Hallo from Norway!
I am very excited to be kicking off this season by racing Period 1 of the World Cup! This will be my first time racing Period 1 and I am feeling excited, nervous, confident and scared. My first race will be the day after Thanksgiving and I will be competing in 10 races in four weeks, more than I ever have before. These races are considered some of the most challenging courses on the World Cup circuit and many other nations enter the season in tip-top shape just so they can qualify to race for their nation. So, competition will be fierce!
I feel grateful to have qualified for these races based on my results last season and have had them stewing in the back of my mind during summer and fall training. Although I am honored to have these start spots and proud of myself for earning them, I can’t help but acknowledge that the additional pressure has affected me the last few months.
A few weeks ago, I shared some of the tough training thoughts that I had been dealing with this fall. I was riding a roller coaster of physical and mental feelings during training and during the recovery hours. Things just weren’t clicking for me and I was puzzled on how to fix it. I stepped back and took a 10 day break from the continuous rigors of training, which proved to be just what I needed. After some adventures with family and friends out west, I was able to go into our team altitude training camp in Park City, UT with good energy and a positive attitude.
I spent two weeks in Park City with Lina, Lauren and Coach Perry. We explored the mountain canyons, amazing trail running, and joined the National team for a few key workouts to get in some solid intensity.
This was the first time I had gone into an altitude training camp already acclimated and it turned out to be the best I’ve ever felt. I had a better understanding of pacing and how much my body could handle in the skinny air. For the first time in many, many weeks, things started to come together for me and I was able to find that extra gear that allowed me to push myself mentally and physically in training.
It didn’t hurt that the weather was amazing and that almost all of my nordie friends were gathering in the town for training at the same time.
Although there were only a few key workouts during the camp, those were enough to give my system a little boot. I returned to Vermont, happy to be back at sea level and enjoy a rest week. By the end of the week, I was feeling good to go again. We had special visitors from the Harvard ski team over the weekend and they got us going in some really hard bounding intervals up Stratton Mountain. The enthusiastic college skiers and the plethora of oxygen came together to form a really fun training atmosphere and a great workout.
These solid workouts started coming more frequently for me and I felt like I was back to laying productive, foundational bricks to my training. I had two more solid weeks of training with the SMS team which included a spicy mix of threshold, L4, speeds and time trials.
During the last TT of our mini race series I was approaching the final climb to a 10k course, skiing with my teammate, Lina. We went zipping down one last descent and were using each other’s draft to gain a few extra seconds, when my wheels hit a crack. I wobbled. Caught more of the draft. Wobbled again. Hit another crack and went down going 40 mph. This crash could have easily led to broken bones and a nasty concussion and I feel so, so lucky to have been able to ski away from it with just some broken skin. Although, I have never had so much road rash across my body or felt this sensitivity of nerve pain before. I somehow was able to get both sides of my body and both the inside and outside of my legs. I don’t recall exactly what happened, but whatever force didn’t hit my head or bones, definitely slid across my skin. This wasn’t exactly how I wanted to wrap up my final rollerski prep period of the year, but I’ve been cleaning the wounds and doing what I can to heal up as quickly as possible.
My final days in Stratton were spent training, moving out of my condo, packing, cleaning and celebrating the kick off to the season at our SMS T2 Send Off dinner.
Due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to host a send off dinner the past few years. Not only were we excited to host a farewell party, but I think the community was excited to come celebrate with us! It was such a treat to see so many friends join us in Stratton to send us off and help us raise funds for the season that is quickly approaching. We auctioned off many items and services, including a dinner next summer that is to be prepared and hosted by the team.
We are so thankful for all of the support that our little team receives and could not follow our motto without it: local inspiration, international excellence. The send off dinner and enthusiasm around the event helped us reach our initial fundraising goal, but we still have a challenge going from our board that we are trying to meet. If we can receive 250 donors by the start of the season, then they’ll unlock $25,000 for the team!
If anyone is interested in supporting the team, they can donate on our team website (tax deductible). If anyone is interested in personally supporting my own season, then they can write my name in the memo and the money will go directly to my World Cup racing expenses this winter. These donations are included in the 250 donor goal and will help the entire team race faster in the winter!
After a whirlwind few days, I left the 70 degrees in Vermont in shorts and a t-shirt and flew across the Atlantic to find myself in Beitostolen, Norway. My teammate, Lauren, and I have been here for a week, training on snow, before we travel to Ruka, Finland in a few days.
I’m not sure what the start of the season holds for me, but I am happy to be here and am hopeful that I can accomplish some big result AND process goals over the next month.
I absolutely love being in Vermont in September. With crisp mornings, peaks of foliage and hints of the approaching winter, I am usually giddy with excitement. Sometimes the excitement of winter approaching can can also cause a bit of stress. Things weren’t all clicking for me last month mentally as I struggled to dial in the training that I desired. Naturally, as most type-A skiers will do, I began overthinking every step I made.
After coming down with a little cold at the beginning of the month, I took a few days off and gave myself a very easy week to try to recover and reset. I’ll be the first to admit that I am pretty horrendous at taking time off like this. I thoroughly enjoy my down time in April and take advantage of planned easy weeks to adventure and find distractions. But when an illness throws a wrench in the plan I start to get antsy and angsty.
I know there’s room in the training plan for obstacles like this and that an athlete doesn’t lose fitness in 7-10 days. Sitting still in Stratton with zero distractions is not something I do well though. As I got healthy I slowly started building back into workouts, but as to be expected I didn’t feel fabulous. I had endless time to hyper-focus on these workouts and once they started reoccuring I began to doubt myself.
Three weeks later and still feeling ‘off’ in my workouts, I started asking questions. I asked my head coach, assistant coach, program director, old coaches, friends, teammates, family… What was going on? Was I overtraining? Was I not training enough? Should I be working harder? Should I take more time off? These are the questions that were swirling through my head and my conversations. I just couldn’t seem to dig deep during the workouts that were supposed to hurt and I didn’t feel strong enough to do one last interval.
