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!

Holiday Fever

The holidays started a little early for me this year, mostly unwanted, but they turned out to be pretty amazing! Last year I started sitting out the distance race in Davos, and it has helped me manage the fatigue level of period one, keeping me healthy along the way. I went with the same plan this year, despite starting to really enjoy distance skate races, but I was sure I was staying on track. Unfortunately, just after the Davos sprint, I woke up with a nasty cold that was making its rounds among our team. In a desperate attempt to try to be healthy by the following weekend, I tried shutting it down as quick as I could!

Davos white ribbon training. (Sverre Caldwell photo)

Davos white ribbon training. (Sverre Caldwell photo)

Davos sprint racing. (Noah Hoffman photo)

Davos sprint racing. (Noah Hoffman photo)

Marcel Hilger photo.

Marcel Hilger photo.

With a long day of travel to France, a few days of rest, and my boyfriend, Jo, around to cheer up my spirits, I tried to fool myself into feeling totally better by the weekend. I have been dreaming of racing a World Cup in France for several years now, since it feels about as close to "home course" as I will have. Since dating Jo for many years now, I have many friends and family that were coming to watch. Not to mention, it was a relay weekend.. my favorite! I set out to do race prep the day before the race, ignoring my warning signs.. but determined as heck. Saturday morning when I woke up to race.. I knew I was in trouble. I was still extremely sick. That is when I made the tough decision to sit out the weekend. Every athlete in the world is insanely determined.. and to have to sit on the sidelines for a weekend can sometimes feel like the end of the world. Fortunately, all my French friends and family were very kind, and encouraged me to not sweat it. I went up to watch the women's relay, and was amazed with the atmosphere up there. La Clusaz did an amazing job of pulling off that race, and there was an incredible amount of energy on the side of the trail! I can only hope we get to return again!

La Clusaz is the home to our amazing wax technition, Jean-Pascal Lauren.

La Clusaz is the home to our amazing wax technition, Jean-Pascal Lauren.

The La Clusaz white ribbon.

The La Clusaz white ribbon.

Adventuring around the La Clusaz region to one of the famous Tour de France climbs, Cold de la Colombiere.

Adventuring around the La Clusaz region to one of the famous Tour de France climbs, Cold de la Colombiere.

Pretty fortunate to have this little gem around to cheer me up! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Pretty fortunate to have this little gem around to cheer me up! (Caitlin Patterson photo)

Cheering on some relay racing for Sunday's race. 

Cheering on some relay racing for Sunday's race. 

Some wonderful Hauteville company!

Some wonderful Hauteville company!

I spent the next week following La Clusaz trying to get healthy, while doing easy distance and chasing the snow. Buckling down, and being more patient than normal, I waited for the timely two week cold to pass. 

Enjoying some wonderful company for a ski! Pauline (girlfriend of JP), Marine, Liz and I.

Enjoying some wonderful company for a ski! Pauline (girlfriend of JP), Marine, Liz and I.

Making a trip down to Annecy for some site seeing. 

Making a trip down to Annecy for some site seeing. 

Christmas has turned out to be a really challenging time to find snow for the past three winters. With nothing but dirt at my boyfriends home, Meribel, I was forced to stationary bike, hike and exergenie for training. I took a road trip to one of my favorite places in the world to ski, Les Saisies, which was amazing. After traveling to Jo's family's house Christmas Eve night in Hauteville, I ventured on the train towards Villard de Lans on Christmas day to finish off our holiday break. I was greeted with a wonderful 4k loop in Autrans, and some great family time with my brothers girlfriends' family. I have travelled to VIllard de Lans for the past three years, and every time it feels a bit more like home. It is very bizarre that Erik and I both have French significant others, but it is a true gift at the same time. I have some amazing people around me, taking care of me, and helping me from getting too homesick on this long four month overseas world cup tour.

hiking in dry Meribel.

hiking in dry Meribel.

A day in Les Saisies on some amazing trails with the huge Mont Blanc behind.

