Tour de Tough Stuff

I am finally able to start functioning and using my brain again after the challenging finish to our 2015-2016 season. The fourth period of this season, the World Cup field finally came to our side of the ocean and competed in eight days of racing over twelve days spanning from eastern Canada to western Canada. Starting on March 1st, we pushed our bodies more than ever before! 

Flyingpoint Photo 
First time to ever wear bib #1. Reese Brown/SIA Nordic photo.
Canada made quite the showcase of events throughout the tour! Ranging from racing in the city, racing beside the St. Lawrence River, racing through city parks, racing in front of parliament buildings, and then finishing by racing on what I consider to be the hardest courses in the world, in Canmore, Alberta. 

The Tours daily events included:
Day 1- Skate city sprint in Gateneau, jump in the bus and travel to Montreal.
Day 2- Montreal distance classic race in the city park, jump in the bus and travel to Quebec City.
The start in Montreal. Reese Brown photo/SIA Nordic

Day 3- Day off, check out Quebec City courses.
Day 4- Skate sprint in Quebec City throughout the Plains of Abraham and in front of the Parliament Building.
Day 5- Distance skate race throughout the Plains of Abraham. Jump in bus and travel to Montreal for early flight to Calgary.
Day 6- Flight to Calgary and drive up to Canmore.
Day 7- Check out Canmore courses.
Day 8- Canmore classic sprint race.
Day 9- Canmore skiathlon distance race. 
Day 10- Day off… try to spend as much time in bed as possible to recover for final push!
Day 11- Canmore distance skate race.
Day 12- Canmore distance classic race.
Day 13- ….. HIT THE WALL!

Thanks to JP for working so hard the whole year, and this whole tour- and most importantly, always showing up with a smile! (Reese Brown photo).
As you can see from this schedule, there was a whole lot of pushing your body, a whole lot of travel, and not very many opportunities for recovering. Thank god for ice baths and our wonderful PT's and massage therapists on tour, Ana, Steph and Meg!

Wax Room "wild". Thanks to this awesome huge team of waxers!
 I have always loved the tour format of racing, in fact it is my favorite kind! When you have so many races in a row, you have endless opportunities to improve on the day before. Whether you are disappointed, or excited; you put all emotions in your pocket and prepare for the next day. Much like the toughest weeks of training in the summer, you fool your brain into feeling no pain and decide that feeling exhausted is the new "good" 
Reese Brown/SIA Nordic photo.
Having completed my first Tour de Ski this winter, I thought I was going into the Tour de Canada fully prepared. Little did I know how much of a difference it was going to make to be at the end of the season, and already be in an exhausted place going into it. For that reason, I had to be more "mentally tough" than ever before! I am going to share a few of the "mental battles" I experienced throughout these twelve days, just to give a little feel for this "Canadian Tour de Tough Stuff"

1. Weather- The first part of the tour in the east threw us some incredibly cold conditions with even colder wind blowing off the river. Having sent most of my long underwear home after not using it all winter… we weren't' particularly prepared for this. In Montreal, I froze my legs to the point that I wasn't able to get them to work at the end of the race… a lesson learned the hard way. On the other hand, conditions were unbelievably warm in Canmore! My bikini would have been more useful than my race suit!

Keeping warm on a freezing cold Quebec day. 
Quebec City Sprint on a cold day! (USSA photo)
2. Traveling- Each new stop on the tour had an interesting travel linking it. Whether that meant patiently waiting on a bus that doesn't leave on time, or eating bagged lunches, or checking in 300 people in the airport, each with three pieces of luggage in order to head west… it was always a scene, and required patience! The important thing to remember was that we were all in the "same boat", therefore, relaxing was the best thing you could do.

3. Illness- Staying healthy during tours can often be the biggest battle. Racing day after day, and traveling in between weakens your body. I have had the best success so far by thinking about "fueling". That means eating and drinking more than enough. By day six of the tour, you can sometimes feel hungry all hours of the day. My favorite trick is to always have "night snack" before going to bed. A bowl of cereal, some toast, muffins, etc. Anything to give you a little extra so you don't wake up starving the next morning!

4. Mental Stamina- more so than the Tour de Ski, this tour required mental stamina. Everyone's muscles and bodies were exhausted by day four! It has been a long season of racing hard, so we were all feeling it. The final four days of this tour required true mental stamina. In my mind, it wasn't about the muscles anymore…. but about how willing you were to convince your brain you could keep pushing!
battle zone post stage 8... thats what it looks like to give it your all! (Jessie Diggins photo)
Jessie rescuing me after giving it my all for the day! (Flyingpoint photo).
5. Studying- Getting my school work done was a particular challenge during this tour. With so much "focus" on the course, and travel in between…. I just wanted to be able to turn my brain and focus off when I came back to my room to rest. I had to have some serious motivation these past twelve days to keep pushing on with studying during my few breaks from skiing. In a way, I feel like I did a Tour de School as well!

6. Rest and Recovery- resting and recovering in a way gets harder by the day. As your body learns that you are on "go", it can sometimes forgets to turn off. The last few nights of these tour events, I often stop sleeping at night. I feel like I am constantly wired with coffee or energy… because I am working so hard to stay in "fight mode." That is why taking advantage of the rest and recovery early seems to pay off by the end!

