How can I not put up a post tonight? It’s not like I’m going to be able to sleep anyways.
How can I not put up a post tonight? It’s not like I’m going to be able to sleep anyways.
My plan to blog first thing in the morning didn’t last long. Unfortunately, the morning is the only time that I can talk to people back home before they go to sleep. If I want to call my parents or coaches, I have to do so in the morning.
I also had a massage this morning and I got called for an anti-doping test. After all of it, I never got around to composing a post.
First and most importantly, today is the Olympic Team Sprint for both men and women. These races, especially on the women’s side, represent our best chance as a team for an Olympic medal. I am going to the venue to watch in person. I wouldn’t miss it! The semifinals start momentarily, at 5p.m. Korean Time. The TV coverage in the U.S. is tape delayed, and the schedule is at the bottom of this post.
I have done two things in the past 48 hours that ended up being highlights of my Olympic Experience even though I didn’t believe either one of them was going to be that cool. The first was the trip to the Today Show, which I blogged about yesterday. I was not excited to go and stand in the back of a group of athletes and feel silly for just being an “extra”, but I ended up absolutely loving the adventure. My favorite part was meeting all of the interesting and successful people. I also loved seeing behind the scenes of a live television production. Lastly, I am a huge fan of live music and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rachel Platten perform.
The second experience of the last couple days that surprised me with how happy it made me feel was going to watch the ski halfpipe competition yesterday.
I’m composing this blog first thing in the morning since I have some content. I’d love to blog first thing for the rest of the Olympics, so I can use my afternoons to prioritize recovery and napping in preparation for the 50K. (I’m still not guaranteed a start in the 50K, but I’m going to prepare as well as possible in hopes that I will get one.)
In case we haven’t gotten enough stuff at these Olympics, more items keep trickling in. Yesterday we each received official certificates of participation as well as participation medals.
In yesterday’s blog, posted before the race, I said that our goal as a US Men’s 4x10K Relay Team was to finish the race, to avoid getting lapped out. Not even I would have guessed that finishing the race would come down to just a couple of seconds after an hour and a half of racing.
The 3.3K lap was taking the leading skate skiers just over 7 minutes. The race organizers will pull a team from the race before they actually get caught so that they don’t interfer with the lead skiers and don’t appear on camera.
Our lead skier, Andy Newell, was skiing the first leg for the US for the third Olympics in a row. He used his experience to ski a very respectable race. He lost just 1 minute and 29 seconds to the leaders. (Remember, we have just over 7 minutes to lose in 4 legs before we get pulled.)
Reese Hanneman skied the second leg for us. Like Andy, Reese is a sprinter. Unlike Andy, Reese doesn’t have much experience in World Cup and Olympic level distance racing; yesterday was his first Olympic start. Putting Reese in the second leg of the Olympic relay is a little like throwing him to hungry wolves. He fought like hell and held on for a little over a lap, and then he made it hurt to limit his losses after he was dropped by all of the other teams. In the end he dropped 3 minutes and 40 seconds to the leaders and tagged Scott Patterson 5 minutes and 9 seconds back.
I was watching all of this unfold while warming up, and I knew it was going to take some great skiing from Scott and a serious effort from me for us to finish. Luckily, Scott, skiing third, delivered. It is almost impossible for somebody skiing all alone in the back to ski as fast as the leaders of the race who are pushing and fighting each other. For the first lap Scott actually put time into the leaders. The next two laps he limited his losses. In the end he skied 1 minute and 7 seconds slower than the lead of the race and tagged me 6 minutes and 16 seconds behind the leaders. More importantly, he tagged me 55 seconds AHEAD of the leaders on the track.
