Grand Finale

In most situations, a Grand Finale is the end of the show, with all the biggest booms, explosions and excitement. Every year, when we finish the World Cup Tour, we head back to the United States to jump into Spring Nationals, otherwise know as “Spring Series”. Depending on your fatigue level, these races can be some of the most fun races of the season. After having so many nerves all season long, weekend after weekend… it feels good to let your guard down a bit, and enjoy the “grand finale”. US athletes show up for Spring Nationals in any state ranging from dragging their tongue around the course because they are so tired, to on top of the world, with unlimited energy. I have experienced all ends of this spectrum. Last year I was so tired after completing two 8-10 day tour events during the season, that I couldn’t even get myself to race through the week. I had to drop out of the races due to sickness, injury… and just pure mental and physical “burn out”. 

This year, I was feeling like I was in a much better place. I still felt really good my final weekend of races in Quebec City, and I couldn’t wait to finish off the “grand finale” in good form. And, on top of that, we were having Spring Nationals races in Fairbanks, Alaska… something that felt a little more like home to me! Unfortunately, I encountered some major travel bumps on the way back to Alaska, and found myself getting way too tired. Combine that with the excitement of spending three days at home after being gone for 4.5 months, and living in a household of sick roommates and classmates, and suddenly my in-destructive feelings came crashing into a wall. 

Being back in Alaska means it is back to real winter and cold temperatures!

Being back in Alaska means it is back to real winter and cold temperatures!

After making the seven hour beautiful road trip up to Fairbanks from Anchorage, I unfortunately woke up sick, and had to turn around and make that beautiful drive right back the following morning. I tried to regroup and recharge as quick as possible. After two days of pure mental and physical rest, I jumped on a plane, and headed back to Fairbanks in hopes of finishing off the spring series races, with a team relay event and the 30 kilometer race left . I still had that unstoppable feeling, so I was ready to put it to the test!

Getting some fresh air during my sick days.

Getting some fresh air during my sick days.

Jumping the gun on health a little more than I would have liked to, I couldn’t fathom sitting out of the team relay event. This was a National Championship race, and relay events are some of the most fun events to compete in! Not only that, I only get to represent my Alaska Pacific University colors a couple times a year, so I really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be a part of the team. As I headed out on the 5k lap being chased/hunted just a few seconds back from Jessie Diggins.. I tried super hard to convince myself I had unlimited energy and ability. Turns out, being healthy is integral, despite how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise. I think I experienced more pain, and dug deeper in those five kilometers than I had all season. After collapsing to the ground in a bath of lactic acid and horrible feelings, I decided at that moment that I was calling it a season. Racing sick is neither fun, nor smart!

Teammates all season, and now we are competing against each other for different clubs. I asked Jessie before the start to please not kill me... I think she considered being nice, but then her "relay spirit" kicked in, and she nearly did me under! All I can say is I am happy to have this girl in the closing leg of our US relay.. she is something special! (Lance Parrish photo)

Teammates all season, and now we are competing against each other for different clubs. I asked Jessie before the start to please not kill me… I think she considered being nice, but then her “relay spirit” kicked in, and she nearly did me under! All I can say is I am happy to have this girl in the closing leg of our US relay.. she is something special! (Lance Parrish photo)

2nd Place for APU- (Max Kaufman photo)

2nd Place for APU- (Max Kaufman photo)

Congrats to Stratton Mountain School for stealing the show and National Title back! And congrats for winning the face paint contest! (Max Kaufman photo)

Congrats to Stratton Mountain School for stealing the show and National Title back! And congrats for winning the face paint contest! (Max Kaufman photo)

The season end “grand finale” was not ruined though! In my mind, these end of the season races are a “victory lap”. Despite your shape, your feelings, and your placing… the event is always a celebration of all the accomplishments of the season. One of my favorite parts about it is that we all go back to racing for our club teams, and we integrate back into our teams that we spent all the hard spring, summer, and fall training hours with. These are the teammates that literally shared all the blood, sweat and tears with you during the endless training season. So to share the “victory lap” with them means the world. 

Teammates and cheering squad!

Teammates and cheering squad!

Despite really dropping the ball for my team in the relay event, or showing up sick, or having to finish the week early- I had so much joy during the spring series week. I was reminded, as I am during every Spring Nationals how lucky I am to be part of such an amazing club team! I appreciate my coaches and teammates so much, and couldn’t be luckier to be surrounded by such a great crew both during the training season as well as during the World Cup racing season!

Playing coach with the two youngest members of the team, and future stars in our sport!

Playing coach with the two youngest members of the team, and future stars in our sport!

Finishing the week with a 30th birthday party for the amazing Liz Stephen!

Finishing the week with a 30th birthday party for the amazing Liz Stephen!

I hope to return back to Fairbanks again some day to do some more racing. Birch Hill has such well built and fun courses, so I will have to come back for some more of that one day when I am healthier.

Big thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors and supporters that have shared so much enthusiasm, support and cheers with me. Thanks to my club and national teams, and coaches for pushing me to the limit, and catching me in those times that I inevitably crashed during the training and racing season. Thanks to the wax technicians for doing all the hard work behind the scenes, allowing the magic to happen!And thanks to the best family and friends in the world who never call me crazy.. but just keep cheering and supporting me along the way! I am a lucky girl, with the best job in the entire world. I will have more memories than I could ever dream of storing in my brain from this incredible journey! 

It is now a little bit of rest and recovery time before starting the training season again! I just returned home from a wonderful break in Florida with family.

Replacing the snow and cold with sand and sun!

Replacing the snow and cold with sand and sun!

Celebrating Jo's Grandmothers 80th birthday with all of her kids, and all of her grandkids!

Celebrating Jo’s Grandmothers 80th birthday with all of her kids, and all of her grandkids!

Loving every moment I get to spend with my family!

Loving every moment I get to spend with my family!

Alligator hunting....

Alligator hunting….

Lucky to have this little partner in crime!

Lucky to have this little partner in crime!

One more training season until the next Olympics! Let’s make this the best one!

Happy Spring!