This past week has been one of the best weeks I have had to this day- for so many different reasons. National Championships are always a great experience and caries so much honor to take part in. I went into this week with expectations, but nothing specific. After spending most of my Christmas break trying to get the tendinitis in my foot back under control, again I was simply happy to be able to race!
(All Fasterskier photos)
|Soph and I handing out hugs on the podium! :)|
When I think back on this week though, there is two things that made it super special: Family and Team!
For two years, my family hasn’t been able to watch me race for various reasons. I was sick over Nationals last year, and frankly, I just haven’t done much racing near home! This year though, my parents have gotten to watch quite a bit. Every weekend my moms screaming voice and my dads soft encouragement has allowed me to dig a bit deeper. Since I was a very young child, my parents have been nothing but supportive and encouraging of our athletic dreams. They are the number one believers, and somehow they will do anything to help make it happen. This is something that I have learned to appreciate over the past few years, so to be able to walk up to my parents and give them a huge hug after winning a National Title, and see the excitement in their eyes…. It means the world! Not only that, my brother is doing the same. I have been training alongside Erik since a young child; lived with him, talked goals with him, encouraged him, beat him to the line a couple times, and just shared this joy of our sport. To see him start to truly shine this year is so exciting! To hear “And Erik Bjornsen takes the win” stirs up all the emotions inside. In a way, my family’s success is my own, shared success. On the other hand, it is still a constant competition between the two of us. Every day he has a better day than me.. it’s time to out-do him next time! So between our 7 medals we won at National Championships this year- you can imagine the Bjornsen Family went to bed with big smiles at nighttime! Not only the Bjornsen Family, but also all my relatives that have now started watching results, following live timing, and getting online in the crack of dawn to watch the European races on the internet. Thanks you guys for all the notes of encouragement and cheering into the computer!
|My mom nothing but smiles after my classic win! (All photos Fasterskier photos)|
|Erik B and Erik Flora after Erik's first National Title... tears of joy!|
The other thing that made this week really special was my team. Both teams, my US Ski Team and my APU Team. During the beginning of the week, the US Ski Team was over in Europe racing in the Tour de Ski; the most challenging ski race in the world. With seven races in nine days… it’s a test of fitness, heart, and determination! Those girls were truly inspirational and kept me challenging myself this week. Each one of them had more than a dozen PR’s or great moments. Not only that, day after day, when the exhaustion set in, they continued to charge! So, every time I felt the pain in my own races; all I had to think about was those girls over there and an entirely different universe of pain!
|Skate Sprint Podium|
And second my APU Team. These past three years with the APU team have been incredible. Each year, the team steps up, and new girls start knocking on the door. Right now we have our two strongest girls in Europe, yet we have a true presence on the National Circuit! Racing sprint races and mass starts, we often line up alongside each other with the knowledge of each and every one of these girls strengths. Instead of taking advantage of this though, we work together and challenge each other to a higher level. We race as competitors but work as teammates! I have to say, my favorite moment of this week was sweeping the podium in the skate distance race. Rosie Brennan, one of my best friends and housemates won her first National Title- and Kate Fitz and I were on the other two steps. The three of us all got each other there though! We challenged the heck out of each other every day in training throughout the off-season, and we encouraged each other the weeks leading into the races that we could do it! Team means the world in an individual sport; because they are your encouragement, your partners, and your greatest competitors.
|APU ladies going to the point of exhaustion at the finish line!|
And the final piece of this team, yet the most important is the support staff- the coaches and the techs. This year APU brought 28 people, so you can imagine the work that had to be done! You can imagine these guys busted their butts testing all day, all evening, and all morning! Every single race I started I had great skis- along with the rest of the 23 APU athletes. Meanwhile Erik Flora is splitting his time between testing, racing around the course with Mikey Matteson for “world championships of the world”, and spending time making every person on our team believe they can be great! Erik has a unique skill in this; he knows how to encourage a group, but he also knows how to get them to truly believe it. He doesn’t just do this during racing though, he does it year around, every single day of training. So thanks to Erik Flora- this was a huge week for him as a coach and he deserves all the credit in the world!
So with two new National Titles in my pocket, and two “runner-up” titles, I am leaving my most successful Nationals week for the next adventure; my World Cup Season. I am actually sitting on the airplane right now flying to Liberic, Czech Rebuplic for a Classic Sprint and Team Sprint this weekend. As you can imagine, this is quite a quick turn around, so we will see how it goes over. With 15 out of the 28 athletes staying in our house last week getting sick… I am also putting my immune system to the true test! Lots of Cold-Eeze mixed with lots of hydration- I sure hope that is the magic to keep the bug away!
|Joy across the line!|
|Racing for the finish!|
Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement and cheers this week. I can’t say thank you enough, but it means the world!
On to the next adventures!!