Shifting Gears

My mom has always taught me to see the positives in everything, regardless of the situation. Although at first I was bummed about quarantine altering the end of the season and the entire spring, I am actually really thankful for my experiences during this odd situation we find ourselves in. This spring, I was home in Vermont with my parents for 3 months. When quarantine set into effect, I went from not being in a place longer than 10 days, to being settled in one place longer than I have in 5 years! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a social butterfly. I rarely prefer to do anything alone and I am always on the move, never sitting still in one place too long. So as you could imagine, this lifestyle change was a bit of a shock to what I am used to.

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Positive side of being home: Family time!
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Adventures with my Dad, always goofy and fun.

I would describe this spring as a period of personal growth and self discovery. Instead of relying on other people to do adventures with, I set out on my own solo adventures and discovered why I do it besides the social aspects. I spent the first few weeks chasing down any cross country and backcountry skiing I could, skiing for however long I wanted with no real plan. Normally by the end of the racing season I am so burnt out that I don’t go skiing even when there is still snow left, but this spring was different. I was more excited than ever to get out, I was not skiing to train or to become a faster skier but purely because it made me happy and I enjoyed doing it. Getting outside on solo adventures went from something I used to dread, to something that feels like a sweet escape. I love being in mountains and bagging summits, however big or small; nothing beats sitting on top of a mountain in my mind. These adventures have been an outlet for me to feel a sense of movement and clarity, a time when I feel like I can breathe fully and be perfectly content. I was able to explore my local environment, growing my appreciation for the upper valley even more. I kept it all local and safe on all of these adventures and discovered so many cool things I could do right out the door or a short drive away.

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Mountain biking straight out the door with my best friend, my mountain bike 🙂
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My favorite spring adventures: skinning until sunset!
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Hot laps skinning in the sun because why not get in multiple runs?!
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My happy place, playing in mountains.
In search of the last bit of snow, the long approach was very worth it! (May 24th)

Amongst my solo adventures, I actually ended up meeting a lot of new people (at a safe distance), I guess I can’t help myself from being social even in anti-social time! It turns out, when you do things alone, you are much more likely to engage with the people around you and I found it to be quite fun to branch out and meet a variety of different people while skiing and biking.

After finishing up my second to last term at Dartmouth (online this spring), I shifted gears to focusing full time on skiing. Despite the positives that have come out of my solo adventures, I am extremely excited to be in Stratton, training with my SMS T2 teammates again! I ended up being way more active this spring than usual, which built up a solid foundation of activity for me leading into the new training year. I finished up my first big block of training in Stratton and I am kicking off the second one this week. It has been a very hot and humid start, but thankfully having teammates around to push each other and keep company makes the tough days that much easier.

Hot and sweaty intervals made better with teammates (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Moving forward, I want to take these spring lessons and continue to find ways to incorporate big adventures into my ski training. It looks like I will be in Stratton at least until November, so I am making sure to mix things up and make some trips home to keep things fresh and exciting and avoid burn out. I have been on big biking kick (along with my team it seems), exploring new routes both on my mountain and gravel bike. I am still dealing with my frustrating IT band issues that started last August, so I guess I have lots of gear shifting in the near future. Thankfully I am have been STOKED on biking lately 🙂

Gravel biking with the team on the endless dirt roads in Vermont.
My Dad and I on a big Father’s Day gravel ride together, featuring river cooling stops.
Endless perfect berms ❤
Early morning fog paddle with my Dad!

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe during these times! More to come soon…

The Unexpected

This season summed up in one word: unexpected.

Does the unexpected come from defying expectations (in a good or bad way), or is it from a lack of expectations at all, or both? Do expectations arise from believing that you can achieve something? Or do expectations just add negative pressure?

I put some thought into these questions throughout the year, as unexpected things kept happening and sometimes a lack of expectations lead to some pleasant surprises. The conclusion I came to (for now), is that expectations, beliefs and goals can be separated. I can approach a race with confidence and with a goal in mind, but whether I achieve that goal or not is irrelevant of my expectations, but the belief and process goals I implement to achieve that goal is what is relevant. Expectations are only one’s belief about what one thinks will happen, but lets be honest, if I learned anything this year, it is that that we often really don’t know what will happen, so why waste energy and add pressure with expectations? We can set goals and control a large portion of the process towards achieving our goals, but there will always be some unexpected factors such as crashes, fast skis, random weather, luck, and other competitors’ performance. My sports psychologist reminded me this winter that setting outcome goals (like getting top 3) are important, but what is more important are setting process goals that you can have full control over whether you achieve them or not (like giving it my all in a race).

You never know when crashes will happen in sprints, but you know they will at some point (Photo: NordicFocus.)

With a frustrating training year riddle with injury and illness, I had no idea what to expect this season, so I didn’t set any expectations at all for Period 1 of the World Cup. How did Period 1 end…my first ever World Cup podium!  I will be the first to admit that no one expected that, myself included. I approached the first period of racing with the sole focus on process goals, no result goals or expectations in mind, because honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. When it came to the morning of last race of Period 1, I felt that I was building momentum and was weirdly psyched that it was pouring rain out.  I told myself, “today is the day I make it to the finals for the first time”. I didn’t have any expectation of that, but suddenly I believed I could do it. I think it was largely due to the fact that our women’s team had 5 consecutive World Cup podiums, consisting of 4 different athletes, and they showed me it was possible if you believe. 

When you spend enough time with these speedy teammates, you start see and believe it is possible! Thank you for teaching and sharing all your experience with me 🙂

Many people have asked, “What did you differently this year?” My answer: Honestly, nothing.  If at all, what I did “differently” was have a less than ideal training year than the previous year. On paper, my season doesn’t quite make sense based on my preparation, but I have come to realize that it isn’t just about what you do but what you believe. This year I believed that I could go head to head with the top skiers. This didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual transition as I spent more time on the World Cup gaining experiencing and learning from my incredible teammates the past few years.

After Period 1, the season continued on with more unexpected highs and lows. I hit a rough patch mid season with a cold during the Tour de Ski that sidelined me for a bit, followed by a leg injury that left me limping around for a few weeks, sitting out multiple World Cup races and unable to ski. I went from feeling the fastest I have ever felt, to coming back from injury, racing a 10km race that felt like the longest, hardest 10km race of my life, just fighting not to finish in last. I continued to believe in myself as I went to work and did what I know works for me: race, race, believe, and race some more….so the Tour of Scandinavia was perfect timing in that sense.  