A day in Les Saisies on some amazing trails with the huge Mont Blanc behind.

Christmas in Hauteville.

Christmas in Hauteville.

The Maubet's do it right! Fireworks, Christmas Lights, and an amazing feast!

The Maubet's do it right! Fireworks, Christmas Lights, and an amazing feast!

More food than you could imagine, but so amazing!

More food than you could imagine, but so amazing!

Ever wonder who is on the train on Christmas? Turns out there are a lot of people! Europeans are so smart with their transportation!

Ever wonder who is on the train on Christmas? Turns out there are a lot of people! Europeans are so smart with their transportation!

The second christmas tree, waiting for me in Villard, thanks to Rosie!

The second christmas tree, waiting for me in Villard, thanks to Rosie!

Roaming the streets of Villard de Lans with Marine.

Roaming the streets of Villard de Lans with Marine.

From there, I am finally feeling healthy again, and have made the trek to Val Mustair, Switzerland for the start of the Tour de Ski. I am really looking forward to it, maybe more so than ever after having such a long break from racing. The Tour is a beast of its own, and something new every year, so I can't wait to see what is to come!

Here is the schedule of events for the Tour:

VAL MUSTAIR
Saturday, December 31, 2016
12:20 - Sprint F Prologue, 14:50 - Sprint Finals
Sunday, January 1, 2017
13:00 - MEN 10 km C mass start,16:00 - LADIES 5 km C mass start

OBERSTDORF
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
12:15 - LADIES 5 km + 5 km Skiathlon, 15:15 - MEN 10 km Skiathlon
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
11:30 - LADIES 10 km + 10 km F Pursuit, 12:45 - MEN 15km F Pursuit

TOBLACH-DOBBIACO
Friday, January 6, 2017
10:45 - MEN 10 km F, 13:00 - LADIES 5 km F

VAL DI FIEMME
Saturday, January 7, 2017
14:30 - LADIES 10 km C, 15:30 - MEN 15 km C Mass start
Sunday, January 8, 2017
11:30 - LADIES Final Climb 9 km F, 15:30 - MEN Final Climb 9 km F

Happy Holidays to everyone all across the world. I hope everyone got to enjoy a little love and laughter… and maybe even some snow if you were lucky!

Lillehammer Mini-Tour

We just completed week two of this years World Cup season in Lillehammer, Norway. Period one seems to always follow the same relative schedule for the first three weeks of the season, so I am starting to feel at home in our Period one tour. 

Testing skis, and enjoying kilometers with JP and Rosie. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Testing skis, and enjoying kilometers with JP and Rosie. (Matt Whitcomb photo)

The first week, when we arrive to Kuusamo, I am re-introduced to what World Cup courses feel like, and how challenging they are. Just when I think I have wrapped my brain around it, we arrive in Lillehammer in week two, where it turns out there is a such thing as World Cup courses with no flat sections. I am proud to say, I think this is the first year I finally accepted it, and learned to embrace it, rather than fear it. This occurred midway through Saturday's skate race, when I was halfway up the four minute climb on the course.

Zooming into the finish. (Jim Wilderness photo)

Zooming into the finish. (Jim Wilderness photo)

This year's Lillehammer weekend consisted of a mini-tour, meaning we had three races, and the weekend was a combined score at the end. Day one was a classic sprint, day two was a 5k skate, and day three was a 10k classic starting on your combined times and bonus' from the first two races. By the end of the 10k classic, your finishing place was your combined place from the three days. I have always loved the tour format of racing, because I have worked really hard to become an all around skier. The first day started with a bang for me, after qualifying number one in the sprint! I have only done that once before, in Quebec City last spring, but in a skate sprint. So, it felt pretty good to know that I could lay down the fastest time on the course in classic technique as well! As I went into the heats, I made some tactical decisions from the start that didn't put me in a great place, and I struggled to find my strong classic skiing, eventually getting kicked out in the quarter finals. After going from so much excitement, to a lot of disappointment, I struggled to find the silver lining initially. Sprint racing is frustrating that way! Small mistakes, or small moves can be the difference between moving on to the next rounds, or maybe even winning a medal on that day. Every move is important, so I have learned over the years that I can't ever read into sprint racing too much. The golden part is that if I can lay down the fastest time, I can race to the finals as well. So, I am looking forward to more and more opportunities practicing this! We have our first skate sprint next weekend in Davos, so there is more to come soon!