Steph and Ana working on us before sprint heats.
7. Course Profile- Many of the course profiles were a bit different than what we are familiar with racing in Europe. Super long sprint races combined with super challenging and high altitude courses in Canmore threw us all for an "exhausted loop". By the time racers were hitting the finals in the sprint races, it was resembling the finish of a 15k race!
A challenging course and a challenging day in Montreal! (Reese Brown/SIA photo).
Sprinting on the worlds hardest classic sprint course. USSA photo.
8. Selfish Sadie- That's what I have to call myself during these tour events. With such a "battle", you have to look out for yourself. When you feel tired, you need to rest (despite feeling bad about it). When you feel hungry, you need to find food. In an odd way, you turn into a machine… where you truly listen to yourself. Unfortunately this sometimes leaves you feeling bad for being anti-social, and glued to your bed!

Just making it to the finish line was one of my greatest achievements so far in this sport. Two tours in one season, a full world cup season, and fighting for every last race…. it was a big battle! I wasn't particularly thrilled with my last race of the tour, but there wasn't a second that I gave up in my brain, and as I lay on the ground for possibly five minutes trying to catch my breath, I was proud! I may have missed the top 10 by five seconds- but I gave it my all! There will always be things you can't control on a certain day, and there will be some "boo-boo's",  but I am proud that I fought full force and made it to the finish!

One of my favorite moments from the tour was racing 10k behind Kalla and trying to learn how to skate like the best. (Reese Brown photo).
With that, I am excited to have finished my first full World Cup Season ranked 14th overall, 14th on the overall distance standings, and 14th on the overall sprint standings. It was a goal of mine to become a more consistent racer, able to fight for a podium any given day. Although I may not have gotten that individual podium yet, I made the consistency step, and I am ready to come back next year prepared to fight for some podiums! In the meantime, number 14 may just be my lucky number for the next eight months!

Thanks to everyone who made this season possible and so wonderful for me! My sponsors, my team, my coaches, my wax tech, my family, and all my wonderful friends sending cheers all winter! You have helped make it an incredible winter!
One of my favorite text messages from Pete after I won the qualifier in Quebec.
I am now on a plane, headed for Vermont to complete the last four Spring Nationals races of the season. This will be a 10k skate, Classic Sprint, Team Relay, and a 30k Classic.

The Casts and Swells of Ski Racing

I just finished a book about lighthouses, storms and ocean waves… so it is hard to not think about the reference when I look back on this last period of racing and think about the casts and swells of waves. These past three weeks I have been on a "Scandinavian Tour." Following a little training period in France three weeks ago, I started my final push of racing in Europe for the season. With lots of travel, lots of racing, and not a whole lot of rest… this was one of the more challenging periods. 
Enjoying the amazing Holmenkollen scene!
Taking some time to get to know some amazing people fighting against the cancer battle.
Jessie and I living out of the sauna... dreaming of my closet at home :)
This season has been longer and more intense than in the past. Having completed my first Tour de Ski, and starting all but four World Cup races this season, I have had to keep my brain "focused to fight" far more than ever before. It is incredible the amount of focus that it takes to race 40 times in four months… and be at your absolute, absolute best! Inevitably, things are going to swing a little bit. I realized pretty quickly this past period that letting your brain sleep for just one second throws you off track pretty quickly. 

Doing some ski testing in Stockholm with my amazing and silly tech, JP. (Erik B photo)
Always a crazy transition to be sprinting on snow in the middle of the streets! Stockholm was a really neat experience!

Back in school means back to the life of going straight from the trail to studying!
With a variety of challenges faced including challenging snow, challenging conditions, challenging skis, and challenging courses- I have had a huge sway and cast of belief in these past three weeks. In the course of three days I can go from feeling on top of the world to missing out on qualifying on a sprint course that would generally be one of my greatest strengths. The second your train goes "off track", it is hard to believe how easy it is to continue on the path of destruction. Your confidence becomes rattled, your belief gets punched in the face, and you start to question everything. With some ups and downs in my racing these past three weeks, it has been so fun to learn how to "ride the casts and swells"... and keep my train going in my own direction. Sometimes I feel like I am learning a new lesson every day on this journey! 

As an athlete, you are judged on your "success" on the daily. You either perform, or you don't. What went wrong and what went right never shows up on a result sheet… and frankly doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Maybe your closest followers will watch a video and see you crashed during a sprint. Or maybe your wax tech will know that your skis weren't perfect that day. And maybe your coach will see that that extra set of intervals that week took the little edge off of you… but the result sheet doesn't show that. Therefore, as an athlete you have to get darn good at finding your own silver lining. You have to absorb the emotions of not only yourself, but all the others around you. As part of a team, some of your teammates are going to be standing on the podium weekend after weekend… some are going to be scoring their very first World Cup points, and some are going to be disappointed beyond belief. Through all these emotions, expectations, pressure, and feelings…. you have to sort out your own path. To me, this has meant finding my sliver lining.

A fun little reminder (Jennie Bender inspired).
Soph and I lost a bowling bet... so we had to wear our racing attire to dinner one night.
So, I am going for it! I am on a plane right now, headed back to the states. With a short five day break in Vermont at one of my friends house, I am going to rest my brain and body a bit and come back for redemption for this Tour de Canada. With eight races in eleven days spanning from Quebec, all the way over to Canmore, Alberta… it is going to take an enormous amount of energy and focus! I couldn't be more excited to have some World Cup racing on our side of the ocean, and to be able to share this unique and amazing experience with friends and family. 

Packing my bag to head back to North America
A lot of luggage, a lot of skis, and a lot of waxing equipment means an expensive trip back overseas!
Here is the schedule of races for anyone that wants to follow. There should be the usual broadcasting on Universal Sports as well as on

March 1- Gatineau Skate Sprint
March 2- Montreal 13k Classic Mass Start
March 4- Quebec City Skate Sprint
March 5- Quebec City 10K Pursuit Start Skate
March 8- Canmore Classic Sprint
March 9- Canmore 15k Skiathlon
March 11- Canmore 10k Skate
March 12- Canmore 10k Classic Pursuit Start

Let's get this Canadian Tour party started! Welcome to North America World Cup racers!