I knew that I only had to stay ahead for 2 laps because then the leaders would finish and the last lap wouldn’t matter; I’d be allowed to finish. I set out to do 6.6K as fast as I possibly could. I was skiing “scared” and started about as fast as I’ve ever started a race. In my first lap I actually put a little time into the leaders and I had a minute and 5 seconds near the end of that lap. I was getting splits from our staff all over the course of how much time I had on the two leaders. I knew that even with a minute five it was going to be close because I was going to pay a price for starting so fast and they were going to be racing for the win. About halfway through the second lap I could see them on a switchback right below me on the course and they were unnervingly close. I skied the last two hills as hard as I possibly could. When I crested the final hill I was 12 seconds ahead of Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, the finishing skier for the winning Norwegian Team. Luckily, it was only a few hundred meters all downhill to the lap lane. Once I was safely in the lap lane and out of the way of the finish, I basically came to a stop. I felt and acted like my race was over. I was feeling pretty good for having made it. I watched Klæbo finish before taking off on my final lap. I relaxed and enjoyed the experience of my first time anchoring a relay. Because we were several minutes behind the second to last team, the jumbotron showed me and the entire stadium cheered for me all the way up and over the final climb and into the finish. Honestly, it was an experience that rivaled the Opening Ceremonies. I’m so glad I had that opportunity and that my teammates and I did JUST enough to finish that race. It took everything we had.
Backing up, I was able to join my sister for lunch yesterday before the race. We also played a game of cribbage.
First, I missed posting a blog yesterday, the first day I’ve missed of these Olympics. My sister Maggie Hoffman Blatz and her traveling partner Caitlin Dunn arrived in PyeongChang on Friday, in time to see me race in the 15K Skate. Yesterday they watched the women’s relay and today they will watch me in the men’s relay. Yesterday was my only good opportunity to spend time with them, and I chose to do that instead of composing a blog. My apologies.
Second, this weekend Simi Hamilton and I were featured in a piece on NPR’s All Things Considered about the impact that climate change is having on winter sport and the hard reality that the lifestyle of a winter sport athlete exacerbates the problem. The piece was written and composed by Elizabeth Stewart-Severy, a longtime friend and excellent reporter for Aspen Public Radio. I am very impressed with Elizabeth’s story, and I’m honored to be featured nationally on NPR. You can listen to the piece here.
Looking back, the 15K skate race on Friday was a bit better for me than the 30K Skiathlon last weekend. It was only a small step forward, but at least I’m moving in the right direction. My primary goal for the race was to ski with relaxed muscles so I could use my full aerobic capacity without getting heavy legs or “blowing up”. One way for me to keep my muscles relaxed is to “soft pedal”, or keep the motions light. The result of high energy light skiing is that I have an exceptionally high tempo. This type of skiing can be very effective on really hilly hard courses like Val di Fiemme, Italy or Holmenkollen, Norway. As evidenced by my 48th place finish, it is less effective on a more gradual course like this one. In retrospect, I needed to lengthen the motions a bit more than I did and use a bit more power. However, skiing light and “clean” allowed me to feel like I could attack the course all the way to the end, which in turn gives me good feelings and confidence going forward. I hope to use that confidence to add a little more power to my skiing in today’s relay.
Yesterday was the women’s 4x5k relay. Our American team of Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins were medal hopefuls. There was palpable excitement amongst our whole team throughout the day. Sophie skied the first leg and had a great first 2.5K lap. As she started to suffer on the second lap, she fought like hell to hang on. Some of the best skiers in the world were charging at the front and setting a torrid pace. Sophie tagged Sadie one minute behind the leaders. Sadie, Kikkan and Jessie each skied impressive legs. Even though the leaders were fighting and pushing each other, our women didn’t lose much more time. In the end they couldn’t quite climb back into medal contention, but they finished in an impressive 5th place.
Today it’s our turn. Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton both opted not to race today in order to better prepare for the Team Sprint on Wednesday. Paddy Caldwell is still recovering from a cold. Andy Newell is going to ski the “scramble” (1st) leg for us. Reese Hanneman, in his first ever Olympic Start, will ski second. Scott Patterson, who is skiing amongst the best in the world right now, will ski third and, for the first time in my career, I will anchor the team (ski the 4th leg). Our goal for the race is simple: finish. Each leg will consist of three 3.3K laps, and if a team is in danger of getting lapped by the leaders, they will be pulled from the race. This is not uncommon. If we put together four solid legs, we can finish and have a very good day. I’m honored and excited to be a part of this team.
The weather has been gorgeous here in Korea. Here is coach and wax technician Erik Flora before the 15K on Friday.
