Blog

Usually…

*Ben S. checking in.

I can safely say that this is the most unexpected end of the year blog I’ve ever had to write. Normally, these blogs are an effort of summation: I tell you all about the year, and about the great things that happened during it. I try to look back and put a narrative spin on a season that just finished its last act. Usually, these things are about looking backwards. Usually. This is, however, not a usual time in any of our lives. The ostensible high point of this season didn’t happen. I spent the better part of 2 years excited about the prospect of bringing the World Cup experience to the very park in Minnesota where I first put on a racing bib, and it vanished in a 48 hour period of confusion and worry. I was devastated about that loss (even though I know cancelling it was the right thing to do) and it has left me with the amorphous job of trying to write an end to the season that didn’t actually have an ending.

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Usually we get to say goodbye to a year of racing alongside our teammates, coaches, and friends. When we say goodbye together, we get to share those melancholy moments that come with travel waxing your skis for the last time, and packing your winter clothes away until next fall. Over the last two weeks I’ve had to reckon with those moments largely on my own, and it stinks; but if there’s one silver lining, it’s the way in which that isolation has deepened my appreciation for the community of cross country skiing.

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Part of saying goodbye together, is allowing for the unspoken moments of thanks that come at the end of a season. Moments when we can finally take a deep breath, and acknowledge the weight of the season’s work we’ve shared with each other; a skier’s blog may not always be the most powerful tool in the world, but at least today, I can use it to do just that.

Sverre, thank you for reminding me of each and every way I can attack my weaknesses, and for keeping our SMS family focused on the big picture throughout the whole year. Pat, thank you for the time and sweat you sacrificed in wax rooms and on road bikes from May until March. To my teammates: thank you for your examples. Sophie for your perspective, Simi for your commitment to fun, Jessie for your composure, Kyle for your focus, Alayna for your laughter, Ian for your excitement, Julia for your refusal to back down, Ben for your ambition, KO for your balance. Every time I put my boots on, I had an example to live up to in each of you. Without you I wouldn’t have been able to keep pushing myself like I have.

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It sucks that we didn’t get to share an ending together, but sitting in the snowless Midwest has made me realize how lucky I was to have this last season, even if it was cut short. It’s made me even more excited about the fact that we get to do it again, and truth be told, I can’t wait to get started.

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Preparing for N.A. World Cups!

*Sophie checking in from home!

I was really psyched to finish my first ever Ski Tour a couple weeks ago in Sweden and Norway. After 6 days of racing in 9 days, I hopped on the plane to come home for a couple weeks before the North American World Cups. That meant missing one World Cup sprint, which was made even harder when they switched it from Drammen, a course I usually have a har time with, to a skate sprint on a windy course that sounded fun to me. I thought about staying, but I had gotten SO excited to come home, that I decided to stick with the plan, get some good time at home, and then get psyched for the sprints in Quebec City and Minneapolis.

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Tired faces at the end of the Ski Tour 2020

After arriving home, I was pretty exhausted after so much racing and a big travel. I took my first week very easy and focused on staying healthy, sleeping, eating, and enjoying being home for the first time since mid-November. It’s been really nice to spend some quality time with my dad and sister and be able to listen to my body and see what I feel like doing each day, all while being in the comfort of my own home! I even dragged my sister out for some intervals the other day and then we got in a long ski at Wild Wings with a bunch of our other neighbors on one of the nicest ski days I’ve ever had there.

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Alayna is back in VT for the week to prepare for the next World Cups and I’m looking forward to getting in some good training with her. In between, it’s all about resting and getting psyched for the end of the season! We’ve put in the work and now we only have a few weeks of racing left. There’s nothing that gets me psyched about racing more than watching my teammates and the rest of the juniors and U23s crushing it on the world stage, so tune in to watch them finish up their week and then come cheer us on in North America!

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Julia got a bronze medal in the sprint (PC: Steve Fuller). 

Recovering – Physically and Mentally

*Alayna checking in.
As excited and happy as I was to be racing in Europe on the World Cup for 7 weeks, I am equally excited and happy to be back in the US for a mini training block before the final World Cup and Supertour’s of the season. This winter, I spent far more time traveling and racing internationally than I ever have before and it has been a huge eye-opener for me. World Cup courses are tougher and the average skier’s pace is hotter which means you better be ready to go when the gun goes off!

