Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Four Countries in Three Weeks!

This blog is a little overdue, but the past few weeks have been busy! After the first five races in the Tour de Ski, those of us who finished early had a week or so in Toblach to recover and prepare for the sprint weekend in Slovenia. Toblach didn't have a ton of snow, but they put down a huge stretch of trail for the marathon that was happening while we were there. It was one of the first times this season that we had more than a 5k loop to ski! Unfortunately, I caught a mild cold after the Tour, so I was doing more resting than skiing, but Toblach is also a great place to recover.

View of Toblach out my hotel window

Skiing on the marathon trail with Chelsea Holmes
After our week in Toblach, we traveled to Planica, Slovenia for the sprint weekend. I had never been to Slovenia before, so I was looking forward to seeing a new country. We were staying in a beautiful little town in the Julien Alps. The first race in Slovenia was a skate sprint. I placed third in my quarter final, missing the lucky loser spot and placing 13th for the day. I didn't feel great, but 13th in a World Cup is never a bad day. The following day was a skate team sprint. Ida and I paired up and moved through the semi finals to place 5th in the final, the best we've ever done as a pair in a team sprint! Team sprints are a really fun format and also one of the most demanding races on the World Cup. Each person does three laps of the sprint course and tags off to their partner between each leg. So by the end of the day, after the semi final and the final, we had each done six laps of the sprint course!

Ida, Erika, me, and Chels skiing around the day before the sprint

Team sprint buddies

Me and Ides sporting our relay socks after the team sprint
My favorite part of our trip to Slovenia was the adventure run we went on the day after the races. There wasn't much snow, so we decided to wander into the Alps for a run. It was a beautiful morning and there were mountain goats zipping around above us as we ran up the valley in Planica. Days like this are one of the many reasons I love being a skier and it was really refreshing to get away from a small manmade loop of skiing for a day.
Zuz running up the valley

The crew (Zuzana photo)

Checking out the view on one of the ridges

Zuzana, Erika, and me

SMS T2 jumping photo with Ruka

Made it!
The Tuesday after the Slovenia weekend, we made the long drive to Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic. This was the third time I had ever been to Nove Mesto, and for some reason I really like it there. It's not beautiful central Europe with sunny skies and delicious food, but we stay in a cute little hotel right by the ski stadium and everything is simple. Nove Mesto has a really neat stadium and they had a 5k loop of skiing. I did some good training in the beginning of the week and then took a couple easy days to prepare for a potential relay start. My cousin, Lilly, was coming over to Europe for a work meeting and she made the trip over to Nove Mesto to visit me and do some cheering before her meetings! I was so happy to see a familiar face and I loved showing her the ropes at her first ever cross country World Cup race. Saturday was a distance skate race that I didn't do, but I cheered on my teammates and we had a great day as a team. Jessie raced to the podium AGAIN, placing 3rd, and Sadie, Liz, Rosie, and Noah were also all in the points. 
Our friend Robin from the French team gave us some special herbs to spice up our food in Europe in exchange for some VT maple syrup and cheddar cheese when we get to Canada!

Me and Jess on one of the training days in Czech

Jessie at the podium ceremony downtown!

One of the best fireworks shows I've ever seen after the awards ceremony

Hanging out with my cousin Lilly at the races!

On Saturday afternoon, I found out I had a spot on our relay team! We have a really strong women's team right now and I think one of the coolest things about it is that any one of the seven of us could make a case for a strong relay leg. I was thrilled to be a part of our A relay team for my first time. The relay was 4x5kms and the first two legs were classic and the second two legs were skate. I was the scramble leg, so the first classic leg, and my goal was to conserve as much energy by following people and to come in tagging Sadie off in a good place. The first 2.5kms of the relay were pretty mellow. I had a good start and positioned myself in the front 1/3 of the pack. After 2.5kms, Norway took off at a sprint pace and put some time into the rest of the field. I hung tight to the chase pack and came in the with a pack of skiers from 2nd-5th place, tagging Sadie off in third. Sadie and team Finland managed to gap the skiers they were racing with and Sadie tagged Liz off in third, right behind Finland, with a gap to the next pack of skiers. Liz skied an awesome race and passed Finland on the second lap, tagging Jessie off in second, with a small gap to third. Jessie, being the anchor queen she is, put a little more time into Finland and crossed the finish line in a decisive second place, the best result our US women's relay team has ever had! This was one of the most memorable races of my ski career and I was so happy and honored to be a part of such a strong team.
Sprinting into the finish pen to celebrate our 2nd place as Jessie crosses the line (Getty Images)

Our relay team of Sadie, Jessie, me, and Liz (hiding behind her skis) (Getty Images)
USA, Norway, and Finland on the podium! (FIS photo)
On Monday morning, we flew to Norway for a week of training in Sjusjoen before the World Cup picks back up in Scandinavia next week. There are over 300kms of skiing in Sjusjoen and it is a winter wonderland. We are staying in cabins right near the trails and I'm looking forward to some good training, relaxing, and a weekend off from racing. Thanks for following!
Emily Nishikawa, me, Sim, Andy, Liz, and Ides posing for a picture on our first ski in Sjusjoen (Jessie photo)

Jumping for joy! (Jess photo)

Liz and Jess finding a cave under a snow covered tree

Celebrating Ida's 28th birthday

Sunrise view out my bedroom window in the morning

Making our way up the backside of the alpine mountain...oops!

Teammates cresting over the hill in Sjusjoen


  1. love the blog Soph -- it brings it all to life and paints a great picture of an epic time for you and your teammates. Congrats on everything -- and keep chronicling this experience for us! I spent four years of my life skiing in Slovenia in the winter -- while living in Belgrade, and in the end found it to be one of the most amazing and charming places. People were incredible - food was hardy, winters were robust and life seemed simple. kick some donkey woman!

  2. GREAT blog, Sophie! I read and reread every word cause I can just hear your voice as if you were talking directly to me. What an amazing season you and the team are having! You are all rock stars in our hearts and minds. Can hardly wait to see you in person in Quebec. You will know us by the loudest cheering squad. Well, maybe we won't be quite as loud as the Caldwell crew!

    1. Thanks Lol! Can't wait to see you in a few weeks xoxo

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