Most other athletes we meet at the Olympics have the luxury of packing their bags to return home at the end of the games. Like us, maybe their seasons aren’t over yet, but they at least get to decompress a bit while they sleep in their own beds, do laundry in their own machines, and meet up with their family and friends while they share stories from their Olympic experiences. For us, it’s different. We pack our Olympic gear away, either sending it with our families back to the states or dropping it off in a pile where it’s destined to be put on a pallet and shipped back home on a boat. We swap our Olympic race suits out for our World Cup race suits, make sure our FIS athlete training bibs are still packed in the bottom of our duffels, and reset our bodies and minds for three more weeks of World Cup racing in Europe. But we’re used to it, and if we weren’t good at constantly being on the road in strange countries by this point, then we probably wouldn’t still be doing what we’re doing.
After an unbelievable and unforgettable three weeks in Korea, we’re back in Europe. Our World Cup tour resumed in Lahti, Finland, where we were welcomed by sub-zero temperatures and record snow levels. I actually stayed in Korea for two extra days before rejoining the team, unable to fly at the last minute because of a quick and nasty onset of pneumonia. But I’m climbing back to good health day by day, and the best medicine for my ailments has been being back with the team instead of stuck in an Incheon airport hotel room by myself eating plain ramen and trying to manage a 104° fever. Our team likes racing in Lahti, and for good reason. We’ve had some stellar results there in the past (including multiple medals at World Championships last year). And we had some strong performances again this year, led by Sophie’s 8th place in the skate sprint. But it’s also a comfortable city that we’ve come to know well over the years, and you can’t put a price on the value of going to a great coffee shop you know of or finding food you’ve been craving for the last month at the grocery store around the corner. The vibe when we return to Lahti after racing at the Olympics is always mellow, relaxing, and comfortable. It sets the stage well for the final period of spring World Cup racing.
After Lahti, we flew to Oslo, Norway, where we’ve been staying, training, and racing since Monday. With record snowpack and unusually cold March temperatures, the training on and off the race course at Holmenkollen has been outrageously good. After skiing golf course lap after golf course lap like a hamster on a wheel in Korea, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to go out for a ski on the tourist trails in Norway where you can, literally, link thousands of kilometers as long as you have a tube of kick wax in your drink belt and a stack of kronor in your pocket for coffee and waffles. Between training sessions on the endless kilometers of trails, the crew headed down to the city of Drammen yesterday for the city’s famed city sprint. Jessie picked up where she left off after the Olympics, scoring her first ever classic sprint podium on a day when just qualifying for the heats is a big deal because of the depth of the sprint fields here in Norway. Soph skied a great qualifier, but with low energy and so-so skis was unable to advance past her quarter final.
Andy raced a gutsy and hard-fought prologue, just barely missing qualification by less than a second (12 Norwegian men qualified for the heats). I am still recovering from my bought with pneumonia, but hoping to join Paddy on Saturday when we toe the start line for the infamous Holmenkollen 50 km (I’m eating lots of Clif Bars and peanut butter to get my energy back). And after that? It’s the final countdown to the last World Cup weekend in Falun, Sweden. We have tons of great adventures happening throughout our team right now. Erika and Andy will be racing the Engadin Marathon in Switzerland this weekend. Ben is crushing the OPA circuit in central Europe. Paddy, Jessie, and I will all be racing at the Holmenkollen in Oslo this weekend, and New England is getting hammered with snow! So things are good, all around, and we can’t wait to see many of you when we get home in 10 days.