Injury is never fun, but I have learned creativity is key! Seated ski erg with a spin bike as a seat and a chair as leg rest.
Fighting through the longest 10km of my life (Photo: NordicFocus)

The Scandinavian Ski Tour was filled with new race formats and challenges. How can you have expectations for an uphill mountain sprint, or a 34km race during a massive windstorm on a course you haven’t even previewed? You can’t, and that is fun of it!  The Tour was the perfect prep to find my form again by U23 World Championships, one of my key race weeks of the season.

I was extra excited because the races were in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, the ski trails I learned to ski on with my family, and where have spent every Christmas skiing. I had big goals going in, I wanted to medal in one of the races and be fighting for the Top 5 in all races. Most importantly, I was REALLY excited to race in front of my family who were cheering me on every day there! At the time, I didn’t know my season would end with U23s, and that has made me even more grateful that I got to race at “home” in front of my family and give it my all to finish off the season.

Bronze medal in the sprint at U23s! (PC: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).

Upon returning to North America after having left the U.S. 4 months ago, I was getting really fired up for the last World Cups of the season, the North American World Cups! I had structured my season to “peak” for U23s and the last World Cups, but unexpectedly, Covid-19 cut the season short before the best part 😦  Our whole team was really looking forward to racing a World Cup on U.S. soil, it was really unfortunate timing, but we understood it was the right thing to cut the season short and put health first.

Last race of the season was rocking the stars and stripes in a team relay! (PC: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).
Racing in front of my grandparents on the ski trails they taught me to ski on was extra special (Photo: Flying Point/Steve Fuller).

Looking back on the season, I am glad I raced any opportunity I got because you never know what will happen! Now more than ever, we are in a time of uncertainty, all plans on hold, or no plans at all, living with an unpredictable future. My goal this spring is to take the time to be present in the moment, slow down a bit, and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while keeping myself quarantined.

A huge thank you to everyone has supported me this season, your support means the world to me and I couldn’t do it without you! Thank you to my family for your unwavering support, to my coaches, teammates and staff, including my wax tech Eli Brown for making me super speedy skis, and to everyone else who has supported me along the way whether it was a kind message, a loud cheer, your belief in me, or financial support. I wish you all a healthy and safe spring!

And if you want a laugh, you can check out my season “goofy highlights” video here!

-JKern

Ski Tour 2020!

*This blog post was written right after the tour but accidentally didn’t post it because the internet kept crashing in Germany.

The past few weeks have been filled with many firsts for me! I just finished the Ski Tour 2020, which consisted of 6 World Cup races in 9 days in both Sweden and Norway. Although this was similar to the Tour de Ski in terms of it being a tour, this tour was the first ever of its’ kind, including race formats and conditions that brought all sorts of new challenges and experiences.

I have always dreamed of finishing the Tour de Ski, so being able to race an entirely new tour and finish was such a fun experience. I am going to break it down stage by stage, since every race and stage comes with its’ own feelings, adventures, and laughs, and of course with photo documentation to capture the true feelings!

Stage 1: 10km Individual Skate—Östersund, Sweden

We were greeted with lots of sunshine the week leading into the tour. The first day brought perfect conditions for a fast and hard race. We all bathed in the stadium sun after training…the image below is really not staged, I swear!

Feelings: Energized by sunshine 🙂

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Soaking up all the sun in the stadium.

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Sunset run with my best buddies, Katharine and Hailey 🙂 

Stage 2: 10km Classic Pursuit—Östersund, Sweden

The amount of sunshine we had was overdue, so the weather changed to pouring rain and then to dumping snow 15 minutes before the race. This made for wild conditions during race time, and advantageous time of day results for those starting further back, which I took full advantage of, skiing to the 6th fastest time of day, my best ever World Cup distance result!

Feelings: Very wet and cold. The worse the weather, the better race I have it seems?

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Trying to catch the snow on my tongue I guess? (PC: Nordic Focus)

Stage 3: Uphill Skate Sprint—Åre, Sweden

Two bus rides and a train ride later, we arrived in Åre to check out the uphill sprint course…and let’s just say we were all very surprised how BIG the hill was. The first of its’ kind, a point to point uphill sprint up an alpine mountain, featuring a banked turned, it was for sure something new to all of us. We embraced the pain and conquered the mountain (also our team cheer that day). Fun added bonus, in the heats we got driven down by electric skidoos. I poled my ski and face planted right out of the start of my quarterfinal, getting the rookie moves out of the way I guess….

Feelings: Ooooof, lactic acid flooded jello legs.

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Skidoo outfits and flooded legs with Sadie

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Yipppeeeeee

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Looking up at the the climb. 

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Cresting the top, completely flooded. 

Stage 4: Point to point 38km 34km Skate Mass Start—Storlien, Sweden to Meraker, Norway

Due to 50 mph winds in Storlien, the Sweden to Norway point-to-point race unfortunately got changed to a 34km out-and-back race on the second half of the planned course. We were all really excited for the point to point, the scenery is supposed to be absolutely incredible. the new course made for a grueling but scenic and unique long distance race in some windy (but less windy than otherwise would have been) conditions. This was probably one of the hardest races I have ever done, hovering around my redline for pretty much the entire race. I was happy to out sprint my pack at the end and end up 19th.

Feelings: Seeing stars in the last 1km, and deliriously tired for the hours following.

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Ouch, 34km is hard! Decided I would just lay there for a while.

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Alayna and Jessie taking a nap while we wait for the boys to join us to get on the train.

Stage 5: Classic Sprint—Trondheim, Norway

Another two bus rides and a train ride later, we arrived at our 4th destination of the tour, Trondheim, Norway. We had one off day to recover from the long, hard effort before switching our muscles to fast twitch again. The sprint course was really fun, with good hills and ripping downhills. Sophie, Jessie and I all qualified, but unfortunately all of our days ended with the quarterfinals, leaving us hoping for more. I was excited to qualify for the first time in a classic world cup sprint though!

