Looking to the Olympic Year, with Big Changes

Last summer I trained a whole lot. In hindsight, it’s clear that I stopped absorbing training around the time of the New Zealand camp in early September and never got back on top of my energy. The race season was a disappointment almost from start to finish. I believe that my numerous illnesses were a symptom of my over-training.

This spring I took a big step away from the sport. I adventured with friends on the Colorado Plateau, climbing, mountain biking, running and canyoneering. I slept on the ground almost every night for a month straight. It was the perfect opportunity to disconnect and reset.

During my break, I decided that I am not done cross country skiing. I still believe in myself. I believe that I am one of the fittest athletes in the world and that I can execute good races that represent my fitness. In 2013-14 I was one of the best skiers in the world. I had the fastest time in two different World Cup tour stages. I don’t believe that those results were flukes. They were simply solid representative efforts of my fitness. I am sure that I can produce races like that (and better) again.

After my disappointing season, I was not renamed to the U.S. Ski Team. However, I was offered World Cup Period 1 start rights with the opportunity for more if I prove that I belong on the World Cup. Honestly, this is a perfect situation for me. It means that I am not obligated to attend U.S. Ski Team camps or to be involved in the politics of the U.S. Ski Team, but I still have the opportunity to show up on the World Cup ready to ski as well as anyone in the world. I have complete control of my preparation.

The training that I did last year, though too much to produce good results last winter, doesn’t just go away. With better management and a more balanced load, I believe that I can reap the benefits of all that work. The themes this year will be “a balanced program” and “everything in moderation”. I want to bring all the work that I’ve done over the last three years together. I want to train a lot, but not an extreme amount. I want to train alone, but not always. I want to be coached, but not every session. I want to work on my mobility and posture, but not for every non-training moment. I want to incorporate core and upper body strength work, but not excessively. Lastly, I want to prioritize my happiness. This is the year to bring everything together.

I am going to live and train out of Hanover, New Hampshire this summer and fall. This is a big change for me, as I have never lived outside the mountain west. I decided to base in the east so that I can have more consistent contact with my coach Zach Caldwell. I will be checking in with Zach weekly to do technique work, to practice executing good races and so that he can keep an eye on my energy levels. Living in the east also offers more access to world-class training partners. Lastly, this will be the first  time that I have based at sea level. Zach has been pushing for me to make this change for years. It will help me recover better and absorb the training. I chose Hanover in particular because it is centrally located, it has great roads and trails to train on and it has a social scene.

On Friday I’m moving into my new home, a room that I’m renting from a Dartmouth postdoc in a duplex just south of downtown. I am very excited to ramp-up my training, explore a completely new area and meet new people in town.

Today I am Ashamed to be an American

Today I am ashamed to be an American. Yesterday President Donald Trump signed the executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. It declares that “the Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days [and]…is further directed…to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” The executive order also states that “the entry of nationals-of-Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus [this order] suspend[s] any such entry.”

The order bans the world’s most vulnerable people from entering the United States and authorizes, in fact mandates, both religious and nationality based discrimination. It makes me sick. As the world’s largest economy, don’t we have an obligation and duty to protect those who suffer from persecution and the carnage of war in their home country? Why does location and circumstance of birth grant us the right to life and liberty while others are denied? Syrians did not choose to be born in Syria any more than I chose to be born in the United States, and yet Syrian refugees have had to flee a war in which 90,506* civilians have been killed while I have been free to chase my dreams. An Arab man who prays to Allāh is just as entitled to life and liberty as I am, an American who does not pray to any God at all. We do not choose how we are raised, including which religion we are taught to follow.

I understand my own privilege and that many U.S. citizens are also suffering, but we do not need to isolate ourselves from the world to address our problems at home or to keep our people safe. We are strong enough, big enough and powerful enough to address the problems of and provide security to our own people while offering refuge to the world’s least advantaged. Nations and borders are merely a tool of political institutions, and turning a blind eye to the world’s suffering will never lead to stability at home or peace and liberty for all.

We can be a compassionate society, for Americans and for all peoples.

 

*Death toll from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as of December 13th, 2016

Obertsdorf

Erik Bjornsen (my teammate and roommate) and I just woke up in Obertsdorf, Germany to this view: 

We drove here last night from Val Müstair, Switzerland after racing the second stage of the Tour de Ski. This is my fourth Tour, and the routine and venues now feel familiar. Erik and I lived in the room next to this one last year and woke up to the same view. 

Yesterday’s race, like all of them so far this season, was not the breakthrough performance that I dreamt about while training this summer. I simply haven’t had the energy and fitness and pop to ski with the fastest guys in the world. I have had great opportunities. Yesterday, like in La Clusaz and Lillehammer, I had no excuses. I was skiing in a good position early in the race with good skis and plenty of room to move and I simply couldn’t hang.

My coaches and I aren’t sure why I haven’t been performing at the level that I have in the past, let alone at the next level. Maybe I haven’t fully absorbed the increased training load from the summer and fall, or maybe I’m not as recovered as I feel. 

Regardless, I know that I’ve done great training this year, and I’m executing my races and my lifestyle as well as I know how. The only thing to do, in the middle of the Tour de Ski, is to keep taking care of the things that are in my control. The next five stages, without exception, are great opportunities for me to have the results that I’m looking for. 

In the past I have forced myself to be disappointed and sad after poor performances. I felt like I had to show that I was dissatisfied or people wouldn’t think that I cared enough or tried hard enough. I am now trying to do the opposite. Regardless of my results I am trying to live in the moment, be present and absorb all of my experiences. I am still doing everything I can to achieve my goals, but skiing does not define me and it doesn’t need to define my emotions and my mood. 

I went to breakfast in the middle of writing this post and I’m now basking in the sun as I finish. Here’s an updated look at our view:

Life is good.

Strength Session

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at one of the short but intense strength sessions that I did this summer and fall. These sessions were in addition to two aerobic sessions per day. Hopefully they’ll help me ski fast this winter! Huge thanks to Andrew Fast at La Sportiva for helping me put it together!

Fantasy Podcast

FasterSkier just published an episode of their Nordic Nation podcast about Noah Hoffman Fantasy Cross Country. I honestly can’t believe that host Jason Albert managed to fill an hour entirely with fantasy content, but the episode is engaging and funny. Listen for some cameo appearances from Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman. Find it here.

Also, Adam Mahar, who designed and operates the fantasy site, did a bunch of really interesting statistical analysis about predictability and nationality bias in last season’s fantasy picks. The graphs are amazing. Check them out here.

Lastly, fantasy team selection closes tomorrow for the opening weekend of World Cup racing. Don’t forget to finalize your team!