Friday, March 20, 2015

Catch Up

I'm a little behind on blogging, but the last couple weeks have been busy ones. After Falun, the team flew to Lahti, Finland for a skate sprint and a classic distance race. One year ago in Lahti is where I got my World Cup podium. I tend to like flatter skate courses like Lahti, but for some reason I've always struggled in qualification there. In the three years I've done the Lahti sprint, I've failed to qualify twice, and I snuck into qualification once (last year). It was tough to not qualify this year on a course that I had had such a good result on the previous year, but luckily, all three teammates who qualified had great days. Andy ended up 8th, showing he was in strong form at the end of a long World Cup season. Jessie placed 4th, which is her best World Cup result ever and Kik was back on the podium in third! That's three years in a row that she has been on the podium in Lahti. Even though she hasn't had the season she hoped for, she always kept fighting and believing and landed herself back on the podium. We couldn't be more proud. Even though my skate sprint was a little disappointing, I had the oppurtunity to race the classic 10k the following day. I haven't been able to do very much distance racing this year, so I was excited to get a start and came up with a race plan without having any expectations as far as results went. I felt amazing my first lap and even though I faded a bit the second lap, I hung tough and ended up 31st, .2 seconds away from scoring distance points! It was arguably my best distance race on the World Cup ever. Even though it was a little bittersweet being so close to scoring points, I couldn't help but be happy with the result and how I felt.
It was International Women's Day while we were in Lahti, so one of our wax techs, Assar, gave us all flowers. How nice!

Dinner at Aino Kaisa Saarinen's house

Getting some TV time at the start of the 10k classic.
After Lahti, we packed up and headed to Oslo. The last two races of the season took place in Oslo. The first was a classic city sprint in Drammen on Wednesday and the second was a 30k skate at Holmenkollen on Sunday. I was only racing the classic sprint before heading back to the U.S. I've never qualified for a classic sprint in Drammen in the three years that I've done it. The gradual grade that mostly consists of power striding and double poling is not my favorite, but one of these years I'm going to make it happen. Despite not qualifying, I enjoyed soaking in my final day on the World Cup for the year by joining the crowds to cheer on my teammates for the rest of the race. Then it was back to the hotel to pack for heading back to the states!

Squinty team photo shoot in Drammen

Dakota, Sim, and Erik skiing at Holmenkollen

Holmenkollen Stadium

Soaking in some sunshine on a nice morning in Fornebu
The morning after the race in Drammen, I hopped on the plane and flew back to the U.S. I felt like I had been looking forward to heading home for awhile, but then when the time finally came, I was actually a little sad to be leaving. Life on the road isn't always easy, but we get used to the people and the lifestyle and eventually come to love it. That said, the idea of home is always appealing. Landing in a US airport after four months in Europe is always a wild experience. In Europe, I kind of get used to a constant buzz of other languages that I don't understand and it almost becomes white noise. When I landed in the US, everyone was speaking english and I couldn't stop listening! It felt good to be home. I haven't actually been to my real home in Vermont yet, because Simi and I went to Aspen for a week before Spring Series in Sun Valley. I had the perfect week of ski adventures and sunshine and arrived in Sun Valley last night. Unfortunately I woke up with a little cold this morning and I'm hoping to kick it before the races start tomorrow, but I'll take it one day at a time. Thanks for following!

A ski up to Maroon Bells

Our friends Megan and Dylan came out to CO to join us for the week. We tried just about every kind of skiing last week. Here we are on our first day of back country skiing. 

Not bad!

Enjoying a lake break

Sun, snow and a lot of skiing!

