not really knowing what to expect. From the minute I stepped foot in Bend, I was pleasantly surprised with my immediate shift in feelings.

Working on my following. (Bryan Fish photo)

Working on my following. (Bryan Fish photo)

Learning from behind. (Bryan Fish photo)

Learning from behind. (Bryan Fish photo)

I found myself questioning why have I always been so afraid of change? Change means something new, something different, and something refreshing. Surrounded by a slew of new young athletes, and a collection of extremely successful veterans, I felt overwhelmed by the buzz of excitement. In a ball full of anticipation, experience, and enthusiasm, the group vibe took off! With a new group comes new roles, and new experiences. I found myself unbelievably inspired by the young athletes of our team with no fear! Suddenly I felt totally charged, and excited to take on this new quadrennial. While the past one may have been a little more "planned", I am so excited to take on this new one with less of a plan, and more spontaneous energy! That is not to say I don't have goals and aspirations. Those still exist, but for the first time, I am heading into this next step in my career with my mind wide open, and I am totally inspired by that. We are all inspired by different things, and sometimes strange things. What I have found is that surrounding myself in a collection of exceptionally strong individuals has often led to dreaming bigger and faster! Thank god for teams and teammates. 

Enjoying the hard work!

Enjoying the hard work!

Sharing some time with the Pacific Northwest's next generation of stars.

Sharing some time with the Pacific Northwest's next generation of stars.

What I have realized this spring is sometimes it takes stepping backwards, and looking from a new angle to find your inspiration. I can't wait to see what this new group is going to accomplish together in our new roles and new places. I can already see these young new members of our team are fearless in every way, which is going to challenge the older generation to do things bigger and better! The United States has already become a force to be reckoned with, but what is next? It is time to keep working hard, and find out!

The young guns giving us a run for our money! (Bryan Fish photo)

The young guns giving us a run for our money! (Bryan Fish photo)

A massive thank you to Mt. Bachelor and the Bend community for an amazing camp! While the snow was scarce, we were still able to do some amazing training these past two weeks! 

Spring skiing turning to summer skiing. 

Spring skiing turning to summer skiing. 

Getting back into the speed of things. (Bryan Fish photo)

Getting back into the speed of things. (Bryan Fish photo)

I am now back in Alaska for a week of dry land training before heading up for our first week of glacier training on Eagle Glacier. Speaking of change, we have some new members at APU, which will also provide a fun new change to summer training!

Thank you Mt. Bachelor for bringing out our smiles for the start of this training season!

Thank you Mt. Bachelor for bringing out our smiles for the start of this training season!

And that is a Wrap!

In February, I wrote a blog post about holding on tight to life, because it was flying by at an unbelievably high speed, with an overwhelming amount of excitement. One quality of being extremely goal oriented is that you forget to take the time to "experience the achievements" before you are setting the next goal. I reminded myself of this in February, just before the Olympics Games, and I was forced to remind myself once again these last few weeks. "Sadie, don't forget to celebrate what you have achieved!"

My final month of racing this past season was fast, furious, and a dream come true. After dealing with some disappointment on the "big stage" during the Olympics, I think it was an understatement to say, "I was on a mission" in the final period of the season. Rather than being dragged down by the disappointment, I forced myself to conquer the frustration, and regather for the final three weeks of opportunities. In those three weeks, I crawled out of my little defeated pit, and I had some of my best races of my career. In the final kilometers of the season, I dug deep in my head, and used every last bit of fearless energy I had left. As I crossed the line in third, and walked up on that podium, I looked out to the crowd and breathed in that entire experience in! Rather than just being a step in my path, I allowed it to be a victory on my path!