Soon, it had been an entire month of feeling ‘off my game.’ Unable to push it during the hardest workouts and unmotivated in the gym or on the roads/trails - something I had never experienced before. I assessed the factors. Sleep, nutrition, volume, intensity, all seemed to be in a good place. I got a blood test and was surprised to see how great the results were so iron/ferritin wasn’t an issue. That led me to believe maybe there was only one possible solution left...
After a YEAR full of travel, I hadn’t spent more than 10 consecutive days in one bed since last October. I took my nomadic lifestyle to the extreme and by mid-August I felt like I needed some down time. So naturally, I took that idea to the extreme as well and didn’t leave Stratton, Vt for 5.5 weeks. A lot of the team was out of town or had different plans and most of my friends/support system were traveling. This meant I didn’t get a break in my day, week, or month to be ‘normal human Alayna.’ I was only being ‘ski athlete Alayna.’
This summer I got a new remote job working for a small marketing consulting firm. I left my old work position at LandTrust and made the transition to Space Monkey Partners, one that I was excited for! In just two months I learned a ton, grew as a career women, and really enjoyed getting to know my new co-workers. This was my one blessing through the last month. It was a distraction. But it clearly wasn’t enough.
Finally, after hours of conversations, brainstorming, trial and error, I decided there was a strong liklihood that this funk I was experiencing was mostly mental. I needed a break. I needed to see family and friends. I needed time with my boyfriend. I needed time away from the team (even though I love and appreciate them so much). I needed a break from Stratton. So that’s exactly what I did.
I flew out to Colorado to attend my cousin’s wedding at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. I had a weekend full of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I saw Colorado friends and went on adventure hikes just for the social hour. I set aside training for a week and fully embraced the people around me.
Looking ahead, I knew I still wanted to attend our team training camp in Park City in early October and didn’t think it made sense to fly back to Vermont for five days. So, my boyfriend and I traveled into the mountains and met Lina Sutro at her childhood home in Carbondale, CO.
We had an incredible week in the mountains. We eased into altitude life, embraced the Colorado hail storms and frolicked through the golden aspens. Rather than asking my coach what the training plan should be for the week, I asked myself what will make Alayna happy? One day, I sent it on an 8 hour run through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness with Thomas. Another day, I accepted a 45 minute run as the only training for the day. Finally, at the very end of the week, I joined Lina and Hailey Swirbul for some intervals and strength.
I supplemented this training by indulging in ‘activities with friends.’ Lina, Thomas and I visited Sophie and Simi Hamilton and their newborn daughter. We went to a concert at the BellyUp in Aspen. We watched the Rings of Power and House of Dragons. We took apples from the Sutro apple trees and made fresh cider and applesauce. We embraced Potato Day in Carbondale and played with puppies in the backyard.
I worked hard last week to refill my happy tank and tried to put a different perspective on skiing. I’m looking forward to the season that is quickly approaching, but will admit that I am also feeling nervous about what it will look like. I think it’s good to be nervous because it means that I care a lot. I also have to remind myself though that if things aren’t perfect this year then that’s okay. I can only control the things I can control. I can try to train hard and get sleep and rest and nutrition and train hard again. Sometimes you mix all of that up and get the best cocktail in the world. Other times you get a mixed drink that does the job but isn’t fully satisfying. It’s too hard to tell at this point in the year what type of beverage I’ll be sipping on this season, but I think and hope that as long as I’m going about it with friends, trying my hardest and finding fun in it, then it will be okay.
The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster but I'm leaning into my support system. I'm hopeful for what this season might bring and am focusing on controlling the things that I can control. I’m currently in Park City, UT for a two week camp and enjoying the beautiful sunshine, aspens, and smiling faces of all the other athletes we're training with!
Summer has flown by and suddenly the days are getting shorter, the workouts are getting more intense and there's slightly less sweat stinging the eyes. That can mean only one thing, ski season is soon approaching…
I realize it's been a minute since I last touched in, so there's a lot to cover! After an epic journey around Argentina in July, I returned to Stratton eager to rollerski. I had a few days to unpack, do laundry, recover from jet lag, then pack again for a mini training camp up at Green Woodlands in Dorchester, NH. Although I felt pretty content staying put in southern Vermont, I had been looking forward to a Green’s camp since last summer when we visited the wilderness for a few days of biking and running.
This summer, we enjoyed just as beautiful weather as last year and jumped right onto our mountain bikes as soon as we arrived to camp. Bob Green is the landowner of ~25,000 acres in New Hampshire. He has built his own bike and ski trails, which he opened to the public for recreation access. The trails are phenomenal; smooth and flowy downhills with a few technical sections that are hard enough to challenge you but straightforward enough to not get hurt on. The entire team plus many of our summer guest athletes hit some high volume hours exploring the trails at Greens.
During camp, we made an afternoon trip into Lyme, NH for some double pole ski intervals just so we didn’t totally lose touch with our ski focus. Then, on one of the last days, we made our way up into the White Mountains to cap off our volume training camp by running along the Presi Traverse. This was my fourth time trekking along the Presidential range and by far the most beautiful weather I’d ever experienced up there. Lots of fun was had out there by the crew!
Eat, sleep, train, repeat.
Back in Stratton, the team had a few hard training sessions before we hit the road again to do some outreach in the Vermont ski community. The team made a brief visit to Waitsfield, VT where we joined the U16 National camp at GMVS (Green Mountain Valley School). The campers traveled from all over New England and the Midwest to attend the weeklong camp. We hopped in one of their workouts as we battled it up App Gap in the hot and sweaty, humid weather. That afternoon, we ate lunch with the kids and gathered for a Q&A about skiing, school, balance, and life. It was so fun to see the next generation putting in the hard work and really great to visit with juniors from Minnesota!
