Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mountain highs and valley lows in Davos

Welcome to beautiful Davos Switzerland.  Does it get any better than this?

I feel very lucky to be in such a beautiful place and to breathe the fresh mountain air of the Alps.  We have had full sun every single day!  After a few weeks in northern Scandinavia, it feels great to soak in the rays and regenerate our Vitamin D stores.  

Mountains and more mountains

The view from behind our hotel

There isn't quite as much snow this year as last year or in years past but the skiing in the valley is still really good.  While I surely can't complain about all of the sunshine, I have my fingers crossed for a few fresh flakes so that they can groom some of my favorite trails up some of the nearby valleys (FIS Cross Country photo).  

Always great to be in Switzerland with lots of chocolate!  The giant Toblerone I'm holding was 140 Swiss Francs in the Zurich airport so I had to pass on that one but I've still had my share of great chocolate.  
I was excited to find some maple syrup in a store in town but fortunately it is still early in our winter travels so I still have part of my supply of Vermont syrup from home.  I gave a pint of it to Heinz Kessler, the owner of our hotel here in Davos and he excitedly told me that he loves syrup but has not had any since the 80s when another VT skier brought him some.

The team after our annual Secret Santa gift exchange which includes poetry writing and reading and gift giving.  I wrote 'Twas the Night Before the World Cup, a rendition of 'Twas the Night before Christmas for Fred, our massage therapist.  Jason Cork, one of our coaches wrote a series of Haikus for me and gave me a little Christmas tree for my hotel room.  It's a real tree and about a foot high and just perfect for firing up my Christmas spirit. 

The Davos stadium (Salomon Nordic photo)

Hotel Kulm, our home away from home on the road and where I will spend Christmas this year.
We had World Cups here in Davos this past weekend.  On Saturday some of the team raced in a 15km and 30km freestyle race and had great results including five top 30 finishes.  I sat out that race and prepared for the freestyle sprint on Sunday. I felt energetic and confident leading into the race and dreamed big with my sights set on improving on my results from last winter.  My qualification round was solid but not perfect and I just missed making the top 30.  My day was done far before I planned or was ready for and I was left with a huge ache of disappointment.  The women's field was incredibly tight this weekend and only 3.6 seconds separated the first through thirtieth and I was just behind that mark.  Normally the mens' field is packed into close margins while the womens' field sees larger gaps but on Sunday the opposite happened as six seconds spanned the top thirty men.  I guess just a lot of ladies were on fire this weekend.  I have replayed the race in my head repeatedly, grimacing while thinking of the slip on the ice on the final corner or my horrible transition into the uphill on the second lap.  Lots of little mistakes quickly accumulate on a day when there wasn't room for error.  On a perfect day for racing, I was left sitting on the sidelines which is not a fun place to be.  It's easy to become disappointed and frustrated when you look at just the place number beside my name on the result list but this sport is about keeping your head up, kicking harder up the next hill, and racing faster toward the next finish line.  The time had come to find confidence and motivation from this race and this day even if its ending was far different than I planned.  It's about looking for improvements, challenging obstacles which will eventually make me stronger, and embracing every success whether big or small.  It's a practice of patience, embracing this amazing journey rather than instant wins and gratification.

"The battles that count aren't the ones for the gold medals.  The struggles within yourself-- the invisible battles inside all of us-- that's where it's at." Jesse Owens
Qualification rounds have always been a challenge for me.  I ski faster and more relaxed in the rounds when racing head to head against the other skiers but the first step is to make the rounds.  My goal is to eventually confidently qualify in every World Cup sprint that I enter.  I'm inspired by my teammate Andy Newell who  with the exception of a couple falls, can't remember the last time he hasn't qualified for the heats (we think it is since about 2003 or 2005).  I'm obviously not there yet, but I'm making progress towards that goal.  The last time that I raced on this course in Davos, nine seconds separated the top thirty and I was almost 13 seconds out.  This weekend I was a third of that margin away from the lead.  It was my second best qualification ever if you measure based on FIS points (percent back) or total time back from the winner.  I felt strong and fast.  I skied relaxed with length, rather than with a frantic tempo which is not efficient on courses like this one requiring gliding and smooth skiing.  So these are my successes this weekend and these are the steps which will take me forward to our races next weekend in Asiago, Italy.  Those are the feelings which inspire me to continue to train, race, and put everything on the line each day.

Thanks for the cheers and support!

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