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Sophie, Julia and I enjoying some sweet skiing in Ostersund, Sweden between tour stages in the Scandinavian Ski Tour 2020.

This extra exertion meant that it was extra important for me to learn how to not only physically recover between races, but also mentally. I did my best to focus on the positives of each race no matter what the result was, but there were a lot of ups and downs. By the end of the ski tour I was hanging on by just a thread and decided that rather than trying to grind my way through two more weeks of World Cup racing, it would be better for me to take a step back and regroup. Originally, I was bummed to leave Europe and travel back to the US, but as soon as I made it back home to Minneapolis and laid down in my own bed, I knew I had made the right decision.

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Walking away from the finish line trying to find productive takeaways.

I quickly realized that my body was a tight, sore and tired mess after all of the racing and international travel and found it hard to even walk up and down stairs! I decided that in order to finish off my season with good energy and a positive attitude, I needed to allow myself to completely reset. So, I booked a last minute flight down to Atlanta, GA for a 48-hour vacation and to support my sister in the 2020 US Marathon Olympic Trials! Almost my whole family went down to watch my sister race and it was so refreshing to talk about a different sport with different athletes and allow myself to spectate rather than compete.

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Happy to spend time with my family and support my sister in her athletic endeavors.
My sister ended up having a fantastic race, placing 55th out of 493 participants. She fought against the hills and the wind to get a personal best time of 2:41!  Cheering for her as she picked off almost 50 places in the last four miles was really special and made me proud of her. It also inspired me to get back to work and keep chasing my own goals. I think that this mental break was so important for me and the rest of my season and find myself antsy to get back on snow and into some interval sessions before the North American World Cup Tour. Sophie and I are back in the Stratton area now, training at Wild Wings Ski Center and up Mount Tabor Rd, maybe we’ll see you out there one of these days! 😉

Skiing Together

*Ben S. checking in.

As we head into the homestretch of the season, I am spending a little time in Minneapolis preparing on the trails at Theodore Wirth park for this spring’s upcoming World Cup race. The month of February was a busy time of travel and racing for me. After starting in Vermont, I went to Sweden and raced a World Cup, before heading back to Minnesota, and then Wisconsin, to race some SuperTours. Despite all that racing (some great, some disappointing) the month of February was a special one for me because it was a tremendous reminder of the way skiers take care of one another.

Our sport (especially in the mid-winter lull) can be a lonely one. With weeks between races, it’s possible to find yourself on a different side of the country (or even the world) than your teammates and coaches. This can be really hard, especially when you’re on a team as close as SMST2. Your teammates are your friends, coworkers, and partners all throughout the summer and fall, and during the times in the winter when we get separated it can be hard without that anchor. However, despite being separated from my teammates, for most of the month, I haven’t felt lonely. At various times over the last several weeks I’ve traveled and lived with Noel Keefe, Erika Flowers, Andy Newell, Gus Schumacher, and Bob Thompson. That group contained skiers of all age groups, and from all parts of the country (or in Bob’s case Canada).

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Bob with the finger guns.

On the surface we were a pretty disparate group, but over the last month that squad of skiers helped to keep each other excited and focused in a time when we were all on the move, when we all could’ve been a little lonely. Skiing is a sport notorious for its ups and downs, and we didn’t necessarily know what our futures would hold, but we didn’t let those moments drag us down. That idea of the family we choose – or even the family we happen to find ourselves with at a February SuperTour – is the thing I love most about skiing. Skiers are a small group, but we’re always propping each other up and pushing each other forward. The reality of the sport of nordic skiing is that we have to do a fair amount of work on our own, but in the leaner times of each year we know that some kind of spandex-clad family will form and keep us pointed onwards.

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Bob and I chasing each other around Wirth Park where we’ll race a World Cup on Mar.17!

So thanks to the kindness of other racers that’s where I’m headed: forwards, focused and determined to cap of the season with my best races yet at the World Cups in Quebec City and Minneapolis. I can’t wait to keep going.

Ski Tour 2020

*Julia checking in.

