World Cup Whirlwind

This weekend was the largest and most overwhelming immersion in awesomeness that I have ever experienced.  Things seem pretty normal now: am now sitting placidly in the Calgary airport, I just finished re-reading The Hunger Games (which I still can’t put down, even when I know what happens next), and am sorting through my thoughts as I try to write a blog.  Oh and yesterday I placed 24th on the World Cup.  

Nope, that wasn’t a typo.

Starting my quarterfinal!  (I am the bumble bee on the left, getting out of the blocks pretty well) Photo: Marisa Rorabaugh

Starting my quarterfinal!  (I am the bumble bee on the left, getting out of the blocks pretty well) Photo: Marisa Rorabaugh

I think I may have a new favorite place in the entire world.   Quebec City is a great mixture of old european-style architecture and high-rise buildings.  The French-speaking natives and signage create significant exotic appeal, but you don’t have to endure a 10 hour time change to get there.  When we checked into our hotel and I finally flopped onto my bed after a long day of travel, I knew the week was going to be fabulous.  When beds are that comfortable, there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong!

It helped that the food was fantastic too: the crepes at breakfast were so steeped in caramelized buttery goodness that they practically melted in my mouth.  If you’re wondering what I ate for breakfast on the morning of the sprint, I did have a couple of those aside my oatmeal and eggs.  Perhaps they were the magic touch!  But I digress… 

delicious!

delicious!

When I arrived, I was still waiting for my racing to come
around.  I know I wrote that last blog about how things were starting to
show promise, but in reality I was still questioning my fitness and my ‘fight’
as a competitor.  I barely skimmed my way onto the team, right?  But
once I settled into Quebec City that started to matter less.  I slowly
started to feel like I belonged at the World Cup.  I was definitely still a little shy at meals, but when
Oystein Petterson is scooping up weisswurst next to you, accidentally dropping
the serving spoon is a legitimate concern. 

As I adjusted to the scene, I was somewhat less nervous. When
I was named to race with Caitlin Gregg in Friday’s team sprint I felt nothing
but stoke.  I was so excited about the course, about the people watching,
getting to race head-to head with World Cup regulars, and about getting to do
more than one lap of the course that I didn’t have room in my head for fear. While
I warmed up for that race I was just thinking about getting out of the gates
like a cat out of a box, and mixing it up with some really fast ladies!

That first race went just fine, I felt like I got stuck in
the back off the line and was clinging to the tail of the pack throughout the
first leg.  Chasing that particular
pack was certainly an honor, so when we ended up a bit behind we still skied
our hearts out and had a blast.  As
it turns out, huge crowds are my thing: thousands of people yelling for you is
the greatest and most positive kind of motivation in the world in my opinion.  Also, having my family drop everything
to come watch me race was an amazing boost.  My parents booked last minute mileage tickets to Boston,
drove around New England stealing my sisters from their colleges, and woke up
at 4am Friday to make it to the team sprint from Burlington.  It was incredibly special to have them
there. Without Eliza wearing my new lucky sunglasses, I don’t know what would
have happened!

Three sisters... I think I am trying my hardest not to be the shortest.

Three sisters… I think I am trying my hardest not to be the shortest.

The next day was the individual skate sprint.  My goal for the prelim, as it always
is, was to make the rounds. 
However, qualifying at the World Cup is no cakewalk.  As I stuffed clothes in my bag in the
morning I threw in enough shirts and food to last through the heats, but it
almost felt like jinxing myself to pack it.  When you bring sunscreen, it always rains!  I didn’t worry too much about it though.  I knew it was going to be a fantastic
day; win, lose, or draw.  I knew
that I love that kind of course, I love the energy from the crowd, the
atmosphere of the venue, and I love ski racing.  Even if I only got to go around once, it was going to be
awesome.

And it was way beyond awesome.  I stumbled a little on the first corner, and hesitated to
track Fitz at the very end, but otherwise I just skied.  There was a crystal moment in the
second half, as I realized that I was gaining ground, in which I found that
‘other’ gear.  Muscles can’t hurt,
your body has no limits, and you’re totally unafraid.  When I crossed and I heard I was 22nd, I was so
euphoric I didn’t know what to do.

Prelimming as hard as I can.  Photo Credit: Marisa Rorabaugh

Prelimming as hard as I can.  Photo Credit: Marisa Rorabaugh

I was buzzing and babbling with caffeine and excited nerves
as I waited for my quarterfinal. I didn’t really have a plan, other than to get
out off of the line like a dog from a kennel: exuberant, happy, and fast. 

I got off the line alright, I was in third going into the
first corner.  Unfortunately after
that I wasn’t in third anymore:

This is a picture of a computer screen that Noah took as he was watching the race.  As you can see I got a little hung up.

This is a picture of a computer screen that Noah took as he was watching the race.  As you can see I got a little hung up.

Well, stuff happens. 
Especially in sprint races. 
I ended up with my ankle locked on Bettina Gruber’s, and we took a
second to untangle.  For a while we
gained on the group, but never caught them.  I never stopped trying though.

Photo Credit: FlyingPoint Road

Photo Credit: FlyingPoint Road

In a way I am
pretty sad about it because the chances of another such day, with such a
course, with such a crowd, are very slim. 
My body, mind, circumstances, and family were all in the right place at
the right time.  On the other hand
it leaves a huge door of opportunity wide open.  Now I know that I can do it, I know that I could have done
much better in my quarterfinal, and I feel that I have only glimpsed a small
ray of the bright possibilities out there.  It’s like I am saving a dessert coupon for later; I hate when
I can’t instantly enjoy it, but I know it’s out there and I can only imagine
how amazing it will be when I can.

In the end I am
grateful that I was able to participate in most amazing racing event that I
have ever been to.  Kikkan was a
vision as she powered her way to two gold medals, and having 5 of us qualify
for the rounds is a huge step for the USA.  Our women have really lit it up this year, and it’s a wave
that I am incredibly proud to be a part of.

I for one am
going to try and cash in that coupon this weekend, so stay tuned for updates
from the Canmore world cup!  Thank
you for reading, and I am so inspired by all of your support.  I could not have had such an amazing
day without everyone who encourages me: my coaches, my family who traveled all
the way to Quebec, my friends, my ‘hood, my teammates.  You’re the best!

Family came to see me!

Family came to see me!


 Kikkan's victory lap!

Kikkan’s victory lap!


 "my gloves are crunchy from all the champagne" -Kikkan #winner'sproblems

“my gloves are crunchy from all the champagne” -Kikkan #winner’sproblems


 Governor's Promenade with Alysson Marshall

Governor’s Promenade with Alysson Marshall


 Another picture from the live broadcast online

Another picture from the live broadcast online


 Governor's Promenade in Quebec City

Governor’s Promenade in Quebec City


 Some friends in Anchorage watching the race live!  Shannon send me this pic, and I am so psyched that they go to see the races.

Some friends in Anchorage watching the race live!  Shannon send me this pic, and I am so psyched that they go to see the races.


 Kikkan dominating her final heat up the finish stretch

Kikkan dominating her final heat up the finish stretch