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.
The season has officially started and it’s been a wild ride so far this winter! After wrapping up a great camp in Canmore, Alberta with my teammate Lina, we flew to the Midwest on Thanksgiving day to join my family on the Birkie trails in northern Wisconsin for more skiing.
Lina and I had a really fun time in Canmore. We kept each other company around a 3k loop in town during the week. Over the weekend, we drove one hour north to Lake Louise where there was impeccable natural snow with over 30k of skiing and beautiful scenery! We got comfortable with skiing on snow again and hit a few hard intensity sessions in preparation for upcoming races. We wanted to make the most of our time in Canmore, without hitting it too hard considering we were jumping to altitude. In eight days we managed to get four interval sessions in, two strength sessions, and kept the overall volume of our camp at a reasonable level (about 18-20 hours).
This productive camp allowed us to enjoy some rest over Thanksgiving weekend as we joined the Midwest crew for the Turkey Birkie. By the end of the week we were loaded up on stuffing and pie - just in time for our SMS teammates, Ian and Bill, to join us with Coach Pat.
I wasted the week between supertour races at the family cabin in Cable, sitting around the fireplace, baking cookies and working from my computer during the afternoons. By Friday morning, I was refreshed and excited for more races! On tap, we had a 15k skate mass start, classic sprint and classic 10k individual start race. There was a pretty technical downhill with a 180 degree turn at the bottom that led you straight into a wall. After a minor crash on this turn during the 15k, I walked away pleased with my result and the way I skied there rest of the race, but still feeling like I could achieve more.
I brought confidence and calm energy into the classic sprint day. Although classic sprinting is my biggest weakness as a skier, I recognized that I had been working hard all year on my double pole and knew I could rely on it during the race. After a successful qualifier I did everything I could to rest between rounds and conserve as much energy as possible. I sat in my car, brought a chair out to our team wax bench, went inside for a few minutes, event spent a few extra minutes in the bathroom just to give my legs a break whenever I could! That same technical turn from my crash the day before was constantly in the back of my head, but through the rounds I remained calm and confident around the corner and was able to power my way to the finish line in first. Finally, all of the little variable had come together for me on the right day!
With all of the cheering from the midwest ski community and the comfort of staying at my family’s cabin I know I had the best home-course advantage anyone could ask for. I took full advantage of this opportunity and felt so grateful for the support by everyone out there.
Not once during the two weeks of racing did I add up, look at, or even think about the supertour points that I was accumulating. I knew that the supertour leader at the end of period 1 would be offered start spots on the World Cup, but my plan was to head to US Nationals after Christmas no matter what. I didn’t realize that going into the last 10k in Cable I was just one point behind the leader for overall points, I hadn’t even considered the thought. It didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t going to change the way I was going to race. I didn’t need more pressure or stress. All I could do in that moment was give each race everything I had and thinking about winning wasn’t going to help. My college coach at the University of Vermont, Patrick Weaver, once advised me that you can never expect to win, you have to want to win. On that day in Cable, I don’t think I even wanted to win. I wanted to challenge myself to race as hard as I could and I knew I’d be proud of the result no matter what.
With all of that being said, I finished the racing as the supertour leader, meaning I was offered to race the Tour de Ski for USA. I recognized this, but still assumed I’d head to Utah. There is a whole slew of criteria for qualifying for the Olympics and going into the season I believed my best bet was to do so through races at Nationals. As I pondered this though, I realized that racing at Nationals might not be enough and that the Tour de Ski might be my only pathway. I also knew that the Tour was an incredible opportunity and has always been something I’ve wanted to compete in. After a solo run in the woods and a serious chat with my coach, I had booked a flight to Italy! As another one of my coaches, Ben Husaby, once said, ‘the plan is always changing.’
I’ll be spending Christmas week skiing in Italy and Switzerland as I adjust to the elevation and time zone in Central Europe. I’m equally as nervous and I am excited for the opportunity to race in the Tour and am looking forward to what the rest of the season holds.
So it’s been a minute... oops! This fall sure has flown by and I can’t believe I’m already back on snow. Last time I checked in I was just returning from an on-snow camp in Oberhof, GER and now I’m checking in from a pre-season camp in Canmore, CAN. Don’t worry there was plenty of rollerskiing in the middle there. We had two other SMS T2 team camps this fall; one was a mini camp in Lake Placid while the other was a two week trip to Park City.
The remainder of September was packed with some pretty solid intensity training. Getting into the morning training routine, followed by work in the afternoon and an evening training session made the weeks fly by. However, I was sure to get in a few last fun adventures before it was time to get really serious.
In early October my teammates and I flew to Park City, UT for an altitude camp. Altitude is an intimidating place for me but I’ve been challenging myself to improve this weakness and visit the high mountains somewhat frequently. I was grateful for the opportunity to jump in with the national team during this two week camp - we packed in plenty of intervals, speeds and time trials.
I was feeling a little anxious about the time trials as I’m still not super comfortable with pacing at altitude. I somehow managed to flood my legs in the first 400 meters of the skate sprint which made it tricky to rebound for the rounds, but this was a great learning experience! Meanwhile, in the 10k classic time trial I wanted to start off a little more conservative. I’ve had my fair share of blowing up at altitude and once you go over that line I know it’s near impossible to come back. This strategy seemed to have worked okay for me as I was able to carry good energy throughout the entire 10 kilometers, but maybe had a little too much left in the tank at the end. Another good opportunity to practice for racing at altitude.
Despite some of the photos, Park City threw in some curve ball weather days with snow falling early in the camp and making it difficult to rollerski. Although, it was exciting to see some of that white stuff fall in October and got me thinking of the race season. Alas, I needed to rest and recover after a hard two weeks at altitude. At the end of camp I made a quick trip home to Minnesota to see friends, jump in a rollerski clinic with Gear West and spend quality time with my family.