The past few weeks have been filled with many firsts for many of us! We just finished the Ski Tour 2020, which consisted of 6 World Cup races in 9 days in both Sweden and Norway. Although this was similar to the Tour de Ski in terms of it being a tour, this tour was the first ever of its’ kind, including race formats and conditions that brought all sorts of new challenges and experiences. Sophie, Simi, Jessie, Alayna, Katharine, and I all started the whole tour, accompanied by Pat’s incredible waxing and coaching skills.

I have always dreamed of finishing the Tour de Ski, so being able to race an entirely new tour and finish was such a fun experience. I am going to break it down stage by stage, since every race and stage comes with its’ own feelings, adventures, and laughs!

Stage 1: 10/15km Individual Skate—Östersund, Sweden

We were greeted with lots of sunshine the week leading into the tour. The first day brought perfect conditions for a fast and hard race, with Jessie finishing in 8th and Simi getting back into racing again, and Alayna having her best World Cup result placing 43rd!

Feelings: Energized by sunshine 🙂

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Soaking up all the sun in the stadium.
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Sunset run with Katharine and Hailey!

Stage 2: 10/15km Classic Pursuit—Östersund, Sweden

The amount of sunshine we had was overdue, so the weather changed to pouring rain and then to dumping snow 15 minutes before the race. This made for wild conditions during race time, and advantageous time of day results for those starting further back, which I took full advantage of, skiing to the 6th fastest time of day.

Feelings: Very wet and cold. The worse the weather, the better race I have it seems.

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Trying to catch the snow on my tongue I guess? (PC: Nordic Focus)

Stage 3: Uphill Skate Sprint—Åre, Sweden

Two bus rides and a train ride later, we arrived in Åre to check out the uphill sprint course…and let’s just say we were all very surprised how BIG the hill was. The first of its’ kind, a point to point uphill sprint up an alpine mountain, featuring a banked turned for sure was something new to all of us. We embraced the pain and conquered the mountain. Fun added bonus, in the heats we got driven down by electric skidoos. Jessie and Sophie moved onto the semi finals, finishing in the top 12 on the day, Simi just barley missed lucky loser, while I poled my ski and face planted out of the start of my quarterfinal, getting the rookie moves out of the way.

Feelings: Ooooof, lactic acid flooded jello legs.

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Skidoo outfits and flooded legs with Sadie
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Yipppeeeeee
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Simi charging up the monster climb (PC: Martin Riseth)

Stage 4: Point to point 38km 34km Skate Mass Start—Storlien, Sweden to Meraker, Norway

Due to 50 mph winds in Storlien, the Sweden to Norway point-to-point race unfortunately got changed to a 34km out-and-back race on the second half of the planned course, making for a grueling but scenic and unique long distance race in some windy (but less windy than otherwise would have been) conditions. This was probably one of the hardest races I have ever done, hovering around my redline for pretty much the entire race. I was happy to outsprint my pack at the end and end up 19th while Jessie finished 7th.

Feelings: Seeing stars in the last 1km, and deliriously tired for the hours following.

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Ouch, 34km is hard! Decided I would just lay there for a while.
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Alayna and Jessie taking a nap while we wait for the boys to join us to get on the train. 

Stage 5: Classic Sprint—Trondheim, Norway

Another two bus rides and a train ride later, we arrived at our 4th destination of the tour, Trondheim, Norway. We had one off day to recover from the long, hard effort before switching our muscles to fast twitch again. The sprint course was really fun, with good hills and ripping downhills. Sophie, Jessie and I all qualified, but unfortunately all of our days ended with the quarterfinals, leaving us hoping for more. I was excited to qualify for the first time in a classic world cup sprint though!

Feelings: I found my second wind of the tour, with the tour giggles setting in hard.

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Finding the fight with my second wind of the tour (PC: Nordic Focus). 

