After almost five weeks of being away from Southern Vermont, I am happy to finally be back with my SMS T2 Teammates and excited to get into some hard fall training! In early August I took a trip home to the Midwest to spend some quality time with my family at our cabin and visit friends from home in the Twin Cities.
While at home, I hosted a clinic with Gear West Ski and Bike Shop at the Theodore Wirth Trailhead. I also visited a few club practices including the NordicWerks SkiKlubb in St. Paul. My goal for these events was to connect with junior athletes in the Twin Cities area and to chat with them about staying in sport, setting goals and challenging themselves. It was really awesome to spend time with the ski community that I grew up in and work with high schoolers that are in the same position that I was in just a few years ago!
I’m so grateful to have a supporter like Gear West, willing to help me with a fundraiser later this fall (more on that later) and help me get involved in the community. Growing up in Plymouth, MN, whenever I needed anything ski related, I always went to Gear West. When I was in middle school, my dad and I went to the store together in search of a new pair of classic skis. I remember the Gear West experts spent so much time with the two of us picking out a pair that would be just right for me and I later referred to these skis as my “magic skis” because they were so fast and I could always kick on them. To have a store that cares so much about the young skiers in the area is really special and something that I have been very thankful for. So, it was an honor to put together a ski clinic with Gear West in the hopes of developing more junior athletes to succeed as the next generation of elite skiers!
After a busy week in the Midwest, I flew west to Bozeman, MT for my own mini altitude training camp. Bozeman isn’t super high in elevation, but it’s high enough for me to feel the effects. I’ve never felt like I could race to my true ability while at altitude and it’s something that I’ve been trying to work on for years now. I was able to jump in with the elite skiers training in Bozeman for a few time trials, long mountain runs and strength workouts. They were so nice to let me join them for three weeks!
After a month of running around, I was ready to head back east. Although, while planning all of this travel I scheduled a 48-hour layover back in Minneapolis to spend two more nights with my parents, attend the Minnesota State Fair and see my sister one last time. For anyone not from Minnesota, you might not understand why I would schedule an extra two days at home just to go to a silly little fair. Well, it’s not silly. And it’s not little! The Minnesota State Fair is one of the biggest in the country and includes food, rides, games, concerts, shopping, animals, etc. My mom and her friends had a bunch of tickets to see Brandi Carlile in concert at the Grand Stand and they had an extra ticket for me! We walked around the fair eating all kinds of great food: fried tacos, fried cheese curds, gyros, pronto pups (foot-long corn dogs). Pretty much any type of food you could think of, the fair has, and it’s fried or on a stick, or both! It was so great to spend this time with my mom and all of her friends. It gave me a good mental reset before a Fall of hard training.
Before I could leave The Cities I really wanted to see my sister, Marit. She and her boyfriend, Nick, had just flown back from a vacation they took in Oregon and I was excited to hear all about the trip. We headed to their place for one last dinner as a family and Nick's family came along too. We ate and laughed and heard all about their special trip together and were about ready to go home for the night when Marit started talking about a hike that they did in Bend, OR. They climbed up one of the more challenging mountains called Middle Sister and Marit told us about how hard they worked to get to the top. They were determined to summit and once they did, they enjoyed the view at the top and felt very accomplished. Marit then casually pulled her hand out of her pocket and stated, "and then Nick asked me to marry him," while showing us a gorgeous ring! Woah! I could not be happier for these two! This was a moment that every family member had been waiting for and we are all so excited for them! Marit and Nick are two of my best friends and some of the hardest working people I know. They are so loving and supportive of each other and of the people around them. I love both so much and can't wait to have an older brother! :)
The next day, I took this excitement with me as I finally made my way back to Stratton, VT to be with my team. We jumped into a big block of hard training and got to work during intervals, strength workouts, and long runs. My teammates Sophie, Ian and I decided to hop into a half marathon in Manchester, VT and I think we all surprised ourselves with how good we felt. After so much high-quality ski training we were able to transfer this over to running and probably pushed our legs a little too much. We’re used to going out for long runs in the mountains, but these adventures are on trails (much softer than pavement) and we run much slower because of all the hills, rocks and roots on the trail. Running fast on pavement was a little shock to our legs and I definitely had a hard time walking the following few days.
Although it was fun to travel and see family for so long, I am happy to be back with my teammates for training and adventuring throughout Vermont! Ski training in the summer is a lot of hours and volume but it's pretty easy to do from almost anywhere. However, the fall is when we really crack down on hard workouts and it is so valuable to be with speedy teammates that I can learn from every single day in a place with such phenomenal ski training terrain. It's time to sit still in Vermont and grind through tough workouts that will make us stronger and fitter for the winter racing season!
