For the past three weeks I have been on the road with the APU team competing in my first period of racing. At the end of last season, I had a plan of racing the entire World Cup Season, but after a summer and fall plagued with injuries, I was forced to step back and find the best way to approach the season. This meant racing domestically for the first couple weeks of the season in West Yellowstone and Bozeman.

Doing nothing but aqua jogging and hiking uphill for the majority of the training season, I went into my first races having no expectations. My goal was simply to be able to race. I wanted to stand on the start line with a bib on, and have nothing but positive vibes, knowing two months ago, I was still struggling to be on my rollerskis for 30 minutes of training.

As my US Ski Team teammates left for Europe early this month, I got the same feeling I did over the summer when they took off for their Sweden Camp. I felt this pit in my stomach, “why can’t I be there”. But again, I had to convince myself I was doing what was best for the long term.
Cheering on my teammates for Relay day from afar!
Joining up with my APU teammates these past two weekends has been great. Waking up in the morning and seeing the results that my other teammates were producing on the World Cup was incredible. The buzz among our team, and the newfound determination was incredibly apparent. It’s as if this light popped on in all us, convincing us, “yes, we can do this”. We all felt the vibe, and we all challenged ourselves to step up our game one step further.

The racing for this first period got a little funny. First, there was no snow, which forced us to race up on the Plateau, around 7,500 feet… where the air is thin and the trails only seem to go uphill. Then as the races moved to Bozeman, each new race was forced to be moved further up the resort as the snow melted away much too fast. In the end, all the races were still able to happen, thanks to a huge amount of shoveling and extra effort that went into the events.
leading out a pack during the mass start- faster skier photo
I went into the first race, a 9k skate uphill with not an expectation in the world. My goal was simply to keep my head in a positive place the whole race. I knew the challenges I had this summer were not setting me up to feel like my normal self racing, so I simply had the goal of keeping the positive self talk. Somehow with the lack of air, and the “racing in the woods” atmosphere, I was able to finish in a decent place.

As one of our teammates yelled in the race, "Who really wants it"- fasterskier photo

After finishing that first race, the confidence and natural feelings came back. The thing that came trickling in was belief. Believing in myself was easily looked over as I faced all the challenges coming my way. Through this entire summer, I got countless emails and calls from my coaches and teammates reminding me that I had to believe that I could come out of this challenge, but its easier said than done. As I talked with my teammates on Skype after their historic podium in the relay, they told me about the one thing they kept reminding each other of during that race. “You have to believe you can do it”, so that’s what I have tried to focus on during this beginning part of the season. Even with the highs and lows that every season brings- it’s important to start the season remembering that I must first believe in myself, and then the door opens up.
Leading off one of the skate sprint heats- Lauren Fritz photo
Skate Sprinting- Erin Phillips photo
Leading off the start- Erin Phillips photo
And Sophie sneaks by with her special moves at the finish AGAIN!

So, back to the racing, here are a few highlights from the past few weeks.

1.     EBJ- my brother has been racing on fire! For the first couple races, somehow we kept getting the same place. We used to do this when we were younger too. Every running race we ever entered, somehow we always came out in the same place. I guess in this case its good news, since we are now both sitting as Supertour leaders, which means we both will be traveling to period 2 World Cups. I am supe excited for his World Cup Debut, it’s a whole new world for him now!

Erik dropping the pack- Fasterskier Photo
2.     My races somehow all seemed to build from the start. 4th place, 2nd place, 1st, and 1st.

A tired finish by the end of the race- Fasterskier photo
3.     Kikkan and I have somehow convinced the world that aqua jogging is the new training method. I can’t wait to see everyone try it!
4.     The APU team had a breakthrough as a whole. There will be 9 athletes attending the World Cups. Almost everyone on the team had a personal best in the past two weeks of racing!

Sweeping the podium with my teammates for the classic sprint! Erin Phillips photo
Lining up for the finals with Lauren Fritz who had a breakthrough race in the classic sprint! Yeah Lauren.
5.     APU got some new wax techs this year. The new young boys lived up to the challenge, and rocked! They were up until 1PM every evening and up at 4AM every morning. The hard work paid off though because we had rockin’ skis every race!
6.     My parents got to come watch the Bozeman races. They haven’t gotten to see me race in two years after being sick for Nationals last year, so that was pretty exciting!
7.     My injuries were able to stay in a good place for these first races, which gives me hope for full recovery! Yehoo
8.     I am currently sitting on the plane traveling to Quebec City for my first World Cups of the season. There will be a city sprint this weekend in Quebec City around the Parliament Building, team sprint and individual sprint. City sprints are by far the most exciting World Cup Racing gets. For a day you get to feel like a celebrity skiing along the man made snow laid down along the streets. As people are screaming and trying to reach out to touch you behind the fences; you somehow find one new level of motivation and determination to be the best. I couldn’t be more excited all my APU teammates get to experience this, I can only imagine this is going to lift the bar for our training group one step higher!

And... this is what we will be sprinting around!
So with that- its back to joining up with the US Ski Team, and the rest of the speedy Europeans. Lots of exciting times coming soon!