And just like that, I am back with my winter team training in the Swiss and Italian Alps. After 20 months of not being on my skis, I have five weeks to figure it out because in less than two months, it’s go time, and the ski cross season begins.
It seems like the Rio Olympics were a lifetime ago, and also, strangely not long ago at all.
When I did anything brand new in the last year with cycling, it was a challenge. Whether it was a new workout on the road or a new training effort on the track, not having the confidence and experiences to rely on was difficult for me. I rely on facts, on past experiences. I had to learn from my teammates, trust in the unknown, and trust in myself that I was going to figure it out, that it was all going to come together.
And it did come together for us on that bronze medal ride this summer in Brazil. There was something incredibly powerful about that win at the Olympics with my (summer) teammates. We didn’t “win” if you remember, but that ride felt like something better than gold. It was not the fact that we got to step on the podium on the biggest stage in the sporting world, or that we got medals put around our necks. The magic was in the fact that we accomplished something that we had not come close to reaching all season. We train so incredibly hard every single day to ride as fast as we possibly can, to find the fastest order in the line, the perfect work distribution. To put it all together on that particular ride in front of our families, and the entire world, was magical. I cannot describe the feeling of crossing the finish line with my teammates, other than saying it was literally the best feeling I’ve experienced in my life. We found what we were working so tirelessly towards, on the best possible day.
I miss them, my summer teammates. It feels like a kind of withdrawal. We were together every waking hour. We shared so many moments together, and now we’re apart, living our own lives.
I catch myself smiling, riding the T bar, heading to the top of the Ski Cross course ready to hurl myself down the track, thinking of moments this summer with my team. I feel so lucky to have these memories. I am forever grateful to my summer homies- Ali, Jasmin, Kirsti, Laura, Annie, and Steph.
The initial transition back to winter life has been a challenge for me. The rest period I had was too short, and very overwhelming. I was trying to balance and fulfill two completely opposite tasks by resting not only physically, but emotionally from the highs of the Olympics. While at the same time, I was trying to get back into ski shape. I am fit, yes, but I needed to start to move my feet, and do a pushup or two. Home was overwhelming; spending time with my family, trying to see my friends, say thank you to all my sponsors. I fit a lot into my schedule when I am home normally, and I accomplish a lot. I felt like I failed this time. It was overwhelming trying to find the balance between rest and the expectations I was now facing. My body and mind were tired, and I immediately felt challenged having to relearn things I hadn’t done in over a year and a half. Ironically, I just wanted to leave and get back on the road, back to a team’s schedule where I eat, train, sleep and rest. That environment is not stressful to me. That is what athletes know best. We’re comfortable in that routine.
My on snow transition back to Ski Cross has surprisingly not been as tragic as I thought it would be. I remembered how to turn right skiing… (get it?) It’s still a work in progress. My coaches and I progressed me back in a methodical way, checking off boxes before moving on to the next phase of my ‘return to snow.’ My confidence is definitely not where it was when I left Ski Cross in February, 2015. However, it has been really exciting to see, to feel, it come back little by little every day I’m on my skis. Kelsey (Serwa) has been such a supportive teammate. Training with her every day has been a blast. We push each other, help each other, and genuinely both want to see each other succeed.
I’m excited for the winter, to feel that high at the top of a course, to feel the nerves and adrenaline pump through my entire body, to feel my body buzzing. I’m excited to race against competitors that want the same thing, to put that pressure on myself, win or lose. These are sensations I know so well and crave.
I am not alone on this road. So many incredible people are in my life, behind me, every step of the way. Never would I have accomplished what I have without their unwavering support, or been able to live my life this way, to the fullest. To my family, to my entire team, thank you.