This afternoon I will start my second race of these Olympics, the 15K Skate Individual Start. I will be wearing bib 15 and will start at 3:07p.m. Korean Time, 11:07p.m. Mountain Time and 1:07a.m. Eastern Time. I included the broadcast schedule for the race in yesterday’s post, and I have copied it to the bottom of this post as well.
I am more nervous than I was for the 30K. Honestly, I have not felt great in training. However, I have had some of my best races when training has not felt good; I really haven’t found any correlation between feelings in training and in racing. My goal is to go out and put together a complete 15K effort with clean energetic skiing where I use my strength of high tempo skiing and also the skills I have built to glide and ski big as well.
I wanted to put up a blog this morning, before the race, so that I don’t feel pressure to do one this evening. I am always exhausted and not functioning at a high level after an afternoon race. I also wanted to write this morning because I have a few things on my mind.
First, I want to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the horrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As news of the tragedy came in yesterday, all of Team USA was subdued and saddened.
I also want to add my voice to those calling on Congress to pass gun safety regulation to take sensible steps to address the gun violence epidemic in America. I took some time in the Athlete Lounge of the Olympic Village this morning to call my two senators from Colorado, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet. In a voicemail, I asked them each to sponsor and support legislation that will make background checks mandatory for anyone purchasing a firearm, require safe storage of firearms, ban sales of bump stocks, end immunity for firearm companies and fund research into gun violence and prevention.
The second thing that I wanted to say this morning is that I have been thinking about those athletes who didn’t get a chance to come here to PyeongChang, to be on this Olympic Team. Sports are not always fair and opportunities are not always given equally. Many athletes who have worked as hard as I have, who care as much as I do, who shared my dreams of being an Olympian, did not get named to this team because the chips did not fall their way. It is a bit risky for me to name individuals because I know I will leave somebody out, but I feel compelled to mention a few who have been on my mind a lot: my two summer training partners, Tad Elliot and Kris Freeman, my good friends Eric Packer and Brian Gregg, APU’s David Norris and my friend Chelsea Holmes… I miss you all over here, and I think the world of you.
I don’t have many pictures since my last post. I enjoyed playing around with Erik Bjornsen’s new camera last night.
Here is the picture from the camera.
As usual, I watched some Olympic events last night in the Athlete Lounge with other members of Team USA. It is a really fun group to watch with!
I’m off to race! Here’s the broadcast schedule:
The women’s Olympic 10K individual start just finished, and it was one of the most exciting individual start races that I have ever seen. On the 5 Kilometer course, Norwegian Ragnhild Haga skied an amazingly fast second lap. After the first lap she was 3 seconds behind Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla. She won by 20 seconds! Charlotte held on for second place, but the real battle was between Norwegian Marit Bjørgen, Finland’s Krista Parmakoski and American Jessie Diggins for the bronze medal. At the 8.4K split, with exactly a mile left to race, Jessie was in third, 1.8 seconds ahead of Bjørgen and 5 seconds ahead of Parmakoski. Jessie is one of the best closers in the sport, and my teammates and I thought she was going to do it. Bjørgen and Parmakoski started and finished before Jessie. Parmakoski came across the finish line in an exact tie with Bjørgen. So Jessie was either going to get 3rd or 5th. On TV they showed the final 2 minutes of Jessie’s race, and we were screaming like crazy. Near the top of the last hill her legs stiffened and she was visibly hurting. Coming into the final stretch it was clear that she was going to just miss out. She finished 5th, just 3.3 seconds slower than Bjørgen and Parmakoski. So close!
Although she didn’t get a medal today, Jessie fought like crazy, and I am proud to be her teammate. She is an amazing skier and athlete. Today’s result is very impressive. It is just a matter of time before she gets that medal. Her next opportunity will be on Saturday in the women’s 4x5K relay, and I can’t wait to watch.
Life has been pretty chill in the men’s condo. I played a game of Euchre last night with Paddy Caldwell (left), Scott Patterson (center) and Erik Bjornsen. Andy Newell (standing) was hanging out too.
