As many of you know, I was living in France this winter to train and race on the Skimo world cup circuit. I call it my European Skimo Boot Camp.
Beginning in December I lived and trained in France with local teammate Grace Staberg, and the legendary Laetitia Roux. “Laeti” we called her is the most decorated Skimo athlete of all time, so it was a privilege to work with her. But with great reward also comes great risk. Going “all-in” in a sport like this takes sacrifice and a level of commitment; I feel I could only scratch the surface. It was a time of growth on many fronts.
There were times in the journey where I felt highs and experienced some lows, asking myself if this was something I could really sustain in the long term. I knew that I wanted to maximize this season of singleness and pursue this passion to its fullest degree.
Our Training and Routine
Our routine was quite simple, and simple is sometimes hard. We all lived in a chalet deep in the woods of the beautiful French Alps. There are pluses and minuses to this level of remoteness and training. Being so removed from civilization has its perks, no distractions and better recovery. However, as an extrovert who is fueled by social community, I found it hard to completely turn off. It forced me to get creative, find ways to get connected, and incorporate social outings where possible. It’s the butterfly in me. Finding independence in the midst of a strict schedule like this was a challenge. When we weren’t traveling to races, we trained, ate, slept, worked on gear, then repeated every day.
Grace and I went to Europe with the goal of racing for 5 months. We came home 2 months early. It wasn’t until our China World Cup got canceled in late January due to Corona virus did our plans start to get disrupted. China informed us that the cancelation of our World Cup was “due to extreme organizational issues,” but we soon knew it was because of the virus. Although Grace and I couldn’t get refunded on our airfare and race fees, we were happy to not go to China, given the growing pandemic.
In the 3 months I was there I gained a lot of experience, and a new perspective about sport. We traveled by car close to 10,000 kilometers around Europe. Laeti said this was more travel than she had ever done during her World Cup days. Although she wasn’t racing, she felt the fatigue as much as we did.
In those 3 months I was fortunate to compete in 13 races, 7 of which were World Cups. Our time got cut short just shy of Grand Course racing season. These are the races that are the marathons of Skimo. Pierra Menta and the Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) were on my bucket list this season. Sadly, they will have to wait. Races were getting canceled right and left, and when I saw Italy was on lockdown I immediately got on the next flight home.
Some photo snaps from the second half of our journey in Europe:
I partnered with Valentine Fabre (a French athlete and a great partner). It was a pretty cool adventure, and one I’ll look back on as a highlight of this European “racecation.” This was a 3-day stage race with two short and tense stages and a final stage that combined all the classic aspects of skimo. We even had a 60 degree very technical via ferrata crampon section (see photo at beginning of newsletter). It was challenging and rewarding, and despite the lack of snow this season, the last stage was quite enjoyable.My partner and I took 2nd in the 1st stage but overall ended with a well fought 3rd-place finish.
(Little did we know at the time this was the epicenter of where COVID-19 was in Italy.)
We drove back to Andorra for another race, this time a stage race.. To celebrate almost 3 months of working with Laetitia, the three of us joined forces in the Andorra SKIMO10 race for 70 kilometers and over 6,000 meters of climbing our way through the Pyrenees 🏔😅
My European “Race-cation” as I would soon dub it, started out at the World Championships in Villars, Switzerland.
The sprint was my first taste of international racing. It feels like the closest thing similar to racing the mile in college. It’s an all out effort, racing neck in neck with the worlds best. One of the advantages, depending on how you look at it, was not knowing my competition. I heard all the stories, I knew these euro ladies were the best, but I wasn’t going to back down with out a fight. It’s like this rookie priviledge you get when you are the newcomer on the scene. I went out fast and during the transitions got eat’n alive but it was one of the coolest races I had ever experienced.
I fumbled my final transition and lost about 4 places in what was some costly seconds. I finished top 20 (and top American) in the Sprint and 18th in Individual (2nd American), and top 10 in Teams and Relay.
An all out effort up the hill about 4 hundred feet including a boot pack and 3 transition points before descending around giant slalom styled gates to the finish. It was a neck and neck pursuit and the highlight of my Worlds experience.
I crave this level of competition and competing with the best women in the world really lit a fire under me. During the Individual and for the first hour of the race I was back and forth with my rival and rock star teammate, Jessie Young. We were stacked in between about 4 other racers 3 of which were Espoirs. Now when I look back I actually know who these women are that I was racing against. Needless to say Jessie put the pedal down on the last ascent and gained almost 3 minutes
This race as a whole was one of my top highlights from racing in Europe.
I showed up as a Team of One, sort-of like the theme of this trip.
I was quickly “adopted” by team Andorra.
I had a thrilling time racing the sprint under the lights on the famous World Cup Alpine FIS run at Madonna di Campiglio. I was happy to have had a clean time trial run with smooth transitions. I made it to semi-finals, but very bad transitions left me hanging on for dear life.
You let up for one second here, and you get swallowed alive. It’s actually quite exciting! Despite my goof-ups, I gave it my all and came in 9th overall. Snow or shine, it’s so cool to be here racing with the likes of these incredibly fast, strong women. I am learning A LOT.
I was proud of this fight. Capped off 5 hard days of racing last week (and the final World Cup of the season) with an 8th place finish in the individual race.
I was grateful for the gift to do this, the people who have helped me get here, and all the valuable lessons I am absorbing in this European journey. And I am thankful, too that my skimo family has officially grown!!