Blog

Pre World Champs

* Kyle checking in
My European journey began in Davos, Switzerland on February 5th. Davos was a beautiful place to acclimate to the altitude and time change. The skiing there was incredible and straight out the door! I had a solid week of training and even got to hop in a timetrial with the Canadians and Dario at the very end. I found it funny that even at the age of 26 (I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in Davos), I still find myself fanboying over Dario and Alex. I also spent more time than I care to admit playing video games with the Canadians, a highlight of the training camp!
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Skiing out the door in Davos. 
From there we traveled to the beautiful town of Cogne, Italy, for the pre-World Championships World Cup. I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have the opportunity to travel to these beautiful places in Europe that I otherwise never would have seen. It was awesome to see Jessie take her first win of the season on Saturday in the sprint and also watch Simi take fourth, his best result of the season.  Unfortunately, on the travel to Cogne, I caught a pretty nasty cold, but luckily it was a short sickness and I went from laying in bed Friday thinking I wouldn’t race to waking up Saturday morning feeling well enough to do a prerace. When I woke up on Sunday and still felt good, I decided to give it a go! I’m glad I did, as I earned my first ever World Cup points, finishing 26th.
I’m super encouraged by this result, knowing that I’ll have more ideal preparation for the races in Seefeld and the courses in Seefeld will suit me better. I’m extremely stoked to get the World Championships started and can’t wait to see another beautiful European town!
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First time in the heats and first team sprint

*Kelsey checking in after a fun weekend of World Cup sprint races in Lahti, Finland

When you’ve been finishing qualifiers around a second out from heats, it feels exciting and discouraging at the same time. Exciting because a second can be made up in any given race, it is by no means insurmountable. Discouraging because it’s hard to know exactly what you can do to be on the other side of that top 30 cut off.

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Skiing with Alayna at Wild Wings!

For the me, the secret to success ended up being some solid training back at home in Vermont after U.S. Nationals. While on the road, racing every weekend, it can be hard to get in good training blocks throughout the season to keep working on your fitness, speed, and technique. While I learnt a ton by following my speedy teammates like Sophie and Jessie around on training and pre race days in Period 1, in sprint qualifiers you’re out there by yourself and it’s important to ski your best race – not be trying to ski like someone else. So after a couple weeks in Vermont full of great skiing at the Sun Bowl and at Wild Wings, I joined the U.S. sprinting group in Vålådalen, Sweden for another fun week of training before flying to Finland for my first race back on the World Cup since before Christmas.

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At the top of the big climb in the qualifier (Photo: Nordic Focus)

Lahti was where my first World Cup was last year and I had a great first race – missing the heats by less than a second. It was nice to come back to a venue I had raced before. This year with five times more experience racing World Cups than last year, I had more confidence in my speed and pacing. Last year, I had a great first half of the qualifier but bled time on the big uphill and descent into the finishing area because my legs were so blown out. This year, as I was making my way up with big hill, I knew I was making up time and I forced myself to stay in as low a tuck as possible on the downhill despite my burning legs because I knew how important that was to carrying speed into the finish. I had a good feeling when I crossed the line and felt an immense wave of excitement and relief when I realized that I had made it in to the top 30 and was going to get to ski in my first World Cup heats!! I ran out of the finishing area and gave Pat a huge hug! He traveled over with me to provide wax support and coaching for us, and I had ripping fast skis so it was special that it really felt like a team effort that led to me qualifying.

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Skiing in my first World Cup quarterfinal! (Photo: Nordic Focus)

The rest of the day and the whole weekend felt like a bit of a blur of dreams coming true, while still feeling like I wanted more. Standing at the start, with the Finnish crowds cheering in the grandstands, the ski jumps towering over the course in front of me, and my name on the big screen was a moment I’ll never forget. My quarterfinal was so. much. fun! It felt like it went by faster than any sprint I’d ever done, but also in slow motion. I sprinted for 3rd and 4th place in my heat with the Slovenian racer who had qualified first that day, and she out lunged me so I ended up getting 4th – advancing from my qualifying place of 27th to a final place of 19th on the day. My first top 30 turned into a first top 20, which was pretty cool! Unfortunately, our heat wasn’t fast enough for us to get through as lucky losers and even though I was beaming for my best result ever at that level, I felt disappointed that my day was over. I can’t wait to get another shot at qualifying for and skiing in the heats this weekend in Cogne, Italy!