I wanted to title this post with a number to highlight that I’m only halfway through my Olympic experience. Today is my Day 11. Closing Ceremonies happen on Day 22, and I will depart Korea on Day 23. This is an amazing experience that I am fully appreciating, but it is also a long trip.
Yesterday evening was the Olympic Classic Sprint. Team USA had some really impressive performances, but we did not win a medal. Jessie Diggins was our only skier to reach either the men’s or women’s final, and she finished sixth. We were not favorites to win a medal last night, but we were certainly medal hopefuls. My sense is that we, as a team, are building towards a historic result and that we’ll see it in the next 11 days. There are four more cross-country races for each gender at these Olympics. We will be medal hopefuls in the women’s 10k, women’s relay, men’s team sprint and women’s 30k and we will be medal favorites in the women’s team sprint next Wednesday, February 21st. I cannot wait to race and to watch and to continue to be a part of this team. Racing kicks off again tomorrow with the women’s 10k.
It was cold and windy last night, and my teammates and I watched the sprint from the Village. We could even watch the qualifying round, which was a rare treat because it’s not usually televised. Here’s Sadie Bjornsen starting her qualifier.
We went to dinner at The Haven between qualifying and the heats. Scott and Caitlin Patterson rocked matching sweaters.
We came back to the Village and watched the heats in the Athlete Lounge with sliders, aerialists, moguls skiers, ski jumpers and combiners. It was very entertaining because many of the other athletes had never seen a cross-country sprint race and didn’t know the format. We educated them as best we could, and they added some wonderful color commentary.
It was hard for all of us to sleep last night, racers and spectators, because we were jazzed after the races.
I took another day off of skiing today. I’ll go to the gym this evening to spin and stretch.
This morning I went to spectate my first event of the Games, Pairs Figure Skating Short Program. Athletes can request tickets for certain events if they really want to go. If there are additional US Team tickets that are not requested, they are set out on a table in the athlete lounge and we can grab what we want. (We actually get a voucher which we then exchange for the tickets in the Coastal Village.)
The trip to the Coastal Village (all of the indoor events are on the coast) was my first of the Games. It was super easy to get there. The buses run every 30 minutes and the trip only takes 40 minutes.
While there, I got the quintessential Olympic Rings photo.
Unlike the Mountain Village, the Coastal Village has a McDonald’s in the dining hall.
It is just like every McDonald’s in the world except everything is free.
Other than that, the coastal dining hall is almost identical to the mountain one.
It was really easy and slick to pick up tickets.
We also got retractable banners to support Team USA.
The event itself was really fun. Like many Americans, figure skating dominates my memories of watching the Winter Olympics when I was young, and it was fun to see it in person.
We got to see Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim from North Korea, accompanied by the North Korean cheerleading squad.
There was more energy in the arena for their skate than any other.
We also got to watch the American husband/wife duo of Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim.
They made some mistakes but qualified for tomorrow’s free skate.
It was cool to see “behind the camera” of an event that I’ve watched so many times on TV.
Unfortunately the arena wasn’t super full.
Overall, my trip to figure skating and the coast was fun and not too energy intensive. I’m really glad I went.
Now that I’ve seen both villages, I’m forming a more complete view of these Olympics. My overall impression, relative to Sochi, is that these Olympics are low impact: lower environmental impact, lower cost, and importantly, lower impact on the local community. Life outside the Olympics in this part of Korea seems to be continuing unhindered.
Lastly, I checked out the Olympic Truce Mural in the Village this afternoon. I really like it’s design and what it stands for.
Today is one of Team USA Cross-Country’s best opportunities for an Olympic medal. The Olympic Classic Sprint starts in half an hour with qualifying at 5:30p.m. Korean Time (1:30a.m. Mountain Time and 3:30a.m. Eastern Time). The energy has been high around here all day. The sprinters are nervous, but I believe they are super ready. I cannot wait to watch. Information about the broadcast schedule for today’s race is at the bottom of this post.
I didn’t ski yesterday. Instead I jogged to The Haven with Liz Stephen. It was cold and windy and we were mostly running on busy roads. Honestly it wasn’t that pleasant.
I finished off my hour long workout by spinning on the bikes while Liz (on the right using the bands and Kikkan Randall (center) did a strength workout.