Returning to Vermont after almost a month away was nice, although I seemed to have just missed peak foliage season (one of my favorite parts about living in Vermont). Stick season came fast but we made the most of it with some fun time trials, last few days of mountain biking, and a team fundraiser!
After a few more weeks embracing stick season I started looking at the upcoming forecast, keeping my fingers crossed that I would see a snowflake icon. Sadly, the weather was not looking great in Vermont or the Midwest and I started getting antsy to find snow. With races happening the first weekend in December I wanted to make sure I was prepared to be in the best position possible to perform well. My teammate, Lina Sutro, and I talked to Coach Pat and made some pretty quick travel arrangements to head up to Canmore, Alberta where there is currently a reliable 3k track of man-made snow.
Despite this being such a last minute decision, I really think Lina and I nailed it! Although we missed quite a few other American teams who had been training here earlier in the month, we arrived just after a fresh snowstorm. We are now switching between skiing in town on the 3k track and driving one hour north to Lake Louise for over 30k of freshly groomed natural snow. We're halfway through our week-long training camp up here and getting ready to kick off the racing season back in the Midwest!
And just like that, it seems as though summer has come to a close and winter is just around the corner. After putting in lots of summer volume hours and hard intervals on rollerskis, my SMS T2 teammates and I took a trip across the pond to prep for the race season. We traveled to Oberhof, Germany for a nine day training camp, skiing on snow in a 1.6 kilometer tunnel.
Before we left Vermont, we capped off our summer training with a few last adventures in the east. This meant a couple of big days in the white mountains and long threshold sessions. We also started incorporating a lot more speed and power into our training to get tuned up for fall intensity.
As we made our way to Logan International Airport, we made a pitstop in the suburbs of Boston to visit a few local ski groups. First, we joined the Eastern Mass X-Country Junior team (EMXC). We had the opportunity to chat with the skiers about training, racing, fueling, college and all things related to life as a ‘professional athlete.’ This team of high school skiers was looking fast when we went through roller ski drills with them, practiced race starts and striding speeds.
The next morning, the SMS T2 team stopped by the EMXC BKL practice (Bill Koch League). Working with skiers age 6-13, we split up into two groups. I spent the morning chasing around the younger crew during games of Sharks and Minnows, Ships Across the Ocean, and Capture the Flag. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that we needed the kids to remind us the rules of these games, but in the end we had a blast!
I think I can speak on behalf of the entire team that we had a great time working with the junior athletes in Boston. Reflecting back on my own experience at that age, whenever Jessie Diggins or Kikkan Randall would show up for an outreach event I turned into a total fan girl. They inspired me to chase my goals and crazy dreams and it’s wild to realize where I’ve ended up because of it. Anytime I have the opportunity to potentially encourage younger athletes to get after it, I’m all in. It’s been fun to have little events like this sprinkled throughout our summer because we weren’t able to safely hold anything last year.
After running around in the hot sun and humidity, we were ready to find a cooler climate. We hopped on a flight to Munich and drove another 3.5 hours to arrive in Oberhof, Germany, home to the LOTTO Thüringen Skisport-Halle. Jet-lagged, we rolled into Oberhof submersed in a cloud, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to run in 48 degrees and rain. The refreshing temps allowed my teammates and I to cool off and start wearing more layers, because the following day we jumped into an ice box.
The 1.6 kilomter tunnel features a loop plus a horseshoe. When open for two-way traffic you can get creative with your ski course, but on average one loop takes about 7-8 minutes. When you step into the tunnel, it feels like you’re stepping into an ice rink with temperatures kept around -4 celsius. Although seven minutes can feel both like an eternity and as fast as a blink, we kept each other company during our big training block and were giddy with excitement to be on snow.
We spent the first few days doing drills and speeds to get accustomed to skiing with long skis again. By the third day we had company from two of the local German National Team skiers, Antonia Fraebel and Victoria Carl. They joined us for a threshold workout that made a 2.5 hour ski in the tunnel fly by! We managed to do a few double sessions in the tunnel, although the running trails near town were so fun and the local team was gracious enough to let us access their gym. In the final few days of training we capped off our camp with two more hard interval sessions that left me feeling good and hungry for more. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of going fast on real snow to get you fired up for ski season!
Oberhof isn’t known to have the nicest weather, so we were all surprised when the sun came out halfway through the camp. The town really started showing off for us and we hit up a few of the tourist attractions nearby. It was extra special to have a few visitors stop by as well. Two of my old teammates from UVM are from Germany and both made the trip to see us. All together, we had quite the crew of Catamounts out tromping around the German forrest. It meant so much that Juri and Mara took the time to come say hello. It definitely makes me appreciate how much this sport can grow your community internationally and you can find friends in any little pocket of the world.
When we weren’t training, I ran around town trying to find wifi so I could keep up with my part-time computer job. Later, we made some delicious team dinners to enjoy outside and went for sunset walks around town. During our one afternoon off during the camp we went to play mini-golf at the local amusement park. Everything on the golf course was ski-related. My favorite stop on the course was at the mini ski jump, launching our golf balls into the air and around a few corners, I'm sure ski jumping is just as easy...
Finally, during our last training session on snow I started to get bored of the seven minute loop. Just in time! We spent our final evening with the German skiers and coaches as they showed us what a German BBQ looks like. We enjoyed Thüringer Bratwursts, mustard, sauerkraut and fresh brews, and had a great time sharing experiences with them.
After many hours of travel to get back to Vermont, it feels good to be back in the Green Mountain State. The leaves are just starting to change colors and temperatures are cool and fall-like. I'm excited to build on the work and progress I made in the last nine days to have a very productive fall. Soon enough, we'll be back on snow!
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.