Friday, February 28, 2014

Sochi to Lahti

As much as we were getting used to the bluebird days of 50 degree weather, our cozy chalet, our stars and stripes race suits, our ugly ceremonies sweaters, and the long treks to the dining hall, the Olympics had to come to an end at some point. I'm still having a hard time believing we were there for three weeks because it seemed to fly by even though there was so much happening. We flew out of Sochi the night of Closing Ceremonies and arrived in Munich early the next morning. We all went to bed for a few hours and then had a day to get our feet under us and do some serious organizing that consisted of unpacking, repacking, and then doing it all over again about three times. With the exception of Erik who did almost every race at the Olympics, the rest of us only raced 2-4 times, but racing aside, the Olympics left us all pretty exhausted. We're bouncing back more and more each day and will be ready to go this weekend, but we had some tired puppies after the last three weeks! Here are some photos from the second half of the Olympics!
Ida, Ana, and I went down to the Coastal Village one afternoon and checked out the village and watched some figure skating. Here we are in front of the USA house. 
And we found the torch! Inspired by Liz and Kik's torch photo from earlier in the week, Ida, Ana, and I decided to try some of our own.

The 30k day was HOT. Here is Jessie racing in a tshirt and Zach giving her one of many feeds during the race.
Jessie, Liz, and Holly in the main pack of the 30k

Sadie, Simi, Zach, and I held down the fort on the lower part of the course during the 30k. The women were doing 10k loops, so that left us with a lot of time in between each time our girls came around. As a result, I think Kikkan found a lot of picture of us on her camera :)
It was hot enough to cheer in t-shirts and we weren't even working hard, so it was a pretty brutal temperature to be racing 30km in for our girls

We were finished racing and didn't get a podium, but we tested out our podium jackets anyway. We decided we looked a little like ugly astronauts and they were so hot in the sun that we lasted about 5 minutes in them. Still kind of cool though!

Here I am getting a ride on Nolan Kasper's shoulders at closing ceremonies. Nolan is on the US Alpine team and goes to Dartmouth for spring terms. We overlapped at Dartmouth for a few years and it's always good to see a familiar face.

I was excited to be able to stay for the Closing Ceremony show because we left right after the walk for Opening Ceremonies. It was a really cool show and it's pretty crazy to think about the amount of people who went into making it happen.

We caught up with fellow SMSer Alex Deibold who was fresh off of a bronze medal in Sochi!

We are so grateful and so lucky to have had such an amazing support staff with us in Sochi. Here are Larry, Ana, and Steph who worked their butts off to keep us healthy and ready for the races. Thank you so much!

The girls minus Liz at closing ceremonies
I can't decide which of the next two photos is the funniest from the trip. We had a charter flight out of Sochi at 4am and we waited in this freezing cold room for a couple hours before our flight took off.  We were all trying to sleep, but it was almost too cold to sleep, so we bundled up as much as possible and used our bags as bed. Here is Sadie attempting the seal pose before she actually tried to burrow into her garment bag and Brian Gregg to the right of her who is face down on the floor. I'm soundly sleeping to the left of Sadie.

When we finally arrived in Munich, it was about 7 in the morning and we were all exhausted. Sadie captured this photo of us. We're each doing something special and look less than psyched to be anywhere but our beds!
Goodbye Sochi!
We are currently in Lahti, Finland where we'll be jumping right back into the World Cup circuit starting with a skate sprint tomorrow and a skate distance race on Sunday. Lahti is having a really bad snow year, so we're skiing on manmade snow that resembles big sugar crystals. It's going to be a leg burner pushing through the deep sugar, but the courses are fun and we're looking forward to some more races! After Lahti this weekend, we'll be heading to Oslo, Norway for the Drammen city sprints and Holmenkollen distance races.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Little Things

One of the awesome things about the Olympics is that it draws a lot more US attention to cross country skiing than we usually get. Friends, family, and everyone who religiously watches NBC during these three weeks likely gets at least a glimpse of our sport and hopefully even think it's a little cool! I've mentioned this before, but one of the things that I think is the most impressive about our team, is their ability to celebrate the little things. We've had our fair share of ups and downs this week, but the headlines that tend to get sent home are often the big pictures and sometimes we lose track of the little things that count the most. "Kikkan Doesn't get Gold", "American Women Race in Bikinis", and "Interesting Relay Day" are headlines that are sometimes true and sometimes missing the point by far.
Pre race prep for the sprint with Kik, Ida, and Jess (Zach photo)
The day of the Olympic sprint was definitely bittersweet for me. I felt amazing during my race prep the day before the sprint and was filled with excitement up until the morning of the sprint. When I woke up, I was finally starting to feel nervous, but that's to be expected. I had the best race of my life. I qualified 9th, made it through quarters and semis, and before I knew it, I found myself in the final at the Olympics. I couldn't believe it - I felt great and was ready to go for it. Unfortunately, I got in a little tangle and fell, ending up last in the final, but 6th in the Olympics! I felt like I heard from every person I've ever met after my race and I can't thank everyone enough for all the support and nice messages. The bittersweet part of the day was that Kik, our leader and a gold medal favorite, got knocked out in the quarter finals. There have been a ton of articles about this and I think a lot of them have done a great job highlighting the fact that gold medal or not, Kikkan is one of the most inspiring athletes and best teammates our sport has ever had. She's paved the way for the rest of us and whether she has a medal or not doesn't change any of that.
Some pictures of the TV from home that my friend Emily took!

