Backstage Pass

I remember as a younger skier watching some of the World Cup footage, and just being blown away by how any person could move so fast. To me, these World Cup stars were like superwomen of my dreams. Having never met any of them at the time, they were not even real… they were just figures in a movie. Fast forward ten to fifteen years, and here I am, living out the dream of being one of those World Cup racers. One of the most unique parts about being in this position is how small "the picture" is, considering how big the world behind it is. What is shown on the TV screen is just one little three minute snapshot, or maybe a 25 minute snapshot into the life we live. It is funny, because those three minute "snapshots" are what we spend 365 days a year pushing our bodies to extreme levels for. While we put on a show each weekend, there are so many parts and pieces behind the stage that ten to fifteen years ago I would have never realized existed!

So, I am going to take you on a little backstage tour of the few months, weeks and minutes leading into last weekends Classic Sprint show, where I had my first ever podium in a sprint event. This way I can maybe "myth bust" some young kids ideas that World Cup Skiers are super-humans coming from another planet. Nope, we are just your friendly neighbor across the street working darn hard towards something we are dreaming of. 

Backstage three months ago- "Just finishing up my three week intensity block at home in Anchorage. Inspired by my teammate, Rosie Brennan, I decided these three weeks that I am not going to look at social media. Social media currently seems to have some element of "comparison" to it. All I can see right now is how warm it seems to be everywhere else, and how hard everyone is pushing themselves. Meanwhile it does nothing but rain in Anchorage, and I am darn tired. These three weeks I am going to focus on myself, and how hard I can push myself. I am two and a half weeks into this block, and I know I am balancing on a thin line of too much, and just enough to make a jump. I have done one Time Trial, and I feel like I can't ski out of a plastic bag, but I am not worried. The goal right now is to push myself. I am using technique to keep myself focused through these final sessions of the block, and keep them productive.

Pain training!

Pain training!

Pushing on (King 5 photo).

Pushing on (King 5 photo).

Backstage three weeks ago- "I am one week from taking off for the winter, and the season to come. I just set up a Christmas tree and am playing Christmas carols, because I have a new house, and I know I will get mega homesick if I don't live that experience at least once this winter… even if it is the wrong season. Oh well, there is snow on the ground, and it is dark outside, so who can tell the difference? Because I am an overly organized human, I have already laid out all my stuff to pack for the winter. I haven't put it in my duffle bag yet, but every friend that comes to visit, I make them walk through all my stuff with me, and pull the "extra's" out. Hard to believe I have to fit everything in my 50 pound duffle bag. I am commuting three hours every day for some great skiing up at Hatchers Pass; this has left me with lots of time to "think", as well as carry on some awesome conversations with teammates. Today I spent the trip to Hatchers arguing with the young juniors on our team if training logs were valuable. Everyone has their reasoning, but I am a fan of them! I am starting to feel better on my skis after having a long two weeks of sickness during camp. I am feeling quite lucky to have such good snow to ski on before the season, and I am taking this opportunity to really focus on some of the technique changes I have made this summer. I wonder if they will still hold while I am racing? I hope so! "

Christmas in November.

Christmas in November.

My little partner in crime keeping things entertaining! 

My little partner in crime keeping things entertaining! 

Perfect Skiing! (Ophira Group photo)

Perfect Skiing! (Ophira Group photo)

Pretty nice to have a home for my car and all my belongings this winter!!

Pretty nice to have a home for my car and all my belongings this winter!!

Backstage three days ago from the race- "Just arriving to Kuusamo, where we will start the first World Cup races. We will have a classic sprint on Friday, a 10k classic individual classic race on Saturday, and a 10k skate, pursuit start on Sunday. Holy cow, I forgot how tough these courses are. I feel like I am skiing down one side of a giant half pipe, and back up the other. Thank goodness the hills seem to ski easier when you go hard. I am still darn jet lagged, and waking up at 3am nervous as heck. I wonder what this season will bring? Holy cow, I am nervous! Good thing Jessie is teaching us dance classes every night so that I can have something to put my mind on, other than ski racing. There is nothing quite as powerful as giggles, and friends. I am one lucky girl to be doing this sport at this time, with all these great people. "

Dream Team in Rovaniemi. 

Dream Team in Rovaniemi. 

Birthday bash in the woods with amazing teammates.

Birthday bash in the woods with amazing teammates.

Warming up for the weekend. (Getty Images)

Warming up for the weekend. (Getty Images)

Backstage three minutes before the race- "OK, time to focus, time to do what you know how to do. These are real girls you are out on the course with, not super humans. Let's do this".

Pure Joy! (Getty Images)

Pure Joy! (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

OK, now that you have taken a backstage tour, you can see that what you see on the TV is such a small snapshot into our world. There are so many individual minutes, hours, and feelings that go into those "perfect days", or those "not so perfect" days. What I have learned over the years of racing on the World Cup is that each day is only a snapshot. For that reason, you can go from "the dumps" to "the digs" overnight, and vise versa. I feel really excited about last weekend, and how things started. Coming into the season, you never know where you are. Especially for myself, who is pretty infamous for not being a great "trainer", I never know what is going to happen when I put a bib on. But the best thing I can do, is keep the belief in myself. So, with one weekend under my belt from this season, and my first sprint podium, I am thrilled to see what can be possible this winter.

Travel days.... rest days! 

Travel days.... rest days! 

We have just arrived in Lillehammer for our next stop on tour, with a classic sprint again, and a 15k Skiathlon. If you want to watch back home in the US, races are now being show on NBC, on The Olympic Channel.

Big thanks to everyone for all the cheers, congratulations, and love last weekend. You make this journey incredibly special!!

In case you missed the watching the race last weekend, here

Autumn Leaves and Pumpkin Please

Fall is one of my favorite seasons of the year. Being in a winter sport means that fall is for the final preparations. Suddenly the race season is in sight, and the nightly "racing dreams" begin. Since fall came a little earlier than usual in Alaska, that meant that I have been in the "pumpkin please" mood since August. Fortunately, in Alaska, grocery stores started stocking the shelves with pumpkin in August… so I know I am not the only one who got the fall fever early.

Getting to meet Holly Brooks babies, Brooks and Ruby. 

Getting to meet Holly Brooks babies, Brooks and Ruby. 

Staying bright in the dark season (Andy Wallace photo).

Staying bright in the dark season (Andy Wallace photo).

Since I haven't really checked in for a while, I have to go back in time a bit. September was a month that I decided to do a "training camp at home. " What that meant is that for three weeks, I put my whole head and heart into training. Since I was working on a three week intensity block, I quickly learned that I needed every last ounce of energy I had, in order to make it through. It was pretty fun to test my mind a bit, and see how hard I could push myself. In one of the photos I posted online of an uphill running race, a fan commented, "paying the tax on the road to the podium". That pretty much sums up the mental state of this block. I have never really been healthy enough to push myself to this level, so it was fun to feel like I finally learned to take one more step!

Yeah for uphill running!

Yeah for uphill running!

