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!