pre race prep with Kik

Getting a hug from Noah after my race

And some smiles from Liz :)

So back to the little things. After the qualification in a sprint, we all put our feet up and rest for about an hour before the heats start. It's an easy time to get nervous because you're just waiting to go ski. It's especially easy to get nervous when you're doing it at the Olympics. When we sat down to rest, Ida looked over at me and said, "Hey Soph, we're now officially Olympians." Neither of us had done the pursuit race a couple days before or been to the previous Olympics, so after completing the prelim, we had both officially completed our first Olympic race! It was crazy how much this put things into perspective for me. I went from being extremely nervous to just being straight up psyched in a matter of seconds. It didn't matter what happened next because we were Olympians and how cool is that?!?

A Jessie hug after our quarterfinal

I didn't get to see Kikkan after her quarter final. I did my semi final and I was spinning before my final and about to head to the start area when I turned around and there she was with a huge hug, smile, and "good luck" for me. This was one of the moments that I'll remember most from the day and even though it wasn't the headline of any article, it described Kikkan and our team to a T. And it wasn't only Kikkan. There was Andy's calm mellow manner and pats on the back before each heat, Jessie offering to just sit there and talk for the sake of hearing someone talk while I was nervously spinning, Ida running around to find me Gatorade, Simi's hugs, my teammates who weren't racing that day going out on the course to cheer, seeing Zach's eyes get a little watery after my race, having Grover be the closest thing to my dad that I could ask for in the start/finish, and hearing Matt's cheering (which is hands down the best of any team and any country) throughout the entire course.

Grover sporting the one piece race suit

Easy ski with Zach ... a lot to smile about!
I need to head out on course to cheer our boys on in the 4x10km relay right now, so I will say some more about our "bikini ski" and the women's relay later. To set things straight though, Sadie and I did NOT ski in bikinis - we raced in tank tops during the 10k because it was so hot out. It was pretty funny and unexpected to see how much hype there was about our outfits.

Do you think those are USA boots on this Thomas Zipfel cartoon? 
And to set one more thing straight, we knew and still know that on a good day our relay team could medal, but they were in no way a disappointment yesterday. They each went out and skied their hearts out and functioned as a team. When Sadie and I were walking back from dinner last night, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (who skied on the silver medal team for Finland) pulled us aside to say something. She attended the glacier camp with the US women's team two summers ago and she wanted to say thank you. She said the US women's team taught her that it was okay to have fun and to operate as a team and not always be so serious. She said she brought her relay team inside to play karaoke and other fun games the night before the relay and she started crying as she thanked us and told us that she hoped we took something away from her being at our camp because she had so much to thank us for. So that was pretty cool :)
Cheering Jessie on during the relay (Holly photo)

Jessie cheering during the 10k 
girls cheer team for the relay

Team USA! (Holly photo)

Relay socks (Holly photo)

USA cheering squad for Sadie (Holly photo)
Some more scenic Sochi photos

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Opening Ceremonies Photos!

This is our 5th day in the Olympic Village and a lot has happened in the past five days. The women's skiathlon was yesterday, the men's skiathlon was today, we had opening ceremonies Friday night, and there are always multiple events playing on our TVs providing us with plenty of entertainment. I'm very proud of all of our girls who raced yesterday. Jessie and Liz placed an amazing 8th and 12th respectively, Sadie was just out of the top 30 in 31st, and Holly had a tough one, but finished with a smile on her face like she always does. Our boys had a solid race this afternoon. Their race was 30 kilometers on some seriously tough courses. I was happy to be cheering from the side! Here are some more photos from the past few days. Most of them are from Opening Ceremonies because we were pretty freaking excited! Two more days until my first race!

Sunset Panorama around the pond in our village

How do you wear a turtleneck anyway? Don't ask Simi

Opening Ceremonies stadium



Marching in

SMS T2 at the ceremonies

Noah and me

Ready to go!

Sadie, me, and Holly
The girls

I guess we even made it on NBC!

A nice note from our neighbors, the Italian waxers

Group shot

All smiles at the ceremonies
Posing with Randy and Ida under the rings

Jessie, Andy, and me

America nails!