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.