Doing a little bird hunting to fill the freezer. 

Doing a little bird hunting to fill the freezer. 

Biking up to the birds. 

Biking up to the birds. 

2017 Fast and Female was fun and amazing! Thanks to everyone for showing up with so much energy and excitement. 

2017 Fast and Female was fun and amazing! Thanks to everyone for showing up with so much energy and excitement. 

With work, comes recovery if you want to absorb the effort. Following my three weeks of working hard, I took a week to recover from it all, and prepare for my final camp of the season, with my US Teammates in Park City, Utah. On my way down to the camp, I made a short but important stop in Seattle, where I got to meet my amazing new nephew, Carter. It was special to share some time with my sister and brother-in-law, and see how happy they are! It truly melted my heart!

Baby Carter and his favorite Auntie... just kidding, he has so many amazing aunties!

Baby Carter and his favorite Auntie... just kidding, he has so many amazing aunties!

Media day before camp. Nothing gives you goosebumps like having a flag around. 

Media day before camp. Nothing gives you goosebumps like having a flag around. 

Sharing some "behind the scenes" of who I am. 

Sharing some "behind the scenes" of who I am. 

Shortly after arriving in Park City, I unfortunately got taken down by a cold. I am a strong believer in illnesses during the training season being a "blessing in disguise." I always believe that my body is smarter than my brain… so if I am not quite resting as much as I should, I pick up little bugs. Trying to remain patient throughout the training camp was not exactly easy. Since I struggled with injuries during the other two US training camps of the season, I was so excited to finally jump in for some good training with my teammates. But, as it went, I took some more time to rest and recover, and slowly build back to being healthy. The last three days of camp, I finally got to jump in and participate, which was enough to fuel my mind and soul.

Joining in on some final days of rollerskiing at Soldier Hollow. 

Joining in on some final days of rollerskiing at Soldier Hollow. 

Uniforming day... it feels like Christmas!

Uniforming day... it feels like Christmas!

Enjoying every bit of sunshine I can get before winter!

Enjoying every bit of sunshine I can get before winter!

Following the Park City Camp, I had planned a final "mental break" before the season. This included two days in Los Angeles, where I had to go visit the Austrian Embassy to get an Austrian Residence Visa in order to spend all winter overseas racing the World Cup. I planned this break before I knew I was going to get sick, so I found some ways to get active in the city. It turns out, the mountains above LA are pretty fun!

Hiking in the heat!

Hiking in the heat!

Luckily, upon arriving home in Alaska, where the seasons are a little off, I jumped back into winter. It was a bit of an extreme entrance from 90 degrees in California to three degrees in Alaska. But, I much prefer this cold weather, with snow, and my cozy home. It has been so fun to get back on snow, and remember the amazing feeling of gliding across snow. While roller skiing is a pretty darn amazing "off-season" training method… it just doesn't have that same great feeling of gliding across the snow. 

Having so much fun back on skis!

Having so much fun back on skis!

So beautiful! (Becca photo)

So beautiful! (Becca photo)

Suddenly it is so bright out! (Ophira Group photo).

Suddenly it is so bright out! (Ophira Group photo).

I now have three more weeks here in town to enjoy every last bit of my cozy home, the beautiful cold clear days, and the 9 am sunrises. Now is the time to get lots of extra hugs from Jo, enjoy wearing a different outfit out of my closet every day, appreciate being able to drive my own car around town, and make the most of being able to call all my friends and family at reasonable hours of the day. Following these three weeks, we are shipping off for the season, starting in Finland. After enjoying all these last treasures in town, I can't wait to get this season started!

Insulating our house a bit more, now that it is so cold out! Keeping this place cozy.

Insulating our house a bit more, now that it is so cold out! Keeping this place cozy.

Happy Autumn!

Working hard, or hard working?

Late August and September are months saved in my head as "where the work gets done". It is the time that I am carrying the most amount of fatigue from the summer of training, and I take the opportunity to dig deep, and push one step harder. 

Harvesting season. Berries and apples from the yard! Breakfast of champions!

Harvesting season. Berries and apples from the yard! Breakfast of champions!

Taking an evening to spend some time with a young generation of energy and excitement at The Alaska Club.

Taking an evening to spend some time with a young generation of energy and excitement at The Alaska Club.

Last week I got a little "recovery" week to split the hard work and did some training on my own, to prepare my mind and body for three weeks of digging deep to come. My mom flew up from Washington, where it is 100 degrees and full on summer. It was pretty special to share the week with her up in Alaska, where it is full on fall! I think she had a little shock to her system. First, because it was 50 degrees and rainy, which meant wearing winter clothing and being darn cold. And second, because she joined me for an entire week of training… and she survived! As an athlete, I get so consumed and invested in my "work", that I forget to sometimes look around and realize what I have done and what I am doing. Training 3-5 hours a day, traveling to and from training sessions, refueling, taking care of my body, and all the "maintenance" is my normal routine. Having my mother around for the week made me realize how much energy this job entails. As my mom jumped on the bike with me while I roller skied, and joined me on the trails and the gym, it gave me a fun new breath of perspective. Firstly, I have reached a whole new definition of "training hard", and secondly I am a pretty lucky girl to have family that can jump right in with me and enjoy the process. I would have never gotten to where I am had I not learned the joy of being healthy and active from my family. It is pretty unique and special to be training at such a high level, and still be able to share that love with my family to this day!

It was pretty special to have my mom up in Alaska to see the life I live up here! It meant the world to share some amazing family time for the week!

It was pretty special to have my mom up in Alaska to see the life I live up here! It meant the world to share some amazing family time for the week!

Pushing mom up Clarks Valley climb 4 times!

Pushing mom up Clarks Valley climb 4 times!

It is ok, she is still happy!

It is ok, she is still happy!

Power hiking with mom. I never wonder where I get that endurance blood from!

Power hiking with mom. I never wonder where I get that endurance blood from!

Showing mom how close the glaciers are!

Showing mom how close the glaciers are!

Meanwhile, my sister just had her first baby, Carter Thomas Johnsen! 

Meanwhile, my sister just had her first baby, Carter Thomas Johnsen! 

I am now back into the full swing of training and digging deep. I have three weeks ahead of me of digging just a little deeper, pushing just a little harder, and shooting just a little higher. Often during these really hard blocks of training, it is easy to lose sight of your achievements. When I am living in a small daze of lactic acid and fatigue, it is easy to have a swing in belief, like the swing in fatigue. My best method of coping with periods of hard work is to shift my vision. Am I working hard, or hard working? Am I finding weaknesses, or finding opportunities for improvement? Was I tired today, or did I achieve my goal yesterday? Is it a downpour outside, or is it fall? Sometimes tricking your brain is the best way to make that next step!

Work hard, recover hard. Making ice baths out of anything and everything!

Work hard, recover hard. Making ice baths out of anything and everything!

I look forward to pushing these next few weeks of hard work, and hopefully getting one step closer to my World Cup and Olympic Goals this winter!