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Blurry photo I got of Soph speeding by in her semi.

Sophie, it seems, also found time in Vermont with family to be the secret to continued World Cup success. She arrived in Finland from the U.S. on Thursday and by Saturday, she qualified 3rd and went on to get 2nd overall on the day! She looked absolutely amazing skiing up the big climb and had a killer finishing kick! It is so much fun to watch your teammate ski through the heats so decisively and to continue to get podiums on all different courses on the World Cup. Julia, who has been dealing with some illness since U23’s was luckily healthy enough to race and just barely missed the heats but scored a top 40 result so I have a lot of confidence that with another week of being healthy, she has a great shot of skiing into the heats in Cogne – she is looking fast! And Simi, who hadn’t raced since the Tour de Ski, looked great skiing the course but just missed the heats as well.

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Team sprint buddies!! (Sophia S. Caldwell photography)

On Sunday, we had a classic team sprint. Ida Sargent and Sophie were teamed up in the first semifinal. Julia and I were teamed up in the second semifinal. Unfortunately we didn’t have any teams in the final that day, but it was still a really cool and fun experience! Also, probably one of the hardest races I have ever done. Julia and I were both able to stay in contact with the lead group for our first legs, but unfortunately I let a gap form on my second lap and it was too hard to close that on our own. When the first leg feels like sprint qualifier pace, and you only have 3 minutes to recover – it is hard to do that again! Julia and I were teammates in a mock team sprint this past Summer at a team camp in Lake Placid, and we talked about how many be one day we would get to be partners on a World Cup team sprint. While we have some training to do before being in the mix with the top girls in the future, it was so cool to get to try it out and do with my SMS teammate!

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Great to see the sun on our last day in Finland!

We have a big contingent of our team racing in Cogne this weekend. Simi and Kyle on the guys side. Sophie, Julia, Jessie, and myself on the girls side. And Coach Pat will be with us in Cogne too! The forecast looks sunny and nice, I know we are all excited for some Italian food and Aosta Valley sunshine and views! Ben and Alayna will be racing in the Wirth SuperTours this weekend, and Ben O. and KO will be racing the college circuit races so we have a lot of exciting races to follow this weekend!

Back At It

It’s been a busy last six weeks! Let’s see, where do I even begin. I ended the Tour de Ski on a high note, but also wanting a lot more out of my racing. After back to back skate sprints that ended in decent results but also the feeling that I had a lot more to give (because of a stupid mistake in Toblach and the draw of a tough heat in Val Mustair), I focused on a really solid block of training before our sprint weekend in Dresden, Germany in mid-January. Logging a ton of training hours during that block, as well as some really quality workouts on the Seefeld World Championships courses, I was feeling great leading into the races in Dresden. Unfortunately, the day we travelled to Dresden I came down with a nasty sickness that left me watching the weekend’s races on my TV in my hotel room. I ended up flying back to Vermont with Soph a couple days later where we found the welcome comforts of home-cooked food, amazing skiing at Wild Wings XC, plenty of hours lounging by the fire at Chez Caldwell, and lots of quality family time. After being home for a week, I flew back to Europe to rendezvous with the sprint team in northern Sweden. I should probably mention that the day before I left Vermont, I summoned the nerve to ask Soph to marry me while we were on a ski on a cold but blue-bird January day. And what do you know, she said YES! Back in Sweden my days were pretty much spent sleeping, training, putting on all of my clothes for every training session (on some mornings it was -15°F), eating as many waffles as humanly possible, and playing cribbage with the boys. Life was good.

