Friday, December 21, 2018

Highs and Lows of Period One

Period one of the World Cup has come to a close and I'm enjoying a little holiday break in Seefeld, Austria before the World Cup starts up again in a week. After a good fall spent mostly back in Vermont, I was excited to head over to Europe for the season when mid November rolled around. Our first stop in Europe the last couple years has been in Finland. We go to Rovaneimi, Finland for a short pre-season camp to adjust to the time zone, get used to snow again, and get our feet on the ground for ten days or so before the first World Cup. This year we were able to jump into some races while in Rovaneimi, which was a good way to wake up the system and go hard before the big races began. Unfortunately, snow conditions in Rovaneimi were hurting this year and while the organizers tried their best to salvage the track, we had to go to Kuusamo a little earlier where there still wasn't natural snow, but the World Cup courses had cleaner snow that we were able to get some good training in on.
Possibly the rockiest rock skiing I've ever done
Our first World Cup weekend is always in Kuusamo, Finland and this year was no different. The courses of Kuusamo are hilly and hard and the competition is tough. As a team, we tend to work into the season a little because we haven't been on snow for as long as many other teams and we have a big travel overseas, but that said, we've also had some great results in Kuusamo before. I was feeling really good heading into the weekend and had a solid classic sprint, finishing 16th. It was by no means an awesome race for me, but Kuusamo has always been a tough one for me, and I was happy to start the season feeling good and having a solid result. Sadie led our team through the weekend with two top tens in the classic sprint and classic 10km and the rest of our team had some solid results, but were left hungry for more!
Ready for the season to begin! (Jesse Vannenan photo)
After Kuusamo, we had a long travel day to Lillehammer Norway for a mini tour weekend that consisted of a skate sprint, a skate individual start, and a classic pursuit start. Unfortunately, on the travel day I started to get a bit of a scratchy throat. After a big night of sleep I was feeling better the next day, but in hindsight probably overdid it a bit because by that night the scratchy throat was back and feeing like the beginning of a cold. I tried my best to rest it out and kick it before the races, but sometimes it's easy to forget that colds generally last about 7-10 days and I had about four days before the races, so the math wasn't working in my favor. I was bummed to miss what I think was my first sprint in a few years, but so it goes. Sometimes you get sick on the road and it's never fun to sit in a hotel room for a week and wish you were racing, but it happens to the best of us. I tried to keep myself busy by going for walks, listening to podcasts, drawing, writing, watching some TV, reading, and facetiming friends and family back home. That worked pretty well and over the weekend time flew by because I was able to watch the races on TV for most of the day, including the Bjornsen siblings coming away from the weekend with a pair of 3rds! By the time the weekend was coming to an end, I was beginning to feel a lot better.
Brown cheese curing colds
And lots of tea!
After Lillehammer we drive to Beitostolen, Norway for a weekend with a distance skate race and a relay. I was feeling better and better and was psyched to go on some easy skis on the natural snow that Beito had just gotten. The World Cup race courses are brutally hard, so the opportunity to ski on tourist trails is always welcomed for easy mid-week training. After a couple days of what seemed like normal training, I was starting to feel pretty healthy again, but then a dry cough and fatigue began to set into my system. At first we thought it was just the tail end of the cold, but I was bummed because we had planned to start two relay teams, but we weren't able to to start our second team because I wasn't feeling healthy enough to race. I gave it a couple more days of hoping it was just the tail end of my cold, but the cough wasn't getting better, which made it hard to sleep, and by this point I had been sick for two weeks and was majorly bumming. This is the part of being a ski racer that really isn't glamorous. When you're sick on the road, the last place you want to be is in a dark hotel room and it makes you excited for the phase of life when a cold doesn't require you to be quarantined and you can go on with life as usual. There were several moments where I wondered why the heck I was still doing this and got upset at myself for being so bummed about something that in the grand scheme of things was so small, but there was a teammate for each one of those times to remind me exactly why I'm doing this. You're allowed to  be bummed out, but things can turn around really quickly, and all the happy moments we have on the road allow us to so quickly forget the royally sucky ones. 

Period one U.S. women's team!

Checking out the tourist trails in Beito (Kelsey photo)
And turn around quickly things did. After a few days in Davos, I was beginning to feel more like myself and my cough was settling down enough to get some good sleep. If I had one day of going hard in me, I wanted to save it for the race, so I just went for really easy skis until sprint day in Davos. We stay in the same hotel every year we're in Davos and it's the same hotel my Uncle Tim stayed in when he was on the U.S. Ski team, the Hotel Kulm. Everyone there is so kind and it feels like our home away from home. The sunshine also helps with health and spirits, so a combination of a lot of things was beginning to make me feel pretty happy again. 
Soaking in the Davos vitamin D

Easy skis with buddies (Sadie photo)
Going into the sprint, I didn't want to set any expectations. I was really grateful to be feeling healthy again and excited to be able to race. I've had some solid results in Davos before. I think my first ever top 10 was in Davos and I've made the semi finals several times, but I was going to be happy to qualify last weekend. I was also really looking forward to doing my first World Cup skate race on my new Salomon skis since the only weekend I had raced was classic only in Kuusamo! I made sure I got a good warm up in since it had been awhile since I had last gone hard, I did a good ski test with my tech, Oleg and then tried to ski a smooth, fast, and well paced qualifier. I couldn't really believe it when I came across the line in 1st and then the results stayed that way and I had won the qualifier. The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I felt good, my skis felt great, and I tried to ski each heat as tactically sound as possible and before I knew it, I had made it to the final and finished 2nd in the sprint. It was truly a dream day and so much better than I could have imagined going into the day, but I think there are a couple important things I can take out of it. The first is that there is something to be said about being well rested, especially at altitude. But more importantly, as my teammates and sports psych and coaches reminded me, hard work doesn't just disappear in a week or two weeks or three weeks, and things can turn around really quickly. Often all it takes is one bad race, or a cold, or a fall to lose your confidence, but it's important to remember that conversely, all it takes is one good race, or one good feeling, or one good corner to gain your confidence back. 
2nd place! First Davos podium, first podium of the season, first podium on Salomon skis! (Reese Brown photo)

Excited to be sporting GTY Technology on my hat this year! (Reese Brown photo)

Davos skate sprint (Reese Brown photo)
We have one more week in Seefeld, which is one of my favorite places in the world. There isn't a ton of snow, but there is enough for some good skiing and previewing of the World Champs courses. We have a nice kitchen where we get to enjoy the one time all winter when we can cook our own meals, a mini Christmas tree to help with holiday spirit, and skiing that is basically out our door, so I'm looking forward to one more week of this before beginning the chaos of the Tour de Ski! My plan is to do the first three stages before returning to Seefeld for another little block of training before the sprint weekend in Dresden. Thanks for following and Happy Holidays!
Life is good in Austria! (Kelsey photo)


  1. Congratulations on a great finish to 2018.
    I’ll be looking for you on the Olympic Chanel.
    Happy Holidays and cheers for your 2019 season

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