July Janga

J- July training. July is one of the more intense months of training. The combination of a huge amount of volume, and the start to a lot of intensity makes for some pretty tired bodies! Thanks to lots of help from Advanced Physical Therapy, and Zuzana Rodgers, we are able to get some help taking care of fatigued bodies. It was pretty amazing to have Zuzana up on the glacier with us last camp helping us recovery from high loads of training!

Lot's of amazing hours of training! (Ophira Group photo)

Lot's of amazing hours of training! (Ophira Group photo)

U- Unbelievable summer. After waiting all june and july for summer to come, our unbelievable summer came for three days. For three days, all of Anchorage enjoyed 80+ degrees of heat. I think it is safe to say that every Anchorage citizen got sun burned over last weekend. When you break out your bikini once a summer, no level of SPF can save the burn! Thankfully summer hit during the weekend, so we got to really enjoy the heat. I think I may have spent 48 hours straight in a bikini! We are now back overcast season. That was fun while it lasted! The wait makes those perfect days way exponentially amazing. 

48 hours in a bikini!

48 hours in a bikini!

The sun has a tendency to bring up your stoke! Enjoying our monthly Delta Constructors hike with some sunshine!

The sun has a tendency to bring up your stoke! Enjoying our monthly Delta Constructors hike with some sunshine!

Alaska summer footwear... forget about the flip flops!

Alaska summer footwear... forget about the flip flops!

Alaska sun bathing... 

Alaska sun bathing... 

L- Lighting Storms! Last camp we had this amazing thunder and lighting storm roll over the glacier. One minute were were out on the snow doing speed, and the next minute we were sprinting up the access hill for the building as we heard the storm coming. We made it back safe, and all watched from the window as lighting struck on the rocks all around us, and an enormous hail storm moved through. 

Sprinting for the building as the storm moves in (Zuzana Rogers photo).

Sprinting for the building as the storm moves in (Zuzana Rogers photo).

Y- YESSSSSS, that was my answer when my boyfriend of seven years proposed to me. It was our seven year dating anniversary, and a beautiful day out in the mountains, so it really couldn't have gotten much better when he got down on one knee! Fortunately it happened the day after the completion of an intense training block, so we got a few days to celebrate and enjoy some time in the mountains together. 

Maubet Bound!! 

Maubet Bound!! 

Celebrating on a ferry down to Valdez.

Celebrating on a ferry down to Valdez.

Alaska is one beautiful place! Chasing glaciers at Thompson Pass. 

Alaska is one beautiful place! Chasing glaciers at Thompson Pass. 

Not easy to catch the sunset in the summer... you have to really commit to making it that late!

Not easy to catch the sunset in the summer... you have to really commit to making it that late!

 

 

J- Jokes on you! With our collection of young athletes that joined the elite team this year, the atmosphere is never too heavy! It has been fun to not only have a new generation of talent around, but also a new generation of excitement to remind us how lucky we are! There is certainly no shortage of jokes!

A- Aware season. How are you bear aware? More than ever, people are becoming bear aware while they are enjoying the outdoors right now. If you run into me out training in the woods right now, don't be surprised if you can hear me from two miles away. Between my bear bell and my constant yelling and chattering… I don't travel quietly. That is because surprising Mr. Bear is about as bad as it gets. I also don't hit the woods without my bear spray in case things get serious (I always hope not). 

Priorities... replacing my water bottle with bear spray. 

Priorities... replacing my water bottle with bear spray. 

N- NBC filming. It was fun to have some NBC crews up in Alaska filming Eagle Glacier, and some of our team work down in town. I love the opportunity to share our sport with the country during Olympic year, and show a little bit more behind the scenes of "skinny ski's". 

Behind the scenes... 

Behind the scenes... 

G- Goof-ups. On Eagle Glacier, we have an access road that leads down to our 8k loop. This access road is a pretty high speed decent, with a small turn midway down. In an effort to get more comfortable at high speed on my skis, I have been trying to make it down this hill without breaking into any sort of speed check or snow plow. On day two of camp, I accidentally took too much speed into the corner, and rag dolled down the climb… resulting in my first ever black eye. I am not entirely sure how it happened, but after a few days of nasty, it started to resemble an unbelievable make up job as it healed… better than my average ability to apply make-up. 

ouch!!

ouch!!

A- Attack of the mosquitos! Turns out this extremely wet summer of ours has created quite the amazing life for the mosquitos. After spending a night camping out in the Valley… I learned that sleeping outdoors is not something you do right now. If you plan on getting some zzzzz's… keep it inside. 100 percent deet is recommended!

Jo's attempt to fend against the mosquitos during camping. 

Jo's attempt to fend against the mosquitos during camping. 

Dear Adversity ....

I just arrived home from our Women's National Team camp in the Methow Valley. This is my hometown in Washington, and where I grew up training, which made it really special to share my stomping grounds with my teammates.  I feel pretty lucky to be a part of this National Team right now, so I was loving every second of introducing them to the area, and all the special people back home that got me to this point!

Women's Team hits the Methow.

Women's Team hits the Methow.

Biking alongside the girls as they rollerski up to Washington Pass.

Biking alongside the girls as they rollerski up to Washington Pass.

Still some snow around up high. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Still some snow around up high. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

The Team (Kent Murdoch photo)

The Team (Kent Murdoch photo)

Enjoying some "waterfall" during a hot bounding day. Thanks to one of our world cup wax technitions, Tim Baucom, for coming to help coach!

Enjoying some "waterfall" during a hot bounding day. Thanks to one of our world cup wax technitions, Tim Baucom, for coming to help coach!

I also got the opportunity to share some time with my family, which doesn't happen nearly enough. The United States has proven to be a bit too geographically large, which can be slightly limiting in having enough time with loved ones. I always try to make it home twice a summer to visit with family, but that never seems like enough. I cherish every second I can get, and enjoyed seeing both my parents as well as my 8 month pregnant sister and her husband.

Rollerskiing with my sister in Seattle.

Rollerskiing with my sister in Seattle.

A big bunch of Bjornsen love, with a new generation on its way. Baby shower day with my sister, my mom, and my grandma. 

A big bunch of Bjornsen love, with a new generation on its way. Baby shower day with my sister, my mom, and my grandma. 

Such a treat to spend some time with my best friend from growing up. It may only happen every two years, but she sure does means the world to me!

Such a treat to spend some time with my best friend from growing up. It may only happen every two years, but she sure does means the world to me!

Running with my mom at beautiful Sun Mountain.

Running with my mom at beautiful Sun Mountain.

Unfortunately, I have been going through another flare up with my heel spurs, so I wasn't able to participate in as much camp as I would have liked, but I still was able to be there in spirit. After a week of trying to make it work down there, I flew back to Alaska a bit early to try to come to my familiar training grounds to manage and balance training without shoes. 

Ice bathing to take care of our bodies... and cool down!

Ice bathing to take care of our bodies... and cool down!

