12.19.13 Let the Season Begin
Hello MYSL Kids! I have some adventure to tell you about! The ski season has started, and for the last month I have been traveling and racing around Europe. I left home on November 15th, and I won’t be home until April…that’s about 5 months on the road! I think I’m pretty good at living out of my suitcase by now. Can you imagine spending half a year with everything you own in 2 bags? What would you bring with you? Besides a lot of ski clothing and skis, poles and boots, I bring a couple fun things with me to help me feel more at home. I bring books, a deck of cards, and little pink guitar, as well as some TV shows to watch (I like Glee a lot!). I also travel with some cards from my family and friends, that I put up next to my bed in each hotel room.
One great thing is that although I miss my family and Minnesota a lot, I am traveling with my teammates, who are like my second family. We celebrate birthdays and holidays on the road, and we do fun things together like play games, jam out to music on our guitars, go for walks, go sledding or watch movies. I feel so comfortable around my team, and the girls are like my sisters while the coaches look out for us and help us out with skis, races and living on the road.
We started our season by flying over to Beitostolen, which is in Norway. We spent a week there getting used to the time change, which took me a couple days. Because we were 7 hours ahead of Minnesota, I would have trouble falling asleep and then waking up at 7 in the morning felt like midnight! But eventually, everyone got adjusted and we raced a couple low-key races that weekend to wake our bodies up and get used to the race-day routine.
From Beitostolen, we flew to Ruka, Finland, for the start of the World Cup season. The races in Ruka were a mini-tour, which means that we raced 3 days in a row, so the last day we felt a little tired but so did everyone else! The first race was a classic sprint, the second day was a 5km classic race, and the third day was a 10km skate race, pursuit-style start. That means that they took the combined times from the past two races, and started everyone according to how far back they were from whomever was leading the race. That way, whoever crossed the line first won the entire mini-tour! I started the last race in 42nd place, and crossed the line in 24th place, which meant that I finished 24th for the mini-tour. But if you look at how fast everyone skied just the 10km skate, I had the 8th fastest time that day. So it’s a pretty fun race format because you get to race a separate race every day, and then keep track of how you are doing overall as they add up each day in the tour. This is how the Tour de Ski will work when I race it later this winter, only the Tour de Ski is much longer – it has 7 stages!
After Ruka, we went back to Norway, to a town called Lillehammer. We raced a 10km classic and then a relay…my favorite race! The relay was 4x5km and the first two girls skied classic, and the second two used skate technique. As long as I can remember, I have always been the anchor leg, the last skier, of all the relays I’ve gotten to be a part of. It can be a lot of pressure because I’m the last person to cross the line, but it can also be so fun because I get to see my teammates race and work so hard, and then do my best to keep moving us forward! Our relay in Lillehammer was Kikkan, Sadie, Liz and then me, and we finished 3rd – which ties our best-ever relay result! We almost got 2nd as I caught up to Finland, but on the last big downhill I caught my ski tip in the powdery snow and crashed. Luckily, a Norwegian coach gave me a pole and I was able to still keep our team on the podium, but it’s fun to know that on a good day, we can finish even higher!
Skiers from Around the World:
Norway is one of the big ski countries, where most everyone in the country knows how to ski, and follows the World Cup results each weekend, cheering on their favorite skiers. When I first went skiing in Beitostolen, the 5km loop was jam packed with skiers of all ages! There were about 15 different ski clubs, and skiers from 3 years old to 80 years old out enjoying the snow. There were families skiing together, teammates training together, and little kids learning to strap on their skis in the stadium together. It was crowded, so I had to keep my eyes open to make sure I didn’t crash into anyone, but I loved seeing so many people outside!
Cool things about Beitostolen, Norway: Beito is a resort town, and a lot of Norwegians have either an apartment or cabin there where they can go as a family to ski. There is alpine skiing as well as cross country, and some pretty decent sledding hills as well! When we were there, we stayed in an apartment, which is always fun for us because then we get to cook for ourselves. While it’s sometimes nice to have the hotel cook food for you, you never get to choose what you get for lunch or dinner, and when we get to cook then we can make what we want that night! It was also handy to have a kitchen so I could cook up a couple birthday cakes for my teammates so we could celebrate in style.
Cool things about Ruka, Finland: Ruka is another resort-type town, where people come to stay for a weekend and ski. The whole town is on the side of a mountain, so everywhere you walk is either up or down, and it can tire you out pretty quickly! We like to call the ski course there our “half-pipe course” as if we were snowboarders, because the race trail basically goes up one side of a hill and then back down to the other side, over and over again. As our races were going on, the mountain was getting ready for another competition after us; moguls and aerials! They were building huge jumps into the side of the hill, and sometimes we could see athletes practicing out the window. Ruka is so far north in Finland that it is almost always dark there…the sun comes up around 10 in the morning, and sets around 1 in the afternoon. That’s not much daylight! So there are tons of lamps and lights around the ski trails and roads, and the sky is usually glowing with artificial light.
Cool things about Lillehammer, Norway: Lillehammer is a big Nordic town, with some great history. The 1994 Olympics were held there, which is before most of you MYSL skiers were born! One really famous race on the Olympic trails was the men’s 4x10km relay, which came down to a sprint between Italy and Norway. Of course, because the Olympics were in Norway the crowd was going crazy and cheering for the Norwegian team to win, but in the final sprint the Italian pulled ahead, hopping across the line. What is so famous about the race is that the moment the skiers finished the race, the thousands of people in the crowd went silent (probably because the Norwegians were shocked and bummed that they didn’t win). The Italian skier silenced a nation with the race, and it went down in Nordic history!
Training Tip: This post’s training tip is more about being part of a team than it is about actually skiing or racing. But it’s just as important, and maybe more, because being a good teammate means that your whole ski group will be stronger together! For me, it’s so important to feel like I am part of a team. It makes me feel like my teammates are always there for me, I know I have friends on the ski trails, and I know that my team will help me if I need it. Some ways we make sure that the US Ski Team members are being good teammates, is that we are very supportive of each other. We tell each other that we can succeed, and we share our goals and help each other reach them. We are not competitive off the snow, and we give each other lots of high-fives and cheer for each other in races. So this week’s challenge for you is to get to know at least one other person on your team a little bit better, and to say something nice to a teammate every weekend you ski together. It’s fun, and makes everyone feel pretty awesome!
Enjoy the snow!