I can’t believe how fast the summer has been flying by and with that, means kids are soon heading back to school. In Minnesota, most high school practices will begin next Monday and all over the country college programs will soon begin their fall training. I feel fortunate enough to have been a part of school athletics from middle school through college. Being in sports helped me stay active, forced me to set goals, introduced me to new friends and most importantly, taught me what it meant to be a part of a TEAM!
Although most of my athletic career has been in “individual sports,” (with the exception of soccer, which I played through my freshman year of high school) I think that no matter what type of sport, club or organization you are involved in, it will teach you about teamwork. When I was at Wayzata High School, I was a part of a cross country running team that was quite unique. The team had gone through a few “rough years," and had not qualified for the MN State Meet for a while, only occasionally sending individuals. I had been on the running team in middle school and found success and joy in this. At the time, I competed against other middle schools in the district and there were a group of us that constantly went back and forth in races. When we finally came together and joined the high school team as freshmen, I think my head coach, Dave Emmans, saw something special in my class of girls. He, along with our incredible assistant coach at the time, Addy Hallen, watched us complete workouts and time trials and recognized something pretty powerful. We did not approach these runs or intervals as individuals trying to hit certain times. We traveled as one unit and worked together to get each other through long runs or 800-meter repeats. We took turns leading and following. We challenged each other during the end of each workout and pushed each other to be better athletes, but we also cracked jokes during a tempo run, sang out loud during our warm ups and high-fived each other after every single training session.
My freshman year, the team qualified for the MN State Cross Country Meet and over the next few years we continued to find success, eventually bringing home two State Titles. By my Junior year, the team had an epic performance at regionals, qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN). (My junior year of high school, 2012, I ran at the state meet but decided not to attend regionals or nationals because I wanted to transition my efforts into the ski season).
During these years, I was able to transfer what I learned from my running team into the other teams that I was a part of; skiing, track and field, school projects, student council, etc. I learned how to lead others when I knew that I could be helpful and how to follow them when I knew they could teach me something new. I figured out how to set individual goals as well as team goals and how to make a plan to achieve them.
Going into my senior year of high school there were whispers around the running community that our team had a shot at placing at NXN that fall. Although there were a few new faces on our team since my freshman year, my class had undeniable depth and we still worked together in anything that we did. We were soon referred to as “the pack” that would find each other in races, run together and swallow up girls running solo. We knew who started fast and would then settle, or who had the best kick to hang onto at the end. We created code words for when we knew it was time to take it to the next gear and race even harder. We charged through the cross-country season with full force, working together the entire time. I was personally concerned about going to NXN myself as the race was in early December and I also had goals for the ski season that was getting started around that time. However, I knew how much potential my running team had and was willing to sacrifice some of my skiing for the sake of that team.
We arrived in Portland, OR knowing that we had a chance of running well, but also knowing that we had already found so much in our team. We had become best friends, we found humor in the smallest things while running, we loved each other’s company (and knew how to really annoy one another). We wanted to give it our best, but we also wanted to have fun with the team we had been a part of for four years. Over half of our team was graduating that year and going on to compete in college, but we knew that this squad had something special with the way we worked together.
Most of the race at NXN was a blur. It was one of the largest races any of us had been a part of and we found it difficult to find each other in the mass of girls running. But we did! I remember hearing Coach Hallen with about 1 kilometer to go in the race. She yelled that our top runner was in the top 10 and that it was Go Time. At this point in my life I had already committed to skiing at the University of Vermont the following year and thought that this was going to be my last cross-country running race ever. After hearing my coach in the race, I put in a surge and my two teammates followed with. In the last 800 meters we must have passed around 20 girls, improving our team score immensely. We crossed the finish line knowing that it had been a good day and that we had done everything we could to work as a team and accomplish what we could. I was proud of my team for fighting so hard in the last bit of the race and we were happy to be at the finish line together. We smiled and hugged, found our parents, found our coaches, and waited for the results to come in.
We knew that our biggest competitors would be a team from New York, Fayetville-Manlius. They had won NXN the previous seven years in a row and had been dominating all year. But I will never forget the moment I looked up to the score board to see 1. Wayzata.
We had worked for four years as a team to achieve this and were ecstatic with joy.
This sense of teamwork has affected me in every aspect of life since. It helped me work together on a high school ski team that brought home numerous MN State Titles as well as being nominated the top girls high school team in the country at Junior Nationals. This teamwork prepared me for college, where everything is elevated to the next level. It taught me how to work with other people on projects in school and in extracurriculars and I am sure that I will benefit from it in the future when I decide to join the "normal workforce." Teamwork is everywhere in our world and I think that learning this at such a young age is of extreme value.