Biking with the girls up Washington Pass. Ski boots weren't working out so well with my heels. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Biking with the girls up Washington Pass. Ski boots weren't working out so well with my heels. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Great to have some of the young local juniors to join in a few sessions. There continues to be a ton of motivation and talent coming out of our small valley! (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Great to have some of the young local juniors to join in a few sessions. There continues to be a ton of motivation and talent coming out of our small valley! (Matt Whitcomb photo)

On the way home I wrote a little letter to adversity to build up some strength to take on this next period of training.

Dear adversity, thank you for constantly challenging me- never letting me fall asleep at the wheel. You make this job both challenging, but also more rewarding.

Dear adversity, thank you for forcing me to find my own path. Rather than following the path of others, you have taught me to find beauty and strength in being unique and different.

Dear adversity, thank you for forcing me to question myself. Through the process of questioning myself, I have learned to discover my own strengths and belief. This has allowed me to make my mind my strongest muscle. 

Dear adversity, thank you for forcing me to ask for help. Through this help, you have encouraged me to surround myself with an incredible team. A team of amazing coaches, teammates, physical therapists, friends, and family. 

Dear adversity, thank you for teaching me the "Sadie System". I would have grown up believing that in order to achieve success, you should always follow the path of the best, rather than developing your own path. 

Dear adversity, thank you for breaking me down. During this process, I have learned that if I don't take the weight and pressure of the world off my shoulders, I will never enjoy the process, and neither will loved ones around me. 

Dear adversity, thank you for making me count my blessings. You have taught me to never take for granted a day of health, or a run through the mountains without taking in as many breaths of fresh air as possible!

Dear adversity, despite being the biggest pain in the a$$, you have made my career unbelievably rewarding, no matter what level I achieve, because I have learned one heck of an important lesson, and that is; you can never give up. No matter if I look different, think different, or race different, you will never be more than a challenge I will overcome!

Yours truly,

Sadie

Making my own path since I was 2 years old.

Making my own path since I was 2 years old.

Thank you Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness, as well as our wonderful Pete Dickenson for taking care of our bodies and sharing your gym with us!

Thank you Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness, as well as our wonderful Pete Dickenson for taking care of our bodies and sharing your gym with us!

Back to the Attack

I was recently down in Hollywood for an NBC Olympics media summit, and one of the most commonly asked questions was, "what is one thing that most people don't understand about your sport". My answer was always the same, "we almost never take time off. There is hardly an "off season" for our sport, instead we just continuously remain active".

Having fun down in Hollywood with Paralympic star, World Champion, and awesome buddy Andrew Kurka.

Having fun down in Hollywood with Paralympic star, World Champion, and awesome buddy Andrew Kurka.

My best method of forced resting is to take a week vacation to a beach, because this way, I am forced to lay down, relax, and truly recover. After that, we return to activity. We generally have about one month off of "scheduled training", but that doesn't mean we stop. Instead we take this time to do all the adventures we wish we could during our very scheduled and structured lives. We hike random mountains and take time to sit down and enjoy the view on top. We backcountry and alpine ski, enjoying gravity at its finest. We go for walks with friends that we never have time to catch up with. We participate in zumba and spin classes- enjoying the energy and enthusiasm of different groups of people. And we take our nordic skis off the trail, enjoying Alaska's mountains and glaciers while flying along the hard crust surfaces. It is a pretty enjoyable time of the year, because it is more of an "active recovery", rather than a training focus. But not to be fooled… we still keep moving! The amazing thing that happens during this month though is that we fully recover our brains. Six months of intense, structured training focus mixed with four months of intense, focused racing- all shaken up in a busy schedule of constant travel…. and your brain needs a break almost more than your muscles. April is the month to rest both your brain and body in our sport!

Recovery 101.

Recovery 101.

I had an amazing April full of a perfect beach break, catching up with friends and family, moving into a new house, catching up with wonderful sponsors and supporters, incredible adventures, and a quick stop down to LA for some Olympic NBC media. I also had a good month to absorb all my excitement and disappointment from this past season, channeling all the energy back into formation to constructively make a plan of attack for this coming season. As always, come May 1st, I found myself hungry to start my structured training again. I love the lifestyle of setting a goal for myself every day, every week, and every month. I love the process of deciding what I am going to work towards, and making the steps to get there. This summer, I have a new goal for myself. In the past I have worked so hard to keep making steps towards more training and harder training. This year, I want to absolutely nail the process. After this past summer and fall full of injury, my goal this year is to do the smartest training I have ever done. I plan to drive my own ship more than ever… and never just drift down the river, because that is where the water is taking me. With the Olympics around the corner, and some new levels of achievement this past winter, I am pretty darn excited!

Discovering what the Olympic venue/South Korea vibe will be with this make-believe Hollywood set-up. 

Discovering what the Olympic venue/South Korea vibe will be with this make-believe Hollywood set-up. 

Mixing function and fashion in a whole new scene. 

Mixing function and fashion in a whole new scene. 

Gravity supported adventures above Anchorage.

Gravity supported adventures above Anchorage.

Easter glacier hunt with Jojo.

Easter glacier hunt with Jojo.

Taking a second to sit down and enjoy my new home. 

Taking a second to sit down and enjoy my new home. 

Alaska past-time activity... campfire catch up's. 

Alaska past-time activity... campfire catch up's. 

I am just now starting up our first US Ski Team camp of the season in Bend, Oregon. This is my fifth year attending this camp, one of my favorites of the year. I love the set up of this camp with on snow training up on Mt. Bachelor in the morning, and dry land training down in town in the afternoon. It really helps the transition from our winter fitness to our summer training activities. We become darn fit at skiing in the winter, but it takes some time to build up our running, biking and other dry land activity fitness. We also have a new member, and fellow APU teammate joining the team this year, Scott Patterson, which will be a really fun addition! Our team is more motivated and excited than ever, so it is time to get back on the attack!

Thanks Mt. Bachelor for the incredible grooming, and for saving some sunshine for us.... great start so far!

Thanks Mt. Bachelor for the incredible grooming, and for saving some sunshine for us.... great start so far!

Let the 2017-2018 training season begin!

Grand Finale

In most situations, a Grand Finale is the end of the show, with all the biggest booms, explosions and excitement. Every year, when we finish the World Cup Tour, we head back to the United States to jump into Spring Nationals, otherwise know as "Spring Series". Depending on your fatigue level, these races can be some of the most fun races of the season. After having so many nerves all season long, weekend after weekend… it feels good to let your guard down a bit, and enjoy the "grand finale". US athletes show up for Spring Nationals in any state ranging from dragging their tongue around the course because they are so tired, to on top of the world, with unlimited energy. I have experienced all ends of this spectrum. Last year I was so tired after completing two 8-10 day tour events during the season, that I couldn't even get myself to race through the week. I had to drop out of the races due to sickness, injury… and just pure mental and physical "burn out". 

