There are two things I’ve learned in the past 2 weeks. Well, to say I learned them is a bit of a stretch… it would be more accurate to say I learned both a long time ago, at some point along the winding adventure of becoming an athlete, and it was just that I was reminded, yet again, of how significant those two things are to all of us. The first is how important being part of a community is. Many of us throughout the ski community found ourselves in Bozeman, Montana two weeks ago to celebrate the love between two of our greatest friends and teammates, Andy and Erika. Whether it was running to the tops of snow covered peaks with old coaches and teammates, or drinking in the waning evening light of Big Sky country after one of the most beautiful wedding ceremonies I’ve had the honor of attending, we were all reminded of how truly lucky we are to be part of such an amazing community of skiers. There are not many other sports out there where those pillars of friendship of community are built so easily and naturally. It brought a smile to my face during the wedding’s festivities to realize that belly laughter dominated throughout the crowd of 230+ guests, and everywhere you wandered all you could hear were hysterical, embarrassing, and inspirational stories being told about so many great people in our little world of athletes, waxers, and coaches that were there to celebrate the joining of two amazing people from our very own tribe. It’s easy to occasionally forget why we do what we do every single day, and I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t get sick of the monotony, trials, and challenges that come with being a full time ski racer. But when you can be reminded of the fact that beyond the monotony, trials, and challenges, we are contributing to such a dynamic community of amazing people, it makes it all worth it. So I guess the biggest thank you has to go to Andy and Erika, for providing an opportunity for all of us to come together to see old friends, tell ridiculous stories, and remind ourselves how important we are to each other.
The second thing I was reminded of in the last two weeks is that the value of team always trumps the importance of the individual. Immediately following the wedding in Bozeman, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work down in Park City for a men’s national team training camp. That sense of community that came out during the wedding certainly followed us down there, as pretty much the entire men’s team was up in Bozeman for the wedding. Leading up to the Olympic season, we (as a men’s team), have outlined team-based results as some of our biggest priorities. That meant that a large portion of the training at our camp was suited towards team events, like the 4×10 km relay, and the team sprint. In the recent past, we haven’t ever put too much emphasis on these events, instead choosing to focus on training that is more suited to individual performances. I can say that it feels great to be thinking about how we can find success as a team and not just as individual skiers. I truly believe that this is how we can continue building momentum on the US cross country team, and there is no doubt in my mind that when I’m old and gray, I’ll be watching the US men winning Olympic and World Championship medals in the team events. So we fought through the dry desert Utah heat, and trained for things like skiing the fastest possible 10 km in the discipline of our choosing and how to best handle the short recovery periods that make the team sprint event so brutal. I think it’s safe to say that we all came away from those workouts with a renewed determination to kick ass in those events. To me personally, there wouldn’t be a greater honor than sharing a step on the Olympic or World Championship podium with one of my teammates or several of them. For the last day of training, after we had put our time in together on the pavement, we finished up our camp with one of my all time favorite adventures in the mountains: a run up Mt Timpanogos with about 80% of the 13-mile expedition on firm snow perfect for glissading. It was the ideal way to end a great camp, and it left us all psyched for more punishing training and fun-filled mountain adventures together in the future.