Writing this post with only a few days to spare before 2016 and the start of the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide. To bring you (and myself) up to speed on the past month of action, I raced the skate sprint World Cup in Davos as well as Toblach, ITA and a 10km classic COC race in Hochfilzen, Austria.
World Cup Davos was a big step for me. From some of my first conversations with Christian Flury (my coach with SwissSki) in spring of 2015, World Cup Davos has been on the radar as a home World Cup along with this coming weekend in Lenzerheide. I’ve come a long way from sitting in the kitchen of my parent’s house in Banff, pondering options and feeling overwhelmed with the coming steps, to finally being able to put a bib on for the World Cup. None of it would’ve been possible had I not focused on keeping things going, <<schritt für schritt>>, step by step. There were so many moments this past spring, summer, fall and winter where I thought ‘this is crazy. I am never going to amount to anything. All of this is too overwhelming. I don’t know which was is up let alone how to say that in German.’ I doubted my abilities more than I care to admit but the important things remained the same. I had the support of those around me as well as my family – who are nowhere near me, but supportive nonetheless, and stayed committed to each step forward. Although a lot of the time it felt like two steps forward and one step backwards!
Squeaking into the top-30 in the Davos World Cup was an incredible feeling, and the product of a lot of previous smaller steps. It was a great day for our team as well, with two of my teammates Nadine Fähndrich (training partner for the summer along with Nathalie Von Siebental, 33rd) and Laurien van der Graff qualifying 15th and 6th.
My result in Davos allowed me to start in the Toblach World Cup the following weekend (December 19). Although I was unable to qualify in Toblach, finishing 43rd, my body actually felt better than in Davos and I skied the course to the best of my ability on the day. The field in Toblach was tight (all women in the top 30 qualifying within 6.4 seconds) meaning less room for error than Davos. However, it is an incredible feeling to know that it’s still December and the season is young! Any opportunity I have to put a bib on is time well spent the amount of learning I have immersed myself in over the past months is remarkable. Diving into a new life and possibilities here in Switzerland has been one of the scariest and best decisions of my life. No matter how the deck is dealt; I am learning and growing with no regrets.
Adding to the list of new experiences, I raced a 10km classic in a COC race in Hochfilzen/Obertilliach, Austria (December 20). After the sprint in Toblach, those of us not racing the 10km distance World Cup, drove Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours to find a string of snow in a farmer’s field in Austria. The snow situation in Europe at the moment is dire. There are blobs of snow making attempts that dot the valley bottoms, but the guns have seized fire, as the temperatures aren’t sustainably below zero. Just where the snow comes from to pull of these races on 2.5km loops in the middle of nowhere is beyond me. Although I am grateful to be skiing no matter where I am, it is a scary situation for me to be racing in spring conditions, no long johns and full klister skis in December. Another ‘first’ for the 2015 books. Mother Nature is trying to tell us something here!
The race warm-up track was a steep, icy hill back and forth and no traffic was allowed on the race course pre-race. I was actually surprised there was a warmup track! The first of four 2.5km laps into my race was for learning the course, only almost went off course once (almost took the men’s 3km turnoff). Then sort of finding a rhythm for the second lap, crashed on my third lap and tried to make up a bit of time I had lost on my fourth lap. Overall, a super sucky race but a good intensity effort in klister-spring-skiing conditions, even though my body felt like skunk and I looked more like a stiff Christmas tree trying to climb the hills than an athlete. Sucky result, good experience. Can't wait to do some more distance racing!
I’m really enjoying the fact that all the races are relatively ‘local’ in Europe when compared to the travel I’m used to in Canada for the race series. Driving more than 2 hours here is considered ‘a long way’ by European standards. Being able to race a World Cup in Italy and a COC in Austria in one weekend and come home to Davos afterwards is definitely something I can get used to.
Last week, I celebrated Christmas with some Canuck friends staying in Europe over Christmas. Davos is a convienient stop over for many on the World Cup circuit because it is basically guaranteed to have snow, good training conditions and a lot of sunlight. It was my first Christmas away from home, and although I missed my family like crazy, having close friends visiting was a blast and we juiced every drop of Christmas from Davos possible. Gingerbread house building, skating, skiing, decorating, caroling, gifting and feasting. We nailed it.
With a weekend off from racing, I was able to add a bit more formal training in and am feeling prepared for my next steps and what 2016 has to offer. I’ll race the sprint in Lenzerheide as the kick off for the 2016 Tour de Ski and then race the following weekend of COC in Planica, Slovenia. Depending on how the next set of races pan out, I’ll have a better idea of different World Cups and COC races that I’ll start.
Aside from training and racing, I'll be spending my spare time upping my German skills and dancing for snow. Merry belated Christmas and Happy New Year!