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