Finishing a big week!

It’s been an awesome, solid week of training here in Stratton! Now that we’re all back in one place (well, almost, but we get Alayna here tomorrow and then the family will be together), it’s been awesome to get back into a rhythm of regular training. We usually do interval sessions and strength (in the afternoons) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a longer over-distance training session on Sunday, and in between we have some easy distance training or speed sessions. Sounds simple, and we like to keep it that way, especially when we’re building up to more and more hours!

 

That face you make when the hurdles are a little bit too close! Jessie, Julia and Kyle led foot agility before strength this Thursday.

A pretty cool thing about our program is that the senior SMST2 athletes lead the juniors in agility warmups before strength a couple times per week. We get to share fun drills that have helped us, make up some new slightly ridiculous drills, and get creative on ways to get better at balance and technique!

Sophie, Simi and Julia led agility warmup on skate skis this Saturday, with some fun partner band pulls!

We capped off this bigger week of training with a really fun roll-run combination workout. We started with a nice flatter double pole that ended with about 25 minutes of climbing up to the AT trail junction and Little Rock Pond.

The girls train double poling their way closer to the swimming pond.

After switching to running gear (and eating a wide variety of snacks, including but not limited to banana bread slices) we ran a loop that went right through Little Rock Pond. Of course, the yearly cliff jumping into the cool water had to be carried out, and we all had some pretty unique styles!

Sophie with “the ninja jump”
Paddy with “the flying squirrel”
Jessie with the “but coach you said to get more forward!” jump
And Simi just making the rest of us look like uncoordinated fools with his sick tricks.

Nobody belly flopped, and we’re focusing on body care now that we have a day off before starting in on next week! And last but certainly not least…a Happy Father’s Day shoutout to all the rad Dad’s out there! Thanks for all you do for us, taking us to practices and races and helping us be better human beings every day.

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Springing back into training!

All right, everyone! It’s TRAINING SEASON once again! After a long, fun season and then a nice break and some time off in April, it’s been such a blast getting back into the swing of things and getting back into training once again. I spent the last two weeks of May with my family in Minnesota, and it was great getting to roller ski once again (it feels so strange the first few steps on roller skis! They’re so short compared to skis!). I got to ski over all my favorite loops and interval hills on my old stomping grounds, and go for long runs in the Afton State Park. I was often joined by my high school coach and her daughter, my Mom on her bike, or my high school friends so it was easy to stay excited and motivated, sharing the hard work of training with others.
I was also quite a busy little bee, running around the Twin Cities doing lots of events! It’s been so much fun getting to share the excitement of the past winter with the ski community I grew up with. Seeing the faces of young skiers as they get to hold the Gold Medal is priceless, and also the best feeling ever. You can practically see their goals getting set, their excitement to get outside and get rocking and rolling with their teammates growing.
At the Afton event last weekend! (photo from John Kaul)
The day after I arrived I gave a talk to over 700 employees at 3M, then the next day I went to do a meet and greet at a Slumberland Furniture store. I drove up to Winona to do a big meet and greet with Fastenal, and did a live Facebook feed with MilkBone and my dog, Leo. I did another meet and greet at a local Xfinity store, and then on Saturday the 12th we had the big “Jessie Diggins day” in Afton, Minnesota! There were a couple thousand people there to celebrate cross country skiing, try the new ice cream flavor the local shop named after me, and get a poster. So needless to say…between training twice a day, it’s been quite the busy spring…and that was only the last two weeks!
Campaigning for a MN World Cup!
I had such a blast getting to throw the (ceremonial, of course!) first pitch for the Minnesota Twins team. To be totally honest, my hand-eye coordination is TERRIBLE and I am such a poor throw that my boyfriend Wade took me out to the field near his house in Boston for throwing lessons, because I was so nervous! And I have to say, he’s one amazing coach. Not that I’m biased, of course. But he helped me get the basics so that I actually made it to the plate…against all reasonable expectations I had for myself. I just wanted to do better than 50 Cent’s throw.
The serious face! (photo from the Twins)
Psyched to put on my own jersey! (photo from Erika Flowers)
To wrap up a great visit home, I went to speak to my old High School, Stillwater. It was so fun to come back after eight years, and get to inspire and hopefully motivate the current group of students! It was also such a treat to see my teachers and get to share the medal with them, because after all, they’re the ones who helped me catch up with all my homework when I was flying around the World for ski races all year long!
Students psyched to hold the gold medal!
Speaking to the class
I’d have to say the very best thing that happened out of all my time at home was that I got to help grow excitement and find the right sponsors to partner with the Loppet Foundation as we put in a bid to host the first World Cup event in the USA in 17 years! All the hard work paid off, and just this week our bid was awarded for a race in March of 2020, in Minneapolis at Theodore Wirth Park. I am so, so proud of all the work that the Loppet Foundation has taken on and so extremely grateful to all the companies that are signing on to sponsor the event. More to come on this later, but for now it’s enough to say that it means the world to me that all the junior skiers all over the US will have the chance to finally see their heroes racing right in front of them, at the highest level of racing in the World. What better way to inspire the next generation, than to bring their heroes right to them so they can have a front row seat to the World Cup races?
Right now, I’m in New Orleans for a day with the Smuckers company, before flying on to Bend, Oregon for our first US team camp of the season! I’m so, so excited to see my SMS T2 teammates, my national team teammates, and all the coaches. I really miss everyone when we’re going our separate ways in the spring, so it’s going to be good to get the crew back together. Check back soon for updates from Bend!
Fueling up before a training run with beignets in the French Quarter!