Resting and Recovering

I think of the TDS as the halfway point. It is the big "mountain in the middle", where you build a lot leading into it, and then you build a lot leading out of it. In order to keep things going strong though, there is a certain amount of rest and recovery that has to happen after eight races in ten days with a lot of travel in between. 

This year my rest and recovery sort of came in two parts. Directly following the Tour de Ski, I headed to Sieser Alm for ten days of high altitude recovery. Following the tour, I picked up a small cold that seemed to hang on for much too long, so I was doing more than my fair share of resting and recovering. In a time when some may find it stressful to miss training, I was taking advantage of the extra rest that I realized my body must have been asking for.

Sun and sleds for Liz's birthday.
Jessie and I resting, in the form of dancing under the sun.
Seiser Alm treats us really well with some delicious food!
Some amazing crust cruising!
I was lucky in that Jo got to take some time off of work and come and visit for a few days. He encouraged me to not only take the physical rest, but also take the mental rest and throw on some "fatter skis" and use gravity to my advantage. On one of those PERFECT Italian sunny days, we skied the Sela Ronda Tour, a big 30+ kilometer tour around a big beautiful chunk of rocks. It starts in Val Gardena, one of the many alpine downhill World Cup stops- and then circles around from there.

Keeping up with Jo on my nordic skis
A funny little bar mid-tour.
Sela Ronda
The big rocks we were circling around.
Believe it or not, this guy is a pretty good nordic skier!

After the 10 days of heaven, I jumped back on the World Cup Tour and headed for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Having done not very much training, and no intensity at all, I was feeling a little "intimidated" jumping into the World Cups in Nove Mesto. On saturday, I gathered my head and my mind back together and put together my best ever 10k skate race! It was a good reminder that things don't always need to go perfectly. Often when your body is shutting down, it is in fact smarter than you think…. and it must need the rest!

So fun to have Chelsea on the road with us- here she is on her birthday.
Rosie and I enjoying a little sun before the big snowstorm arrived.
A perfect Czech sunset!
The following day only continued in excitement. I think it is safe to say relay days are many of my teammates favorite races. Unfortunately, we were missing our 8th woman, so we were only able to start one of our relays. With a new team that we hadn't tried yet, Sophie Caldwell lead the race out. She did an incredible job, and proved to the world, and herself, she is not just a sprint racer. From there, things continued in a perfect direction, and we managed to finish second, our best ever relay finish ever! As Jessie crossed the line, we celebrated in our new achievement, but also celebrated in our new belief. Every weekend our team learns to "believe in ourselves" more, and take more chances! The spirit is high, the excitement is high, and the belief is extremely high! Not only are we having tons of fun, but we have learned to push ourselves and not fear chasing those Norwegians. As I watched our boys fight up until the final climb for a medal themselves in the relay, I got goosebumps! I am so excited and lucky to be part of this team we are building now!

Second Place! Nordic Focus photo
Striding and gliding! Nordic Focus photo
Stoked on smiles!! Nordic Focus photo.
From the Czech weekend of World Cup's, I jumped back on the plane and headed for France, my final "training break" of the season. Jo got to take another week off of work, so we headed to a new place, Les Saisies, France. I had never skied here before, and I have only heard wonderful things, so I decided to check it out. We had an amazing week of training and preparing for the final push of the season. Somehow we were lucky enough to have sunshine almost the entire time, which made for some perfect tracks, and amazing views. Les Saisies is just beside Mont Blanc… so the scenery was almost distracting sometimes. I finished the week feeling fully rested, recovered and ready to rally this final period of European racing. It is hard to believe in only three weeks, I will be jumping on a plane back to the US to prepare for the final Tour de Canada!

Good morning Mont Blanc!
Some beautiful tracks.
Jo enjoying some "ski in- ski out" from our cabin.
The Pierra Menta during one of our backcountry adventures.
Some beautiful terrain!

Jo, teaching his little "hot potato" to ski.
Mandy, Robin, and Uncle Jo :)

Dear France. Thank you for bringing winter! Yours truly.
Until then, I am jumping on the airplane, enroute to Oslo, for some of my favorite races of the year! Drammen and Holmenkollen, here we come!

8 Goals, 10 Lessons, in 4 Varieties

I am just finally sitting down to rest, recover, and review one of the more exciting and challenging things of my life, the Tour de Ski. Much like the Tour de France, with an added amount of travel, the goal of this event is to test who is the toughest and fittest over the course of eight races in ten days across four venues throughout Europe. Having participated in this event last year for the first four races, and then dropping out… I must say I didn't really realize what I was getting myself into! The second half of the tour is when things start getting extremely challenging, so I was in for a surprise this year! I am going to share a few little fun facts about this "big battle" I just finished a few days ago.
Mission Accomplished- Top of the final climb. (Zuzana Rogers photo).
8 Goals-
1. This summer I set a goal for myself to complete my first Tour de Ski, and finish in the top 15. 

USSA photo.
2. Attack the skate races of the tour like they were my strength.