Feelings: I found my second wind of the tour, with the tour giggles setting in hard.

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Finding the fight with my second wind of the tour (PC: Nordic Focus).

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Train ride games with my buddies.

Stage 6: Classic 15km Pursuit—Trondheim, Norway

It seemed the weather gods knew it was another classic day, delivering rain over night, switching to sunshine with a mix of random dumping snow spells. This made waxing super tricky for the last stage, and those who had good energy were able to still well and make the skis work, while others who were tired just fought their way to the end of the tour. I fought my way through a grueling last race, slipping 4 spots to 30th overall in the tour, hardest fought World Cup point thats for sure. It is safe to say, I am ready for some serious rest and recovery now after a big block of racing!

Feelings: Incoherent sentences, hungerrrr, zzzzzzzz.

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Norwegian waffles coming in clutch post tour ❤

We have now all split our separate ways for the next two weeks. I headed to Oberwiesenthal, Germany for U23 World Championships with Hailey.

Patience: Day by Day

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I learned this fall that sometimes the best approach is to take things day by day. I was also reminded how fortunate I am for my family, friends, and teammates. In short, this fall was turbulent and early season was wild…but first I will rewind to the end of the summer.

Summer

Just as I got cleared at the end of July to start using my elbow again, my IT bands got flared up, sidelining me from lower body training. They always say injuries come in pairs, and it is likely no coincidence that my legs flared up after using my legs more while rehabbing from elbow surgery. Although I thought I was being smart in training, sometimes it is hard to foresee these injuries ahead of time until it is too late. Lesson learned…

After enough rest, I was able to rollerski and shortly after that I was headed “down under” to winter in New Zealand for a U.S. Ski Team camp, finishing my final exams on the road. With New Zealand’s amazing skiing, not being able to run was no issue. This year, it was only my teammate Jessie Diggins and our U.S. Ski Team coach Jason Cork at camp. It was a small crew, but we had a lot of fun training together, getting focused, quality time on snow, and enjoying all the beautiful things New Zealand has to offer. I was able to log my biggest block of training yet, which included skiing at least 600km (I added up my watch data), 3 races, and a lot of tired laughs in the end! I was really psyched to get in a consistent block of training, especially after a restricted summer of training with my elbow rehab and IT band issues.

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Stoked to be in New Zealand with this small crew!

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Can’t dream of more perfect conditions for our camp.

Fall

I returned back to Dartmouth really motivated and excited to begin fall term (and my senior year!), hopeful that after 6 weeks of no running I would be okay to ease back into running. Unfortunately nothing had changed and running was still off the table. I also caught the back to school sickness, but never seemed to fully feel 100% for 8 weeks, oscillating between taking multiple off days in a row and trying to do intervals and feeling good despite feeling sick doing any other training.  5 days before heading over the Europe for the season, I finally decided to take antibiotics (which I am usually opposed to taking), and my 8 weeks of sickness finally came to an end right as I hopped on the plane for Norway.

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Can’t complain too much about replacing running workouts with fun mountain biking. 

Amidst of illness, injury, and other school/life stresses this fall, I found myself only able to take things day by day, quite literally. I won’t sugar coat it and admit that this fall I was unhappy, frustrated, and lacking purpose. I realized I had lost sight of the things that are important to me and I was unable to engage in the things that normally bring me happiness. After two of my close friends both went through really tough life events, I was reminded of what I am thankful for and it shifted my perspective on how I wanted to approach things going forward.  I was very thankful to be surrounded by caring teammates and friends who supported me and they were also the best training buddies ever.

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Rollerskiing to my house for dinner with the Dartmouth team!

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One last/first fun ski on snow with my Dartmouth teammates before heading over to Europe.

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SMS T2 team send off, so thankful for this team our community who supports us.

Winter

I recognized that heading over to Europe, finally back to full health was the perfect opportunity to have the hard reset I needed. I stepped on to the plane to Europe, prepared to be on the road and live out of my suitcase for 4.5 months straight, but unsure where I stood and how the season would go after one of my most rough fall periods of training. The one thing I knew for sure was that the training season had tested my patience, and that I needed to have a lot of patience early on in the season. I approached the first period of racing as a training block, using every race to build my fitness as I worked into the season. I also used the first few weeks on the road to engage with the things that are important to me and bring me happiness, cherishing the seizing the incredible opportunities every day has to offer.

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Team painting night!

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We didn’t qualify for the heats in Ruka so Hailey and I decided to cheer on our teammates and learn by watching (PC: Matt Whitcomb).

Little did I know, “working into the season” included my first ever World Cup podium and best distance result yet! If anyone would have told me I would podium this season in a World Cup, let alone in the first period, I would have called them crazy. This is not to say I don’t believe in myself, but given how poorly my training went this fall and how much of a mess I was mentally, it is something I wouldn’t have been unable to imagine at the time.

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Thinking to myself, what just happened?! (PC: Nordic Focus)

So how did I get there? My good friends called patience, belief, happiness and teamwork. I trusted the plan my coach Pat and I came up with and continued to take things day by day. I approached every training session and race with purpose—as an opportunity to practice, gain experience, and learn from my teammates. I took away the things that went well and identified the things I wanted to continue to work on. I sought out feedback from our staff  and continually worked with my wax tech to dial in a testing process. Some days, I went for a soul ski with my teammate Hailey, trekking through knee-deep powder without any real plan, and some days I followed my speedy teammates during intervals and speeds, reviewing video footage after. After a disappointing race in Lillehammer, I adjusted my plan and continued to believe in what I was doing. Most importantly, I found my happiness again and remembered to keep things fun, goofy, and spontaneous. Thanks to my teammates, that was quite easy to do 🙂

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Trekking through deep powder with Hailey in Norway ❤

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Moonlight sledding with Hailey in Switzerland!

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Soul skis with Sophie 🙂 

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A big thank you to my wax tech Eli for all his hard work! 