The Minnesota State High School League presents the perfect opportunity for kids to join a team, learn these lessons, and set themselves up for success, all while staying active, meeting new friends and working together. I fear that too many juniors in the ski world have put too much pressure on themselves and are viewing skiing as only an individual sport. It doesn't have to be! Personally, I found value and growth through my high school teams and by prioritizing teamwork, I gained so much more than I ever could have by flying solo.
A few weeks ago, I was presented an opportunity to give back to the Midwest ski community that has provided so much for me over the years. The Central Cross Country (CXC) team asked me if I would be willing to join the Central Regional Elite Group (REG) camp in Ironwood, MI. The camp brings together some of the top junior/high school athletes in the Midwest for a week of hard training and testing. CXC wanted me to act as a mentor athlete/coach for these skiers and I decided this would be a great opportunity to get back to my roots for a few weeks.
I was able to travel home a few days before the camp started to spend the 4th of July with some friends and family. It's been a tradition that my mom and a bunch of her friends spend the 4th on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. When I was in high school, my sister and I joined her for these weekend getaways, but it had been a few years since I got to tag along. I was very excited to get back to this tradition and spend 3 days on the island with some incredible women who have been major role models throughout my whole life!
On the island, I went for a few runs while my mom and aunt biked along side of me. We enjoyed yoga by the water and did lots of swimming/floating in chilly Lake Superior! (Nothing feels better after a long run in the heat than a jump into the lake).
After a few days on island time and a solid mental and physical reset, I traveled over to the upper peninsula of Michigan to join 22 junior skiers for the REG Camp as well as 24 U14 kids for “Dream Camp.” The first few days I mostly spent with the REG athletes and completed an uphill run test, skate agility test and double pole time trial on roller skis. It was so awesome to see all of these juniors bring their A game to these tests even though it was pretty hot and humid.
We were then able to take a few days to recover from all of this intensity and fill it in with some easy distance skiing. During this time, I gave a presentation to the athletes about my journey as a skier and some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. I also had the opportunity to jump in with the Dream Camp for some foot drills, agility, and fun sprinting games. I feel like throughout the week I was really able to get to know a lot of the athletes at camp and I encouraged them to ask me questions. I wanted to be there for them as a sounding board about some big life decisions they were soon going to have to make. I tried to find the right balance of leading by example, while also making sure the athletes all understand that I was sitting exactly where they were just a few years ago...
We finished off the week with an interval session, more swimming in Lake Superior and an over distance workout. The enthusiasm from all of the athletes at REG and Dream Camp was so great to see and it really inspired me to continue to seek out opportunities to connect with the ski community, especially the next generation. I am excited to announce an open roller ski clinic and presentation that I am hosting in Minneapolis with Gear West Ski and Bike Shop. The event will be Thursday, August 8th, 6-8pm at the Theodore Wirth Trailhead. I will chat about the various transitions of my ski career and the important role that my family has played in supporting me at every level along the way. I am hoping that junior skiers will be able to attend this event along with their parents so that we can discuss the dynamic of supporting each other through some extremely important points in a skier’s life, whether as a part of the Minnesota High School League, Junior Nationals, competing at the NCAA level or at the professional level. Hope to see you there!
It’s been a minute! By the end of last season, I was feeling burnt out; it had been my longest period of racing by almost 5 weeks and I had done more traveling than ever before. I needed to take the spring to get away from training, to give my body and my mind a break from it all and to just enjoy a few weeks of visiting friends and family. I took two weeks completely off from any “real training” and filled it with downhill skiing with my family in Colorado, backcountry skiing with friends in Montana, and running (short jogs) with my sister in Minnesota.
This break from the daily stress of counting hours, ticking away at intervals, and checking heart rates seemed to be just what I needed. I was able to take a solid four weeks to look back on my first ski season as a “pro” and absorb what I was proud of, what I wished had gone better and where I could make adjustments. This allowed me to easily make new goals for the upcoming season, both objective goals and process goals. In the end, I realized three main issues from the past year:
I was given the opportunity to frequently race internationally at a much more competitive level. In the moment, I thought to myself, “this is what I’m trying to do, why would I say no?” But in reality, this led to a travel, racing and training schedule that never allowed a break. After each race I would travel to the next place, try to get in as much training/preparation as I could before I had to race again, and then continue this same pattern for weeks. I never allowed myself to fully rest and I never had much time for training blocks within the season.