Bjornsen bookends for the qualification rounds. (Sophie Caldwell photo)

Bjornsen bookends for the qualification rounds. (Sophie Caldwell photo)

Wave to the world... here we go! (Bryan Fish photo)

Wave to the world... here we go! (Bryan Fish photo)

Pushing over the final climb during quarterfinals (Bryan Fish photo).

Pushing over the final climb during quarterfinals (Bryan Fish photo).

Disappointment quickly cured with a little smiley hug like this! Thanks Breck!

Disappointment quickly cured with a little smiley hug like this! Thanks Breck!

Teammates are amazing! Thanks Jess.

Teammates are amazing! Thanks Jess.

The second day of the tour was a 5k skate race. I was looking forward to this race in particular, because we hadn't done any skate racing yet this season. It is also an exceptionally hilly course, which has been a challenge for me in the past, so I wanted to put myself to the test to see what I could do. As I was climbing up the big infamous extended four minute climb on the course, halfway up I started wondering why I feared big hills so much. We do so much uphill training in Anchorage all summer long, I had to stop fearing them! I finished the 5k skate happy with the race, but I just knew I could do better with less fear! Not only that, my roommate and teammate, Diggy, won the race in a totally fearless manner. She went out on the course and just "sent it" without thinking twice. Jessie has always impressed me with her ability to push through all amounts of pain, but she also has inspired me in her ability to never fear failure! She goes out there full throttle, and hangs tough! It was fun to see her stand on top of the podium, which gave me a piece of hope for our whole team this season.

Climbing those hills. Nordic Focus photo.

Climbing those hills. Nordic Focus photo.

Our multitalented Jessie Diggins!

Our multitalented Jessie Diggins!

A smiley crew after finishing that race! (Lilly Caldwell photo)

A smiley crew after finishing that race! (Lilly Caldwell photo)

Watching the boys on TV as Packer chases down a pretty good ride! It has been great to have Packer on the road during Period one, discovering the world of European World Cup racing!

Watching the boys on TV as Packer chases down a pretty good ride! It has been great to have Packer on the road during Period one, discovering the world of European World Cup racing!

With my newfound realization, I went into Sunday's 10k classic with a different frame of mind. I was starting within a pack of lots of strong skiers, in 12th place, so I knew I was going to need to hang tough. And, surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed the race! I felt strong climbing, and enjoyed getting to every new hill. I had a sprint off to the line for top ten, but unfortunately didn't quite get it, so I finished 11th on the day, which was another improvement from the day before!

Nordic Focus photo. 

Nordic Focus photo. 

One of my favorite parts about Lillehammer, is it generally falls right around the start of December, the time that Christmas starts feeling near by. Lillehammer, as a city, has a lot of festive energy. They always have lots of lights, decorations, and tons of little Christmas shops. I no longer have the holiday homesick feeling when I visit, instead it almost starts to feel like home! Not only that, we had total winter surrounding us. There was real, natural snow on the ground, which sadly doesn't happen so often before January. So, thanks to Norway for a great show!

I am now just arriving in Davos, Switzerland, home of week three of the World Cup. There is no snow on the ground, but there is a little white ribbon of man made snow on the 5k race course, so the winter racing will go on!

Back at it!

These past few months, I have taken a small break from my blog, as I have channeled and focused all my efforts and thoughts towards preparing for the start of the season. The last time I checked in was before our final US Ski Team Camp in Park City. A week before heading down to the Lower-48 for the final altitude and high volume training block with my teammates, my previously troublesome heel spurs flared up. I have had a history of dealing with these heel spurs, and recently spent the first few months of this summer’s training avoiding classic skiing in order to get them under control following our spring Bend Camp. Unfortunately, the problem returned.