In Planica, I somehow found myself having an absolute blast (likely having more fun than anyone else out there) while skiing through a cold, torrential down pouring rain storm on a narrow icy strip of snow, intermixed with a lightning and thunderstorms. Maybe I seemed a bit crazy for finding the weather really amusing, but any day I get to whip out my rain suit and embrace New England weather and conditions similar to the Weston Ski Track (where I grew up skiing), it is a good day and an advantage for me. Before I knew it, I was standing at the start of my first ever A final on the World Cup, both excited and very nervous to be lined up against some of the best sprinters in the world. I was so nervous that I couldn’t even go hard the first half of the race since my stomach was in knots from the nerves. Coming up the last hill, I was able to kick it into gear and pass one skier, then another skier crashed right in front of me, and before I knew it, I was sprinting to the finish against my teammate and role model Sophie Caldwell for 3rd place, throwing in the fastest finishing kick of my life and lunging to my first ever World Cup podium. One lesson I took away from this race is never give it, I was off the back in 6th coming into the last hill and was able to ski to 3rd.

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Digging really deep the last 100m (PC: Nordic Focus)

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Wow (PC: Nordic Focus)

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Rain, snow, thunder, lighting, Planica had it all. (PC: Nordic Focus)

 

Both the Davos and Planica weekend reminded me of the power of belief. I lacked belief in my distance race in Davos until Charlotte Kalla (also one of my ski idols growing up) caught me and I stuck on her like glue for 7.5km, showing to myself it is possible to ski that pace. In Planica, I skied with the intention to move onto the semi final and final, instead of my previous approach of just trying to hang on and ski my best. I took away a new sense of confidence and belief from Planica and plan to carry that with me into the races going forward.

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Following and learning from Kalla (PC: Sandro Anderes).

After a short 3 day Christmas break with my family, I headed to my first Tour de Ski, but unfortunately woke up sick on the first race day and had to drop out after racing through a cold the first two stages. I got healthy in time for the Dresden city sprints this past weekend and had a blast racing in some wild, action packed races included lots of crashes and broken poles. The World Cup continues with a double distance weekend in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic this weekend and I am excited to see what distance racing and classic racing has in store (especially after not 8 skate races in a row)!

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Christmas with the family ❤

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Sister adventures in beautiful Italy!

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The best fans I could ever ask for in Lenzerheide! 

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My grandma came out to cheer me on and watch me race for the first time ever! 

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Can’t complain too much about getting sick, it meant more family time and easy skiing with them 🙂 

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So psyched to have my parents follow along my wild race schedule for a few weeks ❤

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3rd year in a row having my grandparents at the Dresden World Cup and 2nd year in row for my parents, I am one lucky person 🙂 

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Dream team! I got to do two team sprints with my buddy (PC: Anna Terry).

Thanks for following along and for all the support along the way!

-JKern

Going With The Flow

Anyone who knows me knows that I like having a plan going in. Whether it is a training plan, my day plan, or a route plan in mind, I like plans—they give me a sense of direction. Ironically, I don’t care that much about whether I stick to the plans I make, it is just about having one going in and then changing things on the fly and going with the flow .

Last time I posted, I was headed back to Lahti, Finland for a World Cup, which marked the halfway point of the season and also the part of the season that I didn’t have a solid plan in place. The remaining part of the season was totally up in the air, dependent on how the previous races had gone and each race to come. Everything that followed could change on a weekly, or even daily basis. This part of the season also marked my low point (after coming down with a nasty norovirus followed by a terrible cold at the end of a disappointing U23 World Championships), but little did I know, it was also the start of series of many unexpected races follow!

We arrived in Cogne, Italy, welcomed by sunshine, warm weather, delicious food, and an incredible atmosphere, which after being sick in dark, cold Finland for 3 weeks felt especially good! Cogne already had a happy place in my heart, bringing me out of low last season, and this year it did exactly the same. The Cogne sprint results would determine the last sprint start at World Champs. I was in a really good mental state, feeling happy, reenergized by good food and sunshine, and surrounded by an incredible atmosphere, so I told myself over and over, “today is the day I make the semifinals for the first time”. After watching a few of the other quarterfinals, I decided to lead the whole heat and ski confident like I did in Germany, and narrowly made it on to the semifinals for the first time, finishing 11that the end of the day, earning my sprint spot at World Champs that was only 4 days later!

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Talk about an incredible atmosphere!

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Sending it off the front and skiing aggressive.

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Moving onto the semis by a hair–when in doubt, always lunge!

This when the true whirlwind started and my plans were constantly changing, to the point where I was just rolling with whatever came at me. We headed straight over to Seefeld, Austria for World Champs, did race prep, and before I knew it, I was racing in my first ever Word Championships, placing 23rd. There was a start spot open in the 15km Skiathalon so I unexpectedly got to start that race and ended up finishing 19th. That result definitely took me by surprise, and I think everyone else as well, since I have always been classified as a “sprinter”.

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My teammates showing me how it is done during race prep!

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Sprinting to 23rd in the Skate Sprint in very hot temps! (PC: Reese Brown)

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Definitely the most fans I have ever raced in front of during the 15km Skiathalon!

The biggest surprise of all was being selected to be on the relay team. I LOVE relays and have always dreamt of representing our team in the relay, so I was very honored to be given the chance to lay it all out there with my teammates who have been my role models for a long time. I might have gotten too excited and really sent it on the first 2.5km and had one of the biggest blow-ups of my life in the last 1km. It was tough to lose time and not have the performance I wanted on such a big stage, especially since I wanted to prove to myself and to others that I was the right pick for that start spot. However, I gave it my all and left nothing on the trail and that is the most important thing at the end of the day.

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Relay socks, face paint, and send mode on for the relay! (PC: Reese Brown)

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Team hugs and laughs from my teammates to bring each other up after a disappointing relay. (PC: Reese Brown)

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Throwing snow on Jessie at the end of the relay after super warm conditions!

After World Champs, I fell back into my usual cycle of getting sick, getting my butt kicked (this time in Drammen, similar to everyone first experience racing in Drammen city sprint), hitting a low point, and then using my frustration to motivate me to reach a new high. In Falun, I narrowly missed qualifying in the sprint in probably the most competitive women’s sprint field of the season, but came back even more fired up the next day, earning my first ever distance World Cup points placing 25thin an individual 10km skate, which was a huge step forward for me. I guess I am not just a “sprinter” after all. This was confirmed by strong distance races in Quebec and at SuperTour Finals at the end of the season.

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Fighting hard through tough conditions on my way to earning my first World Cup distance points.

