At the Olympics, I had the enormous pleasure of getting to know fellow Minnesotan Rosie Frankowski. Rosie and I must have raced against each other countless times—at Minnesota State Meets, Junior National Qualifiers, NCAA Championships, and for the last four years of our lives as professional ski racers. Our lives diverged geographically after high school as I ventured East and Rosie went to Michigan…and then I stayed East as Rosie headed to Alaska.
An early Junior National Qualifier Podium with Rosie!
If you haven’t had the good fortune to spend some one-on-one time with Rosie, find her at an exotic Air BNB in Mexico after the season ends and get it done. Among being one of the hardest workers, she has incredible perspective and a litany of shockingly insightful one-liners.
As we walked to breakfast one morning discussing the opening ceremonies and what it meant to be an Olympian, Rosie remarked: “The craziest thing about being an Olympian is everybody thinks you’re cool without even knowing you.” She then went on to explain how she had reached out to one of her favorite foodie Instagram stars (Molly Yeh), and despite having commented on her posts several (hundred) times to no avail, Molly responded right back once she found out Rosie was at the Olympics.
the quintessential Olympic photo. It is so cool!
I was instantly struck by two competing notions. One: That is awesome. Even Instagram gave me the elusive blue check next to my name after the opening ceremonies (basically I’m at Taylor Swift level). Two: That is the worst.
It is the worst, because officially being an Olympian is the least Olympic part of being an Olympian. Due to the every-four-years hype that surrounds the World’s most organized sporting event, the country and the world starts paying attention to niche sports only at those times. As a result, the world seems to think that people who have qualified for the Olympics have done something so different from everyone else who tried to qualify, that they deserve a blue check next to their Instagram name.
At the end of last season, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue ski racing. I had a very teary cooldown with Sophie after a race at Spring Series, where between sobs I told her I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. “It” being the mental, physical, and emotional toil that goes into every minute of training and racing. After a month-long break from any kind of organized training, I decided that I owed it to myself to see if I could make the “big” team.
But, I also promised myself that I wanted my lead up to the last chapter to look the same regardless of whether that chapter happened at the Olympics, or at home in Minnesota. I wanted all the lead up chapters to be filled with workouts, races, rest days and relationships that I could be proud of. I worked hard to be the best version of myself every day. I worked every day on building a character (and fitness) base that would get me happily to the end of my book. I sweat and I cried, I laughed and I loved. I went into the race season in the best physical, and more importantly mental, shape I’d ever been in. I knew that I had done everything possible in part one of my book, so I had to be content with whatever happened in part two.
Part two wasn’t filled with perfect races and rainbow days. Sure, there were some of those. But there were also harrowing moments of self-doubt and pity. But when it mattered most for making the “big” team, I put all the pieces of myself together to throw my best punch. And for those seven minutes of important racing, it all clicked. I was healthy, my skis were perfect, and my body felt good. I strung together two of my best qualifiers ever, and one month later was on a plane to PyeongChang.
I know that there are many athletes out there—in cross country skiing and all other winter Olympic sports—whose Part ones and Part twos looked nearly identical to mine. But as is sport, not everyone’s perfect days can happen on the same day. It is the most beautiful but most haunting aspect of competition. The hardest and most honorable part of sport is cheering for a competitor when their perfect day comes at the expense of yours. I know, because I’ve been on both sides of that day.
Despite the nearly identical lead ups of hundreds of athletes, many don’t have the blue check next to their Instagram handle.
And that’s a damn shame. Because it is in the deep depths of the toil that Olympians—in everything but precise name—are made. Don’t get me wrong, the Olympic experience is an incredible one, and one I won’t soon forget. I feel incredibly humbled and honored to have represented the country and the communities that have guided me to this chapter. The Olympic Creed has never rung truer to me: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
I am now happily back home, and after a very restful four days with Thomas (the bearer of my beautiful rose bouquet upon arrival back in Minnesota) and my family (well, semi restful. Bulldog Pudge had emergency surgery after ingesting two pairs of lulu lemon underwear- he has expensive taste), I am ready to continue the fight on the Birkie Trails. This will be my first 50K, and I’m excited and nervous but mostly excited. See everyone out there!
Let the games begin! After another as-typical-as-being-at-the-Olympics-gets day, yesterday evening was the Opening Ceremonies. I’ve watched many an opening ceremonies on TV, but all of those popcorn and couch viewings did little to prepare me for the in-person show.