Resting, recovering!

For skiers, April is our one month off the entire year. It’s a time to decompress, get any adventures out of our system, and most importantly, rest and recover from the past 5 months of racing! May 1st is when I start training up again, and I need to be totally mentally rested, recovered and ready to rock and roll by then. So April is my time to do whatever I need to do in order to be psyched and happy and ready!
Sharing the excitement of the last season with my hometown in Minnesota last weekend! (photo from Carl Bohacek)
For my body, over the years I’ve learned that no matter how good I may think I’m feeling physically, in order to not get overtrained mentally or physically I need to take at least a week off for pure resting. Which means that nothing except walking around town is allowed – no spin classes, no physical adventures, nothing but letting my body heal up and rebuild itself after what I’ve asked it to do all winter long! This is always really hard for me because there’s always adventures to be had, but I’ve learned that sometimes a small sacrifice can lead to amazing times down the road. And just because I need to rest my body doesn’t mean that time has to be boring! Then the second half of April I start doing things again, but only if I feel like it. One day I woke up and realized I really, really wanted to get back into the gym and start lifting weights again. That’s how I knew I was ready, because my body and my mind told me it was time!
Making sure the next generation gets a chance to see the Gold Medal and get inspired to go after their own goals!
I’ve had the chance to travel all around Boston and the Twin Cities in Minnesota getting to share the Gold Medal, talk to my old elementary school and let every kid in school touch the medal, give presentations to help inspire the next generation…and work my butt off to try and bring the World Cup to the United States for the first time in our professional careers!
Presenting to the Minnesota ski community on last season’s adventures! (photo from Skinnyski.com)
I’ve also been lucky enough to get to be honored at a few playoff games, so now I have a Minnesota Wild jersey and a Boston Celtics jersey to wear while I cheer them on! My boyfriend Wade lives in Boston so along with Afton and Stratton, it’s now my “third home” as a place I spend a lot of time in.
Just because I’m resting doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watching other athletes crush it! At the Minnesota Wild’s playoff game with Wade.
Simply amazed by the excitement of playoff season at the Celtics game last night!
As we continue to spend our weeks off with family, friends and loved ones, the SMS T2 team is getting ready to gear up for a new year of training hard, working together and pursuing new goals! Thank you for all your support and cheering for us!
-Jessie

Spring Series Update!

This week marks our final block of competitions for the 2017/2018 season. Spring Series, also referred to as Spring Nationals, is a unique event because it brings together all ski racers from around the country for the first time all year. Athletes from the World Cup, Super Tour, collegiate circuit, junior divisions, and citizen races come together for one last hurrah and to celebrate the winter.

Paddy tagging off Jessie (Lazenby photo)

SMST2 has had a stellar start to the week with team members winning four of the five races and putting five different athletes on the podium for the Classic Sprint and Skate Distance races. AND… We won the Club Relay National Championship on Sunday! This is the second year in a row that SMST2 has taken the top honors in this event. This year our winning team for the 4x5km race featured Simi, Sophie, Paddy and Jessie. Nothing brings out the pain cave like relay races with team pride on the line and a lot of face paint to live up. We’re psyched to bring home the championship honors for the second year in a row and training for the three-peat starts tomorrow!