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Ending the season on a high note, finishing 3rd in the 30km skate at U.S. Distance Nationals. (PC: Reese Brown)

 

My season ended up consisting of 32 races, by far the most racing I have ever done in a season, and I can assure you that those additional experiences has taught me lot. When I left World Champs, I left wanting more, feeling a mix of emotions. At the start of the season, it was a reach or “dream” goal to even qualify for the team, and racing 3 races wasn’t even something I considered was possible. So why did I leave World Champs a little disappointed and wanting more when I achieved way more than I ever set out to? As cliché as it may sound, my biggest take away from the season was that enjoying the journey is the most important thing. You can have all the best race results, but if you don’t stop enjoy the journey along the way, just good race results alone won’t make you happy. My biggest regret this season was getting too focused on “the next thing”. Every race, I was so focused on earning the next start spot, and once the race was over, I was focused on the next race—I didn’t stop to celebrate the milestones, however small or big they were along the way. The moments I remember and value the most from this season are not necessarily the ones with my best results, but the times where I slowed down to appreciate the people and experiences around me.

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My family cheering me on Quebec ❤

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My grandparents (and good luck charm) came to cheer me on at World Championships and it meant to world to me to have them there!

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Any day my sister is around to watch me race, it is a special day ❤

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A surprise visit from Max in Quebec followed by a ski with both Max and Nadja!

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Cherishing quality goofy time with my friends on the road.

My other big take away season is that I am super grateful and thankful for the incredible ski community. None of this would be possible without my family, teammates, coaches, wax techs, support staff, and all of my supporters so THANK YOU!!!

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Thank you to my family, my nonstop #1 supporters who came to Quebec to cheer me on!

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Thank you to my SMS T2 Family!

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Thank you to our team and support staff at World Championships!

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Thank you to my incredible teammates I learn from each and every day! (PC: Reese Brown)

The end of the season left my racing mind and body exhausted, but the adventurous side of me was itching to go out and backcountry ski to switch things up and take a break from thinking about racing. The spring term at Dartmouth allowed me to get outside on lots of adventures with friends, refreshing my mind for the new season ahead. My body also got a good hard reset after having elbow surgery to fix an 2.5 year long nerve issue I had been dealing with. Ironically, my recovery from surgery has felt the easiest of injuries to deal with since I have spent the last 2 summers modifying my plan around elbow pain. I am taking classes again this summer at Dartmouth while training with the team as I rehab back from surgery. I have been able to squeeze in some weekend visits to Stratton to train with my SMS T2 teammates as well and I am looking forward to getting back into normal training in the next few weeks! I was very excited to make a big jump forward to the B Team this year and I am excited to see what this next season has in stock! Thank you for following along and your continued support!

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Spring adventures with friends!

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Skiing the spring classics at Mnt. Washington.

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Fixing up that elbow so I can get strong this year.

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A quick visit to San Francisco between school terms to visit my sister.

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Fun runs to catch up with my SMS T2 teammates.

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Yay for 2 poles again!

-JKern

 

Whirlwind: Ups, Downs, Expectations

Every year the start of a new season marks uncertainty, excitement, goals, and lots of race opportunities. Expectations are loosely there, but it is not until you are a few races in that you can gage exactly what expectations are appropriate and the races start to matter. There is general race plan in place, but as the season goes along, things can change last minute and it all becomes a whirlwind as I hop from one location to next, finding myself in a new bed every week. It can be scary setting goals, unsure whether you will succeed or fail, and how you feel at certain points in the season. Since the CSU summer training camp I went to when I was 14, I have made a goal pyramid every year before the season. The process and smaller goals are at the bottom to build the foundation for the result and outcome goals that are on top. Over the past two years I have learned that I need to set big goals, some that are attainable but also some that are a bit of a reach; I need to be working towards something that challenges me, drives me, and pushes me to be better. Ironically, not having concrete goals scares me way more than failure.

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One of my big reach goals was being names to the World Championship Team and I beyond excited to have been named to the team because it was something I wasn’t sure would be possible this season, but I just wanted to at least throw it out there and aim high!

I have gotten to race a lot so far this season, and many of those races I have had high expectations for myself after feeling really good in the early season races. Some people say that expectations are bad, but I see them more as a sign of confidence in yourself and what you are capable of. Of course, expectations come along with things that can get in the way of your performance such as nerves and pressure, but I have learned to channel those feelings towards excitement.

I had a wide range from small to big goals for this season such as:

Process goals:

  • Ownership in my training plan
  • Health: adequate sleep, nutrition, hydration
  • Build in race efforts during training season (triathlons, rollerski time trials)
  • Make time to do things that make me happy and are fun besides skiing

Outcome goals:

  • Senior Nationals Podium Sprint and Distance
  • Top 6 at U23’s
  • Senior World Championships Team

I always set process goals that I think I can achieve because they are the things I have highlighted as the building blocks to my success. My outcome goals on the other hand, are both a mix or attainable and reach goals.

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Process/outcome goal: Win the early season SuperTour sprints in West Yellowstone and Silver Star and have good general race feelings.

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Battling it out for the win in Silver Star!

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Made a stop at Keystone, CO to visit Max and have a fun little break from cross country racing. I  traded in my skinny skis for some downhill skis, chasing this guy down the mountain 🙂 

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Battling it out with Hannah for the National Title. (PC: Reese Brown)

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My first ever National Title! Thanks to everyone who has supported me and helped this dream come true! (PC: Reese Brown)

Along with these goals and expectations, comes both ups with success and downs with failure and frustration. I have experienced many more highs than lows this season which is something I have never experienced before and it has made racing extremely fun! I kicked off the season feeling really good and putting down my best races I have ever had in the early season. After getting over a cold during the holidays, I came back racing well at U.S. Nationals, also having my best results I’ve ever had at U.S. Nationals. The whirlwind continued by hopping on a flight to Europe the day after nationals, where I jumped into my first World Cup of the season and placed 19th in sprint in Dresden, Germany (my best World Cup result) and the following day I teamed up with my teammate/friend/role model Sophie in my first ever team sprint, just missing the podium by a literal hair! To top it off, my family (parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle) were there cheering me on. One week later followed another high of being named to the World Championship Team for the first time (a reach goal for me this year) while at the same time hitting a low by placing 27th in the sprint at U23s World Championships (one of my most important races of the season to me) in the same day.