This year, I was feeling like I was in a much better place. I still felt really good my final weekend of races in Quebec City, and I couldn't wait to finish off the "grand finale" in good form. And, on top of that, we were having Spring Nationals races in Fairbanks, Alaska… something that felt a little more like home to me! Unfortunately, I encountered some major travel bumps on the way back to Alaska, and found myself getting way too tired. Combine that with the excitement of spending three days at home after being gone for 4.5 months, and living in a household of sick roommates and classmates, and suddenly my in-destructive feelings came crashing into a wall. 

Being back in Alaska means it is back to real winter and cold temperatures!

Being back in Alaska means it is back to real winter and cold temperatures!

After making the seven hour beautiful road trip up to Fairbanks from Anchorage, I unfortunately woke up sick, and had to turn around and make that beautiful drive right back the following morning. I tried to regroup and recharge as quick as possible. After two days of pure mental and physical rest, I jumped on a plane, and headed back to Fairbanks in hopes of finishing off the spring series races, with a team relay event and the 30 kilometer race left . I still had that unstoppable feeling, so I was ready to put it to the test!

Getting some fresh air during my sick days.

Getting some fresh air during my sick days.

Jumping the gun on health a little more than I would have liked to, I couldn't fathom sitting out of the team relay event. This was a National Championship race, and relay events are some of the most fun events to compete in! Not only that, I only get to represent my Alaska Pacific University colors a couple times a year, so I really didn't want to miss the opportunity to be a part of the team. As I headed out on the 5k lap being chased/hunted just a few seconds back from Jessie Diggins.. I tried super hard to convince myself I had unlimited energy and ability. Turns out, being healthy is integral, despite how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise. I think I experienced more pain, and dug deeper in those five kilometers than I had all season. After collapsing to the ground in a bath of lactic acid and horrible feelings, I decided at that moment that I was calling it a season. Racing sick is neither fun, nor smart!

Teammates all season, and now we are competing against each other for different clubs. I asked Jessie before the start to please not kill me... I think she considered being nice, but then her "relay spirit" kicked in, and she nearly did me under! All I can say is I am happy to have this girl in the closing leg of our US relay.. she is something special! (Lance Parrish photo)

Teammates all season, and now we are competing against each other for different clubs. I asked Jessie before the start to please not kill me... I think she considered being nice, but then her "relay spirit" kicked in, and she nearly did me under! All I can say is I am happy to have this girl in the closing leg of our US relay.. she is something special! (Lance Parrish photo)

2nd Place for APU- (Max Kaufman photo)

2nd Place for APU- (Max Kaufman photo)

Congrats to Stratton Mountain School for stealing the show and National Title back! And congrats for winning the face paint contest! (Max Kaufman photo)

Congrats to Stratton Mountain School for stealing the show and National Title back! And congrats for winning the face paint contest! (Max Kaufman photo)

The season end "grand finale" was not ruined though! In my mind, these end of the season races are a "victory lap". Despite your shape, your feelings, and your placing… the event is always a celebration of all the accomplishments of the season. One of my favorite parts about it is that we all go back to racing for our club teams, and we integrate back into our teams that we spent all the hard spring, summer, and fall training hours with. These are the teammates that literally shared all the blood, sweat and tears with you during the endless training season. So to share the "victory lap" with them means the world. 

Teammates and cheering squad!

Teammates and cheering squad!

Despite really dropping the ball for my team in the relay event, or showing up sick, or having to finish the week early- I had so much joy during the spring series week. I was reminded, as I am during every Spring Nationals how lucky I am to be part of such an amazing club team! I appreciate my coaches and teammates so much, and couldn't be luckier to be surrounded by such a great crew both during the training season as well as during the World Cup racing season!

Playing coach with the two youngest members of the team, and future stars in our sport!

Playing coach with the two youngest members of the team, and future stars in our sport!

Finishing the week with a 30th birthday party for the amazing Liz Stephen!

Finishing the week with a 30th birthday party for the amazing Liz Stephen!

I hope to return back to Fairbanks again some day to do some more racing. Birch Hill has such well built and fun courses, so I will have to come back for some more of that one day when I am healthier.

Big thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors and supporters that have shared so much enthusiasm, support and cheers with me. Thanks to my club and national teams, and coaches for pushing me to the limit, and catching me in those times that I inevitably crashed during the training and racing season. Thanks to the wax technicians for doing all the hard work behind the scenes, allowing the magic to happen!And thanks to the best family and friends in the world who never call me crazy.. but just keep cheering and supporting me along the way! I am a lucky girl, with the best job in the entire world. I will have more memories than I could ever dream of storing in my brain from this incredible journey! 

It is now a little bit of rest and recovery time before starting the training season again! I just returned home from a wonderful break in Florida with family.

Replacing the snow and cold with sand and sun!

Replacing the snow and cold with sand and sun!

Celebrating Jo's Grandmothers 80th birthday with all of her kids, and all of her grandkids!

Celebrating Jo's Grandmothers 80th birthday with all of her kids, and all of her grandkids!

Loving every moment I get to spend with my family!

Loving every moment I get to spend with my family!

Alligator hunting....

Alligator hunting....

Lucky to have this little partner in crime!

Lucky to have this little partner in crime!

One more training season until the next Olympics! Let's make this the best one!

Happy Spring!

Fast Track

Sometimes it takes a little bit of a "knock-down" to slow down your world, and make you stop and look around a bit. I am sitting at home right now in Anchorage, trying to recover from a little cold I picked up my first day in Fairbanks. This year, spring series and distance nationals are taking place in Fairbanks, Alaska. Traveling to Alaska is neither close, nor short for many coming from the Lower 48. For that reason, I was feeling pretty lucky to not be the one doing the long travel, but instead just zip on up there. I was ripping along on this fast track of events, and unfortunately sort of veered off path, picking up a cold, and forcing myself to slow down a bit. For about one and a half months now, I have been tearing along in high speed, a little out of control, but enjoying the ride. It all started the last time I checked in, just before World Championships.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Having a little fun! (Getty Images)

Having a little fun! (Getty Images)

World Championships was a different championships than ever before. First off, I decided to target a few events, rather than try to race everything. The "event targeting" left me in a world of classic focus. I focussed on the Classic Team Sprint, the 10K Classic, and then the Classic leg of the 4x5km Relay. I then decided to focus on two classic races just after the Championships, the Classic Drammen City Sprint, and the 30K Classic Holmenkollen. This all kind of happened by chance, but left my racing really classic heavy. I have had a history of preferring the classic technique over skating, but starting this year, I think I have flip flopped. I have started having my best results, and even my very first individual podium in skate events. So, going back to World Championships, I was deciding to put all my eggs in one basket, a new style for me. I knew I had some medal potential in a few of those events, so I wanted to make sure I was showing up in 100% form for an incredible opportunity. It all started with the Team Sprint event, early on in the Championships. For a year now, I have had my head and heart set on this event. I have always loved the team sprint format, with the combination of both speed and endurance. We don't get to participate in team sprints very often, so I knew it was sort of "unexpected"  as far as what we could do. One of my teammates, Jessie Diggins, has made an unbelievable improvement to both her classic sprinting and distance racing these last few years, so I knew we had a chance. The night before the event, we went for a run together, and laughed over the "unexpected". Nobody really saw us as a threat, and we were going to take advantage of it. As we passed through the semi-finals on a lucky loser position, we went into the finals with sort of a chill excitement. We hadn't necessarily dominated in the semi-finals, but we were confident that our endurance abilities were going to shine in the finals. The course was super challenging, with a long herring bone section in the middle, neither a strength of Jessie or I. We made it our tactic to just keep fighting for every second, because we knew our strengths could be another teams weakness. Coming into the final exchange, we were in contention for a medal, and Jessie put together the most beautiful final surge to out-sprint one of the strongest sprinters in the world, and secure a bronze medal for us. 

