Last week I had the privilege to be at home for Thanksgiving for the first time in THIRTEEN YEARS! Since middle school, my parents would pack us kids into our minivan and travel west to the West Yellowstone Ski Festival that happens over Thanksgiving week. We would ski as a family, check out the Grizzly and Wolf Center, see an IMAX movie and enjoy the peaceful nature of skiing through the woods with thousands of other skiers! My parents continued this tradition even as us kids left home for college and were unable to make the trip with them, but this year they decided not to go. Instead, they are celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday in British Columbia, Canada for a week of skiing and watching my first races!
Being home for Thanksgiving was a great way for me to see lots of friends and family, visit a few high school team practices and prepare for the racing season. It was also a perfect opportunity for my sister, Marit, and I to plan a surprise birthday party for my dad! 30 years ago, my mom threw him a surprise party and I am told it was quite the evening… She repeated this again for his 40th birthday and my dad started to notice the trend. While he appreciated the love and thoughtfulness behind these parties, I think they were also a lot to recover from ;) My dad made my mom promise to never again throw him a surprise party, however, Marit and I never agreed to this!
We wanted to keep the evening fairly relaxed as we knew everyone was coming off a busy Thanksgiving week. The suspense was building for us all day, I was in charge of getting him to the brewery where the party was at and I was feeling the pressure. I decided to treat this like a ski race and told myself to stay calm, act like everything is totally normal, and tell myself that I can only control the factors that I can control, the rest is fate. The evening was a huge success and I think my dad really enjoyed the party we threw him. It was great to see so many people come out to celebrate!
Throughout this week though, I’ve been dealing with some pretty crazy pre-race jitters. My first races of the season are this weekend and will be at the Supertour in Canmore, B.C. This time of year is tough for me as I haven’t done any races yet, but I’m sick and tired of just training and doing workouts. My training volume decreases as I prepare for the season and with it, I think to myself, “am I even doing enough?” or on the flip side, “am I doing too much?” It’s hard to know at this point without races to test myself or get a feel for where I’m at. I just have to trust the process. I wouldn’t say I’m usually someone who gets super nervous about ski races. That being said, most of my life there wasn’t much riding on my races or results. I have some pretty big goals for this season and beyond and a lot of that does ride on how I do in the first few races of the season. Without good results in the next few weeks, I won’t be able to qualify to race on the World Cup later in the season and that’s pretty much everything I’ve been working toward. So, this year I’m feeling a bit more nervous about all of it.
Last week I was talking to my future brother-in-law, Nick, (yay!) about some of my nerves going into the season. As a marathon runner looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials, Nick understands the mental stress behind racing. He is also a psychologist and had some pretty insightful things to say. Nick explained to me that the emotions fear and excitement are caused by the same hormones in your body. Cortisol and adrenaline are both in affect and it’s up to your brain to determine whether you perceive these hormonal signals as fear or excitement. In addition, there is sympathetic nervous system arousal which causes the “fight or flight” mode. Nick used an example of being on a roller coaster. Half of the people on the roller coaster are thinking about how fun it is to go up and down and all around and perceive the experience as excitement. Meanwhile, the other half of the people on the roller coaster are thinking about how the cart could go flying off the track at any second and everyone could plummet to their deaths. These people are obviously taking the cortisol and adrenaline and turning them into fear.
Nick then explained to me that if you take the anchor, which in this case is the image of riding on a roller coaster, and you picture it going well, then you can switch the way your brain perceives the cortisol and adrenaline. For example, if the people fearing the roller coaster were to imagine themselves ahead of time on the ride and say out loud, “I’m excited. I’m excited. I’m excited!” Then, they can actually change the feeling of fear into excitement. He claims I can do the same thing for my racing!