Celebrating a podium in my final race. (Mathias Eriksson photo)

Celebrating a podium in my final race. (Mathias Eriksson photo)

The only two skate podiums I have ever been on are both with Jessie... seems she is my lucky charm! (Mathias Eriksson photo)

The only two skate podiums I have ever been on are both with Jessie... seems she is my lucky charm! (Mathias Eriksson photo)

Attempting to throw my flowers to my fiance out in the crowd... not the best aim..! (Mathias Eriksson photo)

Attempting to throw my flowers to my fiance out in the crowd... not the best aim..! (Mathias Eriksson photo)

Your brain and body are only as strong as you see possible. As every mother would say, "If you believe it, you can achieve it"… that is something I have learned is completely true for me. This season, for the first time, I started truly believing, which has allowed me to start achieving! I raced thirty five races throughout the course of this season, spanning across four and a half months, and accumulating 325 kilometers. That is thirty five times of standing on the start line, and digging to the deepest canals within your brain to see just how hard you are willing to fight. If there is only an inkling of doubt, it amounts to those precious few seconds that can separate you from podium to twelfth place. Staying fresh and "hungry" for that fight is one of the hardest parts of what I am doing right now. For that reason, my podium in the last World Cup race of the season is one of the moments I am most proud of in my career. Operating on my final fumes, I was able to muster up just enough fight and belief to power myself across the final stretch going head to head with Olympic Gold medalists, and secure my fourth podium of the season. It was a fun way to end, and a great memory to power some new goals and beliefs this coming season!

Following the final World Cup races of the season, I jumped on a plane, and made my final stop for Spring Nationals in Craftsbury, Vermont. I have always loved racing Spring Nationals, because in a way, it is a victory lap. While I am still racing my heart out, and digging to deep levels, it is the icing on the cake of a season. For four races, I get to suit up in my Alaska Pacific University club suit, join in with my club teammates, and enjoy the last races of the season, with no pressure or fear. Even though we keep the pedal down hard, I get to share the love of racing with some of the younger skiers in our country, and compete in the club relay, representing the team that has truly trained me to the place I am now. 

Celebrating a season with these wonderful APU teammates of mine! (Reese Brown photo)

Celebrating a season with these wonderful APU teammates of mine! (Reese Brown photo)

Sad to see a couple of these wonderful women leave, but feeling pretty lucky I got to share so many special years with them! (Reese Brown photo).

Sad to see a couple of these wonderful women leave, but feeling pretty lucky I got to share so many special years with them! (Reese Brown photo).

Getting a chance to visit our head coach, Matt Whitcomb's cabin, at Burke Mountain. 

Getting a chance to visit our head coach, Matt Whitcomb's cabin, at Burke Mountain. 

After finishing the final race of the season, a grueling 30-kilometer classic, my mind immediately went into that mode of "ok, what can I improve". I found myself setting all these new goals, analyzing my "goods" and "bads", and getting back to work. Thankfully, I caught myself. For the past few years, I have started rewarding myself with a "spring break" every April. For me, this is a bit of a carrot after a long season of hard work and effort. I have always thought of it as a good way to force recover my muscles. What I realized this year is that I needed it for more reasons than that. For whatever reason, this season was more mentally taxing than ever before- maybe that comes with higher highs, which make lows feel lower. So, this year I decided I was going on vacation for my brain!

Just enough time at home to visit my good friend, Holly Brooks, and her adorable twins, Brooks and Ruby.

Just enough time at home to visit my good friend, Holly Brooks, and her adorable twins, Brooks and Ruby.

Thank you Anchorage for a fun welcome home party!!

Thank you Anchorage for a fun welcome home party!!

After being home for a short nine days, I repacked my bags and headed south. My first stop was in Seattle, where I got a chance to visit all the Saltchuk operating companies, and share stories and inspiration with the employees. Saltchuk has been my headgear sponsor for the past four years, and it has been unbelievably fun and rewarding to represent them on and off the ski courses. They have truly gotten behind my dreams, and provided the support that has allowed these dreams to turn into achievable goals. I want to give an enormous thank you to the Saltchuk Family for believing in me!

Sharing stories. (Tonya Lunke photo)

Sharing stories. (Tonya Lunke photo)

Signing posters for some kids at the Tacoma Boys & Girls Club. (Tonya Lunke photo)

Signing posters for some kids at the Tacoma Boys & Girls Club. (Tonya Lunke photo)

My next step was getting to spend some time with family, whom has also been a huge part of this journey. Unfortunately, part of my job is that I never get to spend quite enough time with loved ones, but they keep loving me despite that, and supporting me along the way.  As I laughed, celebrated, and cherished my moments with my family, I took in every breath of love, and recharged my "brain bank". This is the energy that keeps me going, fighting, and digging throughout eleven months of the season towards these exciting, and amazing goals of mine.

