In February, I wrote a blog post about holding on tight to life, because it was flying by at an unbelievably high speed, with an overwhelming amount of excitement. One quality of being extremely goal oriented is that you forget to take the time to "experience the achievements" before you are setting the next goal. I reminded myself of this in February, just before the Olympics Games, and I was forced to remind myself once again these last few weeks. "Sadie, don't forget to celebrate what you have achieved!"
My final month of racing this past season was fast, furious, and a dream come true. After dealing with some disappointment on the "big stage" during the Olympics, I think it was an understatement to say, "I was on a mission" in the final period of the season. Rather than being dragged down by the disappointment, I forced myself to conquer the frustration, and regather for the final three weeks of opportunities. In those three weeks, I crawled out of my little defeated pit, and I had some of my best races of my career. In the final kilometers of the season, I dug deep in my head, and used every last bit of fearless energy I had left. As I crossed the line in third, and walked up on that podium, I looked out to the crowd and breathed in that entire experience in! Rather than just being a step in my path, I allowed it to be a victory on my path!
Your brain and body are only as strong as you see possible. As every mother would say, "If you believe it, you can achieve it"… that is something I have learned is completely true for me. This season, for the first time, I started truly believing, which has allowed me to start achieving! I raced thirty five races throughout the course of this season, spanning across four and a half months, and accumulating 325 kilometers. That is thirty five times of standing on the start line, and digging to the deepest canals within your brain to see just how hard you are willing to fight. If there is only an inkling of doubt, it amounts to those precious few seconds that can separate you from podium to twelfth place. Staying fresh and "hungry" for that fight is one of the hardest parts of what I am doing right now. For that reason, my podium in the last World Cup race of the season is one of the moments I am most proud of in my career. Operating on my final fumes, I was able to muster up just enough fight and belief to power myself across the final stretch going head to head with Olympic Gold medalists, and secure my fourth podium of the season. It was a fun way to end, and a great memory to power some new goals and beliefs this coming season!
Following the final World Cup races of the season, I jumped on a plane, and made my final stop for Spring Nationals in Craftsbury, Vermont. I have always loved racing Spring Nationals, because in a way, it is a victory lap. While I am still racing my heart out, and digging to deep levels, it is the icing on the cake of a season. For four races, I get to suit up in my Alaska Pacific University club suit, join in with my club teammates, and enjoy the last races of the season, with no pressure or fear. Even though we keep the pedal down hard, I get to share the love of racing with some of the younger skiers in our country, and compete in the club relay, representing the team that has truly trained me to the place I am now.
After finishing the final race of the season, a grueling 30-kilometer classic, my mind immediately went into that mode of "ok, what can I improve". I found myself setting all these new goals, analyzing my "goods" and "bads", and getting back to work. Thankfully, I caught myself. For the past few years, I have started rewarding myself with a "spring break" every April. For me, this is a bit of a carrot after a long season of hard work and effort. I have always thought of it as a good way to force recover my muscles. What I realized this year is that I needed it for more reasons than that. For whatever reason, this season was more mentally taxing than ever before- maybe that comes with higher highs, which make lows feel lower. So, this year I decided I was going on vacation for my brain!
After being home for a short nine days, I repacked my bags and headed south. My first stop was in Seattle, where I got a chance to visit all the Saltchuk operating companies, and share stories and inspiration with the employees. Saltchuk has been my headgear sponsor for the past four years, and it has been unbelievably fun and rewarding to represent them on and off the ski courses. They have truly gotten behind my dreams, and provided the support that has allowed these dreams to turn into achievable goals. I want to give an enormous thank you to the Saltchuk Family for believing in me!
My next step was getting to spend some time with family, whom has also been a huge part of this journey. Unfortunately, part of my job is that I never get to spend quite enough time with loved ones, but they keep loving me despite that, and supporting me along the way. As I laughed, celebrated, and cherished my moments with my family, I took in every breath of love, and recharged my "brain bank". This is the energy that keeps me going, fighting, and digging throughout eleven months of the season towards these exciting, and amazing goals of mine.
As I arrived home to the Methow Valley, I was greeted by a wonderful welcome home parade, which allowed me to celebrate this Olympic season with the community I grew up in. These are the people that watched me start dreaming, supported these dreams, and have encouraged me since. As I was riding through town in a horse carriage, waving to the wonderful people of my community, I felt so much love, support, and pride. The Methow is my family, and the wonderful people there have helped raise me!
My final stop of "brain vacation" was in Zion, Utah. Having never been adventuring in the desert before, Noah Hoffman finally convinced me to come join him for a couple days. It turns out the desert is everything you would dream of and more. Noah did an awesome job of "tour guiding" Jo and I around to some pretty incredible adventures, camping spots, and views. Noah retired this spring, along with some of my other teammates, which will be quite the adjustment for our team. I am not looking forward to some of our integral leaders and teammates to be gone, but am also excited for the challenge of stepping up and trying to fill their shoes. We have a pretty strong new generation knocking at the door, so we better keep this train on the track!
I am now back in Alaska, and back to another year of chipping away towards new levels and new steps in this sport. While I had to put a hold on refocusing, I have now allowed myself to open the door again, and I can't wait to work towards some improvements, and see what I can accomplish next season!
Before I flip to the next page though, I want to make sure I get a chance to thank everyone for sharing this year with me! I have felt so much love and support throughout the summer training months, and the winter of racing. Whether it was an email of encouragement, a voice along the course, a sponsorship to help make it possible, or a hug of support, you have all made this journey beautiful and attainable! Thanks for being a part of my larger family in this incredible world. And now, it is time to flip the page, and see what kind of new levels I can reach!