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We put a ring on that finger! Mine will have one too at some point soon 😉
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Cold, great skiing in Vålådalen, Sweden.
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Erik making the most of the all-you-can-eat waffle bar in Vålådalen.
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Hammering out some intervals in Vålådalen. 

After two weeks of amazing training in northern Sweden we flew to Lahti, Finland, where we met back up with Soph and got in a quick prep before last weekend’s sprint weekend. I am feeling quite fit, but the weekend was a huge disappointment for me. I have the feeling that having not raced in 6 weeks, I lost touch with my sprint speed, and just couldn’t access it for both the individual skate sprint and the classic team sprint. But there’s no time to dwell on that, because we have lots of racing left and World Championships are just around the corner and the weekend was still a huge success with Soph’s 2nd place in the sprint on Saturday, and Kelsey’s amazing qualifier and quarterfinal on Saturday (she scored her first World Cup points, notching a top-20!) I am confident that I’ll be able to find my race gear again soon, and I get another chance just around the corner with a skate sprint in Cogne, Italy on Saturday. We’ll meet up with the whole World Championship crew tonight in Cogne (which will be a BIG crew at 31 people), race this weekend, and then make the long drive to Seefeld, Austria on Sunday. Once there, we’ll have a few days of prep before the first race of the Championships (the individual skate sprint on February 21st). Things are starting to ramp up into high gear, and we couldn’t be more excited for what the next few weeks will bring! Thanks for checking in! -Simi

Getting ready for the World Championships!

Hey sports fans! This is Jessie checking in from Davos, where I’m in a training camp right before the World Championships! We’re in the final phases of preparing, which means carefully planned out interval sets, lots of rest, and winding down the hours spent on the ski trail to let our bodies rest up for some hard racing ahead.

Hoping the crowds are as incredible as the last races we did in Ulricehamn, Sweden! (photo from Warner Nickerson)

 

Every time I make a team it’s exciting, and something that I don’t ever want to take for granted. This will be my 5th trip to a World Championships, and just as every venue is unique and has its own feel, every year has its own challenges, pressures, expectations and excitement. It can be hard to find the words to express how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks, so I’m going to let the words of others help me out.

 

On dealing with pressure:

The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn’t last. It’s all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing.” Jackie Joyner Kersee

Thinking back on my years of racing for my high school team at Stillwater, I had so much fun. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, especially when I knew it could help my team! Even back then, there was a lot of perceived external pressure my last few years of high school racing to win everything. It’s different than the pressure on the World Cup, but in many ways pressure is pressure, no matter where it comes from. When you feel it taking away the joy of competing, it sucks, plain and simple.

Trying to keep it chill at the pre-Olympic press conference a year ago.

 

But that’s why we have a team, and it’s important to remember why we got into the sport in the first place. I mean, did we even get medals for winning state? I honestly don’t remember. I DO, however, remember the joy of showing up every day for practice, all the practical jokes we pulled on one another, the late night sledding at Giants Ridge and the sense of camaraderie and absolute belonging I felt as part of that team. I was so invested in my team that I remember taking a red-eye flight home from US Nationals so I wouldn’t have to miss a race! My teammates had my back, and I had theirs, and the happiness that we all got from being part of something bigger than ourselves was incredible.

A very old photo of a very happy group of high school skiers my senior year, ready to sleep on the floor before a traveling race!

 

The same holds true today (yes, even the late night sledding…and the pranks). There’s always going to be pressure to perform, whether it comes from inside my own head or TV show hosts. The best way to deal with it is to focus on the happiness and joy that I feel from skiing, from being part of an amazing team, and having fun with it.

Late night sledding down the mountain with Tyler, Rosie and Scott!
Teaching my teammates a dance last year!

