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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!