Jessie crossing the finish line (Lazenby photo)

Distance Nationals kicks off Tuesday with the women’s 30km Classic Mass Start followed by the men’s 50km Classic Mass Start on Wednesday. Last races of the year here we come!

The relay podium! (Lazenby photo)

Last Races!

Annie checking in on my last day in Minnesota before heading to Craftsbury, Vermont for  Spring Series– the final races of the 2017/2018 season.  We have already had the most incredible season, and are excited to have everyone back in the SMS T2 suits for one more go around.  The highlight of the week will most certainly be the club relay.  We are the defending champions, and are looking to fend off what is sure to be a strong team from APU.

Spring Series are always a unique set of races, as everyone is coming in with varying levels of fatigue–mental and physical.  For most people these races are either surprisingly good or extremely mediocre.  Or you end up getting really sick (everyone keep Andy in your thoughts–I think he has fallen ill in the last three spring series).  However you find your form, the races always have a bit of a celebratory feel to them.  It is a really fun way to cap off a grueling season of extensive travel and hard races, and I can’t wait to join up with the rest of the team!

Check out the older blog posts for what the team has been doing for the last bit of the season.  Erika has been doing marathon racing, Ben and Julia have been on the OPA circuit, Katharine has been winning NCAAs, Sophie, Simi, Jessie, and Andy have been wrapping up the World Cup, and I’ve been at home in Minnesota!  After the Olympics and the Birkie I was sufficiently worn out, and found myself quite sick for two weeks.  I was happy to be at home recovering from the sickness instead of in a hotel room, but none the less it was less than ideal. I’ve finally started getting some cardio in without my lungs hurting, and I’ve found a new love in Power Yoga and rekindled my relationship with crossfit…and thoroughly enjoyed having full reign of my own kitchen.

IMG_2421
One of several days I spent rotating between couches. Thank goodness I had Pudge to keep me company!
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After completing one of the Crossfit Open workouts with my strength coach Max.  I was pretty thrilled to get my first ring muscle up!
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Doing Power Yoga with the Powerhouse instructor Katy.  She’s been helping me with my handstands and I am getting close!
IMG_2484.jpg
After hearing a rumor that there was some crust skiing in Afton, I went to check it out.  There wasn’t any good crust skiing, but it felt good to finally get moving after two weeks of trying to get healthy!
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While not a homemade cake, Cafe Latte makes the best chocolate cake around.  Val got this to celebrate finishing third quarter and me getting healthy.

Time to go collect all of my bindings and make sure my skis are travel waxed.  Hoping to avoid the effects of New England’s fourth Nor’Easter on my travel day tomorrow.

 

Check back for a Spring Series recap!

Erika’s Marathon of Marathons!

Tour de Marathons

IMG_1514.jpgA little piece of heaven!

Hello! Erika checking in from the train in Lillehammer, Norway! For the past few years I’ve spent the latter half of the season trying to race internationally as much as possible. That often means traveling the OPA Cup circuit in Europe or, in the case of last year, racing World Cup Finals in Canada. This year I decided to try something a bit different and take on a mini Tour of some of the biggest ski marathons in the world! Pretty much anything over 30km qualifies as a ski marathon and three of the most famous/largest are the American Birkebeiner, The Engadin, and the Norwegian Birkebeiner. Each race draws upwards of 10,000 racers and are a completely different kind of race from the 10kms and sprints that make up our regular race circuit. A quick look back at the three ski marathons that should definitely be on your bucket list…

The American Birkebeiner

IMG_1069.jpgAnnie and me at the start of the BIrkie!

The Race: 50km point-to-point skate over rolling hills, rolling net downhill

Where: Hayward, Wisconsin

Highs: Racing down the main street of Hayward with hundreds of fans cheering you on to the finish line, fun rolling terrain through the woods, the welcoming Mid-Western hospitality

Lows: Missing my feed halfway through the race and bonking the last 10km

Don’t Miss: The Rivers Eatery in Cable for incredible pizza, a great selection of beer and even better company

IMG_1062.jpgThe finish down Main Street!