As is my style, I started getting ready for our 6:20 call time about an hour too early. I took a little solace in knowing that Lindsey Vonn was ready before I was, until realizing she is staying 40 minutes away. Suiting up in the Ralph Lauren get-up basically felt like the most patriotic prom pre-game in the world. We subbed mixed drinks for bottled water, party snacks for rice and chicken, gowns for heated jackets, corsages for handkerchiefs, and heels for big warm boots.
The SMS T2 team- all dressed up!
The US Cross Country Marching Crew
Rosie Frankowski and I got down to the meeting point very early, and happily watched the other 218 athletes assemble alongside us. My favorite quote from that half hour was a luge athlete who realized he forgot his glasses at the last minute. He bolted up the 13 flights of stairs as the elevator was moving at mach-snail speed, and came back just in the nick of time. After seeing the show, I’m not sure whether he meant his sunglasses or prescription glasses…both of which would have come in handy later. Our Korean leader held the American Flag up high, and we all began our wild-wild west march to the first of many waiting points.
I felt a bit like a minion, Ralph Lauren army!
The lead-up to the ceremonies was a classic hurry up and wait mentality. The slightest bit of movement resulted in phones out and giddy cheers, only to move about five feet and wait some more. We first packed onto a bus, where Rosie realized what Lindsey Vonn actually looked like. I tried to play it cool and chatted with Lindsey about her three dogs, and she even asked about mine. Her dog, Lucy, has a German passport and successfully slept through most of a 16 hour flight without any accidents. Unclear if any of my dogs could accomplish that feat.
Rosie, before she knew who Lindsey Vonn was, and why I was taking her picture.
We then entered the main staging area along with all of the other countries. This was the longest wait, with about an hour of slowly regrouping as some of the at least 20,000 volunteers urged us to stay organized. There was food, drink, and some amazing dancing. A group of four Korean dancers choreographed a piece that included interpretations of all the Winter Olympic sports–props included. The best was probably the bobsled impression, which included fake snow and great sound effects.
At 8:02, the hurry up and wait reached a whole new level of anticipation. Fireworks started going off, and as countries began going into the stadium I just started hopping up and down. I attempted to stay close to Shaun White in hopes of getting some NBC TV Time, but I think he had strict instructions from NBC on where he had to be (by Anne Hart was NOT the place).
The joke is on Shaun White however, as I was the lead in to the prime-time coverage NBC had in the states. Life goal, achieved.
The cross-country team had insider knowledge to stay to the right, as that would be the outside of the counter-clockwise circle we’d be walking (closer to all the television cameras). We diligently grouped together, and just about lost it as we realized the song “Gangnam Style” would be our marching song. With the flag bearer leading the way, we heard them call “United States of America,” and then really just a roar from both the crowd and our delegation.
I attempted to capture some of the feeling on my phone (video coming later!) but it just doesn’t do the moment justice. I teared up twice that evening, and walking (dancing) my way around that circle was one of them. Even writing about it now I’m getting goose-bumps, and teammate Jessie Diggins likened the feeling to how she feels right after a successful race. I can only describe it as a million sparklers going off inside my soul, and then glittering out through silly smiles and unabashed hugs with complete strangers.
I’m sure we were only out there for a couple minutes, but time stood absolutely still and for all I knew we were marching for hours. But we eventually came to our seats, and people racing the next day took an early shuttle back to the village, while I settled into my heated jacket and seat warmer for the show.
Which was, in a word, amazing. The theme of the opening ceremonies was peace and harmony, exemplified by the unified walking of both South and North Korea under one Korean flag. The show utilized the most amazing dancers and lights to go through a rapid Korean history lesson. Then there were some brief speeches, followed by my second tearing up moment. Korean artists did a live rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” as softly lit candles held by angels worked their way into a dove formation on the floor. Everyone in the crowd had lighters, and representatives from the entire world swaying together in harmony is the closest thing to complete peace and perfection I’ve ever seen.
After an unspoken understanding amongst thousands that a moment of silence would follow the song, the Olympic flame was lit, and then the most amazing pyrotechnics show ensued. I’ve had Christmas in February, and I’m pretty sure I just experienced Fourth of July in February. There were flame throwers, spinning sparklers, roller skaters with flaming batons, fireworks…again I’ll have a video up shortly that will fail, yet attempt, to give you an idea of the grandiosity of the entire show.
