Friday, December 22, 2017

Period One

First stop Finland!

On November 15th our bags were packed and we were ready to make the trek over to Europe. Leaving home always comes with a mix of the excitement of the approaching season and the anxiety of knowing we will be away from the U.S. for the next four months. It was a little easier this year because I was able to spend a lot of time at home this fall, but it's still hard saying bye to so many familiar things I love. Our first stop was in Rovanemi, Finland. Rovanemi is six kilometers from the arctic and in mid November, there tends to be very little sunlight, but with the cold temperatures and lack of sunshine, there is usually more snow than most other places in the world. We were able to adjust to the time difference, get used to skiing on snow again, and prepare ourselves for the opening World Cups in Kuusamo, Finland.
Nice to be reunited with my teammates, many who I hadn't seen since June!
After our camp in Rovanemi, we drove a few hours to Kuusamo for the first World Cups of the season. Kuusamo is a place I've struggled with in the past. The courses are extremely hard, the competition is stacked, and sometimes it's hard to find your happy place when you haven't seen the sun in a couple weeks! It was different this year and I ended up having the best races I've had in Kuusamo with a 3rd place in the sprint qualifier and a 8th place on the day, a solid classic distance race, and a skate distance race where I was hanging on for dear life, but maybe hanging on a little better than I have in prior years. The highlight was getting to watch my friend and teammate, Sadie, climb to 2nd place in the sprint for her first sprint podium!
Pretty awesome to have this little buddy, Julia, on the road with me this fall! 

Celebrating Birthdays in style on the road

Racing in my quarter final in the Kuusamo sprint (Toko US/Nordic Focus photo)
Lighting it up in Lillehammer

Lighting it up in Lillehammer was both literal and figurative because we traveled south and got to see a bit more sunshine and our team also had another really strong weekend. I was only racing once this weekend, so I was able to go for some longer skis on the tourist tracks and even got to ski up to Sjusjoen on my last day with Julia, Sim, and some Canadian friends. Sadie won the sprint qualifer and Jessie and I were close behind in 7th and 9th and the day got even better when we all made it through to the semis. In a close semi final, I just missed out on making the finals and ended the day in 9th, but got to watch Sadie and Jessie ski to 2nd and 5th in the final, making it another great day for the team! 
Happily cruising the tourist trails in Lillehammer

Hammering out the semi final with Jess (Julia Kern photo)

Lillehammer sprint qualifier (Zach Caldwell photo)

Ski to Sjusjoen!

Davos, Switzerland was the next stop on the circuit and it always comes with some refreshing feelings. Not only is Davos our home away from home on the World Cup circuit, but it tends to be sunny and this year it was also snowy, which makes it pretty hard to beat! We also had some of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders on the road with us for the weekend including Tiger and Kristen Shaw, Liz Arky, Bill Green, and Reese Brown. We unveiled our new wax truck and knew we had to put on a show, and that we did! We had five girls qualify in the top 13 in the sprint and two boys in the top 12. Kikkan was back on the podium, Jessie and Ida joined her in the final, and Sim and I were both in the top ten. The U.S. women were the strongest team that day, proving that we're a force to be reckoned with!
Real winter! (Julia Kern photo)

Recognize anyone on that wax truck??

Reunited with our dear friend, Anouk, and her baby Even :)

Post card view from our deck at the Hotel Kulm

Dinner with Oleg (my wax tech) and Peter, our former head wax tech who joined us for a couple weeks this fall (Reese Brown photo)

Women's team and staff ready to rumble (Reese Brown photo)

Sprint qualifier (Reese Brown photo)

Training day in Davos (Simi photo)

Dinner with Jessie, Julia, and Kristen Shaw (Reese Brown photo)

Raising our guppie up!

OPAs in Austria

The final World Cup weekend of Period one was in Toblach, Italy and consisted of two distance races, so some of the sprinters decided to head to the Europa Cups in St. Ulrich Austria where they were holding a skate sprint, classic 5k, and skate 10k. Our crew consisted of Julia, Ida, Simi, Andy and me. The OPA is a lower level than the World Cup, but there were still quite a few big names there and it was nice to have a slightly lower key weekend and get in a bunch of races. I was psyched to take the win on a fast and furious skate sprint course and have Ida standing next to me in 3rd! The boys battled it out to the line and Simi and Andy took 1st and 2nd. The 5k classic day was right around freezing with intermittent snow squalls and our techs worked their butts off and sent us out on some great zeroes skis. I woke up feeling tired, but was happy to find some good race feelings and ski to 5th with Ida on the podium again in 3rd! The 10km skate race was a really fun race. Ida, Julia and I were all able to do some pack skiing and raced to three top tens with Simi putting down a really impressive 15km skate race. After three races in a row, we were all ready for a little Christmas break!
Skiing home from the race courses in St. Ulrich (Simi photo)

Lovely day for a long easy ski

Julia is a star making master and walked us through making our own Christmas stars

OPA skate sprint podium!

Sim striding it out between snow squalls

Post race ski home

Heaven on Earth in Seefeld

So that brings us to Seefeld, Austria, where most of the team is based for our holiday break. I was here during Christmas last year with my family, but there wasn't any snow and I had a nasty cold, so I wasn't doing a ton of skiing. I'm missing my family this year, but have my family of teammates and copious amounts of snow. I need to pinch myself every day because it's hard to believe places this beautiful actually exist. All of the trails are open and I wish I had two weeks here to ski as much as I wanted every day, because that would be the only way possible to explore all the trails. The town is bustling with Christmas spirit, we have a lovely little apartment, and life is good. We have six more days here before heading back to Switzerland to begin the Tour de Ski. I've had a strong start to the season with more consistently good results than I've ever had in the past and I'm looking forward to period two on the World Cup. Thanks for following and happy holidays to everyone! 

My very own Christmas star soaking up the Seefeld sunrise

Evening views

Skiing from town to town with Jessie


Where should we go today??

Winter wonderland

All smiles on a ski with Anne and my cousin Heidi