 

On heading into the World Champs:

“Success required the emotional balance of a committed heart. When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape. A committed heart does not wait for conditions to be exactly right. Why? Because conditions are never exactly right.” -Andy Andrews

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because in my mind, it captures the feel of professional sports so well. Conditions, it seems, are almost never perfect. Just this week I got sick with a cold that had been going around, and it was definitely a challenge to my belief in myself and my self confidence! When you can no longer follow the carefully planned out intervals and strength routines because you’re sick, you’re forced to be flexible and adapt, shifting your training around. It can be so tempting to think “well, that’s it, then! I’m screwed. This won’t work, and don’t you DARE give me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ crap”, but that attitude has never helped anyone.

Walking around on skis so I can bomb back through snowy fields…this lifted my spirits a lot!

 

All you can do is play the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. There are so many things you can’t account for and can’t control, but by staying positive and focusing on the things I can control, I’m able to make a new training plan with my coach, and know in my extremely committed heart that I’m doing everything I can.

Whenever I get nervous – and people are often surprised to hear this, but here’s a little secret; you never stop getting nervous, you just learn how to work with it and harness the energy better – I think back and ask myself this: “am I 100% committed? Have I done everything I possibly can to find success? Am I doing the best I can right now, in this moment?”

I have complete faith in my tech and coach, Cork, and our team! (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

And when the answer is yes, I can relax and let those nerves melt away, because there’s nothing more I could, or should, be doing. I’ve been training full time for almost 10 years, since the day I walked out of my high school graduation lock-in party and went straight to a roller ski workout with a pro team. I’ve poured everything into training hard and smart, and been committed through ups and downs to giving ski racing the best shot I have, so that I will never have to look back one day and wonder “what if?” And that’s what lets me relax those nerves before a big race, because I know that I’m as prepared as I possibly can be.

There’s no “what if” regrets when you know you’ve given it everything you have! (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

I think back on all the fun I’ve had while grinding out tough workouts with amazing friends and teammates, and I’m so glad I’ve had the experience of a lifetime, chasing excellence all around the world with a group of people just as committed as I am.

Putting it all out there for my team in the relay, every time I pull those socks on. (photo from Warner Nickerson).

 

The night before the race:

“Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.” – Ronda Rousey

This is not the time to think on all the technique adjustments you think you need to make, how you would have trained differently, or how you wish you could ski like someone else. After the races, write it all down and think back on what worked for you, and what you can do to improve. But right before the race? This is the time to reflect on all the things you kick ass at. Know your strengths. Be ready to use them. Focus on the things you can do, and believe that you have the power to do them well!

Only focusing on what I CAN do. (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

On race day:

“As powerful as our legs are, as magnificent as our lungs and arms and muscles are, nothing matters more than the mind” – Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek, man. That guy knew how to suffer. He also knew that a strong mind was the most powerful weapon in sports. No matter what I’m feeling, I know that nothing can compare to the power of racing with an all-in, nothing-to-lose, might-as-well-give-this-everything-I’ve-got mindset. When I’m racing with absolute belief in myself and a positive mindset, ready to turn myself inside out and be ok with how much it hurts, it’s a very powerful thing. When I’m smiling on race day, look out, because when I’m in a great mood I can put myself though an incredible amount of suffering. To me, being mentally tough and ready to have fun, challenging myself to race as hard and fast as possible, is the best thing I can do for myself on race day.

Loving the challenge! (photo from Nordic Focus)
Ouch! At least I know it left it all out there. (photo from Nordic Focus)

 

So as the World Champs begin next week, wish us luck, and you know we’ll be racing our hearts out!

U20/U23 World Championships Recap: Junior Men Bring Home Gold!

*Julia checking in!

Wow. What a week it has been at U20/U23 World Championships this past week in Lahti, Finland! Our team had historic results, ending on the highest of notes with the junior boys skiing their way to a GOLD MEDAL in the relay, including our very own, Ben Ogden! Our team could not have imagined a better way to end the week. Not only did our team have historic results, but more importantly we functioned as one team, collectively working together to put down our best performances while making sure to keep it fun. We were cheering each other on in person and on the live stream, giving advice to one another about courses and race tactics, working seamlessly together with our staff, and coming together for fun team activities like a team bowling night.

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Ending the week as a proud team! 
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Some bananagrams before our team meeting.