Trying to remain positive, I dove into my “shoeless challenge” of ski erg, slipper spin biking, and swimming. Spending weeks outside of ski boots and shoes, I spent the past two months attempting to control the inflammation while simultaneously trying to figure out why it was happening.  With the help of my coach, Erik Flora, and my physical therapist, Zuzana Rodgers, we mapped out a different preparation route than normal, which didn’t involve a whole lot of days with ski boots on.

Erg "race-off". Jo rowing vs. me skiing......

Erg "race-off". Jo rowing vs. me skiing......

Guess who won....???

Guess who won....???

Heel-less biking

Heel-less biking

Ski Erg Intervals- one great way to entertain yourself on this machine!

Ski Erg Intervals- one great way to entertain yourself on this machine!

Back to my swimming roots. (Classic Visions Photography).

Back to my swimming roots. (Classic Visions Photography).

 Every athlete has stress and anxiety leading into the season. We spend four winter months racing head to head against one another, each weekend fighting to be the best. The routine of racing somehow becomes normal. Although we are nervous for every race, we still fall asleep the night before, and we often carry a certain amount of confidence based on how we have been performing. Then, the summer months come along, and we spend eight months away from the racing scene, training incredibly hard, rarely feeling sharp or speedy. As a result, we come into the season with a big question mark. It’s like we start back at ground zero in the confidence department. No matter how you raced the season before, you always have a hint of question, and maybe even fear.

Even more so than ever, I suffered a case of "question” this season. Although I have had my fair share of injury and diverse training in the past, I have never fought through it the months leading into the season. Not only that, I was in a place that I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to start the season. Fortunately I have an incredible team on my side. I have a coach that reminds me every day that “training is training”, and remains unbelievably positive and encouraging. I have a physical therapist that not only treats my heels, but also helps with the mental part. I have a team that breeds encouragement and confidence. And I have amazing family and group of friends keeping my spirits high!

Pretty amazing to have a team around you keeping it light and fun! (SIA photo- Reese Brown).

Pretty amazing to have a team around you keeping it light and fun! (SIA photo- Reese Brown).

My pre-season training partner in crime, ready to hit the nordic trails!

My pre-season training partner in crime, ready to hit the nordic trails!

During my final week, I got a chance to say goodbye to many of my friends and sponsors. During a goodbye party that Delta Constructors had put on for me, I was talking to one of the owners of the company. When he asked me how I was feeling leading into the season, I told him my story, and how I was on the verge of frustration levels. He started talking about his company and how with everything in life, there are bone spurs. You will always run into issues, and have to find creative and constructive ways to get around them and remain successful. It was an awesome “real life” reminder.

Thanks Delta Constructors and Ed Gohr for being such amazing supporters!

Thanks Delta Constructors and Ed Gohr for being such amazing supporters!

Making time to celebrate our annual "Thanksmas" with my roommates in Alaska. Although it is often celebrated in early November, before we hit the road, it is still one of my favorite holidays of the year!

Making time to celebrate our annual "Thanksmas" with my roommates in Alaska. Although it is often celebrated in early November, before we hit the road, it is still one of my favorite holidays of the year!

We have just completed our first World Cup weekend of the season, in Kuusamo, Finland. In my past, this has been one of my favorite race venues. I often feel rested and sharp, which has allowed me to fall in love with the hills there. With race day only being my third time on classic skis in two months, it wasn’t my usual, poppy and confident feeling on my skis. Not only that, I had more nerves than ever before. But, I survived, and was happy with “the start”. Fortunately we have a four-month season, so I have some time to get my gears shifting, and ready to rally.

Talking strategy with women's coach, Matt Whitcomb. (Noah Hoffman photo).

Talking strategy with women's coach, Matt Whitcomb. (Noah Hoffman photo).

Celebrating my 27th birthday with my teammates and this wonderfully delicious cake Caitlin Patterson made me in Finland.  