Our timing was good to have dinner as soon as we finished. It was Mexican night!
Even though I’ve only been gone from the States for 10 days, I already miss Mexican food (which makes up at least 50% of my diet at home). It was such a nice treat to have it again.
One of the US women racing today, Ida Sargent, crashed and broke her thumb while warming up for the final World Cup before the Olympics, 16 days ago in Seefeld, Austria. She immediately flew to Colorado and had surgery to set the bone with a plate and screws. For tonight’s race she will be exactly 14 days out of surgery. She has healed incredibly well but still experiences significant pain every time she plants her pole. Luckily, the broken bone held together by the plate and screws is stronger then a healthy natural bone, so she’s not in danger of doing more damage by working through the pain. The swelling and bruising has subsided and the incision looks great.
Through all of the turmoil and pain of the last two weeks, Ida has stayed positive and focused on this race. I hope the pain in her hand is not a limiting factor for her tonight and that everything comes together for her.
Kikkan Randall is not racing tonight. She will compete in the Skate 10K on Thursday. She always rocks some pink in her hair, and she visited the salon here in the Village to get it re-dyed.
It is super bright!
One of the challenges with living in a small apparent with lots of people is that it’s hard to talk on the phone without being obnoxious (or waking people up if they’re still asleep). I needed to make some phone calls this morning, so I went to the Athlete Lounge, which luckily was deserted.
Logan Hanneman (left) is starting his first Olympic race tonight. He was super nervous this morning. Erik Bjornsen, who’s also racing tonight, was more relaxed.
Here is a random picture I snapped of one of the Olympic ticket vendors.
Pin trading is a popular Olympic pastime. As athletes, we were given a bag full of US Cross-Country pins to trade with other athletes.
I’m not a collector, but the one pin I’m very interested in getting is from the North Korean team. I stopped by their wax cabin at the cross-country venue today, but unfortunately they didn’t have any.
Honestly, I am surprised to see North Korean cross-country skiers at all.
I skied this afternoon with Caitlin and Scott Patterson, one of three sets of siblings on our team.
The sprint course was closed but all of the other cross-country trails were open. We also skied over to check out the biathlon trails. You can connect the two trail systems through a tunnel.
It was super easy.
But unfortunately the biathlon trails were closed.
It wasn’t a problem because the cross-country trails were super quiet.
There were a bunch of technicians doing glide tests on the test track in preparation for the sprint.
I will say the skiing was a bit miserable because the wind is still howling here. At least it’s a few degrees warmer than it was yesterday.
The sprint course is in perfect shape for tonight’s rice.
As promised, here’s the broadcast schedule for today’s race:
ON COMPUTER NBCOLYMPICS.COM AND NBC SPORTS PHONE APP — LIVE STREAMING AT 3:30am EST
ON TV — NBCSN
Yesterday’s race was very disappointing for me. It was my first race of the Olympics, the 30K Skiathlon. I have felt good for the last week and thought I was setup to have a good day, but my body didn’t respond the way that I hoped it would. The pace was hot from the beginning, and I struggled in the classic portion to ski relaxed. The conditions were tricky with windblown tracks and icy corduroy, and I didn’t handle them well. I got dropped by the lead group early and continuously lost time on my way to a 54th place finish.
After the race I was feeling disheartened, frustrated and inadequate. I felt confused about why my coaches and I have been unable to replicate the best-in-the-world skiing that I did in 2014, despite trying everything that we could think to do. I felt like I don’t deserve to be here and that I am an imposter for writing this blog and pretending to be a successful Olympic athlete. I even felt guilty that my sister is coming to watch my next race when I’m skiing so poorly.
As the evening went on, I started to lift my chin up, put things into perspective and move on. Letting go of disappointment is something that I have worked on for much of my career. There were times early in my career when I would hold onto bad races for many days. Not only does being upset drain all of my energy, it also makes me super unpleasant to be around. As of this morning I had not fully let go of yesterday’s result, but now, at 3:30 in the afternoon (23 hours after finishing yesterday), I feel great, I can’t wait for another opportunity on Friday, and I am so psyched to be at the Olympics! I am proud of myself for letting go of the race.