Sticking on Jessie like glue in one of the skate races.. Nordic Focus photo
3. Never let the disappointment from one race bleed into the following day's race. Every day is a fresh day.
4. Stay healthy. Traveling sometimes 6 hours between venues directly after your race truly tests your immune system and even patience sometimes… so staying healthy is key!
Packed, and ready to rally to the next venue!
5. Be diligent with my ski testing. Even though I am tired, and the waxing crew is tired, spend the extra ten minutes to really dial my skis, and not just cross my fingers and hope I made the right decision.
6. Fuel enough. Again, ten days of intense efforts means you need to pay attention to eating enough. When you become really rushed to travel to the next venue, or you arrive home and you are dog tired…. you have to remember to fuel well… because it's the only way to survive.
7. Focus on Recovery- Ice bath, massage, morning and afternoon jogs, drinking lots of fluid. In order to keep performing, I had to focus on this all day every day.

Rain suited and ready for a seriously rainy day mid-tour.
8. Stay positive during that final climb. There are only a dozen people on the World Cup Tour that were loving every second of that uphill climb… and I am not one of them. For that reason, it was my goal to stay positive in my head and never give up.

10 Lessons-
1. Pack light. Just as you unpack your bag, you are repacking to travel to the next venue… therefore having a specific "tour bag" that only has the racing necessities is key.

Living out of the tour bag.
2. Always keep your eyes up. Some days you will have amazing races, where you can't stop thinking about them. Other days you will have terrible races, and you can't stop thinking about them. But, during the tour, you have to move on to the next race, because the train keeps moving, and if you jump off, you may just miss out! I struggled with this on day one. I had one of my best sprint races ever, and missed out on making the finals by a photo finish. I had lunged too early, and that was the end of it. I spent that night not sleeping, because I just kept replaying the last fifteen seconds of that semi-final in my head. Full of adrenaline and excitement… I forgot to relax, and waisted too much energy. I realized pretty quickly that wasn't going to fly, and I just needed to look forward.

Not your most impressively timed lunge. (Nordic Focus photo).
Sprinting for the line in the semi's. (Nordic Focus photo)
3. Sleep isn't everything, but rest is. For ten days I had more nerves than maybe ever before. Right away my sleep started to suffer. I spent the first three nights of the tour wide awake in bed.. but never stressed about it. I realized that rest was the key, but that sleep would come when it needs.
4. Be patient with my recovery. While the first three days I may not have realized it, my body started getting tired quickly. Being proactive about body work, ice bathing, jogging in the morning or evening to move your muscles. All of these things become exponentially important as the tour goes on.
5. When in doubt, sit down. I am a person that loves to run around and be active between races. I had to learn this tour that I needed to focus on resting my legs when I wasn't racing. So, I spent more time in bed than normal, and avoided running around as much as possible.
Rosie, Jessie and I doing some cheering on the final day.
6. Challenge and disappointment will strike, so be ready. I had a really challenging two days in Obersdorf, Germany. The first day was a classic sprint that I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, I took a huge tumble on one of the big downhills and slammed into the boards, scrubbing all my speed and losing a significant amount of time. I jumped back up and raced to the finish line… but falling in a sprint does not allow for qualifying. After some big disappointment, I went home and enjoyed some extra rest. Then, on day two during the 10k classic mass start, I really struggled with my skis, and dug extremely deep to finish! While frustration overtook my brain in that race, I kept reminding myself that every second counted in this tour, and I kept pushing. I crossed the line in a heap of pain and exhaustion… only to fall back in my overall placing on the tour more significantly. In two races that I would have normally looked forward to so much, I wasn't able to reach what I wanted… and that was my first lesson about dealing with disappointment during the tour… just stop thinking about it!
Obersdorf classic skiing with Jess. (Marcel Hilger photo)
pre-tumble photo. (Marcel Hilger photo)
7. Teammates allow you to dare to dream. During this tour, two of my teammates stood on the top of the podium during the week! It was amazing, and beyond exciting. But if there is one thing to learn from seeing that, it is the confirmation that you need to dare yourself to dream. You can't just hope and wait. These two girls took a chance, believed in themselves, and they got there. While Kikkan taught us that early one, these girls are continuing the tradition. As I watch them, I believe in myself, and take my own chances in races. Pushing a little harder than I think is possible!

Soph in Obersdorf winning her first World Cup. (Marcel Hilger photo).
Jess and I pushing each other early on in the tour- using a little teamwork! (Nordic Focus photo).
We are really lucky to have this team! Dagbladet of Norway wrote an article about us:
(Dagbladet photo).
8. The staff is everything! The PT's, the Massage Therapists, the Coaches, and the Wax Crew are the people making our world go round. They are constantly working to make sure everything is perfect, finding the wax day after day. By the end, everyone is dog tired, but the staff are everything! Huge thanks to these guys!
JP and Noah making a ski testing plan for the following day. Thanks JP for putting your heart and sole into making the best possible skis for us! We are lucky to have you part of our team!!
9. You can't listen to your body. After about day four, my muscles and brain started screaming "help". Everything become tired, achy, and stiff. But if there is one lesson about the tour that I realized, it is that you can't pay attention to a single feeling. Instead, you just start the race, and imagine you are fresh. This is the best way to ensure that you are giving it your best every day.

Marcel Hilger photo
Mega pain train post race!!
10. Set some goals- I set many little goals for myself during this tour. This summer I set the goal to not only finish, but to finish in the top 15… and I chased that to the end. I also set a goal to be top 10 in a skate race in Toblach. Every day I had a little goal for myself to encourage me to keep pushing in those races that were maybe my weakness, or the races that I knew were going to be a challenge. This allowed me to keep me on my toes, and keep me fighting.

Nordic Focus photo.

