This past weekend was one of the more wild World Cup weekends I have had. I have been racing on the World Cup tour full time now for five years, and I have had a variety of disappointments, excitements, achievements, and even heartbreaks. This past one came in a new form.
Friday morning I woke up to an extremely rainy day in Lillehammer, Norway… where we generally find winter bliss in early November. But this year, we found plus temperatures, green grass, and a white ribbon of man made snow spread across a 5k course through the hills. Having quite a bit of experience training in rain in Anchorage, I prepared myself for a day of cold, wet madness. Thankfully LL Bean provides us with a great rain suit, so we are ready to take on those miserable days. But, there is more to it than that. On a sprint day, you are racing up to four times per day, with a lot of time in between where the sole goal is to keep your muscles and mind warm and ready to sprint at max speed for 3-4 minutes. One cold muscle can make the difference between your top speed and your top, top speed that you need to advance through the heats. I rolled up to the venue with just about my entire suitcase of spare clothes, and layered up the nano-puff under my rain suit… to the point that I looked like a fluorescent, wet snowman. What felt silly performed wonders. I was able to have my best skate sprint ever, and advance all the way to the finals, crossing the line in third, for my first ever skate sprint podium!
Reaching my tenth podium on the World Cup Circuit felt different and special. Skate sprinting was the final discipline in our sport that I hadn’t reached the podium at yet, and it was one of my main goals for the season. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I was walking out to the podium, remembering that you can never take success for granted. During the long summer months, you sometimes wonder if you are doing things long enough or hard enough. During the struggles of your training blocks, you wonder if you have messed everything up. During the toughest training sessions of the year, you wonder if you are mentally tough enough. When all things come together, it feels like a miracle! For that reason, success will always feel like something special, as it is never a guarantee.
One of my favorite things my teammate Jessie says is, “I don’t ever want to let one moment in the past, whether that moment was positive or negative, define who I am today. I have to earn the right to be proud of who I am each and every day.”
Living on a high, I headed back to the hotel following Friday’s sprint race, so excited to share the news with my friends and family back home that would be waking up soon. A group text chain with all my new and old teammates started congratulating me on my podium. Not long after, Kikkan and Holly started typing into our group message about a massive earthquake hitting home. Expecting it to be like our average quake, my roommate Rosie Brennan and I laughed it off. And then the pictures started coming in. People’s stuff thrown everywhere in the house made me hope that a random object on the shelves or walls didn’t crush my house sitter. After texting with her, I learned she had already left home, and had gone airborne in her car while the quake went off as she was commuting to work, but she was ok. Completely forgetting about my exciting afternoon, I started reading stories online of the damage, and became worried about my home and city. Images showed roads, bridges and houses collapsed. Trying to stay calm, a small stress grew inside of me wondering about the status of my empty home. As I crossed all my World Cup companions in the dining hall, they excitedly congratulated me on my day, but I struggled to hear them, as I had my mind on something completely out of my control back home.
Finally as I was getting ready for bed, I called up Holly Brooks, and asked her to go check on my home. Broken belongings aren’t a big deal, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a gas or water leak destroying the place. By this time it was 10PM, and I needed to focus on two more days of racing coming my way. Energy is hard to come by, and I knew I was bleeding it with worry. But I just had to know everything was ok before I was going to sleep. Shortly after Holly arrived, I heard my neighbors on our security system say, “there is water spraying everywhere”, and my heart went into panic. Here I was thousands of miles away from home, and feeling like I couldn’t do anything.
Thankfully, I sent the right friend over. She managed to crawl under the house, shut the main water off, get ahold of Jo (who was out of town working), and fill me in, “there is a small leak, but it is ok.” Not knowing much, I laid awake all night ensuring myself that Holly had it under control, Jo would be able to fly home to the rescue soon, and nobody had died… all wonderful things. Being a worrywart though, I couldn’t take it off my mind. As I lined up for the individual start race on Saturday morning, my mind was in Anchorage. The crazy images were stuck in my brain. I was about to start a 30-minute race that I needed to be in the moment, ready for the pain cave, rather than home in Anchorage. After 2.5k, I headed up the massive climb on the course, and felt my brain click. There it was… back in place, ready to fight. I skied the final 7.5k of the race pushing myself as hard as possible and crossed the line happy to have made it, and put together a race I was proud of.
Saturday evening, Jo had flown home, and walked me through the house showing me all the damage. I had built it up much worse in my head… typical behavior for me. Thankfully my little French construction worker is going to be able to make everything okay. We managed to water the streets of the entire neighborhood, test out the limits of our stump pump, and give our basement and garage a good washing… but my little house on the hill will survive!
As I finished out the final race yesterday of the mini-tour, I celebrated making it through, as well as Anchorage making it through. I am so happy and thankful to know that there were no casualties in the 7.0 shaking of the city. I feel for the people that have a lot of clean up work to do. And more than anything I am darn thankful for the people in my life: the ones that celebrate the highs with me, but also are there for me in the shaking chaos too.
One of my friends wrote to me and told me that Anchorage had jumped up and down so hard celebrating my podium that they had shaken the ground a little too hard. If that is the case, I have a lot of friends and fans back home, so thanks for the cheers. But next time, lets bring it back down to a level 1 celebration!
I am back on the bus now, headed to our next stop on the World Cup tour in Beitostølen, Norway. I am looking forward to a week of recovering and catching up on some lost zzz’s. There is a 4x5km relay coming up this weekend, so be sure to tune in and watch. Saturday is a 15km skate, and Sunday is the relay event. If you haven’t found it yet, you can now get a winter subscription to NBC for a very affordable price to follow our races this winter!
Thanks to everyone who sent me notes these last few days, it means the world!