Before leaving Waitsfield, the team took advantage of some new running trails and went for an over distance run up Sugarbush resort and along the Long Trail. Lucky for me, I had a special visitor who made the long run fly by!
My dad traveled to Vermont to visit me for a few days. When I attended UVM, my parents came to visit me once a year, but my dad hadn’t spent a solid chunk of time in Waitsfield or in Stratton so it was fun to show him around.
We packed a lot into 48 hours in Waitsfield but had to make the drive back south to Stratton for our T2 team fundraiser. In early August, we hosted an uphill running race up Stratton Mountain Resort. Racers got to challenge themselves to one heck of a mountain and one of the sweatiest days I’ve ever had, but the smiles, laughs and water jugs at the top were all worth it.
It was incredible to see the community come out for the event and meant so much to my teammates and me! The contributions go a long way to support our team for travel, lodging, race fees, wax fees, coaching, and so much more in the winter. We might still be a few months out from natural snow falling from the sky, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have it on our mind… A few weeks ago the team traveled abroad in search of snow. If you're interested in a recap from my 10 days of training in the Oberhof Ski Tunnel, you can read the blog I wrote for Gear West.
I returned from the Oberhof camp a few days early to attend the wedding of one of my closest friends. Although it's challenging to balance all social opportunities with the intense rigor of training full time, I'm grateful for the relationships that I have and want to support them the same way they support me mid-winter. It was a beautiful wedding that brought together many friends from college whom I hadn't seen in many years.
Recently, Lina, Lauren and I have been getting back to work in Stratton and are looking forward to when teammates, Jessie and Julia return from their camp in Australia this week. The leaves are starting to change in Vermont and with crisp mornings I'm feeling jittery to get going on some hard training sessions. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that I had been running on fumes for some time and I came down with a mild cold. This type of pause is hard for me to acknowledge, but also a good sign to me that I need to slow down a bit. I'm willing to accept that notion and am looking forward to a few more consistent weeks of training in Stratton before packing up for a fall altitude camp out west!
Back from winter and I can barely handle the heat! Vermont is absolutely TREATING US with 60-70 degrees and sunshine everyday this week but it still has me feeling like I need to do some heat acclimating. I just returned from a trip to Argentina where it’s winter with temps in the 30’s and 40’s.
Two and half weeks ago I traveled down to South America to join Thomas and his family for what I would call an educational safari. His mom is on sabbatical at UVM and working on a research project studying stromatolites: a microorganism living in the salt flats in northwest Argentina. The salt flats are located in the middle of the desert of the pre-Andes range close to the Chilean border. Stromatolites flourish in a dry environment and at high elevation, so it’s no wonder they were in abundance at 12,000 feet. These tiny little guys are also known to offset more CO2 than the amazon rainforest so they’re pretty neat. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only useful thing found in the salt flats. Lithium is also embedded in the rock. Lithium is used for batteries including those used for electric vehicles, so there’s been a huge rush to mine for the lithium while forgetting about these poor little stromatolite dudes. Which is exactly what brought this crew of scientists (or pretend scientists - me) down to study the region, ecosystem, and impact on local life due to the mining.
Never have I ever seen anything quite like this area. I’ve been to plenty of deserts before - Moab, Phoenix, the high desert… they are all lush with life and greenery compared to the barren desert we explored. For a week, we drove from village to village, stopping for food, water, and sleep. During the day, we hiked volcanoes, learned about their specific geological significance, visited archeological sites that could be traced back to 20,000 years ago, and also saw a lot of vicuña’s (kind of like the wild version of a llama).
During the trip, I did my best to stay active. Although it was an easy week of training it didn’t mean zero exercise for me. I woke up a little early most mornings to go for a run, do a bodyweight strength workout, or work on some plyos before we ventured off for more exploring. In the evenings, we ate dinners full of the Argentine diet staple: meat. Lamb, steak, llama, pork. That’s what was for dinner. I can’t lie and say this part was a little tricky for me. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I’m definitely not used to consuming so much red meat and I am definitely used to eating far more fruits and vegetables than what was available in the middle of the winter-time desert. But I did the best I could to adjust and recognized it was only for a week. I was appreciative to be where I was and held on to that! (Disclaimer: the meat we ate was absolutely delicious, just in quantities I wasn’t used to).
We wrapped up the safari with a few things on my mind. 1. There must be a better way to shift away from oil/gas and toward renewable energy without destroying the fragile ecosystem that exists in the lithium triangle. 2. The world is big and although skiing has brought me to so many incredible places there is also so much more out there to see. 3. I’m very thankful to the Woolson family for extending the invite on this adventure. 4. The indigenous people of South America freaking love their llama’s!
Back in the city of Buenos Aires I felt like I could breathe again at sea level. Most of the safari was between 11,000-13,000 feet so the morning runs started to feel a bit easier in the city. I memorized every inch of the city parks during my various runs and scoped out some of the museums we later visited. I even met up with my cousin who just so happened to be in the city with her fiance at the time!
One afternoon we took a boat to the Island of Rest. Two artists created a sculpture garden that coincided with the ecosystem living on the island. We then sat down for one of the most delicious meals of my life that left me feeling stuffed for days.
By the time my trip in Argentina was wrapping up I was starting to feel antsy to travel home. I had placed a few blocks on my own personal balance beam that I find is so important to maintain when it comes to my ski career. But it was starting to get out of equilibrium and I was ready to get back to ski training. My running legs had put up a good fight but they were in need of a break. Likewise, the cultural differences were starting to catch up to me. Dinner didn’t start until 10 pm meaning bedtime wasn’t until 1 am, which is definitely not something I am accustomed to. Likewise, the meat-heavy diet was causing some GI issues and I was no longer feeling my best self. I was beginning to feel tired, both physically and mentally. I recognized that I hadn’t really stopped moving in many months, with a busy ski season, followed by an adventurous spring, along with a hectic start to the training year in May/June. I felt like I was getting to the point where I really needed to be home. Although, I don’t really have a home at this point in my life... I needed to slow down and find some consistency.