4 Varieties-
The cool thing about this tour is that it included all types of cross country skiing for a combined score at the end!
1. Both short and long distance (5 kilometers- 15 kilometers)
2. Both skate and Classic
3. Sprint Racing
4. Skiing up an alpine slope… uphill climbing

Cheering on Erik near the top of the hill climb.
Rosie and I enjoying some ice cream after completing the big battle.
Holy cow, what a fun experience. I can't wait until the next! I feel like I learned a season of lessons, and got a season of experience. I want to say another big thanks to the staff for making this possible for all of us! We are lucky to be able to participate in an event like this, and we are only able to compete because of the help we are given!

The Team behind THE TEAM! (Zuzana photo). 
HUGE THANKS to Zuzana Rodgers and Meg Parker for coming over and helping during this intense time. These woman worked their butts off all day!! 

From here, I have some resting and recovering up in Seiser Alm before jumping back onto the World Cup in 10 days for some relay racing in Nove Mesto!

The Christmas Traverse

For the past three years, I have been spending the Christmas holiday in France with my boyfriend and his family.Since the Tour de Ski starts so closely after the holidays, it doesn't make sense to fly back to the US, and then turn around right away and fly back to Europe. So, in order to stay healthy and best prepared for racing, I have made it a tradition to join my French family instead.

Christmas Fireworks with the Maubets
Enjoying some high mountain adventures on a search for snow.
The first couple years were always hard for me, simply because the French holiday traditions are not quite the same. And when something feels different, it becomes really easy to feel lonely and homesick. But, I have realized that I have started to adjust. I just rock out to my own Christmas tunes when I go training, and have learned to really enjoy the French Food, and the Pére Noël's (Santa Clause's) different traditions. The French still decorate un sapin de noël avec des garlands et des boules. (A Christmas tree with lights and bulbs) The French also still give lots of cadeaux and love. I used to say that being away for Christmas was the hardest part of what I do… which I still agree with, but I have realized I have it pretty darn good! While I may be away from home, I am not away from family. I get to spend a few weeks away from the "focus" of ski racing, and recharge my soul with some boyfriend and family time. Jo's family and friends around Hauteville and Meribel have taken me in as if I am their own. I am incredibly lucky in fact, because I am surrounded by family overseas. While I miss the perfect skiing in the Methow Valley, and being with my parents and sister, I will be back there after ski racing!

Jo and I on Christmas Eve.

Jo's father making the US Ski Team badge look good!
My new skis, ready for chasing Jo in Valdez.
Jo, Diane and the goat on our tropical Christmas hike.
This Christmas break, things felt like a little bit of a traverse. First, we finished out final races in Toblach, Italy… so it was a bit of a long traverse back to France with Marine and Erik (9.5 hours including our minor GPS detour issues). Following that, it was a constant "traverse" to find some snow around Meribel. Unfortunately Europe hasn't really received any snow this year. We have spent all of our time chasing man-made snow around in order to get our training and racing in. So, things continued this way for the Christmas Break. So, I enjoyed some good promenades in the forest hiking and running (taking a break from chasing the snow). Snow was thin, so I took as few 1 kilometer double pole laps as possible. 

A little refuge in the mountains during my ski in Champagny.
Doing some of my training on the alpine slopes. Skiing down with Jo and the kids, and skiing back up afterwards.... creative training.
Having some fun hiking in the mountains.
perfect hiking conditions.
Jo and his amazing Christmas clients.
The new biathlon involving alpine skiing and shooting.
After five days in the "ski instructors palace" in Meribel, I headed on the train, and took a traverse towards Villard de Lans, home of my brother's girlfriend and her family. So, lucky for me, I got to celebrate a second Christmas with them, and enjoy some skiing in Autrans. Autrans is a little town, only twenty minutes from Marine's home, and it has some of the most fun skiing around central Europe. It also happens to have maybe some of the most kilometers at this time to ski on.. maybe 15k? It is impressive, all 15 kilometers are packed with people. It is more people in one place then I have ever seen at a nordic ski area. One thing is for sure, skiing is pretty popular in the Vercors! (The region around Villard de Lans)

A dream ski chasing Marine.
Smiles and sunshine all around!
Autrans traffic controller.
From here, we will take our final traverse back to "ski racing" tomorrow and the start of the famous Tour de Ski. The Tour will be starting in Lenzerheide, Swizerland… about a 6.5 hour traverse from here. I am feeling pretty excited and ready to do this Tour de Ski battle. 8 races in 10 days, in 3 different countries. Fun times to come!

Thanks to all my wonderful French family for making this holiday enjoyable despite it being a brown Christmas. And thanks to all my family back home for blowing many kisses overseas! Now, please send your snow too!!

Tour de Ski…. here we come! 

Rocking Out With Our Socks Out!

