It has been an exciting and long 10 days of Championships in Falun, Sweden. A lot seems to have happened in 10 days! I participated in four of those fun days, so I will share a little bit of my experience in Falun. I will also include a link in case you didn't get to see the races.
Fans on Fans- Noise on Noise!!
Race 1: Classic Sprint
This is one of the events that I have had my largest "sights" and "goals" set on. We haven't done much classic sprinting this year, but every time I finish one, it feels better than the time before. Each time, I feel I figure it out a bit more, and I am getting closer. Sprinting is always a wild card for me… mysteriously it can go really well, or mysteriously it can go really poor. I never feel it is much of a predictable event, so I have a hard time putting all my "goals" towards it. It is too easy for something small to go wrong, and take away all your chances. On the other hand…. on a day where something small goes right, and suddenly I am given an awesome opportunity…. those days I start to "love" sprint racing a bit more.
Fist Pumps before the start- SODIE start (Zuzana Rodgers photo)
On this particular sprint day of World Championships, I fell onto the side of "something small going wrong". I had a strong heat with some of the race favorites, so I knew it was going to be a good opportunity to advance as lucky loser. I soared out of the start ready to begin the Championships with a bang, jumped in behind Bjorgen, a perfect place going into the uphill… and suddenly a skier came shooting out of my side vision, plop, right on top of me. My heart stopped for a second, thinking, "how can this be happening on this one day that I am fighting for my best". My fight or flight mode turned on and I shoved this girl as hard as I could… maybe hard enough that I ended up pushing myself backwards down the course. I quickly tried to get going again, desperately sprinting to catch back up to the high paced race around the 1.2k course. Instantly my legs flooded, and I struggled to stay with the pace… feeling I was fighting from behind. I crossed the lined disappointed, knowing I had missed an opportunity, for a reason out of my control. I later learned that the girl who had stepped on me had been disqualified… deservingly so, but unfortunately she had ruined the opportunities for both of us. Not only had she gone on to ski an incredible heat after my little power push… but I had crossed the line, not even close to my potential. Sprinting… so fun, but sometimes so frustrating. Fortunately, I knew I had many more races to come in the next two days!
Steve Fuller photo- the catch up game
Race 2: 15k Skiathlon
I had an especially fun race this day. I always find myself racing the pursuit race during Championship events… and it has always been the hardest event for me! I start out classic skiing, my stronger suit. Then, I switch skis into my weaker suit, and spend the remaining 7.5 kilometers running from all the strong skaters! It is the true mental test for me! But in a way, I love that. I love the challenge of it! On this particular day in Falun, it was the classic that I struggled with. As I searched to find my relaxed and strong classic pace… I couldn't. I was instantly flooding on the large climbs. For the first time, I was almost looking forward to going through the pit and switching into my skate skis. As I raced around the challenging skate courses up some of the tougher climbs out there…. the roar of the crowd kept me going. I couldn't even hear myself breathing, let alone the coaches yelling out cheers and splits on the side! For 7.5 kilometers, the roar of the crowd numbed my brain from feeling the pain! I crossed the line 20th, one of my better pursuit results… and for once, loving the skate portion!
Steve Fuller photo- headed out of the stadium with an amazing crowd.
Finishing the pursuit- Zuzana Rodgers photo
Race 3: Relay Day
Relay's are my favorite races of them all. Firstly, because they are 5 kilometers, a distance that I just LOVE!. Secondly, because of the weird team pressure, excitement, and energy that comes from relay day. These are the days that somehow I am able to find new strengths and abilities that I wasn't able to dig out earlier. Ever since my first relay races at Nationals, and World Juniors- I have adored this day. I have always loved the middle legs of the relay, because I love going on a "chase". This year I was moved to the "scramble leg" a position that is a little bit more hard. This means a mass start, and a scramble to stay in contact with the top teams! Instead of racing your ideal 5k where you choose the sections to secretly charge, or secretly work… you are forced to follow the "group" and be ready for when ,most likely, the Norwegians are going to pounce and try to drop the pack. Two years ago when I was on the relay team in Val di Fiemme, I wasn't nearly aggressive enough, and I found myself stuck behind teams when the Norwegians made their move… and as a result I wasn't able to try to chase. This year, my goal was to stay in the front, and be on my toes when Heidi decided to go.
Team Tactics the night before- Eli Brown photo.
My first relay in Slovenia
Making it on the podium at World Juniors in Slovenia (2006) with Liz, Morgan and Alexa
Getting ready for the show- glitter, face paint, braids... all of it! (Zuzana photo)
Things worked out spectacularly for the first 2.5 kilometers as I worked myself to the front and remained on the tails of Heidi. I had that feeling inside, that feeling where you know you are going to be able to dig deeper than you have been. As I headed down to the stadium on the twisty course from the highest point, I realized I had some of the fastest skis out there! As my skis took off, out of control, I swerved around the girls, trying to stay on my feet. Dropping down into the stadium, I jumped in my own lane… realizing I was moving significantly faster. Heading over the bump to take a trip back out onto the second loop, the Russian girl moved over on top of me and my skis… leaving me off balanced and trapped under her skis…. beeeeeem… I was down! Just like that, I was watching everyone go flying by in a race that I didn't want to screw up! I jumped up quickly, full of adrenaline, and sprinted through the stadium, trying to catch back up. A 400 meter sprint later, I had worked my way back up to the front, but I had an epic rush of lactate rushing through my legs. Suddenly I felt my legs turn to jello…. I was in trouble. I tried to keep pushing in my head "Sadie you can fight, you can fight".. My legs fell apart, my technique fell apart, and I was giving it all. I wasn't giving up, but it was not looking pretty! That front pack had made their move, to be expected, but I hadn't been there to fight. As I tagged off to Rosie in 6th, a huge 50 seconds behind the Norwegians, I wanted to go hide in a hole. I had faith in my teammates to play the "catch up game"… but I knew I had likely taken them out of the medal hunt!! On a day where we had all the potential in the world to stand on the podium… I had ruined that opportunity.