My biggest goal for these Olympics is to live them, be present and take it all in. I can only accomplish that goal if I don’t get stuck in disappointment.
Also, there was one big reason to be excited about yesterday’s race: my teammate Scott Patterson finished in 18th place, only 1:08 behind the winner. That is easily Scott’s best result of his career, and he becomes one of a very select group of US men’s cross-country skiers with a top-20 finish at the Olympics. I was so excited, and super impressed, when I saw his result after I finished.
Like me, my teammates Erik Bjornsen and Paddy Caldwell were disappointed with their results, but I have full confidence in them and know that it will only get better from here for all three of us.
I think I can take some credit for Scott’s result because I convinced him to jog to the venue with me instead of dealing with the crowded buses. The extra-long warm-up must have worked for him!
Because we didn’t take the secure bus, we had to go through security to get into the venue, but it was super fast and easy.
My technician Patrick Moore was ready with my skis when I got there, and we headed out to test.
Before the start, we each loaded our skate gear into our pit stations. I like to set my skate skis narrow so I can snow plow in around them with my classic skis. When I come into the exchange I take off my classic poles and put them in my left hand and then grab my skate poles with my right hand. I had the 24th fastest time in the pit yesterday, which is pretty good considering that includes some skiing time, and I was not skiing fast.
Here’s Erik just before the start.
Here’s a look at the start pen where all of the athletes gather.
The stands were pretty full for the race.
Caitlin Patterson took some pictures of me during the race.
I was wearing bib 47.
It’s often hard to get good pictures of me racing, so I’m grateful to Caitlin for sending these.
Especially since she raced on Saturday!
After the race I was greeted by massage therapist Steph McKeen. Can you tell I was hurting when this picture was taken?
Before we can leave the finish area we have to walk through the media mix zone where reporters can pull us for interviews.
I got pulled by NBC but I doubt they used the footage.
I was cold by the time I got back to the athlete room, and I didn’t go back out for a cool down. Instead I went back to the Village, showered, went to The Haven for food and then got on the spin bike after dinner.
While at The Haven I heard an interesting comment from one of the sliding sport (bobsled, luge or skeleton) athletes. They were talking about the gym at The Haven, which has a sign over the door that indicates the room is only available to US Ski and Snowboard athletes. The slider said that having a big NGB (National Governing Body) allows us to afford amenities like a private gym. I hadn’t realized how this private gym must appear to the other athletes, and I have never before thought of US Ski and Snowboard as a big and resource rich organization. I always think of them as underfunded, but clearly that analysis is relative. Because of that comment, I’m feeling more grateful for the opportunities that are available to me.
After getting back to the Village I went to the Athlete Lounge to watch the evening events with other athletes. First up was women’s Moguls. It was particularly fun to watch with the men’s Moguls team, who compete tonight.
Unfortunately it was not a good night for the U.S. Women. It was particularly hard for me to watch a friend of mine and medal hopeful, Morgan Schild, get knocked out in the first round of finals after qualifying in the third position.
After Moguls the night got better for Team USA. In the men’s singles Luge, Lake Placid’s Chris Mazdzer became the first American to medal in the event with a second place finish. I got to intently watch with a bunch of his sliding teammates.
They went crazy after he medaled.
I was hurting and sore after yesterday’s race and didn’t sleep well last night. I took today off of skiing. I went for a short jog this morning with Paddy (right) and my good friend from Estonia Karel Tammjärv.
I will go spin at the gym this afternoon.
I spent the day doing laundry. The setup here in the Village is remarkably convenient.
Luckily the settings are translated into English.
This Village would be a lot harder to navigate if I didn’t speak English, unless of course I spoke Korean.
Also today I learned how to get guests into the Village because I went through the process of requesting and receiving a guest pass for our team strength coach Tschana Schiller (pictured center with Sophie Caldwell and Andy Newell).
Lastly, for no explicable reason, I let Jessie Diggins paint one of my nails. She was very excited.
The next cross-country race here at the Olympics is the classic individual sprint tomorrow evening. I’m not racing, and I can’t wait to watch. I’ll post more about it before start time tomorrow.