Last weekend has already formed into a blur of excitement in my mind. Saturday was the 15k pursuit, where we ski 7.5 kilometers of classic, then switch mid-race into our skate gear, and finish off the race with 7.5 kilometers of skating. Pursuits have never been a huge "favorite" of mine, but on the same token, I LOVE the challenge of them. Because I have always been a stronger classic skier, it becomes a mental battle out there for me as I switch from my stronger suit, to my weaker suit. I can tell you, there are a whole lot of "voices talking in my head" for the second half of the race. I have had some great pursuit races, and I have had some horrible ones.... but I never seem to form a love or hate relationship with the event. Instead, I look at this silly event as mental training. So, saturday's event was another "in-between" feeling. For the first time in my life, I felt like I struggled during the classic leg, and then started to have fun during the skate leg. Why not switch things up every once in a while?
Thanks to my French Technician, JP, for working hard preparing skis for me!
Noah and I making a plan with JP for testing and preparing skis for race day... testing out the yoga bosu balls for attentiveness.
Liz doing an ice-tub for recovery while doing a skype interview at the same time... multi-tasking at its finest!
The second after I finished the pursuit race though, my heart was in a new place. The 4x5 relay. Our women's team has made this event a huge focus over the years. Ever since the girls won their first medal in Gällivare four years ago, we have gotten a little taste of the pie! We know that it is possible, but we know that it isn't any small achievement. Even heading into the 2014 Olympics, we saw ourselves as medal favorites... but the day didn't work out right. During the 2013 World Champs, we came in 4th. During the 2015 World Champs, we came in 4th again. Although we have "just missed" that medal many times, our hearts are all set on this goal, year-around! We talk about it every camp, we focus on it during training, and we all visualize ourselves stepping onto that podium afterwards. It is a HUGE goal and a HUGE focus of our nine person US Women's Team.

The Kikkan Randall new addition- our team cheering socks!
Which is why Sunday became so special! I like to call it "rocking out with our socks out"! It is a tradition on our women's team to not only paint our faces, braid our hair, and get our american spirit on- but we also pull out our "special socks" on relay day. It is a huge honor on that day to "rock the socks", and you know when you put them on, you are representing the team. A team event is unique, because instead of representing the talent of one successful individual, it represents the collective effort of a group. It represents the work ethic, the vibe, and the belief of a collection of people. Sometimes that vibe will be on fire, and sometimes it won't. When you put those socks on though, you are "rocking out with your socks out" for everyone.... so you better dig just a little deeper, honey! That's when the voices in your head get even louder... but you also have company. You have the voice of all your teammates talking to you, coaxing you on, and believing in you.
It takes a team! (Not pictured- Julia Kern, Katharine Ogden, and Caitlin Gregg)
As Sunday worked out, it was a roller-coaster of ups and downs. With icy tracks, and ripping fast downhills.. most of us went from feeling amazing to feeling terrified. At times I surged far too hard to chase down every second towards the teams in front of me... and other times I held on for dear life waiting for a mini- recovery down the hill. Lillehammer is unique in that I see it as one of the hardest courses in the world. There is little to nothing as far as recovery, and it seems you are either going straight uphill, or jetting down a terrifyingly fast downhill. It is brutal! So, throughout the course of the four legs, Rosie, Liz, Jessie and myself all experienced some swings! Some good moments, and some bad. Magically though, we were able to keep fighting when we fell behind, and we were able to chase harder than ever! With the collective effort of the four of us, Jessie had an incredible last leg to cross the line in 3rd. As she let out a cry of joy, we all shared some goosebumps, hugs, and a few tears. Yes, we can do it! Yes, we believe it. And, yes, WE DID IT!

Jessie's cry of joy- Nordic Focus Photo
Screams of excitement- Getty Images, Cornelius Poppe
Joining the podium
Big thanks to US Women's Coach, Matt Whitcomb, for leading this charge!! Marc Rohde photo
Don't you worry, we have our eyes set on more though! We are gunning for the top. Although Norway safely finds themselves there, it doesn't always happen! In Sochi, they were touchable. On Sunday, we didn't all have our perfect 5 kilometers... which is the exciting part. There is more of where that came from. Look out January... we will be ready to "rock out with our socks out" for the Nove Mesto relay!
Our huge hunk of cheese we won for 3rd place.
We have just now arrived in Davos, Switzerland- which is the next stop for the World Cup. There isn't a whole lot of snow here, but there is a 5k manmade loop at the moment, which will do the job. It sure is nice to see some sunshine and mountains around!

If you missed the races from this weekend, here is a video summary:

Thanks to everyone for all the congratulatory emails and cheering! It means the world to all of us! Go Team USA! And if you missed it, check out the men's relay! Those boys are on the hunt, and they are not far behind. So good to see them fighting and believing!
Erik, with his lost and found World Cup Trophy, which we re-awarded to him for having the fastest classic leg of the day!

Jumping Back In

It has been two weeks since we arrived in Europe to jump back into the "ski racing" life. As always, the first couple of weeks feel like I am arriving in a foreign world for the first time… and then life swings back to normal. Back to that "ski racing life", that "life on the other side". Unfortunately, things took a little longer to get thrown back into normal this year. A few days after arriving in Gällivare, Sweden, where we were doing our pre-race camp, I came down with a very unpleasant stomach flu that left me in bed and homesick as ever for three days. Fortunately, I have some amazing teammates and people looking after me. Between daily cracker and coke deliveries and Pete Dickenson room service… I managed to build myself back up, and recover. 

Sick walks are so much better when you are in a winter wonderland!
Coke and crackers are not exactly the same in Europe!
Night walks around a beautiful hotel.
That's as much of the sun as you will see on a clear day 100km north of the Arctic Circle!
Thanks to Pete Dickenson for playing doctor while I was sick, and then working his butt off volunteering his time to take care of us day after day! We really appreciate it! Thanks Pete!
I finally started feeling better on Saturday, the first day of races in Gällivare, but decided to patiently wait and get back to 100%. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, patience is a virtue…. but that is SOOO much easier to say than do!

