End of an Era

I launched this website and began blogging in the summer of 2012, almost three years ago. My goal was to increase my marketability in order bring more value to my current sponsors and make myself more appealing to prospective sponsors. Since I began, I’ve published over 900 posts and achieved my goal of blogging nearly daily. I’ve amassed over 12,000 followers, and my website has received over 500,000 visits per year.

Sponsors have indeed found my site and my consistent blog posts valuable. A year after launching the site, I formed a partnership with my title sponsor Thoughtforms Builders. More recently I have formed partnerships with Toko gloves and Julbo sunglasses, and my website was “a big draw for [them]”. This website has helped me alleviate some of the financial pressure that comes with being an international cross country skier in the U.S., and has played a large role in allowing me to continue to ski race.

I was never blogging for the sake of blogging or because I loved to blog; I did it as a way to promote myself and fund my ski racing. I never expected that as a result I would gain so many followers and supporters, connect with an amazing community of people and come into numerous new opportunities.

I graduated high school in 2007 and moved to Sun Valley, Idaho that summer to train for cross country skiing. I lived in a one bedroom apartment six miles out of town, and I didn’t own a car or have a driver’s license. I didn’t know anybody in Sun Valley besides my teammates and coaches. I didn’t have a social life. I didn’t do much besides train, sleep, eat and ride my bike into town once every couple of days to get food. At times I was happy focusing entirely on skiing and at times I was lonely. That winter I skied very well and qualified for the U.S. Ski Team.

The following summer, 2008, I was back in Sun Valley, only this time I was living with my teammate Mikey Sinnott, his sister Kelly and his mother Carol. Mikey grew up in Sun Valley and knew almost everyone in the valley. Acting as Mikey’s tag-a-long, I was much more social, had a lot more fun but still had ample time to be a consummate athlete.

For the 2009 training year my coaches and I decided I should move to Park City, Utah to work more closely with the U.S. Ski Team. I moved in with Toni, Greg, Luke and Lindsey Adams, whom I’d never previously met. I had a driver’s license and one of my parents’ cars, but again, I didn’t know anyone besides my teammates and coaches. As Lindsey Adams puts it, I had no life.

I imagine that being a freshman at a small private prestigious liberal arts college is very similar to being on the U.S. Ski Team and living in Park City for the first time: you are surrounded by people who share your interests, are smart and driven, are highly successful, and, like you, are living away from home. It would be impossible not to make friends. The Center of Excellence, with its world class strength and conditioning facility, highly social physical therapy room and comfortable athlete lounge, plays a huge part in bringing athletes from every sport together.

Therefore, it didn’t take long for me to make numerous great friends in Park City. I soon became more social than I ever had been and was having more fun than ever before. I was so used to being bored and lonely that I was conditioned to say yes to every social opportunity that presented itself. I soon ran out of time in the day. Of course, I was still prioritizing training, but I wasn’t leaving time for the other aspects of being a professional athlete. I wasn’t recovering between sessions or getting enough sleep at night.

Striking a balance between social life/having fun/being happy and training/recovering/pursuing my goals has been a constant struggle over the six years since I moved to Park City. At times I have been able to manage things well and at times I have done a very poor job: compromising my training, jeopardizing my lifestyle and disappointing myself. Anything that puts a significant demand on my time makes it harder to strike that balance. Excess travel (for sponsor obligations, etc.), having a serious girlfriend and blogging make being a “24 hour athlete” challenging.

Last fall my lifestyle became unsustainable. I was still doing all of the planned training and I was showing up with 100% focus, but I was not prioritizing being an athlete for the 20 hours per day when I wasn’t training. The result was that I was not prepared when I showed up at the World Cup last fall. My coaches and I believe that, had I not broken my leg, I may have had an even more disappointing season than I did with a broken leg.

I’m going to be 26 years old this summer. There are only two and a half seasons of racing until the Olympic Games in South Korea. If I’m going to accomplish my career goals, I need to take a large step forward now. Tweaking my technique or doing more volume or intensity is not enough to make the gains that I want to achieve. I need to change my lifestyle and become a “24 hour athlete”.

Being a 24 hour athlete does not mean that I can’t have any fun. It does not mean that I can’t have a social life and that I can only eat, sleep and train. It just means that I need to find a balance to achieve my goals.

I believe that the best way for me to find the optimal balance is to simplify. There are not enough hours in the day for me to spend 5 hours training, 3 hours eating, 10 hours sleeping, 2 hours recovering from training, 2 hours blogging, 2 hours answering e-mails, working on sponsor relations and doing other things on the computer, and still have time to hang out with friends, be social and be happy.

Among other changes, I need to cut down on my computer time drastically. I cannot afford to feel obligated to post a daily blog.

By blogging daily, I’ve tried to give my followers a picture of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. I’ve tried to tell my story. When I first started blogging, my coach Zach Caldwell said I couldn’t possibly come up with enough content to post daily. He said I’d soon run out of things to say. It turns out that producing the content wasn’t the problem. The problem was finding the time to post all of the content I generated.

Over the last year this blog has felt stagnant and stale. It’s feeling repetitive. I have not increased my following or the number of visits to the site since the Olympics, more than a year ago. It’s time to change things up.

The summer that I launched this website was the most stressful time in my career from a financial perspective. The U.S. Ski Team was facing huge budget cuts, and I needed to fund all of my own training and racing. I did not know how to do it, and I thought I might not be able to continue ski racing because I could not afford it.