Now that I am back in Vermont and reflecting on the trip, I am so grateful for the opportunity to join and really appreciated the time I got with Thomas and his family. I am also very excited to be back in the Green Mountain state with little upcoming travel on my near schedule. If you need me, I’ll be here. For a while. Not moving. Just doing my thing.
Back in Vermont for three weeks but still haven’t unpacked and moved in? No one should be surprised… Vermont has been absolutely popping off the last few weeks, making it bittersweet that I haven’t been around as much as I’d like. I drove back to Stratton on June 4th but have only spent a handful of nights in my condo with teammates and roomies for the year, Lina Sutro and Lauren Jortberg. There have been too many extra adventures to go on!
I have been able to jump into interval sessions with the girl squad we have. Skate intervals at Ball Mountain Dam, bounding up the mountain, double poling in Weston, and speeds on the steep and windy roads. In between these intensity sessions, I’ve been bouncing up north to do some biking.
In memory of pro cyclist, Moriah Wilson, I spent a solid amount of time this month in the woods and on the roads with my boyfriend, Thomas, and other Dartmouth skiers. We honored Mo by grinding out a 130 mile gap ride in the Mad River Valley of Vermont; we biked 6 gaps in the Green Mountains, one of which is home to the steepest paved mile in America (Lincoln Gap). We also embraced the beauty found in the woods around Burke, VT, where Moriah was from. I never met Moriah, but from what I learned during the hours on the saddle and memorable gatherings held in her honor, was that she was tenacious, determined, gritty, and an unbelievably positive and happy person. She was driven, but always had a smile on her face. She will forever be remembered in the ski and bike community and my heart goes out to anyone mourning this loss.
After returning south to the team in Stratton, I leaned into my own community. The SMS ladies went to visit the women’s Vermont Fusion Soccer team, which is a summer program for college female athletes to continue working on their skills and develop while not in school. We joined the girls for lunch and spoke to them about women in sport, sports psychology, strength, goal-setting, managing nerves and pressure, and a whole lot more. This was the second year we’ve visited with Vermont Fusion and both years have been incredible opportunities to meet some very talented young women.
Meanwhile, I had a few goals of my own that I was hoping to soon achieve. Last winter, after missing an olympic team and feeling pretty upset about the direction my ski season had gone in January, I really felt like I needed something else to focus on and get excited about. I loved (and still do love) ski racing, but I felt like I had other opportunities waiting for me. After consulting with my sister and her husband, Marit and Nick, they persuaded me to sign up for a road half marathon this summer. As a native Minnesotan, the obvious choice for me was Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth.
I put June 18th on my calendar and ever so slowly started incorporating some more running into my training. This was back in February/March while ski season was in full swing and I was having a great time racing, so it really only encompassed about 2-4 runs a week that were 3-8 miles. After ski season officially ended, I gave myself a few days off and then picked up the running again. My legs faced a little bit of a shock in April, but not nearly the same shock I’m used to experiencing when I go months without much running in the legs. As I traveled through Europe this spring and then started focusing on ski training again in May, I continuously sent sporadic text messages to Marit and Nick, requesting running workouts in preparation for my half marathon.
They prepared me so well. They knew I couldn’t handle too much mileage but that I did have some power and speed in the legs from skiing. They concocted the perfect, semi-committed, super spontaneous training plan that I was looking for. I tested the waters in a few races like the Pole Pedal Paddle in Bend, OR and Women Run the Cities in Minneapolis. Finally, I put the finishing touches on the scheme last week on the track at the Manchester rec center.
Last weekend, I traveled back to Minnesota for a brief 72 hour trip. I got to spend a few extra days with Marit and Nick and pestered them with questions about the upcoming race. I also sandwiched the trip between my mom’s birthday and Father’s day. We gave them no break as they spent the weekend parenting and supporting the running race with cheering, meals, and race-day feeds.
Duluth brought us impeccable weather with 52 degrees and sunshine at the 6am start; then blessed us with a 10 mph tailwind as we ran 13 miles down Lake Superior. It was so fun to see the running community, as well as the crossover with the ski community, come together for an epic day. The pacing from Marit made sure I didn’t blow my chances in the first three miles of the race. On the flip side, cheering from the crowd as I ran the final stretch into Duluth motivated me to keep turning over the legs even though they wanted a break. This perfect storm brought me to the finish line with a new PR in the half marathon in 1:16:13, by far exceeding my hopeful expectations of running sub-1:18:00.
The little adventure of mine was exciting but I had my teammates calling me back to Stratton for more ski specific training. I traveled back to Vermont for four days of roller skiing and a wonderful birthday celebration.
The small birthday bbq with the team was everything I wanted and made it bittersweet to say goodbye to my teammates and friends. But I have some more excited adventures coming up, this time to a whole new part of the world for me. I am currently in route to Argentina to join Thomas and his family for camping in the mountains, city exploring in Buenos Aires, and cultural exploration on a ranch. My Spanish is pretty rusty since I last used it my Junior year of high school so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes smoothly.
Two weeks of intense training on snow followed by two weeks at home; summer has arrived and I’m here for it! I kicked off the training year with my SMS teammates and new head coach, Perry Thomas, in Bend, OR to ski at Mt. Bachelor. I love heading to Bend every spring. I spent three summers in college training in Bend and have great memories from the town, people and adventures there, so it’s always special to be back.
Lina, Lauren and I stayed with a host family, the McColgan family. They were so generous to allow us to stay in the apartment above their garage and enjoy the peace and tranquility of life just outside of Bend. Although we had to drive a decent way to Mt. Bachelor each morning, it was nice to feel at home with their warm hospitality and fun to feel more like a local.