I’m not saying that I’m afraid to race, or that I am not excited about the season. But I think my body is taking on both of these emotions right now and it’s causing a little bit of craziness inside my brain. So, I decided to take Nick’s advice and have been picturing myself in my first race this weekend. I’ve been imagining myself skiing really hard up and over the top of the hill and have been saying OUT LOUD, “I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited!” The first time I did this and actually said these words out loud, I got this tingly feeling all over my body! Nick told me that I can build this image each time I think about it by adding more details. My parents are on the side of the hill cheering, I’m catching the girl in front of me, my fingers are really cold, but I ignore that feeling and keep on going… all of a sudden my sympathetic nervous system is ready to switch from flight mode and into fight mode!
I’m not sure how I will race this coming weekend, but I do know that no matter what happens it is not the end of the world or the end of my season. There is ALWAYS more to come, and I know that I’ve enjoyed the process in getting here. I already feel way more excited than nervous or fearful about my races and I can’t wait to get to Canmore to charge into the season!
Last week I was humbled by the kindness, love and generosity I received from the ski community. My fundraiser at Gear West ski shop was more than I could have ever anticipated! I want to THANK YOU, to everyone who showed up to bid on auction items, win free raffle prizes, listen to me chat, enjoy good food and beverages, and celebrate the kick-off to a new ski season. The staff at Gear West Ski Shop showed incredible support and the evening would not have been successful without them. They dedicated so much time and energy leading up to the event, setting it up, and making sure everything ran smoothly during the silent auction - I owe them a lot! Feeling this kind of love and support has motivated me and inspired me to continue working hard and chasing my dreams. It makes me jittery in anticipation for my first races in just 10 DAYS!
Before I get too excited for races to start though, there is a lot to DO in November in preparation for a long season. There is also a lot that I have learned I DO NOT want to do this time of year…
Thanksgiving is coming up and it tends to be a holiday that very few skiers have the chance to celebrate. Often times, we are already on the road, racing or in search of snow for high quality training. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving with my family and ski on snow because we took family vacations to West Yellowstone for the annual ski festival. However, my four years in college kept me away from any family celebration. Now that I have more flexibility in my training, etc. I think it’s important to make the effort to spend this time of year with the those I love. It’s one last chance to be together before the days of FaceTime calls and text updates in the Winter. I have found that spending this time with my family makes me the happiest going into a new ski season.
However, this time of year is NOT the time to socialize like a young adult in her mid-twenties. The old high school and college friends are set aside (sorry guys!) and the brewery tours come to a stop. No longer can I meet up with a friend at a bar or restaurant or accept an invitation to a party. Tis the season of staying in and watching movies at night so that I can be well rested for important training and sharpening sessions the following morning. Goodbye social life! Hello ski season!
The season can get long on the road so I want to have a stockpile of books that I can turn to for entertainment while resting before races or after hard training sessions. November is a great time of year to DO RESEARCH on the best novels, biographies, sports stories, etc. that will keep me hooked all season long. My go-to book trader is my mom, who reads about a book a day so I’m always falling behind. I also like to trade with some of my teammates, my sister, or other friends! Anyone have a good suggestion?
DO NOT do research on your competitors. Skiers start to get antsy in November in anticipation of the race season. Frequently, athletes will post on social media about their grueling workouts or first time trials of the season. Personally, I can quickly get sucked down the rabbit hole of what my competitors are doing to prep for the season. This can escalate into totally psyching me out and making me think that I am not doing enough. In reality, I can only control my own training and how I approach the season so there isn’t really any point in comparing myself to other skiers. I put my head down and do my own work. (This is obviously much easier said than done).
Do pack your Aeropress espresso maker. When you’re on the road, you never know when you’re going to get a good cup of coffee. When it comes to race morning for me, this is a NECESSITY! Rather than depending on my lodging arrangement to provide quality coffee, which it often does not, I like to come with it myself and make as much of it as I want! And then some more! ;) An Aeropress is small and packs well in a duffel bag, making it the perfect solution.