Celebrating my 27th birthday with my teammates and this wonderfully delicious cake Caitlin Patterson made me in Finland.  

After two months of wonder, most importantly, I am so excited to be here racing! Racing is the best part of what we do! Testing your mind and body, seeing how fast you can move on your skis.. it is a pretty fun art! It definitely makes it worth walking around in heelless slippers all day!

Discovering the pain cave again! Big shout out to Jack Novak for giving me a pair of his perfectly soft, worn in, size large ski boots so that my feet can recover! (Ski Trax/Nordic Focus photo)

Discovering the pain cave again! Big shout out to Jack Novak for giving me a pair of his perfectly soft, worn in, size large ski boots so that my feet can recover! (Ski Trax/Nordic Focus photo)

In the meantime, my amazing and silly wax technician, JP, is "wearing in" and softening my new boots for me.

In the meantime, my amazing and silly wax technician, JP, is "wearing in" and softening my new boots for me.

We are currently traveling to Norway, our next stop on the World Cup Circuit, for a three day mini tour. Norway has always been one of my favorite places to race, so I look forward to the weekend to come!

Discovering lap swimming on the road!

Discovering lap swimming on the road!

Pretty fun to have baby Breck on the road with us!

Pretty fun to have baby Breck on the road with us!

Race Schedule for the winter is:

The Art of Keeping Up

September is often known to cross country skiers, and certainly to myself, as the most challenging month of the year. As Kikkan would say, "it feels like trying to keep frogs in a wheel barrow". Every time you get all your froggies collected, a new one jumps out! It is the month that we are both training lots, and training a lot of hard intensity. It is the month that I often find myself doing many sponsor engagements and community engagements. It is the month that school starts back up for me, so I have to find some extra energy for my brain power. And finally, it is the month that the cold, dark and sometimes snow arrives in Alaska. 

Spending the afternoon with Alaska Child and Family.

Spending the afternoon with Alaska Child and Family.

Fast and Female season.

Fast and Female season.

Frogs going everywhere!

Frogs going everywhere!

Every year I put on my armor, and brace myself for September, because it is the same every year. I try to direct as much attention as possible towards my ski racing, and minimize the others. The transition from doing tons of distance training, to doing some form of intensity every day is an adjustment! I get used to knowing how much to eat, how much to rest, and how much it takes to recover from training 20 hours during the summer months. As the cold arrives, and I start turning up the guns for September, I find it requires twice the amount of rest to recover and show up the next day ready to rally. Despite the wild world of events, September happens to be one of my favorite months. The rush always gets me excited for the winter, and the racing season to come. Distance training can sometimes feel monotonous and boring, so when it comes time to go fast, I start getting addicted to those endorphin rushes following training, and the wonderful feeling of fatigue, where you know you did a good job at work today! 

Taking a long rollerski trip from Trunk Road to the top of Hatchers Pass.

Taking a long rollerski trip from Trunk Road to the top of Hatchers Pass.

As an athlete, we become addicted to challenging ourselves one more step than recommended. The plan says five times eight minutes of intervals… but six sounds so good! I'm supposed to be in Level 3, should I go a little harder and take advantage of following my teammate that is an expert at uphill skate? Three days of races at the end of a hard training week, how deep can I dig that last day when I feel utterly exhausted? Sunday is rest day.. why not throw in one more workout! The best athletes are addicted to pushing that line, otherwise we wouldn't get this far. The line becomes blurry at some point.. how much is too much? Am I doing damage always finding the extra challenge? Will I be too tired next week if I do one more interval in this set? Or, is this extra interval the mental challenge I need to be confident to make that A-final this winter? When I look from the outside in, to me it feels like an art! Training is such a meticulous and perfect project of action.

An afternoon hiking with my wonderful Delta Constructor sponsors. 

An afternoon hiking with my wonderful Delta Constructor sponsors. 