Enjoying every second of this giggly little nephew of mine!

Enjoying every second of this giggly little nephew of mine!

Kaley and Carters first ever backcountry ski!

Kaley and Carters first ever backcountry ski!

WIndow reflection family photo.

WIndow reflection family photo.

Jo and I are now official godparents of Carter!

Jo and I are now official godparents of Carter!

Making the most of some adventure time at home. 

Making the most of some adventure time at home. 

As I arrived home to the Methow Valley, I was greeted by a wonderful welcome home parade, which allowed me to celebrate this Olympic season with the community I grew up in. These are the people that watched me start dreaming, supported these dreams, and have encouraged me since. As I was riding through town in a horse carriage, waving to the wonderful people of my community, I felt so much love, support, and pride. The Methow is my family, and the wonderful people there have helped raise me!

Thank you Rita Kenny, and the whole Methow Valley for making me feel so special and supported!

Thank you Rita Kenny, and the whole Methow Valley for making me feel so special and supported!

My little escort into Winthrop. 

My little escort into Winthrop. 

My final stop of "brain vacation" was in Zion, Utah. Having never been adventuring in the desert before, Noah Hoffman finally convinced me to come join him for a couple days. It turns out the desert is everything you would dream of and more. Noah did an awesome job of "tour guiding" Jo and I around to some pretty incredible adventures, camping spots, and views. Noah retired this spring, along with some of my other teammates, which will be quite the adjustment for our team. I am not looking forward to some of our integral leaders and teammates to be gone, but am also excited for the challenge of stepping up and trying to fill their shoes. We have a pretty strong new generation knocking at the door, so we better keep this train on the track! 

A giant playground!

A giant playground!

Best hotel around!

Best hotel around!

A variety of techniques... who did it better...? (Noah Hoffman photo)

A variety of techniques... who did it better...? (Noah Hoffman photo)

Venturing down the black hole! (Noah Hoffman photo)

Venturing down the black hole! (Noah Hoffman photo)

Dream Team, ready to take on the cold water at the bottom!

Dream Team, ready to take on the cold water at the bottom!

I am now back in Alaska, and back to another year of chipping away towards new levels and new steps in this sport. While I had to put a hold on refocusing, I have now allowed myself to open the door again, and I can't wait to work towards some improvements, and see what I can accomplish next season! 

Before I flip to the next page though, I want to make sure I get a chance to thank everyone for sharing this year with me! I have felt so much love and support throughout the summer training months, and the winter of racing. Whether it was an email of encouragement, a voice along the course, a sponsorship to help make it possible, or a hug of support, you have all made this journey beautiful and attainable! Thanks for being a part of my larger family in this incredible world. And now, it is time to flip the page, and see what kind of new levels I can reach! 

Until next time... 

Until next time... 

Dare to Dream?

It was a dream of mine to be an Olympian since the day I understood what it meant. I remember watching on the TV as all the athletes walked into the Opening Ceremonies, and wanting to be there! It is funny to think back and wonder, "what was the draw?" Why is the idea of being an "Olympian" so intriguing for a child? For me, I think it comes down to the fact that since I was very young, I have always wanted to be the best. I did not know what that meant, however I did know that I always wanted to make it to the top of the hill the fastest, and I wanted to have the highest score on my test. I have been addicted to challenge since the minute I discovered it. 