That being said I have new goals in mind for the upcoming year and have been very excited about a few changes. Some of the goals I am still keeping to myself and some I’ve only told my coach about. But I do know that I hope to travel less, race less, and make sure that each effort is really worth it. I’ve already started putting these thoughts into motion as I’ve adjusted my summer training from last year. When I first joined the SMS T2 team I wanted to jump into every single interval session that they did no matter what I was previously used to doing. I had no problem with this last summer and assumed that I was unbreakable. This caught up to me mid-Winter. I was tired! So, I’ve communicated with my coach and teammates about slowly getting back into intervals in Stratton. I haven’t done every threshold workout and I haven’t done as many intervals as each of my teammates, but instead filled in more easy volume into my training. I am hoping that with this gradual approach I will be able to properly conserve myself for when it’s GO TIME!
Other changes for me this summer include:
This brings me to my last thought. Training and racing around the world for a year has given me a lot of time to “think.” Recently, I’ve been thinking about the reasons I fell in love with the sport, who/what inspired me to try to take each new step and what makes me value each unique opportunity that’s been presented to me. Quickly, I realized that I have always looked up to older athletes. At first, it was my parents and my older sister. Then, it was the upperclassmen on my high school and club ski team. Soon, I found myself in situations where I was training or working with Midwest elite athletes either on the ski trails or at clinics. These mentors encouraged me to challenge myself athletically, mentally, and emotionally. They are who inspired me to set goals and hold myself to them. Without these influencers, I would not have been able to find the same success over all these years.
I want to give back to the ski community that gave so much to me! I want to work with younger athletes more; explain to them how to avoid the mistakes that I made and encourage them to keep challenging themselves in life. I am looking forward to finding new ways that I can incorporate this community involvement into my year of training and racing :)
It’s been a while since I’ve given myself a chance to really sit back and reflect on how the second half of this ski season has gone. I’ve had some pretty high, highs along with some pretty low, lows. It’s great to have teammates, friends and family that are there for me no matter what happens; whether I’m winning my first Supertour and the American Birkebeiner or crashing in my first distance World Cup Race I have received text messages, videos and hugs from my supporters all over the world. Unfortunately, as exciting as new accomplishments may be, sometimes in the moment it can be challenging to convince yourself to move on and stay positive.
It’s taken me a while to get to the point where I can lick my wounds, process some tough races, learn from my experiences and move on. The past five weeks since the Birkie have not gone as I was hoping. A few days after winning the 50k I jumped on a plane to Beijing, China to do a series of city sprints. When this offer was originally presented to me, I brushed it off because I’m a “distance skier.” However, a huge goal of mine over the past two years has been to improve my sprinting and I decided that this opportunity could be really valuable since a lot of World Cup athletes would be racing too.
Except…the combination of a marathon race, stepping off an international plane at night and trying to sprint the very next morning, along with racing in the worst air quality I have ever experienced, did not make for the best week.
My teammates and I tried to make the most of it and we had a really good time seeing some new things, trying some new food and making some new friends. After three tough sprints I was ready to travel to Europe to meet with a crew of Junior/U23 racers for training before OPA Cup Finals. Except…during the travel I picked up a nasty bug and was sick for the first time since my Senior year of college! I made it to Toblach, Italy and slept for about 17 hours straight with the exception of waking up for meals delivered to my room. I was bummed to be sick while in such a beautiful place, but after a couple of days I finally started to come around and made it out for a few small adventures.
Just as I was starting to get healthy again our team traveled or Oberweisenthal, Germany for the races at OPA Finals. After still feeling a little bogged down from being sick I decided to sit out the sprint and save it for the distance races. Except…I got to these races and just felt like I had no fight left in me. When the pack decided to attack, I had no response. I felt like I was moving in slow motion and everyone around me was racing.
At the end of the last race in Germany my teammate, Kelsey Phinney, picked me up off the ground and I just about broke into tears. I had just been invited to race in my first World Cup at World Cup finals in Quebec City and felt like all of the life had been sucked out of me. I was just tired. My body and mind had reached a point where I struggled to handle so much racing. I felt like a failure. I was concerned about taking a spot for USA going into World Cup finals while feeling this way, but Kelsey encouraged me it go for it. I was about to have an incredible experience racing at a whole new level and she pushed me to stop stressing and just appreciate it.
I tried my best to make the most of my time at World Cup Finals and it was great to see my SMS T2 teammates that I hadn’t seen since November. While previewing the course the day before racing; teammate, Julia Kern, asked me if the World Cup atmosphere was what I had anticipated. I told her I hadn’t really expected anything in particular, I was trying to go into the weekend with a positive attitude and an open mind.
I was fired up to race with the best in the world even though I knew the competition would be really tough. Except…never did I imagine how brutal it was actually going to be. I fell in the mass start…three times! And broke a pole… twice! So, it wasn’t my day! Or my week. It really hadn’t been my month at all.