The training at Mt. Bachelor was incredible, although much colder than we’re used to for Spring skiing. Temps were getting down down to 20 degrees at night and we frequently found ourselves skiing in fresh snow. This was great for keeping consistent, high quality conditions for the camp, but also had us feeling a little bummed not to experience the spring skiing we were looking for.
Luckily, the Bend weather gods didn’t punish us too hard and treated us to a couple of sunny, warm days. We even made it out for a crust ski around Broken Top mountain. I’ve done a decent amount of crust skiing in my days, but this had to have been the best ski in terms of crust conditions, company, weather and views. I was on cloud nine!
Back on the groomed trails, we filled our training time with lots of volume, a few threshold sessions, speeds, and technique work. I also spent a good chunk of my energy toward testing my new Salomon skis. I’m very excited to be working with Salomon this year! I had been racing on Rossi skis for almost a decade, so I’m also feeling a bit nervous about the change, but overall believe it will be worth it in the long run. It’s extra fun to be able to ski around and test skis with my teammate Jessie. She’s already been so helpful with all of my questions as I learn the new skis.
The afternoons in Bend seemed to fly by with busy hours spent working on my computer. In the evenings we enjoyed the trails around town with lots of trail running, mountain biking and strength sessions. To top it all off, we were able to visit almost all of my favorite restaurants and breweries in Bend.
Mid-way through the camp I jumped into the Pole Pedal Paddle - a race that includes downhill skiing, nordic, road biking, running and kayaking. In 2019 I participated in the race as an individual. Although it was a fun experience I decided it could be fun to try it with partners. I raced in not one, but two different relay teams. On a coed team I raced the nordic event, then zipped down the mountain in time to race the running leg for a full female team. It was such a great way to be part of the Bend outdoor community and embrace the craziness of such a wild event.
By the end of the camp I was definitely feeling tired and ready to head home for a little down time. In theory, I always think that time at home is going to be relaxing but I seem to fill every minute of my days when in Minneapolis. I kicked off the weekend with Women Run the Cities 10 Mile running race with my sister, then went back to her house to help her with a big landscape project. Finally, I topped off my first day home with the wedding of my good friends Vivian Hett and KJ Johnson. The wedding was such a fun evening celebrating the couple that I introduced to each other 10 years ago and it was great to see so many friends from high school skiing.
We made our way down to Red Wing, MN for a beautiful weekend along the Mississippi River celebrating Jessie and Wade. Again, it was a perfect opportunity to see so many friends come together to celebrate the love of our two friends. The venue, flowers, dresses, food, drinks, dancing and company were all amazing!
I finished off my time at home with a few extra days around the house supporting my mom’s knee replacement surgery and squeezing in as many Minnesota things as possible. This included a very special evening at Gear West with my friend Abby Drach launching her women’s athletic clothing brand, Indura, in the shop. Abby designs and sews herself some really impressive products. Her cute, form-fitting sports bras and stay-put shorts can now be browsed on the racks at Gear West so you can try them on and pick your favorite pattern. I can’t speak highly enough of her Stay-Put shorts that have an elastic grip around the leg holes to prevent from riding up, pockets on the side, longer on the in-seam and mid or high rise options to make you feel comfortable, fashionable, and fast! Even Outside Magazine had praise for the shorts as they were included in their summer guide.
After all the time running around the city, I was feeling ready to get back to a slower pace of life in Vermont. Last week, I drove from Minnesota to Vermont and kicked off the first week of summer training with my team in Stratton. We hit intervals at Ball Mountain Dam, lots of biking, classic speeds, and more intervals bounding up Stratton Mountain. It feeIs good to feel back and I'm ready to keep the busy summer rolling. It should be a good one!
Second week of May and we’re getting back into the swing of things! Last month I treated myself to a vacation. Although I travel the world and don’t work a ‘typical job,’ I rarely get to see the places I travel to and often am sitting in a hotel room, recovering for my next race or training session. In April, I sat on the beach, indulged in many sweets, and traveled as a true tourist. I didn’t think about skiing and I only exercised when I felt like it. I allowed myself to take a big break from the sport and completely reset. I also gave myself the time to reflect on the past whirlwind of a season it had been, continue to process the fact that I missed an Olympic goal, and think about what my next goals could look like.
After Spring Series in Whistler, CAN I traveled to Negril, Jamaica with my mom and aunt for a girls trip over an extended weekend. I had never been to the Caribbean so I was in awe by the blue water and tropical climate. I went from 30 degrees and rain to 80 degrees and full sunshine pretty quick which meant a lot of sunscreen.
We walked along the beach every morning, chatted with the locals, ate fresh papaya and tried various types of jerked meat. We also spent a lot of time sitting on the beach, reading our books. After four days of this I started to get quite restless as I am not one to sit still for too long, but it also was such a great break from the usual business of the ski life. Alas, by the time we departed the island I was ready to get back to a bustling schedule.
I spent about 48 hours at home before departing for another trip, this time to Europe. Despite making the travels across the pond many times, I had never been a tourist in Europe until this spring. I met my boyfriend, Thomas, in Geneva where we traveled into the Swiss Alps to meet friends for some mountain adventures. We went backcountry skiing, Nordic skiing, hiking and biking. The town of Bagnes, SUI sits in a valley right below Verbier Resort. With access to great skiing up high and summer conditions down low, we had the best of both worlds. We even attempted the sport of water foiling, which is a mix between surfing, skateboarding and pogo sticking. Our mornings and evenings were spent doing activities while the afternoon was usually dedicated to work. I couldn’t take 4 weeks off from work so continued to work for my part-time job remotely throughout the trip. Luckily, there was always something to look forward to at the end of the day!
On Easter, we continued our travels down to the coast of Italy to a town called Portofino. We stayed at an agritourismo - a little farm up on the hillside that harvested olives and honey from their beehives. Thomas decided in March that he was ready to run a 50k in May, so we also incorporated some running during this part of the trip, exploring the little peninsula during an 18 mile run.