Do NOT pack your coffee grinder. Unfortunately, I have developed into somewhat of a coffee snob. Can you tell? My favorite part of the morning is taking that first sip of freshly ground coffee. Sadly, a coffee grinder can take up quite a bit of space in a duffel bag and doesn’t make the cut when packing a bag that I am supposed to live out of for 4-5 months. ☹
Do pack your slippers for hotels. Slippers are a great way to stay cozy while on the road and also keep your feet from getting dirty or spreading germs. Hotel hallways and lounges can be filled with germs and you don’t want to walk around barefoot. However, always putting on your snow boots just to grab some ice or to quickly ask your teammate in another room a question can get pretty annoying.
Do NOT pack your fashion shoes. These days, I rarely wear jeans. Let alone a nice pair of shoes! When I have to fit 2-3 pairs of ski boots, running shoes and snow boots into a bag, there is no longer room for any sense of fashion. Occasionally, I attend an event or outing during the season and show up slightly underdressed. But this is just one of the consequences I have to face, and I am okay with that!
DO get excited for the season!! It's a long one, but it's what I've been training for the past seven months. I can't wait to get it started!
A few weeks ago, my teammates and I traveled over to Lake Placid, NY for one final training camp with the US Ski Team before getting our respective seasons started. Lake Placid is a beautiful town located in the middle of the Adirondack mountains which provides access to some pretty sweet training right out the door. It’s really awesome that our SMS team can join the national team for training camps like this because it keeps things consistent for us. I’m already training with Jessie and Sophie for most of the year in Stratton, VT so it's great to continue workouts with them. The only change for us was location and housing. The national team stayed together in a house outside of town while I stayed with my non-national, Stratton teammates right downtown. As a result, I ended up living with six boys in a three-bedroom apartment for two weeks! I love my teammates, but this was A LOT to handle…
Luckily, we were training so much that it didn’t leave us much down time to be crowded in our small apartment. For me, this time of year offers some of the most fun training because we get a little bit of everything; we do anything from threshold to anaerobic intervals along with speed sets and time trials. Hitting one of these systems pretty much every other day really keeps things interesting and all of the athletes on our toes.
Unfortunately, after a few days at camp I came down with the slightest bit of a cold - hardly noticeable. I pulled back from a few of the easy distance workouts in hope of jumping in on the intensity days; but alas, this girl never seems to learn her lessons. Hindsight is always 20-20 and looking back on this I know that I should have taken a few days completely off in order to fully recover. Of course, I didn’t do this and I paid for it in the end by feeling pretty mediocre the rest of the two-week camp. You would think that by now in my ski career I would know how to handle these situations but I was afraid I was going to miss out on all of the fun!
Needless to say, it was still a fantastic camp that left me feeling tired, ready for a rest week and motivated for the final block of training to put all of the finishing touches on my fitness before the season begins. After traveling back to Stratton Mountain, the team prepared for our annual send-off dinner, a fundraiser that we host at the school every year for local friends and family to gather, mingle, say good-byes and bid on some exciting auction items before we start jet-setting off all over the world! This year the live auction was extremely successful and it was really humbling to see the community get behind our cause and show their excitement for our passions, dreams and goals! Thank you to everyone who attended such a fun, heartwarming event!
The money that we raised last weekend will go toward covering our team expenses including wax, travel arrangements for Coach Pat, van and tech support, and much more throughout the season! Unfortunately, this doesn't completely cover all of the expenses that a skier faces when first turning “pro.” There are still expensive international flights, hotel rooms, race entry fees, food, etc. that can really add up over a four to five month season. Luckily, I have some pretty amazing supporters back home in the Midwest who want to help see me succeed this winter. I am happy to announce that I have partnered with Gear West Ski and Bike shop again to host a fundraiser to help offset some of these expenses! The event will take place at the ski shop in Long Lake, MN on Thursday, November 21st 6-8pm and will include a silent auction, food/beverages provided by GORE Wear and Barley John’s Brewery and a presentation, “Birkie and Beyond” (all about my experience at the Birkie last year and how I’ve used that to make changes and motivate me for the upcoming season). Gear West and GORE Wear are both willing to match up to $1,000 in donations and we have some pretty sweet auction items this year: Birkie Weekend cabin, Birkie wave boost, Rossignol S2 Skis (fitted to the winner), a wine cork pull and so much more! The event is for all ages and even if you aren’t able to make a financial contribution it would be wonderful to see you there!