Stage 6: Classic 15/30km Pursuit—Trondheim, Norway

All 5 of us SMST2 girls were psyched to make it to the last stage of the tour to finish it off. Simi came down with a cold had to finish his tour early unfortunately. It seemed the weather gods knew it was another classic day, delivering rain over night, switching to sunshine with a mix of random dumping snow spells. This made waxing super tricky for the last stage, and those who had good energy were able to still well and make the skis work, while others who were tried just fought their way to the end of the tour. Jessie finished the tour in 6th overall, I just held onto the top 30, slipping 4 spots to 30th on the last day, with Sophie and Alayna also finishing their first tour ever, while KO finished her second tour this season! It is safe to say, we are all ready for some serious rest and recovery now after a big block of racing!

Feelings: Incoherent sentences, hungerrrr, zzzzzzzz.

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Norwegian waffles coming in clutch post tour ❤

We have now all split our separate ways for the next two weeks. I headed to Oberwiesenthal, Germany for U23 World Championships where Ben Ogden will also be racing World Juniors. Sophie and Alayna headed to Vermont for a recovery and training block, while Simi and Jessie headed to Sjusjøn, Norway for a training camp and then will head to Konnerud for a Skate Sprint. Katharine is headed back to Dartmouth for a few days before heading off to NCAA’s in Bozeman. Thanks for following along!

Seefeld Camp

Hi y’all, Ian checking in here from Seefeld, Austria where I am with my T2 teammates Alayna, Simi, Sophie, Jessie, Julia, and Coach Pat, as well as the rest of the US Ski Team prepping for the upcoming World Cups in Falun, Sweden. It has been a great week here with the team, and for me personally, a great reset after my first 2 World Cup weekends which did not go the way I wanted. In the mid 60s on the result sheet in Nove Mesto and not finishing the Obserstdorf skiathlon was a tough blow, but as the kids nowadays say, “It really do be like that sometimes”.
We arrived to a huge dumping of snow (2+ feet!) and Simi and Sophie and I hammered out some intervals in the fast falling blizzard.
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Following the old man.
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Matt’s girlfriend Steffi was a little tired after a double pole only session. 

The next few days were glorious bluebird conditions, and were aided by the arrival of Coach Pat! I was especially excited to have my coach over here as he calms me down or fires me up depending on the circumstance.

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Postcard view. 
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Once again following Old Man Sim.
Our last couple days before leaving for Falun have been rainy and cloudy, but our collective anticipation and stoke to get back to racing is high! Thank you to all the supporters of the T2 team, your generosity helps immensely in these mid-season camps that help shape the rest of the season.
Happy Trails!

Meditations on Squash Toast

*Ben S. checking in.

This is a unique year in nordic skiing, because for the first time in 3 years, there is no World Championships or Olympics. There is no concrete team to make, no deadline by which to make it, there is only an unending succession of races whose outcomes matter for only the most vaguely defined reasons. We are forced to stand in the sudden stillness of winter, and ask the most essential and terrifying question of a skier’s season “What exactly am I doing out here?”

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To this question, everyone must come up with their own answer. You must stare down the calendar and find a reason to get out for your second session of the day. You need to find something tangible and make it yours before you are swallowed up by a January storm. For me, that has been food.

For the last several weeks, I have been in Craftsbury, Vermont training long hours, and occasionally pulling on a bib to race. I have, in my time up here, been mostly living on my own, which means that I have only been cooking for one skier (which is, like, 3 normal people.)

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Calories are pretty essential to a skier’s lifestyle, but they can quickly lose their luster and become spartan. At a certain point near the end of a long training block, the term “force-feeding” could be appropriately used. One way to combat this is to get elaborate and practice your MasterChef routine. This is where I have found my small thing to focus on, to own, in the face of a nebulous calendar. It is a dumb thing to focus on to be sure, but the hungry brain wants what it wants.

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Skiing is a sport which traffics in a specific type of crazy. Not because it attracts lunatics (well, not only lunatics), but because commitment to the sport requires a certain suspension of logic and reason. The hours are too long, the temperatures are too cold, the money is non-existent, and the spandex is too tight to make any sense. The comfort food provides isn’t because a dish is memory and routine on a plate, not because recipes are knowable and controlled, but because food is so often the opposite of all those things. Great food is miraculous, and always hits your tastebuds with a dash of surprise. It is vivid, in other words, but not entirely reasonable. That lack of reason, is what makes it so miraculous, so delicious and moving, and what makes it such a wonderful reminder that great moments can emerge out of flux.

