WOW! A lot of exciting stuff has happened in the past two weeks since arriving in Europe! I turned 24, I finished my first 1040 for a family in my tax class, I tried 6 different kinds of Brown Cheese, I had a Thanksgiving dinner on November 22 when we had a kitchen, I met up with a lot of my World Cup buddies that I haven't seen since last spring, Newell turned 30, Noah Hoffman WON a world cup, I got my first top ten in a distance race, the christmas music has started, and I got chased by a reindeer! A solid two weeks filled with a ton of excitement!!

An awesome birthday spent with the best teammates! Noah picture
The first week overseas we spent in Beitestolen, Norway. I raced there three years ago when I was preparing for my very first World Championships, so I have always thought of Beito as a memorable special spot. It is where all this "fun madness" began! It was a great week of staying in little apartments, cooking our own meals, and adjusting to the time. It was fun to catch up with Astrid, who came and trained with us this summer. She has introduced us to the rest of the Norwegian ladies, so it has been fun to get to know them. We had a "Night Snack" party with them one evening, a popular thing for Norwegians, which was both fun and delicious. I love confirming that all the hero's I grew up looking up to are human, friendly, and awesome!
pink on pink! Enjoying some beautiful weather in Beito. Holly photo
After adjusting to the time zone for a few days, we had some practice/warm up races. 10k Classic and Skate Sprint. It was fun to get used to the nerves, the excitement, the ski selection, and all the fun business that goes along with racing. It was a fun weekend, and helped me feel a little bit better entering into my first week of World Cup racing.

Night Snack with the Norwegian girlies
Early this week we flew up North where the sun doesn't rise until nine, but then proceeds to set around 2PM! The last time I was in Kuusamo, two years ago, I left intimidated and hating the "hills" of Kuusamo. They were steeper than anything I had skid before, and I just didn't know how to move up them. I was excited to take them on again this year, but I didn't have many expectations. Aside from being stoked about a 5k classic in the World Cup schedule, I was just looking forward to a true "challenge".

Right from the start, things went better than expected. Somehow I qualified third in the sprint the first day. As I watched the video from last years sprint one of the first days I arrived in Ruka, I spent the next four days trying to envision how I was going to manage to get my limbs to move as fast as those girls were. With a massive steep climb leading back up to the stadium, I knew I was going to have to wrap my mind around "moving quick". Of course the goal is always to move quick, but these girls were moving about ten speeds faster than quick!

Serious pain face in the qualifier- NordicFocus photo
Well somehow it worked out. I went on to race in the heats, and walked away a little disappointed. Having only skid three Classic World Cup heats before, I am still learning how to ski relaxed in the pack, where to find holes, and simply how to do it. So, I got one more chance to practice, and already I am looking forward to another try!

Racing in some heats- FIS photo
The following day I had my favorite, the 5k Classic. Again, things went a little better than expected. As  I struggled to get my head into the race the first kilometer with all the darkness, and quiet, all of a sudden I heard in my head, "Gooo Sadie". I heard this loud cracking voice, the voice I love, my mom's voice coming out of the woods. It was so crazy. There was a group of kids from Northern Michigan out there cheering, and maybe it was them, but I heard my moms voice- and suddenly I was in the game. So for the next 4k I hammered out my best race ever, a 7th!

Nordic Focus photo
Today was the final day of the Ruka Triple, a pursuit style start, 10k skate. Again intimidated by the "walls" otherwise know as climbs, I went into today ready to conquer Everest. It was a challenging day, but also REALLY fun. I got an idea of how the best girls are skating, and I even was able to jump in behind them a bit. I managed to hold on to 17th until the end; which I was happy about. But more importantly, some of my other teammates had some crazy performances. First, Kikkan held on to 5th place for the tour, and then both her, Jessie, and Liz all skid top ten on the day!! But what else, NOAH HOFFMAN WON A WORLD CUP TODAY! I think our team is all still in shock, but Noah skid an incredibly smart and strong race today, skiing all the way up to 9th place and posting the fastest time of the day. I am so stoked for him. I have always believed this was coming... it was just when! So huge congrats to Hoff- I think our team is going to be running on that excitement all the way up until next weeks races in Lillehammer, Norway!

The last time I came to Kuusamo two years ago! Thanks to Randy Gibbs for all the hard work and some incredible skis these past two weeks!!

A sweet video that Marcel Hilger put together:

Aside from all the ski racing, I have been having a great time in both Finland and Norway. It has been so nice to get back over here, get in the grove of being a ski racer, and being part of the traveling circus. Both weeks we have been staying in cabins, so it has been warm and cozy- which helps a lot. On thanksgiving I was really missing both my family and West Yellowstone- but skype did a great number!
Sarah Willis taking some fun photos of the TV
Tomorrow we will travel to Lillehammer where next weekends World Cups of Relay racing and 10k Classic will take place. I have never raced in Lillehammer, so I am really looking forward to skiing in the famous Olympic Stadium! Since I was a young girl, our family has had one of Sean McCabes paintings hanging on the wall from the Olympics in Lillehammer; so in another way, it is also a special place because of that! Some more excitement to come!

A special memory! The painting from our wall!