The Engadin

IMG_1381.jpgSwiss Mountain Views

The Race: 42km point-to-point skate across frozen lakes and through a mountain valley, flat and net downhill

Where: Engadin Valley near St. Moritz

Highs: Men and women start together, the spectacular mountain views and unbeatable Alpen glow, fast pack skiing

Lows: Breaking a pole halfway through the race

Don’t Miss: the chocolate, the incredibly tasty (and inexpensive) cheese, the post-race mineral baths

IMG_1556.jpgThe start of the race

Norwegian Birkebeiner:

IMG_1577.jpgPost race smiles with Chelsea

The Race: 54km point-to-point classic race over two mountain passes with a 3.5kg backpack, mix of long climbs and open flats, net uphill

Where: Lillehammer, Norway

Highs: Racing in Norway, the heartland of cross-country skiing, against some of the best skiers in the world, the coca-cola feed I drank around 34km, finishing the hardest ski race I’ve ever done

Lows: Water bottles freezing in the -9F temperatures and the subsequent suffering over the last 25km of the race due to not drinking or eating enough

Don’t Miss: the brown cheese, exploring the seemingly endless network of ski trails, a stroll through downtown Lillehammer complete with a cappuccino and croissant

IMG_1516.jpgSnow, sun and skiing as far as the eye can see

 

IMG_1600.jpgPost race treats!

World Cup finals week!

Hey! It’s Jessie, updating from the middle of the mini-tour in Falun, Sweden. We’re here for World Cup finals, the last three races we’ll do in Europe this season! Friday we had a skate sprint, today was a 10km classic mass start (15km for men) and Sunday will be a 10km pursuit start 10km skate (also 15km for men).

Sadie, Sophie, and I enjoying the 100,000+ crowds in Holmenkollen on Saturday! (photo from Sadie)

The end of the season always packs in a lot of racing, which can definitely go one of two ways after the Olympics! If you’re feeling happy, fresh and still riding peak form it can be fun to keep riding out the rest of the season. On the flip side, you might be feeling a little tired and burned out from so much racing, and more than a little homesick after 4 months on the road! So some crazy things can happen in these last few races. I’ve been feeling really lucky to miraculously find myself in that first camp, and it’s been really exciting getting to check some big “firsts” off my list, including my first classic sprint podium in Drammen and my first 30km podium in Holmenkollen!

Sending Hoff off in style! It was hard to say goodbye, but he’s had an amazing run.

Holmenkollen, Oslo was an emotional weekend for the team. It was Noah Hoffman’s last ever race of his career, which is a pretty special moment for anyone. But after so many years on the team, and after spending so much of my life on the road with him, it was impossible not to cry and feel the bittersweet emotions of Hoff ending a fantastic career but also knowing that we’re going to miss having him around!

The crew after the Men’s 50km finish. (photo from Kikkan)

There were over 100,000 spectators that weekend in Holmenkollen, and if I had to pick my last ever race, I think that would be the one. It was hard to let Hoff retire, but he really did it in style! The stadium played “Born in the USA” as Hoff skied the final 100 meters in front of the roaring crowd, after going through a tunnel of high-fives from the team and hugging his Dad.

Me, during the women’s 30km on Sunday (photo from Hoff)
Super stoked with my first long-distance podium!(photo borrowed from Swix)

Then we spent 6.5 hours on a bus and arrived in Falun, Sweden for our last three races! Sophie had locked in 3rd in the overall World Cup sprint podium a week before, and the team was there to cheer and celebrate with her as she achieved this huge milestone in her career! This is a big deal, because the overall podiums honor the three people who have raced really well over the ENTIRE season. That’s hard to achieve! And we’re so proud of her!

Sophie wrapping up an awesome season with 3rd in the Overall Sprint World Cup podium!

And of course, while we were on the road we were live streaming results from NCAA’s where Katharine put on a little ski clinic. We’re so proud of her! And seeing Torch take his NCAA title was also so thrilling, as we got to know him first as our PG one summer and then as a member of the US Ski Team. Happy for you guys!

Torch and KO as NCAA Champions! So proud of them!

Engadin Update

Olympic years can be so centrally focused on the big event it can be easy to forget that there are so many other amazing ski racing experiences to be had. That is one of the main reasons I jumped at the opportunity to join Erika and Chelsea Holmes at this years 50th anniversary Engadin Ski Marathon.