Steve Jobs once said that you can only ever “connect the dots” in retrospect, and when I dig into my platter of squash toast (a top-secret SMST2 dish) that corny dictum makes sense. Over the past 3 weeks I have cooked a whole mess of things: pistachio-encrusted salmon with dijon-glaze, pan fried ribeye with a peppercorn sauce, roasted chicken with cauliflower and bleu cheese. These have been adventures on which I took a few wrong turns (Reader, do not under any circumstances try to separate egg yolks over a sink) but they have provided an arena in which I can confront and embrace the questions whose answers won’t come until I’ve reached the end.

Riding the Roller Coaster

*Julia checking in from Seefeld.

One could say that a full season of racing on the World Cup is a bit like riding a roller coaster. You climb and fall, then get thrown for a loop. You are having a blast one moment, feeling ill the next, and all you can do is strap in and ride the roller coaster. Some seasons are more tumultuous than others, but it is guarantee no matter which athlete you are, high and lows will happen, and things will catch you by surprise. I approached the season ready to cherish the highs and prepared to climb my way out of lows, and the season has delivered nothing short of a roller coaster thus far! What I think is so special with our team is that everyone might be riding on a different part of the roller coaster at all times, but we make sure to celebrate each others success and feed off of them, and help each other out and support one another when someone needs a pick me up. Spending 4.5 months on the road is made much easier with incredible teammates and friends to share the roller coaster journey with 🙂

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A very unexpected and exciting high for me, my first World Cup podium in Planica! (PC: Nordic Focus)
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Sophie and I soaking up the sun during our “get healthy camp” after both getting sick during the Tour de Ski.
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Improvising after an unexpected injury cropped up last week and I couldn’t ski/walk.

After Dresden, I headed over to Nove Mesto to join up with Alayna and Ian for their first World Cups this season, and for Ian, his first World Cup ever! It was so fun to reconnect with them after so many weeks of watching live timing and seeing them ski so well. Jessie narrowly missed the podium, skiing to a 4th place the first day and I sneaked into the points with a 30th. Overall, everyone had solid races, but left hungry for more. Sophie and Simi sat out that weekend to recover and reset for Oberstdorf. In Oberstdorf, almost our entire team reconnected, with Jessie, Sophie, Alayna, Simi, Ian and I all together! Oberstdorf is the venue for World Championships next year so we were all excited to try out the new courses and soak up some sunshine. Jessie and Sophie skied to an impressive 3rd and 4th place in the classic sprint on a grueling course, with Simi narrowly missing qualifying. I had to sit out the races in Oberstdorf due to injury a leg tendon last week, but I enjoyed being on the other side of the fence cheering everyone on.

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So psyched to get to ski with my SMST2 buddies again!!!
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Alayna and I doing speeds together and working on that forward position and ankle flexion…how are we doing?
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Sophie and Jessie charging in the classic sprint (PC: U.S. Ski Team).
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Jessie is psyched to be 3rd! (PC: U.S. Ski Team) 

We are getting to the part of the season where the weekly packing and unpacking routine is getting a bit tiresome. We have been on the road for 11 weeks now (with races every week) and have 9 more weeks of hopping around from venue to venue. This weekend is the only weekend in the entire season where there is no World Cup race, which is the perfect time for our team to settle in one place for 10 days to break our routine and get refreshed for the second half of the season. For some that means getting in a training block, for some that means going on cross country or downhill ski adventures, and for me, that means healing up a tendon injury in my leg. Although I am a bit sidelined now and it is a bit of a low, I have tried to see the positives and enjoyed catching up with the whole team and we are all psyched to Pat over here now! Thanks for following along and cheering us on!

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Sunshine and friends in Seefeld!
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We found a coach Pat in Europe!

 

On To The Next Stop

*Simi checking in.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years of ski racing full time, it’s that you always have to plan for the unplanned. No matter how well you prepare, things never go exactly like you expect them or want them to. But that’s one thing that makes our sport and our lifestyle so exciting and dynamic. Sometimes you find yourself in a metaphorical brawl that you didn’t see coming, and you just have to roll with the punches, ducking and weaving your way back into fight that you want to be in, the one that you’re wearing a race suit for.  
 