With one final exceptional firework display, the games were officially opened and we all crammed onto shuttle busses back home.
One interesting note was the very subtle but strong security at the opening ceremony. As an open air stadium, the venue provided unique safety challenges. Namely, drones. When I took my seat I looked around to see what measures were taken and noticed several snipers located in an almost invisible spinning platform above, as well as two helicopters and a small plane circling above the stadium for the duration of the show. Additionally, there were two instances of individuals trying to “crash” the show by rushing onto the stage, and the speed with which they were apprehended was astounding. Even more astounding was the non-reaction from any of the performers.
It was easily the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and I feel so humbled and so lucky to have experienced it first hand from the ground floor.
I also feel extremely lucky, as my boyfriend Thomas flew all the way to South Korea for five days to cheer on Team USA!
I’m the luckiest. This entire trip has been a dream, and while there is a lot more action to pack into the next four days (I’m heading home on the 14th after the sprint), I just want to take another moment to thank everyone who has helped me get to the point where I’m the one waving at the television cameras.
Days at the Olympics begin quite early for me. I’ve always been an early riser, and then throw in a 15 hour time change and my body thinks it is the afternoon when the clock says it is three in the morning! Thankfully I only had one day when 3 o’clock was the permanent wake up, but otherwise I’ve been rolling out of bed around 6.
The cross country ski races in PyeongChang all occur in the late afternoon/evening/night (the sprint final is at 8 p.m.!). I think it is super interesting how and why events are scheduled at different times. Essentially TV broadcasters attempt to schedule events for prime times in their most popular countries. So figure skating is in the morning, while ski jumping is at 10 p.m. I’m rooming with three ski jumpers (one of them is Sarah Hendrickson, a World Champion!) and she explained that in Sochi they would stay up until 2 in the morning so that they could be feeling fresh at 10 p.m.
Anyways, as a result of the afternoon race starts, we have been doing ski training at 3 p.m., which provides lots of time in the morning to drink coffee, go for runs, go the gym, or even get your hair done. Kikkan just got her pink racing hair re-done, and while the color costs money the cut and style are free!
Hanging out with the official mascot, Soohoorang,in the Olympic Village
We have been eating at “the Haven,” a United States Olympic Committee and US Ski and Snowboard Collaboration. This is primarily to avoid sickness. When you have thousands of athletes all staying in one village, the grounds are prime for illness (in fact right now the Norovirus is circulating). We leave the village via shuttle, and while going through security can be a bit of a hassle it is well worth the food, and honestly gives a framework for the day.
Getting back into the village is a bit like going through airport security. You put your bags through a scanner, you go through a metal detector and then get wanded-down, and finally have your credentials verified by a walk through scanner. While it is a little brutal to have this glamour shot shown to everyone, I appreciate the security and think is worth the hassle.
There are also armed guards walking the village at all times, as well as Malinoi dogs (not German Shepards, as Thomas was quick to point out).
Getting to the ski venue takes 20 minutes, but getting back only five as the buses run on a loop. The biathlon,ski jumping, and cross country trails are all in the same area…and they are all VERY impressive.
The stadium. Gives me goosebumps!
I didn’t get a photo of this, but yesterday during training they were holding a mock race with the forerunners to test out the timing, announcing, and video feed. They have high speed tracked cameras running all along the course.
Even with Christmas in February, my favorite moment so far of this whole experience was skiing on our first day. Up until that point I’m not sure the significance of the Olympics and what officially being an Olympian meant to me. But skiing around perfectly groomed trails with Olympic-ring emblazoned V-Boards all decked out in USA gear brought me nearly to tears. I know it isn’t good to seek affirmation from the outside, but skiing around in an Olympic bib surrounded by other people who have reached the same goal gave me immense pride in the work I–and countless others– put in to get to this point. There are individuals who have competed at five Olympics and those at one, but I felt a universal sense of contentment and joy for the goal achieved. It is comforting and inspiring to recognize that every person took a different path, but all of our trials and tribulations led us to skiing around together at the World’s biggest stage. While competition day will be intense, there was a palpable aura of respect for every person out there. I skied with a silly grin on my face for a full hour, maybe partially because it was frozen on there (the wind at the stadium is aggressive).
Can’t stop me and my frozen smile!