An artsy photo into Meg's goggles

Alpine skiing on Meg's birthday

The crew on one of our adventures

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Falun 2015

And just like that, World Championships is over. Time goes by quickly when there is a race almost every day. My races were at the beginning of the championships, but that doesn't mean things necessarily got less busy, because there was a lot of spectating and cheering to be done my second half of the championships! I personally had some highs and some lows, and I think most people on the team can say the same, but as a team we had an extremely successful championships. On the sprint day we qualified six people in the top 30, which is the most we've ever had at a World Championships sprint. On the team sprint day, both our men and women's team qualified for the finals, which is never an easy accomplishment. In the distance events we saw a handful of personal bests for the season, which were highlighted by Jessie and Caitlin BOTH being on the podium in the 10k skate. Yep, that's right, two americans on the podium and three in the top 10! Our women's relay fought to an impressive fourth place behind three xc powerhouses and in the 30k we had three girls in the top 30. Wow.
America! Hugs for Jessie and Caitlin after their podium finishes in the 10k!

Not a super high quality picture, but that's my teammate and buddy Jessie at the awards ceremony receiving her silver medal on the big screen.

The team behind the team. Our women's relay team after their 4th place finish.
My championships started on a high note with the classic sprint. Skate sprinting has always been stronger for me and with my elbow injuries this year, that was especially the case. I qualified 21st in the classic sprint and moved through the quarter finals and into the semis where I ended up 10th overall. I was thrilled with a top 10, but even more thrilled with the fact that I felt great! Like I said before, we qualified six in the top 30 and some other highlights of the day were Simi placing 12th and Dakota qualifying for his first World Cup sprint.
Steve Fuller photo from my classic sprint qualifier

A screen shot from my cousin Anya watching live from home!
Sodie fist bump before the qualifier

After the classic sprint I was told that I would be doing the skate team sprint with Jessie. My initial reaction was pure joy and excitement and about a day later that excitement transformed into nerves. I pride myself on being a pretty level-headed skier and I can usually turn nerves into excitement and perform my best when I'm nervous. I'm not sure what got into me, but this was nervous to a new level. It was hard for me to sleep, eat, and really just function in general. Maybe it was the fact that it was World Champs, maybe it was the fact that we were wearing the defending World Champs bibs, or maybe it was the fact that I wasn't as confident in my distance skiing this year. Everyone did a really nice job of reminding me that Jessie and I were a new pair and there were no expectations, but man did I have the jitters. The day of the team sprint is a bit of a blur. Jessie was an amazing partner. She skied so well and was a great friend through it all, but I don't feel that I skied to my potential or had a great day. I was a little disappointed after, but also a little relieved to take a deep breath. We made it into the finals, which was a big goal of ours and we skied our best, which I'm really proud of. Being able to toe the start line in a defending World Champion bib is also pretty freaking cool. To be on a team with Jessie was an honor and I hope that some day we can try it again.

Team sprint day. Check out that bib! And those socks! And that crowd!

A kiss from my amazing relay partner
Soon after the sprint relay was the day of the 10k skate, which was hands down the most exciting day of the championships for our team. I was cheering with my parents in the middle of the huge crowd in the stadium. As the race started, a light snow started to fall. Then it started to fall a little harder and a little harder. It was a crazy race in a lot of ways. The snow affected the race and it was a disadvantage to be a late starter, but that's part of ski racing and our girls did an amazing job of taking an opportunity to ski their hearts out. I'm really proud of both Jessie and Caitlin who had amazing races and proud of our service team who produced some damn good skis. It was also really inspiring to see Liz, who was one of the latest starters, ski a race that could have arguably also been a podium result had she not been skiing through the fresh snow. Two americans on the podium is something special. It made history and being a part of the team that got there is an honor.
Women's world champs team 

Heading out to cheer for the relay with Ides

Proud of this girl
After my last race, I took a few days to wake up and do whatever I wanted that day. A couple days involved skiing, every day involved spending time with my parents, and a lot of activities were taking a break from skiing. It was so nice to have my parents here. I was reminded that they're always going to be there for a hug after a good race and there for a hug after a bad race with a smile on their faces. We took a field trip to the local copper mine, checked out the museum filled with Swedish artwork, and enjoyed some tasty food outside of the hotel. It was fun to experience World Championships as a fan in the crowd and by the time I got back to training, I basically stuck to the tourist trails which remind me a lot of skiing back in Vermont. It's been a whirlwind of a championships and I've really enjoyed being part of such an incredible team. Our team packs up to head to Lahti, Finland on Tuesday for another weekend of World Cup races. After that I have one more race in Drammen before flying home. That's 11 days I will be back in the U.S. of A! Time flies when you're having fun :)
Mom and dad time

Outfitted for the mine!