Team Sprinting with an incredible scene all around! Liz Arky photo

Team Sprinting with an incredible scene all around! Liz Arky photo

Thanks to this amazing wax crew for making a perfect day possible!!!

Thanks to this amazing wax crew for making a perfect day possible!!!

I could go on forever explaining how amazing that moment, and the coming moments to follow were like. It is hard to explain that feeling of accomplishment along with a teammate, knowing you reached a level you had only been dreaming about. After being so wired during the event, the emotion didn't quite hit me until the press conference later that afternoon, and then the days to come. It has been a particularly tough summer and fall of training with so many injuries this year, so to have something so amazing happen following those bumps and jumps… it couldn't be more amazing. Not only that, it was a new level of achievement in a classic style event for our team. As I said earlier, I have always preferred the classic technique over skating, so it meant the world to achieve my greatest success in my technique of choice. As the weather conditions, snow conditions, and waxing conditions have become more challenging… it sometimes feels impossible to compete with some of the nordic nations. It is a rare day you strap your skis on your feet, and feel like you are in the same category. But that snowy, tricky day in Lahti, we were in the same category! Our skis were speedy, we were powered by "unexpected", and we showed up with our red and white relay socks ready to take on the best!

Thanks to Zuzana Rodgers for helping me through all the injuries last summer, and then cheering her heart out during the team sprint!

Thanks to Zuzana Rodgers for helping me through all the injuries last summer, and then cheering her heart out during the team sprint!

So much excitement!! (Getty Images)

So much excitement!! (Getty Images)

Awards Ceremony. (Getty Images)

Awards Ceremony. (Getty Images)

A video summary from the day.

The events to follow during the championships became the cherry on top. The individual 10k was not nearly what I had hoped and dreamed for. Conditions were tricky, and I sort of felt like I was fighting against my own skis through the whole race. Following that was the 4x5km relay, the event our team has put an enormous amount of focus on these past four to five years. We threw down our best effort, but learned we are still a small step behind the nordic nations (Finland, Sweden and Norway). We are certainly closing in on them, but we still have a jump to make. The fun part, is we have a goal, and every summer… we know what we are fighting for during those long and tough training months!

Relay racing. So awesome to have our coach from back home around. Thanks Erik Flora! (Getty Images)

Relay racing. So awesome to have our coach from back home around. Thanks Erik Flora! (Getty Images)

These girls are coming back for more!! World Champs relay team. (Tom Kelly photo)

These girls are coming back for more!! World Champs relay team. (Tom Kelly photo)

Relay day focus! (Getty Images)

Relay day focus! (Getty Images)

All the while during this amazing excitement and fun, I started one of my graduate classes back home. Signing in online, I was joining in on Corporate Finance from afar. For the final three days of the Championships, I was also attempting to globally attend three days of "intensives" back home in Anchorage. This is three days with eight hours of class… which was pretty darn tricky with the time change. It meant that I spent all day listening to a recording, and then would sign in during the evenings for as much "live class" as possible. I have an incredibly open professor that is attempting to allow me to do both… but there are just some things that maybe shouldn't be attempted, and that is Corporate Finance from afar!! The final days of the Championships, I was deciding this was maybe one of them. Add on top of that, group projects due every day… I just about popped. Thank god for some amazingly patientclassmates, some very encouraging teammates, and a professor that keeps the bar high… I managed to survive the intensive weekend. 

Discounted Cash Flows, Weighted Average Cost of Capital, Investment decisions... EEK!

Discounted Cash Flows, Weighted Average Cost of Capital, Investment decisions... EEK!

That brings me up to this braided world of excitement, stress, anxiety, thrill, and speedy last few weeks of the season. Following the Championships, I have put my head down and surged on the gas even harder trying to keep up in my world. My final races in Norway, the 30k classic and the Drammen City Sprint were less than I hoped for. I was feeling speedy and fit, but I just wasn't getting everything to work my way. I made a silly mistake in the sprint that left me without a finishing lane, and then I fought against skis the majority of the 30 kilometers at Holmenkollen. Despite these disappointing events, I still felt amazing… and knew I could find my place in Quebec. I channelled all my disappointment and frustration into my studies, and vise versa. 

I always enjoy racing in Oslo! Holmenkollen is my favorite place in the world to race! That view almost feels like home. 

I always enjoy racing in Oslo! Holmenkollen is my favorite place in the world to race! That view almost feels like home. 

As I jumped onto the plane to Quebec for my final weekend of races, I sort of felt like I was "coming home". Despite not even being halfway home, it felt a little closer, and English was spoken more frequently than the rest of the season. Add on top of that tons of friends and clubs out there cheering, and I was soon feeling right at home. Throughout the mini tour weekend, I continued to have both good and bad races, but always great feelings. Finally, the last day of World Cup for the season… I was more excited than ever. I was finally doing a distance skate race for the first time since beginning on January, and 10k Skate! I love the simplicity of skate skiing. You put your skis on, and you either can or can't. You don't have to fight against all these other factors such as kick, glide, technique, etc. I got to spend the entire 10 kilometers chasing Charlotte Kalla around the course. Every time I follow her skating, I find belief and confidence that I can follow her. I haven't yet found the confidence to lead, but I have found the confidence to follow. Finishing my final race of the season with a 5th place time of day was enough to allow me to leave the season with so much hope and excitement!

Quebec is such a beautiful city! Exploring around the old city for our morning run.

Quebec is such a beautiful city! Exploring around the old city for our morning run.

It was a little stormy the first week in Quebec. Soph making "cold" look cool!

It was a little stormy the first week in Quebec. Soph making "cold" look cool!

Huge thanks to the waxing crew, but special thanks to my silly and amazingly hard working wax tech! This guy knows how to keep it light, but work his butt off behind the door! Thanks JP! (Reese Brown photo)

Huge thanks to the waxing crew, but special thanks to my silly and amazingly hard working wax tech! This guy knows how to keep it light, but work his butt off behind the door! Thanks JP! (Reese Brown photo)

Taking some time to share excitement with the next generation. (gpowersfilm photo)

Taking some time to share excitement with the next generation. (gpowersfilm photo)

A tour behind Kalla for a second year in the row. Thanks Kalla for teaching me the way, yet again! (Reese Brown photo)

A tour behind Kalla for a second year in the row. Thanks Kalla for teaching me the way, yet again! (Reese Brown photo)

While this may have been a season of more "ups" and "downs" than ever, it is also a season where my strengths and weakness's are more clear than ever. I feel like I know exactly what I am missing, and what has gone well. I see the value of not only fitness, but also confidence. It is a pretty fun time!