The juniors started off the week strong, with Ben placing 8thin the classic sprint, and hands down having the most impressive quarterfinal of the day. The next day the U23’s raced and we didn’t have quite the results we were hoping for, leaving us hungry for more. In the 10km skate I had a good race, placing 12thand Alayna fought her way to a top 30, placing 27th. On the classic mass start day, the juniors raced super impressively, putting down the best collective results for our team has ever had at World Juniors. On both the women’s and men’s side, we had skiers place 4thand 10th, in which Ben O. was 10thin the 30km mass start, seemingly unfazed by the fact that he had to exchange 6 poles throughout the race. The junior men put all four guys in the top 17! Alayna and I’s last race was the 15km classic mass start, which we were both really looking forward to. Alayna skied her way to 23rd, making her best ever U23 results and I placed 16th.

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Cheering on Ben through the live stream!
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Alayna, Hailey and I fired up before the classic mass start!
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Alayna charging her way to 23rd! (PC: Doug Stephen) 
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Skiing with a pack in the 15km (PC: Doug Stephen). 

Everyone who wasn’t racing the relay came out to watch and cheer on the men’s and women’s junior relay team. I can easily say we had by far the biggest and loudest cheering squad out there. We had everyone lining the last hill with our flags, screaming as loud as we could. It was really cool to see both the women and men skiing confidently, fighting for medals. Our women placed 4thwhich is even more impressive given that they are so young that most of them have 3 years left as a juniors! Our men’s team came out firing, pushing the pace on every leg, including Ben who was the second leg. He skied strong and made his move at the end to expose any weak links on the other teams, tagging off in first. Our whole team was sprinting down the hill to watch them ski their way to first place. After historic week like this one, you could say the future of U.S. skiing is looking bright! Thanks to all of our supporters, these results wouldn’t be possible without you!

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Ben opening up a gap in the last 1km of his relay leg!
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Cheer squad on relay day!
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Proud of these guys and this team. 

Junior and U23 World Junior Pre-camp in Finland

*Alayna checking in from Finland!

Julia and I have traveled across the pond to join Team USA in Lahti, Finland for the 2019 Junior and U23 World Championships. The team arrived one week before the races began and has been staying at a resort, Vierumäki Hotel, about 30 minutes away from the race venue. We spent the first few days skiing on trails that were right out our back door! The nice thing about arriving in Finland a week before races is that we weren’t in a rush to go learn the course. We knew we would have plenty of time throughout the pre-camp to do this, so instead, we took advantage of the rolling, mellow terrain around the resort.

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Skiing on the trails from Vierumäki Resort (PC: Greta Anderson).
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Great trails for an easy ski!

The first three days of the camp were overcast with snow gently falling from the sky. With a sunrise at 9:20 and sunset at 3:30, we were grateful to see some sun by the fourth day! Also, we started making more trips to the venue to check out the rollercoaster race course.

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Checking out the race course in Lahti on a sunny (but cold) day (PC: Greta Anderson).
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The 3:30 sunset from our hotel.

Another pro to staying at the Vierumäki Resort is that we didn’t need to worry about cooking for ourselves. Although a buffet can be an easy place to pick up germs from other athletes, it’s also nice to have an abundance of food ready for us at every meal. We’ve been doing a good job at washing our hands before and after every meal and using plenty of hand sanitizer to limit the spread of these germs. Nearly every meal includes fish and potatoes- most of us have eaten more fish this trip than we normally do in an entire year! One of our favorite parts of every meal though is the bread and butter. They always serve freshly baked bread served with FOUR different types of butter… who knew there could be such a variety of butter.

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Bread and butter for dessert, so good!

Before the races started we had plenty of time to find various ways to entertain ourselves. Some athletes watched Netflix while others kept up with schoolwork. There have been a few trips into town and the grocery store and we were even able to watch the World Cup races on TV. However, the most exciting activity we did was go bowling one night! The resort has a bowling alley in their basement and we all had a fun night testing out our skills.

