It always goes by faster than it seems it’s going to. Maybe that’s why the seven years I’ve been living life on the road racing across the other side of the globe feels like one long adventure instead of individual chapters with each having a starting page and an ending page. But as far as I can tell, that’s a good sign. I’m confident there are plenty of professions and careers out there where each hour seems to feel like three and you’re just trying to make it to 5 p.m. on Friday. I recognize how lucky I am to be waking up in a new country every Tuesday, worrying about which 1 pair of 40 pairs of skis is going to be fastest on race day, and catching up on three weeks of missing data in my training log because I’ve got a slight problem with procrastination.
As I look back on how quickly this season has passed, it’s easiest to remember (but also trying to easily forget) the crescendo of the race year. Last weekend marked the end of World Championships in Lahti, Finland. These 6 races were by far the most important part of the season for us. For me, personally, I was focusing on the individual skate sprint, which took place on the first day of competition at the championships. Leading up to World’s, I was happy with how my season had gone but I knew that my training and preparations (and the many races that preceded World’s) were all different parts of the equation that would yield being on my A Game for the championships. I had put in the work, I had been patient, I had stayed healthy for most of the year, and I was feeling more confident in my fitness leading up to World’s than I had been all season. Things were looking good. Unfortunately, conditions were slightly less than ideal for the sprint, with about 6 inches of fresh, slow snow blanketing the race venue the night before the sprint. This was especially tough for me as I am one of the bigger skiers in the World Cup field and I generally excel when conditions are hard and fast. I felt decent for the qualifier, placing 11th, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be a day for me when everything just kind of ‘clicks’ and I had to fight with everything I had in a very different way than I am used to when the snow is fast and firm. In my quarterfinal, I hooked a tip in the fresh powder to the side of the skied-in track on the longest and fastest downhill into the stadium before the finish. Before I even had time to feel sorry for myself, I found myself sliding on my face at 20 mph, grinding to a stop as everyone else behind me in my heat shot by me into the finish stretch. Needless to say, it’s one of those race days I want to forget. But I will also undoubtedly remember it for the rest of my life because I was fortunate enough to be on the sidelines for the rest of the day to watch history being made as Kikkan, Jessie, and Sophie all skied in the final women’s heat. Our team walked away with Jessie scoring 2nd, Kikkan notching 3rd, and Soph fighting incredibly hard throughout one of the toughest but best days our team has ever had, coming in 6th in the world.
The sprint at World’s was frustrating and it left me with a feeling of wanting so much more. But as cliché as it is, that’s ski racing. That’s part of it. It won’t be the last time in my life that I’ll be disappointed by the outcome of something that I work incredibly hard towards. But that experience has lit a fire in me that will continue to burn for many months and years to come.
We’ll finish out the World Cup season next weekend (I’m on a plane back to the U.S. as I type this!) in Quebec, and I am incredibly excited for it. It feels like having World Cup finals back on our home turf is the decadent desert served after a five course meal that was satisfying and filling, but the main course wasn’t exactly what had I ordered. Our SMS team racing in the WC finals will include myself, Andy, Sophie, Jessie, Paddy, and Erika, and between all of us we’ll have a small army of fans and family members from across the country making the trek up to the banks of the Saint Lawrence yelling for us as we put an exclamation point on the end of a great season. Can’t wait to see you all there.