Every athlete paints their picture differently. Some go into overdrive, and let their minds take over. Others look to the people around them to try to get the best direction. Some are experts of "sending it", but become very good at turning their actions into beauty at the end. Every year, I learn one more lesson as an artist! I have always been an artist with a little bit of a conservative nature. This is a result of having struggled with injury a lot. I am learning though that there are the right times to challenge my brain, challenge my ability to dig deep, and challenge my ability to think "that's all I have". During September though, it is always the most challenging month to paint. I call it the art of keeping up!

Amazing to have teammates that push you every day!

Amazing to have teammates that push you every day!

So what are some of the pieces of this September artwork?

Fast and Female Season- Months of planning for this event, but always such an amazing piece to be a part of. This year we were in the Alaska Airlines Center, which was a fun new twist to our usual event. 

What an incredible building! The Seawolves have a pretty nice home.

What an incredible building! The Seawolves have a pretty nice home.

Endurance Sports Station lead by the wonderful Tiffanie Bird and Tasha Bergt.

Endurance Sports Station lead by the wonderful Tiffanie Bird and Tasha Bergt.

School Season- I am working on my Masters in Business at APU. Class starts with three ten hour days of class, and then meeting online the next eight weeks.

It's off to school I go.

It's off to school I go.

My watch was beeping at me a lot! 10 hours of sitting doesn't go over so well with me, or Polar!

My watch was beeping at me a lot! 10 hours of sitting doesn't go over so well with me, or Polar!

Time-Trial Season- We practice our racing and get to challenge ourselves to get ready for the real deal.

Chasing the boys during a sprint TT. Faster skis makes for a fun challenge for both of us! (Eric Packer photo)

Chasing the boys during a sprint TT. Faster skis makes for a fun challenge for both of us! (Eric Packer photo)

Feeling pretty stoked after completing three tough days of racing at the end of the block (Chris Hodel photo).

Feeling pretty stoked after completing three tough days of racing at the end of the block (Chris Hodel photo).

Injury Management- I have been managing a knee imbalance injury the past two months, so jumping back into the activities I have missed is a slow, but oh so exciting process.

Trip #40 up an "uphill only" hike with my trusted partner in crime! Ski walking has been our best friend this fall!

Trip #40 up an "uphill only" hike with my trusted partner in crime! Ski walking has been our best friend this fall!

 

Hunting Season- Time to live off the land a little. Moose, Fish and Grouse filling the freezer.

Jojo's first moose!

Jojo's first moose!

Growing up vegetarian means that I have been forced to get over many "dislikes". One of which was touching meat. Several days later of processing, I am finally ok with it!

Growing up vegetarian means that I have been forced to get over many "dislikes". One of which was touching meat. Several days later of processing, I am finally ok with it!

Staying warm in my down outfit during grouse hunting season. 

Staying warm in my down outfit during grouse hunting season. 

Enjoying my last campfire before the winter season. 

Enjoying my last campfire before the winter season. 

I finally contributed to the freezer with my grouse!

I finally contributed to the freezer with my grouse!

Rainy, Snowy, Dark Season- Staying warm is sometimes the largest challenge.

I can't tell if she is my body guard for the house, or the guard not letting me out of the house?

I can't tell if she is my body guard for the house, or the guard not letting me out of the house?

October time! I am now headed to Park City, Utah for our final season preparation at altitude. I can't wait to meet up with my teammates and do some final training together before we hit the road! I am also looking forward to hopefully getting a little bit of PC's special sunshine to warm me up a bit!

When it rains.... it shines!

It was an interesting August up here in Alaska. I spent the first week of the month up on Eagle Glacier for my final camp of the season. It was by far one of the wettest camps I have had up there. Thank god I have a rain suit to keep me dry enough to train as much as I wanted. When you become soaked to the core in the first twenty minutes of your ski, and then the wind starts blowing… it is tough to stay warm. So, I went out every day, put my hood up, my rain pants on, and chipped away at my training, even having some laughs sometimes how crazy the weather was. While the sun wasn't shining, I did finish the week having accomplished some of my goals for the summer. 75 hours of training on Eagle Glacier over the course of June, July and August meant I got to spend lots of time on some of the technical side of skiing in addition to building my base!