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The squad getting all laced up for a great game.
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Coach Greta getting a spare.
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Some of us needed a little more assistance than others….

It’s been a fun week full of skiing, games, and lots of bread, but as the races get closer it’s time to get down to business. During one of our team meetings we even had the opportunity to FaceTime with Kikkan Randall as she gave us a few tips on how to race the Lahti courses and handle our nerves. Thank you Kikkan!

 

Snowy Seefeld

Jessie checking in here, from the Copenhagen airport en route to Otepää, Estonia for the upcoming classic World Cup races! After the Tour de Ski ended, I rejoined the team in Seefeld, Austria, where we were in the middle of the biggest snowfall I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I think it must have snowed 4 feet while I was in town for a week and a half, and there was already around 2 feet of new snow when we arrived. Nearly every day there was a steady snowfall and it was hilarious walking around town with snowbanks piled higher than my head!

Skiing near Seefeld with my family!

I was lucky enough to have my family there with me, which made a huge difference. It is incredibly fun traveling around the World Cup circuit, but 5 months straight on the road living in hotel rooms and eating the same pasta or potato meals can wear you down a little. Having my Mom, Dad, and sister Mackenzie come over to see the last 3 races of the Tour and then come to Seefeld for a week of living in a cozy apartment together was exactly what I needed to feel grounded and “at home”. I baked a lot of cookies and banana bread, and enjoyed all the little things like being able to cuddle on the couch with my sister.

On a ski with my Mom through some seriously snowy woods!

While our sprinters traveled to Dresden, Germany for the sprint weekend of World Cup races, I stayed in Seefeld with my family and the distance crew to rest, recover and then train after the Tour de Ski. We had everyone over to our cozy little Airbnb apartment to bake cookies and have a World Cup cheering party, and it was so fun yelling at the TV for our racers!

I’m always so proud of all our skiers, but it was particularly fun for me to see many of our young skiers racing in their first World Cups. And Julia, who is not a stranger to the World Cup circuit but still one of the younger racers on it, paired up with Sophie for the team sprint! They skied so well and so smart, and I was SO proud of them. Even though they were literally a centimeter from the podium in a dramatic three-way lunge (I mean…LOOK at that photo!!) I was happy for them not for the result, but for the way they raced and clearly pushed their limits. And the big smiles on Soph and Julia’s faces as they hugged each other at the finish is a great reminder to us all of how racing can be hard, but also super fun!

Sophie on the far side in an epic lunge with Norway and Sweden!

Teams are built to support one another through the ups and downs of the ski racing circuit, but also through the highs and lows in life. We train so hard together for not just spring, summer and fall months, but for years on end. We get to know each other so well, and we have the honor of supporting one another when we’re on the podium…but also when we get super lost in the subway stations below Oslo (this has happened more than once). Frankly, I’ve spent more time as Sophie and Simi’s third wheel than I have with my own boyfriend! My point is, racing is exciting and fun, but the connections and memories we’ve made as life-teammates are infinitely more valuable than any result or medal you could earn, and my teammates are what I’m most proud of when I look back at the years I’ve spent ski racing.

We still have a few more months of ski racing yet to go, with some exciting times and big races ahead of us. But as you watch on TV or cheer along with the live-splits, know that we’re skiing our hearts out and supporting one another over here!

Sadie and I enjoying the sun in Seefeld right before we left for Estonia.