As a kid, I watched the Olympics on the TV, and quickly fell in love with the top athletes. They were beautiful, strong, happy, and clearly not afraid of anything in the world. I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like them. As I stared at the TV, I knew almost nothing about these athletes, but they were my heroes. When I showed up in South Korea, for my second Olympics, and a dream of chasing some medals, I tried to channel that inner hero in me. I tried to remember that believing in my beautiful, strong, happy and fearless self was the best way to reach my goals. There are so many emotions, feelings, and thoughts that come racing through your head when you first show up to a big event like the Olympics. Right from the start, it was clear this Olympics was going to test my inner strength. As we arrived, temperatures dropped below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind nearly blew us to the ground. The snow was incredibly different than any snow I had ever skied on, and it required a new set of tools and techniques to conquer it. We were on a golf course without a tree around, and it sometimes felt like I was out skiing on the moon. All these new "things" made me realize that this Olympics was going to require some patience and adaptability.

The Olympics are always a strange time for an athlete, because once every four years you are on a stage. Suddenly the world signs on, and watches you with so much excitement and belief. In a way this Olympic moment resembles one second in a 30 minute video. Pretend you are watching a ten kilometer race video, and you stop that video at exactly 12 minutes and 43 seconds into the film. At that very moment the still shot is a representation of the Olympics. It is every athletes dream to have that still shot be the best in the world, the best moment of your life, the best ever! This is what we spend four years of our life, 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day focusing on. This one still shot that we are giving everything for. Good or bad, it is the one second clip that is going to decide what will happen.

So how do you deal with that as an athlete? How do you deal with the pressure of wanting to have your best ever during the golden moment? For me, it means controlling what I can. What I can control are things such as: my effort on race day, nutrition, sleep, mental state, ski testing, my schedule, my connection with my teammates, my preparation, my nerves, etc. And then I have to recognize the things I can't control. These may be: how other competitors are feeling, the wax under my ski, the profile of the course, whether I get named to a team or an event, staying healthy, the type of snow that falls, the way the corners are banked, my start position, the wind, the time of day I am racing, and most importantly… my number at the end of the day. My goal from the start was to nail my controllable's, and forgive the uncontrollable's. Right from the beginning, I had to put this mantra to the test. My very first event of the Games was the event I individually was looking forward to the most. It was a classic sprint, an event I have had some success with during this season. In addition, the profile of the sprint course was a course I couldn't have dreamed up better for myself. I showed up race day ready to fight, I had put all fear aside, and did my very best. When I got knocked out in the quarterfinals, instead of being defeated by the disappointment, I felt good about the fact that I had done my very best at the things I could control. There were some things out there that didn't go perfectly, that I really needed, but it was out of my control… therefore, I had to swallow the disappointment, and move on. The following event, I had a similar experience, and found myself feeling disappointment in yet another less than my best day in the 10k skate. 

Keeping my head up, I went into the 4x5km relay with so much motivation, belief, and trust in our team. I felt like we had arrived on the big stage in a place to truly fight. I didn't have an ounce of fear in my body, but an enormous amount of belief. I think the 24 hours before this relay will be one of my greatest memories in my athletic career. To show up on the start line, and believe with every cell in your body that you are capable of something… and then share that feeling with a team, is overpowering. To fight with literally the best in the world, and know you belong is one of the neatest emotions I have ever felt. The flow of the race didn't go exactly as planned, but once again, every single girl on that team did the absolute best that we could in the given situation, and for that I was darn proud! 

Then my next hurdle came. I had been dreaming of being on the team sprint team for the past year. The combination of speed and endurance that is required for this event makes it by far one of my favorite races! With only two people participating in the event, it is a tough team to choose. Unfortunately, I wasn't selected for the team. Initially this was crushing, heartbreaking, and defeating. But as I had told myself from the start, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself "Did you do everything you could"? And I had, and I was proud to say it. I had as much belief in Kikkan as I did in myself, so I knew that the outcome would be great. And sure enough, when the day came, the outcome was far more than great! Jessie and Kikkan both skied "out of this world", and climbed their way up to the top step to win a gold medal! The first ever medal won by a US woman in our sport! I was overcome with excitement, love, and respect, and couldn't be more proud of them. A small piece deep inside my heart crumbled at the same time, knowing that I had missed such an amazing opportunity. 

