Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gallivare LOVE

What a crazy, memorable, historic weekend. Gallivare is perhaps my new favorite place on the face of the earth :)

I’m not even sure what to say. The reality of it all is just sinking in and I’m still not exactly sure what to think or say… or how to express all the emotions of the weekend.  

Giving "Sadie" a kiss!

 Fish paste for breakfast! 

We've been staying in cabins which is always preferable to hotel rooms! 

 "Hellner Stadium" in Gallivare - Swedish ski star who lives in the town... 

The optimist in me is purely PSYCHED.  The act of making a goal & meeting it – or in this scenario, exceeding it has got to be the most rewarding feelings in the world. Two days alone made all the Friday nights spent alone in the APU weight room worth it… the missed Alaskan adventures, family trips… everything that I have sacrificed in the last couple of years pursuing the life and goals of a professional athlete.
It’s crazy to start the season on such a high note. In the span of two days, the first two days of the season, I blew some of my (entire) season’s goals out of the water.  On Saturday I was 5th place, just 2.9 seconds from the podium and in the company of World Champions and Olympic Gold medalists. In fact, I had to take multiple pictures of the results such that when I woke up the next morning I could ensure myself that the day – and the result – was more than just a vivid dream! 

Sitting in the reindeer leader’s chair was an experience in and of itself.  Going into the day it was one of my goals to be the race leader when I passed across the finish line. Being bib #6, this didn’t initially mean a whole lot seeing that there was 72 girls that started after me with the opportunity to seize the furry chair from under my behind!  I remember Liz being in the same scenario last year the season opener in Sjujsoen when she was the early race leader. It looked like fun and I wanted the experience!  Little did I know that I would occupy that seat for the next 25 minutes until I “passed it off” to Kikkan!  The weather was less than ideal and the FIS people kept telling me that I was free to change my clothes and come back but I insisted on staying.  I had never been in this position in my entire life and I wasn’t about to throw a single second of it away.  It was by far the best seat in the house and I wanted to watch the race from the line.  Over and over, I kept expecting to get bumped down.  Great skaters like, Anouk from France, Anna Haag from Sweden, Martha and Stiera from Norway……somehow, my name remained at the top of the list through all these fast girls.  It was an unreal feeling and looking back, I was ten-feet tall, floating in mid-air despite the lactic acid surging through my entire body. 

Pure joy & excitement... pumped to share the moment with teammates! 


Raw emotion 

A historic day with the coaches! Chris Grover (left) Head Coach USST and Matt Whitcomb (right) Head USST women's coach 

Not to forget this guy!  Kikkan and my personal coach, Erik Flora at APU!!!! 

 Autographs with the kids 

 The results.... REALLY? 

Our TEAM! 

With our Swedish Friends Charlotte Kalla and Lisa Larsen pre-awards ceremony 

Saturday night downtown awards ceremony... super FUN!

Like I said, Swedes, especially those in Gallivare love a home town boy! 

Then, on Sunday it just got even better. Our women’s 4x5k relay took the first-ever relay medal for USA Skiing!  

I'm in the front, black suit! 

The start  

Ides was an AMAZING cheer leader and an important member of the relay team 

I was lucky enough to be selected to ski the “scramble, lead off” leg for the team. I love the scramble leg and just like it’s namesake, it is a TOTAL scramble. Each team has their “bulldog” out on course. There are lots of big girls that will do anything they can to push you around or ski a line on course that will stop you in your tracks. Unlike the men (!) it’s pure aggression and vying for position.  I started bib#3 which is historic in and of itself. I was on the second line at the start gun, even with Sweden and just one stride behind Norway #1.

I had a great start and was skiing with the top girls until part way through the race I got tripped up on a transition and a small gap started to form. It was a high-speed downhill with a transition into a herringbone and either I tripped or someone skied over my ski just as I was trying to lift it. I had an “uphill fall” but it was enough to let some of the girls behind me pass and I wasn’t able to fully recover.  That said, I’m proud of the leg I skied and feel like I kept our team in contention for the remainder of the girls to do their jobs!  (While I am historically a better skater, I am able and open to doing any leg of the relay – it’s whatever our team needs on any given day!)

The anticipation was palpable during the next three legs of the relay. I quickly changed and then spent the next 35 minutes PACING back and forth from the TV screen, to the track, to my teammates that finished one by one. The excitement was also too much – I don’t think my heart rate dropped out of zone 4 for at least 20 minutes PAST the end of the race.  Jessie’s sprint to the line was incredible and after she collapsed on the ground, we all pig-piled on top of her, sobbing in happiness, disbelief, and elation.  I think we can all agree it was one of the more emotional moments of our entire careers.  I am certain that everyone thought we were absolutely crazy and we made quite a scene of the finish pin.  To say we were happy is a HUGE understatement! 

 The socks! 

Per tradition photo, via our last season's best in Nove Mesto!  

 The aftermath

Things have finally settled down now and we get to race again tomorrow!  We’re currently in Ruka, Finland outside of Kuusamo.  Friday the 3-day mini-tour kicks off with a classic sprint. Saturday is a 5k skate and Sunday is a 10k pursuit start classic race. Kuusamo was the site of my breakthrough race last year so it’s sweet to be back. Each race weekend and the style of race suits different skiers…. Last weekend suited my strengths so it’s going to be hard to compare but all in all, I’m going into the race with a new level of confidence and an elevated level of enthusiasm. Go TEAM USA! I’m lucky number 13 tomorrow!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the kind emails, messages & facebook posts we’ve received. The Internet here in Kuusamo is a bit rough so I apologize that I haven’t gotten back to everyone but your words mean the world to me – THANK YOU!!!!!
Cheers & thanks for reading!
Holly :)