Crisp and Cold in Gällivare!
The professional packing! L.L. Bean jackets folding into stow bags are a miracle!
Needless to say, when I arrived in Kuusamo, I had an extra amount of energy, excitement and anxiety after sitting in bed for 5 days. With a good interval session mid-way through the week, I was feeling much better, but nervous as heck. Not having done a practice race, that meant that I had an outrageous amount of butterflies leading into the tour. It is always so hard to gauge your fitness leading into the season. Even if you know you have trained way better than before… you always worry you will forget the racing touch. But, just like joining back into this European racing life, racing comes back too! 
I found a new friend in Kuusamo this year!
Back to the land of walking uphill! In Kuusamo, any and every destination seems to be a 1k trek above you!
The Fischer boot maker, Flo, performing magic on my new boots.
If you are top 30 overall on the World Cup points the past year, then you get your name on your training bib. This is the first year I have gotten that, so I am pretty excited! Pictured behind is my fleet of skis for the MANY varied conditions throughout the winter.
The first weekend was a mix of nerves, excitement, frustration, and all the above. I love the "tour" style of racing, where you get opportunity after opportunity to try again. One day's frustration is the following day's motivation. Instead of waiting a week to let that pent up energy fly- I get to just keep rolling with it!

Last weekend entailed...

A classic sprint, where I made it into my first classic semi-final. I was feeling great throughout the day, but started slipping on the final climb of the course, and became too stubborn to jump out of the track and keep the tempo up- so it was a bittersweet ending. I was stoked, combined with a little frustration.
Some screen shots from the TV of the sprint heats.
First time winning a quarter final!
The second day was a 5k skate. I have grown to love the 5k distance. It is the perfect amount of energy, concentration, and effort! I have spent a lot of time working on my skating this summer, so I was also looking forward to put it to the test. I was really excited to finish 14th, one of my best skate races.
Anatolii Tsymbalov photo
Ski Trax/Nordic Focus photo
The final day of racing was a 10k classic. Saturday we got some rain, and then Sunday we woke up to some rain/snow combo… so things got tricky quickly. Fortunately, I have an awesome wax tech, JP, who helped keep me from stressing about the conditions and to simply make the most of it. After 10 kilometers of challenging skiing, I finished the tour in 14th, my best tour finish!

Fasterskier/Nordic Focus Photo
Ski Trax/Nordic Focus photo
We are now in Norway, my favorite place in the world to race and ski. The weather has been great, and we have gotten a chance to ski on real snow… which doesn't happen so often anymore. We spend the majority of the time racing on man-made snow… which is much more challenging to ski on. So, our awesome break of perfect skiing in Sjusjeon and Nordseter just got twice as good! 

Traveling also becomes second nature. Liz foam rolling it out in the airport.
No problem for Bird- traveling and zzzzz's.
Lillehammer does holiday best! Rosie in front of one of the stores on the walking street.
Sunshine Sodie Sandwich
Perfect classic skiing in sjusjeon.
A great day to be out training!
It looks like the weather will continue with its frustrating pattern of perfect skiing during the week and then a rain/snow combination for the races! Fortunately, we are becoming pretty practiced with it. It will be an exciting weekend of racing ahead, with a pursuit race on Saturday, and then a relay race on Sunday!
Watercolor painting for Rosie's b-day. Caitlin lead an watercolor painting session.
Erik and Matt showing their true talent.
We brought our American pride to Norway!
Lillehammer holiday spirit.
If you want to watch WC races, go to to follow along!

Until then, keep up the cheering, we are loving it!

Parking It In the City

These past 2.5 weeks I have been living and training out of Park City, home of the US Ski Team. This is always an exciting time of the year to:

Get together with all my US teammates.
THE TEAM (USSA Nordic Photo)
Do a little bit of blood, strength, and fitness testing in the Center of Excellence.

Squat Testing
Get our new uniforms for the year.

Pretty sweet little markings on all our gear! Proud to represent the United States of America and this little eagle!!
L.L. Bean Custom Pants.... finally I own a pair of pants that are long enough for me!! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Early Christmas!! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Thanks for the wonderful presentation by Craft and L.L. Bean on all the perks and special features of our gear! Pretty fun to be representing an American brand with our American uniforms! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Link to all our products if you want to join us this winter:
US Ski Team Uniform

Set goals and aspirations as a team
One goal is to surpass this "momma's" muscles next time we take a photo together! (Craft photo)
It also happens to be the time of year that I am training the very hardest, so living and sleeping at 9000 feet, and training with less oxygen than normal has proven to be a challenge all five years of being on the National Team. Every year I come in running, and leave trotting. Fortunately, that is just part of the game! You can't be sprinting all the time!

Sprinting it out at SoHo- USSA Nordic Photo

Erik taking advantage of the COE current pool for some "laps".
Despite a few tired days, Park City delivered some pretty spectacular times. We were lucky enough to have amazing weather the entire time! After spending many rainy months this fall in Alaska… sun for 2.5 weeks straight just doesn't seem fair. Likewise, getting snow in September in AK meant that I have been training in tights and jackets for two months… so shifting back to shorts was also a little bit of a backwards adjustment.
A little different attire than these APU ladies are used to these past few months!
Best coach and best bro in the world!
Sadly, Mr. Finger is still a working progress.!
This camp happens to be the first time this summer that our entire National Team has been together. With 10 girls, it is sometimes hard to round all of us up in such a large geographic area! I had extra fun these past few weeks getting to know our two youngest D-Team members (Katherine Ogden and Julia Kern). As I spent multiple evenings and training sessions sharing stories with them, their excitement and motivation was contagious! Despite some summer injuries, these girls are charging hard just below us. Suddenly this culture of cross country skiers is truly taking off in the US!

