The weather gods seem to be teasing us in northern Vermont! After weeks of dealing with little to no snow, a huge “nor’easter” storm decided to dump over three feet of fresh pow all over New England, with the exception of a little pocket around Craftsbury.
I have been living and training in Craftsbury, VT for 4.5 weeks now. We’ve had hopeful dustings of snow, crushing rainstorms and frigid winds test our patience and desire to do this crazy sport called cross country skiing. However, I have still been enjoying my time here. After quarantining and getting a negative Covid test, I was able to move in with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and thereby join “the pact.” This gave me a safe place to live, food from a dining hall and access to a gym and man-made snow. It also allowed me to hang out/train with ski buddies and high school/college friends who are on the GRP team.
We started out with a 200-meter stretch of snow, looping up and down a big hill. This turned into 300 meters, and then 500 meters… and we slowly inched our way up to a 2.5-kilometer loop. Although, this did not come without a fight. The motivation to train hard up and down a hill while it’s freezing rain, day after day, can take its toll on your spirits. I was having a tough time staying positive through this, but my friends, teammates and coach were there to keep me going.
We made Christmas cookies together, chopped down a tree, listened to carols around the fire and enjoyed each other’s company.
Finally, we were able to scrape together a rough plan to coordinate a few self-timed, race-like efforts on snow. Vermont Covid restrictions are pretty tight, so we weren’t allowed to host any type of event. Instead, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center granted access for local Vermonters to book a time slot to ski, rent a bib, wear a mask and follow a “course” during their timed effort. This was FAR from a normal race scenario, but it did give me a glimmer of hope. I save a very special mindset for race day that I just can’t seem to tap into during hard workouts or roller ski time trials. I treated these timed efforts on snow like a race; I was focused and determined, yet relaxed and confident.
With two 10k’s and two sprints, I really gave these “hard efforts” everything I had, not knowing when I would get another chance to do so. I did everything that I possibly could to try to prove that I deserve an opportunity to take the next step this season. I laid my heart and soul out there; I skied my best; I wanted a spot on the World Cup; yet, there are variables out of my control.
The US team has open start spots on the World Cup for the Tour de Ski, but a global pandemic means that bringing other athletes over to Europe comes with risk and potential consequences. The last thing I would ever want would be to jeopardize another athlete’s health and well-being. However, I am at the point where I am willing to get on a plane with 24 hours of notice and do a two week quarantine in a hotel in Europe.
Without having any real racing opportunities in Vermont, we're trying to do things the smart/safe way. But as an athlete who has achieved success at the national level and has broken the bubble onto the World Cup, seeing an open spot in the Tour de Ski is like dangling a chocolate donut two inches from my grasp. I understand the logistical nightmare that comes along with a tour; I completed the Scandinavian Ski Tour last February. I witnessed first hand just how similar the World Cup circuit is to herding sheep!
I also recognize that racing in a Tour is no easy feat. I haven't raced 200 World Cups, I am not an experienced racer internationally. Last year, I went into the Scandinavian Tour absolutely gassed from the previous World Cups I had completed and it took everything I had to get through that series of races. Having chosen the grueling ski tour as a developmental challenge, I forfeited the opportunity to race domestically - holding on to the Supertour Leader position that would have granted me start spots in Period 1 and 2 of World Cups this year. My Ski Tour results were far from glorious, but I stuck with it and learned a lot along the way. That experience motivated me all summer and fall to chase after my teammates. It inspired me to be an athlete eager to race, prepared to travel through Europe and to compete ferociously in a Tour.
I don't believe that my frustrations are unique to me alone. Many other people recognize that there are opportunities being missed. Due to Covid, individuals are disappointed to face job loss, career changes, cancelled weddings & graduations, less than ideal learning situations and so much more.
I continue to try to find acceptance with this outcome. On the other hand, I can't help but ask, what's the point? I understand that there are so many complications during 2020/2021 and that everyone is doing their best to keep risks low and loved ones safe. As I grapple with the thought of an entire winter with the potential of no races, I try to remain calm. I know that all I can do is continue to work hard, make the most of the opportunities I have in front of me, and hope that more will come in the future.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.