Amazing ambiance in Quebec City! One of the best of the year!

Amazing ambiance in Quebec City! One of the best of the year!

Special thanks to this incredible person, Matt Whitcomb! Thanks for fearlessly leading our team, and always reminding us of the true goals in life! Behind every ski racer is a person, and Matt has always valued that person over the ski racer. (Reese Brown photo)

Special thanks to this incredible person, Matt Whitcomb! Thanks for fearlessly leading our team, and always reminding us of the true goals in life! Behind every ski racer is a person, and Matt has always valued that person over the ski racer. (Reese Brown photo)

And that brings me back to here and now. Sitting in Anchorage, trying to power rest… and get my butt back up to Fairbanks to finish off the season with my APU teammates. Using the extra time to focus on my final two weeks of Corporate Finance. It may have been one of my more stressful and overwhelming six weeks… but I surely will never forget this one. The swing of emotions, and the strength that comes from that is invaluable! It just makes me so thankful for all the people that keep me going! My classmates, teammates, coaches, the ski technicians, my friends and family, my sponsors and supporters. Thanks for letting me experience these journeys of a lifetime!

And thanks to fans like these for making the experience fun and special! (Reese Brown photo)

And thanks to fans like these for making the experience fun and special! (Reese Brown photo)

Now, back to power resting, and setting my eye on heading back to beautiful wintery Fairbanks! One more push of the season before it is time to start resting and recovering from that wild 2016-2017 season!

Back in the arctic!!

Back in the arctic!!

Je Suis Prête

These last two weeks, I have been living and training in Meribel, France, making my final finishing touches and preparations for World Championships. This camp served multiple purposes for me. First and foremost, I needed to rest and recover. I found myself in a bit of a fatigue hole in Falun for the last World Cup's.. so the first order of business was to get back on top of my fatigue and find neutral again. I used this opportunity to get caught up on life, visit friends, do some snow dances (to try to get some winter to come) and spend some time on the alpine slopes with my boyfriend. I have been visiting Meribel every winter for the past seven years now, so it has started to feel like a second home for me. 

Jo was doing some filming for Audi, so I was doing my best to make an appearance in his video not as a blooper!

Jo was doing some filming for Audi, so I was doing my best to make an appearance in his video not as a blooper!

Lunch break on the top

Lunch break on the top

When in France... you must enjoy an evening of Fondue with Chef GuiGui.

When in France... you must enjoy an evening of Fondue with Chef GuiGui.

After a few days of rest and recovery, the second task was to get a little training block in. As a World Cup racer, if you follow the whole tour racing every single weekend with all the traveling in between, you rarely find a whole lot of time mid-week to get some hours on your skis. This winter I decided to skip a weekend of World Cup racing, and use the period to put some volume training in, in hopes to have a jump in fitness for Lahti World Champs. Sadly this meant that I needed to miss the pre-Olympic World Cup in PyeongChang. Fortunately, a few of my teammates did make the trip, so they will have to fill me in on all the little details leading into next year. 

Training Camp. (Yann Pesando photo).

Training Camp. (Yann Pesando photo).

I made a new friend on the trails, who happened to manage the Olympic Parc in town. Huge thanks to Yann Pesando for giving me access to the gym and spa in Meribel, making my camp even better!

I made a new friend on the trails, who happened to manage the Olympic Parc in town. Huge thanks to Yann Pesando for giving me access to the gym and spa in Meribel, making my camp even better!

Taking a trip to Courchevel on a snowy day with one of the local nordic ski instructors and a great cheerleader! 

Taking a trip to Courchevel on a snowy day with one of the local nordic ski instructors and a great cheerleader! 

The majority of my teammates went to Sweden during this time to do a training camp, but I chose to deviate in my own direction for a few reasons. I am really lucky to have my boyfriend living over here in France during the winter months. For many, they don't get to see their loved ones for the entire winter, which often means four and a half months away. Any chance I have to do a training camp, or a recovery in France with Jo is amazing. Jo also lives at altitude, so that means I got to do some altitude training as well! My boyfriend, and altitude are not my only favorite things about Meribel, I also love the skiing there! There is a great trail system with unlimited training options from race trails to recovery trails. The other little secret is that when you are cross country skiing in the world's largest alpine resort… you have the added beauty of being one of the only ones on the nordic trails. I have always loved the value of spending kilometers training alone. Almost every human alive feels they have a little voice inside their head. It either screams out harsh, mean, kind, encouraging, or any comment in between. The beauty of training alone is that you get to spend a lot of time with your little voice. You get to work on a positive, constructive and powerful relationship. I love taking the silent time to work with that voice, and prepare it for the challenging races to come. Some may call this confidence, others may call it crazy. Every athlete has their own ways and their own styles. This is just one of mine!

Fun to have the alpine and nordic tracks intertwined. 

Fun to have the alpine and nordic tracks intertwined. 

Fischer has this ski now that has skins under it, but just in the kick zone. It is incredible! When waxing gets tricky, and you are switching from ice, to wet, to powder... these things literally save the day. I am lucky that I have a wax technician that takes care of my skis on the World Cup, but I often really miss him during training camp , so these skis have kept my training high quality during those tricky waxing days! Amazingly, they are still really fast!

Fischer has this ski now that has skins under it, but just in the kick zone. It is incredible! When waxing gets tricky, and you are switching from ice, to wet, to powder... these things literally save the day. I am lucky that I have a wax technician that takes care of my skis on the World Cup, but I often really miss him during training camp , so these skis have kept my training high quality during those tricky waxing days! Amazingly, they are still really fast!

Jo's little pocket car taking on the snow storm day after day!

Jo's little pocket car taking on the snow storm day after day!

Making buddies with my little voice!

Making buddies with my little voice!

The past two weeks were incredible. I had a great block of training, I finally got to see winter for the first time with lots of snow, I got some time with my boyfriend to reground and find my happy place, and I mentally and physically prepared myself for the next five weeks of intense racing to come. I did the work, I prepared the very best I can, and I am now completely ready to take on the world! Since I have been most recently in France, maybe it's more appropriate to say "Je suis prête"!

Cheering on my younger teammates during World Junior Championships. Pretty incredible to see them on the podium! (USSA Nordic photo).

Cheering on my younger teammates during World Junior Championships. Pretty incredible to see them on the podium! (USSA Nordic photo).

(Yann Pesando photo).

(Yann Pesando photo).