Rain suits, dry bags, and smiles.... a wet mess!

Rain suits, dry bags, and smiles.... a wet mess!

Intervals in my dry suit... Smurf skiing!

Intervals in my dry suit... Smurf skiing!

Famous APU team relay snowball champions.

Famous APU team relay snowball champions.

After that week of wet, I assumed the sunshine would come back. With such an awesome summer so far, the sun never disappeared for too long. Turned out, he needed a little time out. For six weeks straight, the rain came down day after day! When people say "when it rains, it pours"… that felt like the truth! Every morning I would wake up to the familiar noise of rain falling on the roof, and my hopes would die down. I would wake up, turn on my "sun lamp", layer up for the wet, and go puddle hopping on my skis…. again!

Down jackets in August!!

Down jackets in August!!

Olympic Games with the young kids at The Alaska Club. This little one was the cutest gold medal winner of the day!

Olympic Games with the young kids at The Alaska Club. This little one was the cutest gold medal winner of the day!

Amongst this rainy block, I have also been battling a little overuse knee injury. Similar to the sunshine, I was maybe getting just a little bit too excited with my running this summer. Living in the mountains, and being a cross country ski racer means that running is one of the best forms of training. It is free, it requires no equipment, and it is relatively safe compared to dodging the cars on the road. Unfortunately, my "too excited" has left my a bit sidelined for the month.

Remembering my younger swim racing days during the Olympics, and some pool training this last month.

Remembering my younger swim racing days during the Olympics, and some pool training this last month.

The combination of the rain, and the frustration of injury took me on a pretty good roller coaster ride this past month. So, I made a rule for myself… something that would seem pretty obvious, but hard to do. Every day, I was going to find something positive. One summer when Swedish star, Anna Haag, came to train with the APU Team, she told me something that I will never forget. "If you are never injured at this level, you are never pushing yourself hard enough". Learning your limits is part of being an athlete. Learning to deal with adversity and find positive ways to get through it comes with the territory. With that on my mind each day, I could either go home and eat an entire bottle of Vitamin D, go into hibernation, and wait for the storm to pass… or I could find the sunshine!

Training differently has not only kept things a little more fresh, but it has gotten my "motivation" back into a high gear. As I am patiently waiting for my tendons to be bomb proof again, I am working on some of my weakness's, something I may not have focused on otherwise. And when I get to head back out in the mountains for a run, I can tell you it will be for more than just the training value…. it will be an overly happy Sadie leaping along!

Starting on the final day of our APU rollerski mini-tour... working on my uphill pain tolerance!

Starting on the final day of our APU rollerski mini-tour... working on my uphill pain tolerance!

Finishing the climb still alive!

Finishing the climb still alive!

And guess what?! Just when I thought the rain would never stop, the sun came out to play this week! Already I can see smiles popping up on everyone! So if anyone ever tells you "when it rains… it pours", don't believe them! The sun will always come!

Enjoying my first sunset in a while!

Enjoying my first sunset in a while!

Enjoying some uphill hiking with the french boys on the first sunny day!!

Enjoying some uphill hiking with the french boys on the first sunny day!!

On to September!

My 10 Favorites

Every summer I make it a habit to travel home 1 or 2 times in the summer months to visit my parents. With the wild schedule I have in the winter, jumping from one country to the next every week chasing the World Cup, unfortunately, I never get to come home in the winter anymore. Every time I make it home during the summer months though, I find myself falling in love with my home town a little bit more. As a kid, I didn't really know the world outside, so I didn't have quite the appreciation I have today. After training all over the world, I am convinced I grew up in one of the greatest places in the world to train. With a few more hilly, paved roads for rollerskiing… it would quickly jump to the front of the list! Last week while visiting home, I collected a list of 10 of the greatest things about the Methow Valley to share just how great this little heaven in the woods is.

