I survived my first Tour de Ski!! 8 races in 10 days... Phew! These are four takeaways from the Tour that I'll carry with me through the season...
Takeaway 1: How will I know my limits if I don't try to push them? My proudest race of my season, and arguably of my international racing career, was the 10km skate pursuit in Val Mustair (stage 3 of the Tour). I felt like I had two little voices, one tiny person sitting on each of my shoulders. One voice kept insulting me: "You should have done more strength before this"... "Why are you even trying to keep up with these girls that are so much better than you?"..."There is no way you're going to close that gap." But the other voice proved my heroine for the day, combating each insult my brain made up with "Oh yeah? Watch me." It was one of my most brave race moments: hearing those negative insults from that internal voice, acknowledging them, and consciously deciding not to give them power. I ended up gapping the group I had caught, barely being able to see on the last downhill, and finishing 13th with the 7th fastest time of day.
Takeaway 2: Remember to celebrate the small victories. Being part of a team of women who, if not winning, are consistently fighting for the podium, it can be easy to feel like any result besides a top-3 isn't all that impressive. Of course, I am incredibly proud of the hard work of my teammates to reach those top podium spots this Tour (!!), but it worries me, honestly, that our ski nation will see these feats and set increasingly high standards, and that the little victories will get overlooked. When I look back at every race during this Tour, I try to remember my little victories, like pushing hard over the big hill in Toblach, or fighting to not give up mentally when I had accidentally raced on my warm up skis in Val di Fiemme... about that.....
Takeaway 3: Pay attention to the important details!!! Is making sure I eat the perfect thing for breakfast an important detail? Nah. Is making sure I have the right pair of skis on my feet an important detail? It better be!! If you look closely at the TV footage from the start of the 10km classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, you can see some scrambling in the fourth row.... that was me, scrambling with the ski service staff to try to switch my skis to what we thought were my race skis with 30 seconds to the start. I had not taken careful note of which pair were actually my race skis, and in the end I raced on my warm up pair. Oops. Trust me, I won't let that happen again!
Takeaway 4: You can't get to the start line without the 'team behind the team'. Coaches organizing logistics, massage/physical therapists keeping our bodies firing, Chef Allen making insanely good smoothies, and of course our all-star wax tech team working overtime to make amaaaazing skis for 8 races in a row. Thank you to all who made this possible for us athletes... we truly couldn't have done it without you.
Now for the fun part... photo dump!
A classic Swiss meadow venue in Val Mustair.
Motivation for afternoon walks: visit the most friendly cat I've ever seen.
Narrow cobblestone roads and decorated buildings :)
Gotta fuel up!! We made some Tour snacks over Christmas break, like these date-oat-peanut butter bars.
Goodbye Val Mustair... hello stick-up-the-nose. Thank you tech Tim for enduring these awful tests to help make my dreams come true!!
Toblach! Happy for the first rest day.
In the Toblach snowy wonderland with Katharine and Rosie.
Had to sneak a post-race selfie with my true hero and APU teammate Rosie. :)
I am still more excited about this banana caution cone than I'd like to admit.
Le Tour de Pasta.
Stage 7: Tortilla chips never tasted so good.
Val di Fiemme! <3
Looking down the ski slope at the 200m-to-go mark on Alpe Cermis!
Thank you Chef Allen for keeping us fueled and cheering us on!
Finally, we celebrate!! Woohoooo!!!