If you had asked me at the start of the season if I thought I would be standing on the line of a World Cup quarterfinal next to my teammate Jessie Diggins, Maiken Caspersen Falla (the overall sprint leader), and Ida Ingemarsdotter(a skier I have watched TV for years), I would have said no.
First Days on the Big Stage
My first ski felt like I was in a snow globe—the whole park was white and the snow was falling. I got to ski with the team veteran Kikkan Randall and I also followed Charlotte Kalla for a few laps and it was really cool to see that the fastest athletes ski really easy on easy days. On prerace day I felt like a kid in a candy store, eyes wide open and very stimulated by all of the bustling surroundings. The music was playing really loud, there were huge TV screens being set up, teams were doing group speeds together, endless amounts of skis were lying around, and everyone was wearing some kind of official bib. I am pretty sure my heart was beating in sync with the loud booming music, racing out of excitement. Our team did a “hot lap” together where we strip down to our tights and do a hard lap together…it is especially cool with 15 women doing it in blue suits.
Words of Advice
Before my first race, my teammate Liz Stephen told me the secret to success on the World Cup is to “believe you belong here because you do”. To my surprise, I did not feel out of place and I think that was partially because the team, coaches, and support staff welcomed us non-World Cup skiers and believed in us. When I started to feel a little intimidated, I would always think back to the super woman/power pose.
My coaches had also told me that the most important thing in my first World Cup is to just enjoy it and soak it all in, especially at my age. Although results are important, they had told me there I shouldn’t put any pressure on myself and just put out the best races I can.
I went into the first race not knowing what to expect. I knew it would be absolutely incredible if I made heats (top 30) but I had no idea how my racing compared to the big stage. I stuck with my routine pre race regiment to keep myself feeling comfortable and confident in an unfamiliar setting. I was expecting to be as nervous as World Junior Championships or at least as nervous as any other important race, but that was not the case and that was a nice surprise. Before I knew it, the light turned green and I shot out of the gate. I had been watching other skiers as they went out before me to see what they were doing on certain technical sections and I kept that in mind. Going up the last hill I couldn’t feel my legs anymore because the course was such a leg burner and my legs were completely flooded. I crossed the line and had no idea how I did, but I was pretty sure I didn’t make heats. I felt like I had skied the course well technically but I did not have the “I had a killer qualifier” feeling, or what I call the extra spark. After going to tent to put on my clothes, I was walking out and Chris Grover had told me I was sitting in 29th and I should hang out and wait—my jaw dropped. After my spot was secured, I got to pick my heat by pressing a red button (I call it the easy button), a process that was new to me.
After resting and draining my legs next to one of my ski idols Stina Nilson, I headed back out for the heats. I had been told it was probably going to be a very fast heat, and possibly even the lucky loser heat with the overall spring champion Falla in it, so my tactic was just to hang on the best I could. What I hadn’t thought about was the scenario where I have a really good start and I am not hanging on in the back from the gun. Out of the start I was in 2nd/3rd until I had realized I was all the way left on a right handed 180 turn, quickly putting me to the back in 6th. I raced as hard as I could and it was so fun, especially with my teammate Jessie showing me the ropes! I was able to edge out one of the girls, putting me in 24th for the day. I can’t even describe the feeling of racing in front of huge crowds and even better, home crowds! I just wanted the race to go by in slow motion because the 3 minutes went by so fast and it was so cool.
The next two days were the distance races. Saturday was a 10km classic mass start and the race started off hot from the start. I didn’t have my best race but I think I was a little tired from the exciting day before. To wrap up the mini tour, we had a skate pursuit start based on our time back from all of the days combined. I started in the wave with many of the other U.S. skiers and we skied in a pack the whole way. The course really suited my strengths; the course was filled with transitions and shorter steeper climbs, on fast, firm snow so drafting and tactics played a huge role. I was able to avoid crashes and hang on to the draft to put down a hard sprint in the last 1.5km through roaring crowds!
I truly enjoyed every moment, even when I felt like I couldn’t go any harder and my body wanted to give up. The weather and conditions couldn’t have been any more perfect, with sunshine and comfortable racing temperatures. The skiing was so pleasant that I found it hard to end my cool downs! The best part was that I was able to experience it with my parents, teammates, and friends and end my season on the best note possible!
I am coming out of this season extremely motivated for next year! I was able to achieve all of my outcome/result based goals this year so I am excited to raise the bar and set new goals for next year. As with every season, I learned a lot about racing and myself and I can’t wait to work on my weaknesses and continue to improve on my strengths. Thank you to all of my supporters for helping me continue to do what I love, whether it was waxing my skis, or giving me a cheer from the side of the trail, the ski community is incredible and I am lucky to be a part of it!
Before I go off and start training for next year, it is time to get a physical and mental break. I started my first day of classes today and I am looking forward to using my mind in a different kind of way for a while!
I made a short season edit highlighting that ski racing isn’t all serious, but actually quite funny and goofy (or at least for me). I usually make a edit with the ski highlights, but this year I tried to make it more raw to show behind the scenes too. I am lucky to have such a great team that is hard working, supportive, and adventurous to keep things hilarious. Check it out!