My final race of the Games was the longest, and biggest wild card for me. I have had both amazing, as well as very tough 30 kilometer races in my career. I tried to channel all the frustrations, excitement, belief, encouragement and energy into this final opportunity at the Olympics. I went out on a fearless mission, but again didn't quite reach my expectation. I fought with my skis for 30 kilometers, and finally crossed the line feeling bummed to the core. After 47 kilometers of Olympic racing, I felt like I had little to show for the step I had made in my ski racing.

Since leaving Korea, I have had a lot of time to think about these Olympic Games. I came to South Korea with a goal, and a belief in myself. I knew I needed to have many things work in my favor to achieve these goals, but that is what makes special days so special. The great thing about setting a goal is that it is a motivation, and a thing to worship as you work your butt off to get there. For years, you wake up every morning, and dive into your daily goal, because you know it will contribute to this larger goal you are shooting for. You dedicate your heart, life, and soul to it. Then, when the day comes, that goal is achieved by three people, and the rest walk away feeling like they have failed in a way. I know I am not alone in the feelings that I experienced in South Korea. When you set goals, you only prepare yourself for the outcome of reaching them. You certainly don't prepare yourself for what it will feel like when you fall short. For that reason, I feel like I learned a lot in Korea. At times during those three weeks, I felt overpowered by disappointment. During these times, I had to convince myself that the Olympics are special. While the TV will only show the stories of the few people that had those medal winning incredible days, I think the young Sadie Bjornsen would look at the current Sadie Bjornsen, and see her as a hero too. Chasing a dream, missing that dream, and getting back up with full belief is a special opportunity. It is a characteristic that every athlete in South Korea has, because I tell you, we didn't get there easily! There were hundreds of setbacks, hurdles, and disappointments along the way. 

At the end of the day, my one second clip within my 30 minute video was not my best. It wasn't a train wreck, it just wasn't the climax of the movie. As a friend told me, "grieving those feelings of disappointment is important". If it didn't hurt, then you probably didn't truly believe it was possible. Mixed within all those feelings were some unbelievable feelings! Watching our Women's Team win our first ever Olympic Medal for this country was unbelievable! We have known forever it is possible, but to actually show our country what we are made of is a dream! We have all dared to have big dreams, and never been afraid of falling short when we jump. While I didn't get to stand on that podium that evening, tears slid down my face knowing how hard we have all worked for this. The years of believing, the years of pushing each other, and the years of supporting each other finally paid off! I am so proud of Kikkan and Jessie for skiing one heck of a gutsy, commanding, and strong race! Those two deserve that golden moment more than any two women I have ever met in the world! Thank you Kikkan and Jessie for not only brining out the best in all of us, but also demonstrating the best in you that evening! 

And now, it is time to step off the island, and head back into the normal winter routine. Although I left Korea still grieving some disappointment, I have turned the page, and found my fire and excitement for the final three weeks of the season! Every day is an opportunity, and the Olympics may only come every four years, but that doesn't mean the world stops between. There are some World Cup's to be chased, and some opportunities to be had!

Thank you to my wonderful family, teammates, coaches, friends, sponsors and supporters for sharing this fun experience with me! Thanks for believing in me, pushing me, and allowing me to dare to dream! Let me tell you, I ain't done yet! Let the dream continue! What goes up, must come down, and what falls down, must get back up! 

Here is a little collection of photos from the Games in no particular order.

First arriving to Korea a little jet legged from the 8 hour time change. Saved by some coffee and onesies.

First arriving to Korea a little jet legged from the 8 hour time change. Saved by some coffee and onesies.

Kikkan and I walking into my very first Opening Ceremonies. (Noah Hoffman photo)

Kikkan and I walking into my very first Opening Ceremonies. (Noah Hoffman photo)

My first ever manicure!

My first ever manicure!

Spending the afternoon with Katie Couric. (Reese Brown photo).

Spending the afternoon with Katie Couric. (Reese Brown photo).

Twinning.

Twinning.

My home for three weeks. 

My home for three weeks. 

Thank you to organizers and authorities for helping keep everyone safe!

Thank you to organizers and authorities for helping keep everyone safe!

Thank you to my amazing friend, Jaime Bronga, for coming all the way from Alaska and screaming her face off for me! Love you Jaime!

