Saturday, April 13, 2013

And that's a season!

Five and a half months is a long season and a long time to stay mentally and physically sharp.  Now as the season comes to a close, I'm feeling quite exhausted and secretly hoping the rest of the snow will melt so we can say a final goodbye to winter.  Luckily the season ended with as much excitement as it began so underneath many layers of fatigue I'm more inspired than ever for a new year and the challenges and adventures ahead.

Here are some belated stories and reports from the final races of the year.

The XC World Cup season ended with World Cup finals in Sweden.  The top 50 in the World Cup overall standings compete in finals.  Qualifying for these races was a "reach" goal for me so it was exciting to make it happen and experience the progress.  Last year the USST had three women  and two men qualify for finals and this year we had six ladies and four men racing in Sweden which showed our team improvements.

World Cup finals is a four race mini tour which begins with a city sprint in Stockholm.

In my first visit to Stockholm, I had fun exploring the old city while running with the other girls

RAWR! Watch out!

A city square which we ran through

Not a bad race venue backdrop!
XC Skiing is a big deal in Sweden so it was really exciting to sprint in the old city around the palace in front of huge crowds
After having had a few rough races in a row, I used the energy and excitement for a really good last World Cup sprint of the year.  I qualified in 11th which was a personal best qualification for me.  I used some poor tactics in the heat, attempting to take advantage of the draft on the windy track next to the harbor but let myself get boxed in and ultimately finished 4th in my heat and 20th overall.  It was still a very fun day and re-energized me for the last few races of year.

The biggest uphill on the course climbed over the palace steps

A guard watching over the palace steps.  I said hi to him every time I passed on the training day and it only took a couple laps before he responded with a hello.

Bitter winds whipped off the ocean

The finishing stretch

Kikkan won the sprint globe for the second year in a row and was third in the World Cup overall.  Hearing the national anthem played on the Stockholm palace steps was incredibly inspiring.  I hope to see myself up there sometime soon!
From Stockholm we drove three hours northwest to Falun for the last three stages of the mini tour, including a 2.5km skate prologue, a 10km classic mass start, and a 10km skate pursuit.  Falun will be hosting the World Championships in 2015 and built some new trails for the event.  The trail designers wanted to showcase the infamous Morderbacken hill and push the limits with huge uphills and technical descents.  

Unfortunately they went a bit over the top and after the downhill had been skied a few times everyone was wishing they had metal edges to tackle the icy slope.  It was steep, fast, and narrow but didn't ski well with sharp off camber finishes to the turns which combined with ice pushed you into the fencing and trees.  Skiing it alone in an individual start race would get your heart racing and in a mass start would be just dangerous.   Skiercross on cross country skis on a narrow trail through the woods which was steeper than adjacent the ski jumping landing strip? Serious injuries and maybe career ending collisions and falls were deemed a possibility in Saturday's classic mass start race so the athletes worked together to propose course changes.  At first we were met with an absolute no since the TV cameras and timing had already been setup.  With athlete safety on the line, we met multiple times the day before the race and threatened to boycott the first race of the mini tour if the course wasn't changed.  It became a very heated issue with lots of media involved.  

We made the Norwegian tabloids:

Democracy in action
After several more meetings and a high proportion of athletes signing a petition to boycott the weekend if the course wasn't changed, a compromise was reached on the morning of the first race.  A new course was set which used only the bottom of the downhill and cut out some of the sketchier turns so everyone agreed to start.

Yes we were going to race! 
Racing in the 2.5km Prologue (Salomon Nordic photo)

I had a slow start in the 10km classic but came back on the final two laps to score distance points with a top 30 finish.  Here I am tired and spent after the last day of racing!

Immediately following the last race we had to pack and after spending five months on the road, this was quite the process. Here is Noah's ski bag with 30+ pairs of skis in it.  After we finished packing, we got to relax and celebrate the season with the rest of the World Cup field.  It was a fun and laid back way to meet other athletes.

We were all very ready to head back to the US but after months on the road what is one more day?  We stayed to participate in the first Fast and Female event held outside of North America.  It was cool to share this program with our Swedish friends and to meet some enthusiastic young Swedish skiers.

Sixty girls attended the inaugural event and after an afternoon of skiing, dancing, and talks they lined up to get their pink tshirts.
From Sweden I flew to California where I met up with the rest of the GRP.  After having been separated across the globe competing in lots of different races, it was really fun to reunite with everyone and ski together as a team for the last races of the year

The GRP only missing Gordon and Maria
While we had a lot of sun, we also had some other "less typical California" weather but our awesome wax team conquered all the conditions.  The sloppy April conditions combined with 7200' of altitude, a stuffed up nose and a cough made for some hard racing!  I've never seen the entire field walking in a race but when you're herringboning up a big wall through knee deep sugar at high elevation in April, sometimes there isn't another choice.  At times it felt more like a slow paced hike at maximal effort than a ski race but so it goes.  

The 3km prologue was rainy, snowy, and wet.  We battled the sloppy conditions and had a great day as a team with five top 10 finishes.  Here's Pat leading the guys with a top 5 finish.

The women's field at the start of the 10km mass start race. Can you find all the green suits? (Ryan Scott photo)

The start of the men's final for the classic sprints. We had two people in both the men's and the women's finals. It was a great last sprint for me as I won the qualifying round and ended up 2nd in the final after winning my quarterfinal and semifinal heats.

2nd Place Buddies
I decided to end my season on a high note so after the sprint, I decided to give my hacking lungs a rest and fly home a few days early, skipping the hill climb and the marathon. 

 The sweet taste of spring!

Two buckets of sap is one of the best welcome home presents, especially since maple syrup is a rarity in Europe

This morning I awoke to a few more inches of fresh snow and there is still great skiing on the trails at Craftsbury so I don't know if I'll be putting the boards away for good yet but it's also nice to be able to sleep in my own bed, explore some backcountry and alpine trails, and have the time to put up my feet and rest after a really fun winter.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support along the way!


  1. I have been follow the performance of the U.S. team, and for you for some time, and there is only one word: the success! I saw you in falun too and you looked very strong there, I believe and hope that next season will be even better for you!

  2. Amazing season! I love watching world cup skiing, but it has been more exciting than ever this year with such a strong US team. I can't wait to see how next year shapes up. Good luck with your training.

  3. Fantastic update from a racer as humble as she is incredibly fast - way to go, Ides!!