I feel like I am finally at a point in my career that I can genuinely get excited about the prospect of doing well not just as a sprinter, but as a distance racer as well. Finally, scoring points in a distance race on the World Cup doesn’t seem as far-fetched a notion as it did 10 years ago. Granted, it takes the right course on the right day in the right conditions, but I think all those 800-hour years of training under my belt are finally paying off in spades when it comes to fitness and endurance. So, it’s accurate to say that three weeks ago I was off-the-charts excited about the prospect of racing the entire Tour de Ski, especially with the second sprint coming so late in the tour. Two days before first race, I pulled my groin doing classic speeds. What was even more frustrating was that I had just nursed myself back from a low-grade cold in record time so that I could be 100% healthy for the start of the tour. Barely able to skate ski, much less walk, our coaches and I made the call that I should jump on a flight back to Park City in order to get the best rehab care I could get from our US Ski Team PTs and also so that I didn’t have to sit around in Europe, following my teammates around the Alps as they got to race daily while I sat around watching them from the hotels’ TVs. While I was stateside, physical therapy went great and my leg was back to 100% in just over a week. Unfortunately, I’m becoming all too familiar with what it means to be getting older, and just after I had come back from my groin injury, I woke up with a tweaked neck that was so painful I couldn’t even sit up to get out bed. Frustrated, confused, and very impatient, I made the call that I was still going to fly back to Europe in time to link up with the rest of the team in eastern Germany and race the Dresden city sprints. I mean, if my neck pain had developed from thin air, then it stood to reason that it could just as easily dissipate into thin air. But they say that bad things come in threes, so it made perfect sense that I on my flight back across the pond, I caught a respiratory virus that feels a bit like bronchitis at this point. So here I am sitting in a hotel room in the alps, having just spent a weekend watching all of my teammates race while I sat around inhaling steam from the bathroom sink and laughing about the irony of why I left Europe for home in the first place two weeks ago.
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Late evening on the race course in Dresden.
While being laid up in German hotel room isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of good times, it does give you ample time for reflection and provides you the opportunity to figure out how to make the best of a crappy situation. I came to the realization this weekend that watching World Cup ski racing live is an opportunity that a lot of people would love to have, and few rarely get. So with that said, it made me incredibly proud to stand trackside and yell for all of my teammates as they raced along the banks of the Elbe River in one of the more unique race settings we have all year. Both Sophie and Julia, as well as all three of our guys who were racing this weekend (Kevin Bolger, Logan Hanneman, and JC Schoonmaker) crushed it. Don’t quote me on this, but I think this was only the second time that every US athlete who was on the start list for a World Cup sprint qualified for the heats (the first time came a few weeks ago in Planica, Slovenia). That’s pretty cool, and if you’re looking for evidence that we’re just getting stronger and stronger as a XC skiing powerhouse, I’d say there’s your evidence right there. Soph inspired me with yet another sprint in which she was in the finals (that’s three out five sprints that she’s been in the finals). Julia skied like she belongs at this level, and she is certainly proving she does after notching another top-20 on Saturday. It’s pretty cool to witness how in her element she is at this level of ski racing. Our boys fought hard, gritting out a super tough qualification in which the 1st-30th spread was 4 seconds (that’s about as tight as it gets). In each of their heats they battled along the narrow and short course, and just couldn’t quite move up enough to advance out of their quarters. I was proud of our whole crew this weekend, but hands-down the most inspiring performance came from our up-and-coming junior from the University of Alaska- Anchorage, JC Schoonmaker. JC flew directly from US nationals in Michigan to Dresden (while battling a cold), got off the plane, and two days later during his first ever World Cup, qualified for the heats and scored World Cup points. Not only did he score points, but he skied up from start position number 76 to qualify 24th. That is insane. I’ve been doing this a lot of years, and that is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, as well as an indication that the next generations of skiers coming up through the development pipeline right now is going to make us look like we were weekend warrior rec skiers. I couldn’t be more excited about our juniors right now, especially the men, and it’ll be really fun to watch what they do in the next 15+ years.
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Julia and Soph all smiles. Photo: Anna Terry
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J.C. Schoonmaker, the man of the weekend. Scoring his first World Cup points! Photo: Anna Terry
So now it’s time for a break. It’s going to be a full, “hard-reset” I’ve decided. It’s what I need at this point, and it will ensure that I come back 100% and even stronger and more psyched than I was before all the dominoes came tumbling down. Soph and I will spend the next 3 weeks in Seefeld, Austria, with a quick trip over to Oberstdorf, Germany for a single sprint race in 10 days. It’ll be super nice to set up a bit of home base here for this period coming up, and the conditions look good. It will be abnormally warm here this week, but there is enough snow on the ground that we won’t be dealing with the hamster wheel like they are in a lot of other places in the northern hemisphere right now. Thanks for checking in and we hope all of our supporters out there are finding their own Seefeld trails to cruise around on this winter!
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The view from our apartment in Seefeld. We never get sick of this place. 