Thank you to my amazing friend, Jaime Bronga, for coming all the way from Alaska and screaming her face off for me! Love you Jaime!

My attempted attack in the sprint race. (Flying Point Road photo)

My attempted attack in the sprint race. (Flying Point Road photo)

Once you cross that finish line, the question you have to ask, "Did I do the best I could today?" (Getty Images)

Once you cross that finish line, the question you have to ask, "Did I do the best I could today?" (Getty Images)

Dancing away some pre-race nerves.

Dancing away some pre-race nerves.

Relay racing- (Flying Point Road photo).

Relay racing- (Flying Point Road photo).

Steve Fuller said it best. "The highest bar is the hardest to hurdle". Proud to have set our bar so high as a team! (USSA photo)

Steve Fuller said it best. "The highest bar is the hardest to hurdle". Proud to have set our bar so high as a team! (USSA photo)

Skiing on the moon!

Skiing on the moon!

Visiting a temple with my Sports Psych one afternoon.

Visiting a temple with my Sports Psych one afternoon.

The team behind the Golden Team (Flying Point Road photo).

The team behind the Golden Team (Flying Point Road photo).

This is the image of a team that just won a gold medal together! (USSA photo).

This is the image of a team that just won a gold medal together! (USSA photo).

Shedding some tears of joy combined with tears of pain. After just winning a gold medal, the first thing this girl told me when she hugged me was "I believe in you". I can't tell you how much those four words meant to me! Jessie, thanks for both inspiring me, but also pulling me along with you. You have grown into quite the leader yourself, girl. I am surrounded by a team of exceptional woman, that even an Olympic Gold medal isn't enough to define how amazing they are! (USSA photo)

Shedding some tears of joy combined with tears of pain. After just winning a gold medal, the first thing this girl told me when she hugged me was "I believe in you". I can't tell you how much those four words meant to me! Jessie, thanks for both inspiring me, but also pulling me along with you. You have grown into quite the leader yourself, girl. I am surrounded by a team of exceptional woman, that even an Olympic Gold medal isn't enough to define how amazing they are! (USSA photo)

To the man that formed this bond, thank you for believing in us! Matt Whitcomb, you have never accepted something as impossible! We would never be here if it wasn't for you! Those tears are hard earned (USSA photo).

To the man that formed this bond, thank you for believing in us! Matt Whitcomb, you have never accepted something as impossible! We would never be here if it wasn't for you! Those tears are hard earned (USSA photo).

Thank you to the wax technicians doing all the hard work behind the scenes. As with us, these guys will have good and bad days, but you can guarantee every day is going to be 110% effort with this crew. We work as a team, and we wouldn't be able to do it without these guys!

Thank you to the wax technicians doing all the hard work behind the scenes. As with us, these guys will have good and bad days, but you can guarantee every day is going to be 110% effort with this crew. We work as a team, and we wouldn't be able to do it without these guys!

Closing Ceremonies.

Closing Ceremonies.

Really cool to see Jessie get selected as the closing ceremonies flag bearer!

Really cool to see Jessie get selected as the closing ceremonies flag bearer!

All things made better with your best friends around!

All things made better with your best friends around!

Some hard earned lounging in these five rings.

Some hard earned lounging in these five rings.

Goodnight South Korea, and Olympics 2018. Thank you for helping me grow!

Goodnight South Korea, and Olympics 2018. Thank you for helping me grow!

Embracing All the Little Things

Since the start of the World Cup Season, on November 26th, things have been pretty darn exciting for the US Nordic Ski Team! Every weekend brings a highlight of joy with some new outstanding performances, new personal bests, another podium, another historical moment, etc., etc.... It has been, and will continue to be a wild ride, so you have to hold on tight with two hands, because it just keeps getting better! During interviews recently, the most common question is, "what is the magic". I have the same answer every time. Suddenly, every single person on this team has some true belief. With so much success, nobody wants to sit on the bench. Everyone is just itching for their turn, "put ME in coach!" You can see it, the fight is on, and it is no longer one person that thinks they can win; it is every single person. The belief is contagious, and the fight is the new way. Despite it seeming so, it isn't magic. It is just a lot of people working hard, and most importantly, embracing the little steps along the way!

