It’s awesome to be back in Falun, Sweden. Every year Falun holds World Cup Finals. I was here for these races last year, and I was here in January of 2006 for a pre-camp to the junior Scandinavian championships. Next year Falun will hold the World Championships, so everything here is geared towards that. Unfortunately there isn’t any natural snow for this test event. Here’s the view from my hotel room (which I’m sharing with Reese Hanneman this week).
When I woke up yesterday morning after Saturday’s race, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I was sore everywhere. Andy Newell and I went out for a short ski before the ladies’ race to move around and loosen things up.
We got the beautiful day we were promised!
When I think of food in Norway I think of waffles and brown cheese. Our hotel here in Oslo has a do-it-yourself waffle maker at breakfast. I took full advantage this morning.
I don’t have much to blog about today because I didn’t train and I only briefly left the hotel. As I did before the 50k at the Olympics, I’m trying to keep a low profile to make sure my energy levels are as high as possible for Saturday’s race. When I first launched this blog almost two years ago, I told my coach Zach Caldwell that I planned to post every day. He said there’s no way I could do it because I’d run out of content. My response was that I should do at least one thing each day that’s worth blogging about. It would be an incentive to keep my life from getting repetitive. In general I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to come up with content for this blog. Often I find myself wishing I didn’t have so many pictures so I could spend less time posting them.
When I launched the blog I would not have guessed that coming up with content during the winter and the race season would be more challenging than developing daily content in the summer. However, it turns out our lives are much more repetitive this time of year than they are in the summer.
I’m starting to long for my more active, busy and stimulating summer lifestyle. It’s starting to feel like a long trip. I left the U.S. on November fifteenth, 112 days ago. This is my first winter without going home at least once. It’s been more challenging mentally than I imagined it would be. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what I miss; I’m just sick of hotel rooms, buffet lines and shuttle buses.
Today was another moving day. We changed hotels here in Oslo from the Radisson Blu on the water in Fornebu to the Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica within walking distance of the trails. I described why we needed to change hotels in Tuesday’s post. It was another day of packing and unpacking my duffel.
Kikkan Randall secured her third consecutive FIS World Cup Sprint Globe this afternoon with a seventh place finish in the Drammen sprints. Kikkan has a 54 point lead; the only remaining sprint race is the first stage of the World Cup Finals Tour in Falun, Sweden next Friday. Because that race is part of a tour, only half points are awarded. The 50 points awarded to the winner would not be enough for German Denise Herrmann to overcome her deficit to Kikkan.
Winning a FIS Crystal Globe is one of my biggest career goals, on par with winning an Olympic Gold Medal. The globe demonstrates consistency and truly signifies the best skier in the world in the given discipline. For Kikkan to have won three in a row is really spectacular. She is the best sprinter in the world.
I did not attend the race because I needed a chill afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s 50 kilometer classic mass start. Of course I watched on T.V. Overall it was not a standout day for the U.S. Team. Only three athletes, Kikkan, Sadie Bjornsen and Andy Newell qualified for the heats (top 30). Kikkan was the only athlete to make it past the quarterfinals. Full ladies results are here and men’s results are here.
Today’s race setup some interesting scenarios for qualifying for World Cup Finals. The top 50 skiers on the Overall World Cup ranking list after Saturday’s distance race will qualify to compete in Sweden next weekend. Currently, my teammate Simi Hamilton is sitting in 50th position. He is tied with the person in 51st position and there are some very strong distance skiers close behind him. I’m sure that in a normal situation Simi would not start Saturday’s race, but I’m guessing he’ll reevaluate that stance to try to score points to help his chances of qualifying. There are six intermediate sprint points (one per lap) with World Cup points available throughout Saturday’s race. The first is 3 kilometers into the race, and it is conceivable that Simi could win that sprint. In order to keep those points he would need to finish the race. To add to the pressure, one of the best skiers in the world, Dario Cologna, has been injured or sick for most of the season. He has two Olympic Gold Medals from Sochi but only 80 World Cup points, well behind Simi’s 116 points. If Cologna is healthy enough to race on Saturday, it is very likely he will score plenty of points to move into the top 50. I don’t envy Simi’s position. I was in a similar place last year and sneaked in by the skin of my teeth. You can view the full men’s World Cup points list here.
I spent much of the afternoon today reading through the comments posted on this blog during the Olympics. I get an e-mail every time anybody posts a comment. For a while I was keeping up with reading them, but eventually they became too numerous for me to follow during the Games. As of this morning I had over 350 unread e-mails from comments posted before I turned them off for the second half of my time in Sochi.
You guys (everybody who posted a comment, e-mailed me, wrote me a Facebook message, etc…) are incredible. I don’t deserve this wonderful support. I feel bad, with so much encouragement and so many people believing in me, that I wasn’t able to produce great results at the Olympics. I feel a little sad that I let you, my supporters, down. However, I know that is a ridiculous thing to feel and to say. I know that you all want me to succeed, but that you’ll still support me if I don’t. I also know that you know I’m trying my best.