Calm before the storm... (Ronnols photo)
The best cheering squad!
For the next 45 minutes I watched my teammates fight their way back up, never once giving up! We crossed the line in 4th, a huge accomplishment, what we call "the wooden medal". The girls ensured me that I had done my best, the coaches encouraged me… but all I wanted to do on this day was hide in a little hole and cry! I knew what I was capable of, I knew what our team was capable of… and it just hadn't worked. Lucky for me, I have some pretty incredible and important people around me. While I wasn't able to give my best on this team day, I will be able to give twice as much next time! This is why relays are so special… because in order to have that amazing day and opportunity… it takes no mistakes, and a perfectly executed race by the whole team. It is an amazing collection of perfect team work! It has taken me until this week to finally get over this disappointment. Thank you to all you incredible people that have sent me emails and notes of encouragement! I needed that more than I realized! It was no-where near a disaster.. but on a day when I want to give 150% to my team, it is a hard disappointment to swallow.
Sometimes you just need a friend to give you a hug and tell you to get back up!
The Team behind THE TEAM!
Race 4: 30k Classic
This is a race that I have either really loved, or really hated in my racing career. Dependent on my fitness level, it can go either way. When I am feeling at my best, I love this race. It feels like a race of toughness. Who can go for 1.5 hours without giving up in your mind for a second? Coming through the week, I had realized I wasn't in my best fitness of the year. I wasn't finding that incredible feeling of "invincible" energy and strength that comes with being peaked. The best advice I was told though was "arrive on this day ready to fight with what you have". And that is what I did. I pushed my way to the front of the pack, and held on for as long as possible…. what lasted for about 6 kilometers. For those 6 kilometers though, I was having a heck of a time. I was moving around the pack, even leading at one point… it was a feeling of pure FUN. But, things got tough around 11 kilometers… when I had to hold on for dear life.. trying to stay positive inside my head. Things went back and forth for a bit, and I was finally able to get control of myself for the last 6 kilometers and finish off with a good feeling… crossing the line, again in 20th… the same place I kept managing to get.
Having some fun in the front with an incredible crowd! (Unleashed Coaching photo credit)
Climbing up through the roar of incredible cheers above the stadium- NordicFocus photo
And that was my four days, my 2015 World Championships. While none of these days were "huge break-throughs", they were all satisfying. An improvement from both my Olympics, as well as my World Champs two years ago. The tough thing is going into a Championships with none of your favorite events… because you have these huge number goals, but you forget to think about the little improvements. While I may have had a little bit of bad luck over the course of the 10 days, it was still pretty rewarding. Rewarding to watch some of the others on the team land on the podium. Rewarding to watch my teammates fight back into 4th on the relay day, rewarding to watch Soph and Sim make it into the Semi's on the sprint day. I wasn't the only one that had a little bad luck. Liz Stephen put together one of the more impressive 10k skate races, but it got hidden by a deep layer of slow snow. Baptiste Gros lost a ski in the final lap of the Team Sprint Final when France was in contention for a medal. The Norwegians missed the wax on the 10k Skate day and the Norwegian ladies landed in the 20s and 30's! The Swedish Team had a mishap in the tag zone during the team sprint and one teammate broke the other teammates pole… oops! That is why sport is so cool… because it takes some luck, some opportunity, and some seriously impressive performance to make magic happen!
Because this job is pretty darn fun!! Marc Rohde photo
Wrapping up in this wonderful land of Sweden!
10 days later and I have had lots of emotion, watched two american flags raise during an awards ceremony, screamed in utter disbelief as I watched Petter out-sprint a field of exhausted men after 50 kilometers, enjoyed my first donut in years after 30 kilometers of pain, gotten goose bumps as I stood on the start line during the quarterfinals and listened to 50,000 people go wild when they introduced Stina Nilsson, lead a pack of 50 charging women during the 30k, gathered as a women's team and put our hands in the center ready to take on the week as a team…. and at the end of the 10 days, I left pretty excited. I am certainly hungry for more… but as we say, that's what keeps us coming back. Even Petter Northug… who seems to have won it all… he wants more! At the end of the day, there always needs to be that something, that is going to encourage you to train harder for the next.
8 girls, going in as a team!
But first, it is not over yet! The Championships may have completed, but we still have two more weekends of World Cup racing! Lahti, Finland this weekend, and Oslo, Norway next week!
Big thanks to the huge Staff and Volunteer crew last week! The wax crew, the coaches, the physio's, and the Joey and Toni's of the World!! Thanks for making it all work so awesome this week!
Our awesome PT's that are both tons of fun, and very good at their job! (Zuzana photo)
Thanks to these wonderful people for volunteering their time!
That is Matt Whitcomb, head Women's Coach, putting as much into cheering as we are putting into racing! (Erik Mundahl photo)
Our waxers gave us some of the best skis on the course these past 10 days!! Thanks for some fast rides!!