I don’t know if there is one thing that I can point to and blame for having such a tough month. But I do know that I was feeling completely unstoppable at the Birkie in February. I had never raced a 50k before and coaches, teammates and other racers warned me that it can really take a toll on the body. It’s hard to bounce back after grinding away in such a long race, but I had my own reasons to make it to the finish line.
I grew up watching my parents race the American Birkebeiner. Every year since I can remember, my family and I would travel up to our cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin and I would stick my head through the fence at the finish line and watch athletes race down Main Street toward the finish line. I looked up to these skiers like they were superhero’s! I could never imagine skiing for 50 kilometers, let alone winning the race. Throughout my childhood I started partaking in the festivities too; I competed in the kid’s Barnebirkie, the Junior Birkie, the 12k Prince Hakkon and the 23k Kortelopet races. Birkie weekend had become a family tradition and got me more excited than any other ski race. It planted a seed inside me at a very young age, that grew and grew until I was finally old enough to perform. So, I hadn’t just been looking forward to this race for a few weeks or even a few months… It had been a dream of mine for over 20 years!
Whether it was the Birkie bonk that held me back in races a few weeks later, or the combination of too much travel, I’m not sure. But I have no regrets for chasing some ambitious dreams. I’m not sure when I will race the Birkie next, but when I do I will go into it smarter, having learned my lessons and the consequences of such a physical, mental and emotional test.
The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur as I took a trip across the pond to Scandinavia for some pretty epic international races. Lessons were learned, new relationships were formed, and a few toes were frostbitten (YIKES)!
The first stop was at the Junior and U23 World Championships in Lahti, Finland. Team USA arrived a whole week before racing so we had plenty of time to adjust to the time change, learn the race course, and explore the different culture. Some of the biggest differences: the sun rose at 9:30 and set at 3:30, the Finns do not plow all of their roads… and fish and potatoes were served at every. single. meal!
The races soon began and immediately there was success from team USA in the classic sprint. I enjoyed cheering on my teammates for a few days while I prepared for the two distance races to come. Alas, I used their momentum to carry me into the 10k freestyle and 15k classic races where I placed 27thand 23rd, respectively. Although I had been hoping for better results on paper, I felt like I was skiing really well during these races and I remained strong and relaxed. Some days it’s just not enough! But these were the best results I had ever had at an international race, so I was ready to stay positive.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team was absolutely crushing as there were multiple top-10’s and the junior boys took home GOLD in their relay race. It is ridiculous to be down about your own race when there is so much excitement about the US Team’s success!
At the end of the week, most of the team was either heading back to the US for school or joining the US Team on the World Cup. Seeing as how I didn’t quite fit into either of these categories, I took a different route. I made a quick jump over to Trondheim, Norway to join one of my long-time ski buddies Kristen Bourne. Kristen and I trained and raced together in high school and became fast friends at our first Junior National races. After having a successful career at Northern Michigan University, Kristen moved to Oslo to continue her skiing with the Lyn Ski Club. Kristen and I planned to race at Norwegian Nationals in Meråker, Norway and worked together to figure out logistics such as race support, lodging and transportation. To say we faced a few obstacles in our planning would be a drastic understatement. But if there is anyone up for an adventure and a “figure-it-out-as-we-go” mindset, this duo got it covered. To list a few issues: everything was in Norwegian, my international credit card only decided to work some days, the Norwegian Ski Federation was hesitant to allow me to race as I am not “Norwegian,” the bus we depended on to help us travel decided to drive right past our bus stop, we were staying one hour from the race venue and were sharing cars with Lyn Skiers (sometimes they had room for us?)… we were never really sure what was going to work out and what was not.
Dealing with uncertainty; when everything has the potential to go wrong, it’s important to take a step back, look around and appreciate the adventure that you’re on. I had such a wonderful time exploring this new place with one of my best friends. The Lyn Ski Club was so welcoming to me and I met new skiers that share the same passion for skiing as I do. I learned how to be ALMOST self-sufficient at a ski race (Kristen saved me numerous times and Coach Pat even made a last-minute appearance at our skiathlon). I challenged myself to race with some of the top Norwegian ladies and surprised myself at how much I could handle. In the skiathlon I was leading a group of girls fighting for top 10 and still feeling great. Until I hit the transition and experienced a crash followed by equipment issues with a brand new binding that I had not adequately tested and could not clip my boot into my skate ski.
While watching this video (posted on my instagram) is a bit painful, sometimes you have to find the humor in situations that are out of your control. Learning from mistakes is one thing, but dwelling on what could have been won’t get you far. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable trip, but I am happy to be home in the Midwest for a few weeks of Supertour racing.