This blog became the answer to my financial troubles. I generated new sponsors and received personal support and donations that allowed me to continue chasing my dreams. I still rely on that same support today.

Going away from the model of daily blogging makes me very nervous because I’m afraid I will lose the support that I rely on and return to the financial instability that predated this blog. However, it feels like a risk worth taking. I’m prioritizing results over personal marketing. It’s risky, but it’s time to take that risk. I’m going “all in” on results, performance and excellence. I’m counting on skiing well and obtaining results in order to fund my career. It will not be sustainable. If I don’t achieve success in the next couple of years, I probably won’t be able to continue to ski race.

Going away from the model of daily blogging does not mean that I need to shutdown this website and have no online presence. I just need to find a balance, and that balance can include some personal marketing and computer work. I believe the most valuable part of my posts is my pictures. Taking pictures is easy and fun. I’m good at pulling out my camera and snapping a few shots without missing a beat, whether I’m training or making dinner.

The new model that I envision is this: I’ll continue to take pictures of interesting things in my life. Once or twice a week I’ll upload the pictures to this site. I’ll caption photos that require explanation, but I won’t add text to explain every detail of what happened. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

The success of this website over the last three years is entirely thanks to you, the people who follow me and read my posts. The financial stability that I have gained from this blog is entirely thanks to your generosity and support. I know that I would not be here without such an incredible community around me. Thank you for allowing me to chase my dreams. Thank you for your continued support as I take the next step towards achieving my goal of becoming the best distance cross country skier in the world.

USST Clinic 3.29.15-5649

Desert Trip 2015

Emilia and I just arrived back in Park City, Utah after a wonderful road trip in the southern Utah and northern Arizona desert. I have a ton of pictures from the trip, so I’m not going to include very much text in this post.

I flew back from Norway two weeks ago to begin the road trip. Here’s the view of Chicago and the Lake Michigan shoreline as I flew in for one of my layovers.

DSC05128 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Start of Vacation

I am currently on my second of today’s three flights; this flight is from Newark, New Jersey to Chicago, Illinois. I took off this morning from Oslo, Norway after a casual morning. My plane didn’t leave until 11:30 a.m. so I got to sleep in and enjoy a nice breakfast before walking from my hotel to the airport. Thanks to Madshus for treating me so well! The Oslo airport was almost deserted. I didn’t wait in a single line from check-in to security to customs to boarding. I was psyched when I saw that the middle seat next to me was empty. As we were taxiing out to the runway I noticed the “engine check area”. It was basically half a crater made out of concrete. I haven’t seen anything similar at other airports.

DSC05116 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Madshus Meetings

Hanging out at the Madshus meetings in Beitostølen, Norway is awesome because the people who work for the company are exceptional; they are funny, energetic, passionate and entertaining. The meetings are fast and furious because there are different groups with different agendas. Some people are meeting about sales or marketing while others are testing products and working with us athletes.

At the end of the day, everybody comes together for a delicious dinner (which I posted about yesterday). After dinner last night we had a party. People who have been a part of the company for longer than I’ve been alive were telling great stories of all types of shenanigans. We had some snacks that seemed to fit the spirit of the evening.

DSC05093 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Kids Practices and Fundraiser

It’s been an extremely busy couple of days in Boston, Massachusetts with Mark Doughty, the principal of my title sponsor Thoughtforms Builders, and his family. Yesterday morning Mark and I drove into downtown Boston early to give a framed World Cup bib to Phill Gross, a USSA Board of Trustee and a huge supporter of the U.S. Ski Team. The bib was a Thank You gift for Phill’s general support and his support of me and Mark and the whole Nordic community at the U.S. Ski Team’s Boston Ski Ball last fall.

Phill has an astounding view from his office.

DSC04991 (1280x853)

Continue reading

L.L. Bean and Craft

When I arrived in Östersund, Sweden in February for my first World Cup after a long hiatus to recover from a broken fibula, I learned that our team’s partnership with the clothing company Bjørn Dæhlie was ending at the end of the season. In retrospect, the news probably should not have come as a surprise because Bjørn Dæhlie signed the Norwegian National Team last spring in a deal that is much more valuable than their deal with the U.S. Ski Team. Therefore, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team was in the process of searching for a new clothing supplier and negotiating contracts.

The partnership between the U.S. Ski Team and Bjørn Dæhlie has existed for as long as I’ve been on the team, a total of seven years. Bjørn Dæhlie makes great base layers, race suits and outerwear. Overall, it was a great partnership, and my teammates and I loved our gear.

Many companies were discussed as possible replacements for the position of U.S. Ski Team clothing supplier. I wasn’t directly involved in negotiations and nor were my teammates, but we heard lots of names being thrown around. It wasn’t until the very end of the race season that we were told definitively who would be our new supplier. The answer, it turns out, is a joint partnership between Maine based L.L. Bean and the Swedish company Craft Sportswear. The reason there are two companies involved is that L.L. Bean does not make race suits and some other technical clothing for cross country skiing. In general, the partnership will work where Craft provides the race suits and base layers and L.L. Bean provides outerwear.

The news of our new suppliers was not immediately made public because we were still under contract with Bjørn Dæhlie. I did not know it was public until I saw the U.S. Ski Team press release about it today. The article was published on the last day of March, so I’m a little behind the times. You can see the press release here.

L.L. Bean and Craft sent representatives to Sun Valley, Idaho during the final race series of the year to do a photo shoot with us.

USST Clinic 3.29.15-5604 (1280x853)

Continue reading