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My Oma cheering me on with a bell as I am racing my qualifier in front of the beautiful old city of Dresden…a truly special experience! 

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Getting in quality family time after the sprint ❤ 

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Rocking the relay socks and mixing it up with some speedy skiers in the team sprint!

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Best team sprint partner I could ask for!

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Hugging it out after an incredible first team sprint for this duo 🙂 

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Photo finish with Sophie on the far end, battling it out for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th by centimeters!

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Super happy to have had my parents there to come support me and cheer me on at “home” in Germany ❤ 

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Sometimes you have to take a minute to be disappointed, but with the help of hugs from teammates like Hailey, it is easier to pick your head up and get psyched for the next race. 

What has changed for me this year is that instead of being brought down by the lows, I have figured out a way to channel my frustration and disappointment as motivation to race again and get a chance to show what I am capable. I am writing this blog right now cooped up in hotel room for 8 days straight without skiing or training…there is nothing like not being able to do what you love to get you really fired up to ski and race again! After coming down with a brutal stomach bug at the end of U23s followed by a nasty cold right after, I am climbing my way out of this low and have a new appreciation for being healthy and happy!

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After a disappointing sprint, I got fired up for the 10km skate at U23s and placed 12th!

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Alayna, Hailey and I getting fired up for the 15km classic mass start!

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Hanging tough the last 11km after puking from the 4km point on…I guess it was the start of the stomach bug I came down with two days later. (PC: Doug Stephen)

What is next? I am on my way back to Lahti, Finland (where U23s was) for a World Cup and I am crossing my fingers I will be fully healthy in time for the races. I travel on to Cogne, Italy the following week for another World Cup before heading to Seefeld, Austria for World Championships. There is a lot of exciting racing ahead and I am looking forward to getting fully healthy and taking all of this restless energy from lying in bed and channeling into the racing to come! Here are a few more photos of some of the incredible highs of this season so far!

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Enjoying magical Silver Star with Alayna.

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Back together with Hailey, Hannah and Katharine for the first time since our Bronze medal at World Juniors 2 years ago 🙂 

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I stopped at home in Boston to give a ski clinic and presentation to my local ski clubs growing up.

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I am excited to watch the next generation of skiers from home!

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Family ski to kick off the holidays after the eastern cup weekend. 

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My first time ice skating on Lake Morey and it was absolutely perfect. 

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Family ice skating.

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Although we missed Christmas in Germany this year, we still kept all the German traditions ❤

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What is the best thing to do when you are getting over a cold? Go ice skating and do fun sprints with your mom! 

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Fun racing at Nationals with the best support crew (PC: Reese Brown)

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My mom, the loudest person cheering on course, and also spot on with her hand timed splits! (PC: Reese Brown)

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Evening exploration jog with Ida and Sophie in Dresden!

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Engaging our brains with some bananagrams.

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The GOLDEN boys in the relay at World Juniors!!!!!!!

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Proud to be a part of this incredible team at U20/U23 Championships, the future is bright! 

And the whirlwind continues, thanks for following!

-JKern

 

The Pre-Season Mix

Everyone from New England knows that the weather in last few weeks leading up to the racing season is as unpredictable as it gets. One day you might be wearing a tank top and shorts, and the next you are bundled in your mid-winter ski outfit. This year the weather gods decided us New Englanders had gotten soft so they wanted to ensure us New Englanders are tough come the race season.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t see the sun for 3 weeks straight. On top of that, many of those cloudy days included freezing, cold rain. Oddly enough, with one rainy day after the next, it started to be just another normal day in the east and each rainy day felt less dreary than the last. Maybe part of my reaction was due to the fact that I was at Dartmouth this fall, and regardless the weather, training was my study break so it is something I always looked forward to; it was always the best part of my day.

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It may have been dark and grey all fall, but we made up for the darkness with bright clothing on Halloween at Dartmouth! 

I think the peak dreary New England weather came for the NENSA Trapps rollerski race. We showed up and it was 32 degrees and pouring rain, with 50 mph wind gusts, and the rain was turning into sleet. In the coaches meting, the coaches and organizers decided to go ahead and hold the race, and it was one of the most brutal rollerskis I have ever done weather wise, but I finished feeling a little tougher and stronger for the race season two short weeks away. Most importantly, I finished with a huge smile across my face, which might sound crazy but to me, some of the most satisfying and motivating workouts are the ones where you just have to have some grit, dig deep, and see the tough conditions as a way to make you that much stronger.

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Charging through the tough conditions at the NENSA Trapps Rollerski Race (PC: Dave Prignac)

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Deep in the pain cave as the rain turned into snow (PC: Reese Brown).

After a bit of toughness training, the weather rewarded us with some incredible early season snow, making for some of the best skiing conditions in the country, if not in the world. During finals, I was extra determined to be productive so that I could take skiing study breaks!

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Perfect skiing at Crafstbury during finals!

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Great skiing at Greens with Max!

I decided the changes in weather weren’t crazy enough for me, so I headed out to San Diego to join my family for thanksgiving! The weather was 60-70 degrees and sunny everyday…you could say I soaked up all the sunshine I could get! Although it may be unusual to go on a beach vacation right before the season, it is exactly what I wanted to do before the racing season. Each person has their own way to prep for the race season and for me, that meant quality family time, sunshine and vitamin D, unwinding from finals, and having some fun (by going surfing and playing beach volleyball) and to relax before heading into the race season! The last two weeks before the season is usually stressful for most athletes, because you start to wonder, “have I done enough?”, “am I ready” , “I have worked so hard all year and now it is time to see how fast I am”.  Hanging out with my family and surfing and playing beach volleyball was the perfect way to clear my head and relax before heading back to winter conditions in West Yellowstone.

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Family time ❤

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Sister time ❤

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Dialing in my balance by doing some surfing! 

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Working on my explosivity and power.

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SUNSHINE!

I am now out in West Yellowstone, MT with our U.S. half of the SMS T2 Team for the first weekend of Super Tour races. After the toughness training this fall in the New England, we are ready to go! You can follow along with the live video coverage at https://usskiandsnowboard.org/events/supertour-1and live results at http://www.skirunbikemt.com/supertour.html.