Exhausted from the run, we were ready to get back to tourist life and hopped on the train toward Florence. On the way, we made a pit-stop in Pisa to get some tasty sandwiches and capture one of more basic photos I’ve ever taken in my life. Such a cool town though!
We made it to Florence and immediately I was taken away by the cathedral, art and food of the city. I don’t think I can pick a favorite place during this trip, but Florence is definitely one I want to return to. Two days was not nearly enough time to see everything, although we did get around the city quite a bit.
We explored the Florence cathedral, baptistry, basilica de Santa Croce, basilica de San Lorenzo, saw the David, and strolled around the gardens. Also, Florence seemed to have a gelato shop every third shop on the street so we had our fair share of gelato too.
I was feeling overwhelmed by the art and history in the city. It had been a while since I had taken a European history class and although Thomas knew a fair amount Da Vinci and Michaelangelo, we decided to do some learning too. We found a podcast on Spotify by Dr. Rocky Ruggiero, an American professor who has lived in Florence for the past 15 years running study abroad programs. Ruggiero has over 200 podcasts about the buildings, cities, frescos, and other renaissance-related cultural items. His podcasts walked us through the mosaic in the Florence baptistry and the story behind the famous families buried in the Basilica de Santa Croce. His podcasts were both informative and humorous and I highly recommend them for anyone exploring central Italy in the future.
From Florence, we hopped on yet another train toward Venice where we met Thomas’s mom and her friends who were showing their art at the Venice art show. They say never visit Venice when it’s raining. The first day we were on the island it rained the entire day, but we made the most of it! We were told to get lost in the city and we definitely did that. We ate fresh seafood and listened to more of Rocky’s podcasts. Finally, we went to the art show at a palace on the Grand Canal, which exhibited artists from all over the world.
A quick trip to Venice was all I needed as I felt myself bonking from all the frescos and mosaics. They were absolutely gorgeous, but over a week of museums was enough for me. From there we traveled to Tuscany where we visited the cities of San Gimingano, Sienna and Pienza. San Gimingano is considered the Manhattan of the Middle Ages with numerous towers built throughout the city. Siena seemed to have been lost in my history textbooks so I was fascinated to hear how much of a thriving metropolis it had been as a rival of Florence back during the Renaissance. Meanwhile, Pienza brought us some of the best cheese and wine I have ever had.
While in Pienza, we were surrounded by three other smaller towns that were known for their Pecorino cheese and Nobile wine. Still prepping for a 50k coming up, we explored these towns during a 16 mile run through the countryside of Tuscany.
We capped off our travels having eaten more cheese, pasta, pizza and gelato than I had in a while. Although, I think my favorite food by far was the fresh focaccia. Cripsy, oily and salty, just what I was craving after our big adventures!
This vacation was everything that I needed at the end of a busy season - it gave my mind and body the time to rest and relax, which it was craving in March. During our last little stint in Tuscany we had a rainy day. I suddenly found myself feeling restless and anxious to get out the door. I was craving exercise and didn’t care that it was cold and rainy. I took this as a really good sign that I had spent April doing exactly what I needed to do. I was recovered and antsy to get back to training. I started craving endorphins and the structure around a training plan. Although I was sad to be saying goodbye to a European vacation, I was also very excited to be getting back to the US to start the new training season.
I spent one week at home in Minnesota visiting with friends and family and slowly starting to get back into a ‘normal’ routine. A few days ago, I traveled out to Bend, OR to meet up with my SMS teammates for our first training camp of the year. We will spend two weeks training on snow at Mount Bachelor in the mornings and biking and running on the trails in Bend in the afternoon. The training in Bend is so much fun and typically brings us spectacular spring days, which leads to the perfect way to kick off the training year.
Despite not making the Olympic team this past year, I’ve continued to have more fun with this sport than I had in a really long time. I’m loving my teammates, excited to continue working with Coach Pat O’Brien as well as our new head SMS coach, Perry Thomas (whom I trained under during my senior year at UVM). I am looking forward to the upcoming goals I have set for myself, despite them being scary and full of challenge. Play time is over, time to get back to work!
As the ski racing season concludes I feel exhausted, exhilarated, still heart-broken, yet inspired. This winter really has been a roller coaster; the lows of missing an Olympic team and getting sick with Covid were unpleasant, but the highs that I experienced in recent weeks gave me something to hold on to.
After returning from Europe at the end of January having recovered from Covid, I didn’t know what to expect from myself both physically, mentally and emotionally regarding ski racing. There were no more Olympics to qualify for and my body felt exhausted. However, being in New England for eastern Supertours felt like home and I was able to relax, look forward to the racing with few expectations and enjoy the little moments.
Making my way to Lake Placid after international travel had me anxious about racing in frigid wind chill temps around -15 Fahrenheit and nervous about what type of shape I was in. To my astonishment, the cold kept zero spectators from the venue and I was blown away by the turnout of ski fans cheering on the hills! I didn’t have the best sprint qualifier, but used the energy from the crowd to have fun in the heats and made my way onto the podium - a pleasant surprise! The following day was a skate 10k mass start and again I found myself nervous, not sure if my fitness would hang on for that long of a race. I was timid at the start of the race and let the lead pack ski away from me. However, halfway through the race it hit me that I was racing scared and that I had absolutely nothing to lose at this point. I started really going for it, dropped the chase pack and made my way around the technical, twisty course, just feeling good be outside, surrounded by friends and family, ski racing. In the final half kilometer I had one of those magical moments in athletics that I will carry with me forever. I was in second place by 20 seconds feeling content with that. Coach Pat hollered at me that I could win. My first thought was, ‘no way - that’s not possible,’ my second thought was, ‘hells yeah I’m going to try!’ With what felt like the entire New England ski community cheering for me on the final hill I made a move that carried my speed all the way to the finish and crossed the line in first.