Our skis our completely taken care of by the USA wax service staff, so after skiing we just drop them outside the wax cabin and get back on the shuttle. A quick shower and snack later we are back on a shuttle to dinner. After some games and relaxing it is bed time, and we start the whole process over again.
Thank you everyone for your kind and supportive messages after my first post! I’ll probably be posting again after Opening Ceremonies!!
I’ve been in Korea for three sleeps now (the easiest way to count after traveling an entire day that included a 15 hour nonstop flight from Detroit to Seoul), and to say I am whelmed would be an understatement. This is my first time in Asia, and my first time to the Olympics, so between the two of those there is a more or less non-stop stream of brightly colored, exciting, and foreign things.
Upon landing in Seoul I was immediately greeted by two United States Olympic Committee individuals who assisted me with my bags and figuring out exactly which characters meant “over-size luggage.” The USOC workers were also a bit overwhelmed as snowboarding star Chloe Kim had arrived just before I had, and getting her to the shuttle bus while avoiding the media was apparently quite difficult. Also of note, the comedian Michael B. Jordan and actress Lupito Nyong’O arrived around the same time, but didn’t get nearly as much press attention as Chloe!
From the airport we took a quick 15 minute shuttle to the Nest Hotel, which is where Team USA is doing Olympic processing. This included an hour long presentation by Noelle Pikus-Pace (silver medal 2014 skeleton, she was one of my favorite Olympic moments from 2014!), and then what can only be described as Christmas in February.
The US Olympic Team is well taken care of. Team Processing was essentially an hour and a half of trying on clothes. My first stop was Ralph Lauren, where I nervously awaited what I thought would be a horrendous attempt at fitting into jeans (jean shopping is about my worst nightmare). Little did I know they had a seamstress on site, so after pulling on a pair she just bustled right over and got them fitting perfectly in no time. I tried on both the opening and closing ceremony outfits, which both include a HEATED jacket. There are very specific rules on how you are to wear the clothing (jeans rolled once, not twice), but I think it will be an amazing experience to walk as one Team USA into the opening ceremonies.
Next stop was the one-footed pajama (or all day wear) station, where NBC filmed me taking on and off the Team USA footie-hoodie. I then got to film a brief shout-out to my parents for the Today show (my dream is to meet Savannah Guthrie), and was off to the US Anti-Doping station. I recently was put on the random testing schedule, and while at home had a drop-in test. A miscommunication with my mom regarding who the individual idling and waiting for me in the driveway led to a police call, but I’m happy to report everything was resolved and I provided a clean, drug free sample
The #MyMoment campaign is a social media effort by USADA to call attention to those athletes who have had their podium moments taken from them by convicted dopers. Compete clean people!
After that I headed over to Nike. I received a full duffle bag worth of shoes,coats, pants, and more shirts than I knew I needed. Nike is in charge of the Medal and Media wear for the games, and no detail was left unnoticed. We have a little walk from our village housing to the shuttles, and Nike kindly gave us a balaclava. I scoffed at the idea of wearing it until I realized the windchill was -22 Fahrenheit.
I stopped by Oakley, did a quick social media interview with NBC, received a bag of toiletries from P & G, and finally got my Olympic ring fitted. I left with sore hip flexors from trying on so many pairs of pants, two full duffle bags of clothes, and more USA pride than I thought my soul could handle. Turns out the amount of USA pride I can handle is infinite.
And that was just the first day! I had a very good and deep sleep that evening, and the next morning hopped on a three hour bus ride to the athlete village. For the sake of not taking up half an hour of your day I’ll leave it there, but check back in the next couple of days for more pictures and a peek into a day in the life of an athlete in the Olympic Village!
Checking out the Olympic Venue with two-time Olympian Noah Hoffman. He has been doing daily Olympic updates, so be sure to check that out!
A couple weeks ago my strength coach Max asked if I had ever heard of Plato’s theory of the forms , before then sending me a workout of 50 Toes to Bar for time. I had a little experience with the theory from high school, and again during my freshman seminar at Dartmouth (the extent of my formal philosophy education). I asked what in the world Plato had to do with skiing or toes to bar, and Max said a conversation not for texting. A couple days later we got on the phone to debrief the Park City training block, and he explained his thinking.