My teammates and I have been hitting the training pretty hard the past few weeks in preparation for a big US Ski Team camp in Lake Placid. We finished a two week intensity block, took a few days to recover from it and then scheduled another 10 days of hard work. We'll then get to spend some relaxing time celebrating Simi and Sophie's wedding this weekend. We are all so excited for Simi and Sophie to get married and for the gathering of so many friends!
In our 10 day Stratton-based training camp, we have planned 5-6 days of intensity along with a fair amount of volume filled in on the off days. The intervals are getting harder, but also more fun because it means we get to start moving faster!
My teammates and I balance our training lives in different ways. For example, Ian and Kyle have stocked up for the apocalypse and have since entered "hermit mode." It is my understanding that they have purchased 7 gallons of milk, 20 pounds of pasta, 60 bagels and 100 bananas. The science behind this is that they never have to leave Stratton Mountain except for training when we drive to find different roads to roller ski on or trails to run on. No grocery runs, few gas refills, just eat, sleep, breathe skiing!
As for my roommate Jessie and me, we've taken a slightly different approach. Although we have been prioritizing our recovery between hard training sessions, we're also okay with driving into town every once and a while. During the afternoons, we do work from our computers while sitting in a pair of Normatec pants (super fancy pants that squeeze your legs making them feel "refreshed") and planning our meals. Jessie and I have been CRUSHING the dinner scene on Stratton Mountain. So, I decided to give you a little look into what we've been cooking to help with recovery and to stay fueled through this intensity block.
I think the biggest takeaway from all of this, is realizing how delicious and nutritious a well-balanced meal can be. Jessie and I try to make sure that we include lots of fruits and veggies, carbohydrates and protein in all of our meals. We try to mix up the type of protein between red meat, seafood, and "boring" chicken. I'm no nutrition expert, but I think this insures that we get plenty of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein to help our muscles recover from all of the training we've been doing.
Whether it's lunch or dinner, we make sure that each of our meals helps us recover and refuel. Also, that it tastes delicious! Some of our meals we just make up as we go along; a salad is pretty hard to screw up, throw some greens in a bowl and add whatever leftovers you've got in the fridge on top! Other meals, we find inspiration from yummy cookbooks or food blogs. Some of our favorite cookbooks are Run Fast Eat Slow and Run Fast Cook Fast Eat Slow (both written by runners Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky). We also have two books by Chrissy Teigen that include some pretty rich goodies. Our latest addition to this collection is The Birchwood Cafe cookbook. The Birchwood Cafe is a fun little joint in St. Paul, MN that always serves seasonal, farm-fresh food. I think that following the seasons and cooking with produce that is fresh helps add a lot of flavor, keeps the cost of buying food down and gets us excited about each new season.
Some days we really like to switch things up and get creative. One of Jessie's mottos is, "if we can make it at home, then why bother going out to dinner." So we've had a few pizza nights! These leftovers also make the BEST snack during a long run the next day ;)
When we're stuck between meals and afternoon training sessions, sometimes all we want is a little snack. Jessie and I take turns making fresh granola that we eat with yogurt and fresh fruit. I've also added a new hobby to my daily routine this year and have been taking care of a little sourdough baby. This starter has traveled all over the country with me the last few months and has caused some stress, but mostly it provides the best fresh sourdough loaves that make great breakfast or snack food.
Finally, the moment I look forward to all day... Dessert! I have quite the sweet tooth and strongly believe that everyone works hard enough during the day that they deserve to treat themselves. Whether it's a post-ski cookie to quickly refuel your glycogen stores or an evening crisp made with seasonal fruit, a little bit of sweetness is not going to hurt our athleticism but it can help with happiness :)
I hope this finds you feeling inspired to make some delicious fall meals that can help you stay fueled during training. In the meantime, I'll be eating wedding cake :)
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.