Feeling jubilant after racing in Lake Placid I was no longer anxious or nervous about another supertour weekend in Craftsbury. My brother was racing at the UVM carnival and my parents had made the trek from Minnesota to watch. Similarly, I found myself running into friends and ski family over the weekend, all of whom put a smile on my face. This relaxed, positive energy that I felt from the crowds carried me through another very fun and successful weekend of racing.
Surprised with my own performances on the supertour, I wanted more. I traveled to the Midwest with my parents to prep for the Birkie. I skied with friends, did intervals with local athletes, raced the Mora Vasaloppet and continued to feel energized by the people around me. I will admit that is was difficult during these weeks to watch the Olympics progress, something I'd spent the last decade dreaming about, but that doesn't mean I held back in my cheering from afar. It was amazing to see Team USA perform so well at the biggest stage!
Birkie Fever just might be the death of me someday. I can’t help but let it get to me! With that, I’m guilty of spreading the contagious energy. Teammate, Lina, and boyfriend, Thomas, both flew into town for their first Birkie experiences. I still can’t decide if I had more fun racing and partaking in Birkie festivities, or watching them fall in love with the event. Thomas completed his first cross country ski race as he skrrtted his way through a jigsaw of Korteloppet skiers and ended up second in his wave. The shot of blue liquor that he took on Lake Hayward was part of the experience, but Thomas admits he might not need to repeat that in the future. Lina broke a pole in the first 100 meters of the Birkie, having to fight her way back to the pack over 50k. The girl still crossed the line with the biggest grin on her face and has already agreed to coming back for more Birkie weekends in the future!
Meanwhile, I cherished every person cheering on the course. Even after dropping my feed bottle at OO and facing many ‘close call’ moments of losing the lead pack including a crash 3k to the finish - I felt strong and happy to be there. The roar of screaming fans hitting me as I raced up and over the bridge onto Main Street will never get old. I’ve experienced some impressive crowds on the World Cup but nothing can beat Hayward, WI on Birkie Saturday.
At this point, Vermont and Minnesota feel like home to me. I have a community in both states and appreciate everything that they bring to me. They make me feel loved and support me no matter what the goal. Coming home from Europe this year had me feeling immense gratitude for not only my close support system, but the entire cross country skiing community. The excitement around the sport that I felt in Lake Placid, the love that I felt in Craftsbury, and the FEVER that I felt in the Midwest this winter, all reminded me how much I love the sport. During one of my darker moments along this journey, the people around me pulled me up and left me feeling happier and more excited about pursuing my athletic goals than I think I’ve ever felt.
I ended the season with a trip to race the sprint World Cup in Drammen, NOR, then to Sapadda, Italy for Europa Cup Finals, and finally Spring Series in Whistler, CAN. Some of these races were amazing (like winning in Italy) while others were bleak to catastrophic (nearly last in Drammen and exploding a ski binding in a crash in the 45k at Spring Series). Despite this continuous rollercoaster ride, I couldn’t help but find myself smiling through it all and having a blast with my teammates, friends, coaches, and supporters.
For now, I’m going to take a BIG rest in April before I stoke the fire again for next season. :)
Lately, I’ve been doing my best at rolling with the punches. Although, I can’t help but admit that I’m starting to feel a little beat up from the past month. I had very high hopes for this year and as the summer and fall progressed I gradually believed more and more in those hopes and dreams.
Unfortunately, those hopes did not turn into reality for me and I came shy of making the Winter Olympic team. I wrapped up the Tour de Ski feeling like I had been stung by a bee. I was a bit numb as I was grasping what my World Cup results did and didn’t mean, but there was nothing I could do about it. I knew it would take time to process and I wanted to allow myself the time to lick my wounds.
However, the ski season was far from over and I thought I had a chance to still make something out of it. I looked ahead to future World Cup races in Les Rousses, FRA, scheduled for 10 days after the tour. Rather than booking it back to the US for the remainder of Nationals and a Sun Valley supertour, I held out for international race opportunities.
It was convenient (and exactly what I needed) to spend the week after the Tour with my boyfriend, Thomas, in Northern Italy. We went alpine skiing in the Dolomites, tried our hardest to find the best croissant available in the Sudtirol area, and I slowly began to accept the heartbreak of not qualifying.
Just as I was getting excited to race in Les Rousses, we heard news that the World Cup had been cancelled due to the covid situation in France. I still had the chance to fly home to race in the supertour in Sun Valley, but there was another WC race opportunity that looked promising the following weekend in Planica, Slovenia. I decided to continue with my plan to prep for international races and took a mini trip to Seefeld, Austria to get back into training.
Accepting another cancelled race I did not feel fit for travel with my current health situation. Still feeling pretty sick I went to get a second PCR test four days from my original… this one came back positive. Just what I needed. As it sank in that my body had been fighting Covid and that the bug I had stayed safe from for almost two years finally got to me, I accepted defeat. I was feverish, had a horrible sore throat, congestion, cough, body aches, just about the whole package aside from losing my senses (although maybe I did metaphorically).
Looking ahead at the timeline, it would appear that I would make it out of quarantine just in time for my sister and her husband to travel over to Europe for a ski vacation/honeymoon trip. Marit and Nick planned to drive straight to Toblach, Italy for a few days before racing the Dolomitenlauf Marathon race in Obertilliach, Austria. With no other races on the calendar for me and feeling very unsure as to how my body would feel post-covid, I decided this would be a great way to get excited about skiing again and just have fun with it. Sometimes you just need to do what’s best for the ski soul!
Marit, Nick and I had some spectacular skiing in Toblach and feasted on charcuterie boards, pizzas and so many espressos. We were scoping out the marathon scene and waxing our skis up for the exciting weekend. Just as Thomas drove into town to join us the day before the race, we received news that the race was cancelled due to Covid. That night, I poured myself a nice glass of wine.