The theory of the forms (in the most basic of basic terms) stipulates that every thing in reality is just an imperfect version of its form. A classic example is a table. A table has a certain “table-ness” about it, which is why we can identify three dimensional tables as tables. We can do this despite there being about a billion different actual tables. Everyone has an agreed upon form for a table, that then allows them to exist in reality. Or take a circle. Despite never actually seeing a perfect circle (such a thing cannot exist in reality), everyone has an idea of what constitutes a circle. These forms- that cannot exist in reality- are unchanging. But the renditions of the forms in reality are always changing.
Max had been looking at some technique video from the camp, and the idea of the forms jumped to his head. Take classic skiing, for example. There is something about classic skiing that allows everyone to agree it is classic skiing, despite every individual producing a slightly different rendition. From a coaching perspective, Max was thinking about chasing the classic form. Knowing that it cannot be attained, but still chasing this ideal.
I thought it was a cool way to think about technique, and then getting even more meta, a cool way to think about training in general. There does exist some training form, and I’d argue that everyone is just trying to chase that ideal. And because every individual is different, this chase looks a little different.
My chase has definitely been different from previous years. I am about to switch out my roller skis for snow skis as I leave for a three week trip to Norway on Sunday. I will be spending two weeks in Sjusjoen training, and then traveling to Beitostolen to compete in the opening FIS races for Norway. I’m heading to Norway for the same reason I headed to New Zealand- in an effort to imbue the essence of skiing I’m chasing its purest form.
I’ve been in Sjusjoen for a couple days now, and the skiing is amazing. They got a timely dumping of snow for their tourist trails, and just put the finishing touches on a 5K loop. I’ve adjusted to the time change beautifully, and am so excited for the next 2.5 weeks of Norwegian snow- check back in a couple weeks for an update, and then after that the Super Tour begins!
**For some reason my captions aren’t working- blame it on Norway! But the below is more or less a chronological depiction of the last two weeks in photos. Beginning with the end of Fall in Vermont, a short visit to New Haven to visit Henry, a stop on the Cape for a night with Mom, and then a couple snapshots of life in Norway so far!
Traveling last year following a three day mini tour from Ottawa, Canada back to Minneapolis before heading over to Europe for OPA racing, I had my best flight interaction to date. Due to a Food and Wine article about what really happens to airplane food (hint: it contains things that help it last up to five years in a freezer), combined with an aversion to paying 12 dollars for a small yogurt, I always pack food for the plane. Coming back from Ottawa I had one tupper ware of roasted sweet potatoes, a hydroflask full of rice pilaf and chicken, 3/4 a box of my favorite granola/cereal, and 2/3 a bag of protein powder. These items tend to set of alarms in the security line, mainly because they are so out of place (and protein powder looks like a more illicit substance).
So when the TSA (or whatever the Canadian equivalent is) took my bag off the conveyer for additional inspection, I was just expecting another quick examination of my travel snacks. I was the only one in line, and consequently struck up a conversation with the very friendly security personnel. As individual one went through my bag, he asked what I had in my food vessels. I told him exactly what it was, and he proceeded to declare, “So you have some bird food, more bird food, homemade bird food…” And this turned into a conversation about what I did that encouraged me to eat so much “bird food.” In explaining skiing, the two individuals asked the longest distance I’d ever raced. I told them 30 Kilometers, to which individual two stopped going through my bag and asked incredulously, “without stopping??” I said yes, and she said very emphatically, “THAT CRAZY.” To which I responded, “I agree.” Individual one said he understood why I ate the bird food, but wanted to make sure I had something sweet in there. I assured him I had a bar of chocolate, and after repacking my now deceased bowling ball backpack went on my merry way.
The pursuit of excellence in nordic skiing makes everyone involved do some pretty crazy things (neurotically packing homemade bird food is admittedly one of the least crazy things we do). We roll over hot pavement on remarkably unregulated roller skis sans breaks, voluntarily do physical acts to failure (looking at you treadmill tests), and watch ourselves ski walk up mountains on video (there is nothing harder, but also nothing more pathetic looking than a skier bounding up a mountain). Even crazier is the amount of travel in which we partake. I’m writing this on my 21st hour of travel, after skipping a day completely (flying over the date line), en route to New Zealand. I, and many other US nordic skiers, have just completed an unbelievable amount of travel chasing snow.