 

The Engadin is one of the biggest skate marathons in the World and once you arrive in the Egadin Valley its easy to see why. Sitting at a moderately high altitude (just under 6,000 feet) the valley consist of a huge network of xc skiing trails winding through picturesque Swiss towns like St. Moritz and Pontresina with epic mountain views.  We arrived just in time to go on an easy cruise in the sun on Friday and check out the first kilometers of the 42 K race, which starts on a pancake flat series of lakes.

Checking out the course!

This is also the time of year when it’s great to jump in any kind of racing opportunity you can so I was stoked to hear about the Engadin Night Sprints taking place in Mt. Moritz on Friday night. With a solid payout it attracts a number of World Cup skiers so it was a strong field and a typical fun city sprint course with tight turns, rollers, lots of contact, and even a jump.  Something about racing at night on these scrappy courses really helps remind me of why sprint racing is so fun. I was just bumped out in the semis but despite missing out on a paycheck I was happy to mix it up and felt good during the night sprints.

 

Unfortunately on race day the perfect weather deteriorated and we woke up to a dusting of new wet snow, which quickly turned to rain halfway through the race.  We had heard all kinds of stories from skiers who had raced the Engadin before and how crazy the start can be.  Even up on the front line of the Elite wave I could feel the intensity of starting in a group of 500 plus skiers with several thousand more right on your heals. This year’s race saw a record number of entries somewhere above 16,000.

Chelsea and Erika talking strategy

The start was frantic to say the least, with a huge pack of skiers swarming and drafting one another across the wide-open lakes. Everyone gets a little antsy at about 12K when the wide-open flat trail drastically narrows and begins to climb in the woods. This is where things got tough for me and I carelessly lost contact with the front group. Despite that the 5 or so K’s of climbing was really cool with winding trails that split randomly with trees in the middle. Not really knowing what was around each bend also added to the excitement of racing. (we obviously didn’t have time to ski the whole course haha)

 

Once out of the woods and the climbs the race drops down onto more pancake flat terrain and more or less a straight shot for 20K to the finish. I was so amazed at how quickly the K’s clicked by on the fast flat terrain and how different it was than most World Cup races. Just like bike racing these flat marathons are all about how fast your group is moving so it was frustrating to see the larger lead pack slowly pull away from my chase group as we raced toward the finishing town.

 

I wasn’t able to finish as high up as I would have liked but it was still totally worth it for the experience. The Engadin is also known as being a special race because the men and women all start and race together so Erika and Chelsea were also battling with the dudes all the way to the finish. They both skied really well even with Erika’s broken pole and Chelsea sprinted her way to a lunge for the podium finishing 3rd.

Chelsea on the podium!

The Engadin experience was everything we could have hoped for highlighted by the Engadin specialist Tony Wiederkehr and his family who graciously hosted us and showed us the ropes. It was awesome to connect with Tony again and see his passion for this race and they made us feel like we were part of the family. Can’t thank Tony enough for his hospitality, I know after learning a few things about this epic race I look forward to being back on the start line in the future.

Back on the World Cup!

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.

Back in Lahti!

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.

Drammen city sprinting! (photo by Ophira Group)

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.

Jessie in the semi-final (photo by Ophira Group)

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.

Fueling up

Paddy’s Post PyeongChang Update

Thank you PyeongChang!

Earlier this week we flew from Seoul to Helsinki after the conclusion of the Olympics in PyeongChang — for those who missed the Closing Ceremonies at the Olympics last week our very own Jessie Diggins carried the American flag for Team USA. After our three weeks in Korea it is exciting to be back on the road and racing in Europe. It was an amazing experience being part of Team USA and being present for the historic performances from our cross-country team at the Championships. I was constantly amazed with how well organized the entire event was. Not only were there countless volunteers but each and every one greeted you with a huge smile and wave.

 

IMG_5930Lots of smiling faces after Jessie and Kikkan won GOLD in the Team Sprint event

 IMG_5878SMST2 at the Olympics!

Now we are gearing up for the final three World Cup weekends starting with races in Lahti, Finland. The high temperature since we arrived hasn’t reached double digits yet but the snow is still fast and the skiing is perfect! Following the races here in Lahti we race in Oslo, Norway and Falun, Sweden to wrap up the World Cup season.

 

IMG_5858Training on the courses in PyeongChang