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.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.