And, we do all of this with a smile (mostly- I wasn’t exactly smiling after getting off a 13 hour plane ride only to find out that Taylor Swift’s new song is incredibly dark. UPDATE: since writing this blog, I’ve actually grown to like it). I think it is one of my favorite things about nordic skiers- their willingness to go to such extreme lengths in search of happiness, excellence, and snow. It is an extreme devotion to task and self that I think is rare, and exceedingly inspiring.
I’m so incredibly excited to have the chance to hit up snow in August, and to do so in New Zealand. I’ll be here for two and half weeks, undoubtedly doing some “THAT CRAZY” worthy workouts, but mostly just soaking in all the on snow time I can. Check back for updates, and lots of pictures (thanks to my recent birthday, I have a phone with storage to spare).
p.s. I had lots of homemade bird food for my travel to New Zealand. It even included a homemade dark chocolate sunflower butter cup that Val made for me (gotta have something to get me through four hours of friends to ride out the last bit of a 13 hour flight).
As I’ve mentioned in prior blog posts, going into this season I have some big goals that required some big alterations to my modus operandi. I worked hard with Max and Pat to come up with a training plan very much tailored to my specific needs, have been diligently working to create purpose and intentions in even the most mundane of workouts (looking at you 60 minute afternoon double pole), and have made listening to my body a significant priority.
Last year I suffered a little bit from what I’m now calling an invincibility complex. Through out the summer and fall months I was continuously getting positive feedback in time trials and workouts that I couldn’t possibly do enough. I added 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there, generally gave into the desire to push just a little harder on every, single interval, and all the while assumed that I couldn’t possibly be broken by any of it. How could something that is making me fitter possibly make me slower?
Turns out it can, and it did. The “tireds” (a Sophie Caldwell term) happen when you least expect them, and when you would really rather do without them. So, going into this year I wanted to really stay on top of my tireds.
So when Max introduced me to the WHOOP company, I was immediately intrigued. In short, my whoop watch takes 100 heart beat measurements per second all day and all night. From that data it gives me my daily strain, and calculates how much sleep I should aim to get. Then, while I’m sleeping, it determines my resting heart rate as well as my heart rate variability (click on link for more info on that). From all of that information (including my overall sleep quality), the Whoop provides me with a daily recovery score. This ranges from 0% to 100% (neither of which I have actually seen) recovery, and from there gives a recommended daily strain.
While understanding that you can’t live, die, and train by the Whoop…it sure has been interesting. Some things aren’t surprising- like after a rest day I typically have my highest recovery scores. Or after a day of hard intensity and strength I typically have my lowest recovery scores.
And perhaps least surprisingly of all…I am NOT invincible. Training is designed to put a stress on your body, and then with ample recovery you bounce back at a higher level of fitness than before. But without this rest, you just start getting more tired and more tired. And then feeling tired becomes your norm, and when it’s time to really get going (i.e. winter racing) you simply cannot.
So in an effort to avoid the cannot in winter I’m opting for the do-not right now. I broke my training this year into seven week cycles, with each of those cycles ending with a nothing week. I don’t do any intensity, take as many days off as I need to feel antsy plus one more, and just focus on recovering, and recovering hard. And my do nothing week could not come at a better time!
I’ve had such a great block of training spanning three different time zones, lots of modalities and many training partners. I was so excited to finish it off with my Stratton teammates, and we really sent this block off in style with a 4 hour run in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Cheers to recovery! Whoop whoop!
Due to the limited photo storage on my iPhone (which going on 1.75 years old is some kind of dinosaur in the tech world), I don’t actually have a ton of pictures depicting my adventures over the last month. I’ve been all over the country, begrudgingly had a six piece chicken McNuggets somewhere between Rapid City and Minneapolis (sometimes food is food), had a couple mountain bike crashes, set some new personal training records, and generally kept myself busy enough that I’ve started wishing for another hour in the day.
I do, however, have one of my favorite pictures of all time saved on my phone, probably forever (or at least until I have to try and save it to “the cloud” when my geriatric phone takes its last charge, I’ll crowd source for help when that happens).
There are many questions that are commonly asked of professional skiers. Number one is undoubtedly, “what do you eat for breakfast?” (it varies). Number two probably concerns training, how hard training is, or what I do for training every day (it varies). Then, after those questions, comes the question: what is your favorite part of ski racing? While the skiing fast, training hard, having a strong body, all the medals and glory (and also the money…) are great bonuses, nothing will compare to the women (and more broadly people) I’ve met and the deep seated bond we’ve formed over collective and individual failures and successes.