The Definitive Yooper Dictionary

*Ben S. checking in.

Several members of the SMST2 Team and I are currently in Hancock, Michigan as we prepare to begin the 2020 US Cross Country Ski Championships. For those of you who have never been to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (more commonly known as the UP) it is a delightful tract of land stretching out into Lake Superior filled with wonderful, and unique citizens. It is worth noting that the only thing more unique than these citizens is their vocabulary. Over dinner with our host family the other night I was particularly puzzled when I heard REDACTED and REDACTED reminisce about the time their son was arrested for “whipping sh*tties in the bunner lot.” It was at this point I decided that I had to learn everything I could. I set out on a quest to find the most grizzled locals (also known as Yoopers) I could and, with their permission, have transcribed this new knowledge here for all to see. Please enjoy.

THE DEFINITIVE YOOPER DICTIONARY

God’s Country  (n.) – The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, WHICH for the record is not a part of Wisconsin.

Yooper Loop (n.) – A singularly unique arrangement of asphalt at the interchange of US-41 and MI-26 that stands in defiance of logic, God, and safe-driving protocols (pictured above).

Holy Wah! (exp.) – A local exclamation used most often when passing through the Yooper Loop.

pasty (n.) – A cornish miners meal, akin to shoving part of an animal and most of a garden into a pastry. It must be eaten with ketchup, and never gravy.

panking (v.) – The act of pressing down snow, which is the only option you have left when the drifts rise above shoulder level.

Gitchi Gumee (n.) – The largest body of fresh-water in the world. Also known as Lake Superior.

toque (n.) – A hat which here, for some reason, is pronounced “Chook”

yooper slipper (n.) – Fur lined boots used for panking.

troll (n.) – Anyone who lives south of the Mackinac bridge

busche latte (n.) – A watery concoction which is consumed most often by local college students (see also: beer).

sawna beer (n.) – The same thing as a shower beer except you take it in the sauna.

yooper challenge (n.) – The act of consuming a Miller High Life, a shot of blackberry whiskey, and a pickled egg in as little time as possible.

yooper scooper (n.) – An extra large shovel specially designed for lake effect snow. It is also big enough to bring your husband home in after he completes the Yooper Challenge.

Lake Effect (n.) – A reference to the cold air that circulates above Gitchi Gumee, it is the governing dynamic of all weather in the UP.

percent of snow (n.) – In most places this refers to the chance that it will snow on any given day. In the UP it refers to the percentage of any 24 hour period it will be snowing. In St. Paul a 50% chance of snow means you’ve got a 50/50 shot of getting home without any trouble. In the UP a 50% chance of snow means it will be snowing 50% of the day.

Widow’s Weekend (n.) – The weekend of November 15th when every male resident in the UP disappears into the woods and tries to kill a deer (see also: opening day).

camp (n.) – A cottage or cabin (Used most frequently on Widow’s Weekend).

board meeting (v.) – Drinking every beer on offer at the KBC (Keewanaw Brewing Company).

Deer Skull Boiling  (n.) – A popular local establishment with an infamous sign, which does exactly what you think it’s going to do.

trenary toast  (n.) – A crunchy local delicacy which consists of a piece of cardboard lightly dusted with cinnamon.

whipping sh*tties  (v.) – The highly technical act of intentionally testing your car’s traction in winter conditions (See also: doing donuts).