Nationals Whirlwind

*Kyle checking in!
US Nationals just finished up here in Craftsbury. We are currently driving through a snow storm on our way back to Stratton. The skiing in the East keeps getting better and better! The past 24 hours have been pretty crazy for me and my teammates. We had a ridiculous amount of success this year and I am extremely happy for everyone and proud to be apart of this team. I can’t thank Coach Pat and Zach Caldwell enough for the wax support. With all this success comes a lot of new opportunities. I originally had a flight back to Minneapolis, but for the first time in my life I am intentionally not getting on it. I realize this madness may be fairly normal for some people, but for me, the ultimate planner, I am a bit frazzled. Due to the most successful Nationals I’ve ever had, I have been offered World Cup starts in Otepaa and Ulricehamn. However, I have learned over the years that it is important to look at the big picture and not just jump on the first great opportunity you get. So I made the decision to stay in the East and train in Stratton, then race the Supertours in Lake Placid before heading over to Europe to race in Cogne and at the World Championships in Seefeld. The World Cup is incredibly hard. I have seen it firsthand and I know that if I do not go over there prepared and at my absolute best, I will not succeed and I desperately want to succeed at the highest level. My goal this whole year has been to get a top 20 in Seefeld and I think this plan will be the best way for me to achieve that. I am super excited with the way the season has gone so far and I cannot wait to get over to Europe and race another World Championships, but first there is more work to be done and I’m really excited to get that started!
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My first classic National Championship!
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Ben went 2/2 in the sprints!
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2nd for me in the 30k skate.
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The amazing Julia. 1 and 2 in the sprints, on her way to U23s and World Cups. Can’t wait to watch her crush it! Also Kelsey’s first Nationals podium! She will also be back on the World Cup crushing it.

Familiar Places, Familiar Faces

It was the strangest feeling. A week ago I was washing my hands in our tiny Swiss hotel bathroom, and the nostalgia came sweeping in. It was 2007, I was in Malles, Italy, and I was on my first real central European ski racing trip. I had qualified for the U23 World Championships that were taking place in a tiny town in the Alps tucked into the nook where Italy, Switzerland, and Austria all meet. As I scrubbed my hands a week ago, I closed my eyes, and I could immediately put my finger on all of the smells, tastes, and experiences from that trip almost 12 years ago. And the catalyst that brought all those emotions rushing back in? The hotel soap… the same type of bar I had used when I was a greenhorn all those years ago.

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By my rough calculations, I’ve spent over 1,450 days in the last 12 years racing internationally (about 1,350 of those days have been in Europe). If I had the means to travel to a new country every single day, I would have been able to visit every country in the world at least 7 times. But that’s not how ski racing works. All those days on the road have afforded me many weeks, months, and now years spent in the same 15 countries. But the monotony hasn’t caught up to me, entirely due to the fact that every place we come back to year after year welcomes my teammates and me with familial embraces, home-cooked meals, and clean and familiar rooms. The same families are running their small hotels, the same organizers are putting on the races, and even the same wait staff is bringing us their homemade pasta dishes and crème brûlée. We operate as a big family, and that family extends far beyond just our teammates, coaches, and ski techs. Every individual that we see year after year, every person who helps us out as we motor from one venue to the next, is a critical part of the complex machinery that allows us to do what we do best, day after day after day.

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So our family is doing great. We’re nearly half-way through our World Cup season, and even though there have certainly been lows for everyone (it is ski racing after all, and the name of the game is embracing the imperfections), the highs have undoubtedly outshined them. Sophie is coming off two podiums in the last three sprints. Her consistency in her results since getting healthy after an early bout of illness is rivaled only by her consistency in beating me at our nightly game of cribbage. Jessie continues to dominate on the world stage having just finished the tour in 6th place overall (and second in the Tour’s sprint standings). During the grueling 7-race-in-9-days event she had three podiums (not including the fastest time of day in the stage 5 pursuit) and is holding down 5th in the overall World Cup standings. I have been healthy all season (knock-on-wood), and even though I haven’t put together a race that I have been truly proud of yet, I know that if I keep plugging away that day will come. It would be an understatement to say that the three of us SMS T2ers on the World Cup have been amped to tune into the US National Championships taking place at home this last week. We have literally been sitting in our hotel hallways underneath the WiFi routers (Europe is still a little lacking on the fast internet thing) just so we can scream and cheer for our teammates back home as they race their hearts out in Craftsbury, Vermont. With the nationals races concluding today, our team will walk away with four national titles (Ben won both sprint titles, Kyle won the 15km title, and Julia won the skate sprint title), as well as a slew of podiums and top-10s. But we don’t tune into those races because we’re cheering for great results, we tune in because we know just how hard our teammates work day in and day out, and to witness them pouring their hearts into this sport is a special thing. We couldn’t be more proud of them and we miss them dearly every day.