Two weeks ago, I had no idea what the rest of my ski season was going to look like. Everything was riding on my race results in Craftsbury, VT at the 2019 US National Championships. I have gone to nationals as a college student for the past four years having high hopes and expectations to qualify for international racing. Growing up, I always dreamt of racing at Junior World Championships, but I also recognized that my entire collegiate season didn't really start until after nationals and I had a lot to focus on with that.
All four years I was able to race well and qualify for World Juniors or Under 23 Championships. Every year, I was proud of this accomplishment, but I only chose to accept the invitation two out of the four years.
During the years that I declined a chance to wear the stars and stripes, I was focused on representing myself as a UVM Catamount. On both occasions this was an extremely challenging decision to make because I was passing up an incredible opportunity. However, the UVM Ski Team had given me so much over my four years in college. The team had grown to be my family away from home and I believe that I owe much of my success to my UVM coaches and teammates. In retrospect, I could not be happier about the choices I made.
Going into the qualifying races this year I felt a lot more pressure. I had been working toward these races all summer and fall so that I could have one more chance to represent USA at the U23 World Championships in Lahti, Finland. I didn’t have a plan for racing after nationals because I had no idea where I would be going. There were no college races or schoolwork that I could fall back on, I just had to race really fast!
Throughout the week I was very content with each of my races. I felt like I had skied pretty well and finished in the top 10 in every race no matter what discipline: skate vs. classic or sprint vs. distance. However, this year there has been a field of U23 female skiers unlike any other. There is such a strong group of girls racing in my age group that most have the potential to podium in Lahti. At the end of the week, I found myself sitting in 6thplace. I was the alternate.
One of the top girls decided to decline the trip to focus on college racing, a decision that I made on numerous occasions. This meant that I was bumped up and selected as one of the top five. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity, but in the back of my mind I am still thinking, “you were just the alternate.” This has been hard for me to process. It has forced me to step back from the situation and reevaluate why I am doing this. Am I doing this for bragging rights? Or for the chance just to go on a fun international racing trip? NO! I am doing this to become a better skier. To use this unique skill that I have and to challenge myself to reach outrageous goals. Short-term and long-term goals. Putting this into a big picture perspective I have realized what an improvement I have actually made in just one year.
In previous years at US Nationals I would maybe pop out a top 10 result. This year it happened every race! I have made a jump in my abilities to compete as an overall skier. Yes, in the rankings of U23’s I finished in 6th, but I was always in the mix with those top girls. I can’t expect myself to make this transition from college skiing into elite racing and immediately start winning national level races. It is a goal of mine, but these types of goals take time to achieve. I know that I am getting stronger and faster. I am improving. I am slowly making my way up and I am hopeful that I will continue on this trendline through this season as well as the upcoming seasons.
For now, I am excited to have this opportunity to represent American skiing and do my best to throw down some great races in Finland!
Throughout college I was able to make my way home about three times per year: in the Spring after finals were over, right before going back to school in the Fall, and around the Holidays in December. I love seeing my family and friends in Minnesota and wish I had the opportunity to visit more often, but it’s hard to find the time during school and plane tickets get expensive…
This year I was lucky enough to spend almost three weeks at home over the Holidays. After injuring my back in the last Supertour race in Silverstar, B.C., I jumped into a recovery routine and tried to get it to heal as efficiently as possible. After a few days and a trip to the chiropractor I thought I was good to go and started easing my way back into my normal training. Unfortunately, I pushed my luck, and this only made my back seize up again. I realized that if I didn’t want my back to cause me problems during US Nationals then I needed to take a step back and really rest up. It might seem easy to focus on resting, but with pretty important races coming up in January it was hard not to worry about missing out on key workouts. This tested my patience, but after about a week and a half I was finally ready to get things going again.
Once I was able to accomplish what needed to be done I found myself more relaxed and ready to enjoy the Holiday season at home. I got to see old friends from high school, teammates from the ski community, and had some quality time with my siblings.
My family and I drove up to our cabin in Hayward, WI to find some skiing on the Birkie trails. Although there wasn’t a ton of natural snow, the Birkie Foundation was able to put together a fun little loop of man-made snow for everyone to enjoy. Our cabin isn’t far away from the upper peninsula of Michigan, so we made a day trip to ski on some incredible trails at ABR in Ironwood, MI. My family grew up skiing and it is something we have always done together. Having the opportunity to spend this quality time with everyone really makes me happiest!