It has been one of the luckiest things in my life that I landed at Dartmouth College with Erika and Sophie first as scary upper classmen, then (and still) as amazing teammates and mentors, and finally as two of my very best friends. A couple minutes before Erika walked down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams, the only sensible thing to do was a team cheer (1,2,3 ANDY LOVES FLOWERS!). For me, the picture of this moment represents a lot. On the one hand the amount of amazing work and love that went into making the wedding the most beautiful wedding, possibly ever (250 napkins folded, 10 hours of make up application by Erika’s step-sister, some almost sleepless nights, and a 10 mile trail race). But on the other, more important hand, this picture represents absolutely everything that sport can bring you as a female.
This picture is a group of smart, athletic, independent, and powerful women all getting together to support one of their own. And it is the exact reason why I love sport so much, and also the precise reason I have been able to accomplish everything I’ve had in cross country skiing. Because at the end of the day- whether you win, lose, or draw- pictures of those moments aren’t the ones that will force you to conquer your fear of the cloud. It’s what got you there- namely, the people that saw (and even sometimes caused) the tears, sweat, and laughter- that remind you how awesome life truly is, and that the greatest accomplishment of all is the ability to grow and succeed as a group of women.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that skiing has brought me a lot, but nothing compares to the people and relationships that I’ve had the tremendous luck of forming through my life as a full time skier. So find your people, it makes everything worth it.
Running on a dirt path with an awkwardly oversized 20 pound weight vest creating a small patch of raw skin that is just now beginning to heal, I had to take a moment and laugh at the hilarity of my situation. I could have been whipping up a batch of strawberry cornmeal pancakes with a hot latte in hand, enjoying the slowness that usually typifies Memorial Day Monday. Instead I was working very hard to run a mile, then complete 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 air squats…and then suffer through another mile. All the while toting around the aforementioned 20 pounds.
Thankfully I had set up my Murph (the annual crossfit Memorial Day workout) station next to an equally suffering individual. We had broken up our repetitions differently- I chose to do 20 rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats, while he was doing 5 rounds of 20 pull ups, 40 pushups and 60 air squats- but found ourselves to be moving along at similar paces. Just past the half way point, my Murph partner starts giving himself a pep talk. His weight vest had hit the ground one too many times, and in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he says: “You wanted this! You did this to your self. This is your choice, you can stop ANYTIME you want.” He then proceeded to knock out the remaining push ups in his set and continue on to complete the brutal workout.
Fast forward a couple days, and I’m doing a 5 by one kilometer trail running workout. I consider myself to be a pretty good runner, but trail running is very much slower and very much harder than the typical road run. Rocks, loose gravel and some BIG UPS (1.2 miles of straight up in one instance) make the experience exponentially harder. I was in the middle of an all uphill kilometer, my heart rate was going up as my speed was going down, and I was ready to just finish out the interval without any real bravado. But then, the Murph Man’s voice popped into my head, reminding me that I was choosing to do this. If I wanted to stop, I could. No one was making me run up the hill, and no one would even know if I stopped. This reminder that what I chose to do- run up hills, race on snow and do 200 pushups with a 20# weight vest- was in fact my choice was weirdly liberating. Instead of choosing to stop, I chose to go harder.
Finishing up the final kilometer of up hill running, I was the closest to puking I’ve been in a long while. My legs totally flooded and my heart rate hovering around 190, I let my grimace turn into a smile. After another three minutes of rest, I did the last interval downhill (actually maybe the hardest part of trail running) smiling/grimacing/enjoying the choice the entire time.
Going into a new training season it is critically important to have intentions. Remembering that I am choosing to do this, and more than that I want to do this will be propelling me through this season. There will be days- I’m sure of it- where I don’t want to go outside, or do one more rep or push my heart rate up that extra beat. And it is important to listen to those days- why am I feeling that way? And it is equally important to sometimes push past those hesitations, voluntarily pop on a 20 pound weight vest and sweat it out over 42 minutes of constant work.
Luckily for me, there haven’t been many of those “push through the pain” days so far this year. I’ve just wrapped up a very successful May of training (including two weeks of on snow time in Bend, Oregon), and will be spending the month of June training in Rapid City, South Dakota. Cheers to choice!