Feeling utter frustration with the outcome of the last four weeks and the toll that Covid took on my body, it’s been really difficult to remain focused on the ski season. I feel like every time I get excited about a new race, schedule, or plan, something blows up in my face to inhibit it from happening.
I do admit that I have been skiing in some pretty incredible places the last few weeks and have had access to delicious food and views. As a competitive athlete though, this is far from how I wanted to be spending my January. I am not sure what else my body has in store for the rest of the season, or what the season will look like, but I am trying to take it one day at a time and get excited about whatever opportunity comes my way. I’m doing my best to remain positive and get excited, but I’ve had to reset my mind on realistic hopes and expectations for the remainder of the winter. I’ve had some amazing support the last month from friends, family and sponsors reaching out to share their love and it has been much appreciated! The emails, texts and phone calls have helped put a smile back on my face and I’m ready to use that energy and encouragement to give whatever I have left for the remainder of the season. Thank you!! Being back in the US just for a few days now I already feel happier and more optimistic that there are great things yet to come this winter. Here goes nothing! In the meantime, I will be cheering (yelling) at the TV screen while I cheer on my teammates and the rest of Team USA as they compete in Beijing. I am so proud of our SMS squad, Jessie, Julia and Ben, for making the team and can't wait to see what they have in store for us! LFG USA!!
Slowly, VERY slowly, I am beginning to recover from the Tour de Ski.
Six races in eight days in three different countries is no easy feat. When you’re bouncing up and down from altitude, driving 2-5 hours between stages, moving into new hotel rooms, forcing yourself to eat more pasta and bread… It's quite an experience!
Overall, I am super proud of the fact that I made it to the top of Alpe Cermis in the hill climb of the final stage, but it took some work to get there.
I spent Christmas week in Switzerland with my boyfriend, trying to adjust to the time zone and the altitude. It mostly consisted of easy skiing, giving my body time to adapt to the new environment, but I also threw in a few baby intervals to help wake up the system. During the rest of the day when I wasn’t skiing, I tried to stay off my feet and continue to fuel for the upcoming races. I got pretty excited in the local bakery, tested out some fondue, and enjoyed roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate on Christmas day. All week, I was trying to reach a tricky balance of resting from travel and prior to the tour, while also hitting a few hard workouts so my body would be primed and ready to go. Meanwhile, I was trying to enjoy the holiday season! At the moment, I felt like I was doing everything I could to reach that happy balance, but in the end I’m not sure if I did.
Along came the 10k classic in Lenzerheide and I went out with every intention of having a great race. It was nuking snow so I hopped behind two girls who were lapping through and held on for as long as I could. Turns out the altitude came back to bite me on the second lap and I definitely lost time in the last few minutes of the race. Again, I felt okay during the race, but I knew I had more in me.
After two races in a row we had a day off. We packed up our bags, said goodbye to our first hotel and drove 2.5 hours to Oberstdorf, Germany. We went straight to the venue, ate lunch, sat around for a bit and then went out to walk around on skis on the race course. After 45 minutes, we all called it good and drove to our new hotel to unpack and settle in.
The next day, the women had a slow morning as we twiddled our thumbs for our 3:30pm race. The sun had been out all week and it was about 50 degrees when we made the drive to the race venue, preparing ourselves to race in a foot of slush. To our surprise, the race organizers decided to salt the track the previous night, giving us an exciting ice rink to skate around on. The 10k mass start went out fast and I felt like I had a pretty good start considering my FIS points put me toward the back of the pack, but again I just didn’t have quite the energy to hang on as long as I would have liked. This pattern continued the rest of the week. Feeling pretty reasonable during my warmup and while testing skis, but when the gun went off I just felt like my body was drained.
I did my best to get through the classic sprint in Oberstdorf and prepare for the 10k classic in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Unfortunately, I was pretty devastated during the second to last stage when my body said it wanted no more racing. During each stage during the Tour I approached the race as a new day and went out with everything I had in me. Slowly, I watched as my hopes and dreams of scoring world cup points and therefore maybe qualifying for an Olympic team, dwindled away.
All summer and fall, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I hit each interval session pretty hard, was consistent with strength and prioritized rest and recovery; I was feeling better than I ever had before. I was thrilled with my opening races of the season and felt like I had so much more to give for the winter. I was put in a tough position when I had to decide between racing World Cups during the Tour de Ski or staying home and racing at US Nationals. Both presented pathways to qualify for the Olympics, which I truly believed I had a good shot at. Both options presented challenges for me in terms of racing at altitude. I had to gamble on what I believed would be my best route.
I’m not sure what happened between December 12-27. Something went wrong. I didn’t have the same fight and fire in me during the Tour that I was used to feeling when racing. The night before the final stage of the Tour I was asking myself what could have happened. At that moment I was pretty ready to give up. Instead, I fell back on my support system. I cried on the phone to my sister, asked for advice from old teammates who had been in similar situations, and read through emails, texts and messages that friends and family sent my way. Whatever was left inside me, these people were able to muster it out for one last climb up a mountain.
Despite wanting to take a break multiple times during the climb (including when an athlete right in front of me stood up and stopped moving), I kept putting one foot in front of the other and made my way to the top of that mountain. It was far from beautiful, but when I crossed the line and heard that two fellow Americans had just placed 5th and 7th, I put my own sorrows away for a moment and felt pure excitement for them.
I’m not sure what’s next for me, aside from a few days off from skiing. I know I haven’t lost all that fitness I was feeling a few weeks ago and there’s definitely plenty of fire left inside me, I just have to find it. I’m taking the time to process and lick my wounds. I am also feeling extremely grateful for the incredible support from those near and far. The encouraging messages I have received from my community have helped wipe away tears and put a smile on my face. To my sponsors, family and friends, THANK YOU!
In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the sun, snow, and beautiful mountains that currently surround me in central Europe and allow myself a few ‘soul days’ to work on the healing process.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.