While I was home I followed up on a few promises I had made at my Gear West fundraiser. I had the chance to stop by the Mound Westonka and Wayzata High School ski practices to work with some speedy looking juniors in my community. I also hosted a clinic with the Minnesota Youth Ski League (I learned how to ski through MYSL) and had the opportunity to ski, play games, and encourage the next generation of skiers to continue doing what they love! In my spare time I was giving a few ski lessons to some great supporters in the ski community and started working with a new sponsor: Zum Wax.
It’s always sad to say goodbye to home but the time came for me to pack my bags again and head back East. Now I am fired up to be racing at US Nationals in Craftsbury, VT – another place I like to call home. Craftsbury is not far from Burlington and over my four years at UVM I loved every chance I had to ski and race here. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center has done a tremendous job at saving snow and somehow surviving two rain storms in the past few weeks. The conditions are incredible here and it should be a fun week of racing!
We have officially started the 2018-2019 race season and the skiing has been incredible! Unfortunately, my racing hasn’t been quite as thrilling as I had hoped. I have had a little bit of bad luck and needed to face my biggest fear in racing: ALTITUDE!
Some people don’t have much of a problem skiing or racing at altitude. Physiologically, when your body is working hard it relies on glucose (sugar) that has been stored in certain cells. Oxygen is used to break down glucose to then create energy for your muscles to use. When your body can’t obtain enough oxygen this process cannot be completed and instead of creating energy the glucose is converted into something called lactic acid. This is what causes your muscles to cramp up or cause soreness after doing a really hard workout or race. Your body can convert this lactate into energy without oxygen but it is a super slow process and can’t keep up with how fast it builds up in your bloodstream. When racing, your body is already fighting to get enough oxygen to all of your muscles, but when you decrease the concentration of oxygen in the air that you are breathing this becomes particularly challenging. You can train your body to race in these conditions if you live at altitude or if you can easily travel to altitude to practice. However, one component is simply how much your own body can tolerate moving without as much oxygen and continuing on with a buildup of lactate. So, putting my biochem nerd pants away, my body has an extremely hard time functioning with a decreased amount of oxygen!
During a race there is a limit to just how long your body can work really hard. If you go over that line you will start to get very tired and soon crash. I know how to find and sustain this limit when I am racing at sea level; I’ve done it my entire life. I am still working on figuring it out at altitude. And when I hit the wall at altitude, I hit it HARD!
So, keeping all of that in mind I was extra nervous going into the first two weekends of Supertour/NorAm racing. We started off in West Yellowstone (7,000 ft) and the first race was a skate sprint where I was able to qualify 9th. I’ve always thought of myself as a distance skier so I was happy with this, but also eager to make it into the semi-finals and finals that day. All I had to do was qualify top two in my quarterfinal. When it finally came around to my heat I was able to position myself pretty well in second place until one of the last corners when a crash took out the top three skiers. I did my best to get back up and finish the round but I didn’t quite make the cut to move on. I was disappointed, but I knew I had done my best, it just wasn’t my day! I was really psyched though to see my teammate, Julia Kern crush her way through the heats and end up winning the final!
The following day was a distance race which I was excited about, but I also had the looming fear of crashing and burning at 7,000 ft. I tried to go out conservatively and work my way into the race but unfortunately couldn't quite kick it into that next gear. I finished the race again, slightly disappointed, but hungry for more. I was excited that the following day we were traveling up to SilverStar Ski Resort in Vernon, B.C., Canada. I had never been to SilverStar but I had heard of it’s beauty. Also, we were dropping two thousand feet in elevation and although it was still pretty high, I could feel a difference as soon as I got there.
Julia and I had some magical skis in this little snow globe called SilverStar. There were so many trails that you could ski to right from our rental house and the snow stuck to the trees making it look like you were in a Dr. Suess cartoon. I was ready to put the disappointment in the past and just appreciate the opportunity of skiing in such a beautiful place.
It was hard not to ski too much last week, but we knew we also needed to focus on the important races over the weekend. It was a similar format in that we did a skate sprint on Saturday and a classic 10k on Sunday. I abosultely loved the classic course that we were going to ski during the distance race and was feeling good after dropping in elevation. All I had to do was get through the sprint day…. I was again eager to make it out of the quarterfinals during the sprint and thought I was maybe on my way to doing that. Until, someone stepped on my pole up one of the last climbs and my reaction was to quickly pull my hand and pole up. In doing so, I reacted too quickly and pulled a muscle in my lower back. I was able to make it to the finish line but not in the same style that I was hoping for. I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t even bend over to take my skis off. I tried to take care of it the best I could that afternoon and was hoping to still be able to race the next day but in the end I had to make the very tough decision to sit out. I figured my back would most likely be okay. However, with the chance that I agitate it more and cause long term damage, I would really be kicking myself with more important races yet to come.
