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!