As we head into the Olympics, I am trying to take some time to step back and truly "feel" this experience. It is an experience that is going so fast, and I am just clinging on tight, trying to live up every single second of it. Whether I am happy or disappointed with my own races during the weekend, there is always somebody to be happy for along the way. Between the race weekends, my sole goal is to recover, and be ready for the next weekend. The weekdays become projects, and parts of the puzzle I am putting together for each weekend. With such a specific goal every weekend, I think it is easy to lose track of this life, and feel all the emotions that come along. For that reason, I have been trying to work on embracing all the little things. Whether that is an emotion, or an experience… I have realized how important it is to not just numb myself to all the up, down's, and arounds that are going on. Instead, take the extra breath, and feel the experience before it passes by. Some of these things include:

1. Staying in touch with the outside World.

Skyping with my nephew, Carter.

Skyping with my nephew, Carter.

2. Finishing my first Tour de Ski healthy.

You can tell by the color of our faces.... this climb is no joke, and any time you make it to the top alive, and healthy, is an enormous achievement in itself. It was a personal goal of mine to make it there top ten, so I was ecstatic to cross the line in ninth!

You can tell by the color of our faces.... this climb is no joke, and any time you make it to the top alive, and healthy, is an enormous achievement in itself. It was a personal goal of mine to make it there top ten, so I was ecstatic to cross the line in ninth!

3. Watching my brother make an enormous jump.

He is a little bigger now, but he still has that same look of determination! This guy raced to ninth this weekend, and that is just the beginning! I can't wait for him to discover he is one of the best in the world! The men on our team often get overshadowed by the women, but there is no lack of success and motivation with these guys! They are headed to PyeongChang with an awesome vibe, and ready to attack!

He is a little bigger now, but he still has that same look of determination! This guy raced to ninth this weekend, and that is just the beginning! I can't wait for him to discover he is one of the best in the world! The men on our team often get overshadowed by the women, but there is no lack of success and motivation with these guys! They are headed to PyeongChang with an awesome vibe, and ready to attack!

4. Laughing about how much we have grown up.

Four years ago, we arrived in Sochi, feeling like we had landed in heaven! I have no doubt when we arrive in Pyeong Chang, Sophie will have the same look on her face, and Jessie will have the same pop in her step, and Liz will have the same tune to her giggle. We may look a little older, and hopefully act a little older, but we are the same young women, with a big dream!

Four years ago, we arrived in Sochi, feeling like we had landed in heaven! I have no doubt when we arrive in Pyeong Chang, Sophie will have the same look on her face, and Jessie will have the same pop in her step, and Liz will have the same tune to her giggle. We may look a little older, and hopefully act a little older, but we are the same young women, with a big dream!

5. Watching my teammates from back home do really well.

It is really exciting to see ten members of our APU Team make the Olympic Team! That is a huge step for our program, and says a lot about the hard work going on up in Alaska. Not only that, it speaks highly of Erik Flora, who has been inspiring, encouraging, and pushing so many of us. I feel more than lucky to have discovered this program eight years ago, and truly found my place! I am also extra excited to see some young members of our team start to break through. This may be a high for our team at the moment, but by no means is it the highest point to come! Here is Hannah Halverson, the youngest member of our women's team, standing on the Nationals podium! What an incredible achievement as a nineteen year old! She also got eighth in World Juniors yesterday, one of the best results USA has ever had!

It is really exciting to see ten members of our APU Team make the Olympic Team! That is a huge step for our program, and says a lot about the hard work going on up in Alaska. Not only that, it speaks highly of Erik Flora, who has been inspiring, encouraging, and pushing so many of us. I feel more than lucky to have discovered this program eight years ago, and truly found my place! I am also extra excited to see some young members of our team start to break through. This may be a high for our team at the moment, but by no means is it the highest point to come! Here is Hannah Halverson, the youngest member of our women's team, standing on the Nationals podium! What an incredible achievement as a nineteen year old! She also got eighth in World Juniors yesterday, one of the best results USA has ever had!