It’s never fun to sit out of a race that you had been looking forward to. Even knowing it’s the smart choice to make- it’s easier said than done. But in a way I am proud of myself for making that decision and focusing on the big picture here. I have finally left the mountains and traveled back home to the Midwest where I will make sure my back is healed and can start getting ready for some of the most important races of the season, US Nationals in Vermont during the first week of January. Overall, the first period of racing has left me a little underwhelmed, yet hungry for more! It's time for me to pick myself up and keep on getting after it.
It’s been quite a week on the move! In the past 9 days I have managed to squeeze in a lot of last minute details before kicking off the season. I flew home to Minnesota last week with two days to complete the finishing touches for a fundraiser that I had been planning since JULY. The event was at Gear West last Thursday night and it was a huge success! The entire staff at the store was so incredible for helping out with an evening full of fresh snow, running, eating a lot, listening to my presentation, and raising money via silent auction items. HOWEVER, I am feeling especially grateful for all of the extra hard work Gear West employee, Jenny Beckman, put into preparing for the event and of course the store owner, Jan Guenther, for making it all happen. Growing up in the Twin Cities I was always able to rely on Gear West Ski and Bike Shop for anything I needed skiing related: new skis, boots, ski grind, clothing, athletic encouragement… The shop did a great job in making me feel like I was back at home and I was humbled by the support shown from the community.
During the event, I was able to share my history as an athlete starting from a Wayzata High School student, into college, and now into this new and focused life that I am so proud of. Friends and family were able to bid on auction items such as a Birkie weekend cabin, Birkie parking pass and wave boost, Rossignol skis, Swix poles, US Ski Team gear, an assortment of gift baskets, and so much more! All the while sipping on some delicious Barley John’s Brewery beer and munching on snacks provided by Gore Wear. Gore Wear is an athletic clothing company primarily creating bike gear but has recently launched its very own Cross Country Ski line. The company was a huge reason for my fundraiser’s success and it was so nice to partner up with them for the evening. By the end of the night we had raised a total $4,785 in silent auction items and numerous donations. As if I couldn’t feel the love from just that, Gear West and Gore Wear were generous enough to match up to $1,000 in these donations as well! All of these donations will be put toward my season to help me fund plane tickets, hotel rooms, food and ski/wax support for racing all over the world. Thank you to everyone who came out for the event, for all of the donations and for the confidence boost in believing that this is all worth it :)
After an exciting evening, I was delighted to drive up to Hayward, Wisconsin to spend a relaxing weekend at my family’s cabin. Overnight, it happened to snow just enough on the Birkie trails that we were able to break out the old rock skis and go for a fun ski. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of the first big snowfall of the year to get you motivated for the season. It was so nice to spend such a calm weekend in the woods with my family and finally be home to celebrate my sister’s birthday! (Since I’ve missed it the last four years). My sister has always been my biggest role model in life and is the reason I started ski racing in middle school; I wanted to be just like her. Not only is she in the middle of her second year at P.A. School, she’s also training her butt off for the California International Marathon on December 2nd in the hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trails. She somehow manages to balance it all with so much more grace than I will ever be able to achieve. That being said, it was great to spend the weekend with her in the hopes of all that hard work rubbing off on me!
After that it was a rush to get things ready for a big road trip out west. On Wednesday night I left The Cities with my parents and drove into Bozeman, Montana. I am planning to spend Thanksgiving week with my parents and a few thousand other skiers at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. My parents have made this into a fun family vacation ever since I was in 6th grade but for the past four years I had been training with my college team in Quebec, Canada and missed the festival. Over the years the size of this family trip has dwindled as each sibling heads off to college. We’ve kept it a fun group though by inviting friends to tag along and teammates from the Wayzata High School team to get some great early season skiing in. This year though, it will just be my parents and me. Who can ski more hours: my dad or me? We will see...
This first day of skiing was one of those days where you look around and realize how much you love this sport. Warm sun, beautiful views and super fun trails make you never want to end your ski. It was a perfect day! Unfortunately, with every peak there comes a valley and the very next day there was freezing rain while I was skiing in town. This was one of those days where you question why you're doing this and what's the point? Do I really have to be out here training in such awful weather? But these days separate the weak from the strong and I knew it was something I'd just have to grit my teeth and get through. I thought this was similar to racing; you might have a fabulous race one day and think you're totally unstoppable only to follow that up with a horrible day where you just can't quite find your groove. Another reason why you have to face the highs and lows of whatever you're doing with the same determination and will to succeed no matter what the outcome.