PyeongChang 50K

This is the third day in a row that I am going to kick off my post with news about Kikkan and/or Jessie, but that’s what happens when you win a gold medal. Today’s news: Jessie Diggins was selected as the US Flag Bearer for the Olympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday! Seven athletes were nominated for the honor, one by each of the seven winter sport national governing bodies (NGBs), though two NGBs nominated athletes from sports which they do not oversee. The seven nominees included Jessie, snowboarder Jamie Anderson, hockey player Meghan Duggan, luge athlete Chris Mazdzer, figure skater Adam Rippon, bobsled athlete Elana Meyers Taylor and Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn. All seven athletes won a medal at these Games. Every athlete on Team USA had the opportunity over the last two days to vote for one of the seven, and Jessie won the election. It is a huge honor, and I am very excited for her. Clearly she’s excited as well:

After a poor sleep the night of the Team Sprint, I slept great last night. I had a chill morning. I went to the “Village Mall” to buy some gifts for the people who have been most influential in getting me here.

There happened to be a concert going on in the mall. It was fun to listen for a moment.

I also did my second round of laundry this morning.

I mistimed it, and all of my clothes were still wet when it was time to go skiing. So, I stole gloves from Scott Patterson, pants from Erik Bjornsen and a jacket from Paddy Caldwell. I figured I’d spread my thievery around. While doing laundry I discovered free New York Times hard copies.

I really enjoy reading a hard copy of the paper, but I rarely get to do so. I wish I’d discovered this earlier.

Also, I found the free condoms in the Village, which I didn’t know is actually a thing. I’ve had numerous people ask me if the sex scene in the Village is as rampant as the rumors make it out to be. I don’t know. Not for me. But at least the free condoms part is true.

The Nordic Director for US Ski and Snowboard, Robert Lazzaroni, promised that he would get his nails done if our team won a medal. He followed through at the Village Salon.

Massage Therapist Stephanie McKeen (right) and physical therapist Zuzana Rogers decided to go with him.

I got proof that Kikkan and Jessie are still alive, though a little worse for wear, after nearly 48 hours of mayhem following their team sprint victory. Let’s just say they’ve done A LOT of interviews.

After lunch at The Haven I went out for my pre-race ski and test with Patrick Moore. It was much warmer today than it has been, and the tracks were super variable. In some places it was still dry and powdery and in some places it was full wet slush.

The variability made it hard to find skis that worked all over the course. Luckily, tomorrow is supposed to be cooler, closer to 0°C, so it should be more consistent.

I did 5 minutes of threshold for my pre-race intensity. Tomorrow is the 50K classic mass start, the longest race at the Olympics. Each athlete can change skis up to two times during the race. The pits were setup today so we could practice, but they accidentally setup the carpet as well. The carpet is great for transitioning to skate skis but not good when you have klister on your bases. They won’t have carpet tomorrow.

All of the suspense about who was going to start the 50K was for naught. Erik Bjornsen ended up declining his spot because of lingering fatigue from the team sprint and his desire to target races coming up after the Olympics. Paddy Caldwell then declined his spot as well because he is not completely healthy and ready to race after last week’s cold. Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, both primarily sprinters, also declined to race, and the Hanneman brothers have already left the Olympics. Therefore, we will only have three starters (out of a possible four) in tomorrow’s race. Though this is not the fault of any one person, it is disappointing to leave a start spot unfilled when there are so many great skiers in the US who would love to start this race.

With me, the two other US starters tomorrow will be Scott Patterson and Tyler Kornfield (pictured below right with his coach Erik Flora).

While I was at the venue today I made a point of taking a picture of each of the four men who I believe deserve huge congratulations for Kikkan and Jessie’s success on Wednesday, and who have not been in the spotlight.

The first is head cross-country coach Chris Grover. Grov has lead this team for eight years of steady improvement leading to the absolute best in the world. He is the most organized coach I have ever worked with. He makes things that could be complete chaos run like clockwork. He is even keeled and believes in making slow and incremental progress. He has to make incredibly difficult and consequential decisions (like naming Kikkan and Jessie to the team sprint team over Sadie Bjornsen), and he handles them with professionalism.

The second person who played an enormous role in both Kikkan and Jessie’s success is women’s coach Matt Whitcomb. Matt has done the impossible. He took a core team of seven women plus many others who come in and out of the group, all of whom are extremely competitive with strong personalities, and he aligned their drive and desires into one common goal. He created an environment in which every member of the woman’s team sees these Olympics as a complete success, even though only Jessie and Kikkan stood on that podium last night.

The third person I want to talk about is Jessie’s coach and US Ski Team World Cup coach Jason Cork. I have never met a coach more singly focused on achieving one goal for one athlete than Jason. He is committed with absolutely everything he has to give to helping Jessie be the best skier in the world. On Wednesday night he achieved that goal in the most meaningful way possible, and I am sure that it will not be for the last time.

The final person I want to talk about it Kikkan’s coach and the program director of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club (APU) Erik Flora. Under Erik’s leadership, APU is unequivocally the best international level ski club in the nation with nine (out of twenty) athletes on the Olympic Team. More importantly, Erik has guided Kikkan through her career as the most successful US cross-country sprinter, and arguably the most successful US cross-country skier, ever. Kikkan made Wednesday’s success possible, not just on Wednesday night itself but with all of her breakthrough performances over the last decade, and therefore Erik also made Wednesday’s success possible.

In order to make sure that I’m getting enough calories, I am supplementing my meals at The Haven with meals at the Village dining hall. I have been loving the Korean food that I haven’t had at The Haven, where there are American chefs.

Before dinner I had to pack my massive box that the US Olympic Committee is shipping back to the States for each of us. This meant that I had to go through all of the stuff that I have aquired here at the Games. It was a pretty large undertaking. (One of the boxes pictured below is Paddy’s.)

The boxes were collected tonight and will be packed into a truck tomorrow. Remarkably, we have been told not to expect them until June.

Unfortunately, the fact that they already had to be packed means that I will have to take all of the Olympic clothing that I need to race tomorrow, plus all of my Closing Ceremony gear, with me to Europe when I head there on Monday.

And, of course, we got more stuff tonight after the box was packed. We each received a hand knit scarf from a Korean retiree.

It is the softest thing that I have ever felt, and it is the most personal souvenir that I have received. I am honored to have it.

Here is the note that accompanied it.

I also received this shirt tonight from P&G.

I generally don’t wear corporate branded clothing and don’t like supporting corporate marketing campaigns, especially those from giant multinational companies. However, I appreciate the message of the Love Over Bias campaign, which goes along with this TV commerical, and I think I will wear this shirt. You can learn more about the Love Over Bias campaign from P&G’s press release here. (For the record, I am not sponsored by P&G.)

Here’s one final picture from the evening.

Tomorrow’s race starts at 2p.m. Korean Time, midnight tonight on the East Coast of the US and 10p.m. tonight (Friday) in the Mountain Time zone. Here’s the broadcast schedule:

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24TH — MENS 50KM
ON COMPUTER NBCOLYMPICS.COM and NBC SPORTS PHONE APP —LIVE STREAMING AT 12:00AM MIDNIGHT EST
ON TV NBCSN 12 MIDNIGHT – 3:00AM
LATER ON TV NBC 3:00 PM EST – 6:00 PM EST