The Team! (USSA Nordic Photo)
Head Women's Coach- Matt Whitcomb, and USSA President- Tiger Shaw leading the force during a 3 hr. ski up the canyon .(L.L. Bean photo)
Which brings me to a yearly event that takes place in the United States. During the month of October is the annual Drive for 25 Fundraiser for the National Nordic Foundation. The recent success of this nation has only been possible through the support of this organization. We were all juniors at one time making our first trip overseas. We were all U23's attempting to make it possible to race NCAA's and U23 World Championships at the same time. And at one time or another, we were all given an opportunity because of the National Nordic Foundation! Every dollar goes towards our nation of nordic athletes. In my mind, this organization makes sure that where there is a will, there is a way! I have a fundraising page that many people have already contributed towards, but these funds will all be directed toward our nation of developing young athletes, so I encourage you to participate in this culture that is being created!

Two more weeks of preparation in Alaska, where we will hopefully be visiting some snow, and then off we go to Europe for the winter! It's the final countdown, da da dah da dahhhhh...!

Fun to see a familiar face welcoming me home to AK last night!

Standing On My Two Feet

This fall has been an adjustment in a few regards. 

First, we suddenly went from the most fantastically sunny summer ever in Alaska, into a cold, chilly, and wet fall. We shifted straight from training in shorts and tank tops to full length tights and jackets… jumping over that middle ground. 
Erik preparing for a swim.. nice way to break up the rain training.
Second, as fall hits, life becomes busier than ever. With sponsor events, team functions, Fast and Female planning, and school starting up again… the day becomes full on "game mode" from 7AM until 8PM. iCalendar becomes my best friend as I try to keep track of all ten separate places I must be throughout the day. 
Saltchuk Family Day- potato sack races and all! 
Third, training becomes even more intense than normal. We shift from lots of base training throughout the summer, to lots of base training combined with lots of intervals! Sleeping and resting becomes evermore important.
Taking advantage of recovery training with buddies.
And finally, after my most successful year of "injury-free" training, I took a little turn. Mid July I had a big fall when I was rollerskiing and banged up my hand pretty bad. X-rays didn't show any major breaks, but there was a fair amount of ligament damage. I was put in a hard-brace for an eight week recovery, but the future was still plenty bright. I was forced to do some one pole skiing, avoid biking, and be extra cautious for my usual and frequent little tumbles I seem take. Six weeks into my recovery, I was flying down one of the hills on the rollerski path into a blind corner,  and as I came around it I came face to face with a mom and baby moose. My immediate reaction was "stop as quick as you can." Having seen an angry momma moose stomp one of my teammates a few years back… I wasn't interested in partaking in that sort of activity. So… I sat down on the side of the trail as quick as I could… hitting my tailbone at full force and unfortunately bending my fingers backwards around my hard cast that was protecting my hand injury. I stood up as quickly as I could, racing the opposite direction, back up the hill, and immediately felt I had done something very wrong to my bum that was screaming in pain, and my fingers that were quickly puffing up into balloons. 
Double brace syndrome
Going to the doctors office for x-rays becomes a lot less scary when this guy is guarding the room! Thanks AFOC and Greg Schumacher for taking good care of me!
And that is how I went on to break my ring finger and do some quality ligament damage in the opposite direction just as I had six weeks before! It turns out pavement is more dangerous than expected… especially with no brakes! Standing on my two feet has just not been working out so well for me this fall.

So, it was time to head home… back to my roots… maybe learn how to stand on my two feet again. Last week I got to spend an awesome week in the Methow enjoying my last bits of warm weather, my last bits of family time with my sister and granny before the winter approaches, and my last bits of parental spoiling that I really miss! I haven't been home during the month of September since I was living there, so I forgot how awesome fall is. Temperatures were a little warmer than normal, but I got to see some changing leaves, smell some familiar fall smells, and have some flash back memories from the start of school.

A little warmer than AK..!!
Surprise birthday parties with Granny!
Not too bad!!
A little change in scenery.

I also got to spend a day with the local cross country running team and ski club. We talked goals, talked dreams, talked training, and talked about the path I took. It was super fun to see some serious talent coming together back home. There are certainly champions in the making back there!

Rollerski Speeds
Ella Hall
Agility training
Nordic Team Crew
My final day I got to do a four hour run in the mountains with my mom and dad. The North Cascades are a seriously amazing place… I always forget how amazing those mountains are. They are different than anything I see in AK, so I am like a kid in a candy shop when I go back! As we were heading down the final 30 minutes with both my mom and dad… I realized how lucky I am. No wonder I learned to love this sport, and learned to love this goal of mine. I learned how to stand on my two feet chasing my parents around in the mountains with my brother and sister. To this day, I still get to do that (not often enough)! I couldn't be more thankful to my parents for teaching me this passion, and reminding me why I am doing this! It is nice to have little reminders periodically, it keeps me excited about what I am doing every day.

Still getting my butt kicked by mom.
Cutthroat Pass.
Beauty Places!
So now I am back in AK for the next three weeks, back on the pavement, and crossing my fingers that I stay on those two feet of mine!

Photo Gallery

Sochi Olympic Team Spirit- FasterSkier Photo
Steve Fuller Photo- World Championships Sprint
Marc Rohde photo. Relay time at World Championships
Dusseldorf, Germany- Team Sprint Silver
Salomon Sport Photo
Sibling Power- ADN Photo
Dream World- Kuusamo, Finland! Fischer Sports Photo
Marcel Hilger Photo- Davos Switzerland World Cup
Spring Nationals Podium- Sun Valley, Idaho
Judy Patrick Photo- Saltchuk Family
Purely exhausted after end of season 30k- Reese Brown photo
Reese Hanneman Photo. Summer training in Anchorage.