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.