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Alayna making the first tracks out here in West Yellowstone!

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Game/intimidation face on, or really just protecting my lungs…or both 🙂

Lets get this season started!!!

-JKern

What My Teammates Have Taught Me

Upon returning from our last U.S. Ski Team camp of the year in Park City, Utah back to Dartmouth to finish up fall term, I have been thinking a lot about how I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by incredible teammates wherever I go. Each team and individual teammate has taught me something different, and I know I wouldn’t be nearly as fast or have nearly as much fun without them!

For starters, I am very appreciative that each of my teams support me to pursue both my skiing and academic pursuits.  The past few years I have been hopping between the Dartmouth, SMS T2, and the U.S. Ski Team and the amount I spend with each team has changed every year. My teammates on all three teams have been extremely supportive and understanding as I phase in and out (for example leaving Dartmouth for a U.S. Ski Team camp and then coming back to Dartmouth).

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Really excited to be back with the Women’s U.S. Ski Team in Park City last week!

I have come to realize that I have learned an endless amount from my teammates and the list could go on forever, but here are some of the most important things I have learned (no particular order).

  1. Most important, always remember to have FUN!

Training with teammates is the best way to have fun, hands down! If you are not having fun, something needs to change.

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YAY for snow!

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Jessie introducing a new technique….?

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Carving some turns with Andy in New Zealand.

  1. You are stronger as a team, working together is the best way to get faster.

I have learned this and experienced this across all teams I have been on. When everyone gets together to train, they push each other, support each other, challenge each other, and raise everyone to the next level.

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Pushing each other in races.

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Learning how to lunge with the help of coaches, Kelsey (giving feedback from watching), and Ida! What a fun workout!

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Hannah and I went on 3 week trip alone in Germany, training and racing together! I couldn’t have done it without her.

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Practicing a tricky sprint corner…and learning what not to do.

  1. Learn by following.

Everyone skis a little differently, you can learn a lot by skiing behind someone else!

 

  1. Set BIG goals, work hard and believe in them…and anything is possible.

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Jessie’s and Kikkan’s Gold Medal has truly inspired me and taught me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it!

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2 years prior we talked about how crazy it would be to medal at World Juniors…and it happened.

  1. Teammates are there to support you and to be supported.

Whether it’s a needed hug, a sunset walk, a pillow talk, or a pump up dance party, your teammates are there for you and you should be there for them. Your celebrate the highs together and ride the lows together.

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Sunset walks ❤

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Teammates make great pillows!

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Sometimes you need a hug…and someone to hold you up when your are too tired to stand.

  1. You can use your position to have an impact beyond your racing career.

There are so many opportunities to inspire and create change. For example…
– Community outreach
– Inspiring the next generation of skiers (and non skiers)
– Having a voice about pressing issues (POW for example)
– Helping kids have access to the outdoors
– Growing confidence in young girls to pursue their passions
– And many more!

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This summer I became a Little Bellas ambassador and it has been so fun!

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Jessie advocating for Protect Our Winters (POW).

  1. Its okay to be your goofy self…actually its encouraged to be super goofy!

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Getting goofy with some fun Dartmouth traditions this fall.

  1. Skiers love being active in the outdoors, which makes for some pretty awesome adventure buddies.

Skiers share their love for snow, the mountains, and being active outdoors. You will never be short on buddies to go on long adventures with.

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Crust cruising in New Zealand!

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Summit photo.

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Mountain biking with Sophie!

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Adventuring in mountains.

So THANK YOU to all of my teammates, I am forever grateful to have you as my teammates and continue to learn new things every day 🙂

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SMS T2 Team

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Dartmouth Women’s Team

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U.S. Ski Team.

Walking The Fine Line

Since high school, I have been bouncing back and forth between doing a full term at Dartmouth while training, and solely focusing on skiing. These two lifestyles fall on opposite side of the spectrum—when I am in school I am wishing I had more free time and while when I am just skiing, I have too much free time to fill.

My frustrating season last year didn’t discourage me, it actually did the exact opposite—it made me want to be “all in” this year and set really big goals. Ironically, I came to conclusion that being “all in” for me meant not just focusing on skiing, but rather, it meant the opposite—that I would go to school and train with the Dartmouth team while taking a full course load in the spring, summer, and fall (a full year of school).

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Focused and “all in” at training camp (Pat).

Growing up, I always had a fast and busy lifestyle, running from school straight to practice, and then onto another practice or game, not getting home until 10pm when I would eat dinner and start my homework. In the fall I would be playing on 2 different basketball teams, 2 soccer teams and running on a cross-country team. In the winter I would be on 3 basketball teams, an indoor soccer team, an indoor track team, and a swim team.

Although the student-athlete lifestyle is hectic (and I probably complain about being busy way too much), being busy is how I am wired. When I was younger, I could not sit still; my grandpa used to secretly time me to see how long I could sit still because my family thought it was hilarious (I think it was something like 2 minutes). This year I wanted to channel a little bit of 9 year old me and get a little sendy with training while keeping myself busy and distracted with school.

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Getting out of my comfort zone in a speed session (Pat).

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..and also on my mountain bike, chasing after my boyfriend Max.

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I  helped out at a Little Bellas event (empowering young girls to get out and ride mountain bikes) and they rubbed off some of their young energy and enthusiasm!

I am REALLY excited to be healthy for once, training pretty much unrestricted! These past two training blocks have been the most fun I have had in training, not only because I am healthy enough to train, but also because I am pushing the limits on what my body can handle, instead of taking my usual conservative approach when I am dealing with injuries/ illnesses. The cherry on top is that I am surrounded by incredible teammates on both the SMS T2 team and Dartmouth team who want to work together to push each other, support one another, and battle it out through the tough days together.

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I skipped a few days of school to go to our U.S. Ski Team women’s camp and it was inspiring to train with so many fast women (PC: Matt).

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Learning from the best by following (PC: Matt).

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Our great training group this summer at Dartmouth!

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Digging deep in a team sprint simulation at camp (PC: Matt).

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And of course, always keeping things fun and goofy (PC: Matt)!