Wrapping up an entire season in one- at least somewhat digestible- blog post is similar to finding a new favorite coffee shop and only going once a week. That is to say…nearly impossible (Harriet and Oak I’m the one who came twice on Wednesday). So I’m not promising a full dive into the guts and glory moments of the 2016-2017 season. But in trying to come up with a unifying theme for a year that was, in a word, frustrating, I got the inspiration from my strength/life coach Max.
One day Max came into the gym for my strength session, and decided to also hop into that day’s primary workout. When I asked in jest why he had decided to hop into the session, he said he had to become “harder to kill.” His dad had just broken his ankle, and while pushing yourself through an intense workout of thrusters and pull ups and med ball slams might not directly lead to broken ankle prevention, he figured it wouldn’t hurt his odds at avoiding that fate.
That harder to kill mentality stuck with me. While I had some definite highs this season- most notably my improved qualifying speed and mass start distance races- I also struggled a lot of the time. I found myself unable to get out of my own head, and instead of shaking off uncontrollable variables I let them decide that race’s outcome, and future races’ results. For example- when driving to the final race of US nationals (a skate sprint qualifier), the sky started spitting some mix of snow, ice, and rain. Instead of recognizing everyone was dealing with the same thing and understanding I had to race no matter what…I burst into tears. And being 100% honest, when a super tour was cancelled in Truckee, CA due to too much snow, I was almost relieved. I had gotten myself believing that I couldn’t perform well in blizzard conditions at 8,000 feet elevation, so not having to test myself against myself that day I saw as a bit of a blessing.
It was after returning home from the Truckee, CA super tour race that Max planted the harder to kill seed. He helped me flip my perspective from, “that really sucked,” to “somehow in someway that experience will make me harder to kill in the future.” So when I came down with a nasty cold mid sprint race at the last race series in Fairbanks, I worked hard to flip the narrative from the ever unattractive victim act of “why me,” to “get your butt in bed so you can go race a 30K.”
Despite not being at 100% health the day of the US National Championships 30K, I wanted nothing more than to race. And race with the mentality that pushing through this last race of the season would make me harder to kill next year. At 8K I thought I was done for. I had held on to the lead pack of six for the first 7.5 Kilometers (which included the 5th place finisher in that event at World Championships teammate Jessie), and then began to worry about how I would possibly make it another 22.5 Kilometers. That’s when my best friend Sophie hopped in front of me and told me to hang on. And hang on I did- and then miraculously with 10K to go I had a second (or maybe at this point third or fourth) wind. Sixth place was only 30 seconds in front of us, and it became my absolute mission to catch her. With three kilometers to go I had bridged the gap, but then began to cramp a bit. I simply told myself that I wasn’t cramping, and I had to make it to the finish line. Coach Pat told me to “remember my strengths” (which he intended to mean my speed, so encouraging me to ski slower and follow), but I was not in a physical or mental place to try any kind of tactics. I was simply charging towards the finish line. With 400 meters to go I put in my biggest effort of the entire season, sprinting across the line into sixth place. I was probably the happiest sixth place finisher ever.
While it wasn’t a win, I firmly believe I was only able to push myself to close that 30 second gap and then hold on for sixth place because of all the things that have happened this past season. The 2016-2017 season has literally made me harder to kill. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen- I can still have a bad race, a spectacular blow up at a bad time…be beat. But I am going to spend the next ten months making myself as hard to kill (or less dramatically beat) as possible. And, I know there are a lot of other very talented, driven, and incredible women doing the same thing.
This next year is a big one- the Olympics have been a goal of mine for three years now. Qualifying for the team will take an incredible amount of effort, time, sacrifice… and a bit of luck too. Regardless of the outcome, I want to look back and know that I did absolutely everything I could. The worst thing in the world would be looking back and realizing I hadn’t been that hard to kill. So with that I’m making a promise to myself, and sharing it with everyone. Everything I do from now through January will be in the pursuit of being harder to kill. Right now, that means taking a pause from focused training to reset (and spending a lot of time cruising on my mountain bike). Then when May rolls around, it will be planning and figuring out how to accomplish my goals. Ten months is both a very long and very short time, and I can’t wait to share the story with all of you.
An incredibly massive heartfelt thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported me this season. And especially to my family, boyfriend and furry four legged friends for occasionally picking me up from a puddle on the floor. Also to my teammates and coaches, and of special note Max and the rest of the Powerhouse for helping me find a 2017-2018 season motto. Here’s to being harder to kill!