On a similar note, many people have asked me what kind of traffic I get on this site. Here’s a brief rundown if you’re interested: Over the past year there have been 465,000 visits by 149,000 unique visitors. 56% of the traffic is from the U.S., 16% from Russia, 8% from Canada, and about 2% each from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany. This winter there has been an average of 2,700 visits per day although the average during the Olympics of 8,000 visits per day skews that number upwards. It is astounding to me that so many people have stumbled upon this site.
I apologize for so much writing and so few pictures in this post. I did actually go skiing at the Holmenkollen venue this morning with the other non-sprinters Caitlin Gregg and Liz Stephen along with Jessie Diggins who’s recovering from a cold. It was a wet morning at our hotel.
It’s nice to be back in Norway. The food is delicious, the internet is fast and the venue is the nicest in the world. The downside is that everything is so expensive. I try not to buy anything while I’m here. We’re currently staying at the Radisson Blu in Fornebu on the west side of the city.
Back to blogging…Since returning to Europe from the Olympics I’ve had an incredible week. Taking a week away from the computer was really good for me. When I turned it on this morning I had 166 new e-mails and 100 Facebook notifications. I’m working my way through them all but please understand my delay.
We stayed in Munich, Germany on Monday night. Checking out Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt was very cool. On Tuesday we caught a train to Salzburg, Austria.
Wow it has been an exhausting last 24 hours. I don’t have much time and I’m heading on a short vacation, so this won’t be a long post.
Yesterday was the Olympic 50 kilometer skate mass start, the last race of the Olympics. Because the course was so challenging, my coaches and I thought the race would split up and string out. Consequently, my plan was to ski near the front so I was on the right side of the blowup. For 45 kilometers I did just that. I was rarely outside the top-5 places. On the big hills the pack did string out, but every lap it came back together. The snow was extremely fast. The winning time for the race was under an hour and 47 minutes. That is crazy fast for 50 kilometers. The fast snow made for a huge draft effect and played a factor in almost 30 skiers still being in the lead group with 2 kilometers to go.
When we hit the final massive uphill I didn’t have anything left. I could barely make it up the hill. I got beat by every single skier that was near me with two kilometers to go. I ended up in 26th place. Full results are available here.
After the race I was very disappointed. It felt like I was a long ways from winning or even being on the podium in one of these races. My coach Zach Caldwell and I had to have the discussion about whether we think it’s still possible for me to get to the top of the sport. We discussed whether I should give up on skiing and move to the next stage of my life.
It was challenging because I executed the plan as well as I could have, and I did not get the result I was hoping for. In one sense executing the plan is a huge success. That is the only part of the equation that I can control on race day. On the other hand executing the plan well and not having a good result is hard to swallow. It means I’m just simply not good enough yet.
Zach, along with my coach John Callahan, were not as discouraged as I was. They said, “OK, so you’re not good enough yet. However, you’re a hell of a lot closer than you were last year at this time. This was not your Olympics. You didn’t need to be there yet.” They absolutely feel that I’m still on track. They believe I can win races at this level, and they don’t think it’s that far away. I trust them completely, and I’m starting to feel better about things as well. I still believe I can have good results in the remaining World Cup races this season, and I’m really looking forward to another great summer of training. The prospect of taking another step forward for next season is exciting.
Besides the racing, there were a lot of logistics to deal with at the end of the Olympics. Of course all of the big picture stuff was taken care of for us, but I had to pack all of my personal stuff. I sent a ton of stuff home. U.S. Nordic Combined coach Greg Poirier was generous enough to take a full duffle bag full of stuff back to Park City for me. On top of that I shipped a box on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s ship back to the U.S. We were told not to expect those boxes till June. We were allowed to keep our comforters from the Village, so I put that in the slow box.
I had another low key day focused on energy management. I’m nervous for tomorrow, the last race of the Olympics. It’s the race I targeted before the start of the Games, the 50 kilometer mass start skate. Besides being nervous, I’m also a little fatalistic about it, almost passive. No matter what happens tomorrow, the world will go on, I’m still going to have a World Cup race a week from tomorrow, I’m still going to be focused on continuing to improve and most importantly I’m still going to have wonderful family, friends and fans who support me.
I have had this fatalistic attitude often before races. I’ve felt this way before some of my best performances although I don’t know that it indicates that I will have a good or a bad day. It seems like a reaction to being nervous for me. It certainly doesn’t effect the effort I will put into the race, and it does not mean that I don’t care. I don’t have a very good explanation for it.
I feel like everything has gone as well as possible this week. I’m as prepared as I know how to be. I don’t have any excuses.
I spent the morning writing postcards.