Taking a ride on the signature Falun horse

The Dario Fan Club

How psyched are we about a double podium? This psyched.

America deserves some champagne

Liz and me with our wax tech, Oleg. He's not a man of many words, but his words warm our hearts and his hands make some speedy skis.

Our smiley PTs Ana and Zuzana

Simi and me enjoying some maple syrup fuel on a ski

Thank you to all of our volunteers who took their time to come over here and be a huge part of our team.
See you soon, Dad!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Swedish February

A travel day to or from Davos wouldn't be complete without a snowstorm, so on the day of our departure, the snow started to dump and we were were on our way. Luckily, we finally found some chains that fit our vans perfectly and have a few people on the team who have mastered putting on and removing the chains, so it didn't slow us down too much.
Simi and Erik supervising the chain application before leaving the snowy Hotel Kulm

Car snacks!

Some beautiful lighting on my last evening in Davos
We drove to Munich, Germany, where we dropped off our rental vans and spent a night at the the Hotel Movenpick. We woke up early the following morning to make two quick flights that would would land us in Ostersund, Sweden. When we arrived in Ostersund, we were greeted by fairly warm temperatures, and close to zero snow at our hotel. It was quite the contrast after being in cold snowy Davos. Apparently they had had a bunch of snow the week before, but had experienced several days of pouring rain before we arrived. Luckily, the organizers did a great job of keeping the race courses in good condition. Since we arrived on Monday, we had a few days of training on the race courses before the weekend races.

Liz and me after one of our morning workouts in Ostersund. We're attempting to send strong legs to my cousin, Anya, who just broke her tib and fib.
Photo with Canadian, Olivia, fresh off of U23s!

On our day off, Jessie and I decided to walk home from the venue. With some vague directions and no maps, we quickly got lost, but made the best of it!

Siri, where am I?!
There were two races in Ostersund over the weekend. On Saturday there was a classic sprint and on Sunday there was a 10k skate. I was only racing the classic sprint. The course was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was a two lap course that winded in and out of the stadium and through the grand stands. There were two big hills on each lap that were so steep you had to herringbone them both. So it definitely wasn't a double pole course, but it also wasn't a striding course. I remember one of my first ski practices at Dartmouth where Cami made us dedicate an entire practice to herringboning. I was thinking she was a little crazy at the time, but it finally paid off! I was happy to qualify for my first classic sprint of the year in 24th. Sadie also qualified for the heats and we ended up being in the same heat. That was a little unlucky, but we had fun with it and although neither of us moved on, we gave it our best and ended up 20th and 22nd for the day. Our boys had a really strong day with Simi moving into the semifinals and Andy just narrowly missing the semis.
Racing our quarter final heat

Sadie and me sporting our Valentine's Day colors after finishing our heat

Happy Valentines Day!

Cooling down above the stadium and crowd

Sodie selfie with Coach Matt
It was really awesome to have my friends Morgen Newman and Kayti Sullivan, who are living in Hamburg, come to cheer me on this weekend. It's always nice to see familiar faces and to hear an American accent in the crowd! 

After a busy Valentine's race day, we had a relaxing morning on Sunday and packed up and made the long bus ride to Falun for World Champs. World Champs is exciting for many reasons. The first being, well, it's World Champs! Even though we're racing the same people we race every weekend, everything is more built up, so there is a lot of extra excitement surrounding the event. We also have a huge team this year and it's nice to see some of the athletes and staff who join us for the next couple weeks and haven't been on the regular World Cup circuit. And finally, my parents are arriving this afternoon and I don't think I've been able to wipe the smile off my face all day because of it! Racing starts Tuesday with the classic sprint. Make sure to download the Falun 2015 apps and tune into the US Ski team website to watch the races live. Thanks for following!
Team USA in Ostersund

All packed up and ready for World Champs