1. Family- There is no better thing in the world than spending some time with family. The world is big, and the days go fast, so you have to truly cherish every wonderful moment you get with your family!

Rock hopping with my mom.

Rock hopping with my mom.

Climbing high on Hearts Pass.

Climbing high on Hearts Pass.

Pretty impressive my parents rock a 3 hour run no problem!

Pretty impressive my parents rock a 3 hour run no problem!

A little Granny time on a long layover through Seattle. As you can see, I think I got my height from her!!

A little Granny time on a long layover through Seattle. As you can see, I think I got my height from her!!

2. Cold Water- Anyone that knows me well knows I love to drink "cold water" more than anything in the world. A glass of ice cold water makes my world a better place. So, when the temperatures reach 100 degrees, not only do I appreciate the ice cold water that magically comes out of our faucet in the mountains… but I love the unlimited options for swimming in cold water. High mountain lakes, rivers, creeks… these are saviors when it comes to training in the heat.

Cascade Plunge!

Cascade Plunge!

Our little river spot below the house.

Our little river spot below the house.

3. Heat- ok, I guess I will put this on the list of my favorites. Despite the fact that I have lost all of my heat tolerance, I do still do secretly enjoy the heat. Alaska gets warm, but not quite to the level that the Methow brings. If you heat yourself to the core during the summer, the winter isn't so bad!

4. Unlimited Adventuring- This past week Erik made it a rule that we had to do some sort of new adventure every day. I thought I had already seen the best of the Methow. For anyone that has been there, Cuthroat, Silver Star, and the birthday tour have topped that list for me. But, I discovered even more! It turns out the Methow is the worlds largest running playground. There is incredible running trails everywhere! Even after spending the first 17 years of my life here, I had no idea some of these little secret heaven's existed! I already have a list to explore next time I come!

It may be a sketchy road to get there, but it sure is worth it! (Dead Horse Point)

It may be a sketchy road to get there, but it sure is worth it! (Dead Horse Point)

I forget about these crossings when I spend too much time in Alaska!

I forget about these crossings when I spend too much time in Alaska!

5. Peace and Quiet- After spending the past six summers living in the city, I have forgotten how peaceful it is to fall asleep at night to total stillness. No horns, no sirens, no cars, no airplanes… just the crickets. Ahhhhhhhhh!

A silent lake.... before the Bjornsen's arrived.

A silent lake.... before the Bjornsen's arrived.

6. Memories- The place that you grow up will always be covered with fun memories. Whether that is crossing an old friend you haven't seen in forever, or running a trail that you did when you were five years old, or going through old pictures. It always feels good to takea walk through memory lane! Especially when the majority of those memories are warm and wonderful.

Erik with one of his first outfits... hard to believe such a large boy was so small at a time!

Erik with one of his first outfits... hard to believe such a large boy was so small at a time!

7. Secret Spots- The Methow is covered with little "secret spots". For some that is a secret swimming hole, for others that is a secret camping spot, or a secret yurt in the woods. I love discovering these little secret spots. You almost feel like you are homesteading a treasure island.

Look closely for a high mountain Yurt nestled in the woods. Sounds like a pretty sweet spot to visit in the winter!

Look closely for a high mountain Yurt nestled in the woods. Sounds like a pretty sweet spot to visit in the winter!

8. Next Door Neighbors- One day while I was running, my phone sent me messages welcoming me to Canada, and asking me what sort of plan I would like to use during my trip. Sometimes I forget how close our little village in the hills is to Canada. While it may take a long while to drive, a bird or a hiker can get there pretty darn quickly.

Not far from Canada...

Not far from Canada...

9. Mountains on Mountains-Nestled in the woods, this little valley has ginormous mountains in every direction. Steep, rocky, and full of trees- these mountains always feel different than the others I spend my time in.

10. Happy Vibe- A happy buzz goes a long ways! Thanks Methow Valley for filing me up with happy!

Back to Alaska. Back to the snow. Time to put one more focused week of training on Eagle Glacier for the summer. No rest for the weary.