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In a couple days we’ll make the drive from Seefeld, Austria (where it just snowed 5 feet in the last 6 days!!!) to Dresden, Germany for a World Cup weekend of city sprinting. We’ll rendezvous with Julia there, race on the banks of the Elbe River, and then continue on to Estonia, Sweden, Finland, and Italy before returning to Austria for the 2019 World Championships. We can’t wait to reunite with Julia in a couple days, as well as pick up some of our SMS T2 teammates on the way as they join us for more World Cup and World Championship racing in Europe. Thanks for following along, happy (ski) trails!

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Getting healthy after Christmas and U.S. Nationals (update from Kelsey)

Greetings from Craftsbury! It is currently a beautiful, sunny day. We have been getting spoiled with perfect grooming, a few days of sunshine, lots of snow and hard racing here at U.S. Nationals.

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Selfie with Mom in Seefeld! She’s the best 🙂

I got back East after spending the holidays in Seefeld with my mom, Sophie and Simi, and Jessie and Wade! It was great to get in some easy skiing, eat a lot of delicious meals cooked by my mom and enjoy the Mountain views from our apartment.

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Gorgeous sunset view from our apartment in Seefeld.

Unfortunately, the morning I was flying back to the U.S. for Nationals, I woke up with a terrible sore throat. Turns out, I had picked up strep throat over Christmas break. Luckily, I was able to get on antibiotics right when I arrived in Boston to start getting healthy before the racing started. The nice thing about strep and antibiotics is that you start feeling a lot better within a day or two! I stayed at a friend’s house for a couple days to rest up, get healthy, and get over jet lag. Then once I knew I wasn’t contagious, I headed up to Craftsbury to join the rest of the team racing Nationals. It was really nice to see everyone after a couple months apart. Since I didn’t finish my antibiotics until the day of the classic 10km, I decided to sit that race out to feel good for the sprint the following day.

We had a great first day of racing. It was a tricky day with mashed up tracks and new snow, but Pat, Dylan, and Zack and Amy Caldwell were able to make up great skis for everyone! Kyle won decisively in the 15km classic and Julia was on the American podium in the 10km! Not only was it inspiring to see my teammates racing so well here, but we also were able to see every stage of the Tour de Ski and watch Jessie fight day after day to finish 6th overall after the infamous Alpe Cermis climb!

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Kyle racing to first through tricky conditions (Reese Brown photo)

In the classic sprint, I qualified 2nd and Julia qualified 3rd (we were less than a second apart)! Ben had an awesome race and qualified 1st! We had all four SMST2 girls here in the semi’s. I was frustrated to fall in my semi and not make it back up to the front to vie for a spot in the final, but Julia made it through and skied a gutsy race with an epic lunge to get 2nd in the heats! Ben skied great all day and got his first National title!

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Racing with Alayna in the quarterfinals! (Reese Brown photo)
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Julia and Hannah’s epic lunge for 2nd behind Ida Sargent (Reese Brown photo)
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Ben’s first National title! (Reese Brown photo)

We had an off day and then the 20km and 30km skate mass starts. I was hoping to race, but ultimately decided to sit out the 20km to continue to get healthy and feel good for the skate sprint – which is tomorrow! But Alayna skied super well and finished 7th overall, and as the 3rd U23 on the day. It is amazing to see how impressive the U23 women’s field is this year. There have been four or five U23 women in the top ten every race this week (especially exciting that three of our SMST2 teammates are among this group – Julia, Alayna, and KO). It is going to be an amazing team that goes to U23 World’s next week! On the guy’s side, Kyle skied another great race and finished 2nd just behind David Norris from APU, and Paddy skied into the top ten as well!

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Alayna and Erika (and KO hiding behind Erika) in the 20km (Reese Brown photo)

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