For those that are interested to watch, the World Championships Schedule is (times listed are local):

Feb. 23- 3:00PM Skate Sprint Qualification, 5:30PM Heats

Feb. 25- 12:00PM Women's Skiathlon

Feb. 26- 11:30AM Women's Team Sprint

Feb. 28- 1:45 PM Women's Classic 10k

March 2- 3:00 PM Women's Relay

March 4- 2:30PM Women's 30k Skate

There will also be broadcasting on Universal HD and NBC Sports.

Before World Championships begins though, we have one more weekend of World Cup Racing in Otepaa, Estonia, where I am now. This is one of my favorite venue's on the World Cup Circuit, so I am really looking forward to it!

Tour de Rollercoaster

When I was a young kid, one of the first races that I participated in was this race called the Up, Down, and Around that took place on Snoqualmie Pass. You would ski 5k, then ski up a little alpine run, and then come down around some gates to the finish line. At the time that seemed like a large variety of skills needed for one race… but little did I know I was preparing for a future of racing in the Tour de Ski… where a large variety of skills is vital!

This years Tour de Ski had a little different path than my average. Last year was my first year finishing the Tour, but I had done the first four stages the year before that. So, I was on a mission to complete my second tour this year. In the past, I had always started these tours strong, and felt like I was hanging on to a wild bull for the second half, trying to keep control. This year though, I had some disappointing races to begin, and things went on a roller coaster ride from there. 

Beginning with Val Mustair, I had a great sprint qualifier, awesome feelings in my quarterfinal… but didn't have the final sprint in my muscles.. and went on to finish my worst sprint result of the year. The following day was a mass start 5k classic. That is my favorite race, so I was feeling excited, but stressed about starting in the 5th row of the mass start on such a short race. Between struggling with my skis, and going out harder than I should have, I managed to have my biggest blow up in a race on the World Cup. I literally got passed by 28 people in 2.5k. I felt like I was walking down the middle of an autobahn with cars thundering by me like crazy. It was a mentally tough two days, and I couldn't help but question if I had really messed things up getting sick for too long.

Another white ribbon race course in Val Mustair (Lilly Caldwell photo(.

Another white ribbon race course in Val Mustair (Lilly Caldwell photo(.

Chasing Diggy pre-explosion (Lilly Caldwell photo).

Chasing Diggy pre-explosion (Lilly Caldwell photo).

Trying to only look forward and keep each day something new, I went on to Obersdorf, and had my best ever World Cup finish, 5th in the pursuit race. I finally found some confident feelings, but turned around and had another disappointing day the following day in Obersdorf. All these ups and downs were becoming taxing. In my past I had always been so consistent, so I was having to learn to deal with these little swings mid tour and mid fatigue.

The traveling circus! 

The traveling circus! 

Following Obersdorf, we had a long 5 hour travel to Toblach in the middle of a snowstorm. Thankfully, we had a rest day during that period to recover for the final three race push. I have realized the rest days are almost the worst for me. Those are the days you stop your "auto-pilot fight mode" enough to look around.. and in my case get a bit too nervous. 

Going into the Toblach 5k, I was back into the "each day is a new day" mode. I have always loved the Toblach courses since being a junior, because there is so much hidden work on that course. The first half the course is all work, but the second half is somewhere between rest and work. If you go too hard at the beginning, you want to rest. If you have a little left, you can work, and make up some time. I always liked the challenge of this very different course than the majority of our World Cup courses. Feeling a little lethargic from the four previous days of racing, I approached Toblach 5k a little different than normal.

Toblach ouch-zone (Nordic Focus photo).

Toblach ouch-zone (Nordic Focus photo).

I went to Jason Cork the night before the race, who was planning to cheer at 2k, and asked him to hold back on yelling out splits against the other racers. Rather than get excited or bummed out at 2k, I was determined to stay in my own head on this day, and fight my own race. I wanted to pace myselfwithout comparing to the others, because I knew I could finish strong if I was in a strong mental place. 

I have worked really hard at my skate skiing these last few years. It had always bothered me that I couldn't ski at equal levels between techniques. I finally started having some breakthroughs last winter. Struggling with bone spurs early on last summer, I spent two months only skating… and I sort of felt that had changed the tone for my skate skiing through the summer. So, as I took off out of the gate on Friday, I tried to channel those beliefs, and go out there with no fear of failure. Sure, I had blown up super bad in the same distance just a few days ago in Val Mustair… but I was going to try my "no fear" method again. After going through my first kilometer patiently, I turned things on, and didn't look back.

The best part is that when I crossed the line, I had no idea how I was doing. I knew I could be racing somewhere top 10, but I had absolutely no idea I could be competing for the podium. As the realization came, and my teammates came running to me, I broke down in emotion! I knew I was capable of standing on an individual podium, but it felt so good to finally accomplish it! All that hard work, all those struggles, all those tough times… suddenly every single bit of it is worth it!

Nordic Focus photo.

Nordic Focus photo.

As I stood on the podium that day, I just wanted to hug the world! There are so, so many people that have been a part of allowing me to have such an opportunity. There were hundreds of bumps that nearly knocked me off my bike, and there were so many people that encouraged me and believed in me to keep pedaling! I know this is just one step in my career, but it feels like one that I will never forget! I just want to say thank you to every person that is a piece of my puzzle! You are all amazing people, and I hope you feel how important you are!

(Photo taken from Fasterskier).

(Photo taken from Fasterskier).

So, back to the tour. Because, that is how it works… you can't ever get too excited or too disappointed on this tour. You have to gather your belongings, run for the van, make your road trip, stuff your face with food… and set your mind to the next race. Well… turns out I didn't do as great of a job at that. I have become used to being "a consistent racer". I wasn't quite as prepared as I should have been for these roller coaster events that came at me this week. From my worst explosion, to my best race ever, to my NEW best race ever and a world cup podium. All in the course of five days, three road trips, lots of fatigue… and a few nasty bugs hanging around.

So, what felt like a small dust allergy irritation turned into a cold Saturday morning as we prepared for the second to last race of the tour. When you are on "fight mode", it is hard to stop and assess yourself. It was a tough decision to pull out of the Tour when I had already fought through five races, with only two to go. Sometimes it feels like even a cold couldn't stop you when your determination is on fire. But, trying to think "long term" for this season, I made the tough decision to pull the plug. While it felt like the end of the world Saturday morning, I have had some time to take away some lessons. Learning to ride the wave of emotions that comes with ski racing is a true talent! Being able to swallow both your greatest and worsts is key. Our immune systems are on constant work mode, and and we don't always have the power to fend if we are busy taking care of our crazy wild brain chemicals brewing up wild emotional soups. So that is a talent I am looking forward to conquering from here on out.

Drinking warm tea, and resting up.

Drinking warm tea, and resting up.

I got to watch the two last stages from bed, and was thoroughly impressed with the girls I was competing beside. There are some tough cookies out there, and just making it to the top of Alpe Cermise on day seven is a true achievement. If you watch all the bodies collapse as they cross the line, you realize it is no longer just the best in the world, it is the toughest in the world too.. and that is pretty incredible!

So, next up for me- rest, recovery, and start training again! Time to get 100% healthy again and ready for a big season still to come!