6. Spend some moments with my fiancé.

I am a lucky girl to have this guy on my side! Not only is he unbelievably supportive and encouraging, but he is a huge goof ball that always manages to remind me to laugh and smile! 

I am a lucky girl to have this guy on my side! Not only is he unbelievably supportive and encouraging, but he is a huge goof ball that always manages to remind me to laugh and smile! 

7. Accumulating enough Gruyére podium cheese to feed an army of Frenchmen. I believe we have won thirteen blocks of cheese, which means thirteen podiums this year!

Fondou for days!

Fondou for days!

8. Ski through the mountains, and take some time to look around.

Jo often makes fun of me for going out to train, and never stopping to look around. We have been racing at some pretty incredible venues lately... and I can't get enough of it!

Jo often makes fun of me for going out to train, and never stopping to look around. We have been racing at some pretty incredible venues lately... and I can't get enough of it!

9. Celebrate some birthdays, and feel thankful that our parents gave us life. 

One of my favorite birthday's to celebrate is Liz's, because it always lands just after the Tour de Ski... so we often have a case of the tired giggles.... and nothing makes an experience more fun than laughing until your core hurts. 

One of my favorite birthday's to celebrate is Liz's, because it always lands just after the Tour de Ski... so we often have a case of the tired giggles.... and nothing makes an experience more fun than laughing until your core hurts. 

10. Stand inside the waxing truck, and watch the wax team work together, with so much passion and excitement. These are the guys behind the scenes… truly performing the magic, without ever getting to stand on the podium for their success at being some of the best waxers in the world.

Sometimes I wish we could bring our wax technicians up on the podium with us... but then it would get pretty busy, because these boys work as a team! They deserve at least 50% of the credit, because we wouldn't be able to do it without them. Even if they don't step up on the podium, they still celebrate podiums, and never take for granted a day they manage to out wax the rest of the world.  

Sometimes I wish we could bring our wax technicians up on the podium with us... but then it would get pretty busy, because these boys work as a team! They deserve at least 50% of the credit, because we wouldn't be able to do it without them. Even if they don't step up on the podium, they still celebrate podiums, and never take for granted a day they manage to out wax the rest of the world.  

11. Feel nervous. We never want to admit we are nervous, but the endorphin rush is one of the greatest high's in life!

What are those words you say in your head just as you get ready to start?

What are those words you say in your head just as you get ready to start?

12. Getting the first podium in a classic race in US Women's Cross Country Skiing history.

My first time in the leaders chair for MANY years after achieving a long time goal of mine, a podium in a classic race. 

My first time in the leaders chair for MANY years after achieving a long time goal of mine, a podium in a classic race. 

13. Make my first A-final in a skate sprint.

First step! (Rolf Zetterberg photo)

First step! (Rolf Zetterberg photo)

14. Be a team. Unfortunately, Ida Sargent fell on Saturday during her warm up for the sprint, and broke her thumb. To watch her pull her emotions together, and prepare her brain to keep fighting despite the need to fly home to Vail for a quick surgery, and be back at the Olympics in two weeks was incredible. What it made me realize is how important the people surrounding you are. This is something that could have easily derailed any athlete that was heading to the games with a big goal. Through the encouragement and support of this team, she has managed to stay positive and keep believing. It is amazing how positive energy can make any bump in the road nothing but a little time in the air on the way to the finish line.

This is a team that has supportive each other through MANY years!

This is a team that has supportive each other through MANY years!

We have now arrived at our final few days before jumping on an airplane to head to my second Olympic Games. Speaking of embracing the little things, I am pretty darn excited to pull on my stars and stripes uniform to represent my country for a second time! Despite having raced in the Olympics before, the buzz is just as high and exciting! This time around, I am headed there with a goal, and that is amazing in itself! First, I dreamed of being an Olympian, now I dream of winning an Olympic Medal! Let's see what we can do!

I will try to update my blog throughout the games, so check back! Cheers to the final preparation, and let the TEAM USA pride begin!

Baby Carter is ready! Are you?

Baby Carter is ready! Are you?