Saturday, March 25, 2017

End in Sight

I'm currently sitting in the Chicago Airport on my way to Spring Series in Fairbanks, Alaska. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and racing and I'm excited to be finishing up the season with my SMS Elite teammates in Alaska. Now back to the last few weeks...

Drammen Sprint qualifier (photo: Toko US/Nordic Focus)

After World Champs we flew to Oslo for the Drammen city sprint. The Drammen sprint is one I've really struggled with in the past. It's a very gradual classic sprint course that favors power skiers and my first few years racing it, I wasn't even close to qualifying. Last year was my first year qualifying and this year I was psyched to qualify again and make it through to the semis, ending up 9th on the day. It ended up being one of my better sprints of the year, but I know there is still some work to be done on my power striding. It's an amazing atmosphere in Drammen and I'm happy to feel like I've begun to figure this course out!
Another day, another plane
The day after Drammen, a big group of us flew back to the U.S. in order to have a few days at home before World Cup Finals in Quebec City. This is the second year in a row that we've ended the season in Quebec City and being able to spend some time at home beforehand is one of the many reasons that makes races in Quebec awesome. There wasn't a ton of snow at home, but we got a few inches and some cold weather, which left us with just enough snow to do some fun tours around home. I was mostly resting and recovering from racing and jet lag, but it was nice to get out on some of the trails I grew up skiing on. Wild Wings is the nordic center right next to my house and one of my favorite places to ski in the world, so I can always find my happy place on those trails.
Bernie doing some indoor sunbathing when it was freezing outside

Skiing at Wild Wings!

Back with the kitties! This is Leroy, the king. 
On Tuesday we drove up to Quebec City. It happened to be the day of the huge snow storm, so we got an early start in an attempt to race the storm. The first few hours of driving were a little sketchy, but by the time we got to Canada, it was clear sailing. We woke up to winter the next day in Quebec City and began to prepare for the last weekend of World Cup racing. The race schedule for the weekend was a skate sprint on Friday, classic 10km mass start on Saturday, and a skate 10k pursuit start on Sunday. I was looking forward to all of the races because I haven't done much distance racing this year, and it was a great opportunity to hop in a couple of them.  During my sprint quarterfinal, I was taken out on the final corner by a racer who moved in over my skis. It was a bummer because I felt like I was in a good position to move onto the semis. I've had a lot of falls this year and I'm not really sure why, but I'm ready to stay on my feet in sprints next year! It was really cool to see my teammate, Julia, qualify for the heats in her first ever World Cup and have Rosie qualify for her first World Cup sprint heats. Simi had an awesome day and just narrowly missed the podium, finishing 4th for the day. The following two days I felt good for the distance races and had a blast skiing with some teammates and racers from other nations. It was a really fun way to end the season. We had so many U.S. fans come up to cheer us on and make us feel like superstars as they screamed our names all around the course. Quebec City was where I raced my first World Cups back in the fall of 2012, so it's always going to be a special place for me to race. The venue is amazing and I hope we go back soon!

Pretty special to have two of my grandparents, Grandpa and Twinkle, at the races in Quebec!

World cup season out! (Gretchen Powers photo)

Racing in the skate pursuit (Skinny Skis photo)

Teammate hugs with Erika. Psyched for this girl racing her first World Cups! (photo: Dustin Satloff)

Testing skis with Matt (photo: Reese Brown)

Sodie special! These little girls, Sophie and Sadie, are some of our biggest fans and we hope they can be the future Sodie duo (photo: Gretchen Powers)
So the World Cup season has ended, and we have four more races this coming week. The schedule is a skiathlon on Monday, skate sprint on Wednesday, club relay on Friday, and 30 skate on Sunday. That's a lot of racing, but the end is in sight and I'm looking forward to hammering this week and then enjoying some April adventures. Thanks for following!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Last Block in Europe

February flew by and here I am, in Norway, getting ready for my final Word Cup race in Europe, the city sprint in Drammen tomorrow. On Thursday I'll be boarding a plane and heading HOME! This year, heading home doesn't mean the season is over. World Cup finals have been moved to Quebec City, so we will be racing our final three World Cup races in front of the home crowd in North America. It should be an exciting next two weeks. But first, the last month or so.
Team USA

Ida, me, Kiks, and Liz sporting our Fast and Female buffs

After our two weekends of racing in Sweden, some of us flew to South Korea for the Olympic test event. Not many racers went to South Korea because of the travel and the timing, but those of us who went found it very valuable to check out the Olympic race courses and put in some hard efforts. It was for sure a weaker field, but it was still a World Cup and the U.S. Team took advantage of the opportunity and came away with some really strong results. I won my first ever qualifier, but was bummed to get knocked out in the semi finals of the sprint. Ida had an awesome day and got her first World Cup podium in 3rd! The next day Liz skied a strong race and was 2nd in the skiathlon and the final day Ida and I teamed up to take 3rd in the team sprint. After a long travel back to central Europe, I was looking forward to a weekend away from the World Cup and was able to spend some time in Valadalen, Sweden with some of my teammates and my parents. It was the perfect setting for a little pre World Champs training camp. The sleeping was comfortable, the skiing was the best we've had all year, and the food was delicious. It was easy to find our happy place and unwind a little before ramping back up for the last stretch of World Cups and World Champs.
Pyeongchang girls!

Skiing in Valadalen with my dad

And momma!

Waffles everyday in Sweden

Welcome to Valadalen

Hanging with Breck and Kiks
After Valadalen, we went to Estonia for the final World Cup weekend before World Champs. Our team had a great day in the skate sprint, qualifying five women and two men and having four of us make the semis. I was happy with my race feelings and qualified in 4th and ended the day in 10th. After the races we took a quick flight to Finland to prepare for World Champs. It was a quick turnaround because the skate sprint was the first race of World Champs and it was on Thursday. The sprint day at World Champs was arguably the best day of racing our women's team has ever had. We had all of our women qualify for the heats along with Simi and Andy for men. The day continued to go well when three of us advanced to the semis and before we knew it, Jessie, Kikkan, and I were standing on the start line for the A final at World Champs. It was a pretty incredible feeling to put our hands in with Matt and Grover and do a little "USA" cheer before heading to the line. To make it even better, Jessie and Kikkan reached the podium in 2nd and 3rd, and I finished the day in 6th. That's right, two US women on the podium, and three in the A final. We were the strongest team in the world that day and it's something I will always be proud of. Our championship continued to be the strongest one we've ever had with Sadie and Jessie teaming up for 3rd in the team sprint, Erika and Simi placing 5th in the team sprint, the women's relay team placing 4th, and Jessie getting 5th in the 30k skate. I only raced the sprint at World Champs, but I enjoyed watching my teammates crush it in the rest of the races and was able to get in some good training and spectating the last couple weeks. We have the city sprint in Drammen tomorrow and some of us will head home Thursday, while the rest of the team will stay for the long distance races over the weekend. We're looking forward to finishing the season on a high note and carrying our success at World Champs through the next couple weeks. Thanks for following and we hope to see you in Canada!!
Trailside cheering with my parents

Hugs from mom after the sprint (Liz Arky photo)

Ready to cheer Sim on in the team sprint (Liz Arky photo)

Podium girls!

Yeah!! (John Lazenby photo)

My good friend from high school, Helen, came to watch the races in Estonia!

Jess and me sporting our gifts Erika sent from home :)

Pre race in Lahti (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Sprint quali in Lahti (Getty Images)

Sue and Howie Wemyss came to watch in Lahti!