Training full time while being at school full time requires a lot of balance, something that is always a work in progress for me. I want to give 100% in everything I do, torn by when I cut a little slack in one direction and give slack in another direction. This summer I have found myself trying to walk the fine line between the “4 S’s”: skiing, school, social, and sleep. I am pushing the line on how much training I can handle, the minimum sleep I need, the amount of work I need to put into my schoolwork, and the time I want to have with my friends to feel happy and balanced. Although balancing everything is difficult and is far from perfect, I have had SO much fun training hard with my teammates, going on adventures with my friends, and learning a lot in my classes!

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I skied Tucks (Mountain Washington) for the first time this spring!

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And I ran Mount Washington this summer as part of our presidential traverse run!

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First ever sunrise hike/run and first time up Mossilauke…it was absolutely beautiful.  

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Goofing off on the slackfline with Jessie at training camp. 

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In my element 🙂 

-JKern

Finishing Strong

If your parents were anything like mine, then you were probably tossed into the deep end and had to learn how to swim from there. You could say that is what it felt like to jump on the World Cup circuit for the first time, spend 4 straight months in Europe (which is my longest streak yet), and travel across 10 different countries. I am going to admit, the first few weekends on the World Cup were really tough. I had some expectations and goals based off the end of last season, but I fell short of what I had hoped for—not just in results—but in my general form as well (unfortunately in part due to being injured the 5 months leading up to the season). Fortunately, just like your parents are there to help you learn how to swim, I was surrounded by teammates, coaches, family, and friends, who were there to support me and help show me the way.

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Learning from others and by making mistakes, thankfully only in race prep (PC: Reese Brown).

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Enjoying an evening walk through Lillehammer (PC: Jessie Diggins). 

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Watching Sadie and Jessie CRUSH in the sprint final in Lillehammer! 

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A stunningly beautiful walk and photo shoot with Jessie.

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Ya know, just the average daily scene with this team 😉 Getting our team dance on in front of our amazing new wax truck! (PC: Reese Brown)

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TEAM (PC: Reese Brown).

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A definite highlight was seeing my family over Christmas and especially my sister, she can always put a smile on my face 🙂

As most of you know, it was a historic year for the cross-country team not only at the Olympics, but on the World Cup as well. I am lucky enough to call these athletes and coaches my team; they support me, push me, impart wisdom on me, and inspire me everyday to be better. The best part is that even though they are doing extraordinary things, they are still ordinary human beings who I can go on a walk with or play card games with. Although I did not get quite the results I hoped for in some of my World Cup starts, I took away as much as I could from my experiences and was happy with my upward trend so that the next time around, I am skiing (swimming) a little better.

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Yup, that happened!

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And this! Hailey Swirbul, my good friend and teammate making history by getting a Silver and Bronze Medal at World Junior Championships!

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And also this! The junior boys got Silver in the Relay at World Junior Championships!

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Ida charging in the city sprint in Dresden, Germany!

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This was one of the most exciting World Cup atmospheres by far with large crowds! 

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On a gorgeous ski with Sadie Bjornsen in Slovenia as she gives me some advice from her experiences.

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Skiing with Sophie, Ida, and coach Matt in Austria on a perfect day!

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Okay just to make you feel a little better, and show you life is not always sunny and dandy on the road, here is this one. Yup, you can only see max 8 feet in front of you. We just don’t document these days that often.

 

The season did not end after my World Cups though, it continued on with an unfortunate continuous plague of illness/es for 8 weeks (but lets just skip that part and fast forward to the good stuff). By the time March came rolling around, I finally found the race fitness I had been searching for and that is where the true fun began! Ironically, racing is more fun when you can really push your body to the limits and go deep into the pain cave and hurt badly. Our U.S. domestic team arrived in Spain for OPA Cup Finals and I was more eager than ever to race. After having many disappointing moments during the season, any chance to race healthy and feel good was an opportunity to race the way I believed I could. I finished off my 4 months in Europe with my strongest OPA Cup results yet, with a 3rd place in the sprint, and a 5th place overall in the mini tour, with 2nd fastest time of day in the pursuit!

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3/6 women in our final in Spain were team USA…that was pretty cool.

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Getting aggressive in the sprint heats. 

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Girls squad, sunshine, and incredible skiing.

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Skiing with my best friends Hannah and Lauren on a perfect day in Spain!

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Charging through a blizzard with the 2nd fastest time to finish off OPA Finals in Spain (the days of sunshine made us a little soft at the end of Spain) (PC: Bryan Fish). 

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Happy with a 5th place overall at OPA Finals (PC: Bryan Fish)!

I carried this good momentum right into our Super Tour Finals/U.S. Nationals in Craftsbury only a few days later to wrap up the season. I was really happy with how my sprint, 10km, and relay leg went so decided to go out with a bang by racing my first ever 30km to finish off the season! To my surprise, I had SO much fun racing the 30km and had a really good race (with no bonking or blowing up). Although most of my season did not go as planned, I am happy that I got my “bad days” out of the way and was able to finish off the season strong with 7 good races in a row, each one better than the last! I think one of the advantages of finishing the season off strong is that it leaves me even more motivated for next year. However, ending the season with 7 races in 12 days has left me ready for some serious rest and recovery before the training for next year begins.

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Sprinting next to my idol and Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall (PC: Reese Brown)

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Game face on and in the pain cave for the club relay (PC: Reese Brown)!

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Jessie hugging me catching me at the finish of the 30km (PC: Reese Brown).

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Psyched to reunited with all my teammates (PC: Reese Brown)!

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So fun to ski with the next generation of skiers at Fast and Female.

Before rest….some skier cross racing. 

 

…and some spring skiing with my family on Easter.

You could call it a year of unpredicted adventures, a learning year, a wild rollercoaster ride—but most of all—a year that has left me wanting to race with the best more than ever! A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, I couldn’t do it without you guys! Your belief, cheers, words of encouragement, and enthusiasm is what kept me going through the tough times this season and is why I love this sport and community so much, so thank you!

Super Tour Finals 2018 - Team Relay 3.25.18-9688 2
Looking forward to next year (PC: Reese Brown)!

Now it is time to give the body a rest and work out my brain for a bit 🙂

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Looks like some boring homework, am I right?